Radically Inept
Saturday, April 03, 2004
  Georgia Tech plays for the NCAA Championship

It's cool...But, do you think some hiring manager is going to go, "Wow! This job candidate graduated from GA Tech, and they just won (must think positive) the National Championship. Let's hire him."

Over, let's say a Harvard or Yale grad. Especially if the Yalie is a 'skull and bones' member. Somehow, I doubt it means that much in my career progression.

On the other hand, "Go Tech!" 
  Wow! I've evolved!

Okay, it's not far, but being a Crunchy Crustacean is a huge improvement over being an Insignificant Microbe. Though I do think Iwas higher, for whatever that's worth, in the past few days, the The Truth Laid Bear: The Blogosphere Ecosystem has been experiencing some difficulties in their assessment system the past few days.

The Truth Laid Bear:
"Ok folks, the Ecosystem should be back to normal. Quite a passle of problems.

For those who care, there were not one, not two, but three separate issues that turned out to be causing the difficulties we've seen over the past few weeks."

Alright, it's not much, but it does help to have a benchmarking system to know if your making a dent in the blogosphere. And, I guess I'm making a crusty dent, which is better than a wriggley dent. I think.

By the way, The Truth Laid Bear is an excellent blog in its own right, besides providing a convenient benchmark rating system.

I've been following a whole lot of the controversy in the blogosphere concerning the four contractors whose bodies were mutilated in Iraq. Some say, 1) 'oh, hero's to be mourned', or 2) 'how immoral for them to be treated that way'; this includes two points, and others, 3) 'mercenary dogs who got what they deserved'; which also has two separate points. All sides to the arguments I've seen, heard and read appear to me to be w/o merit. Really.

1) 'oh, hero's to be mourned': Hey, "You knew the job was dangerous when you took it, Fred." I'm sure part of the motivation for some of these guys, was in fact the danger. They just plain didn't like the idea of living in a 9 to 5 world, where they were more likely to receive an ignomious death at the hands of a drunk driver, or worse, die of some friggin' disease, and having to spend the last part of their lives having someone change their bed pans. Sure, I'm certain some were there just for the money.

This as an morality issue seems to play out in two different contexts. The first, they were only there for the money. Okay, if you don't believe that we had any reason to go to war, why else would you be there? (posted something similar to the following somewhere else) When my father returned from Vietnam and arrived at San Francisco Airport, he was accosted by some girl with a protest sign asking, "What the Hell for?" My father responded w/, "$548.30 a month."

Is that being mercenary? He did go on to do twenty years active US military service, and another 14-15 years of US government service.

I personally believe that the invasions of Panama, Grenada, and the first 'Gulf War', were ill conceived actions. But, I would gladly have volunteered (and, did for two of them) to go. As an officer in the American military, was I acting as a mercenary or a patriot, given the fact that I thought all three were w/o merit? Does that make a difference?

Does having a power elite in charge of the country providing a 'patriotic' veil, if often idiotic reason for war, make a difference? If you believe it and all you succeed in doing is lining the pockets of the military industrial complex, aren't you in fact a SAP? If you go anyway, w/o patriotic fervor, and do your job as a professional soldier, are you acting as a mercenary? Where is this line drawn? I could go on with more examples, and I will if asked, but I think the above succeeds in getting my point across.

this does bring up a queston. What would we have to pay you to take the chance? "There's not enough money in the world," you say? Good for you. Now, was that answer based on morality or cowardice. I found out in high school that a lot of the biggest, strongest football players didn't mind kicking some runt's ass, lacked the stomach to join the military.

2) 'How immoral for them to be treated that way': The second morality issue I see being raised, is 'was there something heinous in the actions of the people of Fallujah?' If so, so what? Well, I think this may be the simplest and most complicated of the points raised. I'll take a stab at them anyway. First, and for me the most important question, is 'was there anything innately immoral about their acts involving the mutilation of bodies? Now, I will look at this separately form the idea that they were tortured. Torture as an act, may be related, but for now let's leave that aside.

Is there anything inherently immoral in these alleged acts. Americans and the rest of the modernized West, but especially Americans, feel that somehow dropping bombs on a building and 'incurring' collateral damage, or napalming a village of suspected VC, but knowing that civilians are likely to be casualties in the effort, is somehow more moral than up close and personal killing. Americans especially seem to feel that if forty thousand feet, or four hundred miles separate them from the impact, that they have some how avoided the moral consequences of the damage, and the screams of the victims. And, yes, they have avoided the screams, but I will argue that no amount of distance or separation from the consequences relieves one of moral responsibility. As a matter of fact, the ability to cause mass destruction from a distance w/o any risk or having to see the direct impact of your actions, allows even more immoral acts than torturing someone. It gives cowards the ability to act w/o fear, and allows people to feel separate from the very pain and harm they have inflicted. At least when someone has to 'personally' drag the blade across a person's throat, or run the sword through someone's gullet and feel the gush of blood on their hands, or even to, with forethought, take a child's life, that person feels, hopefully, committed to some higher cause. But it takes nothing, or relatively so, to these cause these same levels of harm from a distance, hiding behind technology.

The second point I wish to make concerning this issue, may in fact be moot. I, don't have any information confirmed whether any of the 'atrocities' were done to living people, and I don't think very many of us do, or just acts after the deaths for revenge upon bodies already killed 'cleanly'. If the acts were committed upon living beings, well then, I find them morally reprehensible. But if they were done do 'carcasses'? So what? I feel zero, if they just burned dead bodies. My wife knows that my greatest wish upon my death, is to have an American Indian (I forget which specific tribe) type of disposal of the dead. Just string a piece of animal skin across for posts and place my carcass on it. Let the animals and the insects benefit from the energy stored in my body, rather than trying to seal it away frrom the natural world in some steel coffin. Hell, when I'm dead, I don't care what you do with the remains. I care one second before I'm dead, but once I'm dead, I don't care if you stuff the body with candy and use it as a pinata.

3) 'Mercenary dogs who got what they deserved': Based on what? Well, I think an important distinction might be going to war vs defending your country (notice I didn't use 'Homeland'? I'll get into that more in to that in another post[that's called a teaser in the business{I'm actually not in the business, but what the H}]). Defending your country, your family, your way of life, these are not choices, they are necessities. 'Going' to war is not a necessity. It's usually done because a group of political and/or corporate elites (I'm not sure there is a distinction) are trying to gain power for themselves, or deny power to 'their' competitors. It almost never has anything to do with what is good for the country. Defending your country from outside invasion is very different. Yes, I admit their are certain economic arguments that can sometimes blur the issue, but that's what they do: blur the issue (are you actually fighting to defend your way of life or the profits of an employer?). I will try to lay a case for this later (note how often I defer the real thorny issues by promises of 'later'. Very political don't you think?).

Well, sort of the second point to the issue: When is the line crossed between mercenarism and people wanting to get paid well for doing what most people won't ,can't or don't do? What would it take the average American to go to Iraq to help 'bring democracy?' I don't see long lines at the recruiting station. So, Americans are more than willing to let other people go fight their wars for them (or their elites), but they want them to believe in a cause they obviously don't believe strongly enough in themselves to go fight. Long sentence. But I think very accurate. If the war is so right, why aren't you having your children enlist or go to ROTC, or whatever?

Anyway, I think the whole thing may just come down to a whole bunch of pampered pussies used to dissecting a football game on Monday morning. Worthless. If the people that were making these arguments really backed up their positions, we would have a totally different situation from the one we have.

I'm sure that much of the above is unclear, but i wanted to make this argument in a timely faction. So as usual, I reserve the right to come back and re-edit based on your feedback...Or, not. 
  Wow, finally a liberal media

Found this at Ajeeb News IHT: Tuning in to anti-Bush barbs: "

"Hollywood's criticism of president hits prime time WEST HOLLYWOOD, California Galvanized "

Can't blog any part of the article, but they point out that in current TV programing, Baby Bush is taking a huge hit. Check it out. 
  The federal building bomb scare

The other night, 'a friend', who works at a local federal building related this story:

Everything was going as usual, though they did have a few disruptive meetings to attend. Anyway, eveyone is working in their cubes when the supervisor starts walking a round telling everyone to go outside. There was no alarm, so it wasn't the usual drill, but government buildings are known targets for terrorists, and historically right wing extremists. Well, they have learned to take these things fairly seriously.

My friend, who's familiar with the deal, said she made sure she had her security pass, car keys, driver's license, and credit cards, before she exited the building. When they, as my friend likes to phrase it, "moo'd" their way outside, she noticed they really weren't far enough from the building for safety's sake, if it were indeed a bomb, and they were not even in their fire drill designated area. She brought that to people's attention, so they proceeded to 'moo' their way across the parking lot further from the building.

It was also a very cold night, and most people hadn't brought jackets. Again, good thinking on her part, she suggested going yak style. Gather up close, and those with the warmest clothing designated to the outside to act as wind breaks. Well the even lasted somewhere in the neighborhood of a half hour before they were moo'd back through the only security check point. One guy checks all two hundred employees security passes; those that remembered to take them outside with them,anyway.

It is about this time that word comes down that this had been actual bomb scare. Someone had found a box that no one could account for, labeled in marker: B-O-M-B. Well, when whoever responded were to the call finally opened up the box and found jars of handcreme.

B-A-L-M not B-O-M-B. That's the problem with America's low literacy rate. It costs people money, and potentially endangers people. So, after the cute story, just pretend I give huge rant here on our education system with sources cited.

Done? Good. You probably wouldn't have read the boring statistics anyway on a Saturday morning.

Well off to do the aluminum recycling. Turns out the only day the place is closed is Fridays. But, it's the only part of my recycling that pays a pittance. All the rest of my recycling efforts, except newspapers, are just that, my efforts. There is no county pick-up, no deposit on bottles, etc. And, I wind up sorting all this crap and going to three different places to get rid of it. For Free.

But, let me thank the DeKalb Farmer's Market for providing a fairly comprehensive recycling center, and Publix food stores for taking plastic bags and Styrofoam egg containers and the like.

Off now... 
Friday, April 02, 2004
  One more step to empire

Well this is an interesting tidbit from over at Orcinus:
Grogan - 2004, April 02: "There needs to be a law passed where any person who disrespects the 'Office of the Presidency' by making false accusations and spreading deliberate rumors about the president, should be charged with a felony or at the very least a high misdemeanor. President Bush has been falsely accused (with nothing concrete to back the accusations up), from being negligent in stopping the 9/11 attacks, to making up fraudulent reasons to go to war in Iraq."
The only positive is that Opinion Editorials - Freedom Writers - CURRENT maybe these guys don't have readership. If they do, they're a little scary. If they have a lot, they are real scary. 
  Rant in general, I guess

Just finishing watching Now with Bill Moyers. An excellent three pieces including a great interview w/ John Dean on the problem of secrecy in the Baby Bush administration. I say excellent, but probably it's one of those preaching to the chior deals. You know, the same goes for the story on Baby Bush's desire to develop and field new nuke capability. The best thing about this story was Stanfield Turner and an ex-4 star coming out against the idea. And I would, and most ceratinly will post a link to it, but it seems everyone is hitting their site, and I can't blog it yet. I'll come back to it if I can get to the link, but right now I can't even get to PBS.

Okay, now it's 8:21am and both the PBS and NOW Links are up:
NOW with Bill Moyers. This Week | PBS:
"John Dean is in the news again. Thirty years ago as counsel to Richard Nixon he mesmerized the country with his testimony in the Watergate hearings about 'a cancer growing on the presidency.' Eventually Nixon would resign and John Dean would go down in history for his role in the Watergate scandal. Now Dean has written a new book - his sixth - in which he concludes that the obsessive secrecy and deception in Washington today is 'Worse Than Watergate.' The conversation with Bill Moyers is Dean's first television interview on 'the hidden agenda of a White House shrouded in secrecy and a presidency that seeks to remain unaccountable' and his book WORSE THAN WATERGATE: THE SECRET PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH."
They don't provide as good an overview for the segment on Baby Bush wanting to increase are nuclear capability, but it too, was a good piece. It does look like they have excellent summaries of last week's show, so maybe they post more later. I'll try to remember to go back to look.

In the area of secrecy, check out my most recent post at Rogue Analyst. I've done a fair amount of research in the area, and I've posted a work in progress.
"Of course, much of this must rely on extrapolation from the data available, as this regulatory system self regulates itself into intentional/unintentional levels of obscurity. The report states that secrecy is the ultimate mode of regulation; leaving citizens unaware that they are being regulated. Regulations of the normal nature inform a citizen about his required behavior and are therefore disseminated to inform the citizen. In contrast, secrecy regulates what knowledge a citizen may have, but does not let him know what he legally may not know."
Check it out and let me know what you think.
  Odds and Ends

Playing with some html code, so I thought I'd post some sites i've run across in the past while I'm expermenting

A humor site (includes FoxTrot):

(that was centering!)

Welcome to uComics --The Best Comics Site in the Universe!

9/17/2003 - Gollum And Smeagol Debate "Two Towers" DVD - Happenings - Chattanoogan.com

Wow, italics!

And, this is just some interesting history(in a really bright color and super huge font)

Schools Doing Vietnam Vietnam War BioChem Research

Well, enough play for now. I tried to create an anchor link in html, and now have lost access to the post I was trying to link to. I may post more in a while; let's call it a smoke break.
  More on the jobs front

Well, It's this kind of stuff that makes wonder. Predictions like thisObserver Business News Section3: "US manufacturing boosts growth
"American manufacturers boosted activity for the 10th straight month in March and factory jobs growth accelerated, cementing a key pillar in the recovery, a survey showed yesterday. The Institute for Supply Management (ISM) purchasing managers' index, based on a survey of supply executives, rose 1.1 points from February to 62.5 points in March. It was the 10th month in a row above 50 points, indicating expansion in manufacturing activity. 'It looks like the factory sector is really ramping up and is now in the midst of a strong, broad-based recovery,' Wachovia senior economist Mark Vitner said.

The survey showed factory jobs growth picked up, with the employment index rising 0.7 point to 57.0. It was the fifth month of expanding manufacturing employment in the survey following a 37-month contraction. Official figures show manufacturers have shed 2.8 million jobs since January 2001. Private economists on average predict the government figures will show the economy churned out 123,000 jobs in March, after a paltry gain of 21,000 in February. Some economists even tip a gain in manufacturing employment in the month, after a 43-month stretch of net factory layoffs.

Vitner forecast a surge of 225,000 jobs in March, putting in place the last piece of the economic recovery. He tipped US economic growth of nearly five per cent in 2004. A weekly reading of the numbers of recently unemployed was only mildly encouraging. The number of people lodging new claims for unemployment benefits fell 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 342,000 in the week ended March 27, after a gain of 12,000 the previous week, the Labor Department said."

And then jobs report comes out with 307,000 jobs added in non-farm payrolls for the month of March, but I expect the numbers to be revised down, as they have been consistently over the past half year. I suspect a whole lot of political and business interests round up all of the supporting numbers to get these, and then when most people aren't looking, the numbers drop significantly. Though, the January numbers were revised up from about 97,000 jobs to 157,000. So, who knows? Certainly no one I've read or heard has any kind of accuracy rate over the long term to have earned any credibility with me. 
  Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal writes on Outsourcing

Over at Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal :
Stephen S. Cohen and J. Bradford DeLong have been thinking About Outsourcing
and have posted a first rough cut "Our Outsourced Future" Draft 1.3"
It is well worth the read, so go read it, or my comments may not make sense.

I agree with much of what they say, but I think they, as economists are wont to do, over complicate the obvious. When the supply of available labor exceeds demand, the value of labor falls. I think that's fairly simple. When women entered the work force, the nearly doubled the available labor, and real wages have been stagnant ever since. Now we have globalization, which will increase the pool of labor enormously, so expect wages to stay stagnant, and probably fall in real terms, for the next generation.

The other problem I see with their argument is that it appears to isolate the effect of outsourcing from productivity gains resulting from improved technologies. And, I think that is why they can write it in such a non-alarmist fashion. When the cost of capital is cheaper than the cost of labor, business invest in machines not workers. I think that when you add the future gains in productivity, just from improved technologies, with the increased competition from a world wide labor pool, you should become alarmed. If the market pursues this direction unchecked, the only people that will make money are those who already have enough money to invest.

Third, this transition will not be easy regardless of what policies we put in place, but I think one place to start changing the focus of education on preparing the student to enter a work force in a job, to one where the student is prepared for a life time of entrepreneurship. Those have been, are and will be the best skills for success. But, that still leaves us in a Darwinistic mess of only the strong will survive. Which many may find acceptable, but I personally do not like the idea of billions of people starving and shut out of the economy.

I have no final ideas on the subject, but I do think my post Rogue Analyst: "It's your information, WHY SHOULDN'T YOU GET PAID?!!", which is in the archives from Feb 2, '04, is a valid approach to some sort of transition vehicle.

And on a lighter note, if you haven't read it yet, my attempt at satire from 12 March '04 in the archives about here: BLOGGER :: Manage Posts: "A Modest Proposal: A Solution to the Problem of Poverty in America". It should be relatively easy to find, as it's the only one that I've gone back and put a title to from that period. 
  The "Infinite Fractal Loop"

Oh, I see that something actually did post last night just before my ISP went down. It's happening more and more often and I am wondering how bad it has to get before Earthlink does something about it.

Anyway, I wanted to post this last night.

Infinite Fractal Loop is a fun place to play. Lot's of pretty pictures, and the ones that are animated can be astounding. Many of you may have already played here, but I offer it as an enertainment filler while I go do the recycling and hit the Farmers' Market.

I enjoy hitting the random selection option at the bottom of the pages, but some might like a more measured selection method, so try: Infinite Fractal Loop: Index

And, here's a sample gallery: fractalus gallery: full title index 
  The Infinite Fractal Loop Infinite Fractal Loop 
Thursday, April 01, 2004
  get your war on - page thirty-three

Well, as usual, it's sadly accurate, and very funny: www.mnftiu.cc | get your war on | page thirty-three 
  And yet, the Tyco trial looks to be on the way to a mistrial

From TCS: Tech Central Station - Where Free Markets Meet Technology comes this: TCS: Tech Central Station - Jamie Olis's Tragedy, And Ours, by James K. Glassman:
"On Thursday, a 38-year-old Korean immigrant named Jamie Olis, with a wife and a six-month-old daughter, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in a complex scheme to hide the difficulties of the company where he worked as a mid-level executive.

It was a brutal punishment for a relatively minor crime. The Associated Press, noting that Olis reaped no personal gain, called the sentence 'jaw-dropping.' Since there is no parole in federal cases, he will have to serve at least 20 years.

Olis helped concoct Project Alpha, which inflated Dynegy's cash flow in 2001. According to a Wall Street Journal story in 2002, the scheme relied on corporate heavyweights, including Citigroup, which provided a $300 million loan, and the once-respected and now-defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen, which gave its official blessing.

The sentence -- the result of a recent stiffening of federal guidelines -- was out of all proportion. By comparison, the median term for murder is 13 years; for drug trafficking, four years; sexual abuse, three years."
And, up until this paragraph, I was sort with the argument, but the next paragraph:
The Olis sentence is just the latest manifestation of the hysterical reaction of politicians to the corporate scandals that broke in the fall of 2001. Olis is a tragic victim, but millions of Americans, many of them without jobs, are also suffering as the U.S. economy struggles under the weight of poorly conceived new rules -- with more on the way.
And he lost me. In fact, I had to re-read it before I realized the whole article was a set up. Feel sorry for the poor guy who's dad left him and his mother. He grows up poor but makes good. All is well until he gets involved in a minor corporate conspiracy to defraud shareholders. Excuse me? He violated his fiduciary responsibilities, got caught, and now I'm supposed to have sympathy for the guy? You know, I don't think so. Well, and am I to believe this is the only time he has done this. If so, based on what? Let's look at a few more sources before we pass final judgment.

[Inserted April 4th: I should have pointed the reader's back to the title of Glassman's article: Jamie Olis's Tragedy, And Ours. Wow. Our tradegy?]

Gene S. Foster, Jamie Olis and Helen C. Sharkey: Lit. Rel. No. 18188 / June 12, 2003:
"U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Litigation Release No. 18188 / June 12, 2003

Accounting and Auditing Enforcement Release No. 1800 / June 12, 2003
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Gene S. Foster, Jamie Olis and Helen C. Sharkey, Civil Action No.H-03-2044, United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division (June 12, 2003).

On June 12, 2003, the Commission filed an action in United States District Court in Houston charging three former employees of Dynegy Inc. with fraud in connection with Project Alpha ('Alpha'), a structured financing transaction. Alpha was the subject of a settled cease-and-desist order issued by the Commission in September 2002; in the order, the Commission found that Dynegy violated the antifraud, reporting, books and records and internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws, by reflecting Alpha's impact on its financial statements in the form of $300 million in operating cash flow and $79 million in net income. In re Dynegy Inc., Exchange Act Release No. 34-46537 (September 24, 2002). The Commission found in its order that the Alpha-derived funds were actually loan proceeds, representing, therefore, cash flow from financing activities, not operations, and that the Alpha-derived tax benefit was invalid. In settling the Commission's action, Dynegy also paid a $3 million civil penalty."
Well, that's legalize, but not really all that much help, so let's look a little further.Former Dynegy Inc. tax executive Jamie Olis sentenced - Mar. 25, 2004:
"The judge said he was required to give Olis a sentence of between 24 and 30 years, five years shy of the maximum, based on the massive losses Dynegy shareholders suffered as a result of Project Alpha's repercussions.

Olis, who was already choked up as he stood before the judge, had no visible reaction to the sentence, which read in a courtroom filled to capacity with his family, supporters and ex-Dynegy colleagues.

New laws enacted last year in response to a wave of corporate chicanery and corporate fraud laws passed in 2001 stiffened the penalty range for white collar crimes, putting them equal with offenses like bank robbery.

Michael Shelby, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas said Olis' harsh punishment was deserved because thousands of investors lost their savings over Project Alpha."
A slightly different picture, but wait, lets look a little further down:
"Dynegy's stock lost more than half its value on April 26, 2002, the day after the Houston company disclosed a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Alpha.

It also had to reclassify the $300 million as debt, pay the SEC a $3 million fine and restate its 2001 earnings downward by 12 percent. The total losses to investors were in the billions.

Two other Dynegy employees, Helen Sharkey and Gene Shannon Foster, Olis' boss, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Lake is due to sentence both on Aug. 19, and each faces a maximum of five years in prison."
Wow, now he looks like a thief who wasn't bright enough to confess before the state went to the expense of a trial. Did ya'll catch that part about billions in losses to investors? [Here's a nice sympathetic photo of the criminal and his wife and daughter: http://a1112.g.akamai.net/7/1112/492/03312000/news.lycos.com/news/ot_getImage.asp?op=img&id=571790]

You know, this crime took place in Texas, why couldn't we convict him under state law, and then fry his sob story ass. Bet you executives would think a little more about those fantasy classes they had in business school called business ethics, if ethical violations included hanging. 
  The Latest Eonomist Cover?

Well, anytime you find something like this on April first, well obviously you have to take it w/ grain alcohol, er, grain of salt. The April cover to the Eonomist, well if not, it is funny: lIssue Cover

Oh, found that via Asymmetrical Information
  The best Baby Bush question ever

From Lambert over at corrente / Leah, Lambert, Tresy & the Farmer comes this absolutely simple and brilliant question:
"Say, why doesn't someone ask Bush if he thinks the earth is 6000 years old?"
I suggested the question should be worded, "do you believe in the bible or in evolution?" I don't think Baby Bush is capable of coming up w/ nuanced answer, and he risks losing voters if he takes any side at all. Think of all those fundamentalists believing that Baby Bush's soul (yeah, they probably believe he actually has one) will be doomed to hell if he says anything other then 4-6 thousand years old. And the rest of the planet will know he's a complete moron if he doesn't say he believes in evolution.

Thanks Lambert! 
  Internet speed is getting irritating

I'm logging off for a while. I'll be back when I think my DSL will be capable of downloading a site in less then a minute. I'm not sure where the problem is; who's server? I am just tired of dealing w/ it for now. 
  I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied Wow I found this via Suburban Guerrilla, who apparently got it from BAD ATTITUDES: Bush�s Shell Game on Terror Continues. Anyway, it must be kizmet because it dovetails in so nice from the posts below.

I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied: "I.R.S. Request for More Terrorism Investigators Is Denied

Published: March 31, 2004

ASHINGTON, March 30 - The Bush administration has scuttled a plan to increase by 50 percent the number of criminal financial investigators working to disrupt the finances of Al Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations to save $12 million, a Congressional hearing was told on Tuesday.

The Internal Revenue Service had asked for 80 more criminal investigators beginning in October to join the 160 it has already assigned to penetrate the shadowy networks that terrorist groups use to finance plots like the Sept. 11 attacks and the recent train bombings in Madrid. But the Bush administration did not include them in the president's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year."
What's up with this? I've always thought you were supposed to 'follow the money'. Unless, you don't like where it will take you. 
  More on mercenaries, or the rise of PMCs
From the comment section at Whiskey Bar: All the News That's Fit to Punt, "annalivia" directs people's attention to this:
Guardian | The privatisation of war: "The privatisation of war
*$30bn goes to private military
*Fears over 'hired guns' policy
*British firms get big slice of contracts
*Deals in Baghdad, Kabul and Balkans
Ian Traynor
Wednesday December 10, 2003
The Guardian
Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.

While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground."
It's worth your time to go over to Whiskey Bar for this one, and make sure you read the comment section. Billmon's reader's provide a lot of information, besides this Guardian article. 
  Afghan poppy crop Found this item Crooked Timber: Unfortunate names:
"In which context, it is perhaps unfortunate that the "Air America" people have (presumably unintentionally) named themselves after the CIA's heroin trafficking operation in Southeast Asia (the subject of a movie which, in a better world, would have crushed Mel Gibson's career before it took root). The well-meaning liberal radio types must be taking lessons from these guys."
And, well, it reminded me that we had soldiers and the CIA on the ground in a region w/ somewhat similar characteristics as Laos and Cambodia, just w/o the jungle. Which prodded memories of 'once upon a time' articles we all heard and read back in November '01, similar to this: Britain and USA plan to buy Afghan opium crop:
"BRITAIN and America are to devote tens of millions of pounds to an attempt to end Afghanistan's notorious heroin trade.

One option being considered is to buy this year's entire opium harvest at black market prices - on the condition that farmers then plough up their poppy fields and sow a different crop.

The move to tackle the menace of heroin came as disturbing new evidence emerged that warlords of the Northern Alliance are conniving in the renewed planting of poppy fields under the cover of war."
So, I'm curious. If we understood going in that heroin was a problem, and we were planning to buy the crop in its entirety, or in some other way deal with countering opium farming, why do we get this, from January '04 Washington Times: Osama bin Laden: a 'heroin dealer' and 'narco-terrorist':
"'It seems clear to me heroin is the No. 1 financial asset of Osama bin Laden,' Rep. Mark Steven Kirk, Illinois Republican, told The Washington Times. 'There is a need to update our view of how terrorism is financed.

'And the view of Osama bin Laden relying on Wahhabi donations from abroad is outdated. And the view of him as one of the world's largest heroin dealers is the more accurate, up-to-date view.'

Mr. Kirk wants a pronounced shift in how the Bush administration tries to stop al Qaeda funding. Up to now, Washington has focused on bin Laden's traditional sources: Islamic charities and his family fortune.
But the Bush team has choked off much of that flow, forcing bin Laden to adjust. In Afghanistan, bin Laden has the benefit of the world's largest poppy crop, as he evades capture in Pakistan's notorious border areas.

He is reaping $24 million alone from one narcotics network in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to Mr. Kirk's investigation."
Oh, the quotes above are courtesy of this interesting site: Opioids : past, present and future.

Anyway, I'm in the process of trying to locate some information right now, which will increase the size of this straw man. If anyone knows where to find the list of banks whose assets were frozen for alleged terrorism connections, let me know. There's a point in the info which should tie in well. I hope...Back later...

By the way, system seems real sluggish today. Well, not the whole system, just a lot of reference sites are slow downloading. So, this might take a few minutes. (added 10:21am)

What I've found so far is: Tracing bin Laden's Money::
"Another company reputedly owned by bin Laden is the 'Wadi al-Aqiq' Company, an export-import firm. For many years, bin Laden owned and ran the Taba Investment Company Ltd., which deals in global stock markets. He was also part-owner of the "el-Shamal Islamic Bank" in Khartoum, a joint effort with the NIF, in which bin Laden is said to have invested $50 million."
And from the same document (published September '01) comes this tidbit:
U.S. Senator John Kerry, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that there are strong indications that bin Laden's al-Qaida network has profited handsomely from the opium trade. Al-Qaida militants have frequently been deployed as smugglers or as guard details for smugglers.

Opium, used in the manufacture of heroin and morphine, has an added attraction for terrorists because such drugs head to the United States and lead to problems such as addiction and crime, he said. "That's part of their revenge on the world," Kerry said. "Get as many people drugged out and screwed up as you can."

So, then I get somewhat confused because Executive Order 13224 blocking Terrorist Property doesn't mention "el-Shamal Islamic Bank" in Khartoum. All references that I find to the bank are in past tense, but I can't find out what happened to it. Actually, what I've run across so far, is a lot of sources using the exact same wording, even in different languages. So, I guess no straw for the man here.

Regardless, the Taliban had shut down opium production to near zero during their final three years in power. Whatever else they did, they did shut down the opium trade. But, going in, we know about the potential for resurgence in poppy growth when the Taliban is ousted, and we say we are not going to let it happen. And then we pull out most of the military and financial support, shift focus to Iraq, and now no one is paying attention to what's going on. It's supposedly moving through Pakistan under control of the Pakistani 'Intelligence' community. Do you think there is potential contact between foreign intelligence collection people and that of our Pakistani allies? I don't know, but it is interesting that where the CIA goes, drugs flow. Really historically. I'll try to rmember to get some stats here for you on CIA/OSS and drug flow since WWII. It's kind of interesting having so many coincidences.

I'm still going to have to re-edit this.
Minor re-edit @2:46pm
Wednesday, March 31, 2004
  Great set of articles on outsourcing Billmon: beat me to this one. I saw this on a newscast last night, and even made a note of it in the margins of the 'Loafer, and still forgot to post it. Well, he's got more at his site, so check it out.

"Radio Flyer
Just Tuesday, 87-year-old Radio Flyer Inc. announced it was closing its Chicago plant and moving the production of its metal red wagons loved by generations of American children to China, resulting in the expected layoffs of nearly half of its 90 employees.
The Macomb Daily
March 31, 2004"

Man, Radio Flyer too?! The red wagon we all grew up with is leaving the country?! It's an American Institution just like Levi's used to be. When I see Wriggley's Gum go off shore, I'll know it's over. 
  Future link Legal Theory Blog 
  A call to Arms! Really, a call to arms. I first heard about this story Sunday night driving over to a friend's house. I was listening to 89.3 FM WRFG, Radio Free Georgia. And while I can't remember the name of the host or that particular show, since I only heard a small piece of it, but she was interviewing John F. Sugg about his article Creative Loafing Atlanta | COVER | AMERICA THE THEOCRACY published in our local weekly 'where to go, what band is hot' paper, Creative Loafing Atlanta. So, last night when I got to Manuel's Tavern for the weekly Democratic Town Hall in Exile meet, I found they still had a copy of this week's issue. Glad I did. This is the second time in the past few months that I've found something in Creative Loafing to blog on, though the first I used over at Rogue Analyst.

This is an excellent story, and John is sharp enough to let these clowns speak for themselves. He deftly avoids hyperbole, and the entire article is very understated, and yes, it is 'fair and balanced'. Many of you know that David Neiwert over at Orcinus has been blogging and reporting on this for a while. John Sugg adds a fairly comprehensive history to the mix; providing the names of the founders of the Christian Reconstructionist movement and pointing the reader to the original source texts. I know its scary that these kind of people can get published, and in fact, it appears many of them start their own publishing houses to do it. If you are at all worried about the power of the Christian Right, and if your not, you should be, because these people are scary:
The goal, one Reconstructionists feel is now within reach, is a transformation of America into a religious state whose mission is to spread the Gospel (as they interpret it). Violence isn't shunned. As Gary North, the current grand man of the movement, wrote, "In winning a nation to the Gospel, the sword as well as the pen must be used." Those who don't buy the plan could flee, or face unbending Mosaic "justice."
And as usually the case with people attempting to establish a theocracy, the first thing that has to go is your ability to think for yourself:
R.J. Rushdoony, born in 1916 to Armenian immigrants, is the Peter, the rock on which the Christian Reconstruction movement is built. He honed an even more extreme Calvinist theology than Schaeffer's, one based on biblical literalness and inerrancy, and on the assertion of irreconcilable conflict between believers and non-Christians -- including many people who consider themselves Christian but don't measure up to Reconstruction orthodoxy. And, Rushdoony, who died in 2001, thundered a doctrine called "presuppositionalism": All issues are religious in nature, and people don't have the right or ability to define for themselves what's true.
And, of course they have the usual insidious plan of evil geniuses' in all the 'B' flicks:
Recruits to Reconstruction's adopted causes soon find the movement has a blunt distaste for pluralism and democracy. North wrote in 1982 -- in an effort to reach Baptists -- "We must use the doctrine of religious liberty ... until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God."
Of course a vengeful god is on their side:
Except, as DeMar writes in his book Liberty at Risk, "The State is God's 'minister,' taking vengeance out on those who do evil," a role eagerly embraced by the Bush administration. A major task for the Christian state would be to field armies to conquer in the name of Jesus.

As Jerry Falwell -- not technically a Reconstructionist because of theological nuances, but a preacher who generally follows the movement's tactical plan for creating a Christian government -- proclaimed earlier this year, "God is pro-war." And, Atlanta's Rev. Charles Stanley, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention and another dominion theology tagalong, was among the first in line wanting to dispatch his missionaries alongside American troops in Iraq.

Stanley wrote last year, "God favors war for divine reasons and sometimes uses it to accomplish His will." That, of course, is balm to the neo-conservatives in the Bush administration.
Hey, if you read this blog at all, you had to know Baby Bush would come up in something like this. And you know all that law and order stuff people like so much, well Christian Reconstructionists are no namby pambys:
The arena that generates the most attention -- and shock -- is dominion theology's radical plans to make capital punishment part of America's daily routine.

Ringgold's Don Boys -- who as a one-term Indiana state official in the 1970s authored legislation that restored capital punishment there -- spoke cheerfully of a time when Americans will witness 10,000 executions a year. And Gary North suggests the method -- stoning -- because rocks are "cheap, plentiful and convenient." Reconstructionists also favor other biblical forms of execution -- burning, hanging and the sword.
I guess it really should be considered a positive that the movement has such a frugal side, right at the beginning. Many movements never seem to get very far, I think because they just spend too much of their followers money on things that they could get done much cheaper, not so the Reconstructionists.

And, what are the Christian Reconstructionists' long term goals, you ask?
Gary North in 1989 candidly described his mission: "The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise. Those who refuse to submit to the eternal sanctions of God ... must be denied citizenship, just as they were in ancient Israel."

Marietta's Pastor Morecraft in 1993 proclaimed that the government he wants to create has this as its primary purpose: "Terrorize evil-doers. ... Bring down the wrath of God to bear on all those who practice evil."

Well, you know, at least this stuff is so wacky, no one in power would ever take them serious, and of course we have the courts on our side, right? Wrong. If you've been paying attention you are already aware of this, but for those who don't watch our legislature closely:
Last month, that sentiment reached the national level. The Constitution Restoration Act of 2004 would acknowledge Christianity's God as the "sovereign source" of our laws. It would reach back in history and reverse all judicial decisions that have built a wall between church and state, and it would prohibit federal judges from making such rulings in the future.

The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Zell Miller, the turncoat Georgia Democrat (and United Methodist), and several Republican colleagues, including South Carolina's Lindsey Graham; in the House, the sponsors were all Republican, including Georgia's Jack Kingston.

But the actual drafting was done by Herb Titus, best known recently as former Alabama Chief Justice Moore's attorney. Titus also represents Georgia's Barrow County in its effort to put the Ten Commandments in its courthouse. Titus has more than a little self-serving interest in the legislation. If passed, it would overturn the rulings that forced Titus' most newsworthy client, Moore, from the bench.
Why do most of these guys have to be from Georgia? And Zig Zag Zell, what is up with this guy? Zell, go back home to your mountain cabin, lock yourself inside, and turn on the gas please! You are one scary SOB.

Actually, all of this scares me. I don't think they can succeed in changing the US into a theocracy, but every movement in their direction is a movement away from free thought. And worse, these guys truly believe the Jews must be converted. What's so funny about the Spanish Inquisition? Not a damn thing. So, I'm sure they lose the Jewish vote. Seems they are also believers in things like white supremacy, and believe in doing away with unions, work place safety laws, anti-discrimination laws, environmental protections, and the requirement for your doctor to actually have a license to practice. No, I don't think they will succeed, but they might if we don't pay attention. So, go read the whole article, America the Theocracy, because there is far more information then the quotes I posted here. And, if you look at the right side bar, John has provided some excellent links to more info on the subject.

And many thanks to John F. Sugg for shining some light on these termites. Did you know termites can't handle the light?

Creative Loafing Atlanta | COVER | AMERICA THE THEOCRACY Link updated 04/04/04 
  lies.com: Teen Arrested for Sexually Abusing Herself Full credit to lies.com for finding this:

lies.com: Teen Arrested for Sexually Abusing Herself:
"Teen Arrested for Sexually Abusing Herself
From the AP, via USA Today: 'A 15-year-old girl has been arrested for taking nude photographs of her self and posting them on the Internet, police said. ... She has been charged with sexual abuse of children, possession of child pornography and dissemination of child pornography.'
What's next, arresting a 14 year old boy caught masterbating [sic] for Child Molestation?"
I wish I had something pithy to add, but this just boggles my mind... Oh my god (small 'g'), I took pictures of my brother naked when he was 5 or 6 yrs old, and I was about 10 yrs old. I did it because I was your typical sadistic older brother. Do you think I could get life in prison? Should I destroy all the negatives and prints? Are any of my readers lawyers? Or better yet, are any of my readers Supreme Court Justices that I can take duck hunting? I wouldn't be trying to influence your decision in my case, and I don't own an Air Force 2, but I'd be willing to rent an old Cessna. Really, I'd just like to have some fun killing harmless water fowl with huge shot guns; the particulars of my case wouldn't have to come up in conversation and we wouldn't have to even share the same bed...Or, whatever Scalia and Cheney said would work for me, too. I believe in precedence.

Oh yeah: "Authorities did not say how police learned about the girl."
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
  Leaving for the night Going to the Tuesday night Democratic Town Hall in Exile meet. And tomorrow I plan to learn some more html, because while my wife is supportive of this effort, she also would like me to quit doing it half assed. So, actual posting may be a little light, but hopefully you'll see the lay out and options improve. 
  Dick and Bush, the way it was meant to be Josh raises an interesting point over at Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall:
"And then there's this, also from Al Gonzales' letter to the Commission ...
'I would also like to take this occasion to offer an accommodation on another issue on which we have not yet reached an agreement - commission access to the president and vice president. I am authorized to advise you that the president and vice president have agreed to one joint private session with all 10 commissioners, with one commission staff member present to take notes of the session.'

Is that an 'accommodation'?

Why is this is a joint session? Why can't the president and the vice-president meet with the Commission members separately? Is there some, as yet unexplored, constitutional issue of the president and vice-president needing to appear jointly?"

The only answer that I can come up w/, is that Dick doesn't trust Baby Bush to handle himself well w/o parental guidance. I mean, there are potentially a huge number of lies to keep straight. And, Baby Bush is no Ari Fleischer! Hell, Baby Bush is not very articulate past 'you are w/ us, or you are against us' type dialogue.  
  Cheney heads East, Far East Here's a look at our domestic and foreign politics are playing in the United Arab Republic. It's an interesting analysis, and I think pretty much on the mark. From Khaleej Times Online:
"Cheney's trip is presumably designed to demonstrate his amazing good health, in spite of his well-known heart problems. It might also suggest that Bush has decided to keep him on the ticket.

That's a questionable domestic political call. First time out, Bush desperately needed the Ear, older and presumably wiser, to dim the glare of his sometimes obnoxious Texas cowboy image. Turns out, the Ear was more cowboy policy-wise than the Texan.

This time around, Bush, who will have a hard fight to garner a plurality of votes and earn a true second-term mandate, gains nothing with Cheney still in the second spot. Bush would be stronger with perhaps Colin Powell, the popular secretary of state. Many African-Americans and even some liberals who may be less than enthralled with Sen. John Kerry would have a hard time passing up the opportunity to vote for America's first black vice-president, but a heartbeat away from the presidency itself. Moreover, the Ear now is carrying some heavy domestic political baggage.

Along with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, he is the principal architect of the post-9/11 strategy. The jury is still out on whether it's working, but now there seems to be a critical verdict on the quality of the pre-9/11 planning by this administration. The official nonpartisan commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks has so far received shockingly negative testimony on the terrorism-awareness level of the administration's top people. Coming out of his cave to make this high-profile trip, the Ear will thus need to prove himself in Asia. The problem is he has some foreign-policy baggage that will irk most of the high Asian officials with whom he talks. That's the administration's hard line on North Korea, of which he is a creator."
And, from the end of the article comes this, with an excellent question to top it all off:
In the time-honoured fashion of conservative Nixon going to Red China to break bread, Cheney could bring back a North Korean breakthrough and pump life into Bush’s international security record. But for that to happen, Cheney will have to give heed to his counterparts in Tokyo and Beijing and hear the shrill and conflicting voices in deeply politically divided South Korea.

The only problem is, does the Ear listen to anyone at all?
I often think that the political coverage of the US, is better left to outsiders; actually it just may be better. 
  Be scared of the terrorists and don't look at what DoD is doing A letter to Marianne L. Horinko, Assistant Administrator of the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, Environmental Protection Agency written by House Reps John Dingell and Hilda Solis has this as part of the intro:
A review of the Superfund National Priority List (NPL) sites reveals
that 63 percent of the non-federal sites have reached construction
complete status but only 24 percent of the 141 Department of Defense
(DOD) facilities have attained construction complete status. This
dramatic disparity in cleanup progress between DOD facilities and
non-federal sites is very disturbing. The Superfund statute requires
that remedial actions at federal facilities subject to interagency
agreements "shall be completed as expeditiously as practicable" (Section 120(e)(3)).

In reviewing the NPL listings over the past three years, including the
one announced on March 8, 2004, it appears that no DOD facilities have
been listed. It also appears that no DOD facility has been proposed for
listing on the NPL in the past three years.

And, the following questions among a bunch of others:

4. Is it correct that no DOD facility has been listed on the NPL during
the Administration of President George W. Bush? Please explain why all such
listings have ceased since January 2001. Further, please identify all
such DOD facilities that have been assessed and evaluated as provided in
CERCLA Section 120(d) since January 1, 2001.

5. Is it correct that no DOD facilities have been, proposed for listing
on the NPL since the beginning of President George W. Bush's
administration? If so, please explain why.

6. In addition to Chanute AFB, five other DOD facilities have been
previously proposed for the NPL but not finally listed. They are Air
Force Plant 85 (Ohio), Arnold Engineering Development Center
(Tennessee), Rickenbacker Air National Guard (Ohio), Sunflower Army
Ammunition Plant (Kansas), and Wurtsmith Air Force Base (Michigan). For
each facility, please explain the reasons why its listing on the NPL has
not been finalized.

Just goes to show you, good national security comes at the price of your health. We will save you from the communists and the terrorists, but no one will save you from us.

And, this letter, also by John Dingell, is a pretty searing look at the on-going Haliburton investigation.

You should check out the letter, cause Rep John Dingell seems to have a serious concern that his words will hurt him or something. Even though I have Adobe 5.1, I can't copy and past any paragraphs from any of the letters on his site. Also, in the first letter above, I can copy and paste the entire document including Rep Solis' name and signature block, but if you look close, you will see that Rep Dingell's name is greyed, and I can't cut and past it. Why is that? I mean, Rep Dingell must have gone out of his way to ensure that only his info would not be copy-able. It's supposedly public communication done at tax payer expense, but why even post it to your website if you are not going to allow wider dissemination?
So, John, what are you afraid of? Are you making money on the side selling hardcopies to your constitutents? Enquiring minds want to know.

If anyone can get me a Word or Text copy of the letter, or tell me the secret to getting it myself, I'd appreciate it. 
Monday, March 29, 2004

It was pointed out that readers might like some sort of bio, so I thought I would post some sort of bio. My parents are escaped East Germans (back when there was an East Germany), so they were both Hitler Youths, and my mom was later a Young Pioneer. My dad escaped at age 13, shortly after the war. Long story short, my father immigrated, and was drafted into the US Army, liked it and stayed twenty. This is significant for a couple of reasons. The obvious one is I'm an Army brat. The less obvious one is that growing up, everytime the president or some other politician made a statement, it was not uncommon for my mom to say, "you know, Hitler told us that", or "that's what the communists taught us in the state run schools". So, I grew up patriotic and cynical. A fun mix.

My parents did not have my brother or me baptized, they believed that was a decision we should make when we were old enough to decide on our own. I went to a lot services of different denominations with various childhood friends. They all reminded me of the National Geographic specials on the primitive beliefs of various indigenous peoples (though I think at the time, they were referred to as something along the line of uncivilized tribes). Anyway, I became an agnostic at age ten, when I cursed god and challenged god to strike me down, and nothing happened. I became an atheist by age 14 or 15. Oh, and that crap about there are no atheists in foxholes? It is crap.

I got a 4yr Army ROTC scholarship, bagged groceries at the nearby commissary, and majored in Law Enforcement; the best training a criminal could ever want (too bad I'm not a criminal). I did 6.5 yrs active duty as a tanker and a Quarter Master officer. I left active duty, and a day later Saddam invaded Iraq. I volunteered to go back to active duty, but the Army was drawing down following the fall of the USSR, and I was informed I was not needed.

Since active duty, I have been an advertising sales exec, a security guard, a telemarketer, managed a wholesale/retail landscape supply company, sold termite and pest control (had licenses for both for two years), owned my own delivery business, been a bouncer/doorman, bar back and bar tender, been a house painter, worked at UPS, went back and got my Master's in public policy and worked as a legislative analyst. I did the Master's program instead of CGSC, so I failed to make LTC in the reserves, but did volunteer to be extended to go to Afghanistan or Iraq six months prior to my ETS. Again, I guess they didn't need me. Ah well, always the brides maid, never the bride. So, now I'm actively pursuing work in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. (if your hiring let me know).

I am married and a grandfather. Politically I fall in a spectrum that believes we should have a global social contract, people should pay attention to what's going on, and any public official found guilty of violating the 'public's trust' by using his/her office for ill gain should face ten years hard incarceration (Oz) for just that fact, if not shot out right.

I believe that many government employees are hard working and dedicated to making the system work; that many others are completely worthless, and provide no service for the tax dollar they receive, and some are as corrupt as the Teflon Don. If we could eliminate the latter two groups, government might actually earn the dollars it spends.

I believe there is always an opposing faction, and that they can and often do conspire to take power. History provides more then ample evidence to support this position.

Currently unemployed, hence the time to blog between resume sendings.

I will add more later... 
  An excellent comment by Crayz over at Brad DeLong's I think the point raised in this comment by Crayz from crayz.dyndns.org at Note: Jared Bernstein on "Outsourcing": Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal is worth exploring further:
"You know, in the end, we don't need to 'maintain an advantage' over other countries. If everyone in the world had our amount of wealth, that would be great for everyone.

The problem with all these developing countries seems to be not that they're competing with us, but that they're just stealing our damn jobs instead of making their own. That is, that because they aren't actually consuming anything, they're just taking our jobs, producing the things we produced, except cheaper, taking our money when we buy those things from them, and just pocketing it.
Because they spend no money themselves they create no demand for jobs that didn't already exist."

I think he has pin pointed a major problem with the current trend. The people who are getting jobs previously filled by US domestic workers, are being paid too little to create any real demand for products, in many cases, this includes the ones they produce. I'll go a little further down the logic trail here, and make an obvious point, the only people benefitting to any great extent from any of this, are those that own the means of production. Many of the workers are basically treated like the old company town workers or worse, which I admit, might be an improvement from nothing, but the real gain goes to the top. 
  Happy one year anniversary, well, I wish it were happy In just the intro to a Dilip Hiro piece, TomDisptach gives us this:

"So let's do a little round-up of first anniversary developments. It looks like the Spanish vote and the decision of the new Spanish prime minister to follow his party's long-term position on the Iraqi war and occupation by withdrawing his country's troops at the end of June (barring a major UN takeover) were a bit like yelling 'Fire!' in your classic crowded theater. Fastest to the exit were the Hondurans with 370 troops. ('The decision was announced by Defense Secretary Federico Breve only one day after Honduran President Ricardo Maduro said the troops would stay. Breve said the Honduran decision "coincides with the decision of the prime minister elect of the Spanish government.'') It is rumored that El Salvador and Guatemala may soon follow suit.

Next came the Dutch. The opposition Labor Party called last Tuesday for a July withdrawal of their contingent of troops (while a Dutch civilian died in ambush in Baghdad this week). When Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende met with President Bush later in the week, he refused in person to commit his country's troops beyond July.

Almost immediately, the South Koreans rushed for the doors, announcing that they would not, as had been planned, send several thousand troops to the northern city of Kirkuk, a flashpoint of Kurdish desire. They are, claimed the government, looking for a new, safer place to put their troops. (Is there an offshore island around?) The Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, the staunchest of staunch 'coalition' allies, promptly claimed his country had been hoodwinked -- the actual word he used was 'misled' -- on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. (What his government was really hoodwinked on was its share of the spoils of Iraq's 'reconstruction' and this may be but a warning shot across the bow of the all-American reconstuction effort.)

And here, from the article itself, this:

"Another major Bush-Blair statement -- that they had exhausted all avenues of peaceful resolution of the crisis before declaring war on Baghdad -- has now turned out to be a lie. On November 7, 2003 the New York Times and the Guardian reported that Saddam Hussein had offered a deal in February 2003 meant to satisfy Bush and Blair on all the important aspects of the crisis: weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Middle East peace process, access of American oil companies to Iraqi petroleum, and the democratization of Iraq.

According to these reports (confirmed by all the parties involved), Saddam proposed that up to 2,000 FBI and CIA agents be dispatched to Iraq to look for its WMD anywhere in the country. He pledged that he would go along with any deal to which Israel and the mainstream Palestinian leadership agreed. He promised to give US oil corporations a share in the exploration and extraction of oil in Iraq. And he promised free and fair multiparty elections in Iraq under international supervision in two years.

Imad Hage, acting on behalf of Saddam, met Richard Perle, then chairman of the US Defense Policy Advisory Committee Board, in the lobby of the Marlborough Hotel in central London on March 7, and then they went to an office nearby and there for two hours Hage outlined the Iraqi offer to Perle. But so determined was Bush to invade Iraq that he refused point blank to consider Saddam's offer and resolve the crisis peacefully."

I think I've found yet another fun source for info, and so I've added TomDispatch to the links. 
  Just how many military bases do we have Another one from my personal archives, and not science related, but well worth the read. Here's part of the intro to the article:

"In the piece that follows, Chalmers Johnson lays out the skeletal structure of America's 'Baseworld' and in the process offers us a powerful snapshot of an overstretched, heavily militarized empire whose leaders are ready to stretch further yet -- even, it seems, to the moon. Johnson, whose pre-9/11 book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire was prescient on the kinds of attacks our covert imperial policies opened us up to, has just published a new work, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic as part of the American Empire Project. His new book tackles a great taboo subject in our country -- militarization and its effects on us as well as the rest of the planet. It's a magnificent, path-breaking work and -- I assure you -- a must-read if you really want to grasp the contours of our world. Don't miss it. Tom"

And from the article itself:

America's Empire of Bases
By Chalmers Johnson

As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.

I haven't fact checked sources yet, though I remember how surprised I was to learn we had a base in--You know, to this day, I have never checked to see if this particular base is some how classified, but it was in a country I didn't expect and monitoring the Chinese border. Regardless, there is at least a good bit of truth here concerning basing and politics, and the economic realities that effect both. As to the strategy implied -if it is accurate- it seems like a fairly reasonable way to achieve global influence vs global dominance. And with enough influence, you do wind up dominating the conversation.

On the other hand, I have made a point to look at Baby Bush w/ both eyes, and in the end, he just doesn't strike me as an Alexander, or Hannibal, or Napoleon, or even a Frederick the Great nor even an Ivan the Terrible! He reminds a whole lot of Johnson and Nixon. I don't see empire in our future if this is as good as the leadership gets, I just see another debacle. 
  The Girl With X-Ray Vision Actually, I had found this before I started the blog, but I think for those intrigued by the odd workings of the mind and the senses, this is a fun article:

SciScoop || The Girl With X-Ray Vision:
"The Demkins family remains puzzled as to the origin of their daughter's gift. Perhaps, Natasha's latest surgery triggered such 'vision improvement.' Natasha's appendix had been removed. However, by the time she was scheduled to be sent home from the hospital, she could hardly move. Ultrasound revealed that doctors forgot to remove sanitary cotton tampons from the girl's intestines. Natasha was once again hospitalized and operated for the second time. In a month after that incident, the teenager was able to surprise her mother with her unique quality. 'I see a crimped tube similar to our vacuum cleaner inside of you. I also see two beans and a tomato that resembles a bull's heart,' stated the girl. Back then, she was not aware of medical terminology and could not provide a proper name for a heart, a liver, a kidney, or intestines. She simply compared what she saw to fruits and vegetables.

Medical workers of children's hospital N1 decided to conduct several experiments in order to gain some insight into the girl's gift. Natasha was shown a woman with a whole bunch of illnesses. The girl managed to list every single one of them. Further ultrasound examination simply proved her final diagnosis.

Natasha is capable of distinguishing even the tiniest pathology on a molecular level in the deepest corners of a human body, which are usually left undetected by regular ultrasound. 'It's like having double vision. I can switch from one to the other in no time if I need to know a person's health problem,' says the teenager. 'I see an entire human organism. It is difficult to explain how I determine specific illnesses. There are certain impulses that I feel from the damaged organs. The secondary vision works only in daytime and is asleep at night.'"
  Making cattle comfortable as they are led to slaughter When I found this over at Marginal Revolution, "A nation turns its lonely eyes to you" by Russell Roberts,
Traveling last week and removing my shoes as I snaked through the rope-lines made me wonder whether the airline security people might not benefit from a consultation with the remarkable Temple Grandin. She works at finding ways at making cattle comfortable as they are led to slaughter. Oliver Sacks profiled Grandin, who is autistic, in his marvelous An Anthropologist on Mars."

"I remembered hearing an interview with Temple Grandin on NPR, and she came across as very personable and extremely insightful dispite or perhaps due to her handicap. Here's the audio: NPR : American RadioWorks: McDonald's New Farm: "American RadioWorks: McDonald's New Farm"
  Science Mondays and "The God Particle and the Grid" Okay, I'm just going to start thinking of Mondays as "Science Mondays". I get several weekly and daily newsletters from various organizations, and Mondays are when I get the most stuff. The articles I post to from KurzweilAI.net (including the one below) are only some of what's in that specific news letter. So any of you that want more, I really recommend signing up for it. Others may be happy having me do the scanning. Your choice.

Anyway, this is fun:
Wired 12.04: The God Particle and the Grid:
"The cost: $3 billion and change. The goal: to find one lousy subatomic particle.

Specifically, the Higgs boson, the most elusive speck of matter in the universe. Often called the God particle, it's supposed to be the key to explaining why matter has mass. Physicists believe that Higgs particles generate a kind of soupy ether through which other particles move, picking up drag that translates into mass on the macroscopic scale. The Higgs is the cornerstone of 21st-century physics; it simply has to be there, otherwise the standard model of the universe collapses.

For all the high-level physics, smashing protons together is actually the easy part. The hard part is crunching data. To find the Higgs, which might flash across Atlas' layered detectors for a microsecond, researchers will have to process a staggering amount of information. Atlas and its three sister detectors will spew a thousand times more raw data in a year than in all the world's phone calls. Every eight-hour run of the LHC will produce around 10 terabytes. At full power, the LHC could produce 10 petabytes of useful data each year. That's 1016 bytes - 2 million DVDs' worth of binary numbers encoding energy levels, momentum, charge - all in search of the one in 10 trillion anomalies that could mark the passage of a Higgs.

Discovering the Higgs might seem an esoteric goal. But the search will have a powerful real-world spinoff: to process all that data, scientists are building a worldwide meta-network of PCs, organized into large clusters and linked by ultra high-speed connections into a global, virtual computing service. It's called the LHC Computing Grid, and it could mark the evolution of the Internet from a pervasive communications network into a powerful, global computation network.

The LHC grid is already lighting up -"
  Religion v scientific progress Again via KurzweilAI.net is this link to this Salon Article that does an excellent job for summarizing the current debate on embryonic stem cells:

Salon.com Technology | Thou shalt not make scientific progress
In its deliberations on embryonic stem cell research, the council has framed the issue as one offering no middle ground. There is no safe position in this debate, the council's report suggests: You either believe that very early-stage human embryos -- embryos that are just several days old -- deserve special "moral consideration" and should not be used for research, or you do not. You either believe that destroying these embryos is justified in order to realize the medical miracles that researchers say are possible with stem cells, or you do not. Bush has made clear that he believes embryos must not be destroyed. What's interesting is that his own council indicates that by the logic of Bush's position, the president will have a hard time ever changing or expanding his policy -- even in the face of amazing new advances -- without abandoning what he says is his considered moral position.

[and about two pages later, this] In a sense, then, Bush is boxed in by his own moral decision, and so are we all. He is committed to his line of thinking, whatever the cost. As the bioethics council points out in its report, Tommy Thompson, Bush's secretary of health and human services, has actually said that "neither unexpected scientific breakthroughs nor unanticipated research problems would cause Bush to reconsider" his policy, because it is based on "a high moral line that this president is not going to cross."

Also in the Salon article is a link to this article in the Washington Monthly, which does for the history current politics of science what the Salon article does for embryonic stem cells: "Science Friction" by Nicholas Thompson:
"Like Gingrich, Bush favors investments in scientific research for the military, health care, and other areas that garner strong public and industry support. Indeed, the White House quickly points to such funding increases whenever its attitude toward science is questioned. But for an administration that has boosted spending in a great number of areas, more money for science is less telling than how the Bush administration acts when specific items on its agenda collide with scientific evidence or research needs. In almost all of those cases, the scientists get tuned out.
Ignoring expert opinion on matters of science may never cause the administration the kind of political grief it is now suffering over its WMD Iraq policy. But neither is it some benign bit of anti-elitist bias. American government has a history of investing in the capabilities and trusting the judgments of its scientific community--a legacy that has brought us sustained economic progress and unquestioned scientific leadership within the global intellectual community. For the short-term political profits that come with looking like an elite-dismissing friend of the everyman, the Bush administration has put that proud, dynamic history at real risk."

Both are good reading, and provide some depth to arguments on both sides of the issues raised. 
  Weir Here Contest Info Found this advertisment when I was going for the Salon.com free day pass to view another article on Baby Bush's continued effort to send America into the Dark Ages while the rest of the world moves on to the future. I'll get back to that.

For you DeadHeads, here's a contest you might want to enter: Weir Here Contest Info

One grand prizewinner will win an autographed Alvarez Guitar (Retail Value $1,999), and autographed poster and a copy of Weir Here, The Best of Bob Weir CD. 5 runner-ups will win an autographed poster and a copy of Weir Here, The Best of Bob Weir CD. To enter, fill out the information below. Grand prize drawing for a Bob Weir signed Alaverz guitar will occur on June 1st, 2004.

I like the Dead, and I like Bob Weir, but would I do with a $2000 guitar? Hang it up and let it collect dust? I don't more shit to dust, the wife has enough stuff. 
  Methane may prove life on Mars, and then we can kill it Via KurzweilAI.net come these two tibits:

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Methane on Mars could signal life:
"It was detected by telescopes on Earth and has recently been confirmed by instruments onboard the European Space Agency's orbiting Mars Express craft.
Methane lives for a short time in the Martian atmosphere so it must be being constantly replenished.
There are two possible sources: either active volcanoes, none of which have been found yet on Mars, or microbes."

I don't know, but what are the odds of a third, as yet unknown source? But, microbes would be fun. Who would sign environmental treaties for the Martians? Who gets to be their legal representative, and how do they get paid?

Especially since todays Guardian has an article on how scientists are planning to terra form Mars, which would likely kill any life currently existing in the Martian soil. The Guardian's web site is down right now, but should it come back up, you should be able to get there via KurzwweilAI.net here.

Link now working (3:01am, 3/30).

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Now Nasa looks to change Mars into a garden of Earthly delights:
"Most astronomers agree that Mars could be turned into a little Earth, though it would take decades to achieve this goal and would require massive expenditure. But many scientists are horrified by the concept.

'The idea of terraforming Mars is extreme, but it is not cranky - that is the truly horrible thing about it,' said Paul Murdin, of the Institute of Astronomy, Cambridge. 'If it was just a silly science-fiction notion, you could laugh it off. But the idea is terribly real. That is why it is dreadful. We are mucking up this world at an incredible pace at the same time that we are talking about screwing up another planet.'

Over the past months, astronomers have become increasingly confident they will find Martian lifeforms after decades of disappointment. Europe's Mars Express and America's two robot rovers, Spirit and Opportunity - which are all investigating the planet at present - have detected strong evidence that water, mixed with soil, exists in large amounts on Mars. "

  Health Concerns in Nanotechnology Via KurzweilAI.net:
Health Concerns in Nanotechnology:
"Buckyballs, a spherical form of carbon discovered in 1985 and an important material in the new field of nanotechnology, can cause extensive brain damage in fish, according to research presented yesterday at a national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif."

These are the kind of things that are good to study before we introduce large quantities of this stuff into the environment. The article goes on to point out that separate studies with coated Buckyballs that showed them benign to zebra fish embryos and adult rodents. 
Sunday, March 28, 2004
  Summary of ongoing investigations of the repulsi-cans Republicans under investigation at Daily Kos, provides a good one stop viewing of the active investigations of republican shennanigans. It covers more than just the prez and his cabinet.

On the other hand, and I may try to find a source, what are the ongoing high profile investigations of democrats? Or, since they have been de-throned in three branches of government, do they just not qualify as 'high' profile? Or have they gotten that much better at covert operations?

If anyone is interested, we've got a three way match going on at Fables of the reconstruction between Mithras (hosting), Inklings and myself, so if anyone wants to pile on, go for it.

Ah well, questions to ponder. Getting ready to head back to Atlanta, here in a bit, so I'll be off line for while, though I do planning to one more post later. 
  Latest Poll numbers from The Blogging of the President: 2004 The Blogging of the President: 2004 has an excellent summary of the current polling numbers and what they might mean for the race, "Bushburgs" by Stirling Newberry (I'm not at my personal computer yet, so my linking ability is somewhat diminished). Anyway, I think the entire article is well worth the read.

Largely in agreement, and possibly redundant to Stirlings presentation, I did feel the urge to leave the comment below:

Well writen, albeit a few typos.

There are couple things that can come into play to favor Baby Bush, at least as I see them. One is that the press will get side tracked by some celebrity scandal, and news coverage of the adminstration's problems will drift to the background, this wouldn't be decisive, but it would help. Another is obviously the capture of bin Laden anytime after July. Third, (I know, I said a couple), and I'm really not sure how it plays, is another terrorist attack. I don't know if Baby Bush gets the blame for letting it happen on his watch, or if people get behind a president in crisis.

I see no help in the economy. There is no way for jobs to recover enough to help in the time remaining, and if anything goes wrong in the real estate market, Baby Bush is dead in the water, but I'm not sure how likely that is to happen.

As to Kerry, I'm really not sure what he can do to improve his numbers, but I think he might be able to use at least on issue to play heavily on in the senate. It would have to be an issue that appeals to centrists, but is avidly desired by the Core wingers on the right.

But, w/o some major crisis or success, I think the polls will reflect a continuing slide in support for this adimistration. 
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