Thursday, February 28, 2008

Our Innocents Kick Your Innocents' Ass!

In the world of foreign relations, the strangest things are said. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel rejected condemnations and arguments that there were casualties on both sides of the fence, saying "there is no moral equivalence between terrorists and those fighting them, even if during those actions innocent civilians are accidentally killed." Now I know Israeli innocents have much more value than Palestinian innocents, who don't even deserve clean water. Israel even warned of perpetrating a Gaza holocaust and re-invading the Gaza Strip.

Tonight I heard an American diplomat speak about the situation in Venezuela. Mr. Thomas Dodd failed to mention Hugo Chavez was elected more than once via democratic processes. He did mention the failure of Huge Ego Chavez's last referendum (a sign that democracy remains alive), but another omission spoke volumes. In 2002 a coup attempt tried to supplant Hugo from his Presidential position. The United States backed the coup effort. If the ambassador's aim was to educate American college students on the situation in Venezuela, why would this important detail not get mentioned? It turns out this isn't George W.'s only coup.

Middle East Regional Stability

The U.S. ordered a warship into position off the coast of Lebanon in a "show of support for regional stability." Funny, the United States invaded Iraq some 5 years ago despite warnings by our Saudi friends that it could destabilize the region. But back to the present, where Israel feels extremely threatened by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A Kuwaiti leader recently suggested the Jewish state would take care of the Iranian nuclear problem. For them to do so, Israeli jets need to pass over potentially hostile territory. Will the USS Cole help make that a reality? Or is it in place to contain any blowback after Israel's pre-emptive strike? Another sign of the setup, the WSJ reported "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert plans to use his current trip to Japan to accuse North Korea of militarily cooperating with Syria and Iran."

Nevertheless, tensions are high in Southern Lebanon. Two years ago, Israel used the capture of two soldiers to invade their democratic neighbor to the north. It might take something much smaller to start a new war. That doesn't sound like a stable situation between two peaceful democracies.

Western Predatory Tactics

Consider the strange series of stories this past week. The Marine Corp Times reported that Al Qaida remains America's number one threat, at least according to National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell. He said:

“Al-Qaida is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: The identification, training and positioning of operatives for an attack on the homeland,” McConnell said. “While increased security measures at home and abroad have caused al-Qaida to view the West, especially the U.S., as a harder target, we have seen an influx of new Western recruits into the tribal areas [of Pakistan] since mid-2006.

CNN reported on a missile strike in that very region of Pakistan. It killed 8 and wounded 3 people. So who sent the missile if the U.S. military didn't?

The British military and the CIA have Predators, attack drones capable of firing missiles from remote locations. They pull the trigger from a command post outside Las Vegas, Nevada. So even if the U.S. military denied any involvement, the U.S. clearly played a role. General Atomics, an American company makes the Predator and its more powerful companion, The Reaper. The safe haven for its operation is American soil in the desert Southwest.

The U.S. is clearly involved. Let's go back to the tribal region of Pakistan for a moment. It harbors the top leaders of al Qaida, the number one threat to America. Note the time frame mentioned by Mike McConnell. New Western recruits have been going to that area since mid-2006. One might expect, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to have acted on such intelligence, now nearly two years old. What did he do? In late 2007, he disbanded the judiciary, jailed his political opponents, and shuttered a free media. None of these acts addressed Mr. McConnell's threat.

In early November 2007, Musharraf freed twenty eight militants, including suspected suicide bombers in return for captured Pakistani soldiers. Within months Benazir Bhutto, his main political rival died from a suicide bomb. The most recent man arrested in conjuction with the Bhutto attack had been captured in 2004 and turned over to the Pakistani government, which later freed him in July 2007.

The last piece of the puzzle was offered by Fran Townsend on a Fox News special. President Bush wants in the worst way to capture or kill Osama bin Laden before his term ends. Given his location, remote drones are the most effective way to accomplish this aim. Unfortunately, the increased use of robot weapons comes with a larger error rate, i.e. more civilian deaths.

It remains to be seen if all these actions reduce or increase the number of terrorists intent on harming America. However, if "deteriorating" Afghanistan is the petri dish, the scourge of terror continues to grow. It's a good thing Prince Harry just rode in to save the day. Maybe he can tell us if that was a British Predator that just struck Pakistan. If the answer is "no", that leaves the CIA and we know they aren't talking.

Chevron to Coach China's CNOOC on Iranian Gas Fields

How does a huge international oil and gas company get around international sanctions to establish new production fields? China's CNOOC works to nail down a $16 billion agreement to develop Iran's North Pars gas field amid U.S. sanctions on Iran. The Jerusalem Post reported:

In Washington, State Department spokesman Thomas Casey said the State and Treasury departments would likely look into whether the deal breaches the US sanctions law. As a company with shares listed on the New York Stock Exchange, CNOOC Ltd. would be subject to that law.

"As a matter of general policy, we don't believe now is the time to be making new investments in Iran, whether that's in the energy sector or in anything else," Casey said at press briefing Wednesday.

"There is specific legislation that does cover and potentially sanction investments made in Iran's oil and gas sector," Casey said. The announcement of a preliminary deal on the North Pars gas field in 2006 prompted Washington to demand an explanation, and a warning that such a contract might trigger penalties under the sanctions law.

CNOOC should contact Chevron and Total SA. They were able to develop a gas field in Burma while the country was under international sanctions. While Buddhist monks got their skulls cracked, these two western companies continued provided the ruling junta millions of dollars. George Bush's sanctions got nowhere close to shutting Chevron's spigot in Burma. Those hundreds of millions in greenbacks continue propping up the brutal gang of military generals.

But there may be another reason not to develop anything new in Iran. Israel could well bomb it. Not long ago, a Kuwaiti leader shared his expectation that Israel will take care of the Iranian nuclear threat. If so, expect the U.S. to stand strong to contain any blowback.

Those Unfortunate Incidents

The Bush team loves outcomes while deriding process. War has its predictable bad outcomes. Enemy identification isn't anywhere close to 100% accurate. Methods used to vanquish opponents have an error rate. Mistakes in taking down an insurgency can add fuel to the fire of their cause, however evil. Take the following examples:

U. S. soldiers killed an elderly man with mental disabilities who also was hard of hearing. The man's broken arm made his jacket look bulky, leading soldiers to believe he had an explosives vest. A military spokesman said, ""It was a mistake... an unfortunate incident."

Similar language can be found in an Israeli Defense Forces investigation into a wayward shell that killed 21 Palestinians and injured 35 more, mostly women and children. "The incident was unintentional and stemmed from a grave and atypical malfunction in the control mechanism of the artillery machinery being used at the time. The malfunction fed incorrect data into the system used to calculate the trajectory of the shells. Upon investigation the malfunction was determined to be extremely rare and unfamiliar even to the expert artillery technicians trained to deal with that specific system. Therefore, the military advocacy determined, there was nothing to link any possible human error to the outcome of the incident. Mendleblit ruled that the conduct of those involved in the event was not negligent."

If they did a credible investigation, it was another mistake, an unfortunate incident. Yet, people died from all these errors. The greatest costs are unknown and unknowable.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Freedom to Invade More than Once

President Bush asserted democracies do not war, but he never said they wouldn't cross territorial boundaries of other democracies to root out a terrorist threat. Presidential hopeful Barack Obama would launch attacks in Pakistan without regard to their sovereign rights. Israel invaded Southern Lebanon while bombing large parts of the rest of their democratic neighbor to the north. Their target was Hezbollah. Now, Turkey continues attacking newly democratic Iraq. One Turkish leader promised to stay until it wiped out some 4,000 PKK terrorists.

What happened to democracies having rule of law? I'm talking about the ones being invaded. Are Pakistan, Iraq and Lebanon not real democracies as they apparently cannot control terrorists making safe haven in their country? No safe haven...that means George W. may soon attack to root out those places breeding terrorists. How do you attack Iraq twice?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Appearance of Iranian Chalabi's

The Jerusalem Post had two lead articles on the Iranian threat. The first highlighted statements by an exiled Iranian opposition group that Teheran "accelerated its nuclear weapons program, including the production of atomic warheads."

The other noted Israel's strong deterence capabilities. It spoke of numerous changes since the second Lebanon war. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said:

"Over the last year and a half, we have undergone a deep and complex process based on change and improvement of every aspect of decision making," he said. "The recommendations following the war are being implemented at every level of IDF command."

The prime minister went on to say that unprecedented resources had been provided to enable the IDF to train harder, be better prepared for action and "to prepare, in the best possible way, commanders and fighters on every level for every possible scenario."

Also during the ceremony, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said, "I cannot be sure that we won't be faced with a stern test in the near future."

U.N. Calls Iranian Rhetoric "Intolerable"

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon promised to respond "firmly" to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's words deriding Israel. Mr. Ki-Moon called the verbal attacks "intolerable." An Israeli newspaper reported:

Ahmadinejad's remarks were broadcast on Iranian television on Wednesday, where he coined Israel a "filthy germ" and "savage beast" established by Western states in their bid to dominate Middle East nations.

The Iranian Foreign Minister added to the belicosity. Manouchehr Mottaki predicted the collapse of Israel. "The era of imposing policies on other states by military threats is over. The nations in the region will no longer surrender to any threats," he said.

I'm afraid, Mr. Ahmadinejad and Mr. Mottaki don't understand, the era of George W. Bush has 11 more months. Bush has a 19% approval rating. He has nothing to lose.

My guess is an Israeli guided missile enema is headed Iran's way in the near future. George will work hard to contain any blowback, Israeli P.M. Ehud Olmert and company might get. With the U.N. leadership promising a firm response to intolerable situation, Bush and Olmert might just get to roll the dice against risky Iran. Get your white flags ready, boys.

Bold Gonzo?

Ex-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales spoke at Washington University. In it he exhorted students to take on civic responsibilities. According to the student newspaper, Mr. Gonzales said:

"There is a difference between what you do and what people say you do. It's going to take years for the entire story to be told," said Gonzales. "If you worry about criticism you end up paralyzed and do nothing."

He said the truth about his actions will be revealed in the years to come. What happened to that bold Gonzo during those Congressional hearings? Why didn't he tell the truth, the entire story? He appeared paralyzed and surely said nothing.

George Breaks the D & C Code

U.S. President George W. Bush revealed the roadmap to divide and conquer during his Africa trip. During a press conference in Rwanda, Bush said:

"A clear lesson I learned in the museum was that outside forces that tend to divide people up inside their country are unbelievably counterproductive. In other words, people came from other countries -- I guess you'd call them colonialists -- and they pitted one group of people against another. And an early warning sign was -- and it's hard to have seen it, I readily admit, but I'm talking earlier than 1994, and earlier than the '90s -- was the fact that it become a habit to divide people based upon -- you know, in this case, whether they were Tutsi or Hutu, which eventually led to exploitation."

While the British were quite skilled at the game of pitting two oppressed groups against each other for scarce resources, the Bush team ain't bad either. Consider Hamas/Fatah in the Palestinian Territories or Iraq with its numerous splits, Sunni/Sunni, Shia/Shia, Sunni/Shia, and Kurd/Sunni/Shia. And who's minding the store in Iraq? It's people from other countries, mostly American soldiers.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

U.S. & Israel Aligned on Iranian Threat

Members of the U.S. Congress met with their Israeli counterparts to discuss the nuclear threat from Iran. The two countries only disagree in the timing of Tehran's ability to make a nuclear bomb. The article in the Jerusalem Post mentioned several U.S. Congresspersons, Senator Jon Kyl-R, Senator Sam Brownback-R, and Representative Jane Harman-D. America's two political parties currently compete for that special relationship with Israel and its corresponding campaign donations.

The world watched Nancy Pelosi drop any restrictions on use of force against Iran right before the big AIPAC meeting. Now the two legislatures ponder how best to reign in that pesky Iran. Sanctions or a direct attack. My money is on the latter, especially after viewing Jane's donation record. At 6-8 stands the Pro-Israel lobby, Defense Aerospace and Defense Electronics.

Rainman Strikes Yet Again!

C'mon Ray, how do you do it? How did you get the first oil deal with Iraqi Kurdistan? What luck to have the chance to share dover sole with Queen Elizabeth amongst dozens of other Bush Pioneers! And getting the Department of Homeland Security to stop the new border fence at your property, that's magic.

Did you call your buddy in the White House and say "the border fence sucks"? With all that good luck Ray, could you be the Rain Man?

Karl's Klown Election Parade

Karl Rove, master political strategist, had this to say about elections during a recent interview.

"Campaigns are not contests in which people are easily fooled. Where some phoney ad, or contrived presentation, wins the day," said Rove. "At the end of the parade, they see you as you are."

What a bunch of hooey! Karl knows very well how people are easily led. Campaigns are absolutely contrived, driven by citizen swallowing sound bites like "no new taxes" or the centuries old "change" mantra. Will John McCain say the top marginal tax rate during WWI, WWII and Vietnam was 77% or greater? No, that would be political suicide.

I offer a different analogy, campaigns are like dating, years of governance is the marriage. This brings us back to Karl's prognostications. At the end of a seven year parade in office, might the people see a leader as they are? Of course not, history is yet to judge. But we do know, President Bush quit listening to us, at least 70% or so.

Hedging Karl

Not long ago I did a piece on the sandbagging words of key Bush cabinet leaders. Condi Rice and Robert Gates offered the most imprecise language regarding the sobering fields of Afghanistan and Iraq. The likely author of those words spoke to conservatives in Canada. Karl Rove had much to say:

Karl Rove, the Republican political strategist often described as President George W. Bush's "brain," says his Svengali image is a media fallacy. "I'm a myth. I'm Grendel in Beowulf. Nobody has really seen me. But they think of me often."

Rove made the comparison to Grendel, the monster-like character in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem Beowulf who is feared by all but Beowulf, when asked about his role in the 2004 election, "But I like the myth. Keep it going, it adds to my shelf life."

Later in his talk, Rove defended the President on Iraq. The language he used sounded similar to Ms. Rice's and Dr. Gate's. Here it is:

"I think we're seeing the emergence of a potentially stable democracy in the heart of the Middle East."

Hedging his words and his bets? After five years we're now "seeing, emergence, potentially"? Sorry Karl, I didn't buy Condi's or Bob's. Why should I buy yours? My exploration of your style of politics shows it to be well out of date, at least for most citizens.

Barriers to Spread of Disease

President Bush displayed why he doesn't like the use of condoms to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The African sized prophylactic swallowed the President whole. Bush pointed out all the tiny peforations that would let the AIDS virus pass. I can picture George W. saying

"Abstinence is a viable method of malaria, I mean AIDS control. Just say no to sex. But use a barrier to keep deadly disease carrying mosquitoes away, just not for STD's."

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. "Just say no to mosquitoes!"

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bush Promotes Mosquito Abstinence in Africa

To cut down disease in African children, President Bush encouraged locals to abstain from contact with mosquitoes. I can just picture him saying:

"If they come to bite you with their malaria carrying disease, just say no. If it works for sexually transmitted illnesses, I'm sure it can work for insect borne diseases. Remember, no condom, no net."

Laura smiled, sure of her husband's wisdom and place in history, yet to be written.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Free to Use Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Energy Chief Samuel Bodman said the U.S. could give Exxon oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to make up for lost Venezuelan imports. Hugo Chavez quit selling his country's oil to Exxon/Mobil as a result of their legal dispute over the value of Exxon's assets nationalized by the Venezuelan government.

I looked back to find President Bush's other actions in regard to the SPR. In spring of 2004, he resisted calls to open the reserve to stem high gasoline prices. After Hurricane Katrina crimped Gulf oil production, Bush tapped the reserve via loans to various oil companies. They included a loan of six million barrels to Exxon Mobil, another one million barrels to Placid Refining, and 1.5 million barrels to Valero.

In early 2007, he proposed doubling the capacity of the SPR. A NYT editorial commented, "The $2.7 billion the administration proposes to spend on this project each year for the next 20 years is three times the amount that Congress authorized last year for the Energy Department’s entire research and development program for alternative energy sources."

Bush's record is clear. He'll open the reserve to give big oil their needed supplies, but not to help citizen's concerned about high energy costs. The President will expand it, adding additional demand to an already expensive oil market. He does so out of proportion to alternative energy expenditures. The Exxon/Mobil's of the world have to be very happy.

But if Bush is their puppet, and they want back into Venezuelan oil, what might he do? Might it be a CIA sponsored insurrection, a military takeover by a U.S. aligned General, or an engineered financial meltdown? No matter what, the signs are bad for Hugo Chavez. Bush and his buddies like to get their way...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

CIA to Force Terrorists to Run for Office

Thanks to the ingenuity of Presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Rudy Giuliani, the CIA has a new enhanced interrogation method. Suspected terrorists will be forced to board a bus and live the sleepless campaign life.

HUCKABEE (on CNN): I’m finding just out how long I can go sleep deprived. You know, running for office is sort of like being waterboarded, I think.

RUDY GIULIANI: And I see, when the Democrats are talking about torture, they’re not just talking about even this definition of waterboarding, which again, if you look at the liberal media and you look at the way they describe it, you could say it was torture and you shouldn’t do it. But they talk about sleep deprivation. I mean, on that theory, I’m getting tortured running for president of the United States. That’s plain silly. That’s silly.

Crank up the straight talk bus, there are terror plots to uncover. What happens if a suspected terrorist chokes on the entrée on the rubber chicken circuit? Who will give them the Heimlich maneuver? Will it be Rudy or Mike?

A lesson here is don't discount the power of American innovation from our Presidential hopefuls. They just helped the CIA enhance their interrogation methods. A big round of applause for the boys, and make it extra loud and long. We can't have them snagging a nap...

No Shoe Banging Yet Between U.S. and Iran

As the Bush and Olmert administrations escalate their actions against an Iranian nuclear weapon threat, those darned Persians don't always play along. Iran postponed its talks with Iraq and U.S. officials, scheduled for Friday. Did it have anything to do with the Kuwaiti official's remarks on Tuesday?

Persian Gulf nations believe Israel will strike at Iran's nuclear facilities rather than allow Teheran to develop nuclear weapons capabilities, Reuters quoted a senior Kuwaiti adviser as saying Tuesday. "I believe in something on the same Iraqi [Osirak reactor] model... We are assuming in the Gulf that Israel will take it out," Sami Alfaraj told Reuters.

What else happened recently that highlighted the Iranian threat?

1. U.S. Undersecretary of State Nick Burns said the United States sees "no need at all" for Iran to build additional nuclear power plants.

2. Reports of Iran's using advanced carbon centrifuge technology raised eyebrows.

3. The Iranian regime continues to pose a serious threat to the security of the United States, Europe and Israel, one "that needs to be countered," Deputy US Treasury Secretary Robert M. Kimmitt told members of the Anti-Defamation League's National Executive Committee in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday.

4. Iran's space program could be used to deliver ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads.

5. The Iranians are able to move secretly money around to fund their illicit activities and sponsor international terror. A Treasury official noted, "they do so through an array of deceptive practices specifically designed to evade detection from the international community. Such deceptive practices are specifically designed to evade the risk-management controls put in place by responsible financial institutions."

6. The U.S. is the reasonable party because we will meet with Iranians anywhere and anytime. Treasury representatives met with them last month on their terror financing. Apparently the Iranians found the Treasury logic difficult, "We know they are funneling money to terror and WMD because there is no evidence of it."

7. Israel's Mossad spy agency estimates Iran will develop a nuclear weapon within three years and continue to provide rockets to regional armed groups, a newspaper reported.

8. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad will visit Iraq for two days in early March. Will the U.S. pull an Aristide on him? Will Mahmoud pull a Khrushchev and bang his shoe on the podium? Surely there will be fireworks, more likely sooner than later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Jolting Joe Lieberman Punctuates U.S.'s Three Year Talk on Torture with Exclamation (no) Mark!

In 2005 stories broke of secret U.S. prisons and heavy handed interrogation techniques. An analysis of torture in the Melbourne Journal of International Law speaks of torture as a hidden practice.

Three years later, Independent Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman weighed in on the matter, as a solid proponent of torture that doesn't leave a mark:

You want to be able to use emergency tech to try to get the information out of that person," Lieberman said. Of course, Lieberman believes such authority has limits. He does not believe the president could authorize having hot coals pressed on someone's flesh to obtain that information.

The difference, he said, is that waterboarding is mostly psychological and there is no permanent physical damage. "It is not like putting burning coals on people's bodies. The person is in no real danger. The impact is psychological."

And how would Joe know? It's time for every person who voted to keep waterboarding in the President's arsenal to undergo the practice. The world might respect us again if the 45 Senators, who voted to keep simulated drowning available, would take a ride on the waterboard. After George W. uses his veto pen, give him a similar dunking using water from the Potomac. It's called leadership by example, because if we do it to others, they'll surely do it to our soldiers and citizens.

Free to Be Treated Like a Fucking Idiot

The White House has utter contempt for the average American. They believe you have no brain and will swallow the swill Dana Perino and George W. Bush regularly dish out. But yesterday they made a most distasteful stew.

The rule of law, cited by President Bush in Katrina's aftermath via his "zero tolerance" admonishment, does not apply to the White House or corporations breaking the law in conjunction with "his orders". When President Bush was inaugurated he promised to run an ethical administration, "to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government as we serve the American people."

Everyone who enters into public service for the United States has a duty to the American people to maintain the highest standards of integrity in Government.

Fast forward seven years to find his Press Secretary, whining about unfair treatment by Congress, trying to compel testimony on an issue of concern, the firing of numerous state Attorney Generals. Recall Alberto Gonzales, the government's Justice Chief who couldn't recall virtually anything on the witness stand? He must've been hanging out too long around the tattered purple couch in the White House basement. And what was in that smoke that gave Alberto fuzzy memories? Whatever it was, it made Dana bitchy. Consider her words in her public whining:

This action is unprecedented, and it is outrageous. It is also an incredible waste of time – (Dis)

The absurdity and unfairness of the vote, arbitrarily designated Mr. Bolten -- in his official, not personal, capacity -- as the “Custodian of Records” for documents (Whine)

This is as a blatant sop to the far left and shameful behavior by House Democrats. (Liberal, commie, pinko, tin foil hat wearing)

It is astonishing and deeply troubling that after months of delay on passing a bill that will help our intelligence professionals monitor foreign terrorists who want to kill Americans, the House has instead turned its attention to the silly, pointless, and unjust act of approving these contempt resolutions. (Look over there! Danger Will Robinson!)

Throughout history, the Executive and Legislative Branches frequently have had disputes. In every other instance, the two Branches worked out their disagreements without either the House or Senate ever approving a resolution holding any White House officials -- let alone the Chief of Staff and Counsel to the President -- in contempt under its statutory contempt power. (No previous White House claimed executive privilege for its staffers, when the President wasn't involved in the actual decision, as Bush claims)

If the House Democrats try to bring a civil case in federal court, they will be met with opposition at the courthouse door and at every step of the way. (Remember George Wallace?)

So if the Democrats choose to press this dispute, we are confident that the Administration will prevail against this unprecedented and wholly unwarranted vote of contempt. (Not only did I throw down the gauntlet, I pissed to mark my territory. It's harder to cover a big area without a penis.)

Well Dana, if George Bush has nothing to hide, why not give Congress its witnesses? They'll just testify the White House behaved admirably. Isn't that the same logic foisted on Americans interested in protecting their privacy rights? We shouldn't fear spying, unless we have something to hide. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. It applies to both openness and rule of law. George Bush said, "I think there ought to be zero tolerance of people breaking the law during an emergency." Zero tolerance should be zero tolerance.

Oh Dana, you now have the worldwide credibility of Condi Rice. Look for your Chevron supertanker soon. Remember, it doesn't turn on a dime.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Freedom to Spy Illegally with Little Consequence

While Congress works to implement President Bush's telecom immunity, a different corporate spying event came to an end. Hewlett-Packard settled with the victims of its illegal spying venture, reporters with BusinessWeek and the New York Times. The article says the agreement came not as the result of a lawsuit.

What happened on the criminal side of the judicial aisle? Four felony charges dwindled to three misdemeanors. The judge dismissed the Board Chair's case, the person who orchestrated the illegal monitoring.

Both corporations and the government seem to have the ability to spy on citizens with little to no accountability. Now that's what I call freedom, the freedom to be monitored.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Free Markets Aren't Free!

It seems holders of energy supplies aren't free to sell them as they wish. Venezuela and Russia have been "warped by the politics of energy," according to U.S. Secretary of State, Condi Rice. Venezuela took offense to court actions by Exxon/Mobile to cut them off as a customer, while Russia offered a vague threat in response to NATO missile defense systems in old Eastern block countries. Vladimir Putin warned that Russia "cannot theoretically exclude" the possibility of training its missiles on Ukraine if the latter joined the NATO military alliance and hosted US missile defense assets.

"The unhelpful and really, I will use a different word, reprehensible rhetoric that is coming out of Moscow is unacceptable, and it's not helpful to a relationship that actually has some positive aspects," Ms Rice told a Senate committee hearing.

"Cannot theoretically exclude" is "reprehensible rhetoric"? Please, Ms. Rice. Just say, it's America's oil and we'll our missiles wherever we gosh darned please! Your boss would, at least behind closed doors...

Freedom to Weaponize Space

The Bush White House staked its claim to space weapons years ago. That pesky United Nations, led by Russia and China, wants to ban such weapons. So, George Bush and his mouthpiece, Dana Perino, offered some babble about the challenges of verification.

The White House responded to the proposal on Tuesday afternoon, saying it opposed any treaty that sought “to prohibit or limit access to or use of space.” Dana M. Perino, the White House press secretary, said such a treaty would also be impossible to enforce. “Any object orbiting or transiting through space can be a weapon if that object is intentionally placed onto a collision course with another space object,” she said in an e-mail message. “This makes treaty verification impossible.”

Why are weapons treaties verifiable on earth but not in space? How many treaties do we have? What are the current methods for verification? It doesn't seem a stretch to apply our worldly experience to the heavens. So far two countries know how to intentionally place objects onto collision courses with other space objects, the U.S. and China. One wants a treaty ban, while the supposed peace loving democracy does not. Strange days, indeed...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Major Carrot and Stick Diplomacy

Divide and conquer usually rides in under the guise of carrot and stick diplomacy. It then deteriorates into something much deadlier, as the oppressed compete for scarce resources. The Gaza Strip, with its 1.5 million people, is nearly two years into this dreadful cycle. Most live in poverty in a virtual prison. After a recent Gaza rocket attack, the Israeli Interior Minister had this to say:

Mr Sheetrit hit the headlines for his outspoken response to a rocket attack from Gaza that badly injured a young Israeli boy. He told fellow cabinet members they should pick a neighbourhood in Gaza and "wipe it out".

Yet, two days later Mr. Sheetrit offered a carrot of his own to 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, a shining new city on a hill.

"I aspire to create a new Arab city in the Galilee and I am working on the planning for the project," the interior minister said. "It will be a modern city, where young couples can afford to buy property and live just like in any other city in the world," he said.

Who will be bribed by this offer? What will they have to do to reap the rewards? Only a select few will receive the reward. How many Arabs will step on their fellow brothers and sisters to get to live in the Emerald City? And how long before people like Mr. Sheetrit change their mind and order sections of it, "wiped out"?

Divide and conquer postpones and magnifies problems, it doesn't solve them. The current Middle East is a shining example of that. But the promised Arab city deflects criticism of Israel for once again not respecting the 1967 borders as a basis for future peace. Unfortunately, it likely means more war.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bush Agenda in Pakistan Remains Crystal Unclear

Not long ago I wrote a piece, "Something Stinks in Pakistan". The odor just got worse according to senior U.S. official. Speaking on condition of anonymity in Washington, he told reporters:

"There is no question that the iconic leaders of al-Qaeda - (Ayman al-)Zawahiri, Bin Laden... are in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

"We believe that the Taleban's shura (consultation) council leaders led by Mullah Omar reside in Quetta in Pakistan."

The BBC hinted at the source of the information, although it didn't say if the terrorist took a ride on the waterboard.

Last month, captured Taleban spokesman Muhammad Hanif made similar claims about Mullah Omar's whereabouts, which were rejected by Pakistan. Mr Hanif said Mullah Omar was protected by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Afghan President Hamid Karzai made similar allegations last year. The ISI was instrumental in backing the Taleban after civil war swept Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989.

This report comes days after Pakistani truce talks with the leader of the troubled tribal region, believed to be sheltering bin Laden. This is the same leader President Musharraf accused of killing Benazir Bhutto.

So what is the average American to make of this muddled mess? Does Bush want to set the table for another pre-emptive strike in sovereign Pakistan? Is the adminstration putting pressure on Musharraf with the leak? Get your intelligence folks in line, or else there will be consequences.

As for the political side of the equation, who is on whose side? Is Musharraf supporting terrorists or hunting them? What is America getting for its over $1 billion investment in Pakistan security?

This got leaked for a reason. I hope its more than a Deliverance, "I'm gonna make you squeal" signal to terrorists. Please let it be something strategic that benefits the people of Pakistan. They've suffered so at the hands of their leaders. Come to think of it, so have we...

Friday, February 8, 2008

Bush Team Language is MasterCard Worthy

Yesterday afternoon, my car radio broadcast priceless quotes from key American leaders. Condi Rice spoke of the conflict in Afghanistan. The media highlighted what she sees as progress in the region, but her words are worth noting. Condi praised folks for "beginning to turn that picture of Afghanistan around to a better day." Notice the sandbag words, beginning, turn, picture, around, better.

Of course, there is no instant pudding, but the U.S. tossed out the terrible Taliban in October, 2001. After nearly seven years, we're just beginning to turn things to a better day? This leads to other, Bush advisor comments. Consider the top U.S. General Dan McNeil's comments on the Afghan insurgency. He challenged the widely held view that the insurgency there is worsening, saying he thinks "it's probably stayed about the same." More sandbag words, probably, about the same.

Now I'm confused. Secretary Rice talked about progress in the War on Terror, yet the number of terrorists probably stayed the same? So what can turn the corner in Afghanistan?

In the definitive words of Pentagon Chief Robert Gates, "My view is that it represents potentially the opportunity to make further progress faster in Afghanistan if we had more forces there." The sandbag pile grows with such strong words as potentially, opportunity, further progress faster.

Who teaches these people to speak so indeterminately and conditionally? Hedging bets with hedged words is truly the Bush administration's gift to the world. Can I exchange mine for some straight talk, and I'm not talking about the John McCain version?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

It's Official, U.S. Tortures

Super Tuesday became stupor Tuesday given the Bush administration's confession that it tortured three enemy combatants, via waterboarding. An AP report said:

"We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time," Hayden told the Senate Intelligence Committee. "There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al-Qaida and its workings. Those two realities have changed."

How so? Osama bin Laden's organization uses Pakistan's tribal region to train for attacks in Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa and the United States, U.S. intelligence chief Mike McConnell said said Tuesday. "Al-Qaida remains the pre-eminent threat against the United States," Mike McConnell told a Senate hearing more than six years after the Sept. 11 attacks. A MSNBC report says the Pakistani government has been unable to disrupt or damage al-Qaida terrorists in their safe haven region. Those tribal regions serve as a potential base for global operations. It seems those two realities haven't changed, after all.

The AP report on waterboarding added:

Hayden said Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abu Zubayda and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri were waterboarded in 2002 and 2003. Hayden banned the technique in 2006, but National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell told senators during the same hearing Tuesday that waterboarding remains in the CIA arsenal - so long as it as the specific consent of the president and legal approval of the attorney general.

As for the impact of waterboarding, consider Khalid Sheik Mohammed's testimony with a laundry list of super terror crimes. Later, experts questionned the accuracy of confessions from harsh interrogation techniques.

Even a casual reading of Khalid Sheik Mohammed's transcript shows him trying to right his confession. Had someone walked up with cellophane, a bucket of water, and wet washcloth, Mr. Mohammed might not have raised a peep. On the generalities, Khalid confessed to being an enemy of America, but on the specifics, he seemed to want to set the record straight. Why wouldn't the aim of U.S. justice be to hold people accountable for their actual acts?

This brings us back around to American governmental officials using torture against people in its custody. Waterboarding is a clear violation of international treaties, U.S. law and the ideal of America not stooping to the level of our enemies. Who will be held accountable?

For another Super analogy, once again the Giants (President & AG) beat the Patriots. Stoop we will, this stupor Tuesday. If you can't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Freedom to Be Monitored

The FBI is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI's Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is "important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in."

This $1 billion expenditure will create jobs, at least several divisions within The Carlyle Group hope so. Authentec specializes in fingerprint ID technology. Their technology is used to secure computers and cell phones. The FBI already has 55 million fingerprints in their database. What happens if Uncle Sam asks the cell phone companies to share their fingerprint database with the feds? Will this fall under the proposed telecom immunity?

In addition to fingerprints, the FBI wants to store palm prints, iris scans, scars/tatoos, and facial shapes. Might Authentec be working on those technologies as well? Since the FBI wants to keep the country safe and protect its citizens, could it also want access to drug tests? A new Carlyle investment, eScreen, specializes in that very service. Not only does Uncle Sam want your key identifying information, he may just want to watch everyone pee. Things seem to be getting rather creepy in the land of the free and our ally across the pond.

Bring it On! For What?

"President Bush says that Al-Qa'ida's war is against American freedom and democracy while Al-Qa'ida and Taliban say that the U.S. war on terrorism is actually a war against Islam. On the other hand, nationalist forces think the aim of the current war is the genocide of the Pashtun (ethnic Afghan) people. These are the ideological foundations of the present crisis (in Pakistan)," says Khadim Hussain Amir, a political analyst and professor at Bahria University in Islamabad.

War with end, at least it sounds like a precription for it. The professor went on to say:

"In my view this war is against the people and their resources just to promote capitalist interests. Militancy and militarism both end in the large scale sufferings of the already marginalized people"

Guess who bears the brunt of this idealogical impasse? Once again, it is the common citizen, the little person, the voter, the shareholder...

Friday, February 1, 2008

PNAC & Middle East Cable Cuts

What are the odds that two cables routing internet traffic through the Middle East would break, while a third would snap competely, all in a matter of days? That's exactly what happened, according to news reports. It will be days before crews reach the fractured cables and up to ten days afterwards to complete repairs. Thus many Middle Eastern countries will have limited internet access, placing them at a strategic disadvantage. At least that's the belief of the Project for the New American Century, which called the internet a key part of the new global commons. Cyberspace and access to outer space must be controlled by the United States, the only benevolent super power. Three members of the committee managing the Iranian nuclear situtation are PNAC'ers. Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the Iraq war, is the committee chairman.

I shared my theory that Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities with Uncle Sam standing strong and ready to contain any blowback. I believe it will happen after the two Supers, the Super Bowl and Super Tuesday. This way George W. can say he's not impacting the Presidential primary process. It appears Middle East internet access will be disrupted until February 15th. Might Prime Minister Olmert and President Bush want to get their war on during a time of decreased communications? Mr. Ahmadinejad, I think George and Ehud have a Valentine's gift for you. Time will tell...