Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 28, 2006

OT 06-111

News and views ...

Posted by b on November 28, 2006 at 7:29 UTC | Permalink


Traces of radioactive poison are found in Russian exile's office

Detectives investigating the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko found traces of a radioactive poison at the offices of the billionaire and fellow exile Boris Berezovsky last night.

Police sealed off the Mayfair office after finding evidence of polonium 210, a “significant quantity” of which was found in Mr Litvinenko’s urine.
As well as the discovery in Down Street, traces of polonium 210 were found at 25 Grosvenor Street, home to Erinys, a security and risk management company that Mr Litvinenko had visited.

Erinys?! Billmon: Cry Freedom
I cannot emphasize enough how nasty these folks are. They are former operatives at the sharp end of apartheid South Africa's Bureau Of State Security ("BOSS", seriously) which translates into the worst scum of the earth; one notch below knuckle-dragging thugs, capable of making the most irredeemable KKK tards look like Nobel contenders. Truly ambassadors of the evil memory of apartheid.

Posted by: b | Nov 28 2006 7:40 utc | 1

Erinys, a British company, has a $50 million contract to protect the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq. Worldwide, the company has had contracts to protect the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Fluor, Siemens and the BBC. Erinys, which also had a $100 million contract to protect Iraqi oil fields, has grossed more than $150 million in Iraq over the last few years. It is staffed with an assortment of ex-Special Forces and policemen from around the world. A private security guard at Erinys makes approximately $400 dollars a day, twice what a soldier makes, and some guards make up to $1000 a day. The company says it has never lost a client, but three Erinys guards have lost their lives on the Army Corps contract and another 16 Erinys employees have died protecting Iraq's oil infrastructure. According to Erinys, its employees have killed approximately 70 insurgents.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Nov 28 2006 8:00 utc | 2

Despite the great connections in Iraq, the multi-million dollar contract, and the expanding labor pool to draw from, Erinys continues to pay their ethnic guards a fraction of what their South African supervisors make. Top pay for local guards amounts to $4 a day, the same amount needed to buy a kilo of meat

Trade unions are non-existent. The trade union office was raided by U.S. forces in December, 2003, and have been occupied since.

Meanwhile the contracts have brought an influx of highly paid international staff, from a wide range of countries and backgrounds. Some are from South Africa and have service origins in a range of army and police units. Two employees of SASI, a US subcontractor to Erinys Iraq (since terminated by Erinys for its poor employment vetting procedures among other issues), that had been in a serious explosion turned up to have long records in South Africa. Francois Strydom, who was killed, was a member of Koevoet, a known brutal counter-insurgency arm of the South African military that fought in Namibia during its fight for independence. Deon Gouws, who was injured, had been an officer in the Vlakplaas, a South African secret-police unit. He received amnesty application after admitting to forty to sixty bombings of political activists' homes in 1986.

Nasty Fuckers Indeed

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Nov 28 2006 8:06 utc | 3

Lt-Col. (ret.) Karen Kwiatkowski weighs in w/her thoughts on Iran in response to foaming NeoNut Muravchik’s "Op-Ed" Hit piece "Bomb Iran" published by x-L.A. Times:

Our sordid tendencies toward rage and bloodlust are fed and nurtured by neoconservative prescriptions in foreign policy. Knowing this, I was still shocked to see Joshua Muravchik’s November 19th opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times.

I was surprised that an essay of such ignorance, such hatred, and such embarrassing lack of credibility was published at all in a major newspaper. I was surprised that Joshua Muravchik has an audience; that he apparently does is frightening.


What, indeed, is it really all about?


Secondly, it is about the Washington establishmentarian desire to lay the psychological-linguistic groundwork for what is going to happen soon – and for those with connections in this White House, to come out on the "right" side early and often. "Bomb Iran" becomes legitimate to say, and thus to think and do, even as the Muravchik arguments, and those of a hundred others in key media outlets, remain illegitimate, illogical, and empty.

And lastly, it is practically important, as several American carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf patiently await the 2006 rendition of a Tonkin incident, as the Air Force and Navy polishes those target lists, as the Army and Marines send more troops into the region. We hear that more troops are going to Iraq because of its complete political and security breakdown, but the Pentagon knows our troops cannot save Iraq, and if they enter into the fray, they will be killed. Instead, it seems more likely that these troops will stay on the major U.S. bases in central and southern Iraq, and elsewhere in the region, until needed for the next big thing. The news that more American troops may be required in Afghanistan also fits nicely with what must be done. As Cheney visited our men in Saudi Arabia this past weekend, and as the Secretary of State sees our man in Jordan, it’s all on track.

Telling us this is the only reason the LA Times would publish the type of racist, evil, Armageddonite hogwash as found in "Bomb Iran!" Consider yourself told.

Or maybe, it's just telling us that the NeoNuts/AIPAC still hold considerable clout w/right-wing newspapers - but don't ask me which aren't right wing now. Has NYT weighed in yet? One can hope they were chastened by their Judith Miller liason. ... I'm convinced that the radical right that is firmly in control in Israel is out of their minds & definitely wants xUS to bomb them, but there are strong counter-vailing forces here. Are they strong enough to overcome the Israel's Poisonous Grip over the American political apparatus??

Posted by: jj | Nov 28 2006 8:22 utc | 4

According to General John Abizaid, commander of American forces in the Middle East, the civil war convulsing Iraq should not be blamed on George Bush. Instead,(drum roll please...) all blame goes to Iran. Isn't that conveeeeeenient: The mess we made of the current war justifies the the upcoming war -- which will be far messier. When losing expand the game!

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 28 2006 9:27 utc | 5

Just as faithful party members couldn't wait to read each morning's issue of the Daily Worker in order to better toe the party line, so too those suspecting that Perle, Adelman, and Frum's rejection of Bush was less than "spontaneous" might want to take a look at the new official Mossad line on the dangerous revisionist tendencies observable in American politics. How lucky for the Dems, who can now re-assume the mantle of Israel's number one ally in the U.S. congress.
The money quote

The cards in Washington are therefore stacked against Israel these days. An unfortunate combination has emerged of a president who regards the Jewish state as strategically weak and a brace of key US advisers on the administration’s new Iraqi policy who are drawn from the most anti-Israeli US administrations of the past. The Olmert government, however forthcoming, must brace itself for a period of intensive American pressure to cede ever more assets to curry favor with the Arabs.

Posted by: Hannah K. O'Luthon | Nov 28 2006 9:54 utc | 6

HKOL, Israel were given a "Free Pass" to crush Hezbollah during the Summer and weaken Iran/Syria, they blew hence your rollback quote.

Also Olmert appears very Dovish now.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Nov 28 2006 10:12 utc | 7

In today's WaPo, Robin Wright and Thomas E. Ricks reveal an interesting tidbit regarding Cheney's one-day trip to SA:

Saudi Arabia is so concerned about the damage that the conflict in Iraq is doing across the region that it basically summoned Vice President Cheney for talks over the weekend, according to U.S. officials and foreign diplomats. The visit was originally portrayed as U.S. outreach to its oil-rich Arab ally.

Training the Shia-Kurd "Iraqi army" to kill (Sunni) insurgents in western Iraq and elsewhere must not sit well with the Saudi overlords.

Posted by: Hamburger | Nov 28 2006 10:31 utc | 8

I suggest looking elsewhere than mainstream media as to "what's up?" with Cheney's visit to Saudi Arabia.

Perhaps his trip is nothing more than to lay the groundwork in allowing some U.S. military equipment and personnel staging in the upcoming transition (withdrawal) from Iraq. Of course, much of all this will be sent to the large base in "> Qatar and some others . (Scroll down for imagery.)

Such news is not something Cheney would make public.

Posted by: Rick Happ | Nov 28 2006 14:29 utc | 9

Um... yeah. Like there's the slightest chance anything's going to come of this...

Domestic Spying Program to Get Internal Review

After an initial review by OPR earlier this year, the congressional oversight committees were informed by the chief OPR attorney, Marshall Jarrett, that his attorneys had repeatedly been denied proper security clearances by the White House.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in July 2006 that the decision not to grant the clearances was ultimately made by President Bush.

"As with all decisions that are non-operation in terms of who has access to the program, the president of the United States makes the decision," Gonzales said.

Members of Congress have been asking for the internal Justice Department review since the program was first disclosed by the New York Times last year.

"After trying for nearly a year to get DOJ to conduct an investigation of the NSA's warrantless spy program, I am very pleased to learn that the agency's inspector general is finally opening an investigation," Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., said in response to Fine's letter.

Or, in other words, after nearly a year since the story was leaked, the administration has ex post facto'd everything it couldn't shred and enough cherry-picked data now exists to show off publicly what a great and legal thing living under surveillance can be.

Fitz this, buddy.

Posted by: Monolycus | Nov 28 2006 17:13 utc | 10

And if the Litvinenko case isn't complicated enough, yesterday's Times UK has this about Scaramella, the Italian self-styled defence consultant who was with Alexander Litvinenko when he ate at a London sushi bar:

La Repubblica yesterday published interviews that it conducted last year with Mr Litvinenko and Evgeny Limarev, another former Russian intelligence officer, in which both men claimed that Mr Scaramella used his status within the commission to run a shadowy parallel intelligence operation with right-wing aims.

Posted by: Alamet | Nov 28 2006 18:22 utc | 11

Erynis and all..

Robert Young Pelton (famous for his the World’s Most Dangerous Places) states there are 70, 000 contractors in Iraq in his book:

Licensed To Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror.

Vive le Canada discusses it:>link

Amazon, book, review by Isenberg:>link

Brief interview Pelton on National Geographic:>link

Posted by: Noirette | Nov 28 2006 19:02 utc | 12

Carbon emissions show sharp rise

The rise in humanity's emissions of carbon dioxide has accelerated sharply, according to a new analysis.

The Global Carbon Project says that emissions were rising by less than 1% annually up to the year 2000, but are now rising at 2.5% per year.

It says the acceleration comes mainly from a rise in charcoal consumption and a lack of new energy efficiency gains.

We have record (high) temperatures here in Germany this month ...

Posted by: b | Nov 28 2006 19:04 utc | 13

How long ago was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind in theaters, further how many moa's saw it?

I linked a post not to long ago about the military trying to create killing machine super solders with no conscience, genetically and otherwise, well, perhaps the implications here are the 'otherwise'

60 Minutes did a segment on Propranolol. What are the implications here, both for common/elite abuse of the drug, and/or genuine help for victims of trauma, Can I run off and say that this is all under the design and control of the Military-Intelligence-Pharma industry and does not bode well?

The Memory Pill

If you experienced a painful or traumatic event, would you want a pill which could lessen the bad memories of what happened? That option might soon be here because of a drug called propranolol.


If there were a pill you could take after experiencing a painful or traumatic event that would permanently weaken your memory of what had just happened, would you take it?

An ongoing study suggests it's a choice that may not be so far off. The drug is called propranolol and it's already used to treat high blood pressure. As Lesley Stahl reports, the prospect of using propranolol to modify memory has some trauma victims filled with hope, and some critics alarmed by the potential for misuse.

The Memory Pill

Short video clips of the segment at the link.

Note that section 4 is (unwittingly?) called "Mind Control?"

Also note as with any tool, Propranolol can be extraordinarily useful to some people, and isn't, of itself, a sinister substance.

There are far more troubling subtances in the black ops pharmacopoeia, many of which we probably don't even know about.

Propranolol has been around since the late 1950's.

It's brilliant for stage fright, it blocks adrenaline and the fight-or-flight response.

I'm sure it has enormous potential in helping people forget traumatic events.

Every drug has potential for abuse.

Further, while I don't wish post-traumatic stress disorder on anyone, this is all about treating soldiers who are experiencing extremely high rates of PTSD in the Oil War on Terra.

Sunday's LATimes carried a front page story about renewed experiments with psylociben or 'magic mushrooms' as therapy but without mentioning that LSD and other psychoactive drugs were used by the CIA for years on unwitting Americans to see if it could be weaponized.

Again, the renewed Cold War hoax has mind control efforts back in full swing and soldiers are perfect lab rats for today's Mengeles mandated with getting more mileage out of the fewer soldiers they can trick into the killing game.

'Fix' the ones ya got since fewer will sign up. Oh, and make sure they don't go all activist when they come home pissed off.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 28 2006 22:52 utc | 14

A Fraud Worse than Enron
by Elizabeth de la Vega

For over a year now, polls have shown that the majority of Americans believe President Bush deliberately misrepresented prewar intelligence. Executive branch officials who deliberately mislead Congress and the public intending to influence congressional action have committed a federal crime. That means that roughly 100 million Americans believe Bush has committed a crime, yet most, like Kitty Genovese's neighbors, are just passive bystanders--although not, I believe, due to indifference.

Indeed, many of us are just watching it happen because we feel powerless to stop it. Hundreds of thousands of people have, in effect, called 911, but not even Democrats in Congress have been willing to answer the phone. It is not that they don't have enough information; it is, our Democratic representatives say, because it is not good political strategy.

The proposition that it is not good political strategy to insist that government officials obey the law is highly debatable. More important, strategizing in the face of an ongoing crime is wrong. Ask any legislator whether he would strategize about possible political fallout before intervening to stop a crime that was occurring in front of his eyes and the response would be, "Of course not." But that is exactly what's happening right now.

So, consider this my 911 call.

Reading that Elizabeth de la Vega was a prosecutor in Minneapolis makes me think of Marge Gunderson in Fargo who, appalled at the monstrous, childish mess that the boys had made, proceeded methodically to clean it up.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Nov 29 2006 1:38 utc | 15

thomas friedman on the malaki malarky - quite, quite mad - demands the 'reoccupation' of iraq - crooks&liars

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Nov 29 2006 1:47 utc | 16

counterpunch's w/e edition had an article by george ciccariello-maher, titled contingency and counter-contingency in venezuela, that mentioned the role of a particular region in that country, in preparation for anticipated opposition efforts to undermine the upcoming presidential elections on 3 december. there has been a lot of press about the various "plans" announced by chavez's opponents, but not much attention on the growing, radical communal council mvmt & how neighborhoods are getting involved.

...we shouldn't be surprised to find that the most radical sectors of Chavismo are also making plans. Specifically, several armed self-defense organizations rooted in the Tupamaro movement and largely-defunct Bolivarian Circles, which claim a particularly powerful following in the barrios of western Caracas, are preparing plans for the defense of Chavista neighborhoods.

Such plans are centered in the historically revolutionary neighborhood of 23 de Enero (January 23rd), in the climbing foothills in western Caracas. 23 de Enero has long represented the organizational "brain" of radical Caracas, as opposed to the "heart" of revolt represented by the slums of Petare, that powderkeg standing far to the east of the city which gave rise to the epic 1989 Caracazo riots. The spirit of revolt has often been sparked in the utter destitution of Petare, the largest and most dangerous of Caracas' slums, but the organizational structure which fans the flames can generally be found in 23. In the short lived April 2002 coup against Chávez, several ministers were spirited away for safe keeping in the "bunker" of 23 de Enero, only to reemerge and participate in the efforts to recover the president.

Given this role as radical safe haven, the many radical armed groups populating the neighborhood-from the Carapaica, who made their plans public in local newspapers, to Cepa Cartolini, to the Colectivo Alexis Vive (most of these groups descended from the earlier Coordinador Simón Bolívar and later Tupamaros)-think first of protecting the "bunker": a source close to sectors of the Tupamaros tells me that "the general line is that, in the event of trouble, if it's a confrontation with lead, they'll guard 23 de Enero, keep in contact with other organizations, and mobilize resistance." Specifically, I am told, most organizations have adopted a bifurcated approach to resisting the "Plan B" of the opposition: half of their forces will be devoted to rearguard defense of the bunkers, while half will form "mobilization groups" traveling throughout the city.

It should be pointed out that, while the Metropolitan Mayor's office has "fulfilled a necessary support role" by providing logistical support to radical neighborhoods (cellphones, motorcycles), this role is precisely that: support. That is to say, these neighborhood organizations are best considered as "base movements" engaged in a revolutionary process of local administration. In the words of one participant, the resistance to threats from the opposition has led these groups to "create new forms for organizing the local self-defense of sovereignty." These new forms are not limited to urban areas, either: from the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front-several thousand of whom marched through the city in military formation on November 20th-to the much more shadowy rural resistance army deemed the "Bolivarian Liberation Front," grassroots resistance to any efforts to put the brakes on the revolutionary process is ubiquitous.

over at venezuelaanalysis, michael fox fills in more details on the political implications of Venezuela’s Secret Grassroots Democracy

With all international eyes on the December 3rd Venezuelan presidential elections, a totally new and revolutionary experience of Venezuelan grassroots democracy has completely slipped below international radar. An experience that has already formed 12,000 local community councils, and whose participants and promoters hope will change the way decisions are made in Venezuela and potentially alter the very essence of Venezuela’s political system.

-- -- --

two recent articles from james petras

An Open Letter to the People and Government of the US (And a Reply to the FARC)

On November 9, 2006, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-Peoples Army, (FARC-EP) sent an “Open Letter to the People of the United States.” It was specifically addressed to several Hollywood producers and actors (Michael Moore, Denzel Washington and Oliver Stone) as well as three leftist academics (James Petras, Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis) and a progressive politician (Jessie Jackson). The purpose of the open letter was to solicit our support in facilitating an agreement between the US and Colombian governments and the FARC-EP on exchanging 600 imprisoned guerrillas (including two on trial in the US) for 60 rebel-held prisoners including three US counterinsurgency experts.

good writeup on the role of the u.s. in colombia. (also see colombia journal online for quality journalism)

and, kinda basic, but worth a skim at least
Economic Empire Building: The Centrality of Corruption

The principal new targets of MNC, banks, pension funds and institutional investors are the ‘BRIC’ countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China. Russia is favored for its massive oil and gas wealth, its market for transport and luxury goods, all of which yield high rates of profit. Brazil is an investor’s paradise for its world record interest rates, raw materials and low labor costs in manufacturing, especially in the automobile sector. China attracts investors to its manufacturing sector and consumer market because of low labor costs. China also serves as an intermediary assembly and processing center for exports from other Asian countries prior to exports (via US and EU MNCs) to the West. India attracts capital to its centers for low cost IT outsourcing, services and related activities.

What is striking about the ‘BRIC’ countries and their growing attraction for US and EU MNCs is their extremely poor rating with regard to corruption. There is a strong correlation between the ‘attractiveness’ of the ‘BRIC’ countries and the ease of doing business and having access to highly lucrative economic enterprises and sectors once the political leaders have been paid off.

Empire building is going far beyond the traditional conquest of raw material and cheap labor exploitation. The empire builders are shoving their way into the new, extremely lucrative finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors. The hottest field of investment in China and Russia is real estate, with prices increasing by 40% a year in most high growth metropolitan centers. Insurance and financial sectors in China and banking and finance in Brazil have returned billions of dollars over the past four years.

also see r.t. naylor's Wages of Crime: Black Markets, Illegal Finance, and the Underworld Economy. no doubt oil profits etc are being used to buy up real estate & raw materials in strategic locations.

-- -- --

stumbled across this aggregator, which looks useful -- Geopolitical and Intelligence News and Analysis from Global Geopolitics Net

Posted by: b real | Nov 29 2006 5:00 utc | 17

Apartheit: Gov't seeks to extend order that can curb Arab family reunification

The government is seeking an extension of the Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law (the Temporary Order known as the "Citizenship Law"), by two years, until the end of 2008, despite the harsh criticism leveled at it by the High Court of Justice.
The bill gives Israel the right to reject an applicant who meets all the criteria "if in the applicant's country of residency or if within his vicinity of residence activities liable to endanger the security of the State of Israel or its citizens take place." This clause ostensibly gives Israel the right to reject any resident of the Palestinian Authority or any Arab country.

Posted by: b | Nov 29 2006 9:04 utc | 18

great link JFL#15

Judge strikes down part of Bush anti-terror order

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal judge in Los Angeles, who previously struck down sections of the Patriot Act, has ruled that provisions of an anti-terrorism order issued by President George W. Bush after September 11 are unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins found that part of the law, signed by Bush on September 23, 2001 and used to freeze the assets of terrorist organizations, violated the Constitution because it put no apparent limit on the president's powers to place groups on that list.

Ruling in a lawsuit brought against the Treasury Department in 2005 by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Collins also threw out a portion of Bush's order which applied the law to those who associate with the designated organizations.

"This law gave the president unfettered authority to create blacklists, an authority president Bush then used to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to impose guilt by association,"
said David Cole of the Washington-based Center for Constitutional Rights.

"The court's decision confirms that even in fighting terror, unchecked executive authority and trampling on fundamental freedoms is not a permissible option," he said in a statement

Posted by: annie | Nov 29 2006 9:08 utc | 19

I'm coming close to a "Why bother, the species is too stupid to be allowed to live" state.
I hope the future insect overlords won't mind the mess we're leaving them.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Nov 29 2006 11:54 utc | 20

JFL: Thanks for #15 link.

Posted by: Bea | Nov 29 2006 13:49 utc | 21

Here is an inspiring and very moving piece to uplift your spirits:

Jazz and Resistance Unite for Palestine

Posted by: Bea | Nov 29 2006 14:08 utc | 22

sibel edmonds: The Highjacking of a Nation -- Part 2: The Auctioning of Former Statesmen & Dime a Dozen Generals

In Part1 of this series I used Saudi influence via its lobby and foreign agents by default as a case to illustrate how certain foreign interests, combined with their U.S. agents and benefactors, override the interests and security of the entire nation. This illustrative model case involved three major elements: the purchasing of a few ‘dime a dozen generals,’ bidding high in the auctioning of ‘former statesmen,’ and buying one or two ex-congressmen turned lobbyists. In addition, the piece emphasized the importance of the “Military Industrial Complex (MIC),” which became a de facto ‘foreign agent’ by the universally recognized principle of ‘mutual benefit.’

This article will attempt to illustrate the functioning of the above model in the case of another country, the Republic of Turkey, and its set of agents and operators in the U.S.

tom russell: Who's gonna build your wall? (lousy camerawork, nice song)

Posted by: b real | Nov 29 2006 19:42 utc | 23

homas friedman on the malaki malarky - quite, quite mad - demands the 'reoccupation' of iraq

It was de-occupied when exactly?

I trust barflies got the news that he married an Heiress (worth >=$1B), so his ec. shilling personally profits him...

Posted by: jj | Nov 29 2006 19:53 utc | 24

Missives from the war at home...

Right on cue: Federal government launches marketing campaign for psychiatric industry

Under the guise of combating the stigma of mental illness, the U.S. government will soon begin a massive campaign of psychiatric indoctrination, designed to increase the acceptance of psychiatric chemical imbalance theories and labeling, and to pave the way for national psychiatric screening, driving more Americans into seeking psychiatric drug treatment.

Also see, Arrested for Epilepsy and in particular, Psikhushka aka Involuntary [political] commitment.

Oh and for those whom don't know or missed it: Bush wants to be your shrink "This month", President Bush plans to unveil a broad new mental health plan called the 'New Freedom Initiative.' Never mind that it couldn’t have less to do with freedom; if you’re a thinking American, this initiative should scare the hell out of you."

Oh, and the APA is proud you don't Know : The American Psychiatric Association is bragging in its own membership newsletter that they pleased the Bush Administration by successfully discouraging the mainstream media from looking into the corruption exposed by the British Medical Journal in a recent series of articles.

Finally, see the Proposed Model State Emergency Health Powers Act

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 29 2006 23:49 utc | 25

You know, the APA, the same APA, that endorses participation in military interrogations torture...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 30 2006 0:05 utc | 26

Here's part 2 of Elizabeth de la Vega's hypothetical grand jury investigation of the Cheney-Bush administration, for lying to Congress and the public in order to wage war against Iraq. It's the imaginary indictment, beautifully written up in full legal format. She's done her homework.

This is the follow-up to JFL's #15 link, da la Vega's intro. Looks like there will be seven parts this week--watch for them at or

Her book is United States vs. George Bush et al.

Posted by: catlady | Nov 30 2006 1:37 utc | 27

hey, Clueless Joe's link @ #14 is a Eurotrib article by Jérôme à Paris! Looks at the externalized costs of various energy sources, particularly coal (coal is bad).

Posted by: catlady | Nov 30 2006 1:53 utc | 28

Oops, CJ link is at #20

Posted by: catlady | Nov 30 2006 1:54 utc | 29

Human Rights Watch Must Retract Its Shameful Press Release

Even by the grim standards of Gaza, the past five months have been cruel ones.

Some four hundred Palestinians, mostly unarmed civilians, have been killed during Israeli attacks. (Four Israeli soldiers and two civilians have been killed.) Israel has sealed off Gaza from the outside world while the international community has imposed brutal sanctions, ravaging Gaza's already impoverished economy.

"Gaza is dying," Patrick Cockburn reported in CounterPunch, "its people are on the edge of starvation.A whole society is being destroyed.The sound that Palestinians most dread is an unknown voice on their cell phone saying they have half an hour to leave their home before it is hit by bombs or missiles. There is no appeal. "

"Gaza is in its worst condition ever," Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz, "The Israeli army has been rampaging through Gaza--there's no other word to describe it--killing and demolishing, bombing and shelling indiscriminately....This is disgraceful and shocking collective punishment."

Predictably Gaza teetered on the precipice of fratricidal civil war. "The experiment was a success: The Palestinians are killing each other," Amira Hass wryly observed in Ha'aretz, "They are behaving as expected at the end of the extended experiment called 'what happens when you imprison 1.3 million human beings in an enclosed space like battery hens.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Nov 30 2006 2:13 utc | 30

b real :

Thanks or the link to Part II of Sibel Edmonds' "Hijacking of a Nation".

Sibel Edmonds has been looking for a Senator to depose her ever since the Department of Justice (gag) gagged her and then sat on her trial, keeping her silent indefinitely.

I had hoped that Jim Webb would be the one to do that... but he is now gripped by fervor for social justice and unavailable as a guide to where the skeletons are buried in the Military Industial Complex's graveyard.

He's tough and mad though! He almost punched George Bush in the face! Wants to be potus himself no doubt. Trying to put himself forward as a card-carrying member of the late, great Democratic Party when in truth his ticket was punched at the (gag) Department of Defense.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Nov 30 2006 2:25 utc | 31

catlady, thanks for part 2. i love part 1 . got me all hot and bothered. onward patriots!!

Posted by: annie | Nov 30 2006 3:55 utc | 32

@Uncle (#25) that stuff infuriates me. Yes, it is a neurochemical problem, but it's nothing the drug companies know much about & the solutions can't be implemented by mass production. For example, let's take a much talked about problem - depression. The only people who should be taking Prozac et al are those few people w/an inborn (genetic?) incapacity to produce Serotonin. For others, their depression could have many causes aside from lack of Serotonin. And even those who are depressed 'cuz of low serotonin levels, they Definitely should not take Prozac if the capacity of their brains to produce it is not permanently impaired because it will impair it & they'll become addicted. They should use diet & non-pharmaceutical neurotransmitters to stimulate their body to again produce the appropriate levels. To get up to speed on this I can't recommend highly enough that you spend $20 & order yourself these books a Christmas present.

Posted by: jj | Nov 30 2006 4:49 utc | 33

stan goff, much an updated channeling of bookchin's listen, marxist!

With some sadness and with not the least desire to devalue the experiences I have had with comrades, nor to minimize the hard work, nor the consciousness and concience, nor the friendship of many comrades, I am herein announcing and explaining my definitive rejection of Marxism in its current organizational forms, be they called Marxist-Leninist or Trotskyist or Maoist.

This decision comes after months of intense reflection. I will not attempt to separate the personal from the political reasons.


Any revolutionary movement that has a prayer of taking hold in the US must be organic, that is, self-organizing… and consist of small and many independent, but networked, practical efforts. The larger any organization is, in personnel or in scope or in geography, the more the institutional tail begins to wag the mission dog. This is no longer pop science. With increased scale, the tooth-to-tail, operations-to-adminstration/management ratio of any organization shifts correspondingly. Larger scale, smaller ration of energy invested in operations, higher into management. The average human is only bio-psychologically equipped to handle around 150 relationships in the absence of administration (Dunbar’s number), and a bunch of those people are already family and friends. But has the left even studied this cross-disciplinary discovery? No. We just say we have to struggle against bureaucratism without ever trying to identify its origins. If it hasn’t been mentioned by the pantheon, we don’t know it. And if it doesn’t extend directly from the pantheon, we reject it.

Again, this is not a moral or intellectual failure. It is, I believe, a failure that is hard-wired into the organizations’ structural-practical dialectic, into Marxism-as-a-doctrine.

It is my opinion, at least at this point in time, that leftist organization in this disciplinary cadre model is not only incapable of bringing the refoundation of an effective politics of resistance into being, it stands as a real impediment to any refoundation process for a wide-scale politics of resistance.

Posted by: b real | Nov 30 2006 4:55 utc | 34

p.s. Very few people in the country are knowledgeable enough to sort out neurochemical malfunctions, and like anything else the machine sets its spotlight on - we can be sure the solutions will be destructive or worse. There is no governance in this country anymore. It's merely a game of the Pirates devising ever new ingenious ways to rationalize plundering the treasury.

p.p.s. I read that the JackAss Party - and that's an increasingly too kind word for these bastards - plans to go after the neuroceutrical industry. Time for my blood pressure meds :)

Posted by: jj | Nov 30 2006 4:57 utc | 35

Enough of that. I stopped by again to share this - new interesting book by Chomsky just in time for Christmas...

Noam Chomsky needs no introduction. He's MIT Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics and a leading anti-war critic and voice for over 40 years for social equity and justice. He's also one of the world's most influential and widely cited intellectuals on the Left.

Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese-French academic, author, social activist, Middle East expert and professor of politics and international relations at the University of Paris.

Their new book, Perilous Power, is based on 14 hours of dialogue between them over three days in January, 2006 and updated six months later in July in a separate Epilogue at the end. It covers US foreign policy in the most volatile and turbulent region in the world, the Middle East, and discusses the wars in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan as well as such key issues as terrorism, fundamentalism, oil, democracy, possible war against Iran and much more. Chomsky and Achcar collaborated with Stephen Shalom, Professor of Political Science at William Paterson University acting as moderator to pose questions and keep the discussion on track.
The book is divided into five chapters. This review will cover each of them in enough detail to give the reader a good sense of their flavor and content.

Posted by: jj | Nov 30 2006 5:02 utc | 36

wow, jj, the review/summary alone is packed. Hell of a book to read this close to the solstice (unless you're visiting Did).

Summary of Achcar's thoughts on a 9-11 conspiracy (neither he nor Chomsky think the Bush admin. was directly involved:

The attack in 2001 was the "catastrophic and catalyzing event (of a) new Pearl Harbor" the neocon Project for the New American Century (PNAC) think tank said it needed at its formation in 1997 to advance the kind of radical transformation its members advocated. These are the same key people who took power in 2001, and based on their agenda since then, it's hard to dismiss their not being up to almost anything including complicitity in an attack on US soil. It's likely on the evening of 9/11 they were drinking champaign celebrating "their good fortune" in the White House.

the white house command bunker, at least. s'pose the Saudis were still around to share a toast, or had they been whisked home?

Posted by: catlady | Nov 30 2006 6:22 utc | 37

Brawl, Standoff in Mexican Congress

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Lawmakers wrestled, slapped each other and tumbled across the floor of Mexico's Congress after opposition legislators threatened to block the inauguration of the incoming president, whom they accuse of stealing the election.

By late Tuesday, the brawl had turned into a tense standoff between congressmen of President-elect Felipe Calderon's conservative party - who want him to take the oath of office in Congress - and opposition leftists who have vowed to block the swearing-in ceremony.

The battle showed how hard it could be for Calderon to unite a nation divided since he narrowly defeated opposition candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the disputed July 2 election.

Congress has seen plenty of degrading behavior, but Tuesday's brawl came as Mexico faces central questions on the effectiveness of its government, with escalating turf wars between drug gangs and bloody street battles in the southern city of Oaxaca, which was seized for five months by leftist protesters.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 30 2006 6:54 utc | 38

Lively developments in Mexico these days. They seem to be cut from a finer cloth than Americans....

I knew Barflies wouldn't want to miss this one -

An Israel-born man of Palestinian descent has been sentenced to federal prison on charges that he threatened to castrate US President George W Bush while involuntarily committed at a mental

Posted by: jj | Nov 30 2006 9:12 utc | 39

@ JFL #31: Listening to Morning Edition today on npr (can't find a link), I heard that Jim Webb snubbed little dub at the WH. Little boots asked him how his boy was and Webb said he'd like to get them all out of Iraq and dub said, "That's not what I asked you" and Webb said "That's between my boy and me".

Posted by: beq | Nov 30 2006 13:38 utc | 40

beq :

Yeah. One report had Webb so upset he wanted to hit Bush in the face.

It's militarism that'll remain even when Iraq is gone. Webb was Secretary of the Navy under Regan. He knows where the skeletons are buried. If he's not going after the warlords then nobody is.

His interest in economic "class" issues seems directly proportionate to his wanting his personal history and membership in the military "class" to go away.

Another guy of whom it might be said, where is he when we need him?

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Nov 30 2006 14:20 utc | 41

Israel’s Heart of Darkness

In 2001 Nelson Mandela wrote a letter to New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, in response to Friedman’s attacks on Mandela.

“Apartheid is a crime against humanity,” Mandela wrote. “Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality.....It has, in particular, waged a war against a civilian population, in particular children.”

“I’m not going to indulge you, the way your supporters do,” Mandela told Friedman. “If you want formal apartheid, we will not support you. If you want to support racial discrimination and ethnic cleansing, we will oppose you. When you figure out what you’re about, give me a call.”

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Nov 30 2006 14:39 utc | 42

Ollie North Returns to Nicaragua The Gang's All Here (1943) 2006

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 30 2006 15:33 utc | 43

MOA's will forgive the billmon crude'knock off' but...

Pope Visits Turkey, Tells Muslims to Renounce Violence

( Pope Benedict XVI Nazi Rat urged Muslim religious leaders during his visit to Turkey on Tuesday to “utterly refuse” to support or participate in violence.

"Terrorism" in St. Augustine's City of God

From a late April 1986 interview with Noam Chomsky:

Q: Why is "terrorism" such a useful ideological construct?

Chomsky: First, their conception of terrorism is highly selective.
There's a wonderful story in St. Augustine's _City of God_, where
Alexander the Great captures a pirate and says, "How dare you molest
the seas!" And the pirate turns to him and says, "How dare you molest
the world! I have a small ship, so I'm a pirate, a thief. But you have
a big navy so you're an emperor." If an emperor disturbs the world,
that's not terrorism, but if a thief disturbs the seas, that is

-found in _Language and Politics_, p.520

And so it goes...

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Nov 30 2006 15:42 utc | 44

Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid

This is a link to an interview that NPR did with Jimmy Carter over the weekend about his new book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.

This interview is well worth listening to in full if you can. It is very refreshing to hear an American politician speak the truth about the heinous situation in Palestine.

Posted by: Bea | Nov 30 2006 16:28 utc | 45

UN: Israel breaks border agreement

Palestinian access [in and out of Gaza] through the Rafah border has been severely impeded by Israel

A UN report has accused Israel of breaking all provisions in a year-old US-brokered agreement on Gaza's border crossings, as Condoleezza Rice visits the region.

The Agreement on Movement and Access, signed last November after the Israeli disengagement from Gaza, was meant to facilitate the movement of Palestinians and goods in and out of Gaza.

It also promised Palestinian control over the Rafah crossing into Egypt by November 2006, after a transitional year of EU monitoring and Israeli video surveillance.

At the time, the border agreement was hailed by Rice, the US secretary of state, as a breakthrough.

She said the agreement would "give the Palestinian people freedom to move, to trade, to live ordinary lives".

But according to the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Palestinians are worse off than they were a year ago, in terms of their freedom of movement and their overall economic situation.

Restrictions on access

The report said that access restrictions remained at the Gaza crossings.

"The ability of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip to access either the West Bank or the outside world remains extremely limited and the flow of commercial trade is negligible....

According to the report, unemployment in Gaza has risen from 33.1% to 41.8% over the course of the year....

The UN report accuses Israel of violating every provision of the borders agreement to which it signed up, including the operation of the Rafah crossing.

Under the terms of the Agreement on Movement and Access, Israel had agreed to operate the Rafah crossing and other Gaza commercial crossings continuously, and to not close passages because of security incidents unrelated to the crossing itself.

Rafah, which is the only passageway for Gaza's 1.4 million residents, was shut down indefinitely by Israel on June 24 after Palestinian fighters attacked an Israeli military base, killing two soldiers and capturing another.

According to the UN report, it has been open for only 21 days since - 14 per cent of the scheduled operating days. A military document leaked to the Israeli daily Haaretz in August suggested that the continued closure was intended to apply pressure on Gaza residents until progress was made in returning the captured Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit....


The crossing is Gaza's gateway to the world. Without it, patients cannot get medical treatment unavailable in Gaza; students cannot reach universities abroad; family members are separated from each other, and Gaza residents, 85 per cent of whom live in poverty, cannot reach places of work.

As a result of the continuing closure, 1.4 million Palestinians have become hermetically sealed into Gaza, and about 3,200 others remain trapped outside, Palestinian border officials say....

Use of the passage has been restricted to residents of the Gaza Strip carrying Israeli-issued Palestinian identity documents, despite agreement to allow numerous other categories access.

Non-ID card-holders, such as foreign-passport holders, Palestinian refugees living outside Gaza, or even residents of the West Bank, cannot use the crossing.

The movement of people between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank also remains virtually impossible, the report says, and the two areas have become more isolated from one another than ever before....

Commercial losses

In addition, Gaza's main commercial crossing - al-Mintar, or Karni - has been closed for more than half the year, it says. An average of 12 lorries a day carring Palestinian goods has been allowed out of Gaza. Israel had promised to raise the number to 400 by the end of this year.

Less than four per cent of the Palestinian harvest was exported as a consequence, and hundreds of tonnes of produce spoiled or was dumped on the local market, crippling the local economy. Palestinian agriculture, one of Gaza's primary sectors, suffered $30m in losses as a result of the closure.

This article includes an embedded link to the original PDF of the UN report, which has a lot more info. It includes a very informative map (Figure 5) of the West Bank, showing how both the Wall and the checkpoints and closures have choked off the flow of movement within and between the various urban centers and areas of the West Bank.

Posted by: Bea | Nov 30 2006 16:48 utc | 46

Here is a curious juxtaposition of events in neighboring countries:


The Lebanese opposition called for mass demonstrations Friday in support of its demands for government of national unity but the pro-Western cabinet swiftly rejected the move.

"The opposition forces, on the basis of their constitutional rights, call on all Lebanese, whatever their religious confession, to demonstrate peacefully in an open-ended sit-in from 3 pm (1300 GMT) Friday for a national unity government," said an opposition statement.


Abbas declares unity cabinet talks at 'dead end'

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Thursday that talks to form a unity government had reached a dead end, in a fresh blow to efforts to end a crippling Western boycott on the Hamas cabinet.

"We have unfortunately reached a dead end. This is very painful for us because we know how badly the people have been suffering over the last nine months," he said after talks with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"We did not succeed... We wanted a national unity government, a government capable of dealing with the international community," he told a joint news conference with Rice in the West Bank oasis town of Jericho.

Presidential associate Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters that Abbas will formally announce the failure of the unity government talks in coming days.

"Unprecedented political measures are going to be taken," he said, without elaborating....

Reacting to Abbas's declaration, a Gaza-based spokesman for Hamas said that his movement was still committed to dialogue to form a unity government.

"Any other alternative will damage Palestinian interests and will be a failure," said Ismail Radwan, insisting that Hamas had shown "flexibility" in the talks and had agreed to give up some ministries to foster an agreement.

"Unfortunately they (Fatah) reneged on agreements that we reached and imposed new conditions," he said....

Posted by: Bea | Nov 30 2006 17:06 utc | 47

The scene at the crossing point from Egypt into Rafah -- first-hand account by a Palestinian journalist and mother.

Humanity Lost

Posted by: Bea | Dec 1 2006 2:35 utc | 48

Palestinians Are Being Denied the Right of Non-Violent Resistance?

In its press release "Civilians Must Not Be Used to Shield Homes Against Military Attacks", which was widely reported by the international media, HRW [Human Rights Watch] lambasts armed Palestinian groups for calling on civilians to surround homes that have been targeted for air strikes by the Israeli military.

Noting almost as an afterthought that more than 1,500 Palestinians have been made homeless from house demolitions in the past few months, and that 105 houses have been destroyed from the air, the press release denounces Palestinian attempts at non-violent and collective action to halt the Israel attacks. HRW refers in particular to three incidents.

In language that would have made George Orwell shudder, one of the world's leading organisations for the protection of human rights ignored the continuing violation of the Palestinians' right to security and a roof over their heads and argued instead: "There is no excuse for calling [Palestinian] civilians to the scene of a planned [Israeli] attack. Whether or not the home is a legitimate military target, knowingly asking civilians to stand in harm's way is unlawful."

It refuses Palestinians the right to protect homes from attack, labelling these civilians "human shields", even while admitting that most of the homes are not legitimate military targets, and yet it has not said a word about the common practice in Israel of building weapons factories and army bases inside or next to communities, thereby forcing Israeli civilians to become human shields for the army.

And HRW prefers to highlight a supposed violation of international law by the Palestinians -- their choice to act as "human shields" -- and to demand that the practice end immediately, while ignoring the very real and continuing violation of international law committed by Israel in undertaking punitive house demolitions against Palestinian families.

But let us ignore even these important issues and assume that HRW is technically correct that such Palestinian actions do violate international law. Nonetheless, HRW is still failing us and mocking its mandate, because it has lost sight of the three principles that must guide the vision of a human rights organisation: a sense of priorities, proper context and common sense.

Women vounteering to surround a mosque become the equivalent of the notorious incident in January 2003 when 21-year-old Samer Sharif was handcuffed to the hood of an army Jeep and driven towards stone-throwing youngsters in Nablus as Israeli soldiers fired their guns from behind his head.

According to HRW's approach to international law, the two incidents are comparable.

The press release denouncing the Palestinians for choosing collectively and peacefully to resist house demolitions, while not concentrating on the violations committed by Israel in destroying the houses and using military forms of intimidation and punishment against civilians, is a travesty for this very same reason.

[I]n its latest release, on human shields, HRW plumbs new depths, stripping Palestinians of the right to organise non-violent forms of resistance and seek new ways of showing solidarity in the face of illegal occupation. In short, HRW treats the people of Gaza as mere rats in a laboratory -- the Israeli army's view of them -- to be experimented on at will.

HRW's priorities in Israel-Palestine prove it has lost its moral bearings.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 1 2006 2:45 utc | 49

More Troops Into a Lost War?

A second reason more troops would make no difference is that the troops we have there now don't know what to do, or at least their leaders don't know what they should do. For the most part, American troops in Iraq sit on their Forward Operating Bases; in effect, we are besieging ourselves. Troops under siege are seldom effective at controlling the surrounding countryside, regardless of their number.

When American troops do leave their FOBs, it is almost always to run convoys, which is to say to provide targets; to engage in meaningless patrols, again providing targets; or to do raids, which are downright counterproductive, because they turn the people even more strongly against us, where that is possible. Doing more of any of these things would help us not at all.

Abandoned On The Killing Fields - No Medevac Coming

To: Soldiers For the Truth

From: The NCOs of the 4th INP Brigade SPTT Team

The 4/1 SPPT Team was traveling back from Salman Pak to Camp Rustamiyah along EFP alley (RTE Pluto South) on Sunday May 14th about 5:15pm in a 3 vehicle convoy. About 3 miles from Camp Rustamiyah, the first Humvee was hit by a massive roadside bomb called an EFP. The bomb blew the HUMVEE into the air and created a giant cloud of debris, dirt and pavement. We stopped as fast as we could and when the smoke cleared enough, we could see the first HUMVEE had been completely blown off the road and was lying upside down in a ditch. To make matters worse it was also on fire. The rest of the team tried to free the driver and vehicle commander from the wreckage but the frame of the HUMVEE was bent and the door would not open. The two soldiers in the front were trapped inside the burning vehicle and died. We could only pray that they were already dead from the EFP blast and did not burn to death. We tried to pull the front doors off with a winch and a tow strap, but the burning ammunition inside the wreck started to explode and the entire vehicle caught fire and blew up. The gunner was pulled from the wreckage and was severely wounded with shrapnel wounds from the spalling. The Medic with the SPTT Team was able to start working on the gunner to save his life and we gave the interpreter aid as best as we could. A MEDIVAC was immediately called for the litter urgent and critical soldier and the QRF rolled from the FOB. About 10 minutes later the tanks and HUMVEES of the QRF got there and secured the area. What happened at this point is what we need your help with.

The MEDIVAC was denied because we could not guarantee the LZ was not hot. Even with the QRF securing the area, the MEDIVAC was not launched. We were told we had to transport the severely wounded soldier and interpreter back to the FOB, have the aid station stabilize them and the MEDIVAC would then fly to the FOB to pick them up. To complicate matters the QRF did not have an ambulance with them, because the medical until will not roll any of the 20 odd HUMVEE and M113 combat ambulances with the QRF because it is too dangerous outside the FOB. We had to put the soldier in a HUMVEE and drive him to the FOB, where the chicken shit medics were waiting inside the FOB gate to transport him, via ambulance to the TMC. Thank God this soldier is still alive and on his way to Landstuhl. The two soldiers were eventually pulled from the wreckage after a HEMMIT with a tank pump unit put out the fire that engulfed the wrecked HUMVEE. It took the HEMMIT almost an hour to get to the site, 3 miles away from the FOB, because the KBR contracted Fire Department and EMT unit refused to leave the FOB, because their contract states they will ONLY work within the protection of the FOB.

Their brand new fire engines and rescue vehicles were waiting inside the gate when we finally towed the wrecked HUMVEE back. By the time the HEMMIT arrived, both soldiers were burned beyond recognition. to the point where their own wives could not recognize them. Last night at 1:00am in the morning, we loaded the body bags on a helicopter to BIOP and to start their trip home

When we asked why the MEDIVAC would not land on a secured LZ to MEDIVAC the critically wounded soldier, we were told the policy is that we cannot afford to lose a Blackhawk and crew flying into potentially hostile LZ. We work in Salman Pak, which is almost an hour southeast of Baghdad. If a soldier is wounded, we are expected to self evac him back to Rustamiyah because, it is too dangerous to send a MEDIVAC, Ambulance or M113 combat medic vehicle (even if it is with the QRF). From he time we landed in Kuwait and after we arrived in Iraq, we were given MEDIVAC procedure cards and even given a MEDIVAC Freq . We were told that all we had to do is call and follow the procedures on the card and a MEDIVAC would be launched. This is BOGUS! ALL Soldiers need to know that unless they are at a FOB, the MEDIVAC will not be launched. Fire departments, EMT, combat medic vehicles, field ambulances all have orders not to leave the FOB because it is too dangerous. The reality is if you are wounded, you are SOL until your own unit puts you into a HUMVEE and you get back to the FOB.

Please help us contact [deleted] about this policy. 4th ID is telling us that this is just the way things are. That, these things happen. We need your help before this is swept under the rug.

So the "enclave" theory is the operative one in Iraq and Dick Cheney's $100,000+/year contractors won't leave the enclave to help the "volunteer" grunts when they get hit trying to bring in supplies for Dick's contractors.

This is quite a snapshot of the American Wehrmacht.

I wonder when the grunts will "just say no" to the parasites living off their sacrifice. I wonder when they will turn their weapons around and train them on their real enemies. I found the link to Soldiers for the Truth at GI Special.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 1 2006 2:58 utc | 50

My goodness, the world is just so... civilized.

The Federal Elections Commissions has solved all of the electoral problems in the United States by politely asking corrupt politicians and contributors to 'fess up if they've done anything illegal.

The proposal contains two penalty recommendations for violators who voluntarily blow the whistle on themselves. One would reduce civil penalties by 50 to 75 percent of standard fines, depending on the steps taken to report and correct the violation. Another would set the reduction at 50 percent, but give the commission leeway to lower or increase the discount based on mitigating factors.

"What this policy focuses on are people who come in and tell us things that we would not otherwise know," Weintraub said.

How perfectly fantabulastic! We can solve all of our problems this way... just look sternly at policymakers and PACs, fold your arms, and gently say "Now, is there anything you'd like to tell me?"

Don't be too rough with them. Even in the worst cases, a little apology goes a long way. Like, for instance, if you've been unjustly tortured in a CIA-run prison where you were beaten and sodomized, it would just be churlish to demand more than a mea culpa.

CIA torture victim expresses confidence in US justice

On his first visit to the United States, Khaledel-Masri, who claims the CIA tortured him at a prison in Afghanistan, is expressing confidence in the US justice system. El-Masri spoke to reporters after a federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, heard arguments by his attorneys on Tuesday that lawsuit he filed against the former head of the CIA should be reinstated.

He arrived Sunday from Germany and planned to hold a Washington news conference Wednesday morning. His accusations against the CIA have put a spotlight on the intelligence agency’s secret rendition program to capture terror suspects for interrogation in foreign countries, which has been heavily criticized by human rights groups. “I have confidence in the American judicial systems and its courts.

What I really want is that they admit to me that an injustice was done to me,” el-Masri said through a translator after the appeals court hearing. “I would like an explanation and I would like an apology.

Asking for more than that just wouldn't be civilized.

Posted by: Monolycus | Dec 1 2006 4:49 utc | 51

Government Quietly Rates Travelers For Terrorism

For the past four years, without public notice, federal agents have assigned millions of Americans and other international travelers computer-generated scores assessing the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.

The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments. And the government intends to keep them on file for 40 years.

Earlier in November, the government disclosed the existence and details of the Automated Targeting System (ATS) for the first time in the Federal Register. Privacy and civil liberties lawyers, congressional aides and even law enforcement officers said they thought the ATS had been applied only to cargo.

Before people start trumpeting about how nice it is to lose some privacy in return for the fluffy feeling of security that this measure gives them... bear in mind not only that statistical false positives are significant, you have no method of contesting or viewing this material, and, since the "9/11 hijackers" bought round-trip tickets and used credit cards to purchase them, this would not have prevented even that incident from occuring.

A similar DHS data-mining project for domestic air travelers -- now known as Secure Flight -- caused a furor two years ago in Congress, which has barred its implementation until it can pass 10 tests for accuracy and privacy protection.

No such furor this time, since accuracy doesn't have to be verified by anyone and there is no contesting the conclusions. Think about that while you absently follow some of the links posted here... it's going on your "permanent record", little ones.

Posted by: Monolycus | Dec 1 2006 5:32 utc | 52

Lying in public mandatory, even if that "public" is a university speech...

The State Department is considering disciplinary action against the analyst at its intelligence unit who delivered a scathing assessment of the so-called "special relationship" between Britain and the US, describing it as "a sad business", and "totally one-sided, with no payback, no sense of reciprocity".

Kendall Myers, a veteran specialist on British and European affairs, has been summoned to explain his remarks by his superiors at the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Tom Casey, the department's deputy spokesman, said yesterday. The remarks were "ill-informed, and I think, from our perspective, just plain wrong", said Mr Casey.

Mr Myers' comments - at an open discussion of British/US relations on Tuesday at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies - have caused much embarrassment in Washington.

Posted by: jj | Dec 1 2006 6:50 utc | 53

This could explain why Zelikow resigned:
U.S. Considers Ending Outreach to Insurgents

The Bush administration is deliberating whether to abandon U.S. reconciliation efforts with Sunni insurgents and instead give priority to Shiites and Kurds, who won elections and now dominate the government, according to U.S. officials.

The proposal, put forward by the State Department as part of a crash White House review of Iraq policy, follows an assessment that the ambitious U.S. outreach to Sunni dissidents has failed. U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that their reconciliation efforts may even have backfired, alienating the Shiite majority and leaving the United States vulnerable to having no allies in Iraq, according to sources familiar with the State Department proposal.

Some insiders call the proposal the "80 percent" solution, a term that makes other parties to the White House policy review cringe. Sunni Arabs make up about 20 percent of Iraq's 26 million people.
State Department counselor Philip D. Zelikow, author of the proposal, argued that the United States has compromised its prospects of success by reaching too far, according to the sources.

And now he is gone - I guess the proposal is gone too...

Posted by: b | Dec 1 2006 7:28 utc | 54

Paul Krugman Economic Storm Signals (liberated link)

Before I explain what the bond market is telling us, let’s talk about why the economy may be at a turning point. Between mid-2003 and mid-2006, economic growth in the United States was fueled mainly by a huge housing boom... That housing boom has now gone bust. But the optimists and pessimists disagree both about how bad the bust will get and about how much damage the housing slump will do to the economy...

Most, though not all, of the ... economic numbers that came out this week were ... substantially weaker than expected. Pessimists feel vindicated by the downbeat data. Nouriel Roubini..., who has been forecasting a housing-led recession for some time, ... predicts zero growth for the current quarter. Economists at Deutsche Bank say the same thing.

But that’s still a minority position; most forecasters are still telling us not to worry. So whom should you listen to? And how can you avoid believing what you want to believe?
How serious a slump is the bond market predicting? Pretty serious. Right now, statistical models ... give roughly even odds that we’re about to experience a formal recession. And since even a slowdown that doesn’t formally qualify as a recession can lead to a sharp rise in unemployment, the odds are very good — maybe 2 to 1 — that 2007 will be a very tough year.

Luckily, we’ve got good leadership for the coming economic storm: the White House is occupied by a man who’s ideologically flexible, listens to a wide variety of views, and understands that policy has to be based on careful analysis, not gut instincts. Oh, wait.

Posted by: b | Dec 1 2006 8:28 utc | 55

The Latvian Summit Viewed from Afghanistan - Blood, Snow and NATO

Support for the insurgency no longer just comes from those Pashtuns who traditionally favour the Taliban, it now exists among a broad section of society. Many Afghans want to fight the occupation forces and Mullah Omar's band of fundamentalists.

The limited progress that has been made is steadily eaten away by bitter memories and sad new experiences. Last week a van travelling near a NATO convoy on the outskirts of Kabul was shot at and subsequently crashed. One civilian died and four were injured.

Hamid Karzai has lamented the increasing number of innocent people killed as a result of NATO actions, but his fragile grip on power grows weaker with each passing day. The feeling here is that the president will be forced from office, with the Americans ushering in a new figurehead to take his place.

Trying to impose Western-style democracy upon a country where strict Islamic values dominate was always going to be a miserable failure. But its demise is being hastened by the increasingly violent nature of the occupation.

A new chapter in this country's tragic recent history has now started. The Taliban cannot be defeated or marginalised , no matter how many times they are called terrorists by NATO officials. Many people support them and a lot of those that don't will end up backing other militias. A civil war is inevitable if foreign troops stay or leave.

When the snow melts next spring any remaining optimism will be carried away with it. Blood will be all that's left.

Posted by: b | Dec 1 2006 8:36 utc | 56

b at 54:

So... Bush and Maliki were mutually supportive after their meeting because the US "braintrust" decided to back the Shia and Kurds?

Bush has made some concessions to Maliki, and Maliki has pledged to give up the oil?

I can imagine the Sunnis thinking that a piece of something is better than all of nothing, but what has Maliki to look forward to, other than assassination, if he gives up the black gold?

As for the US, I think it is a matter of time in any case before the Sadrists cut their supply lines and force them out. Whether the US has a deal with the Sunnis or thinks it has a deal with the Shia seems not to make much difference in that regard.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 1 2006 9:24 utc | 57

Rice’s Counselor Gives Advice Others May Not Want to Hear

But questions about his role were sharpened last month after Mr. Zelikow gave a speech at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in which he offered what many believed was an oblique criticism of the decision by Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice not to push Israel to return to the negotiating table with the Palestinians. He also said progress in that conflict was essential to forming a consensus among the United States, moderate Arabs and Europeans on Iran.

The address may have been an example of what Mr. Zelikow, in two speeches last year, called “practical idealism.” But it did not go over well. The State Department quickly distanced itself from the speech, issuing a statement denying any linkage, and Israeli officials, flustered by Mr. Zelikow’s remarks, said Ms. Rice later assured the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, that the United States saw the Iranian and Palestinian issues as two separate matters.

An example of the distance between Mr. Zelikow and his boss emerged this summer, at the start of the Israel-Hezbollah conflict. The position adopted by Ms. Rice — that Israel be permitted to continue its bombardment of Hezbollah despite the mounting civilian death toll in Lebanon — satisfied conservatives in the administration, including Mr. Cheney, who were pushing for strong American support of Israel.

That support also included the decision by the administration to heed Israel’s desire that America not push it to resolve the Palestinian conflict until the Palestinian Authority improved security and cracked down on attacks by groups considered to be terrorist entities by Israel and the United States.

But in his speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Mr. Zelikow implicitly acknowledged that that stance does not win America any friends in the Muslim world, and thwarts other American foreign policy objectives.

Ah... so I guess that I misunderstood you. You meant that it was Zelikow who had advanced the 80% solution.

From the above it looks as though Zelikow was whacked by the Israelis.

So the attempt to cut a deal with the Sunnis is still the considered wisdom of the braintrust, and whatever Bush told Maliki was as usual a collection of lies. He's marked to go down.

And Hussein's talking about the Palestinians went in one ear and out the other, as usual. The Palestinians are still marked for the final solution.

Posted by: John Francis Lee | Dec 1 2006 9:47 utc | 58

While all eyes are on Gaza, little notice has been taken of the crises in the West Bank. Did anyone know that the government health care facilities there have been on strike for the past 3 months?

Gideon Levy reports on this Twilight Zone in Haaretz:

For three months now, the government health services serving Palestinians in the West Bank have been closed down. Dozens of rural clinics are no longer open and government hospitals are barely operating. Health-service workers who have not received most of their salaries for the past nine months - because of the boycott which Israel and the world declared on the Palestinian Authority government - have declared a strike, which has gotten worse: Since Monday the hospitals have only been accepting patients whose life is in immediate danger. Yet another hardship to add to the siege of West Bank locales, with their approximately 1.5 million residents, and the severe economic distress that afflicts them....

Has anyone heard about this strike? Is it necessary to repeat that the responsibility for the health of residents who live under occupation is ours [i.e., Israel's - Bea]? Or to ask again what vital health services have to do with the economic boycott Israel and the world declared on a government that was legally elected in a democratic election?

There are political circumstances surrounding this strike: The new director of Al-Watani Hospital, Dr. Husam Jawhari, a cardiologist, says that a government that is incapable of providing vital services has to go. But the main victim here is the ordinary citizen, and the main culprit is the occupier. "Israel is holding NIS 600 million of our tax money. That's small change for it, and it's our money. That could solve the problem," says Jawhari.

The exacerbation of the strike this week means that a woman in labor who has already managed to get through the cruel checkpoints on the way to Nablus will not be admitted to the delivery room at Al-Watani with a dilation of four centimeters. Six is the minimum.

The checkpoints on the way to Nablus are exhausting. Every five minutes you have to stop and wait, sometimes for hours. The maximum speed limit is one kilometer per hour, and that's on a good day.

The scene at the Hawara checkpoint, overlooking Nablus, is terrible: As usual there, a throng of people is crammed into something that resembles a cattle pen. A compassionate soldier gives right of way to mothers with babies who're caught in the chaos. A short line of cars with permits to leave waits, for hours on end. They say this is nothing compared to the Assira Alshmalia checkpoint, also known as Checkpoint 17, on the Nablus-Jenin road. And these are not crossings into Israel, but rather checkpoints between Nablus and Beit Furik, affecting only people going to work and back.

With all the focus on the bloodshed in Gaza, daily life in the West Bank has been forgotten. At the offices of the Medical Relief organization in Nablus, the medical director, Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, says that his city is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster. He foresees epidemics and needless deaths. The clinics in 65 villages are closed, which has dramatic significance: When Nablus is inaccessible these clinics serve as a substitute, albeit a poor one, for the hospitals on the other side of the checkpoints. But now the two big hospitals in Nablus are practically deserted, so most of the burden is falling on nongovernmental organizations like Hamdan's.

The irony: The boycott may end up pushing more of the population into the arms of Hamas, whose clinics are open. Most of the residents in the West Bank have some sort of medical insurance, but this doesn't cover strikes. People of means go to four private hospitals, where hospitalization costs $100 a day; others collect donations to get admitted....

Hamdan: "We are pleading for the boycott to end so that this urgent humanitarian crisis can be solved. The basic right to receive health services is being denied us. This right must not be tied to politics. I think that people have already died because of the strike. Maybe the danger of an outbreak of epidemics near the settlements will frighten the Israelis. I say this with all seriousness."

The director of Al-Watani Hospital, Jawhari, cannot get into the empty gynecological ward of his hospital....

Jawhari: "It's not inscribed on the patients' foreheads whether they're Fatah or Hamas, and it's not their fault who was elected. The elections were properly run and the results shouldn't adversely affect the health services. Before I blame Israel and the world, I have to take my own government to task. Our strike is directed against both the Palestinian government and against the world community...."

Jawhari fears that his hospital will collapse completely. Arab donors from the United States have also stopped sending contributions: They say they are U.S. citizens and therefore are prohibited from transferring any money to the hospital. The American Care International organization is now cutting back on the aid it provides to the dialysis unit....

Posted by: Bea | Dec 1 2006 14:13 utc | 59

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