Monday, August 15, 2005                                               The Daily Battle Against Subjectivity
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Sudden resignation of TRADOC Commander, Gen.
WayneMadsenReport.com
August 10, 2005

There's much more to this story than a "sexual indiscretion." The sudden firing of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine (TRADOC) Commander, four star General and New York City native Kevin P. Byrnes, one of only 11 four star generals in the Army, has much more to do with a policy dispute than an anonymous Pentagon-reported story about an alleged "extra-marital affair."

Although Byrnes has recently been involved in divorce proceedings, Pentagon insiders report that Byrnes was fired for insubordination. Byrnes' firing fits a pattern of neocon demonizing of policy opponents by tossing out unsubstantiated charges from "anonymous source." For example, when Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski was demoted to Colonel over trumped up charges over her role as commander of Iraqi prisons during the time of the prisoner abuse (and after she revealed the presence of Israeli interrogators in Iraqi prisons), the Pentagon spin machine, joined at the hips with neo-con think thanks and media outlets in Washington, cited a dated and totally unsubstantiated shoplifting accusation against her.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, who Donald Rumsfeld hauled out of retirement to head up the Army after Gen. Eric Shinseki was fired and after no other active duty general wanted the job, relieved Byrnes of his command at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Byrnes had previous run-ins with the neo-cons in the Pentagon. In 2002, Byrnes was faced with being retired at Lt. Gen. after he clashed with then-Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone over proposed troop strength cuts. Then Army Secretary Thomas White, intervened on behalf of Byrnes and he received his fourth star. White was later fired by the Pentagon neo-cons.

What has not been reported is that recently, one of Byrnes' subordinate commands, Fort Rucker in Alabama, had been told to stand by for an influx of 50,000 military trainees -- a level the base has not seen since the Vietnam War. Byrnes' relief of command came on the heels of the Pentagon announcing that it might permit Spanish-language entrance examinations. Byrnes, who was in charge of Army training, would not only face recruits with lower education levels and past criminal records, but a lack of proficiency in English. Pentagon insiders report that it was Byrnes' policy disagreements with the Pentagon neo-cons over the new recruitment policies and the potential for calling up Army retirees and reinstating military conscription without adequate TRADOC funding that resulted in his firing. The personal misconduct charges were concocted by the Pentagon to cover up the fact that there are serious disagreements with Bush and Rumsfeld among the flag officer ranks in the military.

Byrnes was also associated with a group of officers who spent time at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. The Army War College has been a center of opposition to the war in Iraq and it is believed that Byrnes was recognized by the neo-cons as one of the unofficial leaders of a group of Army flag rank opponents of Bush's war in Iraq and potential military action against Iran.

Comment: As Bush's approval rating plummets, it seems that there may indeed be a battle in progress between the Neocons and some top military officials who are fed up with their commander-in-chief...

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Key General fired as nuke terror drill set for Aug 17
GlobalNewsMatrix.com

News is flying in regard to the nuclear terror drill set for this month. It is feared by informed researchers that an actual nuclear detonation may be piggybacked on the drill, as was the modus operandi in the 9/11 and 7/7 inside jobs.

As reported at this site, the drill involving a nuclear warhead being smuggled into Charleston, South Carolina is to involve the Atlanta-area FEMA office and be run out of Fort Monroe, Virginia. Today, the four-star general in charge of Fort Monroe was fired. Anonymously-sourced and speculative reports on the leading alternative media websites posited General Kevin Byrnes was fired for attempting to prevent the drill from going live. (See Lehrman/Physics911.net, Szymanski/Arctic Beacon, Jones,Watson/PrisonPlanet, Skolnick/Cloak).

Now a Washington Times report, also anonymously-sourced, highlights the flimsy basis on which he was fired -- adultery. Not the Jeff Gannon kind of military adultery popular in the White House; but involvement, while separated from his wife, with a woman in a separate command. It also turns out Rumsfeld tried to chase him out the military three years ago. Looks like he finally found a pretext.

From WashTimes August 10 :

An official announcement yesterday did not specify why Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, 52, was removed from his command of all soldier training and doctrine development, but two retired Army officers said it was for having an extramarital affair.

Adultery is illegal in the military, constituting conduct unbecoming an officer. The sources said they think the woman was not a subordinate of Gen. Byrnes at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Fort Monroe, Va.

It is rare in modern times for the Army to relieve a four-star general. ...

Gen. Byrnes, one of 11 four-star Army generals, was nearing the end of a three-year term at U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command when Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff, relieved him of command yesterday. [...]

Gen. Byrnes had been under investigation for some time and had been in the throes of a divorce.

A number of officers went to bat [for Byrnes] in 2002 when Mr. Rumsfeld threatened to end his career at lieutenant general. [...]

And, like the several drills occuring on 9/11, the Fort Monroe Casemate for August 5 reports a series of terror drills at the base on August 17.:

An antiterrorism exercise to test the effectiveness of installation plans and procedures in response to a terrorist attack will take place here Aug. 17.

A series of live emergency response drills are scheduled throughout the day, according to Bill Moisant, Fort Monroe's antiterrorism officer. ...

Impacts could include extremely thorough security checks at gates, restricted movement near emergency response drill sites and temporary closure of some customer service activities.

Moisant explained that the Fort Monroe Crisis Action Team, first responders, supporting agencies, and assigned and tenant organizations will be evaluated on their ability to respond to a simulated terrorist incident. He said the exercise could involve City of Hampton police and fire officials, as well as other off-post agencies. [...]

Exact times and locations of exercise site events are not indicated due to OPSEC requirements. Cooperation by personnel and agencies affected by the exercise is greatly appreciated.

The exercise is not open to the general public or local news media.

Comment: No official reason was given for Byrne's dismissal, and it is extraordinarily rare for a four star general to be booted out of the military. Given Rummy's previous attempt to get rid of Byrnes, as well as the "terror drill" planned for just a few days from now, it seems fairly certain that Byrne's firing had nothing to do with adultery. Perhaps the Bush gang is doing a little house cleaning in the military...

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Bush slaps down top general after he calls for troops to be pulled out of Iraq
By Philip Sherwell in Washington
The Telegraph
14/08/2005

The top American commander in Iraq has been privately rebuked by the Bush administration for openly discussing plans to reduce troop levels there next year, The Sunday Telegraph has learned.

President George W Bush personally intervened last week to play down as "speculation" all talk of troop pull-outs because he fears that even discussing options for an "exit strategy" implies weakening resolve.

Gen George Casey, the US ground commander in Iraq, was given his dressing-down after he briefed that troop levels - now 138,000 - could be reduced by 30,000 in the early months of next year as Iraqi security forces take on a greater role.

The unusual sign of US discord came as Iraqi politicians and clerics drafting a new constitution continued their own wrangling over autonomy demands by various factions. [...]

Comment: Um, hasn't the Bush administration itself remarked on several occasions about future troop reductions?

In this Reuters article, we discover that two top US lawmakers - Joseph Biden and John McCain - are also calling for sending more troops to Iraq.

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Lieutenant Harvey Tharp: 'Keep Them From Getting Fresh Mortar Bait'
Saturday, July 16, 2005

Former Navy Lieutenant Harvey Tharp of Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke publicly for the first time on July 4 during a lunchtime break of the National Education Association's Representative Assembly. His talk was sponsored by the NEA's Peace and Justice Caucus.

Tharp was honorably discharged from the Navy in March 2005. Six months after the invasion of Iraq, Tharp, along with five others was, in Tharp's words, raided from the Navy Staff Corps. Tharp was called upon because he had studied Arabic five years earlier. Although Colin Powell had spent five million dollars on a study for how to operate in post war Iraq the study was nixed and the neo-conservatives wouldn't send experienced Arabic speakers or diplomats to Iraq.

Tharp says that when he showed up in Baghdad his co-workers said, "Wow, we have people to send out." Tharp, armed with 180,000 dollars in reconstruction for a population of one million was sent to Kirkuk. When asked how he could communicate with Baghdad, he was told to sign up for a hotmail account. As for security he was armed with an AK-47 and provided a security briefing. Having no body armor, Tharp sent off to bulletproofme.com to acquire his own. When he asked who his CO was, he was told, "We're working on it." Kirkuk wasn't as important as the Oil Ministry, which had the South African Army and Halliburton to provide security as well as an unlimited budget.

The Navy was unable to rob Tharp of his humanity. Working with Iraqis he was impressed by their manners and decency. When he heard about Abu Ghraib, he thought to himself that he was glad that he was no longer in Iraq because he didn't think that he could face the Iraqis who worked for him. "This was not Animal House," he said about Abu Ghraib. He quoted the British Major General who said that Americans treated Iraqis as if they were untermenschen and remarked, "American society doesn't care about lives of people overseas."

The lies perpetuated by the Bush administration are mere "window dressing for the ultimate reasons we're in Iraq." Reasons cited by Tharp include oil, protecting allies, and control of the world.

Tharp, faced with another tour in Iraq, which would require him to direct combat, felt certain that "having met those people changed my perspective [and I knew that] I could not voluntarily nor involuntarily kill them." Luckily for Tharp, the Navy had a surplus of lieutenants and he was able to resign; unfortunately this is not the case for enlisted personnel.

"I am going to do everything I can to end this war as soon as possible," Tharp says. "The one thing that we can do is to keep them from getting fresh mortar bait." His mission now is to caution children that to join the Army or Marine Corps right now is a "bad idea." For teachers, it is important to understand that the "weak point of the military machine" is in the recruiting.

Harvey Tharp is the first person in the US Military whom I have encountered who acknowledges the humanity of the Iraqis and who has not been brainwashed regarding the reasons we are there.

Comment: It looks like fresh cannon fodder will be necessary as more and more coalition troops are pulling out of Iraq...

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Italy starts withdrawal from Iraq ahead of schedule
www.chinaview.cn
2005-08-13 23:23:30

ROME (Xinhuanet) -- Italy is starting to withdraw troops from Iraq, about one month ahead of schedule, local media reported on Saturday.

The withdrawal process was put forward because 130 Marines in southern Iraq had finished their mission and it is pointless to replace them as Italy had planned to pull out 300 troops in September, a spokesman of the Italian contingent in Nassiriya was quoted as saying.

The 130 troops will leave for home soon, he said.

An official of the Italian Defense Ministry, who refused to be named, said the decision was purely logistical and financial, rather than political.

Italy has some 3,000 troops in Iraq, the fourth largest foreign contingent there after the United States, Britain and South Korea. Most of the Italian forces are deployed in southern Iraq.

Comment: With Israel and the US eyeing Iran, Bush's decreasing popularity, increasing anti-war pressure from the American people, the stumbling US economy, and the continuing need for US troops in Iraq, it seems that a "nuclear terror drill" along the lines of 9/11 would be just the thing to give Bush, the Neocons, and the Zionists the boost they desperately need right now.

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Law Abiding Ohio Resident And Korean War Veteran Has Authorities Illegally Swarm On His Property Just Hours After He Called President Bush A Liar On A Local AM Radio Station
Greg Szymanski
August 13 2005

Although Doug Stout, 77, won't pin illegal entry on his property to his harsh comments about Bush, but says one thing for sure "I don't smoke pot and everybody in town knows it." After hovering over his property with a helicopter, officers then swarmed on his land, looked at some shrubbery and then left without any explanation.

Don Stout looked up into the Midwestern sky one afternoon two weeks ago and saw a strange helicopter flying over his five-acre piece of land in rural Albany, Ohio.

Before he knew what happened, the 77-year-old long-time resident, law-abiding citizen and Korean War veteran had eight law enforcement officials swarm on his property, checking the place out for marijuana.

Never before having a run-in with the law, Stout said the heavy-handed looking group of law enforcement thugs "came and went without saying a word" after suspiciously looking at a large bush on his property not in the slightest bit resembling a pot plant.

"I've been here since 1994 and everybody's knows me including the sheriff. I never smoked marijuana and they know it, but I think they just like terrorizing people," said Stout in a telephone conversation from his rural home, adding he still hasn't received an answer from anyone why law enforcement officials invaded his privacy and entered his land without a proper search warrant.

"It scared the hell out of me as eight or ten men swarmed my place. I was weeding my garden and the next thing you know, they were on my property, looked at this bush and left without saying a word. It was ridiculous, but the sheriff, the deputy sheriff and the game warden all raided my place for no reason and I am still looking for an explanation."

Although Stout can't pinpoint why authorities entered his property without a warrant, earlier that day he aired his strong opinions against President Bush, calling him an outright liar, on a free speech and truth-telling talk radio show on the popular WAIF AM770 local radio station.

Stout said he has been calling in regularly voicing his anti-Bush opinions, saying people in rural Ohio are finally starting to wake up to lies, deceit and treachery imposed on the American people by what he calls a "lying dog of a President."

"I think he and the rest of his buddies are corrupt, down right crazy and Bush should be impeached plain and simple for lying to the people about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq," said the former Korean War veteran, who lashed out at Bush for going to war illegally and in the process killing thousands of innocent civilians, including more than 1,700 GI's.

"I think George Bush is a liar and is personally responsible for the deaths of many good young men in order that his rich buddies could profit from this illegal war."

Considering himself a "true American" who honorably fought for his country and drove a Greyhound bus for many years, the plain speaking Bush critic thinks America is in a crisis and at the brink of martial law at the hands of government tyrants bent on destroying the country from within.

"I think we have lost this country and many people feel it's too late and feel helpless about doing anything about it," said Stout. "I am pretty outspoken about a lot of things and it wouldn't surprise me if another terrorist hits us harder than 9/11, putting the country under a state of emergency and martial law while at the same time taking the heat off Bush.

"This reminds me of Nazi Germany. The people are being fed propaganda and in turn the dollar is going to hell as are the rest of our freedoms. I don't think we should give up our freedoms in order to be safer, when all the government is trying to do is take us over from within.

"The Founding Fathers would have never stood for what is going on and would have thrown Bush and his buddies out on their ears. I think the people of Ohio are starting to wake up and I do not intend to stop talking about how I feel on that talk radio show."

Besides the strange raid on Stout's property, the radio station giving the thumbs up to air the controversial truth-telling radio program in the traditionally conservative heartland also has reported mysteriously having its transmitter knocked out on two occasions from "two mysterious bolts of lightning."

Housewife Lauren Dowling, another avid WAIF listener and unofficial promoter of the truth-telling show that schedules many of the guests for broadcaster Sharon Elliot and station owner Joe Edwards, isn't pointing fingers but said this week from her rural home that the two "bolts of lightening" in the last six weeks was very unusual.

Although Elliot and Edwards have been airing a controversial show from their station headquarters in Nelsonville, Ohio, radio for quite some time, it hasn't been until recently that they decided to bring on even more controversial figures like anti-establishment broadcaster Alex Jones and others to talk the traditionally mainstream audience at WAIF.

"And Maureen Jones just came on the other day educating people about fluoride in the water, which was very interesting," said Dowling, adding calls have been coming in from all over the South East quadrant of Ohio, including parts of West Virginia about the station that has small town roots but a large broadcast reach.

"I thought it was time the people of our community heard the truth from people like Alex Jones, who by the way, probably shocked a few listeners, but had a very important message which has been basically censored by the mainstream press.

"I'm just an average Mom, giving out a common sense dose of the truth to these arrogant leaders."

Besides Jones, WAIF is scheduling for future morning shows other alternative broadcasters and activists basically silenced in rural America by the Bush propaganda machine and a cooperative press.

Plans also include interviewing many people who have had their voices silenced about 9/11, especially eye-witness, victims and journalists who have struggled hard to wake up a sleeping country.

"It's never too late and people around here are starting to open their hearts and minds, tuning in to listen and participate," added Dalling.

And Stout, who many people in the community believe had his civil rights violated by law enforcement officials for voicing his regularly on WAIF, had one last message to President Bush before getting to the bottom of why officials illegally swarmed down on his private property:

"I don't intend to trade of security for my rights as an American. I believe we need to take our country back from these thugs and brown shirts before or jobs, our financial security and our lives are taken away from us right before our very eyes."

"I want the American people to know that a lot of other people here in Ohio feel like I do and also know the election was stolen by Bush. He is losing popularity because a lot of people over here are finally starting to see through his lies, lies that are costing young American lives every day this illegal war continues."

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Rescued soldier: I was used
From Chris Ayres in Los Angeles
August 09, 2005

JESSICA LYNCH, the former US army supply clerk who became a national icon after her capture and rescue during the invasion of Iraq in 2003, says she was "used" by the Pentagon to "show the war was going great".

Ms Lynch, 22, told Time magazine: "I think I provided a way to boost everybody's confidence about the war . . . I was used as a symbol. It doesn't bother me anymore. It used to." Ms Lynch says that her book, I Am a Soldier, Too: The Jessica Lynch Story, will "set the record straight".

Ms Lynch said that the television movie of her life was inaccurate. Ms Lynch said that she hopes to become a teacher. In a few weeks she begins classes at West Virginia University, where her tuition fees have been paid for by the state.

Ms Lynch, from Palestine, West Virginia, was a private in the US Army when she was captured in Iraq on March 23, 2003, near al-Nasiriyah, a crossing point over the Euphrates River. She suffered two spinal fractures, nerve damage and a shattered right arm, right foot and left leg when her Humvee crashed during a firefight.

Eleven other soldiers in her unit were killed in the ambush. She was rescued from an Iraqi hospital by US forces on April 1, 2003 - the first rescue of an American prisoner of war since the Second World War.

However, accounts of Ms Lynch's rescue were contradictory and it was claimed that the rescue was staged.

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BUSH PROTESTING MOM CALLS FOR 'ISRAEL OUT OF PALESTINE'; VOWS NOT TO PAY TAXES
Drudge Report

Anti-war protestor Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq, is calling for Bush's "impeachment," and for Israel to get out of Palestine!

"You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism," Sheehan declares.

Sheehan, who is asking for a second meeting with President Bush, says defiantly: "My son was killed in 2004. I am not paying my taxes for 2004. You killed my son, George Bush, and I don't owe you a penny...you give my son back and I'll pay my taxes. Come after me (for back taxes) and we'll put this war on trial."

"And now I'm going to use another 'I' word - impeachment - because we cannot have these people pardoned. They need to be tried on war crimes and go to jail."

The 48-year-old California mom remains tented up in a ditch along the one-lane road that leads to Bush's Texas ranch.

As her protest entered its second week, hundreds of people with conflicting opinions about the war in Iraq descended on the area.

TIME mag reports in new editions on Monday: Sheehan gets support from her surviving son, Andy, in principle, but he recently sent her a long e-mail imploring her, "to come home because you need to support us at home."

Developing...

Comment: The right-wing talking points, slander mill is burning up important quantities of energy resources as these fossils fuel the hate machine with lies and foul shots at Cindy Sheehan, as the next few articles well document. The idea that someone would begin to question the wisdom of the elected appointed-by-God commander-in-chief is too much for the Bush hit gang.

Drudge, one of the early neocon Internet storm troopers, recounts Sheehan's statement on Iraq and Palestine as if they were a bad thing! Oh, yeah. For the loonies in charge of the US, such statements are subversive aid to the enemy.

Indeed, if Israel didn't exist and if the US was out of Iraq, there would be no more terrorism, but that only underlines that most of it, including the "suicide bombs" they tell us are delivered by Islamic fundamentalists, are the work of the US and Israel, the world champions and record breakers in false flag operations.

Soon, it'll be a crime to make such statements. People will be hauled away for giving succour to the enemy. The pundits, such as the vile-mouthed Michelle Malkin, have been laying the groundwork for such arrests by upping the rhetoric over the last few years. They are paid for this and are promoted via propaganda factories like Fox News. We recently received a copy of OutFoxed from a reader. We weren't able to stomach the entire film at one sitting such was the depth of the cesspool. Using the tricks of music videos to spin the news, Fox has found a powerful way of programming the population on a vast scale. And it is successful.

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The Savaging of Cindy Sheehan
Matthew Rothschild
August 11, 2005

The shameless savaging of Cindy Sheehan continues.

Bill O’Reilly says she’s a tool of “far left elements.”

The New York Sun echoes the charge, evidently reading the same rightwing talking points.

In an editorial on August 11, it says Sheehan “has put herself in league with some extreme groups and individuals.”

This is old-style McCarthyism, straight on down to the red-baiting.

The editorial quotes Sheehan about some of the groups she’s involved with, including Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and Military Families Speak Out.

It then notes that these groups are on the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, along with the Communist Party USA. (A person representing that party is one of the forty-one members who was voted onto the steering committee.)

This classic guilt-by-association trope just shows the reflexive response of the right: When your critic has credibility, and you can’t find anything else on her, destroy her with the old standby: You’re a communist dupe!

The Sun also points out that Sheehan is working with the Crawford Peace House, and it says that group’s website “includes a photo depicting the entire state of Israel as Palestine.” Actually, it depicts a protester holding a sign showing four maps of what is now Israel and the Occupied Territories, noting how Palestinians have been allowed less and less land over the past 60 years.

“Nobody is anti-Israel here,” says John Wolf, one of the founders of the Crawford Peace House. “We’re just asking for peace with justice and respect for international law.”

But for the New York Sun, the Crawford Peace House’s view of the Israel-Palestine conflict is convenient enough to tar Cindy Sheehan with.

Rightwing talk show host Phil Hendrie goes even lower, writing an article amazingly entitled “Anti-War Mom: Another Ignorant Cow,” Hendrie called Sheehan a “self-righteous ignoramus,” and then went into full mockery mode: “A mother grieving her loss. The inhumanity of war. Oh, the wickedness of it all.”

I’ve seen callousness before, but this piece may top them all. And catch Hendrie’s defense of the Iraq War: “This war was unavoidable, brought on by an historic clash of culture and ideal, powered by the American people themselves, rising to meet the future, pissing off the rag heads.” Rag heads?

By the way, Hendrie’s screed was posted on the website, freerepublic.com, which calls itself “the premier online gathering place for independent, grassroots conservatism on the web.”

Sheehan responds to her critics: “Nothing you can say can hurt me or make me stop what we are doing. We are working for peace with justice. We are using peaceful means and the truth to do it.”

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McCarthyism Watch
Newly Updated
August 12, 2005

The invective toward Cindy Sheehan seems to know no bounds. Phil Hendrie’s “ignorant cow” line drew some criticism at the posting site, but it also attracted the following remarks:

“In a more civil society, we’d toss her ass in jail for giving aid and comfort to the enemy.”

“This woman deserves nothing more than a swift kick in the ass.”

“The only pain I hear from this woman is the pain of having to live in a nonsocialist society.”

“I think her son would call her worse things.”

On drudge.com, the Drudge Retort (as opposed to the Drudge Report), there is a long exchange on Sheehan. Here are some of the uglier comments:
“Shut your pie hole bitch. Let your son rest in peace.”

“Another lying liberal bitch with an agenda.”

“Seditious cunt.”

“What would have been funny is if this crazy ho was to blow herself up on live TV.”

If you find additional outrageous comments on Sheehan, especially from rightwing media figures, please forward them to Matt Rothschild at The Progressive, at editorial@progressive.org. I’ll try to post some of them here. Thanks, Matt.

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It Takes a Village to Smear Cindy Sheehan
Arianna Huffington

The right wing attacks on Cindy Sheehan -- desperate, pathetic, and grasping at straws -- expose much less about their target than about the attackers.

I mean, trying to slime a grieving Gold Star mom because she is inconveniently questioning the reasons her son was sent off to die in Iraq? Why that would be like trashing a much-decorated war hero or outing an undercover CIA agent…

Oh, right…

How much longer can the Bushies get away with mauling the very values they profess to stand for before their supporters start getting wise to the fact that the only value they really value is power?

Think about it, they’ve shown absolutely no compunction about turning the sleaze machine on an undercover agent who’d spent her career working to protect us from weapons of mass destruction, a Silver Star/Purple Heart veteran who volunteered to fight in a war the administration chickenhawks gamed the system to avoid, and now the mother of a dead soldier.

The right wing smear machine whirrs on -- using its media mouthpieces to do this dirtiest of dirty work. First it was the lie that Sheehan had, in the words of Drudge, “dramatically changed her account” of her June 2004 meeting with Bush. Despite the fact that this supposed flip-flop was a total distortion created by taking quotes out of context, the story quickly made its way into the hands of conservative bloggers… and allowed the TV jackal-pack to start tearing away at Sheehan’s flesh. For all the details on how this went down, check out Media Matters blow-by-blow description. The lowlights included Bill O’Reilly and Michelle Malkin tag-teaming up to push the idea that Sheehan’s “story hasn’t checked out”. O’Reilly also claimed Sheehan “is in bed with the radical left”, and, later suggested “this kind of behavior borders on treasonous”… and, for bad measure, tried to slime Sheehan by linking her with “people who hate this government, hate their country”.

Rush Limbaugh played his usual role, parroting the flip-flop party line, saying that Sheehan was “trying to pull a little bit of a swindle” and that “she’d been totally co-opted by…the whole Michael Moore leftist mentality.” Fred Barnes piled on, saying of Sheehan: “She’s a crackpot” (no doubt using the same video-based diagnostic technique pioneered by Bill Frist). And Michelle Malkin went all Patricia Arquette on the case, using her heretofore unpromoted ESP powers to let us know that Sheehan’s dead son Casey wouldn’t approve of “his mother’s crazy accusations”.

Beyond contempt. But I will say this for these sleazeballs: they are nothing if not resilient. After the Cindy as Flip-Flopper story was revealed as a very poorly done hatchet job, a second load of sludge was quickly dumped: the ludicrous statement from the (ahem) “Sheehan Family” condemning Cindy’s “political motivations and publicity tactics” (run under a banner headline proclaiming “Family of Fallen Soldier Pleads: Please Stop, Cindy”).

Where do I start with this piece of manufactured offal? How about the fact that no one put their names on the statement, which was “signed” by “Casey Sheehan’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins”. Don’t these folks have names? The only name attached to the “Sheehan Family” statement (delivered to Drudge via email with permission “to distribute as you wish”) belongs to Cherie Quartarolo who describes herself as Casey’s aunt and godmother. So did I miss something? Since when does godmother outrank mother? What I really want to know is: how does Casey’s second-cousin-twice-removed feel about Cindy’s vigil? How about his ex-brother-in-law’s cleaning lady?

Cindy deals with all this very succinctly in her latest post, but suffice it to say that Casey’s dad and their three other children are all supportive of what Cindy is doing. Hmm… I always thought conservatives were big proponents of the importance of the nuclear family. Does James Dobson know about this attempt to undermine the primacy of a mother?

I guess it takes a village to trash a grieving Gold Star Mom.

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Cindy, Don, and George

On Being in a Ditch at the Side of the Road

By Tom Engelhardt
tomdispatch.com

Retired four-star Army General Barry McCaffrey to Time Magazine: "The Army's wheels are going to come off in the next 24 months. We are now in a period of considerable strategic peril. It's because Rumsfeld has dug in his heels and said, I cannot retreat from my position."

Cindy Sheehan testifying at Rep. John Conyers public hearings on the Downing Street Memo: "My son, Spc Casey Austin Sheehan, was KIA in Sadr City Baghdad on 04/04/04. He was in Iraq for only 2 weeks before [Coalition Provisional Authority head] L. Paul Bremer inflamed the Shi'ite Militia into a rebellion which resulted in the deaths of Casey and 6 other brave soldiers who were tragically killed in an ambush. Bill Mitchell, the father of Sgt. Mike Mitchell who was one of the other soldiers killed that awful day is with us here. This is a picture of Casey when he was 7 months old. It's an enlargement of a picture he carried in his wallet until the day he was killed. He loved this picture of himself. It was returned to us with his personal effects from Iraq. He always sucked on those two fingers. When he was born, he had a flat face from passing through the birth canal and we called him ‘Edward G' short for Edward G. Robinson. How many of you have seen your child in his/her premature coffin? It is a shocking and very painful sight. The most heartbreaking aspect of seeing Casey lying in his casket for me, was that his face was flat again because he had no muscle tone. He looked like he did when he was a baby laying in his bassinette. The most tragic irony is that if the Downing Street Memo proves to be true, Casey and thousands of people should still be alive."

Donald Rumsfeld testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in March, 2005: "The world has seen, in the last 3 1/2 years, the capability of the United States of America to go into Afghanistan . . . and with 20,000, 15,000 troops working with the Afghans do what 200,000 Soviets couldn't do in a decade. They've seen the United States and the coalition forces go into Iraq. . . . That has to have a deterrent effect on people." (Ann Scott Tyson, "U.S. Gaining World's Respect From Wars, Rumsfeld Asserts," the Washington Post, March 11, 2005 [scroll down])

George Bush on arriving for a meeting with families of the bereaved, including Cindy Sheehan and her husband on June 17, 2004: "So who are we honoring here?"

A teaser at the "Careers and Jobs" screen of GoArmy.com: "Want an extra $400 a month?" Click on it and part of what comes up is: "Qualified active Army recruits may be eligible for AIP [Assignment Incentive Pay] of $400 per month, up to 36 months for a total of up to $14,400, if they agree to be assigned to an Army-designated priority unit with a critical role in current global commitments."

Who Is in That Ditch?

Casey Sheehan had one of those small "critical roles" in the "current global commitment" in Iraq that, in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's words, "has to have a deterrent effect on people." As it happens, Sheehan was one of the unexpectedly deterred and now, along with 1,846 other American soldiers, is interred, leaving his take-no-prisoners mother Cindy -- a one-person anti-war movement -- with a critical role to play in awakening Americans to the horrors, and dangers, of the Bush administration's "current global commitments."

Over the last two years, administration officials, civilian and military, have never ceased to talk about "turning corners" or reaching "tipping points" and achieving "milestones" in the Iraq-War-that-won't-end. Now it seems possible that Cindy Sheehan in a spontaneous act of opposition -- her decision to head for Crawford, Texas, to face down a vacationing President and demand an explanation for her son's death -- may produce the first real American tipping point of the Iraq War.

As a million news articles and TV reports have informed us, she was stopped about 5 miles short of her target, the Presidential "ranch" in Crawford, and found herself unceremoniously consigned to a ditch at the side of a Texas road, camping out. And yet somehow, powerless except for her story, she has managed to take the President of the United States hostage and turned his Crawford refuge into the American equivalent of Baghdad's Green Zone. She has mysteriously transformed August's news into a question of whether, on his way to meet Republican donors, the President will helicopter over her encampment or drive past (as he, in fact, did) in a tinted-windowed black Chevrolet SUV.

Faced with the power of the Bush political and media machine, Cindy Sheehan has engaged in an extreme version of asymmetrical warfare and, in her person, in her story, in her version of "the costs of war," she has also managed to catch many of the tensions of our present moment. What she has exposed in the process is the growing weakness and confusion of the Bush administration. At this moment, it remains an open question who, in the end, will be found in that ditch at the side of a Texas road, her -- or the President of the United States.

Confusion in the Ranks

Ellen Knickmeyer of the Washington Post reported last week that "a U.S. general said... the violence would likely escalate as the deadline approached for drafting a constitution for Iraq." For two years now, this has been a dime-a-dozen prediction from American officials trying to cover their future butts. For the phrase "drafting a constitution" in that general's quote, you need only substitute "after the killing of Saddam Hussein's sons" (July 2003), "for handing over sovereignty" (June 2004), "for voting for a new Iraqi government" (Jan. 2005) -- or, looking ahead, "for voting on the constitution" (October, 2005) and, yet again, "for voting for a new Iraqi government" (December 2005), just as you will be able to substitute as yet unknown similar "milestones" that won't turn out to be milestones as long as our President insists that we must "stay the course" in Iraq as he did only recently as his Crawford vacation began.

After each "spike of violence," at each "tipping point," each time a "corner is turned," Bush officials or top commanders predict that they have the insurgency under control only to be ambushed by yet another "spike" in violence. This May, for example, more than three months after violence was supposed to have spiked and receded in the wake of the Iraqi election, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Richard Myers offered a new explanation -- the "recent spike in violence… represents an attempt to discredit the new Iraqi government and cabinet." When brief lulls in insurgent attacks (which often represent changes in tactics) aren't being declared proof that the Iraqi insurgency is faltering/failing/coming under control, then the spikes are being claimed as "the last gasp" of the insurgency, proof of the impending success of Bush administration policies -- those "last throes" that Vice President Cheney so notoriously described to CNN's Wolf Blitzer as June ended.

Recently in a throw-(not throe-)up-your-hands mode, Army Brig. Gen. Karl Horst, deputy commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, which oversees Baghdad, offered the following, taking credit for having predicted the very throe his troops were then engulfed in: "If you look at the past few months, insurgents have not been able to sustain attacks, but they tend to surge every four weeks or so. We are right in the middle of one of those periods and predicted this would come... If they are going to influence the constitution process, they have only a few days left to do it, and we fully expect the attacks to continue."

You would think that someone in an official capacity would conclude, sooner or later, that Iraq was a spike in violence.

It's an accepted truth of our times that the Bush administration has been the most secretive, disciplined, and on-message administration in our history. So what an out-of-control couple of weeks for the President and his pals! His polls were at, or near, historic lows; his Iraq War approval numbers headed for, or dipping below, 40% -- and polls are, after all, the message boards for much of what's left of American democracy. As he was preparing for his record-setting Presidential vacation in Crawford, George and his advisors couldn't even agree on whether we were in a "global struggle with violent extremism" or in a Global War on Terror. (The President finally opted for war.) He was, of course, leaving behind in Washington a Special Counsel, called into being by his administration but now beyond its control, who held a sword of judicial Damocles over key presidential aides (and who can probably parse sinking presidential polls as well as anyone).

Iraq -- you can't leave home without it -- has, of course, been at the heart of everything Bushworld hasn't been able to shake off at least since May 2, 2003. On that day (when, ominously enough, 7 American soldiers were wounded by a grenade attack in Fallujah), our President co-piloted a jet onto the USS Abraham Lincoln, an aircraft carrier halted off the San Diego coast (lest it dock and he only be able to walk on board). All togged out in a military uniform, he declared "major combat operations" at an end, while standing under a White House-produced banner reading "mission accomplished." Ever since then, George has been on that mission (un)accomplished and Iraq has proved nothing if not a black hole, sucking in his administration and the American military along with neocon dreams and plans of every ambitious sort.

The Iraqi insurgency that should never have happened, or should at least have died down after unknown thousands of its foot soldiers were killed or imprisoned by the American military, inconveniently managed to turn the early days of August into a killing zone for American soldiers. Sixteen Marine Reservists from a single unit in Ohio were killed in a couple of days; 7 soldiers from the Pennsylvania National Guard were killed, again in a few days. Thirty-seven Americans were reported to have died in Iraq in the first 11 days of the presidential vacation, putting American casualties at the top of the TV news night after night. And yet the administration has seemed capable only of standing by helplessly, refusing to give an inch on the "compassion" President's decision -- he and his advisors are still navigating by the anti-Vietnam playbook -- not to visit grief-stricken communities in either Ohio or Pennsylvania, or ever to be caught attending the funeral of one of the boys or girls he sent abroad to die. He did manage, however, to fly to the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico to sign the energy bill and also left his ranch to hobnob with millionaire Republican donors.

In this same period, cracks in relations between an increasingly angry military command in Iraq and administration officials back in Washington began to appear for all to see. The issue, for desperate military officers, was – as for Cindy Sheehan -- how in the world to get our troops out of Iraq before the all-volunteer military went over an Iraqi cliff, wheels and all.

As July ended, our top general in Iraq, George W. Casey, announced (with many conditional "ifs") that we should be able to start drawing-down American troops significantly by the following spring -- that tens of thousands of them were likely to leave then and tens of thousands more by the end of 2006, and Don Rumsfeld initially backed him up somewhat edgily. Then, as Rumsfeld hedged, more military people jumped into the media fray with leaks and comments of all sorts about possible Iraqi drawdowns and there was a sudden squall of front-page articles on withdrawal strategies for a hard-pressed administration in an increasingly unpopular war. At the same time, confusingly, reports began to surface indicating that, because of another of those prospective "spikes" in violence, the administration would actually be increasing American troop strength in Iraq before the December elections by 10,000-20,000 soldiers.

Finally, after a war council of the Rumsfeld and Rice (Pentagon and State Department) "teams" in Crawford last week, the President held a press conference (devoted in part to responding to Cindy Sheehan) and promptly launched a new, ad-style near-jingle to explain the withdrawal moment to the American people: "As Iraqis stand up," he intoned, "we will stand down."

But in a week in which the American general in command of transportation in Iraq announced that roadside bomb attacks against his convoys had doubled over the past year, such words sounded empty -- especially as news flowed in suggesting that, while the insurgents continued to fight fiercely, the new Iraqi military seemed in no rush whatsoever to "stand up" and that our own commanders believed it might never do so in significant numbers. At his news conference, our never-never-land President nonetheless spoke several times of being pleased to announce "progress" in Iraq. ("And we're making progress training the Iraqis. Oh, I know it's hard for some Americans to see that progress, but we are making progress.")

He spoke as well of attempts to ease the burden on the no-longer-weekend warriors of the National Guard and the Reserves (who are taking unprecedented casualties in August). He said: "We've also taken steps to improve the call-up process for our Guard and for our Reserves. We've provided them with earlier notifications. We've given them greater certainty about the length of their tours. We minimized the number of extensions and repeat mobilizations." Unfortunately, at just this moment, Joint Chiefs head Myers was speaking of the possibility of calling soldiers back for their third tours of duty in Iraq: "There's the possibility of people going back for a third term, sure. That's always out there. We are at war."

"Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy," the President insisted as he turned to the matter of withdrawal in his news conference. He then dismissed drawdown maneuvers as "speculation and rumors"; and, on being confronted by a reporter with the statements of his own military men, added, "I suspect what you were hearing was speculation based upon progress that some are seeing in Iraq as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to take the fight to the enemy."

While that may sound vague, it was, nonetheless, the sound of a President (who, along with his Secretary of Defense, has always promised to abide by whatever his generals in the field wanted) disputing those commanders in public. Gen. Casey was also reportedly "rebuked" in private for his withdrawal comments. Our commanders in Iraq are, of course, the official realists in this war, having long ago given up on the idea that the insurgency could ever be defeated by force of U.S. arms and worrying as they do about those "wheels coming off" the American military machine.

In fact, the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq -- as Howard Zinn put the matter recently, "[W]e liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, but not from us." -- is threatening to prove one of the great asymmetric catastrophes in recent military history. A rag-tag bunch of insurgents, now estimated in the tens of thousands, using garage-door openers and cell phones to set off roadside bombs and egg-timers to fire mortars at U.S. bases (lest they be around when the return fire comes in), have fought the U.S. military to at least a draw. We're talking about a military that, not so long ago, was being touted as the most powerful force not just on this planet at this moment but on any planet in all of galactic history.

Previously, such rumors of withdrawal followed by a quiet hike in troop strength in Iraq might have been simply another clever administration attempt to manipulate the public and have it both ways. At the moment, however, they seem to be a sign not of manipulation but of confusion, discord, and uncertainty about what to do next. If the public was left confused by such "conflicting signals" about an Iraqi withdrawal, wrote Peter Baker of the Washington Post, "it may be no more unsure than the administration itself, as some government officials involved in Iraq policy privately acknowledge." An unnamed "military officer in Washington" typically commented to Anne E. Kornblut of the New York Times, "We need to stick to one message. This vacillation creates confusion for the American public."

Even administration officials are now evidently "significantly lowering expectations" and thinking about how exactly to jump off the sinking Iraqi ship. The President, beseeching "the public to stick with his strategy despite continuing mayhem on the ground," is, Baker commented, "trying to buy time." But buy time for what? This is the question that has essentially paralyzed George Bush's top officials as they face a world suddenly not in their control.

Cindy and the Media

And then, if matters weren't bad enough, there was Cindy Sheehan. She drove to Crawford with a few supporters in a caravan of perhaps a dozen vehicles and an old red, white, and blue bus with the blunt phrase, "Impeachment Tour," written on it. She carried with her a tent, a sleeping bag, some clothes, and evidently not much else. She parked at the side of the road and camped out -- and the next thing anyone knew, she had forced the President to send out not the Secret Service or some minor bureaucrat, but two of his top men, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and Deputy Chief of Staff Joe Hagin. For forty-five minutes, they met and negotiated with her, the way you might with a recalcitrant foreign head of state. Rather than being flattered and giving ground, she just sent them back, insisting that she would wait where she was to get the President's explanation for her son's death. ("They said they'd pass on my concerns to George Bush. I said, 'Fine, but I'm not talking to anybody else but him.'")

So there she was, as people inspired by her began to gather -- the hardy women of Code Pink; other parents whose children had died in Iraq; a former State Department official who had resigned her post to protest the onrushing Iraq War; "a political consultant and a team of public relations professionals"; antiwar protestors of all sorts; and, of course, the media. Quite capable of reading administration weakness in the polls, trapped in no-news Crawford with a President always determined to offer them less than nothing, hardened by an administration whose objective for any media not its own was only "rollback," and sympathetic to a grieving mother from Bush's war, reporters found themselves with an irresistible story at a moment when they could actually run with it.

Literally hundreds of news articles -- almost every one a sympathetic profile of the distraught mother and her altar-boy, Eagle-Scout dead son -- poured out; while Sheehan was suddenly on the morning TV shows and the nightly news, where a stop-off at "Camp Casey" or the "Crawford Peace House" was suddenly de rigueur. And the next thing you knew, there was the President at his news conference forced to flinch a second time and, though Sheehan was clobbering him, offer "sympathy" to a grieving mother at the side of the road five miles away whom he wasn't about to invite in, even for a simple meeting, but who just wouldn't leave. ("And so, you know, listen, I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her -- about her position. And I am -- she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position…")

Talk about asymmetric warfare. One woman against the massed and proven might of the Bush political machine and its major media allies (plus assorted bloggers) and though some of them started whacking away immediately, Cindy Sheehan remained unfazed. After all, she had been toiling in the wilderness and this was her moment. Whatever the right-wing press did, she could take it -- and, of course, the mainstream media had for the time being decided to fall in love with her. After all, she was perfect. American reporters love a one-on-one, "showdown" situation without much context, a face-to-face shoot-out at the OK Corral. (Remember those endless weeks on TV labeled "Showdown with Saddam"?) In addition, they were -- let's be honest -- undoubtedly angry after the five-year-long pacification campaign the administration had waged against them.

But they had their own ideas about who exactly Cindy Sheehan should be to win over America. They would paint a strikingly consistent, quite moving, but not completely accurate picture of her. They would attempt to tame her by shearing away her language, not just the profanity for which she was known, but the very fierceness of her words. She had no hesitation about calling the President "an evil maniac," "a lying bastard," or the administration "those lying bastards," "chickenhawks," "warmongers," "shameful cowards," and "war criminals." She called for the President's "impeachment," for the jailing of the whole top layer of the administration (no pardons). She called for American troops to be pulled out of Iraq now. And most of this largely disappeared from a much-softened media portrait of a grieving antiwar mother.

And yet Sheehan herself seems unfazed by the media circus and image-shaping going on around her. In a world where horrors are referred to euphemistically, or limned in politely, or artfully ignored, she does something quite rare -- she calls things by their names as she sees them. She is as blunt and impolite in her mission as the media is circumspect and polite in its job, as most of the opposition to George Bush is in its "opposition." And it was her very bluntness, her ability to shock by calling things by their actual names, by acting as she saw fit, that let her break through and that may help turn a set of unhappy public opinion polls into a full-scale antiwar movement.

What will happen next? Will the President actually attend a funeral? Will Cindy Sheehan force him from his Green-Zone world? Suddenly, almost anything seems possible.

However the media deals with her, she embodies every bind the administration is in. As with Iraq (as well as Iran), the administration can't either make its will felt or sweep her off the landscape. Bush and his officials blinked at a moment when they would certainly have liked to whack her, fearing the power of the mother of a dead son from their war. And then, completely uncharacteristically, they vacillated and flip-flopped. They ignored her, then negotiated. They sent out their attack dogs to flail at her, then expressed sympathy. Officials, who have always known what to do before, had no idea what to do with Cindy Sheehan. The most powerful people in the world, they surely feel trapped and helpless. Somehow, she's taken that magical presidential something out of George and cut him down to size. It's been a remarkable performance so far.

The Tipping Point?

Casey Sheehan died on April 4, 2004, soon after he arrived for his tour of duty in Iraq. His mother had never wanted him to go to a war that was "wrong," a place where he might have to "kill innocent people" and where he might die. ("I begged him not to go. I said, 'I'll take you to Canada'... but he said, 'Mom, I have to go. It's my duty. My buddies are going.'") In her grief -- always beyond imagining for those of us who have not lost a child -- this woman found her calling, one that she would never have wanted and that no one would have ever wished on her.

For more than a year, having set up a small organization, Gold Star Families for Peace, she traveled the country insisting that the President explain, but in relative obscurity -- except on the Internet, that place where so much gestates which later bursts into our mainstream world and where today, at Technorati.com which monitors usage on blogs, her name is the most frequently searched for of all. As she has said, "If we didn't have the Internet, none of us would really know what was truly going on. This is something that can't be ignored."

In March, she appeared -- thanks to prescient editors -- on the cover of the Nation magazine for an article, The New Face of Protest?, on the developing military, and military-family inspired, antiwar movement. She was giving a speech at the Veterans for Peace national convention in Dallas when she evidently decided that she had to head for Crawford and the rest you know.

As our President likes to speak about "our mission" in Iraq and "our mission of defeating terrorists" in the world, so Cindy Sheehan has found herself on a mission. Our President speaks resolutely of "staying the course" in Iraq. That's exactly what Cindy Sheehan is planning to do in Crawford (and undoubtedly beyond). George prides himself on not flinching, giving ground, or ever saying he's sorry. But he also had remarkably good luck until he ran into Cindy. Whether in his presidential runs, in Congress, or elsewhere, he really hasn't come up against an opponent who was ready to dig in and duke it out blow for blow, an opponent ready never to flinch, never to apologize, never to mince words, never to take prisoners. Now he's got one -- and like so many personal demons, she's been called up from the Id of his own war: A mother of one of the dead who demands an explanation, an answer, when no answer he gives will ever conceivably do; a woman who, like his neocon companions, has no hesitation about going for the jugular. And, amazingly, she's already made the man flinch twice.

No matter how the media surrounds her or tries to tame her, the fact is she's torn up the oppositional rule book. She's a woman made in the mold of Iraq War vet Paul Hackett, who ran in a hopelessly Republican congressional district recently. He didn't hesitate to call the President a "chicken hawk" or a "son of a bitch," and to the surprise of all won 48% of the vote doing so, leading Newt Gingrich to say that the race "should serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" for the 2006 elections.

There's a lesson in this. Americans are not, generally speaking, your basic turn-the-other-cheek sorts of folks. They like to know that the people they vote for or support will, at the very least, stand there and whack back, if whacked at. Whatever she may have been before, Cindy Sheehan was beaten into just that shape on the anvil of her son's death. ("I was stunned and dismayed when the United States invaded Iraq. I didn't agree with it. I didn't think it was right, but I never protested until after Casey was killed.") Some of her testimony at the Conyers hearings on the Downing Street Memo catches this spirit and it's well worth quoting:

"There are a few people around the US and a couple of my fellow witnesses who were a little justifiably worried that in my anger and anguish over Casey's premeditated death, I would use some swear words, as I have been known to do on occasion when speaking about the subject. Mr. Conyers, out of my deep respect for you, the other representatives here, my fellow witnesses, and viewers of these historic proceedings, I was able to make it through an entire testimony without using any profanity. However, if anyone deserves to be angry and use profanity, it is I. What happened to Casey and humanity because of the apparent dearth of honesty in our country's leadership is so profane that it defies even my vocabulary skills. We as Americans should be offended more by the profanity of the actions of this administration than by swear words. We have all heard the old adage that actions speak louder than words and for the sake of Casey and our other precious children, please hold someone accountable for their actions and their words of deception."

Last week, the Pentagon relieved a four-star general of his command allegedly because he had an affair, while separated from his wife, with a woman not in the military or the government; and yet not a single top official or high-ranking officer (except for scapegoat Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski) has suffered for American acts at Abu Ghraib, or murder and torture throughout our imperium, or for torture and abuse at our prison in Guantanamo, or for any of the disasters of Iraq. In such a context, the words "please hold someone accountable" by the mother of a boy killed in Iraq, a woman on a mission who doesn't plan to back down or leave off any time soon -- well, that truly constitutes going directly for the President's political throat. It's mano a mano time, and while I would never underestimate what this administration might do, I wouldn't underestimate the fierce power of an angry mother either. The Bush administration is in trouble in Iraq, in Washington, and in Crawford.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War.

[Note on sources: Cindy Sheehan is first and foremost an Internet phenomenon. Those of you who want to read her writings since 2004 should visit her archive at the always lively libertarian site, LewRockwell.com. (Rockwell seems to specialize in strong women, publishing as well the writings of ret. Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski.) For the Sheehan phenomenon in its present incarnation check out a new website www.meetwithcindy.org, but then go to the must-visit site, Afterdowningstreet.com, which has a fascinating, ever-updated Sheehan subsection.]

Copyright 2005 Tom Engelhardt

Comment: Before our readers go all emotional with wishful thinking about the long-term effects of Cindy Sheehan's one-woman crusade against the Bush Reich, please read the following perceptive analysis from the pens of Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. They look at the current meme that posits that Bush, with his low polls and growing troubles, is a "stricken president". If he is so stricken, they argue, then how is it that his political agenda hasn't slowed down one bit?

However, in our eyes, it is not the effects in the current battle for the US constitution that count. Whether or not the American people come to their senses and impeach Bush and his peddlers of lies, Cindy Sheehan has taken a stand for the truth. She has confronted the lies face-to-face, calling Bush his true names: "an evil maniac," "a lying bastard," or the administration "those lying bastards," "chickenhawks," "warmongers," "shameful cowards," and "war criminals." Yes, those are the true names of these killers, the names the press refuses to utter but which those who can still think and see are calling out in anger to the rising winds.

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When Down is Up
The "Stricken" President
By ALEXANDER COCKBURN
and JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
August 13 / 14, 2005

If you accept the judgement of the polls this summer, George Bush is a stricken president. Leave aside his now permanent sub-50 per cent status in popular approval. Take his favored calling cards, the war and Iraq and conduct of the "war on terror". His status on the approval charts now shows him wallowing without mast or rudder in latitudes as low as the mid-30s. Honesty? Since Americans, with a race memory of fast talking snake-oil salesmen, often confuse honesty with inarticulateness and all round stupidity, Bush used to register well in this category. But even here he is bidding to join Nixon in the sub-basement of popular esteem, lodged at around the 40 per cent mark.

But hold! The measure of a stricken president is surely an inability to push through the legislation he desires. Remember Bill Clinton. By midsummer in his maiden year of White House occupancy, 1993, he was truly stricken and had to send a Mayday call for lifeboats, which duly arrived under the captaincy of Republican Dave Gergen, with Dickie Morris soon to follow. By July, 1993, as the receptacle of liberal hopes, the Clinton presidency was over.

Look now at Bush. Stricken he may be in the popular polls, but his political agenda flourishes.

Start with his nomination of John Roberts to the US Supreme Court. As the career of this far-right jurist gets dissected, there's surely rich meat for critics to feast on and even throw the nomination into doubt.

It turns out that Roberts's judicial philosophy is as extreme in its right-wing tilt as that of Robert Bork, although the Roberts wears the bland mien of a cornfed Midwesterner and not the feral snarl that doomed Bork from the outset. The record shows that throughout his career Roberts has been a prime legal strategist for the subversion of constitutional rights and unbridled expansion of executive power.

But does Roberts face a gauntlet of ferocious interrogatories from Democrat senators? Hardly. The Democratic challenge to Roberts, such as it is, has mostly devolved into a pillow fight with the White House over the availability of records, the kind of procedural wrangle that drags on to the delight of political insiders, but to no useful consequence.

The necessary details are already there in full view, from Roberts' legal assaults on the environment and on civil rights, from his stance on corporate impunity, and on the denial of fundamental human rights in the prosecution of Bush's wars. Why the search for more records? Do the Democrats hope somehow to reveal some financial peccadillo or hint that this latecomer to marriage and student lover of Dr Johnson might actually resemble David Souter, if only in the true contour of his personal preferences.

The Democrats have long since lost the appetite to confront a nominee at the level of political philosophy, the terrain on which they defeated Bork in 1987, when Jesse Jackson was challenging the party's credentials from the left. When it came to Clarence Thomas they opted for a probe of his sex life and Thomas turned the tables on them.

You can't expect the Democrats to toast Roberts on the grill for his ruling upholding denial of any rights to "enemy combatants" when the Democrats themselves shunned torture at Abu Ghraib as an issue in the spring and summer of 2004.

Go now from Roberts to John Bolton and yes, we find another summer triumph for the stricken president. It seemed for a while that Bolton's nomination was on its knees. The Democrats could have floored him on a number of issues, starting with his lies to Congress about the fact that he had been questioned by the State Department's Inspector General in 2003 in the Plame inquiry. Bolton had stated under oath that he had never been interviewed by investigators in any inquiry over the past five years. But the Democrats let him struggle on, losing the initiative in another wrangle about records and now, with the recess appointment, Bolton is installed as US Ambassador to the UN till January, 2007.

Let's move from nominees to legislation. In the past couple of weeks, as Bush draws howls of ridicule for his five-week vacation to Crawford, TX, his fiftieth as president, his energy bill sailed through Congress and he put CAFTA (the Central American Free Trade Agreement), which had seemed dead, over the top. Topping off these triumphs, Bush spun on a dime, deep-sixed his declared intent to veto the Highway Bill, and signed the $286 billion gift to the cement lobby and endangered Republican politicians.

The Democrats can win when they truly have to, as a matter of political survival. At least half of them would probably liked to have seen Social Security handed over to the mutual funds industry. It was their intellectual hero, Senator Pat Moynihan who co-chaired the commission, formed in 2001, which gave the bipartisan green light for "reform".

But the Democrats know that if they throw Social Security over the side, they would be sawing through one of the two last remaining planks of their party's substantive platform, Choice being the other. So they made a stand on Social Security, and won. It was the fight over Social Security which first pushed Bush's popular ratings below 50 per cent.

Opposition to free trade is not part of the Democratic Party's substantive political platform. No matter how close each fight over free trade has been ever since the NAFTA battles of the late 80s and early 90s, no matter how tense the cliffhanger, there have always been the Democratic votes necessary to win passage of those trade pact laws.

It was the same this time. In the wake of the 217-215 CAFTA vote in the House, Democratic minority leader Nancy Pelosi gave a press conference, charging the Republicans and the White House with arm-twisting, bribery and dirty tricks. To which the obvious answer was: Big deal. Remember Clinton's tactics in the NAFTA and WTO fights? But where was the arm-twisting to keep those 15 pro-CAFTA Democrats in line?

The war in Iraq? It's not popular and there is vocal and conspicuous opposition among the people, but not in the Congress. Cindy Sheehan, mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, draws national attention as she demonstrates outside the gates of Fort Bush in Crawford. Where are the Democratic politicians who should be standing beside her? Hillary Clinton has just put up a bill calling for an increase in troop strength by 90,000.

Confrontation on issues of principle are not doomed in the twenty-first century. The California nurses have shown that, as they send Schwarzenegger into the political twilight. But the Democrats have almost entirely shunned battles of principle in favor of some kind of futile rope-a-dope waiting game. What lies ahead? In 2006 the Democrats will be campaigning on a Stay the Course strategy in Iraq while the stricken president will be opting for a de facto cut-and-run policy as urged by Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Hagel-Paul in 2008! The dream peace ticket! Who needs Democrats.

Comment: Bush is expendable. If he becomes a liability, the puppet masters will have him replaced. Then the population can do the happy dance that democracy has won out over tyranny and corruption once again, that the US Constitution has been saved from the bonfire, and that all is well in the world. "The World". For most Americans, the World begins and ends at the borders of the "greatest nation on earth".

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Bush will `go on with life'
Defends refusal to meet protester
Sunday, August 14, 2005
KEN HERMAN
Cox News Service

CRAWFORD, Texas - President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides. It also came as the crowd of protesters grew in support of Sheehan, the California mother who came here Aug. 6 demanding to talk to Bush about the death of her son Casey. Sheehan arrived earlier in the week with about a half dozen supporters. As of yesterday (Saturday) there were about 300 anti-war protesters and approximately 100 people supporting the Bush Administration. In addition to the two-hour bike ride, Bush's Saturday schedule included an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading. "I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising."

On Friday, Bush's motorcade drove by the protest site en route to a Republican fund-raising event at a nearby ranch.

As Bush rolled by, Sheehan held a sign that said, "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"

Comment: Where to begin with these, oh, so telling statements from the POTUS? What is so incredible is that he can make them, and he is never called on it, that he can say the most arrogant and revealing things about his inner self, or lack of it, and it is just another "Bushism".

Have you ever wondered about the inner life of George W. Bush? We admit that it is a frightening thought, like something from a Stephen King novel, and you may not be willing to go there. If you don't confront your dark side head on, you'll find you have to confront it in thousands of other ways. Is GW the dark side of America? Has the United States been brought to GW because of its refusal to really look at itself in the mirror? Is George the universe's warning signal to Americans that they have one last chance to wake up from the illusion of US greatness and loving-kindness towards the rest of the world?

Or was Bill Clinton the last warning and GW the retribution?

George Bush is the pod from outer space we shrank from in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers. He is the mark on the back of the neck from Invaders From Mars. He is the radiation that turned the dead into zombies in Night of the Living Dead. We have seen this scenario played and replayed in film after film, but when it finally struck, we were so mesmerised by the TV screen that we didn't see what hit us.

So now that we have set the context, let us look more closely at his remarks.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

So, it's part of the job to listen to those who have something to say, and Bush has repeated this over and over again since he was first elected anointed. Remember him telling us before his first interview with Vlamimir Putin that he would go and listen? Of course, allowing oneself to be touched by another's words is something completely different. Bush listens and then does as he pleases. His listening is empty. There is no one home to be moved or affected by the thoughts, ideas, or emotions of another human being. If he pretends to be, it is simply because acting in that way will further his agenda.

But what is important to understand is that it is all show for Bush. Lacking the ability to actually BE thoughtful or sensitive, he must put on the mask. He even comes close to admitting that he is unaffected by these meetings when he states in the subsequent line:

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

"I will not be touched." That is the Bush credo. So, he goes off and rides his bike.

"Keep a balanced life"???!!! When all he ever hears is support for his politics? When the only people he ever meets are convinced he is God's gift to Armaggedon? When his famous "Town Hall" meetings are open only to card-carrying Bush zombies? What kind of balance is he talking about? It appears to be the balance between having to talk to people and getting in his daily round of exercise.

But think carefully about the following phrase:

"It is important for me to go on with my life...."

When is the phrase "it is important for me to go on with my life" generally used? One thinks of moments of tragedy and loss. The world gives you a blow, but you know that, in spite of all the pain, of the injustice, you must "get on with your life".

Fits Cindy Sheehan, doesn't it?

She has suffered a tragic loss, her son dying in the killing fields of Iraq for an illegal war led by a lying president. Her getting on is to use her emotional energy awakened by that loss to confront the lies of those responsible for invading Iraq. She is taking her campaign directly to the man who publically took responsibility for the war and who once famously said "Bring 'em on!".

When Bush says that "it is important for me to go on with my life", Bush is appropriating the role of the person wronged. Bush has not lost a child. Bush has not suffered because of this war. He is the one ordering that the sons and daughters of others go to fight. It is certainly not the Bush twins who will be sent off to patrol the streets of Baghdad, who will be ordered into the desert to patrol against supposed "foreign elements" sneaking into Iraq to foment trouble against the democracy-bearing Yanks. The AWOL commander-in-chief, who takes such pleasure in strutting his stuff in his military fatigues, wouldn't ask his children to make that great sacrifice and so honour their country by shedding their blood.

And yet he has the nerve to place himself in such a position by arguing that "It is important for me to go on with my life"!

Do we need a clearer example of the lack of empathy in this man for the suffering of another human being? The dry drunk, narcissistic psychopath wants us to know that his need to go bike riding is more important than the grief of Cindy Sheehan.

How such a statement can pass by without an outcry from the media, from the pundits, from the public shows into what dire straights the United States has fallen.

"I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising."

It is more likely that it is the entire "being" of the POTUS that is outside exercising because there certainly isn't anyone home.

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At the pumps, on the Web, drivers seek lowest prices
By New York Times Staff
The New York Times
August 13, 2005, 5:01 AM PDT

DENVER--By day, Ken Colaizzi logs a lot of miles for his family's home-improvement business, and as he drives, he likes to note the price of gasoline at local stations.

At night he becomes a kind of Walter Winchell of pump-and-pay, dishing the dirt about whose prices are hot and whose are not, as a volunteer price spotter for denvergasprices.com, a comparative fuel shopping Web site.

"I like to expose the ones who are charging outrageous amounts," Mr. Colaizzi said. "People work hard for their money, and the last thing you want to do is spend an extra 50 cents a gallon that you didn't have to."

For millions of Americans, filling up the tank has become an eye-popping experience this summer as prices reached levels that, after adjusting for inflation, have been seen only once on any sustained basis since World War II--in the late 1970's and early 1980's, when the Iranian revolution and the Iran-Iraq war disrupted global oil supplies.

Through last Monday, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded had risen nearly 26 percent in 12 months, according to the Federal Energy Information Administration, with the sharpest rise - 17 percent in just the last two months.

The price continued to rise this week, reaching $2.41 on Friday, a record, the American Automobile Association's daily survey found.

But as Mr. Colaizzi's adventures in cyberspace illustrate, the United States is in a very different place today from where it was in the late 1970's.

The tools to fight back have changed, for one thing. From the Internet to the alternative fuel choices of ethanol and electricity hybrid technology--and more adventurous forays, like a school district in Georgia that is experimenting with chicken-fat-laced fuel for its bus fleet--options abound.

Countering that development almost completely, energy experts and economists say, is that people drive more than they did a generation ago, with longer commuting trips from sprawling suburbs, and are more likely to be driving big sport utility vehicles or light trucks when they do.

"This gas and vehicle thing is tied up with the entire way we lead our lives now," said Steve Hoch, a professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. The bigger vehicles that are getting slammed by the surge in gasoline prices, Professor Hoch said, are all part of the supersized demographic shift to bigger everything in the last decade, like the sizes of an average home and of the average big-box discount retail store.

"But just imagine if everybody had to get to Costco in a Prius," Professor Hoch added, referring to the Toyota gas-electric hybrid that gets about 50 miles to the gallon. "How would they bring the 43 rolls of toilet paper home? This shift to higher prices is not going to be easy." [...]

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Rumblings Increase About Trucking Protest Over High Gas Prices
By Bryan Johnson
August 12, 2005

SEATTLE - Trucks drivers are telling KOMO 4 News they are hearing increasing discussion about parking rigs to protest high diesel prices.

Several drivers say the talk is "all over the CB" across the country.

This week, log truck drivers in southwestern Washington parked their rigs to try to force additional fuel allowance from timber companies. In the Miami area, truck drivers formed a 20-mile long protest caravan.

At the North Bend truck stop, diesel hit about $2.91 a gallon and even at a Costco membership gas station, the price of regular gasoline was priced at just under $2.58 a gallon.

At that gas station, Paul Sockwell filled, up saying he expects to pay much more soon: "This is cheaper gas right now." Asked if he thinks it's going to go higher, Sockwell said: "Of course, it's supply and demand."

Right now demand remains high.

And many pay the piper. Neda Nessirian drives a Suburban. Her reaction to $2.58 a gallon: "It's almost like a car payment, like a brand new Mercedes $400-$500 gas."

Neda's upset her gas bill now averages close to $500 a month. Pity the truckers, the cost of diesel: $2.90 a gallon. Mike Fox spent $1,700 between Indiana and North Bend. His wife, Caroline, told KOMO 4 news: "Right now we are running in the red. We are putting out more on the trucks that what we are making."

Asked why he continued to drive, Fox said: "Because there's nothing else to it. It's all we do. It's all I've ever done."

The truckers have heard of logging trucks parking in protest in Grays Harbor. Quietly, not openly yet, they are talking of parking their rigs.

Mike said: "I don't know (if) we can bring the price of fuel down by doing that; but, hopefully, it would get the government's attention. Something has to be done about it."

The wife of another long-haul driver, Judy Looney said: "That'd get a message to just about everyone -- when your grocery store start running out of food."

And driver Owen Adams said: "You would be hungry if you didn't get your food, if you didn't eat; and that's what I do, I haul produce."

Adams isn't ready to park just yet, although he got a shock when he checked the pump. His total bill after buying fuel for the truck and the refrigerator was $352.

Comment: And it appears that oil prices won't be dropping substantially in the near future...

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No Relief in Sight for Gasoline Prices
By John O'Dell and Claire Hoffman
LA Times Staff Writers
Thu Aug 11, 7:55 AM ET

Motorists got a barrelful of bad news Wednesday when oil prices soared to a new high, gasoline set another record in California and the Department of Energy warned that pump prices could remain above $2 a gallon through much of next year.

The latest round of woe was spurred by a spate of refinery problems in the U.S., increasing instability in the Middle East and a growing imbalance between demand for petroleum, which is rising rapidly, and production capacity, which isn't.

After briefly touching $65 a barrel, the U.S. benchmark crude closed at a record $64.90, up $1.83, or almost 3% on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That was up 46% from a year ago and boded ill for motorists already paying sky-high prices for gasoline - which also hit a new national record Wednesday.

"It is scary. We are in limbo," said Yolanda Chacon, a Lancaster resident who paid $51.97 to fill her minivan Wednesday afternoon at an Arco station in Echo Park. "It feels like it's going on and on and on," said Chacon, who sometimes gases up twice a day while ferrying her husband and daughter to and from their jobs in Los Angeles and Santa Clarita.

"I'm really spreading it thin," she said.

Nationally, pump prices rose an average of 2.2 cents a gallon to $2.376 on Wednesday, according to AAA - 27% above a year ago. In Southern California, where gasoline prices typically run well above the national norm, a gallon of regular hit a record $2.676 on Wednesday, up almost 13 cents from a month ago and 26% higher than the year-ago price of $2.120. Diesel fuel prices also set new records in California and around the country.

The latest jump in crude prices - which have climbed 14% in the last three weeks - killed a Wednesday morning rally on Wall Street as investors fretted that high energy prices could throttle the U.S. economy.

Economists, however, noted that oil would need to rise to more than $85 a barrel to top the inflation-adjusted peak hit in 1980. That, and the fact that the United States uses fuel more efficiently today, helps explain why the economy has been able to absorb the surge in energy costs.

"We as a nation are not as oil dependant as we were back then," said Christopher Thornberg, senior economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

Comment: And yet, as the previous article noted, more Americans than ever are driving huge SUVs that require equally huge amounts of fuel...

Consumers in Europe and Japan have been paying close to $4 a gallon for gasoline for years, he added. "To some extent, people are going to have to suck it up and realize this is a new reality."

The Bush administration said this week that although high energy prices were taking a toll on consumers, they were not slowing the overall economy.

"It's been a resilient economy, it's responded well and job creation has proceeded apace," said Ben Bernanke, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors.

That's little relief to Eric Valdez, though. He has a job, a car and a place to live, but finds that the rising cost of fuel for the daily commute between his home in Chatsworth and his job in Glendale is gobbling up what's left of his paycheck after the rest of the bills are paid.

"I'm frustrated," the 21-year-old jewelry store employee said. "The amount of money I make plus the cost of the commute to work and the cost of living means I'm just barely breaking even."

Some analysts and economists believe that kind of pain will have to be shared by much of the population before oil prices start dropping.

The high prices for both crude oil and refined petroleum products such as gasoline, heating oil and jet fuel show "we haven't hit the price yet where we have significantly curtailed demand," said oil analyst John Snell, a principal at Chicago-based Risk Management Inc., an energy cost advisor to industry.

Gasoline consumption is up 1.4% from this same time last year, the Energy Department reported. And with the national thirst for fuel running at a record pace, refineries that have been working overtime to keep up have beg un breaking down, shaving production of gasoline and diesel fuel at the peak of the summer travel period.

"It seems every day there's a story of a refinery with a problem," said Rick Mueller, senior oil analyst at Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Mass.

"Chevron in El Segundo, BP in Texas, Exxon Mobil in Illinois…. Speculators are wondering if we aren't pushing the refineries too hard and are looking at more outages," Mueller said. [...]

Additionally, speculators "all are looking at the fourth quarter now, not at today's situation," Mueller said. "A cold winter could put real pressure on the market to meet demand" for heating oil, he said. That would keep crude prices high because a big jump in demand for heating oil would offset seasonal declines in the demand for gasoline.

Indeed, the federal Energy Information Administration, citing government forecasts released this week, said Wednesday that pump prices were expected to average above $2.10 a gallon nationwide at least through the end of next year, assuming oil - which accounts for half the price of a gallon of gas - stays above $55 a barrel.

In addition to the concerns over heating oil demand, the agency pointed out that the government was forecasting an active hurricane season this year, which could disrupt both oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and gasoline refining along the Gulf Coast.

"There's just no reason to expect this market will put itself into reverse," said Ben Brockwell, editor of the Oil Price Information Service.

Comment: Several articles we have read included the statement that "economists" have noted that oil would need to rise to over $85 a barrel to top the price peak in 1980. Such statements are a wonderful way to downplay the effects that today's high oil prices are having on the average American consumer. They also serve to lull people into a false sense of security, i.e. "wdon't worry, things will get better again. Prices will go down again just like they did in the 80's." The problem is that the condition of the US economy at present is arguably far more serious than ever before. And don't look to Bush's new energy bill to solve any of the average consumer's problems...

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Bush's Energy Disaster
By Joshuah Bearman
LA Weekly
Posted August 11, 2005

The long-delayed energy bill signed into law last week will wreak havoc on the planet while padding the pockets of the oil industry.

As the Senate cast its votes on the energy bill last Friday, giving Republicans a little legislative victory before everyone skipped town for the summer, Bush issued a congratulatory statement. "I applaud Congress," he said, "for a bill that will help secure our energy future and reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy." A nice sentiment -- except that "securing our energy future" is the one thing the bill won't do.

Then again, that was never the intention. This was Bush's baby from the start, the fruition of Cheney's infamous task force, to which he invited every industry honcho he could find to write their own tickets right into the country's energy policy. After that, of course, it was larded with extra tax breaks and subsidies, like $500 million in deep-water drilling that will likely wind up in Tom DeLay's hometown, Sugar Land, and billions more that will drain straight into industry coffers.

This at a time when high oil prices are sending industry margins soaring: Exxon-Mobil's third quarter last year was the most profitable corporate earnings in history. Boone Pickens, head of BP Capital Management, a billion-dollar hedge fund that makes people wealthy trading energy futures and related investments, sums up the high times like so: "I've never had so much fun in my life."

But the giveaways are the least of the bill's problems. When both sides claim victory, it's a sure sign of mediocre legislation. Republicans got to line some pockets and call it economic progress. Democrats were able to shelve (for now) a few hot-button issues like the MTBE indemnity and drilling in ANWR. (And when barely derailing a raid on ANWR is considered a Democratic victory, it only shows how much the Republicans have been able to set the agenda.) Likewise, Republicans were able to take out the fuel-efficiency standards and global-warming language that so offended them. In the end, the energy bill was a hodgepodge, a collection of provisions with no vision. [...]

A Greater Depression, or even chaos, is the answer, as was discovered in late June at a war game called "Oil Shockwave." The participants, including many former Republican administration members, spent several days running through various scenarios of disrupted oil supply. Even with small-scale trouble, the exercises quickly spun out of control. "The American people," concluded former CIA Director Robert M. Gates, "are going to pay a terrible price for not having an energy strategy."

James Woolsey, another former CIA director present at "Oil Shockwave," was equally troubled. Woolsey, friend to Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld and Douglas Feith, and member of the bona fide neocon Defense Policy Board, has become an alternative-energy buff in the interest of national security. A few weeks later, Woolsey presented a paper along with George Schultz, Reagan's secretary of state, to the Committee on Present Danger about how our oil dependency makes the country extremely vulnerable. They argued that national security requires a radical change in energy policy, starting with fuel-efficiency standards. Woolsey and Schultz also dared to draw the less-talked-about blood/oil connection: that the spread of the Wahhabi ideology and a lot of terrorist planning has been funded by petrodollars.

If energy conservation, then, is a first line of national defense, why do so many jackasses drive their SUVs around with American flags all over them? More importantly, why did the country get an energy bill that, according to the administration's own Energy Information Administration (EIA), will actually raise gas prices and increase oil demand nearly 14 percent in just the next six years?

To be fair, the bill did include many new incentives for renewable energy. And although many on the Left don't like it, the bill's jump-start for nuclear power -- much safer today with new technology -- has some mixed promise. But that's not broad enough thinking. We need what Woolsey and Schultz describe: a focused effort in funding and research that turns the energy equation upside down.

Instead, we're getting $10 billion more "missile defense." And an even costlier PR junket -- I mean scientifically valuable manned mission -- to Mars. Not to mention the war in Iraq, at $200 billion and counting. Imagine how much renewable-energy development we could have gotten for all that money. Problem solved! With the kind of funding wasted by Bush in just the past five years, we could have had a Manhattan Project for energy security several times over -- and actually made a difference in national security. As Woolsey and Schultz put it, sounding like granola munchers on their way to Earth Day:

"A plug-in hybrid averaging 125 mpg, if its fuel tank contains 85 percent cellulosic ethanol, would be obtaining about 500 mpg. If it were constructed from carbon composites, the mileage could double, and, if it were a diesel and powered by biodiesel derived from waste, it would be using no oil products at all . . . What are we waiting for?"

Good question.

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Signs Economic Commentary
Donald Hunt
August 15, 2005

Oil closed at 66.86 dollars a barrel on Friday, up 7.3% from what was already a record weekly close of $62.31 a week earlier. The Euro closed at 1.2436 dollars, virtually unchanged from the previous week's close of 1.2437. Oil in euros would be 53.76 euros a barrel, up 7.3% from 50.10 euros a week earlier. The dollar, then, fell from 0.8099 euros to 0.8041 for the week. Gold closed at 451.60 dollars an ounce, up 2% from $442.90 on last Friday's close. Gold in euros would be 363.14 euros an ounce, up 2% from last week's 356.11. The Gold/Oil ratio closed at 6.75 barrels of oil per ounce of gold, down 5.3% compared to 7.11 on the previous Friday. In the U.S. stock market, the Dow closed at 10,600.31, up 0.4% from 10,561.14 a week earlier. The NASDAQ closed at 2,156.90 down 1% from 2,178.92 on the previous Friday. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.25% down 14 basis points from 4.39% at the previous Friday's close.

Again, the big story last week was the rise of the price of oil to record levels. I think we need to be sceptical about this rise. Sure, the supply of oil is finite, but is it any more finite than it was five or six years ago? Do we really know how much oil there is? And, even if oil is limited, is energy in general limited? Currently it would seem very much so - but we really don't know. People point to the growth of the Chinese economy as reasons for the rise, but the growth of China has been in the works for a long time and it is proceeding at rates that could have been and were predicted years ago. Remember that analysts are saying there is plenty of oil at the moment, but what is lacking is enough refineries in the United States. We should ask who high oil prices benefit and then ask why haven't enough refineries been built in the United States. The invasion of Iraq and the consequent chaos has taken much of that country's production offline. Could that have been intended? Could the oil interests behind the Bush regime have intended this chaos and these high prices? They are getting ultimate possession of Iraqi oil (or at least they think they are) without the disadvantage of putting it on the market and depressing prices.

We make a mistake if we assume that the markets for various commodities act as markets do in economic textbooks. Here is an excellent account by Robert Bell of how, by whom and for whom markets can be rigged, worth quoting at length but too long to quote in full. The article helps explain why those of us who thought the dollar would have collapsed by now were wrong. A major reason for this was the consequence of the law passed by Bush in the fall of 2004 allowing U.S. corporations to "repatriate" profits parked overseas and to have that money taxed at a much lower rate. According to Bell, that had the effect of propping up the dollar.

The Invisible Hand (of the U.S. Government) in Financial Markets

Robert Bell

Summary: The U.S. government is manipulating all major U.S. financial markets - stocks, treasuries, currencies. This article shows how it is possible and how it is done, why it is done, who specifically is doing it, when they do it, and where they get the money to do it.

Most people probably believe that the major capital markets in the U.S. are basically true markets with, occasionally, maybe very occasionally, a little bit of rigging here and there. But evidence shows that the opposite is the case - the rigging is fundamental with a little bit of true markets here and there. I have discussed how this works concerning U.S. and some other stock markets in an earlier article. Here I will primarily discuss the rigging of currency and U.S. Treasury markets.

Perhaps the main reason for the urban legend that major markets are not generally rigged is that they are assumed to be too big; the millions of independent buyers and sellers, worldwide because of globalization, make effective and sustained coordination impossible. The implicit assumption is that any market could be systematically rigged if it were small enough, or at least small enough at some critical choke point.

Little Markets

In the case of the market for U.S. Treasuries, the Financial Times summed up exactly how small it really is in two major stories, one just under the masthead on page one, on 24 January 2005. One story began, "During the past few years the US has become dependent, not so much on millions of investors around the globe but on a few individuals in a few of the world's central banks." In 2003 these central bankers bought enough treasuries to cover 83% of the U.S. current account deficit, and 86% of those purchases came from Asian central banks.

The two main sources of money for U.S. Treasuries are the central banks of Japan and China. Japan held about $715 billion in U.S. Treasuries, as of November 2004, and China held about $191 billion. All the other nations' central banks hold altogether, about the same amount again, roughly another trillion.

As the total of all obligations is about $4 trillion, two central banks obviously hold about one quarter of the total. They are in the position to pump or dump the Treasury market all by themselves. They can sell what they have or simply stop buying when the Treasury sells.

Since the money comes from a handful of foreign central banks, the possible rigging of the Treasury market equals the possible rigging of the foreign exchange markets. These central banks have to buy dollars before they buy Treasuries. Even Alan Greenspan has acknowledged that the two go together, admitting that Asian central banks "may be supporting the dollar and U.S. Treasury prices somewhat."

U.S. stock markets are also capable of being systematically rigged, and for the same reason - a handful of players can dominate if they coordinate their actions. The key choke point is in the number of mutual funds, which themselves hold about 20% of all the stock in the major markets. Of the over 8000 all-stock mutual funds, a mere 497 hold roughly three-fourths of the stock. This is easily a small enough number to pump the market, whether through coordinated buying disguised as programmed trading, or simply a follow-the-leader mechanism. All the other thousands of funds and the millions of individuals around the globe putting their money into these markets can do little more than follow the momentum. No major U.S. stock market writer, advisor or player seems to publicly acknowledge this, as far as I know. But the CEO (PDG) of the French insurance giant AXA has acknowledged it: Claude Bebear wrote in his 2003 book Ils vont tuer le capitalisme (They are going to kill capitalism):

"… today, shareholders are relegated to the role of quasi-spectators. The small shareholders that are now called 'individual investors' know that they have little weight. All together, they only represent a small percent of capital because the investments of households are more and more in the form of mutual funds, pension funds (fonds communs de placement) or life insurance funds. The shareholders today are thus the institutional investors."

Bebear, in charge of one of the world's biggest stock portfolios, adds:

"We are no more, in effect, in a world that one reads in the economic text books, with innumerable investors of various characterizations, choosing each in his own way the stocks that he'll put in his portfolio; the results of their millions of decisions generating a sort of changing market equilibrium, but a stable one. The truth is that for several years, the reasoned investment on a stock has almost disappeared in favor of more and more mechanical behavior."

Plunge Protection

Programmed trading in an utterly concentrated stock market pretty much guarantees the possibility of systematic and continual market rigging. But to accomplish this, and coordinate it with the currency and Treasury markets, some sort of orchestrating mechanism would need to exist. It does; it is known as the President's Working Group on Financial Markets, occasionally referred to in the business press as the Plunge Protection Team. Then President Ronald Reagan signed it into existence on 18 March 1988, with the specific intension to avoid another stock market crash such as that of 19 October 1987. The Working Group's existence is no mystery. See for yourself. Go to Google and type in Executive Order 12631. You will find the Executive Order, and even a 14 November 2003 statement from Secretary of the Treasury John Snow giving a brief history of the Working Group, describing its policy advisory activities, and concluding with these words: "It also is a forum used to exchange information during market turmoil through ad hoc conference calls and meetings."

Presumably Plunge Protection doesn't hold these ad hoc conference calls and meetings just to be passive bystanders. Executive Order 12631 specifically authorizes them to coordinate buying: "The Working Group shall consult, as appropriate, with representatives of the various exchanges, clearinghouses, self-regulatory bodies, and with major market participants to determine private sector solutions wherever possible."

So not only is the fix in, it is legal.

In a 1989 Wall Street Journal article, then Federal Reserve board member Robert Heller even suggested a market intervention strategy: "Instead of flooding the entire economy with liquidity, and thereby increasing the danger of inflation, the Fed could support the stock market directly by buying market averages in the futures market, thus stabilizing the market as a whole."

Guess Whose Money is Used to Buy Stock Market Insurance?

There is even a potentially unlimited source of money to do this pumping. Federal government contractors operate under a special law, CAS, in their defined benefits pension plans. This gives them stock portfolio insurance, something which small fry players would obviously like to get, but can't find anyone willing to issue. Should the pension funds of the federal government contractors lose money in their investments to the degree that they fall below minimum reserve requirements imposed by other federal laws, they can simply make up the difference by adding it on pro-rata to subsequent items sold to the federal government. The vast sums of federal tax money devoted to plugging the holes in the pension fund for the largest Pentagon contractor, Lockheed Martin, were discovered by Ken Pedeleose, an analyst at the Defense Contract Management Agency. He was concerned about staggering cost increases for the C-130J transport but a chart he made public showed the mind boggling per plane cost increases for a number of Lockheed Martin airplanes. The chart amounted to a Rosetta Stone for the military-industrial complex. It showed, essentially, how the military-industrial complex linked to the stock market through the Lockheed Martin pension fund, and by extension through all the others covered by the same law.

No doubt a lot of government money has been flowing through Lockheed-Martin and others in the last four or five years!

Is there a corresponding source of tax money to pump the currency and Treasury markets? There is an official one for currency, the Exchange Stabilization Fund. It was established in 1934 to prop up the dollar in foreign exchange markets. But it can be used for any purpose determined by the Secretary of the Treasury. In mid-1995, the fund contained $42 billion. The actual amount varies depending on how well the Treasury does on its currency transactions. The money originally came from the sale of U.S. government gold, but the Treasury kept the money as a private fund, not under Congressional control. Since it is a finite amount of money, not appropriated by Congress, it probably is not often used to pump the stock market or even the market for Treasuries.

The markets for Treasuries, and also currency, are being pumped using the tax code and pension fund laws. But to understand this we have to first look at why pumping might be necessary.

Treasuries Exchanged for Jobs

The U.S. Treasury holdings of Japan and China are essentially a consequence of a trade imbalance between the U.S. and these two countries, with the balance heavily tilted to the latter. To maintain the imbalance, which they both clearly want to do, both countries must keep their currency pegged against the dollar at a lower rate than it might otherwise be. If they did not do that, the Toshiba computers, Toyota cars and other quality items made in Japan would be more expensive, and so Japan wouldn't sell as many of them in the U.S. A similar case holds for vast numbers of Chinese manufactured items sold pretty much everywhere, but notoriously at Wal-Mart. To keep the items relatively cheap, the central banks of those countries keep their currencies cheap by buying a corresponding amount of dollars, thus supporting the dollar against their currencies. The dollar may essentially collapse against the euro, but not against the yen and the yuan.

With the dollars the Japanese and Chinese central banks have bought, they can buy something denominated in U.S. dollars; the item of choice is U.S. Treasuries since it is like holding dollars that pay interest. So this has the effect of pumping the price of Treasuries too. Because the items made in China and Japan are cheaper than those of corresponding quality made in the U.S. (in the case of many Japanese items, there may not be U.S. items of similar quality), the effect is to create manufacturing jobs in those countries while simultaneously losing them in the U.S. In effect the jobs are exported and foreign currency is imported to buy dollars and then Treasuries.

This has an advantage for the Bush administration, which has the ruinously ridiculous policies of simultaneously cutting taxes and waging wars or building up for them. In effect, the basic racket is: the Bush administration exports jobs to these countries, and in turn they finance Bush's fiscal deficit so he can continue his wars and cut taxes for his friends. The deficit for 2005 will be at least $400 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The Pentagon budget for 2005 was about $400 billion. Add in two supplemental requests for the costs of his Iraq war and the Pentagon figure is roughly $500 billion. "It is interesting to note that the military budget is about the same order of magnitude as the fiscal deficit," said veteran Pentagon waste fighter Ernest Fitzgerald.

…But won't the Japanese and Chinese central banks ultimately get burned by holding vast quantities of dollar denominated assets? Sure, if the dollar ever collapses against their currencies too. The dollar having fallen roughly 30% against the euro since the beginning of the war in Iraq, the same fate or worse could await these Asian currencies. With currently issued Treasuries paying a coupon rate of no more than 4%, they would be materially shafted on their investments in U.S. Treasuries. Then why don't they bail out?

The Emperors' Revenge

For the Chinese, the basic racket is too delicious and too ironical. They industrialize their country at the expense of the de-industrialization of the U.S. Not only is it sweet revenge for more than a hundred years of humiliation at the hands of Europeans and Americans, but also at the end they are relatively strong and the U.S. is relatively not. What do they care if the deal isn't quite as good as it would be in a perfect world and they lose a third, half, two-thirds of their savings in U.S. Treasuries? Besides, in an even mildly less imperfect world, the U.S. President would not make such a blatantly corrupt bargain against the people of the U.S. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett calls this system of indebting U.S. citizens to foreign governments "a sharecropper's society," to distinguish it from Bush's supposed "ownership society."

…The overwhelming consensus of financial writers was that both the dollar and Treasuries would really hit the skids in the new year, 2005. The consensus was global. For example, the French financial paper, Les Echos wrote in its edition of 21-22 January: "Until now, it was a question of the great bet adopted nearly unanimously by foreign exchange traders - the dollar will fall in 2005."

Of course, as implied by the quote, the dollar did not fall. Nor, of course, did its fat twin, U.S. Treasuries, which are little more than interest paying dollars. Is this because the trade deficit improved? Not really, although it showed a slight gain in early February, long after the dollar and Treasuries had materially improved. The dollar had gone up 3.6% from 1 January 2005 until 22 February 2005. Why? Did Bush raise taxes, thereby erasing some of the fiscal deficit? Not at all. On the contrary, he cut taxes - as usual for a select group - and that's why the dollar rebounded.

Plunge Protection's New Cash

In late October 2004, the U.S. public was looking the other way when the tax cut was passed. Most people were obsessing over who would win the presidential election. Few were paying much attention to what the Republicans in Congress were doing, which was giving billions in tax cuts to U.S. corporations which had profits parked in tax havens around the world, such as in Ireland or Singapore. Bush signed the law enabling this tax giveaway on 22 October 2004…

The law Bush signed in late October 2004 goes by the obscenely false name, the American Jobs Creation Act. If there is one thing it will not do, it is to create jobs. It will instead create takeovers, which nearly always produce losses in jobs - in the name of synergy. Takeovers are on the limited menu of activities companies are permitted to do with the money they can "repatriate" under this law. Not that the limited menu makes much difference, since the money brought in does not have to be fenced off in any way. So if $10 billion were spent by a company on takeovers, that frees up another $10 billion to do whatever was prohibited under the law, such as paying dividends, buying back stock, or filling the pockets of executives with extra bonuses. Normally such profits earned in foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies would be subject to a tax rate of 35% if they were brought home, which is why the money had stayed parked in the tax havens. But the law gives companies a one-year window for the "repatriation" of this cash at a tax rate of only 5.25%. Nobody knows how much will be brought in. When the law was passed in October, the general expectation reportedly was that the figure would be about $135 billion. But one player has estimated it at $319 billion. "This has some investment bankers salivating," wrote David Wells in the Financial Times. But how much would be converted into dollars from other currencies? According to two different investment banks, the figure is somewhere around $100 billion. That would be the minimum available from this source to pump the dollar for one year. Recall that the Exchange Stabilization Fund has less than half that for eternity.

The Bush administration's use of repatriated foreign profits to pump domestic markets shows that they are not going to let "thin ice" signs stifle their version of the economy, at least not without a fight. However, the underlying weakness of the economy because of the twin deficits remains, so basically all that Bush and his Plunge Protection team are doing is moving the "thin ice" sign out onto thinner and thinner ice. The weight of the Bush team will eventually crash through that ice into exceedingly cold water…

Panic Buying

One short-term thing the money has already done is to pump the dollar. The mechanism by which this is accomplished is quite simple and is signature Plunge Protection. It is the device of the short covering rally. This is what happens when speculators sell an asset - stocks, Treasuries or dollars - short. With stocks, this means that they sell the asset without actually owning it. They borrow the shares they sell, betting the stock will fall. They then buy it at the reduced price and return those shares. Another way to accomplish essentially the same thing is through options. The risk in a short sale is that the stock will not go down but instead go up. The short seller literally is exposed to unlimited losses in this case. This is the basis for a short covering rally. Non-shorters buy in sufficient volume to force up the price. The price rise scares the shorters into buying right away before the price goes too high and they lose too much. This results in panic buying as large numbers of short sellers feel compelled to buy to limit their losses. Often when the stock market suddenly blasts up out of a long slide for little or no reason, we are watching a short covering rally. There have been several such rallies in the currency and Treasuries markets so far this year, and there will probably be quite a few more.

According to a J.P. Morgan survey, the year 2005 began with most U.S. and international speculators holding short positions on U.S. bond markets. Obviously this is because they had foolishly looked at the underlying economic reality, and failed to understand the profound import of the American Jobs Creation Act.

…How big are these chunks of cash? Johnson & Johnson announced in February that they would bring in $11 billion. Pfizer put its planned figure at $37.6 billion. But are these figures big enough to pump the dollar? You bet. An ABN Amro currency strategist, Aziz McMahon, has been quoted as saying, "The sums are so large that if even a small proportion is transferred from other currencies, the positive impact on the dollar could be substantial." According to that bank's calculations, each $20 billion pumped in from other currencies pumps the dollar against a broad index of currencies about 1%. So the announced amounts would be sufficient to trigger both momentum trading in the dollar and trigger short covering rallies which themselves would trigger further momentum trading.

Even the announcements of the currency repatriations can trigger short covering rallies. ABN's McMahon added, "The psychological impact a wave of announcements could have on structural short-dollar positions should also not be underestimated."

…All who imagine that the mythical market forces will prevail seem to deliberately avoid actually looking at what the so called markets really are, including their concentrations, Plunge Protection mechanisms, and Plunge Protection's extensive access to a variety of pools of other people's money. The mechanisms and the market concentrations permit the Bush administration to systematically sell off U.S. assets to pay for its more wars/less taxes policies. The Bush administration is comparable to a group of corrupt trustees for the family fortune of a lazy and incompetent heir. They siphon the money out by selling off the inheritance while the heir is too stupid or drunk to notice. He still has his mansion, his fleet of big cars and his monthly check, and he doesn't notice that the assets are shrinking. He may not for a while. This family's fortune is big and there are a lot of assets still to sell off.

Reading between the lines about the role of the military-industrial complex in "managing" the markets, it's not too hard to see why some in the Bush administration might be tempted to see this Global War on Terrorism (and Iraqi civilians) as successful. The Deconsumption blogger, Steven Lavagulin, wonders why, with the preeminence in brand marketing that the United States holds, that it has done such a poor job lately in generating good feeling world-wide for the "America" brand. He concludes that it was no accident:

I don't think the ball was dropped...I think the marketing campaign is in effect. In fact, it's a raging success. It's just that it was decided that "anger" and "resentment" were a better brand to market. The campaign was rolled-out, a campaign entitled: War on Terror™

Think about it...War on Terror™ It says "War. War with no boundaries. War with no goals. War with no rules. The enemy is anyone, anywhere. Live in fear. The enemy might be you... Don't get out of line."

If you'll allow me to draw water from the [William] Kotke [in Final Empire] well once again:

"Although industrial investment in the colonies generally returns large profits (25% per year being the standard), super-profits since World War II have come from guns and drugs. The U.S. has been the largest armaments producer, with other countries now catching up rapidly. Alliances and militarization have been encouraged all over the world and this has seen the militaries take power (overt or covert) in most societies. The petroleum industry is the largest planetary industry but it is closely followed by the armaments industry in size and production. The armaments industry mushrooms as all forms of colonial exploitation grow. A modern example is the [1989] Iran-Iraq war, where 42 arms-exporting countries sold weapons to the combatants and 36 sold to both sides.

"…The quest for power (military and other) through science has become the central focus of the industrial empire. In the broad view, science is the means to power whereby the empire culture more efficiently extorts the life force of the planet. (Scientific agriculture does not concentrate on building the life of the soil; it concentrates on producing heavier tonnages for market). The reality that science is an integral component of the imperial social system is shown by the fact that more than half of the working scientists of the U.S. are employed in the military-industrial sector. This is hardly a dispassionate search for truth, as the propagandists would have it. The scientific establishment is deeply implicated in the social apparatus of coercion and death as a means of political control."

Keep in mind this was was written in the early 1990's, so Kotke is not merely striking an indictment against the neo-con agenda. He identifies "coercion and death" as the "product" in the general system of empire. So is it reasonable to conclude that marketing in America might consist of selling "goodness and light" on every scale and level save the very pinnacle one, Brand America!™ itself? Strangely, that may be precisely the case.

Clearly, economic analysis alone will not enable anyone to predict the markets. It may make more sense to observe where the power is flowing.

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Cyprus plane crash victims "frozen solid"
By Brian Williams and Karolos Grohmann
Reuters
Mon Aug 15, 2005 09:01 AM ET

ATHENS - Most of the bodies recovered from a Cypriot plane that crashed near Athens with 121 people on board were frozen solid, a Greek official said, suggesting the airliner was a flying tomb before it plunged to earth.

As accident investigators combed the crash site for clues, aviation experts were baffled at what appeared to have been a catastrophic failure of cabin pressure or oxygen supply in freezing temperatures at 35,000 feet -- nearly 10 km (6 miles) up, higher than Mount Everest.

One expert said reports of extreme cold suggested there was no air circulating in the cabin.

"Autopsy on passengers so far shows the bodies were frozen solid, including some whose skin was charred by flames from the crash," the Defense Ministry source, with access to the investigation, told Reuters on Monday.

The Helios Airways Boeing 737 was carrying 115 passengers and six crew when it crashed 40 km (25 miles) north of Athens on Sunday. There were no survivors.

Rescue workers recovered the body of the pilot, a German identified as Martin Hans Gurgen, and said they had found the plane's black box flight recorders, including the one that records pilot conversations, and would send them to France for analysis.

The recovery of the black boxes is crucial to determining the cause of the worst air disaster in Greece and the worst involving a Cypriot airline.

Greek TV reported on Sunday that the pilot had told air traffic controllers the plane was experiencing problems with its air conditioning system shortly before contact was lost.

A passenger list released by Cyprus' Transport Ministry showed a family of four Armenians living in Cyprus, 12 Greeks and 104 Cypriots were killed in the crash. There were 17 children under the age of 16 on board, the youngest aged 4.

Relatives of some victims were on their way from Cyprus to the crash site to start the grim task of trying to identify loved ones.

At Larnaca airport in Cyprus, from where the doomed plane took off, crew and passengers on Monday refused to board an aircraft belonging to Helios Airways, the state-run Cyprus News Agency reported. [...]

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Cypriot plane crash 'a mystery'
News24.com
15/08/2005 06:42

Athens (SA) - Accident investigators faced a mystery as rescuers continued their search for bodies on Monday, after a Cypriot airliner slammed into a wooded hillside near Athens with the loss of more than 120 lives amid harrowing accounts of an apparent crisis in the plane's cockpit.

Two Greek air force F16 fighters scrambled to investigate on Sunday, after communications were suddenly lost with the Helios Airways twin-engine aircraft, Greek and Cypriot officials said.

Two 'tried to fly doomed plane'

The fighter pilots "saw two people in the cockpit, we don't know if they were crew members or passengers, appearing to want to take over the controls," said Greek government spokesman Theodore Roussopoulos.

They saw "the co-pilot slumped over and perhaps unconscious and the pilot not in his seat," he said, adding that the oxygen masks were "activated" in the cockpit.

Terrorist attack ruled out

The Greek government has initially ruled out a terrorist attack.

The plane was about to land at Athens airport for a stopover on its journey from Larnaca in Cyprus to the Czech capital Prague when it crashed at Varnava, a largely uninhabited area 40km northeast of Athens, at 12:20.

'We're going to die. Farewell'

According to the Greek private TV station Alpha, a passenger sent a text message to a cousin saying: "We're cold, the pilot is blue. We're going to die. Farewell."

But it was not clear whether the pilot had left the cockpit to enter the passenger cabin or whether the sender of the text message had been in the cockpit.

A senior official at the public order ministry, however, speculated that a sudden drop in cabin pressure could have caused the disaster.

The official said the pilot had mentioned a problem with the Boeing 737's air-conditioning system before losing contact.

Depressurisation 'not to blame'

But in Paris, accident investigator Francois Grangier told press that a sudden loss of pressurisation would not have caused the plane to crash, nor would it have made the pilots immediately lose consciousness.

The plane would have been at fairly low altitude as it approached Athens airport, and Grangier said loss of pressurisation would not have had any effect on the aircraft's structure.

He also said the pilots would have had their own oxygen supply.

Another expert said that in the case of sudden depressurisation because of structural damage, for example the blowing out of a window, the internal temperature would plummet and the plane would crash.

At the crash site, Greek police said "there was no trace of survivors" among the 115 passengers and six crew whose bodies were burned almost beyond recognition.

A search for bodies was continuing on Monday as shocked relatives of the victims arrived from Larnaca, the main airport on Cyprus.

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Truck of explosives detonates on highway

Vehicle was 'pretty much vaporized'
CNN
Thursday, August 11, 2005

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A tractor-trailer carrying 35,500 pounds of explosives overturned and exploded Wednesday, injuring four people and leaving a huge crater in a Utah highway.

The truck driver, a passenger in the cab, a motorist and a motorcycle rider were hospitalized after the truck "pretty much vaporized," Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Todd Royce said.

The explosion left a crater in two-lane U.S. 6 estimated to be between 20 feet and 35 feet deep, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Tom Hudachko said.

"The entire road is gone, shoulder to shoulder, there's no asphalt left," he said.

Witnesses said the truck's driver appeared to lose control of the vehicle after taking a curve at high speed, Highway Patrol Lt. Doug McCleve said.

The driver, a 30-year-old man who was not identified, was transported by helicopter to University of Utah Hospital, where he was listed in fair condition.

Witnesses rushed to help the driver and his passenger, freeing the pair from their safety belts, McCleve said.

The dazed driver was just coherent enough to say the word "explosive," giving rescuers a sense of the danger, he said.

Two men were taken to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center in Provo, where one was in fair condition and the other was treated and released. The motorcycle driver, J.D. Herbert of Denver, was taken by ambulance and was in satisfactory condition.

Herbert, a nephew of Utah Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert, said he was trying to warn motorists about the truck accident when the explosion blew him off his motorcycle.

He looked up to see "a mushroom cloud of fire, and shrapnel just starts falling down," he told KUTV of Salt Lake City. "The shrapnel is hitting the forest, and crackling like bacon."

The rig, from R&R Trucking of Duenweg, Missouri, had just left commercial explosives maker Ensign-Bickford Co. at the mouth of Spanish Fork Canyon when the accident happened. The truck was headed to Oklahoma, company officials said. They wouldn't say what type of explosives the truck was carrying.

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US warns of new attacks on London

August 14, 2005
DAVID LEPPARD
Times of London

Read the document

AMERICAN intelligence chiefs have warned that Al-Qaeda terrorists are plotting to drive hijacked fuel tankers into petrol stations in an effort to cause mass casualties in London and US cities in the next few weeks.

The leaked warning, contained in a bulletin issued by the US Department for Homeland Security last week, says the attacks aim to create catastrophic damage at about the time of the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The warning came as it emerged that the British Department for Transport had for the first time issued guidelines ordering a tightening of security around the UK road tanker fleet.

The US warning has been circulated among law enforcement agencies and fuel transport agencies. Although a preamble states that “no other intelligence exists to corroborate this specific threat”, the intelligence report is highly specific.

It says: “Al-Qaeda leaders plan to employ various types of fuel trucks as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIED) in an effort to cause mass casualties in the US (and London), prior to September 19. Attacks are planned specifically for New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It is unclear whether the attacks will occur simultaneously or be spread over a period of time. The stated goal is the collapse of the US economy.”

The document goes on to suggest that the proposed methods will involve suicide drivers: “Some of the vehicles used will be hijacked. The type of vehicle may be anything from gasoline tanker trucks to trucks hauling oxygen and gas cylinders. Water trucks filled with gasoline or other highly combustible material may also be used. The detonation of the vehicles will be carried out by driving them into gas stations or ramming explosive-laden vehicles into the trucks carrying the fuel.”

The intelligence report says that the terrorist cells thought to be planning the attack will “execute the plan upon receipt of an order”. It goes on to speculate that the videotape released last week by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, may have been meant as “the activation signal to the cells”. In the video al-Zawahiri warned that attacks would continue in Britain until it pulled out of Iraq.

The report says that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the alleged masterminds of the September 11 attacks, has told US interrogators that he had developed plans for targeting petrol stations. This was “due to their apparent vulnerability and the potential destructive force of a fuel-driven explosion”, it says.

The use of petrol tankers as mobile bombs has been a well-tested Al-Qaeda tactic in the Middle East. Terrorists in Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Iraq have all used large fuel tankers against military and civilian targets.

A fuel tanker attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 killed 19 US servicemen. Four weeks ago terrorists exploded a fuel tanker in a busy market town 25 miles south of Baghdad killing nearly 100.

Although the specific threat of a tanker attack on London is thought to be new, Scotland Yard and MI5 have long feared that Al-Qaeda would try vehicle attacks on key targets in the capital.

Last year police disrupted an alleged plot to bomb a “soft target” — thought to be a Soho nightclub — with a truck bomb. More than half a ton of fertiliser, which can be used to make explosives, was recovered in a raid in north London.

Security sources say that fears about the use of fuel tankers has led to them being closely monitored when they enter the City of London.

Concrete security barriers have been placed in other key locations across the capital to stop vehicles packed with explosives reaching buildings such as parliament.

The Americans have previously been fearful that terrorists might use commercial vehicles for bomb attacks and warn that delivery vans could gain easy access to high-value economic targets. The FBI has also said that terrorists could use limousines packed with explosives to get near VIP targets.

The British Department for Transport issued new guidance on July 1 to prevent fuel tankers being hijacked and used as weapons. The security measures require carriers to be properly identified and transit sites to be made secure. All relevant staff are to be given security training. The measures apply to all dangerous goods transported by road or rail.

In California and Australia the authorities are introducing remote-controlled shut-down devices to stop any fuel tanker if it is hijacked. In Singapore the government has just begun putting tracking devices on petrol tankers to monitor their movements. Details of the latest intelligence warning were leaked to the American media last week, but no mention was made of the threat to London. The bulletin said the “stated goal is the collapse of the American economy”.

The disclosure of the warning has led to a disagreement among officials about the seriousness of the threat. Senior officials in Washington who were briefed on it last week said it was described as specific enough to warrant attention.

The FBI cautioned that the source of the information was not necessarily reliable. They said that the specific threat of a tanker attack to mark the anniversary of September 11 could not be verified.

This weekend British officials said they were unwilling to make any detailed comment on the warning. One government official said he knew of no specific intelligence warning of a fuel tanker attack in Britain: “It’s obviously a particular type of Al-Qaeda modus operandi used. But it hasn’t been used in Europe before.”

# As The Sunday Times revealed last week, MI5 has provisionally found the July 7 and July 21 bombings were not linked and found no evidence of a single mastermind. It points to “self-starter” units inspired rather than directed by Al-Qaeda.

Comment: So, once again we hear about the dire plots of Al Qaeda leaders But the bombs in London were "self-starters" with no Al-Qaeda mastermind. But what about the spin we were hearing a couple of weeks ago that the bombers may not have known they were carrying explosives? That they were patsies? Now that our memories of this have faded, we are being spin around yet again.

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No terror mastermind behind London bombers - report
By Kate Holton Sat Aug 13,12:54 PM ET

LONDON (Reuters) - Groups behind the July London bomb attack that killed 52 people and a failed attempt to strike again soon after appear to have been acting independently of an al Qaeda mastermind abroad, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

The Independent, quoting police and intelligence officials, said it was also likely that four July 7 suicide bombers were probably not linked to another group of four who failed to blow up explosives on buses and underground trains two weeks later.

But some of the report's conclusions were questioned by a terror analyst, who said it would be difficult for Islamic militants in Britain to prepare and set off explosive devices without some training in Pakistan, Afghanistan or elsewhere.

The newspaper said police and intelligence sources felt the fact there was no leader from abroad showed how other "self-sufficient" units could be hiding in Britain.

"All the talk about 'Mr Bigs' and al Qaeda masterminds looks like something from a film script at the moment," the newspaper quoted a police source as saying.

"Of course, things could change if new intelligence comes through, but it looks increasingly as if these people were largely working on their own. It is not something we expected."

Four young British Muslims blew themselves up on three London underground trains and a bus on July 7, killing 52 people. An apparent bid to repeat the attacks on July 21 failed and police have arrested four people they say were behind it.

The newspaper report quoted one counter-terrorist source as saying: "the key point is that the events were not connected. It appears they were self-contained, rather than being organized by some kind of mastermind."

The attacks have raised alarm in Britain that militants are living and operating in the country. Police have yet to establish whether they are acting alone or being directed by international networks like al Qaeda.

CRUDE DEVICES

A police spokesman said they were investigating several lines of inquiry and would not comment on the details of the newspaper report. He would not rule them out either.

But a terrorism expert who did not want to be named said it took time and knowledge to prepare such attacks, and would not rule out the involvement of a foreign-trained mastermind putting the plots together either, possibly from inside Britain.

"They're crude devices, but I think there is a mistaken belief that you can just go on the Internet and download these things," he said.

"It was possible that they (the two groups of bombers) are not linked, but it's inconceivable that you could just spontaneously get a group of people together in two weeks, get the material, build the devices and carry out the attacks."

He said that "the old al Qaeda" had been "shattered" after U.S. military action in Afghanistan and the crackdown on militant groups in neighboring Pakistan since 2001.

But that did not mean that people who lived and trained in those countries could not now be operating in Britain.

He said both sets of men suspected of being behind the attacks were not particularly well educated and described them as "misfits."

"People like that generally aren't capable of building bombs. There is definitely someone who has catalyzed them, who has given advice on materials, provided technical expertise and maybe paid for all this," he said.

"I wouldn't rush to discount the idea that there is a mastermind or puppet master somewhere, it just may not fit the traditional description.

"The ringleader may be someone who lives in this country and spent sometime in somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan where they honed these skills."

Comment: So, bombs that were initially described as using military grade explosives are now being labelled as "crude devices". The initial bombing, so well organised, was followed by a botched job, MI5's attempt at rearranging the facts on the ground so they point to "self-starters" with no mastermind behind the scenes.

And the worst part of it is that the British public will most likely buy it now that they have been struck at home. Suspicious minds will cast suspicious glances at anyone of colour on the streets, at all Muslims and Sikhs.

Something big is being prepared. Count on it.

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U.S. Marine opens fire outside Mass. nightclub
Mon Aug 15, 2005 08:21 AM ET

BOSTON (Reuters) - A decorated U.S. Marine, who had been treated for post-war stress since serving in Iraq, opened fire outside a Massachusetts nightclub, wounding two people, Boston media reported on Monday.

Daniel B. Cotnoir will be arraigned on Monday on charges of assault and battery with a deadly weapon and assault with intent to murder after the incident early on Saturday in the city of Lawrence, The Boston Globe said.

Cotnoir had complained to police after a crowd of nearly 30 people gathered outside a nightclub and restaurant near his apartment. After someone hurled a bottle that shattered his bedroom window, Cotnoir fired "a warning shot," the newspaper said.

The bullet hit a 15-year-old girl and a 20-year-old man.

"He shot into what he thought was a safe area, but there was some ricochet effects that Mr. Cotnoir never intended," his lawyer, Robert F. Kelley, was quoted as saying.

"It was a military-type response to a threatening situation that was civilian in nature."

Cotnoir, a sergeant awarded the 2005 Marine of the Year by the Marine Corps Times, has been struggling psychologically since returning from Iraq in 2004, Kelley said.

Police were not immediately available to comment.

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TSA May Loosen Ban on Razorblades, Knives

Has Hell Frozen Over?
By HOPE YEN
Associated Press
August 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - The federal agency in charge of aviation security is considering major changes in how it screens airline passengers, including proposals that an official said would lift the ban on carrying razorblades and small knives as well as limit patdown searches.

The Transportation Security Administration will meet later this month to discuss the plan, which is designed to reduce checkpoint hassles for the nation's 2 million passengers. It comes after TSA's new head, Edmund S. "Kip" Hawley, called for a broad review in hopes of making airline screening more passenger-friendly.

An initial set of staff recommendations drafted Aug. 5 also proposes that passengers no longer have to routinely remove their shoes during security checks. Instead, only passengers who set off metal detectors, are flagged by a computer screening system or look "reasonably suspicious" would be asked to do so, a TSA official said Saturday.

Any of the changes proposed by the staff, which also would allow scissors, ice picks and bows and arrows on flights, would require Hawley's approval, this official said, requesting anonymity because there has been no final decision.

"The process is designed to stimulate creative thinking and challenge conventional beliefs," said Mark Hatfield, TSA's spokesman. "In the end, it will allow us to work smarter and better as we secure America's transportation system."

The Aug. 5 memo recommends reducing patdowns by giving screeners the discretion not to search those wearing tight-fitting clothes. It also suggests exempting several categories of passengers from screening, including federal judges, members of Congress, Cabinet members, state governors, high-ranking military officers and those with high-level security clearances.

The proposed changes were first reported by The Washington Post on Saturday.

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The Scandal is Bigger Than AIPAC
By Robert Dreyfuss, TomPaine.com. Posted August 12, 2005.

The indictment of four men charged with spying on the U.S. for Israel may eventually implicate the conservatives who thumped the drums for war in Iraq.

Important new details of the U.S.-Israeli espionage case involving Larry Franklin, the alleged Pentagon spy, two officials of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, and an intelligence official at the Embassy of Israel emerged last week. Two AIPAC officials -- who have left the organization -- were indicted along with Franklin on charges of "communicat[ing] national defense information to persons not entitled to receive it." In plain English, if not legal-speak, that means spying.

But as the full text of the indictment makes clear, the conspiracy involved not just Franklin and the AIPAC officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, but at least several other Pentagon officials who played intermediary roles, at least two other Israeli officials, and one official at a "Washington, D.C. think tank." It's an old-fashioned spy story involving the passing of secret documents, hush-hush meetings and outright espionage, along with good-old-boy networking.

But the network tied to the "Franklin case" which ought to be called the "AIPAC case," since it was AIPAC that was really under investigation by the FBI -- provides an important window into a shadowy world. It is clear that by probing the details of the case, the FBI has got hold of a dangerous loose end of much larger story. By pulling on that string hard enough, the FBI and the Justice Department might just unravel that larger story, which is beginning to look more and more like it involves the same nexus of Pentagon civilians, White House functionaries, and American Enterprise Institute officials who thumped the drums for war in Iraq in 2001-2003 and who are now trying to whip up an anti-Iranian frenzy as well.

Needless to say, all of this got short shrift from the mainstream media when it was revealed last week.

The basic facts of the case have been known for a while. Lawrence Anthony Franklin, a Department of Defense official, was caught red-handed giving highly classified papers to two officials, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, of AIPAC -- in part, concerning U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq and the war on terrorism. But from the carefully worded indictment, it is clear that a lot more may have been going on. All in all, along with revealing tantalizing new information, the indictment raises more questions than it answers. To wit:

First, the indictment says that from "about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004" Franklin, Rosen and Weissman "did unlawfully, knowingly and willfully conspire" in criminal activity against the United States. So far, no one has explained what triggered an investigation that began more than six years ago. But it reveals how long the three indicted conspirators and "others, known and unknown to the Grand Jury," engaged in such criminal activity. In any case, what appeared at first to be a brief dalliance between Franklin and the two AIPAC officials now -- according to the latest indictment, at least -- spans more than five years and involves at least several other individuals, at least some of whom are known to the investigation. What triggered the investigation in 1999, and how much information has FBI surveillance, wiretaps and other investigative efforts collected?

Second, the indictment makes it absolutely clear that the investigation was aimed at AIPAC, not at Franklin. The document charges that Rosen and Weissman met repeatedly with officials from a foreign government (Israel, though not named in the indictment) beginning in 1999, to provide them with classified information. In other words, the FBI was looking into the Israel lobby, not Franklin and the Defense Department, at the start, and Franklin was simply caught up in the net when he made contact with the AIPACers. Rosen and Weissman were observed making illicit contact with several other U.S. officials between 1999 and 2004, although those officials are left unnamed (and unindicted). Might there be more to come? Who are these officials, cited merely as United States Government Official 1, USGO 2, etc.?

Third, Franklin was introduced to Rosen-Weissman when the two AIPACers "called a Department of Defense employee (DOD employee A) at the Pentagon and asked for the name of someone in OSD ISA [Office of the Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs] with an expertise on Iran" and got Franklin's name. Who was "DOD employee A"? Was it Douglas Feith, the undersecretary for policy? Harold Rhode, the ghost-like neocon official who helped Feith assemble the secretive Office of Special Plans, where Franklin worked? The indictment doesn't say. But this reporter observed Franklin, Rhode and Michael Rubin, a former AEI official who served in the Pentagon during this period and then returned to AEI, sitting together side by side, often in the front row, at American Enterprise Institute meetings during 2002-2003. Later in the indictment, we learn that Franklin, Rosen and Weissman hobnobbed with "DOD employee B," too.

Fourth, Rosen and Weissman told Franklin that they would try to get him a job at the White House, on the National Security Council staff. Who did they talk to at the White House, if they followed through? What happened?

Fifth, the charging document refers to "Foreign Official 1," also known as FO-1, obviously referring to an Israeli embassy official or an Israeli intelligence officer. It also refers later to FO-2, FO-3, etc., meaning that other Israeli officials were involved as well. How many Israeli officials are implicated in this, and who are they?

Sixth, was AEI itself involved? The indictment says that "on or about March 13, 2003, Rosen disclosed to a senior fellow at a Washington, D.C., think tank the information relating to the classified draft internal policy document" about Iran. The indictment says that the think tank official agreed "to follow up and see what he could do." Which think tank, and who was involved?

The indictment is rich with other detail, including specific instances in which the indicted parties lied to the FBI about their activities. It describes how Franklin eventually set up a regular liaison with an Israeli official ("FO-3") and met him in Virginia "and elsewhere" to communicate U.S. secrets.

It is an important story, arguably one that has greater implications for national security than the scandal involving the churlish outing of undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame. So far, at least, the media frenzy attending to the Plame affair is matched by nearly total silence about the Franklin-AIPAC affair? Can it be true that reporters are more courageous about pursuing a story that involves the White House than they are about plunging into a scandal that involves Israel, our No. 1 Middle East ally?

Comment: Israeli spying against the US is old hat. With rare exceptions, people accused of spying for Israel are simply shipped back to the Promised Land without charges being brought against them. Only when the accusations can't be ignored are the principals held accountable, such as in the Pollard nuclear secrets case.

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Another Earthquake Rattles Mississippi County
AUGUST 15, 2005 - Posted at 7:45 a.m. CDT

DEARMAN, AR - A mild earthquake rattled a portion of northeast Arkansas in a region that has seen a number of tremors this year.

Last night's quake, of magnitude 3.0, was centered two-thirds of a mile west of Dearman in Mississippi County.

The area is in the New Madrid Seismic Zone. Between May and late July, there were six earthquakes of magnitude two or greater in the southern part of the zone, which includes Arkansas. Four earthquakes near magnitude four have occured since February.

Researchers say that, there are 150-200 earthquakes in the state each year.

A quake of magnitude 2.5 to 3 is the smallest generally felt by people.

Comment:

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Strong earthquake shakes southern Mexico
KTRE-TV NEws

MEXICO CITY Southern Mexico has been jolted by a fairly strong five-point-four earthquake.

The quake Saturday night along the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca (whu-HAH'-kuh) state was felt hundreds of miles away in Mexico City. Buildings in the capital swayed a bit but there are no signs of damage and no reported injuries.

A few people in Mexico City left their buildings, but one man there says you could barely feel it.

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Earthquake topples houses in China
August 14, 2005 - 7:49AM

An earthquake hit southwest China on Saturday, bringing down several houses and causing injuries, Xinhua news agency said.

The quake, measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale, hit Wenshan county in Yunnan province just after midday, local time.

"Injuries have been reported in seven townships... The earthquake has also toppled some houses. However, the exact number of injuries and economic losses are unavailable," Xinhua said.

Earthquakes are common in China.

In December 2003, a tremor measuring 6.1 on the Richter scale struck the remote northwestern region of Xinjiang. At least 10 people, mostly herdsmen, were killed and 700 mud and brick houses destroyed.

Yunnan's Huize county was hit by a quake measuring 5.3 on the Richter scale last week. Nine people were injured.

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Earthquake causes damages, power cuts in Chile
www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-15 10:24:47

SANTIAGO, Aug. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- Several Chilean cities were jolted Saturday night by a strong earthquake which caused no casualties, but damaged roads and led to power cuts, local press said Sunday.

The earthquake, measuring 5.4 on the Richter scale, occurred Saturday at 22:38 local time (02:38 GMT Sunday).

In preliminary reports, the University of Tarapaca said the epicenter of the quake was located 129 km northeast of Iquique andabout 1,970 km north of Santiago, and had a depth of 84 km.

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Tsunami clue to 'Atlantis' found
BBC

A submerged island that could be the source of the Atlantis myth was hit by a large earthquake and tsunami 12,000 years ago, a geologist has discovered.

Spartel Island now lies 60m under the sea in the Straits of Gibraltar, but some think it once lay above water.

The finding adds weight to a hypothesis that the island could have inspired the legend recounted by the philosopher Plato more than 2,000 years ago.

Evidence comes from a seafloor survey published in the journal Geology.

Marc-André Gutscher of the University of Western Brittany in Plouzané, France, found a coarse-grained sedimentary deposit that is 50-120cm thick and could have been left behind after a tsunami.

Shaken sediments

Dr Gutscher said that the destruction described by Plato is consistent with a great earthquake and tsunami similar to the one that devastated the city of Lisbon in Portugal in 1755, generating waves with heights of up to 10m.

The thick "turbidite" deposit results from sediments that have been shaken up by underwater geological upheavals.

It was found to date to around 12,000 years ago - roughly the age indicated by Plato for the destruction of Atlantis, Dr Gutscher reports in Geology.

Spartel Island, in the Gulf of Cadiz, was proposed as a candidate for the origin of the Atlantis legend in 2001 by French geologist Jacques Collina-Girard.

It is "in front of the Pillars of Hercules", or the Straits of Gibraltar, as Plato described. The philosopher said the fabled island civilisation had been destroyed in a single day and night, disappearing below the sea.

Sedimentary records reveal that events like the 1755 Lisbon earthquake occur every 1,500 to 2,000 years in the Gulf of Cadiz.

But the mapping of the island carried out by Dr Gutscher failed to turn up any manmade structures and also showed that the island was much smaller than previously believed.

This could make it less likely that the island was inhabited by a civilisation.

Comment: Most observers miss the point that the most likely hypothesis is that Atlantis was not "an island", but that it was a world-wide civilisation. The trouble with admitting that a once powerful civilisation that spanned the planet was destroyed so completely that there is little physical evidence of its existence is that it proposes a world-wide catastrophe of immense magnitude. The "Atlantis as island" theory leaves the destruction up to more managable forces, that is, forces that our own "great civilisation" would be able to handle with better tsunami warning systems and evacuations prior to great quakes. When you propose that the entire planet came under such violence that continents rose and sank, that entire peoples were wiped off the planet, then we're dealing with something a little more threatening, aren't we?

There is much evidence that such a catastrophic upheaval occurred on our planet 12,000 years ago, but you don't hear about it, do you? It isn't taught in schools, it isn't mentioned in the papers, and it isn't mentioned in articles such as these. In such a way these disasters become localised and managable.

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