Friday, September 19, 2008

Going Underground

Some people might say my life is in a rut,
But I'm quite happy with what I got
People might say that I should strive for more,
But I'm so happy I cant see the point.
Something's happening here today
A show of strength with your boys brigade and,
I'm so happy and you're so kind
You want more money - of course I don't mind
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes

And the public gets what the public wants
But I want nothing this society's got -
I'm going underground, (going underground)
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground, (going underground)
Well let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

Some people might get some pleasure out of hate
Me, I've enough already on my plate
People might need some tension to relax
Me I'm too busy dodging between the flak

What you see is what you get
You've made your bed, you better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You'll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns

And the public wants what the public gets
But I don't get what this society wants
I'm going underground, (going underground)
Well the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground, (going underground)
So let the boys all sing and the boys all shout for tomorrow

We talk and talk until my head explodes
I turn on the news and my body froze
The braying sheep on my TV screen
Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!

Going underground, I'm going underground!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Meuller Testifies On Anthrax

Here's me playing Devils Advocate for Mueller on Glenzilla today:
Like I said yesterday, I would really like to believe that this is not a massive conspiracy to cover up the the real anthrax killers, because the implications of that are pretty horrific. So I have been searching my brain for other explanations.

It seems to me that the FBI - like DoJ, the CIA, and most newsrooms these days (not to mention a few boardrooms and even bedrooms) - is divided into pro- and anti-Bush camps these days, so discernible patterns of behaviour can be confusing.

For example, the FBI quickly refused to endorse the neocon lie (repeated by McCain among others) that Iraq was most like behind the anthrax attacks. If it's all a big cover-up job now, why did they bother doing that back in 2001? It was Mueller who was personally "beaten up" during President Bush's morning intelligence briefings back then.

Shortly after the attacks, Francis A. Boyle, an international law expert who worked under the first Bush Administration as a bioweapons advisor in the 1980s, contacted an FBI Agent called Marion "Spike" Bowman, and told him that only a government lab could have produced this anthrax and he suspected people at Fort Detrick were involved.
"Soon after I informed Bowman of this information, the FBI authorized the destruction of the Ames cultural anthrax database," the professor said.
Why did they do that? A question for Robert Mueller! I think the FBI have already admitted it was a mistake, but who authorized it and why?

(Without getting too side-tracked, this touches on another concern I have about the evidence that remains. It has all been in the hands of the FBI, so who is to say that the evidence has not been tampered with? I mean, assuming that the FBI's credibility is shot here, as seems to be the case.)

And then in 2003, "Spike" Bowman was promoted and given the Presidential Rank Award by FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, despite a protest letter from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and despite the fact that Bowman was also the FBI agent who allegedly sabotaged the FISA warrant for access to Zacharias Moussaoui's computer prior to 9/11.

And then there is the media circus surrounding FBI agent Van Harp's original investigations into Stephen Hatfill. News crews with helicopters were beating FBI agents to the scene of new developments! Did Mueller ever try to find out who was tipping off the media about FBI leads? Did he ever fire anyone?

When an FBI case agent Robert Roth recommended a criminal probe of the leaks, Mueller resisted. Why? Roth said Roth said the case file was "an open book," used by "a huge group of people."
Mueller testified that he did not recall the episode. He said he had backed at least one other leak investigation but did not know if any action was taken.
In fact, Mueller personally instructed Van Harp to brief Daschle and Leahy on the case, in a break with normal strict confidentiality protocol: did the media somehow get access to those briefings? If so how?

Now back to playing Devil's Advocate (not doing a good job, am I?) ... OK, trying a bit harder to defend Mueller...

We live in interesting times and the FBI has a lot on their plate these days.

And sometimes I think that maybe Mueller knows who did the anthrax attacks, and he is just letting the media chase rabbits while the real investigation continues. I mean, he did at least threaten to resign in March 2004, when Bush tried to over-rule the DoJ's ruling that domestic wire-tapping was unconstitutional (never mind that the wiretapping has continued). And there was that crazy episode at Ashcroft's bedside:
Mueller arrived just after Card and Gonzales departed. He shared a private moment with Ashcroft, bending over to hear the man’s voice.

“Bob, I’m struggling,” Ashcroft said.

“In every man’s life there comes a time when the good Lord tests him,” Mueller replied. “You have passed your test tonight.”
So sometimes I wonder if there is not a deep, deep undercover FBI team set to blow the lid on the whole Bush administration. You can imagine the scene: Bush, Cheney, Rove, Gonzales, Rumsfeld and a host of others all arrested on the same day. The constitutional republic restored once more! Justice prevails! Hurrah!

But then I wake up and realise that Mueller has put his own credibility on the line here, time and again. His agents have hounded one innocent man for years, and driven another man to his death.

The best you could plausibly say for Mueller is that maybe he is just not very interested in this case - but again, that's inexcusable when five people are dead after a terrorist attack on US soil.

Or maybe he is powerless, surrounded by Bush Co. bad guys who are white-anting his reputation and blocking FBI investigations. Is that why he now says the FBI needs even MORE powers (yes, that is a big part of what's happening at these hearings today)? Again, that's very hard to believe, much as one might wish to do so. For starters, why doesn't he go public with what he knows?

Mueller became FBI Director on September 4, 2001, just one week before 9-11. Looking back, a lot of strange things happened in the weeks before 9-11. A few of them, relating to the FBI's decision not to search Moussaoui's computer, are described in the "bombshell memo" from FBI agent Coleen M. Rowley.

IMHO, we have reached a point where you cannot talk about these anthrax letters without also re-examining the official narrative of what happened on 9-11. It's that bad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Notes In The Margin

1. McCain's foreign advisor for Latin America is Otto "Death Squads" Reich. I kid you not. And he is busy comparing Hugo Chavez with Hitler and Mussolini.

2. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America’s top military official, is making a hasty visit to Pakistan after Pakistan troops received orders to open fire on U.S. troops if they launch another air or ground raid across the Afghan border. Afghan ministers have staged a walkout in protest at the high civilian death rates inflicted by US-led forces.

3. McCain is calling for a 9-11-style commission into the Wall Street collapse. Joseph Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, compares the collapse of the GOP's patented "trickle-down" market fundamentalism with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile, the US government is all but nationalising AIG by extending an 85-billion-dollar loan in exchange for a nearly 80-percent stake in the company, including all company assets.

4. Glennzilla today looks at the appalling anthrax testimony of FBI head Robert Mueller. My comments:
Welcome To The Crazy Conspiracy Theorists Club

This answer alone tells us all we need to know:
I don't know the answers to those questions as to how we eliminated Dugway and Battelle. I'll have to get back to you at some point.
Sorry? This is the cornerstone of the FBI's case! Mueller has had weeks - months - to prepare and he cannot even provide an answer to that central question? Not even a pretend answer to keep the press happy? In a sane world, that alone would be cause for dismissal.

Glenn, surely it is time to draw some conclusions? Unfortunately, they are downright scary.

And as soon as you say these things, your public credibility will be shot (in many people's eyes, anyway) and your words will be thrown back at you time and again as "proof" that you should not be taken seriously on any issue.

I know: I am one of the people who said, way back in March 2003, that Saddam had no WMDs and Iraq was only being invaded for the oil. I am one of the people who said the 911 Commission not only avoided difficult questions but was specifically designed to avoid those questions.

So are you ready to draw some conclusions here?

I mean, why would Mueller be lying? Why would they have chased the wrong guy for so many years? Why would they be so keen to close off a case with so many holes in it? Why has the corporate media given the FBI a free ride on this issue for so long? Why isn't Bush taking an interest on an issue of such critical importance? Why isn't Cheney warning the public that the anthrax killer might still be on the loose? Why aren't the Dems jumping up and down and screaming?

I'll tell you why.

This was Dick Cheney just five days after 911:
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
It's not that the Dems are scared of being targetted with anthrax. It's that the Dems have actively co-conspired with Cheney and Bush to do a lot of bad things on "the dark side". Now they too are complicit in a host of crimes. And whenever Cheney says "Don't go there" they just wink and walk away.

Same thing with the media. Your patriotic D.C. journos just love walking away from big stories whenever "national security" is at stake. It makes them feel important.

And you can say all that without saying that either 911 or the anthrax attacks were a LIHOP or MIHOP operation. But with the anthrax attacks in particular, you are pushing credibility.

I mean, Bin Laden has been blamed for 911, and there's a strange-looking tape of him saying he did it, and even though the FBI has never built a case against him, maybe they are sitting on information that we'll never see. Who knows?

But Bruce Ivins? The guy is dead. He worked in a highly secured government lab. There's no reason not to release all the evidence they have. There's no reason for a cover-up. Unless...

Unless..????! Well, you tell me.

This shit has been driving me crazy for years. If there's a rational explanation, I'd love to hear it!
The Bush administration's failure to take this anthrax investigation seriously exposes (again) the fact they they actually do not really care all that much about the supposedly dire threat of terrorism.

Terrorism is a great excuse for spending money, launching wars, and repressing civil rights. It sells newspapers and can it makes a useful electioneering tool.

But when there's a potential killer still on the loose after seven years, it's nothing to worry about.

Is it because they don't really care about the well-being of the general population (see e.g. Katrina et al)?

Or it is because they know damned well who the real terrorists are?
I thought those comments might draw a few heated responses, but BushWorld seems to be stunned into silence today. Funny, that.

Finally, via Simon Jackman, here's a vid to cheer all you miserable Malditos Yanquis up:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Was I Right Or Was I Right?

Me on Glenzilla's blog a couple of days ago:
Forget The Election

Obama just won.

Wall Street tomorrow is going to confirm everything that all the critics ever said was wrong with the Reagan/Bush "trickle-down" economic lies.

Depending on your personal situation, it's time for either panic or popcorn.
Of course the main thing is not the financial well-being of the planet, or the future of our children, but whether or not I personally was right.

Ego uber alles. Vorsicht wenn du runterkommst!

UPDATE: Here's Obama today on the economic crisis:
Obama said the role of ratings services must be examined as part of any revamping of the way markets are monitored and regulated, and he suggested that he doesn't favor having the government stepping in to rescue failing firms.

``The idea that taxpayers can continue to be on the hook for failures at firm after firm after firm I think is a real problem,'' Obama said in an interview tonight with Bloomberg Television.
Meanwhile, here's a former McCain shrill seeing the light:
Now he has broken that promise so completely that the John McCain of old is unrecognizable. He has become the sort of politician he once despised...

I am one of the journalists accused over the years of being in the tank for McCain. Guilty...

Karl Marx got one thing right -- what he said about history repeating itself. Once is tragedy, a second time is farce. John McCain is both.
Potentially, the world is about to take a turn for the better. But just winning the election will be only the start for Obama.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bush's USA: Over-reaching and Under-achieving

I blogged yesterday about that new poll showing most people around the world don't believe Al Quaeda was behind 9-11. Joshua Holland has a whole bunch of good observations to make.
Whatever one thinks of "alternative" theories of who the perpetrators were that day, the results are an eye-opening indication of how profoundly the world's confidence in the United States government has eroded during the Bush era...

Interestingly, Americans are also dubious, with more than a third of those polled by Scripps Howard News Service in 2006 saying it was "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that "federal officials either participated in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon or took no action to stop them" because they "wanted the United States to go to war in the Middle East." ...

In one sense, these findings should come as no surprise. America, like other countries, has been known to conduct "false-flag" operations before. And it has used falsehoods to justify going to war. In the now-infamous "Gulf of Tonkin Incident" -- the incident that would be used to justify America's involvement in that conflict -- a minor skirmish occurred between U.S. naval ships and two North Vietnamese coastal vessels. Two days later, the Johnson administration reported that there had been a second attack, which it claimed was evidence of "communist aggression" on the part of the North Vietnamese. But, as a National Security Agency report revealed in 2005 (PDF), the second incident -- the one that created a "pattern" of aggression -- was invented out of whole cloth. "It is not simply that there is a different story as to what happened; it is that no attack happened that night," reads the report.

In 1990, on the eve of the first Gulf War, Pentagon officials cited top-secret satellite images and said definitively that Saddam Hussein had amassed a huge army -- with 250,000 men and 1,500 tanks -- along the Saudi border in preparation for an invasion of that country. Jean Heller, a reporter with the St. Petersburg Times, purchased some Russian satellite images of the same piece of desert and found that in fact there was nothing there but sand. After the U.S.-led attack, a "senior (U.S. military) commander" told New York Newsday, "There was a great disinformation campaign surrounding this war."

Those incidents are in no way analogous to the attacks of 9/11. But in 1962, the Joint Chiefs of Staff proposed to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara that the CIA might launch a series of terror attacks within the United States, blame Cuba, and use the ensuing panic to justify military action against the defiant island-nation. (The plan, called "Operation Northwoods," which became public in 1997, was reportedly killed off by John F. Kennedy himself -- it got that far up the food chain.)
Holland cites the lies around the Gulf War and the Iraq War as good reason not to believe more recent US government lies.
The credibility gap that's developed around the world's pre-eminent power is more than a matter of academic interest. Around the world, many of those who embraced us immediately after 9/11 and offered almost unconditional support for our policies now don't believe a word coming out of our officials' mouths, and that affects U.S. foreign policy, and the stability of the whole international system, in ways both obvious and subtle.

A good, obvious example is Pakistan... With almost half of the population saying the U.S. is the greatest threat to their own personal safety, any Pakistani government will be left between a rock and a hard place.
Holland concludes by voicing a great irony which I have often contemplated:
The neoconservative movement, which was so obsessed with the preservation of American power and the suppression of its rivals -- from its birth in the Nixon Administration, through Reagan's "Dirty Wars" in Latin America and culminating in the 2003 invasion of Iraq -- ultimately oversaw the crash and burn of the World's Only Superpower's ability to influence world events.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Falling Man Remembered

I have just spent over an hour watching The Falling Man, a documentary about the search to identify a man who jumped from the World Trade Center. I never had the time or the bandwidth to watch the whole thing before. Or maybe I just never had the inclination: it's a terrible image, a terrible story. I had tears in my eyes several times while watching it, and had to pause the video for a few seconds each time.

Strangely, the video has never been released in the U.S.A. Or perhaps it's not so strange. The photo itself provoked heated public anger when it was published on September 12th, 2001. People just didn't want to be confronted with this imagery.

A peculiar kind of media self-censorship ensued. Images like this were quickly replaced by heroic images of brave firefighters, dust-covered WTC survivors, a President standing in the rubble with a megaphone.

I am reminded of the Iraq War, and the War In Afghanistan, and how the media still refuses to show, or even acknowledge, the true horrors of such violence. Is it because a complicit media hides the truth from us? Or is it because their audience cannot handle the truth and does not want to know it? Perhaps a bit of both.

The parallel with war also makes for another interesting comparison. Why has the Falling Man been airbrushed out of history, while the Unknown Soldier is revered and remembered all over the world? Is it because the WTC jumpers were helpless victims, while soldiers are willing participants in the carnage that consumes them?

Here is another video of the jumpers:

Note the video of the plane hitting the second tower, just a few seconds into the clip. If you freeze it, the shape does not look much like a plane at all. Much more like a missile, in fact. Just look at these stills:

If these still images were all you had ever seen of the second plane hitting the tower, you could probably never be convinced that this was a plane and not a missile. And yet the whole world saw that second plane hit the tower! I saw it myself, live on TV. And there is plenty of other video which clearly shows that it was a plane, not a missile.

So what's the lesson?

Obviously, we cannot believe our lying eyes (if you watch the video instead of the stills, you can actually see the blurred flash of the airplane's wings).

So now tell me please, folks, what did YOU see on September 11th, 2001?

Did you see a vicious terrorist attack on the USA, perpetuated by ruthless Al Quaeda killers? Did you see an assault on US power from a bearded religious zeolot in a distant land? Did you see two planes hitting two towers, and bringing three towers down?

Did you see the Falling Man? Or have you airbrushed him from your memory?

UPDATE: The original Esquire article on the Falling Man is here, if you are interested.

Bernard Weiner lists Twenty-Six Things We Now Know Seven Years After 9/11 (an annual update) including for example that the illegal and widespread domestic spying was ordered by Cheney and Bush seven months BEFORE 9/11. So was the planning for the Iraq War and the forgeries used to justify it. The anthrax was almost certainly being prepared in some lab, ready to be mailed out after 9-11, and the PNAC documents about the need for a "new Pearl Harbor" were of course published years earlier. And after seven years they still haven't found Bin Laden or even proved that he was behind the attacks.

Who is the Falling Man? He is you and me, my friend.

You and me.

UPDATE 2: Via Antony Loewenstein:
With a close friend of French President Nicolas Sarkozy now saying that the 9/11 attacks were not perpetrated by al-Qaeda, a new global poll finds similar skepticism:
A new poll of 17 nations finds that majorities in only nine of them believe that al Qaeda was behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

In no country does a majority agree on another possible perpetrator, but in most countries significant minorities cite the US government itself and, in a few countries, Israel. These responses were given spontaneously to an open-ended question that did not offer response options.

On average, 46 percent say that al Qaeda was behind the attacks while 15 percent say the US government, seven percent Israel, and seven percent some other perpetrator. One in four say they do not know.
Jean-Marie Bigard is a famous French comedian and The Independent calls him "a member of Mr Sarkozy's inner circle of showbiz friends". He says:
"We are now absolutely certain that these two planes - the one that supposedly fell into a forest (flight 93 in Pennsylvania) and onto the Pentagon don't exist... those planes are still flying.

"It's an enormous lie," he told Europe 1 radio.

"It's an American missile that hit the Pentagon, they provoked it themselves, they killed fellow Americans.

"Usually one learns of these things 30 years afterwards. We know it now," he went on.

Mr Bigard, who has staged shows to a full house in Paris' football stadium, le Stade de France, added: "We are beginning to seriously consider that neither Ben Laden nor al Qaeda were responsible for September 11."
Let's hear John Stewart say that.

UPDATE 3: Incroyable!
In a press conference today, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino about the administration’s ongoing efforts to find Osama bin Laden, calling him the “mastermind” of 9/11. Perino interrupted the reporter, claiming bin Laden was not the true “mastermind” of the attacks:
Q But Osama bin Laden is the one that — you keep talking about his lieutenants, and, yes, they are very important, but Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11 –

PERINO: No, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind of 9/11, and he’s sitting in jail right now.
I suggest readers might want to back to that link above:
The attack on Afghanistan was based on the claim that bin Laden was behind the attacks, and the 9/11 Commission's report was written as if there were no question about this claim. But neither the Bush administration nor the Commission provided any proof for it.

Two weeks after 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking to Tim Russert on "Meet the Press," said he expected "in the near future . . . to put out . . . a document that will describe quite clearly the evidence that we have linking [bin Laden] to this attack." But at a press conference with President Bush the next morning, Powell reversed himself, saying that although the government had information that left no question of bin Laden's responsibility, "most of it is classified." According to Seymour Hersh, citing officials from both the CIA and the Department of Justice, the real reason for the reversal was a "lack of solid information."

That same week, Bush had demanded that the Taliban turn over bin Laden. But the Taliban, reported CNN, "refus[ed] to hand over bin Laden without proof or evidence that he was involved in last week's attacks on the United States." The Bush administration, saying "[t]here is already an indictment of Osama bin Laden" [for the attacks in Tanzania, Kenya, and elsewhere]," rejected the demand for evidence with regard to 9/11.

The task of providing such evidence was taken up by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who on October 4 made public a document entitled "Responsibility for the Terrorist Atrocities in the United States." Listing "clear conclusions reached by the government," it stated: "Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the terrorist network which he heads, planned and carried out the atrocities on 11 September 2001."

Blair's report, however, began by saying: "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in a court of law." This weakness was noted the next day by the BBC, which said: "There is no direct evidence in the public domain linking Osama Bin Laden to the 11 September attacks. At best the evidence is circumstantial."

After the US had attacked Afghanistan, a senior Taliban official said: "We have asked for proof of Osama's involvement, but they have refused. Why?" The answer to this question may be suggested by the fact that, to this day, the FBI's "Most Wanted Terrorist" webpage on bin Laden, while listing him as wanted for bombings in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, makes no mention of 9/11.

When the FBI's chief of investigative publicity was asked why not, he replied: "The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden's Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11."

Whenever the Commission had cited evidence for bin Ladin's responsibility, the note in the back of the book always referred to CIA-provided information that had (presumably) been elicited during interrogations of al-Qaeda operatives. By far the most important of these operatives was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), described as the "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks. The Commission, for example, wrote:

Bin Ladin . . . finally decided to give the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999. . . . Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives. . . . Atta---whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group---met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.

The note for each of these statements says "interrogation of KSM."

Kean and Hamilton, however, reported that they had no success in "obtaining access to star witnesses in custody . . . , most notably Khalid Sheikh Mohammed." Besides not being allowed to interview these witnesses, they were not permitted to observe the interrogations through one-way glass or even to talk to the interrogators. Therefore, they complained: "We . . . had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information. How could we tell if someone such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed . . . was telling us the truth?"

An NBC "deep background" report in 2008 pointed out an additional problem: KSM and the other al-Qaeda leaders had been subjected to "enhanced interrogation techniques," i.e., torture, and it is now widely acknowledged that statements elicited by torture lack credibility. "At least four of the operatives whose interrogation figured in the 9/11 Commission Report," this NBC report pointed out, "have claimed that they told interrogators critical information as a way to stop being "-tortured.'" NBC then quoted Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, as saying: "Most people look at the 9/11 Commission Report as a trusted historical document. If their conclusions were supported by information gained from torture, . . . their conclusions are suspect."

Accordingly, neither the White House, the British government, the FBI, nor the 9/11 Commission has provided solid evidence that Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11.
In other words, the evidence of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's alleged guilt was extracted under torture and they have no other evidence. After seven bloody years! And they have nothing - zip - on Bin Laden himself, except a dodgy old video that even the FBI will not vouch for.

You are kidding, right?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Change Gonna Come?

Howard Zinn:
Well you know, whatever hope there is lies in that large number of Americans who are decent, who don't want to go to war, who don't want to kill other people.

It is hard to see that hope because these Americans who feel that way have been shut out of the communications system, so their voices are not heard, they are not seen on the television screen, but they exist.

I have gone through, in my life, a number of social movements and I have seen how at the very beginning of these social movements or just before these social movements develop, there didn't seem to be any hope.

I lived in the south for seven years, in the years of the civil rights movements, and it didn't seem that there was any hope, but there was hope under the surface.

And when people organised, and when people began to act, when people began to work together, people began to take risks, people began to oppose the establishment, people began to commit civil disobedience.

Well, then that hope became manifest ... it actually turned into change.
From the comments at ICH:
ummm excuse me. football season just started. the revolution can wait.

Explaining Palin?

Dilbert creator Scott Adams on the choice of Palin as VP:
Since selecting Palin, the discussion in the media and in kitchens across America has shifted from "Can you be too old to be President?" to "Can you be too young and inexperienced?" McCain has cleverly put his critics in the position of arguing that experience is a good thing. And McCain has more of it than Obama. If you believe that people only vote for presidents, not vice presidents, this was a clever move.

The Democrats' other big argument against McCain was that he's a phony maverick who won't really change anything. It's hard to make that case while at the same time criticizing him for making such a surprising pick for Vice President. You can argue with Palin's credentials, but you can no longer argue with McCain's willingness to buck conventional wisdom. That book is closed.

On the more obvious side of things, picking a young woman insulates McCain from being the charter member of the Old Boy's Club. It's politically correct to say voters are smart. But clearly there are millions of exceptions.
The corporate media is now coming out in full force to defend Palin from accusations on multiple fronts. Will it work? Probably. Because in Bush's USA it really doesn't matter if it's true or not, as long as you make enough noise.

The Clinton campaign spin-meisters used to talk about "wagging the dog". In McCain-Palin's case, it's all tail and no dog. But who cares as long as it's wagging, right?

And ... ummm.... Why am I being swept up in all this stupid election nonsense anyway?

I guess I just cannot stand the bullshit. And it's pouring out of every media orifice right now.

Things That Make You Go Hmmmnnn....

I just finished listening (again) to this old taped interview with Jerome Hauer (22MB Mp3 download).

I was frustrated that the interviewer did not pursue the final question about John O'Neill's employment at the WTC. Hauer says O'Neill was not working for Kroll Associates, but directly for Larry Silverstein, who had his own team of WTC security people. What was that about? Anyone got more on that?

For anyone wondering about the "fake Bin Laden video" mentioned in the tape, see this link.

For anyone in the mood to reminisce ahead of the seventh 9-11 anniversary, I recommend this excellent reference site or (maybe after a beer) this story:
And as he led the charge out of Elaine's to Stage 3 at the China Club, his friends remember John O'Neill looking over and saying, "At least on my watch, I can say that there was never a terrorist attack in New York City."

'We were laughing that morning," remembers Valerie James, his girlfriend of eleven years. For once, John was in his own eleven-year-old Buick LeSabre, not a Bureau car, so he was permitted to drop her off at her job as sales director for the fashion line Sunny Choi.

He'd made it home from China Club at 2:30 -- typical -- but he was up now, and happy, and ready to take her to an 8:15 meeting she had for Fashion Week before heading to his office on the thirty-fourth floor of the north tower. "He was in a really good mood that day," James says.

James heard about the attack on the radio; it wasn't until 9:17 that a call finally came from John.

"There are body parts everywhere," he shouted. "Do you know what hit it?"James said the radio said it was a 747.

"I'll call you in a little bit," he said.

O'Neill also spoke to his 29-year-old son, J.P., who had taken the train in to visit his father at his new job but had made it only as far as Saint Vincent's Hospital. "As soon as you make it down here," he told him, "call me and I'll come and get you."

One FBI agent remembers talking with O'Neill in the lobby of Tower One, helping the Bureau and the Fire Department set up a command center. O'Neill asked him if they really got the Pentagon. He was last seen walking in the general direction of Tower Two minutes before it collapsed.
Seven years ago today, I was boarding a plane to Hawaii for my honeymoon... Now I can only wonder what my life might have been like if all this Bush shit had never happened.

Finally, for anyone not familiar with Hauer, I'll just lazily reproduce this text:
Who is Jerome Hauer?
Hauer seems to specialize in the art of holding down several different jobs at the same time. While he started to work for the NIH in September 2001, he remained a Managing Director at Kroll Associates - the official security and bodyguard company for all American presidents since World War II. Kroll Associates is also the security company for the Sears Tower.

Jerome Hauer (Human Health Institute) is the man who put John O'Neill at the WTC and tipped the White House off to Cipro - BEFORE the first anthrax attack!

In May 2002, Jerome Hauer became director of the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness (OPHP), succeeding Dr. D. A. Henderson from Johns Hopkins Institute.

He started to work for the NIH under Tommy Thompson on September 10, 2001 as an adviser on national security. On September 11th, he told the White House to take Cipro, the antibiotic that works against the anthrax virus, without bothering to reveal his warning to the American nation. It is not known how long Hauer worked at the NIH before Sept. 11, but we can confirm that he was working on Sept. 10. But things get really interesting when we consider that Jerome Hauer was also the man who in August 2001 arranged a new job for John O'Neill - the resigning chief of the FBI Terror Task Force - as head of security at the World Trade Center.

This might have something to do with the FBI HQ (O'Neill complained about them), but also with Jerome Hauer - who is a friend of the current prime anthrax suspect, Stephen Hatfill, who was working for the military anthrax program USAMRIID at Fort Detrick and Battelle, a huge pharmacy company with many ties to the CIA.

Hauer and Hatfill worked together at the SAIC's Center for Counterterrorism Technology and Analysis in 1999. The SAIC (Scientific Applications International Corp) later received also a huge BioDefense budget in autumn 2001.

But first, more about Hauer:
In 1983, Hauer joined IBM where he was responsible for the company's Hazardous Materials Response and Crisis Management and Fire Safety programs. Hauer produced a series of hazardous materials training videos that earned him the International Film and TV Critics of New York Bronze award in 1986.

In the early 1990s, Hauer got his first contacts to military and biodefense. Hauer received a master's degree in emergency medical services from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. Then he became member of the Johns Hopkins Working Group on Civilian Bio Defense, where he wrote various articles about a possible bioterrorist attack.

In 1998, he started working at the OEM (Office for Emergency Management) in New York.

In the same year, Hauer and anthrax suspect Hatfill both supported the CFR as experts in their respective fields. The CFR is an acronym for Council on Foreign Relations, one of the most important think-tanks advising the US government, as well as many other governments abroad.

CFR members include the Pentagon's top advisers, Richard Perle, Henry Kissinger, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, ex-CIA chief James Woolsey, biosciences specialist Joshua Lederberg, and many others.

On May 28, 1998, Hatfill and Hauer spoke together at the same CFR meeting about "Building a 'Biobomb': Terrorist Challenge" Hatfill was at that time also Senior Research Associate at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infectious Diseases (=USAMRIID)

Hauer seems to specialize in the art of holding down several different jobs at the same time. While he started to work for the NIH in September 2001, he remained a Managing Director at Kroll Associates - the official security and bodyguard company for all American presidents since World War II!

With Hauer's many sources of insider information (e.g. Kroll/President bodyguards), it makes sense that he also knew about the CIA briefing for George Bush on August 6, 2001, about warnings of an imminent terrorist "attack with planes."

Hauer is still trying to save the world.

On November 6th, 2001 he participated in the "Independent Task Force on America's Response to Terrorism" at the CFR. Participants there included James J. Zogby (President of the Arab American Institute and Central Asian Enterprise Fund), Newton L. Gingrich (Chief Executive Officer, The Gingrich Group), Harold Brown (former secretary of defense and counselor at CSIS: the Center for Strategic and International Studies), Henry A. Kissinger (Senior Fellow in National Security and European Affairs), Richard C. Holbrooke (Counselor, CFR and Vice Chairman of Perseus, LLC) and Philip A. Odeen (Executive Vice President, Washington Operations of TRW, Inc. and CEO of Reynolds + Reynolds, Dayton).

Their agenda, eight weeks after the attack of Sept. 11, was strange indeed:

"....Release a White Paper explaining our goals and rationale for the war in Afghanistan, and outlining the evidence that the al-Qa'eda network was responsible for the 9/11 attacks....
...Disseminate stories of particular victims to convey the range of people killed in the 9/11 attacks-stress range of religions, races, income levels, etc...

...counteract myth that Mossad was behind the attacks by showing Jews killed, etc...

...Routinely monitor the regional press in real time to enable prompt responses..."

Hauer's deep connection to disinformation circles for his own purpose are well known. In 1998, he convinced New York Mayor Rudi Guilliani to develop a vaccine against the West Nile virus - almost one year before this virus broke out in New York.

To this end, Hauer introduced Col. Thomas Monath of Oravax (now Accambis) to Guliani and organised a business deal.

Hauer also continued giving bioterror lectures and writing terror scenario scripts. He organized a July 26, 1999, conference in New York for journalists and "thought leaders," on bioterrorism and "Reporting on Weapons of Mass Destruction - Responsibility, Reliability, Readiness." At the same time, he was heading the West Nile spray operation in NYC.

Bioterrorism and vaccines - a perfect payroll combination for Hauer?

Among the participants at this 1999 conference was Brigadier General Bruce Lawlor of the U.S. Army and the former FBI assistant director, Lewis Schiliro (NYC).

General Lawlor has in the meantime become the Senior Director for Protection and Prevention at the Office of Homeland Security:

Lawlor was the first commanding general of Joint Task Force - Civil Support (JTF-CS), located in Fort Monroe, Virginia. JTF-CS is a standing joint task force assigned to U.S. Joint Forces Command. Lawlor has taught at the U.S. Army War College and served as a consultant to the Defense Science Board.

Nothing is known about his further influence in preventing attacks on America.

However, as FBI assistant director, Schiliro supervised several counterterrorism investigations, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. But Schiliro gave up supporting Hauer in February 2000, too. He left the FBI to move to credit card giant MBNA Corp. And Schiliro wasn't the only one. His close friend Louis Freeh - who was replaced in the FBI in August 2001 by Thomas Pickard as the acting head of the Bureau - started a new job as a Senior Vice Chairman at MBNA Corp in early September 2001 and began to collect shares.

The background of the MBNA is very interesting. They helped the FBI in tracing the hijackers' credit card transactions, and had a lot of prominent helping hands. Among them was James Kallstrom, the former head of Special Operations, FBI.

MBNA also has a controversial status among civil right groups. Since 1996, MBNA CORP has unleashed various bulldozers, dump-trucks and explosives in a savage attack on the Ducktrap Deeryard (major coastal wildlife area on Penobscot Bay, Maine USA) or continued with "dull roar of corporate jet noise".

Then, in April 2001, MBNA also had to deal with cheque fraud. Involved was Intelligent Finance, a Halifax-backed Internet bank and a bogus account for a guy named Vindel.

Also interesting is the bio of another director of the MBNA Corporation: Bernadine P. Healy. She also serves as a trustee of the Battelle Memorial Institute and is President and CEO of the American Red Cross. On May 10, 2001, a few months before Sept. 11, she testified on "human challenges that we will face during a WMD attack":

The Red Cross and the OEM under Jerome Hauer worked very closely together. Hauer's connections and insider information seem to be endless!

He also helped with the construction of the New York OEM headquarters known as "the bunker," on the 23rd floor of 7 World Trade Center.

The CIA later confirmed that they also had an office in that building, next to the Department of Defense and the INS. For unknown reasons, 7 World Trade Center was the third skyscraper to collapse on Sept. 11. Officially, it began burning after debris from the Twin Tower collapses caused an illegal diesel-fuel tank inside the building to explode.

The presence of this large gas tank - also on the 23rd floor - with thousands of gallons of fuel far above ground, in violation of the fire code, was confirmed some weeks after Sept. 11th. There has never been an official verdict on the reasons for the collapse of WTC 7. A FEMA study failed to reach a clear conclusion.

In May 2000, the Johns Hopkins Center, in collaboration with the ANSER Institute for Homeland Defense, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Oklahoma Memorial Institute for the Study of Terrorism held a bioterrorism exercise at Andrews Air Force Base. Former Senator Sam Nunn played the President.

David Gergen played the National Security Advisor. Governor Frank Keating played himself, Frank Wisner was Secretary of State, ex-CIA director James Woolsey (ironically) played CIA Director, John White played Defense Secretary, and Dr. Margaret Hamburg was HHS Secretary. The Attorney General was played by George Terwilliger, William Sessions was FBI Director, and Jerome Hauer played FEMA Director.

"One of the striking observations of this exercise was the unfamiliarity of these distinguished and experienced professionals with the basic decisions and trade-offs associated with managing the response to the epidemic."

Observing was Tara O'Toole, MD, MPH Senior Fellow, Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies and at that time Deputy Director of Johns Hopkins Institute.

This started a series of different "war games."

On June 22-23, 2001, the same crew organised their last big scenario before Sep11th. They called it DARK WINTER. It was about a possible smallpox attack. Hauer participated as well, this time "playing" the director of the FBI.

Among the other participants once again:
James Woolsey, ex-CIA director
Hon. Sam Nunn
George Terwilliger etc.

Observing, among many others, Thomas Inglesby, at that time Senior Fellow Johns Hopkins Institute

On July 14th, 2001 the testimony on DARK WINTER was released. But when the first anthrax attacks started, the only thing, which worked perfectly, was the distribution of the anthrax antibiotic Cipro, by Bayer. A couple of weeks later, Barbara Rosenberg of FAS (Federation of American Scientists), the magazine New Scientist, the biowarfare convention specialist Jan van Aken, and the ex-UN inspector Richard Spertzel came to the conclusion that the anthrax was homegrown.

Rosenberg was also supported by Dr. Francis Boyle, a human rights lawyer and professor of law at the University of Illinois. An expert on international law, U.S. criminal law and nuclear weapons, Boyle has studied many different biowarfare contracts in which "safety levels were atrocious." He is also author of "The Criminality of Nuclear Deterrence":

Hauer ignored the report by Barbara Rosenberg, but he certainly knew who she was. He first met her on April 10, 1998, at a "roundtable on genetic engineering and biological weapons" under President Clinton. The small group of outside experts and cabinet members present there included: William Cohen (at the time Secretary of Defense), CIA boss George Tenet, Craig Ventner (Celera), Joshua Lederberg (Rockefeller University, Defense Science Board), Thomas Monath (Oravax/Acambis, former CDC and USAMRIID), Hauer, and Barbara Rosenberg.

In November 2001, Hauer was still ignoring the investigations by Barbara Rosenberg, who had already worked out a list of possible anthrax suspects, scientists who would have been able to gain access to the original Ames strain from USAMRIID, Fort Detrick.

Among the suspects on this list were Battelle and the Battelle Memorial Institute administrators, who supplied the Dugway anthrax proving facility in Utah, where the only virtually identical Ames strain of silica-impregnated hyper-weaponized anthrax was found. Meanwhile, Hauer in November started an initiative known as "De-Mystifying the Biological Weapons Debate," and as a member of this group he claimed at the time that the main suspects for the anthrax attacks included "Osama Bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network and sympathizers to US right wing extremists"

Therefore we have a lot of questions for him.

Is Hauer in any conflicts of interest?

What was his coordination with FEMA?

Can Hauer confirm, if a FEMA team was already dispatched to New York on September 10, as spokesman Tom Kennedy said in an interview with Dan Rather (CBS, shortly after the attack)?

(INFO: An interview with FEMA director Joe Allbaugh took place on September 12th on CBS at 7:40:20 accirding to the CBS transcript)

On May 8, 2001, Bush announced a new Office of National Preparedness for Terrorism at the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At the same time, he proposed to cut FEMA's budget by $200 million. Bush said that day that Cheney would direct a government-wide review on managing the consequences of a domestic attack.

How deep was the communication transfer between Jerome Hauer, the Pentagon, FEMA and the CIA?

Hauer not only knew former CIA director James Woolsey, but also Milt Bearden, who was station commander and had managed America’s covert war in Afghanistan, helping the Moujaheddin drive out the Soviets between 1986-1989. Both spoke at the Nassau Community College (NYC) on October 22, 2001.

Hauer's connections to the CDC, Johns Hopkins and the CIA (James Woolsey) are well-established. What role did Jerome Hauer really play?

Why was the distribution of Cipro to White House staff on Sept. 11 classified for such a long time (AP)?

What exactly does Hauer know about Stephen Hatfill and his former USAMRIID colleague, Thomas Monath?

What was his main concern in organizing a security job for John O'Neill at the Twin Towers?

What exactly did Hauer organise on Sep11th? Is it true that his office ordered thousands of employees "back to their desks" after the first plane hit, causing hundreds of unnecessary deaths?

Did Hauer let both the Sept. 11 and the anthrax attacks happen on purpose?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Left Is The New Right - So What's Left?

Prof Q says the collapse of Fannie and Freddie spells the end of neoliberalism (whatever that is). Here's my comment:
The supreme irony? The Chinese socialist government is now fretting about how much exposure they have to the US capitalist meltdown.

In mid-2007 China owned around $376 billion of debt issued by U.S. government agencies, principally Fannie and Freddie. Do they now walk away, or follow Uncle Sam down the hole? As one Chinese analyst frets:

"For China, whether or not you buy the new treasuries, there will be losses: if you buy them, you're getting deeper in the hole; if you don't buy, your existing holdings will lose value."

Or as Vice-Premier Wang Qishan put it:

"If we don't buy U.S. treasuries and ABS, what else we can buy? China just has no way to avoid the risks. Whatever we do, we have to bear the losses."

The old dictionary definitions of "Left" and "Right" just don't seem to be holding up too well for discussion purposes in this Brave New World. Maybe it's time to dump the corporate stock financial model?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Compare And Contrast Dept.

A Japanese scholar says Kim Jong-Il has been dead for 5 years:
So who pulls the strings now if Professor Shigemura's claims are correct?

"Some of the military leaders, also the party leaders, and government leaders," he said.

"Several people are conducting North Korea's government. Actually the North Korean government is guided by those people, those leaders, not only one person. Now they are collective leaderships."
Meanwhile, Bob Woodward says that the top US military chiefs have been out-manouvered and outranked by the USA's collective administration:
Pace, Schoomaker and Casey found themselves badly out of sync with the White House in the fall of 2006, finally losing control of the war strategy altogether after the midterm elections. Schoomaker was outraged when he saw news coverage that retired Gen. Jack Keane, the former Army vice chief of staff, had briefed the president Dec. 11 about a new Iraq strategy being proposed by the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank.
I wonder how the US public would react to a military coup?

Domestic Disputes

It's been an interesting weekend in Australian politics, and I am pleased to say that I payed very little attention to any of it (it was Father's Day, it was my wedding anniversary, and my kids' soccer team was in the Preliminary Final). But now that things are settling into place, a few things are worth mentioning.

Firstly, NSW politics is totally corrupt. It has been corrupt since before Neville Wran played kingpin, and nothing has changed except the names, the pay cheques, and the media complicity. Now the farce has become so transparent that it threatens to derail public confidence in Teh System. Good.

Ordinary voters around the nation are slapping the major parties with a very big stick. And the beating is well deserved. Did they really think that after 11 years of Howard all we wanted was more of the same, with a different brand?

You won't see the mainstream media making much of it, but the Green Party's performance in Mayo was probably even more shocking than the Socceroo's triumph over Holland this weekend (we beat them at their own game, can you believe it?).

This is from
Greens Leader Bob Brown says the Greens' near-win in Mayo, Rob Oakeshott's landslide in Lyne, and the 4% state-wide swing to the Greens in Western Australia spell disintegration for the two-party system in Australia.

"Had the Greens' Lynton Vonow got the column inches or TV time given the Liberals' Jamie Briggs, Mayo would have gone to the Greens," Senator Brown said.

"As it is, the seat will be decided on absentee and postal votes and we Greens are keeping our fingers crossed."
Bob Brown is not the only one with his fingers crossed. Stephen Smith says the ALP may still be able to govern WA if everything falls its way, but it looks more likely that the Nationals will hold the balance of power (see this story) and choose their partners accordingly.

That's all the more incentive for the Nats to walk away from John Howard's Liberal Party, who have become an embarrassing liability. But would the Nat's seriously consider forming a coalition with the minority ALP? And if they did, would that spell the death knoll for the Liberals?

I think somebody (me! me!) might have actually predicted this a while ago: the Greens taking over the role of "The Left" in Australian politics, while Rudd Labor moves to the right (now "The Center"), and the Lib/Nat/One Nation detritus fight over the "Far Right" mantle.

Meanwhile, it's interesting that some (relatively very minor) positives finally seem to be emerging from the debacle of John Howard's last-minute decision to do something - anything! - about Teh Aboriginal Problem. I wonder if JWH will dare claim credit for highlighting Aboriginal illiteracy levels?

I read a very strange Op-Ed in The Independent last week, by a man called Rupert, which was desperately trying to paint a rosy picture of how history might judge George W. Bush's legacy. All the positives the author managed to pull together were in fact issues where Bush had been forced to back down, if not completely reverse his position. For example, the current (100% forced) changes to the US financial system might be seen as a positive in years to come. Or the removal of Saddam might be seen as a positive if the USA is forced to hand power back to the Iraqis and leave the Middle East stage.

But will Bush really be given credit for these changes? Only if the GOP is writing the history books.

And what about history's view of John W. Howard? Five hundred years from now, if this delicate little planet still exists, will people talk about how Howard opened the doors for the Greens to take power, which not only saved the planet but also opened the door on a whole new era of transparent, democratic politics? And if so, will they dare give him credit for that?

PS: As I write, Mick Keelty is desperately trying to explain why his AFP attack dogs didn't let go of the Haneef case for so long. Dare we hope for a resignation statement later today? Err.... no:
"I look forward to making some public statements once the inquiry delivers its findings," said Mr Keelty, whose evidence was given in camera.
Poor man. It must be so hard to do your job when you are not allowed to talk to the media. Err.... Well, whatever.

Friday, September 5, 2008

WTF??? Obama Sells Out His Base

First it was FISA, now this:
Sept. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Barack Obama said the surge of American forces in Iraq has ``succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,'' though Iraqis still haven't done enough to take responsibility for their country.

``The surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated,'' Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, said in a recorded interview broadcast tonight on Fox News's ``The O'Reilly Factor'' program.
I had some hope that Obama might be more than he seemed, perhaps ready to take on the establishment that he has so assidusously courted all these years. But this is not just appalling, it's also stupid.

I mean, here he is playing the GOP's game, giving away his prized antiwar credentials, and ridiculously signing up to the absurd fantasy that Bush's "surge" was some kind of military stroke of genius - and for what?

And he's doing this not just on FOX NEWS but on the freakin' BILL O'REILLY SHOW! Are you kidding?

Has somebody spiked his drinking water? Are they holding a gun to his daughter's head? Or is his campaign getting tactical advice from Doug Feith?

Sadly, this move is just the latest, most obvious sign that Obama is already preparing to take over the role of US warmonger-in-chief. But even politically, it doesn't even make sense. It's just totally stupid in every way.

A terrible pity, when so much is at stake. Sigh. Is it time to vote Green yet?

A recent Vanity Fair article about Murdoch revealed that Obama had lunch with Murdoch and Roger Ailes, the head of FOX. Obama slammed Ailes, who replied "What are we supposed to do when you keep ignoring us?" Was this part of the deal they cut? It sure looks that way.

Stupid stupid stupid.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Thick As Thieves

From the Financial Times:
Watchers of political donations and property developers will be interested in the latest appointment of former attorney general Lord Goldsmith to the board of Frank Lowy's Westfield Holdings, the group behind London's biggest new shopping centres.

Lord Goldsmith was the attorney general who presided over the cash for peerages probe which focused on Labour Party fund raiser Lord Levy - an occasional tennis partner of Mr Lowy who collected £100,000 to advise Westfield on UK opportunities.

After the matter came up in parliament, then PM Tony Blair told the House of Commons that he was satisfied there was no conflict of interest in Lord Levy's relationship with Westfield, and the group maintained there was no political lobbying involved.
Lord Goldsmith, you might remember, is also representing the widow of former Georgian opposition leader and media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili.

And worth noting that Imedi media, the TV and radio station, is now back up and running, and owned by Joseph Kay, a distant relative of Patarkatsishvili.

Classic Atrios

There are a lot of things I could fault about Atrios - he's lazy, and not as curious as he should be, and too eager to court the mainstream, and probably an alocholic by now, if he wasn't when he hit the big time - but this link is pure gold.

Peggy Noonan Explains

But But But!

But But But!

"I can't believe this has happened to one of our soldiers in his own country. He just didn't know how to react.

"We've been to America and their military get treated like heroes over there."
Even more hilarious: The Metro Hotel is owned by a company called American Amusements Ltd.

Seriously, maybe this is good news. If the military profession has sunk to such low levels, it's time for either a coup or world peace.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

More Good Reasons To Move To New Zealand

If only it was warmer, and the real estate was cheaper...
The New Zealand navy is finding it difficult to sail, the air force to fly and the army would struggle to take part in combat, the 2007/2008 Defence Force annual report reveals.
Seriously, who the *John Howard* is going to attack New Zealand anyway, except that big warmongering country to the west, or their nasty friends on the far side of the Pacific Ocean?

And from a taxpayer's point of view, this bit was interesting:
One of the main challenges was the high attrition rate - more than 15 per cent - and the loss of trained staff due to the civilian demand for trained staff.
In other words, taxpayers pay for these soldja boys to learn their nasty tricks, then they go pro with outfits like Blackwater. Why do we bother, eh?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another Blog Bites The Dust

As I wind down my blogging activity, I have decided to close off with any further posts at Bush Out, where it all began. I am basically just going to be marking time there till Bush is gone, and the USA is out of Iraq.

It's a pity. I had high hopes for this blog, but there is only so much you can do on your own in my situation.

UPDATE: Ah, WTF. There's only so much you can say about the final days of Bush, isn't there? I'm back.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Manufacturing Reality

This might sound strangely familiar:
Imagine prisoners who have been chained since their childhood deep inside a cave: not only are their arms and legs immovable because of chains; their heads are chained in one direction as well so that their gaze is fixed on a wall.

Behind the prisoners is an enormous fire, and between the fire and the prisoners is a raised walkway, along which puppets of various animals, plants, and other things are moved. The puppets cast shadows on the wall, and the prisoners watch these shadows. Behind this cave there is a well-used road, and upon this road people are walking and talking and generally making noise. The prisoners, then, believe that these noises are coming directly from the shadows they are watching pass by on the cave wall...

Suppose a prisoner's chains break, and he is able to get up and walk about (a process which takes some time, as he has never done it before). Eventually he will be compelled to explore; he walks up and out of the cave, whereby he is instantly blinded by the sun. He turns then to the shadows on the floor, in the lakes, slowly working his way out of his deluded mind, and he is eventually able to glimpse the sun.
That allegory is actually over 2300 years old. It from Plato and is known as the Allegory of the cave.

Meanwhile, in the Modern World, TV is still the leading source of news in the USA. But it's not all bad news:
Pew said the results show an increasing shift toward online news consumption, but that there is now a sizable group of a more engaged, sophisticated and well-off people that use both traditional and online sources to get their news.

The Pew researchers referred to these people as "integrators," and says they account for 23 per cent of those surveyed, spending the most time with the news on a typical day.

Anthrax: Hindsight and "Heroes In Error"

The New York Times says the FBI will release more details of the "new" scientific evidence they used to frame Bruce Ivins for the 2001 anthrax attacks. No doubt that evidence will be closely scrutinized by a nation which still struggles with big scientific "questions" - like Darwin's Theory of Evolution, Global Warming and the Big Bang.

Regrets? Having successfully avoided a lawsuit from Stephen Hatfill, Nicholas Kristof has a few:
Kristof told me he plans to write a column looking back on the case and apologizing to Hatfill for any “extra scrutiny and upheaval the columns brought to him, and wrestling with the journalistic issues involved.”

... Kristof said he had been concerned about the potential impact of what he was writing. He said he tried to humanize Hatfill by writing that Mr. Z’s friends “are heartsick at suspicions directed against a man they regard as a patriot.” After Hatfill was identified, Kristof wrote that there “must be a genuine assumption that he is an innocent man caught in a nightmare.”

I asked Kristof if he regretted focusing so much on Hatfill when the point was to spur the F.B.I. to a more vigorous investigation. He said, “I think I should have tried harder to find a range of other examples to underscore the incompetence of the F.B.I. anthrax investigation.”
Years from now, Kristof will still be telling his grandkids how he helped pressure the FBI into resolving the case.

The Murdoch Wall Street Journal is also indulging in a little hindsight:
In the days after attacks, suspected samples of anthrax began pouring into the U.S. Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases. In Room 19 of the bacteriology division, Dr. Ivins's office was jammed with desks for six more staffers where once there had been just Dr. Ivins and perhaps one other.

"We were scared," says Col. Arthur Anderson, who at the time was chief of laboratory medicine in the diagnostic-systems division. Many of the scientists were seeing for the first time the weaponized version of a microbe they had worked with for years.

They were also fascinated, particularly Dr. Ivins, who talked repeatedly about the refinement of the spores sent with the Oct. 9 letter to then-South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle. The spores nearly floated out of the envelope.

"The stuff just came out without any prompting," he told Gerald Andrews, his boss at the time.

Dr. Ivins, his colleagues said, argued that al Qaeda was responsible. "He was very passionate about this," former boss Jeffrey Adamovicz said. "He was very agitated."
Maybe Ivins was a WSJ reader. Or maybe he read the New York Times. Whatever. He was obviously very unbalanced.

If Ivins was really guilty, you could expect to see heads rolling at the US military lab where he was employed, and at the top of FBI. But of course that will not happen - it never does.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Georgian Subplots: Berezovsky's Game

Readers of my other blogs might remember a couple of posts looking into Rupert Murdoch's strange business deals with former Georgian opposition leader and media tycoon Badri Patarkatsishvili.

Patarkatsishvili died in London earlier this week [WRONG: SEE BELOW] and UK police are treating it as a suspicious death:
His death drew comparisons to the 2006 radiation poisoning in London of ex-Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko. Moscow's refusal to hand over the primary suspect, Andrei Lugovoi, has strained relations between Britain and Russia.

Police found no trace of radiation at the Georgian's mansion, Britain's Press Association reported, citing police sources.

"Even if it is a heart attack, the recent situation in England with the deteriorating relations with Russia has led people to be suspicious even when there aren't any grounds to be suspicious," Natasha Chouvaeva, editor of the Russian-language newspaper London Courier, said of Mr. Patarkatsishvili's death.

In a strange twist, Mr. Lugovoi provided security for Mr. Patarkatsishvili and his businesses for 13 years.
The Imedi media network which was controlled by Patarkatsishvili and Newscorp is now the target of predators. It ceased news broadcasts in January of 2008.
According to Nina Ognianova, the program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia at the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, the questions surrounding Imedi’s ownership highlight a particularly troubling aspect to Georgia’s media market.

"What is currently not available in Georgia is the transparency of who the owners are, what their interests are. There is a lot of speculation about who is who and what their real stake is in these stations and wherever there is a lot of rumor, there is a lot of room for speculation," she told EurasiaNet in a telephone interview.
And yet the media in Georgia has been hailed as a model for other former Soviet states. Well, I don't think we'll be hearing much more about that for a while.

In another twist, a US lawyer has just been jailed in Belarus:
Emmanuel Zeltser's sentencing Monday comes after being convicted at a closed trial for commercial espionage and using false documents. He is an expert on organized crime and money laundering.
The common thread in both these stories is self-exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky (photo above), who says his "dear friend" Patarkatsishvili complained to him of heart problems when they met just last week.

Yeah, I bet he did.

What's interesting is how these guys like Berezovsky and Patarkatsishvili are on side with the UK government in all this. Guess who is representing Patarkatsishvili's widow in court? Lord Goldsmith, Tony Blair's former Attorney General, the man who famously changed his mind about whether it was illegal to invade Iraq.

This plot has lots of twists:
Emanuel Zeltser, who once testified on Capitol Hill about the Russian mob, is a key character in a wrangle over the $12billion (£6billion) fortune of a Georgian oligarch found dead at his country home in Surrey. He was arrested after flying to Belarus and accused of possessing false documents. According to Amnesty International, he has been tortured in custody.

Quite how Mr Zeltser ended up in Belarus is a mystery. The lawyer flew there on a private aircraft owned by the exiled oligarch Boris Berezovsky - even though Mr Zeltser and Mr Berezovsky are on opposite sides in the fight for the fortune of the dead Georgian, Arkadi Patarkatsishvili.

A law firm representing Mr Berezovsky had already tipped off the authorities in Minsk that the lawyer might be carrying bogus material on his laptop. Lord Goldsmith, now a private lawyer and representing Mr Patarkatsishvili's widow in the case, e-mailed the Belarus ProsecutorGeneral's office to support its investigation of Mr Zeltser and offering to swap information.
UPDATE: I have seen a few reports that Patarkatsishvili died back in February, which is strange. My first link above is from the Dallas News via Associated Press, dated Wednesday, August 13 and saying he dies "last Tuesday". But Wikipedia cites Feb 12, 2008 as the actual death date, with lots of solid news links to back it up:
"Patarkatsishvili, aged 52, collapsed at Downside Manor, his mansion in Leatherhead, Surrey, England on February 12, 2008 at 10.45 pm. Ambulance crew members tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate the businessman, who was pronounced dead at 10.52 pm.[1] As in any other case of unexpected death, Surrey police treated the case as "suspicious" and launched an official investigation.[25]

The businessman spent his last day in the City of London office of international law firm Debevoise and Plimpton, meeting his business partner Boris Berezovsky, his spokesperson Lord Bell and his lawyer Lord Goldsmith QC, as well as fellow exiles, the Russians Nikolai Glushkov and Yuli Dubov [26] From the City he left for Down Street, Mayfair, to visit Berezovsky's office, and at 7.00 pm was returned to Leatherhead with his Maybach. Shortly after dining, Patarkatsishvili told his family he felt unwell and went upstairs to his bedroom where he was found unconscious after a heart attack."
Is this just crap reporting from AP again? Looks like it.
London Lite was first newspaper to inform the British public of the Georgian oligarch's death on the evening of 13 February 2008. In the news of 14 February 2008, Patarkatsishvili's death was covered in The Guardian, The Times, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, etc.
Is the US media just catching up with the British press, six months later? I notice a few other Texas papers ran the misleading AP story last week, following Zeltser's arrest, but maybe it's all a bit too exotic for other US media players.

The Wikipedia entry on Imedi media doesn't give much more clues on Murdoch's involvement. Georgian politics and business are very secretive affairs, as is Murdoch's involvement in geopolitics. The whole thing is very shady indeed.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bremer's CPA Tried To Fake WMDs, Targetted Ritter For Assassination

Former UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter, writing at Information Clearing House:
According to the source, the CPA had passed to the Badr militia my name, the dates of my planned trip to Baghdad, my proposed agenda and a list of Iraqis I had planned to meet with, including Mohammed. This information was in turn passed on to the unit in the Badr militia which specialized in targeted assassination in Baghdad. “Mr. Ritter cannot come to Iraq,” the Mukhabarat agent told Mohammed. “If he does, his life is at risk, your life is at risk, and everyone associated with his visit’s life will be at risk.” And so Mohammed sent his e-mailed warning to me.

On the surface, Mohammed’s story was too much to believe. I was willing to accept any account that held that specific Iraqi groups, such as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, were opposed to my visit to the extent that they might issue threats in an effort to intimidate me from coming. But the concept of the United States government being involved boggled the mind.

The problem with disbelieving was there were too many pieces of this puzzle that seemed to fit together...
That was in late 2003, when Ritter was on assignment for Harpers Magazine. But his source, a former Iraqi WMD scientist identified only as "Mohammed", also had a story from June that year:
Dave was on his feet, pacing before Mohammed, before turning to him and asking straight out, “Where are the weapons of mass destruction?” Mohammed, who had intimate knowledge of certain aspects of the Iraqi WMD effort, replied straight back: “There are no WMD in Iraq.”

Dave continued pacing back and forth in front of Mohammed. “My president,” he said, “is in trouble. Can you help him?”

Mohammed was taken aback by the question. “Excuse me?” he asked. “Could you repeat yourself?”

Dave sat down next to the Iraqi. “George Bush is in trouble. Our people did not find any WMD in Iraq. Can you help us?”

Mohammed looked back at Dave. “How?”

“Can we prepare something for that? We could bring in some nuclear material from the former Soviet Union, and pretend they are Iraqi.”

Mohammed, stunned by the unexpected nature of the request, indicated that such a ploy could be easily uncovered by forensic examination of the evidence by outside experts, such as UNSCOM (the United Nations Special Commission) or the IAEA, who would undoubtedly be called in to verify such a finding. Dave sat in silence for a few moments, before springing to his feet. “I have to leave for a meeting,” he said. “Stacey will show you out.”

Mohammed was to meet again with Dave, Stacey and Carol in the weeks that followed. The subject of WMD, Iraqi or otherwise, was never again broached by Dave or anyone else in his team.
The first reader comment on this story at ICH is a rather disturbing:
Question, sort of off topic: Have the good ICH readers notice that "Riverbend" has been absent for the past few months...
Is that meant to be a threat to ICH readers?

Oh, You Mean THAT Money...!









Offshore search nets $50m in unpaid tax:
TAX audits of Australians who have held bank accounts in the tax haven of Liechtenstein have already netted $50 million in unpaid tax and penalties, the Australian Taxation Office has revealed.

The billionaire businessman Frank Lowy has identified himself as among the Australians being investigated, but the Tax Office yesterday refused to give details on how many people, or from whom, the money had been recovered.

The second tax commissioner, Jennie Granger, said $20 million had been collected, with another $30 million being processed.

This puts the Tax Office halfway to the estimated $100 million it expects to recoup from people with Liechtenstein accounts.

A separate letter campaign to Australians asking them to voluntarily disclose offshore bank accounts has led to 858 people making disclosures about a combined $36 million in previously undeclared taxable income.
This ATO crackdown is separate from the "high-profile" (except that the media is scared to talk about it) investigation known as Project Wickenby.
On the investigations into the tax haven of Liechtenstein, Ms Granger said it would be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring criminal charges against people if it saw fit. Strict legal requirements prevented the Tax Office from disclosing tax details of individuals.
But of course the DPP won't be laying charges against anyone, least of all Frank Lowy. A few million dollars for the tax man, some big donations to both sides of parliament, a couple of cognacs at the club, and it'll all be forgotten...

Meanwhile, in Bush's USA, things are even worse:
Remember the old Steve Martin routine on how to make a million dollars and not pay taxes: "First, make a million dollars... Second, don't pay taxes." Turns out Martin's joke is standard operating procedure for corporations in the United States -- only, in comparison, Martin was a piker.

Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study on taxes paid by corporations. In what Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-ND) mildly called "a shocking indictment of the current tax system," the GAO found that about two-thirds of corporations operating in the US did not pay taxes annually from 1998 to 2005.

Now most corporations in America are start-ups or small, mom and pop operations that have adopted a corporate form to lower their tax rates. And a greater percentage of large corporations do pay some taxes. But in 2005, with corporate profits reaching new heights as a percentage of national income, the GAO found that over one-fourth -- 28% of large corporations paid no taxes...

Not surprisingly, the income collected from corporations has been declining as a percentage of GDP, with the burden transferred to your income and payroll taxes. According to a study by the Treasury Department, from 2000-2006, an average of 2.2% of GDP was collected in corporate taxes. This compares to an average of 3.4% in other industrial countries.
So what's the US Government going to do about it? Well, Bush and McCain are now campaigning to LOWER THE CORPORATE TAX RATE. I kid you not.

Credibility Lost

So I was reading TPM the other day and noticed that Obama was polling well in Arkansas, a "deep red" state. And then today I check HuffPo and read that the Arkansas Democrat Party Chairman has been shot dead. And then I read that the alleged gunman was also shot dead by police.

The story is that he was pissed at losing his job. Maybe that's true. Maybe it isn't.

Again, we'll never know.

UPDATE: The familiar police refrain:
Lieutenant Hastings said the motive for the shooting was unclear.

"That's something that we'll be looking into. Right now we don't have an answer for you on that," he said, adding that the suspect was not a former Gwatney employee.

Cheney Is the Anthrax Killer

Brad Friedman of the Bradblog has a good piece at The Guardian which nicely covers all the angles in the anthrax case of late, including this "embarrassing" hand-scrawled letter from Ivin's drug-challenged therapist, and also linking to this very good article at TPM (check the comments too):
Officially, the U.S. does not have or keep any weapons-grade anthrax. President Nixon ordered the dismantling of U.S. biowarfare programs in 1969 and the destruction of all existing bioweapons, including anthrax.
And there you have it. This is all part of the secret government that has been steadily building influence since WWII.

I think what's really telling about this case is that the idiots in the FBI do not really understand what they are talking about, and yet they assume that the rest of us are just as stupid - in fact, even more stupid. Because they think they are all so very clever.
"I'm #1 - Why try harder?"
This, like the election of Bush himself, is directly attributable to the dismal state of education in the USA. Bush's USA is a society in rapid decline, which is a good thing for the rest of the world. The big problem is that the idiots in charge are armed to the teeth.

Meanwhile, the PM of NZ got a white powder envelope today. Is that just coincidence? I note that the Otago Daily Times was top story at yesterday, with an article taking the piss out of the FBI's anthrax investigation in a way the US press would never dare attempt (even Brad Friedman has to write for the Brits). So was this a warning to the Kiwis?

Who knows.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Useful Tools

Dick Cheney on Meet the Press, 8 September 2002:
VICE PRES. CHENEY: The president’s going to address the General Assembly of the United Nations this week. He will lay out his concerns at that point. We have begun to share, as much as we can, with committees of Congress. A lot of this, I hope, eventually will be in the public arena so that we’ll be able to discuss it not only with our allies overseas, but also with the American people here at home. They have a right to know and understand what it is that’s happened here.

It’s also important not to focus just on the nuclear threat. I mean, that sort of grabs everybody’s attention, and that’s what we’re used to dealing with. But come back to 9/11 again, and one of the real concerns about Saddam Hussein, as well, is his biological weapons capability; the fact that he may, at some point, try to use smallpox, anthrax, plague, some other kind of biological agent against other nations, possibly including even the United States. So this is not just a one-dimensional threat. This just isn’t a guy who’s now back trying once again to build nuclear weapons. It’s the fact that we’ve also seen him in these other areas, in chemicals, but also especially in biological weapons, increase his capacity to produce and deliver these weapons upon his enemies.

MR. RUSSERT: But if he ever did that, would we not wipe him off the face of the Earth?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who did the anthrax attack last fall, Tim? We don’t know.

MR. RUSSERT: Could it have been Saddam?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t know. I don’t know who did it. I’m not here today to speculate on or to suggest that he did. My point is that it’s the nature of terrorist attacks of these unconventional warfare methods, that it’s very hard sometimes to identify who’s responsible. Who’s the source? We were able to come fairly quickly to the conclusion after 9/11 that Osama bin Laden was, in fact, the individual behind the 9/11 attacks. But, like I say, I point out the anthrax example just to remind everybody that it is very hard sometimes, especially when we’re dealing with something like a biological weapon that could conceivably be misconstrued, at least for some period, as a naturally occurring event, that we may not know who launches the next attack. And that’s what makes it doubly difficult. And that’s why it’s so important for us when we do identify the kind of threat that we see emerging now in Iraq, when we do see the capabilities of that regime and the way Saddam Hussein has operated over the years that we have to give serious consideration to how we’re going to address it before he can launch an attack, not wait until after he’s launched an attack.