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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Oil rigs missing in the Gulf

An anonymous oil industry insider reports on the extensive damage to Gulf of Mexico oil operations:
There are MANY production platforms missing (as in not visible from the air). This means they have been totally lost. I am talking about 10's of platforms, not single digit numbers. Each platform can have from 4 to 100+ wells on it. Most larger ones have 20-30 wells in this area, with numerous caisson wells. They are on their sides, on the bottom of the gulf - they will likely be left as reef material, provided we can get permission. MMS regulations require us to plug each of the wells that were on these platforms - HUGE cost now, as the platforms are gone... Hopefully, MMS will grant `abandon in place' status for these wiped out structures.

We also set individual wells as satellites and pipe them back to existing platforms. These stand-alone wells are called caisson wells. 90% of those in the storm path are bent over, rendering them a total loss, We would have to remove the existing bent structure and drill a new well, as bent pipe is basically unusable.

We utilize platforms as gathering hubs. We pipe the raw oil/water to them and then send it on for separation, or separate it there and send finished oil on. Damage to a hub means everything going to the hub is offline indefinitely. There are +/- 15 HUBS missing. MISSING!! As in we cannot find them from the air.

Thus even if the wells feeding the hub are ok, we have nowhere to pump the oil to...
She also reports that many of the boats and ships which service the oil rigs were damaged or lost in Katrina, meaning that repairs will take much longer than normal. The Coast Guard confirms that many oil rigs are missing. Experts say $4 a gallon is coming soon.


The Speedway station I go by on the bus each day was at $2.99 this morning, and $3.15 this afternoon. I saw $3.19 at other Ann Arbor stations. There were more people on the bus than usual.

Detroit is poorest big city

From the Detroit Free Press:
Detroit is the nation's poorest big city, with about one in three residents living below the federal poverty level -- $19,157 in household income for a family of four.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday that 33.6% of Detroiters had income below the poverty level in 2004, compared with about 23% in 2002. In the two-year span, "you're talking somewhere easily between 75,000 to 80,000 more people living in poverty" in Detroit, said Kurt Metzger, research director of Wayne State University's Center for Urban Studies.

And nearly half of Detroit children 17 and younger lived in impoverished homes in 2004.

The two pieces of bad news come as Detroit struggles with a high unemployment rate, a municipal budget teetering on bankruptcy and its core auto industry struggling.

Nero Zero

While New Orleans drowned yesterday

aWol strummed.

I'm pretty sure that's his favorite chord--the f*** you chord.

Not that I think Bush personally is capable of doing anything that would help Louisiana and Mississippi. A good president, or just your ordinary run-of-the-mill bad president like Ford or Clinton, sure. But Bush is poison--the farther away the better. Let's just hope that people start to realize that.

(Photos via Bob Harris)

The National Guard Belongs in New Orleans and Biloxi

Article from Norman Solomon. Excerpt:
National Guard troops don't belong in Iraq. They should be rescuing and protecting in Louisiana and Mississippi, not patrolling and killing in a country that was invaded on the basis of presidential deception. They should be fighting the effects of flood waters at home -- helping people in the communities they know best -- not battling Iraqi people who want them to go away.

Let's use the Internet today to forward and post this demand so widely that the politicians in Washington can no longer ignore it:

Bring the National Guard home. Immediately.

Understatement du jour

For the second time in a week, the understatement du jour comes from Juan Cole:
The top police officials of the cities of Kirkuk and Baghdad were assassinated on Tuesday. This is not a good sign.
Meanwhile, hundreds died in a stampede in Baghdad after rumors of a terror attack, and US warplanes continue to bomb the crap out of places.

Money spent destroying Iraq might have saved New Orleans

From Editor & Publisher:
New Orleans had long known it was highly vulnerable to flooding and a direct hit from a hurricane. In fact, the federal government has been working with state and local officials in the region since the late 1960s on major hurricane and flood relief efforts. When flooding from a massive rainstorm in May 1995 killed six people, Congress authorized the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, or SELA.

Over the next 10 years, the Army Corps of Engineers, tasked with carrying out SELA, spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations, with $50 million in local aid. But at least $250 million in crucial projects remained, even as hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin increased dramatically and the levees surrounding New Orleans continued to subside.

Yet after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward SELA dropped to a trickle. The Corps never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain. At least nine articles in the Times-Picayune from 2004 and 2005 specifically cite the cost of Iraq as a reason for the lack of hurricane- and flood-control dollars.
Read the whole article. Funding amounts equivalent to mere hours of expenditure on the Iraq quagmire, and which were tiny compared to how much will now be spent on cleanup, might have saved the Big Easy from the deluge.

Having a total incompetent as pResident costs lives, and hundreds of billions of wasted dollars. Impeach the bastard.

Public service announcement

The American Red Cross could probably use a bunch of money right now, if you can spare it. I just made a donation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Our insane economy

From CNN (emphasis added):
Prof. Doug Woodward, with the Division of Research at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, has researched the economic impact of hurricanes.

"On a personal level, the loss of life is tragic. But looking at the economic impact, our research shows that hurricanes tend to become god-given work projects," Woodward said.

Disasters are good for the economy, he said. Within six months, he expects to see a construction boom and job creation offset the short-term negatives such as loss of business activity, loss of wealth in the form of housing, infrastructure, agriculture and tourism revenue in the Gulf Coast states.
If killing hundreds or thousands, and chasing millions from their homes, is good for this beast we call the economy, maybe it's time to slay that beast and find a different one to feed.

I mean jeez--it's not like there weren't plenty of homeless and hungry people already.


New Orleans dodged the bullet, only to drown in the bathtub. Tom Tomorrow says "For all practical purposes, a major American city has just been wiped off the map." So what was the pResident doing today? Giving a friggin' speech defending his indefensible war in Iraq. The same war chewing up the lives of thousands of National Guard troops who really have something much more important to do right now. They're fighting over there so they won't be able to save lives here. As the Iraqis stand up, Americans drown.

Overcoming the devastation of Katrina will require lots of resources--money, equipment, and trained people--all of which are being wasted at prodigious rates in the Iraqi quagmire. Even those Halliburton people raking in the billions could probably offer some expertise to help deal with Katrina--except they're stuck in Iraq. This is ENTIRELY the fault of George W. Bush, and we need to remind people of this at every opportunity.

$70.46 per barrel; $2.55 per gallon

Three weeks ago, oil futures hit a new high of $62.74, while regular gasoline futures hit a new high of $1.84 per gallon. The retail price on August 8 was $2.54 per gallon--70 cents over the futures price. Where do you think the retail price will be tomorrow? $3.25 is my guess. Rick says $5 a gallon by Christmas.

Katrina knockin' on the door

Radar weather map from 3:25 this afternoon.

Fortunately for us, it's not packing dangerous winds any more, and I don't think we're even supposed to get a lot of rain.

Wholesale gas prices skyrocket

$2.37 a gallon. Up about 50 cents in a week. This hasn't shown up at the local pumps, yet. The Speedway station was $2.75 at lunchtime. But I think my $3 a gallon prediction for this week is now pretty much a sure thing--it may be low.

Still, traffic all over the friggin' place. I'm not sure what price it will take to get Americans out of their guzzlers.

One man's failure is a neocon's success

Many have been pointing out that Iraq's alleged constitution basically turns Iraq into Iran, and that this is obviously a failure of the last great excuse for the Blair-Bush Project. But is it? Xymphora points out that the critical language about the role of Islam in Iraq wasn't merely accepted reluctantly by US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad--he actually pushed for it!

So Iraq tumbles into an even bloodier civil war, leading to its eventual breakup. Many would see this as a failure; but many are not neocons. The Balkanization of the Middle East suits their evil purposes just fine.

Maybe Bush isn't happily taking five weeks of vacation because he's out of touch--maybe it's because he's getting everything he wanted.

Irony du jour

From Juan Cole:
The Iraqi parliament attempted to legislate sanctions against perpetually absent members of parliament on Monday. But they could not legislate on the issue because there were too many absentees.

From Ken Catalino.

From Tim Menees.

Gimme a break

From Vic Harville.

From Jeff Parker.

I'm continuing my lonely vigil as perhaps the only pro-gouging blogger on the Internet. If a tornado comes through Ann Arbor and opens a hole in my roof, I'll gladly pay four times the normal price for plywood from the first guy who comes down my street with it--and I'll be totally pissed if the cops arrest him before he gets to me.

I was watching a TV station from Jackson, Mississippi over the Internet yesterday, and they kept flashing the 800 number for the gouging hotline on the bottom of the screen. Stopping people from bringing hurricane victims what they need--obviously a top priority. If you want to condemn someone for exploiting tragedy, go after aWol and his shameless ongoing exploitation of 9/11, something that was at the very least partially his own fault. The guys trying to sell $500 generators for $1000 in Mississippi had nothing to do with Katrina. They're taking a risk to provide a service and make some money. America is supposed to admire that, not arrest it. We let big-time wage gougers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot operate, then go after the little guy with the pickup truck.

Along with the media-hyped hatred for "gougers" is their hissing anger at "looters." Mississippi governor Haley Barbour said a lot of things yesterday, many of them sensible and intelligent, but the one that CNN's Paula Zahn couldn't resist from repeating over and over again was when Barbour said that looters would be dealt with "ruthlessly." Zahn said this with evident glee. And one of the CNN reporters mentioned seeing video of 50 people coming out of a Winn Dixie supermarket with shopping carts full of groceries. He shook his head with disdain for these obvious dregs of humanity. It didn't sound like he'd even investigated whether the store might have still been open, or pondered how long that food was likely to last with the power out, possibly for weeks.

People going door to door stealing DVD players while the homeowners are away is one thing--but people who may have just lost everything, including their food, going and grabbing some stuff off the Winn Dixie shelves (which they might well have paid for if the store was open) is clearly another. "Ruthlessly" is not the way to deal with them. Chances are that the "official" way for them to eat would be to wait three days for FEMA or the Red Cross to set up food tents--with food donated by Winn Dixie.

From Andy Singer.

Baghdad Bob Crawford George

From Steve Sack.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Harassment Ready (TM) Blogging

Tom Philpott of the Bitter Greens Journal got a harrassing letter from a Monsanto lawyer concerning Tom's use of the title "Roundup, ready" for a regular segment on his blog, claiming it violated their trademark on "Roundup Ready" genetically-modified plants, which can survive being poisoned with large amounts of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller. Tom sent the mutant corporation a defiant reply. Excerpt:
With all due respect, it seems to me that rather than protect your trademark from any serious threat, what you're really trying to do is intimidate a political opponent into ceasing what is surely Constitutionally protected speech. And so, as I stated above, I must decline your request. And I will redouble my efforts to study and write about the practices of your company.
Halliburton is just a spectacular example of corrupt war profiteering. Wal-Mart's "always low wages; always" scheme will collapse along with the U.S. economy. But Monsanto's crimes threaten the world's food supply--forever. So, more power to Tom and Bitter Greens!

Calm before the storm

Cool photo from Rick Wilking of Reuters:

The French Quarter was nearly deserted in the early morning hours before the storm arrived.

To form a more perfect disunion

AWol was blathering in his radio address about how the preparers of the Iraqi constitution are "like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago." Billmon points out that not only is this a serious insult to Tom, Jim, Ben, Alex and the rest of the 1787 Philadelphia gang, it is also pretty much completely backwards. Our constitution, prepared by men who had just gained independence from an occupying power, provided for a strong federal government which controlled the nation's most valuable resource (western lands) and which retained the most important powers--military, monetary, affairs of state. The alleged and probably doomed Iraqi constitution gives control of the most valuable resource (oil) to regions, and invites quibbling almost certainly leading to warfare on the other issues. In his long, interesting post on the subject, Billmon concludes:
That said, though, as a student of American history it's hard not to be contemptuous of anyone who would dare compare what the framers tried to do in Philadelphia to the deal that just went down in the Baghdad bazaar. Whatever you think of their politics -- or the utter hypocricy of slaveowners and slave merchants posing as champions of liberty -- the men of 1787 were giants.

The boys of 2005 (and their American sponsors), on the other hand, are just pygmies pretending to be giants. And the Iraqi people are going to be footing the bill for those pretensions -- in blood -- for a long time to come.

Scary thought du jour

So, imagine you're the poor person who decides not to evacuate: Your house will disintegrate around you. The best you'll be able to do is hang on to a light pole, and while you're hanging on, the fire ants from all the mounds -- of which there is two per yard on average -- will clamber up that same pole. And, eventually, the fire ants will win.
--Ivor van Heerden, director of the Louisiana State University Public Health Research Center, in a CNN article titled Katrina may be 'our Asian tsunami'.

Good luck, New Orleans--looks like you're going to need it.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


A new week of oil trading starts off with a new record. The wholesale gasoline price is now $2.15 per gallon, also a record.

Fearless Prediction

$3 a gallon regular gasoline in Ann Arbor this week. Katrina has already cut Gulf of Mexico oil output by one-third, the instability in the Middle East will become even more obvious, and Americans will be driving willy-nilly--going on Labor Day vacations, going back to school, and running from Katrina.

Second fearless prediction--somebody with a boat will go buzzing around filthy floodwaters saving people's cats and such, and be called a price-gouger for charging $50 per cat. Probably get arrested. State governments in Louisiana and Mississippi will zealously protect the oligopoly of Home Depot and Lowes by chasing down any freelance entrepreneurs asking any premium at all for plywood, chainsaws, generators, water, etc. And while gas stations all over the country will probably be charging over $3 a gallon for gas, those that do so in the hurricane areas will be fined for it. Because remember--the free market is only for the big guys.

Commuter rail for southeast Michigan?

According to the Ann Arbor News, Michigan's share of the pork in the recent transportation bill included $100 million for studying and starting the engineering on a commuter rail system serving Chelsea, Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, and several Wayne County cities on its way to Detroit. Senator Stabenow was the champion of getting the money in the transportation bill, and it is supported by Congressman Dingell and Mayor Hieftje.

I had a brief conversation with Mayor Hieftje a few months ago. He's a strong advocate of commuter rail. Ann Arbor has two rail lines running through it--the Conrail tracks running east-west from Detroit to Chicago, currently used by Amtrak and freight, and the north-south tracks of the old Ann Arbor railroad, which carry about one freight train a day (usually in the middle of the night). Both lines could support more traffic. The simplest proposal for commuter rail is just to run commuter trains on the Conrail lines, starting in Chelsea. Officials quoted in the article say this could be done in as little as a year. More elaborate light-rail plans involving new track would take much longer and cost more.

Now that not many companies are actually making cars around here anymore, maybe it will be politically possible to get this moving. Whether it can get started before the economy collapses and makes large-scale public projects completely impossible is another question. Then again, some of the grandest public works in this country's history were completed in the decade following the 1929 economic crash. Anybody see another FDR out there somewhere?

It was in the script

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Twenty-one people were wounded Sunday, two seriously, in a suicide bombing at a central bus station in the southern Israeli town of Beersheba, Israeli officials said.

The bombing occurred about 8:30 a.m. outside a bus during the morning rush hour when a man detonated himself.

Security guards at the bus station were approaching him to check him out, thinking he looked suspicious, when the explosion occurred, police said.

"Israel has taken the necessary steps to advance the peace process," said an official in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office, referring to the Israeli withdrawal from settlements in Gaza and the West Bank.

"The Palestinians have not. Without such steps, there will be no progress."
Gee, who could have seen that coming? Without "terrorists," Ariel Sharon would long ago have been retired to the crazy Zionists asylum, just like George W. Bush would now be selecting the coloring books for his one-term presidential library without Osama. These guys need terrorism like most of us need food and water.

For more on the hypocrisy of the Gaza "withdrawal," check out Xymphora.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Look out below!

Katrina may be heading for New Orleans. Big city. Below sea level. Catastrophe waiting to happen. And I still don't know why they can't figure out how to use both sides of a freeway to get people out of town quicker.

[Update 3:45 pm] Reader Margaret points out that New Orleans did learn from last year--they ARE using both sides of several freeways to evacuate, using exit ramps as on ramps. Thanks, Margaret!

Out on the bike trails of Texas, all is well

Reading aWol's weekly radio address, I pretty much have to believe that the moron in chief does not have even a passing acquaintance with reality:
In January, eight-and-a-half million Iraqis defied the terrorists and went to the polls to vote. Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups made the courageous choice to join the political process. And together, they have worked toward a democratic constitution that respects the traditions of their country and guarantees the rights of all their citizens.
The right to be silent, the right to wear a burka, the right to kill one's wife or sister if she's raped, etc.
Like our own nation's founders over two centuries ago, the Iraqis are grappling with difficult issues, such as the role of the federal government. What is important is that Iraqis are now addressing these issues through debate and discussion -- not at the barrel of a gun.
More like a million guns--plus car bombs, F-18's, Blackhawks, etc.
The establishment of a democratic constitution in Iraq, just like the establishment of a constitution in Afghanistan last year, will be a landmark event in the history of the broader Middle East.
Oh yeah, Afghanistan. The bright shining light, the city on the hill, where the poppies grow and the fear and the Taliban play.
And it will bring us closer to the day when the nation of Iraq can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.
We're going back to 1990 before the Bush clan took aim on it?
The terrorists are trying to stop the rise of democracy in Iraq because they know a free Iraq will deal a decisive blow to their strategy to dominate the Middle East. But the Iraqi people are determined to build a free future for their nation, and they are uniting against the terrorists.
There seems to be precious little evidence that they're uniting at all, and if they are, it's against us.
We saw that unity earlier this month when followers of the terrorist Zarqawi tried to force Shiite Muslims to leave the Iraqi city of Ramadi. Sunni Muslims in that city came to the defense of their Shiite neighbors. As one Sunni leader put it, "We have had enough of Zarqawi's nonsense. We don't accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis."
Can you believe bubble boy actually quoted that? "We don't accept that a non-Iraqi should try to enforce his control over Iraqis." WIIIAI figures Bush must live in a parallel universe. I just wish he'd stay there.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Enemy combatants, detentions forever

Digby quotes from an article by Spencer Ackerman. Both Ackerman and Digby state that these absurd, brutal policies demonstrate that the SCWOT ("So-called war on terror") has as its main goal not stopping terrorism, but giving the pResident unlimited power. From Ackerman:
That position--that the war on terrorism requires executive latitude at odds with hundreds of years of law--has animated every single step of the administration's approach to the war. It's why Bush has kept nato allies at arm's length while simultaneously trumpeting their absolute necessity to the defeat of Al Qaeda. It's why he didn't just oppose the creation of an independent 9/11 Commission to investigate the history of counterterrorism policy, he also argued it would be an unacceptable burden on his prosecution of the war. And it's why he's blasted any move by the courts to exercise oversight of the war as a dangerous judicial overreach: When a district court judge last year challenged the constitutionality of the administration's military commissions for the trial of enemy combatants, the Justice Department "vigorously disagree[d]," as a spokesman put it, and contested the ruling until the commissions were reinstated on appeal last month. For the administration, its expansion of executive power is synonymous with victory in the war--regardless of the real-world costs to the war effort.
To which Digby adds:
This pretty much says it all. President Bush having unchecked power is synomymous with victory. (There can be no doubt that this executive power would not apply to a Democratic president in similar circumstances.)

Once again, every loss becomes a win. Every mistake means that they must dig in all the more deeply, because to not do so would be to admit they were wrong. And if they were wrong, the terrorists will have won.
Remember--US citizen Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago, and charged with only two things: diddly and squat (or SCWOT). He's been in jail for over three years, and counting. Every one of us is at least as guilty Padilla--at least in terms of traditional US law (innocent until proven guilty, remember?). The Padilla case is a disgusting demonstration that freedom is dead in George Bush's America.

Solidarity forever forsaken

Not only are passengers and other union members crossing the picket lines of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) strike against Northwest Airlines--members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) are serving as scabs! The WSWS has the details on what appears, truly, to be the last throes of organized labor in the U.S.

Ominously, Northwest's strikebreaking policy may come crashing in on them--literally:
Many of the workers said Northwest’s safety was being seriously compromised due to the use of strikebreakers. Barry estimated that only about 30 percent of the replacements had experience repairing the type of planes used by Northwest.

Mike said, “We’re not getting fair coverage in the media. According to them, everything is hunky dory. Well, it’s not. The workers they have now can fix the reading light and change the oil or other small things, but the bigger things like repairing the auto pilot or an engine problem, they can’t. Sometimes you have to read between the lines of the manual, because it’s not all there. There are a lot of things you learn over the years through experience, which these new people don’t have.”
Of course, the union is getting LOTS of supports from the Democratic politicians they helped to elect--NOT:
Many of the picketing workers expressed disgust and disillusionment with the Democratic Party. Mike said the two main parties act as “one party.”

When asked about the Democratic Party, Tonya said, “I haven’t seen anyone out here. I haven’t seen any of them on the news. When it is time to vote, they expect us to go out and vote for them. However, when it comes to a strike, they are not there. That says it all. Maybe the Democratic Party is the Republican Party in disguise.”
It was Bill Clinton, after all, who pushed NAFTA and the WTO on the American people, guaranteeing that we'd have to participate in the grueling race to the bottom known as globalization. Fifty, even thirty years ago, American workers had some actual power. Now they have none. Divide and conquer--the strategy that has worked for the wealthy elite for centuries.

[Update] Lee Sustar has a good article on the strike at Counterpunch.

Why we went to war in Iraq

An animated, annotated version of aWol's speech from February 6, 2003.

Wind-up power

From the Washington Post:
In late 2003, the Pentagon quietly decided that 15 Chinese Muslims detained at the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could be released. Five were people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, some of them picked up by Pakistani bounty hunters for U.S. payoffs. The other 10 were deemed low-risk detainees whose enemy was China's communist government -- not the United States, according to senior U.S. officials.

More than 20 months later, the 15 still languish at Guantanamo Bay, imprisoned and sometimes shackled, with most of their families unaware whether they are even alive.
The "Justice" Department claims this is all legal because of "wind-up power," which gives a government the time necessary at the end of a conflict to figure out what to do with detainees. All the "Justice" Department has figured out so far is that they've been unable to find a country to take these guys, and are unwilling to give them homes in the U.S. Meanwhile, the fifteen cleared men are still treated as prisoners, including being shackled to the floor.

And our government still has the chutzpah to lecture others on human rights from time to time.

The US commitment to freedom--wind-up power.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

From Tom Toles.

Good articles on Chavez

From Richard Gott, Johann Hari, and Lori Zett. Zett notes:
I don't believe it will be possible, even if that was Chavez's goal, to take democracy, especially participatory democracy, away from the people who have finally been allowed to taste it. In addition, unlike Cuba, which moved from the extreme right with Batista, to the extreme left with Castro, Venezuela deposed its last dictator in 1958 and has been practicing democracy, however flawed, since then. Neither the people, nor the military would accept a dictatorship today. What Chavez promises, and is today achieving, is a socially conscious democratic government. It is time for people in the United States to take notice.
The Venezuela Information Office suggests ways to respond to Pat Robertson's insanity:
The human rights group Global Exchange is encouraging citizens to call the White House to ask the Bush Administration to "condemn the call for terrorist homicide. [The administration] must investigate the legality of calling for the assassination of a democratically elected foreign head of state, and abide by international law in prosecuting terrorist activity." The public comment line at the White House is (202) 456-1111.

The Feminist Majority Foundation and Media Matters for America are working to get the ABC Network and Trinity Broadcasting to dump the 700 Club from its affiliates.

Quote du Jour

From Bionic Octopus:
For-profit healthcare is the moral equivalent of war profiteering. It is morally bankrupt and relies for its perpetuation on demonstrably false shibboleths of market efficiency, the primary importance of 'consumer choice', and capitalist incentivization. The United States stands practically alone in maintaining this barbaric let-them-eat-cake system of 'caring' for its citizens' health. When will we join civilization?
Well hey--we're also the world leaders in war profiteering, and our government's goal isn't to join civilization; it's to force civilization to join us.


Faster than the speed of light?

Using their Stimulated Brillouin Scattering (SBS) method, the group was able to slow a light signal down by a factor of 3.6, creating a sort of temporary "optical memory." They were also able to create extreme conditions in which the light signal travelled faster than 300 million meters a second. And even though this seems to violate all sorts of cherished physical assumptions, Einstein needn't move over – relativity isn't called into question, because only a portion of the signal is affected.
I dunno--I learned in physics class that NOTHING goes faster than the speed of light; even a portion of a signal. Did they lie to me again?

(Via Bionic Octopus, who claims she knew it all along. She must have gotten the message via faster-than-light communication, I guess.)

Cool photo

Nothing in particular to add to this photo from Reuters via the NY Times:

Moktada al-Sadr speaking with journalists at his office in Najaf today as fighting was taking place in the early hours.

Interesting 9/11 article

Larry Chin writes about Able Danger and related stories. Excerpt:

"The Washington Post explicitly suggested that the real relationship between the United States government and Osama bin Laden may be quite the opposite of what it seems. ‘As early as March 1996, the government of Sudan offered to extradite bin Laden to the United States. US officials turned down the offer, perhaps preferring to use him ‘as a combatant in an underground war.’" In other words, as a US government agent. In a footnote, Ruppert analyzes the above passage, and cuts to the core of 9/11, and the deception that the world has faced for the past five years:

"If this means that OBL is to be ‘used as a combatant’ on the USG side, it strongly suggests that he is a willing participant in such an effort and that his CIA affiliation from the Mujahadeen war of the 1980s has persisted. If the same locution means that OBL is to be ‘used’ as a combatant on the anti-USG terrorist side of the supposed war on terror, it strongly suggests that the USG is engaged in the business of supplying itself with enemies. That practice is called ‘false flag’ operation, and 9/11 is the greatest exemplar in history."

  • We know that Al-Qaeda is connected to the ISI, which, in turn is a virtual branch of the CIA, and involved in US covert operations.
  • We know that numerous intelligence agencies had monitored, penetrated, and guided Al-Qaeda assets. Notwithstanding the denials of Washington’s law enforcement and intelligence agencies, Al-Qaeda and its operatives were under scrutiny years before 9/11, and completely penetrated.

According to Ruppert, who exhaustively broke down this penetration over several chapters of his book, Crossing the Rubicon, "based on what is known about successful intelligence penetrations for years prior to the attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda could not have sneezed without the CIA or the NSA knowing about it."

  • We know that it is standard intelligence procedure to create intelligence legends and multiple layers of plausible deniability around their operatives.
  • We know who, and what, Atta was. Investigative journalist Dan Hopsicker exposed the backgrounds and movements of the Atta cell and the "hijackers" prior to 9/11. Members of the Atta cell received military training, and had connections to intelligence and intelligence-connected Floridians with direct Bush family ties.
  • We know that various US intelligence and law enforcement agencies, agents, and officers had information---and were systematically blocked from reporting the information and acting on it by gatekeepers of the 9/11 false flag operation.
  • We know that Atta received funding from the ISI for 9/11, and that then-ISI Chief Mahmoud Ahmad wired $100,000 directly to Atta, and met with Washington lawmakers on the morning of 9/11 (including current Director of Central Intelligence, Porter Goss).
  • We know that there were and are 9/11 gatekeepers in the government, the FBI, the CIA, and all over the world.
  • We know that 9/11 was not an "intelligence failure", but an "intelligence success" that included the use of guided Al-Qaeda assets, and "hijacker" intelligence legends.
  • We know that the Kean 9/11 Commission has been a massive cover-up from its inception to the very end.
Nobody has done more for BikeBoy's political fortunes than Osama bin Laden. Did aWol repay the favor? You bet! IRAQ: Increased Recruiting for Al Qaeda.

Understatement du jour

It is always worrisome when you see a whole platoon of guerrillas operating openly in daylight in the capital.
-- Juan Cole.

Just another of their products they'll get from China...

From Bruce Plante.

For once, the cartoonists are in agreement

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Quagmire exploding?

The alleged Iraqi constitution appears to have thrown gasoline on the already roaring fires in Iraq. Shiites loyal to the SCIRI and Dawa parties which form the core of the ruling coalition have attacked the headquarters of other Shiites loyal to Moqtada al Sadr in Najaf. Al Sadr has asked his supporters in Parliament to resign. There were also big attacks by Sunni insurgents against Iraqi police in Baghdad. Billmon has lots more based on the Reuters story.

Also be sure to read Billmon's two posts on the recent comments from an Iraqi women's leader who was used as a stage prop during aWol's 2005 State of the Union address. Suffice it to say that she ain't happy about the alleged constitution which takes women's rights in Iraq back to the stone age (or the Taliban age).

The reason we're in Iraq is because we're in Iraq

From Maureen Dowd:
"We owe them something," [Bush] told veterans in Salt Lake City (even though his administration tried to shortchange the veterans agency by $1.5 billion). "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for."

What twisted logic: with no W.M.D., no link to 9/11 and no democracy, now we have to keep killing people and have our kids killed because so many of our kids have been killed already? Talk about a vicious circle: the killing keeps justifying itself.
Dowd adds:
Just because the final reason the president came up with for invading Iraq - to create a democracy with freedom of religion and minority rights - has been dashed, why stop relaxing? W. is determined to stay the course on bike trails all over the West.


We've got a new record!

Do what you want; you will anyway!

A hearty "Hasta luego!" to Michelle, author of the blog You Will Anyway. She's moving to Mexico to teach English, having suffered from the red-state blues long enough (she has been living in Missouri). The thing I liked about Mexico? Everyone there knows their democracy is a sham, unlike here where millions actually believe our dollarocracy is so good it should be exported.

Good luck, Michelle!

Passed Inspection!

My solar project was approved by the electrical inspector this morning. The system is running smoothly, generating between 5 and 10 kilowatt-hours per day.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

One of the reasons I like Hugo Chavez

I was in this crowd

when he gave this speech!

Read all about my April 2004 experience in Venezuela!

Filling the Void

It seems that the Democratic Party has pretty much decided on a platform of "a stronger America" based on more troops in Iraq and being tougher on terror than Bush, at least judging by John Kerry and the supposed front-runners for the 2008 presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. This leaves old Democratic promises, like, y'know, health care and helping the poor, without a major-party home.

Into the breach step two feisty Latinos--Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Cuba's Fidel Castro. From Reuters:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, popular with the poor at home, offered on Tuesday to help needy Americans with cheap supplies of gasoline.

"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," the populist leader told reporters at the end of a visit to Communist-run Cuba.
Chavez and Castro offered to give poor Americans free health care and train doctors free of charge.
You gotta love these guys! Can't you just see it--Gas for 99 cents a gallon at (Venezuelan-owned) Citgo stations, but only if your car is at least ten years old, makes a lot of noise, and has visible body damage. And little neighborhood clinics flying the Cuban flag sprinkled throughout Detroit, the Bronx, south central LA, and Mississippi, with poor kids flying off to Havana for med school rather than joining the Army. Hillary and Joe won't do that for us.

I know our oligarchs won't let it happen, but that Hugo and Fidel have the chutzpah to make such offers just makes me smile!

Lie du Jour

"Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law." -- Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, referring to "Christian" Pat Robertson's call for the U.S. to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

While I guess Rummy might argue that some of the many US-sponsored assassination attempts through the years--in Cuba, Central America, Southeast Asia, etc.--were done by the CIA and not the Pentagon, there's little doubt that the DoD attempted to assassinate Libyan President Qaddafi in 1986 and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003. Not to mention the thousands of extra-judicial murders committed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere based on the flimsiest of rumors about supposed ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda, or the insurgency, or perhaps just because they were getting married.

"It's against the law." Well, yeah, and so is invading sovereign nations for no apparent reason.


AWol's new approval rating.

Protests in Salt Lake

From the Salt Lake Tribune:

The caption says that's aWol's limo. I doubt it. But if he had any guts, he'd have ridden his bike down that beautiful bike lane.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, left, greets protestors against President Bush who addressed the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their 106th convention in Salt Lake City. Anderson, a Democrat, was booed by the VFW members when he spoke to the group before the president.

SLC Mayor Rocky Anderson addresses the audience at a peace rally at Pioneer Park in SLC, Monday.

Pay rent on your own home

That's apparently what the unlucky homeowners of New London, CT will have to do after the Supreme Court's atrocious 5-4 Kelo decision in June ruling that New London could use eminent domain to take their houses on behalf of a private developer. The city decided to use eminent domain back in 2000, and the residents have been fighting it ever since. Now that they've lost in the Supreme Court, the city intends to pay them the much lower year 2000 price for their homes--AND charge them rent for the five years since. Property owners who have been renting the houses out will have to turn over all rent proceeds for the five years to the city.

While the illegal Gaza squatters are evicted with hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and free rent for two years, the losers in the Kelo decision are thrown onto the street with little or no money in the face of a housing bubble--and without nearly as much media coverage.

"Thanks to you, Mr. President, we're growing almost as fast as al Qaeda!"

Are We Really Better Off Without Saddam?

Of course, if you're reading this blog, you probably already know that almost nobody is better off without Saddam. But Jude Wanniski, a former Reaganite, Wall Street Journal editor and coiner of the term "supply-side economics" (i.e., a man with impeccable conservative credentials), explains to Trent Lott why almost nobody is better off without Saddam.
In your "Meet the Press" interview this morning, I noticed you made the obligatory remark that "Of course we are all better off without Saddam Hussein." Practically every politico in every party makes that exact statement on all the talk shows in recent weeks and months. Maybe if I were a politician I would also include it in my litany. Which may be why I've rejected every suggestion that I should be a politician. It is dismaying to me, even disgusting, to see your congressional colleagues prattle on about how Iraqis are better off without Saddam, when more than 100,000 of their sons and daughters would still be alive if we had not gone to war. Are the dead "better off"? Are their families?

It would have been refreshing, Trent, if you had realized by now that after your wings were clipped by the neo-cons, you were a zero in the Senate discussions in the first months of 2003, when your questioning could have made a difference. In your heart, I think you know that all things considered, we are not "better off" without Saddam Hussein. If we could roll back the clock and do it all over again and accepted his invitation to prowl Iraq in perpetuity in search of weapons of mass destruction, we would be a lot better off.
Wanniski's open letter is also interesting in that he provides an explanation as to why Lott lost the job of Senate Majority Leader. Wanniski says that Lott might have objected to proceeding to war with Iraq, whereas the Bushies knew they could count on Frist to rubber-stamp everything they said. Therefore, they jumped at the first opportunity to get rid of Lott--the remark he made at Strom Thurmond's birthday party. As many pointed out at the time, it wasn't the first time that Lott had made similar remarks. It was just the first time he'd made them when the powers that be wanted him out of the way.

You can't handle the truth!

Jonathan Schwarz describes a dinner he attended with Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen back when Schwarz was a student at Yale in 1988:
Gary Hart had recently flamed out in the '88 presidential race because of Donna Rice. And Cohen told all us fresh-faced, ambitious, grotty youths this:
The Washington press corps had specifically tried to push Hart out of the race. It wasn't that he'd had extramarital affairs—everyone knew this was the norm rather than the exception among politicians. Hart wasn't at all unusual in this respect. Instead, Cohen said, it was because the press corps felt that Hart was "weird" and "flaky" and shouldn't be president. And when the Donna Rice stuff happened, they saw their opening and went after him.
At the time, I remember thinking this:

1. How interesting that the DC press corps knows grimy details about lots of politicians but only chooses to tell the great unwashed when they decide it's appropriate.

2. How interesting that the DC press corps feels it's their place to make decisions for the rest of America; ie, rather than laying out the evidence that Hart was weird, flaky, etc., and letting Americans decide whether they cared, they decided run-of-the-mill citizens couldn't be trusted to make the correct evaluation.

Now, this doesn't mean Gary Hart wasn't weird and flaky. I assume he was. To me, the desire to be President of the United States in itself means you're a psychopath who should never be President of the United States. Just like you have to be Catholic to be Pope, you have to be dangerous and sick to be president.

But the point is the powerhouse media and their politician lovemates truly do feel there are things normal, grubby Americans simply can't handle. Everything I've seen in my life confirms this—and it's true across the (extremely narrow) political spectrum.

If you're not part of their little charmed circle, believe me, all your worst suspicions about them are true. They do think you're stupid. They do lie to you. It's not necessarily because they fear and hate you, although they do. It's because they think you can't be trusted with the things they know—and if they're not monitoring you, you will break America.
(Note: The bold emphasis was Jonathan's; the italic emphasis was mine.)

I've had similar thoughts about anyone who really wants to be president--he or she has to be a psychopath. To even get close you've got to sell so many liens on your soul that you'll never get it back--which makes the job a lot easier for morons like the current pResident, who never had a soul to begin with. My last few years of following the news closely have convinced me of Jonathan's main point--the media is simply putting on a show, not to enlighten us, but to confuse and control us.

From Pat Bagley.

From Rex Babin.

From David Horsey.

From R.J. Matson.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pat Robertson--Spawn of Satan

The insane, vile twit called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on his 700 Club show:
ROBERTSON: There was a popular coup that overthrew him [Chavez]. And what did the United States State Department do about it? Virtually nothing. And as a result, within about 48 hours that coup was broken; Chavez was back in power, but we had a chance to move in. He has destroyed the Venezuelan economy, and he's going to make that a launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism all over the continent.

You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.
Hugo Chavez is smart, articulate, and has won election after election by wide margins. He has offered hope to millions of poor people in Venezuela and throughout South America, and with $65 a barrel oil, he is actually in a position to deliver on his promises. I've seen the man in person; he is a far greater man than either George W. Bush or Pat Robertson could ever hope to be. And anyone who knows anything about the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela knows that the coup was led by a small group of very wealthy politicians. The popular uprising was what restored Chavez to power.

The only thing that Chavez has done that really bothers the powers in Washington is that he has objected to the (re-)imposition of the neoliberal economic model--the IMF/World Bank model where the corporations get the wealth and people of Latin America get the shaft. I understand why this pisses off the Cheney/Clinton crowd; but why should Pat Robertson hate the man so much that he calls for him to be killed? Chavez continues to sell us oil, and he poses no military threat to us whatsoever.

In any case, lunatics like Robertson should not be permitted to incite violence on their TV shows.

A glimpse into the future

Election Day 2008
7 AM, EST: Polls open on the east coast.
7:45 AM: Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton concedes to Republican Bill Frist, citing the need for national unity. Clinton said: "I will not put America through the trauma of 37 days of indecision, like Al Gore did, or even 18 hours like John Kerry did. And even though I opposed Senator Frist's plans to bring some of our troops home and to allow the use of stem cells in medical research, I call for all Americans to stand behind him and give him your full support."
10:15 AM: Reports out of the green zones in Baghdad, Tehran, Pyongyang and Caracas indicate that progress is being made on all four constitutions.
11:07 AM: Reports out of Baghdad indicate that an insurgent blimp bomb has destroyed Basra.
12:30 PM: President Bush calls for America to stay the course in all twelve quagmires, and for Americans to unite behind apparent President-elect Frist, should Bush decide to turn power over to him.
2:30 PM: Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Gonzales and Ashcroft rule that all votes for Democrats are invalid, giving the Republicans every seat in the House and 87 seats in the Senate.
5:30 PM: Grand opening of Alaska's first water theme park. They had to wait until November for temperatures to cool down sufficiently.
6:15 PM: Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald indicts Karl Rove, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney, Stephen Hadley and Donald Rumsfeld for their involvement in leaking the names of CIA agents Valerie Plame and Rush Limbaugh to the media.
6:30 PM: President Bush issues a pre-emptive pardon to all indicted members of his administration and declares Fitzgerald to be an enemy combatant.
8:00 PM: Osama bin Laden releases a new video, saying "Oops, I thought the election was tomorrow. Death to the infidel, yada yada yada."
10:00 PM: Vice President Cheney reminds the country that we are fighting the terrorists in New Jersey so we don't have to fight them in Texas.
10:15 PM: Fox News declares Frist the winner.
10:25 PM: Fox News issues a correction--"We thought the election was tomorrow."
11:00 PM: Cindy Sheehan announces plans to move Camp Casey to Tennessee.

Bush Quagmire I

From the NY Times:
This year is already the deadliest for American soldiers in Afghanistan since the war of 2001, and the violence is likely to intensify before the nation's legislative elections on Sept. 18.

Four soldiers were killed Sunday, meaning that 13 have been killed in August alone. Sixty-five Americans have been killed this year.

The latest four were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle in the south. Three others were wounded in that bombing, the American military said. And two United States Embassy employees were wounded when their convoy was hit by an explosion close to Kabul, the capital, the military said.
Despite the near-unanimous approval of Congress (Bless you, Barbara Lee!), the war in Afghanistan, like the war in Iraq, was a pre-planned war of choice undertaken on flimsy or blatantly false evidence. The FBI director said that he had no evidence linking Afghanistan to 9/11. Didn't matter. The Bushies decide who they want to go to war with, then they go to war. Evidence shmevidence.

Pretty pitiful

When the only apparent hope for real opposition to the Bushie neonut agenda comes from Republicans. While Dumbocrats like John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden (who is probably just copying the speeches of the other two) are bending over backwards calling for more troops in Iraq and in general trying to out-Bush Bush, the semi-sane wing of the Repug party is speaking out. Rep. Walter "Freedom Fries" Jones (R-NC) says the Iraq war had no justification. Senators McCain (R-AZ), Graham (R-SC) and Warner (R-VA) call for torture to stop in the American gulag. Senator Hagel (R-NB) calls for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. And Senator Specter (R-PA) calls for Rummy to stop bad-mouthing Venezuela.

Of course, McCain and Hagel have spouted off about Bush before, but when Bush came to shove they were with him rather than agin' him. Nevertheless, it seems that right now our only hope against endless war and fascism rests with these Repugs--assuming they can overcome the opposition of the DLC warmongers mentioned above.

Like I said, pitiful.

From Slowpoke.

From Ted Rall.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A house divided against itself cannot stand.

But it sure beats a house united behind a moron. Michelle notes that while a TV station in Salt Lake City refuses to run an anti-war ad featuring Cindy Sheehan, saying it is inappropriate for Salt Lake, the mayor of Salt Lake is calling for huge protests against aWol when he arrives there for a speech on Monday.

Revenge of the Kurds

Read Billmon's post about the New Iraq--gang warfare on a nationwide scale. Excerpt:
According to the New York Times, more than 500 armored vehicles are supposed to be delivered to the Iraqi Army this month, while the first shipment of tanks -- refurbished Soviet T-72s donated by Hungary -- should arrive any time now.

Try to imagine, just for a minute, the Crips and the Bloods armed with tanks.

And retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Iraq, wants to give them even more lethal hardware:

He estimated in a postvisit report to Congress that the Iraqi Army needed 120 Black Hawk helicopters, 2,000 armored humvees and 2,000 M113 armored personnel carriers to be effective without U.S. support.

If, as seems increasingly likely, Iraq's troubles eventually spill over into full-scale civil war, the Iraqis at least will have the consolation of knowing their warring militias are the best-equipped and best-armed the Middle East has ever seen.

We should remember that the US encouraged Iraq to attack Iran in 1980, and then proceeded to arm both sides of that bloody eight-year war. The US then encouraged Saddam to invade Kuwait, and then blasted the crap out of Iraq for doing so (see yesterday's post). General McCaffrey was a big part of that, attacking largely defenseless Iraqi troops as they retreated towards Baghdad.

Bush and Cheney suggest that US troops might be able to leave Iraq when Iraqi troops are able to defend themselves. The thing is, there are really only two likely enemies that Iraqi troops will have to face--the US military, and themselves. Giving them tanks and helicopters only guarantees that the carnage will just grow and grow. I get the sickening feeling that that's exactly what our insane criminal leaders want.

All the news that's fit to print...

A month too late, of course. The NY Times has an article today focussing on the damage that CAFTA is likely to cause to small farmers in Central America as subsidized, mechanized, genetically-modified US crops flood the markets there. Of course, they "balance" the quotes from poor farmers, representing millions, with quotes from wealthy manufacturers and exporters, representing hundreds, who think CAFTA will benefit them. And, of course, they point out some of the problems with CAFTA one month AFTA Congress "approved" it (with the help of all the bribes, threats and arm-twisting the Bushies could muster).

But the treaty has not yet been ratified in Costa Rica, Nicaragua or the Dominican Republic. If it is, you can be sure that that's a true sign that those countries are not even remotely democratic. The people in Latin America know what Clinton/Bush/Kerry style free trade means for them--losing their land and their ability to survive. That it passed here shows that our democracy isn't much to shout about, either.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Watch this!

Sending a message

Army pfc Willie Brand beat two Afghan "detainees" to death at Bagram in 2002. His punishment? He's being demoted to private. That's it. He was actually convicted of one of the beatings, and his punishment is the same as that for any poor shmuck who wanders into an Army recruiting station and signs a few papers. "Join the Army! We'll treat you like we treat torturer/murderers!"

Of course, none of Brand's "superiors" are being charged with any thing.

The war of terror continues.

Finally, first in something besides the alpahbet!

I lived in Alabama for 7 1/2 years. One of the unofficial state slogans there was "Thank God for Mississippi!", since without its western neighbor Alabama would have ranked dead last in the nation in many categories like poverty and infant mortality. But according to today's NY Times, the Heart of Dixie is now a leader in the nation in child welfare, in the good sense. So way to go, Alabama!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Clinically Insane

The Veep from the Deep crawled out of his cave yesterday to reiterate the insane rhetoric he's been making for years:
None of us wants to turn over the future of mankind to tiny groups of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder, enslaving whole populations, oppressing women, imposing an ideology of hatred on an entire region, and arming to create death and destruction on an unbelievable scale.
This from the man who was Secretary of Defense when his military did this to a poor neighborhood in Panama City,

and this to Iraqi troops retreating from Kuwait.

U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. "It was like shooting fish in a barrel," said one U.S. pilot.

This from a man who is one of the ringleaders of a tiny group of fanatics committing indiscriminate murder (see above), enslaving whole populations (over two million Americans in prison, NAFTA/CAFTA/WTO legalizing sweatshops), oppressing women (and not just what they do here in this country), imposing an ideology of hatred on an entire region (neoliberal/neocon capitalism is an ideology of hatred they are trying to impose on the entire world), and arming to create death and destruction on an unbelievable scale. This tiny group of fanatics is known as the Bush administration.

Useless Dick also said to the Convention of the Military Order of the Purple Heart:
These Americans can wear the Purple Heart with pride, knowing with absolute certainty that they have contributed to the future safety of this nation, and to the peace of our world.

Every man and woman who fights and sacrifices in this war is serving a just and noble cause. This nation will always be grateful to them.
Unless, of course, they should choose to run for office as Democrats, in which case they will be called cowards and flip-floppers and everything else the Repug slime machine can spew out. And you can judge for yourself how meaningful the claim of a "just and noble cause" is coming from a profoundly unjust and ignoble man.

Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden are evil men. Dick Cheney is not in their class. He's in that very special category of much more evil men like Hitler and Stalin, trying to remake the world for his own benefit, and killing anyone and everyone who gets in the way.

Voice from the Hartland

Hartland, Michigan is about 25 miles north of Ann Arbor. Here's a great letter to the editor from yesterday's Ann Arbor News:
I don't understand these rumors that we might attack Iran next. I would think conservatives would envy Iran, not attack it. Here's why: Religious leaders practically run their country. They have school prayer four times a day, abortion is illegal, being gay and having pre-marital sex are crimes and women are all covered up.

Birth control is illegal, nontraditional influences are banned, morality police comb the country, porn is illegal - even Playboy - they don't teach evolution and they have capital punishment - even for 14-year-olds. It's a perfect picture of what America would look like if George Bush and friends got their way here.

Axis of evil? Come on! This is a fundamentalist's heaven.

Why isn't Bush praising the social morality of the Iranian people, instead of wanting to bomb them? They seem to have the exact same values as he does, so an agreement should be easy.

So instead of all this talk of war, maybe the fundamentalists here can strike a bargain with the fundamentalists over there. If we get really lucky, they'll all agree to find a fundamentalist homeland that they can coexist in (Bush wants to go to Mars, right?). Then, maybe the rest of us can start moving ahead, instead of moving back to the Stone Age.

David S. Monk, Hartland
[Update] A reader from Houston, who lived in Iran for thirteen years, sends some corrections to Mr. Monk's information on Iran:
* Birth control is legal (even encouraged) in Iran

* Shia students pray usually once a day at noon (the other two times
are at dawn and dusk, both outside of school hours). When I was in
middle school there, at the height of Islamic revolutionary fervor, no
one forced me to pray, and I generally avoided it with no
consequences. I believe there's a concept in Islam that you can't
force anyone into the religion, and the mullahs apparently took this
seriously. Having said that, they did try to encourage us to attend
prayers by promising field trips during school hours. I fell for it
once :)

*Teaching of evolution is not illegal. This whole "intelligent design"
thing is an invention of the whacko "Christian" right.

* Abortion is legal, albeit in a *very* limited way

Mr. Monk from Hartland, while making a very valid comparison between the religious nut jobs who run these two countries, is over-reaching in some parts of his letter.
So maybe the Cheney administration wants war with Iran not because they think it's developing nuclear weapons, but because they think the mullahs are just a bunch of godless tax-and-spend liberals from Taxichusistan. Seriously, there seem to be only two things the neocons want: war and oil, in that order.

Thanks to the reader from Houston for keeping me on my toes!

Never Forget

As we approach the fourth anniversary of 9/11, we should remember that our government has never come close to telling us the truth about what happened that day--not the White House (yeah, right), not the Congressional committee, not the "independent" 9/11 commission. And while the recent "Able Danger" revelations hardly make everything clear, they do rather fatally expose the lies and obfuscations of the 9/11 commission. From the WSWS:
The statements by [Able Danger staffer Lt. Col. Anthony] Shaffer shatter the official story of the September 11 attacks, as devised by the Bush administration, endorsed by the entire Washington political establishment, and parroted obediently by the media. By the official account, Islamic fundamentalist hijackers entered and re-entered the United States repeatedly over a two-year period, made substantial preparations for the terrorist attacks, including obtaining pilot training on US soil, organized themselves to hijack four commercial airliners simultaneously and crash them into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, all without any US police or intelligence agency being aware of their activities.

It is now clear that those who have rejected this account—including the World Socialist Web Site—have been proven right. The future hijackers were detected by US government agencies, including the CIA and military intelligence, yet nothing was done either to arrest them or disrupt their operations.

There is only one politically serious explanation of this now-indisputable fact: powerful forces within the US military/intelligence complex wanted a terrorist incident on US soil in order to create the needed shift in public opinion required to embark on a long-planned campaign of military intervention in Central Asia and the Middle East. Whether or not they knew the scale of the impending attacks and what the precise targets would be, they acted in such a way as to block the arrest of known terrorist operatives and allow them to carry out their plot.

Should this understanding begin to penetrate broad layers of working people in the United States, there will be an enormous public reaction against the intelligence services and the entire political establishment, which is complicit, in one way or another, in the cover-up and political exploitation of the events of 9/11. That explains the extraordinary timidity of the media coverage. Both right and “left” in the official political spectrum are handling the Able Danger revelation like a hand grenade that could go off in their faces.
I'm still reading Webster Tarpley's book 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, which makes a pretty solid case for 9/11 being perpetrated by high officials within our government. Unfortunately, the book is seriously flawed by numerous factual errors. As is usually the case when I read a book where I can spot errors on things I know about, I have to take all the other "facts" in the book as being dubious. But, combined with this Able Danger story, I'd have to add third and fourth key reasons why the official 9/11 story is the most bogus conspiracy theory of all:
  1. There is no way that those two planes and the subsequent fires could have caused three buildings, WTC 1, 2 and 7, to collapse, much less so quickly and completely.
  2. The Pentagon is the headquarters of the most sophisticated military in the history of the world. The only possible explanation for it being unprotected 40 minutes after it was clear to the world that the US was being attacked is that people on the inside wanted it unprotected.
  3. Able Danger, combined with other information shows that the FBI and CIA were aware of the supposed hijackers long before 9/11 yet did nothing to stop them.
  4. Able Danger joins a long list of evidence that a massive coverup of what actually happened on 9/11 has been going on since the very day of 9/11, if not before. Where there's smoke there's fire, and where there's a coverup this big there is almost certain a huge crime being covered up as well.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


A couple of lines from the AP report on Rummy's visit to Peru (emphasis added):
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, seeking to promote stability in Latin America, met with Alejandro Toledo on Thursday just two days after the Peruvian president swore in a fresh Cabinet.
The United States wants to ensure that Cuban President Fidel Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez do not steer other Latin American countries away from democracy.
Does "AP" simply stand for "American Propaganda?" Rummy may "say" that he wants to promote stability and pretend that it is Castro and Chavez, not he and his cronies, who are trying to steer Latin America away from democracy, but that doesn't make it so. In fact, given Rummy's and the Bushies' track record, AP should generally assume they are lying, and not tell us as fact what their motives are, but rather report what they claim their motives to be. Because these guys lie. All the time. About everything. The Bushies don't want democracies in Latin America. They want colonies.

Cypriot crash baffles authorities

From AP:
The Cypriot plane that crashed and killed all 121 people aboard flew on autopilot to its Athens destination -- but passed thousands of feet above the airport runway, the chief accident investigator told The Associated Press Thursday.

Helios Airways Flight ZU522 then turned toward the sea, flying in a holding pattern for more than an hour before changing course again crashing into a mountain north of Athens.
Chief investigator Akrivos Tsolakis told the AP an air traffic control diagram showed the plane had flown -- on automatic pilot -- to the Greek capital's international airport. But it was flying at 34,000 feet (10,360 meters) and turned south into its holding pattern over the island of Kea after passing over the airport.

"What troubles us is that the automatic pilot was functioning up to a certain point, and then it was disengaged, possibly by human action," Tsolakis said.
After TWA 800, 9/11, American 587, and Wellstone, I just instinctively don't believe official stories about plane crashes. But you learn that sometimes the most information is available early on--before the official cover-up is decided upon and in place. After that, it doesn't matter how many witnesses saw a missile or that no "mayday" call was sent or that no remains of the supposed plane can be seen or that there are powerful people who had motive and opportunity to arrange the crash AND the investigation. The official story is it, case closed, shut up you lunatic conspiracy theorist.

It will be interesting to see how many of the early details from this crash conveniently disappear when the "official" story comes out. I'd say chances are very good that they'll blame it on pilot error--dead men really suck at defending themselves.

Enough already!

For millenia, people have been forced out of their homes by nature, by law, or most commonly by war. From Exodus to the Trail of Tears to the holocaust to untold dozens of dirty wars in Africa to Poletown to the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, people have been forced to leave behind their homes, graves of ancestors, and everything they ever knew.

But I'm not sure any of these awful stories got such devoted press coverage, while they were happening, as what we're seeing with the removal of Israeli settlers from Gaza. These people moved into Gaza in clear defiance of international law, and are actually getting compensated (about $250,000 per house plus other benefits) for breaking the law! Yet day after day I see photos on the NY Times and CNN web sites of poor teary-eyed squatters being dragged from their homes.

The US military ran tens of thousands out of their homes in Fallujah--and then destroyed those homes. The coverage of this atrocity was minimal compared to this nonsense.

What's next? Almost certainly, a bus blows up in Israel, blamed (correctly or not) on the Palestinians. Sharon says "Look at all we did for you, all the grief we brought to these poor, poor settlers, and this is how you repay us? Bombs away."

[Update]: I see that while the NY Times is running this photo on its main web page,
, it is running an editorial ("Gaza Reality Check") saying basically what I just said, if a bit more tactfully. An excerpt:
Without denying the genuine grief of many of the protesters, it's perhaps helpful to do a historical reality check. Gaza, a 25-mile-long, 6-mile-wide strip of land, was part of Mandatory Palestine, which was ruled by the British after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It was never part of the Zionist state intended by the United Nations partition plan that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948. At that point, five Arab nations immediately attacked the new nation, but Gaza wasn't even part of the territory Israel got in signing truces in 1949. It became the home of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fleeing Israel, and Israel's armistice with Egypt in 1949 put it under Egyptian rule.

In the 1967 Israeli-Arab war, Israel captured Gaza and the Sinai Peninsula from Egypt, along with the West Bank (from Jordan) and the Golan Heights (from Syria). Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt after making peace, but kept control of Gaza. A second agreement called for negotiating eventual Palestinian autonomy there.

Gaza represents the worst side of Israel's settlement movement. The densely populated strip is home to 1.3 million Palestinians - most of them refugees, or offspring of refugees. Each square mile of Palestinian land holds, on average, about 14,000 people. Until this week, the Jewish settlers occupied 33 percent of the land.
Way to go, NY Times! Promote the unreal melodramatic BS on the front page, and post the reality check back in the editorials.

Stupid and Proud

Just like their preznit.

That photo is from the freeper counter-rally to last night's vigil in Columbia, Missouri in support of Cindy Sheehan. Michelle tells us what the second sign from the left says: "50,000 terrorists dead or captured. We are winning!" I'm guessing they'll declare total victory when the number gets to six billion. Of course, they'll be doing it from either their graves or prison cells.

Fortunately, it appears that the sane population in Columbia outnumbers the wingnuts--at least among those willing to get out and show where they stand:

I'm sure both "crowds" are outnumbered a thousand-to-one by the totally apathetic.

My question for MoveOn--why did you schedule candlelight vigils for 7 pm in August? It doesn't get dark here until 9!

AP photos of vigils around the country.

Quote du Jour

"You know, I think I liked the world a lot better when I didn't know so much about it." -- Michelle Quinn, author of You Will Anyway


A uniter, not a divider

Hitler managed to unite Britain and the U.S. with the Soviet Union during World War II. And aWol seems to have succeeded in uniting most of the world against the U.S.--including joint military exercises being carried out by the Russians and Chinese.

The Chinese have a few nukes, plus a lot of people and money. The Russians have a lot of nukes and the technology to deliver them. The neocon dream seems to end around 2030 with China becoming the 200th state. If their dream comes true, there won't be any people left to live in any of the states, having all been killed off in World Wars III through X.

Of course, the Russians and Chinese use Orwellian language just like our criminals do. The joint military exercises are called "Peace Mission 2005."

Joke du Jour

Via Past Peak:
As you know, President Bush is taking 5 weeks off. It's like he's still in the National Guard. — Jay Leno

90-degree heat--in Alaska

From the Independent:
August is meant to be a scorcher in Dallas but not in Fairbanks, where temperaturesyesterday were in the mid-80s Fahrenheit (high 20s Celsius). The weather has been clear and hot over almost all of Alaska for the past week, due to an intense high pressure dome that is reluctant to move on.

"This is for real; it is not a meteorological joke," said Ted Fathauer, who is the chief forecaster at the National Weather Service in Fairbanks. Over the past few days temperatures have topped 90F in some areas of the interior.
Scientists say this is more than just a string of freak summers. Between 1949 and 2003, the average annual air temperature in Alaska increased by 3.3 degrees Fahrenheit, with some areas in the state registering increases of almost twice that much, especially in the spring and the autumn.
There are serious ecological and engineering implications. The permafrost has until now provided stable ground on which trees can grow and roads, buildings and pipelines can be built. The first signs of it going mushy are large sinkholes, many of which are already visible this summer around Fairbanks.

"Our permafrost is still stable, even though it is very, very warm," Vladimir Romanovsky a geophysicist at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks told the Alaska Daily News. "But the moment it starts to thaw, we will be able to say we are the warmest we have been the past 100,000 years."

Carnage continues

4 U.S. Soldiers Killed as the Violence Continues in Iraq, while yesterday car bombs killed 43 in Baghdad.

In response, President Bush will take TWO bike rides today.

From R.J. Matson.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The bastards never stop

Rummy is in South America, scouting out the territory for Bush War IV or V.
Speaking in Paraguay, a close US ally, he asked South American nations to take a multi-lateral approach to the issue.
[Rummy] said there was evidence that both Cuba and Venezuela had been "involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways".

He did not give more details.
By unhelpful, he means that Castro and Chavez are looking to help the people of Bolivia, and not to help the U.S. steal Bolivia's natural gas and other resources. The people of South America know all to well what cooperating with the US means--misery and poverty. Chavez is showing them another way. Rummy is old and stupid, and only the South American nations still run by corrupt oligarchs, like Paraguay, will listen to him.

Veep from the Deep...Pockets

So Useless Dick--How's that Halliburton stock doing?

He appointed himself vice president (with the help of the Supremes) and started two wars that have killed tens of thousands--all to boost a stock price??

Remember that Halliburton has had dealings with Iran and Iraq for years. They were given no-bid contracts to supposedly repair the damage caused by American bombs--even before the bombs were dropped on Cheneybush orders.

From Chris Britt.

From Steve Sack.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Quote du jour

From Paul Craig Roberts:
The Bush administration is insane. If the American people do not decapitate it by demanding Bush's impeachment, the Bush administration will bring about Armageddon. This may please some Christian evangelicals conned by Rapture predictions, but World War III will please no one else.
Roberts explains:
Gentle reader, do you realize the danger of having a president so disconnected from reality that he plots to attack Iran--a country three times the size of Iraq--when he lacks sufficient forces to occupy Baghdad and to protect the road from Baghdad to the airport?


Anybody get the feeling...

That the reason for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is that they've developed some huge new super bulldozer that can clear the strip in two passes, and they needed to get the settlers out of the way first? And I wonder--are the settlers removed from Gaza immediately resettled in the West Bank?

The power of images

If the highest muckety-mucks in the Cheney administration admit, repeatedly, that the photos and images from Abu Ghraib which were not released are so bad that mass rioting is sure to break out in the Muslim world--wouldn't that be sufficient for the rioting to take place anyway? Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Myers, various members of Congress and probably others have admitted to the gruesome nature of these pictures and films--the raping of young boys being the most frequently cited atrocity supposedly shown.

Basically, Myers and the rest are saying, publicly, that they are covering up something so awful that it would cause a riot. So why hasn't it? Oh, right. Iraq is a riot that has been going on for over two years now.


Billmon remarks on the global struggle to write an Iraqi constitution:

Somehow, I suspect Ambassador Khalilzad won't go to the mat -- or won't be allowed to go to the mat -- to keep Bush's bold promises to protect the rights of Iraqi women. In fact, at this point, I'm betting the Cheney administration would gladly endorse a jury-rigged, Lebanon-style ethnic power-sharing arrangement with a medieval religious bent -- just as long as it holds together long enough to provide a half-assed, U.S.-style exit strategy with a 2006 mid-term election bent.

That's what you call "lowered expectations."

Of course, don't get too excited. When the occasional Bushie suggests that we might eventually pull some troops out of Iraq, he probably just means we'll be moving them next door to Iran.

Even more suspicious than yesterday

From the NY Times, on the crash of a Cypriot airliner in Greece on Sunday (emphasis added):
Autopsies began on the victims to seek clues on the two main theories about the crash: that the plane suffered a loss of pressure or that toxic fumes, perhaps from a faulty air-conditioner, overwhelmed those aboard.
The article says that autopsies show that passengers were still alive when the plane crashed, and adds this:
The story of the crash took another twist on Monday as a man who said he had received a cellphone text message from a cousin aboard confessed that his claim was a hoax. He was arrested. The message reportedly said: "The pilots have turned blue. Farewell cousin, we're frozen."
Since the fighter pilots reported seeing a "lifeless cockpit," that suggests to me that the windows were not frosted over like they were in the Payne Stewart crash in 1999.

And here's some convoluted logic that I missed from yesterday's article on the crash:
In Athens, a senior Defense Ministry official said: "We're not ruling out anything. But that the plane was not shot down by armed F-16 jet fighters suggests that this may not have been a terrorist attack."
By that reasoning, I guess only Flight 93, the 757 which crashed in Pennsylvania, could possibly have been a terrorist attack on 9/11--surely the two planes which hit the WTC were not shot down!

This line of thinking suggests that someone raised the bar for terrorism on 9/11. In the past, bringing down an airliner full of people, like Pan Am 103 or the 1976 Cubana Airlines crash attributed to Luis Posada Carilles, would generally be considered a dastardly act of terrorism. But now it seems to be that if nobody tried to crash the plane into a building, it can't be terrorism. But to me, releasing a knockout gas into a plane's cockpit, disabling the crew and causing the plane to crash eventually, is a terrorist act just as much as blowing the plane up with a bomb or crashing it into a building. And it seems like something that would be relatively easy to do: have a crew member, passenger, maintenance worker or security personnel--basically anyone with access to the plane--place a small package in a hidden spot on the plane, triggered by timer or GPS or altitude or radio or whatever. Have the package be highly flammable or else indistinguishable from other containers on the plane, so it can't be detected after the crash. (The Wellstone coverup was facilitated by a massive fire following the crash.)

Monday, August 15, 2005

250 mpg?

CNN has an article about PHEV's--plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The 250 mpg is deceptive, since much of the mileage comes from batteries which are charged by plugging in the car. Still, the electricity could come from wind or solar--like my roof, for example!


A week ago today I noted that local gas prices were over $2.50 a gallon for regular--the highest I had ever seen here. Today, it's $2.79, and $2.99 for premium. Still, there were outrageous amounts of traffic I had to wait for just trying to cross the street to get some lunch.

Sounds like the Cypriot 737 got Wellstoned

The plane full of frozen people is most reminiscent of the 1999 Payne Stewart crash, but it might remind more people of the 2002 Wellstone crash in Minnesota if that crash had been properly investigated. While yesterday's crash is apparently being blamed on rapid decompression, there seem to be holes in the story. If the decompression had been so rapid as to prevent the pilots from putting on their oxygen masks and diving to a lower altitude, there shouldn't have been time for a passenger to send off a text message or for other passengers to go into the cockpit and try to take control. If it was simply a problem of cold, surely the pilots could have taken the plane lower or found a place to land before everyone froze to death. As with the Wellstone crash, the simplest explanation to me is that the crew was quickly incapacitated by a gaseous poison, like the fentanyl the Russians used in the Moscow theater hostage crisis (which amazingly happened at almost the same time as the Wellstone crash on October 25/26 2002). In the Wellstone crash, the plane was in final approach for landing when the pilot seemed to stop flying the plane. The plane was probably not on autopilot, and continued its bank while losing altitude until it crashed in the forest. The Cypriot 737 was on autopilot, so it continued to fly for quite a while.

My suspicions immediately went up when I read this:
Greek Defense Ministry officials said no chain of events could be ruled out in a crash that baffled many aviation experts, though by late afternoon terrorism was being discounted.
Probably because Cyprus has such a peaceful history.

Previous posts on the Wellstone crash:

As the world burns

Okay, I stole that headline from Mother Jones. But evidence of global warming seems to be more and more evident each day. Of course, it's hard to point to any one hurricane or heat wave or drought and say "Ah hah!--Global warming!" But there are an awful lot of hurricanes, heat waves and droughts going on right now. The NY Times has an article about the ongoing drought in the Mississippi and Ohio valleys which shut down part of the Ohio River to barge traffic on Friday, and threatens to shut down more of the Ohio and Mississippi soon. Barges running aground have already delayed shipments of petroleum products, coal, chemicals, agricultural goods and road-paving materials.

Just leave us out of it

You’ll probably have seen this elsewhere, but this is what Bush said yesterday about Cindy Sheehan: “But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there’s somebody who has got something to say to the president, that’s part of the job. And I think it’s important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it’s also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life.” So thoughtful, so sensitive. And then he went on a two-hour bike ride. He insists that all the exercise and outdoors stuff (he also went fishing) is essential so that he can make “good, crisp decisions.” The reporter did not ask for any examples of his having ever made a good, crisp decision.
Actually, I think it's fine for Bush to get on with his life. Just resign first and leave the rest of the world able to get on with its life.

From Ed Stein.

From Andy Singer.

From Matt Wuerker.

From Joe Heller.

From Jim Day.

From Steve Breen.

From Steve Benson. Steve left out the only nuclear power in the Middle East--Israel.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Renewable Living

I've got a great new battery box for my solar project, and things are running much better now:

Also, the tomatoes are ripening in abundance in my garden. These were the first two:

Both were really delicious--I really like yellow tomatoes.

Friday, August 12, 2005


The WHOLESALE futures price for a gallon of gasoline is now over $2.00.

A Nation Rocked to sleep

From, via Left I on the News:
A Nation Rocked to sleep

by Carly Sheehan
Sister of Casey Sheehan, KIA 04/04/04
Sadr City Baghdad

Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?
The torrential rains of a mother's weeping will never be done
They call him a hero, you should be glad that he's one, but
Have you ever heard the sound of a mother screaming for her son?

Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?
He must be brave because his boy died for another man's lies
The only grief he allows himself are long, deep sighs
Have you ever heard the sound of a father holding back his cries?

Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?
They say that he died so that the flag will continue to wave
But I believe he died because they had oil to save
Have you ever heard the sound of taps played at your brother's grave?

Have you ever heard the sound of a nation being rocked to sleep?
The leaders want to keep you numb so the pain won't be so deep
But if we the people let them continue another mother will weep

Worker's Paradise

Ford just set the record for highest monthly sales of a particular vehicle (the F-series trucks) in modern US automotive history. So, of course, they're firing a bunch of people:
Ford Motor Co., for the first time in generations, has resorted to firing employees and immediately escorting them from corporate buildings -- roiling the company and compelling Chief Executive Officer Bill Ford to send a message this week to reassure the so-called Ford Family.

Until now, Detroit automakers have cut thousands of white-collar jobs almost exclusively by getting employees to voluntarily quit through early retirement, buyouts or letting open positions go unfilled.

But not nearly enough people have come off Ford's payroll to meet its initial goal of cutting 2,750 of its 35,000 North American white-collar workers.

Even worse for workers, the company reported a $907-million loss in the April-June period this year for its North American division, and says now that cuts may have to go even deeper than 2,750 positions.
Sales records AND downsizing--they must be dancing on Wall Street.

Of course, Treasury Secretary John Snow suggests that what Americans need is more education:
"One of the things we know is that less educated people have seen their incomes and wages grow more slowly. That's what the numbers tell us.

"So that points you in the direction of greater emphasis on education," he told reporters, adding that savings rates among low-income Americans are also lagging.
Maybe those 2700 educated Ford white-collar workers can go back to school to learn to be toadying BS artists, in hopes that they too can one day be treasury secretary.

Elsewhere in the glorious People's Republic of America, Tom Tomorrow notes that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that employers can tell employees not to fraternize on or off duty with other employees. And by "fraternize" they don't mean dating, because that prohibition is spelled out separately. Basically, your employer can tell you that you can't have lunch or an after-work beer with a co-worker because, I guess, in this capitalist society, your employer owns you.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Venezuela and the DEA

From the Venezuela Information Office:
Venezuelan officials this week suspended a number of agreements with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration after an investigation into the behavior of U.S. anti-narcotics officials in Venezuela. Venezuelan authorities will continue to work closely with Colombia, European governments, and international organizations to impede the transportation of drugs through Venezuela.

Venezuelan leaders cited a number of reasons for this break with the United States, few of which have been reported in the North American press.

* Human Rights Concerns
Venezuelan law enforcement officials have long expressed concern that US drug agents violate the rights of innocent Venezuelans and run roughshod over local drug enforcement efforts. Some U.S. agents pose as dealers, actively participating in drug deals in order to catch big-time operators, an act that violates Venezuelan legal norms.

* DEA Espionage
Venezuelan officials say that a month-long investigation of DEA officials turned up evidence that some U.S. agents are using their job as a cover to gather intelligence against the Venezuelan administration.

* Sanctions Were a Foregone Conclusion
Venezuelan drug interdiction efforts have been on the increase since President Chavez took office in 1999 (See this report by the U.S. Embassy in Caracas for more details: ). Yet in recent months, U.S. officials have been publicly dismissive of Venezuelan anti-drug activity. Last month, the State Department's top Latin American diplomat declared that Venezuela has been unhelpful in the war on drugs, even though Venezuela had seized a record tonnage of illegal narcotics in the first half of 2005. U.S. criticism has been more frequent in the lead up to next month's State Department evaluation of Venezuela's anti-drug effort. A poor evaluation can lead to economic sanctions. Many Venezuelan observers are convinced that the United States, for political reasons, is planning to impose sanctions no matter how cooperative the Venezuelan government has been.

* Misplaced Priorities
Many Venezuelans have expressed frustration with the emphasis U.S. agents place on countries, like Venezuela, that are neither the source nor the destination of the majority of illegal drugs. While Colombia supplies roughly 80% of the world's cocaine, and the United States retains the vast majority of world demand, other Latin American countries often get caught in the crossfire for reasons of geography and politics.
The DEA, like the National Endowment for Democracy, are fronts for the American empire's attempts to recolonize the world. DEA and NED, along with the IMF and the World Bank, are basically thin veils disguising their more ominous inner beings--the CIA and the DOD. Hugo Chavez knows this, and refuses to play the game.

Texas newest state to have non-white majority

From AP:
According to the population estimates based on the 2000 Census, about 50.2 percent of Texans are now minorities. In the 2000 Census, minorities made up about 47 percent of the population in the second-largest state.
I figure that makes EVERYONE in Texas a minority. Of course, the smallest minority in Texas is made up of people who get five weeks of vacation, and who are stupid enough to take that vacation in central Texas in August.

You know, Crawford isn't far from Waco. What would happen if we told the FBI and the ATF that there are a bunch of heavily-armed religious fanatics holed up in a ranch there? Crawford's not far from Fort Hood, the nation's largest army base (except Iraq), either. Maybe we should tip off a local recruiter that there's an "exceptionally fit" guy just down the road clearing brush who still owes a couple of years on his military obligation. Seems to support the war and likes to dress up like he's a soldier--gotta couple of young daughters, too!

Bush Quagmire I continues to kill

QALAT, Afghanistan (AP) -- Villagers in southern Afghanistan said Thursday that U.S. airstrikes during operations against militants this week killed civilians and wounded others, including an infant. A U.S. service member was killed in the east -- the sixth American fatality in a week.
How much more of Operation Enduring Freedom is poor Afghanistan going to have to endure?

Quote du Jour

This rogue regime, led by two draft-dodgers and officially counseled by similar pro-war evaders during the Vietnam War, is not "our country." Millions of Americans, including military and public servants in his Administration, and many in the retired military, diplomatic and intelligence services, opposed this war, still oppose it and do not equate George W. Bush and Dick Cheney with the United States of America.
-- Ralph Nader


A question from my favorite Reaganite

Why does Cheney want to sell nuclear reactors to China, but order the US Strategic Command to prepare to nuke Iran’s nuclear power capability, a capability that would allow Iran to sell more oil to an energy-starved world?
-- Paul Craig Roberts, commenting on the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's approval of Westinghouse's sale of two nuclear reactors to China.

Quote du Jour

I'm proud to be here to sign this transportation bill, because our economy depends on us having the most efficient, reliable transportation system in the world.
-- aWol, yesterday

I guess we're sunk then. One occupant per gas guzzler--does it get any more efficient than that?

The quote is from an article in the Washington Post pointing out that signing the transportation bill clearly shows that aWol has flip-flopped on the issue of cutting government pork.


Things are heating up

From the Guardian, via Past Peak:
A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today.

Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere.

Mission Creep

Jonathan at A Tiny Revolution noticed a slight inconsistency--

Presidential Press Conference, March 6, 2003:
THE PRESIDENT: Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. And in order to disarm, it would mean regime change. I'm confident we'll be able to achieve that objective, in a way that minimizes the loss of life. No doubt there's risks in any military operation; I know that. But it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change. Our mission is precisely what I just stated.
Presidential address, June 28, 2005:
Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren.

Or you being president, for that matter...

FRom Dana Summers.

From David Horsey.

From Vince O'Farrell (Australia).

From Mike Keefe.


From Mike Thompson.

The cartoon refers to this:

A hazardous waste processing plant in nearby Romulus, Michigan caught fire and had a series of explosions Tuesday night, and the fire isn't out yet:
The inferno that tore apart a Romulus chemical plant kept burning throughout Wednesday night, prolonging a public health scare and evacuation order that forced thousands to seek shelter at motels, a school, and with friends and relatives.

Potentially toxic soot was strewn across neighborhoods surrounding the plant, and dangerous chemicals stewed in the hot rubble left by a series of explosions that jolted EQ Resource Recovery Inc. Tuesday night.
More than 24 hours after the industrial meltdown, local and federal officials still could not provide answers to anxious residents about potential health risks, or offer explanations as to the cause.

The stubborn fire prevented investigators from starting a full probe. In the meantime, they began testing the fallout. They urged residents to avoid contact with the grit and soot, but to be cautious if they did begin cleaning homes and cars. There is no certainty that today will bring concrete answers to questions about the potential for toxic hazards in neighborhoods near the plant.

That's not much help for residents like Angie Loop, 38, who planned to hose the dark sand-like residue off her driveway in Wayne. Returning to check on her cats and a hamster Wednesday afternoon, she surveyed the scene and wondered how careful she should be.

It "seemed like hail" when the charcoal-colored bits rained down in the dark Wednesday, said Loop. "The kids were freaking."

She'd already made sure not to track any fallout inside, and said she was awaiting word from authorities on whether the grit was toxic.
My suspicions haven't been raised too high in this case, since as far as I know no public official ran out to claim that it wasn't terrorism. All the reports I've seen say that investigators will have to wait until the fire is out before they can try to determine a cause. But Mike Thompson's cartoon is right on target--the materials most threatening to Americans are here in America, not in Iraq, North Korea, or Iran. The first WTC bombers and the Oklahoma City bombers both purchased the bomb materials in this country and used rented vehicles to deliver them. The planes on 9/11 were made in the US, and flown by domestic airlines from domestic airports. The 2001 anthrax attacks used anthrax from US military labs. There are huge stockpiles of deadly chemicals, nuclear waste, chemical and nuclear weapons, and lots of other dangerous things all over this country. Of all the lies told supporting the Iraq war, the idea that Saddam Hussein would give WMD's he didn't have to terrorists he didn't like was the most ridiculous. Even if he'd had WMD's and he wanted to give them to terrorists, it would have been much easier for those terrorists to just use what is already here.

Free Press caption: "The stuff in this container is what fell from the sky Tuesday night. Sandy Dotson, 45, of Wayne collected it."

[Update] I just saw this article on CNN:
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A tractor-trailer carrying 35,500 pounds of explosives overturned and exploded Wednesday, injuring four people and leaving a huge crater in a Utah highway.

Server Problems

The UM server that hosts my blog was down most of Wednesday. Hopefully we're back in business for a while now!


The bus to work seems to be filling up lately...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Some government we've got

Canadian citizen Maher Arar was detained at Kennedy Airport in 2002, locked up for several days, and then shipped off to Syria to be tortured. He is now, understandably, suing the US government, which should give him a few million dollars and beg his forgiveness, but won't:
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.
Judge David G. Trager of United States District Court prepared several written questions for lawyers on both sides to address further, including one that focused pointedly on Mr. Arar's accusations of illegal treatment in New York. He says he was deprived of sleep and food and was coercively interrogated for days at the airport and at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn when he was not allowed to call a lawyer, his family or the Canadian consul.

"Would not such treatment of a detainee - in any context, criminal, civil, immigration or otherwise - violate both the Constitution and clearly established case law?" Judge Trager asked.

The reply by Mary Mason, a senior trial lawyer for the government, was that it would not. Legally, she said, anyone who presents a foreign passport at an American airport, even to make a connecting flight to another country, is seeking admission to the United States. If the government decides that the passenger is an "inadmissible alien," he remains legally outside the United States - and outside the reach of the Constitution - even if he is being held in a Brooklyn jail.

Even if they are wrongly or illegally designated inadmissible, the government's papers say, such aliens have at most a right against "gross physical abuse."
Not to worry. Mary Mason, not to be confused with Perry Mason when it comes to defending the rights of the accused, says that US citizens don't have it as good as Arar did:
In some ways, she asserted, Mr. Arar had more rights than a United States citizen, because he could have challenged his deportation to Syria, which he had left as a teenager, under the Convention Against Torture. He also had 30 days to challenge his removal, she said.
Well, I feel better, don't you? Of course, there is the possibility that Arar might not have known all that without a lawyer. And it turns out he didn't even know he was being sent to Syria until he was already on the plane taking him there.

Cuban Five get new trial

From AP:
A federal appeals court threw out the convictions and sentences of five men accused of being Cuban spies, ruling Tuesday that their trial was not fair because of community prejudice and extensive publicity.
From what I've learned from sources I trust much more than Miami prosecutors, the Cuban Five were actually counter-terrorism agents, Cuban Jack Bauers, if you will, trying to thwart terror attacks against Cuba being plotted by the many right-wing anti-Castro extremists in Miami (and in the US government). Their 2001 trial was clearly a sham, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta has unanimously supported that conclusion. Prosecutors used the anti-Castro sentiment prevalent in Miami to frighten jurors, according to the Circuit Court.


In Webster Griffin Tarpley's 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, he refers to the people who actually carry out terrorist attacks, or at least are officially blamed for them, as "patsies." People like Lee Harvey Oswald, Mohammed Atta, and the guys being blamed for the 7/7 underground attacks in London. Tarpley refers to the government insiders who facilitate and possibly plan the terror attacks as "moles." Here's a paragraph from page 73 of Tarpley's book:
Despite the need to be noticed as much as possible, the patsies have to stay out of jail. If they are all in jail, the planned terror action cannot take place. This is not because the patsies are needed to carry it out, but rather because they must be on hand in order to be blamed for it, whether they are on the scene or far away. If the patsies are in jail, they cannot be scapegoated. Therefore a lawyer and bail money must be provided, or a complicit judge told to release the defendant. Immigration authorities and Customs must be told to look the other way. To keep the patsies out of jail so they can serve their vital purpose is the job of the moles, as will soon be shown.
Until yesterday, it was admitted in polite US circles that US "intelligence" was aware of only two of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, who had been connected with al Qaeda but were still allowed to live freely and openly in San Diego and travel at will. But yesterday's NY Times had the story eminating from Republican Congressman Curt Weldon that a US military intelligent unit, "Able Danger," had been aware of two additional future "hijackers" since 2000 or before. And these were big fish--the supposed ringleader Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, the two alleged pilots of the planes which struck the two WTC towers.

Of course, the Bushies have two likely ways out of this, which will probably work due to the general complicity of the media and stupidity of the public. They can chalk it up as just another bit of incompetence, a failure to "connect the dots," as they have done with many of the 9/11 failures. Admittedly, the government is chock full of both deviousness and incompetence, so it isn't clear that this fits squarely in the devious category (but if there's really that much incompetence, there should have been many more firings and many fewer promotions). The Bushies also have the option of blaming it on Clinton, since the first contact was apparently on his watch. There could be some truth in that--the powers that be have had Slick Willie on a tight leash for a long time, and they certainly had plenty of moles in his administration.

So, as proof of direct government complicity in 9/11, this "new" piece of information (it has been in the European press and been known for sure by the White House since right after 9/11 at the latest) leaves something to be desired. But, as the WSWS points out, it clearly demonstrates that the 9/11 Commission was a total farce:
Remarkably, Weldon reveals that he discussed Able Danger with top White House officials, including then-deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley, in September or October 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks. The White House was thus fully aware that the US military had identified Mohammed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi well before September 11, but it suppressed that information from all subsequent investigations, including the 9/11 commission.

The 9/11 commission staff nonetheless learned of the existence of Able Danger in October 2003, when several former military intelligence officers spoke to the staff, including executive director Philip Zelikow. According to the former military intelligence officer interviewed by the Times, they specifically mentioned Mohammed Atta by name in these discussions.

The former spokesman for the 9/11 commission, Al Felzenberg, in an interview with the Times, confirmed that the discussions about Able Danger had taken place, but claimed Atta’s name had not come up and the staff had not believed the report to be significant.

The June 19 Norristown Times-Herald article, however, gives the following account:

“Weldon said he was told specifically by commission members Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, and John Lehman, a former secretary of the Navy, that they had never been briefed on the Able Danger unit within Special Ops or on the unit’s evidence of a terrorist cell...”

The former military intelligence officer told the Times-Herald, “I personally talked with Zelikow about this. For whatever bizarre reasons, he didn’t pass on the information.”

There is no mention of Able Danger in the final commission report, and no hint that any US government agency had linked Atta to Al Qaeda before the September 11 attacks.

This demonstrates that the 9/11 commission was a fraud and a whitewash. Rather than uncover the real story of the terrorist attacks, the commission conducted a sophisticated cover-up of the real relations between US government agencies and the terrorists who killed 3,000 people. Meanwhile, Zelikow, the chief organizer of the 9/11 panel, has been rewarded for his services to the Bush administration and to the military/intelligence apparatus with an appointment as senior counselor to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a longtime friend and associate.
Evidence of what actually happened on 9/11 is unclear. Evidence of a massive coverup, both after and BEFORE 9/11, is crystal clear. The WSWS continues:
This new revelation only reinforces the suspicion that the tragedy of 9/11 was not the result of an “intelligence failure” or an inability to “connect the dots.” High-level officials in the state apparatus took affirmative action to protect the Al Qaeda operatives and allow them to prepare a terrorist attack. Whether they knew the full extent of what Atta and his confederates would do on September 11 can be debated, but there is no question that a terrorist outrage within the United States served the political purposes of the Bush administration.
[Update] The NY Times has a followup article this morning, featuring the wit and wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld:
At a news briefing on Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he could not comment on reports about Able Danger and suggested that he knew nothing about such an operation.

"I can't," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "I have no idea. I've never heard of it until this morning. I understand our folks are trying to look into it."
In other words, he's going with the incompetence ploy until his minions can come up with the Clinton link.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Regime change in Baghdad...again

From the BBC:
Baghdad's mayor has been sacked by the Iraqi government, in circumstances that he has described as "dangerous" and "undemocratic".

A government spokesman said Alaa al-Tamimi was fired on Monday, although he refused to elaborate further.

However, Mr Tamimi himself said 120 gunmen stormed his office and installed the provincial governor in his place.

He said tensions had broken out between him and Shia members of the provincial council in recent weeks.

"Acts like these set a very dangerous precedent for a country that wants to be free and democratic," Mr Tamimi told the Reuters news agency.
No matter. It seems pretty clear that no one is in charge in Baghdad:

AP Caption: "A suicide car bomber struck a U.S. convoy near a crowded square in a wave of violence that killed at least 17 people, including a U.S. soldier, in Baghdad."

Lost in Translation

More from Sibel Edmonds:
Over two years ago, and after two ‘unclassified’ sessions with FBI officials, the Senate Judiciary Committee sent letters to Director Mueller, Attorney General Ashcroft, and Inspector General Glenn Fine regarding the existence of unqualified translators in charge of translating high level sensitive intelligence. The FBI confirmed at least one case: Kevin Taskesen, a Turkish translator, had been given a job as an FBI translator, despite the fact that he had failed all FBI language proficiency tests. In fact, Kevin could not understand or speak even elementary level English. He had failed English proficiency tests and did not even score sufficiently in the target language. Still, Kevin Taskesen was hired, not due to lack of other qualified translator candidates, but because his wife worked in FBI Headquarters as a language proficiency exam administrator. Almost everybody in FBI Headquarters and the FBI Washington Field Office knew about Kevin. Yet, Kevin was given the task of translating the most sensitive terrorist related information, and he was sent to Guantanamo Bay to translate the interrogation of and information for all Turkic language detainees (Turkish, Uzbeks, Turkmen, etc.). The FBI was supposed to be trying to obtain information regarding possible future attack plans from these detainees, and yet, the FBI knowingly sent unqualified translators to gather and translate this information. Further, these detainees were either released or detained or prosecuted based on information received and translated by unqualified translators knowingly sent there by the FBI.
After more than two years since Kevin Taskesen’s case was publicly confirmed, and after almost two years since CBS-60 Minutes broadcasted Taskesen’s case, Kevin Taskesen remains in his position, as a sole Turkish and Turkic language translator for the FBI Washington Field Office. After admitting that Kevin Taskesen was not qualified to perform the task of translating sensitive intelligence and investigation of terrorist activities, the FBI still keeps him in charge of translating highly sensitive documents and leads. Those individuals in the FBI’s hiring department and those who facilitated the hiring of unqualified translators due to nepotism/cronyism are still in those departments and remain in their positions. Yet, your report does not mention this case, or these chronic problems within the FBI translation departments, and within the FBI’s hiring and screening epartments.
Again, this is from an open letter sent one year ago by former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds to 9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean.

There must be reasons why this wasn't and isn't a huge story, why in 2004 Taskesen was still "translating" Turkish into English for the FBI (which apparently would be a lot like me translating Swahili into Swedish), and why it wasn't mentioned in the 9/11 report. There must be reasons. But they can't be good ones.

Worse than I thought

Last night, I wrote:
I get the feeling that America is like the frog in the saucepan--whether it's driving habits, global warming, the housing bubble or Iraq, by the time we realize what's happening it will be too late.
Then I read this:
Sales of the F-Series pickup truck line alone accounted for 35% of those sales. The 126,905 F-Series trucks consumers bought in July represent the highest monthly sales for any vehicle in modern day US automotive history, according to Ford, and perhaps the highest monthly sales for any vehicle since Ford's Model T in the 1920s.
Those are big honkin' trucks! Americans are jumping out of the warm saucepan, and into the big spaghetti pot that's already boiling.

Repealing the New Deal, one step at a time

The new energy bill repealed the Public Utilities Holding Company Act of 1935. Apparently, regulated utilities will now be able to merge like banks, and/or be bought up by unrelated corporations, and/or get involved in risky investments that they've couldn't invest in before. WorldChanging suggests some probable consequences:
In short, the repeal of PUHCA means that public utility companies are now fair game for buyouts and consolidation. One likely scenario is that we see a process of merger and acquisition in the energy utility market akin to that in the telecommunications arena. Moreover, as major global energy companies such as ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco have been at the forefront of efforts to get PUHCA repealed, it's highly likely that they -- along with other energy majors -- will look to spend some of their recent windfall profits on utility acquisition, buying not just the power supply businesses, but the customer information. But it need not be an oil firm buying up utilities; billionaire investors and non-energy industry companies could just as easily buy up local utilities.

What might Wal*Mart Power & Light look like? or Microsoft Edison? Or General Electric Gas & Electric (GEG&E)?

From Andy Singer.

Who will Bush arrest first?

Bob Harris wonders: will it be Osama bin Laden, or Cindy Sheehan? Harris also points out that Bush has plenty of time for oil-soaked dictators, but can't spare a half-hour for the mother of one of the soldiers he got killed based on lies.

What didn't they know and why didn't they want to know it?

I'm continuing to work my way through Webster Griffin Tarpley's 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA. On pages 86-92, I learn more details than I knew before about the case of FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds. After the report from the 9/11 Commission came out last summer, Edmonds wrote an open letter to Chairman Thomas Kean. In it she documents, among other things, about how another translator deliberately blocked the translation of potentially key documents (and was backed by her superiors). And here's an interesting paragraph:
After the terrorist attacks of September 11 we, the translators at the FBI’s largest and most important translation unit, were told to slow down, even stop, translation of critical information related to terrorist activities so that the FBI could present the United States Congress with a record of ‘extensive backlog of untranslated documents’, and justify its request for budget and staff increases. While FBI agents from various field offices were desperately seeking leads and suspects, and completely depending on FBI HQ and its language units to provide them with needed translated information, hundreds of translators were being told by their administrative supervisors not to translate and to let the work pile up (please refer to the CBS-60 Minutes transcript dated October 2002, and provided to your investigators in January-February 2004). This issue has been confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee (Please refer to Senator Grassley and Senator Leahy’s letters during the summer of 2002, provided to your investigators in January/February 2004). This confirmed report has been reported to be substantiated by the Department of Justice Inspector General Report (Please refer to DOJ-IG report Re: Sibel Edmonds and FBI Translation, provided to you prior to the completion of your report). I provided your investigators with a detailed and specific account of this issue and the names of other witnesses willing to corroborate this. (Please refer to tape-recorded 3.5 hours testimony by Sibel Edmonds, provided to your investigators on February 11, 2004).

Today, almost three years after 9/11, and more than two years since this information has been confirmed and made available to our government, the administrators in charge of language departments of the FBI remain in their positions and in charge of the information front lines of the FBI’s Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence efforts. Your report has omitted any reference to this most serious issue, has foregone any accountability what so ever, and your recommendations have refrained from addressing this issue, which when left un-addressed will have even more serious consequences. This issue is systemic and departmental. Why did your report choose to exclude this information and this serious issue despite the evidence and briefings you received? How can budget increases address and resolve this misconduct by mid- level bureaucratic management? How can the addition of a new bureaucratic layer, “Intelligence Czar”, in its cocoon removed from the action lines, address and resolve this problem?
Maybe Kean & Co. thought that Edmonds was just a disgruntled fired employee striking back at the FBI. But her credibility is vouched for by at least one Republican Senator:
Edmonds put her concerns about the FBI's language department in writing to her immediate superiors and to a top official at the FBI. For months, she said she received no response. Then, she turned for help to the Justice Department's inspector general and to Sen. Charles Grassley, whose committee, the Judiciary Committee, has direct oversight of the FBI.

“She's credible,” says Grassley. “And the reason I feel she's very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story.”
To me, two of the fishiest parts of the official 9/11 story are 1) that two airplanes were able to cause three massive steel buildings to collapse completely to the ground, and 2) that the headquarters of the world's largest ever, and most sophisticated, military was hit by a plane over half an hour after everyone in world knew that America was being attacked. But fishier still is the even more abundant evidence of a massive coverup, of which Sibel Edmonds' testimony is but a small but highly revealing part. If the Bushies had nothing to hide, why have they worked so hard for nearly four years to hide it?

I read frequently, in regards to Rove v. Plame, that the lesson of Watergate is that it's not the original crime that brings down an administration, it's the coverup. But apparently 9/11 is a crime of such magnitude that they've been able to carry on the coverup for over four years (from what Tarpley and Edmonds say, it seems clear that the 9/11 coverup started well before 9/11). While the evidence of government involvement in a 9/11 conspiracy may be murky and rely on conflicting testimony from unreliable sources, the evidence of a government conspiracy to cover up what happened is abundant and unassailable. Bush's nomination of Henry Kissinger to head the 9/11 commission should have been an impeachable offense in itself!

Anyway, none of this is new. But it certainly relates to two stories currently in the news. From today's NY Times:
More than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, a small, highly classified military intelligence unit identified Mohammed Atta and three other future hijackers as likely members of a cell of Al Qaeda operating in the United States, according to a former defense intelligence official and a Republican member of Congress.

In the summer of 2000, the military team, known as Able Danger, prepared a chart that included visa photographs of the four men and recommended to the military's Special Operations Command that the information be shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the congressman, Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania, and the former intelligence official said Monday.
And then there's this story:
In a forthcoming book, the CIA field commander for the agency's Jawbreaker team at Tora Bora, Gary Berntsen, says he and other U.S. commanders did know that bin Laden was among the hundreds of fleeing Qaeda and Taliban members. Berntsen says he had definitive intelligence that bin Laden was holed up at Tora Bora—intelligence operatives had tracked him—and could have been caught. "He was there," Berntsen tells NEWSWEEK. Asked to comment on Berntsen's remarks, National Security Council spokesman Frederick Jones passed on 2004 statements from former CENTCOM commander Gen. Tommy Franks. "We don't know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001," Franks wrote in an Oct. 19 New York Times op-ed. "Bin Laden was never within our grasp." Berntsen says Franks is "a great American. But he was not on the ground out there. I was."

In his book—titled "Jawbreaker"—the decorated career CIA officer criticizes Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Department for not providing enough support to the CIA and the Pentagon's own Special Forces teams in the final hours of Tora Bora, says Berntsen's lawyer, Roy Krieger. (Berntsen would not divulge the book's specifics, saying he's awaiting CIA clearance.) That backs up other recent accounts, including that of military author Sean Naylor, who calls Tora Bora a "strategic disaster" because the Pentagon refused to deploy a cordon of conventional forces to cut off escaping Qaeda and Taliban members.
Basically, our government showed little interest in capturing the supposed perpetrators of 9/11, either before or after it happened. They had well-documented plans to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, and used 9/11 (or caused it) as their excuse for doing what they wanted to do all along. Preventing 9/11 or capturing bin Laden would have cost Halliburton and Bechtel billions and likely would have prevented the Repugs from controlling all three branches of government. They have clearly shown that they were willing to sacrifice thousands of American lives based on lies in their Iraq misadventure--why should anyone believe that they didn't do the same to get their global war on terror?

Monday, August 08, 2005


Every price for regular unleaded I saw today in Ann Arbor was over $2.50--the highest I remember ever seeing here. I get the feeling that America is like the frog in the saucepan--whether it's driving habits, global warming, the housing bubble or Iraq, by the time we realize what's happening it will be too late.

Accidental truth

CNN's headline: Bush: Energy bill effects will be long-term.

No doubt.
"This bill is not going to solve our energy challenges overnight," Bush said just before signing the bill into law. "It's going to take years of focused efforts to alleviate those problems."
And then decades more to solve the problems this bill causes.

Catholic Islamic terrorism has always threatened Airstrip One

It's in incredibly poor taste to quote Harry Truman during the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but I'm going to do it anyway: "The only new thing in the world is the history you don't know." Based on a couple of passages from the book I'm reading now, it seems as though this quote applies particularly well to the events in Britain in the last month. (Emphasis added.)
The classic case of strategic terrorism of this type is doubtless the Gunpowder Plot of November 5, 1605, a day that is still marked each year in the English calendar as Guy Fawkes' Day. In 1605 James I Stuart, a Protestant who united in his person the crowns of Scotland and England for the first time, was considering a policy of accomodation with the Spanish Empire, the leading Catholic power. James was also considering some measures of toleration for Catholics in England, where the majority of the landed gentry in the north of the country were still loyal to Rome. An influential group in London, backed by Venetian intelligence from abroad, wanted to push James I into a confrontation with the Spanish Empire, from which they hoped among other things to extract great personal profit. They also thought it was politically vital to keep persecuting the Roman Catholics. Chief among the war party was the royal chancellor, rought equivalent to prime minister, who was Lord Robert Cecil, the Earl of Salisbury. Cecil set out to sway James I to adopt his policy, by means of terrorism.

Acting behind the scenes, Cecil cultivated some prominent Catholics, one of them Lord Thomas Percy from the famous Catholic Percy family, and used them as cut-outs to direct the operations of a group of naive Catholic fanatics and adventurers, among them a certain gullible gentleman named Guy Fawkes. Thomas Percy was supposedly a Catholic fanatic, but in reality was a bigamist. [Couldn't he have been both? -- Ed.] This group of Catholic fanatics hatched the idea first of tunneling into the basement of the Houses of Parliament, in order to pacck that basement with explosives for the purpose of blowing up King, Lords, and Commons when James I came to open the parliament early that November. But instead Guy Fawkes was caught going into the basement the night before the great crime was scheduled to occur. Fawkes and the rest of the plotters were tortured and hanged, and several Catholic clergy were also scapegoated. James I put aside his plans for toleration of Catholics, and England set out on a century of wars against the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, from which in turn the British Empire was born. Guy Fawkes Day became the yearly festival of "no popery" and hatred of Spain.
-- Webster Griffin Tarpley, 9/11 Synthetic Terror: Made in USA, by p. 68

Towards the end of the 1600s, some leaders of the Whig ministry decided that France, not Spain, was now the leading Catholic power. In 1678 they brought forth the charlatan Titus Oates to allege that he had proofs of a "popish plot" backed by France to restore Catholicism in England, including by manipulating the royal succession. Oates may be usefully compared to the many "anti-terrorism experts" who appear on television news broadcasts to report on what the terrorists are doing, since it is clear that most of what these commentators say they have simply invented. When Oates began to recite his charges there was mass hysteria in England, and several Jesuits were hanged. The diarist John Evelyn had never seen "the nation in more apprehension and consternation." So great was the fear that "...before the end of 1678 not only did a majority of the English people believe that there was such a plot, but anyone who ventured to deny it ran the risk of impeachment as an accessory. 'Twas worse than plotting to suspect the Plot.'" The popish plot had enormous mass appeal: "the extravagant frenzy of the London mob took most people by surprise...London witnessed an exhibition of emotional fanaticism which has seldom been equaled in the history of a civilized nation. Mobs have often been as wicked, but not often so stupid. 'The imposture known as the Oates Plot,' wrote Lingard, 'supported by the arts and declamations of a numerous party, goaded the passions of men to a state of madness, and seemed to extinguish the native good sense and humanity of the English character.'" The great sponsor of Titus Oates was Anthony Ashley Cooper, Lord Shaftesbury, the founder of the Whig Party and a member of the oligarchical cabinet called the CABAL after the initials of its members: Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale. The philosopher John Locke was Ashley's secretary. In the late summer of 1679 the hysteria began to subside, and it became apparent that Titus Oates was a fraud and an imposter.
-- Tarpley, p. 70

The mood now is different. People do not talk of "scaremongering".
There will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK.
-- Tony Blair, August 5, 2005


Go Cindy Sheehan!

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - The angry mother of a fallen U.S. soldier staged a protest near President Bush's ranch on Saturday, demanding an accounting from the president of how he has conducted the war in Iraq.

Supported by more than 50 shouting demonstrators, Cindy Sheehan, 48, told reporters, "I want to ask George Bush: Why did my son die?"


Another new high.

Gasoline futures are at $1.8445 per gallon (before distribution, taxes, etc.), also a new high, I believe.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

pResident's Radio Address

Billmon has translated aWol's latest quagmireside chat into English for us.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

I WON'T bwing the twoops home!

I won't I won't I won't! I'm a waw pwesident! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!

CNN's caption:
President Bush tells a group in Grapevine, Texas, Wednesday that the U.S. will complete mission in Iraq.
Would that be the mission he said they accomplished over two years ago?

Bottled water nonsense

An article in Fortune tells how Starbucks has bought up a small California company, Ethos, and will now sell Ethos-brand bottled water in its 2.7 billion coffee shops (okay, I exaggerate a little). The hook--Ethos donates five cents out of every $1.80 bottle of water to fund drinking water projects in poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Starbucks apparently figures that this will appeal to their customers (whom I picture as pulling up in BMW SUV's with Kerry-Edwards bumper stickers, though I never go to Starbucks so I don't really know), soothing their consciences a little. Fortune, of course, is fawning all over Ethos and Starbucks for this brilliant marketing ploy.

But wait just a minute! For starters, according to Fortune, Ethos gets its water from springs in California and Pennsylvania. California is a state desperately short on water, relying on huge aqueducts to bring in water from the Sierras and the Colorado River. Along with other western states, California basically drains the Colorado River dry, leaving only a salty trickle, if anything at all, to cross the border into Mexico. And Mexico is one of those Latin American countries needing fresh water! Starbucks and Ethos could probably do more to solve water problems by just connecting their spring to the general California water supply and leaving the equivalent amount of water in the Colorado to flow on to Mexico like it used to.

Secondly, putting the water in petroleum-based plastic bottles and shipping them to Starbucks all over the country (world?) is an enormously energy-intensive and wasteful process.

Finally, having wealthy people buy bottled water removes important stakeholders from (much less expensive) municipal water systems. Why should they care anymore about bacteria in their tap water if they're only using it to water the lawn and wash the car? The problem is, lots of people, even in this country, can't afford $1.80 bottles of water, even if 5 cents of it goes to help even poorer people elsewhere. The well-off in this country don't care about inner-city public schools, because their kids don't go to them. They won't care about municipal water systems either if they aren't using them.

In general, I don't trust any of these "we'll donate 1% to charity" schemes. Working Assets gets lots of liberals to sign up for their long-distance and cellular services, claiming that at no extra charge you'll be contributing to lots of cool charities. But I researched their cellular a while back, and it turns out that they're basic plan was EXACTLY the same as my Sprint plan, coverage area and all, except it cost well over one percent more. Working Assets is just repackaging Sprint. It's just greenwashing. Get the Sprint plan and donate your savings directly.

The twenty-minute workday

Continuing my calculated assault on the well-intentioned but mistaken Frenchman Pierre Chomat, I decided to put his "one gram of oil = one human workday" claim to the test. He defined the work a person can do in a day as lifting 2000 kg of sand up 2 meters (6 ft 6 inches). Not having 2 kg of sand, I instead used a 5-kg dumbbell. I proceeded to lift it from the ground to over my head, a distance of approximately 6 feet 3 inches, 440 times. Allowing for the possibility that I didn't put it all the way down or lift it all the way up a few times, I called it six feet even, or 1.846 meters. This worked out to almost exactly the same amount of work as he calculated using a shovel: 2000 * 2 * 9.81 = 5 * 440 * 1.846 * 9.81. In Chomat's book, he claims that it would take a hard-working human all day to do this amount of work. I did it in 20 minutes and 29 seconds. That works out to an average of only 32.4 watts. Given a better mechanism for doing the work, like a pedal drive, I can easily put out five times that much power.

Sorry, Pierre!

From Rob Rogers.

Preparing the way for the next war

Even with Judy Miller in jail, the NY Times is still serving the empire by passing along any disinformation it sees fit to issue:
Many of the new, more sophisticated roadside bombs used to attack American and government forces in Iraq have been designed in Iran and shipped in from there, United States military and intelligence officials said Friday, raising the prospect of increased foreign help for Iraqi insurgents.
Of course, anyone paying attention knows that the foreign source for the majority of bombs killing people in Iraq is the United States. (From another article in today's Times: "Marine fighter jets pummeled buildings with guided bombs, and tanks blasted away at insurgents. By Friday evening, the American and Iraqi troops had killed or wounded at least 25 insurgents and detained at least 25 men, a Marine colonel said.") But Bush wants war with Iran, and anonymous "officials" are willing to pass lies on to the Times, which is always willing to publish them. They've done it before.

Of course it's possible that there's some element of truth here; the best lies usually have that. Saddam HAD WMD's--just not since 1995. Tax cuts COULD actually raise government revenues--they just don't. Brad probably DID love Jennifer--just not that much. And Iran MIGHT be trying to destroy a fellow Shiite fundamentalist country arising out of the ashes next door--but they probably aren't. To be fair, the Times mentions the inconsistency:
But just as troubling is that the spread of the new weapons seems to suggest a new and unusual area of cooperation between Iranian Shiites and Iraqi Sunnis to drive American forces out - a possibility that the commanders said they could make little sense of given the increasing violence between the sects in Iraq.
But that's the third paragraph--the headline is what most people will see (and hear about on tomorrow's talk shows): Some Bombs Used in Iraq Are Made in Iran, U.S. Says.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Quote du jour

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein, via Past Peak

Well, our pResident can plan an invasion (albeit not well), give orders, act alone and pitch manure. Four out of 21--that makes him 19% of a human being.

To be fair, smirking and clearing brush were human activities left out by Heinlein.


Crackdown in Airstrip One

[Note: I've stated a few times that Orwell's 1984 is a prerequisite for reading this blog. But, if you haven't read it, there is an online Newspeak Dictionary that can serve as your Cliff's Notes. Since I'm feeling generous today, I'll help the 1984-illiterates out this once: "Airstrip One" = England.]

Tony Blair is basically calling for arrest and deportation for committing "crimethink."
There will be new anti-terrorism legislation in the Autumn. This will include an offence of condoning or glorifying terrorism. The sort of remarks made in recent days should be covered by such laws. But this will also be applied to justifying or glorifying terrorism anywhere, not just in the UK.
Even our idiot pResident hasn't gone this far, although perhaps only because he doesn't know as many big words as Tony does. Of course, no one has been a bigger justifier of aWol's terrorism against Iraq than his poodle, Tony. And does this mean that the BBC can no longer show footage of bombings and the like, because it could be considered to be glorifying terrorism (similar to how our sports broadcasts don't show fans running onto the field during games)? Will the proles in Airship One be unable to see "24" reruns?

And the smarter half of the Blair-Bush project seems to be practically gloating over the opportunity that 7/7 gave him:
Such action in the past has been controversial. Each tightening of the law has met fierce opposition. Regularly we have had defeat in Parliament or the courts. The Anti-Terrorism legislation, passed in 2002 after September 11th was declared partially invalid. The successor legislation hotly contested.

But, for obvious reasons, the mood now is different. People do not talk of "scaremongering".
And, he didn't add, if they start doing that again, we can always arrange another attack to shut them up.

Just as with 9/11, the official story of what happened on 7/7 is full of holes, and the government has rushed to take police-state measures without any proof that they are needed or would have prevented the tragedy. See Xymphora for lots of details about what is wrong with Airstrip One's "investigation" of 7/7 and 7/21.

[Update, 4:20 PM] WIIIAI has lots of comments on poodle's speech. Excerpt:
Since 9/11, Blair has always had a bit of victimization envy. He desperately wanted for Britain to be important enough on the world stage to be attacked, for it too to be hated for its freedom. He didn’t precisely wish for the bombings, but they do represent a kind of validation for him, and an opportunity to put on his determined face and make just such a speech as he did today. After 7/7, everything is different, he says, which sounds awfully familiar. No one is calling it “scaremongering” any more, he says. Sure they are. Well, I am. It’s just more of a seller’s market now.

Latest poll--Bush sucks

From AP:
Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq, which had been hovering in the low- to mid-40s most of the year, dipped to 38 percent.
Bush's overall job approval was at 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproving.
48 percent [say] [Bush] is honest and 50 percent [say] he is not.
The portion of respondents who view his confidence as arrogance has increased from 49 percent in January to 56 percent now.

"This country is a monarchy," said Charles Nuutinen, a 62-year-old independent from Greenville, Wisconsin. "He's turning this country into Saudi Arabia. He does what he wants. He doesn't care what the people want."

Solar Shortage

From the NY Times:
American suppliers for the solar energy industry say that burgeoning demand both domestically and overseas, a weak dollar and shortages of raw material have created back orders of several months on electricity-generating photovoltaic, or PV, panels.
Germany consumes 39 percent of all solar panels in the world, with Japan next at 30 percent and the United States a distant third at 9 percent.
The new energy bill actually offers a $2000 tax credit for homeowners who install solar equipment, but it doesn't go into effect until next year, one year too late for my project.

Looks like the Roberts nomination could go either way

Billmon writes about the revelation that Judge John Roberts once did pro bono work supporting gay rights, something he failed to mention on a questionnaire. Excerpt:
I know! Maybe Roberts was seduced. You know how it goes: It's the oldest story in the book. The wife is out of town and the kids are off at camp. You've always wanted to experiment with the alternative legal lifestyle, and this time you just can't resist. So you pull on the tight plaid pants, put on just a trace of the missus's mascara, and wander down to that law library you've heard about -- the one where all the liberals go. And that's how it happens. You read a little William O. Douglas, knock back a few 9th Circuit opinions, and the next thing you know, you're going at it pro bono with some hot young hunk from the ACLU. And suddenly you realize what you've been missing all your life.

Mmmm...fecal matter...

From Red Meat, ironically. If you like totally warped humor (and who doesn't?), check out the latest Red Meat cartoon.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Scum of the Earth

From CNN:
"The comments of the No. 2 man of al-Qaeda make it clear that Iraq is part of this war on terror, and we're at war," Bush said.
I guess you'd have to admit that the terrorists have won, if aWol is using Zawahiri as his latest made-up excuse for The War Against Terror (TWAT), or is it the Global Struggle Against Vacationing Executives (G-SAVE). It should be noted that aWol says "We're at war" at the start of his five-week vacation. Lets hope the brush fights back and clears some Bush this time.

I still say Bush needs a mirror. Some of his other quotes from the ranch:
They're terrorists and they're killers and they will kill innocent they can impose their dark vision on the world.
They don't trust, they don't appreciate women. If you don't agree to their narrow view of religion, you're whipped in the public square.
Bush and Zawahiri--two lunatics justifying each other.

Wouldn't it be nice...

If this were really true? Excerpt:
U.S. federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's Chicago grand jury has issued perjury and obstruction of justice indictments to the following members of the Bush Administration: President George W. Bush, Vice-President Richard Cheney, Bush Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Cheney Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, imprisoned New York Times reporter Judith Miller and former Senior Cheney advisor Mary Matalin.

Democracy on the march

Astonishingly, Haitians are not registering to vote. Only one-fifth have so far, and the deadline is next week. The International Crisis Group is blaming poor security, as opposed to the fact that the last democratically elected president was bundled onto a plane by American Marines, more or less at gun point, and sent into exile. Makes the whole voting thing seem kinda pointless.
Of course, the last democratically elected American president was hanged by his chads and replaced with a moron.

Spies and the spying liars who sell them

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two former employees of a pro-Israel lobbying organization were indicted Thursday on charges they conspired to obtain and disclose classified U.S. defense information over a five-year period.

An indictment unsealed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., names Steven Rosen, formerly the director of foreign policy issues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Keith Weissman, the organization's former senior Iran analyst.

The five-count indictment also spells out in greater detail the government's case against Pentagon analyst Lawrence A. Franklin, who already was facing charges he leaked classified military information to an Israeli official and the AIPAC employees.
I've seen rumors, mostly at Xymphora, that this investigation may connect to Rove v. Plame and the broader crimes involved in lying America into the war in Iraq. Wouldn't it be nice to make aWol's vacation permanent, perhaps at a nice beachfront location on the south coast of Cuba?

There goes the neighborhood

From a NY Times article on New York City's housing boom. Of course, bubbles can go "boom" too.

BTW, the project in the photo must have started before the recent Kelo decision by the Supreme Court, otherwise the lonely remaining house would be gone too. Paul Craig Roberts points out that Kelo leaves homeowners basically defenseless, even if their city, county or state passes a law trying to block using eminent domain for private use--because the Feds can trump the locals and take your house anyway.

From R.J. Matson.

A cartoonist who needs some e-mail

Unbelievably racist cartoon from Mike Lester of the Rome (Georgia) Tribune.

Lester's e-mail is

Anybody know what a "Git" is?


[Technical warning: This is an esoteric, calculation-filled review of an esoteric book.]

Last week, I quoted from a review of the book Oil Addiction: The World in Peril by Pierre Chomat. Here is a part of the review that I quoted:
One gram of oil gives as much energy as a manual labourer can deliver in a day’s work. He quotes some nice examples: a plane load of tourists, flying from California to see the Great Pyramid of Egypt, consume as much energy as was used in building it. Running a domestic clothes-washer consumes as much energy as it would take a crane to lift the house 23 feet into the air.
I bought the book, and started reading it. It quickly became clear to me that there were serious flaws in Chomat's calculations, particularly the first one, which I'm afraid he used as the basis for making many other mistakes throughout the book. By my calculations, one gram of oil contains approximately 12 watt-hours of energy, something a normal person could easily generate in five or ten minutes of moderate exercise. Chomat did his calculations in calories, and seems to have forgotten that a food calorie (which is also the calorie you see on exercise machine readouts) is equal to 1000 physics-type calories (heat needed to raise 1 ml of water 1 degree C). So most of his calculations seem to be off by a factor of 1000, making oil seem to be a far more potent energy source than it really is (which is still quite potent).

If you're interested in double-checking me, here is what Chomat says:
The thermal energy available in one drop of oil, weighing just one gram, is approximately 10,000 calories, or 10 kilocalories. This is equivalent to the amount of work a laborer can accomplish during a full work day.
In the endnotes, he adds:
The amount of work that a single drop of oil can perform is equivalent to one day of hard physical labor by a human being using a shovel to lift 2 tons of sand (or 4,400 lobs) to a height of 2 meters (or 6.6 feet).

2000 kg x 2 m x 9.81 m/s/s = about 40,000 joules = about 10 kcal
But 40000 joules is only about 11 watt-hours (see Online Conversion). I haven't shoveled sand recently, but I think I could manage a rhythm of one shovel-full every 4 seconds, or 15 per minute. If each load were only 10 kg (22 lbs), it would take me 200 shovels full times 4 seconds = 800 seconds to lift the 2000 kg of sand. That's only 13 minutes! I might not be able to maintain that pace all day long, but it seems reasonable to assume that I could lift a lot more than 2000 kg in a day, and so could most people. We could do much better with a more efficient mechanism than a shovel (pullies, buckets, pedal drive).

What's sad here is that Chomat's error unnecessarily screws up his whole well-intentioned book. He makes up a new term, "ergamine" to describe both the energy in a drop of oil and a human-day of work. He then describes all sorts of energy uses--washing machines, jet plane flights, etc.--in terms of ergamines (for example, claiming it takes 500 ergamines to wash a load of clothes). But since the two are NOT even close to being equivalent, his calculations end up being meaningless. The real situation, that one gallon of gasoline does the equivalent of about three person-days of work, is stunning enough.

I only found one place online that questioned Chomat's calculations (see the comments here). None of the reviewers at Amazon caught the errors.

If you think I'm wrong or otherwise wish to comment on this post, e-mail me: bob AT

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Global Warming?

Stronger hurricanes, warmer ocean temperatures on the west coast, snow in Somalia.

Strangely enough, the weather seems to be getting less strange here in Michigan. The typical joke about Michigan weather is that if you don't like it, wait 15 minutes and it will change. Not so lately. The winter was long and pretty consistently cold--lots of teens and twenties, several single digit days. Very few of the brutally cold sub-zero days, and none of the really nice days we used to have once in a while in January or February--65 and sunny. And the summer has been pretty consistently hot and humid since June--lots of days in the high 80's and low 90's, but none of the brutally hot 100+ degree days. Occasional thunderstorms, a few rather spectacular in terms of how fast the rain came down, but not all that unusual. The general consistency is what seems strange this year. (I'm doing all this from memory--I haven't seen any reports on how this year's weather compares historically.)

Oil sands

The oil sands of Alberta are frequently cited as a way of putting off peak oil. This photo should give you a good idea of what the mining of oil sands does to the environment.

The caption says that two tons of oil sands need to be mined to get one 42-gallon barrel of oil. The Washington Post has a slide show with this photo and others. One important thing not mentioned in the slide show is that turning oil sands into oil requires large amounts of fresh water, an even more valuable commodity than oil.

Bush jokes

Past Peak has a humor page with lots of jokes from late-night comedians. Today's selection:
President Bush had his physical a couple days ago and doctors say that President Bush is likely our most fit president in the history of the United States. That means if anything happens to Cheney he can jump in and take over...Bush passed his physical — no word yet on his mental. — David Letterman
Okay, okay, I like this one too (from late June):
President Bush welcomed Vietnam's prime minister to the White House. He promised the prime minister he would travel to Vietnam next year — that is, unless his dad can get him out of it. — Jay Leno

Osama bin Emmanuel Goldstein

Past Peak quotes at length from David Ray Griffin's The New Pearl Harbor. Excerpt:
In March of 2002, this apparent lack of interest in killing or capturing bin Laden was put into words by the president himself, who said of bin Laden: "He's a person who's now been marginalized... I just don't spend that much time on him... I truly am not that concerned about him." The suspicion that the war was never about bin Laden, which Bush's statement could by taken to imply, was explicitly stated, Thompson points out, a month later by General Richard Myers, who said that "the goal has never been to get bin Laden." Another American official was quoted as making an even more revealing statement, saying that "casting our objectives too narrowly" risked "a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured."

Seven-foot Pole

A slight mismatch:

From AP:
The New York Liberty's Becky Hammon, in front, guards the Connecticut Sun's 7-foot-two-inch center Margo Dydek, of Poland, during the second half of their WNBA game at Madison Square Garden in New York Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)


That nobody died in the Air France crash in Toronto.

Your children's tax dollars at work

The WSWS has a rundown of the multiple pork-laden boondoggles Congress passed last week. Excerpt:
The most financially lucrative piece of legislation was the transportation bill, authorizing $286 billion in road, bridge and transit construction over a six-year period, including 2004 retroactively. It earmarks funds for 6,000 local projects, enough to provide dozens for each congressional district. While the bill is the largest "public works" legislation ever passed by Congress, the projects have been chosen, not for their public utility, but on the basis of the power and influence of the congressman or senator involved. The bill was approved 412 to 8 by the House, and 91 to 4 by the Senate.

One of the most notorious projects is the "bridge to nowhere," a $250 million mile-long, 200-foot-high bridge from Ketchikan, Alaska to a small offshore island where 50 residents and a small airport are located. Alaska Congressman Don Young, a Republican, is chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, which drafted the legislation. The bill also provides $230 million for a bridge over an inlet near Anchorage. The structure is to be named "Don Young Way." Another $3 million is earmarked for a public relations film to celebrate the development of infrastructure in Alaska, "the last frontier."
I hate to pick on the usually excellent writing of the WSWS, but have you ever heard of an onshore island?

14 Marines Dead

And make no mistake (as Bush Sr. always used to say)--they died in vain.
The American command here provided few details of the attack, but said the marines had been riding in an amphibious troop carrier "during combat operations" on the southern end of the city when it struck the bomb. Even though they operate in the desert, the marines often use large amphibious vehicles to conduct patrols and transport men and material. The vehicles are lightly armored.


Another new record! (As of 8:22 this morning, according to Bloomberg.)


Two quotes du jour today!

The first quote comes from the first chapter of Oil Addiction: The World in Peril, by Pierre Chomat:
The situation today is serious. We, in the West, can no longer afford to simply remember to fill up on gas and heating oil. It is time for us to wake up. Everyday, the children of Hilla, Mosul, Dawaniya, Baghdad, Tehran, Abadan, Khorramshahr, Baku, Groznyy, Lagos, ... face the possibility of paying with their lives to ensure the comfort of the children of the Northern hemisphere. Surely not even the need for energy can justify such callousness. It in no way justifies madness.
The second quote is an old one, from the year 2000, but one which I hadn't seen until this morning. It comes from Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (D-GA). I'm going to quote it in full, because it is excellent:
Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney
Video Speech before the Oxford Union

"Are Multinationals the New Imperialists?"

In short, the answer is yes, and the evidence is clear. However, we should know that government has always been the handmaiden of corporate imperialism.

I know that the United States has become the ultimate imperialist wanting to even colonize the European colonizers!

My European friends get upset with me when I say that, but look at what's happening now with Echelon. Echelon is the US global surveillance network monitoring every phone call, e-mail, fax, or any other communication. The European Union has protested the use of Echelon intelligence capability in corporate espionage. An example is the use of Echelon to defeat an Airbus bid to supply jumbo jets to Saudi Arabia in favor of a Boeing tender. Boeing won the multibillion dollar contract thanks to stolen information supplied by Echelon.

It used to be that the American security apparatus was utilized, with the Europeans, against the world of color. Now, they're using it against you.

American corporations are swallowing your corporations and the French are fighting, trying to stave off McDonald-ization of their culture.

Over here we call it Coca Col-onization. And Europe is the next big frontier. You're rich over there and you have every right to crave the best of what Americans can dream up. But understand that globalization is far more than what hamburger you eat or in what language a sign appears.

Your lifestyles will be profoundly affected. Your system of government could come under threat. Your currencies and stock markets will be threatened. Your ability to even select what food you eat. Everything. Your life as you know it may never be the same again.

Much of what America produces in the manufacturing world is increasingly being done in the worst authoritarian and dictatorial regimes in the world. Just imagine that America is a little pac man eating up all the yellow balls: some of them are gold, others diamonds, the red balls with the biggest points represent oil. And the pac man playing field is the planet. This little pac man called America won't be satisfied until every one of those little balls is eaten up. Now, it really doesn't matter who's at the control of this game, because the prime directive is to acquire possessions and consume.

But this has to be done in a way that doesn't offend national sensibilities. So, it's McDonald's today and American football tomorrow. And oh, how about a Coke?

This pac man needs a lot of energy in order to conquer the world.

In order to acquire all the world's resources.

So, down in the bowels of the body of the pac man game are all the indigenous and colored peoples of the world. Take their land. Work their children. Contaminate their environment. Murder their leadership. Nothing else really matters.

Need examples? Look at Occidental trying to take the land of the U'wa people in Colombia. Look at Nike in Vietnam. Or just look at Unocal in Burma (+, ++). And let us not forget Ken-Saro Wiwa of Nigeria.

All done in the name of good business. I call it imperialism. I call it criminal.

So, that's why it was so important to get China into the WTO. No potential rival can be left out of this web. That's why we fought and won the Cold War.

No area on the planet can escape the clutch of "globalization."

After all, we'll either need their consumers, their resources, or their workers.

And that's why it's so important to get China ensnared. No sense winning the Cold War to lose the globalization war!

And so, what does this globalization mean to us? Or the Chinese?

Well, let me tell you about life at the Kathi Lee Gifford Handbag factory in China. The workers are at the Qin Shi factory and work up to 115 hours per week, or 16 1/2 hours a day, seven days a week. But they were paid for only 14 hours a day, and 98 hours a week. Working seven days a week and 30 days a month, the workers would receive one day off every other month. All overtime work is mandatory, and the workers receive no overtime pay.

The average wage is 3 cents an hour!? But the lowest wage was 1/10 of a cent an hour! The Kathie Lee handbag the workers make at the Qin Shi Factory retails at Wal-Mart for $8.76, which by American standards is quite cheap.

However from the perspective of the average worker in the factory, earning just 3 cents an hour, the Kathie Lee handbag is very expensive indeed. At 3 cents an hour, he would have to work 299 hours to purchase such a handbag.

46% of the workers at Qin Shi earn nothing at all, and in fact end up owing the company money. Their wages aren't even enough to cover their pay plus their room and board. And, we're not talking Holiday Inn. Typical Chinese factory dormitories are drab concrete buildings seven or eight stories high. With heavy iron grates or bars covering the windows, the dorms resemble prisons. A 10-by-20-foot room easily houses 9 to 12 people.

So that's what globalization means to the Chinese workers. And to us, it means cheap pocketbooks, cheap rugs, cheap everything that makes life sweet, and no matter where we go, from Beijing to Brussels, we can find Starbucks Coffee, McDonald's hamburgers, Pizza Hut pizza, Nike shoes.

And now, thanks to taxpayer subsidies, high tech intelligence, a ready military, an army of ambassadors to diplomatically hawk US goods all over the world, and no effective campaign finance reform, US multinational corporations are definitely the tail wagging the dog. Or to keep to our analogy, the body at the control of the pac man game.

So, the only real winners in this game are the corporate stockholders and the CEOs.

Now, the Europeans have taken a very important, albeit modest, first step toward reining in European corporations. But what you see of the American sort has no conscience.

It is time to change the rules of the game.

Thank goodness, people all over the world are beginning to wake up.

Protestors are taking it to the streets in Seattle, Washington, DC, Davos, Prague, Sydney, and Montreal.

They understand that this policy of rape and pillage of the world's resources is unsustainable and is morally wrong.

The struggle against Multinationals is more than a fight for equal rights, it is a revolution.

And the people must take the power back. That is why I have introduced the Corporate Code of Conduct.

This legislation will demand that corporations follow strict guidelines in terms of environmental protection, human rights, and labor rights.

No longer will they be able to run their corporate waste into the very same streams used by the poorest people on the planet for bathing and washing and drinking. Freeport McMaran does this in Irian Jaye where they pour cyanide down the mountainside in order to extract the gold. However, they don't care that the cyanide then rushes into the river where the people feed and wash and drink.

No longer will they be able to use oppressive security forces to suppress indigenous peoples. This was done by Chevron in Nigeria last year when Chevron allowed Nigerian troops to board Chevron helicopters and gunboats to machine gun innocent Nigerians who dared to protest the environmental damage being inflicted on their land.

And no longer will they be able to line young girls up in the morning in Nicaragua and force them to take a birth control pill each day to keep them from getting pregnant. This is standard practice by too many subcontractors of American corporations.

If it was a war crime in World War II for IG Farben, Mecedes Benz, and other corporations to buy, sell, misuse, and enslave peoples of Europe, then why aren't the actions of Freeport McMaran, Chevron, Kathi Lee Gifford, and Nike war crimes too?

And finally, let me say a few words about the so-called Global Compact between The United Nations and multinational corporations. That relationship is as ugly as was the relationship of IG Farben and other corporations with Nazi Germany. It's abhorrent. And it sets a dangerous precedent. Since the United Nations has even become coopted, who out there will represent the world's people?

We have no choice but to push for a global economy that works for the millions of people who make it work -- the workers. We need global justice or else "Workers of the World Unite!" will become more than just a hackneyed slogan; it'll become the only way to survive.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

But you knew that already

Seven killed, eight injured...

... in Washtenaw County traffic accidents this past weekend. The victims were car occupants, motorcyclists, and bicyclists. Terrorism is really a pip-squeaky tiny threat compared to the speeding metal monsters on the road.

Still dying in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Six American Marines were killed in action in western Iraq, the U.S. command said Tuesday.

Bush to world: Go Cheney yourself!

Bolton: I have no respect for the United Nations.
Bush: I have no respect for the Constitution.
Rice: I have no respect for myself.

Bush: If he were only bald, he'd be perfect!

Monday, August 01, 2005

Peak Oil--the Hirsch report

Richard Heinberg, author of The Party's Over and Powerdown, writes about a recent report on peak oil entitled Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management. The report was prepared by one of those shadowy think-tanky organizations, SAIC, whose name keeps popping up in connection with various creepy things going on around the world. SAIC prepared the report for the US Dopartment of Energy. I haven't read the report yet, but according to Heinberg:
The Hirsch report examines three scenarios: one in which mitigation efforts are not undertaken until global oil production peaks; a second in which efforts commence ten years in advance of peak; and a third in which efforts begin twenty years prior to the peak. Each scenario assumes a "crash program rate of implementation." In the first case, the study concludes that peak will leave the world with a "significant liquid fuels deficit for more than two decades" that "will almost certainly cause major economic upheaval"; even with a ten-year lead time for mitigation efforts government intervention will be required and the world will experience a ten-year fuel shortfall. A crash program initiated twenty years ahead of the event will offer "the possibility" of avoiding a fuel shortfall. The report emphasizes repeatedly that both supply- and demand-side mitigation options will take many years to implement and will cost "literally trillions of dollars"; it also notes that "the world has never faced a problem like this."

The Hirsch report concludes that substantial mitigation of the economic, social, and political impacts of Peak Oil can come only from efforts both to increase energy supplies from alternative sources and to reduce demand for oil. With regard to the claim that efficiency measures by themselves will be enough to forestall dire impacts, Hirsch et al. note that, "While greater end-use efficiency is essential, increased efficiency alone will be neither sufficient nor timely enough to solve the problem. Production of large amounts of substitute liquid fuels will be required." Further, "Mitigation will require a minimum of a decade of intense, expensive effort, because the scale of liquid fuels mitigation is inherently extremely large." Hirsch, et al., also point out that "The problems associated with world oil production peaking will not be temporary, and past 'energy crisis' experience will provide relatively little guidance."
Evidence is growing that peak oil will happen, or has happened, some time in this current decade. The twenty years preceding the event have been spent on building suburbs, globalizing the economy, introducing automobiles in huge numbers into China and India, and in dozens of other ways doing exactly the opposite of what needed to be done. Like I said before, we live in interesting times.


A new record for oil today.

Shockingly Awful

I'm still trying to recover from last week, since Congress, getting ready to take another vacation, made last week perhaps the most damaging week to the future of this country since the first week of November, 2004. They passed CAFTA and the pork-laden "energy" and transportation bills, and made the fascist "Patriot" Act permanent (pending House-Senate conferencing). There's no doubt about it--Congress hates us. They don't want us to have jobs, they want corporations to control every aspect of our lives except those the FBI controls, and they want us to race to see whether we starve to death because the energy runs out or we bake to death because it doesn't. And the saddest thing, perhaps, is that this completely delusional nation of ours is not only destroying itself, but is asserting its bloody and evil will on the rest of the planet. So there's no escape.

More than ever, I see our only hope being a massive economic collapse that completely overturns the corrupt new world order. Fortunately, I guess, our idiot leaders have made that very likely. We shall live (or die) in interesting times.

From Ted Rall.