Niews & views ...
As the Independent reports, British armed forces are preparing to intervene in future wars over water. Tony Blair will now host a British "crisis summit" about this.
But why is this a British or Western problem?
We do waste a lot of water. A British person uses about 50 gallons of water per day. A U.S. person some 125. A lot of this waste could be helped by better management and a "real" price for water.
But globally, even if waste would be avoided, the coming changes will exceed the resources in many places and lead to serious conflicts.
Some critical points are already visible. Turkey is increasingly using the water of Euphrates and Tigris with harsh consequences for Syria and Iraq. Israel occupies the Golan highs to control water flow. Ethiopia in future will use more Nile water for itself ruining significant parts of agriculture in Egypt's desert plantations.
While past climate changes lead to the migration of a few millions, the coming changes will move tens to hundreds of million people around. Conflicts are thereby guaranteed.
But what are few thousand British/European/Western soldiers to do about this? Why should we intervene at all? How?
If nomads lose their grassland to the desert and move into areas where other people have settled (i.e. Sudan), what can we do about this, except maybe kill either the settlers or the nomads? The grassland will not come back.
Will you send your children to fight Bangladeshi who move north into China or to stop Chinese and Mongols moving into Siberia?
I doubt "values" or "enlightenment" make western societies superior in solving these problems. So what can western armies do about this?
Maybe we could use the chaos to grab some valuables. Now that would be a good reason to get our armies prepared.
Is that what this "crisis meeting" is about?
Media Failure CLXXIII
From the headlines one should think that the UAE/US port managing deal will get an additional review:
Via Google News
Dubai lets US panel examine port deal
San Diego Union Tribune, United States - 34 minutes ago
Ports buyer requests 45-day review of deal
CNN - 2 hours ago
UPDATE 1-White House welcomes review of Dubai ports deal
Reuters - 3 hours ago
Second Ports Review Aims to Avoid Showdown
ABC News - 3 hours ago
DP World goes along with probe
Australian, Australia - 3 hours ago
But check Friday's (!) press briefing with National Security Advisor Steve Hadley:
Q You realize that lawmakers have suggested that the time should be spent with an additional extra review. Is that what it is not for?
MR. HADLEY: Well, in terms of the administration and executive branch process, that process has been completed. There was a lot of work that was done before the company filed its notice through -- it was then a review conducted in the 30-day period. And at the end of the day, no agency indicated that they had a national security problem, and therefore, the company was informed that the administration's process would go no further. So that process is over. But, of course, there are questions raised in the Congress, and what this delay allows is for those questions to be addressed on the Hill.
Q They can discuss it, but you're not going to reopen it?
MR. HADLEY: There's nothing to reopen. In terms of the CFIUS process, it's been completed.
The 45 days, required by law to investigate the security sensivity of such a deal, will not be used to do so. Now it is just an adiitional lobbying and cooling off period.
But see how the media again fall over themself to avoid the facts.
Are these journalists lazy or complicit? I never can make my mind up about that.
In a piece at Crooks and Liars, Glenn Greenwald calls for a realistic debate about U.S. troop withdraw from Iraq:
Being opposed to the war before it began does not necessarily mean that one must be in favor of withdraw now. Even if it would have been preferable not to have invaded, the reality is that we have invaded. So the question now becomes - how do we best rectify the disaster we have created? If our withdrawing would worsen the security situation in Iraq, then demanding that we withdraw anyway is a form of easy moralizing which cannot actually be morally justified.
There is a compelling argument to make that we should withdraw our troops. But that argument can only be based on the premise that our troops -- contrary to the views of the elected Iraqi government -- are doing more harm than good, not that the invasion was unjustified in the first place.
Let us forget for a moment that even 10 weeks after the election, there is no Iraqi government. There are also no signs that there will be some weeks from now.
Let us forget that the most of the government folks are former expatriates, who depend on the U.S. to provide their personal security and current and future income. Only some 70% of the population does call for an U.S. withdrawal.
There is one very simple easy question that makes any discussion about morality of an withdrawal or helping Iraq a waste of time.
Let us for a moment assume there were reasonable plans to better the situation in Iraq through the use of U.S. diplomatic or military means.
You see the problem?
Whatever idea might come up how the U.S. really could help in Iraq, the execution would lie in the hands of Cheney's administration. People who screw up anything but propaganda in the first place.
Is there anybody who has reasonable confidence that these people can implement any serious issue?
See, that´s what I guessed. So stop the discussions now and get the troops out.
My best bet: One of the two pieces has the facts wrong.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Saturday that the world body is hobbled "by bad management, by sex and corruption" and a lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions.
"We find an organization that is deeply troubled by bad management, by sex and corruption and by a growing lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions that are given to them," Bolton told an audience at a Columbia Law School symposium held by the Federalist Society, a conservative law organization.
Bolton Blasts U.N. 'Sex and Corruption', Feb. 26, 2006
Court records concerning the divorce of John R. Bolton, the Bush administration's nominee to become the next ambassador to the United Nations, show his first wife fled the couple's marital home when he was traveling abroad in mid-August 1982.
Corroborated allegations that Mr. Bolton's first wife, Christina Bolton, was forced to engage in group sex have not been refuted by the State Department despite inquires posed by Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt concerning the allegations. Mr. Flynt has obtained information from numerous sources that Mr. Bolton participated in paid visits to Plato's Retreat, the popular swingers club that operated in New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
John Bolton's Divorce – Group Sex Allegations, May 13, 2005
Buckley 'Should Be Hung'
(RBN) - Michael Reagan, son of the late President Ronald Reagan, is blasting National Review Editor at Large William F. Buckley Jr. for declaring that the U.S. won't be able to win the war in Iraq, saying Buckley ought to be "hung for treason."
"William Buckley should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq war!" Reagan told his Radio America audience on Monday.
Reagan was reacting to Buckley's comments earlier in the day, when the top neoconservative said "Our mission has failed."
In a National Review Online article, Buckley declared the American objective in Iraq to have failed and urged on different plans to be made on the base of an acknowledgment of defeat.
Using Lessons Learned Elsewhere
B'Tselem's investigation indicates that the roads subject to the regime may be classified into three categories based on the severity of the restrictions on Palestinian travel on these roads: completely prohibited, partially prohibited, and restricted use roads.
- Completely prohibited roads - The first category consists of roads for the exclusive use of Israeli citizens. ..
- Partially prohibited roads - The second category includes roads on which Palestinians are allowed to travel only if they have special permits issued by the Civil Administration ..
- Restricted use roads - The third category includes roads on which Palestinian vehicles are allowed to travel without a special permit, but access to the roads is restricted by concrete blocks and other obstacles. ..
The forbidden roads regime has forced West Bank Palestinians to use long and winding routes rather than roads that lead directly from one town or district to another. Travel on these alternate roads disrupts all aspects of daily life in the West Bank, in such areas as the economy, health, and education, and gravely affects social and family life. In addition, Palestinians suffer the insult and humiliation that are part and parcel of the measures used by Israeli security forces to enforce the discriminatory roads regime.
Forbidden Roads: The Discriminatory West Bank Road Regime
The Defense Department is considering a new, low-tech approach to countering roadside bombs that are the scourge of U.S. forces in Iraq -- construct new roads for supply convoys that simply bypass densely populated, high-threat areas.
The Army is seeking $167 million in military construction funds as part of the Pentagon's soon-to-be detailed $65.3 billion supplemental spending request for fiscal year 2006 to pave roads capable of supporting two-way traffic, complete with shoulders, drainage structures and interchanges to connect with existing supply routes, according to a draft version of the request.
Rather than trying to defeat improvised explosive devices (IEDs) head-on with new technologies and tactics, the Defense Department is looking to reduce risk to convoys by charting routes around danger zones.
DoD Plans New Roads to Avoid Iraqi IEDs
Just another one ...
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As part of its ongoing work to remediate control weaknesses in its corporate tax function, the company said that it will restate its results for fiscal years 2005 and 2004, as well as previously reported quarterly results for fiscal 2006. The restatement pertains principally to errors in determining the company's state effective income tax rate, resulting in a cumulative understatement of its state income tax liability of approximately $32 million as of April 30, 2005.
H&R Block Reports Third Quarter Financial Results
"A joy for all who see"
"A joy for all who see" is the original name of the city Samarra.
The Shia will need to vent somewhere. If their leaders are smart and really want to prevent a civil war, they will direct the outrage to the only other available group - the occupation force.
Even if the U.S. might not be directly responsible for this, without its war of aggression on Iraq, the mosque would still be as pretty as it was. That logic will not escape anyone.
The political influence of the United States in the Middle East is getting less by the day. Rice, trying to isolate Hamas, has just been snubbed in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
But now she is off to Lebanon to get pro-Syrian President Emile Lahoud removed from office. If she succeeds, a new Lebanese civil war will start. Now that would be a great success.
To support Rice's standing during her visit in the Arab world, Israel bulldozed a new public park and playground in the West Bank. You see, there was no Israeli building permit.
A fun detail: US AID had payed for the project.
I wonder who payed the bulldozer.
The Port Deal
When a British shipping and transport service company, like P&O, manages U.S. ports, nobody cares. But when Dubai World Ports buys P&O and now continues to manage those ports, all hell opens up.
The funny thing is to watch Democrats and Republicans united in fighting the deal against a Bush who, embedded in Middle East corporate interests, threatens to veto any attempt to stop it.
The mask of "terror protecting" comes off and his real face of "corporate money" is there to see for all.
I for one would argue against this deal. But like Soj, not on the grounds of any assumed terror danger.
I do believe that any monopoly-like infrastructure, roads, harbors, water and electricity networks etc., should always be owned and controlled by the state. To have these, even partially, controlled or managed by some private entity is renting out the right to collect taxes. We did away with that a long time ago for very sound reasons.
On the other side, Bush is right here in one serious point.
The U.S. has a trade deficit of some $700-800 billion per year. Americans give money to foreigners to buy their goods. But when those foreigners want to reinvest their earned US$ and get blocked, why would you expect them to continue to take Dollars?
If isolationism is seriously reviving, which I do expect, the US$ is overvalued by some 50%. How would doubling the price of raw materials and consumer products fare with the electorate?
There are three alternatives.
To continue a significant trade imbalances which will lead to the sharecropper society Buffet fears. Here the U.S. people will have to work indefinitely to pay the rent to foreign owners of U.S. productive means. The Dubai World Ports deal is part of this.
Second, isolationism with a high inflationary, Dollar dump period, leading over years to some more sustainable trade (im)balance. This will be payed for by the middle class or whatever is left of it and by foreign US$ holders.
Third, and very unlikely. A high tax environment that curbs U.S. consumption back to grade that nearly equals production within the U.S.
History tells us that the electorate and politicians will choose the short term benefit of alternative two without caring for the longer term consequences. The fight against the port deal is just a part of that game. Foreign investors will note this and act accordingly.
Words Not Deeds
The role of the government at this point is to continue to spend research dollars, to help push technologies forward; is to get these technologies to be even more competitive in the marketplace. And I'm calling on Congress to join us on this most important energy initiative. (...) And of all the issues, becoming less dependent on foreign sources of energy is an issue that we ought to be able to unite, and show the American people we can work together to help advance the technologies that will change the world in which we live.
President Discusses Solar Technology and Energy Initiatives in Michigan ,
Feb. 20, 2006
TOTAL BUDGET AUTHORITY BY FUNCTION AND SUBFUNCTION
(in millions of dollars)
Function and Subfunction 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 270 Energy 271 Energy supply -116 368 -97 -182 -121 272 Energy conservation 662 640 636 627 635 274 Emergency energy preparedness 160 155 154 152 154 276 Energy information, policy, and regulation 499 492 493 493 500 Total, Energy 1,205 1,655 1,186 1,090 1,168
THE HIDDEN CUTS IN DOMESTIC APPROPRIATIONS,
Examining the Administrations FY `07 Budget,
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities,
Feb. 9, 2006
Open threaddd ...
Kurtlar Vadisi - Iraq
"Valley of the Wolves - Iraq", Kurtlar Vadisi - Iraq (official website - Flash req.), is a recent Turkish action thriller.
The highest budgeted Turkish movie so far is a follow up to a successful TV series. The movie depicts the battle of a small team of Turkish special agents against malicious U.S. powers in northern Iraq.
The 2pm show today, in a 700 seats downtown theater, attracted only some 200 people. The evening shows are said to be packed.
About 10% of the visitors were German and 90% Turk/Kurd. A third were female, only some 10 with headscarves. Half of the people were first generation migrants, age 40-60, the other half from the younger generation. The flick was in Turkish language with German subtitles. It is rated age 16+.
In quality the movie can certainly compete with any decent Hollywood flick - great soundtrack, great actors, good camera runs and scenery and lots of flashy special effects. The plot, which I detail below, is dense. Though there is a lot of fighting and blood, the moral message is saddening and can be understood as a call for peace. Unfortunately, there is one part in the plot that degrades this message.
The movie starts out with 11 Turkish special forces being captured, hooded with sacks and interrogated by U.S. forces in North Iraq. Back in Turkey, the commander of that unit can not stand the shame. Before committing suicide, he asks his friend, the former Turkish secret service agent Polat Alemdar (Necati Sasmaz), to take revenge for the insult.
The man responsible for the incident is the OGA (other government agency, i.e. CIA) officer Sam Marshall (Billy Zane) who commands a gang of a dozen brutal mercenaries in black muscle shirts. A cultivated, knowledgeable, Beethoven loving man, Marshall's neocon, 'destroy for change', and evangelical, 'Jesus above everything', believes give him a ruthless conviction to know best for all.
Polat and his two comrades prepare a trap by threatening to blow up a noble "Harilton" hotel in a northern Iraqi city. After removing guests and staff from the scene they order the hotel director to call and get Marshall: "Don´t you capitalists pay and control these forces?"
When Marshall arrives, Polat wants him to put a sack above his head and to publicly leave the hotel with it, taking the same insult he committed to Polat's dead friend. But Marshall is prepared and his gang leads a choir of children into the hotel. Polat, not wanting to kill these, breaks off, but is now prepared to go for Marshall's life.
Leila (a beautiful Bergüzar Korel), an orphan raised by a wise Sufi leader and Sheik (Ghassan Massoud), has her wedding party. Marshall's gang prepares to raid the party to pick off some local leaders. When the usual celebratory gunfire starts, one says: "Now they are shooting, now they are terrorists."
The raid ends with Leila's groom, some children and guests being killed and the surviving males being transported in an airtight container to Abu Graibh. When a regular U.S. lieutenant protests the suffocating container transport, the leading mercenary opens fire on the container to "get some air holes in there". Then he kills the protesting U.S. officer.
In Abu Graibh a Jewish doctor (Gary Busey), working with Marshall's gang, is "harvesting" kidneys from the surviving prisoners. He hands out morphine when they suffer from post-operation pain. The kidneys are prepared to be send to London, New York and Tel Aviv. Another scene in Abu Graibh shows naked prisoners being stacked in a pyramid by a female GI. Other nakeds get hosed down with cold water.
Leila wants to take revenge for the wedding raid and asks her stepfather to allow her to commit a suicide bombing. In the longest scenes of the movie, the Sheik monologues to her in depth why Islam does not allow suicide bombings. Innocent people may get killed and suicide in itself is against Sharia. Leila follows that ruling, but sets out to personally kill Marshall.
Meanwhile Marshall is playing divide and conquer politics in a meeting with local Kurd, Turkman and Arab leaders. "The mountains for the Kurd, the desert for the Arabs and the oil for us". The Turkmen have to take flight from the city.
Both, Leila and Polat, try to use the occasion to kill Marshall, but an unrelated suicide bomber blows himself up next to the meeting and wounds and kills lots of innocent bystanders. Marshall escapes.
Leila helps Polat to flee the scene and with another attempt to go after Marshall. They believe to have succeeded, but when Polat brings Leila back to her stepfather's mosque, Marshall is coming for them. His gang, with the support of regular GI's, blow up the mosque with RPG fire. Polat's group wins the ensuing firefight, but Leila is mortally wounded by Marshall.
In a man-on-man fight Polat finally, using Leila's sacred dagger (a wedding gift), kills Marshall. After Leila dies in his arms, a saddened, lonely Polat saddles his horse and rides into the gleaming sundown (not so).
All the way Kurtlar Vadisi is a classic Western-like Hollywood B-movie plot. Good versus bad, an unfulfilled love relation, lots of action tipped off with of a moral tale.
As far as I can tell, the background of the movie is based on recent reality except one part. The kidney scene depicting a Jewish doctor is anti-semitic and somehow does not fit the plot at all. While there are a lot of Mossad agents plotting in Kurdistan and, in general, organ dealing is very real shady trade, I am not aware of any rumors or reports that would support the tale.
Throughout the movie the (Uncle-)Sam Marshall's CIA gang are the bad guys. But at one point the Marshall character hits a real nerve with the Turks when he tells them how they, for 50 years, have depended on U.S. defense and support. The folks watching with me, were uncomfortable to look into that mirror.
For Americans the movie may look anti-American, but it is less so than any Rambo flick is anti-Russian or dozens of other Hollywood flicks are anti-(whatever the current U.S. enemy is). It is certainly less brutal and racist than any recent "24" plot.
Unlike the CIA gang, the regular U.S. military is shown as good and bad. The warning to GI's not to watch the movie is completely unnecessary. There was no jubilance about the movie, no handclapping, but the people seamed satisfied. In after-movie talks I have not heard any bad word on Americans at all. People just did like the movie and nobody was outraged. Maybe because there was nothing new to get outraged about?
The movie will show in English language in some U.S. theaters (watch out for the protests!). I recommend to watch it if only for the interesting experience to experience the tools of Hollywood being used in a very unaccustomed "anti-American" way.
The unconscious bias we developed through decades of indoctrination by U.S. centric movie culture may well need a bit of readjustment.
Kurtlar Vadisi is good start to achieve such.
Some other viewers reviews
WB: What Friends Are ForBillmon:
Whittington added that that he has offered to reimburse the vice president for the full cost of the hunting trip, including the wasted birdshot.
by anna missed
pigment/spraypaint/pyro on wood - 15"x11"
full size (140kb)
Bush's trump card is that God moves in mysterious ways; just because the orders don't appear to make sense doesn't mean they weren't given. But we could make a legitimate distinction here between "mysterious" and "self-evidently crackers". We cannot, as mortals, say that God definitely, positively did not speak to Bush. But we can infer that either God is mad or Bush is mad. It is more heartening and less heretical to believe the latter; though, of course, God being omnipotent, He did make Bush mad. So maybe they're both mad ...
The burning Bush
Carrots and Sticks
Karl Rove has threatened Republican Senators not to get into the way of Bush`s NSA spying program:
[T]he White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.
That carrot has worked with some, especially with Senator Pat Roberts, the Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, said the White House had agreed in principle to negotiate on legislation that would give Congress authority to oversee the eavesdropping.
"The administration is now committed to legislation and has agreed to brief more Intelligence Committee members on the nature of the surveillance program," Mr. Roberts said, adding that "the administration has come a long way in the last month."
Roberts wants to legalize a program the White House all along maintains is legal and he wants to do so without investigating what the program is all about. In exchange he may get some of the oversight Congress is already entitled to have.
But while Roberts is engaged in a personal inspection of the inside of Rove's abdomen, those carrots have not worked with everybody.
Senator Arlen Specter, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is still pressing for more investigations and for legislation to put the spying program back under control of the FISA court - until now.
But on Tuesday, suddenly and without any reference to sources, USA Today reported: "Senate aide's spouse gets a windfall":
Sen. Arlen Specter helped direct almost $50 million in Pentagon spending during the past four years to clients of the husband of one of his top aides, records show.
Specter, R-Pa., used a process called "earmarking" 13 times to set aside $48.7 million for six clients represented by lobbyist Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International. The clients paid Herson's firm nearly $1.5 million in fees since 2002, federal lobbying records show.
Specter, as well as the lobbyist, deny, with some plausibility, any connection. There is no relation to the Abramoff or other scandals and all the earmarks did benefit Specter's constituency in Pennsylvania. Specter himself has asked the Senate Ethics Committee to investigate.
But why does this story pop up now? Who initiated it?
Doesn´t this look like a big stick is being used after Specter denied to take Rove's carrot.
The story now drowns out Specter's initiative on the NSA case. The beat of these drums will increase. Either he will fold, or there will be more stories like this until he is out.
But whatever Specter will do, the spying scandal will not go away. I tend to agree with Glenn Greenwald's hope:
[T]his scandal has many tentacles. And each of them is growing inexorably. The White House is running around with a broom desperately trying to sweep each branch under the rug (..), but once the mechanisms of the Washington scandal machine are activated with full-force, it is very difficult to simply shut them off or the prevent the disclosure of information which someone is trying to conceal.
Rove's carrots and sticks will only prolong the scandal. Specter may fold under one leaked lobbying story or another, but the NSA spying outrage will not go away.
Watch for more leaks on more programs. So far only the surface has been scratched.
Yesterday the German Federal Constitutional Court issued an interesting judgement on basic human rights.
After 9/11 the German Aviation Security Act was changed. The Minister of Defense was granted the authority to order the irforce to shoot down civil air planes (§14.3 LuftSiG (in German)).
This if a plane was assumed to be used against human life and if such action would be the sole instrument to stop a present danger.
Some confusion in air control and a trigger happy Defense Minister, who might assume a United Flight 93 scenario, gave any passenger and pilot over Germany a decent chance to end her flight and life in mid-air. Quite a chilling thought to me each time I entered a plane.
Fortunately some folks filed a complain with the German Federal Constitutional Court.
Yesterday the court declared the law void on two constitutional grounds.
Absence of war, the German military forces are constitutionally only allowed to act in in catastrophic events and only in support of police forces. Even in such a role, the use of other than police weapons is not allowed.
Unlike some politicians, the court does not see flying airplanes as a catastrophe and it could not find Sidewinders in police arsenals.
But the Constitutional Court finds an even more persuasive argument within the unchangeable Basic Rights of the constitution.
§ 14.3 of the Aviation Security Act is also not compatible with the right to life (Article 2.2 sentence 1 of the Basic Law) in conjunction with the guarantee of human dignity (Article 1.1 of the Basic Law) to the extent that the use of armed force affects persons on board the aircraft who are not participants in the crime.
The passengers and crew members who are exposed to such a mission are in a desperate situation. They can no longer influence the circumstances of their lives independently from others in a self-determined manner. This makes them objects not only of the perpetrators of the crime. Also the state which in such a situation resorts to the measure provided by § 14.3 of the Aviation Security Act treats them as mere objects of its rescue operation for the protection of others. Such a treatment ignores the status of the persons affected as subjects endowed with dignity and inalienable rights. By their killing being used as a means to save others, they are treated as objects and at the same time deprived of their rights; with their lives being disposed of unilaterally by the state, the persons on board the aircraft, who, as victims, are themselves in need of protection, are denied the value which is due to a human being for his or her own sake.
(You really should read the complete point 2 of the argumentation).
There are two interesting points to take from this argument. First, the Constitutional Court sees Terror as nothing war like, but as a normal crime. This should give some rest to discussion on further restriction of liberties in my country.
The even more important point is the far reaching possible application of the last cited sentence on scenarios like "torture to stop the ticking bomb" and any form of preventive force or preventive war.
Human dignity of the (presumed) innocent can not be abandoned to save the life of others. The court does see this as absolute. The subject can in no case be turned into an object. No measurement is allowed.
To infringe the human dignity and other inalienable rights of one to save a ten or a hundred or millions others is against the basic rights of all men.
I agree with this decision. How about you?
WB: Power of PersuasionBillmon:
WB: Hypocritical Oath +Billmon:
II. Cheney Bear Says
... couldn't resist that one.
Other news & views ...
Shooting Ones Knee
At least Cheney didn´t shoot himself.
Like the Democratic Party which manages to shoot itself over and over:
Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East.
Text of Bush's State of the Union speech, February 1, 2005
The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.
They say Hamas will be given a choice: recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements — as called for by the United Nations and the West — or face isolation and collapse.
The officials drafting the plan know that Hamas leaders have repeatedly rejected demands to change and do not expect Hamas to meet them. "The point is to put this choice on Hamas's shoulders," a senior Western diplomat said. "If they make the wrong choice, all the options lead in a bad direction."
U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster, NYT, February 14, 2006
Cheney Fails Again
Iraq, Katrina, Medcare Plan D, Lawyers ...
We will work to end lawsuit abuse. (Applause.) We know that it's a lot easier for America's businesses to hire new workers if they don't have to keep hiring lawyers. (Applause.)
Vice President Cheney's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Batavia, Ohio, October 11, 2004
Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and injured a man during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, his spokeswoman said Sunday.
Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride, said the vice president was with Whittington, a lawyer from Austin, Texas, and his wife at the hospital on Sunday afternoon.
Cheney Accidentally Shoots Fellow Hunter, February 12, 2006
The plot is made to be funny but fails along the way. The audience not only loses interest in laughing, but the characters as well. By the end of the movie, you hardly care who lives or dies and whether or not the movie ends. The title alone makes it hard for anyone to take this movie serious let alone enjoyable.
The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight., 1971
Some Middle East news and one bit from elsewhere:
Riverbend lives through an Iraqi/U.S. early morning raid in Baghdad: The Raid ...
One of them stood with the Klashnikov pointed at us, and the other one began opening cabinets and checking behind doors. We were silent. The only sounds came from my aunt, who was praying in a tremulous whisper and little B., who was sucking away at his thumb, eyes wide with fear. I could hear the rest of the troops walking around the house, opening closets, doors and cabinets.
Also in Iraq: British troops videoed 'beating Iraqis'
The video, lasting just over three minutes, is said to show at least 42 blows rained upon the four teenagers. The cries of the prisoners can be heard clearly according to the newspaper report.
Nearby, the head of the Israeli secret service recognizes an apartheid state and explains who the real terrorists are: Israeli spy chief's speech caught on camera
The Shin Bet chief told his audience that both Israel's judicial system and security establishment treated Arabs and Jews differently. When Arabs and Jews are guilty of the same offence he said, they don't always receive similar treatment during interrogation or in court.
Yuval Diskin then spoke about those he called "Jewish terrorists", men or women who use violence to oppose the pull out of settlers from occupied Palestinian territory.
But why care of the British terrorists in Iraq or the Jewish terrorists in the West Bank when you can create more: US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites
"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."
There is now even a date set: Russian MP gives date of U.S. Iran attack
Russian Duma member Vladimir Zhirinovsky said that a U.S. attack on Iraq is "inevitable" and will occur on March 28.
But why not bomb Rio? Why not refer Brazil to the U.N.? Why isn´t their anything in the major media about this? Brazil poised to join the world's nuclear elite
While the world community scrutinizes Iran's nuclear plans, Latin America's biggest country is weeks away from taking a controversial step and firing up the region's first major uranium enrichment plant.
Unlike Iran, Brazil is considered a good global citizen that isn't seeking nuclear weapons, although its military ran a secret program to develop a nuclear weapon as recently as the early 1990s.
Brazilian energy adviser Rogerio Cezar Cerqueira Leite said the Resende plant will allow Brazil to sell to growing markets for enriched uranium and fuel a domestic nuclear program that's bound to expand.
"Without enriched uranium, you don't have nuclear technology," Cerqueira Leite said. "It's not just national prestige. If you don't make it yourself, you will always be behind in the nuclear race."
Bomb Rio! Do it today!
Aiding The Enemy
[T]hose who choose to bypass the law and go straight to the press are not noble, honorable or patriotic. Nor are they whistleblowers. Instead they are committing a criminal act that potentially places American lives at risk.
Revelations of intelligence successes or failures, whether accurate or not, can aid Al Qaeda and its global affiliates in many ways. A leak is invaluable to them, even if it only, say, prematurely confirms whether one of their associates is dead or alive. They can gain much more: these disclosures can tip the terrorists to new technologies we use, our operational tactics, and the identities of brave men and women who risk their lives to assist us.
Loose Lips Sink Spies
NYT OpEd by Porter Goss, director of the Central Intelligence Agency
February 10, 2006
I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, told a grand jury that he was authorized by his "superiors" to disclose classified information to reporters about Iraq's weapons capability in June and July 2003, according to a document filed by a federal prosecutor.
Mr. Libby was indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice last October in what Mr. Fitzgerald has charged was a willful misleading of investigators about his role in exposing Valerie Wilson as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Ex-Cheney Aide Testified Leak Was Ordered, Prosecutor Says
February 10, 2006
Lost & found ...
There are at least three new major surveillance-by-data-mining ("dataveillance") programs in use inside the U.S. government. I am convinced by now that these and others and the NSA's communication surveillance are used to suppress the media and any opposition in Congress.
Several Democratic Senators on the Senate Judicial Committee did ask Gonzalez specifically about domestic spying. He did not answer that (or any) question.
The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports on a:
massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.
The system is codenamed ADVISE and run by the Department of Homeland Security.
In Newsweek Michael Hirsh describes two programs. An NSA sponsored system called Trailblazer and another one which evolved from of the formally aborted Total Information Awareness (TIA) attempt which was renamed to Topsail.
Hirsh's article is a bit strange. He essentially welcomes such programs now. On Topsail:
"one of the most hopeful new intelligence surveillance programs is one that is still demonized in the media and on Capitol Hill."
The punch of his article is to damn the NSA and others for not executing these programs effectively.
But while doing so he reveals that Congress, which did shut down TIA when it was first made public, gets circumvented with the renamed program. Is the sound of Hirsh's piece some protection for revealing that whopper?
But back to dataveillance. Hirsh says:
"it means sifting through data to look for patterns"
But that is only part of it, and it is the least dangerous part from a privacy standpoint.
Real terrorists do know the tools of pattern matching are used. To avoid being caught in such a net they only have to behave reasonably "normal". Then, the only identifiable "terrorist" pattern is the commitment of a terror act.
That is the lecture the German police took in the 70s when they tried to find RAF members through a TIA like "Rasterfahndung". The RAF had anticipated that and its members intentionally did leave exactly the same data-trail that all normal people leave.
They used the average type of cars, lived in average housing, payed their bills and had no deviating traveling pattern. Not one RAF member was identified through the extensive, 10 year long effort.
But to have lots of dataveillance data may come in handy when someone in power wants to have special information about a specific person.
Paul Craig Roberts, a senior administration official under Reagan, flat out states:
Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.
The Washingon Times (Moonie) related "Insight" writes:
[Law enforcement sources] said the National Security Agency in cooperation with the FBI was allowed to monitor the telephone calls and e-mails of any American believed to be in contact with a person abroad suspected of being linked to al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
At that point, the sources said, all of the communications of that American would be monitored, including calls made to others in the United States. The regulations under the administration's surveillance program do not require any court order.
(BTW: I do write this from abroad. Are comments on this blog communication with someone "suspected to be linked .."? How do you know?)
How can a democracy function when members of the ruling party, the opposition party and the media know that there is the distinct possibility they are under surveillance?
Is there any of the better known journalists or anyone in Congress who is not caught by these data-fishing nets?
Maybe a representative has had an affair and left a trail with his credit card. Will she make a stand when those in power require her vote even against his conviction?
Is that investigative journalist using some embarrassing medication? Might the threat to reveal this, be a way to tame his curiosity?
With what information bits did Karl Rove threaten the Republicans on the Senate Judicial Committee? Does anyone believe those threats were really only about campaign money?
Racist Propaganda Consequences
There are now at least 12 people dead after struggles about the Muhammad cartoons.
This was utterly predictable. The whole issue is and was not primarily about free speech. The intend of the right wing Danish paper, which first published the cartoons, was to saw exactly this, a clash of civilizations.
When they were offered Jesus cartoons earlier, an editor rejected those, because:
"I don't think Jyllands-Posten's readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry."
But a Muhammad with the head painted as a bomb and thereby associating all Muslims with terrorism was fine to print. Enjoyable to the readers of Jyllands-Posten. As it was with the evangelical Norwegian papers that reprinted these and the other fishwraps which followed.
As Digby pointed out, such cartoons are not even satire. The objects of satire are authority figures or ideas within the culture where the satire is formed and published. These cartoons are not even about religion, but about one culture smearing the other, i.e. racism.
Publishing these is a conscious 'incitement of violence'. An official offense in many western countries. It doesn´t matter which side one incites, provoking a fight with deadly consequences is a crime in many western law books.
Such a law was used today to sentence an extreme but well known Iman in the U.K. to seven years of prison. This only in the third attempt and after stretching the case a bit. Says the U.K. Shadow home secretary:
"It would appear the only reason Abu Hamza was actually prosecuted was because the US was seeking his extradition"
The verdict and the circumstances of the case will certainly fuel the fire.
But the question now is how stop this. I really do not know, but the first step is to stop throwing fuel into the fire. The British court would have been well advised to hold their judgment back for some days.
But if the western culture relly claims to be the more enlightened one, that is the side that should act responsible here and cut back the provocations. Stop publishing anti-Muslim racism and apologize when some idiots in this sphere continue to do so.
This is not giving in to some clerical demand, but an acknowledgment that no right is absolute in the face of the rights of others. Not even free speech.
Are the Dutch getting a bit more intolerant?
The Amsterdam De Baarsje district came up with the above "No Smoking" signs. There were just too many local dopeheads in the small streets the tourists are seeking out. So they now have "No Dope Smoking" zones and a €50.- fine for violations.
Of course the first signs were immediately stolen. But being smart business people, the De Baarsje administration is selling these now for €90 plus shipping.
I just ordered one from my (infromal) stepson's room and I expect to have made good investment. Those fines will just keep coming in.
In the coming run up to the war of aggression on Iran, expect to hear more, a lot more, about The Laptop. It is the overwhelming proof that Iran has nuclear weapons, ehh - might have nuclear weapons, hmm - could have nuclear weapons - or not.
As Time reported:
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice helped firm up support for the IAEA vote by having aides brief foreign officials on a trove of documents that, according to U.S. diplomatic sources, expose a clandestine Iranian military nuclear-research operation. The documents, found in 2004 on a laptop computer, which U.S. intelligence believes came from an Iranian engineer, contain data on tests for high explosives, a design for a missile re-entry vehicle and a diagram of a green-salt production line.
As revealed today by the Washington Post, there are even more plans to be found on The Laptop:
Iranian engineers have completed sophisticated drawings of a deep subterranean shaft, according to officials who have examined classified documents in the hands of U.S. intelligence for more than 20 months.
Complete with remote-controlled sensors to measure pressure and heat, the plans for the 400-meter tunnel appear designed for an underground atomic test that might one day announce Tehran's arrival as a nuclear power, the officials said.
These just must be dangerous test preparations. Or maybe not:
But U.S. and U.N. experts who have studied them said the undated drawings do not clearly fit into a larger picture. Nowhere, for example, does the word "nuclear" appear on them. The authorship is unknown, and there is no evidence of an associated program to acquire, assemble and construct the components of such a site.
Further down, WaPo explains a bit of the content and origin of The Laptop:
As with the test-shaft drawings, those for the conversion facility were on the laptop allegedly stolen from an Iranian whom German intelligence tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit as an informant. It was whisked out of the country by another Iranian who offered it up to foreign intelligence officials in Turkey as evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Nowhere on any of the laptop documents, however, does the word "nuclear" appear.
Tom Clancy would be proud to have thought up that plot.
Over thousands of pages of drawings of a country's alleged most secret weapon plans from diverse fields like nuclear chemistry, high explosives, rocket design and mining. All of these stored on just one computer drive which just happens mystically to show up in Turkey.
So like me, you may now be a bit skeptical of all these information on The Laptop.
But do not worry, there is also a real witness being rolled out now.
Also from today's WaPo:
Beyond the computer files, an imprisoned Pakistani arms dealer recently offered uncorroborated statements that Iran received several advanced centrifuges, equipment that would vastly improve its nuclear knowledge.
See, I told you so. There is evidence that Iran is working on the bomb.
In a brightly lighted office at police headquarters in the Malaysian capital, Bukhary Syed Tahir sat down recently for his second round of talks with CIA officers since his arrest 20 months ago on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Tahir is held in a high-security prison, without charges, for his alleged role as a manufacturer, salesman and partner in Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear network, which supplied materials to Libya, Iran and North Korea. After more than a year of denials about shipments to Iran in the 1990s, Tahir has changed his story and now claims to have recalled a previously forgotten sale, according to U.S. sources.
But after nearly two years in a Malaysian high-security prison, without charges and due process, why didn´t Tahir did admit the very real transfer of wormhole engines and light sabers to Iran.
This "witness" might be just another curveball.
The Laptop story is not over yet.
Officials announced they will now start an investigation into the type of operation system used on The Laptop.
While some experts would regard a Microsoft Windows or Apple OSx as a serious sign of illegal proliferation, one senior administration official suggested finded a Linux operating system would be of more concern because of its open source.
Strong Leads and Dead Ends in Nuclear Case Against Iran
Iran Is Judged 10 Years From Nuclear Bomb
Iran's Green-Salt Blues
Tunnels at Iran's UCF
Iran Dope Concerns RV Not Warhead
State Department sees exodus of weapons experts
Iranian nukes: When bullying is not enough, try disinformation
Shame On Apartheid
The Guardians Middle East correspondent Chris McGreal has a two part series comparing the South African apartheid regime and Israel. He has lived in South Africa for 10 years and for 4 years in Jerusalem. The view is knowledgeable and the facts are from the ground. I recommend to read both parts.
Part one, Worlds Apart, looks at the inner working of the 'grey racism' in Israel.
Though the motives in both countries cases may be different, the methods applied and the outcome seem equivalent.
The specific apartheid language and openly displayed racism is much less developed in Israel, than it has been in South Africa, but the methods of legalized theft of property based on race are essentially the same. Allocation of state money for education, health care and infrastructure is all but proportional. Like in South Africa this leads to underdeveloped ghettos, reinforcing the basic us-better-than-them meme within the Jewish population.
McGreal cites many overwhelming facts to underpin the above, especially with regards to the Palestinians living within Israeli boarders.
The second part, Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria, is a history of relations between apartheid South Africa and Israel. While some Jews took part in the ANC's fight against apartheid, the official collaboration was ever extended up to the cooperation to develop nuclear weapons.
There is no agreement if contemporary Israel is really comparable to South African apartheid.
The motives for the Israeli behavior are a different mix than they have been in South Africa. But as the effective results are quite similar, the fall of the South African apartheid regime, may also show a possible development in Israel.
But, as ordinary Israelis discovered, such a system cannot survive unchallenged. Apartheid collapsed in part because South African society was exhausted by its demands and the myth of victimhood among whites fell away. Israel has not got there yet. Many Israelis still think they are the primary victims of the occupation.
For Seidemann, the crucial issue is not how the apartheid system worked but how it began to disintegrate. "It unravelled because it couldn't be done. Apartheid drained so much energy from South African society that this was one of the compelling reasons beyond the economic sanctions and pressures that convinced De Klerk that this was not sustainable. This is what is coming to Israel."
Unfortunately, the situation in Israel might get even worse before it will become better.
International sanctions and boycotts may further a solution. Therefore I personally avoid to buy Israeli products when possible.
But a more effective way may be to continuously unveil the facts on the ground. Thorough information could generate shame. Shame, which may go a long way to change the opinion and behavior of the Jewish population of Israel and its international supporters.
In this, McGreal's piece is a good start.
Please Prove Me Wrong
Who does think there will be any reasonable outcome from these FISA hearings in Congress?
Bush wants to have domestic spying capability and wants to use it. No republican Congress will hinder him. The hearings are just a bit of show and spin but there will be no consequences.
Please prove me wrong.
Traveling today ...
There were 28 yes votes. Traditionally the IAEA board makes unanimous decisions. This in reflection of the voluntariness of membership of the nuclear non proliferation treaty (NPT).
Iran now declared to stop the voluntary additional access it had given to IAEA inspectors. But it continues to give the access and information required by its treaty obligations through the NPT.
The step of reporting Iran the UN-SC is made without any nefarious action by Iran.
Iran has continued to facilitate access under its Safeguards Agreement as requested by the Agency, and to act as if the Additional Protocol is in force, including by providing in a timely manner the requisite declarations and access to locations.
There are some minor issues outstanding but essentially there is nothing new and nothing that could not be resolved. But as we know this is clearly is not issue at all.
We have been here before.
While Iran had negotiated in good faith and agreed to voluntary additional inspections and a freeze of even research, the pressure was continuously increase. Every time when concessions to demands of access to specific places or persons was given, new additional demands were made.
The minor points mentioned in the report nearly all refer to issues where Iran is asked to prove the absence of intention, documents or equipment.
How can one prove the absence of nothing?
Now the report to the UN-SC will be discussed there and after some more rounds of pull and shove no agreement will be reached.
The U.S. and the EU-3 will than declare the incapability of the UN to act and the bombing will start.
One really has to question the intelligence of the public and media to fall for this scheme again. This just three years after exactly the same script was used against Iraq.
Another sad side of mankind.
Business For Carlyle
"I mean, we've got Bush in the United States with a lot of weapons," al-Sadr added. "He's a person who was elected legally _ just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally _ and then consolidated power and now is, of course, working closely with Saudi princes and Hosni Mubarak and others."
al-Sadr Likens Bush's Rise to Hitler, Feb. 3, 2006
RBN: Should Bush be assassinated?
al-Sadr: Well, one day he's going to be aiming nuclear weapons; and what's coming across isn't going to be a storm, it's going to be his nukes.
RBN: Would you feel better going back to the original comment that if he were assassinated, the world would be a safer place?
al-Sadr: I think the Middle East would. He is -- he is -- got hit squads. He's a very dangerous man.
al-Sadr again calls for Bush's assassination: "Not now, but one day"
The quotes above are half-fakes. But imagine the outrage if al-Sadr or any foreign leader or cleric would have have said the above.
But then, it was Rumsfeld insulting Chavez and Pat Robertson calling for Chavez's death.
So this is obviously a coordinated campaign for intervention of imperial capitalist interests against South American socialists.
We know that Robertson is by far not a christian. But can the media please also point out that Rumsfeld doesn´t know shit about history?
Contrary often peddled talk, Hitler was never elected by a democratic majority, nor was his NSDAP party.
Hitler was named chancellor by a senile ex-General in a weak formal presidential seat under heavy pressure of big business and big media interests after some nefarious backroom deals.
Meanwhile von Papen, resentful because of his dismissal, tried to get his revenge on Schleicher by working towards the General's downfall, through forming an intrigue with the camarilla and Alfred Hugenberg, media mogul and chairman of the DNVP. Also involved were Hjalmar Schacht, Fritz Thyssen and other leading German businessmen. They financially supported the Nazi Party, which had been brought to the brink of bankruptcy by the cost of heavy campaigning. The businessmen also wrote letters to Hindenburg, urging him to appoint Hitler as leader of a government "independent from parliamentary parties" which could turn into a movement that would "enrapture millions of people."
Finally, the President reluctantly agreed to appoint Hitler Chancellor of a coalition government formed by the NSDAP and DNVP
Wikipedia: Adolf Hitler
Chavez, in contrast, is elected and was confirmed in a referendum by a huge majority of the people against the U.S. supported interests of big business and big media.
Elections for the new unicameral National Assembly were held on July 30, 2000. During this same election, Chávez himself stood for reelection. Chávez's coalition garnered a commanding two-thirds majority of seats in the National Assembly while Chávez was reelected with 60% of the votes.
The recall vote itself was held on August 15, 2004. A record number of voters turned out to defeat the recall attempt with a 59.25% "no" vote. A jubilant Chávez pledged to redouble his efforts against both poverty and imperialism, while promising to foster dialogue with his opponents. The election was overseen by the Carter Center and certified by them as fair and open
Wikipedia: Hugo Chávez
In this case, Rumsfeld should listen to his boss who is nearly right when he says this:
Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror.
State of The Union Address, January 31, 2006
Venezuela is not a dictatorship but a democracy and Chavez is not a dictator but an elected politician.
The guaranteed successful recipe to form successful terrorist organizations in South America that really could and would endanger the U.S. is to replace him and other social-democrats with U.S. supported dictatorships.
But then, that would be quite a business for Carlyle et al.
Just like it has been in Prescot S. Bush times.
stealth icon (detail)
by anna missed
oil on wood; 2005
full size (120kb)
A German and a French paper yesterday reprinted caricatures the Danish paper "Jyllands-Posten" had published last years. Those caricatures pictured the prophet Muhammad. Some in ways, that connected him with terrorism.
A few Muslim countries protested and called for a widely followed boycott of Danish products. Only after months, the paper issued a half hearted apology. (Tip for Danish folks: If you don`t like these boycotts, retaliate: stop buying their gas for your car.)
The editor of "France Soir" immediately got fired and the publisher asked for pardon.
But the German daily "Die Welt" is playing hardball. "Die Welt" is the chronically money loosing flagship of the rightwing publisher house Axel Springer AG, the German Murdoch equivalent (note: this is NOT the Springer science publisher).
Steve Gillard is exactly right on this:
While the cartoonists have the right to say what they want, and no one should bow to terrorism, the problem with the cartoons was that they were genuinely offensive, bigoted, actually. Many suggested that Muhammad was a terrorist or approved of terrorism. It's easy for people in the West to assume Muslims are not rational people, who get upset at the slightest mention. But this isn't that case.
These cartoonists went out of their way to find the most offensive way to depict Muhammad and then sat back, stunned that people didn't like their uninformed takes on Islam.
The papers claim they are fighting for a freedom of speech which nobody had questioned. Of course anybody has the freedom of speech to call me an asshole, but do not be astonished if I react offended - slap, slap.
In reality these papers have two agendas with these reprints.
- First it is a disgraceful scheme to increase circulation and profits.
- Second it is a calculated provocation of a clash of civilizations.
The corporate governance of Axel Springer AG include:
[S]upport the vital rights of the State of Israel [and] support the Transatlantic Alliance
What better way to do that, than to provoke an escalation on this issue?
This is right out of the playbook of Der Stürmer. Pure bigot racist propaganda.
Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. (Applause.) By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. (Applause.)
President Bush Delivers State of the Union Address,
White House, January 31, 2006
Diplomatically, Mr. Bush's ambitious call for the replacement of 75 percent of the United States' Mideast oil imports with ethanol and other energy sources by 2025 upset Saudi Arabia, the main American oil supplier in the Persian Gulf. In an interview on Wednesday, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Turki al-Faisal, said he would have to ask Mr. Bush's office "what he exactly meant by that."
Bush's Goals on Energy Quickly Find Obstacles,
NYT, February 1, 2006
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
Asked why the president used the words "the Middle East" when he didn't really mean them, one administration official said Bush wanted to dramatize the issue in a way that "every American sitting out there listening to the speech understands." The official spoke only on condition of anonymity because he feared that his remarks might get him in trouble.
Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports,
Knight Ridder, February 01, 2006
News & views ... (open thread)