Thursday, August 31, 2006

Even Schlafly yells at Bush!!! Both Bushes!!!

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Putting U.S infrastructure in foreign hands
By Phyllis Schlafly
August 31, 2006

Conservatives believe that private industry does a better job than government – right? Conservatives are for divesting some government functions so private industry can run them more efficiently – right?

Many state and local governments take this idea seriously and, unnoticed by the U.S. public, have been selling off some of our infrastructure to foreigners. Then suddenly the news hit the fan about the proposed sale of 22 East Coast and Gulf Coast port operations to Dubai Ports World, a maritime company controlled by a Middle East government.

When devotion to private enterprise ran up against U.S. sovereignty and national defense, not only conservatives but the American people opted for the latter. The anti-Dubai uproar swept across all party and economic lines because there is a limit to whom we want to sell our essential transportation systems.

A federal agency known as the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States is supposed to be guarding our national interests when foreigners seek to buy U.S. properties. CFIUS operates in secret, so the public is in the dark about its procedures.

CFIUS is apparently also in the dark about what the U.S. public thinks and didn't foresee that the Dubai Ports deal would be controversial. Foreign purchase of U.S. infrastructure has been proceeding at a rapid pace both before and after the Dubai Ports flap.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr., a former Defense Department official during the Reagan administration and current columnist for, discovered that “out of more than 1,500 cases of foreign acquisitions reviewed since 1988, CFIUS has only formally rejected one.” Homeland Security concedes that 80 percent of our 3,200 terminals nationwide are operated by foreign companies and countries.

In June, a Spanish firm, Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., paid $1.3 billion for a 50-year lease to operate a 10-lane toll road through the heart of Texas. The same month, an Australian company bought a 99-year lease on Virginia's Pocahontas Parkway.
Also in June, an Australian-Spanish partnership paid $3.8 billion to lease the Indiana Toll Road for 75 years. Last year, Chicago sold a 99-year lease on the eight-mile Chicago Skyway to the same buyer for $1.8 billion, and tolls are expected to double.

Almost weekly, we learn about other U.S. properties that have been sold or leased long term to foreign companies. The tolls from the U.S. side of the tunnel linking Detroit to Windsor, Canada, belong to an Australian company.

Why the rush to sell our transportation systems to foreigners? “Follow the money” explains all.
State and local governments pocket the money upfront and get to spend it here and now, so politicians can cover their runaway budget deficits and enjoy the political rewards of spending for new facilities. They ignore the fact that U.S. citizens must pay tolls to foreign landlords for the next two or three or even four generations.

Foreigners like the deals because they know that, unlike the rest of the world, American law enforces contracts and the U.S. government doesn't nationalize industries. The foreign companies can raise tolls without having to cope with objections from local customers.

These deals leave a lot of questions unanswered. Texas ranchers are concerned about the use of eminent domain to cut a wide swath through their properties in order to build a very limited access corridor on which foreign trucks and trains will transport Chinese goods in sealed containers, uninspected until they reach Kansas City, Mo.

The Texas governor is already talking about more toll roads through Texas, north and south, east and west.

Indiana legislators are concerned that the Spanish firm could rake in $133 billion over the 75-year life of the Indiana toll road lease for which Indiana received only $3.8 billion.
The Indiana governor is now seeking an Interstate 69 toll road from Evansville to Indianapolis that critics claim would destroy vast Hoosier properties: 5,100 acres of farmland, 1,600 acres of forest, 140 acres of wetlands, 400 homes, 76 businesses and 135 existing roads. A foreign company could collect tolls for decades into the future.

Orange County was burned by its contract with a French company that bought part of state Route 91 for $130 million. When Orange County found that the fine print in the contract prohibited it from building more roads, it had to buy back the lease for $207.5 million.
The U.S. government blessed this rush to sell off American infrastructure on April 30, 1992, when then-President George Herbert Walker Bush signed Executive Order 12803, called “Infrastructure Privatization.” It directed federal departments and agencies to encourage state and local governments to “privatize infrastructure assets.”

Infrastructure assets were defined to include “roads, tunnels, bridges, electricity supply facilities, mass transit, rail transportation, airports, ports, waterways, water supply facilities, recycling and wastewater treatment facilities, solid waste disposal facilities, housing, schools, prisons and hospitals.”

The first President Bush's order failed to put restrictions on who the purchasers could or should be, American or not, or friend or foe. The current president, George W. Bush, is now acquiescing to European Union demands to open U.S. airlines to foreign ownership.

Is America for sale?

Schlafly is a lawyer, conservative political analyst and the author of “The Supremacists.” She can be reached via e-mail at


..and the penalty for war profiteering is.....? Get 'em!

From the Boston Globe via :

Soldiers Die, CEOs Proper
By Derrick Z. Jackson
The Boston Globe
Wednesday 30 August 2006

More than 2,600 US soldiers have died in Iraq. July's toll for Iraqi civilians was 3,500, the deadliest month of the US occupation. Iraq's civil war is on pace to kill 25,000 to 30,000 civilians by year's end. If you add in the tens of thousands of deaths from the 2003 invasion (we do not know the exact number because the Pentagon won't comment), researchers will inevitably say that the body count has crossed 100,000.

All of this madness to stop a madman, Saddam Hussein.

The litany of US mistakes and excessive force has the Pentagon commissioning at least two secret strategy studies in Afghanistan and Iraq. "This is a struggle for the soul of the Army," said Colonel Peter Mansoor, the head of the Army and Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Center.

Just as odorous, a mountain of corporate cash grows next to the piles of bodies. In this bizarre war where Iraqi civilians fear both suicide bombers and the United States, the biggest sacrifice that President Bush asked of American civilians was to get on a plane and show those terrorists a thing or two by going to Disney World.

Defense contractors took that request to a logical extreme. They built their own fantasy land.

There is no evidence of a contractor having a soul in the 13th annual Executive Excess CEO survey by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy. The report found that 34 defense CEOs have been paid nearly $1 billion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

As soldiers have died in displaying personal patriotism, the pay gap between soldiers and defense CEOs has exploded. Before 9/11, the gap between CEOs of publicly traded companies and army privates was already a galling 190 to 1. Today, it is 308 to 1. The average army private makes $25,000 a year. The average defense CEO makes $7.7 million.

"Did this surprise us? No, because we've been watching since Sept. 11," said Betsy Leondar-Wright, communications director for United for a Fair Economy. "While the rest of us were worrying about terrorism and mourning the people who died, the CEOs were maneuvering their companies to take advantage of fear and changing oil supply, not just for competition but for personal enrichment."

The top profiteers after 9/11 were the CEOs of United Technologies ($200 million), General Dynamics ($65 million), Lockheed Martin ($50 million), and Halliburton ($49 million). Other firms where CEO pay the last four years added up to $25 million to $45 million were Textron, Engineered Support Systems, Computer Sciences, Alliant Techsystems, Armor Holding, Boeing, Health Net, ITT Industries, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh Truck, URS, and Raytheon.

While Army privates died overseas earning $25,000 a year, David Brooks, the disgraced former CEO of body-armor maker DHB, made $192 million in stock sales in 2004. He staged a reported $10 million bat mitzvah for his daughter. The 2005 pay package for Halliburton CEO David Lesar, head of the firm that most symbolizes the occupation's waste, overcharges, and ghost charges on no-bid contracts, was $26 million, according to the report's analysis of federal Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

"Those examples take the cake, especially because it's all related to their government contracts, which is money straight out of the taxpayer's pocket," Leondar-Wright said.

The Executive Excess report, with the help of the Wall Street Journal's 2006 survey of executive compensation, made similar observations of oil executives as their firms enjoy record profits during war. The pay gap between the average oil and gas CEO and the average oil worker is 518 to 1. The general national CEO to worker gap is 411 to 1. The report said that the typical oil construction laborer would have to work 4,279 years to match the $95 million pay last year for Valero Energy CEO William Greehey.

This is so out of line that the authors of the Executive Excess report recommend wartime pay restraints for defense CEOs and a permanent congressional watchdog panel for contract fraud and waste. Companies that cannot adhere to restraints should be ineligible for contracts, they said.

The report said "democracies decay when one segment of society flourishes at another's expense." Leondar-Wright said, "It is now at the point where we have lost any sense of proportion. There is no sense of shared sacrifice, no sense that we're all in this together."

Spreading democracy to Iraq is far-fetched when defense and oil CEOs speed its decay at home. They are all in it for themselves, at our expense.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

NSA wants "leakers" inc. blogs.. / Intel Directives....

From Secrecy News:


The National Security Agency has instructed all of its employees to"actively" watch for unauthorized disclosures of classified information in the press and online, and to report such disclosures to the authorities."

All NSA Components shall actively monitor media for the purpose of identifying unauthorized disclosures of classified NSA information," a March 20 NSA directive stated."

Media" here is defined as "any print, electronic, or broadcast outlet (including blogs) where information is made available to the general public."

The new NSA policy on leaks was first reported by Siobhan Gorman in"NSA Strives to Plug Leaks," Baltimore Sun, July 23, 2006. An annex to the NSA directive lists a series of questions to be asked about unauthorized disclosures in order to assess their significance, including: "Is the disclosed information accurate?"Has the information been requested under the Freedom of Information Act? "If yes, identify the requester."

In response to a FOIA request from the Federation of American Scientists earlier this month, the National Security Agency refused to release most of the new directive, which is marked "for official use only." But the full text was obtained independently by Secrecy News.

See "Reporting Unauthorized Media Disclosures of Classified NSA/CSSInformation," NSA/CSS Policy 1-27, 20 March 2006:


The policy infrastructure of U.S. intelligence community is defined by directives issued by the Director of National Intelligence on everything from security policy to roles and missions to relations with Congress.The new system of policy statements, known as Intelligence Community Directives (ICDs), is the successor to the former Director of Central Intelligence Directives (DCIDs). The new ICDs are gradually supplementing, modifying or replacing the existing DCIDs.

The DNI has also issued a series of Intelligence Community Policy Memorandums (ICPMs), which are initial statements of policy that have not yet been formalized as an ICD.

Several ICDs and ICPMs have recently been released by the Office of the DNI in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Federation of American Scientists.They cover such topics as open source intelligence, personnel security, the role of the IC analytic ombudsman, the roles of the various Deputy Directors of National Intelligence, and the use of portable electronic devices in secure facilities.

See Intelligence Community Directives:

and Intelligence Community Policy Memorandums:


Nice selection of books...and a film....

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the Best First Book Eurasian Region Donna Daley-Clarke's LAZY EYE, about the disintegrating family life of one of England's first black professional soccer players in the summer of '76, to Karan Mahajan at MacAdam/Cage, for publication in Spring 2007, in a nice deal, by Camilla Hornby at Curtis Brown UK.

Rudolph Delson's MAYNARD & JENNICA, using 35 narrators in all for a portrait of 21st century New York, to Anjali Singh at Houghton Mifflin, for publication in spring 2008, by Jay Mandel at William Morris Agency (NA).


Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award winner Karen E. Olson's WATERLOGGED, the next Annie Seymour mystery, moving to Kristen Weber at NAL, in a two-book deal, by Jack Scovil at Scovil Chichak Galen Literary Agency (NA).


Adrienne Sharp's second novel THE TRUE MEMOIRS OF LITTLE K., based on the life of Mathilde Kschessinka, mistress of the last Romanov tsar, lover of three grand dukes, and prima ballerina of the legendary Maryinski Theater, to Courtney Hodell at Farrar, Straus, in a pre-empt, for publication in spring 2008, by Sandra Dijkstra at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency (NA).


Christopher Moore's NYT bestselling A DIRTY JOB, the story of a mild-mannered Beta Male who becomes a reluctant "soul merchant," responsible for collecting people's souls just before they die, to Chris Columbus (Harry Potter 1&2, Goonies, Rent, Fantastic Four) at 1492 Productions, in a major deal, for high six-figures, by Nicholas Ellison at the Nicholas Ellison.


Gilbert King's THE EXECUTION OF WILLIE FRANCIS: Life, Death Row, and the Curse of St. Martinville, Louisiana, the true story of a botched execution in 1946 and a young Cajun lawyer's determined efforts to prevent the state from sending seventeen-year old Francis to the electric chair twice over the span of one week, argued all the way to the Supreme Court, to Chris Greenberg at Basic Civitas, by Farley Chase at the Waxman Literary Agency (NA).

CAESAR'S LEGION author and Roman historian Stephen Dando-Collins's THE PALATIUM MURDERS, reconstructing and solving the most notorious murder case in Roman history, the poisoning of the charismatic imperial heir-apparent Germanicus, to Stephen Power at Wiley, by Richard Curtis of Richard Curtis Associates (world)

Born to Rule author Julia Gelardi's IN TRIUMPH'S WAKE and FROM SPLENDOR TO REVOLUTION, again to Charlie Spicer at St. Martin's, in a very nice deal, by Julie Castiglia at The Castiglia Agency.

Bancroft Prize-winning religious historian Erskine Clarke's untitled book on the Reverend John Leighton Wilson, a southern abolitionist who freed his slaves and traveled back to Liberia with them, beginning his twenty-year odyssey on the African continent where he studied many African tribes and wrote numerous books that would become crucial to the slavery debates raging when he returned to America during the run-up to the Civil War, to Lara Heimert at Basic (world).


Yale history professor Jennifer Basziile's THE BLACK GIRL NEXT DOOR: Growing Up in the Integration Generation, recounting her turbulent and confounding girlhood growing up as one of the few black children in a white, upper middle class California suburb, to Cherise Davis at Touchstone Fireside, by Bob Levine at Levine Plotkin & Menin (US).


George Szpiro's POINCARE'S CONJECTURE, the story behind the breaking news of Grigori Perelman's historic proof of a conjecture that has challenged mathematicians for over a century (the first of the Clay Institute's million dollar Millenium Prize Problems to be solved), to Stephen Morrow at Dutton, for publication in summer 2007, by Ed Knappmann at New England Publishing Associates (world).


New York Observer editor Tom Scocca's untitled book on Beijing, where he has been traveling for years, about the physical and cultural transformation of the city as it attempts to remake itself for the 2008 Olympics and the "Chinese Century" that will follow, to Sean McDonald at Riverhead, by Larry Weissman at Larry Weissman Literary (world).


Dawn Annandale's CALL ME MADAM, the sequel to her Sunday Times bestselling memoir Call Me Elizabeth, plus a debut novel, which will call upon all her experiences both good and bad as a high class escort, to Wayne Brookes at Harper Fiction, by Rebecca Winfield at the Rebecca Winfield Literary Agency (UK/Commonwealth).


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Think the military doesn't notice?

From Stars & Stripes--a letter from Iraq:

Losing faith in government

It is unfortunate, but I believe I have lost almost complete faith in my government.

Did anyone listen when people said the war would be easy to win, it’s the peace that will be hard? Did anyone in my government read any history about the culture in Iraq? Why does my president refuse to take his blinders off and look at the Iraq problem from a different view?

I now believe my government has lost touch with what’s really going on, not only in Iraq but in the U.S. as well. All I ask is that my government officials get off their bottoms and actually do something! I’m so glad I’m protected from flag-burning homosexuals in the country, but what about the real important issues?

I’m frustrated and angry that the best country in the world is allowing itself to fall apart. Will somebody please do something!

Staff Sgt. David C. MardonCamp Ramadi, Iraq

Coast Guard security flaws...

From UTube via :

On YouTube, Charges of Security Flaws

A Lockheed Martin engineer, frustrated that his supervisors failed to correct what he saw as critical security flaws in a fleet of refurbished Coast Guard patrol boats, did just about the only thing left he could think of to get action: He made a video and posted it on


Bites of news...see who Bush family is hosting...

From American Progress Report:

Think Fast

President Bush’s trip to Biloxi, MS, yesterday was “carefully scripted by the White House” and “left little possibility of the president encountering much anger over the federal reconstruction efforts.” Several of the people with whom he met were “clutching pictures of themselves being consoled by the president in the aftermath of the storm last September.”

“The oldest detainee at Guantanamo Bay — an Afghan man who is at least 71 and hobbled around the U.S. prison in Cuba using a walker — has been sent home.”

“Israel has appointed a top general to oversee a war against Iran, prompting speculation that it is preparing for possible military action against Tehran’s nuclear program. Maj. Gen. Elyezer Shkedy, Israel’s air force chief, will be overall commander for the ‘Iran front.’

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev — “an autocrat who runs a nation that is anything but free” and is accused in U.S. court of pocketing some $75 million in bribes — will be hosted next month at the White House and the Bush family compound in Maine.

“With parts of South Dakota at its epicenter, a severe drought has slowly sizzled a large swath of the Plains States, leaving farmers and ranchers with conditions that they compare to those of the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s.”

BP is under investigation by U.S. authorities for possible manipulation of crude oil and gasoline markets. BP is already facing civil and criminal investigations, including examination of “an Alaskan oil spill and a 2005 Texas City refinery explosion that killed 15 people. The U.S. government in June alleged BP traders attempted to manipulate propane prices.”

According to a new study, outside advisory panels to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration typically serve as “rubber stamps” for companies seeking approval of drugs and medical devices. “The report follows criticism by members of Congress including Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) that the FDA fails to sufficiently scrutinize drug safety.”

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is still trying to fill vacancies to better prepare for the next disaster. Hiring new employees has “been a slower process than I thought,” said FEMA Director R. David Paulison.

And finally: One long-suffering Beltway commuter got some sweet release this morning. Maryland electrician Dan Ruefly won a contest to detonate a Potomac River bridge that “has long been one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in a region notorious for gridlock.” “Asked if he had thought about blowing up the bridge before, Ruefly said, ‘Hasn’t everybody in Washington, D.C.?’”


Monday, August 28, 2006

FISA thru Judge can go to extremes to get you....

From Secrecy News:


The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) can be used to monitor U.S. persons who engage in unlawful collection of classified or controlled information even if they are not acting on behalf of a foreign power.

That is the upshot of an August 14 ruling unsealed last week in the case of two former officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The defendants had argued that they were improperly subjected to FISA surveillance since FISA requires that the target be "an agent of a foreign power" and, they insist, they were never acting on behalf of a foreign power.

Judge T.S. Ellis, III, rejected that defense argument. But in doing so, he redefined and significantly expanded the meaning of "agent of a foreign power" to include non-foreign agents who may be involved in unlawful information gathering.

FISA "plainly allows a FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court] judge to issue an order allowing the surveillance or physical search if there is probable cause to believe that the target... may ... Be involved in unlawful clandestine intelligence activities, or in knowingly aiding and abetting such activities," Judge Ellis wrote.

And what are "unlawful clandestine intelligence activities"? "Although the phrase 'clandestine intelligence gathering activities' is not defined in FISA," he noted, "such 'activities' would include, for example, 'collection or transmission of information or material that is not generally available to the public'."

Some such collection and transmission of information is protected by the First Amendment, the Court acknowledged, and cannot by itself serve as the basis for FISA surveillance. But earlier this month, Judge Ellis ruled that the collection and transmission of national defense information can be a violation of the Espionage Act, even if it is conducted by private citizens who are not spies, if they act knowingly and willfully with an awareness that the information is restricted and that it could be used to harm the United States or to aid a foreign nation.

Building on that prior ruling, the Court has now redefined the meaning of "agent of a foreign power" so as to justify the FISA surveillance in the AIPAC case. "The FISC [the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that originally authorized surveillance of the AIPAC defendants] had ample probable cause to believe that the targets were agents of a foreign power quite apart from their First Amendment lobbying activities."

But under the Court's new definition, "agents of a foreign power"need not be literally "agents of a foreign power." Rather, the term now includes other persons who engage in unlawful information gathering.

"While the defendants' lobbying activities are generally protected by the First Amendment, willful violations of sec. 793 [the provisionof the Espionage Act that prohibits collection and disclosure of national defense information] are not, and ... the FISC had probable cause to believe that such violations had occurred in this case,"Judge Ellis explained.

Thus, the Court did not find that there was any reason to believe the defendants were acting on behalf of a foreign power. (Theprosecution has conceded that they were not.) Instead, Judge Ellis expanded the scope of the term "agent of a foreign power" to include someone who clandestinely gathers restricted information in a probable violation of the Espionage Act, even if there is no reason to suppose he is a spy or a terrorist.

By the Court's logic, it does not take an big imaginative leap to envision the application of FISA surveillance to members of the press or others who deliberately solicit classified or controlled defense information or who report on classified programs in conscious defiance of official directives to the contrary.

A former FBI official with extensive experience in FISA policy and practice expressed doubt that the FISA could now be easily invoked against the press or the public for ordinary reporting or research activities since, he said, these do not normally involve the requisite intent to violate the law. "There is quite a bit on the periphery that is not included in this Order," the official told Secrecy News. "The judge referred to the information 'not generally available to the public' in the context of clandestine activities that are violations of, for example, 18 USC 793 and 794 [the Espionage Act]. These are statutes that require an intent to harm the United States or benefit another power.

Judge Ellis may have been parsimonious in his words, but he hasn't advocated the position that worries you," he said. Even so, the FBI FISA expert agreed that the new court order does "make it possible to be 'an agent of a foreign power' for FISA surveillance purposes without having any actual connection with a foreign power whatsoever."

The new order also called for a leak investigation to determine the sources of a August 2004 CBS news story about the AIPAC case.


Brown tired of being fall guy for FEMA in New Orleans...

From UPI via :

Brown Says White House Wanted Him to Lie
United Press International
Sunday 27 August 2006

Washington - The ousted head of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency says the White House wanted him to lie about the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Former Director Michael Brown told ABC News "This Week with George Stephanopoulos' Sunday he stood by comments in a Playboy interview, and President Bush wanted him to take the heat for the bungling.

"The lie was that we were ready and that everything was working as a team. Behind the scenes, it wasn't working at all," Brown said. "There were political considerations going into all the discussions. There was the fact that New Orleans did not evacuate and the mayor (Ray Nagin) had no plan."

Brown said it was natural to 'want to put the spin on that things are working the way they're supposed to do. And behind the scenes, they're not. Again, my biggest mistake was just not leveling with the American public and saying, 'Folks, this isn't working."

The former FEMA chief cited what he called an e-mail 'from a very high source in the White House that says the president at a Cabinet meeting said, 'Thank goodness Brown's taking all the heat because it's better that he takes the heat than I do."

Also on 'This Week,' U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said the administration still doesn't understand the magnitude of the reconstruction problem; but the president's Gulf Coast coordinator, Don Powell, said the federal government's No. 1 priority is to rebuild the area in a businesslike way.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Iraqi vets say why they're NOT going back...

From Information Clearing House:

[an excerpt]

You wouldn't catch me dead in Iraq:

Scores of American troops are deserting - even from the front line in Iraq. But where have they gone? And why isn't the US Army after them?

Peter Laufer tracked down four of the deserters,,1-531-2318643-531,00.html


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Next..Iran. Don't say you weren't warned...

From Information Clearing House:

Cooking intelligence – again
By Gordon Prather

Four years ago, President Bush ordered Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet to prepare a National Intelligence Estimate to be used to "justify" to Congress the pre-emptive war against Iraq we now know he had already decided to launch.

Two years later, the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded that:

Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community's October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate – "Iraq's Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction" – either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.

In particular, the assessment that Iraq "is reconstituting its nuclear program" was "not supported by the intelligence provided to the committee."

The committee noted that prior to 1999 our intelligence community had been heavily dependent upon information obtained from United Nations inspectors.

True, in December 1998, President Clinton had warned all U.N. inspectors to get out of Iraq or risk getting killed during Operation Desert Fox.

However, after Clinton quit bombing, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors had been allowed back into Iraq (in 2000, 2001 and 2002) to inspect all the surviving nuclear-related sites in Iraq – including Kuwaitha, where our "intelligence" had suggested the Iraqis might be doing something untoward – and found nothing untoward.

But Tenet's 2002 NIE didn't even mention those IAEA inspections, much less the subsequent "null" reports made to the UN Security Council.

Why not?

Well, obviously the Cheney Cabal didn't want Congress to know – at least officially – that by 1994 all Saddam's nuclear programs had been verifiably destroyed and that he had made no attempt whatsoever to reconstitute them.

Inexplicably, the Senate Intelligence Committee did not even mention – much less decry – the failure of the intelligence community to base the 2002 NIE "assessments" of Saddam's nuclear program on those IAEA "null" reports.

There were, however, cries of anguish from those sent to Iraq on a fool's errand by Tenet. Never again produce an NIE that completely ignores the "best

1st World to BushCo US on Iran: Shove it...

From LA Times via :

US May Curb Iran
By Maggie Farley
The Los Angeles Times
Saturday 26 August 2006

If the UN Security Council won't penalize Tehran for its nuclear program, the White House may forge an alliance to do so.

United Nations - With increasing signs that several fellow Security Council members may stall a United States push to penalize Iran for its nuclear enrichment program, Bush administration officials have indicated that they are prepared to form an independent coalition to freeze Iranian assets and restrict trade.

The strategy, analysts say, reflects not only long-standing U.S. frustration with the Security Council's inaction on Iran, but also the current weakness of Washington's position because of its controversial role in a series of conflicts in the Middle East, most recently in Lebanon.

Despite assurances from Russia and China in July that they would support initial sanctions against Iran if it failed to suspend aspects of its nuclear program, Russia seemed to backtrack this week after Tehran agreed to continue talks, but refused to halt enrichment. A Security Council resolution gives the Islamic Republic until August 31 to stop uranium enrichment, which could provide fuel to produce electricity or possibly atomic weapons, or face penalties.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov said Friday that as long as Iran was willing to negotiate, it was "premature" to punish the country and perhaps permanently isolate it.

"I do not know cases in international practice or the whole of the previous experience when sanctions reached their goals or were efficient," Ivanov said.

"Apart from this, I do not think that the issue is so urgent that the U.N. Security Council or the group of six countries" - the U.S., China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany - "should consider the introduction of sanctions. In any case Russia continues to advocate a political and diplomatic solution to the problem."

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Iran's response was "not satisfactory" but France wanted to avoid a new conflict that could lead to "a clash of civilizations."

"But the worst thing would be to escalate into a confrontation with Iran on the one hand - and the Muslim world with Iran - and the West," he said on French radio. "That would be the clash of civilizations that France today is practically alone in trying to avoid."

U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton said in an interview late this week that the United States planned to introduce a resolution imposing penalties such as a travel ban and asset freeze for key Iranian leaders soon after the Aug. 31 deadline, and seemed optimistic that China and Russia would agree to it once they saw the text. "Everybody's been on board," he said.

But in case Russia and China do not accept it, the U.S. is working a parallel diplomatic track outside the U.N., Bolton said.

Under U.S. terrorism laws, Washington could ramp up its own sanctions, including financial constraints on Tehran and interception of missile and nuclear materials en route to Iran, Bolton said, and the U.S. is encouraging other countries to follow suit. "You don't need Security Council authority to impose sanctions, just as we have," he said.

The U.S. has had broad restrictions on almost all trade with Iran since 1987. Exceptions include the import of dried fruits and nuts, caviar and carpets. In addition, U.S. companies can obtain licenses to do limited trade in agriculture and medicine. The United States also initiated the Proliferation Security Initiative, involving a coalition of countries that have agreed to intercept shipments of materials to Iran that could be used for weapons of mass destruction.

"We will continue to enhance PSI to cut off flows of materials and technology that are useful to Iran's ballistic missile program and nuclear programs," Bolton said. "We will be constraining financial transactions under existing terrorism laws."

He said Washington was focusing on European and Japanese banks to restrict business with Iran, because most of Tehran's transactions are done in U.S. dollars, euros, British pounds and yen. "There aren't a lot of opportunities to sell in other currencies," he said.

Bolton and U.S. Treasury officials refused to provide details on which countries might be interested, citing the "sensitivity" of the talks.

But Treasury spokeswoman Molly Millerwise said they had already seen results, including Union Bank of Switzerland cutting off relationships with Iran.

"We're seeing more financial institutions around the world looking at the actions and messages emanating out of Iran - from their nuclear ambitions to state sponsorship of Hezbollah - and asking themselves, 'do we really want to be Iran's banker?' " she said in an e-mail.

Though U.S. officials said pursuing parallel paths is "common sense" and highlights what they consider to be the inefficiency of the Security Council, some analysts said the move would underline Washington's inability to win over the council and the lack of options against a newly emboldened Iran.

"When you start doing things that would be better with the Security Council's endorsement, does it show weakness or strength?" said George Perkovich, the director of the nonproliferation program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "Iran could argue that 'the U.S. couldn't even get the Security Council backing, and so we are winning.'"

Perkovich said even traditional U.S. allies were fatigued by dealing with so many conflicts and didn't want to add Iran to a list that includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon.

"There is a general reluctance to follow the U.S. lead," he said. "Our negotiating power is diminished, which is regrettable."

Russia and China have specifically objected to the use of a U.N. charter measure known as Chapter 7 that would open the door to military action or sanctions. But Bolton said that a resolution on North Korea passed unanimously in July might create a new template for dealing with those concerns.

That resolution instituted a ban on supplying technology and goods related to North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and got around China's and Russia's doubts about Chapter 7 with other legally binding language that would prevent an Iraq-style invasion.

"There are some aspects of the North Korea resolution that will be useful," Bolton said. "A lot of this is just going to have be played out."
Times staff writer David Holley in Moscow contributed to this report.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Objecting to Iraq War not good enough...

From Secrecy News:


U.S. Army policy for dealing with military personnel who assert a conscientious objection to military combat is set forth in a newly updated Army regulation. Criteria for likely approval or rejection of a conscientious objection claim are described.

Claims that are insincere or "based on objection to a certain war" will "not be favorably considered."

The Regulation accepts the reality of conscientious objection with due respect.

"Care must be exercised not to deny the existence of beliefs simply because those beliefs are incompatible with one's own," it states.

In any case, "The burden of establishing a claim of conscientious objection as grounds for separation or assignment to noncombatant training and service is on the applicant."

See "Conscientious Objection," Army Regulation 600-43, 21 August2006:


Underhanded drug/Medicare ad secrecy...

From Sacrament Bee:

Medicare ads paid by drug industry
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
Last Updated 2:25 pm PDT Friday, August 25, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) - The pharmaceutical industry quietly footed the bill for at least part of a recent multimillion-dollar ad campaign praising lawmakers who support the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, according to political officials.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims credit for the ads, although a spokesman refused repeatedly to say whether it had received any funds from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Several campaign strategists not involved in the ad campaign said no legal issues were raised by the pharmaceutical industry's involvement.

Democrats seized on the disclosure, though, to renew their charge that the program amounts to a Republican-engineered windfall for drug companies.

"There's a civics lesson here from the drug companies. They write checks to protect their GOP friends, and then they write the laws to benefit themselves, all the while doctors are writing prescriptions middle-class Americans can't afford," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the House Democratic campaign organization.

The commercials, airing in 10 states or congressional districts, generally say the local congressman or senator supports the drug program, and that hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries have saved money since its inception earlier this year.

Under the voluntary program, Medicare beneficiaries purchase prescription drug coverage from among competing plans offered by private insurance companies. Monthly premiums cover a fraction of the overall cost of the benefit, and the federal government covers most of the rest.

The insurance companies bargain with drug manufacturers over price, and the cost to consumers has been considerably lower than initially estimated. But in drafting the legislation, Republicans rejected Democratic calls to permit the government to negotiate directly in hopes of pushing down prices further.

The officials who described PhRMA's involvement said they did not know whether the industry had given the Chamber money to cover the entire cost of the ads and other elements of an election-year voter mobilization effort, or merely a portion.

Ken Johnson, a senior vice president at PhRMA, issued a statement that said the organization "works with a variety of groups, including patient advocacy groups and business organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and others, to support policies that improve patient access to life-saving medicines."

In a follow-up statement, he added that as a result of the program, "millions of Medicare patients who previously had no prescription drug coverage are now benefiting from substantial discounts negotiated by Medicare drug plans."

He declined to elaborate.

Bill Miller, political director for the Chamber, did not respond to numerous requests for an interview. A spokesman, Eric Wohlschlegel, said, "The Chamber paid for the Medicare ads." But he declined repeatedly to say whether his organization had received any money from PhRMA.
In announcing the program earlier this summer, Miller described a $10 million ad campaign but made no mention of PhRMA.

The episode is reminiscent of another PhRMA-financed ad campaign, this one in May 2002.
At the time, a little-known conservative group, United Seniors Association, announced plans for a multimillion-dollar advertising effort supporting prescription drug legislation that Republicans were drafting. A USA spokesman denied then that PhRMA had picked up the cost. But several political officials said it had, and the drug association confirmed it had made an "unrestricted educational grant" to the seniors' group.

The Chamber's current advertising effort has been marred by errors.

An ad on behalf of Republican Rep. Steve Chabot of Ohio was pulled from the air after officials realized he had voted against the legislation creating the prescription drug bill.

Commercials backing three other Republicans, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Mike Sodrel of Indiana and Dave Reichert of Washington, were changed after Democrats pointed out they had not been in Congress the year the legislation passed.

At a news conference earlier in the month, Miller initially denied that either the Pennsylvania or Indiana ads had been changed until reporters showed the revised wording.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

New Orleans and its levees....past & present...

From Greg Palast:

By Greg Palast in New Orleans.
August 24, 2006

What is the unreported cause of the majority of the 2,000 deaths that occurred after the levees broke last year on August 29? Catch Greg Palast's investigative exposé this Monday on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! And on Tuesday, watch his one-hour Special on LinkTV. Listings at

The Year the Levees Broke America went through a terrible year. The levees broke in New Orleans. When bodies floated in the streets, the Republican Congress saw an opportunity for more tax cuts and consolidation of the corporatopia they had created for their moneyed donors.

The Democratic Party was clueless, written off, politically at death's door.

The year was 1927. Back then, when the levees broke, America awoke. Public anger rose in a floodtide, and in that year, the USA entered its most revolutionary period since 1776. The thirty-four-year-old utility commissioner of Louisiana, Huey P. Long, conceived of a plan to rebuild his state based on a radical program of redistributing wealth and power. The ambitious Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, adopted it, and later named it The New Deal. America got rich and licked Hitler. It was our century.

It's 1927 again. But this time, the Haves and Have-Mores have something better for you than a New Deal. They are offering "opportunity" -- a lottery ticket instead of a guarantee. Like double-or-nothing in the stock market instead of Social Security -- will the suckers go for it?

There's one born every minute. I can't believe they're the majority, but at last count, they numbered over 59 million. And they vote. Years from now, in Guantánamo or in a refugee relocation "Enterprise Zone," your kids will ask you, "What did you do in the Class War, Daddy?" We may have to admit that conquest and occupation happened before we could fire off a shot.

The trick of class war is not to let the victims know they're under attack. That's how, little by little, the owners of the planet take away what little we have. On Tuesday, your President, George W. Bush, will return to New Orleans, on the anniversary of the levee breach.There is nothing new under the sun. A Republican president going for the photo op as the Mississippi rolls over New Orleans.

It was 1927, and President Calvin Coolidge sent Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, "a little fat man with a notebook in his hand," who mugged for the cameras and promised to build the city a wall of protection. They had their photos taken. Then they left to play golf with Ken Lay or, rather, the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.

In 1927, the Democratic Party had died and was awaiting burial. As The Depression approached, the coma-Dems, like Franklin Roosevelt, called for, of all things, balancing the budget.

Then, as the Mississippi waters rose, one politician, the state's electricity regulator, stood up on the back of a flatbed truck rigged with loudspeakers, and said, roughly,"Listen up! They're lying! The President's lying! The rich fat jackals that are drowning you will do it again and again and again. They lead you into imperialist wars for profit, they take away your schools and your hope, and when you complain, they blame Blacks and Jews and immigrants. Then they drown your kids. I say, Kick'm in the ass and take your share of the wealth you created."

Huey Long was our Hugo Chávez, and he laid out a plan: a progressive income tax, real money for education, public works to rebuild Louisiana and America, Social Security old age pensions, veterans benefits, regulation of the big utility holding companies, an end to what he called, "rich men's wars," and an end to the financial royalism of the elite One Percent.

Huey Long even had the audacity to suggest that the poor's votes should count, calling for the end to the poll tax four decades before Martin Luther King succeeded in ending it. Long recorded his motto as a musical anthem: "Everyman a King."

The waters receded, the anger did not, and, in 1928, Huey "Kingfish" Long was elected Governor of Louisiana. At the time, Louisiana schools were free, but not the textbooks. The elite liked it that way, but Long didn't. To pay for the books, the Kingfish levied a special tax on Big Oil. But the oil companies refused to pay for the textbooks. Governor Long then ordered the National Guard to seize the oil fields in the Delta.

It was Huey Long who established the principle that a government of the people must protect the people, school them, build the infrastructure, regulate industry and share the nation's wealth -- and that meant facing down "the concentrations of monopoly power" of the corporate aristocracy -- "the thieves of Wall Street," as he called them. In other words, Huey Long founded the modern Democratic Party.

FDR and the party establishment, scared witless of Long's ineluctable march to the White House, adopted his program, albeit diluted, called it the New Deal and later the New Frontier and the Great Society. America and the party prospered.

What happened to the Kingfish? The oil industry and local oligarchs had few options for responding to Governor Long's populist appeal and the success of his egalitarian economic program. On September 8, 1935, Huey Long, by then a U.S. Senator,was shot dead. He was 42.

It's 1927 again.


Excerpted from Greg Palast's just-released New York Times bestseller, "ARMED MADHOUSE: Who's Afraid of Osama Wolf?, China Floats Bush Sinks, the Scheme to Steal '08, No Child's Behind Left and other Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Class War." Go to


Yessir! Our economy is in fine shape.....

From :

Aug. 23, 2006
WMR reporting today from Helsinki, Finland.

In another sign that the United States is rapidly drifting into "Third World" status as a major world debtor nation, Russia has announced that it has paid off its $31.1 billion debt to foreign countries incurred during Soviet times. Russia paid off its debt largely as a result of the increase in the price of oil -- a major Russian export. Not only has the ruble been made fully convertible but Russia is now attracting major investments and its bond rating has improved.

Russia's economic turnaround has also increased its clout at the expense of Bush's neo-con strategists. Russia has forgiven about two thirds of Syria's $13 billion debt and has initiated port development schemes in the ports of Tartus and Latakia, old Soviet naval bases. Russia's strong financial and military support for Syria checked neo-con plans to militarily attack Syria.

The paying off of Russia's debt to Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland, Denmark, Portugal, France and other Paris Club creditor nations has also increased Moscow's financial and political clout in Europe at the expense of Washington's. Russia is to offer Eurobonds to commercial creditors in lieu of payment in U.S. dollars. Moscow's central bank reserves, estimated at $277 billion, are the world's third largest, ranked after those of Japan and China. On the other hand, the two Asian economic giants are America's two largest creditor nations.

Russia's economic clean bill of health would not have been possible had not President Vladimir Putin not declared war on Russia's criminal oligarch's, many of whom have fled to Israel and who reside in that country with guarantees from extradition back to Russia to stand trial. However, in 2005 Russia did jail for nine years Yukos oil oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky -- a dual Russian-Israeli citizen. Not surprisingly, George W. Bush, acting on behalf of Israeli criminal interests and neo-con advisers, led largely by Bush's favorite author, Israeli former Soviet "refusenik" Natan Sharansky, demanded that Putin free Khodorkosvky. Putin ignored Bush's plea.

Russia can now afford to thumb its nose at Bush and his neo-con cabal. From Iran to Syria, Lebanon to Palestine, and Venezuela to Central Asia, Russia is flexing its political and economic muscles and the neo-cons are finding their moves checked at every turn by a Russian government that long ago declared war on the neo-cons and their Russian criminal facilitators.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Shrub stinks up the White House....

From Capitol Hill Blue

Beltway Buzz
The Prez likes to fart
By CHB Staff
Aug 22, 2006, 21:24

Paul Bedard of U.S. News & World Report raised a few eyebrows this week when he went public about President George W. Bush's fondness for…well…farts.

Yep. The President farts - a lot. He farts in front of other White House staffers. He likes to joke about farts, cusses constantly and laughs with glee at the misfortune of others.

Writes Bedard:
He loves to cuss, gets a jolly when a mountain biker wipes out trying to keep up with him, and now we're learning that the first frat boy loves flatulence jokes. A top insider let that slip when explaining why President Bush is paranoid around women, always worried about his behavior. But he's still a funny, earthy guy who, for example, can't get enough of fart jokes. He's also known to cut a few for laughs, especially when greeting new young aides, but forget about getting people to gas about that.

Digital Vision
We've heard the same from others. In fact, the President's fondness for spicy Mexican food leads to farts that can clear a room.

Bush is not the first crude President nor will he likely be the last.

Harry Truman belched and farted in front of people, much to the consternation of wife Bess. Dwight Eisenhower may have been in the Army but he cussed like a sailor. John F. Kennedy would leer at young women and make comments about their attributes. He was, according to historians, a breast man.

Lyndon Johnson scratched his crotch at Cabinet meetings and in front of female White House staff members. Richard Nixon, as the Oval Office tapes showed, cussed a blue streak.
Jimmy Carter, on the other hand, may have been the last President too tight-assed to do anything untoward while in office but Ronald Reagan loved dirty jokes and said "goddamn" a lot.

George H.W. Bush also liked raunchy jokes and told staffers he knew whether or not New York Times reporter Maureen Dowd was or was not a natural redhead because of the short skirts she wore while sitting in the front row at Presidential press conferences.

The whole world knows what Bill Clinton did in the Oval Office with White House intern Monica Lewinsky and White House staffers told frequent stories of his lewd and suggestive comments to other women.

And Bush likes to fart. Now we know why things stink in his administration.

© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue


Like Lepers...smokers in San Diego....

From Voice of San Diego. org :

Smoke 'Em if You Got 'Em, But Not Here
C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan's surgeon general, claimed smoking was more addictive than heroin. I couldn't affirm that, but I do know the habit is a real bear to kick.
By Keith Taylor
Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006

"Smoking ban kicks in tomorrow," sayeth a headline in the other San Diego daily.

What's this? A new ban? Even in the fresh air? There have been so many bans and/or restrictions. First it was in sections of restaurants, then airplanes, then most everything indoors. Then they went outdoors. Even Qualcomm Stadium became virtually smoke free. Now the Marlboro Man has disappeared, perhaps he rode into the sunset where he can light up with John Wayne.

Now the ban has been extended to the beaches. Smoking was virtually considered a duty when I was a kid and is now taboo in the breeziest place in town.This chaos is hard to take for a fellow who has been through the smoking/non-smoking cycle so often. I smoked and quit several times. Some non-smoking stints lasted little longer than Seau's retirement. But it's now been 27 years and five marathons smoke free.

It wasn't easy in the good days if you didn't smoke, especially when married to a smoker. I can remember one trip when we were coming home from the East Coast. The only question at the airport was: "Smoking or non smoking?" My wife took care of that problem."Smoking," she declared in a tone of voice that overruled any possible objection I might have had.

Smoking it was on the long, overnight flight from Miami, and smoking they did, practically everybody except Bertha. She strapped on the seatbelt and fell asleep. Her next moment of consciousness came when she had to put her seat to an upright position as we approached Los Angeles International Airport. I sat among folks who lit up as soon as the "no smoking" light went off. At least I think most of them lit up. You couldn't see very far in the thick soup of tobacco smoke in the rear of the plane.

The fumes ruined a good night's nap, but my wife slept peacefully all the way, perhaps dreaming of the fine vacation we just had in the Bahamas.(Let me add that a while after that Bertha also kicked the habit and has since run hundreds of races including several 10-Ks. Let me also add that neither of us has won any, but we're merely 76 years old.)

C. Everett Koop, Ronald Reagan's surgeon general, claimed smoking was more addictive than heroin. I couldn't affirm that, but I do know the habit is a real bear to kick. The tobacco industry has never willingly owned up to that, some suspect it's a matter of self interest, those zillions of dollars ya know.

In fact, with one exception, I only know of one habitual smoker who has not tried to quit. Ya gotta give grudging admiration to someone who is as adamant about continuing the habit as my good friend and fellow writer, Betty. She refuses to go to a restaurant that bans smoking, and I don't think you can find one of them closer than Nevada.

Otherwise the plaint goes much like the old song by Tex Williams:
Smoke, smoke, smoke that cigarette
Puff, puff, puff until you smoke yourself to death.
Tell St. Peter at the Golden Gate
That you hate to make him wait,
But you gotta have another cigarette.

Ol' Tex made a lot of money off that song until he died of cancer.

When I joined the Navy, smoking was manly. The motto was "OK men, smoke 'em if you got 'em." We were given a couple of packs of cigarettes plus a cigar for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. Tobacco companies gave cases of cigarettes to military hospitals. Even after the big war we could sometimes find tax free fags for a nickel a pack.

Heroes smoked. Both heavyweight champions Joe Louis and a minor movie actor named Ronald Reagan told us how great Chesterfields were. Bogie would dangle one from his lips as he worked his charm on Lauren. A great scene in old movies was when the heroine would light two and put one in the hero's mouth. Bertha used to do that for me when I was driving. It was one of several interesting things we did in a car before we got married.

In the 1950s, Mickey Mantle became one of baseball's great success stories and showed that his versatility wasn't limited to switch hitting. He endorsed Camels even though he didn't smoke. Then, when some zealous do-gooder pointed that out, the Mick learned to do what I'd learned as a pre-teener. He dutifully puffed away in public, just to preserve his integrity. Even later when the medical professionals -- except those hired by tobacco companies -- came out with the bad news about smoking and lung cancer, the superstar earned a pretty penny by endorsing Nicoban, a product to help kick the habit.

One of California's first attempts to deglamorize smoking was Proposition 5 in 1978. It merely required restaurants, but not bars, to set aside separate sections for smokers and non smokers. Later propositions or statutes were more draconian. This last one takes the cake, but my opposition to it will be a bit muted. A few years ago three of my friends, all smokers, died of lung cancer within half a year.

But meanwhile, smokers puff away if ya got 'em. I know the habit is still there even though the glamour is gone. You have an impelling history to uphold, even if you have to cross a state line to do it.

Keith Taylor is program chair for the San Diego Association for Rational Inquiry. He can be reached at

Or, send a letter to the editor.


Al Qaeda targets: planes, trains & hotels....

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

Al Qaeda Recordings: Semantic Noise and Signals
By Fred Burton

Al Qaeda has released a record number of messages this year through its as-Sahab media arm, threatening attacks in a variety of places. In fact, it would appear that al Qaeda leaders have threatened jihadist operations in more places than the organization -- even through its regional affiliates and grassroots sympathizers -- may be capable of hitting. Viewed in proper perspective, meaning neither ignored by blase analysts nor magnified by the media or public, these messages can convey many important signals about the state of al Qaeda today.

The volume trends alone are interesting; in fact, we find them to be at least as significant as the content of the messages from Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, if not in some cases more so. The number of messages issued by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have reached record levels in 2006, and the total number of videos produced by as-Sahab also has increased.

These volumes likely stem at least in part from changes in the way al Qaeda chooses to broadcast its statements to the world. Whereas it once took the considerable risks of smuggling tapes to commercial broadcasters such as Al Jazeera, it now is uploading its own statements directly to the Web. These methods give the organization greater control over when -- and how much of -- its statements reach the public.

Obviously, the content of the messages is important, and is generally broadcast around the world in fairly short order by mainstream news organizations. So far this year, bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have threatened the "Crusader-Zionist" alliance many times, and on one occasion added India to the mix by threatening strikes against those perpetrating the "Crusader-Zionist-Hindu" conspiracy against Muslims.

The public statements also have touched on a number of different locales -- from bin Laden's Jan. 19 recording that threatened attacks in the United States to calls to "establish jihad" in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan and Egypt. Al Qaeda leaders also have called for the overthrow of several Muslim leaders, including Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

However, despite this flood of rhetoric, the number of attacks carried out by al Qaeda or its affiliates has actually fallen on a year-by-year comparison. By this time in 2005, there had been suicide bombings in Doha, Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh and London, a second, unsuccessful attack in London and a rocket attack in Aqaba, Jordan. To date in 2006, there has been a strike against the Abqaiq oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia (February), a car bomb attack near the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi (March), and the tourist resort bombings in the Sinai (April).

There does not appear to be a solid correlation between the number of statements released and actions -- even when thwarted attacks, such as the recently uncovered airliner plot in London, are accounted for. It also is worth noting that all of these listed strikes and attempts involved al Qaeda's regional affiliates or grassroots sympathizers, rather than "all-star teams" such as the one deployed for the 9/11 attacks.

Tellingly, it is not only the quantity of messages being produced by as-Sahab that is rising, but the quality as well. As-Sahab is using professional-grade gear and studio-quality lighting for its productions. Even in-the-field footage captured in places like Afghanistan and Egypt displays a professional level of post-production editing, crisp graphics and, quite often, added subtitles in a second language. As any comparison to popular clips at sites like YouTube or MySpace will show, as-Sahab videos are not being produced by an amateur at home using a personal computer and a cheap camcorder.

Reading the Numbers

Both the numbers and the quality of the recordings being issued by al Qaeda's apex leadership this year can be read as an indication of a growing comfort level. The atmosphere is very different now than, for example, in 2002, when the organization's sanctuary in Afghanistan had been newly disrupted and key figures were scattered, seeking new places of safety. At this point, al Qaeda's leaders appear to feel safe and believe that issuing greater volumes of recordings will not compromise their hiding places.

The comfort level seems most apparent with al-Zawahiri, who issues more statements than does bin Laden and usually appears on video. Bin Laden has not been seen on video since late October 2004 (though as-Sahab often places his audio recordings into a video format, usually alongside a still photo of the speaker). Many have speculated that his reluctance to appear on film could be related to declining health; however, it also is possible that he is in a more remote location than al-Zawahiri, where the appearance of a camera or video crew might bring unwanted attention. Or perhaps both factors are at work.

Either way, there have been numerous indications over time that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri are in separate locations -- something that would be dictated by prudent operational security, if nothing else.

There are other notable differences between the messages of bin Laden and those of al-Zawahiri, including time lags between dates of recording and release. Three weeks generally appear to elapse between the recording and distribution of bin Laden's audio tapes, whereas al-Zawahiri's videos take only two. This too indicates that bin Laden is further removed from society than is al-Zawahiri, or that the path taken from bin Laden to as-Sahab is more convoluted for security reasons. Or, again, perhaps a combination of both.

Extending this line of thinking, common-sense security measures would dictate not only separation between bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, but also between the two men and as-Sahab's production facility. Al-Zawahiri seems to be able to link up with the as-Sahab video crews more readily than bin Laden -- and as-Sahab appears to be based in a location where technicians have access to a professional video studio. Even if it is hidden in a large home or warehouse, it still would require a reliable power supply and supplies of other staples -- such as replacement bulbs for studio lights, modern materials for the stylish sets featured in videos and access to a photo studio capable of producing the very large, professional-looking images like those in the backdrop of al-Zawahiri's July 27 video.

The quality of the video messages speaks to something else as well. When posted to the Internet, the files are very large -- so clearly, whoever is doing so has a high-speed Internet connection. The general principle is that the longer an upload takes, the greater the exposure of, and risk to, the person doing the uploading. Also, because these files often are encoded in a number of formats, with varying file sizes and quality, as-Sahab technicians clearly are uploading numerous files with each video release. The risks incurred increase every time they do so.

The obvious conclusion is that al Qaeda not only has high-speed Internet connections, but competent, clandestine IT support as well. Given the large number of statements released this year, it is clear that as-Sahab personnel are confident in the security of their channels -- and, indeed, there has been no major breach of their distribution system since the possible compromise in January at Damadola.

Finding the Balance

When al Qaeda first began publicly declaring its intentions of waging war against the United States, most Americans were unaware of the statements -- and those who were tended to snicker at the hubris. Very few expected any actual attempts by bin Laden or his companions to fulfill the threat. That logic began to reverse as major operations -- such as the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa, the millennium bomb plot and the USS Cole strike -- were enacted, and the 9/11 attacks cemented al Qaeda's image as a serious adversary. Now, most people assume that when al Qaeda makes a threat, there will be sincere attempts to carry it out.

In fact, the psychological impact of the 9/11 attacks led to another problem, exactly the opposite of the first: system overload. Shortly after 9/11, there were floods of erroneous reports that messages from bin Laden and other leaders contained secret symbols and attack signals, or even hidden steganographic files -- data that can be inserted into jpeg images or video files. Such clandestine communication methods -- using hidden signals in mass media -- were useful during the World War and Cold War eras, but in the age of the Internet and the "clone phone," these techniques not only are unnecessary, but carry far more risk than prudence on al Qaeda's part would allow.

What, then, is to be made of all these messages from al Qaeda leaders? As usual, the truth lies somewhere between the extremes: The messages are neither empty rhetoric nor secret attack instructions. Al Qaeda's recordings genuinely convey the group's general intent and frequently serve as a window into the leadership's mindset and philosophy. It is possible to determine what the leaders believe is important and where they are focusing their attention. However, the messages rarely contain precise threats against specific targets. They are generalities, crafted with two audiences -- al Qaeda's chosen enemies and potential allies -- in mind.

Through this lens, and with the aid of hindsight, it is easy to see a correlation between al-Zawahiri's July 27 video and the thwarted London plot. The general message that al Qaeda wanted to stage an attack to eclipse 9/11 -- even twice as large -- is not difficult to decipher. The more subtle message that al Qaeda remains fixated on aircraft was also there. However, there was nothing in the al-Zawahiri message that would have led to the identification or compromise of the U.K. planes operation. It was a general message, not a specific one. Given the volume of messages this year, it is clear that al Qaeda generally remains interested in operating through regional affiliates and grassroots sympathizers, and in encouraging strikes in the regions it has named.

However, with a few exceptions (such as oil infrastructure in the Middle East), the leadership has not named specific targets. Therefore, we must assume that within these geographic areas, al Qaeda will continue to adhere to its well-established target set: planes, trains and hotels. From al Qaeda's perspective, this is a tremendously effective strategy. Recognizing that governments cannot protect everything -- or even the limited target set that the leadership has named publicly -- there always will be soft targets available. And if governments or the private sector were to attempt to protect all imaginable targets within their spheres, the principle of economic warfare still applies.

Al Qaeda long has aspired to cripple Western powers -- particularly the United States -- economically, since it is from financial wealth that so many other forms of strength are derived.

Send questions or comments on this article to


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Real snakes in real theater during film...

Somebody thought they were really being cute when they entered a theater showing "Snakes On A Plane"....


A quite different selection of books...

From Publishers Lunch Weekly:


Lucie Whitehouse's psychological novel about a group of friends whoserelationships intensify during weekends at a large country house with apast, pitched as The Big Chill meets A Secret History, to Susanna Porterat Ballantine; UK rights to Bloomsbury; and German rights to Fischer, byKathy Anderson at Anderson Grinberg Literary


Author of NYT bestseller Carved in Bone, Jefferson Bass's (the writing duo of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass) two new books in The Body Farm Series, again to Sarah Durand at William Morrow, by Giles Anderson at the Anderson Literary Agency (NA)


Neil Smith's BANG CRUNCH, a humorous story collection, to Lexy Bloom at Vintage, by Ron Eckel at Knopf Canada (US).


Marc Jean and Christopher Carlson's PUDDLEJUMPER, in which an orphan named after the famous Chicago Cub meets his destiny when he spends the summer at a farm that was the site of a famous unsolved mystery, to Alessandra Balzer at Hyperion Children's, by Merrilee Heifetz at Writers House (NA).


Barbara Ransby's MRS. PAUL ROBESON, abou the wife of singer and stage performer Paul Robeson, exploring the woman who made her mark as a writer, activist, and scholar, forging relationships with important figures from Nehru, Khrushchev, and Emma Goldman, to Virginia Woolf and W.E.B. DuBois, to Chris Rogers at Yale University Press, by Jill Marsal at Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.


Author of THE COURTIER AND THE HERETIC, Matthew Stewart's THE MANAGEMENT MYTH, developed from his Atlantic Monthly article of the same name, and which draws on his strange experiences in seven years as a management consultant to tell the larger story of how the ideas of management have transformed American life and culture, again to Alane Mason at Norton, by Andrew Stuart at The Stuart Agency (world).


Karolina Lanckoronska's MICHELANGELO IN RAVENSBRUCK: One Woman's War, the memoir of Countess Lanckoronska, wealthy landowner and professor of art history, who joined the resistance when the Soviet army marched into Poland, was arrested, sentenced to death, and held in Ravensbruck concentration camp, to Merloyd Lawrence at Merloyd Lawrence Books, by Random UK (US).


PHILADELPHIA LAWYER: A Decade of Cheating, Stealing, & Screwing in the Circus of Modern Law, based on the author's anonymous website,, in which he posts brutally honest stories about his life and career that expose the legal profession's "absurd insistence that lawyers are agents of truth," to Matt Harper at Regan Books, in a very nice deal, by Byrd Leavell at Waxman Literary Agency. (NA)


Mark Johnson's WASTED, documenting the author's descent into addiction and criminality - which he not only survived, but went on to win the Prince's Trust Young Achiever of the Year 2005, and now helps other recovering addicts - a redemptive tale of a life reprieved, to Ursula Mackenzie at Sphere, by Mark Lucas at Lucas Alexander Whitley (World).


Iranian planning?....

From Strategic Forecasting, Inc:

The Nuclear Deadlines and a Strengthening Iran
By Kamran Bokhari

For weeks now, Aug. 22 has been marked as a red-letter day: the day Iran would formally respond to the incentives offered by world powers in exchange for a halt to its nuclear program. Given all the other things that have been occurring in the region -- especially the psychological impact that Hezbollah's successful resistance to Israeli forces has had -- there was a good deal of speculation (and in some quarters, trepidation) about what the day would bring.

On the extremes, there were those among our readers who suggested Iran would launch a nuclear strike against Israel; others spoke of the potential for a direct U.S. military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. We have not been among those predicting apocalyptic action. It is our view that, despite the presence of some extremists in both the American and Iranian camps, the nations and governments as a whole are rational actors that (rhetoric notwithstanding) will not take actions that threaten their own core interests or survival. In short, actions are governed by very real and practical limitations, regardless of what some may think about Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's mental state or George W. Bush's abilities as a leader.

That said, at least a little craziness surrounding the calendar date was to be expected. And the Iranians made sure to put on a good show.

The day began with reports that Iranian security forces had assaulted and briefly occupied an oil rig operated by Romania's Grup Servicii Petroliere (GSP) in Iran's territorial waters. The incident (which Iran described as a police action that disrupted a robbery attempt) lasted only a few hours but sent a clear signal that Iran is prepared to escalate matters if Washington moves toward punitive sanctions over the nuclear issue.

Shortly afterward, Tehran issued its formal response to the incentives package -- though details, at this writing, remain secret. Leaks likely will emerge in the coming hours or by evening in the United States. If our thinking is correct, Iran has not yielded to demands that it cease uranium enrichment (as Tehran steadfastly has said that it won't), but instead will have issued a response that plays to and widens political divisions among the five permanent U.N. Security Council (P-5) members and Germany.

The complexity of the response will demand considerable deliberation and debate within the P-5+Germany -- inviting infighting and delaying any meaningful action, such as a vote for sanctions against Iran. At this point, it appears that U.N. Security Council resolutions and diplomacy may be reaching the limits of their usefulness.

Events of the coming days will warrant attention, certainly, but the underlying reality is this: The Iranians, correctly or otherwise, perceive that their moment in history has arrived. With the nuclear issue, through Hezbollah, and to some extent in Iraq, they are moving to secure their interests and extend influence -- seeing before them the opportunity to establish Persian, Shiite Iran as a hegemon in the Middle East and a power within the Muslim and wider worlds.

And for the United States, like its Western allies, there are few meaningful options left to block it.

The Diplomatic Backdrop

To fully understand this, it's useful to review the recent buildup over the nuclear issue -- and to note that the 34-day Israel-Hezbollah war erupted precisely in the middle of that escalation. On June 1, the P-5+Germany agreed to a package of incentives and penalties designed to force Iran to give up uranium enrichment. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy adviser, delivered the terms to Tehran, and the White House urged Iran to study them thoroughly before issuing a formal response. No firm deadline was set, but the United States and its European allies indicated that one would be expected within a matter of weeks. Details of the incentives were kept secret by both sides until July 13.

The terms include greater investments in water-power reactors, provisions for Iran to join the World Trade Organization, and the possibility that U.S. and European restrictions on purchases of civilian aircraft and telecommunications equipment from Iran will be lifted if Iran suspends uranium enrichment. The package also lists a "catalog of sanctions" that countries might enact if Iran refuses to halt enrichment. It was made obvious during this time that the P-5+Germany is less than united over the Iranian nuclear issue; Russia and China retained the right to opt out of U.N. sanctions for Iran, even if enrichment were to continue. In short, Russia and China reportedly could refuse to adopt sanctions of their own, but they would not block attempts by other U.N. members to sanction Iran.

Tehran several times rebuffed pressures to issue its response to the package, saying officials needed time to study the proposal. On June 29, the G-8 foreign ministers said they expected Iran's response to come on July 5, at a meeting between Solana and Iranian national security chief Ali Larijani. At that point, the Iranians made it clear that no response would come before mid-August. Finally, on July 21 (several days after the Israel-Hezbollah conflict had begun), they set the Aug. 22 date in stone. Throughout all of this, Tehran has steadfastly stated that it will not suspend enrichment.

Thus, in the midst of the Israeli-Hezbollah war, the U.N. Security Council passed legally binding Resolution 1696, setting Aug. 31 as the deadline for uranium enrichment to cease. There has been no meaningful change in the Iranian stance since the resolution was passed. Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, on Aug. 16, did say Tehran was willing to negotiate about enrichment suspension, so long as Iran's right to pursue enrichment in the future remained unquestioned and world powers ceased to question Tehran's intentions for its nuclear program. Significantly, Mottaki called, on the same day, for Western states to re-evaluate their relations with Muslim countries in light of the emerging reality in the Middle East -- clearly referencing the outcome of the Israel-Hezbollah war.

A New Regional Paradigm?

The outcome of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah has given Iran the opportunity to strengthen the influence it wields in the Levant, while also bolstering perceptions that any attempts to solve the nuclear issue militarily could be very costly. The Israelis' mismanagement of the war effort worked to the advantage of the Iranians, who are intimating to other Muslim states that Israel not only is not an invincible military power, but now is a power in decline.

At a higher level, the war also has divided Arab states into two camps -- pro- and anti-Hezbollah -- and, at the same time, allowed Iran, through its sponsorship of Hezbollah, to project itself as the leader of all Muslim groups in the struggle against Israel. Given the psychological impacts that Hezbollah's successful resistance brings throughout the region, it is little surprise that Iran is surging forward with new, and probably excessive, confidence.

From Tehran's standpoint, this is the perfect moment to press its advantage and establish itself as a regional hegemon and global player. Events of the last few days should be viewed very much in this light.

For instance, during the weekend, a new round of Iranian military exercises -- the second this summer -- commenced, unveiling the country's new defense doctrine. The first stage of the war games -- code-named "Zarbat Zolfaghar," or "The Blow of Zolfaghar" (a reference to the double-pointed scimitar of Imam Ali) occurred in Sistan-Baluchistan, a province in the southeast, and will continue in 15 other provinces in the country over the next five weeks.

During the battle drills, the military test-fired 10 surface-to-surface Saegheh missiles, which have a range of 50-150 miles.Iran also unveiled what it calls a new "air mine system," which officials claimed could be used from low and high altitudes, and in general has upgraded its entire air defense system. These are attempts to mitigate Iran's vulnerability, since it lacks an air force. In fact, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hassan Dadras, commander of Iranian ground forces, said on Saturday that no air force in the region would be capable of confronting the Iranian army. This seems to have excluded the United States, a non-regional power.

Along with that, the army's commander-in-chief, Maj. Gen. Ataollah Salehi, made the interesting statement that the Iranian military is prepared to meet any threat from Israel, which he described as an "insane enemy." And if the situation wasn't highly charged enough, there was an apparently deliberate escalation of a commercial dispute involving Romania's GSP. This seemed designed to generate jitters in the oil markets without directly harming Iranian interests.

From all appearances, the Iranians and their Shiite allies in the region are quite confident that this is their moment. We do not expect this to lead to any of the more extreme outcomes that have been speculated -- distances, for instance, argue against a direct strike by Iran against Israel -- but the political and military dynamics of the region certainly are shifting.

The Iraq Angle

As a result, the situation in Iraq must be considered carefully. As the Israel-Hezbollah conflict drew to a close, U.S.-Iranian exchanges concerning Iraq began to take on a more confrontational tone. Larijani, for example, on Aug. 7 accused Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, of meeting with terrorist groups there and encouraging attacks against Iranian and Shiite targets. Khalilzad's retorts over the following days were rather ambiguous, but he essentially accused Iran of using agents to foment sectarian violence in Iraq and to stage attacks against U.S.-led forces -- in retaliation, he suggested, for Israeli strikes in Lebanon.

These statements were clarified a bit on Aug. 14: Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said there "is nothing that we definitively have found to say that there are any Iranians operating within the country of Iraq," though the Americans believe that "some Shia elements have been in Iran receiving training." Caldwell said it is not clear how much the government of Iran knows about or endorses such activity.

Ultimately, the American fear appears to be that Iran, if backed into a corner, would use the Shiite militias in Iraq against the United States. To an extent, this is a reasonable fear, but there also are reasons why Iran would not be willing to push things beyond the level of "managed chaos." For one thing, it is not in Iran's interest for Iraq to descend into full civil war, since uncontrolled sectarian violence could lead to repercussions on the Iranian side of the border. In fact, the political and financial investments that Iran has been making in Iraq would indicate that Tehran wants to make sure the situation, though violent, does not spin utterly out of control.

The Iranians have realized that they will not be able to exert any more influence over Baghdad than they can now, through the Shiite-dominated government -- so the goal is to make sure that Tehran secures the gains it has made in Iraq. Moreover, Iran is well aware of the delicate ethnic and political balance that holds the government in Baghdad together and keeps the intra-Shiite rivalries within acceptable parameters.

If our assumption holds -- that Iran will escape any punitive consequences for its actions on the nuclear front -- this fear of uncontrolled chaos in Iraq could be one of the few points of leverage left for the United States. It is a weak card in what is certainly a bad hand for Washington, and poses great risks for the Bush administration itself. However, if the Americans are incapable of achieving their own goals in Iraq or in the nuclear issue, the next best option would be to ensure, through their own political maneuverings with the Sunnis, that the Iranians will not be able to achieve their goals either.

Latest Moves, Next Moves

As we issue this report, developments in the last 24 hours have been these:

Solana and Larijani spoke by phone on Aug. 21, saying they were open to "further contacts" about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The deputy director of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization said "suspension of uranium enrichment has now turned practically impossible."

Foreign Ministry officials said Tehran's response to the incentives package would be "multi-dimensional" and hopefully lead to a comprehensive negotiated settlement.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said Tehran will continue its pursuit of nuclear technology.

Tehran barred U.N. nuclear inspectors from an underground nuclear facility at Natanz, and the chairman of the parliament's National Security and Foreign Policy Commission said a bill is being drafted that would require inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency to cease immediately if sanctions are placed on Iran.

The Iranians delivered their point-by-point counteroffer to the P-5+Germany, saying they were offering a fresh approach and are ready for "serious negotiations," beginning Aug. 23.

Clearly, the Iranians have spent the past several weeks preparing not only the terms of their counteroffer, but also the international atmosphere in which those terms would be presented. Their goal has been to make sufficient positive gestures that not only Russia and China, but perhaps European powers as well, might be loathe to side with the United States over possible sanctions. At the same time, they have been sufficiently bellicose to ensure the world knows there will be international repercussions if things don't go their way.

The United States itself lacks political leverage over Iran, and the diplomatic process -- as it currently stands -- will not bring about the results Washington seeks. Therefore, the Bush administration's best option is to ensure that even if Tehran wins the current diplomatic battle, it will not win the entire war over uranium enrichment. We would expect Washington to argue that since there is no way to guarantee the Iranians will honor any deal they make on the nuclear issue, no deals can be made.

At most, the United States will open a new process to discuss the process of slapping eventual sanctions on Iran. Moreover, the pick-and-choose menu that was included in the June incentives package basically ensures that no meaningful sanctions will be enacted, even if U.N. Security Council members should eventually choose to go that route. All of the sound and fury over the incentives package will, in the end, signify next to nothing. And Iran is well aware of this.

So long as a military option is not on the table for the U.N. Security Council members -- and at this point, it is not -- it appears that Iran will emerge unscathed from this contest. This should not be taken to mean that Iran will be on the fast track for acquiring nuclear weapons, since that is a function of technology rather than politics. But it does mean that Iran is growing stronger within a region where, on all sides, fundamental interests and assumptions are now being reassessed.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Let US see those ballots...

From Raw Story:

Poll shows 92% of Americans want right to see ballots counted
Published: Monday August 21, 2006
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A new Zogby poll to be released on Tuesday will reveal that 92% of Americans, spanning every party and democraphic group, believe that the public has the right to view and verify the counting of votes, RAW STORY has learned.

When offered a choice between "Citizens have the right to view and obtain information about how election officials count votes" or "Citizens do not have the right to view and obtain information about how elections officials count votes," 92% of those polled agreed with the first statement. Only 6% agreed with the second, while 2% were unsure.

The issue of transparency has become particularly important due to the use of electronic voting systems, most of which employ secret, proprietary code and do not allow public inspection.
For example, after a recent primary in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, it was found that 15% of paper ballot records did not match the Diebold touch-screen electronic counts. CNN correspondent Kitty Pilgrim called that election "a debacle."

Although it is possible to install equipment that enables the checking of electronic vote counts against paper records in case of a disputed election, many locations have not purchased such equipment and even choose to keep their own security procedures a secret. This sort of "security by obscurity" is widely considered a formula for inside tampering.

Soon after Tuesday's release of the full results of the Zogby poll, the National Election Data Archive will issue a paper titled "The Election Integrity Audit," which offers a new method of hand counting samples of ballots to reveal any corruption in the electronic count.

The paper will include a computer algorithm and spreadsheet that will calculate the percentage of ballots that have to be audited in any particular election to detect possible corruption. NEDA hopes that this algorithm will be adopted as a standard for future election audits.

The press release is available at:

Utah Counts Votes

Election Archive