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Ethel the Blog
Observations (and occasional brash opining) on science, computers, books, music and other shiny things that catch my mind's eye. There's a home page with ostensibly more permanent stuff. This is intended to be more functional than decorative. I neither intend nor want to surf on the bleeding edge, keep it real, redefine journalism or attract nyphomaniacal groupies (well, maybe a wee bit of the latter). The occasional cheap laugh, raised eyebrow or provocation of interest are all I'll plead guilty to in the matter of intent. Bene qui latuit bene vixit.

The usual copyright stuff applies, but I probably won't get enraged until I find a clone site with absolutely no attribution (which, by the way, has happened twice with some of my other stuff). Finally, if anyone's offended by anything on this site then please do notify me immediately. I like to keep track of those times when I get something right.


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Saturday, November 10, 2001

OneWorld reports of a new attempt to ban the importation of "conflict diamonds", i.e. diamonds tainted by their origin with vicious guerilla groups in Africa. Want to guess which Regime stalled this the last time it came up?
A bill to ban the import of "conflict diamonds"--those mined illegally by guerrilla groups in Africa--has gained new momentum in the United States Congress since Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network has been tied to the trade.

Aides on Capitol Hill say the bill, which has been stalled in Congress since February, may be approved by a key committee of the House of Representatives next week, a move which would speed up its progress before Congress adjourns for the year.

An import ban is critical to stopping the illegal trade, according to activists from the more than 100 human rights, relief, and church groups which back it. The U.S. imports roughly 65 percent of the US$7 billion dollars' worth of diamonds that are traded globally each year.

Conflict diamonds are mined in rebel-controlled areas and conflict zones in sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in Sierra Leone, Angola, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are then sold by rebel groups and their business associates to legitimate diamond buyers to raise millions of dollars needed for buying arms and sustaining their troops.

The smuggling has gained international attention, initially as a result of investigative work by British group Global Witness which first exposed the extent of these operations two years ago.

The most notorious of these cases involves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group in Sierra Leone known for its brutality against civilians, including amputating limbs of its victims, including small children; sexual enslavement and gang rape of girls and women; and the forced recruitment of children as soldiers.

Backed by the leaders of Liberia and Burkina Faso, who are reported to have personally profited from the conflict diamond trade, the RUF has kept itself in business by its control and exploitation of the country's rich alluvial diamond fields, according to recent reports to the United Nations Security Council, which has imposed sanctions against both the RUF and Liberia.

Legislation introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers called for a ban to be imposed on all diamonds from countries not co-operating with an international certification process currently being negotiated by 38 diamond-producing nations. The bill would also impose tough sanctions on nations found to be trading conflict diamonds.

A major hurdle toward passage of the bill was overcome last summer when the diamond and jewelry industry, which had initially opposed aspects of it, also endorsed the proposal.

The bill stalled, however, due to objections by the administration of President George W. Bush which wanted more discretion in deciding when to apply sanctions against a non-cooperating government.

Even after their corporate paymasters had given the bill the thumb's up - which probably indicates it was toothless at that point - the Bush Regime nuked it. But the Regime may at least give the bill lip service this time, if only after the Carlyle Group has "restructured" their diamond investment portfolio.
Activists hope that those objections may be lifted in the wake of a detailed investigative article published by the Washington Post last Friday which found that bin Laden's al Qaeda network has bought millions of dollars in diamonds over the past three years from the RUF and re-sold them at a significant profit to diamond dealers in Europe.

posted by Steven Baum 11/10/2001 04:55:09 PM | link

The Regime's Holy War, which started out as a Holy Mission to get Osama Bin Laden, has evolved to the point where getting the Focus Of All That Is Bad and Evil and Icky-Poo In The Modern World Well At Least This Week is no longer even a part of the Holy Mission.
USA Today reports the latest from the general in comand of the Holy War:
The U.S. combat commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that apprehending Osama bin Laden isn't one of the missions of Operation Enduring Storm. But Gen. Tommy Franks' remarks may come back to haunt him Friday morning when he meets with President Bush to brief him on the war's progress. Bush has said from the beginning of the operation that he wants bin Laden "dead or alive."

"We have not said that Osama bin Laden is a target of this effort," Franks told reporters at his first Pentagon briefing since the war began a month ago. Usually, Franks, the commander in chief of Central Command and third in the war's chain of command after Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, is headquartered in Tampa.

This article is also notable for another classic bit of doublespeak:
"Life will become so difficult for the al-Qa'eda and the Taliban that people will decide they'd prefer not to have them in their country at some point."
Now why would the people want to boot out OBL and the al-Qa'eda if the latter's lives became difficult? It's like saying I'll move out of my house if someone was firebombing my neighbors. On the other hand, if someone was firebombing my house, I might have a reason to leave. To use the favorite phrase of Bush the Lesser, "make no mistake", the carpet bombing is not at all intended to frighten only the Evil Ones.
posted by Steven Baum 11/10/2001 04:00:05 PM | link

BBC reports two versions of Osama Bin Laden's latest interview. The Regime "asked" the lapdog media to not televise OBL's messages for a reason. It's a lot harder to deliberately corrupt the text of a speech when the original is available. Unless you want to believe that the BBC has joined OBL in evil land, OBL did not claim to have chemical and nuclear weapons, although Big Brother apparently finds it useful for us to think so. Why do those who claim to have the moral high ground find it so necessary to lie all the time?
Osama Bin Laden has told the mass-circulation Dawn newspaper in Pakistan that his al-Qaeda group possesses chemical and nuclear weapons.

But, while the English-language newspaper carries a clear message from Bin Laden that he has access to such weapons, he makes no such claim in an Urdu-language version of the interview.

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir, the editor of the Urdu-language newspaper Ausaf, conducted the interview with Bin Laden, who is widely held responsible for the suicide attacks on the United States two months ago.

Dawn's English version quotes Bin Laden as saying: "If America used chemical and nuclear weapons against us, then we may retort with chemical and nuclear weapons. We have the weapons as a deterrent."

Mr Mir then asks Bin Laden where he got the weapons, which the al-Qaeda leader declines to answer.

But in the Urdu version of the article, Bin Laden does not threaten to use nuclear or chemical weapons.

"The US is using chemical weapons against us and it has also decided to use nuclear weapons. But our war will continue," he says, according to the BBC's own translation of the Ausaf article.

The two versions are otherwise very similar, says the BBC Monitoring unit.

posted by Steven Baum 11/10/2001 03:40:08 PM | link

Friday, November 09, 2001

Farid Alvie of India (via
Progressive Review) foists some insidious propaganda on us in a crass attempt to convince that he's a non-evil non-evildoer of non-evil.
As I switch from one international news channel to the next, scan one front-page headline and move to another, I am inundated with newsprint and television screens throwing labels my way with a cruelty that leaves my eyes, ears and ego bleeding profusely and begging for mercy. Or at least for a long commercial pause in hostilities on humanitarian grounds. "Is he/she a 'moderate' Muslim?" the media asks. "Pakistan is a 'moderate' Islamic state," they tell us authoritatively. "Can President Pervez Musharraf guarantee that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal rests within the control of the 'moderates' in his government?" they worry.

That's one of my favorite labels these days: "moderate". As a Muslim, I must walk around with the assumption that all non-Muslims believe that all 1.3 billion Muslims are fanatics (despite the many patronizing assurances given us to the contrary by that insufferable member of parliament who lives rent-free at No.10, Downing Street). Thus, I must always include the word moderate in any business introduction that I might need to make in future. ("Hello, my name is Farid Alvie. I'm a moderate Muslim journalist. I can provide your newspaper with a weekly column on the Pakistani entertainment scene for an incredibly cheap rate, if you're interested?")

No one in the media ever asks what catastrophe Ariel Sharon, the extreme Rightwing, "democratically" elected prime minister of the nuclear state of Israel, might wreak on the rest of the world in pursuance of his political goals. Shouldn't the Israeli "moderates" be better suited to keep permanent control of all of that country's strategic military assets? Should the "moderates" in India be similarly sanctioned to wrest control of that State's nuclear arsenal from the Hindu fundamentalist Bharatiya Janata Party-led government? . . .

Meanwhile, I remain a moderate Muslim, 30-something, Pakistani journalist who lives in the Middle East, has a whole host of Arab, black, white, infidel friends, loves Afghan cuisine, Woody Allen and Cohen Brothers movies, the music of Echo and the Bunnymen, Dido, Pathanay Khan and Vivaldi, the words of Maulana Rumi, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Arundhati Roy, Chinua Achebe, Ernest Hemingway and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, and utterly fail to comprehend prejudice, war, self-righteous cultural, racial, religious arrogance, and the appeal of country western music.

That one's getting the full cavity search if he ever shows his face in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
posted by Steven Baum 11/9/2001 05:14:22 PM | link

Rick Salutin writes of complexity, i.e. that territory you enter when you stop dividing everything into the categories of doubleplusgood and doubleplusungood.
Whatever the virtues of simplifying, you have to admit there aren't many places to go once you reduce a huge mess to something like good versus evil. As we've seen this past week, the news on so momentous a subject starts to dry up. Wednesday's Globe had nothing of it on Page 1 except a small piece on bioterror. It still suffuses our lives and global politics, but there seems little to say. When the Taliban asked for proof of guilt before extraditing Osama bin Laden, George Bush replied, "There's no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty, turn him over" -- the brusque way he treated appeals from the 152 people executed when he was governor of Texas. Yet dealing with that request could have been useful, not just regarding Osama bin Laden but in learning how terror cells operate, how controlled or autonomous they are, and so what countermeasures and expectations are appropriate. "I wouldn't put it past him," said the President this week, "to develop evil weapons to try to harm civilization," adding he had no evidence. I sometimes wish he'd read the odd thing as well as consulting his instincts.

Pursuing complexity, on the other hand, means encouraging opposition and debate, which the U.S. loves in theory but, oh boy, you should have seen Ted Koppel introduce a recent Nightline on dissent. He tied himself in knots warning viewers they might not like what they hear, but America stands for free speech etc. On and on as if in terror himself. Eventually, they went to mild cartoonist Ben Magruder, mildly chatting. This week on CNN's Talkback, a grad student from Berkeley raised the slightly complex issue of past U.S. support for Islamic fundamentalism. The host didn't even let the talk radio motormouths on the show jump the kid, she leaped in with, "He already told you he doesn't care why they recruited bin Laden."

Yet if you try to avoid complexity, you may end up at best delivering mixed messages, since reality is complex. On the last Saturday Night Live, a sketch had Attorney-General John Ashcroft urging Americans to go about their normal lives calmly and, by the way, be ready for another terror attack any time! In fact, most officials and politicians operate on two levels: the manure they spread for the masses and the things they say to each other. The latter is always more complex. Declassified documents from the start of the Cold War, for instance, show that America's battle against the spread of evil Communist dictatorship was, internally, mainly about protecting mundane U.S. economic and strategic interests. If you want a recent example, George Bush and Tony Blair said this week that peace in the Mideast is not essential to their war against terror. But everything they've done indicates they believe the opposite. The rhetoric relates to the policy, but in a complex, not simple, way.

Governments are one thing, intellectuals should be something else. They're supposed to help us think through complex matters. Yet I've run into a number, like the Globe's Marcus Gee or Hugh Segal at Queen's recently, who seem very keen on reducing the terror problem to an encounter with evil. Is it because they're scared apeshit like everybody else? Or is it that thinking this one through might require questioning assumptions they've held for a long time, like the beneficence and invincibility of U.S. foreign policy?

posted by Steven Baum 11/9/2001 05:06:46 PM | link

Houston Chronicle reports how a woman who accused Bush of shutting down an investigation of a funeral services company - one of his biggest campaign donors during his Texas gubornatorial campaigns - has been bought off.
Gov. Rick Perry has approved a settlement in a lawsuit filed by a former Texas regulator who accused President Bush of hindering an investigation into a funeral services company when he was governor, Perry's office said Thursday.

Nov. 9, 2001, 12:26PM Gov. Perry approves lawsuit settlement Ex-official claimed probe caused firing Associated Press AUSTIN -- Gov. Rick Perry has approved a settlement in a lawsuit filed by a former Texas regulator who accused President Bush of hindering an investigation into a funeral services company when he was governor, Perry's office said Thursday. Former Texas Funeral Service Commission Director Eliza May alleged she was fired in 1999 because of her investigation into SCI, the world's largest funeral company.

Perry approved the settlement about a week ago, spokeswoman Kathy Walt said.

A source close to the case told the Associated Press the settlement was for $210,000. The funeral services company, Houston-based Service Corp. International, was to pay about $55,000 and the state was to pay the rest.

Walt did not immediately know the terms of the agreement and May's attorney Derek Howard said any terms were to be confidential. He said he signed off on the deal about one month ago.

posted by Steven Baum 11/9/2001 01:39:41 PM | link

Washington Post tells how the GAO's investigation of President Cheney's energy task force has been put on indefinite hold.
This summer, the General Accounting Office was spoiling for an unprecedented legal and constitutional clash with Vice President Cheney.

Cheney had refused to turn over records from his energy task force, and the GAO, the 80-year-old investigative arm of Congress, was preparing to sue a federal entity for the first time. Comptroller General David M. Walker described the fight as a direct threat to the GAO's reason for being, a separation of powers issue that would determine whether the legislative branch could exercise the oversight role envisioned by the founding fathers.

"[Cheney's] attorneys are engaged in a broad-based frontal attack on our statutory authority," Walker told the Post in August. "We cannot let that stand."

Walker goes on to say that while this is on hold, there will probably be another congressional oversight battle with the Office of Homeland Security and Ubergruppenfuhtrer Ridge. Well, there might be, unless of course the GAO is declared an enemy of the state.
posted by Steven Baum 11/9/2001 11:28:44 AM | link

Someone begs to disagree with one of
yesterday's items. The item was a list of principles a Pakistani judge avers the U.S. is breaking in its pursuit of Bin Laden, the Taliban, etc.
Pakistan has close contacts with terrorists ... AND a judge who thinks we're not following the law in pursuing them!
Nevertheless, there was a 1999 indictment of bin Laden, and a 1999 UN security council resolution directing Afghanistan to turn him over to the US *or* a third party.
Here an indictment and a UN resolution are given as rebuttal to the Pakistani judge's claims that the US is doing whatever it wants to do, the tenets of international law be damned. The US has a long history of ignoring international law and UN resolutions - when it doesn't veto the latter in the first place. To take just one example, the International Court of Justice ruled the mining of Nicaragua's harbors in the 1980s illegal and an act of war. Reagan et al. laughed heartily at that one. If the US can use UN resolutions and international law when it's convenient and ignore them when it's not, then why can't other countries do the same? Hypocrisy is not a good way to lead by example.
How many years do we have to wait for Afghanistan to suddenly have a change of heart about this guy? When does secreting someone within your country become, in itself, an act of war?
If all countries secreting or training terrorists - and I mean an objective rather than situational definition of terrorist - whose "links" and "ties" are at least as convincing as those trotted out so far to convict Bin Laden, were said to be comitting an act of war, then there'd be one hell of a lot of wars going on. I'm sure a definition of when secreting someone within your country becomes an act of war could be hammered out, but the implications of a truly objective definition would prove most discomforting to many, and it would be ignored or selectively applied just as the official US definition of terrorism is now.
Is a government not responsible more for the safety of its citizens than for a mass murderer? If they harbor the mass murderer when they have been directed otherwise -- not by a bully, but by the entire world community, including leaders of their own religion and ethnically similar nations -- are they not responsible?
Again, many countries harbor mass murderers. Take Israel, for instance. Sharon's bloody history is well known, culminating with his facilitating the massacres at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in 1982. His links to those massacres are every bit as compelling as the links between Bin Laden and 9/11. Even an Israeli Supreme Court commission found him responsible for the massacre. Ah, but his victims were just a pack of ragheads. And by the way, there are multiple UN resolutions telling Israel to cease its settling of the West Bank.
If the people in this nation have overthrown three or five governments in the last 20 years, but support this one, do they not bear some of the responsibility for their own suffering?
Ah yes, it's the fault of every starving refugee in Afghanistan that the US and the USSR had their last big proxy war in their country. A war which devastated the infrastructure, left half a million mines buried all over the country, and left the most vicious and brutal groups in charge, i.e. with the most weapons. That's right, it's the fault of the oppressed people of Afghanistan that they're in their present situation every bit as much as it was the fault of the oppressed people of Poland, Romania and the other Soviet satellites that they were in their situations. Blaming the victim doesn't sound nearly as good on the other side of the fence, does it?
The Taliban can end this tomorrow.

We have a moral duty to carry this through, Pakistani judges abusing the language of law notwithstanding.

The moral imperative rears its ugly head. And how many refugees in Afghanistan have to die before either Bin Laden dies or is caught? And since the Taliban are now officially as guilty as Bin Laden, will that be enough? Do we keep bombing until they all give up or are dead? Do we kill everyone in the Taliban or just the non-moderates? And since Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia all have "links" and "ties" to 9/11 do we then start bombing them until whatever groups defined as the "evil ones'" in those places are all captured or dead? At what point will the desire for revenge be satisfied? At what point will the Holy War on Terrorism end, or will it keep filling the coffins of successive Terrorist Nations of the Week and the coffers of the Carlyle Group forever?

I've got no argument with someone who tells me that since we've got the biggest guns in the world, we can jolly well kill as many people as we want to for as long as we want to until we feel good about ourselves again. Just spare me the moral imperative nonsense. Or, even better, go to an Afghan refugee camp and tell the residents how you're really, really sorry but moral imperatives demand that you exacerbate their situation and, besides, it's mostly their own damned fault anyway. The tears of gratitude will probably fall like rain.
posted by Steven Baum 11/9/2001 10:05:52 AM | link

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Al Martin's
latest tells of the sartorial upgrade given to the New Founding Fathers. So why do I believe Al more than the Pentagon? For one thing, Al hasn't admitted lying to me yet.
Then there's this joke I keep hearing about the Northern Alliance and how the Department of Defense is trying to clean them up for the media to make them look like an "effective fighting force," when they're actually "15,000 illiterate, lice-ridden, flea bags." That's how Rumsfeld actually described them, according to an inside source.

On CNN, the Department of Defense is making a special show to clean up the Northern Alliance, to make them look like they're united. The Northern Alliance leader says, "We're going to attack the Taliban."

The Department of Defense gave them all clean uniforms from US inventories and brand new boots and taught them how to march in a straight line for the cameras. Then they said, "This is our new effective fighting ally."

What they didn't say, of course, is that they offered to give the Northern Alliance some old M-60 Mark III American tanks, which would be the equivalent of the Taliban's T-72 Russian tanks. They didn't want them. The general said, "No, we don't want any American weapons. We want Russian weapons. At least they work"

The Russians are making a big propaganda deal out of this. They say, "Oh, we're helping the Northern Alliance. We're doing our share in the alliance against terrorism because we're providing them with a bunch of tanks." What the Russians aren't saying is that they're not giving them away for nothing. The United States is quietly compensating the Russians for them.

Uncle Al also explains another of the consequences of the Ultra Super Happy Patriot USA Fun Act:
There has been a vast loosening of standards that law enforcement now can detain a US citizen as a material witness. This is what's called "non volition material witness" status. Normally the only way that a law enforcement agency (whether it's county, state or federal) can hold someone as a material witness is, if A/ that person makes statements indicating that he has seen a crime perpetrated by a third party or has knowledge of a crime perpetrated by a third party, or B/ if the state proves (and they actually have to prove it in court through a court hearing by actually convincing a judge) that a potential material witness does have information that would place that person in jeopardy.

That way the State has the right to hold a citizen against his will. But now there is no judicial review necessary. The State no longer has to prove that a person knows anything, or has seen a crime being committed, or even knows that a crime has been committed. The police only have to suspect. They don't have to present any proof for judicial review.

If you combine this with the fact that habeas corpus has been scrapped, this means that if a citizen is walking down the street minding his own business, he could be handcuffed and detained at any time by any law enforcement agent (county, state or federal) because all the jurisdictional boundaries have been dropped under the guise of State Security. You could be detained indefinitely - only by the allegation of a law enforcement official that said citizen has either witnessed the commission of a crime or has knowledge of a crime by a third party.

There's even something for the kiddies this week.
By the way, the Department of Defense is re-instituting its Children Film Propaganda Department, which was previously done away with in 1962. They evidently have the full cooperation of the Department of Education.

In the 1950s, when this Department was at its peak, every week, the teacher would bring in an eight-millimeter film reel from the Department of the Defense. It would show a guy who looked just like Mr. Rogers - with a cardigan sweater - and his voice was always the tone of warm fudge. He would say, "Now boys and girls, what do you do if you see an atom bomb going off?" And all of us nippers would say, "You duck - and cover."

And then the guy would pause, as if waiting for the response, and he'd say, "That's right, boys and girls. You duck - and cover."

Then the next sequence would show the typical red brick All-American Schoolhouse that hadn't existed for a hundred years. Anyway it would show this archetypical elementary schoolhouse with atom bombs going off all around it. Then since the children all ducked and covered, they would show the end of the school day with all of the plump rosy-cheeked nippers piling out of the school bus with smiles on their faces - while all around them there's nothing but a smoldering pile of rubble.

Of course, the schoolhouse and your own house was all right - while all around you there was just a smoldering pile of radioactive rubble.

And now the propaganda returns. The films used to come with instruction sheets from the Department of Defense - with a shoebox full of the "Better Dead Than Red" lapel pins. They must have made millions of them.

Remember they'd say, "Good Boys and Girls Get the 'Better Dead Than Red' Pins."

They will be re-instituting these kinds of propaganda films to be shown to elementary schoolchildren. They will be called "Good Citizen" films. They will teach that "Good Children Obey" and "Good Children Do Not Question Authority."

Those curious about the future might want to rent The Atomic Cafe.
posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 01:29:02 PM | link

Here's my list of quasi-regularly perused (sort of) non-weblog and non-personal political sites. Your mileage may vary.

AJR Newslink
Albion Monitor
American Free Press
American Newspeak
American Politics Journal
Atlantic Monthly
BBC World
Boston Globe
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists
Central Europe Online
Common Dreams
Common Cause
Corporate Watch
Covert Action Quarterly
Daily Howler
Democratic Underground
Dollars and Sense
Earth Times
Eat the State
Emperor's New Clothes
Failure Is Impossible
Frankly Speaking
From the Wilderness
Free Speech TV
Global Free Press
Guerilla News
Hidden Agendas
History News Network
Independent Media Center
Intelligence Online
In These Times
IntrepidNet Reporter
Journal X
Legitimate Government
Left Business Observer
London Tim es
Los Angeles Times
Al Martin
Media Whores
Middle East Newsline
Military Corruption
Monthly Review
Multinational Monitor
Nando Times
Narco News
New Republic
NY Review of Books
New York Times
Obscure Store
One World
Online Journal
Orwell Today
Greg Palast
Progressive Review
Progress Report
PR Watch
Public Eye
Public I
Radio Free Europe
Red Pepper
Russian Observer
SF Gate
Smirking Chimp
Strawman's Revenge
Texas Observer
Third World Traveler
Tom Paine
Village Voice
Washington Monthly
Washington Post
What Really Happened
Yellow Times

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 01:02:30 PM | link

"The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality. Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press-in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of LIBERAL excess during the past (few) years."

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 11:36:33 AM |

E. Galen tells of patient dumping in U.S. hospitals.
Public Citizen's Health Research Group recently published the sixth in a series of reports on US hospital emergency room practices, entitled "Questionable Hospitals: 527 Hospitals That Violated the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act-A Detailed Look at `Patient Dumping.'" Passed by the United States Congress in 1986 as a section of the Social Security Act, the EMTALA provides that when a hospital emergency department denies medical screening, denies stabilizing treatment it has the capacity to provide, and/or inappropriately transfers an individual with an unstabilized emergency condition, that hospital is illegally "dumping" the patient.

Public Citizen examined the US government's Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) enforcement of the act. Through the Freedom of Information Act, the group obtained the names of hospitals that have violated the act. The violations were confirmed by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), a federal agency within the DHHS. (HCFA was renamed and is now called the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services.)

The current report primarily covers the years 1997, 1998, and 1999, with some violations from 1996 (not covered in previous reports) and 2000. The data demonstrates:

  • For-profit hospitals violate the act nearly twice as often as not-for-profit hospitals.
  • A patient's insurance status influences hospital compliance with the act. A patient may not be covered by insurance or may have coverage, such as an HMO, which requires preauthorization for treatment and frequently denies payment when the exam rules out an emergency condition.
  • Over 90 percent of the hospitals guilty of violations had breached the screening, stabilizing treatment or transfer provisions of the act, the most serious categories of offenses.
  • Less than one-third of the hospitals identified as engaging in illegal patient "dumping" were fined, and the total of such fines averages barely $1 million a year-a pittance for the trillion-dollar health care industry.

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 11:22:36 AM | link

Michel Chossudovsky explores the links and ties between the CIA and there Pakistani counterparts the ISI before and after 9/11. Recall that General Ahmad was dismissed as head of the ISI at the request of the U.S. after Indian intelligence revealed and the FBI confirmed his connection to Mohammed Atta. If these sorts of links and ties were discovered vis a vis Osama Bin Satan, loyal lapdog Tony Blair would be shouting them from the rooftops as eternally damning proof of his guilt.
Pakistan's chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad "was in the US when the attacks occurred." He arrived in the US on the 4th of September, a full week before the attacks. He had meetings at the State Department "after" the attacks on the WTC. But he also had "a regular visit of consultations" with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon during the week prior to September 11.

What was the nature of these routine "pre-September 11 consultations"? Were they in any way related to the subsequent "post-September 11 consultations" pertaining to Pakistan's decision to cooperate with Washington. Was the planning of war being discussed between Pakistani and US officials?

On the 9th of September while General Ahmad was in the US, the leader of the Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated. The Northern Alliance had informed the Bush Administration that the ISI was allegedly implicated in the assassination.

The Bush Administration consciously took the decision in "the post September 11 consultations" with Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad to directly "cooperate" with Pakistan's military intelligence (ISI) despite its links to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and its alleged role in the assassination of Commander Masood, which coincidentally occurred two days before the terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, senior Pentagon and State Department officials had been rushed to Islamabad to put the finishing touches on America's war plans. And on the Sunday prior to the onslaught of the bombing of major cities in Afghanistan (October 7th), Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad was sacked from his position as head of the ISI in what was described as a routine "reshuffling."

In the days following General Ahmad's dismissal, a report published in the Times of India, revealed the links between Pakistan's Chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad and the presumed "ring leader" of the WTC attacks Mohamed Atta. The Times of India article was based on an official intelligence report of the Delhi government that had been transmitted through official channels to Washington. Quoting an Indian government source Agence France Press (AFP) confirms in this regard that: "The evidence we [the Government of India] have supplied to the US is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism."

The revelation of the Times of India article has several implications. The Indian intelligence report not only points to the links between ISI Chief General Ahmad and terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta, it also indicates that other ISI officials might have had contacts with the terrorists. Moreover, it suggests that the September 11 attacks were not an act of "individual terrorism" organised by a separate Al Qaeda cell, but rather they were part of coordinated military-intelligence operation, emanating from Pakistan's ISI.

The Times of India report also sheds light on the nature of General Ahmad's "business activities" in the US during the week prior to September 11, raising the distinct possibility of ISI contacts with Mohamed Atta in the US "prior" to the attacks on the WTC, precisely at the time when General Mahmoud and his delegation were on a so-called "regular visit of consultations" with US officials.

In assessing the alleged links between the terrorists and the ISI, it should be understood that Lt. General Ahmad as head of the ISI was a "US approved appointee". As head of the ISI since 1999, he was in liaison with his US counterparts in the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Pentagon. Also bear in mind that Pakistan's ISI remained throughout the entire post Cold War era until the present, the launch-pad for CIA covert operations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans

The existence of an "ISI-Osama-Taliban axis" was a matter of public record. The links between the ISI and agencies of the US government including the CIA are also a matter of public record. The Bush Administration was fully cognizant of Lt. General Ahmad's role. In other words, rather than waging a campaign against international terrorism, the evidence would suggest that it is indirectly abetting international terrorism, using the Pakistani ISI as a "go-between".

The Bush Administration's links with Pakistan's ISI --including its "consultations" with General Ahmad in the week prior to September 11-- raise the issue of "complicity". While Ahmad was talking to US officials at the CIA and the Pentagon, ISI officials were allegedly also in contact with the September 11 terrorists.

In other words, according to the Indian government intelligence report, the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had links to Pakistan's ISI, which in turn has links to agencies of the US government. What this suggests is that key individuals within the US military-intelligence establishment might have known about the ISI contacts with the September 11 terrorist "ring-leader" Mohamed Atta and failed to act.

Whether this amounts to the complicity of the Bush Administration remains to be firmly established. The least one can expect at this stage is an inquiry. What is crystal clear, however, is that this war is not a "campaign against international terrorism". It is a war of conquest with devastating consequences for the future of humanity. And the American people have been consciously and deliberately misled by their government. Whether this amounts to the complicity of the Bush Administration remains to be firmly established.

And the American people have been consciously and deliberately misled by their government.

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 11:20:28 AM | link

Mufti Taqi Usmani is a judge at the Shariah Appellate Bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He
writes about "the brand new set of principles in human, moral and international values that the rulers of the United States have given to the world" after Sept. 11. This is nothing much more than a review of the basic principles of jurisprudence so often recited by the U.S. and its supporters as proof of U.S. moral superiority, and how those principles are now being blithely ignored. This will of course be labeled "enemy propaganda" by the usual suspects, and it will also be slyly or not so slyly insinuated that the judge is just another raghead anyway.
  • Guilt has to be proven before a punishment can be meted out to an accused i.e. innocent until proven guilty is such an established principle since antiquity that not one civilization in the world has ever differed with it. But in the case of Osama Bin Laden and Afghanistan the decision to take direct action against them was taken the very first day of the incident. The new principle now states that one with might and power can accuse any one it deems fit and can dispense punishment at will. The mighty neither needs to prove the guilt nor has to wait for the decision from any court of law for the one it has accused.
  • Until this day it was an accepted principle that the benefit of doubt always went to the accused. If the evidence that exists against the accused contains an element of ambiguity the accused could never be punished under such circumstances. Now the freshly introduced principle states that the benefit of doubt goes to the one who unilaterally decides to accuse another, implying that the accused can be declared a convict simply on the basis of doubt.
  • To this day the international law and norms dictated that if an accused happens to be in another country, he or she can be tried in a court in that country only, unless there is an explicit treaty for extradition between these countries in which case the accused may be handed over to the complaining country to be tried in a court of law. There exists no Extradition treaty or agreement between US and Afghanistan. The only civilized set of solutions presented under the circumstances was that either the accused be tried in a court in Afghanistan or the US enters into an extradition agreement and by virtue of that demand for the accused. Dismissing both of these options and demanding that "Our accused be handed over to us" resembles the practice of the mediaeval times of ignorance when warring tribes resorted to such demands.
  • Another established principle of civilized society has been that the punishment can only be given to the one who has committed the crime not to another person instead. The innovative new principle now allows that along with the criminal punish the whole country and its innocent civilians. In fact in the present American move the very person who is accused to have committed the crime and is sought to be punished is tucked in safety and instead thousands of those people are being maimed, made homeless and destitute who had probably never even heard the name of World Trade Center.
  • International norms dictate and US itself has on numerous occasions advised conflicting parties to settle issues through talks and negotiations but in the case of Afghanistan it simply announced that doors are completely closed to negotiations. Another new fundamental that emerges is that if you have the might and power you need not negotiate or talk, simply run over the less powerful.
  • A recognized principle has been that a sovereign state cannot be forced to participate in a war. Now a new principle has been brazenly made acceptable that if a mighty and powerful country wishes, it can coerce a smaller country to act against its conscience and join the "coalition" or else be prepared to be consigned to the Stone Age. In this way, a powerful bully can put together a large coalition of its choice to thrust upon a pauperized and weak nation if it so desires. The small and less powerful countries have been deprived not only of the right to act according to their conscience but even the right to remain neutral has been made non-existent; the only option for the weaker country is to side with the bully.
  • In whatever laws are passed in the international forums and bodies, so much so that even in the case of individual resolutions every word used in the drafts is thoroughly reviewed and only after long debates the selection of a word is made for the draft resolutions (very rightly so). The purpose behind such prolonged deliberations has been to keep the resolutions clear of ambiguity lest a member state draw advantage from the loose ends creating conflicts and disagreements as a result. However, the recent anti-terrorism resolution passed by the Security Council of the United Nations in a matter of hours contains no definition of the concept of "terrorism" opening up the doors wide open for the mighty on the earth to accuse anybody of terrorism and for that instantly flash the Security Council's resolution to give legitimacy to its action.
  • Taking a human life is that extreme step which attracts immense precautions in framing of laws. And even when the law necessitates that a life be taken, a capital punishment be meted out, the methods devised for the execution are ensured to live up to the standards of equity and justice. Now the new edict. The US has passed a new law empowering its intelligence agencies to employ whatever means they deem fit to execute or kill "terrorists". So therefore, these American intelligence agencies will now sit on judgment to declare somebody a terrorist, decide about the fate of his or her life and even devise their own ways of bringing about the execution.
  • International laws governing the conduct of wars view as criminal acts the senseless bombing of civilian targets, hospitals, Red Cross centers etc. But, in the past three weeks the impunity with which the civilians are being bombed and hospitals targeted, and the brazenness shown over and above all this - that not a word of remorse or apology is forthcoming is further consolidating the principle that for the mighty every (criminal) act is legitimate. The question is, will the new set of principles that is being given to the world and new precedents that are being drawn along these lines, will these eliminate terrorism or lend perpetuity to it? Will the world become a more peaceful place as a result or will be inflamed in a vicious cycle of violence? Will these new principles breed love or promote intense hatred?

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 11:18:37 AM | link

Washington Post tells how some folks kept their wits about during the Sept. 11 attacks, and got out with more than their lives.
More than $100 million from accounts handled by a World Trade Center brokerage was discovered missing in the days after the terrorist attack, accordin g to a lawsuit.

The suit brought by Dirk Karreman, of Queensland, Australia, accuses First Equity Enterprises owner Andre Koudachev and other executives of "spending or absconding (with the money) to a presently unknown location."

The $108 million belongs to 1,400 investors in 14 countries, according to several foreign news accounts. Karreman claims he lost about $2 million and is seeking that amoun t in compensatory damages and $100 million in punitive damages.

According to court papers filed Wednesday, executives informed a trader 11 days a fter the terrorist attack that Koudachev had disappeared with the investors' money and "they were never going to see him again."

The executives allegedly tried to enlist the trader in a cover-up; he instead rep orted the case to authorities, the court papers said.

A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn confirmed that prosecutors have started an investigation into the missing money. No one has been charged.

posted by Steven Baum 11/8/2001 11:06:45 AM | link

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Slashdot supplies the winner of the "damned clever bastard of the week" award. Jacques Gelinas has created a Linux kernel patch that allows several independent Linux servers to be running inside a single PC. In the words of the DCB:
I have enhanced the kernel to allow several independant virtual servers running on the same box (sharing the same kernel as well). I introduced 2 new system calls (new_s_context and set_ipv4root) allowing much independance between the virtual servers. Virtual servers are independant enough and "real" enough that you can supply root password to the virtual server administrators. Virtual servers may be described
  • May run various network services, binding to the same ports without special configuration. Services are started normally (sysv script, whatever the distro you are using).
  • Have independant process list, so they can't interfere. You can't see or send signal to process in other vservers (or the root server)
  • I have also modified the capability system a little, so those virtual server administrators can't take over the machine. I have introduced a per-process capability ceiling, inherited by sub-process. Even setuid program can't grab more capabilities..
  • Update packages normally, create users, Use any admin procedure/tool
Maybe such a project has already been done. Anyway, I have written a lot of documentation about it (how it works, pro and con and so on). It works on top of 2.4.10 or 2.4.11 (probably anything). I would really like to get some comments.

posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 04:55:09 PM | link

Common Dreams repeats a War Street Journal report about the Bush Regime bailing out their pals in the private prison industry.
Like pioneers from an earlier time, Corrections Corp. of America nearly met its demise here in the Mojave Desert.

The private-prison operator spent $106 million in 1998 to build a giant prison in the sand, confident it would land a contract to house California prisoners. What CCA officials didn't anticipate, however, was a sudden stall in the growth of California's prison population and fierce opposition from unionized state prison guards worried about their jobs. The prison remained empty and helped push CCA, then struggling with management problems and mounting debt, to the brink of financial disaster.

The company's desperation should have presented an opportunity to Uncle Sam. While state prison populations appeared to be leveling off, the head counts in federal prisons were growing more rapidly than ever, fueled by tougher drug and immigration laws. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons needed more beds, and the empty prison here offered immediately available capacity. Presumably, the bureau could negotiate a fire-sale price.

As it turned out, the contract signed last year was a bonanza for CCA. The Bureau of Prisons agreed to pay above-market prices and, on top of that, big cash bonuses if the company achieved vaguely defined performance targets.

Most important, the Bureau of Prisons guaranteed CCA a 95% occupancy rate -- an arrangement almost never included in state private-prison contracts, which typically base payment on the number of beds actually filled. Here in California City, the federal government agreed to pay for 95% of the beds, whether it needs them or not. For now, the prison is full, but the guarantee provides important insurance if demand flags again.

The government didn't stop with CCA, which sparked the creation of the private-prison market nearly 20 years ago and now commands 52% of it. Of the five private prisons now operating under contract with the Bureau of Prisons, three belong to CCA and two to Wackenhut Corrections Corp., the industry's No. 2 player, which has had its own financial problems. All of the contracts are generous by conventional industry standards, as they include occupancy guarantees and long-term renewal options.

George Wackenhut is an old family fixer, er, friend of the Bush Dynasty, and if you dig deep enough (i.e. barely scratch the surface) you'll undoubtedly find plenty of Bush connections over at CCA.
posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 02:55:21 PM | link

Progressive Review tells of the travails of the Edible Ballot Society of Canada.
At least three members of the Edmonton Edible Ballot Society have been charged with eating their ballots in the last federal election. The charges follow a year-long investigation by Elections Canada into the groups' culinary activities.

Marika Schwandt is alleged to have liquefied her ballot with soy milk and fruit before drinking it, and Mike Hudema reportedly sauteed his ballot in a tangy stir fry. Witnesses claim that Chad Blackburn ate his ballot raw (clearly Chad is a masochist with an iron stomach). The first court appearance will take place on Wednesday, September 26th at 9am. Smoothies, anyone?

Approximately one hundred members of the Edible Ballot Society ate their ballots at polling stations across Canada during the last election, and the group suspects that more members will be charged.

Special Investigators from Elections Canada have been visiting members of the group since January, and interrogating polling clerks.

Those who partook in a ballot meal face up to five years in jail or a fine of up to $5000. "I guess there really is no such thing as a free lunch", remarked one ballot-eater after receiving a court summons.

The trio have been charged under sections 167(2)(a) and 489(3)(e) of the Canada Elections Act. These sections were intended to prevent people from rigging elections by destroying other people's ballots, but in this case, Elections Canada has stretched the law to catch ballot eaters.

The trio ate their ballots because they refuse to participate in a system where casting a vote for some lying tool once every four years passes for democracy. They want to draw attention to the shallow nature of our procedural electoral process, and spark dialogue on participatory alternatives.

Their recipes included Ballot Tar Tar, Ballot Fondue and Ballot Flambe.
posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 02:41:15 PM | link

Marijuana Policy Project (via Progressive Review) tells how Bush, Ashcroft and their ilk are saving us from evil evildoers of evil.
On October 25, with our nation still focused on the war against terrorism, 30 DEA agents raided the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center, which distributed medical marijuana to nearly 1,000 seriously ill people, most of whom have AIDS.

The DEA seized all of the center's computers, files, bank account, plants, and medicine. The clinic, which had been the largest and most well run medical marijuana distribution center in southern California, is now out of business, and its patients are now combing the streets to buy marijuana from street dealers.

In response to the raid, a U.S. Justice Department spokesperson said, "The recent enforcement is indicative that we have not lost our priorities in other areas since Sept. 11," according to The New York Times on October 31.

Can another Enabling Law be far away?
posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 02:33:46 PM | link

An excerpt from Joseph Trento's
The Secret History of the CIA.
When I ventured to his pleasant house in Arlington in late 1985, I found him coming to grips with this though. "I realize how I have wasted my existence, my professional life," he told me. He was not bitter - just uncomfortable with the thought. . . The last time I saw James Angleton, his face always thinner than thin, had changed little, even though the cigarettes he would not give up had destroyed his lungs with cancer. The other cancer that was eating away at him was the suspicion and fear that came with his job. He was a man estranged by his career from his wife and children and dying in total emotional isolation.

Within the confines of his remarkable life were most of America's secrets. "You know how I got to be in charge of counterintelligence? I agreed not to polygraph or require detailed background checks on Allen Dulles and 60 of his closest friends." His monologue would stop only for a sip of tea or a violent fit of coughing. "They were afraid that their own business dealing with Hitler's pals would come out. They were too arrogant to believe that the Russians would discover it all." The real problem, Angleton concluded, was that "there was no accountability. And without real accountability everything turned to shit."

All the trappings of Angleton's legend were gone by this time, except for his love of exotic tea. But now, this man who had struck fear into most of his colleagues-this man who had been able to end a CIA career with a nod or a phone call-unassuming house in Arlington seemed empty. " You know, the CIA got tens of thousands of brave people killed. . . We played with lives as if we owned them. We gave false hope. We-I-so misjudged what happened."

I asked the dying old man how it all went so wrong.

With no emotion in his voice, but with his hand trembling, Angleton replied: "Fundamentally, the founding fathers of the U.S. Intelligence were liars. The better you lied and the more you betrayed, the more likely you would be promoted. These people attracted and promoted each other. Outside of their duplicity, the only thing they ad in common was a desire for absolute power. I did things that, in looking back on my life, I regret. But I was part of it and loved being in it. . . . Allen Dulles, Richard Helms, Carmel Offie, and Frank Wisner were the grand masters. If you were in a room with them you were in a room full of people that you had to believe would deservedly end up in hell." Angleton slowly sipped his tea and then said, "I guess I will see them there soon."

posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 02:29:24 PM | link

A shibboleth that inevitably sends the Bush Regime and its supporters into apoplectic fits is the supposed activism of the federal courts. They wish to return us to a better, brighter day when judges were "strict constructionists" who left the legislating to the legislators, a day when men in black robes built shrines to the Constitution and trod not an inch beyond its inviolable boundaries. A War Street Journal scribbler summed it up his book length rant by saying that America has "all the earmarks of a juristocracy" as judges "have assumed unprecedented authority over our lives, usurping powers once delegated to elected lawmakers."

Mark Kozlowski took the time to actually study the history of judicial activism in the U.S. As it turns out in almost every "good old days" argument, the golden age wasn't so golden.

Observing the America of the 1830's, Alexis de Tocqueville declared that judges possessed "immense political power." This power rested upon the comprehensive reshaping of the common law, undertaken largely by state court judges, that took place throughout the first half of the 19th century. The explicit goal of this legal revolution was to make the principles of commercial law amenable to the needs of an industrializing economy of nationwide scope. Thus, J.W. Hurst, the dean of American legal historians, wrote almost 50 years ago that, in laying the indispensable legal foundations of American commerce, not legislatures but judges "did most of the work." It was the courts, says Hurst, that "enlarged the array of procedures and instruments to promote dealing at a distance and on credit, and gave a contract emphasis to relations of employment, agency and lease." What is more, judges were fully conscious of their policymaking role and wholeheartedly embraced it. Consider the pronouncement of the U.S. Supreme Court in the Charles River Bridge case of 1837, which rejected the claim of a Massachusetts corporation to the effect that the state was constitutionally barred from incorporating a competing enterprise. The practical results of upholding such a claim, said the Court, would be dreadful:

"We [would] be thrown back to the improvements of the last century, and obliged to stand still, until . . . the old turnpike corporations . . . shall consent to permit these States to avail themselves of the lights of modern science, and to partake of the benefit of those improvements which are now adding to the wealth and prosperity, and the convenience and comfort of every other part of the civilized world."

Later in the century, the decisions of American courts were central to the post-Civil War settlement that reunited the country at the expense of newly free African-Americans. In enacting the post-Civil War constitutional amendments extending freedom, equality, and suffrage to African-Americans, says Eric Foner, Congress conferred "much of the burden for enforcing blacks' civil and political rights on the federal judiciary." However, through a series of tortured rulings giving these amendments the most parsimonious scope, the federal courts were instrumental in establishing the Jim Crow social order. Again, judges forthrightly acknowledged that their decisions were not based upon legal considerations alone, but also upon considerations of policy. Most famously, in the Civil Rights Cases of 1883, the Supreme Court struck down the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which mandated equality of access to public conveyances and accommodations, in part on the ground that such legislation was simply not needed so long after emancipation. The Court cruelly declared that, while a newly freed slave might rightly be afforded "the aid of beneficent legislation . . ., there must be some state in the progress of his elevation when he takes the rank of mere citizen, and ceases to be the special favorite of the laws."

Later in the 19th century, American courts became a central institutional obstacle to unionization. William Forbath, in his book Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement, puts the matter succinctly: "Nowhere else among industrial nations did the judiciary hold such sway over labor relations as in nineteenth and early-twentieth century America. Nowhere else did trade unionists contend so constantly with judge-made law." The judge-made law that unionists had to contend with most frequently was the labor injunction, a court order enjoining a strike. State and federal courts issued thousands of labor injunctions from the 1880's onward such that, as the labor historian David Montgomery has declared, "by the 1920's almost any strike, whatever the political affiliations of its leaders, was likely to face some sort of court injunction." For good measure, courts also invalidated more than 25 state statutes that prohibited courts from enjoining strikes. In doing so, noted Oliver Wendell Holmes, judges were preventing "social experiments that an important part of the community desires," in favor of their own views of the proper handling of labor relations.

posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 11:09:07 AM | link



posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 10:38:56 AM | link

AP item tells how the Bush administration's legal hit man is yet again using federal power to steamroll over the right of a state to govern itself. One could dig up a huge steaming pile of Bush campaign trail shrieks about the evil feds oppressing the poor, helpless states, but why bother?
Attorney General John Ashcroft gave federal drug agents the go-ahead Tuesday to take action against doctors who help terminally ill patients die, a move aimed at undercutting Oregon's unique assisted-suicide law.

The decision, outlined in a letter to Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson, would allow the revocation of drug licenses of doctors who participate in an assisted suicide using a federally controlled substance.

While Bush and his legal stormtrooper Ashcroft seem to have plenty of time to go after those attempting to obtain relief from horrible pain - in this assisted suicide case as well as in their renewed attack on those using marijuana for relief from chemotherapy - they just don't seem to have the manpower to investigate things like the terrorists in the anti-abortion movement. Another sentence in the story might provide a clue why:
Since then, conservative, religious and anti-abortion groups have mounted a campaign to try to block the Oregon law.
Bush, Ashcroft, and their spiritual compadres could kill two birds with one stone by sending the "kill doctors for Jesus" crowd after the doctors in Oregon.
posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 10:13:22 AM | link

Sydney Morning Herald provides what may be more pieces of the puzzle, although since none of it was announced by the Pentagon it can only be described as "unconfirmed." But I just can't resist anything that mentions the Carlyle Group, and I'll back off only after they offer me a piece of the action.
US special agents were told to back off the bin Laden family and the Saudi royals soon after George Bush became president, although that has all changed since September 11, it was reported today.

And the BBC2's Newsnight program also said the younger George Bush made his first million 20 years ago with an oil company partly funded by the chief US representative of Salem bin Laden, Osama's brother, who took over as head of the family after his father Mohammed's death in a plane crash in 1968.

The program said it had secret documents from the FBI investigation into the terror attacks on New York and Washington which showed that despite the myth that Osama is the black sheep of the family, at least two other American-based members of it are suspected of links with a possible terrorist organisation.

The program said it had obtained evidence that the FBI was on the trail of bin Laden family members living in the US after, and even before, September 11.

A document showed that special agents from the Washington field office were investigating Abdullah, a close relative of Osama, because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a suspected terrorist organisation, it said.

The program said it had found where he used to live with another close relative, Omar, also an FBI suspect, in Falls Church, Virginia, a suburb of Washington. The house was conveniently close to WAMY, it said, and just a couple of blocks down the road was a place listed by four of the alleged hijackers as their address.

The US Treasury has not frozen WAMY's assets, and insists it is a charity, the program said, yet Pakistan had expelled WAMY "operatives" and India claimed WAMY was funding an organisation linked to bombings in Kashmir.

The FBI did look into WAMY, but for some reason agents were pulled off the trail, it said.

The program has uncovered a long history of shadowy connections between the State Department, the CIA and the Saudis, it said.

The former head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah from 1987 to 1989, Michael Springman, told the program: "In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high-level State Department officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants.

"People who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained there. I complained here in Washington to Main State, to the inspector-general and to Diplomatic Security and I was ignored."

He added: "What I was doing was giving visas to terrorists - recruited by the CIA and Osama bin Laden to come back to the United States for training to be used in the war in Afghanistan against the then Soviets."

The US wanted to keep the pro-American Saudi royal family in control of the world's biggest oil spigot, even at the price of turning a blind eye to any terrorist connection - so long as America was safe, the program said.

The program said the younger George Bush made his first million 20 years ago with an oil company partly funded by the chief US representative of Salem bin Laden, Osama's brother, who took over as head of the family after his father Mohammed's death in a plane crash in 1968.

Young George also received fees as director of a subsidiary of Carlyle Corporation, a little-known private company which in just a few years of its founding has become one of America's biggest defence contractors, and his father, Bush Senior, is also a paid adviser, the program said.

And it became embarrassing when it was revealed that the bin Ladens held a stake in Carlyle, sold just after September 11, it added.

The program said it had been told by a highly-placed source in a US intelligence agency that there had always been "constraints" on investigating Saudis, but under President Bush it had become much worse.

After the elections, the intelligence agencies were told to "back off" from investigating the bin Laden family and the Saudi royals, and that angered field agents, the program added.

The policy was reversed after September 11, it reported.

The program was told by FBI headquarters that it could not comment on its findings. A spokesman reportedly said: "There are lots of things that only the intelligence community knows and that no one else ought to know.

posted by Steven Baum 11/7/2001 09:50:56 AM | link

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

James Petras tells how the big banks launder money.
Private Banking is a sector of a bank which caters to extremely wealthy clients ($1 million deposits and up). The big banks charge customers a fee for managing their assets and for providing the specialized services of the private banks. Private Bank services go beyond the routine banking services and include investment guidance, estate planning, tax assistance, off-shore accounts, and complicated schemes designed to secure the confidentiality of financial transactions. The attractiveness of the "Private Banks" (PB) for money laundering is that they sell secrecy to the dirty money clients. There are two methods that big Banks use to launder money: via private banks and via correspondent banking. PB routinely use code names for accounts, concentration accounts (concentration accounts co-mingles bank funds with client funds which cut off paper trails for billions of dollars of wire transfers) that disguise the movement of client funds, and offshore private investment corporations (PIC) located in countries with strict secrecy laws (Cayman Island, Bahamas, etc.)

For example, in the case of Raul Salinas, PB personnel at Citibank helped Salinas transfer $90 to $100 million out of Mexico in a manner that effectively disguised the funds' sources and destination thus breaking the funds' paper trail. In routine fashion, Citibank set up a dummy offshore corporation, provided Salinas with a secret code name, provided an alias for a third party intermediary who deposited the money in a Citibank account in Mexico and transferred the money in a concentration account to New York where it was then moved to Switzerland and London.

The PICs are designed by the big banks for the purpose of holding and hiding a person's assets. The nominal officers, trustees and shareholder of these shell corporations are themselves shell corporations controlled by the PB. The PIC then becomes the holder of the various bank and investment accounts and the ownership of the private bank clients is buried in the records of so-called jurisdiction such as the Cayman Islands. Private bankers of the big banks like Citibank keep pre-packaged PICs on the shelf awaiting activation when a private bank client wants one. The system works like Russian Matryoshka dolls, shells within shells within shells, which in the end can be impenetrable to a legal process.

The complicity of the state in big bank money laundering is evident when one reviews the historic record. Big bank money laundering has been investigated, audited, criticized and subject to legislation; the banks have written procedures to comply. Yet banks like Citibank and the other big ten banks ignore the procedures and laws and the government ignores the non-compliance.

Over the last 20 years, big bank laundering of criminal funds and looted funds has increased geometrically, dwarfing in size and rates of profit the activities in the formal economy. Estimates by experts place the rate of return in the PB market between 20-25% annually. Congressional investigations revealed that Citibank provided "services" for 4 political swindlers moving $380 million: Raul Salinas - $80-$100 million, Asif Ali Zardari (husband of former Prime Minister of Pakistan) in excess of $40 million, El Hadj Omar Bongo (dictator of Gabon since 1967) in excess of $130 million, the Abacha sons of General Abacha ex-dictator of Nigeria - in excess of $110 million. In all cases Citibank violated all of its own procedures and government guidelines: there was no client profile (review of client background), determination of the source of the funds, nor of any violations of country laws from which the money accrued. On the contrary, the bank facilitated the outflow in its prepackaged format: shell corporations were established, code names were provided, funds were moved through concentration accounts, the funds were invested in legitimate businesses or in U.S. bonds, etc. In none of these cases - or thousands of others - was due diligence practiced by the banks (under due diligence a private bank is obligated by law to take steps to ensure that it does not facilitate money laundering). In none of these cases were the top banking officials brought to court and tried. Even after arrest of their clients, Citibank continued to provide services, including the movement of funds to secret accounts and the provision of loans.

The second and related route which the big banks use to launder hundreds of billions of dirty money is through "correspondent banking" (CB). CB is the provision of banking services by one bank to another bank. It is a highly profitable and significant sector of big banking. It enables overseas banks to conduct business and provide services for their customers - including drug dealers and others engaged in criminal activity - in jurisdictions like the U.S. where the banks have no physical presence. A bank that is licensed in a foreign country and has no office in the United States for its customers attracts and retains wealthy criminal clients interested in laundering money in the U.S. Instead of exposing itself to U.S. controls and incurring the high costs of locating in the U.S., the bank will open a correspondent account with an existing U.S. bank. By establishing such a relationship, the foreign bank (called a respondent) and through it, its criminal customers, receive many or all of the services offered by the U.S. big banks called the correspondent.

Today, all the big U.S. banks have established multiple correspondent relationships throughout the world so they may engage in international financial transactions for themselves and their clients in places where they do have a physical presence. Many of the largest U.S. and European banks located in the financial centers of the world serve as correspondents for thousands of other banks. Most of the offshore banks laundering billions for criminal clients have accounts in the U.S. All the big banks specializing in international fund transfer are called money center banks, some of the biggest process up to $1 trillion in wire transfers a day. For the billionaire criminals an important feature of correspondent relationships is that they provide access to international transfer systems - that facilitate the rapid transfer of funds across international boundaries and within countries. The most recent estimates (1998) are that 60 offshore jurisdictions around the world licensed about 4,000 offshore banks which control approximately $5 trillion in assets.

One of the major sources of impoverishment and crises in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Russia and the other countries of the ex-U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe, is the pillage of the economy and the hundreds of billions of dollars which are transferred out of the country via the corresponding banking system and the Private Banking system linked to the biggest banks in the U.S. and Europe. Russia alone has seen over $200 billion illegally transferred in the course of the 1990s. The massive shift of capital from these countries to the U.S. and European banks has generated mass impoverishment and economic instability and crises. This in turn has created increased vulnerability to pressure from the IMF and World Bank to liberalize their banking and financial systems leading to further flight and deregulation which spawns greater corruption and overseas transfers via private banks as the Senate reports demonstrate.

The increasing polarization of the world is embedded in this organized system of criminal and corrupt financial transactions. While speculation and foreign debt payments play a role in undermining living standards in the crisis regions, the multi-trillion dollar money laundering and bank servicing of corrupt officials is a much more significant factor, sustaining Western prosperity, U.S. empire building and financial stability. The scale, scope and time frame of transfers and money laundering, the centrality of the biggest banking enterprises and the complicity of the governments, strongly suggests that the dynamics of growth and stagnation, empire and re-colonization are intimately related to a new form of capitalism built around pillage, criminality, corruption and complicity.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 04:14:17 PM | link


Come on everybody
Get on your feet
Get with the beat
There's a brand new dance craze
Sweeping the nation
And it's called the funky western civilization.

Well there's a riot in the courthouse, there's a fire in the street
There's a sinner being trampled by a thousand pious feet
There's a baby every minute bein' born without a chance
Now don't that make you want to jump right up and dance?

Let's do the funky
The funky western civilization
It's really spunky
It's just like summertime vacation
You just grab your partner by the hair
Throw here down and leave her there.

They put Jesus on a cross, they put a hole in JFK
They put Hitler in the driver's seat and looked the other way
Now they've got poison in the water and the whole world in a trance
But just because we're hypnotized, that don't mean we can't dance.

We've got the funky
The funky western civilization
It's really spunky
It's just like summertime vacation
You just drag your partner through the dirt
Leave him in a world of hurt.

Life in the Foodchain - Tonio K
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 03:15:24 PM | link

According to
Anthony Browne in the Observer:
Cannabis is a 'wonder drug' capable of radically transforming the lives of very sick people, according to the results of the first clinical trials of the drug.

Tests sanctioned by the Government are proving far more successful than doctors, patients and cannabis campaigners ever dared hope. Some of the patients are simply calling it a 'miracle'.

Taking the drug - which it is still illegal for doctors to prescribe - has allowed a man previously so crippled with pain that he was impotent to become a father; a woman paralysed by multiple sclerosis to ride a horse for the first time in years; and a man who couldn't sit up in a chair on his own to live without a care.

Until now claims of the benefits of the drug for certain conditions have been anecdotal. But the preliminary results of the UK government trial, started last year, suggest that 80 per cent of those taking part have derived more benefit from cannabis than from any other drug, with many describing it as 'miraculous'.

The results make it almost inevitable that the Government will bow to public pressure and legalise the cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes by 2002. Scientists now predict that cannabis - first used for medicinal reasons 5,000 years ago - will follow aspirin and penicillin and become a 'wonder drug' prescribed for a wide range of conditions.

Stay tuned for the hysterical backlash from the current U.S. Drug Fuhrer, all the past Drug Fuhrers, the Commander in Thief, and all right-thinking individuals who stand to gain money and/or power from the Holy War on Drugs.
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 02:58:22 PM | link

Sam Smith comes up with a list of "some of the restrictions on American freedoms that were less than a generation old, each instituted, we were told, to protect us from a danger, a crisis or a threat to national security." The list is from 1997.
  • Roadblocks as part of random searches for drivers who have been drinking or using drugs.
  • The extensive use of the military in civilian law enforcement, particularly in the war on drugs.
  • Black school children in Prince George's County MD are being taught by the police how to behave when stopped or arrested. It is assumed by both school officials and the cops that it will happen.
  • The use of handcuffs on persons accused of minor offenses and moving violations.
  • Jump-out squads that leap from police vehicles and search nearby citizens.
  • Much greater use of wiretaps and other forms of electronic surveillance.
  • Punishment before trial such as pre-trial detention and civil forfeiture of property.
  • Punishment of those not directly involved in offenses, such as parents being held responsible for the actions of their children, employers being required to enforce immigration laws, and bartenders being made to enforce drinking laws.
  • Warrantless searches of persons and property before entering buildings, boarding planes, or using various public facilities.
  • Closing of public buildings or parts of buildings to the public on security grounds.
  • Increased restrictions on student speech, behavior, and clothing. Increased mandatory use of IDs.
  • Increasing restrictions on attorney-client privacy.
  • Greatly increased government access to personal financial records.
  • Loss of a once widely presumed guarantee of confidentiality in dealings with businesses, doctors, accountants, and banks.
  • The greatest incarceration rate of any industrialized country in the world.
  • Mandatory sentencing for minor offenses, particularly marijuana possession.
  • Increased surveillance of employees in the workplace.
  • Laws in 11 states that make it a crime to suggest that a particular food is unsafe without a "sound scientific basis" for the claim.
  • Random traffic stops of blacks are so frequent that the drivers are sometimes said to have been stopped for DWB - driving while black.
  • Increased use of charges involving offenses allegedly committed after a person has been halted by a police officer, such as failure to obey a lawful order.
  • Widespread youth curfews.
  • Expanded definition of pornography and laws against it.
  • Increased use of private police forces by corporations.
  • Persons being forced to take part in line-ups because of some similarity to actual suspect.
  • Loss of control over how personal information is used by business companies. -
  • Eviction of tenants from homes where police believe drugs are being sold.
  • Public housing projects being sealed to conduct home-to-home searches.
  • Use of stereotypical profiles (including racial characteristics) to justify police searches.
  • Seizure of lawyers' fees in drug cases.
  • Warrantless searches and questioning of bus, train, and airline passengers.
  • Random searches of school lockers.
  • Random searches of cars in school parking lots.
  • Increased number of activities requiring extensive personal investigation and disclosure.
  • Lack of privacy in transactions such as video rental or computer use.
  • Video surveillance of sidewalks, parks and other public spaces.
  • Involuntary drug testing increasingly used as a prerequisite for routine activities such as earning a livelihood or playing on a sports team.
  • Steady erosion by the courts of protection against search and seizure.
Word up for freedom, mofo!
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 02:51:33 PM | link

Jay Hanson stops candy-coating the issue:
In this essay, I examine the economic model of "rational man" and how the model legitimizes prevailing public policy. "Rational man" supposedly weighs the important, known variables and then makes that decision which is most likely to achieve the desired end (the greatest "utility"). Thus, we can say that public policy is founded on the notion that people calculate the utility of each decision, somewhat like a computer.

Phillip Morris: "Smoking is a personal choice, and so is quitting."

But modern cognitive science has shown that people do not make decisions by calculating the utility of each decision. Thus, economic "rational man" is a fraud that leaves the public exposed to ongoing economic and political exploitation by corporate media experts. Moreover, this fraud provides economists and political leaders with effective "moral cover", or in the words of Adolph Eichmann, "a kind of Pontius Pilate feeling" that leaves them free of all guilt for their dirty deeds.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 02:39:15 PM | link


Got Economics?

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 02:29:57 PM | link

interview with Stan Goff supplies much that is provocative. About the media and the Holy War on Terrorism:
The media has never accurately portrayed a military operation as long as I've been involved with this stuff. I've never seen an accurate portrayal to this day, not one. But then again I've never seen an accurate portrayal by the military public affairs officers either. The public is kept pretty much in the dark about how military operations are really conducted and what may be going on now and I think we are all being kept deeply in the dark about Afghanistan right now. I strongly suspect that the collateral damage as they call it is far worse than they are going to allow anyone to know. And it's a dumb operation. It's just not a very smart operation in a lot of ways. I think it's comparable in many respects to Somalia.
Well, I'll have to give you a little background on this. When I was with Special Forces, we were part of a foreign policy doctrine called IDAD, which is Internal Defense and Development. Special Forces basically had four primary kinds of missions. Some of them were combat missions but a lot of them were advice and assistance kinds of missions. That's changed. There's a much stronger doctrinal and technological emphasis now on something called OOTW or Operations Other Than War and that's got some sinister implications for us at home because it really is part of this whole sort of merger between police and military forces.

The problem in Somalia and the problem here is related to a military that's still predicated on a structure that was developed out of the Cold War where we were facing off against the Warsaw Pact. Everything was designed to stop the Russians at the Fulda Gap. Afghanistan is a far different reality. When I went with the task force to capture Mohammed Fara Aidid, we had all these gadgets, the most technologically sophisticated Special Operations Force probably ever assembled up to that time and that's why people were stunned in the United States when all of a sudden that task force comes home with its dead and wounded and its tail between its legs and its been defeated by this feudal warlord. There's been all kinds of nonsense written about why this happened, how this happened, you know there sort of this perennial claim that politicians keep soldiers from exerting the necessary force to get the job done. It's the same thing they said about Vietnam. It's really a military rationalization, it's not real.

On the "O"-word:
Now that's not the real trick. The real trick here is if you divide the world up, just for the sake of argument into OPEC which is primarily Gulf States. Venezuela is also a member but we're just talking about Gulf States and we'll call them OPEC. Then you look at all the non-OPEC and I just call them NOPEC for the sake of argument. NOPEC production peaked years ago. It peaked in the last decade. It's on the way down so NOPEC is losing its relative power to control the market and NOPEC is something that the United States was very heavily invested in for the purpose of offsetting the potential power of the Gulf States as oil producers. But now OPEC is on the rise until 2010, so between now and 2010, OPEC, every day that goes by gains more power to control the market, the world market for petroleum.

The only thing that attenuates that problem for the U.S. right now is that after 1973 they began a very aggressive program of offering all sorts of perquisites to the Saudis and convinced them to invest their petroleum money in U.S. financial instruments and so the dollar became the petrodollar you see. But when the dollar became the petrodollar it also became the foundation currency for world trade and that's one reason the dollar has maintained its strength is because it's what's oil is traded in. The Saudi regime that protects our interests there, right now, and some of the other regimes in the region who would potentially protect our interests are in a lot of trouble. There's a great deal of social unrest and when you look at them attacking Osama Bin Laden in a place like Afghanistan.

You have to wonder since Osama Bin Laden represents right now and I think represents very well strictly from the point of view of whether they have influence or not, this not Islam but Islamism, the radical fundamentalism that's taken root in really a sea of declining social conditions over there. Because the Saudi standard of living and the standard of living throughout the region as oil profits have gone down and as corruption has rooted itself further and further in these regimes has created again this ocean of potentially 100 million people whose lives are getting worse all the time and this is really fertile ground for something like this Islamism, this radical fundamentalism to take root.

So Osama Bin Laden in a sense is really the potential opposition in a place like Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia is the prize. It is the prize. Whoever controls Saudi Arabia controls oil worldwide and Bin Laden said himself a couple of years ago at a public interview that he was going to raise the price of oil to $144 a barrel. Now I don't know where that number came from or why it was that arbitrary and specific but at $50 a barrel U.S. power dissolves. Our stock market crashes.

On liquidating capital:
I think historically we can go back and see that when big capital gets in trouble and the market's not working for them anymore they have to find a way, cause right now there is a worldwide production over-capacity that's created a recession that's about to go deep and about to go long and one of the ways that they've traditionally gotten themselves out of that is to liquidate a bunch of that capital and the best way to liquidate capital real fast is war. That's the way they correct the problem they use non-market mechanisms to correct for a fallen rate of profit within a market economy.
Oil is running out in the long term and we have 6 to 7 billion people living on the planet right now that thoroughly depend on this one resource that's not just a regular commodity. It's the life blood of the entire global capitalist system and it's going to be cut off and it's going to be cut off by nature it's not going to be cut off by us but in the process I think again that you'll see a retrenchment of power and it's that retrenchment that I think is extremely dangerous.
On the notorious Carlyle Group and their intimate connections with the Bush Dynasty:
Start with Bush. Start with the de facto president right now. He was the CEO of Harken Energy. That is his own little company, you know. As it turns out, he wasn't very good at it. You know, his dad, was an oil man. So you've got two generations in oil right there. Okay. And his dad was also you know the former President, the former Vice-President, the director of Central Intelligence. George Herbert Walker Bush is on the board of Carlyle Group. Carlyle Group is right now a $12 billion dollar equity company, but it's heavily invested in all kinds of things, including oil and it's also I think 11th or 12th whatever, biggest defense contractors in the country right now. It's getting very incestuous. And in fact, Carlyle put Bush junior on the board of one of its subsidiaries, which is Cater Air. A little shuttle service, a little puddle jumper service. Sort of as a sop to dad.

The new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Robert Jordan, is a Dallas lawyer and an old Bush booster. Jordan works for a Baker Botts. That's a firm with offices in Riyadh. And Baker Botts represents Carlyle Group over there. And the Baker in Baker Botts is James Baker, who was Secretary of State for George Herbert Walker Bush, but he is also the guy that engineered the whole Florida coup d'etat, in the 2000 election. He was the midwife of that little venture.

Some of the other folks in Carlyle, Fidel Ramos, former Chief of the Philippines. Park Tae Joon of South Korea. John Major. Everybody remember John Shalikashvili, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs? And you can go back with the Bush family. Prescott Bush, Rockefellers, Duponts, Standard Oil, Morgans, Fords, all these other folks were anti-Semites and anti-Communists way back. They also actually financed the rise to power of Adolph Hitler. They financed it. I mean, that's a historical fact. It's irrefutable. And Prescott Bush did business with the Nazis all the way up to 1942 until he was censured by the United States under the Trading with the Enemy Act. And after the War, he turned right around and ran for Congress in Connecticut and won. This is an interesting family.
Secretary of State, Colin Powell. This man has no diplomatic credentials. He was the former chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of sudden he is in charge of the entire diplomatic corps of the United States. That's interesting just by itself. He has cash holdings or stock holdings in a number of defense contractors. Tony Prinicipi, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Lockheed Martin, defense contractor. The biggest defense contractor in the world. Andrew Card, Chief of Staff... General Motors. Secretary of the Navy, Gordon England. General Dynamics. Secretary of the Airforce, James Roche, Northrup Grummond.. Secretary of the Army, General Thomas White retired. Enron Energy. These folks are (chuckles) all defense contractors or oil people. The whole bunch of them are. Donald Rumsfeld is Secretary of Defense. What people don't realize is he is also the former CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals. They get big defense contracts. But he is also with General Signal Corporation, a defense contractor. And interestingly enough, he is also heavily invested in biotech, which is probably gonna make a killing here pretty soon with whatever Anthrax vaccines. ...I've got a picture of Cheney and Rumsfeld in May 2000 at the Russian-American Business Leaders Forum together. Arms around each other, and smiling. Dick Armitage. Deputy Secretary of Defense, he's a guy like me, he's a former special ops guy, Seal. He had to leave the Reagan Administration because he was up to his neck in Iran contra drug problems. And now he's working directly with the Russian Mafia. And he is also a board member of Carlyle. Remember that? Chief of Carlyle is Mr. Carlucci, who is also with the Middle East Policy Council, you see how this stuff intersects?

On what to do:
It's important to say that politics is hypocritical, but most of us already know that. That's just the nature of politics. It's not designed to be morally consistent. What they tell you is a story to legitimatize an action that has a motive that they can't expose to the public, otherwise, they'll lose their support. I think our job is to expose those motives to the public, and not just ...you know, well, the United States did bad things too. First of all, in a deeply racialized society, like ours, it doesn't fly. Most people in this country don't care that we're bombing Afghani children. They don't care. Because there's already a predominant racist ideology in this country that says if you're not white Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, in some cases, that you're less than human, that your life has less value. Or if you get into this jingo patriotism it's like I don't care if we kill a million of them as long as we save one American life. So, we're not going to gain anyone's ear by comparing moralities, I don't think. Some people you will, some people will be called to account on that. But I think we have to appeal to the self-interest too and what's going on right now is going to be very bad for most Americans in a very short period of time.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 02:13:37 PM | link

Lisa Hoffman lays the groundwork for a solid investment plan, or you can just contact the folks over at the Carlyle Group for a piece of the action.
America's war in Afghanistan so far has racked up a bill of at least $400 million, and could rocket up to $1 billion a month for the duration of the conflict, according to defense budget analysts.

The Pentagon has not yet provided even a ballpark accounting of the cost of Operation Enduring Freedom, an air campaign that meets the one-month mark Wednesday.

But the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a nonprofit Washington think tank with a record of accurate estimations of past military operations, has cobbled together one for the first 25 days of the current conflict, which began Oct. 7 with a barrage of U.S. bombs and cruise missiles against Taliban and al Qaeda targets in the Central Asian country.

Using the sticker price of the 6,000 or so bombs and missiles lobbed, as well as the fuel and other costs associated with flying 1,600 air-strike sorties, the budget analysts calculated the cost of the first three and a half weeks at somewhere between $400 million and $800 million. Sorties are defined as round-trip missions flown by B-2, B-52 and other warplanes.

Those estimates do not include the price tag of Operation Noble Eagle, the Pentagon's assignment of 40,000 National Guard and reserve troops to homeland security duty of guarding U.S. airports and other potential targets, as well as conducting air patrols over several cities. The budget group says this segment of the war on terrorism costs conservatively at least $100 million a month.

One of the most expensive aspects of the Afghanistan campaign is the cost of the ordnance itself. For example, cruise missiles lobbed by ships, warplanes and submarines cost between $1 million and $2 million each. Through October, the Navy alone had launched about 90 of the $1 million Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Other bombs also add to the bottom line. Each GBU-28 "bunker-busting" laser-guided bomb carries a price tag of $125,000. CBU-72 unguided cluster bombs cost about $5,000 each.

Additional expense comes from the cost of warplane fuel. It takes about $5,000 in fuel per hour of flying time for the Navy's F/A 18 fighter-bombers, which are traveling hundreds of miles from U.S. aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea to Afghanistan, and back.

And the cost for deploying the 1,000 Army ground troops to Uzbekistan adds another $25 million.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 01:19:13 PM | link

George Monbiot writes of the latest shenanigans of the WTO regarding "free" trade.
The draft declaration due to be discussed this weekend was mostly written during two exclusive meetings: in Mexico in August and in Singapore last month. Though the World Trade Organisation has 142 members, only 21 nations, among them the world's richest and most powerful, were permitted to attend. The documents the meeting produced were then submitted to the other members for approval. They were not permitted to make substantial changes.

As a result, the draft declaration contains almost none of the concessions that developing countries, representing most of the world's people, have requested. Powerful nations have refused to stop subsidising their exports of meat, grain and sugar: by dumping them in weak countries at artificially low prices, they destroy the livelihoods of local farmers. Britain and Germany have insisted that they will not relax the laws governing the patenting of drugs: poor countries facing public health disasters will continue to be denied cheap medicine.
Now, as Christian Aid has revealed, some governments are dispensing with negotiations altogether. Britain's Department for International Development, run by Clare Short, has decided to bypass the World Trade Organisation and apply direct pressure on poor nations to open up their markets to foreign companies. The department has told Ghana that aid money for a water project will be conditional on the country's privatisation of its water industry. Without consulting its own people, the government of Ghana has been forced to start raising the price of water by between two and three times, to prepare the industry for sale to British, French or US companies.

Though Ghana's water infrastructure is hopelessly inadequate, the corporations bidding for the contracts appear to be under no obligation to use their profits to invest in new pipes or treatment plants. They will make millions, but already Ghanaians are being forced to draw their water from polluted rivers and ditches, infested with cholera and guinea worm, as they can't pay the new rates.
nternational Financial Services, London is one of several British groups hoping that the trade talks can be expanded to cover a wide range of service industries. The proposed new general agreement on trade in services, due to be discussed alongside the other treaties in Qatar, could oblige countries to privatise key public services such as health, education and water. The leaked page contained the minutes of meetings held by the secretive "Liberalisation of Trade in Services" committee set up to liaise between IFSL and the British government.

British civil servants, the researchers discovered, were worried that campaign groups opposed to the general agreement on trade in services were becoming too effective. The minutes recorded that Matthew Lownds, from the Foreign Office, "noted that the campaign by the World Development Movement in particular was leading to a broadening of concerns... He also pointed to the need to coordinate business responses to the NGO's allegations". Malcolm McKinnon, a civil servant from the Department of Trade and Industry, complained that the case for the general agreement was "vulnerable" when campaigners asked for "proof of where the economic benefits lay" for poor nations. The committee decided to spend 50,000 to 70,000 to "counter the NGOs."

More damagingly, the civil servants appear to have been passing critical European Union papers to the business people on the committee, including negotiating documents from other countries, which could be enormously valuable to companies hoping to anticipate hostile positions. These papers, the Corporate Europe Observatory points out, are unavailable even to members of the European parliament.

So the government, while secretly colluding with corporate lobbyists, has been double-crossing the public and undermining some of the poorest countries on earth. Tony Blair and Clare Short call this process "development". It is not development. It's piracy.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 01:11:58 PM | link

E. C. Fish provides a scathing editorial concerning the House's proposed tax cuts for their paymasters.
So complete is the Republican faith in the magical powers of tax cuts that such legislation is beginning to seem like the Republican answer to every situation and circumstance. Already tax cut legislation has been the "right and fair" thing to do in an economy that was booming, a sorely needed "stimulus" to an economy that was slowing, and now the best hope for an economy that has been tipped into the crapper by war and crisis. With so many uses claimed for the redistribution of tax dollars to corporations and the top one per cent of income earners, one has to wonder what effects it might have on headaches, neuralgia, female complaints, and greasy black heel marks on vinyl flooring.

Let's pretend for a moment that this particular cat wasn't let out of the bag almost two decades ago-- that Reagan budget director and Godfather of the Republican tax cut strategy David Stockman had never said in public interviews that the purpose of tax cuts was to starve government spending and enrich the campaign contributor class, with any salutary economic effects for the rest of us falling under the category of happy accidents if they happened at all. Let's further set aside the cynicism that inevitably wells up when one realizes that the House economic recovery package resembles nothing so much as a particularly avaricious corporate lobbyist's wet dream. The fact is, this economy is in or near recession, and is in need of stimulus. Judged solely on that fact, how well does the House package get the job done?

The answer, by most standards, is woefully. In a $210 billion dollar tax cut package, only six per cent is going directly to families that might be hurting in the current crisis-- specifically, those who didn't make enough money to qualify for the last round of tax rebate checks. The remaining ninety four percent goes largely to corporations in the form of a thirty per cent write-off on new investments in equipment and infrastructure, an extended time frame for the offsetting of the tax burdens of one year with the losses of years previous, and, best of all for corporations, a provision that not only eliminates the corporate alternative minimum tax (a tax that prevented corporations from taking so many deductions that they wound up paying no tax at all) but allows corporations to apply for refunds on taxes paid over the last fifteen years. None goes specifically to individuals, communities, or businesses directly affected by the terrorist threat.

Therein lies the rub-- most economists estimate that the recessionary cycle we're entering will probably last six months to a year. This means that, in order for these tax cuts to have any stimulative effect at all, they will have to result in corporate spending on capital goods and personnel (that is, jobs) by the end of second quarter 2002. And, as anyone who has ever dealt with a corporate budgeting process can tell you, plans for first quarter 2002 are already figured out to a fair-thee-well. Indeed, the House plan is completely out of keeping with the time frame, with tax breaks occurring over a three year period to address a one half to one year recession. And while most of the job creation that has occurred over the past few years has come from the small business sector (hymns to which have been sung by the Republican House leadership and the bill's sponsors), most small businesses are too small to take advantage of most of the breaks offered by this package. IBM, on the other hand, gets a cool billion plus.

At $210 billion dollars, in addition to the trillion dollar plus tax cuts passed pre-9/11, the House package would rank as a budget buster if balanced budgeting hadn't gone the way of jokes about George W. Bush's lack of intelligence. The House package, however, goes even further, punching huge holes in the budgets of those states that base their state corporate taxes on the federal expensing and depreciation rules, giving corporations a federal/ state double dip on tax breaks and sending an estimated 44 of the 50 states into budget shortfall.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 11:16:22 AM | link

Karen Snell (via BuzzFlash) tells of the return of Kenneth Starr.
To the French, Kenneth Starr is known as the "Ayatollah sexuelle," but after his recent comments in The Washington Post suggesting that we should cast aside traditional civil liberties in the fight against terrorism, just plain "Ayatollah" seems more fitting.

According to Starr, five justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have signaled that they would give "heightened deference to the judgments of the political branches with respect to matters of national security," and thus, would be willing to bend the constitutional rules in a case involving terrorism.

Starr's comments provide encouragement to the Department of Justice, which, according to the Post, is reportedly contemplating the use of "drugs or pressure tactics" when terrorism suspects refuse to speak, or "extraditing the suspects to allied countries where security services sometimes employ threats to family members or resort to torture." An FBI official quoted in the Post recognizes that such evidence would be inadmissible, but says that "legally admissible evidence in court may not be the be-all and end-all."

Attorney General John Ashcroft echoed this sentiment during a recent appearance on ABC's "Nightline."

Starr's attempt to justify the unthinkable is worthy of Osama bin Laden himself. According to a handbook that American prosecutors have suggested was used by Al Queda to train members of the network, "religious scholars have permitted beating ... . It is permitted to strike the nonbeliever who has no covenant until he reveals the news, information, and secrets of his people."

Starr and Ashcroft appear to have forgotten that the reason evidence obtained by physical and mental pressure tactics is inadmissible in U.S. courts is because such tactics are unconstitutional. They violate the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, which the Supreme Court has aptly described as the "hallmark of our democracy," the "essential mainstay of our adversary system," which recognizes "the inviolability of the human personality."

She goes on to provide further details of the Constitution and U.S. law regarding torture that Fuhrers Ashcroft and Starr want to blithely ignore and cast aside.
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 10:37:35 AM | link

John Pilger's latest reveals a nasty little secret.
There are signs that Washington is about to extend its current "war" to Iraq; yet unknown to most of us, almost every day RAF and American aircraft already bomb Iraq. There are no headlines. There is nothing on the TV news. This terror is the longest-running Anglo-American bombing campaign since World War Two.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the US and Britain faced a "dilemma" in Iraq, because "few targets remain". "We're down to the last outhouse," said a US official. That was two years ago, and they're still bombing. The cost to the British taxpayer? 800 million so far.

According to an internal UN report, covering a five-month period, 41 per cent of the casualties are civilians. In northern Iraq, I met a woman whose husband and four children were among the deaths listed in the report. He was a shepherd, who was tending his sheep with his elderly father and his children when two planes attacked them, each making a sweep. It was an open valley; there were no military targets nearby.

"I want to see the pilot who did this," said the widow at the graveside of her entire family. For them, there was no service in St Paul's Cathedral with the Queen in attendance; no rock concert with Paul McCartney.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 10:17:00 AM | link

Sam Smith doesn't mince words in his deconstruction of an odious piece of apologetics by the NYTimes.
Meanwhile, at the Times, a head read "Opponents' and Supporters' Portrayals of Detentions Prove Inaccurate," something the article by Christopher Drew and William K. Rashbaum didn't prove at all. The pair claimed that "The government portrays the arrest and detention of more than 1,100 people in connection with the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks as evidence of its fight against terrorism. Civil liberties groups argue that the widespread arrests are a sign of a dangerous erosion of rights. But an examination of those arrests suggests that the impression fostered by both sides is overstated.

"Interviews with top law enforcement officials show that several hundred, and possibly more than half, of the 1,147 people taken into custody since the terror attacks have been released from jail. They also acknowledged that many of them were simply questioned briefly - either at police precinct houses or while detained on old warrants for petty crimes - and found to have nothing to do with terrorism. In fact, senior F.B.I. and Justice Department officials were unsure how many remained in custody."

In other words, according to Drew and Rashbaum, the secret arrest of 500 or so people is not a dangerous erosion of rights. You apparently have to get over 1,000 before it counts.

A note to reporters: detention is a euphemism for arrest. If the state holds someone against their will, they are under arrest regardless of what it is called.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 10:08:43 AM | link

Khalid Hasan engages in some V. S. Naipual bashing from Pakistan.
It is to be remembered that Naipaul's popularity in the West coincides with the publication of his work deriding the Third World. As Amitav Ghosh, the Indian writer, observed recently, after the publication of An Area of Darkness - his book on India - and its tone of derision and outrage, "the richly textured islands of his early work would disappear, to be replaced by a series of largely interchangeable caricatures of societies depicted as 'half-made' in comparison with Europe ... Predictably, this turn in Naipaul's work proved immensely popular in the West and he was quickly canonized for his indictment of the Third World."
Even an author as intellectually honest and forthright as Edward Said - and he is not a Muslim - has said that Naipaul has confirmed his "deep antipathy to the religion (of Islam), its people and its ideas". Said could not overlook the irony of Naipaul having dedicated Beyond Belief, the book that ridicules Islam and Muslims, to his "Muslim wife Nadira". Said called Naipaul a "mental suicide" whose "obsession with Islam" had caused him to stop thinking. Which was an "intellectual tragedy of the first order". That, I think, says it all.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 10:02:56 AM | link

A fun editorial by
Anis Shivani (via Progressive Review) that makes the connection between a couple of Holy Wars.
The First, Fourth, and Eighth Amendments are being destroyed to complete the destruction of the Bill of Rights brought about by the "war on drugs."

In effect, the anti-terrorism legislation of 2001 is analogous to Hitler's 1933 Enabling Act, converting the hithertofore soft American totalitarian state into a hard one, making explicit by writ of law what was already occurring in terms of supression of free speech, dissent against the corporate global order, and massive inequalities in access to power and justice.

The usurpation of the voters' will in the 2000 election was a test-run: since this judicial coup engendered no noticeable dissent among the intelligentsia, press, and common people, the stage was set for an all-out assault on the remaining liberties of the people.

Just as the war on drugs criminalized poverty at home (two million, mostly non-violent offenders, languish in jails, and millions more face drug-related charges), the undefinable, fluid, ever-shifting war on "terrorism" will take the war on dissent to a global scale. Since Seattle 1999, the implementation of the corporate globalization agenda has become increasingly problematic. The IMF and the World Bank were facing massive protests against their scheduled September meetings in Washington, D.C. It is easy to see how an expansive definition of terrorism can be manipulated to put down all domestic dissent against globalization, so-called "free trade," and the neoliberal consensus in general. A school child throwing a rock at a window would fall under the definition of terrorism.
The distinctive element of this wave of repression is that it is accompanied by soft talk. The president and his surrogates will continue to make the correct multicultural noises about acceptance of difference, even advocacy of a Palestinian state should that be necessary to buy the short-term allegiance of recalcitrant Muslim states, but the words will be as hollow as the administration's "compassionate conservative" ideology. As more than $2 trillion was handed out to the richest Americans in a "tax cut" designed to starve the federal government of resources for public spending, the compassionate part of this policy relied on the armies of compassion to rally ordinary people to public service and on so-called faith-based initiatives to handle the welfare discards.
Analogous to the war on drugs, which institutionalized indifference to poverty and inequality in the name of "quality of life" and a supposed ethic of responsibility, the war on terrorism is meant to neutralize any ideological alternative to the neo-liberal structure planned for the entire globe. In the decade since the end of the cold war, the US has been desperate to find an enemy worthy of stepping into the vacuum created by the Russians. But neither the new Russian state nor China, nor indeed the assorted "rogue states" or terror threats of the nineties, really filled the bill. The terrorists are all but being invited to put into motion that which will guarantee them the greatest possible attention and reward.
The war on terrorism signifies not a return to multilateralism, as some have suggested, but an escalation of the unilateralist position already taken by conservatives during the first eight months of this administration. "You're either with us or against us." Is that multilateralism? The US is only seeking a thin cover for its avowed military and economic goals (including assertion of hegemony in the key, oil-rich Central Asian region), but it is not multilateralism by any means.

posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 09:56:54 AM | link

Democratic Underground contains a juicy rumor about the GOP's self-destruction in the Virginia governor's race., where even a reported $6 million in outside "emergency aid" from the GOP might not win it for them. First, the undetailed rumor:
The Virginia race has been very timid this year, but stay tuned for the afterparty. It will be exposed late next week that a very close advisor to one of the major candidates has had what you might call an "inappropriate financial relationship" with one of the campaign's major vendors. A relationship that the candidate does not even know about! This shocking disclosure will make a number of "strange" decisions by this campaign a lot easier to understand.
Now the details:
The aforementioned rumor about a major staffer in a VA campaign is true.

The campaign? Mark Earley.

The staffer? Anne Kincaid

The offense? Kickbacks from the media buyer.

The other offense? A campaign that has spent over 30% of the budget on consultants.

How about malpractice for campaign consultants?

That's 30% of $6 million. You do the math.
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 09:42:55 AM | link

MSNBC item tells us of the really solid evidence being used as an excuse to let loose "daisy cutter" bombs - which incinerate everything within 600 yards in a surgically precise manner - on Afghanistan.
All the while, officials said, al Qaeda was watching and selecting the best and the brightest, with those from the Persian Gulf particularly prized. There is still no firm evidence of how many of the Sept. 11 hijackers visited Afghanistan, although U.S. intelligence officials have said Atta, the suspected ringleader, made the trip, probably in 1997 or 1998.

European officials say they believe it is likely that all of the hijackers were either trained in Afghanistan or vouched for by one of a small group of al Qaeda veterans.

Atta, who traveled extensively within Europe and between the United States and Europe before Sept. 11, is the suspected bridge between the hijackers and al Qaeda's leadership. But little solid information has emerged on who Atta met on his trips to Spain this past January and July. And a trip to Prague in April remains equally mysterious. Atta met an Iraqi intelligence official, according to Czech officials, but the purpose of the meeting remains unclear.

"You have to have control," said Jacquard, the French terrorism expert. "Who gives the order? Probably it's Atta. But Atta also received instructions. And there is someone between Atta and the mountain" in Afghanistan.

"Nobody has an idea how they worked," he said.

If the same standards were applied domestically, we'd be sending execution squads out to murder people on the evidence of furtive phone calls.
posted by Steven Baum 11/6/2001 09:30:29 AM | link

Monday, November 05, 2001

Some nifty tidbits from
  • Running OmniCluster Slotserver cards, wherein we learn of Omniserver's server on a 1/2 length PCI card for $500, i.e. "half-size PCI cards with an internal IDE adapter, one SODIMM slot and an internal plug which allows you to attach an adapter that will let you use an ADB keyboard. On the card's edge is a 10/100 ethernet port, a USB port, sound ports, and a VGA output plug."
  • Bootstrapping Vinum, wherein we learn "how to build a pair of disk drives where either one is adequate to keep your server running if the other fails" using some FreeBSD magic.
  • Red Hat's new journaling filesytem: ext3, wherein we learn of the advantages (e.g. transition without formatting) of ext2's offspring.

posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 03:28:35 PM | link

The airline and insurance industries have already used Sept. 11 to get massive government handouts, and now the oil industry wants still more of its unfair share. A
NYTimes article tells of a study commissioned by the oil industry that - SURPRISE! - concludes that they need lots of taxpayer dollars to protect themselves from terrorists. But it doesn't stop with just money:
The report makes several recommendations to the government. It calls for tax credits and low-cost financing to help the industry improve security. It says the government should eliminate the "regulatory impediments" that it says preclude the industry from building plants that could withstand a terrorist attack, and it calls for the withholding of safety information that the government now requires companies to make available on the Internet.

Like the airline industry, the energy companies also want some liability and insurance protections. And they want to be able to file "security impact statements," which can presumably override the "environmental impact statements" that often result in expensive pollution controls they did not want in the first place.

They also expect protection that only the government can provide, like the National Guard patrolling their airspace, specially trained Guard units protecting them on the ground, the government sharing its intelligence to try to prevent attacks and the Coast Guard helping to protect ports and off-shore rigs.

Oh, those evil "regulatory impediments" that do nothing but cater to the evil wishes of evil terrorists! Let's cut back the regulatory environment to the level of, say, Bhopal. That'll make everyone sleep better, won't it? One thing's for sure, the phrase "security impact statement" gets the doublespeak award for at least this month, if not the year. I guarantee you'll be seeing that one spun like hell in the near future.
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 01:07:02 PM | link

Anthony Lappe (via wood s lot) discusses the apparent stupidity with which the Holy War on Terrorism is being waged. He muses:
Can these guys be this incompetent? Or is something else going on here, as many have postulated here on GuerrillaNews? Is the creation of an endless, unwinnable war actually the desired result? Are what appear on the surface to be strategic errors, actually the result of something much more sinister? Who benefits from the creation of the permanent war society we seem to be headed for?
As I've indicated herein more than once, this sort of thinking isn't exactly new, with the most famous example being Leonard Lewin's "spoof" government study Report from Iron Mountain.
"War has provided both ancient and modern societies with a dependable system for stabilizing and controlling national economies. No alternate method of control has yet been tested in a complex modern economy that has shown itself remotely comparable in scope or effectiveness."
"Follow the money" provides a much more succinct summary of such speculations.
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 11:32:25 AM | link

Sunday Times tells of the Al-Qaeda "Encyclopedia of Terror", a terrorist manual on how to fight a guerilla war. Further fun reading can be found in the following:
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 11:00:20 AM | link

Washington Post reports the real reason why so many of those of obvious Middle Eastern descent are being rounded up. They've obtained a seven page legal document detailing the strategy behind the massive number of detentions. An excerpt:
"At this stage of the investigation, the FBI is gathering and processing thousands of bits and pieces of information that may seem innocuous at first glance. We must analyze all that information, however, to see if it can be fit into a picture that will reveal how the unseen whole operates ... What may seem trivial to some may appear of great moment to those within the FBI or the intelligence community who have a broader context."
The Post goes on to say:
As investigators race to comprehend the ongoing terrorist threat, the government has adopted a deliberate strategy of disruption - locking up large numbers of Middle Eastern men, using whatever legal tools they can.
As I said in the previous item, it's funny how they haven't found even one person possessing information that may be "innocuous at first glance" concerning the anthrax attacks. You'd think that the 87 anthrax threats visited upon abortion clinics before Sept. 11 and signed by the Army of God and similar organizations would given even the most Clouseau-esque of cops a clue about where to begin. Apparently what may appear of great moment to some seems pretty goddamn trivial to those within the FBI, at least in this case.
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 10:27:32 AM | link

Does anyone else find it just a little strange how the police state managed to detain over 1000 people for questioning about the Sept. 11 attacks, yet hasn't detained a single person in connection with the anthrax attacks? They're publicly begging for help from all the Hardy Boys wannabes out there, for chrissakes. It almost makes one wonder if they're finding it a bit more politically difficult to play "round up the dittoheads" than "round up the usual turbans".
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 10:08:02 AM |

Moscow Times reports of another pawn Putin's willing to give up to consolidate his power in the five former Soviet republics (i.e. the "stans"), as well as to receive carte blanche from the west vis a vis his predations in Chechnya. The hard-liners (i.e. the Russian equivalents of Dr. Rumsglove and Wolfowitz), as one might expect, are opposed to this sort of thing.
It seems that President Vladimir Putin may be indeed trying to change Russia's long-term foreign and defense outlook. Putin has announced he is closing one of the last vestiges of Russian global might: a strategically important eavesdropping outpost in Cuba.

Russian military intelligence, or GRU, is today still keeping a special communications brigade of some 1,600 men in Cuba, despite the Cold War being over for more than a decade. This brigade intercepts hundreds of millions of radio, telephone and other electronic communications - government and private - from the United States. The staff of the brigade works to decipher and sort out important information from the mass of data gathered.
If Putin, along with the base in Cuba, abandons the ABM Treaty and with it Moscow's opposition to NATO enlargement, while continuing to support the war on terrorism, Russia may indeed become a close long-term ally of the West. Ongoing economic reforms that have already drastically improved the local business environment make Russia ready to undergo a much needed revolution of modernization by absorbing a lot of Western capital and technologies.

To make this come about, Putin will have to replace a large part of his elite and intimidate the rest into total submission.

Show trials, arrests and the ouster of high officials are inevitable, as has happened many times before in Russia when the country made a sudden U-turn and the existing elite was dismissed.

Some deal's probably been made to supply Putin with access to Echelon and all the other surveillance systems in place and in the works.

So why the nicey-nice between the bullies whose undying hatred (at least in public) for each other dominated the planet for half a century? A common enemy that both can use and are indeed using to advantage. Expect to hear about the imminent space alien invasion after Bin Laden is no longer trendy.
posted by Steven Baum 11/5/2001 09:53:59 AM | link





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