Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wikileaks: Insurance

In the wake of strong U.S. government statements condemning WikiLeaks’ recent publishing of 77,000 Afghan War documents, the secret-spilling site has posted a mysterious encrypted file labeled “insurance.”

The huge file, posted on the Afghan War page at the WikiLeaks site, is 1.4 GB and is encrypted with AES256. The file’s size dwarfs the size of all the other files on the page combined. The file has also been posted on a torrent download site.


WikiLeaks volunteers, under a prearranged agreement with Assange, could send out a password or passphrase to allow anyone who has downloaded the file to open it.


I really don't know what that means, but it sounds all spy novel like.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen strongly condemned WikiLeaks’ publication of the Afghan War log at a Pentagon press briefing on Thursday.

Turnabout being fair play, I guess. After all, the Wikileaks publications strongly condemn the admiral.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Michigan Oil Spill

Stop me if you've heard this one. Government regulators are likely to be industry shills.

Cynthia Quarterman, the regulatory agency administrator, worked as legal counsel for Enbridge Energy, the owner of the burst pipeline.


In the last year, PHMSA has granted more than a dozen safety waivers to the companies it regulates.


Already, activists are drawing parallels between PHMSA and the Minerals Management Service, which had regulatory oversight over the Deepwater Horizon rig that spilled millions of barrels into the Gulf of Mexico. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has disbanded MMS, arguing the agency had too cozy a relationship with the industry it regulated.

  Washington Independent

Otherwise known as closing the barn door after the horse has gone.

Alex Moore, who focuses on oil pipeline issues for the environmental group Friends of the Earth [...]has spent much of his time campaigning against a proposed oil pipeline that will stretch from Alberta, Canada, to Texas: the Keystone XL project. TransCanada has filed a request to PHMSA to receive a special permit that would allow the company to use thinner steel to build the Keystone XL pipeline. TransCanada was granted a similar special permit in 1997 that allowed the company to build a prior Keystone pipeline, which stretches from Canada to Ill., using steel with a stress level below the minimum safety requirement, according to a PHMSA document.


The Environmental Protection Agency, in a July 16 letter to the State Department, raised a wide variety of concerns about the impact of Keystone XL. Chief among those concerns is that TransCanada does not have an adequate plan in the event of an oil spill.

Where have we heard that before?

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Can I get a witness?!

The House was debating a bill last night that would provide up to $7.4 billion in health care aid to rescue and recovery workers who have faced health problems since their work in the wake of the September 11 attacks. The bill ultimately failed to get the needed two-thirds majority, 255-159, and Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was not happy about it. Not one bit.


Call a spade a spade.

Wait. Let me juvenate that: Word up to your mother!


Rioting erupted in Kabul Friday when scores of Afghan men set fire to two US embassy vehicles after one collided with a civilian car killing a number of occupants, officials and witnesses said.

  Raw Story

The only way out is out.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Gulf Oil: Where It Leads

Of course, there’s a first time for everything, but amid the ever worsening news from the Gulf of Mexico’s waters about astonishingly high methane concentrations, dangerous levels of arsenic, the lack of testing of seafood for absorption of toxic compounds from the dispersant BP has been massively pumping out, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s “hoarding” of raw scientific data about the disaster, and both BP's and the government's “stranglehold on media access” in the Gulf, [this] oily undercurrent of a positive narrative has been relentless (even as press coverage slowly begins to drop off). At the end of the storm lies hope and a rainbow. Or at least a permanently sealed well on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico.


The positive story line has been offered up and deep-sixed so many times already that, as with warnings on a cigarette pack, even with good news coming in, caution is still advised. Worse yet, if the happy ending does come, we already have a reasonable hint about how this story works out. As with the Exxon Valdez spill, big oil may prefer to learn remarkably few lessons from this disaster, as it prepares to head into far rougher waters in search of ever tougher oil to extract.


And you can take that to the bank.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wikileaks: The Pot Calls the Kettle Black

The Taliban has now confirmed it is poring through the [leaked] documents, and intends to hunt down and punish any suspected spies named.


The U.S. military has [...] accused WikiLeaks of having "the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family" on its hands after leaking 92,000 classified documents.


For the U.S. military, irony is as hard to recognize as an Afghan civilan.

Killing the Gulf: Insult to Injury - Making Matters Worse

I was in a somewhat better frame-of-mind about the gulf oil disaster before I attended Netroots Nation. The new cap was kinda-sorta holding, NOAA re-opened parts of the gulf to commercial and recreational fishing, even cute little endangered sea turtles were released into the waters off Galveston.

Then my friend from sent me the new ad that started running last week. This is not a spoof. [Must see ad]


Turns out it gets worse. Much worse.


[The dispersant] Corexit is so harmful that on May 19, 2010 the EPA gave BP 24 hours to choose less toxic alternatives to Corexit. They didn’t and continue to use Corexit anyway. Charlie Crist said he won’t allow the use of dispersants in Florida, but it’s already in the water and air of the gulf. As a bonus, the chemical stew of oil, water and Corexit is creating a “corexit rain” which has been reported in Tennessee, North Carolina and as far north as Canada. It’s no wonder that BP is trying like hell to buy the silence of every gulf coast university scientist and hide data.

  The Donkey Edge

Gulf Oil: An Experiment in the Gulf

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Gulf Oil: EPA Whistleblower

I'm surprised Hugh Kaufman still has his job after all his previous whistling. I wonder how much longer he'll be around now. You might want to make an office betting pool.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Give Gulf Residents a Seat at the Table

Urge Congress to Give Gulf Residents a Seat at the Table


Similar citizens' councils have been in place for almost twenty years in parts of Alaska and have played a huge role in improving environmental safeguards, and increasing trust and and communication between citizens, the oil industry, and government. It's only fair that Gulf coast residents be given the same opportunity to take part in major decisions impacting the health of the region.

Please use the form [in the link below] to fax your members of Congress and urge them that now is the time to give Gulf residents the power to protect our coast and communities.

  Gulf Restoration Network

As if you'll get any response but a form letter campaigning for your representative. You know my Texas reps are supporting Big Oil. Still I signed the form.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Killing the Gulf

Now that the oil on the surface appears to be dissipating, the notion of a recovery from the spill, repeated by politicians, strikes some here as short-sighted. The gulf had been suffering for decades before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig on April 20.


As a young Marine staff sergeant, back home after fighting in the South Pacific, [Loulan Pitre Sr.] stood on barges in the gulf and watched as surplus mines, bombs and ammunition were pushed over the side.


The gulf’s floor is littered with bombs, chemical weapons and other ordnance dumped in the middle of last century, even in areas busy with drilling [emphasis added], and miles outside of designated dumping zones, according to experts who work on deepwater hazard surveys.


Runoff and waste from cornfields, sewage plants, golf courses and oil-stained parking lots drain into the Mississippi River from vast swaths of the United States, and then flow down to the gulf, creating a zone of lifeless water the size of Lake Ontario just off the coast of Louisiana.


There are around 4,000 offshore oil and gas platforms and tens of thousands of miles of pipeline in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, where 90 percent of the country’s offshore drilling takes place.

At least half a million barrels of oil and drilling fluids had been spilled offshore before the gusher that began after the April 20 explosion, according to government records.


Even the coast itself — overdeveloped, strip-mined and battered by storms — is falling apart. The wildlife-rich coastal wetlands of Louisiana, sliced up and drastically engineered for oil and gas exploration, shipping and flood control, have lost an area larger than Delaware since 1930.

“This has been the nation’s sacrifice zone, and has been for 50-plus years,” said Aaron Viles, campaign director for the Gulf Restoration Network, a nonprofit group. “What we’re seeing right now with BP’s crude is just a very photogenic representation of that.”


Mr. Pitre is skeptical that anything will change, given the economic realities. The BP spill aside, much of the damage to the gulf has been gradual and piecemeal. And people still believe that the gulf is big enough to absorb it.

"You can fool people,” Mr. Pitre said. “But you can’t fool the fish.”


Thursday, July 29, 2010

"Hell Has Come to South Louisiana"

My name is Clint Guidry. I am a third generation Louisiana Commercial Shrimp Fisherman. I am sixty-two years old and a lifelong resident of Lafitte, LA. I am a Vietnam Veteran and the son of a WWII Veteran.

I am on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association and the Shrimp Harvester Representative on the LA Shrimp Task Force created by Executive Order of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

I have been invited here today to testify about the current disaster that is occurring concerning the blowout and oil spill from the British Petroleum (BP) DeepWater Horizon Catastrophe and what effects it is having on the fishermen and the families I represent.

Ladies and gentlemen, HELL has come to South Louisiana. A HELL created by British Petroleum (BP) and a failed U.S. Government response to the disaster.

First of all I would like to put into perspective BP’s role in this disaster and show them for what they are.

Read Guidry's testimony before a delegation of Congress at Dahr Jamail's Dispatches.

Killing the Gulf

We’ve just returned from spending the day down in Barataria, located about an hour drive south of New Orleans. The community of fishermen is swimming in oil. Within minutes of arriving, our eyes begin to burn and we begin to feel dizzy from airborne chemicals from the oil and dispersant.


The dispersants [used on the oil] are Corexit 9500 and Corexit 9527, both of which BP has used and continues to use (more than 1,400,000 gallons to date and counting) [and both banned in the UK] to disperse crude oil on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico and near the wellhead 5,000 feet below the surface where the volcano of oil gushes toxicity into the Gulf. The pathways of exposure are inhalation, ingestion, skin, and eye contact. Health impacts include headaches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pains, dizziness, chest pains and tightness, irritation of eyes, nose, throat and lungs, difficulty breathing, respiratory system damage, skin irrigation and sensitization, hypertension, central nervous system depression, neurotoxic effects, genetic damage and mutations, cardiac arrhythmia, and cardiovascular damage, among several others.


Marine toxicologist Dr. Susan Shaw has written: “Corexit is particularly toxic. It contains petroleum solvents and a chemical that, when ingested, ruptures red blood cells and causes internal bleeding. It is also bioaccumulative, meaning its concentration intensifies as it moves up the food chain.”


Dr. Shaw said this of the toxic soup that is the combination of oil and dispersants: “Shrimpers [were] throwing their nets into water… [then] water from the nets splashed on [one’s] skin. …[He experienced a] headache that lasted 3 weeks…heart palpitations…muscle spasms…bleeding from the rectum…And that’s what Corexit does, it ruptures red blood cells, causes internal bleeding, and liver and kidney damage. …This stuff is so toxic combined… not the oil or dispersants alone. …Very, very toxic and goes right through skin.”


“Just days ago Barataria Bay was full of oil,” Tracy [Kuhns] informs while sweeping an arm out towards the south, where the large Bay sits, toxified, “Then they hit it with dispersants and the oil goes to the bottom. But then during the day, it heats up and the oil bubbles up to the surface.”


“Bad air moves in off the bay anytime the wind is from the south or southeast,” Tracy adds, “And we’re trying to get BP to have air monitors on the boats of the fishermen who are helping clean up, but they won’t do it.”


“90 percent of the species in the Gulf of Mexico spend some part of their lives in the Louisiana estuaries,” she adds, “BP is killing our hope of getting these restocked for the future.”


“Every time we ride out in the bay your chest tightens for days…I still have it. And if you can smell it, you’ve already been overexposed. And the fish, their gills are as affected by this as our lungs are. But BP and the government keep saying they don’t want to scare the public with this stuff, so they are trying to keep it quiet.”


BP is having response workers in Mississippi and Alabama go through metal detectors so they can’t even take their cell phones out with them when they go and do their response work.


"We all know what’s going on. What planet do they live on in Washington D.C.? Not this one. They need to come here and breathe this shit everyday, and swim in this soup and tell us it’s just fine. All the kids around here have rashes, asthma problems, ear infections, and the majority of our fishermen are out there working in this stuff 24/7 because it’s now the only job in town, and they’re all getting sick.”


“We’re seeing crabs crawling out of the water. We’ve never seen this before. Ever. Why are crabs trying to escape from the water?”


Gene takes one look at my face, and says, “It’s not natural for crabs to come out of the water like this. They never want to come out of the water if they can help it. They are trying to escape.”


My eyes still burn and my chest is tight, long after we exited the toxic soup of air and water that is south of New Orleans. Toxic chemicals from dispersed oil and the dispersant itself now permeate all the air, leaves, water, and wildlife of the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and parts of Florida and Texas. You are breathing this same air as you read this.

The only question is, how many parts per million of toxics are now in your lungs as well?

  Dahr Jamail


Gulf Oil: Can They Sink Any Lower?

Kenneth Feinberg, who was appointed by President Barack Obama as the Independent Administrator of the Gulf Claims Facility for the $20 billion BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster compensation fund, said yesterday that the wages earned by people working on BP’s cleanup will be deducted from their claims against the company.

He said the fund is designed to compensate fishermen and others for their lost income, and if BP is already paying someone to help skim oil and perform other clean up work, those wages will be subtracted from the amount they’re eligible to claim from the fund.


[D]uring a speech at the Economics Club in Washington, Feinberg appeared to be attempting to dissuade claimants from filing lawsuits against BP. “You’re crazy to do so, though. Because under this program, you will receive, if you’re eligible, compensation without having to go to court for years, without the uncertainty of going to court, since I’ll be much more generous than any court will be. And at the same time, you won’t need to pay lawyers and costs.”


Clint Guidry is a Louisiana fisherman, and is on the Board of Directors of the Louisiana Shrimp Association and the Shrimp Harvester Representative on the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force created by Executive Order of Gov. Bobby Jindal. [...] “There’s not much of his program I like. It appears he is protecting BP.”


“BP, in their haste to cut corners and save money in the completion process on the well location at MC 252, exhibited willful neglect in their duties to complete the well safely which led to the blowout and explosion that killed eleven people.


“This neglect and loss of life constitutes negligent homicide and all involved should be arrested and charged as such.”

Guidry told Truthout he believes, “There has been a BP cover-up from day one,” and “The US Government, OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the Coast Guard, NIOSH [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health], all of them are in on it.”

  Dahr Jamail

We truly have lost the path to a decent world.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Killing the Gulf

Scientists have found signs of an oil-and-dispersant mix under the shells of tiny blue crab larvae in the Gulf of Mexico, the first clear indication that the unprecedented use of dispersants in the BP oil spill has broken up the oil into toxic droplets so tiny that they can easily enter the foodchain.

Marine biologists started finding orange blobs under the translucent shells of crab larvae in May, and have continued to find them "in almost all" of the larvae they collect, all the way from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Fla. -- more than 300 miles of coastline -- said Harriet Perry, a biologist with the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.


Fish, shrimp and crab larvae, which float around in the open seas, are considered the most likely to die on account of exposure to the subsea oil plumes. There are fears, for instance, that an entire year's worth of bluefin tuna larvae may have perished.

But this latest discovery suggests that it's not just larvae at risk from the subsurface droplets. It's also the animals that feed on them.

"There are so many animals that eat those little larvae," said Robert J. Diaz, a marine scientist at the College of William and Mary.

  Huffington Post

Anybody with a hand in the crime should never be allowed to do business again. They are clearly too irresponsible. And the punitive damages should clean them out; anyone thinking of doing business in such a shoddy and criminal fashion should have reason to think twice.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Going Backward

This afternoon, CCR Attorney Sunita Patel was arrested while carrying out her legal observer duties at a protest of Arizona’s unconstitutional immigration law, SB 1070. As police began a sweep, Ms. Patel began to take down names of those being arrested and was promptly arrested herself. Witnesses say legal observers were deliberately targeted by police.

Said CCR Legal Director Bill Quigley, “Arresting a young woman of color who is there as an attorney observer demonstrates how irresponsible and un-American the Arizona action is. I fear Arizona is starting to act like Mississippi in the civil rights days.”

  Center for Constitutional Rights

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wikileaks: Who Cares? Throw More Money at It

[In] Collapsing Empire News, the Democratic House -- not deterred or even slowed in the least by what the WikiLeak-ed documents revealed -- voted overwhelmingly to appropriate unconditionally another $37 billion for the war in Afghanistan while the political class prepares massive teacher lay-offs and (coming soon) slashing cuts to Social Security [...] in violation of the emphatic pledge of virtually every Democratic politician not to fund wars through supplemental appropriations. Perfectly illustrating how our political culture functions, one of the GOP House members to vote against the war funding (Jason Chaffetz of Utah) is now being attacked by his Democratic challenger, Karen Hayer, with the type of Rovian rhetoric that poisoned the country for the last decade (Chaffetz is "irresponsibly" failing to "support our men in uniform who are currently in harm's way").

  Glenn Greenwald

No native criminal class in America except Congress, as Mark Twain said.

Second, as was painfully predictable and predicted, the bulk of political discussion in the wake of the WikiLeaks disclosures focuses not on our failing, sagging, pointless, civilian-massacring, soon-to-be-decade-old war, but rather on the Treasonous Evil of WikiLeaks for informing the American people about what their war entails. While it's true that WikiLeaks should have been much more careful in redacting the names of Afghan sources, watching Endless War Supporters prance around with righteous concern for Afghan lives being endangered by the leak is really too absurd to bear. You know what endangers innocent Afghan lives?

Yes, you do, but Glenn will spell it out for you anyway:

Ten years of bombings, checkpoint shootings, due-process-free hit squads, air attacks, drones, night raids on homes, etc. etc.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Still Outdoing Bush

The White House has asked Congress to make it possible for the FBI to demand that Internet service providers turn over customers' records in cases involving terrorism or other intelligence issues without first obtaining a court order.


According to the Post, critics of the change say it would "greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order" and represents "another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security."


The proposed amendment would add the phrase "electronic communication transactional records" [...] to include the recipients of emails and when they were sent and received.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Louisiana Welcomes Michigan to the Club

The club of "wholly inadequate" disaster recovery.

Federal officials now estimate that more than 1 million gallons of oil may have spilled into a major river in southern Michigan, and the governor is sharply criticizing clean-up efforts as "wholly inadequate."


The spill has killed fish and coated wildlife as it made its way westward about 35 miles downstream past Battle Creek, a city of 52,000 residents about 110 miles west of Detroit.


Tom Sands, deputy state director for emergency management and homeland security, said during a conference call with Granholm that he had seen oil past a dam at Morrow Lake. The lake is a key point in the river near a Superfund site upstream of Kalamazoo, the largest city in the region.

But his report could not be immediately confirmed. The company's latest update statement Wednesday said oil was about seven miles short of the opening to Morrow Lake. A press conference scheduled for late Wednesday, which was to include company and EPA officials, was canceled for what a company spokesman called scheduling conflicts.

State and company officials previously said they didn't believe the oil would spread past that dam.

"It's going to hit a Superfund site unless somebody like the EPA and the company get very serious about providing significant additional resources," Granholm said.

  Raw Story

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Update on the New Gulf Oil Gusher

Cleanup workers are currently using boom to contain the spill, but oil is still shooting 20 feet in the air from the severed pipe. A contractor who handles wild wells is also on the way, said Bonano.

Federal officials do not know who owns the well.

  NY Post

Please note that last sentence.

For the love of Pete. Is anybody in charge of anything any more?

Less regulation! That's what we need!

A tugboat or other workboat collided with the well near Bayou St. Dennis, La., shearing off its valve structure and releasing pressurized natural gas and light oil, DHS official Deano Bonano told Fox News.


Oil is spewing about 20 feet in the air from the severed 4-inch pipe, a contractor who flew over the leak told Fox News. The area has been evacuated and civilian boats are being told not to enter the scene, where "a fair bit of oil" is leaking out, the contractor said.

  Fox News

Wikileaks: Pakistan

From the deluge of leaked military documents published Sunday, a former Pakistani spy chief emerged as a chilling personification of his nation's alleged duplicity in the Afghan war -- an erstwhile U.S. ally turned Taliban tutor.


In an interview Tuesday, Gul dismissed the accusations against him as "fiction" and described the documents' release as the start of a White House plot. It will end, he posited, with an early U.S. pullout from Afghanistan-- thus proving [Lt. Gen. Hamid] Gul, an unabashed advocate of the Afghan insurgency, right.


Well, I think he's giving our government too much credit for having the sense to figure a way out of Afghanistan, but if it were true, I'd say, good. Whatever.

But I want to visit a little more closely this business about Pakistan – our "ally" – aiding the Taliban.

According to some of the [recently leaked military] documents, [Gul] possessed dozens of bombs for Taliban fighters to detonate in Kabul, instructed militants to kidnap United Nations workers, hatched a plan for a suicide bombing in Afghanistan to avenge an insurgent and assured fighters that Pakistan would provide them haven.

Just what is the deal with the US and Pakistan? There was AQ Khan who was (and may still be) a one-man nuclear proliferation show . OBL was permitted to "escape" from Afghanistan into Pakistan where he presumably remains to this day, fat and free. I put escape in parentheses, because I was reminded today that the US army had full knowledge of his army's whereabouts in Tora Bora and set up a perimeter blockade to snag him, but, oh so conveniently, left a gaping hole in that ring through which they could travel. They oh-so-conveniently bombed one escape route while leaving a second one open. So escape probably isn't the most accurate word, but it is the official one. It's pretty obvious from the evidence that the US – perhaps only in the body of the CIA, perhaps with other government blessings as well – has an ongoing mutually beneficial relationship with Mr. Bin Laden. Or maybe he has some leverage in damning evidence. Whatever, there's a deal there that has allowed him safe passage and freedom from capture, and which will not likely be withdrawn.

And what about the ex-Pakistani intelligence chief, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who visited Washington for several days surrounding 9/11 and who was found to have financed the 9/11 terrorists to the tune of $100,000 and was implicated in the murder of Daniel Pearl?

Our government has known about each of these Pakistani connections to terrorism. Why is it again that we are allied with Pakistan? Perhaps we (or an agency of ours) is also aiding the terrorists.

Back to Lt. Gul:

Gul said he was singled out in the reports because of American fears that he will expose U.S. "cavities" -- corruption, poor planning and complicity in the opium trade -- in the Afghan conflict.

I don’t doubt that he could drum up some proof of that.

[Gul] readily acknowledged that he has maintained friendships with former mujaheddin such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, a onetime CIA-backed fighter whose network is now viewed as the coalition forces' most lethal foe.

God bless the CIA. If they're good at nothing else, they're good at backing people who later become our lethal foes.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wikileaks: Yesterday's News

Two days later, and the only thing on the New York Times online front page about the document leaks - the only US news source given the privilege of having the information for publication, and one of only three news sources worldwide - is an op-ed telling us that the whole thing is much ado about nothing, that there's nothing in those documents we didn't already know, and go on back to your reality shows, folks, because, meh, Wikileaks Schmikileaks.

And when you find something about it on the "inside" page "World", you find it rivaled in space by a section consisting of three headlined links, one of which leads to an article telling us how sickening it is that a member of the armed forces would leak classified information and yet greatly appreciative of the fact that we are now aware how complex and difficult intelligence collection is; another positing Pakistan intelligence position that they are unfairly maligned by the release of these documents, and the third is titled "Reactions to the Release of Afghan War Documents". But click on that, and you'll find an error page telling you the page you're trying to link to does not exist.

Please, return to your regularly scheduled broadcast and your patriotic backyard grilling.

Wikileaks: Can I Get an Amen?

SPIEGEL: You have said that there is a correlation between the transparency for which you are fighting and a just society. What do you mean by that?

Assange: Reform can only come about when injustice is exposed. To oppose an unjust plan before it reaches implementation is to stop injustice.

SPIEGEL: During the Vietnam War, US President Richard Nixon once called Daniel Ellsberg, the leaker of the Pentagon Papers, the most dangerous man in America. Are you today's most dangerous man or the most endangered?

Assange: The most dangerous men are those who are in charge of war. And they need to be stopped.


Democratic Senator Russell Feingold said the disclosures "make it clear that there is no military solution in Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, Democratic Representative Jane Harman, who chairs a Homeland Security intelligence subcommittee, said the documents "reinforce the view that the war in Afghanistan is not going well."



The US is under attack - Oil has turned on us.

As much as 1 million gallons of oil may have leaked into the Kalamazoo River near Battle Creek in what could be one of the largest oil spills in Midwest history, officials say.

  Detroit News

Holy Mother of Pearl!

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — The US Coast Guard dispatched emergency teams Tuesday after a boat crashed into an oil well off the coast of New Orleans, reportedly sending crude spewing some 20 feet into the air.

The wellhead, located about 65 miles (104 kilometers) south of New Orleans, was ruptured when it was struck by a dredge barge being pulled by a tug.

  Raw Story

The planets must be aligning for the end least for the Gulf of Mexico.

The Ignorance Is Breathtaking

But ignorance is not shameful. What is, however, is hating and acting out in ignorance. And doing it in such a way as is intended to demean and destroy, pretending righteousness and patriotism.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

P.S. Some of the comments on that article are pretty funny.

Wikileaks: What We’re Accomplishing

The Times had a piece in Sunday’s paper on the strange truth that our expenditure since 9/11 of a trillion dollars on two wars has barely scraped our consciousness. Fifty-eight Americans have died in Afghanistan so far this month;


Among the ninety-one thousand or so documents from the Afghan war released by WikiLeaks Sunday is an incident report dated November 22, 2009, submitted by a unit called Task Force Pegasus. It describes how a convoy was stopped on a road in southern Afghanistan at an illegal checkpoint manned by what appeared to be a hundred insurgents, “middle-age males with approx 75 x AK-47’s and 15 x PKM’s.” What could be scarier than that?

Maybe what the soldiers found out next: these weren’t “insurgents” at all, at least not in the die-hard jihadi sense that the American public might understand the term. The gunmen were quite willing to let the convoy through, if the soldiers just forked over a two- or three-thousand-dollar bribe per truck; and they were in the pay of a local warlord, Matiullah Khan, who was himself in the pay, ultimately, of the American public. According to a Times report this June (six months after the incident with Task Force Pegasus), Matiullah earns millions of dollars from NATO, supposedly to keep that road clear for convoys and help with American special-forces missions. Matiullah is also suspected of (and has denied) earning money “facilitating the movement of drugs along the highway.”


One document, which has already been widely quoted, is the report of the provincial reconstruction team for Paktia: [...] ”The people of Afghanistan keep loosing [sic] their trust in the government because of the high amount of corrupted government officials. The general view of the Afghans is that the current government is worst than the Taliban.”

  New Yorker

In terms of what we're "accomplishing" there, compare this recently released study documenting that our killing of civilians is what causes Afghans to take up arms against the U.S. with this morning's report that a NATO airstrike in Southern Afghanistan last week killed 45 innocent civilians, many of them women and children.

  Glenn Greenwald

In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect it. But Wikileaks is able to report on what the powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits it. This is new.

  Jay Rosen

And we can expect it to be addressed with internet restrictions in the near future. I’m surprised it hasn’t been already.

Meanwhile in Iraq

Two bombings by guerrillas killed at least 40 Shiite pilgrims and wounded 68 in the holy city of Karbala, where hundreds of thousands of devotees had gathered to commemorate the hidden Twelfth Imam, who this branch of Shiism holds will return in the future as a sort of messiah figure (analogous to the return of Christ for many Christians).


Also on Monday, the offices of the al-Arabiya satellite television news network were bombed, killing 6 persons and wounding a member of parliament from the secular Iraqiya list of Iyad Allawi, Salam al-Zawbaie.


Despite Republican senator John McCain’s conviction that “We’ve already won that one,” i.e. the Iraq War, actually you couldn’t say either that the war is over or that things are going well politically in that country. It lacks a new government, the political wrangling is interminable, the apparatus of state is paralyzed, and big bombings are undertaken with frightening efficiency.


A parliamentary session is also planned to discuss the prerogatives of al-Maliki’s caretaker government, which remains in power 5 months after the election, given the constitutional crisis and relative power vacuum (parliament has not been meeting regularly in the absence of a new government). One plan is to strip al-Maliki’s caretaker government of many of its prerogatives, allowing it only to deliver government services.

The problem is that the army reports to al-Maliki and neither may be interested in what parliament thinks.

  Juan Cole

Gulf Oil: Criminal or Just Unethical?

According to two surviving crew members of the Deepwater Horizon, oil workers from the rig were held in seclusion on the open water for up to two days after the April 20 explosion, while[Transocean] attorneys attempted to convince them to sign legal documents stating that they were unharmed by the incident. The men claim that they were forbidden from having any contact with concerned loved ones during that time, and were told they would not be able to go home until they signed the documents they were presented with.


After being awake for 50 harrowing hours, [Stephen] Davis caved and signed the papers. He said most of the others did as well.


Christopher Choy, a roustabout on the rig, said that the lawyers gathered the survivors in the galley of a boat and said, "'You need to sign these. Nobody's getting off here until we get one from everybody.' ... At the bottom, it said something about, like, you know, this can be used as evidence in court and all that. I told them, 'I'm not signing it.' "

Choy said that once he was finally allowed to get off the boat, he was shuttled to a hotel, where he met up with his wife. At the hotel, representatives from Transocean confronted him again and badgered him to sign the statement. Exhausted, traumatized and desperate to go home, Choy said that he finally relented and signed.


Other industrialized nations that have off-shore oil (like Canada and Norway) require certain safety measures to be in place for drilling to prevent situations like what happened in the BP disaster. Examples of these protective measures are mandatory relief wells and "acoustic switches" that shut down operations completely (and remotely) in case of a blowout or explosion.

The US Mines and Minerals Service, under the industry-friendly Bush administration, decided that rigs operating in American waters don't need these measures because they are "very costly". Acoustic switches cost $500,000 per switch. Now we see what a small price that is with the economy of Louisiana in jeopardy. Keep in mind that $500,000 cost was deemed too intrusive on the profits of the most profitable companies in the history of civilization.

  Daily Sentinel

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Gulf Oil: FUBAR

BP Oil Disaster response workers are reporting endemic problems, such as not being paid on time, low morale, rampant sickness, equipment failures, and being lied to regularly.


“People are being laid off for no reason,” [a woman working as a clerk for Gulf Asphalt Contractors (GAC) said] , then went on to explain that people working on the beaches cleaning up oil “are getting sick, then they go to the emergency rooms, but they come back and we are always told it was because of food poisoning.”

“Everybody I know has bad morale and is confused and doesn’t know what is going on,” she continued, “Because I work in the TRG trailer, people come to me thinking I know more than they know, but I don’t. I’m coming up with shorter hours, and having to wait weeks to be paid. They shorted me 12 hours three checks ago, then when they finally paid me for it, they paid me at a lower wage.”


Truthout [...] spoke with a worker in the so-called Vessels of Opportunity program. The program is what BP set up to hire fisherman who are out of work because of the oil disaster, so that they are paid to use their boats in the response effort to do things like laying out oil boom and skimming. [Ed: see this post]

“They’re leaving gaps between the booms, and the oil is going straight through them,” the man, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Truthout in Lafitte, Louisiana, “This is on top of the fact that the booms don’t work anyway. The oil is going over and under them.”[...] He told Truthtout that the small plastic booms that BP is using to stop the oil from reaching the marsh areas “are a waste of time and money. Some company is making lots of money off of this, when in reality they need booms that are five feet tall above the water with at least a six-foot deep skirt under the water. What they have now is a load of crap.”

After pausing to look out at the water, he added, “Somebody is getting filthy ass rich off these red and yellow booms that don’t do shit. Some politicians’ got a buddy manufacturing that crap.”


He said that as the water warms later in the day, oil on the bottom that has been sunk by dispersants begins to “float back up to the surface, like a lava lamp.” According to the worker, “It smells like strong chemicals, you can tell it’s harmful.”

His voice was hoarse and he had a sore throat that he said was likely because of his working in the oil/dispersants.

The worker explained that he took the job because he needs the money, “since they killed our fishing season, what else was I going to do?”

  Dahr Jamail

Wikileaks: OBL & the CIA

Secret files leaked about the war in Afghanistan have revealed tantalising glimpses of Osama Bin Laden despite public CIA claims that they are clueless as to the whereabouts of the Al Qaeda boss.

  The Mercury

They would claim that, wouldn’t they – having made deals with him and used him to their advantage for decades.

Leon Panetta, director of the CIA, said last month that there have been no firm leads on Bin Laden's whereabouts since the 'early 2000s'.

But a 'threat report' from the International Security Assistance Force regional command (north) on suicide bombers in August 2006 suggested Bin Laden had been attending [monthly] meetings in villages on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former Army captain, said: "Although much of this information is in the public domain, the details are particularly damaging to the credibility of the coalition.

Credibility it was seriously short of before the leaks.

Tony Hayward Gets His Life Back

Along with kudos, a recommendation for a position on BP's board in Russia, and $1.6 million. Instead of the jail time he probably deserves.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Julian Assange Press Conference

UPDATE: In the press conference, Assange shows and describes how to approach the webpages Wikileaks has dedicated to the "war diary". Link here to those pages. They have done an impressive amount of work to make the documents and data they contain accessible.

Even PBS Is Playing Down the Leaks

The piece I just saw on PBS News had a couple of guys playing down the information in the leaked war documents and calmly reminding us that this is war and it's complex. And besides that, none of the documents were Top Secret. Now, go on back to your backyard grill.

UPDATE: Now they have a guy who used to work for the NYT saying Assange's life's goal is to make ALL secrets public, portraying him as an evil nutjob, and reminding us that not all of these documents have been vetted as authentic.

I think I'll watch Tosh.0.

More Brilliance

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, currently running third in the state's Republican gubernatorial primary race, says he's not sure if Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion apply to the followers of the world's second-largest faith, Islam.


"Now, you know, I'm all about freedom of religion. I value the First Amendment as much as I value the Second Amendment as much as I value the Tenth Amendment and on and on and on," he said. "But you cross the line when they try to start bringing Sharia Law here to the state of Tennessee -- to the United States. We live under our Constitution and they live under our Constitution."


"Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it," Ramsey said.


Is it a nationality? Hmmmm, let me think. I may have heard Sarah Palin mention the country Musle. And I should probably ask our Israeli Jewish friends about the cult of Christianity. I'll get back to you Mr. Ramsey.

The 'New Pentagon Papers'

I will be surprised if the Wikileaks on the Afghan war become as impactful as the Pentagon Papers did. Nevertheless, you could have expected Democracy Now! to take note. Check out Amy Goodman's round table with the following guests:

Stephen Grey, independent journalist based in London. He has been reporting from Afghanistan for the past few years. He is author of Operation Snakebite: The Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege. He recently interviewed Julian Assange for Channel 4.

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower.

Rick Rowley, independent journalist with Big Noise Films He just returned from a six-week trip to Afghanistan, where he was embedded with a Marine division in Marjah.

Matthew Hoh, former Marine Corps captain in Iraq and former State Department official in Afghanistan. He is the first-known US official to resign in protest over the Afghan war.

Gareth Porter, investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy.
I already knew that Julian Assange, the Australian who owns Wikileaks, had agreed to withhold certain documents that might actually endanger American troops, but I learned from this program that the Times has been going over the documents with the Obama government for some time, redacting names and other specifics that might actually be harmful to troops, troop movement and such. In other words, whatever is being reported is being cleared by the government first. Therefore, there can be no claim of treason - anything that is being made public must simply be owned up to. And what is being made public is very damning - not things we didn't already know or at least suspect, but proof of it.

And right on cue:

"The damage to our national security caused by leaks like this won't stop until we see more perpetrators in orange jump suits," [Missouri Senator and senior Republican on the Intelligence Committee Kit] Bond said in a statement.

  Raw Story

That's right. Kill the messenger. Criminalize the whistleblower, protect the criminals.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Who Cares? - Part 2

The most consequential news item of the week will obviously be -- or at least should be -- the massive new leak by WikiLeaks of 90,000 pages of classified material chronicling the truth about the war in Afghanistan from 2004 through 2009. Those documents provide what The New York Times calls "an unvarnished, ground-level picture of the war in Afghanistan that is in many respects more grim than the official portrayal."



The Guardian describes the documents as "a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fueling the insurgency."

And I expect this to have about the same effect that last week's Post expose regarding the US Police Security State had. Pretty much none.

It's not difficult to foresee, as Atrios predicted, that media "coverage of [the] latest [leak] will be about whether or not it should have been published," rather than about what these documents reveal about the war effort and the government and military leaders prosecuting it.


Anyone who believes that the Government abuses its secrecy powers and then uses that lack of transparency to keep the citizenry in the dark and manipulate public opinion -- and who, at this point, doesn't believe that? -- should be squarely on the side of the greater transparency which Wikileaks and its sources, sometimes single-handedly, are providing.


Just as was true for the video of the Appache helicopter attack in Baghdad, there is no valid justification for having kept most of these documents a secret. But that's what our National Security State does reflexively: it hides itself behind an essentially absolute wall of secrecy to ensure that the citizenry remains largely ignorant of what it is really doing.

Which leads us nicely into this: you already know that the government can shut you out and effectively shut you up by claiming state secrets to withhold documentation or even deny you the right to file a lawsuit. But maybe you didn't know that the precedent for the government's privilege is based on a lie and a coverup.

[The landmark case, U.S. v. Reynolds, that established the state-secret doctrine in the Supreme Court] never did involve anything even remotely resembling "state secrets." When the [report of the plane accident that was the subject of the lawsuit] was declassified in the 1990s, all it contained was a dry summary of glaring negligence: engine maintenance orders (designed to prevent the fire) that had been ignored, negligent aircraft operation by the pilots, and a failure even to train the civilians on escape procedures or parachute operation.

  Seattle Times

The Supreme Court ruled in the early fifties that the government could refuse to allow any lawsuit it wanted based only on its claim of state secrets. The Court did so without even having read the documents that the government in Reynolds claimed contained state secrets. They did not – a fact that was learned when the documents were declassified. And from that day in 1952 continuing even now, based on government lies and Supreme Court complicity, our government is permitted to deny to anyone the basic right of bringing a lawsuit to address an injustice, merely by claiming state secrets privilege.

We haven't had our democracy in a very long time. Our rights have expired, as Mr. Thomas Jefferson might have said.

War Crimes: Falluja Today

In Fallujah, a city just 50 miles from Baghdad, life has never been the same since April 2004, when U.S. Marines declared the entire area a free-fire zone and proceeded to do what Marines do best. Packing the most destructive weaponry in the world, American soldiers laid siege to the city, deploying depleted uranium munitions, white phosphorus and tons of conventional ballistics.


In the wake of America's "shock and awe" bombing campaign to take Baghdad, radiation detectors as far away as the United Kingdom noticed a fourfold spike in radioactivity in the atmosphere.


Today, according to a study by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health [PDF link], rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and sexual mutations in Fallujah are higher than those reported in the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear detonations.


Images of Iraqi children born horribly mutated are extremely difficult to look at and not for the feint of heart.

  Raw Story

Falluja: A Chronicle of Genocide

I Wish I Was Back in the Army

The Taliban said Sunday that one of two American soldiers missing since Friday had been killed in a gun battle with the insurgents, while the other was captured alive.

  Raw Story

Lucky, lucky soldier.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Who Cares?

Britain's public inquiry into the country's instrumental role in the Iraq invasion is being thwarted by "deep state" bureaucrats who are intimidating witnesses and withholding documents, says a former Iraq expert for the UK government.


Carne Ross asserted that he was cajoled by government operatives to not mention certain documents that suggest the British government lied to lawmakers about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq. He also said he had heard "from secondary sources" that other witnesses were similarly intimidated.

  Raw Story

I'm not sure I understand why they are reluctant to admit they phonied up things and pushed for an illegal invasion. It didn't seem to hurt the Bush administration. Our deep state bureaucrats don't even seem to be ashamed of what they did. Obviously, neither are a good number of American citizens.

And they should be able to count on the same thing our deep state bureaucrats count on:

Remember how The Washington Post spent three days documenting on its front page that we basically live under a vast Secret Government -- composed of military and intelligence agencies and the largest corporations -- so sprawling and unaccountable that nobody even knows what it does? This public/private Secret Government spies, detains, interrogates, and even wages wars in the dark, while sucking up untold hundreds of billions of dollars every year for the private corporations which run it. Has any investigative series ever caused less of a ripple than this one? After a one-day spate of television appearances for Dana Priest and William Arkin -- most of which predictably focused on the bureaucratic waste they raised along with whether the Post had Endangered the Nation by writing about all of this -- the story faded blissfully into the ether, never to be heard from again, easily subsumed by the Andrew Breitbart and Journolist sagas.

  Glenn Greenwald

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

WTF Can You Do?

Unfuck the Gulf

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

"In certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer." --Mark Twain

A Fool's Bet

Federal biologists are releasing thousands of endangered baby sea turtles into the western Gulf of Mexico, betting that by the time the silver dollar-sized swimmers make it to the oil-fouled waters of the eastern Gulf, BP will have cleaned up its goopy mess.

  Raw Story

Poor little doomed things.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

It's Sunday

Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson were among those campaigners reported to be looking at the options for bringing a private prosecution in relation to the Pope's alleged cover-up of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Now Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has proposed changes to the rules on universal jurisdiction, a law that allows individuals to be prosecuted in the UK for serious offences such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture even if they were carried out abroad.

The plans would mean the Director of Public Prosecutions would need to give his consent to any arrest warrant issued under universal jurisdiction.

  UK News

The moral of this lesson is: the people have no real power. Rules can change in the middle of the game. It's the lesson of the dungeon master.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Feet

The amazing Nicholas Brothers:

And then they grew up.

Gene Kelly:

The great Gregory Hines:

Hines with Baryshnikov:

The greatest - Savion Glover:

Further in Afghanistan

Two U.S. Navy service members disappeared in a dangerous area of eastern Afghanistan, prompting a massive air and ground search and appeals on local radio stations for their safe return, NATO and Afghan officials said Saturday.

The two left their compound in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in a vehicle Friday afternoon, but never returned, NATO said in a statement.


Bring the troops home.

Brilliant, Just Brilliant

The emergency alarm on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig was not fully activated on the day it caught fire and exploded, setting off the spill in the gulf, a rig worker told a government panel investigating the accident. The worker, the chief electronics technician aboard the rig, said the general safety alarm was habitually set to “inhibited” to avoid waking up the crew with late-night sirens.

  NYT  NYT full story.

Yes, we always turn off our smoke alarms at night so they don’t wake us.


Mr. Williams, who filed a lawsuit against Transocean in federal court in New Orleans on April 29, added several new details about the equipment on the rig, testifying that another Transocean official had turned a critical system for removing dangerous gas from the drilling shack to “bypass mode.”

When Mr. Williams questioned that decision, he said he was reprimanded.

“No, the damn thing’s been in bypass for five years,” he recalled being told by Mark Hay, the subsea supervisor. “Why’d you even mess with it?”

Mr. Williams recalled that Mr. Hay added, “The entire fleet runs them in ‘bypass.’ ”


Can there be any more crimes committed by the companies involved in this catastrophe? They should all be put out of business.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan

July 24: 5 US troops die in blasts in southern Afghanistan

Friday, July 23, 2010

Winding Up Friday

I'm starting to feel a bit better - the vertigo is almost gone; at least the world doesn't spin away when I look both ways at an intersection - a big improvement for driving. The heat is still oppressive, but feeling better physically makes it slightly more bearable. We had our hurricane preparedness meeting today, and I'm waiting for my new badge that designates me "essential personnel" in case of island evacuation. I don't know whether that means I will have the option of staying when and if the mayor calls for a mandatory evacuation or whether it just means I will be allowed back on immediately after the hurricane passes. During Ike, of course, I stayed, mandatory evacuation be damned, but I didn't have an "essential personnel" badge. The authorities were none too happy at the outcome of that mandatory evacuation, and the last I heard, they made a new rule that allows them to levy a fine of $1,000 on anyone who doesn't leave in the event of a mandatory evac. That is not a fine I can afford, so I am happy to have a steenkeen badge.

Speaking of feeling better, I hope things are going better for Maru, as there is simply no replacement. No posts since May is not encouraging. Wishing Maru better days, whether the blog recovers or not.

My backspace key is crapping out, and that's really bad news, because my typing requires heavy use of it for correcting.

Have some fun out there this weekend. Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow doesn't look good.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Another Al Who Could Maybe Use Some Get Well Wishes

After two years as an intelligence librarian at Shaw Air Force Base, [South Carolina Senate nominee Al] Greene received his first review, and according to the AP, was found to be "an ineffective leader who lacked organization." Though he was assessed as "usually capable of handling mundane tasks with supervision," he was "not able to adapt to any changes to daily routine."


The following year, Greene was working as an analyst in the weapons of mass destruction section, though the AP reports that his "job had little to do with intelligence analysis and more to do with shredding documents and escorting contractors around the base."

An evaluation said that "while Alvin is a decent person, he lacks the basic skills necessary for promotion," adding that he "required a daily to-do list" and had a "consistent inability to follow instructions or maintain basic job knowledge."


In all fairness, he may have improved since then. But, if not, he sounds like a pretty good fit for the Senate to me. A commenter on the site posts:

Many think he's a plant from the GOP. And by the sounds of it, that plant turns out to be a vegetable.

If the GOP really did manage to plant Democratic candidate Al Greene into the South Carolina Senate primary, they must have been terribly unsure about their own candidate.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Afghani-Mexican Railroad

So some Afghan soldiers studying English at an Air Force Base in Texas and a "loose network" of possibly illegal and maybe overweight Mexican women walk into a bar. Stop me if you've heard this one.

(And if you have, you've been reading


BOLO for 17 Afghan soldiers on the loose in the US, heading to Canada with the aid of "BMWs". You must read the article to get the full color.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Suddenly: Internet Porn in China

Yet eight weeks later, the porn sites are still accessible. Still unanswered are questions about whether it's an official change in policy, a technical glitch or some sort of test by the usually disapproving Chinese Internet police.

  Google News

Arrests to follow.

Hey, if China still has jail space, maybe we could arrange another trade deal.

"Maybe they are thinking that if Internet users have some porn to look at, then they won't pay so much attention to political matters," Anti said.

Oh, yeah. It seems to be working pretty well here.

....but hey, do what you will anyway.

Get Well, Al

Critically ill.