May 31, 2008

McCain's False Image of Foreign Policy Knowledge

We can expect John McCain's campaign to claim he has more foreign policy experience than his rival. However, the evidence keeps mounting that this is a false claim.

One might dismiss this it if McCain's lack of knowledge was about a remote part of the World. But the troubling evidence pertains to the most prominent region of US foreign policy, the Middle East.

We're all aware of McCain being prompted in Jordan by "Whispering Joe" Lieberman who effectively said that, "No John, it's not "common knowldege" that Al-Qaida, radical Sunnis, are receiving training from Shia-oriented Iran, because it's not true."


Next is McCain's comment to TIME Magazine's Joe Klein in early 2008 that the southern Iraqi city of Basra is "not a problem," at a time when friends of mine were saying, "Keep an eye on Basra," because it's under control of al-Sader and is a choke point of US supply lines. Then, as many bloggers have reported, Muqtada al-Sadr showed the Iraqi central government who's in charge in Basra when his militia stood up to the central government's attempted crack down leaving the Arizona senator "surprised."

Oops again.

Then, what about this major pillar of McCain's foreign policy platform known as the "League of Democracies"? The Star Tribune (via L.A. Times) reports:

Only days after laying out his foreign policy agenda, Sen. John McCain has begun scaling back a key proposal that had been greeted with alarm by some Republican supporters and wariness by important U.S. allies.

Oops on foreign policy again.

Then, as reported in the New York Times, there was McCain's proposal to kick Russia out of the Group of 8 (G-8) nations that meet on economic and other foreign policy matters. One of many problems with McCain's naive idea is that the G-8 makes decisions by consensus, so no single nation can eject another. Besides making himself look, "just dumb," as one senior US official on Russian policy put it, McCain risks creating friction with Russia with nothing to gain from it. [More]


McCain's flip-flop on banning torture can be viewed as another foreign policy blunder. The bottom line is that McCain caved to Bush, as he told Chris Mathews of MSNBC:

I think you do understand that there are some people who are very, very bad people, and I think that to continue a program for some of them, without torture, is something that we can't deprive the President of the United States of.

Philip Giraldi explains McCain's slight-of-hand, which is understood among foreign policy circles and by other nations, even if the "average American" doesn't know it:

But the catch was that President Bush made clear his interpretation of the legislation in a signing statement, reserving what he described as his presidential constitutional authority to avoid further terrorist attacks, which would include the use of torture if necessary. McCain knew perfectly well that he had surrendered on the issue but did not object, feeling that he had occupied the moral high ground and picked up the favorable headlines while preserving the president's authority to carry out "enhanced interrogations."


In another exchange with Joe Klien, McCain revealed that he doesn't understand that Iran's president Ahmadinejad is basically a loose cannon figure head. The real decision-making power lies with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. When Joe Klien called McCain on this McCain said,

the fact is he's the acknowledged leader of that country and uh you may disagree, but that's, that's a uh that's your right to do so, but I think if you ask any average American who the leader is, I think they'd know.

Oops yet again.


Ilan Goldenberg of the National Security Network, who does have some foreing policy expertise, clarifies who runs Iran:

at the top of it sits Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who essentially has only accountable to the Council of Guardians made up of clerics, many of whom are appointed by Khamenei. So, Ahmadinejad is not the leader. And as the Council on Foreign Relations explains, especially in the area of foreign policy, Ahmadinejad has very little influence.

It seems that McCain's reliance on "common knowledge" and the uninformed average American reflects his true level of foreign policy expertise. To understand the source of McCain's misguided perception, we merely need to read CNN Wolf Blitzer's May 21, 2008 blog entry:

there is no doubt that McCain’s strategy of hammering Obama on a nearly daily basis on foreign policy is deliberate. McCain certainly feels very comfortable talking about national security. He sees that as his major strength. And most observers agree McCain would much rather have national security on the agenda right now than the economy where he and his fellow Republicans see themselves as rather vulnerable..


May 29, 2008

Killer Bacteria

What does the SR71 Blackbird have in common with bacteria? Read on and you'll find out.

We've got bugs in our stomach.... and bowels. "Good" bugs. We also can carry pathogens and pass them on through our bowels.

Creepy topic, but it gets creepier than merely passing on diseases. That's because some of these bacteria are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. This creates super strong strains of bacterial borne diseases and infections, once easily treated, that now do not respond to common antibiotics.

Scientists are unraveling the mystery. But first, a little background.

Bacteria are like rabbits, except that they reproduce faster. On Darwinian's principle of selective reproduction, only the strongest bacteria survive, which in turn, are succeeded by the strongest of the next generation. This process is accelerated when people do not finish their antibiotics prescriptions allowing a small number of bacteria to survive the "treatment." Those survivors are typically the strongest.

However, it appears that environments other than animal hosts play a role in creating "super bugs." I've recently heard of two cases.

The first case is found in Hilton Head near a golf course that is irrigated with treated municipal waste water. 39% of the bacteria samples from the nearby water are resistant to three or more antibiotics. This is 3-times what is found in bacteria typically found at hog farms, and 5-times what is typically found in bacteria from treated municipal waste.

The second case is at a hazardous waste site where the high-tech skin of the SR71 was manufactured, among other things. Bacteria at that site were found to be resistant to 24 of 26 types of antibiotics that were tested. Apparently metals can trigger genes in the bacteria to express resistance to antibiotics. The bacteria were were so unkillable that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) requested samples from the academic researchers for further study.

Another interesting finding is a pattern of bacteria with high antibiotic resistance being found in the waste water of more affluent communities. It makes sense, because the more affluent can afford more medical care that includes more exotic antibiotics. Ironically, this implies, statistically, that the affluent people are more likely to have confrontations with antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Perhaps this is how the meek will ultimately inherit the Earth.

... This just in....

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Linked to Bacteria Infections...

Related Update:

Disinfectant wipes routinely used in hospitals may actually spread drug-resistant bacteria rather than kill the dangerous infections, British researchers said on Tuesday. [More]


Associated Press, Gut superbug causing more illnesses, deaths By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer - Wed May 28, 2008.

Reuters, Antibacterial wipes can spread superbugs: study, June 4, 2008.


May 28, 2008

Hadyen Perpetuates Syrian Reactor Story

Are we to believe the statements below attributed by the Associated Press to CIA Director Michael Hayden? He's the same guy that had to be corrected by Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder on the US Constitution's Fourth Amendment's requirement of "probable cause" to receive a warrant for a search or seizure.

According to FAIR, On MSNBC's Countdown (1/24/06), host Keith Olbermann played video of the exchange, followed by a reading of the Fourth Amendment.
"It's hard to tell which is more frightening for those of you in favor of continuing the democracy, the mistake itself, or the general's insistence that it was not a mistake," Olbermann commented. "Well, maybe they have a different Constitution over there at the NSA."

Hayden's Statement:

Even without Israeli intelligence, the CIA would have known by last July that a building in Syria's western desert was meant to be a secret nuclear reactor when a pipe system from the Euphrates River to the building was constructed.

"That was a powerful cooling system going to a building with no visible heat source,"

Hayden said. Israeli jets destroyed the building in August 2007, although Syria has denied it was a nuclear facility.

North Korea's arms trade — helping Syria build a nuclear reactor, or selling missile technology to Iran — is motivated by cash.

"It's a starved economy, with very, very few sources of foreign exchange," "This is one of the ones where they can actually turn a profit."

Sounds plausible, of course, but Symour Hirsch and others seriously question the validity of this story. Reporting about five months after the Israeli bombing, Hirsh wrote in the New Yorker:

In three months of reporting for this article, I was repeatedly told by current and former intelligence, diplomatic, and congressional officials that they were not aware of any solid evidence of ongoing nuclear-weapons programs in Syria.

He continues to explain away the a key piece of so-called "evidence" of Korean involvement...

there is evidence that the [ship the] Al Hamed could not have been carrying sensitive cargo—or any cargo—from North Korea. International shipping is carefully monitored by Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit, which relies on a network of agents as well as on port logs and other records.

According to Marine Intelligence Unit records, the Al Hamed, which was built in 1965, had been operating for years in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea, with no indication of any recent visits to North Korea. The records show that the Al Hamed arrived at Tartus on September 3rd—the ship’s fifth visit to Syria in five months.

But, don't take Hirch's word.

Referring to the building that was bombed, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations group responsible for monitoring compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, said,

Our experts who have carefully analyzed the satellite imagery say it is unlikely that this building was a nuclear facility.


Associated Press, CIA watching for al-Qaida 'succession crisis', May 28, 2008.

Fair and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR, Probable Cause for Alarm, Media Ignores Ex-NSA's chief's of ignorance of the Constitution, January 27, 2006.


May 27, 2008

Justice Prevailing in Chile Fifteen Years Later

Bush operatives take note. You should never rest easy, because justice just might prevail in your prosecution.

Chile Cracks Down on Ex-Dictatorship Forces

In Chile, arrest warrants have been issued for nearly 100 former soldiers and police officers under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. It’s the single largest mass arrest for crimes under the seventeen-year military rule that began with the overthrow of the elected Allende government in 1973. The suspects are accused of involvement in Operation Colombo, in which at least 120 dissidents were killed. Chilean Interior Ministry lawyer Boris Paredes says the government will press the case until the end.

Boris Paredes:

Judge Montiglio’s investigations are accusatory investigations. Because of this, they give so much responsibility, which is logical here because the entire state conspired in this crime, in these horrendous crimes. Therefore, we will pursue criminal responsibilities to the end.

More than 3,000 people died under Pinochet’s rule. He died in December 2006 after evading numerous attempts to put him on trial.


DemocracyNow Headlines
, May 27, 2008.


May 26, 2008

US Secret Prisons

The US prison in Guantanamo Bay represents the tip of the iceberg, according to Attorney Clive Stafford Smith*, who calls it a "diversionary tactic". From what is our attention being diverted?

On September 6, 2006, george bush admitted that the US is holding people around the world in secret prisons. When I heard him speak, he seemed to use the past tense, inferring that the prisoners were being moved from the network of secret prisons to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But bush's press statements are apparently part of the diversionary tactic.

According to Smith, Guantanamo prisons currently hold about 270 people. However, the US is holding about 27,000 people in secret prisons around the world. Below are some of the places Smith mentioned during an interview on DemocracyNow.

Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan: Featured in "Taxi to the Darkside," where at least one innocent prisoner was beaten, until he died of a blood clot, by US personnel, Bagram currently holds an estimated 630 people, some held for five years, most held without charge. the US military is planning to build a new forty-acre prison complex in Afghanistan near Kabul. The $60 million dollar site is intended to replace the makeshift prison at Bagram.

Prisons in Iraq: According to Smith, "the US is bringing people into Iraq from elsewhere to hold them there, simply because that keeps... the media and ... lawyers, away from the prisoners so they can’t get any sort of legal rights." "... the US is taking an estimated forty to sixty, on average, prisoners a day around the world [to Iraq]."

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti: In the Republic of Djibouti, a country in the Horn of Africa, "there’s a huge camp, Camp Lemonier, where a lot of people are being held," according to Smith.

Diego Garcia: "contrary to the past analysis of the British government, in the Indian Ocean has been used, in my belief, to hold people."

Prison Ships: "we’ve identified thirty-two prison ships, sort of prison hulks you used to read about in Victorian England, which have been converted to hold prisoners, and we’ve got pictures of them in Lisbon Harbor [Portugal], for example."

Proxy Prisons: "there’s a bunch of proxy prisons—Morocco, Egypt and Jordan." Keep these prisons in mind the next time you hear about "secret evidence" being used against prisoners. Smith comments on this:

one of my clients, Benyam Mohammed, it’s all they have got on him, is evidence that they extracted from him after taking him to Morocco and torturing him with a razor blade to his genitals.

* Attorney Clive Smith represents about 30 people held by the US government in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some, like Sami Al-Haj, the Al Jazeera cameraman, who was held for six years, have been released.


Clive Stafford Smith: US Holding 27,000 in Secret Overseas Prisons; Transporting Prisoners to Iraqi Jails to Avoid Media & Legal Scrutiny, May 19, 2008.


May 22, 2008

US: Isolated and Living in Gated Communities

I've written about an analogy between the United States and Bear Stears, in which the other nations abandon the US to be cannibalized. This general theme was getting air play on MSNBC this morning.

First, the MSNBC business reporter noted that, during her recent international travels, representatives from other nations expressed disfavor with what they perceived to be US finger-pointing on current economic problems of food and petrolium prices among other things. She noted that the G-8 nations no longer feel the US has any legitimacy as a gate-keeper to that group. Most interesting, she mentioned the other nations recently met without the US present.

Later, Zbigniew Brzezinski was interviewed, by his daughter who was anchoring for MSNBC. Brzezinski said that US policy is leading toward isolation and a state of living in a figurative "gated community."

In other words, the rest of the world is likely to not only turn its back on the US, it is likely to organize their policy positions to drive the US out of business as the presumptive world leader.

I'll end with an observation about the MSNBC self-promo piece I saw this morning. It in effect seemed to say, "We're informing you, not to keep the US in the position of world leader, but to ensure the Nation simply survives." Since I don't have cable, and rarely watch MSNBC, I'm curious whether others have seen this ad.


May 20, 2008

At the Beach


Got this from Jailhouse Lawyer's Blog.


May 16, 2008

Mexico and Venezuela Cut Back Oil Deliveries to US

Bush can't deliver. He was rebuffed, again, buy Saudi Arabia who refused to expand their oil production at Bush's request. Saudi Arabia did, however, spill out a little embarasing information. According to the AP:

Saudi oil minister Ali al-Naimi said the kingdom decided on May 10 to increase production by 300,000 barrels a day to help meet U.S. needs after Venezuela and Mexico cut back deliveries.

Did I hear that right? Maybe one has to read the shipping news to know that Mexico and Venezuela cut back deliveries to the US. How vulnerable is the US to deeper cut backs?

I'm reminded of Bear Stearns. We found out that they had a foul reputation among other Wall Street firms for their dirty tactics. The word is that Bear Stearns was effectively sacrificed by the other titans of finance in a drastic measure to stabilize the financial sector.

One has to wonder whether a similar analogy is taking form on a global scale, with the US, and its foul reputation abroad, playing the role of Bear Stearns. It's not too hard to imagine the other nations isolating themselves from a US economic implosion for their own survival.


Associate Press, Bush fails to win Saudi help on gas prices, TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent


May 15, 2008

Funny Bush Quote

... or a sad quote when you consider he's led the once mighty US into the sunset for the past seven years.
I do remain confident in Linda [Chavez]. She'll make a fine labor secretary. From what I've read in the press accounts, she's perfectly qualified.

Sources: January 8, 2001. Comment of president-elect in a press conference.


May 14, 2008

Then and Now: Bush on How to Handle Oil Prices

On Jan. 26, 2000, during a presidential debate, Bush opposed taking oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and instead said then-President Clinton should "jawbone" oil producing nations. That week crude oil prices were $28 a barrel.

Today, prices are $127 a barrel. That's a 500% increase since Bush took office. Goldman Sachs predicts oil at $200 a barrel possibly within a year. Bush tried to "jawbone" Saudi Arabia, again, into increasing production. They effectively said, "no." [More]


Associate Press, Bush fails to win Saudi help on gas prices, TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent.


May 12, 2008

Why Bush is Going to Israel

George W. Bush's Future Sanctuary from US Prosecution

A friend, with excellent sources, informed me of the ulterior motive for Bush's visit to Israel.

Bush wants to know if Israel will give him sanctuary from prosecution in the US. Israel, informed of this pending request, is said to be considering a standing offer of the Ariel Sharon Suite at the Jerusalem Hilton.

A related aside... I still think Edwards should be Obama's Attorney General. Then, some of these Bush adminiatration criminals might actually get prosecuted.

YouTube Video on the Topic:

Prosecute Bush et al. Chapter 1


Jerusalem Hilton, 7 King David St, Jerusalem 94101 Tel: 972 2 6211111


May 7, 2008

The US Meltdown

The current economic troubles are part of a 30-year slide that might be leading toward a brink. In 1995, before Bush policies shifted huge amount wealth from the lower economic strata to the elite, Lester Thurow wrote the following in The Future of Capitalism (He also provides the data to back it up):

No country, not experiencing a revolution or a military defeat, has probably ever had as rapid or as widespread an increase in [wealth] inequality as has occurred in the United States in the last two decades. Never before have Americans seen the current pattern of real-wage reductions in the face of a rising per capita GDP [because the wealth was going to a small minority of wealthy elite].
- Lester Thurow, Economist, 1995.

Now, in his book Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, Kevin Phillips is saying things are worse and the US is facing a crisis of historic proportions. Many empires have fallen throughout history. Why should the US be an exception?

DemocracyNow! introduces Phillips as follows:

A generation ago, Kevin Phillips wrote "The Emerging Republican Majority", which Newsweek described as the “political bible of the Nixon administration.” Throughout the ’70s and ’80s Kevin Phillips was viewed as one of the GOP’s top theoreticians and electoral analysts. But today he’s considered one of the leading critics of US political culture.

Phillips has a lot to say in the full interview with DemocracyNow, but here is a quick synopsis of his prescient views:

Asked for "the most serious signs of this overall global crisis of American capitalism," by DemocracyNow's Amy Goodman, Phillips effectively said the worst 'sign' is the fact that there are so many bad signs all at the same time. Phillips says,

Normally when a country is—United States is—heading into a recession, there are one or two, sometimes three, factors that you worry about. But at this point in time... there are like six or seven [factors], and you don’t usually see anything like that number.

1. Financialized Economy: "We have a financialized economy in which we don’t make much anymore, and finance is up to 20 to 21 percent of the US GDP, and manufacturing down to 12. Finance dominates the US economy." (In simple terms, Finance is the business of making loans, which recently has been exposed as a hollow shell game).

2. Debt (which relates to #1): "We have massive debt, both public and private. It’s gone up about 700 percent since the early 1980s, staggering numbers where there—we basically have $50 trillion worth of credit market debt. It’s not government debts that’s the problem, it’s private sector debt, both financial and corporate and then in the consumer sector with credit cards and then mortgage debt. 340 percent of the gross domestic product, that’s how big debt is. And the last time something was close to this—and it was less—was in the late 1920s and early 1930s. So it’s enormously a vulnerable, dangerous thing.

3. Real Estate Boom/Bust: Spawned by the financialized economy is the collapse of home prices. "They continue to follow the scary trajectory that has people predicting that there’s going to be a 15 to 20 percent decline in home prices, which would be the sharpest since the Great Depression."

4. Global commodity inflation: Consider Oil and food. People are as worried now about the price of milk as they are about the price of a gallon of gasoline. That’s a global problem, but it makes a mockery of the administration’s pretense that there’s no inflation.

5. Dishonest Economic Statistics: "I don’t think the average American should believe either the inflation numbers, the GDP numbers or the unemployment numbers. The long and the short is that over thirty to forty years, we’ve seen a kind of Pollyanna Creep, and administrations of both parties have done this. They want the figures to be friendlier, not to get them in trouble. And we’re at a point now where the figures lie enough that foreign investors are starting not to believe them." (Trust in the good faith US government backing of Treasury bonds and the dollar is eroding. Why shouldn't faith be unraveling after decades of the right-wing drum beat for "less government"?)

6. Price of Oil: And it’s not just global commodity inflation, it’s the problem that we see of oil production peaking in the world sometime in the next ten to twenty years. And the advance signs of this are scarcity and peaking in certain countries (e.g., US production has already peaked). And the prediction just came out of Goldman Sachs a couple of days ago that within a fairly short period of time, probably this year, you’re going to see $150 or $200 [a barrel] oil.

7. Demise of the US Dollar: The US dollar has been tied historically, since the 1970s, to oil (More). Henry Kissinger and others were involved in getting OPEC to commit that they would sell and buy oil only in dollars and that they would invest their petrodollars in the US, in Treasury debt. So we have a currency that’s profited from the connection to oil, which sustained it in many ways. But now oil has boomeranged on the United States.

We have to spend $400 billion a year to import the oil we need. We don’t have the basis for controlling oil anymore, after the idiocy in Iraq, which was partly put in motion to solve the oil problem, and instead you’ve got oil prices going up 500 percent in five years. (Good for Bush cronies, bad for the average American).


“Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism”, an interview with Kevin Phillips on DemocracyNow, May 6, 2008.


May 3, 2008

Quarterly Foreclosure Rates: 2006 to 2008

Many people knew the real estate boom of 2000-2005 was creating a house of cards. The figures above come from RealtyTrac, an online foreclosure listing service based in Irvine, Calif.

Former Nixon political strategist, Kevin Phillips, suggests we might want to be wary of the economic numbers these days. His warning applies not only to government statistics but to private sector rating companies and even RealtyTrac's statistics.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution took a close look at the company's data after it said that Atlanta's foreclosure rate had jumped an alarming 75% from June to July. RealtyTrac admitted to the newspaper that it made mistakes in its calculations, and that the month-to-month increase was really 14%.

But don't jump to the conclusion that "Oh, so things aren't as bad as we're being told." Kevin Phillips, and others, question the rosy government statistics:

I think the government has cooked the books, and as a result, we get this unrealistic view of where the economy is.

Real economic growth can be expressed as the rate of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) minus the inflation rate. If the outcome is negative, then we're in recession. Phillps continues:

For example, they pretend that inflation is in the two- to three-percent range. So, if you’ve got nominal [GDP] growth of four percent and you subtract for inflation, you still would get a positive number if you use the number of, you know, 2.6 or three percent inflation. But if you’ve got nominal growth at four percent and inflation is really six to nine percent, then you’ve got big-time negative growth, and the economy is contracting.

The very fact that our society is cooking its statistical measures is symptomatic of a deeper structural failure of the Nation. Phillips argues joins a chorus of thinkers who are explaining that the US isn't merely entering an economic downturn. Rather, the US has been in a downturn for decades (See Lester Thurow's The Future of Capitalism). We might now be watching a final, more obvious, descent. As we watch, we should demand honest numbers.

Update: Second Quarter Headline, "Foreclosure Activity up 14% in Second Quarter, 2008."

This was a 14% increase from the previous quarter, and a 121% increase from the same quarter in 2007. Ouch!

This is where the action is:

Update: Third Quarter Headline, "Foreclosures soar 76% to record 1.35 million." That's in terms of 76% from a year ago.


Graphic Credit: Associate Press.

Reality check for RealtyTrac
, Peter Viles, Los Angeles Times Blog, posted by Annette Haddad on November 14, 2007.

May 2, 2008

Bicycle for a Day: Sept20

Take Action: Mark Your Calendar

It's simple. It's like a people's holiday. Tell your friends and family that September 20, 2008 is the day to ride your bike. It's a Saturday. Plan NOT to shop, unless you can do so on bike.

More on this grass roots response to concern about gobal climate change.