Wednesday, October 31, 2007

POLITICS - Attention GOP, Example of the "Free Enterprise" You Worship

The GOP worships "free enterprise" aka no or little government regulation. The following article could be taken as an example.

"Chinese Chemicals Flow Unchecked to World Drug Market" by Walt Bogdanich, Jake Hooker & Andrew W. Lehren, New York Times


MILAN — In January, Honor International Pharmtech was accused of shipping counterfeit drugs into the United States. Even so, the Chinese chemical company — whose motto is “Thinking Much of Honor” — was openly marketing its products in October to thousands of buyers here at the world’s biggest trade show for pharmaceutical ingredients.

Other Chinese chemical companies made the journey to the annual show as well, including one manufacturer recently accused by American authorities of supplying steroids to illegal underground labs and another whose representative was arrested at the 2006 trade show for patent violations. Also attending were two exporters owned by China’s government that had sold poison mislabeled as a drug ingredient, which killed nearly 200 people and injured countless others in Haiti and in Panama.

Yet another chemical company, Orient Pacific International, reserved an exhibition booth in Milan, but its owner, Kevin Xu, could not attend. He was in a Houston jail on charges of selling counterfeit medicine for schizophrenia, prostate cancer, blood clots and Alzheimer’s disease, among other maladies.

While these companies hardly represent all of the nearly 500 Chinese exhibitors, more than from any other country, they do point to a deeper problem: Pharmaceutical ingredients exported from China are often made by chemical companies that are neither certified nor inspected by Chinese drug regulators, The New York Times has found.

Because the chemical companies are not required to meet even minimal drug-manufacturing standards, there is little to stop them from exporting unapproved, adulterated or counterfeit ingredients. The substandard formulations made from those ingredients often end up in pharmacies in developing countries and for sale on the Internet, where more Americans are turning for cheap medicine.

In Milan, The Times identified at least 82 Chinese chemical companies that said they made and exported pharmaceutical ingredients — yet not one was certified by the State Food and Drug Administration in China, records show. Nonetheless, the companies were negotiating deals at the pharmaceutical show, where suppliers wooed customers with live music, wine and vibrating chairs.

One of them was the Wuxi Hexia Chemical Company. When The Times showed Yan Jiangying, a top Chinese drug regulator, a list of 186 products being advertised by the company, including active pharmaceutical ingredients and finished drugs, Ms. Yan said, “This is definitely against the law.”

Yet in China, chemical manufacturers that sell drug ingredients fall into a regulatory hole. Pharmaceutical companies are regulated by the food and drug agency. Chemical companies that make products as varied as fertilizer and industrial solvents are overseen by other agencies. The problem arises when chemical companies cross over into drug ingredients. “We have never investigated a chemical company,” said Ms. Yan, deputy director of policy and regulation at the State Food and Drug Administration. “We don’t have jurisdiction.”

Well, according to the GOP belief system any government regulation of these fine outstanding companies interferes with "free enterprise." The companies and the market should be allowed go regulate themselves.

OPPS, I forget, these are Chinese companies. Government non-interference only applies to "fine outstanding" American companies who ALWAYS operate in the public good.... like tobacco.

POLITICS - We ARE in Control, Says Bush Administration

"U.S. Military Will Supervise Iraq Security Firms" by John M. Broder & David Johnston, New York Times

All State Department security convoys in Iraq will now fall under military control, the latest step taken by government officials to bring Blackwater Worldwide and other armed contractors under tighter supervision.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates agreed to the measure at a lunch on Tuesday after weeks of tension between their departments over coordination of thousands of gun-carrying contractors operating in the chaos of Iraq.

Mr. Gates appears to have won the bureaucratic tug-of-war, which accelerated after a Sept. 16 shooting in central Baghdad involving guards in a Blackwater convoy who Iraqi investigators say killed 17 Iraqis. Military coordination of contractor convoys will include operations of not only Blackwater, formerly known as Blackwater USA, but also those of dozens of other private firms that guard American diplomats, aid workers and reconstruction crews.

In Iraq, the government approved a draft law to overturn an order imposed by the American occupation authority in 2004 granting the employees of foreign contractors immunity from Iraqi law. Also on Tuesday, the State Department confirmed that some Blackwater employees questioned in connection with the Sept. 16 shooting had been granted a form of immunity in exchange for their statements. However, officials insisted that the immunity was limited and that it did not foreclose the possibility of prosecutions.

At the Pentagon, Geoff Morrell, the chief spokesman, said the military would assert greater control over contractor training, rules for the use of force, employment standards and movements around Iraq.

He said Mr. Gates and military officers in Iraq insisted on the new measures “so they aren’t blindsided by contractors running in and out of their battle space and potentially causing problems.”

Mr. Morrell and his State Department counterpart, Sean McCormack, said that the details of the new arrangement had not been worked out but that the process was on a fast track and that both agencies hoped to have all issues resolved by Thanksgiving.

The top American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus, will have to approve the arrangement, but he is likely to accept new rules that give his officers greater control over the numerous armed entities operating in his theater.

Ms. Rice and Mr. Gates agreed to tighten the rules for the use of force by armed contractors. Although current rules are quite restrictive and allow force to be used only defensively, the standards have not been enforced and Blackwater guards, in particular, earned a reputation for being quick on the trigger.

Mr. Morrell said the new, more stringent rules would be likely to put the Blackwater guards, and perhaps the people they are responsible for protecting, in greater danger.

“We want everybody operating for the sake of the same mission, O.K., which means, as the secretary has talked about before, invariably State Department contractors are going to have to assume greater risk because we have to operate with the overall mission in mind,” Mr. Morrell said. “And that is winning the hearts and minds, the trust and confidence, of the Iraqi people.”

Three law enforcement officials confirmed Tuesday that State Department investigators did take statements from Blackwater employees after offering them immunity, though they had no authority to do so.

Immunity is intended to preserve the constitutional right against self-incrimination while still giving investigators the ability to gather evidence. Witnesses granted immunity have no right to remain silent but nothing they say can be used against them.

Law enforcement officials said the Blackwater employees were given a Garrity warning, named after a Supreme Court case, Garrity v. New Jersey. This form of limited immunity does not bar a criminal prosecution but is seldom granted in a case in which a criminal prosecution is likely. It is almost never granted without the approval of federal prosecutors.

Humm.... Lets see. Mr. Morrell's comments above seem to admit that contractors were NOT supporting the "overall mission" before now. Gee, really? DUH

State Department investigators granting "immunity, though they had no authority to do so." So, our State Department doesn't know the law?! Really?

Oh, yes; the Bush Administration is in full control..... NOT!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

POLITICS - The Long View, Wiretapping

What caught my eye about the below article was the author's name. It's hard not to remember such a name if you are a contemporary.

"The Wiretap This Time" by Studs Terkel, New York Times Opinion

EARLIER this month, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the White House agreed to allow the executive branch to conduct dragnet interceptions of the electronic communications of people in the United States. They also agreed to “immunize” American telephone companies from lawsuits charging that after 9/11 some companies collaborated with the government to violate the Constitution and existing federal law. I am a plaintiff in one of those lawsuits, and I hope Congress thinks carefully before denying me, and millions of other Americans, our day in court.

During my lifetime, there has been a sea change in the way that politically active Americans view their relationship with government. In 1920, during my youth, I recall the Palmer raids in which more than 10,000 people were rounded up, most because they were members of particular labor unions or belonged to groups that advocated change in American domestic or foreign policy. Unrestrained surveillance was used to further the investigations leading to these detentions, and the Bureau of Investigation — the forerunner to the F.B.I. — eventually created a database on the activities of individuals. This activity continued through the Red Scare of the period.

In the 1950s, during the sad period known as the McCarthy era, one’s political beliefs again served as a rationale for government monitoring. Individual corporations and entire industries were coerced by government leaders into informing on individuals and barring their ability to earn a living.

I was among those blacklisted for my political beliefs. My crime? I had signed petitions. Lots of them. I had signed on in opposition to Jim Crow laws and poll taxes and in favor of rent control and pacifism. Because the petitions were thought to be Communist-inspired, I lost my ability to work in television and radio after refusing to say that I had been “duped” into signing my name to these causes.

By the 1960s, the inequities in civil rights and the debate over the Vietnam war spurred social justice movements. The government’s response? More surveillance. In the name of national security, the F.B.I. conducted warrantless wiretaps of political activists, journalists, former White House staff members and even a member of Congress.

Then things changed. In 1975, the hearings led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho revealed the scope of government surveillance of private citizens and lawful organizations. As Americans saw the damage, they reached a consensus that this unrestrained surveillance had a corrosive impact on us all.

In 1978, with broad public support, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which placed national security investigations, including wiretapping, under a system of warrants approved by a special court. The law was not perfect, but as a result of its enactment and a series of subsequent federal laws, a generation of Americans has come to adulthood protected by a legal structure and a social compact making clear that government will not engage in unbridled, dragnet seizure of electronic communications.

The Bush administration, however, tore apart that carefully devised legal structure and social compact. To make matters worse, after its intrusive programs were exposed, the White House and the Senate Intelligence Committee proposed a bill that legitimized blanket wiretapping without individual warrants. The legislation directly conflicts with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, requiring the government to obtain a warrant before reading the e-mail messages or listening to the telephone calls of its citizens, and to state with particularity where it intends to search and what it expects to find.

Compounding these wrongs, Congress is moving in a haphazard fashion to provide a “get out of jail free card” to the telephone companies that violated the rights of their subscribers. Some in Congress argue that this law-breaking is forgivable because it was done to help the government in a time of crisis. But it’s impossible for Congress to know the motivations of these companies or to know how the government will use the private information it received from them.

And it is not as though the telecommunications companies did not know that their actions were illegal. Judge Vaughn Walker of federal district court in San Francisco, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, noted that in an opinion in one of the immunity provision lawsuits the “very action in question has previously been held unlawful.”

I have observed and written about American life for some time. In truth, nothing much surprises me anymore. But I always feel uplifted by this: Given the facts and an opportunity to act, the body politic generally does the right thing. By revealing the truth in a public forum, the American people will have the facts to play their historic, heroic role in putting our nation back on the path toward freedom. That is why we deserve our day in court.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

POLITICS - Future of Democracy in America Rests on Avoidance of Fascism

The following is a very long article but is too important not to quote in full.

"Is Republicanism Fascist?" by David Briceno, YubaNet Regional Op-Ed

America's social and political climate today bears an uncanny resemblance to the F-word -- fascism. No, not the goose-step marching, swastika-displaying, "Heil Hitler" kind of fascism. Its signs are more imperceptible than that. It is unmistakably growing more prevalent in American government and society as a whole today. And currently, the U.S. is in the early stages of full-fledged fascism and certain of its characteristics prove the veracity of this claim.

For one thing, there has been, and is, a growing anti-liberal bias in America. Like republicanism, fascism attacks or condemns liberals. And both ideologies reject or abhor the ideology of liberalism, faulting it with all or most of the social, political and economic ills of the nation. It's through the vilification of liberalism and its adherents that republicanism and fascism use their ideological enemies as scapegoats not only to divert attention away from myriad, seemingly unsolvable social problems, but to also channel people's feelings of frustration, insecurity and resentment in their lives in living in modern society into hatred against liberals and their ideology. It is important to note that the Nazis gained power in Germany by mostly attacking liberalism, faulting it with the dismal state of economic affairs present there at the time, thus unifying most of the population against the evils of liberalism. Aggression then escalated into coercion and violence against all internal and external "enemies" of the state, such as the Jews, who were singled out and exterminated.

Secondly, there's an over concern with national security today in America, which is nothing new, but carried to its extreme can be dangerous to democratic freedoms, too. In fascist republics, leaders always used national security to justify control or oppression of the masses. Today, thanks to mass media, republicanism is able to spread near and far through its ideological spokesmen, which include (but are not limited to) Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage. Their brand of propaganda rivals that of Japan's past Tokyo Rose propagandists during WWII as well as the disinformation and lies of Germany's Nazi party. Undoubtedly, fascists of the past would be proud of today's Republican propagandists, of how advanced and sophisticated their spin is. (Incidentally, a few years ago, there were bumper stickers on Republicans' cars that stated, "Rush is Right." By the same token, during the fascist regime in Italy (1922-1945), Mussolini's picture was hung in every classroom in the country with the caption, "Mussolini is always right.")

The danger to democratic freedoms doesn't so much come from foreign powers, but comes from a republicanism which demonizes liberals and their ideas. It is the intolerance which characterizes both republicanism and fascism (although in differing degrees) that is inimical to freedom. Freedom of ideas that attack Nazi republicanism is Verboten, according to republicanism's national security mentality. For them, liberalism in the media should be dealt with immediately and attacked by these republicanism‘s media "spokesmen," since dangerous liberal ideas are deemed subversive to "national security," according to the current tenet of republicanism. To repeat again, it is Nazi republicanism that is a grave danger to the democratic freedoms that Americans enjoy today and not liberalism.

Third of all, both fascism and republicanism appeal to certain types of people more than others. This is obvious. What many Americans fail to realize is that Hitler didn't just appear out of nowhere and start ruling Germany immediately. When he joined the Nazi party in 1919, he was Member No. 7. Yet, within 14 years Nazism became the greatest mass movement in German history. Fascism gained widespread German support because people don't just desire material goods and the basic necessities of life; they also desire a sense of belonging. On the whole, people desire the sense of being needed, of being wanted and of being useful. It's the way we are as human beings. What both republicanism and fascism do is give many people a strong sense of belonging and gives them a sense of purpose in their lost souls. Being indoctrinated by insidious republicanism largely satisfies these human needs. Therefore, to gain members, all Nazi republicanism has to do is convince alienated people that they are a member of a great party, a superior race, part of an elect few, or a great nation. Without a doubt, to convince most of the populace that a certain cause, like a war, is necessary against a certain enemy channels societal frustration into mindless patriotism or unquestioning nationalism, and is thus able to commit horrendous atrocities against certain domestic groups legitimately. Furthermore, by building up an individual's self-respect, self-esteem or self-worth, fascism and its corollary republicanism is, thus, able to grow stronger in rank and file, which can culminate into a mass movement -- a strong enough populism which can successfully take over a government as the Nazis did in 1933 in Germany; the fascists in Italy did in 1922; as Japanese fascists did in the 1930s; and as the Republicans did in 2001,when Bush ascended to the presidency, thereby controlling all three branches of the U.S government. And the result of such governmental monopoly of republican power in America is not only the attempt to hush critics by resorting to all means of coercion -- from verbal threats and veto powers and gradually to torture and outright murder -- but also to sanction a national security apparatus that can operate in secret without oversight and beyond any constraints in the name of protecting the security of the nation from all enemies domestic and foreign even if its actions may be severely abusive, immoral and unconstitutional.

The fourth point is that republicanism and fascism both hold the view that the people are unable to rule themselves; that they need rulers to "guide" them; and that a republic is the ideal state in which government can totally control the "mob" best. After all, people don't rule; they can't rule; someone has to rule them in a republic. In fact, Republicans maintain Americans live in a republic and not a de facto democracy. So, both fascism and republicanism are both anti-democratic in that "mob rule" is anathema to order and stability along with the widely-held view that "the masses are asses." It may come as no surprise to learn that fascism means total allegiance to the state; that the state is supreme in all matters; and that republicanism maintains that the state reigns supreme too.

Through education by the media and family, children are generally socialized into the dominant political culture. It's natural. While this is common practice here in America, Republicanism takes it one step further by seeking to control all phases of the lives of people, whether political or not.. Republicanism espouses family and its values like fascism. Women in regimes are supposed to only be concerned with Kinder, Kuche, Kirche (children, kitchen, church) under fascism and staunch republicanism, which reduces the value of women to the status of second-class citizens. Notably, both republicanism and fascism are highly anti-abortion , homophobic and intolerant of all or most unorthodox lifestyles.

Contrary to common knowledge, fascism doesn't thrive in poor developing countries (actually communism and socialism thrive there the best), but it grows best in technologically more advanced countries and especially those that are wealthy. There is a great chance of full-blown fascism occurring here since America is both wealthy and advanced technologically. No one can deny that government is prevalent today and intrusive in more economic, social and personal matters than ever before in U.S. history thanks to technology. But even while statism in America is not as severe as in past fascist countries, still, freedoms are slowly eroding as technology progresses and as more and more people become disenchanted with modern life and lash out at others, such as liberals and their ilk.

And lastly, even though fascism is undemocratic, it needs democracy to gain power. In fact, it was democratic elections that brought the Nazis to power in Germany. People voted for totalitarianism, mostly unknowingly, in March of 1933 when 17 million Germans voted the Nazis into power. As in the case of Germany, fascism can occur here very easily as America moves more and more towards the Right of the political spectrum where fascism also resides. All it takes is someone like a Mussolini of Italy, Juan Peron of Argentina, Hitler and others, to take over a dysfunctional nation and bring militarism into the equation. The result can be economically devastating, as a disproportionate need for military actions zap whatever economic gains occur domestically. As a matter for thought, in fascist countries, the military is an extension of fervent nationalism, which people vicariously identify with to push nationalistic goals, push other countries around and the military is mostly used to aggrandize the leader, whose power and prestige increases as a result. The avid supremacy of the military can pose a danger to democracy as Latin America knows all too well.

When all is said and done, the future of democracy in America rests on the avoidance of fascism.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

IRAQ - More Dissent in the Ranks

"The Real Iraq We Knew" by 12 former Army Captains (list at end), Washington Post, 10/16/2007

Today marks five years since the authorization of military force in Iraq, setting Operation Iraqi Freedom in motion. Five years on, the Iraq war is as undermanned and under-resourced as it was from the start. And, five years on, Iraq is in shambles.

As Army captains who served in Baghdad and beyond, we've seen the corruption and the sectarian division. We understand what it's like to be stretched too thin. And we know when it's time to get out.

What does Iraq look like on the ground? It's certainly far from being a modern, self-sustaining country. Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day.

Iraq's institutional infrastructure, too, is sorely wanting. Even if the Iraqis wanted to work together and accept the national identity foisted upon them in 1920s, the ministries do not have enough trained administrators or technicians to coordinate themselves. At the local level, most communities are still controlled by the same autocratic sheiks that ruled under Saddam. There is no reliable postal system. No effective banking system. No registration system to monitor the population and its needs.

The inability to govern is exacerbated at all levels by widespread corruption. Transparency International ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. And, indeed, many of us witnessed the exploitation of U.S. tax dollars by Iraqi officials and military officers. Sabotage and graft have had a particularly deleterious impact on Iraq's oil industry, which still fails to produce the revenue that Pentagon war planners hoped would pay for Iraq's reconstruction. Yet holding people accountable has proved difficult. The first commissioner of a panel charged with preventing and investigating corruption resigned last month, citing pressure from the government and threats on his life.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with "the surge," we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control, holding them securely and building sustainable institutions. Though temporary reinforcing operations in places like Fallujah, An Najaf, Tal Afar, and now Baghdad may brief well on PowerPoint presentations, in practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map and often strengthen the insurgents' cause by harassing locals to a point of swayed allegiances. Millions of Iraqis correctly recognize these actions for what they are and vote with their feet -- moving within Iraq or leaving the country entirely. Still, our colonels and generals keep holding on to flawed concepts.

U.S. forces, responsible for too many objectives and too much "battle space," are vulnerable targets. The sad inevitability of a protracted draw-down is further escalation of attacks -- on U.S. troops, civilian leaders and advisory teams. They would also no doubt get caught in the crossfire of the imminent Iraqi civil war.

Iraqi security forces would not be able to salvage the situation. Even if all the Iraqi military and police were properly trained, equipped and truly committed, their 346,000 personnel would be too few. As it is, Iraqi soldiers quit at will. The police are effectively controlled by militias. And, again, corruption is debilitating. U.S. tax dollars enrich self-serving generals and support the very elements that will battle each other after we're gone.

This is Operation Iraqi Freedom and the reality we experienced. This is what we tried to communicate up the chain of command. This is either what did not get passed on to our civilian leadership or what our civilian leaders chose to ignore. While our generals pursue a strategy dependent on peace breaking out, the Iraqis prepare for their war -- and our servicemen and women, and their families, continue to suffer.

There is one way we might be able to succeed in Iraq. To continue an operation of this intensity and duration, we would have to abandon our volunteer military for compulsory service. Short of that, our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will not prevent a civil war, and it will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.

America, it has been five years. It's time to make a choice.

  • Jason Blindauer served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005
  • Elizabeth Bostwick served in Salah Ad Din and An Najaf in 2004
  • Jeffrey Bouldin served in Al Anbar, Baghdad and Ninevah in 2006
  • Jason Bugajski served in Diyala in 2004
  • Anton Kemps served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005
  • Kristy (Luken) McCormick served in Ninevah in 2003
  • Luis Carlos Montalván served in Anbar, Baghdad and Nineveh in 2003 and 2005
  • William Murphy served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005
  • Josh Rizzo served in Baghdad in 2006
  • William "Jamie" Ruehl served in Nineveh in 2004
  • Gregg Tharp served in Babil and Baghdad in 2003 and 2005
  • Gary Williams served in Baghdad in 2003

Of course the GOP, and conservative puppet mouth-pieces, are ranting and raving about "phony" soldiers. As it anyone should believe people that have, for the most part, never served.

Monday, October 15, 2007

IRAQ - What Bush Policy Has Done

"Hatred of U.S. drives al-Qaida recruiting" by Robert Windrem & Richard Engel, NBC News

As Americans become desensitized, violence radicalizes ordinary Arabs

Asked if the war in Iraq created a recruiting tool for al-Qaida, making the pool of jihadists deeper, Adm. Scott Redd who heads the National Counterterrorism Center, responded: “In the short term, that is … that is probably true. But the question is — you’ve got to look at this, I believe, in the long-term strategic deal. And that’s — that remains to be seen."

The jihadis don’t see it that way. A group of al-Qaida sympathizers in Zarqa, Jordan — home of the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — told NBC News earlier this year that their pool of recruits has increased dramatically. They showed off a 19-year-old who had agreed to carry out suicide bombings in Iraq or anywhere else.

The would-be bomber, a high school dropout, told us he was inspired to fight because of the images he saw on television of the fighting in Iraq. They are powerful images. But many Americans have become desensitized to all those pictures of screaming men and women, burned-out cars and twisted metal. It’s easy to glance over what’s happening 7,000 miles away, especially as many want to look away. Many in the Middle East, however, can’t ignore — and don’t want to ignore — what is happening to their neighbors, fellow Arabs and Muslims.

In a Saudi rehab center, radicals now eschew the al-Qaida philosophy but admit that it was Iraq that drove many of them to join the movement. Many of the young men — nearly all educated and middle class — were arrested for trafficking Internet videos about Iraq designed specifically to motivate and recruit for al-Qaida.

Turned against the Americans
This weekend, we went to a Baghdad jail, reserved for those who have carried out attacks against U.S. troops. The feeling is the same.

To a man, each prisoner says, it was the American occupation of Iraq that drove him to violence. Many of these people hate al-Qaida but found themselves fighting on the same side.

"An aggressor occupied my country, destroyed it and made millions [of] refugees. It is an honor to fight this," said Hamid Ali, the owner of a construction company, who admits to attacking American troops.

"The U.S. says this war is part of the global war on terrorism," said Saedi Farhan, an engineer who had also attacked U.S. forces. "But people here say that the war has increased fanaticism and brought terrorism to Iraq."

Not all U.S. officials agree with the president’s top counterterrorism advisors, Fran Townsend and Redd. New York police officials certainly don’t. They are on the ground level fighting the threat.

Asked if the war in Iraq made his job harder, New York police commissioner Ray Kelly expressed no doubt whatsoever.

"I think there is no question about it that the war in Iraq has been a catalyst, has brought together people who perhaps otherwise be bent on attracting U.S. interest, not only overseas but over here as well," he said.

Kelly grasped the irony that while 9/11 has often been used to justify the war, he believes the war has made New York less safe.

"That’s the world as it is," Kelly said. "That’s the reality. That’s what we have to deal with. We can’t deal with the world as we wish it would be. That’s, in our judgment, a fact, and it has made our job perhaps more challenging, more difficult, yes."

There's more in the full article

This is what the Bush Administration policy has turned a blind eye to, or worst, does not comprehend.

We, the American citizen, need to understand; it does not matter what we believe our policies toward others are, it only matters on what "they" perceive. The execution of our policies must match what we expect "them" to perceive. In Iraq, the perception is of occupation and murder.

POLITICS - Anti-Science

"Bush and the 'black time for science'" by Dave, Orcinus

We've written infrequently here on the Bush administration's ongoing war against science, but it's always noteworthy when confirmation of the problem (and concern about its effects) comes from people in a much better position to know.

Skip Berger at Crosscut has an excellent piece up citing at length an e-mail he received (in reply to a query) from Ed Lazowska, who was appointed by President Bush as co-chair of the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee, and is now the chair in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington.

  • The years of the [George W.] Bush administration have been a black time for science in this nation. I speak with the experience of having co-chaired the President's Information Technology Advisory Committee for Bush, and having chaired the Defense Department's DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency] Information Science and Technology Study Group during his presidency. Funds for research, the seed corn of our future competitiveness, have decreased. And the balance of those funds has shifted from longer-range topics — the natural role of the federal government — to shorter-range topics. In the Defense Department, excessive classification of research programs, restrictions on the participation of foreign nationals, and other policy shifts have caused university researchers to abandon working with DoD, meaning that many of the nation's best minds are not focused on defense-related problems.

  • Note that DoD funded the research that led to the Internet during the Vietnam war — it is not that we are in a war that is the issue! Presidential scientific advisory committees have been politicized. I have seen this firsthand. The general denigration of science emanating from the White House, and the near complete failure of the President's Science Advisor, Jack Marburger, to speak out, is poisonous. Right here in Seattle, consider the Discovery Institute and its "intelligent design." ("Faith-based science" is not what made this nation the world's leader.) Think about our immigration policy. This nation became the world's leader by welcoming the best and the brightest from all nations, but today we have a devil of a time getting foreign students into UW, or hiring faculty who are foreign nationals; foreign students who are educated here are "sent back where they came from" upon graduation rather than being retained to grow the technological base of our nation.

Short-sighted view of Conservatives.

ECONOMY - Universal Broadband

"The Case For Universal Broadband in America: Now!"

Costs of Failure to Achieve President’s Goal of Universal Broadband by 2007 are “Staggering,” Says New Report

The failure to achieve President Bush’s 2004 goal of universal broadband access to the Internet "in every corner of America by the year 2007" has cost our nation hundreds of billions of dollars in added economic development and over a million newly-created high-paying jobs, according to a report by the nonprofit Center for Creative Voices in Media released today at the Brookings Institution.

The Case for Universal Broadband in America: Now! finds that wide swaths of America have no broadband at all, or only “fraudband” that is so slow, unreliable, expensive and/or consumer-unfriendly that it cannot bring Americans the benefits of universal broadband that President Bush cited back in 2004, including:

  • Hundreds of Billions of Dollars in New Economic Development
  • Over a Million New, High-Paying Jobs
  • Increased Homeland Security and Public Safety
  • Better Health Care at Lower Cost
  • Enhanced Educational Opportunities
  • Greater Citizen Participation in Government and Communities
  • More Access to – and Participation in – Journalism, Culture and Entertainment

"Despite the President’s 2004 call for ‘Full Speed Ahead’ deployment of universal broadband in America by 2007, Washington has moved at ‘No Speed Nowhere,’” said Jonathan Rintels, Executive Director of the Center for Creative Voices in Media. “Since 2004, America has actually fallen in the global rankings in per capita use of broadband technology from 10th to 15th. The economic, social and cultural costs of this failure to deploy broadband to all Americans are staggering."

The report details the overwhelming evidence that fast, affordable and reliable broadband access to the Internet often makes the difference between success and failure, including:

  • Success. Bob Hale, a farmer in rural northeast Oregon, has used his access to high-speed broadband to become the largest red onion supplier to the Subway sandwich chain.
  • Failure. The Longaberger Company, one of the largest privately held companies in America, built its business selling baskets and crafts produced in its home state of Ohio, where it is a major employer and civic booster. But it was forced to locate its new data center in another state because fast, reliable, and affordable broadband did not exist in the northeast Ohio area where the company is headquartered.
  • Success. A regional effort to bring fast, reliable, affordable broadband to rural southwest Virginia has spurred the creation of so many high paying “knowledge-worker” jobs that to avoid a labor shortage, the state has established a “Return to Roots” program to lure back area natives who left before broadband arrived.
  • Success. In Japan, fast broadband enables pathologists to use high-definition video and remote-controlled microscopes to examine tissue samples from patients living in areas without access to major hospitals.
  • Failure. Japan has broadband that is eight to thirty times faster than the average speed in America. Here in the U.S., many innovative and cost-saving Internet-based applications are not available because broadband in so many sections of the country is too slow, costly and/or unreliable.
  • Success – If We Act Now! Researchers project that deployment of fast, reliable and affordable broadband across America could generate $500 billion a year in added economic development, and expand U.S. employment by an estimated 1.2 million new and permanent jobs.

The bottom line is that in 2007, America is not even close to deploying fast, reliable and affordable broadband to all its citizens. Our federal government must undertake a concerted national effort to deploy universal, net-neutral broadband comparable to that which deployed telephone and electric service and built a vast network of superhighways. The economic, social and cultural benefits to all Americans of this investment will vastly outweigh its costs. Our nation will stop falling farther behind our international competitors, secure our leadership in global technology, enhance our homeland security and public safety, and provide all of our citizens with the opportunity to participate in the new, global, networked 21st Century world.

In 2006, leading CEOs and policy innovators launched the Horizon Project to address critical economic and trade policy issues in America. “From our work on Horizon, my colleagues and I are very aware of how America’s deficiency in broadband deployment is costing our economy hundreds of billions of dollars in economic growth and over a million high-quality jobs,” said Leo Hindery, Jr., chair of Horizon. “The Center for Creative Voices in Media has now done a marvelous job of making the case that universal, net-neutral broadband must become an immediate national priority.”

The Center for Creative Voices in Media is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to preserving in America’s media the original, independent, and diverse creative voices that enrich our nation’s culture and safeguard its democracy. Creative Voices’ Board of Advisors includes numerous winners of Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, and other awards for creative excellence, along with respected media scholars.

Food for thought, but there are two hangups:

  1. Greater Citizen Participation in Government and Communities
  2. More Access to – and Participation in – Journalism, Culture and Entertainment

Neither of which are of interest to the GOP, especially the super-Conservatives. Accomplishing these would mean the electorate just may find out how much they lie.

POLITICS - Oink, Oink

"PORKBUSTERS UPDATE: $4.5 million for a boat nobody wanted (Seattle Times)" by Glenn Reynolds

-- but the real scandal isn't the spending, but how it got there:
  • Tucked away on Seattle's Portage Bay, a sleek, 85-foot speedboat sat idle for years — save for an annual jaunt to maintain its engine.

  • The Navy paid $4.5 million to build the boat. But months before the hull ever touched water, the Navy gave the boat to the University of Washington. The school never found a use for it, either.

  • Why would the Navy waste taxpayer dollars on a boat that nobody wanted?

  • Blame it on Sen. Patty Murray and Congressmen Norm Dicks and Brian Baird. All three exercised their political muscle to slip language into a 2002 spending bill to force the Navy to buy the boat from Edmonds shipbuilder Guardian Marine International.

  • Year after year, the Washington lawmakers did favors for the tiny company, inserting four "earmarks" into different bills to force the Navy and Coast Guard to buy boats they didn't ask for — $17.65 million in all. None of the boats was used as Congress intended.

  • The congressional trio say they were helping Guardian Marine because it had a great product. But each has also received generous campaign donations from the company's three executives, its sole employees: $14,277 to Baird, $15,000 to Murray, and $16,750 to Dicks.

It's not really about the pork. It's about the corruption that the pork represents.

POLITICS - The Bush Idea of "Administration"

Oh yes, we now have evidence of just what the Bush definition of "administration" is, everything temporary (aka bypass Senate approval).

"Interim Heads Increasingly Run Federal Agencies" by Philip Sheon, New York Times


For now, the most powerful law enforcement official in the federal government is a 47-year-old lawyer little known outside Washington.

Or inside Washington, for that matter.

He is acting Attorney General Peter D. Keisler, who is running the Justice Department until a new attorney general is confirmed by the Senate to replace Alberto R. Gonzales. Mr. Keisler had been in charge of the department’s civil division.

The No. 2 and No. 3 officials are also acting — Deputy Attorney General Craig S. Morford and Associate Attorney General Gregory G. Katsas. More than a quarter of the department’s 93 United States attorneys around the country are “acting.”

At the top of the Department of Homeland Security, there is an acting general counsel, acting under secretary for national protection and acting assistant secretary for strategic plans. At the Department of Health and Human Services, the $600 billion-a-year Medicare and Medicaid programs have had an acting administrator since last fall.

Scholars and other researchers who study the federal bureaucracy say the situation in those agencies is becoming increasingly common elsewhere in the Bush administration.

With only 15 months left in office, President Bush has left whole agencies of the executive branch to be run largely by acting or interim appointees — jobs that would normally be filled by people whose nominations would have been reviewed and confirmed by the Senate. In many cases, there is no obvious sign of movement at the White House to find permanent nominees, suggesting that many important jobs will not be filled by Senate-confirmed officials for the remainder of the Bush administration. That would effectively circumvent the Senate’s right to review and approve the appointments. It also means that the jobs are filled by people who do not have the clout to make decisions that comes with a permanent appointment endorsed by the Senate, scholars say.

While exact comparisons are difficult to come by, researchers say the vacancy rate for senior jobs in the executive branch is far higher at the end of the Bush administration than it was at the same point in the terms of Mr. Bush’s recent predecessors in the White House.

Friday, October 12, 2007

POLITICS - The Bush Police State

"GOP faces 'wipeout' because of Bush" Opinion, Colfax Country Media

Is a police state near? Old-line conservative Paul Craig Roberts, a former assistant secretary of the treasury under Ronald Reagan who has recently become known for his strong opposition to the Bush administration and the Iraq war, had strong words.

Roberts believes ..... that Cheney and Rove intend to use a renewal of the war on terror to rally the American people around the Republican Party.

"Something's in the works. "The administration figures themselves and prominent Republican propagandists ... are preparing us for another 9/11 event or series of events," Roberts continued. "Chertoff has predicted them. ... You have to count on the fact that if al-Qaida's not going to do it, it's going to be orchestrated. ... The Republicans are praying for another 9/11."

Executive orders needed to create a police state are already in place. By simply declaring an emergency, Bush can take over both Congress and the Judiciary (May 9, Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 and National Security Presidential Directive 51).

He killed the Bill of Rights with a law that can seize an American citizen without charge and hold people indefinitely (Oct. 17, 2006, Military Commissions Act). He has proven that torture and extraordinary renditions are now standard practices.

Too many Americans think their danger is terrorists. But terrorists cannot take away habeas corpus, the Bill of Rights, the Constitution. Our own government, in the name of fighting terrorism is doing that.

Also former Reagan associate Deputy Attorney General Bruce Fein and Pat Buchanan are warning of the danger.

Bold emphasis, mine

Hyperbole? Sky-is-falling? Maybe, but all Americans should keep a close eye on just what our federal government is doing, especially this Bush Administration. If we don't, we could wakeup someday soon to banging at our door, to be dragged to concentration camps. History does oft repeat.

The true and most prominent threat to our American Democracy has always been close to home, internal.


"Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11" by Jason Leopold, TruthOut

The National Security Agency advised President Bush in early 2001 that it had been eavesdropping on Americans during the course of its work monitoring suspected terrorists and foreigners believed to have ties to terrorist groups, according to a declassified document.

The NSA's vast data-mining activities began shortly after Bush was sworn in as president and the document contradicts his assertion that the 9/11 attacks prompted him to take the unprecedented step of signing a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to monitor a select number of American citizens thought to have ties to terrorist groups.

In its "Transition 2001" report, the NSA said that the ever-changing world of global communication means that "American communication and targeted adversary communication will coexist."

"Make no mistake, NSA can and will perform its missions consistent with the Fourth Amendment and all applicable laws," the document says.

However, it adds that "senior leadership must understand that the NSA's mission will demand a 'powerful, permanent presence' on global telecommunications networks that host both 'protected' communications of Americans and the communications of adversaries the agency wants to target."

What had long been understood to be protocol in the event that the NSA spied on average Americans was that the agency would black out the identities of those individuals or immediately destroy the information.

But according to people who worked at the NSA as encryption specialists during this time, that's not what happened. On orders from Defense Department officials and President Bush, the agency kept a running list of the names of Americans in its system and made it readily available to a number of senior officials in the Bush administration, these sources said, which in essence meant the NSA was conducting a covert domestic surveillance operation in violation of the law.

Bold emphasis, mine

Thursday, October 11, 2007

WAR ON TERROR - Change in Focus? About Time!

"Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq" by Thom Shanker, New York Times


The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders. While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

As described by officials who had been briefed on the closed-door discussion, the idea represents the first tangible new thinking to emerge since the White House last month endorsed a plan to begin gradual troop withdrawals from Iraq, but also signals that American forces likely will be in Iraq for years to come.

It's about time we get the "War on Terror" focused where it should have been all along. Before Emperor Bush made Iraq the rallying cry for terrorists world-wide.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

POLITICS - Bumble and Fumble Bush Administration

"Leak Severed a Link to Al-Qaeda's Secrets" by Joby Warrick, Washington Post

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.

While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

But privately, some intelligence officials called the incident regrettable, and one official said SITE had been "tremendously helpful" in ferreting out al-Qaeda secrets over time.

The al-Qaeda video aired on Sept. 7 attracted international attention as the first new video message from the group's leader in three years. In it, a dark-bearded bin Laden urges Americans to convert to Islam and predicts failure for the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan. The video was aired on hundreds of Western news Web sites nearly a full day before its release by a distribution company linked to al-Qaeda.

Computer logs and records reviewed by The Washington Post support SITE's claim that it snatched the video from al-Qaeda days beforehand. Katz requested that the precise date and details of the acquisition not be made public, saying such disclosures could reveal sensitive details about the company's methods.

Katz said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.

She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. "Please understand the necessity for secrecy," Katz wrote in her e-mail. "We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations."

Fielding replied with an e-mail expressing gratitude to Katz. "It is you who deserves the thanks," he wrote, according to a copy of the message. There was no record of a response from Leiter or the national intelligence director's office.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.

By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.

Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.

A small number of private intelligence companies compete with SITE in scouring terrorists' networks for information and messages, and some have questioned the company's motives and methods, including the claim that its access to al-Qaeda's network was unique. One competitor, Ben Venzke, founder of IntelCenter, said he questions SITE's decision -- as described by Katz -- to offer the video to White House policymakers rather than quietly share it with intelligence analysts.

Regardless of the question did Katz make a mistake in the way the information was released, it is obvious that the Bush Whitehouse is all about blowing their own horn, aka "See, we are protecting America," with no actual concern (or worst, knowledge) about actual security secrets.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

POLITICS - A Good Question, Why Democracy?

"Why Democracy?" by Stanley Fish, New York Times Opinion

The title of the article is a very good question all Americans should think about. Especially in today's political atmosphere.

Here are excerpts of Stanley's opinion

Two of the questions are related to one another: “What is the biggest threat to democracy?” and “Can terrorism destroy democracy?” The answers depend on what you think democracy is. I tend to resist romantic definitions that feature phrases like “noble ideal” and opt instead for something more analytic: democracy is a form of government that is not attached to any pre-given political or ideological ends, but allows ends to be chosen by the majority vote of free citizens.

What this means is that democracy is the only form of government that, at least theoretically, contemplates its own demise with equanimity. Democratic elections do not guarantee that the victors will be democratically inclined, and it is always possible that those who gain control of the legislative process will pass laws that erode or even repeal the rights – of property, free expression and free movement – that distinguish democracies from theocracies and monarchies. (Some would say that this is exactly what has been happening in the past six years.) Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes captured the fragility of a form of government that can alter itself beyond the point of recognition when he said that if his fellow citizens want to go to hell in a handbasket, it was his job to help them, even if he deplored the consequences. Democracy, then, can be said to be its own biggest threat.

Terrorism presents a parallel threat from the outside. The danger is not so much that terrorists will defeat democracies by force as it is that, in resisting terrorists, democracies will forgo the procedural safeguards (against warrantless detention, censorship and secret surveillance) that make a democracy what it is. (Again, some would say that is already happening today.) If terrorists can maneuver democracies into employing tactics indistinguishable from theirs, it could be argued that they have won no matter what the outcome on the battlefield.

The same reasoning applies to the question of whether democracy is good for everyone. It depends on whether you think democracy is the form of government history has been working its way toward (Francis Fukuyama’s thesis in “The End of History”) or is merely one option among others. If you are of the former opinion (as the present administration seems to be), you will believe that the more your adversaries are exposed to democratic ideas, the more attractive they will find them. But if you distrust teleological arguments (as I tend to), you will be skeptical of the possibility of exporting democracy and think of it instead as something others might take or leave, depending on what they hold dear.

Given that democracy privileges some values — personal mobility, individual entrepreneurialism, tolerance, cosmopolitanism — and downplays others — community, ideological conformity, cultural stability — its attraction will vary with the values a particular society embraces. A society for example that rests on a strong religious foundation may find some democratic practices useful, but it will not be inclined to fight and die for them.

This brings me to another of the questions. “Is God democratic?” That one’s easy. God, like Hobbes’ sovereign, requires obedience, and those who worship him must subordinate their personal desires to his will. (Here the Abraham/Isaac story is paradigmatic.) His rule, therefore, is the antithesis of democracy, which elevates individual choice to a position of primacy. That doesn't mean, however, that God frowns on democratic states or requires a theocratic one or has any political opinions at all. (On the other hand, someone who, like Walt Whitman, believes that God is not a separate being but resides in each of us might conclude that democracy is the deity’s favored form of government.)

OK, fellow Americans, what is your opinion?

POLITICS - More on CIA Detention Policy

"Shields and Brooks Look at Detention Policy" PBS News Hour Political Wrap

Over this 3-day holiday weekend (which included Friday) I stayed away from the news. I just needed a respite. Upon viewing the online News Hour's Political Wrap of Friday, 5 October 2007. I wish I had at least watched the News Hour.

The following are excerpts from the full transcript, focusing on the Examining interrogation tactics section.

JIM LEHRER: And now to Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Mark, what do you make of these interrogation memos?

MARK SHIELDS, Syndicated Columnist: Well, I think, Jim, we're going right back to where we were just two years ago. Two years ago, we had a major showdown. On one side of the battle was the administration, the White House, the attorney general then, Alberto Gonzales, but the president and the vice president, and on the other side were John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham in the Senate, Colin Powell, John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Joe Hoar, former Marine general and chairman of Central Command.

And one side were those who said we're going to do this because it's extraordinary circumstances and we're going to take all these measures, this is unlike any other foe we've ever had. And McCain and Powell and Warner and others just said, no, this is totally not only violative of every American value, but it hurts our soldiers and troops in combat because it exposes them to greater possibility of torture, it gets unreliable information.

And in the final analysis, John McCain made the strongest case, as a member of the Senate, when he said, When I was a prisoner, and we were prisoners, and we were tortured, and many of my comrades died, what sustained us was our belief that we were different, that our system and our values were better.

JIM LEHRER: Is the administration in these memos taking the position, David, speaking of different, that the CIA interrogating suspects is different than the military, which was, of course, what Mark was going through and what this legislation was all about?

DAVID BROOKS: Yeah, there are sort of two issues here. One is, is it a good idea to torture?


DAVID BROOKS: Right. And then the second is the more legal issue, which these competing memos sort of we're talking about, which were, does the president have the legal authority based on precedent and all that to let the CIA do what it wants to do?

And to me, the political effect of this is a sense of elitism, a sense that people in the administration, some people in the administration, think, "This war on terror is serious. A lot of people don't take it as seriously as we are. They're not as hard and tough as we are. So we're going to put out one thing for the country, but secretly we tough guys are going to have another set of rules."

And so I think the big, damaging thing about this is the difference between what we all thought was the administration interpretation of what could be done and what inside, apparently, this memo suggests they had agreed could be done. And it's the gap between the private and the public that, to me, is the most damaging thing about this.

JIM LEHRER: Is it a little bit extraordinary that they put it all in writing?

DAVID BROOKS: No, I mean, they do go by the rules. And to be fair, one of the things the Times story made clear is that there's a group of lawyers that have been within in the Justice Department, no matter who the attorney general was, and they come from similar backgrounds, elite law schools, Supreme Court clerks, Federalist Society.

And what was fascinating and was well-described in the article was that this community of people who were friends split on this issue. And some of the lawyers decided this is within the president's rights. Some, who have very similar political philosophies said, no, this is an overreach. This is poorly argued.

So it was that split within the communities, and it depended on who happened to be sitting in what chair at what time that determined, seemingly, how the administration shifted. And, of course, within other non-legal parts of the administration, they wanted certain lawyers over others.

For me, the most telling quote is, "And in the final analysis, John McCain made the strongest case, as a member of the Senate, when he said, When I was a prisoner, and we were prisoners, and we were tortured, and many of my comrades died, what sustained us was our belief that we were different, that our system and our values were better."

Yes, our TRUE American values are better, or should be. And I mean outside the religious issue which is in an individual's realm.

The DEMONSTRATED VALUES of the Bush Administration are those of totalitarian governments and dictators. The rights of The People and our Constitution be damned.

Friday, October 05, 2007

POLITICS - CIA Torture Debate Continues

"Debate Erupts on Techniques Used by C.I.A." by David Johnston & Scott Shane, New York Times

Excerpts from the article

The disclosure of secret Justice Department legal opinions on interrogation on Thursday set off a bitter round of debate over the treatment of terrorism suspects in American custody and whether Congress has been adequately informed of legal policies.

Democrats on Capitol Hill demanded to see the classified memorandums, disclosed Thursday by The New York Times, that gave the Central Intelligence Agency expansive approval in 2005 for harsh interrogation techniques.

“I find it unfathomable that the committee tasked with oversight of the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program would be provided more information by The New York Times than by the Department of Justice,” Mr. Rockefeller wrote.

Administration officials confirmed the existence of the classified opinions but said they did not condone torture. The White House press secretary, Dana Perino, said she could not discuss C.I.A. methods but added, “What I can tell you is that any procedures that they use are tough, safe, necessary and lawful.”

One 2005 opinion gave the Justice Department’s most authoritative legal approval to the harshest agency techniques, including head slapping, exposure to cold and simulated drowning, even when used in combination.

The second opinion declared that under some circumstances, such techniques were not “cruel, inhuman or degrading,” a category of treatment that Congress banned in December 2005.

Administration officials said Thursday that there was no contradiction between the still-secret rulings and an opinion made public by the Justice Department in December 2004 that declared torture “abhorrent” and appeared to retreat from the administration’s earlier assertion of broad presidential authority to conduct harsh interrogations.

In other words, "Trust us, we are following the law. You don't need to see evidence." As if we had a pattern of the Bush Administration being truthful, straight forward, and honest.

More proof that Emperor Bush does not believe in checks-and-balances inherent in our Constitution, at least when it comes to his Administration policies and actions.

ON THE LITE SIDE - New Yorker's Day Off

From the Humor Times

Joke of the Week!

A New Yorker was forced to take a day off from work to appear for a minor traffic summons. He grew increasingly restless as he waited hour after endless hour for his case to be heard. When his name was called late in the afternoon, he stood before the judge, only to hear that court would be adjourned for the rest of the afternoon and he would have to return the next day. "What for?!?!?" he snapped at the judge.

His honor, equally irked by a tedious day and sharp query, roared out loud: "Twenty dollars contempt of court! That's what for!" Then, noticing the man checking his wallet, the judge relented: "That's all right. You don't have to pay now."

The young man replied, "I know. But I'm just seeing if I have enough for two more words."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

SCIENCE - The Gaia Hypothesis

Via several science articles on various issues I was perusing, I ran into the Gaia Hypothesis. There is interesting info in the following reference.

"Gaia Hypothesis" .... in part...

"Research carried out over the past decade under the auspices of the four research programmes to address ... concerns has shown that:

  1. The Earth System behaves as a single, self-regulating system comprised of physical, chemical, biological and human components. The interactions and feedbacks between the component parts are complex and exhibit multi-scale temporal and spatial variability. The understanding of the natural dynamics of the Earth System has advanced greatly in recent years and provides a sound basis for evaluating the effects and consequences of human-driven change.

  2. Human activities are significantly influencing Earth's environment in many ways in addition to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Anthropogenic changes to Earth's land surface, oceans, coasts and atmosphere and to biological diversity, the water cycle and biogeochemical cycles are clearly identifiable beyond natural variability. They are equal to some of the great forces of nature in their extent and impact. Many are accelerating. Global change is real and is happening now.

  3. Global change cannot be understood in terms of a simple cause-effect paradigm. Human-driven changes cause multiple effects that cascade through the Earth System in complex ways. These effects interact with each other and with local- and regional-scale changes in multidimensional patterns that are difficult to understand and even more difficult to predict. Surprises abound.

  4. Earth System dynamics are characterized by critical thresholds and abrupt changes. Human activities could inadvertently trigger such changes with severe consequences for Earth's environment and inhabitants. The Earth System has operated in different states over the last half million years, with abrupt transitions (a decade or less) sometimes occurring between them. Human activities have the potential to switch the Earth System to alternative modes of operation that may prove irreversible and less hospitable to humans and other life. The probability of a human-driven abrupt change in Earth's environment has yet to be quantified but is not negligible.

  5. In terms of some key environmental parameters, the Earth System has moved well outside the range of the natural variability exhibited over the last half million years at least. The nature of changes now occurring simultaneously in the Earth System, their magnitudes and rates of change are unprecedented. The Earth is currently operating in a no-analogue state.

Of course, the ultra-conservative GOP Neanderthals aren't going to believe any of this.

Monday, October 01, 2007

POLITICS - Understanding Who We Are

"9/11 Is Over" by Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times much, since 9/11, we’ve become “The United States of Fighting Terrorism.” Times columnists are not allowed to endorse candidates, but there’s no rule against saying who will not get my vote: I will not vote for any candidate running on 9/11. We don’t need another president of 9/11. We need a president for 9/12. I will only vote for the 9/12 candidate.

What does that mean? This: 9/11 has made us stupid. I honor, and weep for, all those murdered on that day. But our reaction to 9/11 — mine included — has knocked America completely out of balance, and it is time to get things right again.

It is not that I thought we had new enemies that day and now I don’t. Yes, in the wake of 9/11, we need new precautions, new barriers. But we also need our old habits and sense of openness. For me, the candidate of 9/12 is the one who will not only understand who our enemies are, but who we are.

Before 9/11, the world thought America’s slogan was: “Where anything is possible for anybody.” But that is not our global brand anymore. Our government has been exporting fear, not hope: “Give me your tired, your poor and your fingerprints.”


Roger Dow, president of the Travel Industry Association, told me that the United States has lost millions of overseas visitors since 9/11 — even though the dollar is weak and America is on sale. “Only the U.S. is losing traveler volume among major countries, which is unheard of in today’s world,” Mr. Dow said.

Total business arrivals to the United States fell by 10 percent over the 2004-5 period alone, while the number of business visitors to Europe grew by 8 percent in that time. The travel industry’s recent Discover America Partnership study concluded that “the U.S. entry process has created a climate of fear and frustration that is turning away foreign business and leisure travelers and hurting America’s image abroad.” Those who don’t visit us, don’t know us.

I’d love to see us salvage something decent in Iraq that might help tilt the Middle East onto a more progressive pathway. That was and is necessary to improve our security. But sometimes the necessary is impossible — and we just can’t keep chasing that rainbow this way.

Look at our infrastructure. It’s not just the bridge that fell in my hometown, Minneapolis. Fly from Zürich’s ultramodern airport to La Guardia’s dump. It is like flying from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. I still can’t get uninterrupted cellphone service between my home in Bethesda and my office in D.C. But I recently bought a pocket cellphone at the Beijing airport and immediately called my wife in Bethesda — crystal clear.

I just attended the China clean car conference, where Chinese automakers were boasting that their 2008 cars will meet “Euro 4” — European Union — emissions standards. We used to be the gold standard. We aren’t anymore. Last July, Microsoft, fed up with American restrictions on importing brain talent, opened its newest software development center in Vancouver. That’s in Canada, folks. If Disney World can remain an open, welcoming place, with increased but invisible security, why can’t America?

We can’t afford to keep being this stupid! We have got to get our groove back. We need a president who will unite us around a common purpose, not a common enemy. Al Qaeda is about 9/11. We are about 9/12, we are about the Fourth of July — which is why I hope that anyone who runs on the 9/11 platform gets trounced.

I like Tom's phrase "We have got to get our groove back." I agree, we Americans do have to "get our groove back," we need to remember who we are as a nation.

What we are NOT "America ABOVE everyone else, by our military might." (aka Bush Empire)