Saturday, January 21, 2006

US demands Google provide search data

This needs to be known by everyone on internet.

US government demands Google hand over Internet search data

The US Department of Justice has asked a federal judge in San Jose, California, to compel Internet search giant Google to comply with a subpoena issued last year to turn over records that detail millions of Internet searches.

Google denied requests for the data, while rivals Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL have all handed over records to government lawyers, who claim they need the data to bolster claims that the Child Online Protection Act (COPA) does not violate the Constitution. The act was introduced by the Clinton administration in 1998 under the auspices of protecting children from online pornography. It established criminal penalties for any commercial distribution of material harmful to minors. The legislation was suspended a year later after a successful suit by the American Civil Liberties Union and others claiming the act violated the constitutional right to free speech.

Like all such legislation, its scope was far broader than its supposed target, making it an offense for web sites to post material deemed “harmful to minors,” which, as civil rights campaigners said at the time, could criminalize sites of some art galleries and book stores.

Read on . . . .

Political issues behind 'nuclear' Iran

There are a number of issues going on with the "Iran issue". From the west, it is neocolonialism and control of both oil and the petro-dollar, neither of which are dealt with in this article.

But there is another side. Iran also has its own problems and is not entirely innocent. This article analises both sides, giving a better balance to the whole picture.

The escalating confrontation between Iran and the major powers over Tehran’s nuclear programs raises crucial political issues. Once again the Bush administration is recklessly setting the course for military conflict. Again, the European powers, Russia and China, caught between Washington’s demands and their own economic interests in Iran and the Middle East, have chosen to appease the US. While economic sanctions are currently under discussion, the White House has repeatedly made clear that “all options”, including a military attack, are “on the table”.

The political issues behind the Iranian nuclear confrontation

The EU-3—Britain, France and Germany—have called for an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to refer Iran to the UN Security Council for punitive sanctions.

The entire rationale for UN action against Iran, recycled endlessly in the international media, reeks of cynicism and hypocrisy. All five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the US, Britain, France, Russia and China—have nuclear weapons and have failed to meet their obligations as signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to dismantle their huge nuclear arsenals.

A glaring double standard is applied to Iran, which is being menaced with economic sanctions and military strikes over its nuclear programs, while US allies—Israel, India and Pakistan—already have nuclear weapons. Other countries, such as Brazil, either have built or are currently constructing uranium enrichment plants, which are not outlawed under the NPT.

No one should mistake Ahmadinejad’s bravado for a genuine struggle against imperialism. The aim of this limited challenge is to pressure the major powers for a more advantageous relationship for the Iranian bourgeoisie and to bolster Iran’s position as a regional power

Read on . . . .

Friday, January 20, 2006

Iran and the fall of the American Empire

What Iran is really about.

Why would America ever consider another war, and then with nuclear weapons, with Iran??

And if you've ever wondered about the mumble-jumble about currencies, empire and petro-dollars, and what this all has to do with America and/or the Middle East, this is a must read.

The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse Abstract:
The proposed Iranian Oil Bourse will accelerate the fall of the American Empire.

01/19/06 "Gold Eagle" -- -- A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations.

The imperial ability to tax has always rested on a better and stronger economy, and as a consequence, a better and stronger military. One part of the subject taxes went to improve the living standards of the empire; the other part went to strengthen the military dominance necessary to enforce the collection of those taxes.

Historically, taxing the subject state has been in various forms-usually gold and silver, where those were considered money, but also slaves, soldiers, crops, cattle, or other agricultural and natural resources, whatever economic goods the empire demanded and the subject-state could deliver.

Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire.

For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation.

It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods-the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax. Here is how this happened.

A must read. . . .

Chirac issues Nuclear warning

It is becoming quite obvious that the EU is siding with the U.S. against Iran, and also using the UN as their tool to give their economic hegemony legitimacy. International politics is always about power and money, and the richer countries maintaining their hold over the poorer. In today's world, colonialism goes on, just under the guise of a blanket of words. The nuclear threats raise the ante to new heights in the game.

Chirac Threatens Nuclear Weapons Against 'Terrorist' States

President Jacques Chirac for the first time Thursday raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches "terrorist" attacks against France.

He also said France's doctrine of nuclear deterrence has been extended to protect the country's "strategic supplies", taken to mean oil.

"Leaders of any state that uses terrorist means against us, as well as any that may be envisaging -- in one way or another -- using weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they would be exposing themselves to a firm and appropriate response on our behalf," he said.

"That response could be conventional, it could also be of another nature," Chirac said in a clear reference to nuclear weapons during a visit to a French nuclear base in the northwestern region of Brittany.

The president said he was extending the definition of "vital interests" protected by France's nuclear umbrella to include allies and "strategic supplies".

The French press understood "strategic supplies" to include oil. Le Monde newspaper said that was aimed "probably also at those countries from which France imports part of its energy needs".

"If, theoretically, such interests were threatened by regional powers -- Iran, North Korea? -- France would react," the daily said.

The French president, however, did not single out any country in his speech.

He did indicate, though, that the previous Cold War stance of threatening massive and widespread destruction against enemies had been changed to a doctrine permitting a graduated and limited nuclear response.

"Faced with a regional power, our choice is not between doing nothing and annihilating it," he said.

France has configured its nuclear arsenal to be able to respond "flexibly and reactively" to any threat, by reducing the number of nuclear heads on certain missiles on board its submarines, he said.

Such a move would enable it to conduct strikes on specific targets and limit the zone of destruction.

Read on. . . .

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Is America the SS Titanic?

Instead of presenting facts and analyses, this apt comparison is fascinating in its own right and there is a lesson here as well.

Is America the SS Titanic? History's Enduring Morality Tale

In 1912 the steamship Titanic was an enormous floating palace with many levels of society enclosed in a single vessel. The upper levels of the ship housed the wealthy and powerful. Below the richly furnished staterooms of the elite, the corresponding levels of society descended to the very bottom of the ship, where the lowest classes lived and worked.

"At her launching in May 1911, the British press hailed the White Star Line’s 46,000-ton superliner Titanic as ‘the Wonder Ship,’ the most stupendous, the most luxurious, the safest ship afloat," wrote Sir James Bisset.

Despite the media rapture that heralded the Titanic as the most marvelous ship afloat, several of her crew deserted. "The rumor had started several days before the Titanic left Southampton ," said then second mate Bisset. "Newspapers for months had been printing articles extolling her wonderful qualities, but on the morning when she was due to leave Southampton , twenty two men who had signed on in her crew were missing."

Despite the media rapture that presently heralds America as the sole remaining superpower, an unsinkable republic and an unassailable democracy, the country appears to be cruising as comfortably into unsafe waters laced with icebergs. The warnings have been forthcoming for a long time now. Similar to the enduring morality tale of the Titanic, where "not one, but many errors brought her to disaster," little hints of disaster indicating a larger tragedy to come have been sent—and ignored—by friendly ships of state all around.

Aboard the SS Titanic on her maiden voyage a helmsman firmly took the wheel. Behind him stood two powerful figures, the ship’s Captain, Edward John Smith, and Bruce Ismay, the Chairman of the White Star Line. Behind them stood the prestige and power of the owner of the White Star Line, Ismay's father. "There is testimony that Ismay urged the captain to maintain maximum speed," said Bisset, one of the first men on the rescue scene after the sinking. Thus the helmsman aboard the Titanic actually wielded little power, exercised little judgment, aside from spinning the wheel. Those who stood behind him in the shadows set the course and determined the speed (and were wholly responsible for the ship). A New Atlantic Speed Record for her maiden voyage became an enviable goal. All that was required was an increase in power, and thus, speed for the entire voyage.

Aboard the SS America, nearly a hundred years later, the helmsman stands at the wheel, looking self-important, nominally in charge. Although the hands of the helmsman certainly grasp the wheel, the course and speed of SS America have been set by others. In the shadows, the power elite plot the new course, having increased power and speed, irregardless of the safety of the vessel. To the privileged class striding the upper decks of the most powerful vessel afloat, there is little cause for alarm, however. After all, capable men control this enormous ship of state and so the leisure class promenade proudly past the stout lifeboats of their diversified investment portfolios, and calmly tell themselves the vessel is unsinkable.

Continue on . . . .

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

6 million wiretapped conversations per month

INSIDER INFO: 6 million wiretapped conversations per month

Facts from IBM In a quirk of fate, I met someone from IBM who was directly involved in implementing the wiretapping system that is all over the news.

It is much worse than the news would suggest. As some have reported, this is definitely not just NSA. The bidding for the technology to do this project was conducted by members of the FBI and the CIA. During the proposal process, IBM was told explicitly that they were to answer questions, not ask them.

One of the most noteworthy comments was that the Government had specified 60 Terabytes of monthly storage for digital versions of conversations. MONTHLY! At about 11k per call, that is about 6 million conversations per month. (correct my math if you are better at computers!). This is enormous.

People in the press are concerned that they are tapping the phones of people without just cause. What they are really doing is much, much worse.

In reality, they are tapping hundreds of thousands of lines all the time. This is KGB stuff.

Every call is stored digitally and indexed accurately, creating an archive that can be used for political purposes in the future. This is not reels of tape that would require massive effort to file through and might become useless quickly. It is highly indexed information that is being kept in storage. Two years from now, they could look into particular phone numbers to check in on cell and land lines. It is cell and land lines

They are running filters on every conversation for Farsi and other languages in real time This is domestic spying on a massive scale, not just a few wiretaps without a judge.

This should be cause for impeachment.


Another Undeclared War?

There have been some conflicting news reports the last couple of days, but here from Pat Buchanon, a conservative but no neocon, he is stating what the issues have clearly been all along and up to today. It is obvious that the Bush regime wants war and will do anything it takes to get that. With Iran's Oil Bouse in Euros due to begin March 20, he has little time to waste. Just many more thousands of lives will be wasted, but....who's counting when it comes to keeping the oil and petro-dollars in place for the financial elite? It's Iraq, all over again, but with (much) higher stakes, including economic and nuclear.

Is the United States about to launch a second preemptive war, against a nation that has not attacked us, to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction that it does not have?

With U.S. troops tied down in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Pakistanis inflamed over a U.S. airstrike that wiped out 13 villagers, including women and children, it would seem another war in the Islamic world is the last thing America needs.

Yet the "military option" against Iran is the talk of the town.

"There is only one thing worse than … exercising the military option," says Sen. John McCain. "That is a nuclear-armed Iran. The military option is the last option, but cannot be taken off the table."

Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation, McCain said Iran's nuclear program presents "the most grave situation we have faced since the end of the Cold War, absent the whole war on terror."

Meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bush employed the same grim terms he used before invading Iraq. If Iran goes forward with nuclear enrichment, said Bush, it could "pose a grave threat to the security of the world."

McCain and Bush both emphasized the threat to Israel. And all the usual suspects are beating the drums for war. Israel warns that March is the deadline after which she may strike. One reads of F-16s headed for the Gulf. The Weekly Standard is feathered and painted for the warpath. The Iranian Chalabis are playing their assigned roles, warning that Tehran is much closer to nukes than we all realize.

But just how imminent in this "grave threat"?

Thus far, Tehran has taken only two baby steps. It has renewed converting "yellowcake" into uranium hexafluoride, the gaseous substance used to create enriched uranium. And Iran has broken the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) seals at its nuclear facility at Natanz, where uranium hexafluoride is to be processed into enriched uranium. But on Saturday, the foreign ministry said it was still suspending "fuel production."

However, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared, "There are no restrictions for nuclear research activities under the NPT," the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Iran has signed.

Here, Iran's president is supported by his countrymen and stands on the solid ground of international law. Yet Secretary of State Condi Rice said last week, "There is simply no peaceful rationale for the Iranian regime to resume uranium enrichment."

Is Condi right?

Unlike Israel, Pakistan, and India, which clandestinely built nuclear weapons, Iran has signed the NPT. And Tehran may wish to exercise its rights under the treaty to master the nuclear fuel cycle to build power plants for electricity, rather than use up the oil and gas deposits she exports to earn all of her hard currency. Nuclear power makes sense for Iran

True, in gaining such expertise, Iran may wish to be able, in a matter of months, to go nuclear. For the United States and Israel, which have repeatedly threatened her, are both in the neighborhood and have nuclear arsenals. Acquiring an atom bomb to deter a U.S. or Israeli attack may not appear a "peaceful rationale" to Rice, but the Iranians may have a different perspective.

Having seen what we did to Iraq, but how deferential we are to North Korea, would it be irrational for Tehran to seek its own deterrent?

And, again, just how imminent is this "grave threat"?

"We don't see a clear and present danger," Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA has just told Newsweek.

Read on . . . .

What Makes Americans Susceptible to Manipulation

This mirrors some of my own thoughts about the same subject. I quote it here in its entirety.

[This piece ran as an op/ed in the Baltimore Sun in late October, 2004, just before the election.]

What Makes Americans Susceptible to Manipulation?
by Andrew Bard Schmookler

One question has been especially troubling me: Why will so many Americans buy images of national leaders that are so at odds with so much evidence?

This question is crucial because the American democracy was founded on the notion that the truth will out in the deliberations of a free people.

Fear is surely a factor, especially so since our country came under attack three years ago. When we’re afraid, we lose our tolerance for ambiguity. Black-and-white thinking is in: you’re either for us or against us. When in the grip of fear, we crave certainty, because uncertainty magnifies the feeling of vulnerability. So a leader who shows no doubt, who doesn’t even entertain second thoughts, is comforting for the fearful. The more afraid we are, the more we shift into a part of the brain where rational analysis does not govern.

It is when people do not think critically that they are most manipulable, and fear is but one force that’s eroded America’s capacity for critical thought. Over recent generations, the most mighty of our educational institutions –advertising—has systematically worked to teach us to mistake appealing image for the reality, the sizzle for the steak. Those taught to buy cigarettes to make themselves glamorous can be persuaded to buy incompetent leadership to make them safe.

Many Americans have more recently been still further trained away from habits of critical thinking by the powerful subculture of intellectually irresponsible right wing media. For more than a decade, “the Godzilla of talk radio” –Rush Limbaugh—has taken millions of Americans on a daily excursion that panders to their prejudices, never challenging them to reconsider their ideas, always encouraging them to blame all their problems on identifiable others.

The voice leading them on these excursions radiates the aura of certainty, despite the vast ignorance it covers over, and shows no scruples about distorting facts to reach a desired conclusion. These daily forrays into comforting falsehoods have forged in the minds of millions of Americans a path down which fine-sounding messages unmoored from reality could more readily travel.

But there are still older paths in the American psyche that have been available for adept political manipulators.

One of the most powerful ways of by-passing critical rationality in America has long been the posture of religious piety and moralism. That’s how the Music Man sells River City on a boy’s band. “These leaders must have integrity, they’re so religious,” I heard on my call-in radio show. People who have been betrayed by the false piety of the Jimmy Swaggarts and Jim Bakkers of the world will still assume that one who speaks often enough of his great faith can be trusted.

That’s the way that the wolf of unbridled self-aggrandisement hides behind the sheep’s clothing of false righteousness. (That’s how political leaders who are only serving their lust for power and their greed can get legitimacy and compliance.)

There is another venerable template in American political culture: the pattern of rhetoric by which governing elites inflame peripheral issues to distract their followers from seeing the truth of their exploitation.

In the South, race long served as the imflammatory distraction to enable the few to dominate the many. In our times, the pseudo-alliance to preserve white purity has been largely replaced by a pseudo-alliance to maintain moral purity. What’s not noticed is that while the leaders just keep these hot-button moral issues (like abortion and gay rights) festering, unresolved, they make sure that the agenda of the rich and powerful (the regressive tax cuts, the dismantling of environmental regulation, etc.) actually gets accomplished.

While the con itself is not new, the scope of today’s successful deception of the American people is unprecedented.

The powerful used to just take what they wanted by the sword. The rise of democracy required the powerful to trade in the sword for the con job: just manipulate the people into choosing against their own true interests. It is only when the people can see through the lies that they reclaim the power that is their birthright as citizens of this American democracy.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

India, Iran and the nuclear challenge

A look from another angle at the issue of nuclear research and Iran, together with interesting and very relevant background.

India Sides with the U.S. in the illegal pressure on Iran

IN THE next few weeks, the Manmohan Singh Government will face its second major test on the Iranian nuclear front. For the United States and its European allies appear determined to refer Teheran to the United Nations Security Council for pursuing a civilian nuclear energy programme in defiance of Washington's diktats. The provocation for the latest western hysteria is Iran's decision to conduct research experiments on uranium conversion and other aspects of the civilian nuclear fuel cycle. These experiments are taking place in facilities that are fully safeguarded by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Moreover, these activities are in no way prohibited under either the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) or Iran's Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, published by the Agency as Infcirc 214.

Under the Safeguards Agreement, Iran is obliged to accept safeguards "on all source or special fissionable material in all peaceful nuclear activities ... for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices." On its part, the IAEA has "the right and obligation" to ensure that safeguards are applied on all such activities "for the exclusive purpose of verifying that such material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices."

Over the years, Iran (like South Korea, Taiwan, Egypt and a few other countries) had failed to report to the IAEA — and hence ensure safeguards upon — a number of nuclear-related transactions and activities. These instances were thoroughly investigated by the Agency's inspectors and the relevant files on these closed. Thus in his report to the IAEA Board of Governors on September 2, 2005, Director General Mohammed el-Baradei noted that "all the declared nuclear material in Iran has been accounted for, and therefore such material is not diverted to prohibited activities." Dr. el-Baradei said, however, that the IAEA was not yet in a position to conclude that there were no "undeclared" nuclear activities taking place in Iran — an obligation that stems not from the safeguards agreement but only from the Additional Protocol that Iran said it would voluntarily adhere to in 2003.

Despite this finding, the Board of Governors — acting under the pressure of the U.S. and the E-3 — voted on September 24 last year to find Iran in non-compliance with its safeguards agreement in the context of article XIIC of the IAEA Statute. Conveniently overlooked was the fact that article XIIC, as well as articles 18 and 19 of Infcirc 214, define non-compliance essentially as diversion of safeguarded material for prohibited purposes, something Dr. el-Baradei had explicitly ruled out.

Read on. . . .

Selling the Amazon for a Handful of Beads

Miss Equador 2006
Oil is not the only "natural resource" here

This gives a partial glimpse of how foreign oil companies get at the oil in other countries. Latin America is interesting in that there is some resistance to this now.

In the midst of an Amazonian oil boom, classified documents reveal deep links between oil companies and Ecuador's military.

The documents raise human rights questions as Amazonian indigenous groups push back against Big Oil.

It's unusual, to say the least, that a foreign-owned business, dedicated to oil exploration and production, should choose to advise the Ecuadorian Armed Forces as to where best to base their soldiers, and it is a sad reflection on the power relations in Ecuador that the advice not only did not offend, but was followed. The danger is that, now that the oil companies have established their authority over the military, and now that indigenous lands have become a target for military intervention, it is a short step to the military terror that has been seen in Burma, Nigeria and Colombia.

Read on . . . .

OK then, more about Miss Equador and other contestants....

Monday, January 16, 2006

More Lies about Iran

There’s been a lot of rubbish written about Iran’s “removing the seals” from its uranium enrichment equipment.

The fear-mongering western media have exploited the expression for all its worth. Even those who are normally skeptical of the Bush-propaganda machine are taken aback by this ominous-sounding phrase.

What gibberish!

How else does one make nuclear fuel for electric power plants if the fuel-producing mechanism is under lock and key?

The fear-engendering description provided in the news would have the reader believe that “diabolical” Iranians are ripping off the seals with crowbars so they can quickly assemble their secret nuclear stockpile to bomb Tel Aviv.

This is the worse type of demagoguery.

The fuel that is produced from these uranium enrichment reactors DOES NOT PRODUCE WEAPONS-GRADE MATERIAL. That requires thousands of centrifuges which Iran does not have.

At the same time, the nuclear watchdog agency, the IAEA, has on-site inspectors and cameras monitoring the entire process.

Everything is under constant observation.

Read on . . . .

Stupid in America

While there is some good info here, the negative emphasis on "government monopoly" is not founded. Government also has a monopoly on education in western Europe, but then families are free to choose which schools their kids will attend, and all schools, secular or religious, are funded by the government at the same support per student. If a school does not attract enough students, their funding will become inadequate and they will not survive. Furthermore, with perhaps the exception of the telephone companies, all utility services have dropped in their quality of service once they were privitized. The solution for America is, of course, to fund all schools alike, and to let parents choose the schools they wish for their kids. And then there are other things affecting kids' behavior and learning abilities such as poverty, diet etc..

Why your kids are probably dumber than Belgians

For "Stupid in America," a special report ABC will air Friday, we gave identical tests to high school students in New Jersey and in Belgium. The Belgian kids cleaned the American kids' clocks. The Belgian kids called the American students "stupid."

We didn't pick smart kids to test in Europe and dumb kids in the United States. The American students attend an above-average school in New Jersey, and New Jersey's kids have test scores that are above average for America.

The American boy who got the highest score told me: "I'm shocked, 'cause it just shows how advanced they are compared to us."

The Belgians did better because their schools are better. At age ten, American students take an international test and score well above the international average. But by age fifteen, when students from forty countries are tested, the Americans place twenty-fifth. The longer kids stay in American schools, the worse they do in international competition. They do worse than kids from countries that spend much less money on education.

Read on . . . .