Friday, August 26, 2005

Why can't we all just get along?

The U.S. invaded Iraq. Our leaders were/are operating under a plan that they could invade and "install" a "moderate democracy", and that by inserting moderate democracy in the middle of the Middle East that it would sway the neighboring countries toward moderate democracies and away from hardline fundamentally religious theocracy. Or something like that. It always seemed rather ridiculous to me.

Having a "moderate democracy" is hardly worth expending thousands of lives, both Iraqi and U.S. Considering all the hardline autocratic regimes around the world that the U.S. isn't invading to impose regime change, this isn't a very good justification for the war. I've always thought that was a smoke screen, and that something else is the root justification for the war ... namely ... that Iraq sits on a very large pile of oil.

The current step is to get the Iraqi's to agree to a constitution. But that process is very wrangled, with the radical cleric al-Sadr calling on his troops to fight, and in general an increase in violence accompanying the development of the constitution.

Iraq's unhealthy constitution The Bush administration's desperate insistence on an instant Iraqi constitution hurts both Iraq and our broader national interests. But when your polls are falling and you need to declare victory, who cares? (By Joe Conason,, August 26, 2005)

It's the constitution which Joe Conason talks about ... He says, and I agree, democratizing Iraq ought to be bringing the Iraqi's together. But the process taken by the Bush administration didn't give them time to work together, and indeed their main desire is to split the country apart into ethnic divisions. With the Shiite's having a theocratic regime that's probably in cahoots with Iran. The latter point would deny the U.S. access to the oil that is probably the true reason this war was launched.

The writing of a democratically legitimate constitution must be genuinely inclusive, which means that all the concerned groups have to be represented. The Sunni boycott of the parliamentary elections last winter made that essential prerequisite unachievable for now -- which ought to have encouraged American and Iraqi leaders to reevaluate the most desirable "path to democracy."

What they should have realized is that there is simply no way to write a real and functional constitution for a democratic state while a third of the population or more is in revolt. The Sunnis should have been persuaded to stop fighting and join in reconstruction before the constitutional process began, even if that meant new elections.

Elsewhere in the article he talks about the constitution writing process as "rushed". It's timed to fit the Bush Administration needs, the Oct 15 deadline being just before the U.S. elections allowing the positive result of being able to wave the Iraqi constitution in his hand and say "See!!! It was worth it!! We have a new democracy!!" would say our elections in his favor. But, gosh, for this to be a long term good result, and not just another farce of a "Mission Accomplished" show, Joe suggests the constitution writing process ought to be taking a lot longer than being allowed by the Bush administration.

All this makes me think of a prior nation building exercise. Think back to Germany, 1945. The Allied powers have won the war and there are several countries without functioning governments because Germany had swamped all the local governments, but they had been defeated.

I don't know much about that history, but it strikes me that the U.S. is still occupying Germany 60 years later.

And that even though the U.S. is still occupying Germany, there has over the last 10 years been a rise in what they're calling a neo-nazi movement.

Okay, that's interesting. It implies something about Iraq which Joe is pointing to. How I see it is each country has its national identity and way of being. The way of being for Germans is autocratic yet at the same time the Germans I know are very friendly and fun people to be with. In any case that autocratic streak that led to the rise of the Nazi party hasn't washed out of the German soul after 60 years, witnessed by the rise of neo-nazi activity.

If we're expecting to wash something out of the Iraqi soul, how long will it take, and will U.S. troops have to remain there for 60 or more years?

And, by the way, one little snippet I know about German history shortly after 1945 comes from an art movie I saw in the mid 90's. There was a lot of violence in Germany, factions fighting factions, that strike me as very similar to the fighting we're seeing in Iraq today. It's probably the "power vacuum" effect, that you remove the power that dominates an area, and that leads to fighting by the remaining factions to become the dominant power of the region.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"pepperball" non-lethal weapons

About Pepperball Technologies, INC. PepperBall Technologies, Inc. (PTI) develops, manufactures and distributes non-lethal weapons as options for use whenever the use of force is indicated. Headquartered in San Diego, CA, PTI has global distribution and serves the Public Safety, Government, Private Security and Consumer markets.

They sell a variety of guns and related paraphenalia that are similar to "paintball" weapons.

I first heard of paintball combat in the mid 1980's when a friend of mine got interested. Paintball guns were first developed by loggers to mark trees for logging, and is a gun shaped thingy that uses compressed gas to shoot little paint containers. On contact the contailer (a small balloon) bursts, spreading the paint on the target. This was supposedly great fun in creating seemingly combat situations that posed little or no danger to the participants.

The difference with the Pepperball weapons is instead of paint, the little balloons are filled with a pepper substance. Additionally they offer solid projectiles, for breaking windows, others filled with paint, for marking "subjects", and a couple inert projectiles for use in training.

The "active denial system" non-lethal weapon

The concept of non-lethal weapons has been in development for over 10 years now, with a few weapons on the market today. Most popular is the Taser, which is having a mixed reception.

The Taser is made by Taser International who state their corporate goal is to save lives, and that they do save lives every day. The Taser is a gun, of sorts, that does the following:

Time to Complete Incapacitation: 0.25 seconds.

Range: 15-35 feet for law enforcement and military, 15 feet only commercial.

Method of Incapacitation: Electro-physical, involuntary contraction of skeletal muscle tissue. Overrides the motor nervous system, blocking command & control of the human body. Existing stun systems stimulate sensory neurons and can be over-ridden by a focused individual. The TASER EMD devices directly stimulate motor nerve and muscle tissue, causing incapacitation regardless of mental focus, training, size, or drug induced dementia.

Long term injuries: None.

Short term injuries: Minor skin irritation and possible skin puncture.

The Taser's intent is typical of the non-lethal devices. The Taser fires a "probe" that's connected by a wire back to the gun. The gun injects electrical signals into the target person, and as said above overrides their nervous system causing incapacitation. The overall intent of these non-lethal weapons is to find a way to incapacitate people without causing death.

I suppose that when the alternative methods for incapacitating people then anything else might be thought rosy. Hence the use of "water cannon's" at times. It's under this kind of promise that the Taser is being sold, and has been adopted by police departments and military.

However, the Taser has been implicated in several deaths in the U.S.

Which makes one wonder about these devices and the method they work. Is it truly safe to override the nervous system?

Rumsfeld's Ray Gun (By Kelly Hearn, AlterNet. Posted August 19, 2005)

The article goes over research into the Active Denial System (ADS) being designed by the Raytheon Corporation for the U.S. Defense department. 10 years in development is is ready for field use by the Military.

The Active Denial System is a Pentagon-funded, $51 million crowd control device that rides atop a Humvee, looks like a TV dish, and shoots energy waves 1/64 of an inch deep into human skin. It dispenses brief but intolerable bursts of pain, sending bad guys fleeing but supposedly leaving no lasting damage. (During a Pentagon press briefing in 2001, this reporter felt a zap from an ADS prototype on his fingertip and can attest to the brief but fleeting sensation that a hot light bulb was pressing against the skin). ADS works outside the range of small arms fire.

One thing not directly stated by the article, but it's clearly the Military intent, is to use the war in Iraq as a testing ground for new weapons. In this case they've finished development, and conveniently there's a war going on where they can readily test this weapon and see how well it works. Apparently the American people don't care today about collateral damage (a.k.a. accidental deaths of innocent bystanders) so they probably won't care if a supposedly non-lethal weapon causes unintended damage due to an incompletely debugged design.

Details of US microwave-weapon tests revealed (22 July 2005, news service, David Hambling)

This article in New Scientist gives an analysis of a DoD report on ADS. The system is described as firing a 95 GHz microwave beam at the targets, supposedly heating skin and causing no physical damage. Hmm... they're intending to microwave their opponents. Well, as we know, microwave ovens act strangely when there is metal inside the oven, so the following shouldn't be surprising:

The experimenters banned glasses and contact lenses to prevent possible eye damage to the subjects, and in the second and third tests removed any metallic objects such as coins and keys to stop hot spots being created on the skin. They also checked the volunteers' clothes for certain seams, buttons and zips which might also cause hot spots.

If in testing they have to be so careful, how can they arrange that it can be used safely in crowd control? They're not going to be able to get the crowd to shed any metallic items so the crowd can be safely zapped. Instead they'll zap away, and then what?

And what about effects other than heat? e.g. Does the microwave beam cause cancer? What about eye damage or cataracts?

The military claims it's perfectly safe and that the fears are overblown. But there's no honest unbiased research on the effects, because all the researchers working on this work for the Pentagon's weapon development program. Hence, they're being paid to say whatever the Pentagon wants them to say.

The research is being conducted under the U.S. Air Force Directed Energy Directorate: with other research under the Human Effectiveness Directorate:

High power microwave fact sheet:

Much of the information in the AlterNet article comes from The Sunshine Project:

More Cash for Human Ray Gun Tests (Defense Tech) This article has a picture of the test vehicle.

Friday, August 19, 2005

How many revealed lies is this going to take?

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. GW Bush and the whole lot of them were lying through their teeth when they told us the dangers Iraq posed. If lying about sex is an impeachable offense, then what is it when you lie to create a war?

Former aide: Powell WMD speech 'lowest point in my life' (Friday, August 19, 2005, CNN.COM)

This article is a preview to a special to be broadcast this coming Sunday, on CNN. The special "Dead Wrong -- Inside an Intelligence Meltdown" is obviously going to be about the fabrications that lead to this war in Iraq. However, given the title, I assume they're going to focus on the theory that this was a failure of the intelligence community to properly inform the administrative leaders.

Most of the article talks with: Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, a longtime Powell adviser who served as his chief of staff from 2002 through 2005.

For example:

Powell's speech, delivered on February 14, 2003, made the case for the war by presenting U.S. intelligence that purported to prove that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Wilkerson says the information in Powell's presentation initially came from a document he described as "sort of a Chinese menu" that was provided by the White House.

"(Powell) came through the door ... and he had in his hands a sheaf of papers, and he said, 'This is what I've got to present at the United Nations according to the White House, and you need to look at it,'" Wilkerson says in the program. "It was anything but an intelligence document. It was, as some people characterized it later, sort of a Chinese menu from which you could pick and choose."

Wilkerson and Powell spent four days and nights in a CIA conference room with then-Director George Tenet and other top officials trying to ensure the accuracy of the presentation, Wilkerson says.

Once the U.S. was in Iraq and David Kay was on his WMD hunt there were several fateful phone calls from George Tenet to Powell. As David Kay continued to report negatively, Tenet had to call Powell and report that various WMD were not found. That the mobile bioweapons laboratories did not exist. On and on.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Is Bush planning to invade Iran?

If you remember the leadup to the current Iraq war, GW Bush spent well over a year publicly saying "force is a last resort" and "all options are on the table".

Bush: Force last resort on Iran (Saturday, August 13, 2005, CNN.COM)

Bush warns Iran on nuclear plans (August 13, 2005, BBC.CO.UK)

Iran confirms plan to resume uranium conversion (August 7, 2005, International Herald Tribune)

The context is the continuing negotiation with Iran over their nuclear program, which I've covered before. Basically they want to establish their own nuclear power plants, but the issue is the design they've used. The design has intermediate steps which produce weapons grade materials.

Thus, this is an honest nuclear proliferation issue. Is Iran planning to produce nuclear weapons? They claim the nuclear program is for civilian use, but if so then why did they choose a process that produces weapons grade material? It would seem they aren't being fully honest, especially since they weren't telling the world about this program in the first place.

A related question is what right do we outsiders (non-Iranians) have to control whether Iran produces nuclear weapons or not? My understanding is that Iran hasn't fully signed on with the non-proliferation treaties, and that they've certainly been sneaking around the backs of the international nuclear regulators to run their program. The world's governments have agreed (well, at least some of them have done so) that nuclear proliferation would be a bad thing for the world, and that all efforts must be made to quash any further spread of nuclear weapons.

That agreement may, though, have been shoved down the collective throats of the world by the super-powers. It's clear that some countries chafe at the restrictions and want to establish their own presence as nuclear powers. I think Iran is one of these countries.

In any case, we cannot forget that the neocon master plan was to first invade Iraq, and then move on to either Syria or Iran. The goal was establishment of "moderate democracy" in the center of the middle east, which would then make the region more agreeable to U.S. interests. At least that's what they said publicly.

I happen to think that's a smoke screen, because how can you honestly install democracy forcibly upon another country? You can't, so either these neocons are stupid or they're lying. Given their track record I would bet they're lying, and that the real goal is to grab the oil.

Germany attacks US on Iran threat (August 13, 2005, BBC.CO.UK): Germany's leader, Gerhard Schroeder, is returning to his role as vocal opponent to GW Bush's plan. He says "Let's take the military option off the table. We have seen it doesn't work" to which I agree most completely.

I think it would be insane for the U.S. to invade Iran on top of the war(s) we're already fighting in the middle east. Why?

Friday, August 12, 2005

"We are mad as hell and we're not taking it anymore."

Okay, here we are for todays report about Cindy Sheehan. Given what I see on Google News I'm still not about the size of her protest. I keep thinking that this subject demands mass protests, thousands of people streaming together to demand change. But the news article talks about tens or hundreds of people attending in person in Crawford TX. But she is getting news coverage, maybe this weekend will bring out thousands of protesters.

The Peaceful Occupation of Iraq Day 6: This is Cindy Sheehan's own blog entry for the day. It's from her that I got the title for todays post. It's heartening to learn they had 700 people attending today, including Viggo Mortensen. In one of the news articles I saw claimed it was 50 people. The true number has to be in-between.

I have discovered that the White House press corps is always looking for something to do and someone to cover. We have been happy to oblige them.

Smearing Cindy Sheehan Conservatives are attacking her as a dupe of the left who’s exploiting her dead son. Some relatives have piled on too. But the grieving mother says her well-timed Crawford visit is "my idea, my mission, my vision." (By Farhad Manjoo, Aug. 13, 2005, Salon.COM): An interview with Cindy Sheehan. I appreciate reading full interviews like this because it lets me contact the person with less filtering. This is in contrast with mainstream media where an "interview" is selected snippets.

It's clear what she plans to do if she meets (again) with Bush. Namely, to strongly debate him asking him tough questions. As I pointed out before, I believe the Bush Administration doesn't even want to be asked these questions, much less answer them. Hence it's going to take a lot of pressure, perhaps 10,000 people camped out on the road to Crawford, to get him to meet her. I'm trying to imagine that many people there, and that's probably more than the population of Crawford itself.

Bush gets first look at anti-war protest near ranch (12 Aug 2005 17:14:14 GMT, Source: Reuters): This article discusses the close encounter Bush had today with Cindy Sheehan. Well, close if you consider driving by at full speed without slowing down as "close". Same planet, different universes.

When Bush's black sport utility vehicle carried him past the site to a Republican fund-raiser, the protest leader, Cindy Sheehan, whose son was one of the nearly 1,850 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, held up a sign that said: "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

Where was he rushing to? Yet another fundraiser. The other day he flew (on Airforce One, at public expense) to Illinois to attend a fundraiser. At least this time it was a short drive away. The target for this one was $2 million, to be raised for the Republican Party, from 280 or so large Republican donors. By "large" I'm not talking about tall or heavy, but if you do the math you'll see each of the attendees paid around $10,000 dolors (on average) to be at the fundraiser.

Sheehan's response to family criticism (By Robin Miller/City Editor): This was published in Cindy Sheehan's hometown newspaper, and discusses the reaction of her family members. It refers to: "Family members decry Sheehan". She says the family members in question are her in-laws whom they are on opposite sides of the political fence, anyway.

Protest on the Range: Cindy Sheehan Calls for Mass Demos at Bush's Crawford Ranch: Interview of Cindy Sheehan with Democracy Now.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Searching for Cindy Sheehan - her protest is growing, isn't it?

Yesterday I discussed the protest by Cindy Sheehan. She's the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq in April 2004. She has had a growing anger over his death, and has become a major anti-war protester. Last week while attending a rally in Dallas, she got inspiration to drive to GW Bush's ranch in Crawford TX and demand to meet with him. This has grown into an interesting media circus, supposedly.

However, one gauge I use to determine the size of a "media circus" is to cruise over to and look at the articles on the subject. The article thread concerning her has been pinned at the top of the list for a couple days now, and that's a strong indicator of "media circus" in action. However, reading through the articles leaves me wondering as none of them indicate much is happening. Curiously Google News is ignoring articles from Salon.COM, which has published several about Cindy Sheehan.

Another indicator is the number of technorati tagged posts which also seems low. But at least the tag is rather active.

In any case, there is some news today so let's go over it.

A mother's vigil A Vacaville woman whose son was killed in Iraq attracts nationwide attention with her protest down the road from president's ranch (Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer, Thursday, August 11, 2005): This article tells the story of those who have shown up to hang out with Cindy Sheehan. There's dozens of people who have shown up, and each has their own story. The article contrasts them with the bullhorn-toting activists marching down Market Street in San Francisco, or the armchair activists manning Ouch, that hits a little close to home, as I've done my share of marching down Market Street.

I agree, someone who actually puts their body to service to a cause like this are brave. I feel drawn to join her in Texas, but am torn with taking care of the activities in my life. So I contribute this way.

Soldier's Mother Takes Protest to Bloggers (By Brian Faler, Washington Post, Thursday, August 11, 2005; Page A08): Talks about the main outreach avenue, the blogger community. Apparently the mainstream media is somewhat ignoring this story, so it is us bloggers who have to bring it out. Among the activities is a conference call sponsored by Joe Trippi, a high level democratic party strategist. The call involved a bunch of left-wing bloggers, and somehow they didn't know they should call me so I wasn't involved.

Anti-war voice resonates in mother's Texas vigil (By Edwin Chen and Dana Calvo, Los Angeles Times, published by the Seattle Times): Also talking about the supporters who have rushed in to help. One is the Crawford Peace House, a home owned by a man soley dedicated to providing a home base for out-of-town protesters. See, they find that Crawford Texas is generally solidly supporting GW Bush, and out-of-towners aren't always accepted well, and need a safe place to meet.

It also discusses how Sheehan's hometown newspaper had published an interview of her when she first met GW Bush in June 2004. The right wingers have taken certain quotes in that interview out of context, making it sound like she was in support of the war etc back in 2004, but that she has flip-flopped. There they are pulling out that flip-flopper phrase, I wonder why they think it strange when people change their minds. In any case, the article has been republished by that newspaper here and clearly shows her anger towards Bush even then. It's very natural to know that anger grows over time, especially after all the revelations over the last year.

Peace House a center of dissent in Crawford (By Oren Dorell, USA TODAY): More about the Crawford Peace House.

Account of Iraq War Protestor's Meeting With Bush Draws Scrutiny (By Greg Mitchell and Joe Strupp, Editor & Publisher): This appears to be a site dedicated to the news publishing industry. In any case they interview the author of the article in Cindy Sheehan's hometown newspaper, and discuss how that reporter stands by his original report.

Bush rejects mother's Iraq plea (11 August 2005, BBC.CO.UK): GW Bush spoke about Cindy Sheehan's demands. He is, unsurprisingly, refusing to meet with her. He doesn't say why he refuses to meet with her, but yesterday I speculated because he knows what questions she wants to ask, and that he knows he doesn't want to be asked those questions, because that would lead to his impeachment. In any case, he also refused to pull troops out of Iraq because it would be a "mistake".

I tend to agree, grudgingly. The war is illegal, foisted upon us in a cloud of lies, subterfuge, and illegally ignoring the United Nations. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has declared this war to be illegal. However, now that we are there we have an obligation to the Iraqi people to see them to safety. That is, we deposed their government which, good or bad, was at least providing stability to the country. Today, with basically zero government and an open resistance war, there is no stability, and if the U.S. were to leave I expect it would turn into a mass pitched battle of warlords and clerics struggling to be the strongman who wins the prize of ruling Iraq. The U.S. did this, and are doing this, to Iraq.

Rage Against the Killing of the Light (By Norman Solomon, AlterNet. Posted August 10, 2005.):

What's going on this week, outside the perimeter of the ranch-style White House in Crawford, is some reclamation of reality in public life. Cindy Sheehan has disrupted the media-scripted shadow play of falsity. And some other relatives of the ultimately sacrificed have been en route to the vigil in the dry hot Texas ditches now being subjected to enormous media attention a few miles from the vacationing president's accommodations.

At this point, Bush's spinners are desperate to divert the media spotlight from Sheehan. But other bereft mothers arriving in Crawford will hardly be more compatible with war-making myths.

... When a mass killer is at the helm of the ship of state, taking a bow now and again while "Hail to the Chief" booms from big brass bands, a significant portion of the country's population feels revulsion. And often a sense of powerlessness -- a triumph for media manipulation. Passivity is the health of the manipulative media state.

Cindy Sheehan and Celeste Zappala have joined with others in Crawford to insist that death is not a message for more death -- that we can understand death as a profound reality check, imploring us to affirm and defend life.

"Rage, rage against the dying of the light," Dylan Thomas wrote. The unavoidable dying of life is bad enough. The killing is unacceptable.

UPDATE: You can read Cindy Sheehans own writing on her blog:

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A "coup" in Baghdad, and Iranian bombs found in Iraq

It just keeps getting worse in Iraq.

Bomb cache found in Iraq believed to be from Iranian Revolutionary Guard: official (Tuesday August 9, 07:16 PM): This details a report that a large cache of "shaped" bombs of Iranian manufacture were found in Iraq. This indicates a tipping point of more involvement by Iran in the Iraq war.

Baghdad Mayor Is Ousted by a Shiite Group and Replaced (By JAMES GLANZ, Published: August 10, 2005, NYTIMES.COM): On they titled this "Coup in Baghdad" but on reading the article that's a matter of opinion. What happened is the man holding the office of Mayor was forced out of office. He was installed by the U.S. transitional authority led by Paul Bremer.

Baghdad is unique in Iraq with being its own province, so power in Baghdad (both city and province) was shared by the Mayor of Baghdad, and the Provincial Governor. The provincial guy was part of a Shiite faction, and it was the Shiite faction who deposed the Mayor and installed the provincial guy as the Mayor as well as Provincial Governor (the post he already held).

In other news I saw elsewhere, Iran has broken the seals installed by the UN Atomic Energy agency and has resumed their uranium production.

I don't think the neocon agenda was to allow the establishment of Iranian influence in Iraq. Yet, that's what is happening. That and the nuclear situation with Iran leads me to believe justification is building for the invasion of Iran. But that also leads me to wonder how in the world can we manage to broaden the war to include Iran when we can already barely afford the war we're fighting now, which is going so badly as it is.

A mom's protest against the Iraq war

Okay, we all know that we were lied to in order to create this war. It's been covered repeatedly in the news. But the GW Bush administration keeps ignoring the building case, and the lapdog press is merely repeating whatever the administration tells them.

This year it's different. This year GW headed to his ranch in Crawford TX for the yearly august vacation. You may remember that on August 6, 2001 he received a briefing during that vacation titled "Bin Laden determined to attack the U.S." which was ignored. It's a Washington DC tradition that everybody takes august as their "vacation" time, and that's what GW is doing.

This year, though, Cindy Sheehan, mother of one of the soldiers killed in Iraq, decided that the august vacation was her time. She has been appearing at anti-war rallies for over a year, and has taken the anti-war rally to Bush's ranch. Well, that's what she's trying to do. Unfortunately she's been stopped by the sherriff from getting closer than 8 miles to the ranch. As a result she's encamped by the side of the road in the west texas deserts doing her best to rally up media attention.

President Bush Ditches Mother Of Slain Soldier (By Nathan Diebenow, Associate Editor, Lone Star Iconoclast, Online): Reports on how she came to the ranch, and how the Sherriff forced her to stop while still 8 miles from Bush's Crawford ranch.

Offers these resources: - Crawford Peace House
Gold Star Families for Peace -
Military Families Speak Out -
Veterans for Peace -
CodePink -
Vietnam Veterans Against War -
Iraq Veterans Against the War -

Of the Many Deaths in Iraq, One Mother's Loss Becomes a Problem for the President (By RICHARD W. STEVENSON, Published: August 8, 2005, NY I saw this story widely reprinted elsewhere.

... But when she was blocked by the police a few miles from Mr. Bush's 1,600-acre spread on Saturday, the 48-year-old Ms. Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., was transformed into a news media phenomenon, the new face of opposition to the Iraq conflict at a moment when public opinion is in flux and the politics of the war have grown more complicated for the president and the Republican Party.

... "It's just snowballed," Ms. Sheehan said beside a small stand of trees and a patch of shade that contained a sleeping bag, some candles, a jar of nuts and a few other supplies. "We have opened up a debate in the country."

Seeking to head off exactly the situation that now seems to be unfolding, the administration sent two senior officials out from the ranch on Saturday afternoon to meet with her. But Ms. Sheehan said after talking to the officials - Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, and Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff - that she would not back down in her demand to see the president.

Her success in drawing so much attention to her message - and leaving the White House in a face-off with an opponent who had to be treated very gently even as she aggressively attacked the president and his policies - seemed to stem from the confluence of several forces.

Plaming Cindy Sheehan (by Ahmed Amr, (Wednesday August 10 2005)): There's been a nasty backlash by the Republican operatives. The backlash is smearing Cindy Sheehan's credibility, but the smears aren't terribly truthful taking quotes out of context etc, in a way that strikes one as familiar with previous smears of other people. The title refers to the Valerie Plame affair, the wife of Ambassador Joe Wilson, who revealed some of the evidence that Cindy Sheehan and others point to when we say the administration lied us into the war. Wilson was smeared himself in the same way Sheehan is today, and further retribution was to reveal his wifes identity as a secret agent, ruining her career, etc.

Unfortunately Ahmed Amr's article goes into some wild tangents putting words into GW Bush's mouth that GW probably doesn't believe.

Mr. Bush, Let's Talk (by Joan Vennochi, August 9, 2005, Boston Globe): Talks about the walls of separation most politicians erect after their election. Democracy is supposed to be a personal affair, with representatives, well, representing the peoples interests and dreams. The practice is far from that ideal, especially with someone like GW Bush in office.

Cindy Sheehan is simply asking to exercise democracy, and talk with the President. She had an opportunity in 2004 when GW offered to meet her family and some other relatives of dead soldiers. At the time her family decided not to raise any ruckus, but events since then have stirred up the ruckus maker in Cindy Sheehan. But it's clear what Sheehan wants to talk about, the fallacies leading to the war, and it's just as clear that GW is going to resist talking with her as strongly as he can.

His presidency is based on having said those lies, and I suppose if he were to do anything to acknowledge them his advisors are afraid that events will take him to the impeachment he so richly deserves. Hence his advisors are keeping him well away from Cindy Sheehan. Hence, that's why she was stopped miles from the ranch.

Military families to join Crawford protest (RAW STORY): As it says, there's a growing contingent of people joining Cindy Sheehan in her protest. Some of them are family members of military.

Every Mother's Son (By William Rivers Pitt, Posted by August 9, 2005.) Why Cindy Sheehan won't leave Crawford until she gets some answers from George W. Bush -- the man who sent her son needlessly to die in Iraq.: This article describes, among other things, the meeting between Sheehan and GW Bush in June 2004. The meeting comes across very impersonal which you can expect given it was primarily a photo-op happening during the presidential campaign.

This article is also important as it gives lie to the right wingers who are smearing Sheehan. They're claiming her original statements regarding the meeting were very positive. Those statements were published in the Vacaville newspaper, and were taken out of context by Matt Drudge (a man with very dishonest journalism practices) and have been passed around the "conservatives" for use in their attacks on Sheehan. But it's clear, Sheehan at the time felt the meeting was insulting, and her outrage only grew over time as more and more evidence was revealed.

Cindy Sheehan Gives BuzzFlash the Latest from Crawford Direct from the drainage ditch, the intrepid protester says "Our spirits are great," but Bush "doesn't have enough courage to face someone who actually disagrees with him ..." ( This is an interview with Cindy Sheehan describing the conditions and her expectations of perhaps being arrested. She also reported having about three dozen fellow protesters, with more arriving all the time.

It gives a new web site for Cindy Sheehan as:

"Flip-flopping" Americans Right-wing bloggers are attacking military mom Cindy Sheehan for changing her mind about Iraq. But so have millions of other citizens. (By Eric Boehlert, August 9, 2005, SALON.COM): As mentioned above, the rightwingers are complaining about Cindy Sheehan's supposed change of mind, calling her a flip-flopper. It was a phrase they used last year against Kerry, so I suppose they're accustomed to using those words. In any case the article goes over the history of this protest, showing how the rightwingers are building a noise machine around this event.

Even further, the article asks this question: Isn't everybody allowed to change their mind?

Consider the new evidence that has appeared since June 2004 when Cindy Sheehan and others met with GW Bush. Why, the Downing Street memo's hadn't even been published yet. So much evidence has been revealed clearly showing what I suspected in July 2003, that every bit of the statements meant to justify the war in Iraq were utter lies. Anybody with a clear mind would step back at some of these revelations and say "wait a minute, what's going on here?".

Sunday, August 7, 2005

Modern science and "intelligent design" and creationism .vs. evolutionary science

Apparently GW Bush threw his hat into the "Intelligent Design" camp. I've been seeing some news articles saying so, though I haven't bothered to track this down.

Intelligent Design goes against a couple hundred years of scientism becoming the Way We Think about the world. In our schools and everywhere Science is The Accepted Way of reasoning, and Science is what's led us from the dark ages of superstition to this gleaming modern age of wonders.

In case that paragraph was too subtle, let me say that I think Science is as much a Religion as Christianity is. Science demands an adherence to certain beliefs which seem reasonable and rational. We certainly can't argue with the technological success that has arisen from the practice of Science. However, in my view over dependance on the Scientific Method leads one to being an incomplete human. In my view practice of the divine is just as important as practice of the mind.

However I don't know enough about the "Intelligent Design" camp to know whether they are in agreement with my view of "evolution", which I'll get to in a minute. The "Intelligent Design" camp seems to be home to the type of fundamentalist Christians who want to drive the U.S. into a narrow hateful mindset. They seem to be as much politically motivated as spiritually motivated, and in any case the Christian beliefs they profess are easily seen to be the result of 2 millenia of political manipulation. Jesus surely brought us a good set of teachings, but it's clear that from the Roman Emporarer Constantine on forwards, that Christianity has manipulated and twisted those teachings for political purposes.

It's clear from the wikipedia article that the "intelligent design movement" is politically motivated, designed to get certain teachings of christianity inserted into school curriculum. This is part of the overall narrow minded fundamentalist christian movement that has basically taken over the U.S. government through electing representatives who espouse these narrow minded views of the world.

The wikipedia article above identifies The Center for Science and Culture (web site) as the main proponents of the "intelligent design movement". On the CSC entry they describe a 20 year agenda of

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

And that they would supplant theories such as evolution with their theory of intelligent design. To do so the current effort is to establish the right to "teach the controversy", pointing out the rights of academic freedom inherent with being a teacher, and that it's short-sighted to place so much weight on one theory since theories come and go. Why is Darwinism given so much credence over other theories? That's the question they're trying to establish today as teaching material in schools.

However, remember what their long term goals are. Aren't those long term goals just as closed minded as todays dominance of Darwinism keeping out all other theories?

The questions still remain. How did we get here? Why does this universe exist the way it is?

In the wikipedia articles they make distinctions between two points of view:

  • On the one hand you have scientists, with their scientific method in hand, trouncing out superstitious beliefs. The scientists have been at this for a few hundred years, e.g. Copernicus and his theories of Astronomy.
  • On the other hand you have the proponents of intelligent design. They wear their christianity on their sleeves, and claim: Intelligent Design movement proponents allege that science, by relying upon methodological naturalism, demands an a priori adoption of a naturalistic philosophy that dismisses out of hand any explanation that contains a supernatural cause.

In my view both sides of this debate are bonkers, and there is yet another view to consider that neither are talking about.

Where I'm pointing at is some views in quantum physics. These views correlate with experiences I have as a spiritual healer. I know these views as written by Dr. Amit Goshwari, but I believe other scientists work with the same views. They are discussed in these books:

His contention is that the basis of physical matter is intention and consciousness which causes the quantum probability wave to collapse into matter. The consciousness is intermingled with every particle of everything in the universe. This consciousness is what created the universe.

That sounds like God to me. A much more rationally described God than the one of the Christian Bible.

To make it clear, what I understand from the reading and the experiences I have is this: everything in the universe is part of a whole. This "whole" is the wholeness of everything in the universe. Our belief that things in the universe are separate is an accident of the limited perception we humans have. And if this sounds like Buddhist doctrine, that's not exactly an accident. I did arrive at this view without becoming a practicing Buddhist.

However an interesting thought has come while researching this article. Consider this statement on the wikipedia pages:

Critics point out that the principle of naturalism (i.e. materialism) allows falsifiability and that supernaturalism is unfalsifiable, meaning any suggested policies or curicula put forth by the center that rest on supernatural suppositions are by definition pseudoscience, not science.

This gets back to the two points of view I described earlier. To understand this, we first need to understand the term falsifiability. If you're like me, that's too long a word to make sense of.

Falsifiability is an important concept in the philosophy of science that amounts to the apparently paradoxical idea that a proposition or theory cannot be scientific if it does not admit consideration of the possibility of its being false.

Okay, this helps me understand the previous point. In scientism the adherents believe, I suppose, that you can only propose theories. Theories are your best guess at the moment, and may well be false. By admitting the theories may well be false, that makes the theory falsifiable.

They suggest that any theory rooted in a supernatural power (and, they're getting to define what powers are super-natural) is inherently unfalsifiabile. That is, you can claim the super-natural entity can do anything, so therefore you could propose any old random theory and thereby say the super-natural entity is capable of performing whatever the theory says.

I seem to see a conclusion to this article now. And it is to draw a distinction between the Christians, and this proposed Intelligent Design concept, and the view I see in my spiritual background and the new physics such as taught by Dr. Goshwari.

I'm reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein which was in effect "I'm trying to understand the mind of God".

That is, I propose there is a consciousness which created and designed this universe. Under that proposition the phrase "Intelligent Design" is a great label to use to describe my viewpoint, but actually I am not going to accept that label. The reason is the approach to understanding the nature of the intelligent designer.

Thinking about Christianity, and the tone of the presentation on the The Center for Science and Culture web site. They are confident that they know the nature of God, and that their God is the one who wrote the Bible, that their God led Moses to the promised land, that their God told the various Kings of Israel to smash thine enemies, etc. In other words it's a very predetermined view of who and what God is.

I think about the makeup of the Universe, and I think about the consciousness that is interwoven with every particle in the Universe, that designed every particle, every atom, every cell, every butterfly, and every galaxy, and I think .. what an awesome creature. How can you bind such an awesome consciousness into a little book and say that's all God is. I am like Einstein, I am experimenting with the universe, and I am attempting to learn the nature of the mind of God. I am not predetermining what the nature of the mind of God is, I am observing and learning.

Saturday, August 6, 2005

Is the U.S. 'dissapearing' people?

One of the dangers we're facing with this War on Terror is to slide into a role of being just as bad as the people we're fighting. The idea of American governance is that government is run from a highly moral place, that we treat all equally, that all have the right to speech, the right to fair trials, and so on. But the way the GW Bush administration is conducting this war, the government and military are ignoring that ideal.

Are the actions of this government what we want America to represent and do?

The case in point evokes the extraordinary rendition story, and U.S. torture.

US challenged over 'secret jails' (4 August 2005, BBC)

Two Yemeni men claim they were held in secret, underground US jails for more than 18 months without being charged, Amnesty International has said.

... Amnesty fears the case is part of a "much broader picture" in which the US holds prisoners at secret locations.

The US has not responded to the claims, but the head of the CIA recently said the agency does not use torture.

Porter Goss said in testimony to the US Senate torture was neither professional nor productive.

... Amnesty's Sharon Critoph, who interviewed the men in Yemen, said: "To be 'disappeared' from the face of the earth without knowing why or for how long is a crime under international law and an experience no-one should have to go through.

"We fear that what we have heard from these two men is just one small part of the much broader picture of US secret detentions around the world."

The article goes on to detail the experience of two men currently in custody in Yemen. The men were arrested separately in separate countries, but both were flown to Jordan and held by Jordanians. But they say they were daily interrogated by Americans, loud music played into their cells, beat on their feet, threatened with sexual abuse or electric shocks, etc.

Turning a prisoner over to a third country is what 'extraordinary rendition' is. In this age of outsourcing, you can think of this as outsourcing torture to countries that are less squeamish about such means. What's new in this case is the use of secret underground prisons. The idea one gets from this article is that these men were just 'gone' from visibility, they didn't know where they were, when they would be released, etc.

And, this is America doing this?

Several countries in recent times did this kind of thing, to disappear people. Argentina was famous for it, but stories have been heard from other countries of the same thing. For instance, shortly after the invasion of Iraq there were stories about Iraqi people looking at the records in prisons to learn about the status of their family whom they hadn't seen or heard from for a decade or more, and whom the Iraqi government had arrested but refused to say anything about them.

And, now, America has joined the ranks of countries doing this.

Is this the America we want to have? Is this what we want America to be doing?

The BBC article is based on an Amnesty International report: Torture and secret detention: Testimony of the 'disappeared' in the 'war on terror' (full report). So much so they're using the same pictures.

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) - 'Eternal Planes' to watch over us

Technologically these are very interesting aircraft. The idea is to have an airplane that can stay aloft for months at a time. Obviously it cannot be manned, but given automated control systems and suitable payload equipment, these vehicles can perform a wide array of tasks. One task is clearly spying, that is, being able to observe and take pictures of people or objects on the ground.

'Eternal planes' to watch over us (By Jo Twist, BBC News science and technology reporter, Tuesday, 2 August 2005)

My previous coverage:

The BBC article discusses an airplane being built by the British company, QinetiQ. It is similar to the recent airplane designed by Aerovironment in that it uses Lithium batteries to store electricity rather than a fuel cell system. The British development project is named "Mercator". It's clear this is a prototype, and hasn't even completed a long running flight:

Based on computer modelling, the craft QinetiQ has developed thus far could complete a day-night cycle. It would use solar power during the day, while recharging the batteries, which would then provide enough "juice" to fly at night.

It seems straightforward, but it is only the improved efficiencies in solar cell and battery technologies, even over the last year, that has made this at all possible.

"The key technologies are solar cells and batteries. Battery technology is receiving billions worldwide and it is a very rapidly evolving technology," says Dr Rogoyski.

... Initial tests on a 40% scale model of the QinetiQ Mercator UAV have proved successful.

"The technology we have right now will enable us to stay up in the air for 60 hours, but we will not be trying that tomorrow," says Dr Davey. "Trials are planned for next year."

Monday, August 1, 2005

U.S. DoD planning to invade Iran, regardless of truth?

There's a continuing story going around Iran. e.g. are they developing nuclear weapons, or is their nuclear program peaceful? But, wait, the nuclear techniques they're following do produce weapons grade plution, oh, and they were working with Pakistan's nuclear program on some things, and it's known that the Pakistani nuclear program was busily spreading nuclear technology to the various "rogue states". But, my oh my, Pakistan is our friend, they can't be bad!

What if the neocon's are so dead set on their agenda that they're willing to invade a country even when there's no legitimate reason to do so? They did it once (Iraq) so what's to stop them from doing it again (Iran)???

In Washington it is hardly a secret that the same people in and around the administration who brought you Iraq are preparing to do the same for Iran. The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.

From Deep Background by Philip Giraldi, a former CIA Officer, published The American Conservative magazine.

Yup, that's what the article says alright. If there's any kinda large terror attack, the plan is for the U.S. to invade Iran next. That the plan includes use of nuclear weapons. And "the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism", so the burden of proof is off.

Um, I dunno about you, but I think these people are dangerous. They need to be out of power NOW. And, I'm talking about the neocons running the U.S. government, not the Iranians. The Iranians might be dangerous, or they might be simply trying to defend themselves, that's remaining to be seen. It's the neocons that are running amok killing tens of thousands of people on flimsy evidence, and threatening to kill even more.

Judy Miller no Martyr

In the Plame Game that's going on (sorry, I couldn't resist that) one of the recent actions is two reporters having been threatened with jail time on "contempt" charges over refusing to release their sources that lead to revealing the secret identity of Joseph Wilson's wife. One of the reporters revealed all, and avoided jail, after his sources released him from the secrecy agreement. But, the story goes, Judith Miller's sources wouldn't and hence she had to go to jail. Another martyr reporter fighting for the right and need of reporters to keep their sources secret no-matter-what. Sniff, sniff, she's so brave.

The problem is, as Arianna Huffington points out, Judy Miller's situation isn't all that simple.

Judy Miller: Do We Want To Know Everything or Don't We? (By Arianna Huffington, AlterNet. Posted July 29, 2005.)

My previous coverage:

As I reported earlier, and Arianna Huffington describes, Judith Miller was a tool used by the neocons to spread their lies that justified the war. Is she a neutral unbiased reporter? Or is she a dangerous neocon agent in unbiased reporter clothing?

That the NY Times had to publish a mea culpa over stories they ran which contained falsehoods used in justifying the Iraq war is very interesting. What's even more interesting is how most of those stories they mea culpa'd were written by one reporter: Judith Miller.

For example, it was Judith Miller who "broke" the story concerning the aluminum tubes. You know, the claim that the tubes were for centrifuges required to refine the uranium they supposedly bought from Niger? Those tubes were for rockets, not centrifuges, and there was a lone CIA analyst who pushed the centrifuge story versus the whole chorus of CIA analysts who said that was balderdash. Yet it was the centrifuge story that reached the top, and it was Judith Miller who helped make sure that's what reached the top through her "reporting".

Martyr or villian? That's what Huffington wants us to consider. But then she goes further and offers a theory of why Miller couldn't release her sources. It's because she was the source. The theorizing goes that she is the one who called the CIA, learned about Wilson's wife, and she is the one who told White House officials, who then passed the information to Novak and others. Interesting theory, who knows if it's true.

They're putting the best face on this (Uzbekistan)

Earlier in U.S. Asked to leave Uzbekistan air base I examined the demand by Uzbekistan that the U.S. leave within 180 days. The air base at "K2" is a strategic staging area supporting the activities in Afghanistan.

No Harm Seen in Loss of Base in Uzbekistan (By ERIC SCHMITT, Published: August 1, 2005, NYTIMES.COM)

Senior American military officials said Sunday that the loss of access to an important air base in Uzbekistan could be offset without hurting combat operations and relief missions in Afghanistan.

... "We are and have been working a plan to adjust without K-2," one senior American commander in the region said in an e-mail message, referring to the Uzbek installation, Karshi-Khanabad Air Base.

A senior Air Force officer concurred, saying: "It's not a big deal, especially if they continue to grant us overflight rights. Even without the overflight, we're still O.K. It's just a longer routing going into Afghanistan."

The two officers spoke on condition of anonymity because Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other senior officials have not formally approved any alternatives.

Here we have the sound of two officials "putting the best face on it". Such a sickly sweet sound, isn't it?

Okay, probably they were already making plans since Uzbekistan had previously been making noises about the U.S. leaving. But the other countries in the area also have policies that the U.S. are not to be allowed long term presence. Which makes me wonder about how the U.S. will achieve the long-term goals of the neocons ... which is access to the central asian oil in a way where it's not controlled by hostile third parties. As if there weren't any route not controlled by hostile third parties.

The whole area is former Soviet Union or else heavily Islamic. The Islamic countries are no doubt in huge rancor over U.S. activities in Iraq, or menacing posture to Iran, and the continued presence in Saudi Arabia. This has been the fuel driving al Qaeda, and has been the biggest recruitment tool driving membership in the .. I dunno what to call them because I truly dislike calling them "The Terrorists". These are fundamentalist Islamic-oriented groups who have simply chosen terrorism as their major strategy to achieve their end.