Saturday, July 23, 2005

Krugman: China's New Currency Policy and the US Economy

[T]he free ride China has been giving America, in which the world's richest economy has been getting cheap loans from a country that is dynamic but still quite poor, may be coming to an end.
It's all about which way the capital is flowing.
Capital usually flows from mature, developed economies to less-developed economies on their way up. For example, a lot of America's growth in the 19th century was financed by investors from Britain, which was already industrialized.
A decade ago, before the world financial crisis of 1997-1998, capital movements seemed to fit the historic pattern, as funds flowed from Japan and Western nations to "emerging markets" in Asia and Latin America. But these days things are running in reverse: capital is flowing out of emerging markets, especially China, and into the United States.
This uphill flow isn't the result of private-sector decisions; it's the result of official policy. To keep China's currency from rising, the Chinese government has been buying up huge quantities of dollars and investing the proceeds in U.S. bonds.
One way to grasp how weird this policy is would be to think about what a comparable policy would look like in the United States, scaled up to match the size of our economy. It's as if last year the U.S. government invested US$1 trillion of taxpayers' money in low-interest Japanese bonds, and this year looks set to invest an additional US$1.5 trillion the same way.

CIA colleague of exposed agent seeks to 'set the record straight'

Copy of my testimony to be presented on Friday, 22 July 2005 before a joint session of Congressional Democrats. / CORRECTING THE RECORD ON VALERIE PLAME / Larry C. Johnson. You can now see a video of Johnson's testimony here.
I submit this statement to the Congress in an effort to correct a malicious and disingenuous smear campaign that has been executed against a friend and former colleague, Valerie (Plame) Wilson. Neither Valerie, nor her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson has asked me to do anything on their behalf. I am speaking up because I was raised to stop bullies. In the case of Valerie Plame she is facing a gang of bullies that is being directed by the Republican National Committee.
...We sit here more than two years later and the storm of invective and smear against Ambassador Wilson and his wife, Valerie, continues. I voted for George Bush in November of 2000 because I wanted a President who knew what the meaning of “is” was. I was tired of political operatives who spent endless hours on cable news channels parsing words. I was promised a President who would bring a new tone and new ethical standards to Washington.
So where are we? The President has flip flopped and backed away from his promise to fire anyone at the White House implicated in a leak. We now know from press reports that at least Karl Rove and Scooter Libby are implicated in these leaks. Instead of a President concerned first and foremost with protecting this country and the intelligence officers who serve it, we are confronted with a President who is willing to sit by while political operatives savage the reputations of good Americans like Valerie and Joe Wilson. This is wrong.
Without firm action by President Bush to return to those principles he promised to follow when he came to Washington, I fear our political debate in this country will degenerate into an argument about what the meaning of “leak” is. We deserve people who work in the White House who are committed to protecting classified information, telling the truth to the American people, and living by example the idea that a country at war with Islamic extremists cannot expend its efforts attacking other American citizens who simply tried to tell the truth.

What was Plame's Front Company's Relationship with Arab Oil?

This is from a year-old report in "From the Wilderness" with reporting help from Wayne Madsen. So caveat emptor. It does, however, correspond with current revelations in the Rove scandal.
According to an April 29, 2002 report in Britain's Guardian, ARAMCO constitutes 12% of the world's total oil production; a figure which has certainly increased as other countries have progressed deeper into irreversible decline.
ARAMCO is the largest oil group in the world, a state-owned Saudi company in partnership with four major US oil companies. Another one of Aramco’s partners is Chevron-Texaco which gave up one of its board members, Condoleezza Rice, when she became the National Security Advisor to George Bush. All of ARAMCO’s key decisions are made by the Saudi royal family while US oil expertise, personnel and technology keeps the cash coming in and the oil going out. ARAMCO operates, manages, and maintains virtually all Saudi oil fields – 25% of all the oil on the planet.
It gets better.
According to a New York Times report on March 8th of this year, ARAMCO is planning to make a 25% investment in a new and badly needed refinery to produce gasoline. The remaining 75% ownership of the refinery will go to the only nation that is quickly becoming America's major world competitor for ever-diminishing supplies of oil: China.
Almost the entire Bush administration has an interest in ARAMCO.
The Boston Globe reported that in 2001 ARAMCO had signed a $140 million multi-year contract with Halliburton, then chaired by Dick Cheney, to develop a new oil field. Halliburton does a lot of business in Saudi Arabia. Current estimates of Halliburton contracts or joint ventures in the country run into the tens of billions of dollars.
So do the fortunes of some shady figures from the Bush family's past.
As recently as 1991 ARAMCO had Khalid bin Mahfouz sitting on its Supreme Council or board of directors. Mahfouz, Saudi Arabia's former treasurer and the nation's largest banker, has been reported in several places to be Osama bin Laden's brother in law. However, he has denied this and brought intense legal pressure to bear demanding retractions of these allegations. He has major partnership investments with the multi-billion dollar Binladin Group of companies and he is a former director of BCCI, the infamous criminal drug-money laundering bank which performed a number of very useful services for the CIA before its 1991 collapse under criminal investigation by a whole lot of countries.
As Saudi Arabia's largest banker he handles the accounts of the royal family and - no doubt - ARAMCO, while at the same time he is a named defendant in a $1 trillion lawsuit filed by 9/11 victim families against the Saudi government and prominent Saudi officials who, the suit alleges, were complicit in the 9/11 attacks.
Both BCCI and Mahfouz have historical connections to the Bush family dating back to the 1980s. Another bank (one of many) connected to Mahfouz - the InterMaritime Bank - bailed out a cash-starved Harken Energy in 1987 with $25 million. After the rejuvenated Harken got a no-bid oil lease in 1991, CEO George W. Bush promptly sold his shares in a pump-and-dump scheme and made a whole lot of money.
Knowing all of this, there's really no good reason why the CIA should be too upset, is there? It was only a long-term proprietary and deep-cover NOC - well established and consistently producing "take" from ARAMCO (and who knows what else in Saudi Arabia). It was destroyed with a motive of personal vengeance (there may have been other motives) by someone inside the White House.
From the CIA's point of view, at a time when Saudi Arabia is one of the three or four countries of highest interest to the US, the Plame operation was irreplaceable.

Who is Karl Rove? Whois

The Wikipedia community is pushing for an impartial representation of Karl Rove on their Rove Talk Page.
Very interesting and intellectually rigorous debate.
Unfortunately, someone identifiable only through their server, "," is deleting factual information from the page. Whois Someone working through a Department of Defense server in Virginia.

Conyers: Last Throes of Credibility - Five Years of Lies and Deception [PDF]

What do the Neocons have Against the CIA?

Abram Shulsky and Gary Schmitt credit the teachings of Leo Strauss, a German Jewish émigré philosopher, with helping them conceptualize their understanding of good intelligence. Shulsky received his doctorate from the University of Chicago studying under Strauss, who attracted a cult following of neocons with his theories about politics and human nature. Shadia Drury, author of several books on Straussian political philosophy, said that Leo Strauss believed that “truth is not salutary, but dangerous, and even destructive to society--any society.” 1
In their joint 1999 essay, “Leo Strauss and the World of Intelligence,” Shulsky and Schmitt observed that CIA analysts “were generally reluctant throughout the cold war to believe that they could be deceived about any critical questions by the Soviet Union or other Communist states.” But “history has shown this view to be extremely naïve.” 2 Unlike the Soviet Union, which operated with Machiavellian sophistication, according to Shulsky and Schmitt, the U.S. government was constrained by its democratic and moral principles during the cold war.
A political philosophy more closely hewed to the classic philosophers, particularly Plato, and the realist philosophers, such as Strauss, could provide an “antidote” to the CIA's failings, the authors claimed. Such a philosophy of intelligence would help the U.S. government understand Islamic leaders “whose intellectual world was so different from our own.” To truly grasp a given situation, contend Shulsky and Schmitt, it is necessary to penetrate the surface of information to uncover what Strauss called “the hidden meaning” in political dealings. Such a perspective, they said, “alerts one to the possibility that political life may be closely linked to deception. Indeed, it suggests that deception is the norm in political life, and the hope, to say nothing of the expectation, of establishing a politics that can dispense with it is the exception.”

Did Gonzalez and Ashcroft Conspire to Obstruct Justice?

In short, after Attorney General John Ashcroft delayed mounting any investigation into the Plame leak, he then delayed informing the White House of the investigation (in order to trigger their duty to preserve documents). Once Ashcroft did notify the White House, White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez asked if he could wait until the next day to send out the official notice to White House staff to preserve documents relevant to the investigation. Even though the request was extraordinary, and outside any normal prosecutorial procedures, Ashcroft obliged.

Film Critic is Sick of Film and Criticism

It’s shocking to me who’s able to get a job (and more shocking still, keep a job) writing about film (or any of the arts, for that matter) for a newspaper. From time to time, I search the websites of gestalt–weaklies, thinking that I might unearth a few who’d welcome (and pay for) my freelance pieces. In doing this, I’ve come across some of the worst writers I’ve ever read anywhere in any medium on any subject.

Ohio Republican Charged with Stealing Millions

Tom Noe stole millions of dollars from the state and used a “Ponzi” scheme to fabricate profits within the state’s $50 million rare-coin investment, Ohio’s attorney general said yesterday.
“There was an absolute theft of funds going on,” Attorney General Jim Petro said.
Mr. Petro said there is evidence that Mr. Noe pocketed nearly $4 million in money invested with the coin fund through the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation since 1998.
Mr. Petro asked a judge to further restrict the former Toledo-area coin dealer from selling personal assets because he believes they may have been purchased with state money.
State officials yesterday laid out a complicated scheme of payments between companies Mr. Noe controlled, which they say resulted in the theft of state money.

What Is the Plan If There's Another 9/11?

According to Philip Giraldi, writing in the new issue (not online) of the American Conservative, it's to nuke Iran:

The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney's office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing--that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack--but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

John Bolton Was Regular Source for Judith Miller WMD and National Security Reporting

TWN has just learned from a highly placed source -- and in the right place to know -- that John Bolton was a regular source for Judith Miller's New York Times WMD and national security reports.
The source did not have any knowledge on whether Bolton was one of Miller's sources on the Valerie Plame story she was preparing, but argues that he was a regular source otherwise.
It's all "thickening."

'Raging Grannies' want to enlist, go to Iraq

A group of anti-war senior citizens calling themselves the "Tucson Raging Grannies" say they want to enlist in the U.S. Army and go to Iraq so that their children and grandchildren can come home.
Five members of the group -- which is associated with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom -- are due in court Monday to face trespassing charges after trying to enlist at a military recruitment center last week.
The group has protested every week for the last three years outside the recruitment center.
"We went in asking to be sent to Iraq so our kids and grandchildren can be sent home, but rather than listening to us, they called the police," said 74-year-old Betty Schroeder. "It was their place to tell us the qualifications, but they wouldn't even speak to us. They should've said, `You're too old."'
Schroeder said her group may approach the Pentagon to see if they could be sent to Iraq.

Lockheed Martin Subsidiary Finds No Serious Health Risks from DU Exposure

[The] study concluded that the reports of serious health risks from DU exposure are not supported by veteran medical statistics nor supported by his analysis. Only a few U.S. veterans in vehicles accidentally struck by DU munitions are predicted to have inhaled sufficient quantities of DU particulate to incur any significant health risk. For these individuals, DU-related risks include the possibility of temporary kidney damage and about a 1 percent chance of fatal cancer.

Lawyer Admits Leaking Document to Reporter

A defense attorney on Friday admitted giving an FBI memo to a newspaper reporter writing about a corruption probe, and a federal judge urged a prosecutor to investigate how two other sealed documents were leaked. "If we have to go to jail, I guess we go to jail," said Doug Clifton, editor of the Plain Dealer.

C-SPAN Testimony of Career CIA Members on Leaked Identity

[RealVideo] Must see.

Friday, July 22, 2005

While My Ukulele Gently Weeps

A must listen. This is brilliant.

Testimony of the CIA's James Marcinkowski

What is important now is not who wins or loses the political battle or who may or may not be indicted; rather, it is a question of how we will go about protecting the citizens of this country in a very dangerous world. The undisputed fact is that we have irreparably damaged our capability to collect human intelligence and thereby significantly diminished our capability to protect the American people.
Understandable to all Americans is a simple, incontrovertible, but damning truth: the United States government exposed the identity of a clandestine officer working for the CIA. This is not just another partisan "dust-up" between political parties. This unprecedented act will have far-reaching consequences for covert operations around the world. Equally disastrous is that from the time of that first damning act, we have continued on a course of self-inflicted wounds by government officials who have refused to take any responsibility, have played hide-and-seek with the truth and engaged in semantic parlor games for more than two years, all at the expense of the safety of the American people. No government official has that right.
...There is a very serious message here. Before you shine up your American flag lapel pin and affix your patriotism to your sleeve, think about what the impact your actions will have on the security of the American people. Think about whether your partisan obfuscation is creating confidence in the United States in general and the CIA in particular. If not, a true patriot would shut up.
Those who take pride in their political ability to divert the issue from the fundamental truth ought to be prepared to take their share of the responsibility for the continuing damage done to our national security.
When this unprecedented act first occurred, the president could have immediately demanded the resignation of all persons even tangentially involved. Or, at a minimum, he could have suspended the security clearances of these persons and placed them on administrative leave. Such methods are routine with police forces throughout the country. That would have at least sent the right message around the globe, that we take the security of those risking their lives on behalf of the United States seriously. Instead, we have flooded the foreign airwaves with two years of inaction, political rhetoric, ignorance, and partisan bickering. That's the wrong message. In doing so we have not lessened, but increased the threat to the security and safety of the people of the United States.

Defense Department Refuses to Turn Over Abuse Photographs; Asks to File Secret Brief Justifying Refusal

Lawyers for the Defense Department are refusing to cooperate with an order from a federal judge to release 87 secret photographs and four videotapes showing human rights abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The images reportedly depict abuses more shocking than any the public has yet seen. After viewing them last year, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress that they were "hard to believe,” showing acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane." Rumsfeld added, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse." The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit last year to demand public release of the additional photos. Pentagon lawyers argued that their release would only add to the humiliation of the prisoners, but U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the Pentagon to comply with the ACLU's request by July 23, after removing any identifying features from the images. In an eleventh-hour appeal, the government has entered a new legal filing opposing their release. The ACLU has joined the Center for Constitutional Rights and several other organizations to denounce what they called "the latest in a series of attempts by the government to keep the images from being made public and to cover up the torture of detainees in U.S. custody around the world." [from]

O'Connor Bemoans Hill Rancor at Judges

With retirement looming and her proposed successor waiting in the wings, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor warned here Thursday that the independence of federal judges is under a greater threat from Congress than ever before in her lifetime.
"I am pretty old, you know," said O'Connor, who is 75 and had served on the court for 24 years when she announced early this month that she would be stepping down. "In all of the years of my life, I don't think I have ever seen relations as strained as they are now between the judiciary and some members of Congress. It makes me very sad to see it."
She went on to say that it is "worrisome" that members of Congress are making efforts to "limit federal court jurisdiction to decide certain issues."

New Test Takes Closer Look At High-Risk Sex Offenders

On September 1, a new law will go into effect that aims to better label the most dangerous sex offenders, and the method is unconventional, to say the least.
If you take a look at the Austin Police Department's registry, you'll find 80 sex offenders listed as living in zip code 78753. The problem is that you don't know if it's little children that gets a particular offender sexually aroused but the new pilot program will test that.

Daily Show spoof leads to firing of Broward Art Guild chief

Once again, there's controversy over "Controversy," the Broward Art Guild's May exhibit -- this time brought by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
The guild's board of directors on Wednesday fired executive director Susan Buzzi, who has worked there at least 10 years, after she appeared in a Daily Show spoof on an explicit art piece without consulting them.

Ex-CIA Officers Rip Bush Over Rove Leak

In a hearing held by Senate and House Democrats examining the implications of exposing Valerie Plame's identity, the former intelligence officers said Bush's silence has hampered efforts to recruit informants to help the United States fight the war on terror. Federal law forbids government officials from revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer.
"I wouldn't be here this morning if President Bush had done the one thing required of him as commander in chief — protect and defend the Constitution," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst. "The minute that Valerie Plame's identity was outed, he should have delivered a strict and strong message to his employees."

Rove-Bush Conspiracy Noose Tightens

For the past two years, there have been other indications that the White House engaged in a conspiracy to punish or discredit Wilson by leaking information about his wife, who had served overseas as a CIA covert operative using “non-official cover” – known as NOC – which is far more dangerous than U.S. spies operating under official cover.
In September 2003, a senior White House official told the Washington Post that at least six reporters had been informed about Plame before Novak’s column appeared on July 14, 2003. The official said the disclosures about Plame were “purely and simply out of revenge.”

The Sound of the 12/26 Earthquake

When the sea floor off the coast of Sumatra split on the morning of December 26, 2004, it took days to measure the full extent of the rupture. Recently, researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory analyzed recordings of the underwater sound produced by the magnitude 9.3 earthquake. Their unique approach enabled them to track the rupture as it moved along the Sumatra-Andaman Fault, raising the possibility that scientists could one day use the method to track underwater earthquakes in near real time and opening new avenues in seismologic research. Listen to the December 26th earthquake (mp3)

The Prospect of Wiki Journalism

Analysis: Wiki writers engage in a group-write process that creates a shared truth. But is this participatory model suitable for newspapers?

Feds Want to Know How Cleveland Papers Got Leaked Documents

After a weekly paper in Cleveland published a report, The Plain Dealer ran a previously delayed story about an investigation of the city's former mayor, and now a federal prosecutor is asking a judge to find out who leaked the information.
U.S. Attorney Gregory A. White filed the motion Thursday, the same day The Plain Dealer reported that former Mayor Michael R. White was a target of a federal investigation that began three years ago and that led to the indictment of one of White's friends.
See also: Now Doug Clifton Wishes He Had Kept Quiet

Daylight Saving Time to Be Four Weeks Longer

Daylight saving time is going to be extended by four weeks to shorten the winter, lengthen the summer and save energy. The measure was approved Thursday by the Energy Conference Committee made up of Congressional members from the House and the Senate who are working to harmonize their differing versions of the energy bill.
The legislation was first introduced by Congressmen Fred Upton, a Michigan Republican, and Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat.

Police: Orkut used as Brazilian drug network

The Maddest Mad Scientist: The CIA’s Dr. Sidney Gottlieb

Here's an excerpt from my new book THE WORLD'S WORST: A Guide to the Most Disgusting, Hideous, Inept and Dangerous, People, Places and Things on Earth. (See prvious entries: "The Least Adorable Pet: Miracle Mike The Headless Chicken" and The Least Healthy Diet: Breatharianism)

Carbon Dioxide At “Highest Level In 400,000 Years”

Global warming is caused primarily by humans and "nearly all climate scientists today" agree with that viewpoint, the new head of the National Academy of Sciences — a climate scientist himself — said Wednesday.
Ralph Cicerone's views contrasted with Bush administration officials' emphasis on uncertainty about how much carbon dioxide and other industrial gases warm the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
"Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is now at its highest level in 400,000 years and it continues to rise," said Cicerone, an atmospheric scientist who left as chancellor of University of California-Irvine to become academy president this month. "Nearly all climate scientists today believe that much of Earth's current warming has been caused by increases in the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, mostly from the burning of fuels."

U.S. Missile Defense Being Expanded, General Says

The United States is expanding its preliminary missile defense system to address potential threats from the Middle East and China, and from ship-borne missiles off America's coast, the chief of the Pentagon's program said yesterday.

Miss: Court Rules State Not Liable To Pay For Legal Help For Poor

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that the state is not obligated to help counties pay for hiring lawyers for poor criminal defendants.
The court, in a 6-2 decision Thursday, sided with Circuit Judge Ann Lamar in a 2003 case out of Quitman County.

White House threatens veto anti-torture legislation

The White House on Thursday threatened to veto a massive Senate bill for $442 billion in next year's defense programs if it moves to regulate the
Pentagon's treatment of detainees or sets up a commission to investigate operations at Guantanamo Bay prison and elsewhere.
The Bush administration, under fire for the indefinite detention of enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and questions over whether its policies led to horrendous abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, put lawmakers on notice it did not want them legislating on the matter.
In a statement, the White House said such amendments would "interfere with the protection of Americans from terrorism by diverting resources from the war."
"If legislation is presented that would restrict the president's authority to protect Americans effectively from terrorist attack and bring terrorists to justice," the bill could be vetoed, the statement said.

Colleague of outed agent seeks to 'set the record straight'

I submit this statement to the Congress in an effort to correct a malicious and disingenuous smear campaign that has been executed against a friend and former colleague, Valerie (Plame) Wilson. Neither Valerie, nor her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson has asked me to do anything on their behalf. I am speaking up because I was raised to stop bullies. In the case of Valerie Plame she is facing a gang of bullies that is being directed by the Republican National Committee.

Did Rove Lie to the FBI?

White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove did not disclose that he had ever discussed CIA officer Valerie Plame with Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper during Rove’s first interview with the FBI, according to legal sources with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
The omission by Rove created doubt for federal investigators, almost from the inception of their criminal probe into who leaked Plame's name to columnist Robert Novak, as to whether Rove was withholding crucial information from them, and perhaps even misleading or lying to them, the sources said.

Military Recruiters Use Market Research To Fill Boots

Source: Advertising Age, July 11, 2005
"As the Army struggles to fill boots, the Pentagon is slicing and dicing data from enlistees and the U.S. Census to sharpen direct-marketing efforts for all the armed services," Advertising Age writes in an article offering insight on how "to get a piece of the $200 million U.S. Army account." The Department of Defense has already taken steps to better understand who is enlisting and why by establishing the Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies (JAMRS) program. A visit to JAMRS' website illustrates how the military is using marketing communication -- advertising, direct marketing, and PR -- and market research and studies for recruiting. According to Ad Age, JAMRS, using Claritas' ConsumerPoint software, can sort recruits and applicants down to the ZIP-code-plus-four level, broken into 66 different subgroups. "This information will help the Services reach targeted markets and assist in the development of more effective marketing messages and incentive policies," states JAMRS' website.

Is Crackdown on Anonymous Sources Going Too Far?

Newspapers have been severely tightening their anonymous source rules going back to the Jayson Blair scandal, even more so in the wake of the Plame case. But many reporters and editors worry that the crackdown may be going too far. Here is an in-depth report with views from all sides.

Treaty gives CIA powers over Irish citizens

US investigators, including CIA agents, will be allowed interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy, under an agreement signed between Ireland and the US last week.
Suspects will also have to give testimony and allow property to be searched and seized even if what the suspect is accused of is not a crime in Ireland.
Under 'instruments of agreement' signed last week by Justice Minister Michael McDowell, Ireland and the US pledged mutual co-operation in the investigation of criminal activity. It is primarily designed to assist America's so-called 'war on terror' in the wake of the September 11 atrocities.
The deal was condemned yesterday by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) as "an appalling signal of how the rights of Irish citizens are considered by the minister when engaging in international relations".

Details of US microwave-weapon tests revealed

Volunteers taking part in tests of the Pentagon's "less-lethal" microwave weapon were banned from wearing glasses or contact lenses due to safety fears. The precautions raise concerns about how safe the Active Denial System (ADS) weapon would be if used in real crowd-control situations.
The ADS fires a 95-gigahertz microwave beam, which is supposed to heat skin and to cause pain but no physical damage (New Scientist, 27 October 2001, p 26). Little information about its effects has been released, but details of tests in 2003 and 2004 were revealed after Edward Hammond, director of the US Sunshine Project - an organisation campaigning against the use of biological and non-lethal weapons - requested them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Bush Unveils New Jaw Gesture at Nomination of Roberts [MOV]

Via Harry Shearer at Huffington Post:
I'd rather concentrate on a real scoop -- i.e., what's with the President's jaw? During the announcement remarks, George W. Bush unveiled a (to me, at least) entirely new facial movement, and it was a trimphant debut, since the movement/tic/signal was repeated more than a dozen times. I have no idea what it means, but a new Presidential facial movement, well into the second term, is exciting enough on its own terms. Enjoy it here.

DSM Town Hall and House Party at McLir's

From On Saturday, July 23rd, a number of Congressional Members and I will be holding town hall meetings to discuss the Downing Street Minutes and related developments in the Iraq War directly with our constituents. We chose July 23rd because it is the third anniversary of the now infamous Downing Street meeting in London.
At this point, I don’t have all of the details in terms of specific locations and times. However, I do know there will be a meeting in Detroit, and that several of my colleagues will host meetings across the country as well.

If you would like to sign up to host a house party in conjunction with the town hall meetings, please fill in the form below.

If you would like to submit questions or suggestions for the Town Hall Meetings, please
click here.
I will be updating this link frequently, and encourage you to sign up now. Much additional information on these and related events is and will also be available on

Not Enough Caskets for the Iraqi Dead

Coffin makers are unable to keep up with the demand for caskets in Iraq where tens of people die every day due to the continual armed attacks and bombings.
While casket prices increased due to the ever increasing demand, it is impossible to find caskets for the bodies of the poor and homeless. The price of a coffin varies from between $35 and $50 in Bagdat (Baghdad), in a city where one person dies every hour. Caskets have become a major necessity of the country due to the increasing number of deaths.

Scientology Critic Keith Henson Seeking Refugee Status

[T]he Church spent over a million dollars to get a legal judgement against Henson for copyright infringement. As a matter of principle, Henson retired to Canada rather than give the Church a dime. The Church continues to harrass him by spreading slanderous stories, through spurious accusations in the Canadian legal system, and with private investigators (all part of their Fair Game strategy). Meanwhile, his quest for refugee status is looking like a longshot, and the possibility that he might be deported and jailed in the US remains very real.

US imposes controls on a new security threat - birdwatchers

Birdwatchers in certain areas are being forced to provide photographic identification, submit themselves to background checks, and even pay for a police escort.
Law enforcement officials say that because the birdwatchers have equipment such as binoculars, telescopes and cameras, they have the potential to commit acts of espionage. The areas they use are sometimes close to military bases, dams and sewage plants.

Two Black Churches Burn in Tennessee Arson

Seven arson fires broke out Friday in a neighborhood in this small Tennessee town, inflicting heavy damage on two black churches and burning five vacant houses, authorities said.
Sparta police detective Allen Selby said there was no evidence to suggest the arsons were part of a racist hate crime, but authorities were not ruling out anything.
The fires erupted in the middle of the night, and no one was injured. No arrests have been made, but Mayor Tom Pedigo said authorities are pursuing some tips.

Young Republicans Not So Keen on Enlisting

Activists of a loosely organized campaign called "Operation Yellow Elephant" had threatened to protest the Young Republican National Convention at Mandalay Bay this week.
They argue that Young Republicans who support the war in Iraq should enlist in the military, especially given recent lags in recruiting.
Their motto: Sign up or shut up.
Activist Karl Olson, a New York resident, said he recently tried to sign up for the Army but was turned away because he's 44 years old. Younger Republicans, however, could help fight their cause, he said.

UK: Soldiers forced to shout 'bang' as the Army runs out of ammunition

Soldiers are facing the undignified prospect of being forced to shout "bang, bang" on military training exercises after an admission by the Army that it is running out of blank ammunition.
The shortage is also likely to result in a large number of important training exercises being cancelled or severely restricted.

Did CIA undermine Italy's war on terror?

For eavesdropping Italian investigators, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr was more than a dangerous terrorism suspect.
Monitored through wire taps and ambient listening devices, he was a walking, talking link to a larger threat in Europe and beyond -- who suddenly vanished on Feb. 17, 2003. That's when prosecutors say CIA agents kidnapped Nasr and flew him to Egypt.
The cleric, also known as Abu Omar, says he was tortured in Egypt under questioning and refused to be an informant.
"The kidnapping of Abu Omar was not just illegal, having seriously violated Italian sovereignty, but it was also harmful and corrosive to the effectiveness of the overall fight against terrorism," said Milan Judge Guido Salvini, who has a standing arrest order for Nasr.

Ambassador's Book on "Illegitimate" War Blocked by Downing Street

A controversial fly-on-the wall account of the Iraq war by one of Britain's most senior former diplomats has been blocked by Downing Street and the Foreign Office.
Publication of The Costs of War by Sir Jeremy Greenstock, UK ambassador to the UN during the build-up to the 2003 war and the Prime Minister's special envoy to Iraq in its aftermath, has been halted. In an extract seen by The Observer, Greenstock describes the American decision to go to war as 'politically illegitimate' and says that UN negotiations 'never rose over the level of awkward diversion for the US administration'. Although he admits that 'honourable decisions' were made to remove the threat of Saddam, the opportunities of the post-conflict period were 'dissipated in poor policy analysis and narrow-minded execution'.
Regarded as a career diplomat of impeccable integrity, during his time in post-invasion Iraq, Greenstock became disillusioned with the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer. Their relationship had deteriorated by the time Greenstock returned to Britain.
The decision to block the book until Greenstock removes substantial passages will be interpreted as an attempt by ministers to avoid further embarrassing disclosures over the conduct of the war and its aftermath from a highly credible source.

BBC Fires Back at Fox News

A contributor to Fox said after the London bombings that "the BBC almost operates as a foreign registered agent of Hezbollah and some of the other jihadist groups".
On the Fox website, there was an opinion piece "How Jane Fonda and the BBC put you in danger".
I am writing this in a building which was bombed by Irish terrorists. My colleagues and I are living in a city recovering from the wounds inflicted last week.
If I may leave our customary impartiality aside for a moment, the comments made on Fox News are beneath contempt.

The Current Status of Unreleased Abu Ghraib Images

June 30th was the deadline for the government to release the remaining Abu Graib images. The Government requested an extension. I wrote the ACLU to find out the current status.
Susan Tarbet replied, "The government had asked for an extension until July 22 to tell the court how and when they planned to release the photos and videos. We are now waiting for the court to issue an order with a specific date for the release, or for the government to release the images."

Leaked Dem Talking Points on Roberts

RAW STORY has obtained a one-page set of talking points on Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts from a Democratic aide on Capitol Hill, using an identical format to a one-pager on Judge Edith Clement released earlier this week Democrats claimed they had authored.
But this time, Democrats say it isn't theirs.
A veteran aide told RAW STORY the document was prepared by an "outside group," and declined to elaborate. The aide specifically denied that the document had originated at the Democratic National Committee or their Senate staff.

Dems: Dissenting Views to H.R. 3199, the “USA PATRIOT and Intelligence Reform Reauthorization Act of 2005.”

• It has been used more than 150 times to secretly search an individual’s home, with nearly 90% of those cases having had nothing to do with terrorism.
• It was used against Brandon Mayfield, an innocent Muslim American, to tap his phones, seize his property, copy his computer files, spy on his children, and take his DNA, all without his knowledge.
• It has been used to deny, on account of his political beliefs, the admission to the United States of a Swiss citizen and prominent Muslim Scholar to teach at Notre Dame University.
• It has been used to unconstitutionally coerce an Internet Service Provider to divulge information about e-mail activity and web surfing on its system, and then to gag that Provider from even disclosing the abuse to the public.
• Because of gag restrictions, we will never know how many times it has been used to obtain reading records from library and bookstores, but we do know that libraries have been solicited by the Department of Justice – voluntarily or under threat of the PATRIOT Act – for reader information on more than 200 occasions since September 11.
• It has been used to charge, detain and prosecute a Muslim student in Idaho for posting Internet website links to objectionable materials, even though the same links were available on the U.S. Government’s web site.

Gay Games 'too celebrative of gays'

"There's a big difference between tolerating and celebrating homosexuality," said Peter LaBarbera of the group. "For governments to be using taxpayer money and big corporations spending money to sponsor this, we think the average Joe sees that as being just a little bit off."
The Cook County Board of Commissioners approved the ceremonial proclamation without opposition last month as one of a group of routine measures.
"I must have been out of the room" when the proclamation came up, said Tony Peraica, one of the five Republicans on the 17-commissioner board.
Organizers say the Gay Games, set for July 2006, could pump $50 million to $80 million into Chicago's economy.
Gay Games spokeswoman Tracy Baim said she was not surprised by the commissioners' move and was "actually more surprised" when the proclamation was approved.

'High-level memo' on Roberts lukewarm to environmental, abortion stance; GOP strategy is revealed

While the tone remains muted, they also suggest the Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee may be unimpressed by Roberts' position on abortion and on the environment, seeing his position as undefined in both areas.
They also note a belief that Democrats will request memoranda surrounding Roberts' position on abortion.

Third columnist caught with hand in the Bush till

Michael McManus, conservative author of the syndicated column "Ethics & Religion," received $10,000 to promote a marriage initiative.

Team Bush Paid $8 Million for Dirty Tricks to Suppress Votes - and Tried to Hide It

In the months before the 2004 presidential election, a firm called Sproul & Associates launched voter registration drives in at least eight states, most of them swing states. The group - run by Nathan Sproul, former head of the Arizona Christian Coalition and the Arizona Republican Party - had been hired by the Republican National Committee.
Sproul got into a bit of trouble last fall when, in certain states, it came out that the firm was playing dirty tricks in order to suppress the Democratic vote: concealing their partisan agenda, tricking Democrats into registering as Republicans, surreptitiously re-registering Democrats and Independents as Republicans, and shredding Democratic registration forms.
The scandal got a moderate amount of local coverage in some states - and then the election was over. Now anyone who brought up Nathan Sproul, or any of the other massive crimes and improprieties committed on or prior to Election Day, was shrugged off as a dealer in "conspiracy theory."
It seems that Sproul did quite a lot of work for the Republicans. Exactly how much did he do? More specifically, how much did the RNC pay Sproul & Associates?
If you went online last week to look up how much money Sproul received from the Republicans in 2004, you would have found that, according to the party (whose figures had been posted by the Center for Responsive Politics), the firm was paid $488,957.
In fact, the RNC paid Sproul a great deal more than that. From an independent study of the original data filed by the Republicans with the Federal Election Commission, it is clear that Sproul was paid a staggering $8.3 million for its work against the Democrats.

The Fading Memory of the State

The official repository of retired U.S. government records is a boxy white building tucked into the woods of suburban College Park, MD. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is a subdued place, with researchers quietly thumbing through boxes of old census, diplomatic, or military records, and occasionally requesting a copy of one of the computer tapes that fill racks on the climate-controlled upper floors. Researchers generally don't come here to look for contemporary records, though. Those are increasingly digital, and still repose largely at the agencies that created them, or in temporary holding centers. It will take years, or decades, for them to reach NARA, which is charged with saving the retired records of the federal government (NARA preserves all White House records and around 2 percent of all other federal records; it also manages the libraries of 12 recent presidents). Unfortunately, NARA doesn't have decades to come up with ways to preserve this data. Electronic records rot much faster than paper ones, and NARA must either figure out how to save them permanently, or allow the nation to lose its grip on history.

Top GOP Donor Favored As Next CPB Head

"A leading Republican donor who once suggested that public broadcasting journalists should be penalized for biased programs is the top candidate to succeed the controversial chairman at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," the Washington Post reports. Bush-appointee Cheryl F. Halpern has sat on the CPB board for three years and is slated to replace Ken Tomlinson, a close ally, as the agency's head. Besides being a top Republican financial supporter, Halpern has served - with Tomlinson - on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees US international broadcasting services like Voice of America and Al-Hurra. Halpern sits on the executive board of the right-leaning think tank the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and is a board member of the International Republican Institute.

Business exec confirms same-time-as-attack underground bombing exercise

Basing their information on a BBC Radio 5 interview, Paul Joseph Watson and Alex Jones wrote for that a consulting agency with government and police connections was running an exercise for an unnamed company that revolved around the London Underground being bombed at the exact times and locations as happened in real life on the morning of July 7th.
"The host interviewed Peter Power, Managing Director of Visor Consultants, which bills itself as a `crisis management advice company’, better known to you and I as a PR firm.
"Power told the host that at the exact time that the London bombings were taking place, his company was running a 1,000 person strong exercise which drilled the London Underground being bombed at the exact same locations, at the exact times, as happened in real life.
See also: Coincidence of bomb exercises?
It began when Peter Power, one time high ranking employee of Scotland Yard and member of its Anti-Terrorist Branch, reported in two major UK media outlets that his company Visor Consulting had on the morning of 7th of July been conducting 'crisis exercises' whose scenarios uncannily mirrored those of the actual attack.
In interviews on Radio 5 Live and ITV News, Power appeared to claim the exercises involved 'a thousand people' as well as a dedicated crisis team whose number was not specified. The consultant described the simulation of 'simultaneous attacks on a underground and mainline station' and 'bombs going off precisely at the railway stations' at which the actual bombings occurred.

Plame's Identity Marked As Secret

The paragraph identifying her as the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was clearly marked to show that it contained classified material at the "secret" level, two sources said. The CIA classifies as "secret" the names of officers whose identities are covert, according to former senior agency officials.
Anyone reading that paragraph should have been aware that it contained secret information, though that designation was not specifically attached to Plame's name and did not describe her status as covert, the sources said. It is a federal crime, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for a federal official to knowingly disclose the identity of a covert CIA official if the person knows the government is trying to keep it secret.

Texas GOP on "Biblical Issues"

Biblical Issues Platform Comparison
National party platforms on specific Biblical issues [.PDF]
Civil Rights Platform Comparison
A 124 year history of the major civil rights efforts based on a side-by-side comparison of the early platforms of the two major political parties [.PDF]

PEW: Most Internet Users Unfamiliar with Terms [PDF]

Large numbers of internet users do not know the basic definition of some of the hottest new internet innovations and one of the most serious online dangers.
In a nationwide phone survey between May 4 and June 7, the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked internet users if they knew what certain internet terms meant. The results showed that some terms were well known, but that the terms “podcasting” and “RSS feeds” were not familiar to a majority of internet users and that “phishing” is still a foreign term to many.

The Dopyera Collection - Dobros for Sale

The personal instrument collection of John and Rudy Dopyera is for sale. John and Rudy are the inventor-craftsmen behind the resonator guitars that made the National and Dobro (DOpyera BROthers) guitar companies famous. No, you can't afford the collection, but it is pretty to look at (my personal favorite). [from]

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Scary Sand Castles

Uncle Sam wants you – even if you’re 42 years old

The Defense Department quietly asked Congress on Monday to raise the maximum age for military recruits to 42 for all branches of the service.
Under current law, the maximum age to enlist in the active components is 35, while people up to age 39 may enlist in the reserves. By practice, the accepted age for recruits is 27 for the Air Force, 28 for the Marine Corps and 34 for the Navy and Army, although the Army Reserve and Navy Reserve sometimes take people up to age 39 in some specialties.
The Pentagon’s request to raise the maximum recruit age to 42 is part of what defense officials are calling a package of “urgent wartime support initiatives” sent to Congress Monday night prior to a Tuesday hearing of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

"Don't cry 'wolf', shepherd boy," said the villagers, "when there's no wolf!"
From here the story looked liked it would end quite badly for the shepherd boy, and he certainly would have come to a sticky end were it not for a sudden stroke of genius.
He looked to his sheep, and then to the flock of villagers, who had come running so readily to his aid. He considered the crook in his hand, and the power he wielded with it. He then held that crook aloft and pointed his finger at the nearest villager.
"Are you seriously questioning the existence of wolves?" he cried.
"But there are no wolves h..." began the villager.
"You see? You see? He said it himself! This man would have you think that wolves simply do not exist! Surely you all recall that wolves once attacked a nearby village!"
Indeed they did. There was a sudden murmuring in the crowd.

TMBG "Fingertips" -- Now on Video [Flash]

New Synaptic Junction Weekly is Now Posted

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

New Downing Street Memo Leaked

In the letter from Meyer, he indicates that the British had a "need to wrongfoot Saddam on the inspectors and the UN" Security Council Resolutions, possibly suggesting that the British and the United States were coordinating to 'trick' Saddam into starting a war.
Meyer's letter is the third image of the documents to be released. The British Telegraph printed copies of a letter from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and another by Manning last fall.
His full letter can be read in PDF format here. This copy has been truncated to hide markings that might indicate their source.

Bush Court Pick Hastened to Quiet Rove Scandal

Sources said the timing of an announcement had been moved up in part to deflect attention away from a CIA leak controversy that has engulfed Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove.
"It helps take Rove off the front pages for a week," one Republican strategist said.

Baghdad Hospital Doctors on Strike Against Soldiers

More than two dozen doctors walked out of one of Baghdad's busiest hospitals on Tuesday to protest what they said was abuse by Iraqi soldiers, leaving about 100 patients to fend for themselves in chaotic wards.
Physicians said the troubles started when soldiers barged into a woman's wing at Yarmouk hospital, opened curtains and conducted searches as patients lay in their beds on Monday.

25,000 civilians killed since Iraq invasion, says report

The number of Iraqi civilians who met violent deaths in the two years after the US-led invasion was today put at 24,865 by an independent research team.
The figures, compiled from Iraqi and international media reports, found US and coalition military forces were responsible for 37% of the deaths, with anti-occupation forces and insurgents responsible for 9%. A further 36% were blamed on criminal violence.
Civilian deaths attributed to US and coalition military forces peaked in the invasion period from March to May 2003 - which accounts for 30% of all civilian deaths in the two-year period - but the longer-term trend has been for increasing numbers to die at the hands of insurgents.
Figures obtained last week from the Iraqi interior ministry put the average civilian and police officer death toll in insurgent attacks from August 2004 to March 2005 at 800 a month.
John Sloboda of the Iraq Body Count project, which co-authored the report with Oxford Research Group, said the Iraqi civilian death toll was the "forgotten cost" of the decision to go to war in Iraq.
"On average, 34 Iraqis every day have met violent deaths since the invasion of March 2003," he said at the launch of the report in London.

Judge Grants Immortality to Presidential Privilege

U.S. District Judge David Levi this week contradicted the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that presidential privilege erodes over time, by accepting CIA and Bush administration claims that presidential privilege still applies to two intelligence briefs given to President Johnson in 1965 and 1968, according to a memorandum of opinion and order dated 11 July in the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by University of California Davis professor Larry Berman against the CIA.
Levi also accepted CIA claims that the two documents are actually an intelligence "method" that the Director of Central Intelligence has authority to keep secret, despite the evidence in the case that the actual methods used by the CIA in the 1960s have been largely declassified. These include more than 800,000 spy satellite photographs taken by the CORONA and KH-5,6,7 and 9 systems, extensive data on signals intercepts including the Gulf of Tonkin (1964) intercepts of North Vietnamese traffic, and thousands of pages of source material produced by CIA agents in the Soviet Union (such as Penkovsky) or operating against Cuba (such as Luis Posada).

FAS: Unauthorized Disclosures and the Rove Matter

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted astutely that under the terms of the standard classified information nondisclosure agreement, officials are not supposed to confirm the accuracy of classified information even when it is obtained from a public source such as a journalist. Rep. Waxman reiterated this point yesterday in a letter to President Bush:

Meanwhile, the subjective character of classification policy was highlighted as Democrats turned ostentatiously hawkish on leaks while Republicans all but dismissed the public identification of a covered CIA officer as insignificant.
See "Political Parties Reverse Roles in Debate Over CIA Leak" by Josh Gerstein, New York Sun, July 18:

A Knight-Ridder news story noted that under the prevailing executive order, "appropriate and prompt corrective" administrative action is supposed to be taken against any U.S. government official who "knowingly, willfully or negligently" discloses classified information. But "a White House spokesman declined to respond to questions about the executive order."
See "Bush says he'll fire any aide who committed a crime in leak case" by Jonathan S. Landay, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, July 18:

Bitter Pill

Rather than keep a wary eye on profit-hungry drug companies, the press has served as their de facto marketing partner. In some cases, the consequences have proven deadly. Read more in Trudy Lieberman's State of the Beat.

Coding misstep forces new Firefox release

The open-source Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail client will be updated for the second time in a week because of code changes that have unintentionally stopped some third-party extensions from functioning correctly.

Unorthodox Chess From an Odd Mind

Two dozen programmers from around the world have signed up to compete in Germany next month in the first computer chess tournament devoted to Chess960, a game variant invented by fugitive chess genius Bobby Fischer that's slowly gaining rank among grandmasters.
The rules of Chess960 are mostly the same as orthodox chess -- but the setup incorporates something once considered anathema to the game: chance. Pawns begin where they always do. However, the pieces behind them on the white side are arranged at random, with the proviso that bishops must end up on opposite colors, and the king dwell somewhere between the two rooks. The black pieces are lined up to mirror the white. See also: Chess vs. Chess960: A PC's View

When a Man Dies in a Sex Act with a Horse -- What's a Reporter to Do?

The AP story gave basic facts about the case. It mentioned that the man -- who died of internal bleeding from anal sex with the animal -- died after visiting a farm in nearby Enumclaw that attracted "a significant number of people" looking to engage in bestiality.
Therefore, Sullivan said, "We thought if there was more than one person participating in this, it needed to be reported."

Antigay Father Outs 'Zach'

"Zach" is real. His name is Zach Stark.
A Google search finds that, until today, Zach had only been identified by full name in one obscure blog.
However, in an interview for Pat Robertson's national CBN TV network, father Joe Stark now defends sending Zach to what critics call an ex-gay boot camp:

"We felt very good about Zach coming here because… to let him see for himself the destructive lifestyle, what he has to face in the future, and to give him some options that society doesn't give him today," Stark said. "Knowing that your son... statistics say that by the age of 30 he could either have AIDS or be dead."

Canada: Human chain on beach saves 5 lives

Rescuers pulled five people to shore Sunday afternoon after they were caught in a riptide off a beach northeast of Charlottetown.
The drama that unfolded after four teenaged girls and a woman were swept away from shore at Blooming Point beach was captured on amateur video.

House GOP Social Security Plan Requires You To Give Up Guaranteed Benefits

The House Republican plan to overhaul Social Security requires retirees to give up their guaranteed benefit level if they want a personal account that can be passed on to heirs, GOP aides said Monday.
Only those who invest the accounts in government securities while they are working and in an annuity when they retire can be certain of receiving the full Social Security benefit they are promised, the aides said.
Other investment decisions would expose individuals to the ups and downs of the financial markets. That means their monthly benefit could wind up lower or higher than now envisioned. The aides, who work for the House Ways and Means Committee, described details of the bill to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Creation of personal accounts that give workers a nest egg they can pass along to their heirs has been a major selling point in the GOP drive to overhaul Social Security. [via Rachel Maddow]

Google's Growth Prompts Privacy Concerns

Although many Internet users eagerly await each new technology from Google Inc., its rapid expansion is also prompting concerns that the company may know too much: what you read, where you surf and travel, whom you write.
"This is a lot of personal information in a single basket," said Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel with the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "Google is becoming one of the largest privacy risks on the Internet."
Not that Hoofnagle is suggesting that Google has strayed from its mantra of making money "without doing evil."
Rather, some privacy advocates worry about the potential: The data's very existence — conveniently all under a single digital roof — makes Google a prime target for abuse by overzealous law enforcers and criminals alike.

U.S., India May Share Nuclear Technology

President Bush agreed yesterday to share civilian nuclear technology with India, reversing decades of U.S. policies designed to discourage countries from developing nuclear weapons.
The agreement between Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, which must win the approval of Congress, would create a major exception to the U.S. prohibition of nuclear assistance to any country that doesn't accept international monitoring of all of its nuclear facilities. India has not signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which requires such oversight, and conducted its first nuclear detonation in 1974.
Participants in the discussions said there had been debate within the administration about whether the deal with India -- which built its atomic arsenal in secret -- would undercut U.S. efforts to confront Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs. There were also concerns about how the agreement would be accepted in Pakistan, India's regional rival and an ally in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.
But supporters of the approach said it was an important part of a White House strategy to accelerate New Delhi's rise as a global power and as a regional counterweight to China. As part of the strategy, the administration is also seeking ways to bolster Japan's posture in the region.

Monday, July 18, 2005

The New York Times Reporter Who Brought Us the 'Atomic Age'

The official releases, which appeared under headlines such as "Basic Force of Universe Unleashed," disclosed, among other amazing things, the story of the first atomic chain reaction, the existence of dozens of secret bomb sites, and the test of the new weapon at the Trinity site in July.
Taken together, they chronicled, according to the Pentagon, a "fabulous achievement" and the means to "save thousands of American lives," which would come to be the key official rationale for killing tens of thousands of civilians in Japan.
Newspapers had to rely completely on information from the military. Press coverage amounted to little more than rewrites of War Department documents. But the War Department documents, it turns out, were written not by some military flack, but by a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, one of the great names in the history of The New York Times -- William L. Laurence.

Rate the Cat

Bush Changes Standard for Firing Leaker: Now Must Have Committed Crime

Press vs McClellan Continues - Feel the Joy

Q Is leaking, in your judgment of his interpretation, a crime?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'll leave it at what the President said.
Q What is his problem? Two years, and he can't call Rove in and find out what the hell is going on? I mean, why is it so difficult to find out the facts? It costs thousands, millions of dollars, two years, it tied up how many lawyers? All he's got to do is call him in.
MR. McCLELLAN: You just heard from the President. He said he doesn't know all the facts. I don't know all the facts.

Why Few Graphic Images from Iraq Make it to U.S. Papers

While the violence in Iraq has made it difficult for Western photojournalists to cover heated conflict scenes, the dearth of graphic war images in U.S. papers suggests something else is at play. Several photographers who have worked in Iraq say reader and advertiser concerns as well as military restrictions have caused many images showing the true nature of war to go unused.

The Straight Dope

The indispensable resource for almost any question, and despite resolving arguments in many threads, it has never been featured in the Blue on its own. So, some of the best from the last 30-odd years: Can hair turn white from fright? How do airplanes really fly? What was Barney Rubble's job in the Flintstones? If spaghetti is Italian, why is it sold by Franco-American? After the zombies take over how long until the electricity fails (A personal favorite)? What is the origin of the tooth fairy? And, of course, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck? And ever so many more. [from]

Sy Hersch: Did Washington try to manipulate Iraq’s election?

A Pentagon consultant who deals with the senior military leadership acknowledged that the American authorities in Iraq “did an operation” to try to influence the results of the election. “They had to,” he said. “They were trying to make a case that Allawi was popular, and he had no juice.” A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon’s civilian leaders said, “We didn’t want to take a chance.”
I was informed by several former military and intelligence officials that the activities were kept, in part, “off the books”—they were conducted by retired C.I.A. officers and other non-government personnel, and used funds that were not necessarily appropriated by Congress. Some in the White House and at the Pentagon believed that keeping an operation off the books eliminated the need to give a formal briefing to the relevant members of Congress and congressional intelligence committees, whose jurisdiction is limited, in their view, to officially sanctioned C.I.A. operations. (The Pentagon is known to be running clandestine operations today in North Africa and Central Asia with little or no official C.I.A. involvement.)
“The Administration wouldn’t take the chance of doing it within the system,” the former senior intelligence official said. “The genius of the operation lies in the behind-the-scenes operatives—we have hired hands that deal with this.” He added that a number of military and intelligence officials were angered by the covert plans. Their feeling was “How could we take such a risk, when we didn’t have to? The Shiites were going to win the election anyway.”
In my reporting for this story, one theme that emerged was the Bush Administration’s increasing tendency to turn to off-the-books covert actions to accomplish its goals. This allowed the Administration to avoid the kind of stumbling blocks it encountered in the debate about how to handle the elections: bureaucratic infighting, congressional second-guessing, complaints from outsiders.
The methods and the scope of the covert effort have been hard to discern. The current and former military and intelligence officials who spoke to me about the election operation were unable, or unwilling, to give precise details about who did what and where on Election Day. These sources said they heard reports of voter intimidation, ballot stuffing, bribery, and the falsification of returns, but the circumstances, and the extent of direct American involvement, could not be confirmed.

Synaptic Junction Gets 10,000th Hit

Thank you friends, family, librarians, poets, security experts, lawyers, teachers, culture jammers, Ayn Rand Enthusiasts, researchers, progressive utopians with no sense of humor, Ayn Rand types, artists, Norwegians, journalists, libertarians, conspiracy theorists, lefties, conservatives, chefs, Googlers, Canadians and everybody else who frequents the site!
When I started this over 18 months ago, I didn't expect 10,000 hits. Of course DailyKos gets that kind of traffic ever twenty minutes. But we still must enjoy our little victories.
Thank you again. -- McLir

Casualty of War: The US Economy

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost taxpayers $314 billion, and the Congressional Budget Office projects additional expenses of perhaps $450 billion over the next 10 years.
That could make the combined campaigns, especially the war in Iraq, the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years, causing even some conservative experts to criticize the open-ended commitment to an elusive goal. The concern is that the soaring costs, given little weight before now, could play a growing role in U.S. strategic decisions because of the fiscal impact.
"Osama (bin Laden) doesn't have to win; he will just bleed us to death," said Michael Scheuer, a former counterterrorism official at the CIA who led the pursuit of bin Laden and recently retired after writing two books critical of the Clinton and Bush administrations. "He's well on his way to doing it."

Study: Iraq War Created Tarrorists

New investigations by the Saudi Arabian government and an Israeli think tank -- both of which painstakingly analyzed the backgrounds and motivations of hundreds of foreigners entering Iraq to fight the United States -- have found that the vast majority of these foreign fighters are not former terrorists and became radicalized by the war itself.
The studies, which together constitute the most detailed picture available of foreign fighters, cast serious doubt on President Bush's claim that those responsible for some of the worst violence are terrorists who seized on the opportunity to make Iraq the ''central front" in a battle against the United States.
''The terrorists know that the outcome [in Iraq] will leave them emboldened or defeated," Bush said in his nationally televised address on the war at Fort Bragg in North Carolina last month. ''So they are waging a campaign of murder and destruction." The US military is fighting the terrorists in Iraq, he repeated this month, ''so we do not have to face them here at home."
However, interrogations of nearly 300 Saudis captured while trying to sneak into Iraq and case studies of more than three dozen others who blew themselves up in suicide attacks show that most were heeding the calls from clerics and activists to drive infidels out of Arab land, according to a study by Saudi investigator Nawaf Obaid, a US-trained analyst who was commissioned by the Saudi government and given access to Saudi officials and intelligence.

Senate to Vote on Hawaiian Self - Rule Bill

After six years of trying, Sen. Daniel Akaka hopes to finally see a vote in the Senate this week on one of the hardest-fought measures of his congressional career -- his bill to grant his fellow Native Hawaiians federal recognition.
''It will have a historical impact,'' said Akaka, D-Hawaii. ''It affects Hawaii, the Pacific, the nation.''
The measure is tentatively scheduled for debate Monday night and Tuesday, with a vote on Wednesday. Akaka and Hawaii's other Democratic senator, Daniel Inouye, say there are enough votes for approval.

House GOP fired messengers who warned of veterans' services shortfall

Fellow Republicans warned House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Leader Tom DeLay more than a year ago that the government would come up short -- by at least $750 million -- for veterans' health care.
The leaders' response: Fire the messengers.
Now that the Bush administration has acknowledged a shortfall of at least $1.2 billion, embarrassed Republicans are scrambling to fill the gap. Meanwhile, Democrats portray the problem as another example of the GOP and the White House taking a shortsighted approach to the cost of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and criticize their commitment to the troops.

Congressman Threatens Islamic Holy Sites

A Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.
Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.

SLAPP Suit Againsts Environmentalists Gets Dope-Slapped by Judge

Australian forestry giant Gunns has suffered a major setback in its $A6.3 million SLAPP suit against 20 environmentalists and environmental groups. Last December Gunns filed a 216-page statement of claim against the environmentalists and then, earlier this month, submitted a redrafted 360-page version. Supreme Court Justice Bernard Bongiorno told the company that unless it submitted a "radically altered" version of its claim within 28 days the case would be struck out. He described aspects of Gunns revised claim as "embarrassing" and said that "it would be a singularly unprofitable exercise to attempt to describe every defect in it which needs correction." Responding to the decision Gunns Exective Chairman, John Gay, optimistically told reporters that "suggestions have been made for some redrafting."

Large Volume of F.B.I. Files Alarms U.S. Activist Groups

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has collected at least 3,500 pages of internal documents in the last several years on a handful of civil rights and antiwar protest groups in what the groups charge is an attempt to stifle political opposition to the Bush administration.
The F.B.I. has in its files 1,173 pages of internal documents on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration's antiterrorism policies, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace, an environmental group that has led acts of civil disobedience in protest over the administration's policies, the Justice Department disclosed in a court filing this month in a federal court in Washington.
The filing came as part of a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act brought by the A.C.L.U. and other groups that maintain that the F.B.I. has engaged in a pattern of political surveillance against critics of the Bush administration. A smaller batch of documents already turned over by the government sheds light on the interest of F.B.I. counterterrorism officials in protests surrounding the Iraq war and last year's Republican National Convention.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Pulp Fiction in 30 Seconds, Re-Enacted by Bunnies

Plan 9 From Outer Space available at Internet Archive

Often billed as the worst movie ever made, and not entirely undeserving of the title, this is a masterpiece of Ed Wood's making.
Bela Lugosi was cast in the role of "Ghoul Man" but passed away before filming really started.
So what happens? The producer's wife's chiropractor (Mr. Reynold's was the executive producer) takes over as "Ghoul Man" and holds his cape in front of his face THE ENTIRE MOVIE.
Add to this numerous plot inconsistencies, horrid acting, and masses of stock footage - some of which we see several times and you have a terrible but funny movie.

A highly advanced alien culture is determined to destroy Earth before our scientists discover a bomb which will explode sunlight, the description Eros gives of this is quite funny.
In order to destroy our world, of several billion people, they raise three zombies from the dead. :-)

Cooper: What I Told the Grand Jury

In his 2 1/2 hour testimony last Wednesday before the grand jury investigating the CIA leak case, TIME White House correspondent Matthew Cooper testified that when he called White House political advisor Karl Rove the week of July 6, 2003, Rove did not reveal Joe Wilson’s wife’s name and did not reveal her covert status to Cooper. But he did say that Wilson’s wife works at the “Agency on WMD.” This was the first time Cooper had ever heard of Wilson’s wife.

Were the London Bombers Tricked?

Why did they buy return train tickets to Luton? Why did they buy pay & display tickets for cars? Why were there no usual shouts of 'Allah Akhbar'? Why were bombs in bags and not on their bodies?
...Police and MI5 are probing if the four men were told by their al-Qaeda controller they had time to escape after setting off timers. Instead, the devices exploded immediately.
A security source said: "If the bombers lived and were caught they'd probably have cracked. Would their masters have allowed that to happen? We think not."