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Stages of Grief -- Murka Variant

When Abraham Lincoln was shot, it took an entire century to come up with the President's Day Mattress Sale. But it's all part of America's stages of grief - denial, anger, depression, acceptance and exploitation!

This from a rant of Lewis Black on The Daily Show. An article from the Edmonton Sun provides the background for his outrage:

Even for him, Lewis Black has been angry lately. The Daily Show's most caustic commentator fairly burst a blood vessel on Sept. 11 with a rant on various products being marketed around what some are now calling Patriot Day.

Among the merchandise: A Beanie Baby called Valor the Eagle ("born on Sept. 11"); a box of gourmet cookies called "a tower to celebrate America" ("It's so delicious, you'll wish every day was Sept. 11," Black says) and - believe it or not - a "legally authorized government coin" commemorating the event, struck with silver saved from a vault below Ground Zero.

Here's the coin he refers to. Order Now! only $23.45 incl S&H.

(Sometimes I almost wish I would watch TV again — seems like there might actually be some things worth watching...but then I come to my senses.)

[link to coin via gothamist]


Get Ready: Next Up -- Syria

Plans: Next, War on Syria?

Oct. 4 issue - Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries. (Syria is regarded as a major route for jihadis entering Iraq, and Iran appears to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons.) Even hard-liners acknowledge that given the U.S. military commitment in Iraq, a U.S. attack on either country would be an unlikely last resort; covert action of some kind is the favored route for Washington hard-liners who want regime change in Damascus and Tehran.

Israel Defense Official Threatens Syria

JERUSALEM - A senior Israeli defense official harshly threatened Syria on Monday, accusing President Bashar Assad of direct involvement in terrorism, but stopping short of confirming that Israel was responsible for killing a Hamas leader in Damascus.
"Syria is responsible for directing terrorism against us and therefore it is not immune from our operations to prevent terrorism," Boim [Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim] told Israel Radio.
"But we have to very aware and not take our eyes off the special place Syria holds in the chain of terrorism, regionally and globally," Boim added.

Meet the New Villain: The Neo-cons Threaten Syria

Those invaders of Iraq are at it again. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and their neo con staff led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, have conjured up another villain: Syria.

They want to punish Bashar Al-Assad's regime for Saddam-like crimes weapons of mass destruction and fomenting terrorism. Although, their aggressive verbal assault might have as its real design the deflection of criticism over spying and leaking from the Vice President's office.
More recently, the FBI has named a Cheney aide and members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as involved in spying for Israel. This Israeli lobby that claims to represent the Jewish population has for decades distracted attention away from Israeli aggression and manipulation of US policies by accusing Israel's unfriendly neighbors of terrorism--first Iraq, now Syria and Iran.

The "t" word took on new meaning in early September when Russian troops and Chechen separatists together killed 300 plus people and Israeli forces assassinated 14 Palestinians in Gaza. In this terrifying atmosphere, Syria should have won status as a major non-issue. Nevertheless, the Israeli lobby's influence overcame the headlines. So, by the Fall of 2003, the Israeli lobby convinced liberal Democrats like California Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Congressman Henry Waxman to generate support for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, legislation that punished Damascus for alleged terrorist connections and accumulation of WMD. Indeed, the vast majority in Congress right, left and center -- voted for the legislation without engaging in any fact-finding or serious debate. Bush signed the Act into law in December and in May 2004 banned US exports to Syria and Syrian flights from entering or leaving US territory.
In the early 1990s, Syria actively promoted Washington's attempt to organize a peace meeting in Madrid. Even more baffling, Syria provided crucial intelligence to the CIA to prevent an Al-Qaeda attack against US personnel in Bahrain in the post 9/11 period.

As if to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, Bush resorted to arm-twisting diplomacy to attack Syria at the United Nations...

Prelude to an Attack on Syria? The Yassin Assassination
[from March 27/28 2004!]

Some observations and predictions:

1. The foreign policy of the Bush administration has since 9-11 been steered by officials who have a well thought out and clearly articulated plan to affect regime change throughout the Middle East. Such change in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and a number of other Muslim countries is central to the neocons' world-transforming project. While Israel's security is not the key issue in Bush Middle East policy, it is a very important secondary one, and U.S. and Israeli policies are closely coordinated.

2. Last October 5, Israel responded to an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Haifa by staging an air strike on Syria, the first time it had bombed Syria in 30 years. Ariel Sharon argued that Damascus "sponsors" Islamic Jihad and "Palestinian terrorism" in general and so Israel was acting in self-defense.

3. While condemned by European leaders, including the British foreign minister, and almost everybody else, the attack was justified by President Bush as necessary to "defend the homeland." (Note: not "your homeland" but "the homeland." Bush seems not to distinguish.) It was praised by leading neocon Richard Perle (then still on the Defense Policy Board), who declared, "I am happy to see the message was delivered to Syria by the Israeli air force, and I hope it is the first of many such messages." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated, "There will have to be change in Syria, plainly."
4. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, administration point man on Syria, argued last fall in Congress for the "Syria Accountability Act," which was passed, 398-5, by the House of Representatives Oct. 16. (99% approval. Isn't it great to live in a democracy where well-informed elected officials can express varied views about the Middle East?) Then it sailed through the Senate.

Officially vilifying Syria (which has actually been an ally against al-Qaeda), it accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism, amassing weapons of mass destruction, and occupying Lebanon, and applies economic sanctions against the Arab nation. Bolton accuses Syria of allowing "terrorists" to cross its border to abet the resistance in Iraq, receiving some of those elusive WMD from Iraq, and providing banking services for the Iraqi resistance. So there is a long list of charges against Syria, as there was against Iraq, and as there is against Iran---enough to persuade the sufficiently impressionable that Syria should be attacked and occupied.
8. A major Hamas suicide bombing would provide a fine pretext for an attack on Syria, perfectly legitimate to anyone predisposed to think Hamas=international terrorism=Syria. [em. mine]

9...Hamas having been hit by a strike condemned by the entire world (except the U.S. and Israel) and having, in perfectly rational response, expressed outrage, now in its injured state becomes more targeted by the U.S. than ever. Henceforth whatever Sharon does against Hamas, he will be able to depict as an effort to defend not merely his country but the American Homeland threatened by these angry anti-American Palestinians. And whatever measures the Bushites take against "Palestinian terrorism" will be undertaken as "Homeland Defense" measures as well, the Israeli and American homeland boundaries having been thoroughly blurred long since.

10. Let us say Perle's dream comes true and the Israeli air force does attack pro-Hamas Syria. Let's say it does so big-time, Sharon-style, and does major damage. Enough to cause enough disorder for the U.S. to argue that a deteriorating situation requires international intervention. The Iraq attack required months of preparation, but intervention in Syria will happen very quickly, coming like a thief in the night as it did in Haiti. Perle has suggested that there are troops to spare in Iraq that can occupy "weak" Syria in short order. Even if Israeli action provides the context, Israeli forces won't be needed, and U.S. action will be lent some thin international legitimacy if a few hundred "coalition" troops participate. Thus a second Arab nation will become Americanizedly "free," while Palestinians infuriated by these events will commit acts that will justify the "ethnic cleansing" of the West Bank.

On the Road to Damascus? Neo-Cons Target Syria
[from March 8 2004!]

The appointment of David Wurmser, a long-time advocate of U.S. military action against Syria, to the staff of Vice President Cheney in September 2003, followed by the president's signing of the Syria Accountability act in December were widely regarded as another signal that the U.S. regional restructuring crusade might soon be embarking on the road to Damascus. If the president imposes sanctions against Syria rather than attempting to engage it through diplomatic channels, it's likely that the Syrian regime will be painted with the same fear-mongering brush used to justify the invasion of Iraq. With Osama bin Laden still on the lam and bedlam in occupied Iraq, the Bush administration needs to refocus public attention on another evildoer--which, not so coincidently, is also the next preferred target of the Likudniks in Israel.

The Two-Line Struggle at the Top
Phase Two: Syria and Iran

[from May 3 2003!!]

...the issues the neocons have and will continue to raise as they muster support for the Syria invasion...

  1. Syria's possession of chemical and biological weapons...

  2. Syria's "sponsorship" of Lebanon's Hezbollah...

  3. Syria allegedly allowed personnel and equipment to flow into Iraq during the invasion...

  4. Some fleeing Iraqi officials may have made their way into Iraq "to escape capture," which is understandable..

  5. Child custody disputes between Syrians and their American spouses. Probably not a casus belli. But a grounds for depicting these Arabs as violators of Americans' human rights.

I assume that the neocons' real intention is to invade Syria, in large part to eliminate the threat to Israel of the above-listed organizations. But any shred of evidence that they might threaten Americans will also be amplified as they prepare the case...

Open Book: In Syria, as in Iraq, the Bushites Telegraph Their Punches
[from April 29 2003!!!]

As we all know, the rape of Iraq (or as future historians will doubtless call it, "The Dawn of the Shiite Empire") was planned openly several years ago by a hard-right agitprop cell led by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Now it turns out that the recent big-monkey chest-beating aimed at Syria -- threats of sanctions, "surgical" strikes, and "regime change" -- was also carefully planned, by many of the same people, long before the Bush Regime seized power.

As we've often reported here, in September 2000 the Cheney-Rumsfeld outfit, Project for the New American Century, proudly published their blueprint for the direct imposition of U.S. "forward bases" throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. They even foresaw the need for what they called a "Pearl Harbor-type event" to galvanize the American public into supporting their ambitious program. Their reasons for this program were also stated quite openly: to ensure U.S. political and economic domination of the world, while strangling any potential "rival" or any viable alternative to the rapacious crony capitalism favored by the PNAC extremists. This dominance would be enforced by the ever-present threat -- and frequent application -- of violence. (A tactic known elsewhere as "terrorism.")
A few months before PNAC's prophetic 2000 report, an allied group with an overlapping membership published a similar document outlining steps to be taken against Syria: first "tightening the screws" with denunciations and economic sanctions, then escalating to military action, as Jim Lobe of Inter-Press Agency reports. The architects of this document included Elliot Abrams, the convicted perjurer now running Bush's Middle East policy; Douglas Feith, one of Shifty's top aides; Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary to Colin Powell, and influential Pentagon advisors such as David Wurmser, Michael Leeden and everyone's sweetheart, Richard "Influence-Peddler" Perle.

The report sprang largely from the loins of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, a curious grouping of right-wing American Christians, right-wing American Jews, and a sprinkling of Lebanese exiles. They object -- rightly -- to the fact that Syria has maintained "long-term access to major military bases" in Lebanon, using this minatory presence to exercise undue sway over Lebanon's political and economic life. Of course, some cynics would say this situation is remarkably akin to Israel's own 18-year occupation of, er, Lebanon, or the United States' decades-long -- and still-continuing -- military presence in Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Panama, etc. But you know what cynics are like.
Here, the proto-Bushist group demands that six "rogue nations" -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and Sudan -- "turn over their governments to the United States" on pain of massive military response. The United States will then "occupy these territories until proper governments" -- ones that allow "long-term access" to major military bases, no doubt -- "can be established." And just how massive should that threatened U.S. military response be? The USCFL is, as always, admirably -- and brutally -- forthright: "America must set a clear example-identical to that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you tread on me, I will wipe you off the face of the earth."

[the following added 9/28/04]
Bush administration completes get-tough plan for Syria

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Bush administration has drafted contingency plans for bringing military and economic pressure against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Officials said the administration has determined that diplomacy has failed to resolve U.S. concerns that Syria has been working to destabilize the interim government in Iraq.

They said the Assad regime has been harboring senior operatives of Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, regarded as the most lethal insurgent in Iraq, aides to Saddam Hussein as well as Iraqi nuclear scientists as part of a Syrian policy coordinated with Iran.

On Monday, the State Department reiterated its criticism of Syria for its harboring groups deemed as terrorists, Middle East Newsline reported. The department refused to condemn the Sept. 26 assassination of a Hamas leader in Damascus in a car-bombing attributed to Israel.

"If Americans are dying in Iraq because of Syrian policies, then this is something we are not going to tolerate," a senior official said.

The official, who refused to be identified, did not report any progress in U.S. efforts to end Syria's support of the insurgency movement in Iraq or other issues in dispute between Damascus and Washington.

Officials warned that unless Syria changes its policy within the next few weeks, the administration would consider economic and military measures against Damascus that would intensify in 2005. They said the Defense Department has drafted a range of military options meant to put Damascus on the defensive and encourage insurrection within Syria.
During the September meeting in Damascus, officials said, the U.S. delegation presented the Assad regime with evidence of Syrian government aid to the insurgency movement in Iraq. The delegation argued that Syria has intensified its support of Al Zarqawi and pro-Saddam forces in an effort to torpedo Iraqi elections scheduled in January 2005.

"It's not just a question of border control," the senior official said. "Institutions within Syria are actively colluding with our enemies in Iraq."

"Terrorists and their supporters beget a cycle of violence that is best addressed through the end of support of terror," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said. "We have made it clear that in numerous meetings with the Syrians that we think it's in their interests, in the interests of the region, to end support for terrorist organizations and terrorist individuals operating from their territory."

[the following added 10/13/04]
Israel Demonstrates Urban Warfare Tactics

Wed Oct 13, 3:46 PM ET
By GAVIN RABINOWITZ, Associated Press Writer

SHIZAFON MILITARY BASE, Israel - F-16 warplanes dropped explosives, tanks charged across the desert firing cannons and infantrymen went house-to-house hurling grenades in war games that Israel staged Wednesday as a show of strength at a time of confrontation with the Palestinians and Syria.

Troops destroyed simulated Syrian fortifications before conquering a mock Palestinian village — complete with a billboard of a smiling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
&sdot &sdot &sdot
Tensions have also increased with Syria, with Israeli accusing its longtime enemy of backing Palestinian militants carrying out suicide attacks. A Hamas leader was killed in Damascus last month in a car bombing that Syria blamed on Israel.
&sdot &sdot &sdot
But the live-fire display at a desert training base in southern Israel began with a demonstration of Israel's conventional military tactics — a simulated attack on its old enemy, Syria.

Warplanes screamed through the sky, dropping bombs on a hill. Tanks then opened fire, sending flames and plumes of black smoke into the air.

Infantry snipers pinged bullets off metal targets and machine-gunners popped balloons representing Syrian soldiers.

An artillery battery laid down a constant barrage on a nearby "enemy" hill, code-named "Shirley."

The assault ended with the engineering corps clearing mines and laying bridges over tank traps so the armor and infantry could smash through the final defenses.

Having defeated the mock Syrians, the forces turned to the mock Palestinian village, a cluster of little huts with painted windows and wrecked cars strewn across the streets.

The entrance featured a billboard with a smiling Arafat holding a finger in the air against the backdrop of a Palestinian flag.
&sdot &sdot &sdot

[the following added 10/28/04 -- excuse found?]
Russia tied to Iraq's missing arms

By Bill Gertz

Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned.

John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.
&sdot &sdot &sdot
Mr. Shaw, who was in charge of cataloging the tons of conventional arms provided to Iraq by foreign suppliers, said he recently obtained reliable information on the arms-dispersal program from two European intelligence services that have detailed knowledge of the Russian-Iraqi weapons collaboration.

Most of Saddam's most powerful arms were systematically separated from other arms like mortars, bombs and rockets, and sent to Syria and Lebanon, and possibly to Iran, he said.

The Russian involvement in helping disperse Saddam's weapons, including some 380 tons of RDX and HMX, is still being investigated, Mr. Shaw said.

The RDX and HMX, which are used to manufacture high-explosive and nuclear weapons, are probably of Russian origin, he said.
&sdot &sdot &sdot
However, the most important and useful arms and explosives appear to have been separated and moved out as part of carefully designed program. "The organized effort was done in advance of the conflict," Mr. Shaw said.

The Russian forces were tasked with moving special arms out of the country.
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The Russian weapons were then sent out of the country to Syria, and possibly Lebanon in Russian trucks, Mr. Shaw said.

Mr. Shaw said he believes that the withdrawal of Russian-made weapons and explosives from Iraq was part of plan by Saddam to set up a "redoubt" in Syria that could be used as a base for launching pro-Saddam insurgency operations in Iraq.

The Russian units were dispatched beginning in January 2003 and by March had destroyed hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq while dispersing arms to Syria, the second official said.
&sdot &sdot &sdot
"Whatever was not buried was put on lorries and sent to the Syrian border," the defense official said.

Documents reviewed by the official included itineraries of military units involved in the truck shipments to Syria. The materials outlined in the documents included missile components, MiG jet parts, tank parts and chemicals used to make chemical weapons, the official said.

The director of the Iraqi government front company known as the Al Bashair Trading Co. fled to Syria, where he is in charge of monitoring arms holdings and funding Iraqi insurgent activities, the official said.

&sdot &sdot &sdot
Regarding the explosives, the new Iraqi government reported that 194.7 metric tons of HMX, or high-melting-point explosive, and 141.2 metric tons of RDX, or rapid-detonation explosive, and 5.8 metric tons of PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, were missing.

The material is used in nuclear weapons and also in making military "plastic" high explosive.
[em. mine]
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[the following added 11/01/04]
U.S.: 'Time for Syria to withdraw its forces'

By Nada Raad and Nafez Kawas
Daily Star staff
Monday, November 01, 2004

BEIRUT: U.S. Deputy Under-Secretary of State David Satterfield said the presence of a foreign army in another sovereign country was something that could no longer be tolerated.

Speaking during a talk show broadcast Sunday night by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International station (LBCI), Satterfield said the time for such an occupation "was a thing of the past."

"It is time for Syria to abide by the spirit of the 1989 Taif Accord and withdraw its forces," he said.

The comments came just days after it was revealed that the government's ministerial policy statement will insist that the country cannot implement UN Resolution 1559 fully as it would destabilize Lebanon's security.

Satterfield said the U.S. position on the new Lebanese government was "clearly described by Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage," when he said it was "made in Damascus."

Satterfield added that the U.S. is concerned for the Lebanese people, "who face many social, economic and political problems.

"In addition, the U.S. does not consider that the Lebanese regime has implemented Resolution 1559," which calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces and for disarming all militias.

"We saw the Syrian government's recent measures," including the redeployment of some Syrian forces toward the border, and "much more is needed," Satterfield said, adding, "unfortunately, there is no progress in Lebanon when it comes to controlling terrorism.

"The controversial way in which President Emile Lahoud's term in office was extended ... and the way the new Cabinet was formed do not reflect the will of the international community as expressed in 1559," he said, adding that Lebanon should be free to make important decisions by itself "without foreign interference."

Satterfield said the Lebanese require "a capable government reflecting the national will, and (which) is capable of dealing with the country's problems."

Lebanon also has "its own security apparatus and its own army, which are more than capable of safeguarding the country's security, if allowed to work unimpeded," he said, referring to Syria's earlier claims that its presence in Lebanon is to maintain security in the country.

Satterfield also accused Hizbullah of undermining security along the Lebanese-Israeli border and said it was responsible for all the problems related to Israel in the South.

Before Hizbullah started launching cross-border attacks against Israeli forces, he said, the situation was calm "and there were no Israeli breaches of the Lebanese airspace."

As to claims by some Lebanese politicians that the Lebanese opposition is allegedly allied with Washington against Beirut, Satterfield said his country "did not support any specific Lebanese sect, position or trend or what is known as the 'Lebanese opposition groups' both in Lebanon and abroad."
&sdot &sdot &sdot


Big Brother's Department of Fear -- Protecting The Election!

U.S. Worries Over Election Terror Threat

Sep 23, 4:32 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - As the election draws nearer, U.S. officials are increasingly concerned al-Qaida terrorists will attempt to mount a devastating attack to disrupt the political process.

In an unusual move, Attorney General John Ashcroft recently held a conference call with all 93 U.S. attorneys to spread the word that prosecutors and law enforcement officers should take every conceivable step to counter the threat, said two senior law enforcement officials briefed on the call.

Those steps include temporarily reassigning more FBI agents to counterterrorism investigations and having agents make more frequent checks with informers and key sources.

Authorities also are increasing what they call "overt" surveillance of terrorism suspects - letting the suspects know they are being watched - and they may arrest some on relatively minor charges to get them off the street.

The FBI also is checking new information gained from arrests of al-Qaida operatives, especially those in Britain and Pakistan, to see if any potential terrorist activities or warning signs in the United States have been overlooked.

The law enforcement officials, who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the United States still has no information indicating a time, place or method of attack.

Ashcroft's Sept. 13 call to prosecutors was prompted not by new intelligence but rather was intended to remind law enforcement officials about a steady stream of information pointing to an election-year attack, one official said.

U.S. authorities are concerned al-Qaida might try to replicate the influence terrorists had in Spain, where the governing party that supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq was defeated at the polls after March 11 train bombings in Madrid killed 200 people.

Democrats have accused the Bush administration of scare tactics on terrorism warnings - deliberately frightening the public to give President Bush a boost at the polls.

On Aug. 1, the government raised the risk of a terorrist attack to "high" on specific financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington, based partly on years-old intelligence. At the time, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge defended the decision, saying "we don't do politics" with terror threats.

The color-coded threat level for the rest of the nation remains at yellow, or elevated, the middle of a five-point scale.

Intelligence gathered by the U.S. government since early spring indicates al-Qaida wants to launch an attack that would equal or surpass that of Sept. 11, 2001, when 3,000 people died in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"Recent intelligence suggest that al-Qaida may still be planning an attack, possibly targeting highly populated public places in large U.S. cities, in the weeks immediately prior to the elections," the FBI said Aug. 27 in a bulletin to 18,000 state and local law enforcement agencies.

The bulletin did not describe any potential targets or cities, and repeated that the FBI had no specific timing or method of such an attack.

Ridge recently said the attack time frame could extend beyond the campaign season to the Jan. 20 presidential inauguration.

There's still time to vote in my First Red Alert Poll in my sidebar — voting closes October 5th.

Here's some more links about the coming "election":

Because the Biggest October Surprise this "election" would be No October Surprise.

Grab the Guns -- Peak Oil is Around the Corner!

Report: OPEC has lost control over oil prices

Friday, September 24, 2004

LONDON — OPEC members have lost control over the oil market.

A report by the Center for Global Energy Studies asserted that the price of crude oil was no longer under OPEC control. The report said OPEC, with spare production capacity of 1.5 million barrels per day, does not have sufficient capacity to significantly reduce oil prices, which have exceeded $47 a barrel.

"This leaves only the thinnest margin to cope with the unexpected and the market is worried that it could quickly be used up in the event of an interruption to supply or a cold winter," the report said.

The center said OPEC production in the third quarter of 2004 reached 29.19 million barrels per day. The figure did not include Iraq.

OPEC Lifts Quotas, Oil Prices Still Rise

Wed Sep 15,12:11 PM ET

VIENNA (Reuters) - OPEC on Wednesday lifted oil supply quotas by one million barrels a day, four percent, in a renewed bid to force down stubbornly high crude prices.

The pact is designed to underscore the intent among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to exert downward pressure on prices that last month neared $50 a barrel.

But the new deal is expected to make little difference to actual supply flows because OPEC is already pumping almost flat out.

With prices failing to react, and certainly showing no sign yet of a serious reversal, the agreement may only heighten worries about OPEC's inability to cope with the fastest growing oil demand in a generation.
"This is a signal to the market not a change in total output. It will have a psychological effect on prices," said Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

"Practically speaking quotas are all but suspended at the moment so where they are set is not important," said Alirio Parra, a former OPEC president.

Traders ignored OPEC and crude traded up 76 cents to $45.10 a barrel as a hurricane battered U.S. Gulf oil operations and weekly data showed a big fall in U.S. crude stocks.

[the following blockquote added 9/27/04]
Oil Near $50 on Supply Fears in Nigeria

LONDON (Reuters) - Oil prices surged to new record highs on Monday near $50 for U.S. crude as Nigeria emerged as the latest focus for worries about supply security on world energy markets.
Growing concerns over militancy in Nigeria, OPEC's number five producer, are compounding worries about supply security in Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"All these factors create apprehension in the market and reinforce the view that we're on a knife's edge in terms of supply and demand," said Daniel Hynes, industry analyst at ANZ Bank in Melbourne.

"The uncertainties heighten the risk premium applied to this market."

Global supplies have risen strongly this year but are still straining to meet the fastest demand growth in 24 years. World crude output is close to its limit after many years when OPEC producers kept large volumes untapped.

The lack of a supply cushion has reinforced the view among some investors that oil near $50 is not overpriced, despite a 50 percent jump crude prices since the start of the year.

"The market faces the prospect of years without sufficient flexibility or insulation from shocks during a period of extreme geopolitical stress," said analyst Paul Horsnell of Barclays Capital.

In Nigeria, rebels seeking political reforms in the impoverished oil-producing Niger delta, forced the closure by Royal Dutch/Shell of 30,000 barrels a day as a security precaution.

The militants, threatening output from the country that pumps 2.5 million barrels daily, said at the weekend they would seek to extend the uprising across the West African producer's entire southern delta oil region.
Uncertainty over supplies from YUKOS, Russia's top exporter, also is supporting prices. YUKOS last week trimmed deliveries to China.

In Saudi Arabia, clashes between security forces and suspected al Qaeda followers served as a reminder of the threat to stability in the world's biggest producer.

In Iraq, insurgents fired mortar bombs at the oil ministry building on Saturday, causing minor damage but no injuries.

But Iraqi oil exports, temporarily at least, are as high as they have been since last year's U.S.-led invasion.

Iraqi pipelines have been the target of frequent sabotage attacks. But on Monday deliveries resumed through the main northern line to Turkey after repairs from a bomb attack Sept 2. Southern exports were near full capacity.

from Jane's Defense Weekly:

Geologists and analysts have been saying for some time that estimates of global oil reserves may be dangerously exaggerated. If you take oil prices currently at around US$37 a barrel, the highest for nearly 15 years, US petrol prices at record levels and you add terrorist attacks and diminishing supplies, you have a recipe for inflation and economic slowdown. The question of reserves becomes a much more important factor.
As the world's natural resources shrink and global warming changes the environment, competition for unimpeded access to them has intensified and will continue to do so. About four-fifths of the world's known oil reserves lie in politically unstable or contested regions.

For some background to peak oil this is one good place to begin, here's another, and yet one more.

Now go read this again.

Coincidence Does Not A Conspiracy Make

A Murkan Board Member may be an outed "liberal democrat", but that doesn't mean he doesn't know on which side to butter his bread:

Guess Who's a GOP Booster?
The CEO of CBS's parent company endorses President Bush.

Friday, September 24, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

From The Asian Wall Street Journal

With the scandal at CBS still festering, questions are being raised about whether a felony was committed when the network broadcast apparently forged memos in an attempt to discredit George W. Bush. Yesterday, the chairman of CBS's parent company chose Hong Kong as a place to drop a little bomb. Sumner Redstone, who calls himself a "liberal Democrat," said he's supporting President Bush.

The chairman of the entertainment giant Viacom said the reason was simple: Republican values are what U.S. companies need. Speaking to some of America's and Asia's top executives gathered for Forbes magazine's annual Global CEO Conference, Mr. Redstone declared: "I look at the election from what's good for Viacom. I vote for what's good for Viacom. I vote, today, Viacom.

"I don't want to denigrate Kerry," he went on, "but from a Viacom standpoint, the election of a Republican administration is a better deal. Because the Republican administration has stood for many things we believe in, deregulation and so on. The Democrats are not bad people. . . . But from a Viacom standpoint, we believe the election of a Republican administration is better for our company."

Sharing the stage with Mr. Redstone was Steve Forbes, CEO, president and editor in chief of Forbes and a former Republican presidential aspirant, who quipped: "Obviously you're a very enlightened CEO."

Note: It's also interesting how the term "enlightened" can mean the opposite of transcendence,
but that's another issue.

[the following added 9/27/04]
CBS Nixes '60 Minutes' Story on Iraq War

Associated Press

NEW YORK - CBS News has shelved a "60 Minutes" report on the rationale for war in Iraq because it would be "inappropriate" to air it so close to the presidential election, the network said on Saturday.

The report on weapons of mass destruction was set to air on Sept. 8 but was put off in favor of a story on President Bush's National Guard service. The Guard story was discredited because it relied on documents impugning Bush's service that were apparently fake.

CBS News spokeswoman Kelli Edwards would not elaborate on why the timing of the Iraq report was considered inappropriate.

The report, with Ed Bradley as the correspondent, has long been in the works. Originally scheduled for June, it was first put off because of new developments, Edwards said.

CBS said no other reports on the presidential election have been affected.

The network last week appointed former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and retired Associated Press chief executive Louis Boccardi to investigate what went wrong with the National Guard report and recommend changes.

The controversy has put CBS News officials squarely on the fire line, particularly anchor Dan Rather, who narrated the National Guard report.

Meanwhile, the network announced that Rather would anchor the network's coverage of all three presidential debates, starting Sept. 30.

[a tip from Agent Sweetcheeks]

A BushCo Algorithm

A BushCo algorithm, via a comment at Pierrot's Folly that debugs the original code at Fever Pytch:


#include "strauss.h"
#include "religious_right.h"
#include "corporate_malfesance.h"
#include "newspeak.h"

extern char *make_neocon_idea (int actionable_idea);
extern int net_social_benefit (int actionable_idea);

void bush_agenda (void)
   int politically_actionable_idea;
   int net_social_benefit;
   char *bush_idea;
   /* AGGRESSIVE_WAR, etc, defined in strauss.h */
   for (politically_actionable_idea = AGGRESSIVE_WAR ;
   politically_actionable_idea; <= BELLUM_OMNI_CONTRA_OMNES;
     bush_idea = make_neocon_idea (politically_actionable_idea);
     if (politically_actionable_idea & FOREIGN_POLICY)
       unilaterally_implement (bush_idea)
       if (net_social_benfit (politically_actionable_idea) <= 0)
         implement_domestically (bush_idea);

int main (int argc, char *argv[])
   bush_agenda ();
   exit (-1);


Murkan Intelligence as Saturday Morning KidVid


Throughout history, in war and peace, I have played many roles.
I am inspiration.
I am motivation.
I am intimidation.
I am deception.
I am...PSYOP.
I bring the light of truth where before lay the darkness of lies.
I deliver hope to those who are in despair.
I bring fear to those who believe their actions are without consequence.
I was and I am...PSYOP.

I am that voice that tells the enemy to surrender or die.
I am the shadow of doubt that makes the enemy question their actions.
I am that power of influence that despots despise.
I was and I am...PSYOP.

I am the broadcast of reason over radio, television and loudspeaker.
I am the light of truth in print media, leaflet, newspaper, handbill or poster.
I am the force multiplier that wins my country's wars.
I was, I am and I will forever remain...PSYOP.

I suppose they test on themselves first.

[Hat Tip to Tutor.]


Co-optation, Radicals, Idealists, Realists, and Blogging

Came across GOEBBELS' PRINCIPLES OF PROPAGANDA via Tutor and it's a fascinating read.

Then Tutor had this to say:

I am saying that the vocabulary of marketing, branding, and political speech (one way, two way or emergent) is systematically debased, and so is our critical intelligence. We the propagandized herd(s), whoever's brand we carry on our behinds, whether we bandy the memes up, down or sideways, are the product of our society - and a sorry commentary on it. Wealth Bondage knows no party, and favors no product. Its motto is "whatever works." It is the grammer of contemporary thought, that without which the contemporary mind is blank. And that is the measure of our slavery.

Tutor is right — "whatever works" is indeed it's motto. And one of their most potent tools in implementing this in a democracy — especially as it pertains to preventing social justice — is called "co-optation". Here, from John Stauber via Ratical, is an example of how it works:

...[C]orporate charity can buy the tacit cooperation of organizations that might otherwise be expected to criticize corporate policies. Some PR firms specialize in helping corporations to defeat activists, and co-optation is one of their tools.

Some years ago, in a speech to clients in the cattle industry, Ron Duchin, senior vice-president of the PR firm Mongoven, Biscoe, and Duchin (which represents probably a quarter of the largest corporations in the world), outlined his firm's basic divide-and-conquer strategy for defeating any social-change movement. Activists, he explained, fall into three basic categories: radicals, idealists, and realists. The first step in his strategy is to isolate and marginalize the radicals. They're the ones who see the inherent structural problems that need remedying if indeed a particular change is to occur. To isolate them, PR firms will try to create a perception in the public mind that people advocating fundamental solutions are terrorists, extremists, fearmongers, outsiders, communists, or whatever. After marginalizing the radicals, the PR firm then identifies and "educates" the idealists -- concerned and sympathetic members of the public -- by convincing them that the changes advocated by the radicals would hurt people. The goal is to sour the idealists on the idea of working with the radicals, and instead get them working with the realists.

Realists, according to Duchin, are people who want reform but don't really want to upset the status quo; big public-interest organizations that rely on foundation grants and corporate contributions are a prime example. With the correct handling, Duchin says, realists can be counted on to cut a deal with industry that can be touted as a "win-win" solution, but that is actually an industry victory.

And why does this strategy work so effectively? He continues:

In part, because we don't have a watchdog press that aggressively investigates and exposes PR lies and deceptions. Its success is also a reflection of the sorry state of democracy in our society. We really have a single corporate party with two wings, both funded by wealthy special interests. On the critical issues -- taxation, health care, foreign policy -- there's rarely much disagreement. If there is, more special-interest money floods in to make sure the corporate agenda wins out. On a deeper level, we all want to believe these lies. Wouldn't it be great to wake up and find ourselves living in a functioning democracy? To be truly represented by our so-called Representatives? Not to have to worry about the destruction of the biosphere or the safety of the water we drink and the food we eat? I think we all buy in because we want to believe things aren't as bad as they really are.

The reality is, though, that the U.S. political and social environment is corrupt and deeply dysfunctional. Structural reforms must be made in our political and economic system in order to assert the rights of citizens over corporations. But since big corporations dominate the media, we're not going to hear about this on network news or in the New York Times. We're not going to hear about it from politicians who are bought and paid for by wealthy interests. The beginning of the solution is for people to recognize that it's not enough to send checks in response to direct-mail solicitations from politicians and public-interest groups. We need to become real citizens and get personally involved in reclaiming our country.

Tutor points to a more epistemological solution:

To think straight, regardless of your own self-interest - impossible? No, the measure of the mind.

But that assumes a structural re-adjustment that values and inculcates critical thinking in its citizens. And it's not going to happen by itself.

Lawrence Goodwin, once again via Ratical, shows us one possible way to get there:

Imposing cultural roadblocks stand in the way of a democratic movement at every stage of this sequential process, causing losses in the potential constituencies that are to be incorporated into the movement. Many people may not be successfully “recruited,” many who are recruited may not become adequately “educated,” and many who are educated may fail the final test of moving into autonomous political action. The forces of orthodoxy, occupying the most culturally sanctioned command posts in the society, can be counted upon, out of self-interest, to oppose each stage of the sequential process -- particularly the latter stages, when the threat posed by the movement has become clear to all. In the aggregate, the struggle to create a mass democratic movement involves intense cultural conflict with many built-in advantages accruing to the partisans of the established order.
Democratic movements are initiated by people who have individually managed to attain a high level of personal political self-respect. They are not resigned; they are not intimidated. To put it another way, they are not culturally organized to conform to established hierarchical forms. Their sense of autonomy permits them to dare to try to change things by seeking to influence others. The subsequent stages of recruitment and of internal economic and political education...turn on the ability of the democratic organizers to develop widespread methods of internal communication within the mass movement. Such democratic facilities provide the only way the movement can defend itself to its own adherents in the face of the adverse interpretations certain to emanate from the received culture. If the movement is able to achieve this level of internal communication and democracy, and the ranks accordingly grow in numbers and in political consciousness, a new plateau of social possibility comes within reach of all participants. In intellectual terms, the generating force of this new mass mode of behavior may be rather simply described as “a new way of looking at things.” It constitutes a new and heretofore unsanctioned mass folkway of autonomy. In psychological terms, its appearance reflects the development within the movement of a new kind of collective self-confidence. “Individual self-respect” and “collective self-confidence” constitute, then, the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. Their development permits people to conceive of the idea of acting in self-generated democratic ways -- as distinct from passively participating in various hierarchical modes bequeathed by the received culture. In this study of Populism, I have given a name to this plateau of cooperative and democratic conduct. I have called it “the movement culture.” Once attained, it opens up new vistas of social possibility, vistas that are less clouded by inherited assumptions. I suggest that all significant mass democratic movements in human history have generated this autonomous capacity. Indeed, had they not done so, one cannot visualize how they could have developed into significant mass democratic movements.

Does blogging hold a key for "people who have individually managed to attain a high level of personal political self-respect" to "develop widespread methods of internal communication within the mass movement"?

On the surface, yes. But let's assume "the movement is able to achieve this level of internal communication and democracy, and the ranks accordingly grow in numbers and in political consciousness, [and] a new plateau of social possibility comes within reach of all participants."

Is there a flawed and deeply inherent contradiction in creating a movement that:

  • relies on the very structural edifice we wish to challenge, one that provides us with the tools by which such "internal communication" is possible?

  • creates de-centralized, non-localized, non bio-regional "communities" of solipsists, where actors only know each other virtually?

  • transcend the medium's inherent virtuality to achieve practical results? (Ghosts can see furniture, but they can't move it.)

Social change through telekinesis?

If blogging (and, by extension, the web itself) provides the means by which such a community for social change can form how does it move to the next level?

I'm still new at blogging, and these are new, inchoate thoughts. I just wanted to record them here and now while they flit through my mind.

Hence I welcome the opportunity for additional thoughts to clarify and flesh out my own. I'm sure others have thought greatly about this, and I would appreciate both flashlights and maps.

[Note: all blockquoted emphases are mine.]


Georgie, Condi, Rummy, Dickie

This picture cracks me up!

[Click on it to see it at the proper resolution — and to visit its homepage!]

An Upset Surprise Surprise In Store?

via The Washington Times:

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded recently that al Qaeda — fearing its credibility is on the line — is moving ahead with plans for a major, "spectacular" attack, despite disruptions of some operations by recent arrests in Britain and Pakistan.

Officials said recent intelligence assessments of the group, which is blamed for the September 11 attacks, state that an attack is coming and that the danger will remain high until the Nov. 2 elections and last until Inauguration Day on Jan. 20. [em. mine]
Thus, details of the possible attack remain murky, but analysts say it is planned to be bigger and deadlier than the September 11 attacks, which killed 3,000 people.
Acting CIA Director John McLaughlin told a Senate hearing last month that al Qaeda's ability to keep its operations secret is a "strategic weapon." [big fucking duh!]
"It's very well-documented in the 9/11 report how few people knew about that," he said Aug. 17. "They use secrecy as a strategic weapon. It's a strategic weapon for them because it asymmetrically works against us because we don't keep secrets very well." [hmm — I guess Murka needs to be less of an open society (ie, less democratic)]

Since Bush's numbers are up (how is that possible? the dems couldn't possibly be running a worse campaign — it's like they want to lose) there might be an election after all.

But hey, now there is a possibility of an attack after the election and before inauguration!

Just in case there's an upset and Kerry wins, I suppose.

So don't forget:

  • Be Afraid
  • A vote for Kerry is a vote for Al Qaeda
    (ARENA: Neither John Kerry nor the president has said troops pulled out of Iraq any time soon. But there is some speculation that al Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House.

    BEN VENZKE, INTELCENTER: Al Qaeda feels that Bush is, even despite casualties, right or wrong for staying there is going to stay much longer than possibly what they might hope a Democratic administration would.)
  • Go Shopping!

[Thanks to Agent Sweetcheeks for the tip.]


The First One's Free

Free to Kill, but Not to Party

So Murka's ban on assault weapons was allowed to lapse earlier this week. Though shocking, it's hardly surprising.

It seems that "freedom", as defined by the mythologies of doublethinking Murka, means that any idiot is entitled to own their own personal WMDs, but I can't smoke crack or hire shemale hookers if I want. Basically, allowing people to own a tool whose entire purpose is to maim and kill others is ok, but it's not permissible for me to partake of the things I find pleasurable that don't hurt anyone else. Arming potential killers ok, victimless "crimes" not ok. Killing good, pleasure bad.

So let's see: I just want to be crystal clear on this concept, so I'm going to try it again.

We've got a pig-ignorant populace, permitted to buy their own personal WMDs, who worship a God of Love and Forgiveness, who consider other populations inferior to themselves, who drive to their local Wallmarts in their Hummers, who extol Murka as the Land of Freedom! — but only so long as people don't do drugs, don't marry a person they love, don't protest, don't question government policy, etc.

Freedom to provide tools that kill others: OK
Freedom to pursue sensual pleasure for self: NOT OK

Stopping power: GOOD
Sensual activities between consenting people: BAD

Potential to take away an innocent life: DESIRABLE
Potential to expand one's consciousness with psychotropics: NOT DESIRABLE

Free to Kill, but Not to Party. Got it.

Apparently it's ok for any dumb fuck to get a gun, but it's not okay to smoke a joint or marry the person you love if they happen to be the same gender as you. It's ok to have a tool whose only purpose is to kill (too bad if they're completely innocent); but it's not ok to decide to expand your own consciousness with organic drugs you don't get from big Pharma.

Seems parents would rather give their kids guns than condoms. How fucked-up is that? ("Here, son. This is a Glock 37 .45 GAP. It's tough, accurate, user-friendly, and has lots of stopping power. But remember, this isn't a toy! Now, when it comes to sex — don't have any!") It's somehow more acceptable to give kids guns and ammo than to provide them with the means to safely enjoy themselves. The message is: here's something you can kill others with (but don't); but it's not okay to protect yourself from STDs or unwanted pregnancies when you're having an orgasm. (And hell, orgasm itself is a terror to be avoided.)

Who Benefits?

The vital question to ask when it comes to any policy is "Who benefits?"

You will almost never find the answer to be "everyone". The answer will almost always practically be "someone with a vested interest." So you need to determine who that is, and what form the benefit takes.

In the case of making weapons freely available the answer isn't immediately obvious, but, like a palimpsest, once you remove the obvious picture you see the one beneath.

Question: Who tends to profit the most during goldrushes? The one who supplies the tools to the miners. Who tends to profit the most from the hordes of people who dream of being famous artists or photographers? The art and photography suppliers.

And who benefits the most from distributing guns? Well, obviously the industry that manufactures and supplies them. As one side kills another the other side is going to want to even the score. This creates a steady stream of buyers for your product. Thus the notion of "defense" becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as more and more guns are purchased to "protect" yourself from the enemy as you try to revenge-kill them at them same time. There are vast sectors of society that have no desire to see groups engaged in internecine gun battles reach a reconciliation. In fact, these sectors want nothing more than to instigate and maintain feuds between Hatfields and McCoys. Situations such as that between Israel and Palestine, gang warfare in America's urban jungles, police vs favela kids in Rio de Janeiro, etc., are goldmines for weapons industries.

But who else benefits? It can't just be weapons makers, otherwise it would be a severely restricted industry, like the tobacco industry. What use does society derive from having their populace become a bunch of gun nuts?

Well, as we've seen with the Pavlovian success of the DHS's alert system, a society that lives in fear is a malleable society. The more people are afraid, the more easily they can be controlled as they look to "authorities" to help protect them. If you channel people away from things that are life-fulfilling and life-enhancing and move them towards living in isolated states of fear they become increasingly irrational and will seek guidance from "leaders" and "experts" to protect them.

Fear is a powerful tool for social control. The ultimate practical purpose of the american myth of "rugged individualism" is that it functions as an extremely effective "divide and conquer" strategy: it's a red-herring that can be used to blame victims for their own victimhood, rather than looking for systemic causes of inequality and injustice; it's used to promote distrust of others and to prevent communities from forming and sharing goods (a serious no-no for capitalism); it promotes disconnection and disassociation, and thus easily channels longing and desire into solipsistic consumerism. By reducing a sense of community and belonging it turns people into islands, reduces our sense of shared humanity, and increases our fear of the "other".

The truth is, once armaments are introduced into a society it's almost impossible to remove them. Once undesirable elements enter a society with weapons — say by massacring peaceful people living their daily lives — it becomes incumbent on that society to protect themselves. And perhaps this is the worst form of addiction that any society can face — because once weapons enter a society's bloodstream it remains there for the life of the host, requiring new and steady hits from the munition pushers.

Throw too many rats in a crowded cage, intermittently send a few volts through the floor, and they'll become so stressed out and angry that they will lash out and attack each other to the death; give one of them a gun, and pretty soon you've got a booming market addicted to fear and death clamoring to purchase your product.

There is no need for guns in heaven — but hell is littered with them.

The censors say they're protecting the family unit in America, when the reality is, if you suck a tit, you're an X, but if you cut it off with a sword, you're a PG."
   —Jack Nicholson

Babylon hates it when anyone actually enjoys life, rather than merely spends money in a vain attempt to buy the illusion of enjoyment. Dissipation, gluttony, bulimic overconsumption — these are not only legal but mandatory. If you don't waste yourself on the emptiness of commodities, you are obviously queer and must by definition be breaking some law. True pleasure in this society is more dangerous than bank robbery. At least bank robbers share Massa's respect for Massa's money.
   —Hakim Bey

We get the sense of how "barbarous" these Indians were when, in the 1880s, Congress prepared legislation to break up the communal lands in which Indians still lived, into small private possessions, what today some people would call admiringly, "privatization." Senator Henry Dawes, author of this legislation, visited the Cherokee Nation, and described what he found: "...there was not a family in the whole nation that had not a home of it's own. There was not a pauper in the nation, and the nation did not owe a dollar...it built its own schools and its hospitals. Yet the defect of the system was apparent. They have got as far as they can go, because they own their land in common...there is not enterprise to make your home any better than that of your neighbors. There is no selfishness, which is at the bottom of civilization."
   —Howard Zinn


Panic Induction Stress State Of National Unity Alert Logo [PISSONUAL]

In the interests of social control during difficult times it's important to infix a conditioned reflex in the average Murkan civilian to respond to color-coded terror alerts the way you can get chickens to play basketball.

Hence a new Terror Alert System has been developed to get people to jump as high as you tell them.

Since terrorist attacks can be predicted with the same degree of accuracy as tornadoes and earthquakes you might as well get people used to the idea of living with a vague sense of universal, impending doom. Doing so will help make unruly peasants law-abiding citizens wonderfully malleable (and entertaining!) as you adjust their sense of dread like a rheostat controlling a dining room chandelier.

Now you can do your part to get people to take seriously every pronouncement of the Department That Cries Wolf [DTCW] — add the Panic Induction Stress State of National Unity Alert Logo (PISSONUAL) to your website.

Here's the code:

Thank You!

The DTCW's
Panic Induction Stress State Of National Unity Alert Logo

Current Status

I'm Back [officially]

Even though I've been posting off and on since I announced a few weeks ago that I was taking a hiatus, I would now like to make it official that I have returned. I guess blogging for me has become an addiction — an addiction I felt I had to kick for a variety of reasons, some valid, most not. But, ultimately, I feel that I've finally found my medium for self-expression, so I was destined to return.

I would like to give my warm and sincere thanks to Harry, Jon, Tutor, Dennis T, Jim "Sweetcheeks" P, and Donna M for their encouragement and support — you've all helped hasten my return far sooner than I had anticipated, and helped me realize that — to be true to myself — this was something I had to do.

(Thank you also to Rick, Bruce, and Sunil Sharma for your kindnesses.)

As you can see I've got a new look. Though I may not have been posting as much as I would have liked during this time, I have been learning CSS, and have been having fun developing this new skin. I haven't tested it in all browsers so please let me know of any wonkinesses that shows up.

Finally, to thank my peers in the blogging community I would like to give them a treat they may use (or not) as they see fit. I'll be posting it very soon.

It's good to be back.



The Price of Freedom is Worth the Cost

Teacher Arrested After Bookmark Called Concealed Weapon

POSTED: 10:17 am EDT September 17, 2004
TAMPA, Fla. -- A weight may soon be lifted off a Maryland woman charged with carrying a concealed weapon in an airport.

It wasn't a gun or a knife. It was a weighted bookmark.

Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end.

Airport police said it resembled a weighted weapon that could be used to knock people unconscious. So the 52-year-old special education teacher was handcuffed, put into a police car, and charged with carrying a concealed weapon.

She faced a possible criminal trial and a $10,000 fine. But the state declined to prosecute, and the Transportation Security Administration said it probably won't impose a fine.

Harrington said she'll never again carry her bookmark into an airport.

"She was actually probably arrested because she was going to read on the airplane."
   —Jim "Sweetcheeks" P.


we are so fucked

Bush Tempers Expectations on Terror War

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush says staying the course in the war on terror will make the world safer for future generations, though he acknowledges an all-out victory against terrorism may not be possible.
"You cannot show weakness in this world today because the enemy will exploit that weakness," he said. "It will embolden them and make the world a more dangerous place."

When asked "Can we win?" the war on terror, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it. But I think you can create conditions so that the - those who use terror as a tool are - less acceptable in parts of the world."

'Coup plot': Thatcher son charged

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Mark Thatcher, the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, has been arrested and charged in South Africa with the financing of an alleged coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen suspected mercenaries have gone on trial in Equatorial Guinea accused of plotting to topple the oil-rich nation's president with the help of 70 men detained in Zimbabwe, officials said.

Russia prepared for pre-emptive strikes on 'terror bases' worldwide

MOSCOW (AFP) - Russia is prepared to make pre-emptive strikes on "terrorist bases" anywhere in the world, the Interfax news agency cited the country's chief of staff as saying.

"With regard to preventive strikes on terrorist bases, we will take any action to eliminate terrorist bases in any region of the world. But this does not mean we will carry out nuclear strikes," General Yuri Baluyevsky said Wednesday.

Baluyevsky added that Russia's choice of action "will be determined by the concrete situation where ever it may be in the world.

"Military action is the last resort in the fight against terrorism."

Russia rejects Powell's criticism, joins forces with Israe

HERZLIYA, Israel – While rejecting U.S. and EU criticism of its anti-terrorism reforms, Russia plans to adopt Israel's counter-insurgency methods in Moscow's war against Chechen rebels.

Russian officials said the government in Moscow has agreed to increase security cooperation with Israel and focus on counter-insurgency. The officials said the cooperation would include Israeli training and instruction on a range of issues, including aviation security and civil defense.

Rosneft-Shell joint venture to supply Caspian oil starting November

RBC, 16.09.2004, Moscow 18:28:15.Rosneft-Shell Caspian Ventures Ltd., the joint venture between Rosneft and British-Dutch Shell, has signed an agreement with NaftaTrans on oil supplies via the Caspian Pipeline System. The company will start supplying oil this November. Its monthly oil supplies are expected to amount to 100,000 tons, Rosneft told RBC. Oil produced in Chechnya is supposed to be supplied to the Caspian Pipeline System, too.

Russia and oil producing companies the Rosneft-Shell joint venture and LUKARCO are entitled to get access to the Caspian Pipeline System in the city of Kropotkin. Rosneft's Chechen-based subsidiary Grozneftegaz plans to boost oil production at an annual rate of 11 percent this year and to produce 2m tons of oil.

Russia Rebuts U.S. Criticism of Putin's Shake-Up

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (Reuters) - Russia curtly told the United States to stay out of its business Wednesday after U.S. criticism, echoed by the European Union, of President Vladimir Putin's plans for radical change that will boost Kremlin power.

Putin, citing the need for the reforms to beat terrorism, has said he will nominate regional governors himself in the future and called for changes to the electoral system that will effectively stop the rise of a strong parliamentary opposition.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, in an interview with Reuters, backed liberal criticism in Russia by saying the changes were "pulling back on some of the democratic reforms." He pledged to raise his concerns with the Russian leadership.

But Russia's foreign minister, speaking in Kazakhstan on the sidelines of a meeting of ex-Soviet states that Thursday will discuss a joint approach to fighting terrorism, said Washington had no right to impose its model of democracy on others.

"First of all, the processes that are under way in Russia are our internal affair," Sergei Lavrov said.

"And it is at least strange that, while talking about a certain 'pulling back', as he (Powell) put it, on some of the democratic reforms in the Russian Federation, he tried to assert yet one more time the thought that democracy can only be copied from someone's model," Lavrov said.

"We, for our part, do not comment on the U.S. system of presidential elections, for instance." The United States itself had been forced to take tough and controversial security steps after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on U.S. targets, he said.
EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten said a resolution to the Chechen conflict lay in "far-sighted, humane and resolute" policies rather than moves limiting democracy.

"I hope they (the solutions) are forthcoming and that the government of the Russian Federation will not conclude that the only answer to terrorism is to increase the power of the Kremlin," Patten told the European Parliament.
In Prague, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage expressed concern at signs that Moscow had become "a little bit more secretive" about its strategy for fighting terrorism.

But he also backed the Kremlin's view that there were no shades of gray between terrorist groups.

"Terrorism from our point of view and I think from the Russian Federation's point of view -- you cannot pick and choose among terrorist groups. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist," Armitage told reporters.

US debates military strikes on 'nuclear Iran'

The Bush administration's warnings that it will not "tolerate" a nuclear-armed Iran have opened up a lively policy debate in Washington over the merits of military strikes against the Islamic republic's nuclear programme.

Analysts close to the administration say military options are under consideration, but have not reached a level of seriousness that indicate the US is preparing actual action.

When asked, senior officials repeat that President George W. Bush is removing no option from the table - but that he believes the issue can be solved by diplomatic means.

Asked whether Israel would take military action if the US dithered, Mr Schmitt replied: "Absolutely. No government in Israel will let this pass ultimately."

Tom Donnelly, an analyst with PNAC and the American Enterprise Institute, says that while inflicting military damage is possible, the consequences rule out this option.

If the US started down the military road, it would have to consider going the whole way to invasion and occupation.

"We have to start thinking in terms of a post-nuclear Iran," he said, describing the Europeans as "hopeless" on Iran, and India and China boosting their energy relations with the clerical regime.

Henry Sokolski, head of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, says the US and its allies are in a state of denial, that it is too late to stop Iran from getting the bomb. It already has the capacity, he says.

Neither of the US and European options "to bomb or bribe Iran" would succeed and both could make it worse.
"The window of opportunity for disarming strikes against Iran will close in 2005," it warns, as key plants come on stream next year. It says Iran has two dozen suspected nuclear sites.

(Temporary) Continuance of the American Way of Life At Stake in Iraq

The American government officials and presidential candidates of both parties know all about Peak Oil and the fact that (UNDER ALL CIRCUMSTANCES) the American way of life (as we know it) is nearing its end. Even if the U.S. were to successfully continue its policy and maintain control of Iraqi oil and even extend the policy and control all Persian Gulf Oil, the end is in sight for the consumerist American way of life.

The American way of life is on borrowed time. Perhaps that is what the Project for the New American Century was all about. Perhaps the PNAC was an acknowledgment that American hegemony and even American "normalcy" cannot extend beyond 100 years. The reality is that the American way of life, according to Petroleum geologists and analysts cannot be maintained as we have known it even for another twenty years, in all likelihood. In fact, some believe that the American way of life has already begun to irreversibly change, and for the worse, and the change will be catastrophic.

For instance, American freedoms are being lost AT HOME. The installation of a surveillance apparatus and legal machinations to invoke a true BIG BROTHER process are well underway. In the intermediate future, American citizens will not only be unable to exercise a real ability to question their government and petition it for redress of grievances, but Americans will likely find themselves living in a techno-oriented police state in which they are in heavy debt, with all their assets and incomes monitored and even controlled by the central government. How much freedom could exist in that America?
The wealthy American and world elite already know all of the above and they are not only aware of it, but they are planning strategies to enhance their own survival and comfort at the expense of everyone else. But Americans of all social classes have a degree of priority in this planning over all Iraqis. Entire Iraqi citizens and infrastructure are deemed expendable. American warplanes are welcome to bomb Fallujah and Najaf and every other city in Iraq, and no more pretense is being made of serious rebuilding The principal idea behind the American invasion and occupation of Iraq was always to consolidate strategic control over Iraqi oil and with a secondary goal of attempting consolidation of American control over the entire Iraqi economy. The same wealthy Americans who skim the wealth of American workers for their own wealth also will skim Iraq's wealth for a period of time, if it is deemed cost-effective. There is no altruistic motive in the American invasion and occupation of Iraq whatsoever, never was, and never will be -- even if Kerry/Edwards were to win the presidency. You NEVER hear Kerry/Edwards talk about rebuilding Iraq, do you?

"The United States cannot afford to wait for the next energy crisis to marshal its intellectual and industrial resources...Our growing dependence on increasingly scarce Middle Eastern oil is a fool's game — there is no way for the rest of the world to win. Our losses may come suddenly through war, steadily through price increases, agonizingly through developing-nation poverty, relentlessly through climate change — or through all of the above."
   —James Woolsey, US Director of Central Intelligence, 1993 - 1995; Bush II Administration Adviser and Envoy, 2001 - Present



I'm only 50 pages into Zbgniew Brzezinski's "The Grand Chessboard" and one thing quickly becomes apparent to the perceptive reader: just how irrelevant democracy is in America.

"The Grand Chessboard" is Brzezinski's 1998 gameplan for how America can achieve global hegemony. It's a cogent and perceptive analysis of world geopolitics that forthrightly discusses the goals and strategies of the world's nations. It's like reading the brilliantly devised strategy of a master Risk or Diplomacy boardgame player as they figure out where to move their pieces and how best to form aggrandizing alliances.

The book begins, as do most, with certain unstated assumptions, the primary one here being that America has a right and necessity to pursue global hegemony. It's a grand historical narrative in which people don't exist, only countries do. It is a tale of boardroom diplomats moving pieces around a board, completely removed from the flesh-and-blood men, women, and children who happen to inhabit these countries, and for whom whatever dreams of self-determination they may entertain don't even enter the picture.

And the more you read the more you begin to realize that this is how the world is run. When the world's "great" leaders have their G8 and Davos conferences they are devising policies and their strategic implementations from the highest levels, with no consideration for what the people themselves may want and think. It is the world run from above, not from below. (And, as such, necessarily requires the tools of enforcement to do so. "The further and further away geographically decisions are taken, the more scope you have for incredible injustice." —Arundhati Roy)

Bill Moyers has discussed the Shadow Government of America at length. And here we have Brzezinski's book presenting an insider's view of how they see the world. (It is, in all honesty, a fascinating read.)

And then you think about the people who have been running American since WWII and you take a quick look at the list of names in key administrative positions going back to Truman, and you notice that the same names appear over and over again, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background. Criminals like Poindexter, hardcore authoritarians like Abrams and Negroponte, crooks like Cheney, genocidalists like Kissinger, running dogs like Powell. It quickly becomes apparent that policy in America is determined by a handful of powerful men answerable to nobody. There's a chain of key policy players that runs from John Foster Dulles and Prescott Bush through Kissinger and Brzezinski to Cheney and Perle. (And, let's not forget the shadowy Bush family dynasty itself.) The same figures are always in the background, setting the direction for America's ship of state. Any danger that could potentially alter this course is resolved through various agencies, whether by selective assassinations of influential people (JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X, Salvadore Allendre, Rafael Trujillo, Olof Palme, Orlando Letelier, etc.), overturning or disrupting democracies that refused to be client states (Panama, Indonesia, Greece, Guatemela, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, etc.), or pre-emptive foreclosure of challenges to the status quo (eg, using dirty politics to eliminate challengers to elective office, using effective propaganda techniques to frame the terms of debate, etc.).

America is nothing but a Multinational Corporation with a tenured Board of Directors, who every so often have to allow the plebs to pick between two hand-chosen senior administrators that pass muster. ("Passing muster", in this case, means that the actor can fit into the red shirt without flubbing their lines too much.) The only practical difference when new actors are chosen to fill their roles is how much they'll turn the rudder on the ship of state. The destination is always the same (ie, corporate global hegemony), but the tack may be different.

The nominees who are ordained to run for the slots are chosen with this in mind. Just think about it — how else do you account for a fucking loser like Kerry getting chosen over Kucinich, or even Dean? How else do you account for a loser like GW Bush getting picked over McCain? How else do you account for Nader being so viciously vituperated whenever he enters the fray (regardless of whatever you may think of him — in a healthy and functioning democracy he would be allowed to be heard); or the complete media-blackout of worthy candidates like Kucinich? And yet some billionnaire "populist" inbred like Ross Perrot gets to participate in the debate? And clinically insane candidates, like Pat Robertson, are not only taken seriously, but actually have a serious chance to be the republican's candidate for president?

For one thing, the Board only allows promotion from within the company; outsiders, like Nader and Kucinich, aren't even invited for an interview with HR — because they would turn the ship around. Basically, since the Board has two competing factions jockeying for control of the Company it is they who get to determine who their candidates will be. That's why pre-ordained, insider candidates like Kerry and Bush will always ultimately prevail against ostensible "grassroots" nominees like Dean and McCain. And because the Company's bylaws states that new administrators must be chosen by the stockholders every four years the two factions of the Board doll up their chosen nominees and put on a dog-and-pony show to lure the voters to allow their faction a chance to implement their strategy for the Company for the next four years.

(What's the goal of the Company? Simply to increase the size of the bank accounts of the Board of Directors and their nepotistic supporters.)

BushCo, (un)surprisingly enough, is a threat to the power elite because they're turning the rudder too much as they try to slake their insatiable greed. They are currently involved in a hostile takeover of the Board, and this is making the Board nervous:
The Bush administration has proved itself to be an insular group of inept, dishonest and dangerous CEO's of the corporation known as America. They have become very bad for business and the Board of Directors is now taking action. Make no mistake, the CIA works for "The Board" - Wall Street and big money. The long-term (very corrupt and unethical) agenda of the Board, in the face of multiple worsening global crises, was intended to proceed far beyond the initially destructive war in Iraq, toward an effective reconstruction and a strategic response to Peak Oil. But the neocons have stalled at the ugly stage: killing hundreds of thousands of people; destroying Iraq's industrial and cultural infrastructure as their own bombs and other people's RPGs blow everything up; getting caught running torture camps; and making the whole world intensely dislike America.

These jerks are doing real damage to their masters' interests.

Brzensink's next book directly addresses this issue to try to tack the ship back to course; meanwhile Gabriel Kolko does the same, but from the other side of the aisle in his cogent analysis that concludes with the assertion that BushCo may actually prove better for the world than Kerry.

Brzenski represents one strategy the Board wanted to pursue. BushCo represented the other. And as you read Brzenski's book, and then refer to BushCo's own blueprint for the New American Century, you realize the extent to which the entire Iraqi adventure was merely a matter of implementing a policy drawn up by one faction of the Board prior to their election. 9/11, WMD, the whole UN approval bullshit — all smoke and mirrors used to provide cover for BushCo's big play on the Risk gameboard. Do you think democracy means anything to them? Or to the Board of Directors running MurkaCo?

America's modern (entire?) history is primarily one of politics in the Boardroom between two factions, each trying to get their turn at the helm of ship of state. The factions may bitterly contest the route to get there, but both agree what kind of ship it is and where it's heading. Currently, there's a dust up in the boardroom as BushCo makes its power grab.

Be that as it may, the farcically painful "elections" America endures are, ultimately, a dog-and-pony show where each faction's candidates will say anything they wish to get them elected — it just doesn't matter in the end, because the Board will always get what it wants.

I'm the one who will not raise taxes. My opponent says he'll raise them as a last resort, or a third resort. But when a politician talks like that, you know that's one resort he'll be checking into. My opponet won't rule out raising taxes. But I will. And the Congress will push me to raise taxes and I'll say, 'No.' And they'll push, and I'll say, 'No.' And they'll push again, and I'll say to them: 'Read my lips: No new taxes!'
   —US President George Bush, campaign promise before raising taxes

He kept us out of war!
   —US President Woodrow Wilson, re-election campaign promise before plunging America into WWI

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of today.
   —US President Theodore Roosevelt [1906]

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist...We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
   —US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Farewell Address

If voting really changed anything it would be illegal.
   —Jello Biafra