American Samizdat

Wednesday, February 28, 2007. *
I bring you what I like to call, 'dumpster diving at dkos'; yet another thinking post that the orthrian politics of kos herd would rather not think about?

Clocking in at a mere 34 comment's a no recommends...

The average man is a conformist, accepting miseries and disasters with the stoicism of a cow standing in the rain. ~Colin Wilson

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posted by Uncle $cam at 1:41 PM
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Chalmers Johnson: “Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic"

In his new book, CIA analyst, distinguished scholar, and best-selling author Chalmers Johnson argues that US military and economic overreach may actually lead to the nation's collapse as a constitutional republic. It's the last volume in his Blowback trilogy, following the best-selling "Blowback" and "The Sorrows of Empire." In those two, Johnson argued American clandestine and military activity has led to un-intended, but direct disaster here in the United States.

or perhaps, read;the transcript.

A nation can be one or the other, a democracy or an imperialist, but it can't be both.

[George] Washington said [!] that the great enemy of the republic is standing armies; it is a particular enemy of republican liberty. What he meant by it is that it breaks down the separation of powers into an executive, legislative, and judicial branches that are intended to check each other -- this is our most fundamental bulwark against dictatorship and tyranny -- it causes it to break down, because standing armies, militarism, military establishment, military-industrial complex all draw power away from the rest of the country to Washington, including taxes, that within Washington they draw it to the presidency, and they begin to create an imperial presidency, who then implements the military's desire for secrecy, making oversight of the government almost impossible for a member of Congress, even, much less for a citizen.

According to the official count right now -- it's something called the Base Structure Report, which is an unclassified Pentagon inventory of real property owned around the world and the cost it would take to replace it -- there are right now 737 American military bases, on every continent, in well over 130 countries.

Jesus, after Chalmers Johnson, and Seymour Hersh's latest (see below) I need a drink, and I don't even drink.
posted by Uncle $cam at 12:27 PM
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Seymour Hersh's new New Yorker piece details the ways that, as our Iraq policy has gone all to hell and the dysadministration has turned more to destabilizing Iran, we end up finding common cause with some of our so-called enemies in the Twat ® ("the war against terror"). The New Yorker, helpfully, links to all of Hersh's Iran pieces, which make interesting sequential reading:

  • The Coming Wars (1/24/05): "What the Pentagon can now do in secret."

  • The Iran Plans (4/17/06): "Would President Bush go to war to stop Tehran from getting the bomb?"

  • Last Stand (7/10/06): "The military’s problem with the President’s Iran policy."

  • The Next Act (11/27/06): "Is a damaged Administration less likely to attack Iran, or more?"


posted by Anonymous at 8:16 AM
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posted by Uncle $cam at 1:19 AM
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007. *
posted by Philip Shropshire at 5:33 PM
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posted by Philip Shropshire at 4:42 PM
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I'm sure Skynet will do the right thing and we will be the first to blot out the Sun.

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posted by Philip Shropshire at 4:38 PM
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Teh Gay
Andrew Anthos Dies After Attack. We're sorry to inform you that Detroit-based Andrew Anthos died after being attacked early last week. Anthos and his niece were riding a bus when a man asked Anthos if he were gay. After getting off the bus, Anthos found himself at the receiving end of the man's pipe - and not in a good way. Unfortunately, the 72-year old Anthos' injuries were so extensive that doctors were unable to revive him and he died quietly Friday night. A passionate man, Anthos rode public transport as part of his continuing effort to get politicians to light up the Capital Dome in honor of America's veterans.

Lesbian Gets Lesson in Lending a Helping Hand. It seems an unidentified lesbian met a pair of traveling men at a mall, told them they could stay on their couch, and then tried to curb their sexual advances by coming out of that pesky closet. Too bad one of the men isn't down with the sapphic struggle, because he proceeded to beat the shit out of her. One of the men attacked the woman after she rejected sexual advances from him and his friend, police said. The woman was punched and kicked in the face and head, causing serious injuries, according to police. She told officers that her attacker's friend told him to stop but didn't intervene to help her.
posted by Trevor Blake at 2:04 PM
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Top 5 good trends
1. The overall decrease in armed conflict. With the Iraq war, the Darfur crisis, the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and other armed conflicts in the news (with good reason), it's sometimes hard to remember that the world is actually much more peaceful now than it was just over a decade ago.

2. Steady donations for disaster relief. Despite various bureaucratic mishandling of Katrina, the Tsunami, etc., a positive trend emerged: generous giving on the part of both individuals and governments all over the world. It's good to see people stepping up to help their fellow humans, even in other countries.

3. Cities fighting global warming the "think global, act local" strategy may actually have some impact here. While the US federal government turns a blind eye to global warming, people through the country are working on local legislation to reduce green house emissions.

4. Green Design. This is such a broad category, but this site and World Changing are full of stories about new, more environmentally friendly technologies. Of particular note to me are innovations that save energy and materials - good design is green design.

5. International disease control. See this column by Bruce Sterling about SARS, and think about how Bird-Flu hasn't turned into a global pandemic either.


The upshot of all of this? We're killing each other less, cooperating more at an international level, and making progress to reduce green house emissions and avert a global energy crisis. There's a lot to do still (particularly in the areas of poverty and disease), but these are very positive trends.


posted by Klintron at 1:50 PM
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Courage, it is said, is not the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of the fear.

Yes I'm scared. There's good reason to be. Even if I don't see them, there are snipers on the roof across the street and several drones on the way. But I insist on truth. I'm gonna fill in some of the blanks here, and I pray you'll look The Beast right in the eye.

The United States government has not formally declared war in over fifty years. The US Constitution confines that responsibility to the Congress. President Bush ignores that (because he prides himself on his ignorance), but screw him, y'know?

And Vice President Cheney, over the past week, has snarled his snarl in support of the President like the rabid bulldog that his truly is. Screw him, too, y'know? I realized that I, nearly sixty and weighing only a hundred-fifty pounds, could take the SOB on and knock him silly in a fair fight. Leave the shot gun home, Dick. You're a damn coward, slinking around in your "undisclosed locations." Come out, come out, wherever you are. You do scare me, but you don't intimidate me. You're out there snarling these days because more and more of the truth is seeping though the cracks and it looks like your game may be lost, the jig may be up, and your and Doubleduh's position may be overrun before 2008. I think these days you're more scared than we are.

OK, citizen, turn off "24" or "The Unit" or whatever the hell you're watching with the Miller Lite in your fist, and give me just a few minutes. Treat this like a commercial . . . I know you can do it. It might sting a little bit, because "the truth will set you free, but first it'll drive you crazy." You can take it, right? You're not a coward, right? . . .

More at P!

Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here; Part 3 is here; Part 4 is
posted by Unknown at 11:06 AM
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posted by Philip Shropshire at 10:12 AM
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Monday, February 26, 2007. *
Paul Craig Roberts: The World Can Halt Bush’s Crimes By Dumping the Dollar
The Bush Regime has taken the US outside the boundaries of international law and is acting unilaterally, falsely declaring American military aggression to be "defensive" and in the interests of peace. Much of the world realizes the hypocrisy and danger in the Bush Regime’s justification of the unbridled use of US military power, but no countries except other nuclear powers can challenge American aggression, and then only at the risk of all life on earth. The solution is nonmilitary challenge.

The Bush Regime’s ability to wage war is dependent upon foreign financing. The Regime’s wars are financed with red ink, which means the hundreds of billions of dollars must be borrowed. As American consumers are spending more than they earn on consumption, the money cannot be borrowed from Americans. The US is totally dependent upon foreigners to finance its budget and trade deficits. By financing these deficits, foreign governments are complicit in the Bush Regime’s military aggressions and war crimes. The Bush Regime’s two largest lenders are China and Japan. It is ironic that Japan, the only nation to experience nuclear attack by the US, is banker to the Bush Regime as it prepares a possible nuclear attack on Iran.

If the rest of the world would simply stop purchasing US Treasuries, and instead dump their surplus dollars into the foreign exchange market, the Bush Regime would be overwhelmed with economic crisis and unable to wage war. The arrogant hubris associated with the "sole superpower" myth would burst like the bubble it is.

The collapse of the dollar would also end the US government’s ability to subvert other countries by purchasing their leaders to do America’s will. The demise of the US dollar is only a question of time. It would save the world from war and devastation if the dollar is brought to its demise before the Bush Regime launches its planned attack on Iran.

[I find it fascinating that this article can be found both here and here. Follow those links to read the whole thing. A non-military solution to the Bush administration's international tyranny is at hand. Too bad the 'little guy' will be the one to really suffer if the US economy is sunk.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:19 PM
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This is a story about a massive money-laundering operation run by the world’s biggest banks. It hides behind the “eyes-glazing over” technicalities of the international financial system. But it could be one of the biggest illicit money-moving operations anyone has ever seen. And it’s allowed to exist by the financial regulators who answer to Western governments.
In these days of global markets,
individuals and companies may be buying stocks, bonds or derivatives from a seller who is halfway across
the world. Clearinghouses like Clearstream keep track of the “paperwork” for the transactions. Banks with accounts in the clearinghouse use a debit and credit system and, at the end of the day, the accounts (minus handling fees, of course) are totaled up. The clearinghouse doesn’t actually send money anywhere, it just debits and credits its members’ accounts. The money involved is massive. Clearstream handles more than 100 million transactions a year, and claims to have securities on deposit valued at $10 trillion.

By all means, continue reading the second part too...
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:00 PM
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DETROIT Feb 26, 2007 (AP)
Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan was greeted by cheers, tears and chants from tens of thousands as he returned to the public eye just long enough to say he would be leaving it soon.

Farrakhan, who ceded leadership duties last year because of illness, spoke for nearly two hours Sunday. Looking healthy and fit, he credited the prayers of millions from all walks of life for allowing him to take the stage at Detroit's Ford Field.

His vitality seemed at odds with his message, that his time left in the spotlight was short.

"My time is up," the 73-year-old Farrakhan said, describing his exit from leadership. "I believe … that my time to be with my spiritual father and his sender has come. And your time to go through serious trial has come."

The topic of the speech was "One Nation Under God." But Farrakhan said the world is at war because Christians, Muslims and people of other faiths are divided.

Farrakhan said Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad would embrace each other with love if they were on the stage behind him.

"Our lips are full of praise, but our hearts are far removed from the prophets we all claim," he said. "That's why the world is in the shape that it's in." . . .

He said President Bush should be impeached or at least censured for his "wicked policies," and urged young people to avoid joining a military that will have them "leave one way and come back another." . . .
Minister Farrakhan has been (in my mind) a heroic figure in American, African-American, and black politics.

A controversial man, Minister Farrakhan was also a leader of the Black Nationalist movement and the Million Man March in 1995. He was an associate and student of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad and is sometimes implicated in the assassination of Malcom X in 1965 in a power struggle over leadership of the Nation of Islam. He is also credited sometimes with declaring that "the white man is evil" and of being an advocate of black separatism and superiority. His message has evolved over time; for many years, he has been a militant activist in the fight for true justice and equality, not just for black people, but all peoples.

I will miss his voice. A great deal of my own radicalism has been informed by the Minister's message, integrity, spiritualism and strength. I wish and hope you'll stick around for awhile, Minister - there never before has been such a time for all of us to cry out in your name.
posted by Unknown at 2:52 PM
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Every few months, Linnea Osterberg's pharmacist takes pity on her and gives her a break on the cost of the birth control pills she takes to control her severe cramps. Try as she might, the self-employed photographer from Portland hasn't been able to find a health insurer offering an individual plan that will cover the cost of contraceptives -- in her case, nearly $600 per year. "Even if my doctor writes a letter saying why birth control is being prescribed, they plain old don't care," said Osterberg, 31. "They will not cover it, no ifs, ands or buts."

Bills that would solve her problem by requiring private insurers to cover the costs of prescription birth control have been floating around the state Capitol in one form or another since 1993, only to die quietly in one committee or another. But 14 years on, with Democrats in control of the House, Senate and governor's office for the first time in years, it looks like the proposal has some real traction. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in front of the House Human Services and Womens' Wellness committee. [...]

Throughout the years, Oregon opponents of the bill have included the quietly influential Catholic lobby, thanks to the church's opposition to all forms of contraception, and private health insurers, who tend to bristle at any talk of government mandates. [...] "We have moral issues with mandating contraception," said Kelsey Wilson, who lobbies for the Catholic Conference. "We are still exploring the issue."
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:19 AM
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Sunday, February 25, 2007. *
Ex-Harbinger "Postroad" writes:
Lenny is great but that American Samizdat site simply takes a strong leftist view (nothing wrong with that per se) without offering any solutions to anything. It is what I call the Ralph Nader approach: this and that are bad but I can not tell you what I would do that would change things. [. . .] This being said, I now wait for my detractors to denounce me. Hint: go to the site and show me where I am wrong.

I regret how I publicly denounced Postroad here when his pro-Israeli (in this case, anti-Palestinian) posts were reaching epidemic levels. Unfortunately, Postroad's views on Israel are probably best likened to Lieberman's. I respect Postroad overall and find him educated and sensible about most issues . . . except the issue of Israel where he turns into the monkey who can't see/hear/speak no evil. To him, every Palestinian death - even the death of children - is justified. Worse, the constant [usually violent] expansion of Israel is also always justified.

As far as the 'solutions' criticism, I think I and several others have tried to inject this site with more of the positive ideas regarding turning things around ala worldchanging, but first of all as a samizdat, I suppose its first job is to shed light on the stories your tv won't tell you. However, I am always open to fresh ideas about expanded dimensions the samizdat can take on. And I learned through making the mistake with Fred (postroad) that if I disagree vehemently with a harbinger's editorial positions that I should go to them personally over the issue instead of losing my temper in public. Sorry again, Fred.

And thanks again to all the participants of the Samizdat, past, present and future (email me). Thanks also to hortense for the kind mention. [To see the video on Lenny Bruce hortense highlighted go here.]

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posted by Dr. Menlo at 10:51 AM
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National Security Agency: Birdseye

I'm reminded of a powerful citation in the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko wherein by just the mere watching of the Ceremony disrupts the black magicians ritual and weakens the power of their dark plot.
posted by Uncle $cam at 12:23 AM
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Corporations, governments, and special interest groups spend at least 30 billion dollars annually --exclusively, to screw with your mind. Whether you hear the news on NPR or your local morning shock jock, read the New York Times or USA Today, watch C-Span or the nightly news, an enormous percentage of the news you take in will be the direct result of somebody's spin. And it's all because of a subdivision of the advertising world called the public relations industry. With 2200 public relations flacks in over 30 countries, Burson-Marsteler is the world's largest public relations firm. They represent big-name corporations (Philip Morris, AT & T, NBC), foreign nations (the governments of Indonesia, El Salvador, Kenya) and heavy-duty non-governmental organizations (the World Bank, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association,the American Petroleum Institute).

Burson-Marsteler's promotional materials boast that "the role of communications is to manage perceptions which motivate behaviors that create business results." In other words, Burson-Marsteler "manages" information to earn money. Like all the best public relations firms, who "communicate" to "create business results," they practice spin control. With so many of the world's most powerful institutions as their clients, Burson-Marsteler just happens to do spin very effectively.

Their mission is to help clients "manage issues by influencing -- in the right combination -- public attitude, public perceptions, public behavior and public policy." That mission goes for the entire PR industry. According to the U.S. Bureauof Labor Statistics, there are 118,280 PR workers in the U.S alone. To account for the historical inaccuracy of U.S. census data, both critics and proponents of the PR industry have estimated that upwards of 200,000 people work in the field. The PR industry is so huge because of corporations. Most every issue in the news today -- global warming, globalization, genetically modified foods, tobacco legislation -- affects corporations who stand to gain or lose heaps of money, depending on public reaction. Therefore, the "management" of public reaction is crucial.

If, for instance, the public does not display outrage over global warming, the auto industry can stave off costly renewable energy alternatives. If not enough people seem frightened by the existing and potential dangers of genetically modified "Frankenfoods," multinational corporations such as Monsanto will continue to rake in bundles by genetically modifying food. And if the public believes that anti-globalization protestors are simple-minded rebels without a cause, Phillip Morris, Proctor & Gamble, Starbucks and others can safely multiply their revenues overseas.

With so much cash riding on public opinion, industry has always viewed public relations as a valuable, even necessary investment. Why else would corporations throw billions of dollars a year at the PR industry?

"In societies like ours," said investigative journalist Derrick Jensen,"corporate propaganda is delivered through advertising and public relations. Most people recognize that advertising is propaganda... [but] public relations is much more insidious. Because it's disguised as information, we don't often realize we are being influenced by public relations."

And, whatever the issue may be, the public relations industry is usually behind the scenes--wagging the dog.
posted by Uncle $cam at 12:20 AM
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Saturday, February 24, 2007. *
When I was a college freshman (a helluva long time ago, believe me), I lived with three no-neck football players on the third floor of an old dorm. The hall was about 150 feet long from entrance to entrance, straight, the floor highly-waxed ancient tile.

Beginning at 10 pm every night, at lights out, an old guy named Hermie, dressed in a gray uniform, a gray badge, a military style patent leather cross-belt, and armed with a wood baton, a flashlight, and a clock-key, would push open the door at one end of the hall and stagger down the hall to the security clock at the other end, punch in, push open the door and disappear up the stairs to the fourth floor. Poor Herm was drunk every damn night (well, for that matter, so were we, almost).

One night, as he passed my room, my roommates doused a ten-pin bowling ball with a can of lighter fluid. They waited until Herm was almost at the security box, carefully opened our door, lit the ball, and rolled the flaming orb rumbling down the blacked-out hall. Herm turned slowly, blinked, and bolted screaming and crashing through the door and down the stairs (thankfully not followed by the ball).

We never saw Herm again. The whole dorm corridor (this was in 1966 and the school was old-time Jesuit) got dorm restriction for four consecutive weekends . . . and I requested transfer to another room. I'm sorry, but I still think this is the funniest thing I've ever seen. So sue me. Don't try it at home.

We used to call these guys "rent-a-cops", remember? Well, it just ain't so funny any more.

Depending on who you read, there are now somewhere between thirty and forty thousand private military personnel just in Iraq. That makes them the second biggest army in that beleaguered country. And you're not only paying for them, but they're making big bucks, especially when you add waste and corruption to the profits. And not only are they not subject to congressional oversight, they're also not accountable for any war crimes they commit.

These folks not only provide security for the multinational corporations trying to do business in Iraq, they also are hired and deployed by private companies to fight right along side government forces. We used to call these people "mercenaries".

As we'll see in an up-coming part of this series, Iraq is not the only place these forces work. They're all over the place . . . Iran, Sudan, Nigeria, South America, Ethiopia . . . you name it. Some of these people provide fire-power on the battle field, where we see them; others run the high-tech deadly weapons we and the arms-merchants sell to countries and NGOs; still others plan and provide black ops events and campaigns for whoever will hire them.

Since these forces are in business only to make a profit, their companies are not real picky about who hires them. They are loyal to whoever they've contracted with. Their employees are accountable on to the company. Even when their company is contracted by the US government, individual "soldiers" and their actions are subject to no US congressional oversight. it is both possible and probable that PMF operatives may be engaged on both sides of a conflict. Imagine an employee of Blackwater, paid by Sunni insurgents, shooting down an unmarked helicopter piloted by and filled with Blackwater employees because of a concurrent contract with Shi'ite insurgents. It is quite probable to find a tech-geek kid from Wisconsin, working for X Company, contracted by one side of an insurgency directing lethal drone fire against a fifty year old retired Marine from Brooklyn who's working for Y Company, contracted to the other side in the insurgency. Sort of like Wal-Mart battling Costco on a desert in Yemen. Not so far-fetched. Kinda makes "friendly fire casualties" pretty meaningless, n'ést-çe pas?

Before continuing, I most strongly recommend

Reviews of Singer's book identify it as a seminal analysis of corporate and other Private Military Forces (PMFs). The detail is incredible. If you read it you get a sense that Singer has a pro-PMS bias, but this doesn't at all detract from the educational value of the work.

First, it's important to distinguish between PMFs which are hired by corporations to provide non-combat logistical services to both foreign states and multinational corporations and those which deploy in-the-field "advisors" or small to very large combat forces. An example of the former, Kellogg, Brown and Root, a notorious and allegedly criminal (US government auditors have documented several instances of fraud, totaling millions of dollars of fraud, including over-billing, shoddy work, and charges for services they've never delivered) subsidiary of Halliburton. Blackwater, Inc. is a good example of the latter. It deploys military units, comprised of "retired" soldiers, in "fire-fight" situations for anyone who hires them. Note that the cover page of Miller's book is a photo of three men in full combat gear. If you look closely, you see that the uniforms are without signatures of any kind (except a small US flag - which could be a French flag or a corporate logo, depending on who hired them.

Singer (pp. 91-100) distinguishes among three types of PMF services in a "Tip of the Spear" matrix: Military Provider Firms (actual battlefield engagement), Military Consulting Firms (advisers and trainers in strategic, operational, and organization analysis), and Military Support Firms (non-lethal intelligence, logistics, technical support, supply, and transportation). As the industry grows, however, it is not uncommon for one company to offer some combination of all these services to one client or a number of clients at the same time. Singer notes that the internal structure of PMFs has become extremely "virtual", flexible, and fluid, in order to respond quickly to the specific client needs. In other words, the owners and number of "full-time" personnel of a PMF are usually very small, but the companies can quickly and easily employ highly trained and seasoned personnel on a contract by contract basis. The labor pool is enormous.

Service in the US military is now increasingly seen as only a training ground for soldiers to learn skills which they eventually market to PMFs after discharge. In this context, the PMFs avoid the costs of training.

It is not uncommon for a "private soldier" to work for several competing PMFs in a year. He or she may easily work for a while on a contract on one side of a conflict, then a month or two later for another company contracted on the other side of the same conflict. As I've noted elsewhere in this series, some PMFs selling weapons are not afraid to sell weapons to operatives on each side of a conflict.

Some have even suggested that 9/11 was surely not a US government operation, but was carried out by a black-ops unit of a PMS contracted ultimately by rogue entities in or working for our government. Some have claimed that several "Al Qaeda terrorists" identified by the government as having piloted the 911 planes have been seen alive since then, hiding in various Middle East countries. I would caution you to not reject these allegations out of hand because they smack of "conspiracy theory."

Mother Jones, in their May/June, 2003 edition, published "Soldiers of Good Fortune" by Barry Yeoman. Excerpts:
When Blackwater opened in 1998, the business of war didn't look like such a sure bet. "This was a roulette, a crapshoot," recalls Jackson, a former Navy seal. During the Gulf War, the Pentagon had begun replacing soldiers with private contractors, relying on civilian businesses to provide logistical support to troops on the front lines. Blackwater's founders were banking on predictions that the military was eager to speed up the process, privatizing many jobs traditionally reserved for uniformed troops. Their investment paid off: Since the attacks of September 11, the company has seen its business boom -- enough to warrant a major expansion of its training facility this year. "To contemplate outsourcing tactical, strategic, firearms-type training -- high-risk training -- is thinking outside the box," Jackson says. "Is this happening? Yes, this is happening."

As the U.S. military wages the war on terrorism, it is increasingly relying on for-profit companies like Blackwater to do work normally performed by soldiers. Defense contractors now do more than simply build airplanes -- they maintain those planes on the battlefield and even fly them in some of the world's most troubled conflict zones. Private military companies supply bodyguards for the president of Afghanistan, construct detention camps to hold suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, and pilot armed reconnaissance planes and helicopter gunships to eradicate coca crops in Colombia. They operate the intelligence and communications systems at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, which is responsible for coordinating a response to any attack on the United States. And licensed by the State Department, they are contracting with foreign governments, training soldiers and reorganizing militaries in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Taiwan, and Equatorial Guinea . . .

Indeed, the Bush administration's push to privatize war is swiftly turning the military-industrial complex of old into something even more far-reaching: a complex of military industries that do everything but fire weapons. [Editor's note: they now do fire weapons] For-profit military companies now enjoy an estimated $100 billion in business worldwide each year, with much of the money going to Fortune 500 firms like Halliburton, DynCorp, Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon. Secretary of the Army Thomas White, a former vice chairman of Enron, "has really put a mark on the wall for getting government employees out of certain functions in the military," says retired Colonel Tom Sweeney, professor of strategic logistics at the U.S. Army War College. "It allows you to focus your manpower on the battlefield kinds of missions."

Private military companies, for their part, are focusing much of their manpower on Capitol Hill. Many are staffed with retired military officers who are well connected at the Pentagon -- putting them in a prime position to influence government policy and drive more business to their firms. In one instance, private contractors successfully pressured the government to lift a ban on American companies providing military assistance to Equatorial Guinea, a West African nation accused of brutal human-rights violations. Because they operate with little oversight, using contractors also enables the military to skirt troop limits imposed by Congress and to carry out clandestine operations without committing U.S. troops or attracting public attention. "Private military corporations become a way to distance themselves and create what we used to call ‘plausible deniability,'" says Daniel Nelson, a former professor of civil-military relations at the Defense Department's Marshall European Center for Security Studies. "It's disastrous for democracy."

The push to privatize war got its start during the administration of the elder President Bush. After the Gulf War ended, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary called Brown & Root Services nearly $9 million to study how private military companies could provide support for American soldiers in combat zones. Cheney went on to serve as CEO of Halliburton -- and Brown & Root, now known as Halliburton KBR, has since been awarded at least $2.5 billion to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations, as part of the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. In March, the Pentagon hired Cheney's former firm to fight fires in Iraq if Saddam Hussein sabotages oil wells during a U.S. attack . . .
In December, 2005, Mountain Runner had a piece entitled "Accountability of Non-State Force". Slices:
The participation of the subcontractors is generally not enjoined with a direct political or national calling of the contracted state. PKF troops are not acting on their national identity, defending their state’s territory or interests, but social demands that shaped and created the interests or otherwise led their leaders to promise soldiers for political or financial reasons. These contractor states, wearing the Blue Helmet of the UN, generally have nothing more invested in the project than their relationship in the international community. Are Pakistan (13% of total military and civilian police manpower), Bangladesh (12%), India (7%), Ethiopia (5%), and Ghana (5%) more altruistic than others because they volunteered over forty percent of the total military and civilian police staffing of these complex missions? The prevalence of these troops in PKFs does not stem from a higher concern about global society but because their governments receive compensation for their participation. Remuneration received by the Blue Helmets blurs the distinction between private and public military forces, between corporate services and participation in the global economy or society. There is clear evidence from past peacekeeping operations that this arrangement of “contracting parties lack[s] verification and mandatory evaluation safeguards to deliver promised results”. Ironically, Kofi Annan at one time “bristled at the suggestion that the United Nations would ever consider working with ‘respectable’ mercenary organizations, arguing that there is no ‘distinction between respectable mercenaries and non-respectable mercenaries’” when in fact these “subcontractor” states function as hired organizations and enjoying the same accountability . . .
We're all aware of the "conservative" policies of government privatization, first implemented in the US and other countries, such as Britain, in the Reagan-Thatcher years. Wikipedia notes:
Privatization (alternately "denationalization" or "disinvestment") is the transfer of property or responsibility from the public sector (government) to the private sector (business). The term can refer to partial or complete transfer of any property or responsibility held by government. A similar transfer in the opposite direction could be referred to the nationalization or municipalization of some property or responsibility.
In the US, we may be most familiar with the privatization of healthcare, national property, infrastructure building and maintenance, corrections (prisons), and security (such as airport screeners).

The rationale behind privatization has been that government services have had little, if any, incentive to operate efficiently and inexpensively. Private companies,however, driven by profit motive, market economy, and competition are much more likely to provide goods and services more cheaply and efficiency.

Even though this may be true sometimes, the track record is so far not so good. One need only point to the waste, inefficiency, and downright fraud perpetrated by Halliburton/KBR, Bechtel, and others contracted by the US government to "reconstruct" Iraq. It should be further noted that many of these often "cost-plus" contracts were awarded by the US government in a "no-bid" process. In addition to all the flak about Halliburton's ties to Vice President Cheney, another example is that US Senator Diane Feinstein's husband has a considerable stake in URS Corporation one the fasted growing contractors in the world, which saw its market share and stock take off when the US got into Afghanistan and then invade Iraq. Should the US attack Iran, Feinstein and her husband can retire to Costa Rica (or maybe just buy the place. You can be certain that Cheney and Feinstein are by far not the only members of Congress who stand to gain from our present and future wars. The obvious conflict of interests virtually ignored.

As an aside . . . the US government admits to 3000+ deaths and thousands of other casualties of US troops in Iraq. It does not publicly keep of US-based PMF fatalities and injuries. Nobody seems to even be able to estimate. The PMFs rarely report these events; they don't have to. And the MSM doesn't either. Yes, there've been occasional graphic stories of PMF employees losing their heads after being captured and probably tortured. But you can bet these reports don't come close to the whole, real story.

Earlier this month, Challenge: Liberty and Security's Olsson Christian wrote "Private Military Companies in Iraq: a Force for Good?". Excerpts:
Their names are Global Risk International, Dyncorp, Vinnel, Blackwater Security Consulting, or Erinys International to name but a few. It’s a secret to nobody: so-called private military companies (PMCs) operate extensively in Iraq, sometimes with highly sophisticated military means including helicopters and advanced computer systems allowing them to engage in direct combat as shown during the operations against the Army of Mahdi in May 2004 in the city of Nadjaf. The number of PMCs involved in Iraq, their often «mission critical» activities and the fact that they are operating alongside the forces of a multinational coalition, confer a specific salience to the issue today. The «services» they offer to the occupation forces include military activities (the protection of the provisional authority, the management of the weapon systems of drones, security consulting, intelligence gathering...), non-military functions (policing, logistics, catering...) as well as activities more difficult to categorize (training of the Iraqi security forces, the guarding of pipelines and of ministries...). In fact, through this massive intervention of military professionals with civilian status, it’s the very distinction between the military and the civilian that has become blurred. Indeed, the PMCs in Iraq are very often controlled by the Coalition Provisional Authority ( - the CPA was however dissolved in June 2004 - ) of Paul Bremer, and not by the military command . . .

. . . the intervention of PMCs in Iraq also raises three more fundamental political issues concerning the use of commercialised means of coercion. The first issue is regulation. Many analysts seem to agree on the fact that PMCs have to be tightly regulated by governments in order to limit their potential for waywardness. But they frequently overlook the fact that this potential, and even the very existence of PMCs, is often inseparable from the interests and the professional networks of governmental bureaucracies (security agencies, military services...). These companies, far from being the rivals of state forces, are an important asset for state-policies (and vice versa). PMCs are often tightly linked to political interests as shown for example by the relations between Kellog, Brown & Root, recently involved in a financial scandal in Iraq, and the US Republican Administration. This means that subordinating PMCs to governments through regulations will not suffice: it will only institutionalise ties that existed prior to regulation. For example, whereas the US is often cited as an example of tight control of PMCs though its licensing system, it is this precise system that allows for the Department of State and the Pentagon to circumvent Congress for contracts less than 50 million dollars, thus giving themselves substantial autonomy from democratic control in military affairs. Hence, the issue is far more how to maintain democratic control on governments resorting to PMCs, than how to create mechanism allowing for the discretionary control of PMCs by the governments themselves. As shown by the intervention in Iraq, such democratic control is very difficult to achieve...

The second issue concerns accountability. To whom are these firms accountable in the case of grave violations of international standards and norms? It is not clear at all how international law (that proscribes mercenary activities) applies to PMCs. Whereas public soldiers are submitted to judicial military codes and international law, the employees of PMCs are not. They operate in a judicial grey-zone. Hence when employees of Dyncorp got involved in a child prostitution scandal in Bosnia, they were merely fired but never prosecuted. This issue is currently brought up by the fact that a company, hiring so-called «debriefers», seems to be directly involved in the acts of torture committed in the prison of Abu Ghraib. It’s important to note that this judicial grey-zone is not only a side effect of the recourse to PMCs, it is part of their very raison d’être: in many cases PMCs allow for governments to free themselves of the constraints imposed by international regulations. Indeed, they have been used to circumvent international arms embargos (Sierra Leone, Rwanda...) and international norms on the neutrality of peacekeeping forces. For example, the firm MPRI allowed the US government to help training and rearming the armed forces of the Muslim-Croat federation in Bosnia, in a context in which the engagement of US forces in peacekeeping in Bosnia-Herzegovina should have obliged the government to adopt a more neutral stance.

The third issue concerns their potentially destructive consequences. Can one really expect lucrative companies benefiting from the business of war to be efficient in the effective restoration of peace? The answer seems to be negative when considering that in many cases they are used by states to intervene in local conflicts without being suspected of interference or of acts of aggression. This was the case when the US government used the firm MPRI to support and train the Croatian Armed Forces after the collapse of Yugoslavia. This program led up to the lethal Operation Storm in 1995 that saw the ethnic cleansing of the Krajina region killing hundreds of civilians and leaving more than 170 000 homeless. This could never have been achieved directly by the US government without provoking a massive outcry in the international community. In many other instances PMCs have been used to pour small arms into war-torn societies, to train local militias and even to engage directly in combat, thus durably intensifying local conflicts.

From this perspective, the apparently seamless training of Iraqi police forces by Dyncorps and of Iraqi defence forces by Vinnel have also to be scrutinized. To train security forces is not only to prepare them to face an existing threat, it is also to a certain extent to «teach» them what ought to be considered a threat. In other words, it is not a matter of security-providers meeting a security-demand, but on the contrary a highly political matter. In a very conflictual and complicated political environment, it should be considered foolish to delegate such a function to private companies motivated primarily by profit and not by political considerations. In fact all of these three issues raise worrying questions as to the deep structural consequences that the current military policy in Iraq might have in the future . . .

The implications of all this are frightening, of course. It almost goes without saying that the ramifications to either a national or international peace movement are dire. These companies, driven only by the "ethics" of the post-capitalist market, virtually unregulated, will be increasingly desirous of and able to engage in "push-market" activities. Since their interests are served mainly by the existence of war, they will lobby for war. They really cannot be stopped. Even a few hundred thousand anti-war protesters on American streets make a dent in either their greed or their power.

As another aside . . . former defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld's public demonization is nothing more than political theater. In fact, he was able to conduct and maintain the government's mission to privatize much of the US military capability, reducing both budget and accountability. He, in fact, did his job just fine. Even though he'll never be found in a US government office again (unless as a "consultant"), he will surely continue to sell his skills and influence in the private sector.

The anti-war movement is no longer up against just the power of liberal and conservative hawks in our and other nation-state governments. The foe is a gigantic ugly monster created by the capitalist system. It does not bode well for the future of peace.
posted by Unknown at 10:18 AM
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DOJ = Department of Jesus
Thanks to amberglow of Metafilter for doing much of the heavy lifting on this story.
Oh those poor Christians. Their God is so weak that He needs the State to defend Him. People who deny Him should be expelled from college, and if you don't worship Him in exactly the right way on your own time you should be fired from your secular job. Unless Christians can say and do anything they want, any time, any place, they are oppressed! God is on our money, in our Pledge of Allegiance, on our civic buildings, getting tax breaks for His followers, in our schools, in our military, in our drug stores, in our police departments... clearly God is in trouble and has nobody on His side.

But please, don't mention how few atheists there are in prison. And don't mention that atheists have lower divorce rates than theists. And don't mention that atheists have a higher IQ than theists. Don't mention these things because to do so only emboldens God's enemies [1] [2] [3].

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posted by Trevor Blake at 9:05 AM
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How About You Be Bush, and I'll Be the Country

Potentially not safe for work video of some hot theocratic tyrany role playing action.


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:58 AM
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Friday, February 23, 2007. *
Religion in the News
Jeff Latzke: Gay marriage critic tried on lewdness. "The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman. The Rev. Lonnie W. Latham had supported a resolution calling on gays and lesbians to reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle' before his Jan. 3, 2006, arrest outside the Habana Inn in Oklahoma City. Authorities say he asked the undercover policeman to come up to his hotel for oral sex. His attorney, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanor lewdness charge thrown out, saying the Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it was not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts." Civil Rights Trial Ordered In Alleged Bashing By Mass. Gay Marriage Foe. "A Massachusetts District Court ruled Tuesday that there is enough evidence to bind over for trial the leader of a Catholic group charged with assault and civil rights violations in relation to a December anti-gay marriage demonstration in Worcester. Larry Cirignano, who at the time of the incident was the leader of Catholic Citizenship, will be arraigned in Worcester District Court on April 11. [...] Cirignano reportedly had just finished leading the Pledge of Allegiance when he spotted [Sarah] Loy and her sign ['No discrimination in the Constitution']. Cirignano allegedly tackled Loy to the ground. 'You need to get out. You need to get out of here right now,' he reportedly told her as her head was pushed into the concrete sidewalk. As Loy lay bruised and bloodied on the sidewalk Cirignano reportedly returned to lectern, joining other leaders of the protest in condemning same-sex marriage and demanding the proposed amendment be put on the ballot."

... and from our international desk...

Agence France-Presse: Malaysian lawmakers want prostitutes to be whipped. "Malaysian lawmakers have called for foreign prostitutes to be whipped as a deterrent to others considering coming here to work in the sex industry, a report said Tuesday. [...] 'If we can impose whipping for drug addicts, why can't we do the same for prostitutes,' [Mohamed Aziz] said in a proposal that was supported by at least one other lawmaker. [...] Prostitution is illegal in the predominantly Muslim nation."

Hooray for religion, the source of peace and morality among all people.


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:24 PM
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Software king of the beknighted Billy Gates III has revealed that he stops his 10 year-old daughter from using her computer for more than 45 minutes each day.

["To be a dope man you must qualify / Don't get high on your own supply"]
posted by Trevor Blake at 8:20 PM
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The West Point commander and real interrogators raised serious objections with writers, due to the show's false representation of torture's effectiveness and the show's influence on WP cadets. Surnow's conclusion: "I don't believe it [that torture is ineffective]. Surnow chose not to attend the actual meeting with the general.
The show’s appeal lies less in its violence than in its giddily literal rendering of a classic thriller trope: the “ticking time bomb” plot.

...Bob Cochran, who created the show with Surnow, admitted, “Most terrorism experts will tell you that the ‘ticking time bomb’ situation never occurs in real life, or very rarely. But on our show it happens every week.”

According to Darius Rejali, a professor of political science at Reed College and the author of the forthcoming book “Torture and Democracy,” the conceit of the ticking time bomb first appeared in Jean Lartéguy’s 1960 novel “Les Centurions,” written during the brutal French occupation of Algeria. ... In his view, the story line of “Les Centurions” provided French liberals a more palatable rationale for torture than the racist explanations supplied by others (such as the notion that the Algerians, inherently simpleminded, understood only brute force).
* * * *
This past November, U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, flew to Southern California to meet with the creative team behind “24.” Finnegan was accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country. [They] had come to voice their concern that the show’s central political premise—that the letter of American law must be sacrificed for the country’s security—was having a toxic effect. In their view, the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. “I’d like them to stop,” Finnegan said of the show’s producers. “They should do a show where torture backfires.”

Navarro, who estimates that he has conducted some twelve thousand interrogations, replied that torture was not an effective response. “These are very determined people, and they won’t turn just because you pull a fingernail out.” A ticking time bomb, Finnegan pointed out, would make a suspect only more unwilling to talk. “They know if they can simply hold out several hours, all the more glory—the ticking time bomb will go off!"

DVDs of shows such as “24” circulate widely among soldiers stationed in Iraq. Lagouranis, [an Army interrogator who has worked in Iraq] said, “People watch the shows, and then walk into the interrogation booths and do the same things they’ve just seen.” “In Iraq, I never saw pain produce intelligence.” Lagouranis told the “24” team what the U.S. military and the F.B.I. teach real intelligence professionals: “rapport-building,” the slow process of winning over informants, is the method that generally works best.

[After the meeting] Lagouranis said of the “24” team, “They were a bit prickly.They have this money-making machine, and we were telling them it’s immoral.”

On the other hand, Chertoff at Homeland Security and Lynn Cheney are big fans. Says Chertoff, “Frankly, it reflects real life.

Roger Director, Surnow’s friend, joked that the conservative writers at “24” have become “like a Hollywood television annex to the White House. It’s like an auxiliary wing.
posted by Uncle $cam at 3:13 PM
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Thursday, February 22, 2007. *
R. Buckminster Fuller: Excerpt from Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth

I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver. But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem. Our brains deal exclusively with special-case experiences. Only our minds are able to discover the generalized principles operating without exception in each and every special-experience case which if detected and mastered will give knowledgeable advantage in all instances. Because our spontaneous initiative has been frustrated, too often inadvertently, in earliest childhood we do not tend, customarily, to dare to think competently regarding our potentials. We find it socially easier to go on with our narrow, shortsighted specialization’s and leave it to others - primarily to the politicians - to find some way of resolving our common dilemmas. Countering that spontaneous grownup trend to narrowness I will do my, hopefully "childish," best to confront as many of our problems as possible by employing the longest-distance thinking of which I am capable - though that may not take us very far into the future.

[See also: Buckminster Fuller Institute, Wikipedia, Buckminster Fuller Virtual Institute, Synergetics On the Web]


posted by Trevor Blake at 6:16 PM
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All right, no more excuses, people. After four years in Iraq, it’s time to get serious. We’ve spent too long goofing off, waiting to be saved by the bell, praying that we won’t get asked a stumper like, “What’s the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?” Okay, even the head of the House intelligence committee doesn’t know that one. All the more reason to start boning up on what we—and our leaders—should have learned back before they signed us up for this crash course in Middle Eastern geopolitics. And while we’re at it, let’s do the math on what the war really costs in blood and dollars. It’s time for our own Iraq study group. Yes, there will be a test, and we can’t afford to fail.

Go here to access this resource.

If you're a quick study you might get knowledge of the country squared away before the attack on Iran.
posted by m at 7:58 AM
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Wednesday, February 21, 2007. *
Guns in America
armed america

Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes .

Donno: I own guns for the same reason I own fire extinguishers -- while I certainly don't expect or hope for a worst case scenario, should one present itself, I am prepared to take an active role in ensuring that my family survives.... I grew up with guns in the house that were used regularly to put food on our table. I've known gun safety inside and out since I was a child. I'm confident my son will grow up with the same understanding [and] handle them with the same respect and care ... whether he chooses to own guns or not.

(via fellow Harbinger Mutant).


American Gun Culture Report is a zine published out of Portland as an alternative to the gun press status quo. Their Myspace page has some sample articles and ordering information. Their article deconstructing the gun press (not featured on the site) is an excellent exploration of what's wrong with the state of gun advocacy in the States.

(Thanks to zinemeister & Harbinger Trevor Blake for giving me a copy).

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posted by Klintron at 11:05 PM
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Food not Bombs promotes organization and democracy. This is a problem for most people in power here in the US. The clear message that has been sent for 20 years straight now is that charity is something that should weaken people.

Observe the Faith-Based Initiatives for a resonably firm proof of this. The Salvation Army is another fine example. Poor people are not being told how to actually improve their quality of life, they are instead given a deeply sick rationalization for their suffering, coupled with the promise of an afterlife that will be better.


"They said they want to end homelessness and I guess one way to do that is to starve them out," said Cameron Morrow, a Parker resident who volunteers twice a week feeding the hungry at the park.


the USDA estimates we throw out about 10 tons of perfectly good food each month here in the US. They also estimate that 11.9% of all US homes suffer from the hilarious euphemism of "food insecurity" --- in other words, they don’t have enough f***ing food. That’s bad enough, but remember this is US homes, not US shelters and streets.

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posted by Klintron at 11:01 PM
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Colorado’s new law banning state spending on illegal immigrants has cost more than $2 million to enforce - and has saved the state nothing.

Less than a year after politically charged debates on illegal immigration, officials are reporting high costs, no savings and unexpected problems with the new laws.

Once touted by statehouse Republicans and Democrats as the toughest anti-immigration package in the nation, the Colorado crackdown is falling apart.


posted by Klintron at 10:57 PM
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nothing good will come from this:

Cofer Black, vice chairman of Blackwater USA, announced Tuesday the formation of a new CIA-type private company to provide intelligence services to commercial clients.

The executive roster for the new venture, Total Intelligence Solutions, is loaded with veterans of U.S. intelligence agencies, including two other Blackwater officials.

A spokeswoman for Total Intelligence said there is no corporate affiliation with Blackwater, the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, but the new firm clearly has a Blackwater stamp.
Blackwater's primary specialties are tactical training and security, but it is no stranger to the intelligence world. The 10-year-old company's first security contract, awarded in 2002, was for a classified operation. In his book "Licensed to Kill: Hired Guns in the War on Terror," author Robert Young Pelton identified the company's client as the CIA.
"Total Intel brings the intelligence gathering methodology and analytical skills traditionally honed by CIA operatives directly to the board room," Black said in a statement Tuesday. "With a service like this, CEOs and their security personnel will be able to respond to threats quickly and confidently - whether it's determining which city is safest to open a new plant in or working to keep employees out of harm's way after a terrorist attack."
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:56 PM
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On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush's proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.

Not only does it make many of Bush's tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what's interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.

Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.

The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.

[Article continues at link.]
posted by Trevor Blake at 5:32 PM
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A former Hewlett-Packard worker could barely wait for their non-disclosure-agreement to end so they could spill 14 company secrets to The Consumerist.

1: Many HP Printers, like their laser printers, have a built-in page-count after which they won't work. This resides in the a transpart sometimes called image or drum kit. Rather than get the printer fixed, it's often cheaper to buy a new printer, OR you can do a NV ram reset. It resets everything in the printer, including all the page counts, but it's not without risks.

more -with update
posted by m at 4:32 PM
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Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari pled not guilty in a Manhattan federal court last Friday, denying charges that he's a terrorist financier. But that's a matter in some dispute, and not just by the prosecutors. According to The Blotter at ABC, the indictment charges that he arranged for $152,000 worth of bank transfers to fund a terror training camp. But if that doesn't convince you he's a funding terrorists, maybe this will: Alishtari also gave 10% of that total to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

posted by Mule at 11:24 AM
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Funny thing about fear... it does more than get people to support things that aren't in their own interests, it'll pad your office's budget if you land a sweet security job subsidized by Joe Taxpayer...
Responding, a Justice spokesman pointed to figures showing that prosecutors in the department's headquarters for the most part either accurately or underreported their data — underscoring what he called efforts to avoid pumping up federal terror statistics.

The numbers, used to monitor the department's progress in battling terrorists, are reported to Congress and the public and help, in part, shape the department's budget.

"For these and other reasons, it is essential that the department report accurate terrorism-related statistics," the audit concluded.

Fine's office took care to say the flawed data appear to be the result of "decentralized and haphazard" methods of collection or disagreement over how the numbers are reported, and do not appear to be intentional.

Still, the errors led Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., to question whether the department had exaggerated the number of terror cases.

Not sure if that constitutes "profiteering" or not, but I'm pretty sure that like all advertising, it creates a growing demand that did not used to exist... at least I assume so. Since it's apparently so damned good for everyone, it's hard to know how sacrosanct the data actually are.

from the headlines on today's democracynow,

Audit: Terror Statistics Inaccurate, Inflated
And finally, a new audit has found widespread inaccuracy in how the government collects statistics on terrorism. The Justice Department Inspector General says hundreds of completely unrelated cases have helped inflate numbers on offenses and prosecutions. Offenses including drug trafficking, marriage fraud and immigration violations were among those wrongly included. Just two of twenty-six collections of statistics were found to be accurate. The Bush administration has previously cited the statistics in efforts to provide evidence of successes in prosecuting terrorism cases.

apart from the announcement, this is not new news to many here, but it's good to finally see gvt acknowledgment that they've been lying to us.
posted by Uncle $cam at 10:54 AM
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The insurmountable, fatal "enemy", the obstacle to "victory", in waging peace against war, is the degree to which militarism is an accepted fact of American society and culture. Yes, "accepted". Militarism is ubiquitous and monolithic, the ultimate given.

Before Eisenhower warned us about the MIA (military-industrial-academic) complex as he was leaving office, the MIA had dug its tentacles into every facet of American life. I'm sure that Lockheed, FMC, GE, Martin-Marietta, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, TRW, SAIC, Halliburton, Carlyle, Bechtel, and the rest just chuckled up their sleeves at the speech. Too late.

Interestingly enough, the draft farewell speech Eisenhower gave in February of 1961 said "military-industrial-congressional" complex. I have seen lately that many refer to the "military-industrial-academic complex. I would add the term "media" to the mix, and/or "media-entertainment-pharmaceutical-health care-prison-security-surveillance-think-tank" complex. You get the picture, I'm sure.

If you want to get a migraine, read the Wikipedia/Source Watch piece here. Some excerpts:

The military-industrial complex is generally defined as a "coalition consisting of the military and industrialists who profit by manufacturing arms and selling them to the government." (War profiteering) Eisenhower related, however, that until World War II, the United States did not have an armaments industry. Even though "American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well," the United States could "no longer risk emergency improvisation" of the country's national defense.

The United States, he continues, had been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. At that time, the U.S. was annually spending more on military security "than the net income of all United States corporations." This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry, he said, was "new in the American experience" and that there was an imperative need for this development . . .

Writing for the March 2003 issue of Business2.0, Ian Mount, David H. Freedman, and Matthew Maier address what is now called the New military-industrial complex. As anyone who has been following the current war in Iraq is well aware, "the nature of the battle" is "unlike anything the world has ever known." Afghanistan, the writers say, "provided a glimpse of the latest generation of high-tech weaponry, but it was only a glimpse. A major assault by combined American forces will provide a full demonstration of the military's new doctrine of faster, lighter, smarter warfare -- combat in which cutting-edge technology becomes U.S. troops' deadliest weapon. The Pentagon calls this new doctrine RMA, for revolution in military affairs, and it's made possible not just by fresh thinking in the Pentagon but also by a subtle shift in the ranks of U.S. defense contractors. In building its new high-tech arsenal, the United States has also created a new military-industrial complex." . . .

"When it comes to military spending, the tradition of the iron triangle—Congress, the Pentagon, and defense industries—joining to push costly weaponry is nothing new." In his speech, Eisenhower said that "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist." . . .
A few years ago Mother Jones/MOJOwire, in "US Arms Sales", noted:
Arms Around the World

It was the early 1990s and then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton was on the campaign trail making promises: "I expect to review our arms sales policy and to take it up with the other major arms sellers of the world as a part of a long-term effort to reduce the proliferation of weapons."

Ah, campaign promises. But the economy was in the doldrums, and the prospect of cutting arms sales -- sugar daddy to one of the nation's largest industries -- didn't thrill either labor or corporate America. What's more, the Gulf War had just ended the previous year, and it was the best extended commercial an arms salesman could ask for. (Indeed, some arms manufacturers incorporated bombing videos into their promotional materials.) Countries were clamoring for the high-tech weapons that made for such good TV.

So, once elected, Bill Clinton did what he does best: He took advantage of the opportunity. Rather than insert human-rights concerns into the arms-sales equation, as did his Democratic predecessor President Carter, Clinton decided to aggressively continue the sales policies of President Bush, himself no slouch when it came to selling U.S. arms . . .

Early on, Clinton required our diplomats to shill for arms merchants to their host countries. The results were immediate: During Clinton's first year in office, U.S. arms sales more than doubled. From 1993 to 1997, the U.S. government sold, approved, or gave away $190 billion in weapons to virtually every nation on earth.

The arms industry, meanwhile, has greased the wheels. It filled the Democratic Party coffers to the tune of nearly $2 million in the 1998 election cycle.

To examine the Clinton administration's eagerness to arm the world, the MoJo Wire has compiled a detailed look at America's top weapons customers during the Clinton years, tallying their total 1993-97 purchases through both the Pentagon (so-called "Foreign Military Sales," or FMS) and U.S. manufacturers ("Direct Commercial Sales," or DCS).

What we found is that while the U.S. obviously sells weapons to NATO countries and relatively "democratic" allies like Japan and South Korea, it also has a nasty habit of arming both sides in a conflict, as well as countries with blighted democracy or human-rights records, like Indonesia, Colombia, and Saudi Arabia . . .
In 1999, the Arms Control Association stated that the Pentagon sold some $13 billion dollars worth of arms globally.

This gets very complex - the stats and configuration of the matrix are way over my head. But trying to think about it quietly, I figure . . .

  • American citizens pay megabucks to their government

  • somewheres around half of this money goes to "defense" (DOD/Pentagon)

  • a sizable chunk of this is paid by the Pentagon to arms manufacturers

  • arms manufacturers make and sell weapons of all sorts not only to the US government, but also to everyone else, including states and groups who are sworn to eliminate the US

  • DOD/Pentagon also sells weapons, at a profit, to foreign entities, also often regardless of their alliances

I humbly admit that I know I'm missing something in this matrix. Maybe uggabugga has a chart on it somewhere.

Of course, arms sales may be only the tip of the iceberg. I mentioned recently that the US government maintains in the order of 800 military bases around the globe. Most of these were established in the twenty or so years after WWII in the "cold war" against the "expansionist" USSR. It was widely thought that the collapse of the Soviet Empire in 1989 would occasion the significant reduction of US force abroad and the transfer of these bases to the host countries or their outright closure.

But, at the risk of insulting your intelligence, I point out that the MIA had become a major pillar of the US economic system. Objectively, this means that a drawdown might precipitate an economic calamity. The threat of a base closure either domestically or on foreign soil is always met by loud protests that the local economy absolutely depends on the base and will be devastated by its disappearance.

I live in a state which has eight military bases. Several of these bases house personnel, vehicles, weapons, and other materials critical to the government's wars in Afghanistan and against Iraq (and, of course, the imminent wars in several other places). The recent base realignment effort scared the hell out of the state and the local communities which depended on these bases for employment.

Note well that the employment I refer to here includes not only people who work on the bases, but the restaurants, hotels, bars, auto dealers and maintenance businesses, schools, retail stores realtors/landlords, tailors, laundromats, gas stations, and so forth, but also military surplus stores, bars, nightclubs, strip joints, tattoo parlors, drug dealers, and prostitutes. Shutting down Fort Bragg in North Carolina would do more damage to Fayetteville, NC and the 400 square mile perimeter than a direct "Jericho" strike.

For example, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of North Carolina tax and local lobbyist dollars were spent in blunting North Carolina base closures. The senior Senator, Libby Dole, a staunch Republican conservative, ensured her reelection in 2008 to a second six-year term (as did the junior Senator Richard Burr) by tirelessly reducing the potential harm of base realignment to nothing more than a mosquito bite for the state. Extend this same situation to tens of other states, hundreds of localities, thousands of citizens throughout the country. Extend it further to the eight or so hundreds of military bases around the world and the communities dependent on them.

So, the evil conundrum: we can't abandon militarism without destroying the livelihood of millions; we can't "wage peace" unless and until we eliminate militarism, for without doing so we endanger the same millions of lives through the perpetration of endless blowback, terrorism, and major wars.

Although Americans are only now beginning to see this situation as a form of international slavery, there is much evidence and data for mass education.

Radical Left, 2/7/2007, "The Size of America's Defense Budget Is Obscene":
Totaling US$623bn, it is an obscene amount. It's not only the largest defence budget in the world, but nearly all other national defence budgets combined and larger than most overall national budgets, including those of the developed world . . .
Vanity Fair, March, 2007, "Washington's $8 Billion Shadow":
Mega-contractors such as Halliburton and Bechtel supply the government with brawn. But the biggest, most powerful of the "body shops"—SAIC, which employs 44,000 people and took in $8 billion last year—sells brainpower, including a lot of the "expertise" behind the Iraq war . . .

Unlike traditional wars, which eventually come to an end, the Global War on Terror as defined by the Bush administration can have no end: it is a permanent war—the perfect war for a company that has become an essential component of the permanent government. Political change causes scarcely a ripple. As one former SAIC manager observed in a recent blog posting: "My observation is that the impact of national elections on the business climate for SAIC has been minimal. The emphasis on where federal spending occurs usually shifts, but total federal spending never decreases. SAIC has always continued to grow despite changes in the political leadership in Washington."

And the revolving door never stops spinning. One of the biggest contracts ever for SAIC is in the works right now. It's for a Pentagon program called Future Combat Systems, which is described as "a complex plan to turn the U.S. Army into a lighter, more lethal, more mobile force" and also as "the most difficult integration program ever undertaken by the U.S. Department of Defense." The contract runs into the billions of dollars. The man who helped craft this program at the Pentagon was Lieutenant General Daniel R. Zanini. Zanini recently retired from the army, and he now has a new job. Can you guess where it might be?
While there was, to be sure, much cause (or at least probable cause), for celebration at the Soviet Union's demise, in fact you couldn't find many happy faces at the Pentagon or in the boardrooms of arms manufacturers and military contractors in the US. They can't make money without wars, and you can't make wars without enemies. What to do, what to do? Why, make new enemies and make new wars, of course.

Therefore, Yugoslavia and the rest of the Balkans; Afghanistan and Iraq; Iran and Syria and Lebanon. Whoever, whatever is next.

Whew!! Dodged a bullet!!

(Part 1 of this series is here. Part 2 is here. Part 4 will delve into the yet emerging monster of PMFs.)
posted by Unknown at 10:42 AM
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Tuesday, February 20, 2007. *


posted by Trevor Blake at 8:50 PM
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I ain't betrayed this country
This country betrayed me

I seen the Monongahela
Stuck twixt its
Banks in seventy-two

Seen the Cuyahoga
Side a Cleveland
Three years before
Nobody died, 'cept everyone
Just choked and a few voles went
Belly up in the liquid soot
And the lowlife companies just
Shrugged like always


Scene Pete Seeger
Tom Rush
Dick and Mimi Fariña
On a Appalachian dulcimer
Yeonda and Camichlian with his box
Gonna make me famous never did
Just ended up faceless
Carolyn Hester
Paul and Rocky and even Gravas (last row)
Smither came later, to get sobernstraight
Music like you'll never hear
Hot cider like you'll never smell
Lamejeune god like you'll never taste
You'll never hear
You'll never smell
You'll never taste
At the Yana while
Monboquette pitched
A one hitter
Gainst the Yanks
Then we snuck up to WMEX at one am and sat in the back
Inside the glass
Lissnin to Ginsberg and the Shantelles
You dig?


I ain't betrayed this country
This country betrayed me

Got carried
Low in the backseat
From Charles cross Shawmut
And Dudley
In a black Chevy
On the fire night
The shootin night
The white don't belong here night
By two soft-smilin blackcats with
Red berets
And words of awful soft wisdom
Shoeshine M-1s in the damn trunk
And a half pint of Thunderbird
Just for me for good measure for peace
And Freedom
And Justice
And Frien'ship
Can you believe that
Can you believe that


So forty years later
I get stomped
By eight Blackwater Incs
New guys
In Bogart's
In Raleigh
In the spring
Near Oleander and Camillias
Over nothin but Mash House and ignorant
They were leavin for Anwar tomorrow
Left me with one scratch
Not countin the sprained thumb
Was all they Left me

Eight went
Two came back
Other sicks didn't make the stats
Cuz they weren't government

So you tell me
Tell me
I ain't betrayed this country
This country betrayed me

You can have
Way you want me
Cuz I'm just
For the one inch left in
The Lower Ninth
Where a cat
Can still tap dance

"Repatriot" copyright in full, 2007, ddjango/P!Banger. All rights reserved. Reprint only with author's permission or full attribution.
posted by Unknown at 2:05 PM
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In hindsight

Speaking of George Bush, with whom Sharon developed a very close relationship, Uri Dan recalls that Sharon's delicacy made him reluctant to repeat what the president had told him when they discussed Osama bin Laden. Finally he relented. And here is what the leader of the Western world, valiant warrior in the battle of cultures, promised to do to bin Laden if he caught him: "I will screw him in the ass!"

Given your stand on gay marriage, your longing seems hypocritical, but as long as it is consensual sex, it's not my business, Mr Bush.

May your dalliance occur in a shared jail cell.
posted by m at 11:06 AM
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Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
New Iraq Oil Law To Open Iraq's Oil Reserves to Western Companies

The Iraqi blogger Raed Jarrar has obtained a copy of the proposed oil law and has just translated it into English. He discusses the new law with Antonia Juhasz, author of "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time.” In one of the first studies of Iraqi public opinion after the US-led invasion of March 2003, the polling firm Gallup asked Iraqis their thoughts on the Bush administration’s motives for going to war. One percent of Iraqis said they believed the motive was to establish democracy. Slightly more – five percent – said to assist the Iraqi people. But far in the lead was the answer that got 43 percent - “to rob Iraq”s oil.”

Well, with the four-year mark of the Iraq war less than a month away, the answer may come into clearer view. After a long negotiation process involving US officials, the Iraqi government is considering a new oil law that would establish a framework for managing the third-largest oil reserves in the world.

What would this new law mean for Iraq? With me now from Washington DC is Raed Jarrar - He is the Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange. He has obtained a copy of the proposed oil law which he translated from Arabic and posted on his website. And Antonia Juhasz is on the phone with us -- She has written extensively about the economic side of the US occupation of Iraq and is the author of the book, “The Bush Agenda: Invading the World One Economy at a Time.” Antonia is a Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International. We welcome you both to Democracy Now!

* Raed Jarrar Iraq Project Director for Global Exchange. He is an Iraqi blogger and architect. He runs a popular blog called "Raed in the Middle."

* Antonia Juhasz, author and activist. She is a Tarbell Fellow at Oil Change International. Her latest book is called "The Bush Agenda: Invading the World, One Econony at a Time."

via Raed Jarrar, the proposed new PDF of Iraqi Oil Law

Note Page 8, Section c - 5. The Western oil majors even get to put their own people on the "Federal Oil and Gas Council," which determines and writes up the actual deals for the Higher Poobahs above them to stamp and sign. Ain't democracy great!
posted by Uncle $cam at 8:04 AM
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Monday, February 19, 2007. *
Last Friday, a letter in The Gleaner suggested Christians "stood back and allowed one woman ... to remove prayer from our schools ... Christians sat back and let it happen without a fight." Christians didn't stand by while organized prayer was taken out of public schools. They fought it all the way to the Supreme Court and lost. They lost because it is a violation of religious freedom to use taxpayer-funded schools to indoctrinate children into one particular faith. Public schools belong to everyone, not just Christians. Just to set the record straight, though, kids still have the right to pray in schools. They can pray to Jesus, Allah, Shivah, Odin or anything. They aren't allowed to use our public schools as churches, or to disrupt the learning of other kids while they pray.

Teachers, being public servants, are not allowed to lead or initiate prayer, but kids can pray silently whenever they want. No one can stop them. So, when Christians complain about the lack of prayer in public schools, what they really mean is they would like NON-Christians to pray to Jesus. In order to believe bringing Christianity back into public schools would increase the morality of kids, you have to believe two equally false things: First, that being Christian makes someone moral, and secondly, that non-Christians are inherently immoral. We often find examples of Christians doing immoral things and of non-Christians leading exemplary lives. Faith is not a cure-all for social ills, and the premise is shaky at best.

I'm always amazed at the Christian sense of persecution when they are required to follow the same rules as non-Christians. Christians are not being persecuted. The idea is laughable.

[Continues at link. Here's some Christian morality for ya. Here's what some Christians do when they get caught trying to have it both ways. Here's what others do. What they don't do much of is this.]

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posted by Trevor Blake at 5:26 PM
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