Byrd's Brain

Sunday, March 30
enough already
 
On all policy fronts BushCo is a bunch of true believers. BushCo's effort to get funding for drilling in ANWR failed. It was rebuffed by the Senate by a mere two votes. But this cabal is not going to give up. They've just changed the venue. BushCo is now planning on new legislation in the House that would open ANWR to oil drillng.
Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said yesterday.
The White House is turning its attention to the House in hopes of salvaging a key part of the president's energy strategy. Republicans fell two votes shy in the Senate of passing the legislation that could lead to removing a 43-year-old ban on developing millions of barrels of oil from the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Wasington Times
BushCo only caters to industry and the wealthy. The rest of the world be damned.

Friday, March 28
Post Traumatic Stress
 
I may be distressed by the war. I may be upset by images from the war, but I am not there. I am far away from Iraq. The war is in some ways surreal to me. It is something I read about online or in the newspaper or I see and hear about it on television, but I don't experience it. However, for those who have been sent to Iraq the images, sounds and experience of war is their reality. Their experiences may stay with them for the rest of their lives. This war may be scarring a generation. Vietnam vets are still trying to cope with "their" war.
Darrel Jenkins served as an Army medic in Vietnam in the late 1960s, treating horrific battle wounds, staring into the eyes of soldiers who soon would die.

For 36 years, he never spoke about his experience in Vietnam. Not to his wife. Not to his son and daughter -- soldiers now stationed in the Persian Gulf.

Last week, only hours before U.S. bombs began falling on Baghdad, he began talking about Vietnam.

Sitting in a quiet room in the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Menlo Park, Jenkins, a 55-year-old patient, could not explain why he suffered in silence for so long.

"Finally, it just catches up with you," said Jenkins, whose large blue eyes welled with tears as he struggled to share his experiences.

"Everything that happened over there, the bodies and blood, you hear it, you see it, you smell it," Jenkins said in a monotone voice, forcing words and thoughts long suppressed. "The cries are still there, still in my mind."

For soldiers, there is the war that ended. Then there is the war within.

Battles of the mind can be signaled decades later by a door that slams, by heavy rain, by the smell of fish, by the talk of war. It can ruin a marriage, a job, a family, a soldier's life.

The painful memories, veterans said, are awakened by the live images that stream across televisions screens showing minute-by-minute details of the bloody battle in Iraq. (For the full article -- SF Chron)


Don't forget, it isn't just soldiers who will be affected. The U.S. invasion will affect the invaded. According to the UN a half million Iraqi children may be traumatized by this war.
Half a million or more Iraqi children caught in fighting may be left so traumatized they will need psychological help, the United Nations Children's agency said on Friday.

"I suspect that some half a million children in Basra, Najaf, Kerbala and Baghdad would possibly be in need of psycho-social rehabilitation once we go back in," Carel de Rooy, UNICEF's Iraq representative told a news briefing.

He was referring to the Iraqi cities which have witnessed the heaviest aerial bombardments or ground fighting since the U.S.-led invasion began eight days ago.

"There are 5.7 million children of primary school age in the country...A minimum figure of 10 percent of these children would need support. It could be much bigger," de Rooy said.

While UNICEF has no surveys or studies of the potential effects of the bombing on children, de Rooy told how the nine-year-old son of a local UNICEF worker in Baghdad had to be sedated after windows of their home were shattered in an attack.

"This is one example. We don't know what we will find when we go back. We suspect there might be a major issue of traumatized children," he said. Full article at Reuters.


Thursday, March 27
war entries
 
I've decided to not follow the play be play of the war or to make it a practice to comment on particular aspects of the war. I will continue to comment on the war in general. But this war disturbs me too deeply to comment with any lucidity on specifics. Instead, I will try to comment on the nonwar issues, those things that are happening while the world is focused on war.

If you need to know the play by play, Daily Kos and the Agonist have the war covered

no more comments
 
Once again I have removed the Haloscan commenting feature from this site. It may be gone for good. Haloscan has been very buggy this past week. I have lost comments and my replies. Also, the application has slowed the loading of this home page. I can't have that!

Rest assured that I still want to hear from you. Be sure to e-mail your comments to me! [ torobertbyrd@yahoo.com ]

Wednesday, March 26
Superfund continues slow death...
 
Senators rejected an amendment Tuesday that would have reinstated a tax on polluters to help pay for cleaning up the Superfund toxic waste sites.

By a vote of 56-43, Republican senators shot down a Democratic move to revive the tax, which Congress let expire in 1995. Since then the special trust fund created from the taxes on chemical and petroleum companies has dwindled from a high of $3.6 billion to a projected $28 million by the end of this year.
Mary Landrieu was one of six democrats who voted against reviving the tax. Can someone please remind me why we cared about her election?

 
The Ten Commandments clock! Order one for BushCo.


Adam Osbourne
 
A man ahead of his time has died. (password/id: rbyrd) I remember the commercials showing that the portable Osbourne could fit under an airplane seat.

Controlling the Masses
 
Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece...

But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

["There is one difference," Gustave Gilbert pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United State only Congress can declare wars."]

Oh that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

-- Herman Goering, at Nuremberg, as told to Gustave Gilbert, in his book, "Nuremberg Diary."


Tuesday, March 25
Blog Rounds
 
Skimble has the latest on the Halliburton inside deal.

Blah3's got the story on the Iraqi invasion war game that the Pentagon played. (It is the 4th 3/24 entry....) The U.S. lost!

The Daily Kos has the military analysis that this war is far from over.

Atrios (here) and See the Forest (here) discuss the budget vote. I agree with See the Forest, the Dems should have held out and not compromised.


Monday, March 24
Reality TV: Chapter 3
 
I haven't watched much of the television coverage of the attack on Iraq. I have young children and don't want them to see the war and I haven't been interested in following the "play by play." However, from the little that I have seen I must reiterate what I wrote before (and here). The coverage is surreal. One could easily forget that this is not a game.

Case in point. Over the weekend I watched a little of CNN. For a time an "embedded" reporter was reporting from a humvee as the it sped across the Iraqi desert. The humvee had a camera mounted on the front. While the journalist narrated the events of the day, the viewers at home got to watch the rise and fall of the horizon as the vehicle surged forward over the bumpy terrain. We never saw the reporter. Instead, we got this shaking image of the desert. The pictures were grainy and slightly out of focus. It had the feel of an old video game. I certainly didn't expect "HumveeCam". It brings a whole new dimension to war reporting. I guess the idea is that the viewers will be able to see what war is really like. But I think instead that will numbs us even more to the realities of war. Perhaps that is the point.

The viewers at home can see what happens in battle, but to them it is no different than any other television show. Television viewers aren't ever really that engaged with what they see on TV. For the most part the viewer is passive. Watching TV is not experiential. Sure, we might cheer for a team while watching a football game or we might cheer for our troops while watching a battle, but we aren't fully engaged. The actual experience is removed from our lives. We can sit down and put our feet up whenever we want. We can go into the kitchen for chips and a beer. On the other hand, If we attend a sporting event all of our senses are filled with the experience. If we get food or a beer we need to wait in line or we get it from the vendor walking the stands. We are always in the stadium. The sounds of the game are always with us. At the same time, if we were in battle we wouldn't be able to relax in a recliner or change the channel when the news got tedious. No, we would have to use all of our senses just to stay alive.

When we watch cable TV news we may see the horrors of war, but we don't get the same adrenalin rush that we would get if we were really in battle. Thus, this coverage trivializes war. Emotionally it is no different than any other television show. We can watch CNN and be entertained the same way one might watch CSI or 24. In fact, the details shown in those fictional television shows might even be more grisly, more real than the details shown in the live television feeds. The result is that these dramas might affect us more emotionally than the actual war. We can watch the war and then go about our lives as if nothing has changed. it is just another show on TV.

How can network executives expand the viewer experience? How can they make the war even more interactive? How can they take the game to the next level? What is next? HelmutCam?

While I am on the subject of the media coverage, I have to point out that it is also bizarre that the cable news networks have journalists on both sides of this war. They have reporters embedded with the invading troops. And they have cameras in Baghdad. Someone reports what is happening in Baghdad and then another journalist reports on the coalition's troop movements. We see the images from the "humvee cam" as the humvee makes it way to Baghdad. And then we see live images from within Baghdad. We might see the attackers attack with one camera and then, with the other, we might see the resulting explosions. We get the visual play by play. This way we can see who is winning and who is losing -- live and in real time.

Watching live images of Baghdad while talking heads jabber about the military actions of the day is uncomfortable. The viewers are waiting to see some action. We don't want to watch talking heads. Perhaps something will blow up while they watch. Wouldn't that be cool.

I think I'll go get another beer and watch MSNBC now.



[postscript: Why doesn't Iraq expel all of the journalists? If I am a CNN reporter then I work for a U.S. corporation and the U.S. is invading. Isn't the journalist almost a spy?]

Do you feel someone looking over your shoulder?
 
Has Commandant Aschroft tapped your telephone, seized your bank or telephone records or read your e-mail? You may never know, because the feds never have to tell if you are being watched. Since September 11th the use of administratively issued "national security letters" and "emergency foreign intelligence warrants" has increased dramatically. Attorney General John Ashcroft personally signed more than 170 of these "national security letters". That is three times the number authorized in the entire preceding 23 years.

war stuff
 
and this was supposed to be a quick war.... the spin for a longer war begins. Unless he pulls a coup d'etat BushCo will be a one termer. (These are NY Times links, password/id: byrdr)

Iraq's parading of POWs has violated the Geneva Convention. Unfortunately, the U.S. already set that precedent by violating the Geneva Convention with its handling of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. I pray for the POWs and I can't imagine the worry and anguish that their family and friends must be experiencing. I hope that they are well treated and released when this debacle is over. (NY Times, password/id: byrdr)

They opposed the war in Vietnam and have a critical view of the U.S. military. They are in an ethical quandary. Their company, Wind River Systems, which they co-founded in a Berkeley garage in 1981, has provided technology that helps detect chemical weapons, makes communications systems more reliable and even guides U.S. bombs to specific enemy targets.

Saturday, March 22
Pearl Harbor in Reverse
 
Preventive war, anticipatory self-defense, was the doctrine with which the Japanese justified Pearl Harbor.

FDR said that the attack on Pearl Harbor was a date "that will live in infamy."

Today the U.S. is infamous. The U.S. is no better than the Japanese who attacked the U.S. and brought the U.S. into WWII. The U.S. has done Pearl Harbor in reverse.

In an interview with Newsweek Arthur Schlesinger, Harvard professor, historian and former special assistant to President Kennedy (for Latin American affairs) talks about his fears because of and disappointments in BushCo's senseless war and as I have said here, the fact that Bush is a zealot.
Are you suggesting that Bush and his administration lack a sense of history that is required of someone in this position?
Yes. I think they lack a sense of history. They lack an instinct of respect for the views of other countries. It’s “the rest of the world is OK only insofar as it conforms to the views of the White House.” And I don’t think this is a healthy position for the White House to have.

How does aggression against Saddam Hussein, as you have said, play into our enemies’ hands?
Anti-American zealots around the world are strengthened by the conduct of this administration, by their belief that the rest of the world has to conform to our issues, to our attitudes.

But does containment even work against someone like Saddam?
Yeah, he was contained for ten years. The last thing he would do would be to commit an act of aggression because an act of aggression would legitimize the reaction of massive retaliation. He has not stirred beyond his own frontiers for ten years. As the C.I.A. has pointed out, the threat from Saddam Hussein will come only when we invade him.

How will that threat manifest itself, in your opinion?
I have no idea.

JFK’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson consigned Britain to a “tame and minor role in the world.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld recently referred to our allies as “old Europe.” Do you see parallels there?
Well, Dean Acheson was not secretary of State when he made that remark. He made it as a private citizen. Rumsfeld has succeeded in antagonizing most of the rest of world.

So if personalities play a role in shaping history, then, what can you say about the personalities of Bush and Rumsfeld?
They’re ideologues. Bush seems to feel that he’s been appointed by the almighty to go to war with Iraq. But Iraq is far less of a clear and present danger than North Korea. North Korea has nuclear weapons. The difference in our treatment between Iraq and North Korea is strong incentive for other countries, other rogue states, to develop their own nuclear arsenal.


Friday, March 21
Cruise Missiles
 
Reuters reports that during Friday's air attack on Iraq 350 cruise missiles were fired by the U.S. According to the U.S. Navy, the price of each cruise missile is roughly $500,000. That means that for these missiles alone, the U.S. literally blew up 1.7 billion dollars! My tax dollars at work today and next year and the year after that ...... The cost of modern warfare is difficult to fathom. Americans will be paying the economic costs of this stupid war for decades to come. Some Iraqi's paid the ultimate price -- their lives.

To find out how a cruise missile works go here.

ANWR Win!
 
The Senate took the ANWR vote. Drilling in ANWR has been defeated (for now). I have written on this (here, here and here) and would have written more today, but Joe Capozolla at the Rittenhouse Review has got it covered.

Thursday, March 20
The U.S. bugged UN officials, did it bug the EU too?
 
European Union officials have launched an investigation after bugging devices were found at offices used by several delegations - including those of France, Germany and the UK.

Extra security measures have been adopted ahead of a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Spanish, Italian and Austrian offices had also been bugged, officials said. BBC News


Iraq war is a diversion
 
The top National Security Council official in the war on terror,Rand Beers, resigned this week. Intelligence sources say the move reflects concern that the looming war with Iraq is hurting the fight against terrorism. Beers apparently feared that an invasion of Iraq would divert critical resources from the war on terror and would increase the liklihood of another terrorist attack in the U.S.
"This is a very intriguing decision (by Beers)," said author and intelligence expert James Bamford. "There is a predominant belief in the intelligence community that an invasion of Iraq will cause more terrorism than it will prevent. There is also a tremendous amount of embarrassment by intelligence professionals that there have been so many lies out of the administration -- by the president, (Vice President Dick) Cheney and (Secretary of State Colin) Powell -- over Iraq."
...
But others point out that the CIA warned Congress last year that an invasion might lead to a rise in terrorism. This, they say, is evidence there's more than just ambivalence about the war among the spy community.

"If it was your job to prevent terror attacks, would you be happy about an action that many see as unnecessary, that is almost guaranteed to cause more terror in the short-term?" said one official. "I know I'm not (happy)." UPI

Byrd Quote
 
"As long as there is a forum in which questions can be asked by men and women who do not stand in awe of a chief executive and one can speak as long as one's feet will allow one to stand, the liberties of the American people will be secure."

Senator Robert C. Byrd


Tony Blair's Speech
 
Tony Blair, in a recorded speech broadcast on Wednesday night addressed the British people and explained his decision to attack Iraq. I disagree with his reasoning. I disagree with the war. I am saddenned that the U.S. has offensively attacked another nation. That said, I respect Tony Blair. I disagree with him, but I can understand his reasoning. What did the U.S. do to get Bush as president? Bad karma on the part of the U.S. I would sure rather have Blair as president. The man is smart and passionate about his beliefs. Read the speech. You need not agree with him, but his conviction is clear.

BushCo on the other hand is just a freaking zealot who wants to rule the world for the mighty oil companies. Enough. Here is the speech.
"On Tuesday night I gave the order for British forces to take part in military action in Iraq.

"Tonight, British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea. Their mission: to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.

"I know this course of action has produced deep divisions of opinion in our country. But I know also the British people will now be united in sending our armed forces our thoughts and prayers. They are the finest in the world and their families and all of Britain can have great pride in them.

"The threat to Britain today is not that of my father's generation. War between the big powers is unlikely. Europe is at peace. The cold war already a memory.

"But this new world faces a new threat: of disorder and chaos born either of brutal states like Iraq, armed with weapons of mass destruction; or of extreme terrorist groups. Both hate our way of life, our freedom, our democracy.

"My fear, deeply held, based in part on the intelligence that I see, is that these threats come together and deliver catastrophe to our country and world. These tyrannical states do not care for the sanctity of human life. The terrorists delight in destroying it.

"Some say if we act, we become a target. The truth is, all nations are targets. Bali was never in the frontline of action against terrorism. America didn't attack al Qaida. They attacked America.

"Britain has never been a nation to hide at the back. But even if we were, it wouldn't avail us.

"Should terrorists obtain these weapons now being manufactured and traded round the world, the carnage they could inflict to our economies, our security, to world peace, would be beyond our most vivid imagination.

"My judgment, as prime minister, is that this threat is real, growing and of an entirely different nature to any conventional threat to our security that Britain has faced before.

"For 12 years, the world tried to disarm Saddam; after his wars in which hundreds of thousands died. UN weapons inspectors say vast amounts of chemical and biological poisons, such as anthrax, VX nerve agent, and mustard gas remain unaccounted for in Iraq.

"So our choice is clear: back down and leave Saddam hugely strengthened; or proceed to disarm him by force. Retreat might give us a moment of respite but years of repentance at our weakness would, I believe, follow.

"It is true Saddam is not the only threat. But it is true also - as we British know - that the best way to deal with future threats peacefully, is to deal with present threats with results.

"Removing Saddam will be a blessing to the Iraqi people. Four million Iraqis are in exile. Sixty per cent of the population are dependent on food aid. Thousands of children die every year through malnutrition and disease. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes or murdered.

"I hope the Iraqi people hear this message. We are with you. Our enemy is not you, but your barbarous rulers.

"Our commitment to the post-Saddam humanitarian effort will be total. We shall help Iraq move towards democracy. And put the money from Iraqi oil in a UN trust fund so that it benefits Iraq and no one else.

"Neither should Iraq be our only concern. President Bush and I have committed ourselves to peace in the Middle East based on a secure state of Israel and a viable Palestinian state. We will strive to see it done.

"But these challenges and others that confront us - poverty, the environment, the ravages of disease - require a world of order and stability. Dictators like Saddam, terrorist groups like al-Qaida, threaten the very existence of such a world.

"That is why I have asked our troops to go into action tonight. As so often before, on the courage and determination of British men and women, serving our country, the fate of many nations rests.

"Thank you."


Bush's Speech
 
I don't believe him, but at least Bush said the right things.
I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm. A campaign on the harsh terrain of a nation as large as California could be longer and more difficult than some predict. And helping Iraqis achieve a united, stable and free country will require our sustained commitment.

We come to Iraq with respect for its citizens, for their great civilization and for the religious faiths they practice. We have no ambition in Iraq, except to remove a threat and restore control of that country to its own people.
The full speech is here.

Wednesday, March 19
BushCo's Jihad has begun...
 
"Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky"

Goodbye Blue Sky

Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter when the
promise of a brave new world unfurled beneath a clear blue
sky?

Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
The flames are all gone, but the pain lingers on.

Goodbye, blue sky
Goodbye, blue sky.
Goodbye.
Goodbye.
Goodbye.


Pink Floyd - The Wall

Reality TV
 
The networks are poised to broadcast "Survivor - Iraq", which I wrote about earlier this month (and here).

Next Stop, Tehran
 
The invasion of Iraq hasn't even begun and already the foundation for the next invasion is being laid. The road home for U.S. troops may not be through Baghdad, it may be through Tehran.

Bills were introduced in Congress last week that call for the U.S. to seek a democratic government in Iran. With this proposed resolution BushCo's intentions toward Iran are being declared. I guess that while we have all those troops in the Middle East we may as well use them for more than one war, right? BushCo sure seems to feel that way. The resolution, S.RES 81, was introduced in the Senate and the House on March 12th by Senators Brownback (R-KA), Wyden (D-OR), Coleman (R-MN), Cornyn (R-TX), and Campbell (R-CO) and Representatives Lantos (D-CA), Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ackerman (D-NY), Cox (R-CA), Burton (R-IN), and Loretta Sanchez (D-CA). House Here is the resolution. (The added emphasis is mine.)


RESOLUTION
Expressing the sense of the Senate concerning the continuous repression of freedoms within Iran and of individual human rights abuses, particularly with regard to women.

Whereas the people of the United States respect the Iranian people and value the contributions that Iran's culture has made to world civilization for over 3 millennia;

Whereas the Iranian people aspire to democracy, civil, political, and religious rights, and the rule of law, as evidenced by increasingly frequent antigovernment and anti-Khatami demonstrations within Iran and by statements of numerous Iranian expatriates and dissidents;

Whereas Iran is an ideological dictatorship presided over by an unelected Supreme Leader with limitless veto power, an unelected Expediency Council and Council of Guardians capable of eviscerating any reforms, and a President elected only after the aforementioned disqualified 234 other candidates for being too liberal, reformist, or secular;

Whereas the Iranian Government has been developing a uranium enrichment program that by 2005 is expected to be capable of producing several nuclear weapons each year, which would further threaten nations in the region and around the world;

Whereas the United States recognizes the Iranian peoples' concerns that President Muhammad Khatami's rhetoric has not been matched by his actions;

Whereas President Khatami clearly lacks the ability and inclination to change the behavior of the State of Iran either toward the vast majority of Iranians who seek freedom or toward the international community;

Whereas political repression, newspaper censorship, corruption, vigilante intimidation, arbitrary imprisonment of students, and public executions have increased since President Khatami's inauguration in 1997;

Whereas men and women are not equal under the laws of Iran and women are legally deprived of their basic rights;

Whereas the Iranian Government shipped 50 tons of sophisticated weaponry to the Palestinian Authority despite Chairman Arafat's cease-fire agreement, consistently seeks to undermine the Middle East peace process, provides safe-haven to al-Qa'ida and Taliban terrorists, allows transit of arms for guerrillas seeking to undermine our ally Turkey, provides transit of terrorists seeking to destabilize the United States-protected safe-haven in Iraq, and develops weapons of mass destruction; (sounds a lot like Iraq.)

Whereas since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and despite rhetorical protestations to the contrary, the Government of Iran has actively and repeatedly sought to undermine the United States war on terror;

Whereas there is a broad-based movement for change in Iran that represents all sectors of Iranian society, including youth, women, student bodies, military personnel, and even religious figures, that is pro-democratic, believes in secular government, and is yearning to live in freedom;

Whereas following the tragedies of September 11, 2001, tens of thousands of Iranians filled the streets spontaneously and in solidarity with the United States and the victims of the terrorist attacks; and

Whereas the people of Iran deserve the support (intervention?)of the American people: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that--

(1) legitimizing the regime in Iran stifles the growth of the genuine democratic forces in Iran and does not serve the national security interest of the United States;

(2) positive gestures of the United States toward Iran should be directed toward the people of Iran , and not political figures whose survival depends upon preservation of the current regime; and

(3) it should be the policy of the United States to seek a genuine democratic government (regime change!?) in Iran that will restore freedom to the Iranian people, abandon terrorism, and live in peace and security with the international community.
For the most part the Democrats have marched in lock step with the Republicans on the Patriot Act and by authorizing BushCo to use force in Iraq. This resolutions was sponsored by Republicans and Democrats.

Hopefully now that the realities of their actions, strike that, inactions, are becoming clear most members of Congress will stand up for the American people, and people everywhere, and put a stop to this madness. But my confidence is not high.

Iraq, Iran and North Korea are BushCo's "axis of evil" nations. Iran and North Korea have reason to be wary of the U.S. The U.S. has asserted and will soon implement the "preemptive strike doctrine". Therefore, any nation that feels threatened by the U.S. can follow the U.S. precedent and attack to protect its own national security. Right? As I recall there are reports that North Korea has missiles that can reach the west coast of the U.S. Do we feel safe yet?

(Postscript:
Politics makes strange bedfellows. One of S Res 81's sponsors, Senator Wyden (D-OR), opposed the Iraq resolution and introduced the legislation to limit funding of the Total Information Awareness Project.)

Tuesday, March 18
ANWR Drilling
 
There may be some good news.

By the end of this week the Senate should vote on the ANWR drilling budget provision. At this point it appears that the Republicans don't have the votes need to pass it. Instead, the Democrats appear to have enough votes to strip the provision from the budget. BushCo tried to push this through as a budget provision so that there would be no ability to filibuster. That meant that it only needed a simple majority to pass the Senate.

Last week I listed the Democratic Senators who were being lobbied by the Republicans to support drilling. Thanks to those of you who contacted those senators. A little pressure from may have kept them from breaking party ranks. At this point Republicans say that they don't have more than 48 votes, but they might have more than they are stating. I trust little if anything that these true believers say. This isn't over until the votes are counted.
Senate Republican officials said today that they had been unable to muster enough votes to begin oil drilling in the Alaska wildlife refuge, probably dooming the signature energy plan of the Bush administration.
...
Such a vote would be an embarrassment for the Bush administration, which came into office in 2001 vowing to reverse President Bill Clinton's refusal to permit drilling in the refuge. It was unable to get the measure through the Senate last year, when it was controlled by Democrats. After the Republicans took control of the Senate in January, administration officials hoped for a different result, but they said at least eight Republicans and most Democrats remained opposed to the plan.
...
Last week, Republicans said they were hoping to persuade four senators — Mark Pryor and Blanche L. Lincoln of Arkansas, both Democrats, and Norm Coleman of Minnesota and Gordon H. Smith of Oregon, both Republicans — to change their earlier stance and support drilling. But the senators said through spokesmen that they remained opposed to drilling in the refuge.

"The senator has said he would meet with both sides and the supporters gave him brochures, but he has not been convinced," said Mr. Pryor's spokesman, Rodell Mollineau. "He said during the campaign that he didn't believe drilling was good for the environment or would meet our national energy needs, and that hasn't changed." NY Time (password/id: rbyrd)
Gale A. Norton, the interior secretary, refers to ANWR as the "flat, white nothingness". Shouldn't a Secretary of the Interior have an appreciation for nature? I guess that she does from a BushCo point of view.

Monday, March 17
Other news
 
BushCo's scripted press conference.

I bet that it helped a lot that her last name is Clinton.

Impaired judgment. Is BushCo a "dry drunk" president? Is it 25th Amendment time?

IKONOS satellite photo: part of Baghdad.

Michael Moore's refreshing letter to BushCo.

Pretzels for Bush.

Reality
 
The reality is that war with Iraq is just around the corner. We, the world and Iraqi's are in waiting mode.

I have no hope that Saddam will seek exile. I have very little hope that some event will take place to stop this war before it starts. I expect that the U.S. will be at war on or before this Thursday the 20th.

Spring starts on the 20th. Spring is supposed to symbolize new beginnings, new life and fresh possibilities. Not this year. There is nothing fresh or new in this headlong march to war. War is very old. Attacking Iraq is a symptom of old thinking. Humans haven't evolved much over the centuries.

When I started this blog I didn't intend for it to be an antiwar diatribe, but then, I started this blog last August. Even at that time, while the likelihood of war with Iraq seemed inevitable, but war was in the future, likely this Spring. There was so much time. There was a world of possibilities that could have derailed this war effort. Admittedly, there have been minor delays here and there on BushCo's war crusade. But for the most part BushCo's zealotry has been unabated. And now the U.S. is going to attack another nation.

The U.S. will be the aggressor. There is no controlling this president. Americans are being taken for a ride whether we like it or not. We will kill innocent men, women and children. We will watch it all unfold on television.

This all saddens me deeply. I need to meditate and pray.

Saturday, March 15
War links
 
A new section of links has been added to the left column. The new section "Iraq/War" contains links to just that, sites that deal with the impending war with Iraq.

Antiwar.com began in the '90's with coverage of the skirmishes in the Balkans. The site contains news and commentary from various media and materials prepared by staff.

Electronic Iraq was launched on February 8th, once BushCo made it clear that a war with Iraq was imminent. On the homepage, use the refresh button to see a current selection of photographs of life in Iraq.

Iraq Body Count has been tallying the Iraqi death toll from the U.S. and U.K. bombings of Iraq since early January. At this time the body count is 14.

Iraq Journal contains multimedia reports by a correspondent and a videographer reporting from Baghdad. The site also has detailed maps of Iraq and the Middle East.

War Times is a San Francisco based newspaper that follows BushCo's war on terrorism.

Special thanks to the SF Bay Guardian for listing these and other links in its print edition of this excellent article on the media.

gulf of tonkin?
 
This is important. CNN calls Bush a liar.

Friday, March 14
Bush setting the world on fire...
 
1980 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Argentine Adolfo Perez Esquivel says that "Bush is setting the world on fire." This is what I fear. This is why a war with Iraq is so hard to fathom. It serves no good.
"What Lincoln said more than a century ago is that if the United States doesn't defend life, then it faces the prospect of self-destruction."

Yet unstable as the planet is, Mr. Perez Esquivel fears surging anti-Americanism will make it far more so. Across Latin America, he says, the antiwar sentiment, which has prompted big demonstrations in half a dozen countries, is vigorously feeding long-term resentment over U.S. policies on trade, tariffs, militarization and debt.

"What's happening with Iraq is not isolated, it's part of a global phenomenon. When we see the installation of U.S. military bases throughout Latin America, when we look at [American interference] in countries such as Venezuela and Colombia and Panama, we have to ask ourselves what's going on.

"Lots of people think it and won't say it, but I will say it: The United States is seeking to control the world. That's why we are seeing the reaction in so many countries." Globe and Mail



Human Shield
 
I could never be a human shield. I don't think that BushCo would care about people near a target. That said I am in awe of people who would travel across the globe in order to put their lives on the line to try to deter U.S. bombing. John Ross is one of those people, I believe that he was recently expelled from Iraq, but before his expulsion he wrote about his experience as a shield.
The sun comes up sulfur yellow over the Daura Oil Refinery here in west Baghdad. The air quality is not too hot either. Fireballs that can be seen all the way downtown erupt from the stacks, and the burn-off of toxic waste sears the eyes and smothers the lungs. Last night three U.S. citizens and a virtual international brigade of volunteers from South Africa, Great Britain, Slovenia, Catalonia, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan slept here under the roar and whistle of the stacks, waiting for President George W. Bush to drop his bombs on this prime target, which was severely blasted in the 1991 holocaust, knocking a key fuel source off-line for a full year.

On March 2 the hundred or so human shields currently in Baghdad faxed the White House to inform Bush that we are at the Daura refinery and four other civilian infrastructure sites in Baghdad, all of them designated by the United Nations Development Program as human-directed installations. We reminded the U.S. president that by bombing these important facilities, he would be endangering the lives of his own citizens as well as those of 34 other nations, people who have come to Iraq to interpose their bodies between the U.S. death machine and the people of this unfortunate land. We also sought to make it clear that aerial bombing of civilian sites is a violation of the Geneva Convention and would make the U.S. commander in chief subject to international prosecution for war crimes. We are not hopeful Bush will take our lives into account as his mad conflagration looms on the tarnished horizon, but at least we tried to make it perfectly clear that murdering us will not go unpunished. SF Bay Guardian


Captain Queeg
 
More and more people are beginning to question Bush's sanity, says Paul Krugman of the New York Times. You can read it all here (password/id:rbyrd) and here is a taste:
Aboard the U.S.S. Caine, it was the business with the strawberries that finally convinced the doubters that something was amiss with the captain. Is foreign policy George W. Bush's quart of strawberries?

Over the past few weeks there has been an epidemic of epiphanies. There's a long list of pundits who previously supported Bush's policy on Iraq but have publicly changed their minds. None of them quarrel with the goal; who wouldn't want to see Saddam Hussein overthrown? But they are finally realizing that Mr. Bush is the wrong man to do the job. And more people than you would think — including a fair number of people in the Treasury Department, the State Department and, yes, the Pentagon — don't just question the competence of Mr. Bush and his inner circle; they believe that America's leadership has lost touch with reality.
Of course BushCo has lost touch with reality. They are zealots. Zealots don't live in the same world as the rest of us.

Thursday, March 13
True Believers
 
Karl Rove is a pragmatist. He is a campaign consultant. His job is to get his candidates elected and then to get them re-elected. On the other hand, BushCo’s obsession with Saddam is based in zealotry. Shrub wants, no craves is a better word, to replace Saddam and to rule Iraq. BushCo needs Iraq firstly for its oil and secondly in order to establish a huge U.S. operational presence in the Middle East. Shrub wants Saddam because he may have tried to kill his daddy -- Poppie/Bush Sr.

The first two goals are rooted in beliefs akin to manifest destiny. BushCo wants Iraq and wants to rule the Middle East because it is supposed to. This has been planned for two decades. Now with BushCo in charge the plan can be implemented. That to BushCo is the U.S. destiny. The last goal is personal revenge.

Neither of these rationales is comforting. There is no rational analysis that is a foundation for these goals. They are rooted in belief and emotion. This is what is so troubling about the impending war with Iraq. There is no reasoning with BushCo. Nothing is likely to stop BushCo from its goals. Compromise is not possible with a zealot.

Tony Blair may be learning this lesson too late. Instead of slowing BushCo down. Instead of forcing BushCo to see the realities, the necessity of multilateral action toward Iraq, Blair finds himself being pulled into the BushCo abyss. You are either with them or against them.

Variations of that phrase, “you are either with them or against them,” have been used frequently over the past year in reference to BushCo. You can just feel it in your gut. They think, that if you dare to disagree with them, you must be the enemy. France disagrees with the U.S. and will veto a UN resolution authorizing war. France now is vilified. There is talk of added tariffs on French imports. Ludicrously, in Congressional cafeterias “French” food is now “Freedom” food. They aren't french fries, they are freedom fries. The same type of name changes were implemented during W.W.II. All things German were renamed. Frankfurters were ““hot-dogs” and sauerkraut was “freedom cabbage”. The U.S. was at war with Germany. Germany was the aggressor.

The U.S. is not at war with France, but France disagrees with BushCo. Clearly, there can be no disagreements among friends. Thus France is treated as if it were the enemy. This is the behavior of zealots. You can’t reason with zealots. You can’t reason with someone whose beliefs are not rooted in reason. For them there is no compromise.

On September 11th the U.S. learned first hand what it means to be a zealot. The men who hijacked American Airlines flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines flight 175 and flew those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon believed so steadfastly in their cause, and their hatred for the U.S., that they were willing to die for their beliefs. In fact, at least the pilots among them planned to die for their beliefs. (We’ll never know with any certainty if all the hijackers knew the entire plan.)

Tragically, the passengers on United Airlines flight 93, that went down in Somerset County Pennsylvania, had to learn about zealotry all to quickly. They were forced to understand that there was no compromising with the hijackers. So they sacrificed themselves to get that plane down in an open field. I hope that I would have done the same had I been on that plane.

Zealots don’t compromise. Zealots proselytize and try to win converts. Zealots act offensively because they believe, no, they know that their cause is righteous.

This is what makes me so uncomfortable about the impending war with Iraq. The U.S. is being led by zealots. There is no compromise acceptable to BushCo. Blair, with varying success, has been mediating one compromise after another over the past year. At the same time, BushCo has been relatively undeterred in its mobilization for war. The U.S. is going to start a war! As Senator Byrd has said, “The U.S. doesn’t do that.” But it sure looks like an attack is imminent. The future of the U.S. will soon be changed in unknown and unalterable ways because BushCo won’t compromise. Because Bush is a true believer. He is right and we are wrong.

Karl Rove must be a little nervous about BushCo’s re-election chances -- especially if Blair can't broker a deal that keeps the U.S. from going in alone. If the war isn't short and terrorists rise up and attack the U.S., re-election will not be easy for Bush. Although never underestimate the chances of this true believer.

Wednesday, March 12
ANWR
 
I warned about this last month and now, sadly it may come to pass.

Drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may begin soon. (If you don't know about ANWR, check out the picture here.)

A showdown is nearing in the Senate on whether to allow drilling in the ANWR. A budget resolution containing an Arctic drilling measure was introduced on Wednesday in the Budget Committee by the panel's chairman, Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla. It is likely to clear the committtee and be before the full Senate next week.

Senators Lieberman (Connecticut) and Kerry (Massachusetts) had vowed to filibuster any drilling proposal. With a filibuster the GOP would need 60 votes to get the measure passed. But BushCo has done Lieberman and Kerry one better.

The ANWR drilling provision is part of a budget resolution. Budget resolutions are not subject to filibuster. Therefore, opponents to drililng need 51 votes in order to remove the provision from the budget bill. It is unclear who has the majority.

The good news is that:
Republican Sens. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Peter Fitzgerald of Illinois and John McCain of Arizona wrote a letter to Frist strongly objecting to the ANWR issue being intertwined in the budget process. The six were among eight GOP senators who voted against drilling last year and have not changed their views.
The bad news is that:
Republicans are eying Democratic Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both of Arkansas, Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and freshman Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., in hopes one might switch, sources in both parties say.

Coleman, who succeeded the late Paul Wellstone, a strong critic of drilling in the refuge, said Wednesday he remains opposed, but will keep his door open to those who want to discuss the matter. A spokesman for Pryor said the Arkansas senator has not changed his mind and still opposes drilling.

Five Democrats - Sens. John Breaux and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Sens. Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, and Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia - continue to be solid in the pro-drilling camp, as they were in the last Congress. Miami Herald
This is important. Lobby Congress. Contact your Senators to let them know how important this is. Thank the republicans who oppose drilling andcontact the fence sitters and the Democrats who support drilling:

The fence sitters:
Lincoln, Blanche (Ark) 1-202-224-4843
Pryor, Mark (Ark) 1-202-224-2353
Coleman, Norm (Minn) 1-202-224-5641
Smith, Gordon (Ore) 1-202-224-3753

The pro-drilling democrats:
Breaux, John B. (LA) 1-202-224-4623
Landrieu, Mary (LA) 1-202-224-5824
Akaka, Daniel K. (HI) 1-202-224-6361
Inouye, Daniel K. (HI) 1-202-224-3934
Miller, Zell (GA) 1-202-224-3643

To contact your own Senators you can locate their web pages and contact information from here.

$ 27 million
 
Wow. I almost wish that I knew a terrorist.

Tuesday, March 11
 
The first global criminal court helds its first session today when judges were sworn in, but the United States showed its hostility to the tribunal by staying away. Human rights groups hail the International Criminal Court (ICC) as world justice's biggest step since an international military tribunal in Nuremberg tried Nazi leaders after World War

On the train again
 
I am travelling for work again tomorrow so there may be no blogs.

Six Questions
 
I like Tony Blair, but he has gotten himself into quite a pickle since he allied himself with Bush and declared that he wanted to have a go at Iraq. I still like to think that Blair thought that he could restrain BushCo. He has learned the hard way that nothing restrains a zealot. He now has six questions that he must confront:
  • Can he persuade George Bush to remain flexible and give more time?

  • Can he convince the so-called 'swing six' wavering countries on the security council to back a second resolution?

  • How is he going to defuse the threat of a Russian and French veto?

  • Opposition is mounting from his own party and the public at home. What must he do to contain it?

  • Blair still has a mountain to climb in persuading the British public that war is justified. What is his media strategy for doing so?

  • The big question: If a second resolution falls, Blair will have to decide whether to go to war in any case. Would it be legal for Britain to do so?
  • These questions are posed and analyzed in the Guardian.

    I am opposed to a war with Iraq, so I shouldn't care about whether Blair can muster support for the war. But if the U.S. is going to invade Iraq the worst thing that could happen for the U.S. would be for BushCo to go it alone. The U.S. had the sympathy of the world after September 11th. Now the U.S. is villified and feared throughout the globe. Bush has brought us so far in so little time. I pray that we don't go into Iraq alone.

    No trees, no fires
     
    Last year on August 21st I wrote:
    "Mr Prez. what should we do about this forest fire thing? A lot of homes have burned." "Well. Uhm. Gee boys. It is the trees in the forest that start the fires. All those trees that burned could have been used for lumber. Let's cut the trees down. No trees. No more fires. More lumber." That is Bushie Jr., clearcut the forests, enrich the lumber companies and stop fires. It is all so simple.
    The Forest Service has released its new forest management plan. In order to protect the forests the plan calls for quadrupling logging. (Mother Jones) There will be no fires if there is nothing to burn.

    Bicycles: Preparing For War
     
    Iraqi's are preparing for war. One sign is the increased demand for bicycles in Baghdad.
    "The authorities have also decided to distribute bicycles to ministries and state agencies that would need them in the event of war," Dawood Hussein, managing director of the state National Metallic Industries and Bicycles Company, told AFP.

    "We have so far made 6,000 bicycles and we have orders for thousands more," said Dawood, on the floor of the factory that has a large stained-glass window shaped like a wheel.

    He said most bicycles were to help state agencies and ministries continue their daily activities, particularly delivery and mailing services. But the factory, the only one
    producing bicycles in Iraq, cannot satisfy growing demand.

    "People prefer our bicycles because they are good and cheaper, but since we cannot produce enough they are forced to buy imported ones," said Dawood.
    A bicycle made by the factory costs about $20, while those imported from China are sold for some $35.

    Iraqi-made bicycles come in red, black, green and light blue. Due to the U.N. sanctions isolating Iraq since 1990, they have no gears. SAC Bee


    Monday, March 10
    U.S Kidnappings
     
    The U.S. has dropped to new depths of lawlessness and moral corruptness. You have to read this. The U.S. has interrogated and then kidnapped the seven and nine year old sons of a terrorist in order to use them as leverage to try to get the terrorist to talk.

    Isn't kidnapping a crime? It was two years ago anyway. Is it now a crime to be the offspring of a suspected terrorist? Remember my fellow Americans, these actions are being taken in our names.

    Librarians Respond
     
    Did you know that you gave up your constitutional rights when you borrowed a book form your library?

    The Patriot Act requires libraries and bookstores to provide the FBI with information on a person's reading preferences if asked. The key here is that a normal search warrant or a subpoena is not needed. Federal agents need not show any probable cause in order to get this information about you. Instead they need to get a warrant from a special court, but they need not show that the subject of the warrant is suspected of a crime or possesses evidence of a crime. Basically, they just have to ask permission and then get the information.

    Whether I read thrillers, science fiction, gothic romances, 1984 or The Joy of Sex is my business and only my business. If the feds need to know what I read they should convince a real judge first. This just asking bit is too scary. What if the Commandant Aschroft should decide that he wants to find anyone who has ever checked a book out on the uses of hemp. Could they ask every library in the nation and then round up all of the "hep" readers? What if he decides to use this as a tool to enforce his version of morality? I hear jack boots stomping in the distance.

    This insidious law even contains a provision that makes it a crime for a library or a bookstore to tell a patron that information about them has been requested. The libraries in Santa Cruz California are striking back. Each library has a notice posted that informs patrons about these provisions of the Patriot Act. Check out books at your own risk. Any questions about the policy are directed to Commandant Aschroft. That last bit is a nice touch. Rep. Bernie Sanders of Vermont has introduced a bill to repeal these bookstore and library sections of the Patriot Act. The frightening thing is that I have no idea if the bill will pass. You would think that it would be a no brainer, but not in these times.

    Here are salient points from the article on Santa Cruz. My favorite is the librarians method for getting around the "no informing" about information requests. Very smart.
    The Justice Department says libraries have become a logical target of surveillance in light of evidence that some Sept. 11 hijackers used library computers to communicate with each other.
    ...
    The Bush administration has refused to say how it has used Section 215 -- prompting a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit by library and bookseller organizations -- and has made few public comments on the issue. One statement by a high-ranking Justice Department official, however, may have inadvertently helped to fuel the rollback efforts.

    In a letter to an inquiring senator, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Bryant said Americans who borrow or buy books surrender their right of privacy.

    A patron who turns over information to the library or bookstore "assumes the risk that the entity may disclose it to another," Bryant, the Justice Department's chief of legislative affairs, said in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
    He said an individual's right of privacy in such records is "inherently limited" and is outweighed by the government's need for the information, if the FBI can show it is relevant to an "investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.
    ...
    In Santa Cruz, where library officials are trying to stir up patrons about the Patriot Act, chief librarian Anne Turner has found a more subtle way to sidestep the gag order, if she ever faces one.

    "At each board meeting I tell them we have not been served by any (search warrants)," she said. "In any months that I don't tell them that, they'll know."
    SF Chronicle
    These provisions were apparently "little noticed" when the Patriot Act was passed. My confidence is not very high when Congress can usurp our privacy rights without paying attention to what they are doing. It would be nice if elected official actually read and understood what they are voting on. I wonder what else might be slipped in to Patriot II when the members of Congress are looking the other way. If I wanted to slip things by them I would sponsor bills that were absurdly long so that nobody would read them.

    Sunday, March 9
    Iraq: Smoking Gun
     
    BushCo and Blair believe that they have discovered the smoking gun that will persuade the Security Council to authorize a war against Iraq. Hans Blix, the weapons inspector may have left some details out of the testimony that he gave to the Security Council. Blix's written report mentions the discovery of an unmanned drone. This drone was not disclosed by Iraq. It would be a violation of the UN resolutions. BushCo and Blair may have the smoking gun that they need. They wanted a war by mid March. It looks like they may get it. They may even have UN support, or at least no official opposition.
    Its existence was only disclosed in a declassified 173-page document circulated by the inspectors at the end of the meeting — an apparent attempt by Dr Blix to hide the revelation to avoid triggering a war.

    The discovery of the drone, which has a wingspan of 7.45 metres, will make it much easier for waverers on the Security Council to accept US and British arguments that Iraq has failed to meet UN demands that it disarm.
    ...
    Unlike the outlawed Al-Samoud 2 missile, which was declared as a purportedly legal weapon, the drone was not declared. It would be the first undeclared weapons programme found by the UN and is considered by British and US officials to be a “smoking gun”. London Times
    Get ready for prime time.

    Friday, March 7
     
    Mark Fiore's latest.

    Thursday, March 6
    Coincidence?
     
    A radioactive device, that could be used as part of a dirty bomb, was stolen from Halliburton Oil Inc. in Nigeria. Halliburton is VP Dick Cheney's old company.
    According to one expert, if the device's radioactive material were combined with a pound of TNT and exploded, an area covering 60 city blocks would be contaminated with a radiation dose in excess of safety guidelines of the Environmental Protection Agency, the newspaper reported.


    Torture?
     
    The interrogations at Bagram have led to two known deaths. They have been classified as homicides. There are claims that "detainees are chained to the ceiling, shackled so tightly that the blood flow stops, kept naked and hooded and kicked to keep them awake for days on end."

    Big Brother is Watching You
     
    Mr Morality, John Ashcroft, has now begun a new program of tracking web traffic that goes to specific sites. Pursuant to laws passed over the last 2 decades, Federal agents routinely seize property used in crimes, such as a drug dealer's cars. Now Aschroft has extended those seizures to include internet domain names. The feds have taken the urls of sites that sell marijuana paraphernalia -- online smoke shops -- and of at least one site that sold chips that allowed video game systems to run pirated games. In the past, "illegal" sites were shut down.

    Now the cyberspace doors are still open, but the feds are waiting inside and taking notes on who comes to visit. The feds are now spying on unwitting web surfers. Internet users beware. Where you go may be monitored. And you may even be greeted by a Big Brother like warning from the Commandant, Attorney General Ashcroft.
    While businesses can physically relocate in the material world, in cyberspace they depend on their domain name, the Web's equivalent of the front door of a bricks-and-mortar venture.

    "If you want to take down a Web site but simply confiscate the servers, operators can always buy other servers," said Michael Overly, an attorney specializing in computer law at Foley & Lardner. "But if they take the domain name away, then they've put the person out of business."
    ...
    "The government is suddenly in a position of being able to monitor the Web-surfing activities of unwitting individuals who believe they are going to a Web site ... but possibly implicating themselves into some law enforcement investigation," said David Sobel, general counsel of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

    Visitors to pipesforyou.com, for instance, are greeted with a message informing them that a Pennsylvania federal court has "restrained" the sites at the request of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

    "You can spin this out to future situations where there are a lot of classes of individuals the government might like to have a list of," such as visitors to terrorism- or biological weapons-related sites, Sobel said.

    The Justice Department did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment on what it plans to do with the sites and their visitor logs.


    The Mastermind?
     
    BushCo alters its opinion of each terrorist that it arrests. Each person is the mastermind. The most recent Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Did he become important only when he was arrested because it would make good press? Or did he really move up the "terror ladder" as the U.S. learned more about him? After the September 11th attacks BushCo released a list of the world's most-wanted terrorists. There were 22 names on it. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was No. 22. The list wasn't alphabetical.

    Sometime between September 11th 2001 and last Saturday morning, when Mohammed was captured in Pakistan, he had moved up the "'terrorist ladder" and has now been identified as the mastermind behind the September 11th attacks. Maybe Osama isn't important any more. Maybe he is just too hard to find.
    Osama bin Laden, we're now told, is pretty much a figurehead: It's Mohammed who made things happen. Over the past 2-1/2 years, he's climbed from last place to a photo finish for No. 1 on the most-wanted list.

    The cynical view on this is that Mohammed is still the relatively small fish we were first told he was, but the news of his arrest is being hyped because the Bush administration needs a victory in the war on terrorism before going to war in Iraq.

    The merely skeptical view is that we are clueless about how al-Qaida really works.

    When Mohammed's name first made international news, he was described as an accomplice to Ramzi Yousef, the convicted mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing, in 1993. In retrospect, that might have been Mohammed's stint in the terrorist-mastermind internship program.

    In the first intelligence reports following the 2001 attacks, Mohammed was named as an "al-Qaida operative," a couple of levels down the organizational chart from bin Laden's top deputy, Egyptian doctor Ayman Zawahiri, al-Qaida military commander Mohammed Atef and security chief Saif al-Adil. Those were the big fish.

    Mohammed's name came up again when officials began to speculate about how al-Qaida might be reorganizing in the wake of the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. With bin Laden apparently on the run, and periodically presumed to be dead, it seemed to make sense that an operational guy, with a lower profile, might step in to run things. Mohammed seemed to be that guy. He was described as "al-Qaida's engineer," a nerdy, uncharismatic sort, a middle manager who'd probably never get the key to the executive washroom, no matter how much he sucked up to the boss.
    ...
    Around the same time, the government started to release intelligence information it had gathered from "various sources," which, we all understood, included alleged al-Qaida members being held at Guantanamo Bay and other, undisclosed, locations. Abu Zubeida, who was described as a top bin Laden lieutenant when he was captured in Pakistan last year, is widely assumed to be one of those sources. He's apparently the first person to have told U.S. officials that Mohammed was the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
    ...
    For the first time in his long al-Qaida career, he appeared on al-Jazeera TV, the CNN of the Arab world. His bosses were nowhere to be found. Mohammed had replaced bin Laden as the face of al-Qaida. He'd also replaced the Rev. Jesse Jackson as the world's most famous North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University alumnus.
    ...
    It seems that every time we capture one of these guys, we insist that he's the one we wanted all along. Suntimes


    Wednesday, March 5
    Reality TV: Almost Ready for Prime Time
     
    The television show that I mentioned a few days ago is in its final planning stages. The producers at the pentagon are getting ready to launch the attack. There will be lots, did I say "lots"? Strike that. There will be thousands of missiles fired at, and bombs dropped on, Iraq. The U.S. is planning on a quick and very dirty war. The war plan is to bomb Iraq into submission. When this is over Iraq will be somewhere between here and the stone age. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people will be killed. This is reminiscent of Truman's decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Truman hoped to end the war with the fewest number of casualties. This time, though, the U.S. will be the aggressor. The U.S. is starting the war. I thought that the U.S. didn't do that. How did the U.S. come so far so quickly?
    The nation's top military officer said today that the Pentagon's war plan for Iraq entailed shocking the Iraqi leadership into submission quickly with an attack "much, much, much different" from the 43-day Persian Gulf war in 1991.

    Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to give details. But other military officials have said the plan calls for unleashing 3,000 precision-guided bombs and missiles in the first 48 hours of a short air campaign, to be followed quickly by ground operations.

    "If asked to go into conflict in Iraq, what you'd like to do is have it be a short conflict," General Myers told reporters at a breakfast meeting. "The best way to do that would be to have such a shock on the system that the Iraqi regime would have to assume early on the end was inevitable." NYTimes (id/password: rbyrd)
    The article mentions that General Myers gave a "stark warning" that there would be Iraqi civilian casualties. Although the military will use its "best efforts to prevent them". How do you do that with missiles? The missiles will strike their targets no matter how many people are in or near it.

    BushCO's new show, "Survivor Iraq" is getting ready to air. The missiles will certainly make cool streaks of light in the night sky and the explosions from the bombs and missiles will add to the excitement. This war will be colorful and quick. It will be good TV for Americans with short attention spans. And it is planned to have a happy ending -- few Americans will die. We better go out and stock up on beer and chips.

    But remember, as you watch the war unfold on TV, that innocent Iraqi men, women and children will die.

    The negative repercussions of this war will be felt for years to come.

    U.S. tax dollars at work.

    Tuesday, March 4
    Teething
     
    Perhaps I should have titled this "Sleep Deprivation" instead.

    The last four days have been very very long. No one in our house has slept much. I have averaged four hours of sleep each night. The sleep deprivation has begun to affect us. Short term memory loss is no fun. You keep forgetting where you put something. Last night was a little better, but a good night's sleep is sometime the future.

    Our 5 month old boy has been teething -- his third tooth. For him this means that when he goes down to sleep he sleeps for an hour or, if he has been given Tylenol, two hours at the most. During the day this is annoying and it can be handled, but it means that my wife doesn't get a nap. At night this sleeping pattern is another problem entirely. He will nurse and then sleep from 9 pm to 11 pm on a good night. But then for the last four nights my wife has had to go to him, since he is awake and crying, three separate times between 11 pm and 2 am. I sleep through this activity to varying degrees. I have not been aware of the 11 pm wakings and have been only slightly aware of the second early morning waking, but by 2 am I have been awake. At those times, in order to let my wife sleep and since I am awake, I rock my son to soothe him and eventually to sleep.

    I hold and rock him in his room. The pattern has been that I hold him from about 2:30 am to 5 or 5:30 am. (You must understand that this is the middle of the night and that the exact times aren't too clear to me.) We purchased a recliner at a garage sale. It is the most practical investment in a piece of furniture that I have ever made. I hold my son while I sit and rock in the recliner. This almost always calms him. With time he always goes to sleep. I used to hold my daughter too, when she was teething, but for her we had gotten a glider rocker. The rocking part was great, but since it didn't recline I never got very comfortable.

    Now, with my son, I can continue to hold him and recline the chair. Usually I can sleep a little and at times I listen to the radio on a Walkman. I getting to hear too much talk radio. Every now and then my son will stir and cry out. I can usually soothe him quickly and get him back to sleep. That way he doesn't wake up his sister or my wife. This morning I held him from 3:30 to 6 am. I got some sleep during that time, but I have no idea how much.

    It doesn't seem fair that teething should hurt. Babies are too little to have such pain.

    Sunday, March 2
    Bush Dirty Tricks Campaign
     
    BushCo is engaging in more sordid activities in our names. They are bugging phones and intercepting e-mail of UN Delegates in attempts to coerce favorable votes in the Security Council. What ever happened to needing probable cause of a crime or threats to national security being necessary to do these things? I guess that disagreeing with Bush is now a crime itself and a threat to national security. The surveillance operation is believed to have been requested by President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleezza Rice. Here is an excerpt from the Observer:
    The United States is conducting a secret 'dirty tricks' campaign against UN Security Council delegations in New York as part of its battle to win votes in favour of war against Iraq.

    Details of the aggressive surveillance operation, which involves interception of the home and office telephones and the emails of UN delegates in New York, are revealed in a document leaked to The Observer.
    ...
    The memo describes orders to staff at the agency, whose work is clouded in secrecy, to step up its surveillance operations 'particularly directed at... UN Security Council Members (minus US and GBR, of course)' to provide up-to-the-minute intelligence for Bush officials on the voting intentions of UN members regarding the issue of Iraq.

    The leaked memorandum makes clear that the target of the heightened surveillance efforts are the delegations from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Mexico, Guinea and Pakistan at the UN headquarters in New York - the so-called 'Middle Six' delegations whose votes are being fought over by the pro-war party, led by the US and Britain, and the party arguing for more time for UN inspections, led by France, China and Russia.

    The memo is directed at senior NSA officials and advises them that the agency is 'mounting a surge' aimed at gleaning information not only on how delegations on the Security Council will vote on any second resolution on Iraq, but also 'policies', 'negotiating positions', 'alliances' and 'dependencies' - the 'whole gamut of information that could give US policymakers an edge in obtaining results favourable to US goals or to head off surprises'.


    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
     
    Dr Rohan Gunaratna, the author of Inside al-Qaida: Global Network of Terror has interesting insights on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- al-Qaida's number three and its operations chief -- and the effect of his detention on al Qaida operations.