Saturday, September 29, 2007

Total information awareness

Yesterday, French oil giant Total insisted that their presence in Myanmar is crucial and that they would not pull out of the country, despite international uproar over the incidents there.
The French oil company Total said shutting its operations in Myanmar could cause even greater hardship in the country, despite a hardening attitude by France toward new investment amid a conflict between citizens and the ruling military junta that has left nine people dead.
Vice president for "pulic affairs," Jean-François Lassalle, indicated Total's depth of commitment to the beleaguered citizens of Myanmar.
We are convinced that through our presence we are helping to improve the daily lives of tens of thousands of people who benefit from our social and economic initiatives. Our departure could cause the population even greater hardship and is thus an unacceptable risk.
Indeed, the actual population Total appears to be committed to is the military junta.
Total is one of the biggest foreign investors in Myanmar, where its joint venture earns the military regime hundreds of millions of dollars a year....
The brutality of the military asaults, including night time raids of monks dormotories complete with beatings, appears to have been seriously downplayed by official versions,with now several times the number of dead as admitted.
Burmese forces on Friday intensified their suppression of peaceful pro-democracy protests as credible accounts emerged that the death toll from Thursday’s crackdown was far higher than the official figure of nine.
Bob Davis, Australian ambassador to Burma, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation he had heard credible reports that “several multiples of the 10 [sic] acknowledged by the authorities [were killed on Thursday].”
Despite Total knowing the brutality of this military junta, the company is far more invested in operations and obviously will insist on continuing to make Myanmar's ruling military junta "hundreds of millions of dollars."

Total would rather the population of Myanmar believe all that stuff about "freedom and democracy" is not nearly as good as having a job working for Total.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Hiro:How the Bush Administration's Iraqi Oil Grab Went Awry

Before I head off to Amsterdam for a week, here is today's must read. Fun facts about the Bush administration, Iraq's oil and how those grand schemes have been turned awry, Dilip Hiro smacks one out of the park as he puts Greenspan's comment in context; the comment in his book, that is, not his ridiculous backpedaling about the "Straits of Hormuz."
... the top item on the agenda of the National Security Council's first meeting after Bush entered the Oval Office was Iraq. That was January 30, 2001, more than seven months before the 9/11 attacks. The next National Security Council (NSC) meeting on February 1st was devoted exclusively to Iraq.

Advocating "going after Saddam" during the January 30 meeting, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, according to O'Neill, "Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that's aligned with U.S. interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond. It would demonstrate what U.S. policy is all about." He then discussed post-Saddam Iraq -- the Kurds in the north, the oil fields, and the reconstruction of the country's economy. (Suskind, p. 85)

Among the relevant documents later sent to NSC members, including O'Neill, was one prepared by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). It had already mapped Iraq's oil fields and exploration areas, and listed American corporations likely to be interested in participating in Iraq's petroleum industry.

Another DIA document in the package, entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oilfield Contracts," listed companies from 30 countries -- France, Germany, Russia, and Britain, among others -- their specialties and bidding histories. The attached maps pinpointed "super-giant oil field," "other oil field," and "earmarked for production sharing," and divided the basically undeveloped but oil-rich southwest of Iraq into nine blocks, indicating promising areas for future exploration.
(read it all)
This is not to say that the Bush administration and -- to borrow a phrase directly from the draft of the Iraq Oil Law -- "executive managers from important related petroleum companies" cannot recover from the present difficulties. Hunt Oil demonstrated at least a halting ability to get PSAs signed in Kurdistan.


Deadwood, N.J.

From the "sowing and reaping" files:
A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.

Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.

Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.

So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”
There seems to be a lot of that going around these days. Some are still undaunted by their shortsightedness, however:
By and large, they said the ordinance was a success because it drove out illegal immigrants, even if it hurt the town’s economy.

“It changed the face of Riverside a little bit," said Charles Hilton, the former mayor who pushed for the ordinance.
Yes, it did change "the face" of the town. Fewer brown people, more plywood.

War, Inc.

John Cusack has a new film coming out soon that promises to be a scathing look at the privatisation of war.

War, Inc.

As I plow into The Shock Doctrine, you might want to check out this little discussion Cusack has with Naomi Klein about her book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Post-traumatic stress disorder and you

A big heads-up from Swedish Meatballs Confidential to an article by former Army Ranger and paratrooper, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman regarding the provenence of the increasingly high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that have been seen in American soldiers since Vietnam. PTSD is not something that soldiers are simply more susceptible to, or some phantom menace as it is derrided by right wing yowlers, but has been the result of modern psyops training of military forces since WWII. This training was designed to overcome the natural reluctance of soldiers to actually shoot at the enemy, an effect well documented by a variety of studies of various historical battles.
Marshall was a U.S. Army historian in the Pacific theater during World War II and later became the official U.S. historian of the European theater of operations. He had a team of historians working for him, and they based their findings on individual and mass interviews with thousands of soldiers in more than 400 infantry companies immediately after they had been in close combat with German or Japanese troops. The results were consistently the same: Only 15 to 20 percent of the American riflemen in combat during World War II would fire at the enemy. Those who would not fire did not run or hide—in many cases they were willing to risk greater danger to rescue comrades, get ammunition, or run messages. They simply would not fire their weapons at the enemy, even when faced with repeated waves of banzai charges.
Once discovering this, the military clearly had to find some way to overcome the human reluctance to kill. It's what they do.

By the time of Vietnam, bootcamp had become hate camp (possibly Jesus Camp these days). New psyops techniques were developed to create "enemy contempt," something that had never been done in previous generations of war. This has led to the high rates of post traumatic stress now seen in modern soldiers as a result of the internal conflict created by natural aversion to killing and the now highly increased levels of participation in the act. The more effective and efficient the training, the greater the rate of aggravated PTSD.
Since World War II, a new era has quietly dawned in modern warfare: an era of psychological warfare, conducted not upon the enemy, but upon one’s own troops. The triad of methods used to enable men to overcome their innate resistance to killing includes desensitization, classical and operant conditioning, and denial defense mechanisms.

Authors such as Gwynne Dyer and Richard Holmes have traced the development of boot-camp glorification of killing. They’ve found it was almost unheard of in World War I, rare in World War II, increasingly present in Korea, and thoroughly institutionalized in Vietnam. “The language used in [marine training camp] Parris Island to describe the joys of killing people,” writes Dyer, helps “desensitize [marines] to the suffering of an ‘enemy,’ and at the same time they are being indoctrinated in the most explicit fashion (as previous generations were not) with the notion that their purpose is not just to be brave or to fight well; it is to kill people.”

The ability to increase the firing rate, though, comes with a hidden cost. Severe psychological trauma becomes a distinct possibility when military training overrides safeguards against killing: In a war when 95 percent of soldiers fired their weapons at the enemy, it should come as no surprise that between 18 and 54 percent of the 2.8 million military personnel who served in Vietnam suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder—far higher than in previous wars.
Once again, our modern methods of warfare are coming back to haunt us. Sadly, being a military man, Grossman's prescription for this is not to stop turning human beings into killing machines against their will and predisposition, but rather, to advise the afflicted soldiers to seek help. Because we are in a long war. And the killing must go on and on and on.

[big h/t to meatball1. fascinating.]

Beginning the Blackwater backpedal

prediction: Maliki caves, Blackwater stays and yet more hell breaks loose.

Well, it looks like Prime Minister al-Maliki is beginning the predicted, initial retreat from the his and other Iraqi officials' initial stance on the presence of Blackwater in Iraq. When asked about the Blackwater incident at a meeting with the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki bobbed, weaved and elicited nothing but equivocation.
Maliki, who will speak to the U.N. General Assembly tomorrow, deftly dodged questions about last week's incident in which employees of Blackwater, a private U.S. security firm, allegedly killed 11 Iraqi civilians. While "initial signs" are that "there was some wrongdoing from Blackwater," he said, he will await the results of a U.S.-Iraqi investigation. He dismissed a statement by the interior minister in Baghdad that Blackwater will be banned from Iraq, saying the positions of the ministry and his office are "the same."
He also said that Iranian intervention in Iraq had "ceased to exist" and civil war had been averted. Which one can only take to mean that the program of ethnic cleansing has been somewhat completed.

Advice and dissent

You go girls!

Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat- Members of Khobar's Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice were the victims of an attack by two Saudi females, Asharq Al-Awsat can reveal.

According to the head of the commission in Khobar, two girls pepper sprayed members of the commission after they had tried to offer them advice.

Head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Eastern province Dr. Mohamed bin Marshood al-Marshood, told Asharq Al Awsat that two of the Commission's employees were verbally insulted and attacked by two inappropriately-dressed females, in the old market in Prince Bandar street, an area usually crowded with shoppers during the month of Ramadan.

According to Dr. Al-Marshood, the two commission members approached the girls in order to "politely" advice and guide them regarding their inappropriate clothing.

Consequently, the two girls started verbally abusing the commission members, which then lead to one of the girls pepper-spraying them in the face as the other girl filmed the incident on her mobile phone, while continuing to hurl insults at them.

Which means ... we might see this show up on youtube? By the hoary beard of Satan, I await these inappropriately clothed ones to make their resistance of the oppressors known to all!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The rule of law is in shambles

In The Baffler No. 17, Thomas Geoghegan presents a fascinating perspective on the state of the rule of law in America. It is not a good state according to Geoghegan, and this is so because, as a labor lawyer, he has watched the gutting of the United States federal civil service, where administrative and regulatory agencies charged with oversight of all kinds have been systematically rendered nearly useless by 30 years of a constant right wing assault on domestic government budget. This has been accomplished quite silently, of course, and Grover Norquist's prescription for government -- "drown it in a bathtub" -- appears to be nearly filled.

Georghegan points out that the last peg of accountability left to American citizens in keeping the corporations even remotely responsible is tort law; the ability to sue companies because they easily and jauntily forsook government regulations and endangered the public. Because of this, it is no surprise that the GOP, led by the indefatigable charlatan in chief, George Bush, have been crusading against those pesky trial lawyers and insisting on "tort reform." By which they mean, severely limit punitive awards handing out by juries.

Having just read Geoghegan's "The Rule of Law in Shambles," it was remarkable to see, the very next day, a front page story at the New York Times about nursing homes being bought up by private equity firms, with predictable results:

The facility’s managers quickly cut costs. Within months, the number of clinical registered nurses at the home was half what it had been a year earlier, records collected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicate. Budgets for nursing supplies, resident activities and other services also fell...
Much of this violated federal regulations, as mandatory nurse/patient rations were treated more as ignorable suggestions and, with yet more grim predictability, patients died in the midst of a stye.
Regulators repeatedly warned the home that staff levels were below mandatory minimums. When regulators visited, they found malfunctioning fire doors, unhygienic kitchens and a resident using a leg brace that was broken.

“They’ve created a hellhole,” said Vivian Hewitt, who sued Habana in 2004 when her mother died after a large bedsore became infected by feces.
Note again, as Geoghegan has, that the regulatory bodies have no ability to enforce compliance with these regulations. On the happy side of this equation, the investors "were soon earning millions of dollars a year from their 49 homes."

As noted, this is really par for the American course. These companies can and do willfully ignore federal regulations because they know, perhaps more than anyone, that the thirty years war on government agency has rendered it inefffectual and entirely unable to oversee or enforce those regulations.
managers at many other nursing homes acquired by large private investors have cut expenses and staff, sometimes below minimum legal requirements.
The only real recourse left those suffering at the hands of these piranha is the lawsuit.

But now even the lawsuit is being marginalized even without "tort reform" which has momentarily faded from the public sphere. Uncontented with the prospect of facing big awards for wrongful death lawsuits, the private equity firms have gone to some length to make such lawsuits dificult.
In the past, residents’ families often responded to such declines in care by suing, and regulators levied heavy fines against nursing home chains where understaffing led to lapses in care.

But private investment companies have made it very difficult for plaintiffs to succeed in court and for regulators to levy chainwide fines by creating complex corporate structures that obscure who controls their nursing homes.
There is no rule of law here. All that is left is the rule of the lawsuit. But now that final ex post facto recourse in law is slowly being dismantled. And then what? Corporate America runs amok, killing and maiming in the name of expedient profit, arguing that "the market" will correct to the proper course. But there is no proper course here, only a remorseless tack of impunity, carcasses strewn in the wake of a very sick ship of state as it plies an ocean of avarice and plumbs the depths for profit.

The Blackwater Nexus

Despite repeated denials that they did "nothing wrong" and their swift reinstatement Friday by the State Department, Blackwater continues to draw ire and fire from Iraqi officials. Led and emboldened by vocal public outcry, the Iraqi Interior Ministry, the National Security Ministry and the Defense Ministry have reported that
the murder of citizens in cold blood in the Nisour area by Blackwater is considered a terrorist action against civilians just like any other terrorist operation.
And Iraqi officials appear insistent on pursuing prosecution of the Blackwater perpetrators.
The criminals will be referred to the Iraqi court system.
This is not the rhetoric of people who seem willing to compromise on the issue. In fact, so insistent on this path are Iraqi government officials, they have sought to document and report several other incidents, which, it is claimed, Blackwater has wantonly opened fire on civilians.
The American Blackwater company has made for the seventh time the same mistake against the Iraqis and in different places in Baghdad.
Now, when something happens seven times, it is a bit of a stretch to call such behaviour a "mistake." Perhaps what was contained in the Arabic report was lost in translation. Does this look like a "mistake" to you?

[N.B. there is some confusion at youtube over who the culprits are in this video. One says that it is Blackwater contractors, another says Aegis. But the larger issue, of course, is the general behaviour of American contractors.]

The argument over the truth of the Nisour Square incident is not the issue that I find to be the interesting aspect of this, however. (Iraqi officials now say they have video tape of the incident that proves Blackwater opened fire.) What is interesting is just how adamant the Iraqi government is in its pursuit of what they are calling "terrorist action." Those are some pretty strong words from government officials who are supposed to be our puppets.

Except they are not "our puppets." At least, not in any traditional socio-political sense of that word. The Iraqi "government" is really a collection of militarized fiefdoms, even within various ministries. But one things is clear from the Blackwater shooting, various ministries have all come together against the operations of Blackwater and, more generally, private security contractors. Even Maliki is taking up the cause, though there is a strong possiblity that his position will be mitigated when he meets with Rice at the UN. She will try to publicly placate him with promises that the US will "examine the rules of engagement," which obviously means nothing.

But the question is whether Maliki will compromise on this or not. Given the stance of many Iraqi government factions, he is in a rather difficult position. If he bends to US pressure on this, he becomes even more despised and weakened in Iraq, although considering the level of animosity in Iraq toward him already, he may not care. If he holds the official Iraqi line, he may find himself subject to some sort of ouster. Either way, he could find himself tossed out, if not by the hands of the Americans, then surely by the hands of a coalition of the willing-to-punt-Maliki. A vote of no confidence in parliament could remove him efficiently. Considering that there is no obviously legal way for the Bush administration to get rid of the prime minister, Maliki may choose to stand firm and with the other Iraqi officials. He knows that the US cannot possibly remove him without the entire "freedom and democracy" enterprise of the White House looking like a complete and utter farce. Right now, it is only mostly a farce.

This episode could rightly be viewed by Maliki as one that would actually strengthen his position in Iraq -- to the chagrin of the White House -- should he stand firm and insist on Blackwater's removal. That means Maliki working for the interests of Iraqis and not the Americans. Should he choose this path, he might rally support and bring more than a few factions together in a very real and positive way. Positive, that is, from the Iraqi perspective. If the White House insists on ignoring the demands of the Iraqi government -- it is easily imagined that they would, since they have already -- this will only muster yet more resentment of the American occupation. I'm not entirely sure if more resentment to the occupation is possible there, but if it is, retaining Blackwater is certainly a way to stir it up. Blackwater should expect to become increasingly targeted. Another Falluja incident seems waiting in the wings.

As with most White House policy, sedulously insisting on a continued Blackwater presence in Iraq is senseless. Can the Bush administration by that wedded to the profiteering of this one company? There really is no other reason to insist that Blackwater remain. Should the White House concede this point, it might actually improve their image in Iraq, at least marginally. If the Bush administration are morbidly affixed to Blackwater's exceedingly profitable enterprise, this will surely only inflame the insurgency further and any of Petreaus' questionable security gains could easily evaporate in a flurry of attacks brought on by a policy predicated on crony profiteering. Which, of course, is exactly what is going on at larger scales and maintaining Blackwater's contract is simply one facet of the American enterprise in Iraq writ large.

Probably to most, it seems likely that Maliki will cave to White House intransigence on this point. I wish he wouldn't, but I don't see him as a leader let alone a leader with any kind of vision. Using a strong stance against Blackwater could be a first, albeit small step in reconciling the many factions he has to deal with, all of which want Blackwater gone. Somewhat strengthened by this, Maliki could begin the other and serious efforts that are needed. This is a long road and not one that can be imposed by any American timetable. It is also a road that the White House really doesn't want the Iraqi government tripping down any time soon. For an actual unified Iraqi government -- a government of the Iraqi people -- would, first and foremost, insist on the departure of US forces. And that is not in concordance with White House plans for Iraq.

Unfortunately, Maliki does not appear to be the one Iraq needs and given the decrepit and factionalized state of the country right now, it is hard to imagine that there is anyone on earth who could pull the country together. Which is probably just how the White House likes it. Continued chaos, continued occupation. Mission continuing to be accomplished.

Therefore, my prediction is as follows: Maliki caves, Blackwater stays and yet more hell breaks loose.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Iraq: weening the Kraft slice nation

Patrick Graham offers an sweeping, on-the-ground overview of the real situation in Iraq today. An absolute must read for everyone who has never been there and thinks they know what they're talking about.

With the newly-enfranchised Sunni insurgents, the Bush administration is moving back the days of Saddam Hussein.

How George Bush became the new Saddam


Well, Mandela's dead...
-- George Bush, Sep. 20, 2007

President George W. Bush insisted on Thursday he will be a "strong asset" for Republicans battling for election in 2008...

A significant escalation

After the military junta in Myanmar arrested and jailed "student leaders and democracy advocates" protesting military rule and a 500% increase of fuel prices, now the big guns of peace and justice have moved in. And, no, I'm not talking about the Bush administration.
Hundreds of Buddhist monks marched through rain-washed streets for the third day in Myanmar’s main city yesterday, taking the lead in month long protests that the military junta has so far been powerless to contain.
Who cannot be moved by the thought that Burma's military is "powerless" in the face of hundreds of Buddhist monks walking barefoot in the rain. I know I'm rather enjoying that notion, however fleeting it may be. And it likely will be fleeting, I'm afraid. Remember, this is where Noble Peace Prize winner, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has been under house arrest since before her award in 1991.

An undistinguished fellow

Rumsfeld is stirring up the shit again.
The appointment of Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, as a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution is drawing fierce protests from faculty members and students at Stanford University and is threatening to rekindle tensions between the institution, a conservative research body, and the more liberal campus.

Some 2,100 professors, staff members, students and alumni have signed an online petition protesting Mr. Rumsfeld’s appointment, which will involve advising a task force on ideology and terrorism. Faculty members say he should not have been offered the post because of his role in the Bush administration’s prosecution of the Iraq war.
Can't this fucking guy just stay tucked away in his Eastern Shore slave-breaking compound or at the American Enterprise Institute (I doubt there is much difference in philosophy between the two)? For a "think tank" that is clearly short on serious thinking and long on Manichean world views, they surely have some use for the advice of "one of the worst secretaries of defense in history."

Rumsfeld's merely anticipated presence in the world outside beltway "think" tanks seems to foam people up. Here's some advice: stay out of the public sphere. You are not needed. You are not welcome. Your time is done. You've caused enough damage. Consider yourself lucky that you have managed to avoid any accountability for your disastrous existence. Tuck in and be quiet before someone finally arrests your for the war crimes you should be arrested for, you vile bastard.


Thanks to the miracles of modern technology,
the long-fabled Northwest Passage is now a reality

Mere weeks after it was reported that an area of arctic ice the size of Florida had melted in just six days, another bleak ice assessment is in the news. As reported by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the smallest arctic ice coverage ever recorded was seen this year, measured now at what is nominally the annual maximum of ice melt. In typically Amero-centric fashion, the NY Times says that six "Californias" of ice, one million square miles, disappeared this summer.

The cap of floating sea ice on the Arctic Ocean, which retreats under summer’s warmth, this year shrank more than one million square miles — or six Californias — below the average minimum area reached in recent decades, scientists reported Thursday.

The minimum ice area for this year, 1.59 million square miles, appeared to be reached Sunday. The ice is now spreading again under the influence of the deep Arctic chill that settles in as the sun drops below the horizon at the North Pole for six months, starting Friday.

While satellite tracking of polar sea ice has been done only since 1979, several ice experts who have studied Russian and Alaskan records going back many decades said the ice retreat this year was probably unmatched in the 20th century, including during a warm period in the 1930s. “I do not think that there was anything like we observe today."
See the Arctic Sea Ice News page for more rather frightening imagery and data, including this time-lapse, quicktime movie of the ice cap from 1979 through 2006.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The beat goes on

President Bush accused Congressional Democrats today of playing politics with the health of children, and he warned again that he would veto a children’s insurance bill if it emerged from Congress in its present form.

... the White House prefers to cast the disagreement with Congress as a battle between financially responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money against heavy-spending Democrats...

The federal government recorded a $1.3 trillion loss last year — far more than the official $248 billion deficit — when corporate-style accounting standards are used

"We're on an unsustainable path and doing a great disservice to future generations," says Chris Chocola, a former Republican member of Congress from Indiana and corporate chief executive who is pushing for more accurate federal accounting.
This liability didn't just pop up since November. It amazes me that Republicans still get away with calling the Democrats heavy spenders and that they can publicly call themselves "financially responsible stewards of taxpayer's money."

Ignorance is strength. Truth is a lie. War is peace.

An army of god

Pretty soon it will be a Christian army fighting the Muslims hordes, just what the fanatics long for.
A military watchdog organization filed a lawsuit in federal court Tuesday against the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and a US Army major, on behalf of an Army soldier stationed in Iraq. The suit charges the Pentagon with widespread constitutional violations by allegedly trying to force the soldier to embrace evangelical Christianity and then retaliating against him when he refused.
Moreover, the complaint alleges that on August 7, when Hall received permission by an Army chaplain to organize a meeting of other soldiers who shared his atheist beliefs, his supervisor, Army Major Paul Welborne, broke up the gathering and threatened to retaliate against the soldier by charging him with violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The complaint also alleges that Welborne vowed to block Hall's reenlistment in the Army if the atheist group continued to meet - a violation of Hall's First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Welborne is named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

"During the course of the meeting, defendant Welborne confronted the attendees, disrupted the meeting and interfered with plaintiff Hall's and the other attendees' rights to discuss topics of their interests," the lawsuit alleges.

The complaint charges that Hall, who is based at Fort Riley, Kansas, has been forced to "submit to a religious test as a qualification to his post as a soldier in the United States Army," a violation of Article VI, Clause 3 of the Constitution.
More ...

But then, this can't be too surprising, what with weekly prayer meetings in the Pentagon.

Fedsday Stupidity

This guy is pissed that Bernake bailed out the speculators (otherwise known as investment banks), something Bush himself said he would never do. A righteous rant indeed. This guy should call himself Mr. Furious.

Mother of all facts

It is rather gratifying to see that George Lackoff, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley, is finally on board with the ongoing assessment of the Iraqi oil law and attendant behaviour that readers have seen here over the last several months. It took Prof. Lackoff awhile, but he seems to have caught up. Unfortunately, he didn't arrive at these conclusions by checking in on ATS occasionally but, rather, had to finally face the truth of the matter now that The Oracle has made it known.
Greenspan put the mother of all facts in front of our noses, and we can no longer be in denial. The US invaded Iraq for the oil.
The contracts that the Bush administration has been pushing the Iraqi government to accept are not just about the distribution of oil among the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. The contracts call for 30-year exclusive rights for British and American oil companies, rights that cannot be revoked by future Iraqi governments. They are called “production sharing agreements” (or “PSA’s”) - a legalistic code word. The Iraqi government would technically own the oil, but could not control it; only the companies could do that. ExxonMobil and others would invest in developing the infrastructure for the oil (drilling, oil rigs, refining) and would get 75% of the “cost oil” profits, until they got their investment back. After that, they would own the infrastructure (paid for by oil profits), and then get 20% of oil profits after that (twice the usual rate). The profits are estimated to be in the hundreds of billions of dollars. And the Iraqi people would have no democratic control over their own major resource. No other Middle East country has such an arrangement.

Incidentally, polls show the Iraqi people overwhelmingly against “privatization”, but “production sharing agreements” were devised so they are technically not “privatization,” since the government would still own the oil but not control it. The ruse is there so that the government can claim it is not privatizing.

But none of this will work without military protection for the oil companies. That is what would keep us there indefinitely. The name for this is our “vital interests.”
These are, of course, things regular readers have seen here often enough before. But I'm happy that a professor of cognitive science has come around to finally noting the obvious.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

When Wishful Thinking Replaces Resistance

Jean Bricmont offers up a sobering assessment about the possible attack on Iran. It is, he argues, entirely unpreventable should Bush/Cheney decide to push the button. Included with this is a damning indictment of the left and especially the academic left, who fret about "whether Capital is a Signifier or a Signified." Indeed.
Why Bush Can Get Away with Attacking Iran

Nonsense, I tell you, nonsense

Brian Lando posts an interview with Thamir Ghadhban, two-time Iraq oil minister whom Lando describes as the "top Iraq oilman." They discuss plans for Iraq's oil and gas future and do so in a way that is quite remarkable for its seeming lack of consideration about the security problems facing the oil industry there, especially regarding the extant and large scale oil smuggling and sabotage of these facilities (the Kirkuk-Bayji pipeline was just struck by an explosion).

Ghadhban does his best to slough off concerns about the federal oil law, that it will allow undue foreign influence over Iraq oil development and revenues.
People talking about PSAs and people converting it from a comprehensive law into whether we have a PSA or not. And there will be a rip off of the Iraq oil wealth. This is completely nonsense. Or that 70 percent of the profit will go to the foreign company, again this is completely nonsense.
Ghadhban insists that contracts will be awarded through a purely "transparent" process and -- surely comforting coming from an Iraqi government official -- that there are "anti-corruption laws" that will guarantee a happy faces all round. Despite Ghadhban's assurances, judgment shall remain reserved.

All in all, the chat is fairly benign and uninformative, unfortunately, and Lando fails to asked Ghadhban anything about the Kurdistan Regional Government passing its own regional oil law or about the recently announced PSA struck between the KRG and Hunt Oil, or about the many other companies already operating in Kurdistan, an oversight that seems, to say the least, rather glaring.

The shock doctrine, missionary style

We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.
-- Ann Coulter
Unbeknownst to most Americans, that sweeping policy prescription appears to be operative in its entirety. While we have certainly invaded their countries and killed their leaders, the final act is something that has received little if any attention here.

This German news broadcast, which appears to have been produced prior to the 2004 election, details the presence and activities of "radical Christians" in Iraq doing god's work and converting Muslims to Jesus.

Notable quotables:
We, Christians, are always in war.

Some Muslims get very angry.
Q: Wouldn't that mean that your activities can lead to people dying?
A: Our activities can lead to people dying. We are aware of that. But to spend eternity in heaven and not in hell seems like a good deal.

All Iraqis should be converted. All of the Middle East, in fact.

It's a spiritual war.

Conflict is a natural part of the Christian life.

I don't remember seeing this during Amanpour's CNN special, "God's Warriors."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

You will be assimilated

When John Kerry spoke today at the University of Florida Gainesville, student Andrew Meyer asked three questions during the Q&A:

1) Given that you won the 2004 election per Greg Palast's book, Armed Madhouse, why did you concede so on the day of the election itself when there were many reports on the day of the election of disenfranchisement of black voters and corrupted vote count? Kerry while the question was in progress said he didn't need to read the book b/c he already had read it.

Meyer said he had two more questions and asked them.

2) If you are really so opposed to the Invasion of Iraq(Iran?), why don't you urge impeachment of Bush now before he can invade Iran? Clinton was impeached for a blow job, invading Iraq/Iran is much for serious than that.

3) Were you a member of the secret society Skull & Bones in college?

Police swarmed Meyer to pull him from the microphone and remove him from the room. When he, like Rev. Lennox Yearwood at the D.C. Capital, whose leg was broken by D.C. b/c he asked why he was singled out to be refused admission to hear Petraeus testify, Meyer was thrown to the ground, swarmed, and tasered, screaming in pain. The fact that he didn't do anything wrong did not matter.

(between seconds 28-30, one officer can be seen with his taser(?) pistol drawn, aimed at the student.)

It is difficult to gauge what is worse in this whole despicable scene, the ridiculous behaviour of the cops, who clearly wanted to shut him down before he even asked a question, the sound of the monotonous Kerry, droning on in the background as though nothing was going on, or indeed the pathetic sight of an entire audience of Americans, who clearly have been quelled into submission by decades of rough police tactics and endless media browbeating, sitting on their hands while a fellow citizen is tackled and tasered for daring to ask some difficult questions.

While the episode is a small one, it speaks volumes about the real state of the union. And that state is none too healthy. That the questions were rather uncomfortable is without doubt and the first question is one that everyone who voted for the dopey drone would probably like to ask. But rather than demand that security leave the student alone and let him sit down, Kerry blathered on, apparently comfortable with the idea that, in the United States, such brute force in response to questioning authority figures is perfectly reasonable. No wonder the limp excuse for a suit rack gave up without a fight. Dissent holds no quarter with John Kerry, who apparently didn't think he was fighting for freedom when he was in Vietnam.

Says this guy:

The Majors

The United States Department of State has just released its Annual Report on the Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries for FY 2008. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, Christy McCampbell, spoke at a news conference about the countries that are considered "Majors" on the list.

What attributes define these "Majors"? McCampbell explains:
The law stipulates that a major illicit drug producing country is defined as one that either cultivates or harvests at least a thousand hectares or more of coca or opium or also five thousand hectares of cannabis during a single year.
McCampbell then goes on to enumerate these countries, which are listed, I imagine, in order of presumed dope-producing badness.
Afghanistan, the Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Burma, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.
What is passing strange here is the complete lack of appearance by or any mention of the United States as a Major drug producer, which, according to the report, Marijuana Production in the United States (full pdf), demonstrates the following production capacity in this country, as itemized in the Executive Summary*:

1. Marijuana is the largest cash crop in the United States, more valuable than corn and wheat combined. Using conservative price estimates domestic marijuana production has a value of $35.8 billion. The domestic marijuana crop consists of 56.4 million marijuana plants cultivated outdoors worth $31.7 billion and 11.7 million plants cultivated indoors worth $4.1 billion.

2. The top ten marijuana producing states are California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii, Washington, North Carolina, Florida, Alabama., West Virginia, and Oregon. Five states (California, Tennessee, Kentucky, Hawaii and Washington) had marijuana crops worth over $1 billion.)

3. Despite intensive eradication efforts domestic marijuana production has increased ten fold over the last 25 years from 1,000 metric tons (2.2 million pounds) in 1981 to 10,000 metric tons (22 million pounds) in 2006, according to federal government estimates.

4. Marijuana is the top cash crop in 12 states, one of the top 3 cash crops in 30 states, and one of the top 5 cash crops in 39 states. The domestic marijuana crop is larger than Cotton in Alabama, larger than Grapes, Vegetables and Hay combined in California, larger than Peanuts in Georgia, and larger than Tobacco in both South Carolina and North Carolina.
6. The ten-fold growth of production over the last 25 years and its proliferation to every part of the country demonstrate that marijuana has become a pervasive and ineradicable part of the national economy....

Now, I'm guessing here, but it seems likely that 68 million marijuana plants probably use up more than 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) and American soil is definitely producing a shitload of pot. Eradication efforts have not just failed but have failed spectacularly. Which means, by definition under US law, the United States should be on the list of Major Illicit Drug Producers. Oddly, the United States is not on the State Department list. One gets the distinct impression from the State Department that the US is simply an innocent victim of all those bad countries, filled with bad people, who just want to dope us into oblivion with illegal shipments of narcotic contraband.

When you're the "good guy," you get to keep your name off "the list."

* This is report is for FY 2006, though, as McCampbell says, the State Department list of Majors has been the same for the last two years and the US has not been on that list.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Worlds apart

Their world:

And their world:

Women driven out of Darfur by Sudanese government
and militia attacks wait on the outskirts of Tine, Chad
for buses to take them to camps. Many had been there for weeks.

Their world:

And their world:

Faisa Adam Ali holds her 27-month-old daughter,
Mazar Abdullah Mousa, in her arms at a feeding centre
inn Tawila, north Darfur. They had been driven from
their home in Hilla Jawama by janjaweed militia.
Mazar had developed fever and diarrhoea.
One in 10 of the children passing through the clinic died.
Mazar's fate is unknown

Their world:

And their world:

A man weeps on returning to find his home in the
village of Nami, north Darfur, burned down.
Adam Saleh said janjaweed militia rode in and
shot dead 10 villagers, forcing the rest to flee.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

JFK: The Bush Connection

Never having been a follower of the JFK conspiracy theories, I confess to not keeping up with the latest stuff. Besides, I have Covert History to do that for me. And there are plenty of current conspiracies of all manner and form on which to keep abreast. So, other than knowing that the Warren Commission was a farce and a sham (like our own contemporaneous version known as the "9/11 commission") and that Vincent Bugliosi must be seriously deranged to have spent years and a thousand pages proving the magic bullet theory (I actually thought I liked the guy after his scathing indictment of the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore), I really wasn't up on the latest research and some of the weird, weird shit that has been coming out.

But I have to tell you -- everyone -- you have got to watch this. The deep background on Prescott Bush and the rest of the Nazis he hung out with can start to blur into an inscrutable web, but then I love that kind of stuff. If you've got an hour and half, watch it. Well done and mesmerizing at times.

I predict what you will do after watching this. You will shake your head. And you will chuckle. It will be a deep and cynical chuckle.

[thanks to Existentialist Cowboy for the video link]

What everyone knows

In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.
-- George Orwell.

I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.

... it is [Greenspan's] view on the motive for the 2003 Iraq invasion that is likely to provoke the most controversy.

-- Sunday Times,
Sep. 16, 2007

... [Greenspan's] declaration that America’s prime motive for the Iraq war was oil will set off one political storm...
-- Sunday Times,
Sep. 16, 2007

Stay tuned for White House and GOP counterinsurgency efforts that may paint Greenspan as a "disgruntled former employee" who is "motivated by politics." If unable to feasibly manage that, Greenspan will become a daft old man suffering senility in his remaining days.

Update: Oh, here's a little used one, but still effectively dismissive:

That sounds like Georgetown cocktail party analysis.
-- Tony Fratto, Whitehouse spokesman
I've long thought that that little Greenspan was nothing but a cocktail party whore. Now I know it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spineless in the long war

This is how news that the CIA has banned waterboarding is greeted by the right wing extremists in this country:
CIA Wimps Hand Another Weapon to al-Qaeda
Tagged with the phrase "spineless fucks." We can't let the "savages" get the upper hand on savagery. Normally we just have tea with them and ask them not to be bad.
Heaven help us. We’re at war for our very existence, and we’re being led by a bunch of sniveling pussies.
There they are, in full-metal-jacket, torture-lovin' glory. Hook, line and sinker.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Flock of eagles

True to form and unable to conduct a "pro-war" rally except as a knee-jerk response to an anti-war protest, the dwindling ranks of war supporters are due to set up in Washington on September 15, the same day as a long-planned anti-war protest organized by ANSWER and being led by Iraq Veterans Against the War. Michelle Malkin is summoning the cheering war party for a third annual "counter-protest" otherwise fondly know by wingers as a "Gathering of Eagles." I shit you not.

This gathering is putatively meant to "support the troops," of course. Which, in their, minds means keeping the troops in Iraq ad infinitum or until victory happens along, whichever comes first. If this is anything like their previous efforts, the aerie will be sparsely populated. The rallying cry is expected to be something like,
support the troops over there! so we don't have to support them over ... uh ... here!

Blow up

A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending a screening of Catherine Pancake's documentary, Black Diamonds, about mountain top mining in West Virginia (and elsewhere). Hotpotatomash has produced a new video mashup that quickly conveys the horrors of this disastrous mining practice as contrasted with the happy smiley faces mining companies try to slap on it. As one might expect, this incredibly destructive methodology has only been enabled and encouraged by the Bush administration. I won't delve into the utter devastation this mining "process" causes. That is easy enough to see in the video.

The screening I attended was hosted by Pancake and Julia Bonds, the woman who appears in mash's video and who is the main character in Black Diamonds. Bonds went from convenience store clerk to winning the Goldman Prize for environmental activism. At the end of the screening, Bonds stood up and said to the audience, "I want you to think about something, something that should inform your everyday behaviour: every time you turn on a light, a mountain in West Virginia gets blown up."

And Massey Energy is there to profit from the destruction.

Nice job on the mashup, mash!

The troops support...

the Democrats.

Realizing that the GOP are never going to haul their asses out of Iraq, US military are shifting political contributions to the Dems.
Since the start of the Iraq war in 2003, members of the U.S. military have dramatically increased their political contributions to Democrats, marching sharply away from the party they've long supported. In the 2002 election cycle, the last full cycle before the war began, Democrats received a mere 23 percent of military members' contributions.* So far this year, 40 percent of military money has gone to Democrats for Congress and president, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. Anti-war presidential candidates Barack Obama and Ron Paul are the top recipients of military money.
Unfortunately, given what we've seen of late, the Democratic party is sure to disappoint. It is nothing but a useless money pit; contributions go in and nothing publicly demanded comes out. At least when you give your money to the GOP, you know you're going to get more war.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Fallon Gong

In sharp contrast to the lionisation of Gen. David Petraeus by members of the U.S. Congress during his testimony this week, Petraeus's superior, Admiral William Fallon, chief of the Central Command (CENTCOM), derided Petraeus as a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad last March, according to Pentagon sources familiar with reports of the meeting.

Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be "an ass-kissing little chickenshit" and added, "I hate people like that", the sources say. That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.
Stay tuned for a GOP resolution denouncing the statements of the CENTCOM commander. Wait for it. I can feel it coming. Any day now....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Burn baby burn

This is, to say the least, a rather interesting development.
An Erie cancer researcher has found a way to burn salt water, a novel invention that is being touted by one chemist as the "most remarkable" water science discovery in a century.

John Kanzius happened upon the discovery accidentally when he tried to desalinate seawater with a radio-frequency generator he developed to treat cancer. He discovered that as long as the salt water was exposed to the radio frequencies, it would burn.

The discovery has scientists excited by the prospect of using salt water, the most abundant resource on earth, as a fuel.

Rustum Roy, a Penn State University chemist, has held demonstrations at his State College lab to confirm his own observations.

The radio frequencies act to weaken the bonds between the elements that make up salt water, releasing the hydrogen, Roy said. Once ignited, the hydrogen will burn as long as it is exposed to the frequencies, he said.

The discovery is "the most remarkable in water science in 100 years," Roy said.

"This is the most abundant element in the world. It is everywhere," Roy said. "Seeing it burn gives me the chills."

Roy will meet this week with officials from the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense to try to obtain research funding.

The scientists want to find out whether the energy output from the burning hydrogen — which reached a heat of more than 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit — would be enough to power a car or other heavy machinery.

"We will get our ideas together and check this out and see where it leads," Roy said. "The potential is huge."
Huge may be either an overstatement or an understatement if, in fact, the process can be made to be energy positive. Which means we cannot use self-generated radio energy to break the bonds. Otherwise, it's a dead end. Given the constraints of thermodynamics, the energy input in breaking the bonds must be exactly equal to the energy gained by bond reformation (i.e hydrogen oxidization plus bond energy). This can only be an energy positive equation for us if we do not have to produce the input radio energy, which means exploiting some external radio source, like the sun.

While a fascinating idea, it is likely not quite the saviour that it might at first seem. Nonetheless, a rather amazing discovery. So amazing, in fact, it seems hard to believe that this hasn't already been seen.

Kill the Messenger

In the post-9/11 panic, Sibel Edmonds tried to blow the whistle on a vast array of criminal activities she came to learn of through her job as a translator for the FBI. While her story and what she tried to expose was covered somewhat in the mainstream media, the tale of a conspiracy of US government officials involved in nuclear arms and drug trafficking has been effectively ignored. Edmonds, however, has remained on the war path against this vast network of corruption, although she remains under a gag order.

A year ago, Kill the Messenger came out and subsequently was ignored along with the rest of her story. Like much that surrounds the fateful day of 9/11, vast realms of criminality remain effectively veiled and have never been addressed by pathetic efforts laughingly labeled "investigations" in this country. Check out Luke's 9/11 post,

The real culprits of 911

Kill the Messenger:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Success is a big hole in the desert

A few days ago, reports had come in that Israel had dropped munitions on Syria after their aircraft had been detected. Syrian officials claimed that anti-aircraft fire sent the Israeli fighters scrambing back to home base. At the time, Israel's official position was that such reports did not merit response. The meaning of that was obvious:
The Israeli military spokesman's office said in a statement: "It is not our custom to respond to these kinds of reports."

Which probably means they are either true or close to being so.
Well, things appear beyond close to being true and are escalating rather severely:
Syria accused Israel of a "flagrant violation" of its obligations when it carried out an airstrike inside the country last week, according to a copy of a letter released Tuesday.

Syria called the incursion a "breach of airspace of the Syrian Arab Republic" and said "it is not the first time Israel has violated" Syrian airspace, the letter to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon read.
Depending on one's perspective, things appear either better or worse because ground forces may have also been involved
....sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike, which "left a big hole in the desert" in Syria.
Oddly, the IDF seems to be "happy with the success of the operation" they know nothing about.

Of course, "success" for the IDF carries a variety of meanings, at least one of which is that a major violation of international law will go the way all the other and multifarious violations of international tend to go for them: quitely away.

Moving swiftly on MoveOn

They won't stop a war the country hates, but by god they sure can move swiftly against a newspaper ad.
House Republican leaders introduced a resolution Monday condemning a full-page newspaper ad from that criticizes the character of Gen. David Petraeus, the commanding general of U.S. troops in Iraq.

The resolution, authored by Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), is cosponsored by 11 Republicans, including Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), the ranking member of the Foreign Affairs panel.
Amping up the rhetoric in the war on extremism, Boehner himself became rather ... shrill. In fact, by the sound of Boehner's bleating, the next GOP move may be to call in the Marines. They usually have little else in their arsenal of responses.
The despicable attack launched against General Petraeus today should be condemned by all Members of Congress, including the Democratic leadership. I urge Members on both sides of the aisle to join in support of this resolution so the House speaks with one voice rejecting the character assassination tactics employed by this extremist group.
The GOP hasn't quite learned that everyone is onto the White House game of politicizing the military. If Petreaus deigned to be used a political tool, perhaps he wouldn't suffer the slings and arrows of the theatre that is American politics, here no better demonstrated than by Boehner himself with his unhinged ranting about voter organisations that publish advertisements in newspapers.

Boehner sounds every bit like the school girl whose boyfriend just got smacked on the playground. And these are the dumb shits who spout on about how the Democrats can't face al Qaeda?

A Yearwood of living dangerously

Reverand Lennox Yearwood was waiting in line to attend the Petraeus family circus on Capitol Hill. He was wearing a lapel button that said, “I LOVE THE PEOPLE OF IRAQ." He was refused entry into the hearing room and, as he was asking a Capitol Hill police officer why he was not being allowed passage as others in line went freely into the room, six cops surrounded him, tackled and injured him and then arrested him. As though the cringe-inducing sight of six beefy, armed police piling on top the elderly minister was not grotesque enough, they added more Orwellian spice to the scene and as the Reverand was carried away in a wheel chair, he was cited for "assaulting a police officer."

This happened -- it cannot be overstated -- while the US military, at the behest of Congress and the White House, testified about the progress of a war that is supposedly protecting our freedoms. The incident occured within spitting distance of a document that suppposedly guarantees certain unalienable rights, which are now known to be entirely alienable.

Quite a sight. Six cops tackling a black minister in the halls of Congress. My, my, how far we've come.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Liberal plot continues apace

An area of Arctic sea ice the size of Florida has melted away in just the last six days as melting at the top of the planet continues at a record rate.

2007 has already broken the record for the lowest amount of sea ice ever recorded, say scientists, smashing the old record set in 2005.

Currently, there are about 1.63 million square miles of Arctic ice, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colo. That is well below the record of 2.05 million square miles set two summers ago and could drop lower before the final numbers are in.

In just the last six days, researchers say 69,000 square miles of Arctic ice has disappeared, roughly the size of the Sunshine State.

Scientists say the rate of melting in 2007 has been unprecedented, and veteran ice researchers worry the Arctic is on track to be completely ice-free much earlier than previous research and climate models have suggested.

More ...

Phrase of the day

Israeli neo-Nazis. But, hey, when you live in a militarized police-state, Nazi shit happens.


I can hardly wait to see the winger reaction to news that their brains are less active than liberals in processing new information. That has generally appeared to be true on an anecdotal level and seems nearly irrefutable in browsing rightwingistan, but now there is clinical evidence.
Exploring the neurobiology of politics, scientists have found that liberals tolerate ambiguity and conflict better than conservatives because of how their brains work.

In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information.

Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.
The final results:
liberals were 4.9 times as likely as conservatives to show activity in the brain circuits that deal with conflicts, and 2.2 times as likely to score in the top half of the distribution for accuracy
Unable to deal with this new emperical data, the study itself pressages the reaction from the right; they'll either ignore it or fulminate, merely confirming the results of the study.

Now, I can see a possible bias in the test.
Participants were college students whose politics ranged from "very liberal" to "very conservative." They were instructed to tap a keyboard when an M appeared on a computer monitor and to refrain from tapping when they saw a W.

M appeared four times more frequently than W, conditioning participants to press a key in knee-jerk fashion whenever they saw a letter.

Each participant was wired to an electroencephalograph that recorded activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain that detects conflicts between a habitual tendency (pressing a key) and a more appropriate response (not pressing the key). Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives when they saw a W, researchers said. Liberals and conservatives were equally accurate in recognizing M.
The bias is obvious. By using a "W," researchers ensured that conservatives would twitch uncontrollably, so perhaps the choice of letters could have been better controlled.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

The continued bursting

I was browsing around the SMU website and found this interesting and rather dire prophesy from SMU economist, Ravi Batra, who spot-on predicted the extant mortgage crisis. In a word, grim:
The single most worrisome global economic problem today is the U.S. housing bubble that has been primarily financed by foreign money. While it is in the self-interest of foreign governments to finance the U.S. trade deficit, private groups have no such interest or obligation. The continued bursting of the U.S. bubble will result in increased loan defaults and could start a foreign stampede out of American assets, leading to a collapse of the dollar by the end of the decade.
This from a guy who previously predicted
  • The ayatollahs would take over Iran in 1979.
  • Soviet Communism would vanish by the end of the century.
  • The United States would be entangled in a major fight with fundamentalist Islam starting around 2000.

Texas and Kurdistan oil each other up

Despite the fact that US and other oil companies have been operating in Kurdistan for quite some time already, the passage of a Kurdish version of an oil law was sure to further spur activity. And so it is. Within a month of the KRG passing their oil law, Texans are now able to officially move in.
Texas' Hunt Oil Co. and Kurdistan's regional government said Saturday they've signed a production-sharing contract for petroleum exploration in northern Iraq, the first such deal since the Kurds passed their own oil and gas law in August.

A Hunt subsidiary, Hunt Oil Co. of the Kurdistan Region, will begin geological survey and seismic work by the end of 2007 and hopes to drill an exploration well in 2008, the parties said in a news release. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Revenue will be shared by the KRG throughout Iraq, consistent with the Iraq constitution and the Kurds' new petroleum law, issued by the Kurdistan National Assembly early last month.

Despite Iraq's vast oil reserves, major international companies have sat on the sidelines, not only for security reasons but because of the absence of legislation governing the industry and offering protection for investments.

A draft oil law for all of Iraq has been bogged down for months, in part because of disputes over who will control the proceeds.

In August, however, the Kurdish self-governing region in northern Iraq enacted its own law governing foreign oil investments. The move angered the central government in Baghdad, but the Kurds are determined to push ahead with oil exploration.
I love the conceit Ashti Hawrami, the regional government's minister of natural resources, espouses that the oil law has produced a "a supportive and transparent business environment," while simultaneously preventing the disclosure of contract terms. And don't expect this to change. The terms of these PSAs will likely never be revealed and the direction and share of oil revenues in Iraq will likely have to be pieced together from a variety of sources, if it can be done at all.

Now, it is indeed a curious sight: all these Texas oil companies moving in on Kurdish oil fields, even while being admonished by the State Department. Ballsy, really. Even Exxon doesn't seem to be doing this but perhaps this only because their profile is bit larger than some of the small lights in the oil and gas industry.

As I pointed out earlier, if they're from Texas and oil companies, they probably have some relationship to either Dick Cheney and/or George Bush. Well, Hunt Oil certainly has that. From Hunt Oil's own website, we can learn that Hunt Oil's CEO is a one Ray Hunt.
[I]n October 2001 and again in January 2006, Mr. Hunt was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board in Washington, D.C.
Furthermore, Ray Hunt serves on the National Petroleum Council which advises the Secretary of Energy. As interesting is Hunt Oil's Senior Vice President and Director, Tom Muerer, who serves on the board of The Middle East Institute, a "think tank" whose major funders are Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Raytheon, Saudi Aramco, Shell. In a not unrelated note, both Hunt and Muerer are or have been trustees for the Southern Methodist University, where, despite the protests of actual Methodist ministers, the George W. Bush presidential library is likely to be housed.

How convenient it is that Hunt Oil, with a CEO on the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, winds up with, as far as I can tell, the first officially sanctioned oil contract in Iraq.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


One of the many "unprecedented" features of the Bush administration's domestic policy has been its drive in using US military forces within the territorial United States. We certainly saw the push to bring in military force in under martial law after Katrina, when Bush infamously tried to "wrest authority" of Louisiana from that state's governor. Shortly after this effort, he then further requested that Congress repeal the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. This latter request he made, not in response the chaotic conditions in post-hurricane New Orleans, indeed, not specifically for that situation at all, but, rather, for some imagined avian flu epidemic, which his administration felt would need a forceful military response. There is hardly any situation the Bush administration imagines that should not be met with a forceful military response and, perhaps sensing this, neither effort produced the desired resultant at the time.

Which doesn't mean that White House efforts ended there. For, in conjunction with the Military Commisions Act of 2006, which scrapped habeas corpus, the Defense Authorization Act of 2007, also passed merrily by Congress, effectively repealed posse comitatus. Given the proper circumstances, these two dispensations now allow Bush to toss anyone in prison without judicial review and can use the US military -- on US soil -- to do it. But what, exactly, would have to happen for such circumstances to present themselves?

In May of 2007, the White House issued NATIONAL SECURITY PRESIDENTIAL DIRECTIVE/NSPD 51, signed by George Bush . This document lays the foundation for Bush to ensure "continuity of Federal Government structures and operations" -- a phrase that is truly state of the art in its ambiguity. Bush will ensure this continuity in the event of a "catastrophic emergency," a calamity defined as "any incident" that can or may result in
extraordinary levels of mass casualties, damage, or disruption severely affecting the U.S. population, infrastructure, environment, economy, or government functions;
Within two months of the signing of this directive, the Department of the Treasury, of all things, held a "disaster drill" in Tampa, Fl. for some also-imagined disaster in order to ensure that financial institutions could "rebound" in the face of, to borrow a phrase from the above directive, a "disruption severely affecting the ... economy." A month after this drill and after DHS chief Michael Chertoff declared that his "gut" was sensing something ominous, United States Northern Command (NORTHCOM) announced plans to hold a five day session for "federal responders" and others that will
exercise their response abilities against a variety of potential threats during Exercise Vigilant Shield ‘08.
VS-08, as it is called, is described as
the nation’s premier exercise of terrorism preparedness sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security, and several other linked exercises as part of the National Level Exercise 1-08. These linked exercises will take place October 15-20 and are being conducted throughout the United States...
Much of this wordage is obviously and purposefully vague.

On top of all this preparedness, the US government also employs religion to quell popular resistance and has established "clergy response teams," using chaplains to convince people to submit because, according to Romans 13, "the government is established by the Lord." (click through and watch the KSLA news report.)

This is an interesting convergence of activity, not the least of which is the release of the latest "bin Laden" video, especially in light of the extremely negative performance, not only of Wall Street, but of the economy as a whole. The latest jobs report, which detailed a net loss of jobs for the first time in five years, combined with the further pummeling stocks and the US dollar are receiving, all spell nothing but gloom. Given the various federal directives and exercises planned or currently implemented, it is not hard to imagine that almost any "disruption" could be co-opted, claiming such a disruption, however Bush defines it, is "severely affecting the economy."

Now, I know this all sounds rather conspiratorial and, frankly, the one thing that is missing is motive. I cannot for the life of me understand why any administration would gear up for martial law and salivate at the thought of imprisoning who knows how many people. I just don't see the upside of any of this. What is the point? With toadies installed throughout the federal government and a compliant Congress, the Bush administration is pretty much doing whatever it wants anyway, so why bother creating conditions like this? Surely Bush and Cheney have realized that, if they haven't been tossed out already for lying the country into war and killing and maiming tens of thousands of Americans, chances are there isn't much else they can do to bestir any sense of outrage among the American population.

Besides, if one thing is guaranteed to rile up a population, it is arbitrary arrest and detention by a military that was not supposed to be used against citizens. Though, considering the gitmo-like state many Katrina victims live in at the moment -- with no end in sight -- I'm not even sure that would do it, so dull and bedimmed do Americans seem right now.

Perhaps to most megalomaniacs, martial law and the US military are nice tools to have at one's disposal, but I don't see the complacent population of this country suddenly rising up in any sense of that phrase, unless, of course, many of them start getting arrested and arbitrarily thrown into Halliburton detention centers. The whole notion is ultimately destined to defeat itself. Besides, once the clergy are dispatched to calm the rabble, we'll all be sucking thumbs and rocking in a corner, praising Jesus. I'm sure of it.

Perhaps, in the most diabolical sense, the whole thing, the whole blasted surveillance police-state is a McGuffin; something designed to look important and especially nefarious, while the real plot continues merrily along.

I wish I knew.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dirty pretty things

Scott Ritter's latest, Reporting from Baghdad, rails on Katie Couric and her voguing in Iraq, but contains a little blurb about oil company activity that I hadn't heard elsewhere. Deciding that waiting for the Iraqi parliament to pass the Oil Law they likely never will, oil companies are already operating there.
If Couric would visit the Iraqi Oil Ministry, she might be shocked to witness the legal maneuvering and exploitation carried out by foreign oil companies (including, directly or indirectly, American oil companies).

Working with local Kurdish officials, small oil exploration and drilling camps are sprouting up all over northern Iraq, where they siphon off the wealth of the Iraqi people. Shipped out of Iraq via Turkey and (surprisingly) Iran, using long-established smuggling routes, these illegal ventures are generating billions of dollars in income for oil companies, and because these ventures aren't supposed to exist, this income goes unreported. You can't miss these sites. Any review of Google-Earth imagery would show these facilities springing up like mushrooms over the last few years. The U.S. military knows about them, and yet does nothing. Note to Richard Kaplan (Katie Couric's producer): If you want to investigate this story, I'll provide you with the geographic coordinates. Drive up and try to talk your way into the security perimeter. Position Katie well for the camera shot and demand answers. Just look out for the Canadian, South African or American mercenaries who are charged by "Big Oil" to keep this dirty little secret "secret."
In fact, an initial foray of this activity was reported a year and a half ago, with the Kurds taking things into their own hands and dealing with Norwegian oil company, DNO.
A controversial oil exploration deal between Iraq's autonomy-minded Kurds and a Norwegian company got underway this week without the approval of the central government here, raising a potentially explosive issue at a time of heightened ethnic and sectarian tensions.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls a portion of the semiautonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq, last year quietly signed a deal with Norway's DNO to drill for oil near the border city of Zakho.
Considering all the other explosions in Iraq, this Kurdish move appears not to have been quite as "explosive" as initially imagined and looks to have led to more activity. This was a singular deal, which has obviously sprouted many more, as Ritter indicates. Given that the US occupation has been in no position to dictate any behaviour to the Kurds, it seems clear that US interests were best served by getting in on the action in Kurdistan before non-US interests started staking out the lion's share of the oil contracts, contracts that are now run under the Kurds own recently passed oil law.

Indeed, well before the Kurdish regional oil was passed, American-based Calibre Energy Inc. and Hawler Energy Ltd., both of Houston, Tx., entered into a Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) at about the same time as DNO started drilling. Confirming what Ritter has said, PSA operations are overseen by Turkish-based Petoil, which no doubt expedites safe passage of the oil through Turkey.

As an aside, whenever I see the words "Houston," "oil" and "Iraq" in conjunction, a strain of curiosity sets in, which naturally leads to a little Googling. As an interesting point of information, Calibre Energy is run by CEO Prentis Tomlinson, who is also Chairman and Director. Tomlinson is also the founder and still large stockholder of the company Particle Drilling Technologies, Inc., a company of which Dick Cheney owns a significant amount of stock. The current president and CEO of Particle Drilling Technologies is Jim Terry, who served as a Director at Halliburton while Dick Cheney was CEO. Chairman of the Board at Particle Drilling Technologies is a one Ken LeSuer, who served as Vice Chairman at Halliburton while Cheney was CEO.

Interestingly, while the official position of the US government was that no deals would be made outside federal Iraqi government auspices, the State Department delivered a "scolding" to Tomlinson, at which Tomlinson apparently winked, and went on his merry drill-happy way. Meanwhile, Calibre Energy and other American firms appear undeterred in their exploration and drilling of northern Iraq despite official State Department policy. But then, isn't that always how it is with Dick Cheney?