Saturday, July 24, 2004
Dominionism and the Yurica Report
Going through my bookmarks, I decided to pay a visit today. I hadn't checked in on the Yurica Report for awhile, so I'm not surprised that she has added links to some more mind-blowing revelations.
If, after you've read them, you haven't blown a fuse or two, you're either a dominionist yourself or one cool cookie.
Belarus to close Russian news bureau
What he can't do is control Russian news, but he's trying to fix that. On Friday it was announced that the news bureau of the All Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VGTRK) in Minsk, the Belarusian capital, would be closed.
What had it done?
Covering an opposition rally staged in Minsk on Wednesday, Petrov [a Russian journalist] said that it involved from 2,000 to 5,000 people, which significantly exceeded the less than 200 participants mentioned by the Belarussian Interior Ministry.
Moon over Ronald Reagan (corrected)
What Gorenfeld has learned is that the February event actually went forward at the Ronald Reagan Building, a Federal conference and trade center completed in 1998 and located halfway between the Capitol and White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. Moon, unfortunately, could not attend, but 40 Representatives and 2 Senators did--which raises the question of just how "duped" was the group that attended the March event.
Gorenfeld has a photo from the event. Go read his post.
Correction: For those who may have read this post earlier, my identification of John Gorenfeld as John Rosenfeld is inexplicable other than that it was done on my first cup of coffee and that I still had not removed my head from my .... Apologies to all.
Friday, July 23, 2004
More Brits at Guantanamo may be released
The official said that the British prisoners could be released and, presumably, allowed home without charge.
Just a few months ago the Bush administration insisted that the four Britons were "too dangerous" to be released.
"It is a complete scam," said Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who has filed suits on behalf of the British prisoners, along with three British residents also being held. "It is a total mockery and designed to give them some cover when they eventually release these people."
Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, told CNN: "The Supreme Court ruling requires access to legal representation. This process is an elaborate window-dressing and an attempt to subvert that ruling and the rule of law."
Bhutto denies nuclear quid pro quo for N. Korean missiles
Bhutto said it was true that while she was in office there were unspecified people who had proposed [providing nuclear technology] to the government as a way of raising foreign currency, but that she persuaded them not to. “We did not obtain them in exchange for nuclear technology. We bought them with money,” she said.
Who is this Republican?
- The right-wing Hindu-nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was unexpectedly thrown out of power.
- The Congress party, which is the party of the Gandhi clan, won a plurality of 220 seats over the BJP party, which held onto 189 seats.
- The Communists (there are two Indian Communist parties) did well regionally and support the Congress party in forming a government but have refused to participate in the administration.
The end of Hindu nationalist rule could bring other changes as well, such as the possibility of less culturally conservative policies in the face of the country's burgeoning AIDS crisis, and the end of efforts to introduce Hindu nationalist themes into educational curriculums.
The resentment of the B.J.P. and its efforts to peddle the "feel-good factor" was almost palpable today among a small knot of working-class men gathered to watch the results on a news ticker in New Delhi. Many expressed dismay, common among Indians nostalgic for the quasi-socialist economy of India's first 40 years, at the economic reforms with which the B.J.P. had proudly identified itself.
"Basically it is the anger of the working class," said Sawali Rai, 34, who works in a public sector bank. "Privatization, no government jobs, prices rising. On the pressure of the World Bank they are pressuring the common man." And unlike in the United States, where the most prosperous also vote the most, in India it is the poor who turn out in greatest numbers. That means that the very voters for whom India has been shining — urbanites from the middle and upper classes who benefited from globalization and reforms — are also least likely to vote. [emphasis mine]
Imagine that! The poor voting. This is going to give democracy a bad name here in the West. This election also illustrates a trend that I and others have noted--a worldwide shift to the left.
Well, if that isn't dumbfounding enough, comes this:
Sylvester Fernandez, who is contesting for the US Congress as a Republican from New Jersey, said, "Five years of India Shining left the poor biting the dust," while corporates "did not show any social responsibility or social commitment to improve the lot of the unfortunate majority of the country. That is where politics, economics and social justice always clash. The prosperous are always selfish and care two hoots for the poor and miserable. For the poor though, this is a once in five years opportunity to send a clear message to the politicians."Mr. Sylvester is co-chair of the New Jersey Republican State Committee. The Asbury Park Press wrote of him in May,
Republican Sylvester Fernandez, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Frank J. Pallone Jr. for his 6th Congressional District seat in the November election, said he wants to see fewer jobs moving overseas and more work opportunities made available for American citizens.
Preventing the outsourcing of work is a key issue to his campaign, said Fernandez, a 55-year-old Edison resident who was born in India and became a United States citizen in 1996.
What is happening to the Republican Party?
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Mud-wrestling: Dyncorp vs. Aegis (Updated)
In America the secrets of government and business have three main routes of egress.
One is official ineptitude. A recent example, though British, was the disclosure of the Heathrow airport counterterrorist plans. These were somehow lost by a police officer and found “flapping by the roadside.” A motorist picked them up and turned them over to a newspaper.
Of course, ineptitude accounts for the government’s contribution, but it has to be paired with a certain fortunate serendipity. The Heathrow papers might just as well have been picked up by a trash clean-up crew and burned. Then no one would have been the wiser.
The second route is through the whistleblowers. This is one of the most important sources of information. Where would we have been during the Vietnam era without Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers? And now in the Bush administration we have Richard Clarke, Sibel Edmonds, and Joe Wilson to name but a few.
The third route, however, is the most important. It is the only route in which the participants are actually constrained to reveal the truth. And the lovely part of it is that it is woven into the very fabric of capitalism. It is more reliable than whistleblowing because it does not depend upon individual courage. And it is more constant than official ineptitude because it depends upon greed. I am referring, of course, to the lawsuit.
How many more Jim Ryan’s would be sitting in the halls of Congress, preaching about “family values,” if it were not for the divorce courts? How many more Firestone tires would be on those SUVs, if the families of the victims hadn’t sued Ford, which sued Firestone?
The lawsuit is an instrument of the ruling classes, and because it’s their system, they want it to work.1 They rely on it because otherwise they might have to start killing each other, in which case they would not be able to enjoy the “fruits of their labor.” They would become essentially indistinguishable from the groups we refer to as “organized crime.” Of course, even in the best of society you have your occasional bad apple, but with regard to the courts, most of them “go along to get along.”
At a level below the lawsuit, there is the “formal protest” to some oversight body. In today’s action that body is the Government Accountability Office (GAO),2 the Congress’ auditing firm.
So yesterday comes an article in the Financial Times—“Dyncorp seeks to overturn Iraq contract.”
Assuming a copy of the Financial Times should somehow lodge itself in the hands of the man-on-the-street, this is the sort of headline that makes people wonder who’s going to be on Oprah today. Who, pray, would read it? And isn’t that the intention?
You see, news in the Financial Times, just as in the Wall Street Journal, is not intended for “general consumption.” It’s for the “movers and shakers,” and they know how to read a headline. If the headline had said “Shady arms dealer wins military contract and charges an extra $80 million,” even your average Joe or Jane might read it. Then where would we be?
So what are we talking about here? For some background let’s go to Robert Young Pelton’s article carried by Australia’s Stop the War Coalition:
On May 25, the US Army awarded Lt Col. Tim Spicer and his company Aegis (a tiny London-based holding corporation only incorporated on Sept, 23, 2002) contract #W911S0-04-C-0003, the largest and most important piece of Iraq security business in its history. For almost one third of a billion dollars over three years, Aegis will be in charge of all security for our $18.4 billion in reconstruction projects. They will coordinate all other private security groups and hire a force protection detail of around 600 armed men. But this is just the beginning. Aegis will also coordinate the operations of the 60 other Private Military Companies and their 20,000 men currently in Iraq as well as take charge of new hires, intelligence, prisoners, and oilfield security. A no-risk, cost-plus arrangement of up to $293 million over three years. [emphasis mine]
As for Lt. Col. Spicer, his first real notoriety came in 1998 with the revelation that he had been selling arms to Sierra Leone in contravention of a U.N. embargo. He came under investigation by British Customs, to which he took umbrage, since he claimed he was acting on behalf of the British Foreign Office. This revelation almost brought down Robin Cook, Blair’s Foreign Secretary at the time.
But Blair managed to put a favorable spin on the doings and referred to the matter as an “overblown hoohah.” Lt. Col. Spicer of course went on to further adventures. In the wonderful way of the British media, all this was known as “the Sandline Affair,” after the company that was involved. (See this report from Sierra Leone.)
Spicer’s new company Aegis is constituted of people as lively as he is.
Spicer not only brings drama and surprise to his endeavors but also runs with an interesting crowd. His company Aegis lists two senior advisors; Sir Roger Wheeler, former UK Chief of Staff and Sir John Birch, a former UK rep to the UN. Both are on record as two staunch opponents of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The man that hired Spicer to run one of Aegis’ many predecessor companies, Simon Mann, is currently languishing in jail in Zimbabwe for allegedly trying to overthrow the oil rich government of Equatorial Guinea. The PMO head of security who wrote the proposal specs and Spicers direct boss is retired UK army Brigadier Tony Hunter-Choat, a retired British officer…and you guessed it, a former mercenary. Hunter-Choat is a former French Foreign Legionnaire who fought in Algeria in the late 50’s and early 60’s. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Pelton ends his article with this tidbit:
Two of the losing bidders have asked for a review and a spokesman for one losing bidder has ominously warned us to “Stay Tuned”...
Which brings us to yesterday’s news in the Financial Times.
One of the losing bidders was Dyncorp, a company that “has a long and close relationship with the US government”—not to mention that they’re based in Texas. That a British upstart firm should win a contract that was rightfully theirs would make any Texan grieve. After all, the most salient attributes of the company that won were sleaze and skulduggery, and Dyncorp stands second to none in either category.
According to the Financial Times,
The Dyncorp complaint said its bid was "shockingly" rejected by the US army despite being more than $80m lower than the winning offer.
Dyncorp claimed it was wrongly taken out of the running after a technical analysis incorrectly ruled that its bid was "marginal" in several important respects. Even if that were true, the company argued, its bid should not have been excluded under the tender rules. ... Dyncorp confirmed that it had lodged an appeal but declined to comment while the contract was under review. However, the company has enlisted a Republican Congressman from Texas to lobby the Pentagon on its behalf.
That Congressman is apparently Pete Sessions, who wrote,
It is inconceivable that the firm charged with the responsibility for co-ordinating all security firms and individuals performing reconstruction . . . has never even been in the country.
Peter Singer, a Brookings Institute thinktank expert on military contracts, said “It would be laughable if it weren't so sad.”
Was the Spicer award a sop to the British, who so far have so little to show for their faithfulness to the Bushies? It appears that they fear such a connection will be made.
UK officials are concerned about the potential political fall-out of the contract continuing given Mr Spicer's history. “The contract in question was awarded by the US government to Aegis and the British government is not a party to the contract nor has it been involved in any way in its negotiation,” said the Foreign Office last night.
My tea leaves tell me that Aegis is going to lose this one. If Dyncorp—with a Congressman for a lobbyist—persists in raising a stink, all sorts of unsavory information could surface about Army contracts. And if that should happen, it might even make it onto the nightly news. Now how would that look?
Boston.com ran a story on Aegis yesterday, omitting the info on Dyncorp, but ending with an interesting tidbit--
Paul O'Connor, a spokesman for the Belfast-based Pat Finucane Center for Human Rights and Social Change, said Spicer remains a controversial figure in Northern Ireland. "He has refused to accept the court's ruling that two soldiers under his command committed murder of an unarmed civilian," O'Connor said. "Someone like that should never be given any kind of command responsibility."
1 On the other hand, they don’t want the lawsuit to work against them, as a class. The class-action lawsuit was a most unwelcome judicial innovation. And the ruling-class fear of the lawsuit in the hands of the less well-to-do is at the heart of the blather about “tort reform” and “trial lawyers.” As a group, the moneyed classes are surely overrepresented in the courts by tort claims and trial lawyers. [back]
2 Until July 7 it was known as the General Accounting Office. Since the GAO has never been able to account for anything, especially how money in the military is spent, they apparently decided that a name change was needed—something that would appear more high-minded while having the advantage of being less specific. “Government Accountability” should do the trick. [back]
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
Florida protects your privacy -- Not!
Jeb Bush's Florida, controlled by a Republican legislature, passed a law that forbids government agencies from keeping lists of gun owners.
The statute prohibits the creation or maintenance of any list, record or registry of privately owned firearms or owners of those firearms. The law took effect in May, but allowed a 60-day grace period for compliance that ended last week.
In the Florida county discussed in the news item, police dispatchers have used a system in which residences are "flagged."
The Alachua County Combined Communications Center ... used to note in its computer system when an officer went to a home where guns were present.
But keeping such notes bothered members of the National Rifle Association, which lobbied for the new law.
The work-around? The police are planning to change the flag to "weapon." But since the NRA considers kitchen knives and automobiles to be on a par with guns when it comes to weaponry, I guess just about everyone will have to be flagged.
"The Constitution is not about these so-called officer safety issues. The Constitution is about protecting law-abiding people," Hammer [the past president of the NRA] added.
The NRA will be watching law enforcement to make sure they comply....
Isn't it time that libraries and bookstores destroy any lists of the books we've read or purchased lately?
No troops from Moscow
But aside from the boost for Bush--never a pleasant thought--the real cause for pause is what Bush might bargain away in return.
The Prime Minister's office has issued a directive to the ministry to prepare a Russian "wish list" for Washington seeking some level of quid pro quo, including steps to return Russian oil companies to Iraq and approval of Russia's joining the World Trade Organization.
These are just the publicly disclosed items on any Russian wish list. You can be sure that there would be other items that neither Bush nor Putin would want known--matters relating to war crimes, for instance, and a freer hand for Russia in the former Soviet states. Forty thousand troops would require a very big "quid" for the "quo."
Then, as Sean-Paul comments,
The size of the contingent is significant as well, leaving room for the United States to act more pro-actively in the region...
The U.S. has been about as "pro-active" in the region as I'd like to see.
Today the Moscow Times runs an AP story denying the report.
The Foreign Ministry reaffirmed Tuesday that Moscow has no intention to send its troops to Iraq, shrugging off a report that claimed the Kremlin was considering a request from Washington to contribute forces.
Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko insisted "there are no plans to send Russian servicemen to Iraq."
Unlike news organizations that offer only reactive information, Stratfor delivers actionable intelligence on geopolitical, economic and security affairs. Stratfor provides in-depth analysis of what is happening in the world today and forecasts the results of tomorrow's events.
Al Giordano did an excellent critique of them last November.
Stratfor is one of these snake-oil disinfo sales firms that traffics in "intelligence briefings" for people gullible enough to pay for them. Imagine that: you can get lied to for free all over this great land, but some people actually pay to be deceived!
It's worth reading. [back]
Another radical right judicial nominee bites the dust
Go, Dems! Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware was unfortunately a defector, but several Republican senators voted with the Dems. As power seeps away from the Bush administration, we should be seeing more of that.
Tuesday, July 20, 2004
Not to be too picky, but ...
Since I had predicted quite the opposite just last week, I feared I was going to have to throw away my tea leaves. But I checked the article first, and here is the relevant paragraph--
IF KERRY IS ELECTED PRESIDENT, WOULD YOU CONSIDER SERVING IN HIS CABINET, SAY, AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE?
The local press turns feisty
Today comes an op-ed piece in the "Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle Standard" in which the writer says,
I think they could have reduced the [Senate Select Committee Report on Intelligence] to one line: "In regards to intelligence, this President doesn't have any."
First, it's refreshing to see the obvious in print. If the Emperor had no clothes, George Bush has no brains, and anyone with an IQ above room temperature should know this.
When he took office, there was a spate of articles asking if Bush's intelligence had been "underestimated," and most writers found it hard to conclude that it had been. The tack that was taken was to point out that there are kinds of "intelligence" other than IQ, which is where George excels.
Here's his boyhood friend Doug Hannah in an interview on Frontline back in 2000:
Interviewer: Is he smart enough to be president?
Hannah: Well, there's actually two answers to that. One is, clearly, you do not have to be very smart to be president, that's not a criteria [sic]. We have way too much history of the opposite being true for us to say you have to be smart to be president. But George is sneaky smart, and I think part of his strength is, if you choose to think that he's not very smart, so be it. You're not going to worry about whether you think he's smart or not. But he's plenty smart. And it could be an absolute ally if your smarter than your opponents think you are.
Damning with faint praise.
The second point is more important. Think back a year. Can you imagine either the Madison editorial or the Lahontan Valley op-ed appearing? Madison, Wisconsin is thought of as a bastion of liberalism, but liberalism a year ago was of the mealymouthed variety. No calling a spade a spade, please.
I know nothing about the Lahontan Valley area, but today's issue carries, along with the op-ed, a sports story titled "Fallon cowboys look forward to this year's national rodeo." I may be wrong, but that sounds like the sort of place where you don't call the President an idiot, or at least you didn't.
And what that tells me is something about the mood of the country. Local newspapers, just like the biggies, don't lead, they follow. So forget the national polls. They're pretty useless in a country that elects the President state by state. But check the local newspapers.
A Republican crowd at the casino
Before singing "Desperado" for an encore Saturday night, [Linda Ronstadt] called Moore a "great American patriot" and "someone who is spreading the truth." She also encouraged everybody to see the documentary about President Bush.... Ronstadt's comments drew loud boos and some of the 4,500 people in attendance stormed out of the theater. People also tore down concert posters and tossed cocktails into the air.You can tell they've got money or they wouldn't be wasting all that booze.
Monday, July 19, 2004
Quote of the Day
Out of respect for the president and his office, we suggest that he is a bigot.
The alternative would be to suggest that he is a political cynic who continues to push an amendment to the Constitution that will never be enacted - in part because key senators from his own party oppose the amendment - in order to gain political advantage.
If he is a cynic, then he is also a fool. Trying to whip up anti-gay bigotry in Wisconsin, which more than two decades ago was the first state to enact significant gay rights legislation, is politically inane.
-- editorial in Madison, Wisconsin's Capital Times
Allawi stands up for freedom of the press — Yeah, sure
Prime Minister Iyad Allawi on Sunday ordered the reopening of a radical1 Shiite newspaper closed by United States soldiers nearly four months ago. The closing was a catalyst for some of the worst anti-American mayhem of the occupation. [all emphasis mine]
And the Times hints at a connection between this announcement and the bombing in Fallujah—a technique of media manipulation that seems a little sophisticated for the Iraqis, if they were acting without American input.
It was unclear if Dr. Allawi timed his concession to a Shiite branch of the insurgency to soften any public-relations blow among Iraqis — many skeptical of Dr. Allawi's real power — from the airstrike against Sunni Muslim militants and foreign fighters in Falluja.
The Washington Post apparently has grasped what I wrote in Why isn’t the press defending freedom of the press?,
The al-Hawza newspaper was closed by U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer on March 28 in an attempt to squelch criticism from the cleric, Moqtada Sadr. The closure became a rallying cry for Sadr's forces, and ensuing fighting across Shiite areas took a bloody toll on U.S. forces.
Not surprisingly, the Guardian gives better coverage.
An Iraqi newspaper closed in March by the US occupation authorities, sparking protests and an armed uprising that led to hundreds of deaths, has reopened, it emerged yesterday.
The next edition of the weekly, which supports the radical Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, could appear within days.
"We were waiting for instructions from Najaf [Mr Sadr's headquarters] and now we will come out again next week," Ali Yasseri, the editor of al-Hawza, told the Guardian last night.
The occupation authorities closed the paper on March 28 for 60 days, saying it had violated regulations banning incitement to violence. But it was not clear that the paper's content in its final issue was any more radically critical of the occupation than earlier issues, against which the authorities had taken no action.
The closure seemed intended to reduce Mr Sadr's influence. At the same time the Americans published an arrest warrant for the cleric for alleged involvement in murder.
Both moves led to street demonstrations by hundreds of Shia Muslims in central Baghdad. This in turn led to heightened US military patrols in Sadr city, the huge district full of jobless young people where Mr Sadr counts most of his followers.
Armed clashes erupted, which led to a full-fledged uprising that lasted for two months and spread to Najaf, Kerbala, Kut and other southern cities. Hundreds died but the cleric's support went up in every public opinion poll, as he was seen as a champion of independence.
The prime minister, Ayad Allawi, put out a statement yesterday announcing the paper's reappearance, indicating this was a mark of his respect for press freedom.
But Mr Yasseri [the paper’s editor] said the initiative for the reopening had come from his staff and Mr Sadr. He disclosed that he had met American and British officials after the closure. "I told them that they were making a mistake, and that if you close al-Hawza you will open 10 voices in its place," he said.
Asked if he feared the new Iraqi government might also ban the weekly, Mr Yasseri replied: "I didn't expect the American administration would be so stupid. We have seen American freedom and democracy and we don't think the Iraq government will do the same thing....”
So the newspaper was replaced by leaflets. The NY Times reported 3 days ago,
Mr. Sadr's forces have been handing out leaflets in Sadr City, the poor Shiite slum named for two of his relatives, listing nine categories of crimes for which the penalty is death.
"It is allowed to kill: 1. hijackers 2. kidnappers 3. thieves who are trying to disrupt safe family life 4. collaborators, spies and terrorists from Al Qaeda, Wahhabis and Saddamists," the proclamation reads. It goes on to list prostitutes, pimps, pornography sellers, gamblers - and those who sell alcohol.
Iraq is awash in leaflets and threats, and it is impossible to know how seriously to take this proclamation, which was, the leaflet said, released "with the blessing of Sadr's office and its supporters all over the country."
From a U.S. viewpoint, a newspaper, which can be criticized (and intimidated), is a much safer vehicle of expression than a leaflet. Just ask Tom Paine.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t already, please read Why isn’t the press defending freedom of the press and Why isn’t the press defending freedom of the press (revisited). Then let me know of any example, anywhere—from the Left, from the Right, from the American media, from the Western media—that condemned the closure of a newspaper by the United States.