Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Star Larvae Hypothesis

"Nature is somebody's science project"

http://www.starlarvae.org/

Repression as State Strategy

The second issue of A MURDER OF CROWS is out, and features an important essay about repression of dissent. This is a must read for anyone who still thinks that "peaceful" protests are meaningful. This is an excerpt.

...In July 2006, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California released a detailed report in which they documented a variety of instances in which local police departments, along with the California Anti-Terrorism Information Center, placed officers into anti-war groups. First and foremost they infiltrated the groups in order to gather information, but more insidiously, the police hoped to steer the organizations in a direction more useful to the state. When asked why officers had been placed in the San Francisco group Direct Action to Stop the War (DASW), Captain Howard Jordan of the Oakland Police Department stated: "if you put people in there from the beginning, I think we'd be able to gather the information and maybe even direct them to do something that we want them to do."3Clearly the state's perspective is one of infiltrating in order to undermine...

http://anarchistnews.org/?q=node/2050

Pentagon as "the world's largest landlord"

"...Even without Jordan, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the more than 20 other nations that, Arkin noted in early 2004, were "secretly or quietly providing bases and facilities," the available statistics do offer a window into a bloated organization bent on setting up franchises across the globe. According to 2005 documents, the Pentagon acknowledges 39 nations with at least one U.S. base, stations personnel in over 140 countries around the world, and boasts a physical plant of at least 571,900 facilities, though some Pentagon figures show 587,000 "buildings and structures." Of these, 466,599 are located in the United States or its territories. In fact, the Department of Defense owns or leases more than 75% of all federal buildings in the U.S..."

http://aep.typepad.com/american_empire_project/2007/07/planet-pentagon.html

Bush seeks expansion of "Protect America" spy bill

"President Bush appeared Wednesday at the National Security Agency’s (NSA) headquarters to call on Congress to make permanent and expand provisions of the “Protect America Act of 2007.” The bill—passed with bipartisan support in August just prior to the Congressional recess—grants vast powers to the government to carry out spying against the population of the US and the world.

Speaking at the NSA’s National Threat Operations Center in Fort Meade, Maryland, Bush argued, “Without these tools, it will be harder to figure out what our enemies are doing to train, recruit and infiltrate operatives into America.” Under the act’s provisions, the government can conduct warrantless wiretapping of electronic communications so long as one end of the communication is “reasonably believed to be located outside the United States.”

The law amends the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which governs surveillance of domestic communications. Before its passage, agencies such as the NSA and CIA had been required to obtain a warrant from a special FISA court. The government can now carry out such warrantless wiretapping for up to a year following certification from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence (DNI).

The vague provisions of the law would allow the government discretion to monitor, without a warrant, the electronic communications of US citizens, effectively violating the ban on “unreasonable searches and seizures” inscribed in the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.

The Democrats provided the votes necessary to ensure the bill’s passage in August, following a high-pressure campaign by the White House that branded anyone opposed to the bill as “soft on terror.” The only token concession made by the Bush officials was a “sunset provision” that called for the law to expire in six months, on February 1, 2008. The Bush administration has waited less than two months to resume its campaign to make the law permanent and expand it..."
 

CIA, Raytheon's place at Notre Dame debated

"...I am also concerned that Ponzio, and perhaps others, do not understand the depth to which both the CIA and Raytheon contradict our University's mission. Ponzio would have us think that the manufacturing of deadly weapons only constitutes a "small aspect" of Raytheon's work. Unfortunately, this assumption could not be further from the truth. The Army Times Publishing Company, a leading military and government news publisher, found that 96.1 percent of Raytheon's revenues came from military contracts with the Department of Defense. Last year the company's revenues came to $20.2 billion. Consequently, Raytheon received over $19 billion in one year alone in arms production - hardly a small aspect by any stretch of the imagination..."
 
 
 

Monks lead huge protest in Yangon

About 10,000 Buddhist monks and 150 nuns have marched in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city, after setting off from one of the country holiest sites.

The monks left the Shwedagon Pagoda calling for national reconciliation and the release of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

As the procession continued they were joined by 10,000 residents.
 
For a second day, hundreds of monks also marched to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi. Having met the Nobel-prize winner on Saturday, this time they were turned away by police.

Sunday's demonstration was the biggest protest against the military government for two decades...
 

Critique of 'The Israel Lobby'

"...the real problem is not whether The Israel Lobby pleases this Grand Kleagle or that, or the one-sidedness of its depiction of Israel and its supporters, so much as the profound failure of the moral imagination that the book reflects. A failure to connect with the historical experience of Jews that motivates their support of Israel. A failure to empathize with the real danger the 6 million Jews of Israel face: the threat of a second Holocaust..."
 

"...As Omer Bartov, the widely respected historian, wrote in the New Republic (yes, the New Republic) in 2004, speaking of contemporary Jew-haters such as those who wrote the exterminationist language in the Hamas charter: "These are people who mean what they say." And "there are precedents for this."

Precedents: The world's willingness to permit one Holocaust gives cause for concern that it will stand by, if not enable, another.

On the cover of the New Republic—almost as if deliberately counterposing it to Wieseltier's "Hitler Is Dead" piece—the magazine billed Bartov's article: "Hitler is dead, Hitlerism lives on."

Exactly my point in my "second Holocaust" piece. It demonstrates how unbalanced things have become that one has to make an argument in favor of opposing Hitlerism, its goals and potential consequences (i.e., a second Holocaust). That one has to make the point that opposing Hitlerism is not the parochial concern of Jews alone or their allegedly insidious lobby, that opposing Hitlerism may even be more important, in fact, than opposing the Israel lobby, and should be the concern of all moral human beings. Just as preventing Darfur from becoming another Rwanda should be. What's at stake is not just a failure of the moral imagination but of historical memory..."

http://www.slate.com/id/2173908/

Gonzo for Beginners: A Hunter S. Thompson Reading Guide

 Okay, let's assume that you're late to the party on this one. Maybe you've seen Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas movie, or you've read bits of Hunter S. Thompson's stuff here and there. You need a heads-up on how to get into the good stuff. Here's what we recommend, in order:

The Great Shark Hunt (1979):

This classic collection of Thompson's work is the gateway drug: it leads to harder stuff. Shark Hunt contains some of his earliest, relatively-straight stories from the mid-'60s as well as his watershed "The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved" (one of his first experiments with gonzo journalism) and his first two pieces for Rolling Stone -- including his account of running for sheriff of Aspen, Colorado.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1971)....

 

Would you read Orwell's '1983'?

A few years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts reported a steep decline in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, one representing a loss of 20 million readers overall.

Something tells me the rate hasn't increased since, but who can blame us? What with everything that's going on with Britney and Lindsay, not to mention Madonna and Brad and Angelina and all the pregnancies they've endured personally as well as the ones they've outsourced, who's got time for a 600-page novel?

I've got an idea, which is to make most of those tomes into 300 pagers so we can get the reading done and log back on to the Gawker and TMZ websites to find out what's really going on in the world.

You could start with all those books that have "and" in the title. William Faulkner's "The Sound," D.H. Lawrence's "Sons," Norman Mailer's "The Naked," Dostoevsky's "Crime," and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Dr. Jekyll"

 
[...]
 
And who wants to read about all the characters in Robert Penn Warren's best-known novel? I can't even remember their names: "One of the King's Men" is fine by me. "Around the World in Just a Few Days" by Jules Verne wouldn't take up too much of your time, nor would Ray Bradbury's classic cut back to "Fahrenheit 45.1."

OK, now that all the unnecessary verbiage has been hacked out and people are reading again, publishing houses could start to release titles that have been curtailed only slightly. A few contemporary classics come to mind: Joseph Heller's "Catch-21," George Orwell's "1983," and Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse-Four." Among older titles, there's always Hawthorne's "The House of the Six Gables." To pull in younger readers who might worry that a book in the hip pocket will make their oversized jeans sag even farther, how about James Joyce's "A Portrait of the Artist as an Eighth Grader"?

[...]

http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0921/p20s02-ussc.html

Government appeals in citizen-detainee case

"The Bush Administration on Friday asked the Supreme Court to return to an issue with constitutional overtones that it has not confronted in nearly six decades: the authority of U.S. courts to hear legal challenges by individuals held abroad in U.S. military custody. In a petition for review in Geren v. Omar (not yet assigned a docket number), the Justice Department said the Court should hear one and perhaps both of two cases involving individuals with U.S. citizenship who are attempting to head off their transfer to the Iraqi government for prosecution or punishment under Iraq's criminal laws..."

4 more Ebola cases found in Congo

KINSHASA, Congo (AP) — Four more cases of Ebola have been identified in Congo, bringing the total of confirmed cases to nine, officials said Saturday.

The outbreak in Congo is the first major resurgence of Ebola in years.

At least 167 people have died — though it is not clear how many of Ebola — in the affected region of Kasai Occidental over the past four months, and nearly 400 have fallen ill, according to Congolese health officials.

Christiana Salvi, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization effort in Congo, said that the newest cases came from the same zone as the original confirmed samples...

more...

http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2007-09-22-ebola_N.htm?csp=34

Aromatherapy massage helps beat stress

"...More than half of the nurses had moderate to extreme anxiety levels -- but that was before they settled in for an aromatherapy massage.

During the aromatherapy massage sessions, the nurses chose from a menu of fragrances that included rose, lavender, lime, and an "ocean breeze" mix of lavender, ylang ylang, bergamot, and patchouli scents.

Each nurse sat in a chair and listened to New Age music played through headphones.

[...]

It's not clear what relaxed the nurses most: the aromatherapy, the massage, the music -- or just taking a break from their hectic day..."

http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20070920/fragrant-fix-soothes-work-stress?src=RSS_PUBLIC

Lessons of Empire: India, 60 Years After Independence

"...On August 1, 2007, the Majhis spoke out at the annual general meeting of Vedanta Resources PLC, a British multinational that is poised to dig a new bauxite mine that threatens the village of Jaganathpur. While Vedanta is incorporated in Britain, it is owned by Anil Agarwal, the world's 230th richest man according to the Forbes 2007 list, a former scrap metal merchant who was born in eastern India. (See Vedanta Undermines Indian Communities, by Nityanand Jayaraman.)

The timing of the Mahji’s trip to Britain and the protests back in India have a much wider significance. 2007 is marked by a trinity of anniversaries that recall India’s conquest, first struggles and eventual liberation from British rule. On August 15th, India celebrates 60 years of independence. Earlier in the year, commemorations took place for the 150th anniversary of the great rebellion against British rule in 1857 -– known in the UK as the ‘mutiny’ and on the sub-continent as the ‘first war of independence.’ This trinity of historic milestones is completed with the 250th anniversary of the pivotal battle of Plassey in June 1757, when the private army of Britain’s East India Company (which was often referred to simply as the “Company”) defeated the forces of the Nawab (ruler) of Bengal (in eastern India), ushering in first corporate and then imperial domination.

It is this legacy of collusion between global corporations and the expansionist state that makes this year so poignant and full of enduring lessons. Its history provides timeless lessons on how (and how not) to confront corporate power with protest, litigation, regulation, rebellion and, ultimately, corporate redesign. Many of today’s corporate struggles are prefigured in the resistance to the Company’s rise to power. Again and again, "the return of the East India Company" is used as a catch-phrase to describe the recent influx of multinationals into India, whether global mining corporations or foreign business more generally..."
 

US: Air America on Ad Blacklist?

ABC document: Sponsors shun liberal network

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting
October 31st, 2006

An internal memo from ABC Radio Networks to its affiliates reveals scores of powerful sponsors have a standing order that their commercials never be placed on syndicated Air America programming that airs on ABC affiliates.

The October 25 memo was provided to FAIR by the Peter B. Collins Show, a syndicated radio show originating on the West Coast.

Headlined "Air America Blackout" and addressed "Dear Traffic Director"—referring to the radio station staffer who coordinates programming and advertising—the memo gives the following order to affiliates:

Please be advised that Hewlett Packard has purchased schedules with ABC Radio Networks between October 30th and December 24th, 2006. Please make sure you blackout this advertiser on your station, as they do not wish it to air on any Air America affiliate.
The directive then advises ABC Radio Network affiliates to take note of a list of other sponsors who do not want their programming to run during Air America programming.
Please see below for a complete list of all advertisers requesting that NONE of their commercials air within Air America programming.
The list, totaling 90 advertisers, includes some of largest and most well-known corporations advertising in the U.S.: Wal-Mart, GE, Exxon Mobil, Microsoft, Bank of America, Fed-Ex, Visa, Allstate, McDonald's, Sony and Johnson & Johnson. The U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Navy are also listed as advertisers who don't want their commercials to air on Air America.

The ABC memo is evidence of the potentially censorious effect that advertisers' political preferences can have on the range of views presented in the media. When Al Gore proposed launching a progressive TV network, a Fox News executive told Advertising Age (10/13/03): "The problem with being associated as liberal is that they wouldn't be going in a direction that advertisers are really interested in.... If you go out and say that you are a liberal network, you are cutting your potential audience, and certainly your potential advertising pool, right off the bat." (See Extra!, 11-12/03.)

FAIR's call to the ABC contact person listed on the memo, to ask if similar "blackout" lists exist for other shows, including conservative-leaning programs, has not been returned.

Admin Camera Shy?

Women's Wear Daily
Jacob Bernstein asks Tim Russert if it's gotten harder for "Meet the Press" to book members of the Bush administration as the war drags on. "There is no doubt that the frequency by which Bush administration officials have chosen to give interviews has declined dramatically as the war becomes more and more controversial. The vice president has not been on in more than two years. [Donald] Rumsfeld hasn't been on in six months."

Orwell on Language

Excerpt from: "...George Orwell’s essay, ‘Politics and the English Language.

Some highlights:

“A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is unavoidably ugly?”

“This invasion of one’s mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one’s brain.”

“In prose, the worst thing you can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing, you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is best to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterwards one can choose – not simply accept – the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impression one’s words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

i. Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
ii. Never use a long word when a short one will do.
iii. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
iv. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
v. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday […] equivalent.
vi. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

“These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable.”

“Political language … is designed … to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

Substitute ‘business language’ for ‘political language’ and I think it still applies. Orwell understood how to effectively combine words. One reason that '1984' and 'Animal Farm' are so often taught in secondary schools is that he used concise, simple language to tell powerful stories..."

http://blogs.ipswitch.com/greene/2007/01/orwell_on_language.html

Thousands of hyphens perish as English marches on

LONDON (Reuters) - About 16,000 words have succumbed to pressures of the Internet age and lost their hyphens in a new edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary.

Bumble-bee is now bumblebee, ice-cream is ice cream and pot-belly is pot belly.

And if you've got a problem, don't be such a crybaby (formerly cry-baby).

The hyphen has been squeezed as informal ways of communicating, honed in text messages and emails, spread on Web sites and seep into newspapers and books...

continues at:

http://www.reuters.com/article/oddlyEnoughNews/idUSHAR15384620070921?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews

Six Great Long-Distance Bike Trails Without Cars

Many years ago I took a meandering 5,000 mile bike ride across the US, from San Francisco to New York via Idaho and Texas. I rode back roads all the way and it was a highlight of my life. But this long bike ride would have been 100 times better if I did not have to share the road with careless drivers, overloaded pickups, and logging trucks, not to mention suicidal teens in hot rods. Wouldn't it be great if there were long-distance trails specifically for bicycles? Basically -- roads without cars?

Well, there are! A quickly emerging network of abandoned railway lines are being converted by regional governments into superb bike paths. In addition to offering very gentle grades that are ideal for bikes, many of these new trails are satisfying long. The longest rail trail is over 300 miles long, and the longest off-pavement bike trail in the country stretches 2,500 miles. On these bike roads you can cruise along for weeks without ever encountering a car...

-- read more at:

http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/001903.php

Pirate Bay suing major media companies for sabotage, based on MediaDefender leak

ThePirateBay has been digging through the enormous chunk of leaked email from MediaDefender, the sleazy enforcers used by the entertainment industry to fight P2P, and they've discovered evidence of illegal sabotage. So they're suing all the big movie and record companies in Sweden....
 

What Really Happens to Our Food Aid?

When you hear the words food aid you no doubt imagine a wealthy country sending bags of food to parts of the world where people are starving. Yet in the case of the US, the reality is quite different. In fact, there is many ways that your food does not go from here to there. Even more alarming, could the US food aid program be hurting hungry people more than helping them?

“Who Does US Food Aid Benefit” is a recent article for In These Times, written by ... Megan Tady.

We then hear from Jordan Dey, director of US Relations for the World Food Program...

http://bicyclemark.org/blog/2007/09/bm225-what-really-happens-to-our-food-aid/

Collecting of details on travelers documented

Gathering of personal information violates Privacy Act, activists contend

The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the records, which are analyzed by the department's Automated Targeting System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from innocent people entering the country.

But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20913640/

Case Dismissed?

The secret lobbying campaign your phone company doesn't want you to know about

Sept. 20, 2007 - The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs....
 

Inside the Data Mine

"....After making the initial statement about his client’s refusal to participate in the data-mining program, Stern has remained mum, refusing all press inquiries.

In an interview, Cliff Stricklin, a prosecutor from Stern’s opposition, simply grins and urges me to look up a legal strategy called “graymail.”

Graymail: (n.) a maneuver used by the defense in a spy trial whereby the government is threatened with the revelation of national secrets unless the case against the defendant is dropped.

In other words: Take me to court and I’ll reveal state secrets. Nacchio’s defense team ended up making the secret contracts a minor part of his defense due to rulings from the judge in closed sessions regarding classified information. It is likely that this defense will resurface in his appeal or his upcoming defense against the SEC’s charges of accounting fraud.

Twenty-six years into a career at AT&T, Nacchio was thought to be next in line to former AT&T Chairman Robert Allen. When he was passed up, he went his own way, building Qwest into a competitor to his former employer. As former Denver prosecutor Craig Silverman told a local reporter, “Nacchio used to be part of George W. Bush’s team, but now the Justice Department is trying to take all of his money and freedom.” History repeats itself: Nacchio is once again a disgruntled former employee and he’s not going down without a fight. It’s a good old-fashioned grudge match with cocky foes threatening to air the others’ dirty laundry.

Graymail may not be a remarkably unique concept, but the sudden evaporation of this close, security-level relationship and the timing of the Justice Department’s investigation are suggestive of government retribution. Bruce Afran, one of the lawyers leading the class-action suit against AT&T and Verizon for their participation in the government’s data-mining program, has followed the Nacchio case closely. When pressed during an interview, Afran chooses his words carefully: “We can’t ignore that Nacchio has been the only one to refuse to participate in the program, and that he was then indicted.” Afran explains that, because chief executives are paid in shares or options, they’re always selling shares. “Whenever you want to take revenge on an uncooperative CEO, all you need to do is charge him with insider trading,” says Afran, referring to a strategy commonly known as “selective prosecution.” He pauses, sips from his coffee, leans in a bit, and says, “As a lawyer, I think this is clearly a pretext for punishing him for failing to go along with their [the government’s] program.”

Even if you don’t buy that Nacchio’s indictment for insider trading is payback for his refusal to participate in the president’s data-mining program, Nacchio’s former company, Qwest, has taken some hard knocks in the business world. Knocks that, given the soaring stocks and the unprecedented merger success of other companies implicated in data mining, become all the more salient...."

 

I May Have Gone Insane

Created Sep 20 2007 - 10:22am

We dance round in a ring and suppose,
But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

- Robert Frost, "The Secret Sits"

It is a legitimately demented phenomenon, all the more so because it all started with a joke. Not even a funny joke, either, but a sad and threadbare thing I told only to myself, and no one else. When the clustered elements of our collective national burden erupted in masterfully synchronized bedlam, as they so often seem to, I had that joke to tell myself, and it may not have helped much, but it was there.

Every time another cacophony of freshly minted lunacy was unleashed - lunacy regarding Iraq, the NSA domestic surveillance program, White House defiance of subpoenas, timorously flaccid performances by the Congressional majority, or merely when enduring the repeated "nukyalur"-ized butchery of public political rhetoric was required by my employers, all of which emphatically pegged the needle on my Pandemoni-O-Meter - I had that joke to tell myself.

The joke is spherically terrible, i.e. bad in every possible direction in three dimensions and across 360 rounded degrees. It isn't even a joke, really, which may be why it went so abruptly and bewilderingly sideways on me months ago. The joke, to be embarrassingly honest, is more like some half-bright mantra than anything else. As I came to discover, however, it managed to settle my mind when the needle was in the red. Perhaps the thing is best described as my self-generated Zen koan; though it did not actually stop my mind in proper koan fashion, it kept me from putting my head through the wall, and that made it valuable indeed.

The joke: people say Bush and his people want to raze the core nature of the country itself by wrecking the Constitution, and they're correct. People say Bush and his people are enriching their friends beyond dreams of avarice at our actual expense, by way of war-inflated oil prices; war-captured Iraqi oil infrastructure; the orgiastic plunder of Treasury money through calamitously unsound tax cuts for Bush's pals; and through an Iraq war profiteering scam so unutterably corrupt that it bends the very light. That, and more besides, is what people say, and they're correct.

But all that, along with everything else the Bush crew has done, just isn't enough for them. What Bush and his people really seek, at bottom, is to destroy the basic definition and literal existence of reality itself. They want to destroy reality, rebuild it according to their own blueprint, so the sum and substance of this new reality will accept as axiomatic the idea that lying, stealing and wholesale carnage are badges of integrity and moral clarity. In other words, our comprehensively understood reality today would be replaced by whatever madcap anti-reality currently exists within the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

I warned you.

As bad as that chaotically crossbred joke/rant/mantra thing is, it wasn't meant to be anything other than a harmless sliver of wordplay, something that settled my nerves and gave me a private little chuckle - that alone, and nothing more.

Things are different now. It isn't a joke anymore, at least not to me. The premise that the Bush administration has literally been trying to shatter elemental reality on planet Earth has steadily gained traction in my mind. It started as that sort-of joke, then it became an idea, and then it became an actual hypothesis, a working theory requiring research and evidence and argument so that, someday, I can prove it to be an unassailable bone-basic truth.

And yes, the fact that I'm quite serious about this has me quietly yet legitimately concerned for my own mental health. What worries me the most, however, is a freshly minted suspicion that it is already over, that the deal already went down, but almost nobody actually noticed when it happened. I think these Bush folks may have successfully pulled it off right in front of our noses over the course of this past August. I think they may have actually broken reality, cobbling together a chaotic replacement, and I think I can back up that supposition all the way down the block and back again.

Bear with me.

The process began in earnest more than a year ago with a publicity campaign that deliberately made no sense whatsoever. Day after day, statements and declarations came from all manner of White House officials that were little more than bags of over-the-moon nonsense - all patently inaccurate to nine decimals, yet spoken shamelessly into cameras with bare faces hanging out.

With this, the Bush folks laid the mental foundation of the new reality to come; that foundation had to transmute lies into facts while still stuck in the old reality, but they had an edge that may have proven decisive: trust. If the American people hear the White House repeatedly claim that water is not wet and Godzilla is real, many of those Americans will believe it after a fashion.

The rumored totality of America's cynical scorn for politics and leaders notwithstanding, this country has many citizens who still believe, even after what has happened, that if the president of the United States says it, then it must be true. This isn't a conscious thing; it happens way back in the slushy part of the brain, where unpleasant facts or disquieting fears are submerged and drowned like rats in an applesauce vat. Bush and his crew counted on that, using TV news messaging to furrow the field in preparation for seeding time, and their trust in the trust of Americans was shown to be well-placed.

When the serious push came, it came fast and furious. Dick Cheney declared that the Vice President's office no longer existed within the Executive branch because he didn't want to give any of his documents to the National Archives as is required by law, and actually went on to defend the legitimacy of his astonishing, arrogant, galactically mistaken declaration, and he got away with it.

Bush's lawyers put forth a claim of Executive Privilege that was the very living essence of overheated hubris run amok - a claim that for all intents and purposes declared Bush and his people to be fully and completely above the rule of law, and he got away with it. Subpoenas issued by Congress were either utterly ignored or smugly slapped aside, and the lawyers got away with it.

Another piece of draconian surveillance legislation aimed at shattering our remaining rights arrived in Congress, so the Bush folks brazenly bullied the majority into passing it by threatening to blame them for the next terrorist attack to come, whereupon the majority instantly wilted like orchids in a snowbank, the bill passed with room to spare, and once again they got away with it.

Cheney's chief of staff was convicted for lying about lying about lying about outing a deep-cover CIA agent and sentenced to federal prison, initiating the single most observably crooked bag-job in modern political history: Libby took the bullet for his boss, got rewarded for his service with a presidential get-out-of-jail-free card, and they all got away with it.

All of this was deployed in rapid succession, presenting the American people with a sudden feast of gibberish that has redefined incoherence across the board: the VP is not in the executive branch, and the executive branch is above the law, and the majority in Congress is actually the minority, and obstructing justice to protect Cheney from being prosecuted for annihilating a CIA operative isn't anything to get in a snit about. If that is not prima facie evidence that a new reality has been imposed upon us, then I don't know what is.

After all that came August, and if I'm right, the process was brought to a successful conclusion. In a way, this was the greatest challenge for Bush and his people, because they all had to argue time and again that Iraq was doing fine, that the whole thing was about freedom, that there was no civil war, that the "surge" worked, that the American people truly supported the whole bloody carnivorous process, and be damned with poll numbers and pundits and contradictory facts. General Petraeus was rolled out on cue, he hummed his bars and faked it at the same time, and as far as the mainstream press was concerned, the White House won the argument and that's that.

Think about it. The weapons of mass destruction were not there, connections to 9/11 and Osama bin Laden were not there, the hearts and flowers were not there, thousands upon thousands have been killed, billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars have been translated into the bank accounts of administration allies, a civil war is raging beyond any semblance of control there, Iraq's much-ballyhooed democracy is almost as chaotic as the streets outside Parliament, and the entire disaster has become a Quantico training ground for scores of bomb-makers looking to ply their trade in the wider world beyond.

And they got away with it. If that is reality, I want no part of it.

It must be clearly understood, however, that I do not discount the very real possibility that I have, finally and for all time, gone insane because of all this. My theory is not proven beyond doubt; my suspicions grow stronger by the hour, but I could simply be this barking madman no longer able to recognize reality even when it is staring me in the eye. I'm pretty sure of my footing, but the truth is that if I did go over the high side somewhere along the line, I'd be the last person to figure that out.

Therefore, I'm going to wrap myself in the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, if only to replace what once was my comforting little joke before the metamorphosis flipped everything upside down on me. "The test of a first-rate intelligence," said Fitzgerald, "is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function."

I make no claim to any sort of first-rate intelligence, but I'm going to try to hold these two thoughts in my mind for as long as possible. One thought says reality itself has been detonated with calculated premeditation by Bush and his people. The other thought remembers what it was like before anything like the first thought was even remotely conceived of. Each thought, I think, will nurture and protect the other once the three of us are all settled in, and I will continue to retain the ability to function.

Meh. Reality is overrated anyway.
_______

About author William Rivers Pitt [0] is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence. His newest book, House of Ill Repute: Reflections on War, Lies, and America's Ravaged Reputation, will be available this winter from PoliPointPress.
 
 

Tomgram: Peter Galbraith, The Iranian Conundrum

Be careful what you wish for -- that might be the catch phrase for American relations with Iran since the CIA helped overthrow the elected government of that country in 1953 and installed the young Shah in power. Much of our present world -- and many of our present problems in the Middle East and Central Asia -- stem from that particular act of imperial hubris. The Shah's Iran was then regarded by successive American administrations not just as a potential regional power, but as our regional bulwark, our imperial outpost. The U.S. helped bulk up the Shah's military, as well as his fearsome secret police, and, under President Dwight Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program, actually started Iran down the nuclear road which today leaves some administration figures threatening bloody murder, even while former Centcom commander John Abizaid claims that an Iranian bomb would not be the end of the universe. ("There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran... Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with [other] nuclear powers as well.")

The White House has reportedly given secret approval for covert operations to "destabilize" Iran and, evidently, its backing to small-scale terror strikes inside that country, while Iranian influence inside Shiite Iraq remains (as it has long been) significant. Meanwhile, a war of words (and charges) only escalates. President Bush heightened the anti-Iranian rhetoric in his September 13th post-Petraeus-hearings address, while an escalating campaign of charges against the activities of Iran and its Revolutionary Guards in Iraq continues to intensify, just as reports are coming out that the Pentagon is building a new base in Iraq, right up against the Iranian border. The Iranian nuclear situation remains at a boil.

There are also regular, if shadowy, reports that Vice President Cheney's office is pushing hard for a shock-and-awe air campaign against Iran. Recently (and not for the first time), the Iranians shot back: General Mohammed Hassan Koussechi, a senior Revolutionary Guard commander, threatened to respond to any American action in his country by firing off missiles with a range of at least 1,200 miles against American and Western targets across the Middle East including, presumably, the enormous military bases the Pentagon has scattered across Iraq. ("Today the Americans are around our country but this does not mean that they are encircling us. They are encircled themselves and are within our range.")

While U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups slip in and out of the Persian Gulf, a murky Israeli air attack on a site in the Syrian desert, combined with a bizarre and unlikely nuclear tale involving the North Koreans, has added a further touch of paranoia to the situation. (According to the Israeli paper Haaretz, ex-United Nations Ambassador John Bolton has claimed that the Israeli bombing should be taken as "a clear message to Iran.... that its continued efforts to acquire nuclear weapons are not going to go unanswered.")

The President has indicated, more than once, that he would not hand the Iranian nuclear situation over to his successor unresolved (unlike the war in Iraq). Even Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a man who knows well the dangers a U.S. attack on Iran poses, continues to claim that "all options are on the table" when it comes to the Iranians. So consider the Iranian-American relationship, splayed on the "table" of Iraq, to be the potential crucible of disaster for the planet between now and January 2009. Former ambassador Peter Galbraith, author of The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End, considers that essential relationship in the upcoming issue of the New York Review of Books in an essay that the magazine's editors have been kind enough to let Tomdispatch post. Think of it as an action-packed, information-filled, essential primer for the months to come. Tom

http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/174838/peter_galbraith_the_iranian_conundrum

Monitoring the U.S. Military Presence in Latin America

"....In 1999 and 2000, the U.S. government sought to replace the counternarcotics flight capacity that it lost when Howard Air Force Base ceased operations in Panama. It came up with the figure of “Forward Operating Locations,” later renamed “Cooperative Security Locations,” or CSLs.

Ten-year agreements allowed the establishment of three facilities where small numbers of military, Drug Enforcement Agency, Coast Guard and Customs personnel carry out counter-drug missions. The three CSLs are at Manta, Ecuador (the Eloy Alfaro International Airport); Aruba (Reina Beatrix International Airport) and nearby Curaçao (Hato International Airport) in the Netherlands Antilles; and at the Comalapa International Airport in El Salvador. The U.S. agencies’ personnel, plus private contractors, total about 450 at Manta and 250 at Curaçao, and a smaller number at the other sites. Most are aircraft maintenance, logistical, communications and intelligence specialists.

The 10-year agreements governing these facilities limit their use to counter-drug missions, mainly those of aircraft seeking to detect and monitor illegal drug-smuggling in the huge “transit zone” between the Andes and the United States’ southern border.

The agreements governing all three sites will be up for renewal within the next four years. The CSL whose future is most in jeopardy is Manta, Ecuador, which expires in 2009. In November 2006 Ecuadorans elected presidential candidate Rafael Correa, a critic of U.S. counter-drug policy who had promised during the campaign that he would close Manta. The day after his election, he said, “We are respectful of international treaties, but in 2009, when the Manta agreement expires, we will not renew that accord.”1

Despite this uncertainty, it appears that CSLs, and even less formal arrangements, are the future for the U.S. military presence in much of the hemisphere. While the days of formal military bases appear to be over, “DOD’s proposal envisions a diverse array of smaller cooperative locations for contingency access” throughout the region, according to a 2004 Congressional Research Service report.2

Forward Operating Sites

In addition to the three CSLs, the Southern Command has a series of even looser arrangements, in which “smaller numbers of U.S. personnel on anti-drug missions have access to several foreign air bases for refueling, repairs or shorter missions.”3 These bases where U.S. personnel have access to facilities—known as “forward operating sites” or, more colloquially, “lily pads”—are a model being adopted even more vigorously in Africa and central Asia than in Latin America. The facilities usually have very few U.S. personnel or contractors on site, and in some cases are little more than refueling stops.

As security analyst Michael Klare describes the new “forward operating site” model:

In discussing these new facilities, the Defense Department has gone out of its way to avoid using the term “military base.” A base, in the Pentagon’s lexicon, is a major facility with permanent barracks, armories, recreation facilities, housing for dependents and so on. Such installations typically have been in place for many years and are sanctioned by a formal security partnership with the host country involved. The new types of facilities, on the other hand, will contain no amenities, house no dependents and not be tied to a formal security arrangement. This distinction is necessary, the Pentagon explains, to avoid giving the impression that the United States is seeking a permanent, coloniallike presence in the countries it views as possible hosts for such installations.4

Though this model is being pioneered more vigorously elsewhere in the world, the U.S. military does appear to have “lilypad” arrangements at several sites in South America—particularly Colombia...."

http://news.nacla.org/2007/09/18/monitoring-the-us-military-presence-in-latin-america/

Iraqi PM blasts Blackwater for other incidents

Blackwater security guards who protect top U.S. diplomats in Iraq have been involved in at least seven serious incidents, some of which resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said Wednesday.

Maliki didn't detail the incidents, which he said add to the case against the North Carolina-based security firm. Blackwater's license to operate here has been revoked while U.S. and Iraqi officials investigate a shooting Sunday that Iraqi officials now say left at least 11 people dead.

But Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al Askari told McClatchy Newspapers that one of the incidents was former Iraqi Electricity Minister Ahyam al Samarrai's escape from a Green Zone jail in December. Samarrai had been awaiting sentencing on charges that he had embezzled $2.5 billion that was intended to rebuild Iraq's decrepit electricity grid.

[...]

Askari didn't detail each of the seven incidents Maliki mentioned. But his inclusion of the Samarrai escape raised new questions about a strange and little-publicized incident of the war.

Until now, Iraqi officials hadn't named the private security company that they believe helped Samarrai, the only Iraqi cabinet official convicted of corruption, to escape from a jail that was overseen jointly by U.S. and Iraqi guards. He subsequently was spirited out of the country and is believed to be living in the United States.

The U.S. State Department made note of his escape in its December report on developments in Iraq, saying that "Iraq's Commission on Public Integrity (CPI) said they believed he fled with the help of members of a private security company."

But the accusation that Blackwater, which earned at least $240 million in 2005 from contracts to provide security to U.S. officials in Baghdad, assisted in his escape raises questions about what American officials might have known about the breakout.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman couldn't be reached for comment....

http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/19838.html

3 airmen from Minot AFB and 2 from Barksdale AFB are dead

MINTOT AND BARKSDALE PERSONNEL DEATHS

Too Many For Coincidence?

DETAILS ONTHE RECENT USAF DEATHS AT THE TWO BASES INVOLVED IN THE NUCLEAR CRUISE MISSILE FLIGHT ARE STILL SCARCE...

THIS JUST IN - THIS EMAIL

Five military members that were "possibly" involved in helping to expose the "accidental" movement of 6 nukes August 30th from Minot air force base (AFB) in North Dakota to Barksdale air force base in Lousiana are dead.

In case you missed it, 6 nukes were flown between these two air force bases. The last time nukes were flown in the sky was over 40 years ago (and I'm sure you can figure out why they don't fly nukes). CNN just said it was a "mistake".

Now, ironically, 3 airmen from Minot AFB and 2 from Barksdale AFB are dead. Two died before this incident (therefore could have nothing to do with it but still rather odd that this many are dying from the same AFB):

Adam Barrs, navigation for the 5th squadron, dead July 3:
Weston Kissel, B-52 pilot for 23rd squadron, dead July 17:

Todd Blue, security forces for 5th squadron, dead Sept. 10:

A husband and wife couple from Barksdale AFB also died September 15th:

And there's a lot of talk around this John Frueh guy from the USAF that flew many missions in Afghanistan that last talked to his family - on August 30th. They just found his body September 8th.

Could be something, could be nothing. Just seems like a lot of airmen falling all of a sudden.

In my opinion, I think these brave souls have possibly held off "9/11 the second - attack Iran " by bringing this nuke issue to the public. I don't think people were supposed to find out about these nukes. I figure they were heading to Iran...
 
                             -----------------------------

"Six (five?) people dying within days of a world-record nuclear screw-up is decidedly newsworthy, and suspicious, in itself. The rate of fatalities in the military isn't that high even in war zones," comments Don Lee, a retired U.S. Navy E3 Electronics Warfare specialist with an inactive Top Secret Clearance. [www.komotv.com; www.bismarcktribune.com; www.kxmc.com; www.shreveporttimes.com; www.kfyrtv.com ]

http://www.willthomasonline.net/willthomasonline/Minot_Dead.html

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