Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2007

Fatuity of Do-Gooders

I am outraged about Myanmar. Not about the military dictators there who stopped demonstrations with tear gas and bullets. I am outraged about the selected coverage in 'the west' and by some 'liberal do-gooders' who fall for dubious sources.

Point of my outrage is a current diary now no. 2 on the recommended list at Daily Kos and titled:

Burma: They burned the injured protesters/civilian people in the YaeWay Crematorium

It currently has some 110 comments.

It is a charlatanry starting with its name. The official international name of the country is Myanmar, not Burma. That was the colonial name. Should Zimbabwe again be referred to as South Rhodesia and Beijing as Peking?

The diary starts with copies of two parts of a posting from a blogspot blog by one 'ko htike'. The first:

Telephone conversation with a members of public

Er… they shot… people got killed.  Er…but it seems like it wasn't as bad as yesterday in terms of number of deaths, however we will know the accurate picture tomorrow.  Er… la  another disturbing news is that er… I would like to know if you would inform BBC and CNN about? (sob!!!) They burned the injured protesters/civilian people in the YaeWay Crematorium la la .  Er… the staff from crematorium told this, crying, to the people who went to the funeral service.  Please let this known to CNN and BBC. Thank you!!

The second is a picture of some light pink thing and some leafs laying in water and what the caption provided says is:

.. the brain of a young student who was beaten violently to death by soldiers of the junta found in the drain near No. (3) Tarmway high school.

Embedded in the picture is the URL www.myanmarmuslim.net. On that website, registered in Malaysia, the same picture is captioned:

A piece of Brain of a people at Tamwe

I am not sure what is really shown in the picture but I remember an open head injury I once bandaged as a volunteer ambulance paramedic. That brain looked a lot different.

Another bit quoted in the diary is attributed to yet another blogspot site - burma myanmar genocide. It says:

To take records of Dead Bodies in the River

Burmese democratic activists have announced to inform and to take records and photographs of any corpses at the lower delta of Yangon River and Hlaing River in Yangon.

The rest of the diary are quotes from regular news sites about the UN envoy's visit to Myanmar. The core of the diary, as its title, are the three above quoted bits.

What flusters me is that NOT ONE of the 110 comments to the diary nor the diarist voices ANY doubts about the above three pieces of 'information'.

  • An anonymous blogsite carries an anonymous phone call which narrates that some group  of unnamed people said something to some other group of unnamed people.
  • An unsourced picture that might show what the caption says or might not.
  • An anonymous announcement that something will be recorded in case it happens.

All other information in that diary is simple news about an UN envoy visit.

Still the comments are about Auschwitz and Rwanda, calls to front-page the diary, discussions whether the protesters in Myanmar should be armed or not and laments how Bush has hampered U.S. interventions.

Obviously the commentators take the information for granted even though none is sourced to anything verifyable. You might think they would start wars based on such.

I certainly do not support the military dicators in Myanmar. There should be better ways for the people there to govern themselves.

But one shouldn't underestimate the difficulty of establishing democracy in a relative big country with lots of minority groups and situated between competing world powers while being rich of hydrocarbons. The potential human toll of a revolutionary move there is huge.

At the same time of this virual horror about Myanmar the last 24 hours saw no Daily Kos diary or story of these verified incidents:

Police used tear gas and batons to disperse lawyers protesting Saturday against legal rulings clearing the way for President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to run for another five-year term.
...
Chaos ensued with security forces and protesters pelting each other with rocks. Police fired tear gas shells and beat the protesters, with one officer using a tree branch. At least two lawyers suffered bloody head injuries.

Live television coverage also showed police arresting some female supporters from Bhutto's party and shoving them into a waiting van. Three opposition legislators also were dragged away.

Running clashes continued for more than two hours. At least seven journalists were taken to hospitals after being beaten severely by police, with ARY news channel correspondent Asma Sherazi saying they were deliberately targeted. An AP reporter was beaten on the back with a baton and punched in the mouth.

Lawyers also rallied in Lahore and Karachi, where police arrested some and beat others.

Musharraf is a military dictator supported by huge amounts of U.S. taxpayer money in a country with nukes that is quite possibly a future flashpoint of wars.

Myanmar also has a military dictatorship. But it is neither of global importance nor are violent riots about gas subsidies something unheard of elsewhere.

Incidents in one country get lots of press and virtual tears at Daily Kos - incidents in another country are ignored.

Why?

Posted by b on September 30, 2007 at 01:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Another Great Idea from Thomas Friedman

"My Head Is Flat" author, billonaire spouse and NYT writer Thomas Friedman has another great idea:

I will not vote for any candidate who is not committed to dismantling Guantánamo Bay and replacing it with a free field hospital for poor Cubans.

Consider:

The National Health System comprises a network of institutions that are easily accessible and provide coverage to 100% of the population.
[...]
Cuba’s health system is financed out of the state budget. The population receives free preventive, curative, and rehabilitation services, which range from primary care, routine medical attention, and dentistry to hospital care requiring the use of highly sophisticated medical technologies.
Health in the Americas - Cuba

How to call this? Elite illusions?

Posted by b on September 30, 2007 at 05:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

September 29, 2007

OT 07-69

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 29, 2007 at 03:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (90)

September 28, 2007

IRGC NOT a Designated Terrorist Organization

There is a some talk in the blogsphere about the alleged designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Something is wrong about this. The designation has not happened.

Col. Lang writes about: Amendment No. 3017 - A step toward war with Iran

It was a good idea to take the two offending paragraphs out of the draft resolution but the designation of the RIC, a major agency of the Iranian government as a terrorist and therefore criminal organization is clearly a step on the road to war.

Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment:

Designating the RIG a terrorist organization does open a back door way for the president to say he has authorization to use force against Iran. But the president himself already made this designation, via the State Department.

Via email I argued with Josh. He answered:

I could certainly be wrong.  But it’s my understanding this State DID make this designation.

Both seem to be sure that "the designation" already happened. I find not proof for this and I wonder why.

On August 15 WaPo explained:

The designation of the Revolutionary Guard will be made under Executive Order 13224, which President Bush signed two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to obstruct terrorist funding.
[...]
The administration has not yet decided when to announce the new measure, but officials said they would prefer to do so before the meeting of the U.N. General Assembly next month, when the United States intends to increase international pressure against Iran.

The Kyl-Lieberman amendment says (no direct link possible - see page S11911 of the congressional record):

It is the sense of the Senate--
[...]
(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224

Section 219 is about Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) and the consequences of a designation are only relevant to immigration and money handling in the U.S.

The sanctions under Executive Order 13224 are also only economical. Specific entities and persons targeted in such sanctions are noted in the annex (pdf) (some ridiculous 100 pages of names) of the order and in the Treasury's 'Specially Designated Nationals List'. The Treasury's change log of that list already includes some Myanmar leaders which were designated yesterday but it does NOT include the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or its leaders.

There are also no press releases at the State website about designating the Revolutionary Guard. In a WaPo op-ed today Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, arguing against such a designation, remarks:

The Bush administration, following its own pronouncements as well as House and Senate legislation, is expected to decide soon whether to classify Iran's most formidable military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a terrorist organization.

So lets add this together:

  • The Bush administration has NOT designated the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
  • Such a designation was said to be done before the UN General Assembly, but did not happen.
  • The designation would likely be under EO 13224 and Section 219 of the Immigration Act.
  • Both of these allow only for monetary and immigration restrictions.

Which leads me to some questions:

  1. Why has the Bush administration not acted on the issue?
  2. Was this a headfake to get the Senate consent on the Kyl-Lieberman amendment?
  3. What mislead Josh Marshall and Col. Lang on this?
  4. Is this a pure psyops campaign?
  5. Your thoughts on this?

Posted by b on September 28, 2007 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

Monuments of Liberation

When 'western' politicians and media talk about liberation, some still believe the concept be about basic human rights or self-determination.

That is wrong. Liberation is now understood to be an exclusively economic concept. The word used today describes the freedom of rich people to do whatever they want to do, robber barons in the new cloth of neo-liberal junk-science. As far as it is related to lesser persons, liberty is reduced to their capacity to consume.

That description is too radical you say? It isn't - it is pure mainstream. A piece in the Labour friendly British Guardian today makes this abundantly clear.

It is headlined: Shoppers hail new monument to South African liberation.

Nelson Mandela opened Soweto's latest monument to liberation yesterday, but few of the people pouring through the doors of the huge new shopping mall took much notice of the corner reserved for those who died to make it all possible.

The glitzy glass and steel Maponya mall, modelled on a London shopping centre, is the first of its kind in the township, which was the crucible of the uprising that rocked the foundations of apartheid.

Alongside a Woolworths and a Toys R Us, the first toy store chain in the township, there are locally-owned boutiques, hair stylists and a diamond shop among the 200 stores. The £47m complex also has Soweto's first multiscreen cinema.

So while there were past times when people hailed the Statue of Liberty as a sign of throwing off colonial rule, a monument for the liberation of the United States, the new symbols of liberty are malls. The masses hailing the new monument are shoppers.

Woolworth, Toys R Us and a multiscreen cinema - monuments of liberation in the twenty-first century.

Posted by b on September 28, 2007 at 02:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

September 27, 2007

The Democrats' Bush Agenda

The Democrats and the likely next U.S. president Hillary C. are ready to continue the Bush agenda.

In the Senate they claim to know what's best for Iraqis:

[T]he U.S. Senate on Wednesday overwhelmingly endorsed the decentralization of Iraq into semi-autonomous regions.

The nonbinding measure sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) -- which supports a "federal system" that would divide Iraq into sectarian-dominated regions -- won unusually broad bipartisan support, passing 75 to 23.

The media fails to note that this was Bush's original plan. In his confidential talks with the Spanish Premier Aznar in February 2003, just published, he said:

We know they have accumulated an enormous amount of dynamite to blow up the bridges and other infrastructure and also the oil wells. We expect to occupy those wells soon. The Saudis would also help us bring the oil to market if necessary. We are developing a very strong package of humanitarian aid. We can win without destruction. We are already planning the post-Saddam Iraq, and I believe that is a good basis for a better future. Iraq has a good bureaucracy and a relatively strong civil society. It could be organized into a federation.

At the same time Sec.Def. Gates tells Congress that the U.S. needs a Long-Term Presence in Iraq:

Mr. Gates told the Senate Appropriations Committee, “When I speak of a long-term presence, I’m thinking of a very modest U.S. presence with no permanent bases, where we can continue to go after Al Qaeda in Iraq and help the Iraqi forces.”

He added that “in my head” he envisioned a force as a quarter of the current combat brigades.

That would be five combat brigades and including headquarters, logistics and air support would add up to some 40,000-50,000 troops. Very modest indeed.

Gates did not explain how a 'long term presence' of such an army differs from 'permanent bases'. Will the GIs live as nomads?

We can be sure that pretty soon some Democrat will rise in the Senate and propose an ammendment calling for just such a 'commitment'. The relevant presidential candidates will certainly agree.

As for those - the elite media has decided that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic primaries. Reporting about other candidates has all but stopped. She is a 'wise woman' as you will certainly understand from her remarks on Israeli attack on Syria:

"We don't have as much information as we wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that."

The senator from New York also backed up reports, first exposed by The Washington Post two weeks ago, that that the IAF targeted a North Korean shipment of nuclear material that arrived in Syria three days before the strike.

This of course bullshit that was provided by 'anonymous sources' like John Bolton. Aside from an old Chinese research reactor that provides a few  kilowatts and is under IAEA control, Syria does not have any nuclear program or aspiration.

Clinton knows as much:

She went on to emphasize that she had no other information on the incident because of its "highly classified" nature.

So she doesn't know and facts, but simply asserts based on anonymous partisan voices in press reports that have been refuted by the specialists and found baseless by reporters in Syria. Factlessness is certainly a pre-condition for staying in Iraq and attacking Iran and Syria.

I believe she expects to be elected by a significant chunk of Republicans while some progressive Democratic voters, miffed about continuous imperial Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton presidencies, will just abstain.

Shares of weapon manufactures and oil companies had quite a run during the Bush rule. It looks like they will continue to be a lucrative investment.

Posted by b on September 27, 2007 at 08:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Annals of Press Absurdities

Which of these reports was actually printed in a 'serious' national newspaper?

1. Flu Treatments Outbalance Cancer Cases

The number of cancer death in the United States has topped 550,000 for the first time, the National Center for Health Statistics said yesterday. But in a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all are now successfully treated for flu infections than die of cancer.

2. College Dwellers Outnumber the Imprisoned

The number of inmates in adult correctional facilities in the United States has topped two million for the first time, the Census Bureau said yesterday. But in a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all now live in college dormitories than in prisons.

3. Millonaires Outnumber Tax Evaders

The number of tax evaders in the United States has topped 7.5 million for the first time, the Internal Revenue Service said yesterday. But in a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all are now millionaires than prosecuted for tax fraud.

Reread, note your guess and see the answer below the fold.
(Please leave a comment of your guess too)

If you guessed 2, you were right.

The NYT reports: College Dwellers Outnumber the Imprisoned

The number of inmates in adult correctional facilities in the United States has topped two million for the first time, the Census Bureau said yesterday. But in a reversal from 2000, more Americans over all now live in college dormitories than in prisons.

In a detailed look at people living in what the bureau calls group quarters, the census counted 2.3 million Americans in college and university dormitories, 2.1 million in adult correctional institutions and 1.8 million in nursing homes.

The comparison is obviously absurd. What is the supposed linkage between the number of college attendances and the number of incarcerated? Is there one? Why? The article won't tell.

But mixing these unrelated numbers together obviously helps to diminish the bad news and any need for a relevant explanation of the increased number of imprisioned people.

Additionally the piece has a racial slant:

A number of studies, including one by the Justice Policy Institute, which advocates alternatives to incarceration, have pointed out that over all, more black men are in prison than are enrolled in colleges and universities.

But among 18- to 24-year-olds, while black male prisoners outnumber black men living in college dorms, more young black men are enrolled in college (and live either on campus or elsewhere) than are incarcerated.

What is the word "but" supposed to express here if not a vague excuse for over-proportional incrimination of black people?

Another absurdity:

In contrast to the prison population, residents of nursing homes were disproportionately women (nearly 70 percent, down slightly from 2000) and white (84 percent).

People in prison are in average younger than people in nursing homes. They are over-proportionally black and male. White females live longer than black men. Such is obvious.

So what is the information value of comparing the share of old white females in nursing homes with the number of young blacks in prison using the phrase "in contrast"?

Posted by b on September 27, 2007 at 06:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

September 26, 2007

Myanmar Protests

Myanmar security forces used batons, tear gas and live rounds Wednesday in a violent crackdown on mass protests against the military junta, killing at least four people including three Buddhist monks.
[...]
The unrest began last month when the junta dramatically raised the price of fuel overnight, deepening the misery in this already impoverished country.
Four killed in Myanmar protest crackdown

The Buddhist clergy in Myanmar is under government control. But as every Buddhist there joins a monastery once a life, the mass of protesting people are mostly "three day monks" - normal folks in temporary robes.

Yesterday Bush threatened further sanctions on Myanmar. These will be useless and may make things worse. The military leadership is already under sanctions. There are travel restrictions in place and personal assets have been frozen. The UN Security Council has an emergency meeting now which may result in another useless resolution.

In 2003 the U.S. imposed additional sanctions and banned textile imports from Myanmar. A study concludes (pdf):

Like many other sanctions of the United States, the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act of 2003 had a disproportionately greater impact on the people than it did on the military regime. Though this paper does not include the argument that overall effects of the sanctions were behavior modification, it must be stated frankly that there are no observed signs that the military intends to change its behaviors or attitudes on freedom and democracy.

Sanctions obviously do not help to solve the political issues, they kill people. But the U.S. and it's allies only know sticks and don't do carrots. The International Crisis Group is against sanctions and urges regional talks:

Only China, India, and, to a lesser degree, ASEAN have any influence on the military regime. China has very close economic and political links with Myanmar, while India has developed strong military ties.

But the neighbors of Myanmar are probably not interested in changing the current state. South Korea, Singapore, Thailand, China and India are competing over access to Myanmar's rich offshore natural gas fields. Other countries are involved too:

Foreign oil companies engaged in the oil and gas sector mainly include those from Australia, Britain, Canada, China, Indonesia, India, South Korea, Malaysia, Russia and Thailand.

Myanmar, or at least its leadership, is said to be very corrupt. The oil and gas money from its neighbors doesn't 'trickle down' to the people.

Instead of sanctions 'western' governments should offer favorable terms for energy development, agriculture exports and industrializations, including contractual guaranteed 'trickle downs'. These could actually help the people and, over time, weaken the militaries regime strong hand.

As this would be smart, I don't expect that it will be given a try. Instead the current public chest chumping will distract the 'western' public from the misery it is spreading there and elsewhere.

Posted by b on September 26, 2007 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

OT 07-68

News & views or whatever comes to mind ...

Posted by b on September 26, 2007 at 07:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (119)

Columbia's Bollinger - Hypocrisy At Large

Shortly after Columbia University's president insulted the invited guest Ahmedinejad by repeating lies of the Bush government, there was this event.

Columbia University World Leaders Forum, CMU

Monday, September 24, 2007, 9:00–10:00 a.m.
The Italian Academy, 1161 Amsterdam Avenue at 117th Street
Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, President of Turkmenistan

Co-sponsored by the Harriman Institute

A keynote address followed by a question and answer session with the audience.

So what welcome did Berdymukhammedov receive?

The University director, Lee Bollinjer, a prominent scholar and author of a number of scientific treatises, books, textbooks, welcomed the Turkmen leader at the University.

Introducing the high guest to the teaching staff of the University, Lee Bollinjer noted that in seven months that Gurbnaguly Berdimuhamedov has been was leading the state, large-scale reforms, particularly, in education, science and culture were started in Turkmenistan.
Turkmen President speaks at Columbia University, Sept. 25, 2007

---

At least the guest was 'academic' enough to suffice Bollinger's standards:

Berdymukhammedov led an interactive presentation where pupils in supposedly regular middle schools in Turkmenistan were shown typing on sleek, late-model computer laptops, girls dressed in traditional costumes were dancing in a sparkling city park, and a provincial bazaar abounded in fruits and vegetables.

They were scenes of a Turkmenistan, where, as the president said, not natural gas, but people, are its "greatest asset.”

Turkmenistan is not known for its respect for its people or for human rights. Hundreds of people are imprisoned in Turkmenistan for their political beliefs.
...
At the conclusion of his presentation at Columbia, Berdymukhammedov urged all who are interested to know more about Turkmenistan, its economy, and other issues to approach and talk to the members of his delegation, which included several ministers and two deputy prime ministers.

Efforts by RFE/RL to speak with delegation members were unsuccessful.
Turkmenistan: President Says Press, NGOs Operate Freely, Radio Free Europe, Sep. 25, 2007

So why might Bollinger have used a different tone in this event? Could that be because Columbia has a 3 million investment in Chevron and other relations with the oil industry?

Berdymukhammedov - a former minister of health and the dentist of the country's previous ruler, Saparmurat Niyazov - was an unexpected choice to lead the impoverished country of five million people after Niyazov died last year.
...
ConocoPhillips, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and BP are among companies that have courted Turkmenistan recently, hoping to bolster their own reserves and tap non-OPEC sources.
U.S. officials woo Turkmenistan's president, IHT, Sept. 25, 2007

Just asking ...

Posted by b on September 26, 2007 at 03:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

September 25, 2007

A Boomerang Effect

After watching the video of Ahmedinijad at Columbia University I take away three points:

  • What some called his "ramblings from the Koran" was indeed a quite elaborate mixture of Torah, Bible and Koran sources about the 'divine' human nature roots of search for knowledge and science and therefore on point with the academic event.
  • He was very effective in explaining the holocaust as something that should, just likes physics, be further researched. His question, "Why do the Palestinians have to suffer for this?" will certainly reason with a many of the listeners.
  • His denial of any gay issues in Iran was laughable.

The U.S. media and its commentators didn't listen at all and only repeated the official White House talking points. For an objective aggregation of Ahmedinjad's talk I can recommend Col. Lang's take.

The general atmosphere at the University was hostile. CMU's president Bollinger is just another brown-noser. Compare his unfounded offensing remarks towards the elected President Ahmedinejad with his love for the military dictator of Pakistan.

Following Bollinger's 'introduction', there were quite some boos when Ahmedinejad started to speak. There were little to none when he ended. The speech was effective and it did what its opponents feared. The U.S. correspondent for Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner, analyses: The clear loser from Ahmadinejad's visit is Israel.

In this the event is compareable with the agitation against the MoveOn ad on General BetrayUs. MoveOn certainly did win that fight. The pro-surge propaganda lost. The numbers of U.S. people who want troops out of Iraq, a majority, is the same after the 24/7 "surge" onslaught than before.

The Washington 'centrism' folks, politicians, lobbies, think tanks and media alike, believe they can win with damning a MoveOn advertisment or an Ahmedinejad talk. They are wrong. While their action allows them to highlight their talking points it does not swing opinions. At least not into their direction.

Just like some Usmanov who wants to suppress blogs with unfavorable opinions about him and thereby creates hundreds of copies of these opinions, their actions are helping to build an opposition to them - a boomerang effect.

Let's hope they continue.

Posted by b on September 25, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

September 24, 2007

They Get Spam

With blogging comes the need to have some public email address. This inevitable attracts unsolicited stuffs - between fifty and two hundred mails per day in my case.

The usual sender is some doctor that promisses to enlarge one of my body parts or the son of a dead Nigerian government official who needs my help to transfer a million bucks to my bank account. Most of such mails get filtered automatically, but here is an extrodinary one that escaped the process. Some spammer is posing as a law firm:


(bigger)

That email was send from some "temp3" account with the subject "URGENT LEGAL LETTER".

I use the Advice on SPAM issued by the security center of CERN in Switzerland. The CERN folks invented the World Wide Web so they know a bit or two about this. They say (original emphasis):

SPAM and virus emails can be disguised to trick you into reading the email and/or performing an action. Here are examples of some techniques to help you recognise them:

  • fake email addresses: [..] Fake addresses may be used to send viruses. If the email looks suspicious then delete it and do not open the attachments.
  • enticing subjects: the email subject uses words to make you curious, believe the email is important, or specific to you, so that you will read it. [..] If there are attachments then they probably contain viruses. Delete the email and do not open the attachments.

Ok - "temp3" certainly looks like a fake address to me and the "URGENT LEGAL LETTER" screaming all-caps-subject-line is an obvious trap. 

The first text line of the email is asking for a response. If one responds to spammers, they have confirmed that the email address they spamed is valid and continue to spam it. This mail even says so: "to ensure correspondence is automatically saved to our Electronic Document Management System". Ha - I will certainly NOT respond to this one.

Then the message: "see the attached urgent legal letter".  Wow - they nearly got me there, didn't they. Indeed there is a 380 kilobyte attachment. A typed text page contains some 2,000 letters or 2 kilobytes. Either that attachment is a 160 page legal brief or something else. A virus, a worm, some illegal kiddie-porn picture? I will never know. As CERN recommends:

Viruses are often hidden inside attachments, so do not open attachments in unsolicited email.

Okay - I swear I'll NOT open that attachment.

There is a signature: My "faithfully schillings" and another one: "temp3@schillings.co.uk".

Schillings? Why not Dollars or Pounds? I mean schillings sounds cheap, really cheap, like twelve pence or so. How can a few schillings protect reputations and brands?

Another part of that mail. Maybe you can make some sense out of this.


(bigger)

See the address? "Soho" in the UK - isn't that some London sex district? And just behind that an embedded weblink. Wonder where that one would lead to - some backroom of a red light bar in Soho?

CERN again:

  • click on a web site: if you click you could be downloading a virus. This can also be a technique to validate your email address and increase your chances of receiving more unwanted emails. Be cautious of selecting web links included in SPAM mail.

Okay - I didn't go to that site and you shouldn't either.

Does the next line reveal something about the sender? "Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority"

If I correctly remember my English lessons a solicitor is someone that 'seeks trade or contributions'. So what is the "Solicitors Regulation Authority", a 'United Spammers Association'? Thanks, I have no intend to contribute.

Now follow some lines of pseudo legaleeze gibberish. None of that makes sense to me, but then I neither know much English nor about legal issues. But one bit I wonder about. It says 'something' "is prohibited and may be unlawful."

If something is unlawful, it is prohibited. Right? Now if something is NOT unlawful, how can that be prohibited? I mean the sender is pretening to send some legal stuff and doesn't know if something is prohibited or is unlawful or is not? "May be"?

Beats me, but then again - it's just spam and now it went down the eternal bit bucket. No use to clog my hard drive with such ...

Posted by b on September 24, 2007 at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

Deadly Reaction to 'Terrorism'

There is a typical chain of events when some terrorism scare is involved:

  • some incident happens that is related to "terrorism"
  • the media, nudged on by authoritative commentary from the government, sensationalizes the event
  • immediate cover-your-ass measures are implemented by the authorities
  • secondary effects of these measures turn out to be worse than the original incident
  • hardly anyone in the media explains the causation.

A deadly example of this scheme is currently taking place in Mesepotamia.

Cholera is spreading throughout Iraq. It is transmitted by dirty water and is deadly especially to children and elderly people:

In its most severe forms, cholera is one of the most rapidly fatal illnesses known: A healthy person may become hypotensive within an hour of the onset of symptoms and may die within 2-3 hours if no treatment is provided. More commonly, the disease progresses from the first liquid stool to shock in 4-12 hours, with death following in 18 hours to several days without rehydration treatment.

In the Kurdish provinces alone some 13 people have died and overall tens of thousands of cases have been registered. Given the general situation in Iraq it is likely that many cholera related illnesses have not been recorded and many dead not registered as cholera related.

The Iraqi government and the World Health Organization are fighting the epidemic. The solution is simple:

“We urgently need chlorine as many governorates have run out of it and water is being distributed without purification. This can lead to an outbreak [of cholera] in other provinces in central and southern Iraq [where sanitation is already poor],” Adel Muhsin, the health ministry's inspector-general in Baghdad, said.

But

A shipment of 100,000 tons of the water purifier has been held up at the Jordanian border over fears the chemical could be used in explosives.

Beginning in October 2006 some 13 chlorine tankers were blown up by resistance groups in Iraq.

Such "WMD attacks" looked bad in the U.S. media, but while lots of people got sick, nobody was killed from the chlorine effects of these bombs.

Still, the immediate reaction by the authorities (likely the U.S. military) was to prevent further chlorine shipments. Thus a deadly cholera epidemic.

Lesson: Beware any "quickfixes" to such overplayed "threats".

(via Eric Umansky and the Armchair Generalist)

Posted by b on September 24, 2007 at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 23, 2007

The Rape

Neurotica is a Iraqi born women with a British passport working for some contractor in the Greenzone. She blogs:

He promised her his undying love. I will protect you he promised. Trust me, he said. I will protect you. He gave her freedom, or so he said. Freedom that he thought she deserved. But with this freedom, he also opened up every single wild animal's cage on her. That was his vision of freedom. She can do what she wanted, he told her. Here, go and enjoy this freedom. You are free. You are finally free, he assured her. At first, she loved this so called freedom. It was something new. Something she never lived before, never experienced. She went out, she had fun, she would come back at dawn, alcohol and smoke smothered all over her. She didnt know what she was putting herself into. But she enjoyed it. She enjoyed this so called freedom.

One night, as she stepped outside her door getting ready for another "free and fun" time, a car stopped. A car filled with young lost guys. They too were looking for a free and fun time. They whistled to her, she ignored them. They shouted flirtatious comments, she continued walking in the dark alleyway. She is strong, she thought to herself. She is strong and she is free. She didnt care. He will protect her, trust me he promised. They followed her. You can hear their quick steps echo in the quiet of the night. Finally they caught up with her.

As one turned her around, the other slapped her face and forced her to the floor pulling at her long black hair. She fought back, kicking and screaming. He covered her mouth with his strong filthy hands. And so began the so called freedom. One by one, they raped her. One by one they raped her ferociously. At one time, there were 2 on her. One from each side. She cried, she kicked, she scratched their faces. But they didnt give up. Just before she was succumbing to her fate, just before she shut her eyes to go into that forever unconciousness, she saw a shadow. A shadow on the ragged twall that has filled up the streets. She forced her eyes open, her heart began to thump. She was going to get rescued. Yes. Yes finally, finally he came to her rescue. He finally came, just as he promised. He came to snatch her away from these animals. But the shadow, the shadow didnt move. He didnt move.

He stood there, stood there leaning on the filthy twall, smiling, smirking, his arms folded. He was there, he was there all the time. Watching, watching as she got raped. Watching as her legs were forced open and bled to death. He just stood there, getting excited himself as he watched these animals tear her flesh apart. He stood there, unscathed by the scene afore him. She got raped, Iraq got raped, but they stood there watching. We gave them freedom, they reasoned. Thats what they wanted. We gave it to them and they chose to abuse it.

Before she finally shut her eyes forever, she looked at him with her spearing hazel eyes and mouthed her last words to him. To him and to the world. She forced her beaten bleeding mouth open and whispered, "but I trusted you, I trusted you". And with that, she gave her soul up. Her Dying Soul...The Iraqi Dying Soul...

Posted by b on September 23, 2007 at 12:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

OT 07-67

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 23, 2007 at 03:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (103)

September 22, 2007

The Broken System

It has been creaping up for a while and now gaining some appeal: Shock and embaressment of Democratic voters about the Democratic Party incumbents they voted for.

What kicked even the most party loyal Daily Kos regular into some resistence mood was the recent Democratic Senate vote against the "BetrayUs" MoveOn ad. But the general sentiment has been building for a while.

The record of the Democrats in the House and Senate was already a mess. No action on Iraq, a few theater hearings which immediately stopped when they met White House resistance and hardly any legislation that could be seen as centrist or even left of center.

As Gleen Greenwald rightly characterizes, they are "well on their way to making the Democratic Party the single most pathetic political entity one can recall encountering".

The public opinion is overwhelmingly for stopping the war on Iraq. The Democratic Senate has the instruments to stop it, as does the House, but they don't even give it a try. More so, the incumbent Democrats want to extend the war, bend over for the White House and in general move the republic further to the right.

A new pending FISA legislation will deliver immunity for anyone who has been involved in domestic illegal spying. The Democrats will agree to it and let it pass. Bush's $200 billion request for further war on Iraq will be waved through with applause. A rightwing nut will be installed as new Attorney General. The new amendment about Iran will again express the Senate's sense that Bush should bomb Teheran. This with all but a few symbolic neys, if any at all.

While this might now have generated some outrage with Democratic voters, be it Meteor Blades, TPM's Rosenberg or Avedon, the question is what they will do about it?

The simple answer to that simple question? 

In the next election they will vote for a Democrat, indeed any Democrat the will occur on the ballot.

What they are in denial about is that hardly any Democratic candidate that passes the smell test within the party organisation and lures enough donors to sustain a campaign will ever further their political preferences.

Which lets me conclude: If, in a Democracy, the majority of the people have lost all ability to influence the actual politics, as is the case now, the system is broken.

A repair from inside the system is unlikely. A change of the system needs work from the outside. But the outrage that is noticable now is not yet enough to start that. Beyond all proof people still believe they can advance their case through their vote.

What might change this? More of the same? Some historic outside event?

I don't know. But more people recognizing the above, instead of denying it, would be good start.

Posted by b on September 22, 2007 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

September 21, 2007

Twilight


Twilight
oil on wood

by anna missed
(bigger)

Which reminds me of this (vid)

A pleasant faced man steps up to greet you
He smiles and says he's pleased to meet you
Beneath his hat the strangeness lies
Take it off, he's got three eyes
Truth is false and logic lost
Now the fourth dimension is crossed...
You have entered the Twilight Zone
Beyond this world strange things are known
Use the key, unlock the door
See what your fate might have in store...
lyrics

Posted by b on September 21, 2007 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

September 20, 2007

Anti-Anti in Lebanon

There are currently lots of headlines about an Anti-Syrian Lebanese politician killed.

We talked with some reliable sources in Lebanon and they confirmed to us that Antoine Ghanem, member of the fascist Phalange party, was a fairly low key anti-communist and anti-parchyderm politician.

He was also known for anti-rape activisim (unless it concerned his maids from Asia) and anti-flatulence advocacy (except when it effected opposition party members).

But Ghanem was not simply a one sided anti-everything. According to other news sources, he was pro-government though one might suspect that stand could change when his party's participation in said government ends.

Like usual in Lebanon, it is unlikely that it will ever been known who killed him. The rumors will point in every direction. Maybe a communist or elephant lover slipped the bomb into his car. Or someone who will profit from further political chaos in Lebanon. There are plenty of suspects.

Syria denounced the assassination. But as the headlines had prepared for, the political response from the U.S. was focused:

In a veiled criticism of Syria, Rice said the Lebanese people have the right to hold upcoming elections "without the fear of intimidation, without the fear of foreign interference."

Earlier Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Anti-Interference, David Welch, visited Israel:

In his meetings, Welch told his counterparts that efforts must be made to bolster the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, ...

Another State Department official, Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Danin, told his Israeli counterparts in recent weeks that if Israel could provide the Lebanese government with data from launch-control computers used in the firing of cluster bombs in the summer 2006, this would be considered a major gain for the Siniora government.

While this charade of non-non-intervention from all sides continues, let me express my sorrow for those 8 people who died and the 67+ who were wounded in the bombing.

Posted by b on September 20, 2007 at 03:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

New Fake(?) Bin Laden Tapes

There is a new 'announcement' of a Bin Laden tape to declare war on Musharraf. After the recent dubious 'Bin Laden tape', with only still pictures while the voice over talked about recent events, we should judge this 'new evidence' carefully:

CAIRO, Egypt - Osama bin Laden will release a new message soon declaring war on Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, al-Qaida announced Thursday.

The announcement of the upcoming message came as al-Qaida released a new video in which bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, boasted that the United States was being defeated in Afghanistan, Iraq and other fronts.
...
A banner posted on an Islamic militant Web site on Thursday advertised that another message would be released, though it did not say whether bin Laden would appear in video or speak in an audiotape.

"Soon, God willing: 'Come to Jihad (holy war)', from sheik Osama bin Laden, God protect him" the banner read.

"Urgent, al-Qaida declares war on the tyrant Pervez Musharraf and his apostate army, in the words of Osama bin Laden," it read.

Such advertisements usually precede the release of the video by one to three days, according to IntelCenter, a U.S. counterterrorism group that monitors militant messages.

Being an technical Internet guy since 1992, I am again wondering how any website, with a fixed IP address and thereby known physical location, can post anything like this without the international alphabet soup of secret services knowing the authors. I find this very unlikely. IntelCenter, as well as its sister company SITE which also 'releases' alleged Bin Laden tapes, are 'private' institutions headed by former U.S. government employees and financed through U.S. government contracts.

To anyone in this world who wants to post 'terrorist' footage to an international public, the most anonymous way is to send a CD or video tape to the outlets of legitimate news agencies. Anything put up on the web is by definition traceable. An envelope dropped into at a public letter box is not. The first Bin Laden tapes in 2002, likely real ones, were delivered anonymous to Al Jazeerah. So why are these 'new tapes' released through U.S. government contractors?

The sole fact that such 'tapes' and 'announcements' are now provided through IntelCenter and SITE is reason to doubt their origin. The content of these tapes, with 'Bin Laden' endorsing left wing writers he likely never read and declaring war on U.S. sponsored dictators, is playing right into Bush's hand. Another reason that lets me disregard them as rubbish.

The recent announcements and tapes have thereby only one value. They allow a glimpse into the propaganda strategy of the imperial regime.

Posted by b on September 20, 2007 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

September 19, 2007

From/To the 'AMERICA IS LOST' Department

by Rick

R'giap quoting Martin Buber:

"you can only gain power over the nightmare by calling it by its real name"

I agree with this religious scholar and admire his works and writings. Rgiap has quoted him before and I thank him for introducing him to me. And in an attempt to describe this nightmare, it is exactly those words of his above that I am attempting to heed. To many who live here in the US, the name of this nightmare is not ‘America’. Nor is its name ‘Amerika’.

I have often been a stickler for language when it comes to discussing a subject. Over the last couple of years, I have asked readers of Moon of Alabama to consider everything from the meaning of “conservative” to a more basic mathematical question of “What exactly is a ‘billion’ dollars anyway?” I now wish to not only ponder a definition of 'America', but more importantly, place some questions of humanism before us. Again, though least in importance, is this from Wikipedia:

While many in the United States of America generally refer to the country as America and themselves as Americans many people elsewhere in the Americas resent what they perceive as appropriation of the term in this context and, thus, this usage is frequently avoided. In Canada, their southern neighbour is seldom referred to as "America" with "the United States", "the U.S.", or (informally) "the States" used instead. English dictionaries and compendiums differ regarding usage and rendition.

Of course, all readers understand that when writers here at Moon of Alabama use the word ‘America’, they are referring to the people and their government of the United States of America, or the geographical land thereof.

But more importantly, this simple definition, no matter how narrowly or broadly defined, becomes a term possibly worthy of more study. Most Americans do not consider the current US government as representing what America was, is, or should be. To further complicte things, the word America for many has evolved further and further into an idealized concept that never existed. I am one of those who believe in such an idealized concept and realize that such an ideal may never exist. But believe I do, almost religiously; and rightly or wrongly, I try in small ways to move things toward that ideal.

Some may say I am using the nuances of language as an emotional shield or as an attempt to defend an America that doesn’t exist. Many children are not happy to learn there is no Santa Claus, just as grown up children use language to sheild against an emotional shock, or as an evasion of guilt or embarissment.  In the words of a US President, “it all depends on what your meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” But I argue here to quite the contrary.

When I read a posts like Bea’s where she concludes “America is lost.” it saddens me deeply. I may be wrong about Bea, but it appears obvious to me from this simple post that the word 'America' means more to her than what any simple definition can describe. It may represent to her an ideal that is, or at least was, something to be cherished and defended. I believe it is important to save this ideal.  And I believe this ideal is not a threat to any nation or individual.

But for one small moment, let us disregard any worry or discussion upon the meaning of the word “America”. Let us disregard for this moment whether or not an idealized America is even worthy of defense or discussion at all. That is, perhaps the very foundations of America or its Constitution is so fatally flawed, either intrinsically or extrinsically, that it is beyond hope. And let us further disregard for this moment any discussion of collective guilt upon its citizens by actions of the U.S government or state actors.

With that, I now ask this question: “Exactly what good is accomplished by insulting Americans by a derogatory uses of the word America? Millions and millions of Americans hold some idealized concept of America, and hold this ideal as dear to their hearts as their souls. One of the founding fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin, became isolated from his son because of Benjamin Franklin's nurturing of such an ideal and their arguing over philosophical loyalties.

Yet, even the slandering of this ideal is not sufficient for some here. ‘Debs is dead’ writes:

Amerika is the entity which is intended to be the prime beneficiary of the actions of the US govt. By that I mean Amerika the entity, not all amerikans within that entity.

Of course after reading the above, one is still left wondering exactly who or exactly what is this “entity”?  To be fair, later in this same post, 'Debs is dead' describes the members of this ‘entity’ called Amerika:

While all US citizens are amerikans (willingly for most, extremely unwillingly for a goodly chunk) not all amerikans are US citizens.

'Debs is dead' continues:

Amerika is the name of the set and amerikans are all the human elements of that set.

Well that certainly clears it all up, eh?

I ask Debs is Dead again: “Is it really worthwhile to slander an entire nation’s population in any attempt to end this nightmare?” There are, without a doubt, millions and millions of people here in your “Amerika” who share your disgust. We share the disgust of an empire that has gone beyond decency, we share your digust in an empire that now justifies torture as a means to an end, and we share your disgust in an empire that has caused the deaths of over a million people in just a few short years. We most likely share in your disgust with a majority if not all of your complaints against this un-American government.

But to insult all americans so completely accomplishes exactly what? Are we so stained in sin that we are of no benefit in bringing change? Would violence against such government along with the certain suicide of the perpetrator be the better part of valor? Perhaps emmigration and denouncing citizenship would bring absolution. If so, please send a list of accepted countries worthy of citizenship. I would gather the list to be quite short.

What some are doing here is little different than what 'Mr. Truth Gets Viscious' did when he proclaimed a hatred towards all people religious. 'Mr Truth gets Viscious' proclaimed a hatred for billions and billions of human beings who had done nothing more wrong than believing different than himself. But perhaps what some posters are doing in disparaging America is far worse. For one thing, America is not a “club”, an “organization” or a “political party” that one can choose or not choose to belong.

According to the basic rights of the UN Charter, no individual should be forced to join any affiliation against their will. Yet some posters here at Moon of Alabama have forced me into this Amerikan prison, this monolith of evil, and truly against my will. But worse yet, as mentioned earlier, these posters are burying an ideal that is as different from what they believe as to what many Americans believed about Iraq. Of course, destroying peoples hopes and dreams by bombs is obvious, while destroying an ideal by words is not.

One must remember, America is a construct of one’s mind, maybe more so than many other nations as it has more connotations, both good or bad. America is a nation, like so many others, born in blood and it how it will end I do not know. And like all nations, it exists only in the eyes of man.

To be more precise, it is little different than the territory marked by a dog lifting his leg. A dog marks his territory to rule as he chooses even if such boundaries are unknown to man. But instead of piss on grass and trees, we humans go one better; we have written paper with ‘defined rules’ by intellectual elites. Almost reminds me of some intellectuals here, but the “Amerikans” that exist in these intellectual minds do better still. We, the enablers of this “Amerikan” evil, have willfully and preemptively killed those who have made no attempt whatsoever to invade our space.

I doubt that few Americans are actually a part of this 'entity'. Nearly all Americans have been raped by this nightmare in more ways than even the crudest of porn could portray. And this rape of Americans has been happening for many years, with or without 'Shock and Awe'. Naomi Klein’s new book “The Shock Doctrine’ describes just a few of the many sex toys in a large bag of tricks.

Many of us have been raped without shock or fear at all; indeed most of us have been raped in our sleep. While Americans are busy watching sporting events on television, corporate sponsors are busy behind the scenes with their lobbyist pimps. No electric shock is needed for most of our brains; they are already filled with apathy. I must say, the pimps keep us entertained quite well.

Yet my discussion here is not directed at Americans, why bother anyway, as many have left reading or posting here for the very reasons I put forth. Worse yet, there almost appears to be a subtle point that we “Amerikans” deserve this rape and abuse. We have been born with an “Original Sin” and marked with a “666” on our souls, and with hardened hearts that only a foreign intellectual can judge.

I propose that only a stagnant mind could assume that Americans would be intentionally so self abusive logic does little to ease my worries about any debate regarding America. In fact, I personally feel that thinking in binary terms of Logic and Set Theory in describing “Amerika” is below that of the living, yes below that of my dog. All hail the mighty “Nand Gate” philosophy where all of reason can be construed by merely the use of two distinct operations of logic! Of course ‘Mr. Truth Gets Vicious’ has informed us that only in recent history have humans been able to grasp Boolean Logic. I would have argued that such principles of “and”, “or” and “not” are kindergarten level but dead Debs has unfortunately proved me wrong.

Perhaps it is beyond my understanding; but I for one, would put my money on a living dog instead of a stagnant mind and sheer logic. If I misunderstand posters through my religious prejudices, my egotism, my nationalism, my lack of ability to perceive the world, or even my ignorance in logic/set theory, be assured that there are millions of idiots like myself that are insulted also.

But enough of this collective guilt, and of this moment of divisiveness posing as debate. I have no guilt in working to achieve an ideal America, an America that closely resembles the ideals that my founding fathers had envisioned. Such is the America that exists in my heart and mind and it is not a fool’s dream. There is a range from similar to wholly different ideals held in many minds throughout the world. In doing so, I find no need to insult anyone merely by their national association, or approach those who are powerless and silent with hate or insults. Again, what I sometimes percieve here at Moon of Alabama is an attempt to blame the victims along with the deviants while burying an ideal. If one does not agree with that ideal that is fine. But in some real way, America as a nation did progress where things were once better than they were today. 

Surely not all shared in the wealth, but progress was being made. This is not ‘kool aid’ talk either, for I remember my younger days when the US Middle Class was large and growing. Marginalized minorities were gaining discretionary income. That is not the case today. How and why the citizens became so asleep I don’t know for sure. Clearly entertainment and materialsim has become a disease of epic proportions, while interest in arts and education are very lacking. And the situation appears to become worse with each new generation. This has been the greatest detriment to improving the political situation.

”The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.” – Martin Buber

Finally, for anyone to suggest that millions of people in your “Amerika” have little or no regard for others lives, especially those of other nationalities, is more than insulting. Through my culture and religious beliefs, I recognize clearly the genocide that is taking place in Iraq. I regret now that I have not finished my writing concerning religion. Just as I was insulted by the actions of US leaders and US soldiers who had no regard for the personal beliefs of “their” Muslim prisoners, I am equally insulted for not only myself, but for the countless Americans who have played no part in the Iraqi conflict, but yet are deemed willful benefactors in an Iraqi genocide. 

Though others will disagree, I assure everyone, there never was, and never will be any benefit to America or to a single true American in this Iraq War. The greatest costs have yet to be felt for everyone, although considering what the Iraqi people have already endured, it is beyond my imagination how the metaphysical universe can still hold in reserve so much anquish. I pray that the Iraq nightmare can be halted. Even now my disgust grows without limits - from the actions of Blackwater and other private mercenaries, to the actions of US prison guards who had so little respect for those of Muslim belief, alas, these US soldiers actually used the prisoner’s religious beliefs as weapons against them. All this at the behest of those located in Washington DC.

America's political leaders are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing. They have soiled the very same International agreements that they helped write and have spit upon the US Constitution they swore to protect. I freely choose not to call these US citizens 'Americans' for what they do is truly un-American in a very real sense of the word. Americans are against this war, they are against their US government and many of us “Americans” are fighting a non-violent war against this current government that most would say we are incapable of fighting. We long for America, but right now, it can’t be found.

Man is no longer able to master the world which he himself brought about: it is becoming stronger than he is, it is winning free of him, it confronts him in an almost elemental independence, and he no longer knows the word which could subdue and render harmless the golem he has created ... Man faced the terrible fact that he was the father of demons whose master he could not become. - Martin Buber

I post this lenghty discussion not to insult but because I care. Like the beauty of our physical world which is so mathematically irrational and impossible to quantify, I see so much beauty here at Moon of Alabama. On this very thread, the beauty of rgiaps humanism shines through like a rainbow after a storm.

almost my entire argument against my friend slothrup was based on his refusal to understand that the empire that is controlling & destroying this world has its capital in Washington the other aspect of my argument against him was essentially - the people were always missing, absent, had disappeared … it seemed only americans appeared

I agree 100% with rgiap’s post above, even more than he may realize. The US government has turned into a cancer that has inflicted the whole world. I would only add that, like a disease, removing the most obvious mass of cancer or removing the cancer from where it originated does not always lead to cure. Although only an acedemic point, one could argue that the seeds of this cancer were already forming long before the US existed. 

The East India Trade Company of England was merchandising slaves and dope on a worldwide scale; perhaps this was already the first ominous sign of this world cancer. Of course the most deadly puppet strings are certainly being pulled from Washington DC. But I repeat, this cancer is pervasive.

The second part of rgiap’s post reveals not only great intellect, but more important, his heart.  Regarding my work (still a draft) on religion, I use rgiap’s same point from an earlier post as almost a central theme. Below is a quick cut and paste from this work in process.

Attitude and intolerance are difficult qualities to describe by simple writing, so I have struggled with some examples of attitudes perceived from past posts.  Most importantly though, I think various societies have been great because of their culture, and religion has been a basic, and very positive, ingredient of any great culture.  The history of China is maybe a good example but probably more complicated and the least familiar…
[snip]
Iraq is maybe the clearest example for most of us, so I will reference that, especially emphasizing the heroic efforts of the Iraqi Resistance to the current occupation.  Iraq, the cradle of civilization, is now turning to rubble and the once proud Iraqi people are witnessing death and destruction on an unprecedented scale.  They are seeing their great culture destroyed even as I write.  I cringe every time I hear about a mosque being destroyed. Not just for the beauty of the architecture, so much more beautiful than the modern, ugly, square buildings of the West.  Each mosque is more than just a religious place of worship; each is (or ‘was’) a part of Iraqi art and culture.  Iraqis have died, their private and public property has been destroyed (or stolen) and all for what?  The “Social Darwinists” in the West contrast so sharply to the Iraqi people.  To believe that spirituality does not play a role in the Iraqi Resistance is to intimidate logic itself.
[snip]

One does not need to read Chomsky, read Moon of Alabama, or any other media “expert” to understand or critique what is happening in Iraq. In this respect, again I wish to commend and quote remembering rgiap where he replied in a heated debate with Slothrup regarding the situation in Iraq:

but again & again what is the most worrying for me - is that in the style of a murdochian mendiant - the iraqi people & their loss & suffering - are nowhere to be seen - in the so-called 'facts' that he [Slothrup] brings

It is rgiap’s concern for humanity that wins the argument in my book. Logic alone will never suffice when discussing such subjects. On that note, Bea is also one where her concern for humanity is a power that reaches far beyond her words. It is evident in every one of Bea’s posts.

Most people of the world are looking for change. They are not seeking tyranny from dictatorships, corporatism, or the tyranny from a democracy where rights and freedoms are not protected. Respect towards each individual in society will always be an important part of this quest. To disrespect the individuals of an entire nation because they have done nothing more wrong but to live under an ‘out of control’ government is more than sad. 

I have no doubt that many who arrive here at Moon of Alabama are quickly put off after reading some posts.  ‘Mr. Truth Gets Viscous’ openly proclaims his hatred for all religious people. On another thread, Parvis and Cat Lady have a discussion stating that all religious people living with today’s technology are as dangerous as “psychopaths with chainsaws”. In that thread, readers were treated to such profound questions as: “Is it religion that causes Psychopaths or is it that Psychopaths are drawn to religion?”

Perhaps dead Debs can use some Binary Logic and Set Theory to sort out their questions. Even more stunning is to find Parvis conclude that all organized religion should be outlawed because religious people are as dangerous as nuclear bombs. And then logic easily enables Bernhard and others to conclude that the only way to stop the Iraq War quickly is to have higher body counts of American soldiers. After all, a million dead Iraqis don’t seem to bother most Americans. So with the simple tools of mathematics, a delight with every American’s death is proclaimed. The effects of Agent Orange from so many years ago are still claiming both American and Vietnamese lives every day. Where and with what co-efficient do we place such statistics into our calculations?

Most likely none of Moon of Alabama posters intend to offend anyone (myself excluded of course), yet what is the mathematical set of people offended from these numerous subsets of insults? Quite frankly, I don’t know. But I do know that each of us can be more effective by a little more care in our common strive for change. 

Ironically, we may often offend and turn away the very people who can help us the most. Unfortunately for readers at Moon of Alabama, you loose with me on both counts: I am still here and I don’t know how best to bring change. And I am a common offender when it comes to insults.

However, if knowledge is to be gained, I will take an insult any day of the week rather than silence. I welcome and learn from all the posters here, those who I have just insulted and those who insult me. I even miss reading Slothrup's posts lately. But cooperation and success is easier achieved with praise than with insults. If praise is too difficult, than let us move forward with tolerance. If tolerance is too difficult, insults will do little. And religion and logic should be everyone’s friend, and never be used simply as tools to dominate or divide.

Posted by b on September 19, 2007 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (131)

OT 07-66

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 19, 2007 at 04:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)

September 18, 2007

John Kerry is a Coward

John Kerry is a coward ...
... as are the other people in that room ...

Posted by b on September 18, 2007 at 11:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

Voices Against War on Iran

Some sane people speaking out against War on Iran:

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank.
[...]
"War, in the state-to-state sense, in that part of the region would be devastating for everybody, and we should avoid it _ in my mind _ to every extent that we can," he said. link

more important:

"We need always to remember that the use of force could only be resorted to when ... every other option has been exhausted. I don't think we are at all there," el Baradei told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing 51st annual regular session of the IAEA General Conference.
[...]
He said the IAEA has found no evidence of "weaponization" from Iranian nuclear enrichment work, although during his speech at the conference he regretted Iran's refusal to fall in line with UN resolutions. link

another voice:

Iran's nuclear issue could be settled through negotiation, Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik said here Monday.

"I am convinced that the solution through negotiation could be achieved," she told the media during the ongoing 51st annual regular session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
[...]
As for the possibility of launching military action against Iran predicted recently by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, Plassnik said that Kouchner was the only one who could answer this question with his own opinion, noting she could not understand why Kouchner used such warlike words.
link

Who can? Kouchner and Sarkozy have cought some foot in mouth disease. The sensivity of their public statements on Iran is even below the level of Ahmedinejad's speeches.

The above quotes leave a stall taste though. Why do these people feel a need to start this campaign now? What do they know?

Posted by b on September 18, 2007 at 04:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

September 17, 2007

Dems and the New AG

How Bush will get a very conservative man confirmed as new attorney general by a Democratic Senate:

  1. Secretly pick a very conservative candidate.
  2. Launch rumors of recommending other, more divisive and nutty candidates, Theodore B. Olson and Michael Chertoff, who have obviously no chance of being confirmed.
  3. Let the Dems prance against those.
  4. Pull out the 'compromise' candidate, retired federal judge Michael B. Mukasey
  5. Let Fred Hiatt rant against the candidate for not being conservative enough.
  6. Bribe a 'moderate' Democrat, Senator Schumer, to your side.
  7. Point to the candidates 'terrorism experience'.
  8. See the Democrats fold.

So this is what the U.S. will end up with:

Although Mr. Mukasey backed the White House by ruling that Mr. Padilla could be held as an enemy combatant — a decision overturned on appeal — he also defied the administration by saying Mr. Padilla was entitled to legal counsel.

Glenn Greenwald finds it laudable that Mukasey granted Padilla the implicitness of having a lawyer.

But the man wrongly judged that the president can incarcerate any U.S. person as an 'enemy combatant', simply because the president says so.

Is that a 'compromise' the Democrats can agree on? Seems so ...

As Bill Kristol rightly predicts:

Mukasey testifying on behalf of Bush's FISA legislation will be like Petraeus testifying on the surge. He'll be an able public spokesman because he can't be caricatured as a partisan apologist, and the Democrats won't be able to lay a glove on him.

Therefore:

[C]onservatives should hold their fire, support the president, enjoy watching Chuck Schumer hoist on his own petard, and get ready for a strong attorney general for the rest of the Bush administration.

Just what the voters asked for ...

Posted by b on September 17, 2007 at 01:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

September 16, 2007

The Legacy of Ayn Rand

In his long-awaited memoir - out tomorrow in the US - Greenspan, 81, who served as chairman of the US Federal Reserve for almost two decades, writes: 'I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.'
[...]
[A] survey of Iraqis, which was released last week, claims that up to 1.2 million people may have died because of the conflict in Iraq - lending weight to a 2006 survey in the Lancet that reported similarly high levels.
Greenspan admits Iraq was about oil, as deaths put at 1.2m

---

Shortly after “Atlas Shrugged” was published in 1957, Mr. Greenspan wrote a letter to The New York Times to counter a critic’s comment that “the book was written out of hate.” Mr. Greenspan wrote: “ ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”
Ayn Rand’s Literature of Capitalism

Posted by b on September 16, 2007 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

September 15, 2007

Weekend OT

Busy today and no idea for a quick post.

But you may have some news or views you want to share. Please do so ...

Posted by b on September 15, 2007 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (123)

September 14, 2007

Camping - The Quiet Site


(bigger)

The Quiet Site is a family run park situated in a secluded position amongst the stunning flows of the river Rethe. This well maintained, picturesque site offers great facilities and easy access to the waters.

 

Posted by b on September 14, 2007 at 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Eleven Nations: MIA, KIA or AWOL?

We thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy.
Address by the President to the Nation on the Way Forward in Iraq , September 13, 2007

---

The following nations are partners in the Coalition:

*Albania     *Armenia     *Austrailia     *Azerbaijan     *Bosnia and Herzegovina     *Bulgaria     *Czech Republic     *Denmark     *El Salvador    *Estonia    *Georgia    *Japan    *Kazakhstan    *South Korea    *Latvia    *Lithuania    *Macedonia    *Moldova    *Mongolia    *Poland    *Romania    *Singapore    *Slovakia    *Ukraine    *United Kingdom
Official Website of Multi-National Force - Iraq: Coalition Partners, last changed June 1, 2007

Somehow eleven nations seem to be Missed in Action, went Absent without Leave or have been Killed in Action by someone in Iraq. Who forgot to tell the Clown in Chief?

Posted by b on September 14, 2007 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Propaganda: 2002-Iraq 2007-Syria

Do we recognize this scheme?

  1. anonymous official sources 'leak' false claims about a foreign WMD threat to a major U.S. newspapers
  2. soon afterward a famous administration official is interviewed by a friendly TV station
  3. the administration official vaguely acknowledges the newspaper report
  4. other news media report this as independent confirmation
  5. the public mind assumes there is a 'real imminent threat'

It has happened before and right before our eyes, it is happening again.

Let's recap:

On September 8 2002 the New York Times published a 'report' by Michael Gordon and Judith Miller: U.S. Says Hussein Intensifies Quest For A-Bomb Parts

In the last 14 months, Iraq has sought to buy thousands of specially designed aluminum tubes, which American officials believe were intended as components of centrifuges to enrich uranium. American officials said several efforts to arrange the shipment of the aluminum tubes were blocked or intercepted but declined to say, citing the sensitivity of the intelligence, where they came from or how they were stopped.

The very same day Secretary of State Collin Powell is interviewed on Fox News Sunday:

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE:  [...] And as we saw in reporting just this morning, he is still trying to acquire, for example, some of the specialized aluminum tubing one needs to develop centrifuges that would give you an enrichment capability.

Other media amplify: Top Bush officials push case against Saddam

Top officials in the Bush administration took to the Sunday television talk shows to argue the president's case that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is a global threat and must go.

A CBS opinion poll September 22/23 2002 found:

In the first week of September, only 27% believed the administration had clearly explained its case; now, nearly twice as many do.

Five years later:

The Washington Post yesterday morning: N. Korea, Syria May Be at Work on Nuclear Facility

North Korea may be cooperating with Syria on some sort of nuclear facility in Syria, according to new intelligence the United States has gathered over the past six months, sources said.

Yesterday evening Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was interviewed on Fox News:

QUESTION: What are we to make of the reports this week that in fact, Syria is building nuclear facilities?

SECRETARY RICE: Well, first of all, our -- we have long been concerned about the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. [...] So this is something that's been at the highest point of the President's agenda since he came into power and we work every day and we watch it every day and we're vigilant about it and we're determined.

That is certainly not a denial nor a clarification. Like before this is picked up, repacked and emphasized by other media. So now we read: Rice concerned over Syrian nukes

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in an interview on Fox New's Sean Hannity Show Thursday night expressed concern following reports that Syria may be building nuclear facilities, saying, "We have to have policies that prevent the world's most dangerous people from having the world's most dangerous weapons."

In an earlier thread I documented a systematic campaign to plant a "nuclear Syria" meme into the public mind. This was started by a neocon led Syrian 'opposition' group under Israeli influence and reenforced by neocon John Bolton. The administration has now joined this campaign.

Whether this is to support the war of aggression Israel recently started by air attacks on Syria, or part of the promised campaign to launch an unprovoked war on Iran is not yet clear. It is likely that these campaigns do belong together anyway.

It is yet too early for opinion polls that show changes in the public mind about a "nuclear threat" from Syria, but I do expect the results will show the same effect we saw in 2002.

Most frustrating here is that five years after the lies about Saddams WMD, the media can be played by just the same scheme of government propaganda.

But then the media has to take care for their customers, the people who advertise - not the readers/viewers, and a full page four color Lockheed advertisement may be seen as more valuable than reporting ethics.

That is easy to understand, but will the public ever learn this?

Posted by b on September 14, 2007 at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

September 13, 2007

The End of the Anbar Model

Abu Risha, the  U.S. collaborator and show puppy for The Anbar Model, has been killed by an IED near his home.

Bush and his poodles in uniform claim that Al Qaida is responsible for this. They never heard of a genuine national resistance anyway.

But this wasn't a suicide attack, the hallmark of Al Qaida. So who else could be responsible?

Two days ago Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark, posted on: People and Power: Al-Anbar

For now I just wanted to recommend this program by Rick Rowley and David Enders which aired on al-Jazeera English two days ago in two parts, which examines the American Sunni strategy in Anbar Province.
[...]
Enders interviews the famous Sattar Abu Risha in Amman (he claims to be the leader of all Iraq's Sunni tribes, and makes some rather grand promises), and also presents harsh criticism of Abu Risha from his rival Ali Hatem (who denounces Abu Risha as a con man and fraud, as he has repeatedly to various American journalists).  Abu Risha dramatically says to the camera that the terrorists should know that he would be returning to Ramadi in five days and was ready for them, but he didn't turn up. 

Hatem sniped that Abu Risha can't be found in Ramadi because he isn't welcome there anymore, while the US military spokesman acknowledged that Abu Risha had left the country, attributing it vaguely to squabbles over money, but expected the alliance to hold together.

Hatem and the Shia head of Maliki's reconciliation office both warn that the Americans are pouring weapons into the hands of people who will still have those weapons once the immediate AQI problem is gone. [...] When Abu Risha told Enders (on camera) that "we are on our way to Mosul and Kirkuk, God willing", one wonders whether that should be seen as a promise or a threat (it also lends plausibility to the story making the rounds in the Iraqi press yesterday that during the meeting with Bush Abu Risha offered to extend the services of his tribesmen into the center and south of the country if the US would provide more money and guns.. exactly what many Shia fear).

Then there was some story in June about Abu Risha skimming off $75 million from the U.S. but not paying his own fighters. The "British secret weapon in Basra" reminds us of some important Sunni groups who also disliked Abu Risha.

So who had possible motives to kill Abu Risha?

  1. one Sunni competitor, Hatem
  2. various Sunni resistance groups
  3. the Kurds, as Abu Risha threatened to go to Kirkuk
  4. the Iraqi government
  5. the various Shia groups, as he also threatened to take the fight down south
  6. some of his own folks demanding their money

I left out Al Qaida in the above because we do not have any evidence that they really disliked him. With $75 million on the table - who knows - maybe they got their share.

We don't know who killed him, but the collaborator guy had some powerful enemies and few friends. He died for a stack of cash, courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers, and a photo-op with a grinning Bush.

Some bad business model - people will learn from this and avoid getting entangled in bad deals with the U.S. military. This is the end of the Anbar salvation model.

Other Sheiks are smarter. Lynch:

The best moment in the program, though, comes when one of the tribal shaykhs is asked how many of the tribes currently cooperating with the US used to be fighting the US. His response: "Your time is up. It's $100 for an extra minute." A fitting epitaph.

Posted by b on September 13, 2007 at 01:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (15)

OT 07-64

News & views - another open thread ...

Posted by b on September 13, 2007 at 03:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (94)

September 12, 2007

Market Confidence and Iraq

Oil Rises to Record $80.18 on Larger-Than-Expected Supply Drop
Dollar Falls to Record Low Versus the Euro on Rate Differential


There is some hedge fund speculation driving the numbers above, but more important are two fundamental issue hidden behind those.

The minor of these is where things are made. The Gulf states and Russia are buying most of the stuff they import on a Euro base. If the Dollar falls, they are losing buying power. Their obvious solution is to increase their income in Dollars (holding it fairly constant in Euros) by increasing the oil price.

But the major issue here is confidence. This has very much to do with Iraq and the inability of the U.S. to pull itself out of that quagmire.

The financial/commercial world has paid the U.S. for delivering international stability by putting money into Dollar assets. This allowed the U.S. to live beyond its homegrown financial income capacity.

Now the U.S. is no longer able to deliver stability, especially for the big oil exporters in the Middle East.

On the issue of financial stability the U.S. has blown it by allowing its citizens unreasonable speculation without the means to mitigate the consequences.

On the geo-political side the U.S. has proven itself impotent. Sure there are still lots of nukes and planes available, but that is not exactly the kind of leadership the world is yearning for.

The U.S. is spending some $700+ billion per year for 'defense'. But it would have problems to deliver even one brigade, some 4,000 soldiers, to any contingency should one occur. What can the U.S. do if someone shoots the king of Jordan or the president of Georgia?

With no political ability to end the war on Iraq, as was aptly demonstrated by the bipartisan comedy played in congress this week, there is hardly a chance that the U.S. will regain such capacity within a forseeable timeframe.

Compare the 700+ billion for the military with some $10 billion the U.S. spends for the State Department. The role of the global arbitrator is no longer believable when the only instrument the arbitrator has is total annihilation of this or that country.

Hence no further need to pay for that dubious service.

Posted by b on September 12, 2007 at 03:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

The Building of a Nuclear Syria Meme

UPDATED below:

On August 31 the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by John Bolton on the negotiations about nuclear disarmament with North Korea. At the end, quite out of nowhere, he inserts this paragraph:

Finally, we need to learn the details of North Korean nuclear cooperation with other countries. We know that both Iran and Syria have long cooperated with North Korea on ballistic missile programs, and the prospect of cooperation on nuclear matters is not far-fetched. Whether and to what extent Iran, Syria or others might be "safe havens" for North Korea's nuclear weapons development, or may have already participated with or benefited from it, must be made clear.

Bolton is usually more assertive with WMD claims. Here he seems to be unsure about a nuclear connection between North Korea and Syria. But the meme is out.

It gets picked up, enforced and recycled. The New York Times writes today:

One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea. The administration official said Israeli officials believed that North Korea might be unloading some of its nuclear material on Syria.

“The Israelis think North Korea is selling to Iran and Syria what little they have left,” the official said. He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief.

The Israeli papers Haaretz and YnetNews (Yedioth Ahronoth) are quoting from the NYT.

Syria has a small civil nuclear research program build with the help of the IAEA and several 'western' states. The U.S. based Nuclear Threat Initiative has some details on these programs. There are no known connections to North Korea but Syria's open purchase of some SCUD missile clones. 

There are rumors distributed by Syrian ex-pats about a secret Syrian nuclear weapon program:

Sources close to RPS have disclosed that Syria is involved in military nuclear research not too far from Deir el-Hajjar, a tourist area in Syria. Deir el-Hajjar is also known for agricultural research, which is intended to hide the real purpose of nuclear research.

Deir el-Hajjar seems to be a site near Damascus (Google Maps) that doesn't show anything suspicious. It's the place to go when you want to know about Feeding ensiled poultry excreta to ruminant animals (yuck). It is far away from north eastern Syria which was the alleged target area of Israel's air attacks last week.

RPS is the Reform Party of Syria which is a:

US-based Syrian opposition party to the Assad regime that has emerged as a result of September 11.

The party is governed by secular, peace committed American-Syrians, Euro-Syrians, and native Syrians who are determined to see that a "New Syria" is reborn that embraces real democratic and economic reforms.

Founder of that party is Farid N. Ghadry, "Syria’s version of Ahmad Chalabi" and an AIPAC member.

So we have a neocon Syrian ex-pat (Ghadry left Syria at the age of 8!) who for quite some time is pandering about a secret Syrian nuclear program. We have neocon John Bolton suggesting that Syria might purchase some nuclear stuff from North Korea and we have one anonymous administration official (Deputy National Security Advisor Elliot Abrams?) that rumors about something Israeli officials are said to believe.

That's not much and the connections between these people are obvious. But now the meme is out there and we can be sure some will build on it until we are to believe in another possible mushroom cloud.

UPDATE: See comment 15 and 16 on how the meme has now spread to the Washington Post and from there is echo chambered again by the Israeli press.

Posted by b on September 12, 2007 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

September 11, 2007

Another Middle East Mystery

What and why did Israel bomb in Syria?

Last weeks attack on something in Syria by the Israeli Air Force is quite mysterious. That such an attack happened is obvious. Turkey found external fuel tanks of an Israeli jet that had fallen on its soil near the Syrian border. Military aircrafts jettison their externals tanks to gain maneuverability when under fire.

According to a fresh CNN report based on U.S. sources:

[T]he sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike which "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria.

The strike may have targeted Hezbollah weapons coming into Syria or transiting through the country from Iran -- a pattern over the past three or four years which has occurred without any retaliation or action taken against it -- the sources said.

The Israeli government is very happy with the success of the operation, the sources said.

Maybe too many may inthere to take that serious. Israeli sources are unusual silent about the strike. The Israeli papers only quote foreign sources. A certain sign that the military censors are supressing something.

Flanking Israel's agression John Bolton is back at his usual racket of spreading lies. After claiming that Saddam's alleged WMD's were transfered to Syria, he is now suggesting that North Korean nuclear and missile production assets have been transfered to Syria and Iran. One wonders why people like Joshua Landis take this seriously.

For the IAF the recent operation has to be seen as a failure. Last year it was possible for them to buzz the Syrian president's summer palace without any trouble. This time the Syrians did detect their planes and even were able to defend themselves to some extend. Also a new 'big hole in the desert', if true, is certainly not the intended effect.

To the understandable frustration of the Syrian government the international community is totally quiet about Israel's aggressive act. There was a shameful, telling event on how this works:

At a joint news conference in Jerusalem, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asked her Portuguese counterpart to refrain from commenting on the incident. After Minister Luis Amado, whose country currently holds the presidency of the European Union, was asked for the EU's stance on the incident, Livni interrupted the discussion and signaled to Amado not to answer.

"I do not believe any statement by any party could help matters," Livni explained before moving on to the next question. "I find it ponderous that you should expect me to comment on this. You already know our position on the subject."

Since when is the Israeli foreign minister to decide what the EU is saying or not? Oh well ...

In what might have been a response to the Israeli attack on Syria, some splitter group in Gaza fired a rocket into an Israeli military camp. 69 Israeli soldiers were wounded though only 4 of them seriously. (Note how again Israel designates any soldier in need of a band aid as 'wounded'.)

The typical Israeli reaction to such an event would have been an overt attack on Gaza. But for some ominous reason the Israeli military is holding back.

There will be no major IDF response to Qassam strike in Negev due to tensions in north, Haaretz analyzes. But why does the Israeli army need all it has on the border to Syria? This when it also claims that there are no signs of Syrian preparations for war?

If the Syrians refrain from retaliating for the air strikes, which they will for lack of capacity, why is the Israeli army preparing to fight on or from the Golan heights?

Posted by b on September 11, 2007 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

Remember 9/11

September 11 was a catastrophe.

The event and its aftermath were heavily influenced by the shenanigans of Cheney, Kissinger, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Bremer. The actions were based on bi-partisan support.  They led to thousands and thousands of maimed people and many dead.

History again demonstrated the urge of the U.S. to eliminate any government that doesn't support its model of greed. This again delivered hunger and poverty to a people that committed nothing but the heresy of independence.

The target country had been isolated by sanctions for quite some time. The economy was in bad shape. Then tanks rolled through the streets and the presidential palace was bombed.

After 'regime change' followed the implementation of the models of one of the most destructive economists, Milton Friedman.

The 'economic shock treatment', disguised as 'freedom', was aiming at privatizing the extraction of the countries resources for the benefit of U.S. companies. It destroyed the society's fabric.

The people protesting the machinations were exposed to state sponsered terrorism, imprisoned, tortured and executed.

It took many, many years for Chile to overcome the disaster.

9/11 was a very bad day in 1973. It was a bad day in 2001 too. Those two bad days were not unrelated.

Further readings:

Remembering Chile's 9/11
The Chile Coup -- The U.S. Hand
Killing Hope - Chile 1964-1973
Chile and the United States: Declassified Documents Relating to the Military Coup, September 11, 1973

Posted by b on September 11, 2007 at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

September 10, 2007

Kabuki

Petraeus hearing:

Petraeus is supposed to start his opening statement, but his mike doesn't work and it takes a while.

Meanwhile some stuff, supposed to be his written testimony, gets passed around.

Senator: "Chairman I am getting a chart, not a statement."
Chairman: "That's what's provided."

Posted by b on September 10, 2007 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

September 09, 2007

The End of the Partitioning Strategy

Eleven month ago I wrote:

The discussion within the U.S. foreign policy establishment on the future of Iraq has come to a conclusion. The U.S. will, now officially, work to dissolve the Iraqi nation and state into three independent statelets under a powerless sham national government and, of course, total U.S. control.

That opinion was based on leaks about the Iraq Study Group report, which emphasized partition.

The implementation of that strategy started this year's spring when the U.S. military began to pay off local tribal folks, warlords and highway robbers, to 'pacify' Anbar province.

The U.S. media never acknowledged the 180 degree turn from national government support to partitioning. Bush essentially faked them with his purported escalation (surge) reason of giving space for national consolidation. While everybody watched Maliki, the military was building private Sunni armies and the Kurds started to sell off their oil to U.S. companies to gain economic independence.

The usual media pundits never acknowledged the new strategy. The first, crow eating admission of the partitioning scheme came by neocon Charles Krauthammer last week:

A weak, partitioned Iraq is not the best outcome. We had hoped for much more. Our original objective was a democratic and unified post-Hussein Iraq. But it has turned out to be a bridge too far.

The Democrats have no intent to stop the implementation of this part of the bipartisan ISG report. Therefore they will agree to prolong the escalation. But they like Krauthammer will have to eat more crows because partitioning is also a few bridges too far:

Gunmen blew up two bridges on the highway near 160km region west of Ramadi on Friday morning using explosive charges," ...  The incident raises to five the number of bridges which have been destroyed on the highway in Anbar since the beginning of 2007.

The systematic destruction of bridges is not local infighting or some Al Qaida activity, but strategic preparation for the coming decisive battle against the occupation force. Despite the recent propaganda, Anbar is certainly not pacified. This year the US took 152 casualties there, 18 of those since August 1.

While Bush smirks to Anbar Sheik Sattar Abu Risha, that guy certainly has his own agenda. It is unlikely to be a U.S. friendly one. Partitioning Iraq has no advantage for him.

Baghdad has been cleansed of most Sunnis. They will want it back. They will take the millions the U.S. is pushing to them right now and when the 'surge' ends for lack of troops, they will make their move.

Posted by b on September 9, 2007 at 03:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

Murray-Arsenal-Usmanov

Earlier this month the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, wrote a piece about the British football (soccer) club Arsenal which is in the process of being bought/ruled by the Uzbeki oligarch Usmanov:

"Alisher Usmanov, potential Arsenal* chairman, is a Vicious Thug, Criminal, Racketeer, Heroin Trafficker and Accused Rapist."

After pressure from Usmanov's lawyers, Craig's website hoster seems to have removed that post from Craig's site. Murray explains it here.

I have no idea if Craig Murray is right in his assessment, but I support his right to voice his learned opinion.

Usmanov is free to defend himself against Craig's allegations by publishing a counter-opinion. 'Defending' himself by supressing free speech is not the right way.

Though the Google cache has been cleaned too, copies of Murray's piece are alive here, here and here, on general USEnet servers in soc.alt.usa (hehe) and elsewhere.

These sources are potentially endangered. The best method against censorship is mass posting. Please help keep Craig's writing alive and fight censorship by saving, distributing and re-posting more copies wherever you can.

Posted by b on September 9, 2007 at 05:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

OT 07-63

News and views ...

Posted by b on September 9, 2007 at 01:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

September 08, 2007

Pakistan: Election Preperations

by Debs is Dead
excerpted from a comment

Anyone who had any doubt about a deal having been done between the appalling Benazir Bhutto and amerikan intelligence to create a false aura of democratic rule about Mushareef's Pakistani dictatorship, should take note of this:

Musharraf reopens charge against Sharif

General Pervez Musharraf has dramatically upped the stakes in his confrontation with Nawaz Sharif by reopening a corruption charge against the former prime minister days before he is to return to Pakistan to challenge the military leader. And a court ordered a murder warrant for the arrest of Mr Sharif's brother, Shahbaz, who is to return from London with him.

An anti-corruption court in Rawalpindi held a hearing in a five-year-old case relating to allegations that Mr Sharif's family defaulted on a bank loan. The case had been adjourned for years but was reopened at the instigation of the government last month. ...

Pakistan has been a nation of amerikan interest since 911, before that no one seemed to care, and many will be unaware of this nation's unlucky political history.

Mushareef's is the second major military dictatorship. The first was the government of General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq who deposed then executed Benazir Bhutto's father, Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto for his alleged role in a murder.

Zia was eventually 'deposed' by a crate of explosives disguised as mangos which were loaded onto his personal military transport during a refuelling stop. American Ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel was also onboard when the plane was blown out of the heavens. Karma is a bitch.

Anyway the Bhutto administrations have held power in Pakistan for much longer than any other. They have had a stink of corruption about them since long before Zulfy Bhutto's ouster.

Mushareef has always claimed to be acting in the interest of a corruption free Pakistan, yet he will deal with Benazir Bhutto while refusing to countenence the far less corrupt Mr Sharif who, in a cynically symmetric piece of political theatre, will by tried and executed for the murder of a political opponent should he return to Pakistan.

The Bhutto bitch must have promised to allow the continued ethnic cleansing by amerika, of her fellow citizens in the tribal lands in return for getting her snout back in the trough. She will be ropeable that this has been delayed by arch-enemy Sharif's return.

With Sharif in the picture the amerikan puppeteers won't risk an election. Sharif may win and although he's not the islamacist Zia was (back in the day when amerika thought Islam a good thing), Sharif and his party The Pakistan Muslim League won't be happy to let brothers and sisters be murdered by infidels.

I don't know whether Mushareef can pull it off. It is true that the judiaciary is more in step with the corrupt secularism of Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party - but they have just asserted their independence, and so avoided becoming Mushareef's plaything by asserting the primacy of the constitution. I doubt they will be in a hurry to endanger that principle and erode their newly acquired popular support by aassisting a patently corrupt railroading of Sharif.

Hence the punch telegraphing. One would have thought that if Mushareef was that interested in seeing justice done for the murdered man, he would stay quiet about the pending charges so that Shareef would return, and then he could bring him to justice.

Since the real object is to keep Shareef out of Pakistan so that Bhutto and Mushareef can each grab their percentage, they advertise Shareef's pending trial in an attempt to keep him out.

Posted by b on September 8, 2007 at 06:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

Prop-Agenda

All warfare is based on deception.
Sun Tzu

---

Osama bin Laden has prepared an address to Americans that will be released next week on the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, jihadist forums are claiming.

The SITE Institute, which monitors extremist Web sites, reports that an "image of bin Laden contained in the banner found on jihadist forums is reminiscent of his last video appearance in 2004, but his beard is now completely black, as it was previously streaked with grey."
Report: Bin Laden Tape To Be Released On 9/11 Anniversary, National Journal, Sep. 6

---

The tape surfaced less than 24 hours after the appearance of announcements on several Islamic Web sites of the imminent release of a new statement from the "Lion Sheik" bin Laden.

The video was obtained early yesterday by U.S. intelligence officials and was first made public on the Web site of the SITE Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit group that studies terrorist organizations. The circumstances of its release were unusual: No copy of the video had appeared on Islamic Web sites as of yesterday, as has been the norm for past al-Qaeda videos. A spokesman for SITE declined to comment on how it obtained the most recent video.
In a New Video, Bin Laden Predicts U.S. Failure in Iraq, WaPo

---

American officials said the U.S. government had obtained a copy even though the video had not been posted yet by al-Qaida — and intelligence agencies were studying the video to determine whether it was authentic and looking for clues about bin Laden's health.

The 30-minute video was obtained by the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terrorist messages, and provided to the Associated Press.
[...]
In the video, a short excerpt of which was broadcast to the Arab world by Al-Jazeera television, ...
[...]
Bin Laden frequently criticized capitalism, calling its leaders the real terrorists and threats to human freedom.
[...]
And he praises author Noam Chomsky, an early critic of the Iraq war, as well as Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, who has said poor U.S. leadership was losing the war against terrorist groups.
[...]
During the video, bin Laden's image moves for only a total of about 3 1/2 minutes in two segments, staying frozen the rest of the time while his remarks continue.
[...]
The United States intercepted the video before it was released on Islamic Web sites where al-Qaida usually posts its messages, a U.S. counterterrorism official said in Washington. U.S. officials had analyzed the video for hours before transcripts and videos were leaked, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
[...]
The official said analysts were studying bin Laden's physical characteristics — for clues about his health after unconfirmed rumors earlier this year that he had died of kidney disease.

Soon after word emerged that the United States had the video, Islamic militant Web sites that usually carry statements from al-Qaida went down and were inaccessible.

Hours later, the sites were back up, but by late Friday, the video still had not been released on the militant Web sites.
Bin Laden Urges Americans to Convert, Associated Press, (30 min ago)

---

The tape made waves even before it appeared. Shortly after popular jihadi websites posted promotional messages about the video, several sites crashed. This was a possible sign of a coordi­nated cyberattack by Western intelligence agencies or Internet vigilantes, according to Evan Kohlmann, a private contractor who monitors the sites for U.S. agencies. The shutdowns could also have been caused by mas­sive viewer interest, or by the ji­hadi web operators themselves in order to coordinate the “offi­cial release” of the video to coin­cide with the September 11, 2001, anniversary. But still, Kohlman said, “this is pretty unusual.”
Fresh Fears, Newsweek

---

He returned to the screen on Thursday when U.S. officials foundon militant websites an Arabic ad for the new video that was set to be released to mark anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Report: Bin Laden proposes two ways to end Iraq war, Xinhua

---

A videotape addressed to the American people apparently recorded in recent months by Osama bin Laden on Friday appeared on the internet, ..
[...]
US intelligence was yesterday investigating the tape, which appeared likely to confirm that the al-Qaeda leader is still alive, contrary to periodic speculation.
Bin Laden says US is vulnerable, Financial Times

---

After reports on Islamist websites said a message from bin Laden would soon be issued to mark the sixth anniversary of the 11 September attacks, it was confirmed last night that US agencies have obtained a copy.
[...]
"It works for [al-Qaeda's] benefit that he looks young, he looks healthy," said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, a Washington-based group that monitors terror messages.

Soon after it emerged that the US had obtained the video, Islamic militant websites which usually carry statements from al-Qaeda became inaccessible.

The reason for the shutdown was not immediately known.
Bin Laden appears in good health in first image released for three years, The Scotsman

---

Adel Darwish, political editor of Middle East magazine, told Al Jazeera that he had "doubts" about the authenticity of the tape.

"Any kid these days with an electronic kit can alter images and edit the way that he or she likes," he said.

"There is no close up on bin Laden, the beard is thick and black and then there are large segments where the image is a still."

Soon after Washington announced it had the video, all the websites that usually carry statements from al-Qaeda went down and were inaccessible, in an unprecedented shutdown, according to the Associated Press news agency.

The reason for the shutdown was not immediately known.

Evan H Kohlmann, an expert at globalterroralert.com, said he suspected it was the work of al-Qaeda itself, trying to find how the video leaked to US officials.

Others suspected the US might be behind the shutdown.
US warned in 'Bin Laden video', Al Jazeera

Posted by b on September 8, 2007 at 05:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

September 07, 2007

Tribute to the Work of Naomi Klein

by Bea

Naomi Klein has a new book out:

The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, a painstakingly detailed analysis of how corporations manipulate natural and manmade disasters to line their pockets and further their privatizing agenda, is not a marginal, academic treatise by a lefty think tank targeted at a small, like-minded audience.

Further down in the piece, the book is described in greater detail:

In it, Klein assails the legacy of Milton Friedman, the late, Nobel Prize-winning Chicago economist beloved by conservatives for his unequivocal belief in the supremacy of the private sector, even as a means of delivering traditionally public services such as health care, education and drinking water.

The book argues that since the public doesn't necessarily share the Friedmanite faith, corporations seize on the disorientation caused by situations of turmoil and upheaval to inflict their privatizing agendas.

Examples range from the way in which the Friedman doctrine was implemented in Chile after the 1973 coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, to the more recent displacement of Sri Lankan fishers who were prevented by resort developers from returning to their villages in the aftermath of the 2003 tsunami.

Klein began connecting the dots in her own mind at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. At the time she and her husband, filmmaker and former TV host Avi Lewis, were living in Argentina, a country then emerging from its own period of economic shock therapy. She was struck by how closely the original reconstruction plans for Iraq conformed to the shock formula.

I would like to take this occasion to pay tribute to her entire body of work by providing a series of links that will hopefully stimulate some interesting and insightful discussion here at MOA.

A full set of links to all her many articles can be found on her web site.

I know we have seen some of these pieces in passing as they were published, but I think that reviewing them together, and discussing the economic ideas in them, is worthwhile.

Posted by b on September 7, 2007 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (27)

September 06, 2007

The Mayor's Accident Statistics

The metropol police department's claim that accidents have decreased sharply in recent months has come under scrutiny from many experts, who contend that some of the underlying statistics are questionable and selectively ignore negative trends.

Reductions in accidents form the centerpiece of Mayor Liar's claim that his accident reduction strategy is working.

Statistic analysts computing aggregate levels of accidents puzzled over how the police designated accidents as irrelevant, severe or collateral, according to one senior official. "If a car is hit in the rear, it's severe," the official said. "If it is front on, it's irrelevant."

Among the most worrisome trends cited were an escalating number of downtown accidents involving pedestrians. According to a spokesman for the police department, those events are not included in the police's statistics. "Given a lack of capability to accurately track such incidents, except in certain instances," the spokesman said, "we do not track this data to any significant degree."

Accidents involving city owned vehicles are also excluded from the police's calculation.

The police stopped releasing statistics on deaths by accident in late 2005, saying the news media were taking them out of context.

Mayor Liar's reelection campaign is expected to claim a 75% reduction in accidents as his main achievement. The campaign is enjoying bipartisan support.

An analysts, however, said the overall assessment was that the accident situation "was still getting worse," he said, "but not as fast."

link

Posted by b on September 6, 2007 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

OT 07-62

These threads fill up faster and faster ... news & views ...

Posted by b on September 6, 2007 at 05:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

September 05, 2007

Changes in Iran

What is the Farsi word for Kremlinology? I don't know, so I'll just write up some facts without much conclusions.

There is a noticable shift in the Iranian government that may well reflect into its future policies.

President Ahmedinejad is under fire for his economic policies. He had ordered interest rates to be cut despite significant inflationary pressure and sacked the ministers for oil and industry. The head of the Central Bank resigned. A new 'reformist' Central Bank chief was introduced today, but the important ministries are still headless and there is some conflict with the parliament about the replacements.

Two of the Iranian-American scholars held by Iran on espionage accusations have been freed and are allowed to leave the country. This was likely the influence of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and not Ahmedinejad's decision.

In a deal with the IAEA a timeplan to answer old questions was fixed. This plus a  remarkable slowdown in enrichment might forestall further UN sanctions. The compact was the work of Ali Larijani, who is a member of the National Security Council on behalf of Khamenei.

Last Friday the commander of the Revolutionary Guard, a 250,000 men military/industrial force, was moved up and away to become a special advisor to Khamenei. No 'western' media seems to have an explanation for this move. Our commentator Parviz noted:

[T]he head of the Revolutionary Guards was dismissed last week for having delivered a speech that the Religious Leader (Khamenei) considered too belligerent.

But the ex-patria Iran Press Service writes just about the opposite:

No reason was given for the very important change at the highest level of the 250.000 strong Guards, but some informed sources said Rahim Safavi might have been changed because of his relative “mildness” compared to some other hard line officer, including General Ja’fari.

So was he too hard or too soft? Whatever it is, Safavi is still holding speeches and the new ICRG leader Ja'fari didn't sound shy in his first press conference.

The most significant recent move though is the election of former president Rafsanjani as head the Council of Experts, a powerful chamber that elects, consults and supervises the Supreme Leader, currently Ajatollah Khamenei. Rafsanjani is a pragmatic conservative Islamic cleric and a very rich man with best relations to the business class. This puts him into opposition of Ahmedinejad who's constituency are the poor workers and farmers.

All the above steps are limiting Ahmedinejad's position and assert the position of Khamenei.  Coming within a short timeframe they signal a major shift which will have some consequences in the foreign policy relations.

Rafsanjani's election will certainly tame some of the statements coming from Iran that the 'west' interprets as bellingerance. But Rafsanjani is certainly not bending his knees to 'western' demands.

"Now they (the United States) have started an anti-Shiite wave and we should be careful not to fall into their traps,"added Rafsanjani. "We should not let ourselves be provoked and give an excuse for the enemy."

Still, the U.S. reaction to Rafsanjani's election was positive:

"We would hope that reasonable individuals in Iran would see the positive opportunity given to it by the international community to enter negotiations and be able to achieve a peaceful nuclear program while still reassuring everyone else that it is not simply a cover for building a nuclear weapon," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.

As far as I remember, the U.S. had previously denied any legitimacy of such a peaceful nuclear program in Iran. Is this a major change in U.S. policy or just a trial balloon by the State Department?

Nothing of the above will likely appease the U.S. neocons who want to bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.

Regime change to them is not simply a change of foreign leaders, but a change of the political, social and economic system of a foreign country. Iran is certainly not willing to go down that road.

But the changes can be helpful for those in the U.S. who argue for negotiations instead of destruction.

Posted by b on September 5, 2007 at 02:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

September 04, 2007

O'Hanlon's Sloppy 'State of Iraq' Reports

The Brookings Institute publishes a quarterly short report about "The State of Iraq". It is a collection of various criteria, numbers measuring these and a short interpretating note. A chart with the numbers is regulary published in the New York Times and often quoted in discussions about Iraq.

Responsible for "The State of Iraq" is Brookings' Senior Fellow Michael E. O'Hanlon, who recently wrote a contentious op-ed favouring a continuatuion of the 'surge' military escalation in Iraq.

Reason enough to analyse the most recent report published in today's NYT with data for August 2007. For comparisons the numbers for May 2007, February 2007, November 2006 and August 2006 are available at the Brookings site.

In today's introducing text O'Hanlon notes:

Nonetheless, the military momentum appears real, despite the tragic multiple truck bombings in Ninevah Province on Aug. 14 that made that month the deadliest since winter. Overall, civilian fatality rates are down perhaps one third since late 2006, though they remain quite high.

In detail:

made that month the deadliest since winter

The numbers for 'Iraqi Civilian Fatalities' listed in this and former editions of the "State of Iraq" are:

  • 2,500 for August 2007
  • 3,000 for May 2007
  • 2,500 for February 2007
  • 4,000 for November 2006
  • 3,000 for August 2006

If indeed August was the deadliest month since winter, as O'Hanlon writes, why are his own numbers for May 2007 higher than the ones for August 2007?

Overall, civilian fatality rates are down perhaps one third since late 2006

This of course directly contradicts the words above. "Deadliest month" and "one third less" do not fit together. Which is it?

For the casual reader the sentence also might imply that lower numbers in August 2007 versus late 2006 did sink because of the 'surge' which started in mid February. But the August numbers given are at the same level as the February 2007 numbers. The down momentum was between November and February. It can not be a result of the surge.

The Iraqi ministries reported (unlikely low) 1,770 dead civilians in August, an increase of 7% over July. While one might doubt the size of various numbers, the trend of numbers from different sources should be the same.

In the Brookings' report the number of 'Iraqi Civilians Newly Displaced by Violence' has decreased from 100,000 in August 2006 to 80,000 in August 2007. But the UNHCR just claimed an increase to more than 60,000 from 50,000. Again the size of the numbers may differ for this or that reason, but why are their opposite trends between O'Hanlon's report and other sources?

The NYT charts list the criteria and the respective August values for 2003 to 2007. Numbers with 'more favorable conditions' have a white background, those with 'less favorable conditions' have a dark grey background and three shades of grey are differentiating between the extremes.

In the current graph the line for the criteria 'Iraqi Security Forces' has constantly increasing numbers from 35,000 in August 2003 to 360,000 in August 2007. The background for the 2003 number is dark grey, while the background for the 2007 number is white. Inbetween the background gets lighter from left to right. This seems consistent with the graphics key.

But why is the August 2007 number of 4.1 gigawatts 'Electricity Production' on a white background, while the August 2006 number of 4.4 gigawatts is on a medium gray background? Is less electricity production 'more favorable'?

Why do the numbers of 'Prisoners held by U.S./Iraq', which increased from 6,000 in August 2003 to 60,000 in August 2007, have a constant medium grey background? Is a tenfold increase in the number of prisoners a factor meaningless for the "State of Iraq"? If so, why is it listed at all?

Looking at the various versions of these reports one notes that half of the twenty something criteria used in each change from edition to edition. 

The August 2006 report listed positive trending, increasing numbers of 'Iraqi Children in School', 'Trained Judges' and 'Registered Cars'. Since then those criteria vanished. From November 2006 to May 2007 'GDP Growth Rate (%)' numbers were included. They were dropped from the recent table.

Instead a criteria of 'Attacks in Region Near Mosul' was added in the August 2007 table showing a decrease from 15 to 8 over one year. Is the Mosul number more important than Iraq's GDP? Also added was 'Resources Going From Baghdad to Average Iraqi Provinces' which doubled to 100 million over a year. If Arbil and Basra get 50 million each, while Anbar and Baghdad get zero that would certainly fit the given 'average' number. So what does this criteria say? And how many taxes dinars does the central government in Baghdad collect from the provinces?

To summarize:

The text O'Hanlon delivers is in itself contradictionary. It does not reconcile with the numbers he presents. The numbers do not fit the coloring scheme of the graphic tables. That some of these numbers differ in size from those of other sources is explainable, but contradicting up-/down-trends are baffling. The criteria O'Hanlon uses seem arbitrary. One suspects that criteria that are trending negatively are dropped while criteria showing 'success' get added.

O'Hanlon is often described as a 'scholar' and he is a visiting lecturer at Princeton University.

Judging from the quality or of his research as documented above, I can not recommend to take any of his courses.

Posted by b on September 4, 2007 at 10:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

September 03, 2007

OT 07-61

Sorry, still on the road and no time to write up something. You could talk about today's PR show in the Anbar desert or other news & views ... (and please no personal attacks ..)

Posted by b on September 3, 2007 at 03:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (116)

September 02, 2007

OT 07-60

News & views ...

Posted by b on September 2, 2007 at 07:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (153)

September 01, 2007

Stings and Plea Bargains

Idaho Sen. Larry Craig resigned Saturday over a men's room sex sting, bowing to pressure from fellow Republicans worried about a scandal dimming their election prospects.
[...]
Craig's resignation completed a stunning downfall that began Monday with the disclosure that he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge following his arrest during a sex sting in a Minneapolis airport men's room.
Sen. Craig resigns over sex sting

That's ok. He is a hypocrite who several times voted against gay people's interest. There are too many such hypocrites around. The Republicans only pushed him out to lessen the damage to themselves and only because they are sure that the Republican governeur of Idaho will send them an adequate partisan replacement.

But aside from the politics, the case let me think about the differences between the U.S. and old Europe, i.e. Germany. Again they are bigger than I first thought. This in the social sphere as well as in the legal realm. 

The mayor of Hamburg (rightwing) is openly gay as is the mayor of Berlin (leftwing). At political-social gatherings the leader of the German liberal democrats is usually accompanied by his same sex partner. Exept for a few hillbillies and some catholic bishops (hypocrites themselves), nobody cares about it.

More generally, talk about sexcapades of politicians is frowned upon. Over some beer journalists will tell you all the juicy stories, but they don't print them. Using one's political opponent private sexual doings to smear him/her, usually ends with a backlash. (People here were disgusted by the Clinton affair. Not about the sucking or the cigar - who cares, but how such private stuff could be pulled into open court.)

U.S. conservatives often proclaim their 'christian nation'. Luke 6:41 says: "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? ..."

What is Craig supposed to be guilty of? Looking for contact with a consenting adult? An attempt to abet someone for sex?

On the legal side the sting operation is strange to me. Such tricks are forbidden here because they are so easy to abuse. What can be abused, will be abused. Legally they are seen as "seducement to a punishable act" and are crimal acts themselves. 

A plea bargaining is, if I understand this correct, a deal in which a defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and the prosecutor in return drops more serious charges. This is not possible in the German system. A charge is a charge and can not simply be dropped or exchanged for another one.

Deals can be done over a voluntary confession in exchange for a lesser penalty or probation. But they don't change the accusation. Any deal needs to be done in front of a judge and the defendant must have a (public) lawyer. The reason is again possible abuse.

In the U.S. 90 percent of all cases are settled by plea bargaining.

How many who struck such deals were not guilty? How many prosecutors routinely charge higher crimes just to induce pleas for lower ones thereby juicing up the statistics that show them being 'tough on crime'?

How many plead guilty to a lesser charge to avoid the chance of being judged guilty for a bigger crime they might not have committed at all? (Plea bargaining can be a real 'prisoner's dilemma' for the defendant.)

The Craig case was a he said/he said situation that any good lawyer would have slashed down in front of a court. Craig was dumb not to use that chance. But it was also unfair to offer a plea to him without demanding him to consult a lawyer first.

Per capita the U.S. has the highest rate of prisoners in the world. Maybe people in the U.S. are simply more criminal than elsewhere. Then again, the public pressure for 'successful' policemen and prosecutors, 'successful' measured by numbers of 'guilty' pleas, may give them the wrong incentive. Sting operations and plea bargains may give them the wrong instruments.

Only a few countries use stings and only few have, much more restricted, plea bargains at all. Some argue pleas are needed as it would be too costly to give everybody a trial. But good and fair prosecution and trials may even be cheaper than to build more and more prisons.

Senator Craig leaves for the wrong reason. He is a hypocrite and should leave in shame because he hurt gay people. He should not leave for being gay and because of abusive tools in the hand of the police and prosecutors.

Posted by b on September 1, 2007 at 04:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

 
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