Monday, October 08, 2007

Sign off

I started this blog exactly two years ago today. Today, it ends.

I have found it increasingly onerous, mentally draining and difficult to justify the enormous amount of time and energy spent here, all largely for the benefit of search engines and Google bots. I really can't tell how many actual people visit here, but considering that the hit statistics are 95% driven by search engines and hardly anyone comments, there is no strong sense that I am providing much of anything that people find very interesting. As we all do, I had hopes for a little more circulation, but, since a peak last summer, visits have been ignominiously sliding and it feels like I could pretty much accomplish the same things I do here by simply talking to myself in a room. I think we can all agree, that gets pretty boring after awhile.

I've met some great people through this venue, though, and for that I am grateful. I've been pointed to some fine blogs, and I encourage those so inclined to trip on over to any or all of them, which will be listed below (I will leave this blog up for awhile anyway). For the most part, these are blogs you won't find the Blog Establishment mentioning very much, as the A-list has ossified into its own self-referential structure. It was bound to happen, of course, as all social networks do. Nonetheless, I wish them all well and hope the struggle does not seem as fruitless as it does to me right now. Some people have boundless faith and energy in fighting the corruptions and crimes of the political classes of this country and let's give thanks for them. I am not one of them, however. Day after day after day of seeing the same cruel intentions and mean-spirited bullshit spilling across the pages and airwaves has rendered me near limp and lifeless.

I may start up another venue at some point but it will be focused on a subject that, while writing this blog, I have discovered is really where my own true interests lie: the ongoing projects of various competing world powers, the jockeying for position and the American empire's response to the rising and would-be hegemons. I can no longer stand listening and watching the asinine spectacle that passes for politics in these United States; horse races, money races and who wears a lapel pin and who doesn't.

I've come to a conclusion that echoes Chomsky. It really doesn't make any difference on the world stage whether Democrats or Republicans are in charge. And as our corporate media will continue to ensure, that situation will only become more solidified. Sure a few domestic policies get shuffled around but the tide has been turning against the social compact for thirty years. The vast majority of people in this country have lost ground on real wages and wealth accumulates at geometric rates in the upper reaches of the richest households of America. And the Democrats had been in charge for most of this period.

But the real march of empire, the undeclared wars, the assassinations, the death squads, the black ops, the coups, all conducted for the advancement of "American interests," has mercilessly continued to beat a deadly path across much of the most destitute and ravaged parts of the world. This has happened with Democratic presidents and Republican ones; with Democratic majorities and Republican ones. Lie after lie after lie about US government comportment in the world, whether it was lying about the Gulf of Tonkin or lying about Iran-Contra or lying about Iraq WMD, has never resulted in even the slightest whiff of accountability for any of the perpetrators, whether Democrat or Republican. What did result in an impeachment? Lying about a blowjob. But you won't see impeachment for real crimes. We all know this is true. To borrow a favorite phrase of our current epoch's lexicon, accountability for real crimes has always been "off the table," forever and always. And as long as that remains the case, then, no, things are not going to change anytime soon.

Key to this, of course, is that Americans must remain misinformed, entertained or otherwise distracted from the real news. The real news is not whatever the fuck Hillary said, or whether Obama wears a pin or Larry Craig in an airport bathroom. It is not even what their "policies" are right now, because, a year from the election, it means nothing. You cannot get a straight answer out of Clinton about Iraq, and for good reason. But you won't be told what that reason is. The truth is known but no one can acknowledge it.

The real news is hard to come by through passive absorption of corporate media and for good reason: they are corporations making fortunes from arrangements as they exist today and which are intended to be extended as long as possible. Those arrangements are not very pleasant viewing for most Americans, which is why news about them is not forthcoming. In fact, most Americans would be damned horrified to know all the things that are executed "in their name." This is why, having been publicly exposed, torture must to be turned into something palatable, something that "must be done" to save lives. Can you conceive of having conversations about the efficacy of torture before Abu Graib was brought to light? But we do it now. And on national television and especially on Fox News, where it is now pumped into the soft heads of millions that torture is not only necessary but just, while presidential candidates are asked whether they "pray for the troops." Torture and praying. All together now. Torquemada would be proud.

So, no, I can't really stand paying any attention to that which passes for politics in the United States. It is increasingly stupid and always irrelevant to the conduct of American empire.

Well, I've certainly gone on a bit longer than I first imagined. I hope I haven't bummed you out too much. As I said, another outlet may arise sometime later and I'll let those I know about it, if or when it happens. And visit the blogs linked below. You are sure to find some good work there.

Cheers and good luck in your endevours, whatever they may be.

-- Ken Anderson

(in no particular order)

The Newshoggers
The Osterley Times
The November Blog
Swedish Meatballs Confidential
Existentialist Cowboy
Another Point of View

and special shout to*

Toner Mishap and
The Heretik

and thanks to


for all the comments.

*I think the Misanthrope may have been my first link and The Heretik punched up the first comment.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Blackwater blimps and beyond

Coming to a neighbourhood near you.

It looks like Blackwater has already found a use to which they are shoveling those hefty profits: building their own airships, among other things, that will then be leased back to the DoD, the DHS and "other government agencies," no doubt at exorbitant rates.
Blackwater Airships LLC was established in January 2006 as the newest Blackwater venture -- with a mission to build a remotely piloted airship vehicle (RPAV). Although seemingly different from the traditional Blackwater mission, this new venture to provide a persistent surveillance capability is fully consistent with the Blackwater goal of offering solutions which help to protect our forces wherever they are deployed and support our homeland security.

The Blackwater Airships team completed design work at the end of 2006 and is now building the Polar 400 airship. This highly capable RPAV will provide a platform ready to accomodate a wide variety of state-of-the-art surveillance, communications and detection equipment that can record and store events and downlink them in real-time to ground operators. The make-up of the mission payload of up to 400 lbs will be determined by customer requirements -- whether for combat areas, port or border security, or coastal patrol.

The prototype Polar 400 is completing propulsion ground tests and when fully assembled will undergo test flights and then move into production by mid-year 2007. Following successful demonstration flights, Blackwater Airships will begin selling or leasing airships to Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security and other government customers. The Polar 400 is designed to operate for 48 to 60 hours at altitudes from 5,000 to 15,000 feet. The unique design of the RPAV propulsion system will give it the capability to loiter over a desired location with excellent low-speed maneuverability, along with an ability to fly at up to 50 knots to move quickly to and from a target area.
Joe Rathbun's entire article is worth reading. Check it out.

[via Covert History]

Private efficiencies

The Bush administration, and Republicans in general, hold up privatization as -- always -- the most efficient way to use taxpayer dollars. Privatization leverages the efficiencies of the market, which, we are constantly told, always delivers the best product or service for the price. It is a disastrous myth, of course, but it is nonetheless pervasive, made purposefully so, even in the face of prima facie evidence of its falsity. What privatization does appear to be quite good at is efficiently sluicing taxpayer dollars directly to private contractors, who rarely fail to impress with bad practice, loathsome performance and outright connivance. Two examples have recently popped onto the headlines.

Exhibit A: The $600 billion Medicare privatization boondoggle, which, since its inauspicious debut, has benefited both health insurance companies and pharmaceutical manufacturers. Efficiency of the market was again the cry. And now, after 91 audits, "health insurance" companies have been found to pose an "imminent and serious threat” to tens of thousands of their own Medicare patients by improperly denying claims and practicing deceptive sales tactics while stalling on claims not already denied and failing to respond to complaints. They have ruthlessly and improperly canceled HIV and AIDS patient care. All of this is done in the name of quarterly profit margins, of course, since that is the real efficiency that the market seeks these days. On top of this egregious behaviour, government agency must constantly monitor and audit these activities because, clearly, "the market" cannot be trusted to deliver anything close to satisfactory service.

Exhibit B: Blackwater. The unprecedented growth of this Republican party outpost is a direct result of an illegal war and deep ties to the GOP and the Christian conservative movement and is hardly the result of market forces. As a House committee investigation has uncovered, Blackwater costs the State Department six to nine times what it would for an Army soldier to perform the same duties. But when US military forces are scarce and stretched, privateers leap into the void for extraordinary fees: $445,000 a year for each "protective security specialist." The efficiency of this profit margin is demonstrated by the fact that is has been the US government itself that has trained most Blackwater forces, at considerable expense, an expense that Blackwater has efficiently externalized.

But this is not the worst of it. The supposed efficiencies of the mercenary market have caused nothing but harm to the military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Blackwater specifically has been a drain on US forces, not only with their contemptible disregard for the local population but for sparking the horrific campaign in Falluja, where Blackwater purposefully skimped on armoured humvees in an effort to undercut contract bidding. When Blackwater paid off the family of one of their victims to the tune of $15,000, that too will likely be paid for with taxpayer dollars, charged as an expense on their cost-plus contract.

And now, after the most recent Blackwater shooting incident, the State Department has finally agreed to a new protocol whereby State officials will now ride with and oversee the conduct of Blackwater mercs as they perform their market-blessed task of security for State Department officials for the princely sum of $1200/day. To reiterate this arrangement: Blackwater mercenaries have become such a liability that government officials will now oversee and monitor the privatized security for ... government officials.

In spite of the obvious fact that privatization results not in efficient delivery of what would otherwise by government delivered services, but, rather, in the efficient delivery of tax payer funds tuned to hefty profits, lives are lost and the true costs of the putative expeditious service are buried under a malaise of untrustworthy if not outright criminal conduct, the one thing we know deregulated privatization is capable of delivering efficiently.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The beasts and the Buddhists

From This is London posted in its entirety.
Thousands of protesters are dead and the bodies of hundreds of executed monks have been dumped in the jungle, a former intelligence officer for Burma's ruling junta has revealed.

The most senior official to defect so far, Hla Win, said: "Many more people have been killed in recent days than you've heard about. The bodies can be counted in several thousand."

Mr Win, who spoke out as a Swedish diplomat predicted that the revolt has failed, said he fled when he was ordered to take part in a massacre of holy men. He has now reached the border with Thailand.

Meanwhile, the United Nations special envoy was in Burma's new capital today seeking meetings with the ruling military junta.

Ibrahim Gambari met detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon yesterday. But he has yet to meet the country's senior generals as he attempts to halt violence against monks and pro-democracy activists.

It is anticipated the meeting will happen tomorrow.

Heavily-armed troops and police flooded the streets of Rangoon during Mr Ibrahim's visit to prevent new protests.

Mr Gambari met some of the country's military leaders in Naypyidaw yesterday and has returned there for further talks. But he did not meet senior general Than Shwe or his deputy Maung Aye - and they have issued no comment.

Reports from exiles along the frontier confirmed that hundreds of monks had simply "disappeared" as 20,000 troops swarmed around Rangoon yesterday to prevent further demonstrations by religious groups and civilians.

Word reaching dissidents hiding out on the border suggested that as well as executions, some 2,000 monks are being held in the notorious Insein Prison or in university rooms which have been turned into cells.

There were reports that many were savagely beaten at a sports ground on the outskirts of Rangoon, where they were heard crying for help.

Others who had failed to escape disguised as civilians were locked in their bloodstained temples.

There, troops abandoned religious beliefs, propped their rifles against statues of Buddha and began cooking meals on stoves set up in shrines.

In stark contrast, the streets of Rangoon and Mandalay - centres of the attempted saffron revolution last week - were virtually deserted.

A Swedish diplomat who visited Burma during the protests said last night that in her opinion the revolution has failed.

Liselotte Agerlid, who is now in Thailand, said that the Burmese people now face possibly decades of repression. "The Burma revolt is over," she added.

"The military regime won and a new generation has been violently repressed and violently denied democracy. The people in the street were young people, monks and civilians who were not participating during the 1988 revolt.

"Now the military has cracked down the revolt, and the result may very well be that the regime will enjoy another 20 years of silence, ruling by fear."

Mrs Agerlid said Rangoon is heavily guarded by soldiers.

"There are extremely high numbers of soldiers in Rangoon's streets," she added. "Anyone can see it is absolutely impossible for any demonstration to gather, or for anyone to do anything.

"People are scared and the general assessment is that the fight is over. We were informed from one of the largest embassies in Burma that 40 monks in the Insein prison were beaten to death today and subsequently burned."

The diplomat also said that three monasteries were raided yesterday afternoon and are now totally abandoned.

At his border hideout last night, 42-year-old Mr Win said he hopes to cross into Thailand and seek asylum at the Norwegian Embassy.

The 42-year-old chief of military intelligence in Rangoon's northern region, added: "I decided to desert when I was ordered to raid two monasteries and force several hundred monks onto trucks.

"They were to be killed and their bodies dumped deep inside the jungle. I refused to participate in this."

With his teenage son, he made his escape from Rangoon, leaving behind his wife and two other sons.

He had no fears for their safety because his brother is a powerful general who, he believes, will defend the family.

Mr Win's defection will raise a faint hope among tens of thousands of Burmese who have fled to villages along the Thai border.

They will feel others in the army may follow him and turn on their ageing leaders, Senior General Than Shwe and his deputy, Vice Senior General Maung Aye.

[h/t to CCNWON]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Weaponized Anthropology

In this isolated Taliban stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, American paratroopers are fielding what they consider a crucial new weapon in counterinsurgency operations here: a soft-spoken civilian anthropologist named Tracy.

Tracy, who asked that her surname not be used for security reasons, is a member of the first Human Terrain Team, an experimental Pentagon program that assigns anthropologists and other social scientists to American combat units in Afghanistan and Iraq. Her team’s ability to understand subtle points of tribal relations — in one case spotting a land dispute that allowed the Taliban to bully parts of a major tribe — has won the praise of officers who say they are seeing concrete results.
Not all are pleased.
Hugh Gusterson, an anthropology professor at George Mason University, and 10 other anthropologists are circulating an online pledge calling for anthropologists to boycott the teams, particularly in Iraq.

“While often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world,” the pledge says, “at base, it contributes instead to a brutal war of occupation which has entailed massive casualties.”

Overheard in the far-flung reaches of Waziristan:

Dammit Jim! where's our anthropologist? We're sitting ducks out here without social science! Get her over here now!

Oh shit! In coming!!!

Tarnish or polish?

Senator Larry Craig was for leaving his senate seat before he was against it.
Shortly after a judge denied his request to withdraw the August plea admitting to disorderly conduct, Mr. Craig said he had reversed his previously announced decision to leave the Senate if he could not get the plea thrown out. He said he would instead serve out his third term, which expires in January 2009. He said he would not run for a fourth.
With the judge's decision to maintain the guilty plea, we will now be treated to the fitting sight of convicted criminal sitting in the "august" chambers of the world's most serious deliberative body (at least, that's what I think they like to call themselves). Craig will now rejoin all his fellow unconvicted criminal Senators for another blessed year until he quietly retires.

GOP leadership is still worried, however.
Republicans are unlikely to lose Idaho’s Senate seat but are worried Mr. Craig could tarnish the party’s overall reputation.
They must be worried about some heretofore unknown reputation, because compared to the vast roster of felony convicted Republicans, Craig's misdemeanor nuisance conviction ought to appear as a point of pride. This actually polishes the GOP image as far as I'm concerned. Craig is one of the few, if not the only, convicted Republicans whose conviction was not centered on graft, money, and corruption of American government. Craig should be viewed by the GOP as a poster boy of personal foible as opposed to public scoundrel.

I say to the GOP, run with it! The new clarion call of Republican rectitude:
I'm not a felon! I've only been convicted of a misdemeanor!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Luft balloons

For someone about whom it is claimed specializes in "strategy, geopolitics, terrorism, Middle East and energy security," Gal Luft doesn't seem to know very much about strategy, geopolitics or energy security. Because there, on the pages of the Baltimore Sun, Gal Luft refutes Alan Greenspan's ad hoc confessional and tells us that the war in Iraq is not about the oil, or even about the geopolitical significance of the Middle East. He says such claims just "don't fit the facts." These would be the facts as Luft is aware of them and not, apparently, a larger superset of facts about which he is either blatantly misleading or singularly unaware.

He begins,
As director of an organization dedicated to reducing America's dependence on oil, I'd be last to deny the toxic influence oil dependence has on America's foreign policy, its international conduct and its selection of "friends and allies" in the Middle East. There is no doubt that since the 1945 meeting between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud, the United States has been militarily committed to the stability of the Persian Gulf and time and again has used its muscle to guarantee the supply of oil from the region.
And then proceeds to deny the "toxic influence" of oil considerations in the invasion of Iraq. He proceeds with one of the most fatuous statements imaginable.
While proponents of the view that "it's the oil, stupid" offer little evidence to support their claim, the evidence to the contrary is ample. Take, for example, the report of the 2000 National Energy Policy Development Group, also known as the Cheney Report. This policy paper, composed by no fewer than eight Cabinet members, reflects the pre-9/11 mindset within the Bush White House on how to achieve energy security. Yet it has almost no mention of Iraq and its vast oil reserves. The opposite is true: The report warns against concentration of world oil production in one region and calls for the United States to diversify its energy supply away from the Middle East.
Luft offers up this boilerplate nonsense as his "ample" evidence -- Cheney's conspicuous name attached to lend some heft and seriousness -- but it was really nothing more than a stale plate of public grits designed, as these things usually are, to assuage and mollify by sounding ponderous and meaningful. In offering us this less than convincing evidence and claiming that little evidence otherwise exists, he conveniently seems to be unaware that other reports were being drawn up for the National Security Council at the very same time.

In January 2001, the first meeting of Bush's NSC focused on a particular subject:
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.

Among the relevant documents later sent to NSC members ... 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.
The contents here hardly strike as containing "no mention of Iraq." From one meeting for public consumption to the private ones of the NSC, the differentiation of content could not be starker.

But, of course, there is much more.
On October 11, 2002 the New York Times reported that the Pentagon already had plans to occupy and control Iraq's oilfields. The next day the Economist described how Americans in the know had dubbed the waterway demarcating the southern borders of Iraq and Iran "Klondike on the Shatt al Arab," while Ahmed Chalabi, head of the U.S.-funded Iraqi National Congress and a neocon favorite, had already delivered this message: "American companies will have a big shot at Iraqi oil -- if he gets to run the show."

On October 30, Oil and Gas International revealed that the Bush administration wanted a working group of 12 to 20 people to (a) recommend ways to rehabilitate the Iraqi oil industry "in order to increase oil exports to partially pay for a possible U.S. military occupation government," (b) consider Iraq's continued membership of OPEC, and (c) consider whether to honor contracts Saddam Hussein had granted to non-American oil companies.
Halliburton, the energy services company previously headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, had prepared a confidential 500-page document on how to handle Iraq's oil industry after an invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Now, after his remarkable display of ignorance on these points, Luft really dives in, with both arms flapping, by saying that Big Oil is on the sidelines, apparently unable to enjoy the fruits of war.
Before the war, the United States imported very little oil from Iraq, and oil stood at $30 a barrel. Today, only 4 percent of U.S. oil imports come from Iraq, and oil is at $80. With 160,000 American troops in Iraq, America's oil companies are nowhere to be seen. Russian and Chinese companies are enjoying the spoils of war.
Sky-high record profits for ExxonMobil, Chevron and other western oil interests are of no seeming concern here and it is really the Russian and Chinese who are benefiting from the Iraq war.

While I would certainly agree that that is true: nemeses Russia, China, and Venezuela, as well as every other oil producing country, are certainly gaining tremendous advantage from the high price of oil without having dumped $500 billion into the heart of the Iraqi insurgency, it is also true that Big Oil is making out extremely well. The difference here, which Luft also fails to grasp, is that Russia, China and Venezuela profit -- as national entities -- from the high price of oil. The United States does not. The profits go straight to Exxon, while the Bush administration does what it can to ensure that oil companies don't even pay the proper royalties on domestic oil here. Russia and Venezuela are flush with oil revenue and doing things they could not have dreamed when oil was $20/bbl before the invasion. As the Bush administration, and likely the next one, continue to dump untold American tax payer dollars into the Middle East sinkhole, ensuring a lengthy extension to the hostilities and, hence, the high price of oil, emerging powers will only emerge more. There is no "upside" here for the American citizen, who will bear of the brunt of increased prices for everything and will continue to pay for the privilege to pay those prices. But to claim that Russian and Chinese companies are the only ones enjoying the spoils of war? Please, Dr. Luft, we know better than that. After all, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) just signed four more oil contracts along with the one already signed with Hunt Oil of Dallas, Tx, while the big American oil companies are simply awaiting the passage of a national oil law.

But Luft really augers in when he ventures into a discussion of Afghanistan, which he offers as prima facie evidence that the invasion of Iraq was not about oil.
Despite the involvement of Saudi nationals in the 9/11 attacks, the Bush team did not for one moment contemplate invading oil-rich Saudi Arabia. Instead, it chose to invade Afghanistan, the country with the least amount of oil in Central Asia. Furthermore, the administration decided to end the decades-long American military presence in Saudi Arabia, a country that produces five times as much oil as Iraq, and move U.S. bases to Qatar, which produces one-tenth as much as Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain, which has essentially run out of oil - a questionable move for a nation whose supposed main driver was oil.
Got that? We didn't invade close allies with lots of oil and hijackers -- Saudi Arabia -- therefore invading Iraq was not about oil. Oh, and as a specious side note, Afghanistan has no oil. So there!

But, of course, to those who are not associated with the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, the reality of Afghanistan's crucial geopolitical position is more than clear. Texas oil companies like Enron and Unocal were wining and dining the Taliban government in the late 90's, efforts geared toward building the potentially lucrative Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, a project meant as a direct competitor to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline that had been in the works for years prior. While Afghanistan itself is not much of a petroleum producer, the country is a locus for major pipeline projects planned througout Central and Southeast Asia.
One year after the invasion of Afghanistan and the rout of the Taliban, the TAPI pipeline deal was signed in December, 2002 with the encouragement of then interim president Hamid Karzai. Karzai had also reportedly been a consultant for Unocal, and was made Chairman of the Transitional Administration shortly after the US-led invasion and then appointed interim president.
In fact, Luft's specious reasoning about the fact that "the Bush team did not for one moment contemplate invading oil-rich Saudi Arabia" actually argues against his very ill-conceived point. If oil was not a consideration, the Bush administration should have invaded Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan, routed al Qaeda there and then knocked out the terrorist funding networks in Saudi Arabia. But they didn't do that. At all. The Sauds are long time Bush family friends, the major supplier of petroleum and have been firm American allies since the early seventies. No need to invade Riyadh, no matter the provenance of 9/11 hijackers or their source of funding. That Bush further acceded to bin Laden's demand that US troops withdraw from Saudi Arabia, which they did, is hardly encouraging behaviour from someone who claims he won't heed terrorist demands.

As a specialist in "strategy," Luft once again displays an uncanny thickness of mind in claiming that moving US troops in the Middle East from Saudi Arabia to Qatar and Bahrain surely indicated that the invasion of Iraq was not about oil, as though this troop movement must have devastating consequences for US strategic position in the region because Bahrain itself has "essentially run out of oil." Once again, please Dr. Luft. Look at a map. Perhaps Dr. Luft simply understands the word "strategy" differently than you and I.

Gal Luft's ridiculous article has all the trappings of COIN (I hope Meatball 1 would agree) -- a damn poor one to be sure -- something put out to counter Greenspan's headline making claim. One look at some of the staff of Luft's organisation, which include war-humpers and various neocon "advisors" as James Woolsey, Kenneth Pollock, and Eliot Cohen, is all one needs to be sure that the piece is nothing more than officious disinformation; one of a flotilla of distracting balloons designed to ease the pain of the reality of the invasion, that it was not done for that which it obviously was, that we invaded for good reasons and not grimy ones and because we, as a nation, simply cannot be allowed to admit the truth about the nature of our own foreign policy.

Mukasey: the soon-to-be Attorney General

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, five Israelis, at least two of which were later identified as Mossad agents, were arrested at gun point in New Jersey after witnesses reported "suspicious" behaviour of men in a white van. This suspicious behaviour included filming the smoldering ruin of the World Trade Center and appearing to be "happy" about it.
"They seemed to be taking a movie," the resident who noticed them said. The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center burning in the background, she said. What struck her were the expressions on the men's faces. "They were like happy, you know … They didn't look shocked to me. I thought it was very strange," she said.
First reported by ABC News, these men, the so-called Five Dancing Israelis, were arrested by the FBI and it was learned that the van belonged to Urban Moving Systems, believed by the FBI to be a front company for the Israeli intelligence organisation, Mossad. The owner of the Urban Moving Systems, Dominic Suter, quickly cleared out the company's office and fled to Israel. During their two months in detention, the Israelis failed as many as seven lie detector tests while their van had tested positive for explosives. The New York Times also had reported that the men had positioned video cameras prior to attack on the WTC the morning of September 11, 2001.

Before any investigation had occurred, a judge had ordered the release of these men to Israel after two weeks detention. The CIA and FBI held up the deportation but not for long, and soon the Mossad agents were returned to Israel where, on Israeli television, they said that their purpose in the United States had been to "document the event," an event that supposedly was a surprise and shock to the world.

The judge who had ordered the immediate release and extradition of the Mossad agents was a one Michael B. Mukasey, our soon-to-be new Attorney General.

Promises to keep

After a week in glorious Amsterdam, what are my eyes treated to upon arrival? Why, the sight of George Bush making good on his promise and exercising his resolve to protect the country from the malevolent maw of expanded children's health care. Bush said he was standing firm against the evils of government health care and that the "cost" would be too great. Indeed, those paltry few billion that would have gone to the S-CHIP program will be far better spent profiting Blackwa ... uh ... fighting terror! I ask you, what good are healthy children when terror lurks everywhere? Healthy children, utterly useless for fighting terror and prone to being targets, are simply more people Bush would have to protect and he has quite enough people to protect already. When there is a war on terror to be won and taxes to be kept low, an expansion of the children's health care program is simply ill-advised. That much is surely obvious.

And really, how can you not admire the man? When he says he will veto something, by god, he does it! No intelligence failures there! Sure a bunch of electioneering Republicans are huffing about Bush's firm stand, thinking that it makes the GOP look bad, and eight states are planning to sue the Bush administration over newly restrictive S-CHIP rules but they clearly don't get it. Nor, for that matter, do the voting public. One day, they all will see clearly the master strokes of this painterly maestro. This vision may takes decades to dawn, but, one day, it will arrive.

Besides, Bush's brave veto has made Dominican tobacco growers happy. What more could we ask for? After all, isn't that what American domestic policy is all about?

Thankfully, the Democrats are "in charge" so, in all likelihood, we won't have to worry about them countering Bush's resolve.

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.