Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thank Your Free Markets For Tamiflu...Brought To You By Donald Rumsfeld

Countries are stocking up on Tamiflu at the behest of health officials, based upon 297 world-wide cases of a common flu which has probably been afflicting humans for centuries. The threat level will be raised to maximum this weekend. While prudence is warranted, so also is a little trip down Memory Hole Lane to inspect other motives:
October 31, 2005: 10:55 AM EST
By Nelson D. Schwartz, Fortune senior writer

NEW YORK (Fortune) - The prospect of a bird flu outbreak may be panicking people around the globe, but it's proving to be very good news for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other politically connected investors in Gilead Sciences, the California biotech company that owns the rights to Tamiflu, the influenza remedy that's now the most-sought after drug in the world.

Rumsfeld served as Gilead (Research)'s chairman from 1997 until he joined the Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake valued at between $5 million and $25 million, according to federal financial disclosures filed by Rumsfeld.

The forms don't reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but in the past six months fears of a pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu have sent Gilead's stock from $35 to $47. That's made the Pentagon chief, already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million richer.

Rumsfeld isn't the only political heavyweight benefiting from demand for Tamiflu, which is manufactured and marketed by Swiss pharma giant Roche. (Gilead receives a royalty from Roche equaling about 10% of sales.) Former Secretary of State George Shultz, who is on Gilead's board, has sold more than $7 million worth of Gilead since the beginning of 2005.

Another board member is the wife of former California Gov. Pete Wilson.

"I don't know of any biotech company that's so politically well-connected," says analyst Andrew McDonald of Think Equity Partners in San Francisco.

What's more, the federal government is emerging as one of the world's biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July, the Pentagon ordered $58 million worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering a multi-billion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to be about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.

Rumsfeld recused himself from any decisions involving Gilead when he left Gilead and became Secretary of Defense in early 2001. And late last month, notes a senior Pentagon official, Rumsfeld went even further and had the Pentagon's general counsel issue additional instructions outlining what he could and could not be involved in if there were an avian flu pandemic and the Pentagon had to respond.

As the flu issue heated up early this year, according to the Pentagon official, Rumsfeld considered unloading his entire Gilead stake and sought the advice of the Department of Justice, the SEC and the federal Office of Government Ethics.

Those agencies didn't offer an opinion so Rumsfeld consulted a private securities lawyer, who advised him that it was safer to hold on to the stock and be quite public about his recusal rather than sell and run the risk of being accused of trading on insider information, something Rumsfeld doesn't believe he possesses. So he's keeping his shares for the time being.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Need To Roll Back Presidential Power Grabs, by Arlen Specter

The tachometer swings, momentum builds. Senator Arlen Specter released the above-titled article in that respected journal of congressional politics, The New York Times Review of Books. Admittedly, it's full of juicy disclosures, and was published just as he was switching parties. Short-short: Specter fingers Dick Cheney as being responsible for using the telecoms to spy on "tens of millions" of Americans and for sabotaging previous legislative efforts to restore the Foreign Intelligence Services Act (FISA) and the rule of law. Nothing we didn't know, but any Pug who said that two short years ago would've soon been found with a Dead Girl and a Live Boy.

Coupled with the recent leak of the existence of NSA eavesdropping transcripts on conversations Rep. Jane Harman had with unnamed Israeli lobbyists, a.k.a. spies, a move clearly meant to threaten Harman, and you've a pretty good indication Cheney has active stay-behinds in the apparatus. If so, he can still use past and possibly present surveillance to put the fear of exposure into politicians and bureaucrats on both sides of the aisle. In Harman's case, s
he's a Dim who sits on the Intelligence Committee and has visited Israel 22 times in the past few years. She's vulnerable as hell, and all Cheney had to do was note the mere existence of transcripts to back her down.

(Note: since the transcript is about the Israel Lobby promising to get Harman put on the Intelligence Committee after the 2006 elections in exchange for keeping a couple of their red-handed own out of jail, there are different, more hopeful interpretations for the source of the leak. However, the leak was a naked demonstration of power, and Harman is now the most vocal defender of the Bush Administration's use of surveillance. Gonzales had previously quashed congressional exposure of the surveillance and protected Harman, by then an indictable criminal. Now, as threatening legislation looms, boom! The embarrassing leak. Cui bono? Veep Throat. My money's on Cheney as source.)

Evidently the NSA and "Veep Throat" have nothing on Specter. If they do, we'll hear about it soon. There were huge problems with the 2006 version of his same basic bill, including executive ability to order ISPs to hand over all communications without going in front of a judge. Still, they're playing in a different stadium now. To name but a few examples, the Pravda, I mean Washington Post, stated this week only 21% of Americans now identify themselves as Republican, House minority leader John Boehner actually used the word "torture," and a civil war is being fought in the former goose-stepping-in-unison RNC.

If he gets the anti-surveillance, anti-signing statement legislation through as described, I'll take back (most of) the bad things I've said about the Senator from Pennslovania:

In the seven and a half years since September 11, the United States has witnessed one of the greatest expansions of executive authority in its history, at the expense of the constitutionally mandated separation of powers. President Obama, as only the third sitting senator to be elected president in American history, and the first since John F. Kennedy, may be more likely to respect the separation of powers than President Bush was. But rather than put my faith in any president to restrain the executive branch, I intend to take several concrete steps, which I hope the new president will support.

First, I intend to introduce legislation that will mandate Supreme Court review of lower court decisions in suits brought by the ACLU and others that challenge the constitutionality of the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by President Bush after September 11. While the Supreme Court generally exercises discretion on whether it will review a case, there are precedents for Congress to direct Supreme Court review on constitutional issues—including the statutes forbidding flag burning and requiring Congress to abide by federal employment laws—and I will follow those.

Second, I will reintroduce legislation to keep the courts open to suits filed against several major telephone companies that allegedly facilitated the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Although Congress granted immunity to the telephone companies in July 2008, this issue may yet be successfully revisited since the courts have not yet ruled on the legality of the immunity provision. My legislation would substitute the government as defendant in place of the telephone companies. This would allow the cases to go forward, with the government footing the bill for any damages awarded.

Further, I will reintroduce my legislation from 2006 and 2007 (the "Presidential Signing Statements Act") to prohibit courts from relying on, or deferring to, presidential signing statements when determining the meaning of any Act of Congress. These statements, sometimes issued when the president signs a bill into law, have too often been used to undermine congressional intent. Earlier versions of my legislation went nowhere because of the obvious impossibility of obtaining two-thirds majorities in each house to override an expected veto by President Bush. Nevertheless, in the new Congress, my legislation has a better chance of mustering a majority vote and being signed into law by President Obama.

To understand why these steps are so important, one must appreciate an imbalance in our "checks and balances" that has become increasingly evident in recent years. I witnessed firsthand, during many of the battles over administration policy since September 11, how difficult it can be for Congress and the courts to rally their members against an overzealous executive.

Numerous war powers statutes remain at legal loggerheads with citizens' rights in a time when the definition of war itself has been widened and loop-holed. At least this bill opens the way for ACLU lawsuits to engage the courts for definition. Arlen Specter...I've had stranger bedfellows, but none I care to disclose at this time. The rest here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Permanent Republican Majority's Specter

Senator Arlen Specter's staff denied queries today that he was turning coats to become a Democrat, denied again, and then confirmed. Politically, the impact will be huge.

Keeping tabs on Specter is not a task which fills my heart with joy, so I don't know when his re-election bid rolls around but would give 3:1 odds it's soon. He is the Senate's 12th most senior member and one of its most powerful. He has chaired the Intel and the Judiciary Committees, as well as Veteran's Affairs. He is one of the people who sit around and decide where the grease goes, and how much of it.

He has lymphoma, just undergoing chemo to control it again last year, so maybe he simply craves having some political relevance again. (See Obama's tactic of making deals to peel off moderates and isolate radicals, two posts previous.) Given Specter's stature, it wouldn't be surprising if this marks the start of a trend.

Financial Vortex & Possible Happy Effects

There's arguing amongst the money people over what to call what we're in. Some of them go with "Depression," noting that deflationary pressure, sharp and sustained job losses, and lack of money supply warrant the use of that word. Others cite that few prices have dropped, on the contrary most are still increasing, and we're going through a Recession perhaps akin to Japan in the 90s. Still others recall Stagflation, a coin termed in the 1970s when inflation raged and stimulus had little desired effect.

Stagflation would seem a better avenue to understanding what we're experiencing, and it resulted from structural similarities. From 1973 onward, America's economy reeled, net wages dropped, wealth was transferred offshore and overall quality of life diminished. Vietnam War expenses caused Nixon to nix the Gold Standard in 1971, eroding confidence in the currency. Domestic energy production had peaked, so OPEC struck with disruptive embargoes. The Fed printed money for stimulus, but it didn't get to consumers and inflation took off. Trade deficits widened and businesses failed as political policies and corporate strategies were exposed for having been out to lunch.

Meditating on these slow-motion explosions, however, Stagflation doesn't begin to capture the magnitude of events for which the languages of economics or finance themselves are inadequate. Those disciplines too are in the midst of altering precepts and analytical frameworks, struggling to keep up with commoners in the wake of an unprecedented World Property Bubble. The experts haven't seen this beast before either.

So, what is it? We have a hyper-inflationary spiral and a demand-destruction (thus deflationary) spiral going on at the same time. When you've got two strong opposing spirals, you've got a tornado. Or a Vortex. General Motors, the twentieth century's greatest company, is getting sucked up into it, the cold air keeps hitting the warm air and when it comes time to rebuild, we'll have to call the East Asia Insurance Company. This when we're in massive debt, are printing tons of hundred-dollar bills to drop out of helicopters, and are stuck in unwinnable "dumb wars" whose cost is already comparable to WWII. Call me a neophyte, but I'm not seeing a handy storm shelter to climb into.

Maybe the dollar will get sucked through that Vortex along with GM and get spit out as a minority slice in a basket of international currencies, one which prominently includes China. For many of us going forward, this will be good news. It will mean we can't finance wars or more complex weapon systems by selling bonds and then paying them off with funny money, and we'll have to figure out how to peg the dollar's value to something other than the world's oil reserves. Our economy, imaginations and energies might be forced back to living within its means, to making helpful things, real things of actual value. Would that be so terrible?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Obama The Nudgeocrat

Here are a few posts I composed in my head over the past couple weeks but didn't get around to publishing:

1) Tim Geithner Must Be Attacked With a Broken Beer Bottle (Fox-Built Hen-House, Economy)
2) Is Barack Obama An Idiot (Land War, Asia)
3) Damn You Human Xanax (Look Homeward, Asshole)
4) He Will Kill Us All (Negative Affect, Schizophrenia)

Plenty of pundits have been handing out report cards on the first hundred days, during which time I've been holding off from lambasting the 44th President, with the exceptions of the Bail-In and Afghanistan while watching the mess closely, biting nails and tongue. There is much to be not happy about. Aside: do you remember those old-fashioned vacuum-tube television sets? When you threw a can of ptomaine-ridden tomatoes through one's screen at the town dump, it was truly a vacuum and would violently suck air and glass inwards before spitting out silver dust, mercury vapor and various fine particles of deadly heavy metals. Deeply satisfying.

These days when you hurl a dense object like an unopened can of beer at a TV all the screen does is fracture into tiny outwardly radiating visual shard-fields and triangles, some lit, some not. You can still watch the random segments and try to reassemble a skewed digital kaleidoscope into coherence. Which is not satisfying at all. Media has changed a great deal since then.

We have a process-oriented centrist at the helm after two full terms of a gut-driven, divisive strength of convictions knee-biter. We could arguably use more of the latter now, and one trouble with process-oriented people is they're hard to figure out. Another is they patiently employ methods which countenance delay. Example A:
"Words are good and understanding is good, but ultimately it has to translate into concrete actions...These things take time, and the idea is you lay the groundwork and slowly, over time, if you make small efforts, they can add up into big efforts."
Obama made that statement in a town hall with Turkish students on the last day of his opening world tour through Europe and the Subcontinent. Repeat: town hall meeting. Not here. With students in Turkey. Why? He was following a rigorous process. Here it is:

1) talk with the animals; learn their languages
2) make some of them happy and offer a deal
3) let their radical fringes cut themselves out of the deal
4) wait for the needles of their opposing opinions to shift in your direction

This technique beats out consensus like dust out of a rug on a clothesline and Obama is nudging badly soiled processes back to better directions. When he met Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a sworn enemy of the United States, he smiled, shook the dictator's hand and said, "Como estas?" Chavez beamed like a kid with ten bucks in a candy store, and it was cheap. It was easy. You take what you can get and in so doing you start to load the bases before maybe hitting a double, a triple, a home run.

When he met with the House and Senate Minority Leaders about health care legislation, on the other hand, he reminded them seven times that they voted party-line against the stimulus package and said in effect, "I'm disappointed. You are acting like radical fringe who want to cut themselves out of the deal." He doesn't need them to pass what he wants by October under a technical process known as reconciliation. He warned them he's going to ram it home, and their continued bitching won't mean squat because we all want it. Get with the Program.

The remaining Pug choice is to shift left or be further marginalized. They are brittle and conflicted and have not yet burst asunder, so it's hard to tell what they'll do. But when Obama took office, only 8% of Americans polled thought the country was "moving in the right direction." Now 50% do. That's a 42-point shift in 100 days. I can rail about wedding parties being blasted in Afghanistan or Geithner felching gerbils with his friends on Wall Street, but there was a tremendous turnabout in opinion and many public hallmarks of masterful leadership in that time.

Arguing over the merits of Obama's tactics is unwise. The Nudge is working, and is effectively applied. Some arguments are even more fundamental. Bigger questions beg and sniff around if there's enough time to fix what could not be broken, yet is, and if it's really worth trying to restore our Standing in the World.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Born To Run: Lyrics, Bruce Springsteen

Was waiting in the car outside the East-Side credit union today avoiding the news and listening to classic Rock when 'Born to Run' came on. Reflected how text is obscured when it goes into song even for the Boss. Wanted to understand more about the New Jersey of his artist eyes. Fished the iPhone out of my pocket and searched for the lyrics to confirm, read them and said yep the poetry he wrote is different from the song of the proper laureate of my America. He saw the same things we did. He just took the time to grab a scrap of paper to sketch it down with a pen right then and there and beat the ore out later like a blacksmith melting language until it answered back with the right curves and tings. The words:
In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American Dream.
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
sprung from cages out on highway Nine, chrome-wheeled
fuel injected and steppin' out over the line.

Baby this town rips the bones from your back.
It's a death-trap, it's a suicide rap,
we gotta get out while we're young...
cuz tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

Wendy, let me in. I wanna be your friend--
I wanna guard your dreams and visions.
Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims
and strap your hands across my engines.
Together we could break this trap,
we'll run till we drop, and baby we'll never go back

Will you walk with me out on the wire?
Baby I'm just a scared and lonely rider,
but I gotta find out how it feels.
I want to know if love is wild, girl,
I wanna know if love is real

Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard.
The girls comb their hair in rear-view mirrors and the boys try to look so hard;
the amusement park rises bold and stark. Kids are huddled on the beach in a mist.
I wanna die with you Wendy on the streets tonight in an everlasting kiss.

The highway's jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive.
Everybody's out on the run tonight but there's no place left to hide.
Together, Wendy, we'll live with the sadness
and I'll love you with all the madness in my soul.

Someday girl I don't know when, we're gonna get to that place
where we really want to go and we'll walk in the sun.
But 'til then, tramps like us, baby we were born to run

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Torture Crack In The Bush Administration

When the NY Times felt compelled to write an anti-torture op-ed which called for the impeachment of federal judge Jay Bybee, he who was instrumental in writing the Torture Memos, it was a happily ironic moment. "Happily" because it would duly trigger a major turning point in Obama's stupid See-No-Evil policies regarding sins committed in our names; "ironic" because the New York Times chose not to at least acknowledge its past prominence in warmongering and rah-rahs in support of torture. My thought upon seeing the op-ed was this:

"Ah-ha! Finally #*@%-$^ gettin' somewhere. NYT thinks it's time for CYA."

Torture, as long predicted here, is the aperture in which to shove the crowbar for rupturing the Bush Administration asunder, and that vulnerability is sufficiently appreciated by the perpetrators. The fact that they can in domestic and international law be taken all the way down (in theory) to an execution chamber is why Dick Cheney regularly emerges to warn What Will Happen if we reverse torture policy. Now, he may sincerely believe the Taliban will attack Lake Placid and al-Qaeda will invade Wyoming. But primarily he's just trying to cover his ass and understandably so. If you were guilty of ordering war crimes, you might play a little CYA, too.

Senator Russ Feingold is on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and he's angry on both moral and turf grounds. He seemed the best hope in view to get the crack spreading out into a real Ass-Raping of the Evil-Doers, so I've occasionally written his staff to rant about the evils of torture, and have signed every petition about it I've come across. Here's what The Crowbar had to say recently when counter-punching a Sunday Talking Head:

"Part of what troubles me are the lawyers -- we should see their law school degrees -- who consciously wrote these memos justifying and explaining full well those outrageous arguments," the Wisconsin Democrat said on Tuesday in reference to the Bush-era torture memos released last week. "I cannot join the president, or his spokesman, or [chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, who said we aren't going [to prosecute these people]. I can't. I just disagree with them."

"If you want to see just how outrageous this is, I refer you to the remarks made by Peggy Noonan this Sunday," he said, referring to the longtime conservative columnist's appearance on ABC's This Week. "I frankly have never heard anything quite as disturbing as her remark that was something to the affect of: 'well sometimes you just have to move on.'"

"It is truly horrifying and unforgivable that anybody operating under the auspices of the United States of America had involvement in any of this," he said. "So I'm not even completely ready to [cede the argument] that people who devised these techniques should be off the hook. I understand the argument. I also remember when people said that they were just following orders. So that troubles me and I am thinking about it."

Obama advisors like Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod have suggested that prosecution of Bush officials is likely off the table due to political sensitivities, to not looking backwards, to Jupiter not yet being aligned with Mars, etc. Right. These two men are devout Jews, and yes, I am explicitly pointing out an inherent religion-based pro-torture bias against Muslims on the part of the Obama Administration. On the part of our entire paranoid country.

Look. We haven't been torturing Evangelicals and Born-Agains in our midst, and do thousands of them not espouse fiery cataclysms on the District of Columbia on a weekly, if not hourly, basis? As these dangerous assholes stock up on assault rifles for probably a dozen Church Shoot-Em-Ups over the next year, why, may I ask, have electrodes not been placed on their genitals in order to save their future victims?

And god help us if we were to ever torture a single Jew for, I dunno, plotting to take over the international banking system. Because then there would be books! Movies! Ongoing outrage, in memoriams, anti-defamations and never-agains ad infinitum. Even if they've trade-marked the Holocaust, why are we not torturing an Israeli security encryption provider which spies on federal and local law enforcement agencies which use its services? (Note: I refer to a company in my profession.)

We torture Muslims. Not Xtians. Not Jews. Bowing to pressure from the left and after being outed by Feingold, the New York Times reported today that White House "aides did not rule out legal sanctions for the Bush lawyers who developed the legal basis for the use of the techniques." There's a long way to go from here to hand-cuffs, much less ass-rapings or executions, but the crack is getting closer to the source. And now it's going to speed up.

UPDATE: Feingold responds to Obama's statement that he is open to prosecutions of some Bush officials:

“I am pleased that the president made clear that he has not ruled out investigations or prosecutions of those who authorized torture, or provided the legal justification for it. Horrible abuses were committed in the name of the American people, and we cannot look the other way, or just ‘move on.’ The final decision will be up to the attorney general and the president, but I urge the Justice Department to take this matter very seriously."

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Texas Governor Threatens To Secede From Union

This just happens to be what I wished for when I blew out that last birthday candle. Thank you Birthday Fairy!!

This move by Governor Rick Perry dovetails beautifully with the Dungeons and Day Jobs State's ad campaign: Texas...It's Like A Whole Other Country.

Umm, exactly. Houston we have a problem. Maybe America really is a failed experiment when your Constitutionally protected right to be a murderous hypernational boob-tard hits critical mass and people are walking in to places and opening up with automatic weapons fire already, a depressingly common event in the past 30 days, is it really so bad if we let them go? And if it does really happen, do not say it can't, it would be like having Uganda or Mexico right next door, except they would give those bastards in the UN a what-fur by not showing up to their "wimpy commie-fests."

Evil Day Bob Job, a blogger who happens to be the #1 hit if you entered "f*%@ texas" into a Google search, proposes the next tourist ad:
So, when you're looking for scorpions, poisonous snakes, scorching heat and human rights abuses, don't go all the way to Mexico! You can get all that and more right here in Texas! "It's Like A Whole Other Country That Was Founded By Your Abusive Brother-In-Law Next Door."
I can't wait to not go, and I'm scared to google-image the same phrase.

Note: Be afraid, be afraid, do not image-search that phrase unless Safe Search is set to "China."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mousterian Age Industry & HandyMan Tool

Speculative pre-historic Question of the Month: how did they clip their nails?

Last month in the spirit of not having any right whatsoever to do so, I figured out (to my satisfaction, at least) why Neanderthals went extinct. I promised to attach a pic of a prized jasper tool which hangs above my fireplace "soon."

Apart from being a distinctive, compact and versatile tool which can be used as a cutter, scraper, and borer depending on which side is applied, and from having a shape perfect for receiving a thumb, what compelled me about this artifact was that it was made of beautiful, unweathered jasper. Jasper was coveted in the ancient world for jewelry and tools, and whoever made this unique could and did make more.

You are looking at a sharp flake of great prestige, which also was a basis of stone-age trade although this three-in-one was, one suspects, kept off the market as a personal effect. It was flaked by what looks like a semi-Levallois technique but isn't anything like the turtle-shaped circles of the Acheulian Era 100,000 years ago, nor is it nearly as thin or as specialized as the Chatelperronian flint flakes which started to appear 32,000 years ago. However old, it is a masterpiece, even sui generis and will still cut flesh.

It is from Fontmaure one of Europe's most famous Neanderthal sites near a modern-day farm and this hue of jasper tools has only been found there. The Neanderthals at Fontmaure lived above-ground, village-dwellers, and most tools from there are smaller than my HandyMan, as if the jasper was rationed to milk as many tools out of each precious core as efficiently as possible. Other objects found there are made of sandstone, flint and light gray quartz.

The light gray quartz artifacts originated from a site one hundred kilometers away, clear evidence of trade. I don't know how many above-ground Neanderthal sites exist, but there surely aren't many, and remains of both humans and animals have been excavated in Fontmaure's strata. Interestingly, limestone balls were found of a sort still used by natives in South America as a throwing weapon to tangle around legs, as well as triangular mine-pyramids perhaps used for decoration or ritual.

The HandyMan hangs directly over where I keep my Leatherman toolset. They are companions beneath a pastel blue piece of the Berlin Wall. Maybe someday I'll acquire this Fontmaure left-handed jasper handaxe.
I hope they didn't use that one for fingernails.

Maple Syrup Slurpings

Lord Running Boy hosted a sleep-over one recent Friday with his cousin, whose tribal nickname is Beatee. They requested pancakes for the next morning. This was Beatee's plate.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Be Careful Of Your Brain's Reflexes

I'm watching 'America's Next Top Model' while reading a written interview Osama bin Laden gave September 28th, 2001. The juxtaposition is just about perfect. Afghanistan makes Vietnam look like the La Jolla yacht club. If Obama is serious about expanding the war into Pakistan, he has traded in his cigarettes for crack. Here's what everybody in Pakistan already knows:

Daily UMMAT: You have been accused of involvement in the attacks in New York and Washington. What do you want to say about this? If you are not involved, who might be?

USAMA BIN LADEN: In the name of God, the most beneficent, the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, Who is the creator of the whole universe and Who made the Earth as an abode for peace, for the whole humankind. Allah is the Sustainer, who sent Prophet Muhammad for our guidance. I am thankful to The Ummat Group of Publications, which gave me the opportunity to convey my viewpoint to the people, particularly the valiant and true Muslim people of Pakistan who refused to believe the lies of the demon (Pakistani military dictator General Pervez Musharraf).

I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle. It is the United States which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children and common people of other faiths, particularly the followers of Islam.

The U.S. has no friends, nor does it want to keep any because the prerequisite of friendship is to come to the level of the friend or consider him at par with you. America does not want to see anyone equal to it. It expects slavery from others. Therefore, other countries are either its slaves or subordinates. However, our case is different. We have pledged slavery to God Almighty alone and after this pledge there is no possibility to become the slave of someone else. If we do that it will be disregardful to both our Sustainer and his fellow beings. Most of the world nations upholding their freedom are the religious ones, which are the enemies of the United States, or the U.S. itself considers them as its enemies.

The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the U.S. system, but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology could survive. They can be anyone, from Russia to Israel and from India to Serbia. In the U.S. itself, there are dozens of well-organized and well-equipped groups, which are capable of causing a large-scale destruction. Then you cannot forget the American Jews, who are annoyed with President Bush ever since the elections in Florida and want to avenge him.

Then there are intelligence agencies in the U.S., which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year. This [funding issue] was not a big problem till the existence of the former Soviet Union but after that the budget of these agencies has been in danger. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usama and Taleban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush Administration approved a budget of 40 billion dollars. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance. Now they will spend the money for their expansion and for increasing their importance.

I will give you an example. Drug smugglers from all over the world are in contact with the U.S. secret agencies. These agencies do not want to eradicate narcotics cultivation and trafficking because their importance will be diminished. The people in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Department are encouraging drug trade so that they could show performance and get millions of dollars worth of budget. General Noriega was made a drug baron by the CIA and, in need, he was made a scapegoat. In the same way, whether it is President Bush or any other U.S. President, they cannot bring Israel to justice for its human rights abuses or to hold it accountable for such crimes.

What is this? Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked as to who carried out the attacks.

Yoanna won the model competition, even though all the judges including Tyra Banks admitted to liking Mercedes better as the war machine grinds its way 8 years later into Pakistan. They're calling it the Af-Pak War now. Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll, ten thousand ships have traveled thee in vain.

Daily UMMAT: Are there other safe areas other than Afghanistan, where you can continue jehad?

USAMA BIN LADEN: There are areas in all parts of the world where strong jehadi forces are present, from Indonesia to Algeria, from Kabul to Chechnya, from Bosnia to Sudan, and from Burma to Kashmir. Then it is not the problem of my person. I am a helpless fellowman of God, constantly in the fear of my accountability before God. It is not the question of me but of Islam and, in Islam too, of jehad. Thanks to God, those waging a jehad can walk today with their heads raised. Jehad was still present when there was no Usama and it will remain as such even when Usama is no longer there. Allah opens up ways and creates loves in the hearts of people for those who walk on the path of Allah with their lives, property and children. Believe it, through jehad, a man gets everything he desires. And the biggest desire of a Muslim is the life after death. Martyrdom is the shortest way of attaining an eternal life.

Daily UMMAT: What do you say about the Pakistan Government policy on Afghanistan attack?

USAMA BIN LADEN: We are thankful to the Momin and valiant people of Pakistan who erected a blockade in front of the evil forces and stood in the first file of battle. Pakistan is a great hope for the Islamic brotherhood. Its people are awakened, organized and rich in the spirit of faith. They backed Afghanistan in its war against the Soviet Union and extended every help to the mojahedeen (freedom fighters) and the Afghan people. Then these are very Pakistanis who are standing shoulder by shoulder with the Taleban. If such people emerge in just two countries, the domination of the West will diminish in a matter of days. Our hearts beat with Pakistan and, God forbid, if a difficult time comes we will protect it with our blood. Pakistan is sacred for us like a place of worship. We are the people of jehad and fighting for the defense of Pakistan is the best of all jehads to us. It does not matter for us as to who reforms Pakistan. The important thing is that the spirit of jehad is alive and stronger in the hearts of the Pakistani people.

- Source: Ummat, Urdu-language daily newspaper based in Karachi, Pakistan - Friday, 28 September 2001 - pages 1, 7. http://www.khilafah.com

Friday, April 03, 2009

Why The Charges Were Dropped Against Former Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens

There is a core of about 12 senior Senators and Reps who control the portions of wealth and privilege to most actors in government and their clients. It's kind of like a consulting firm in which the most important things to keep straight are shifting motives and where the bodies are buried, and they can't be in the core without earning black belts in corruption. Ted Stevens was there for a long time, but he got pushed out of the Circle of Trust, out of the Tree House when he openly cried on the Senate floor, "You're all going to pay for this!" So it was no surprise when corruption charges were levied against him.

Still, I was puzzled and disgusted when the new Justice dropped the charges. With that and so many other things, however, the former Department was dealing Stevens a hand from the same marked deck as it did everybody else. In a highly competent and intellectually unsparing post, the Bee Keeper's Apprentice lays out why Eric Holder did the right thing in dropping the charges. The prosecutors had messed with the Rules of Evidence:

For the last eight years, we have all seen what can happen when the highest prosecutors in the land are ruled not by the rules of evidence and law, but by the rules of cronyism and politics. This is why I believe that President Obama hit it out of the park when he appointed Eric Holder as Attorney General. Holder seems to know, and respect, the rules of evidence and law. We don't have to be happy with his decision to drop the case against former Senator from Alaska Ted Stevens, but we do have to respect Holder's decision. Stevens, who was indicted and convicted of ethics violations for not disclosing "gifts" in excess of $250,000, will walk free on a technicality. And I agree that he should walk.

Notes were found in the former prosecutors files. Notes that would have helped Stevens defense attorneys to cross-examine the testimony of Bill Allen, whose testimony helped convict Stevens. Notes that were not provided to the defense team during discovery. Notes that might have cast doubt on Allen's testimony, which suddenly doesn't look quite as bullet-proof as it once did. Notes that were required by the rules of evidence to be turned over to the defense.

How typical. They stacked the deck, and didn't even need to against Stevens. Bee, a legal beagle by day, clarified not just this case but also its over-arching umbrella. The first and most important thing for our country to do is start playing by the rules again, by our good well-proven rules. Helluva post, read in full if you want here. In turn, Bee triggered a related insight.

There's a different angle on prosecuting Bush: his modes of behavior aren't going to change. He is a professional criminal. It's what he does. He has in no wise gone straight and he's going to do other illegal things going forward. If I were Holder's boss, I'd tell him to leave the past to Congress and assign a small team of smart kids to keep an eye on W and his transactions. He will transgress further because of what he is. Guaranteed. The opportunity to impeach or prosecute him for the past was already gone, but there is plenty of uncertain future ahead, and the game is about making the rules re-apply. Even to him.

Globalization Gothic

Politico is reporting Obama told a meeting of Bank CEOs, “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks.” Just as my natives and I were reaching for the farm implements, he picked up the meme. Coincidence or not, let's get out the whetstones for a few minutes while we sharpen our blades and prongs.

Consider the cheap-o gifts to England's PM and the Queen. DVDs and an iPod. What message do they send? These tokens don't have to be painstakingly wrought by hand from a brass cannon on the HMS Victory into a pen-holder to be culturally valid. You get them at Best Buy. The gifts were cheap and commonplace yet powerful. They were chosen carefully for their symbolism to refute and say it's ok for a head of state to give a simple gift which is not an everlasting obligation.

Michelle Robinson Obama, a black American woman descended from slaves, steadied the old Queen of England with her right arm on their first meeting, and Elizabeth demolished protocol by embracing her back. Kenya used to be one of England's troublesome colonies when the Queen was a young woman. I would invite you to read Plutarch's Lives and find symbology more powerful.

Our fearless leader is on a tour of Europe and held a town hall in Strasbourg. I've been there, had a fantastic five-course meal for twelve bucks and it's long been a No-Man's Land between France and Germany. Obama chose it as the venue for a Town Meeting. What other President would have? None other. He restored much lost world goodwill this week.

We are still being looted, and ask not what your banks can do for you...ask what you can do for your banks. The bleeding continues, and our currency is on IV. This guy has studied long at the feet of the Masters, and he is out-doing them. I don't know if it's fixable, it probably is not. But he is no Blair, he knew the train wreck he was striding into and I would have none other.

Obama knows his job above all else is to set the tone, to level a framework tilted out of whack. He is doing that job well. Evil details race astray like innumerable cockroackes and while Obama is an economic naif it doesn't really matter because that prostituted pooch was already screwed. I want to see malefactors frog-marched more than anyone else because I understand what they did but I also know that politicians are scapegoating bankers and honest brokers for the bribes they took and the laws they, the legal gatekeepers, sold and allowed to be changed.

Obama is a politician. That's what he had to become and it's a dirty business. But even in the dirt there can be standards, regulations even, and he is out to restore them.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Pitchforks and Torches

While Joe Klein and the rest of the D.C./New York punditocracy insists that either A) the public really isn't all that angry at the kleptocracy and the anger is just a made up fantasy by opportunists or B) that public anger is just momentary, a new Quinnipiac poll tells the crystal clear truth:

David Sirota :: Poll: Yes, It's True, The Public Is Extremely Angry
Despite President Barack Obama's efforts to calm the populist rhetoric, Americans remain mad as hell and want to vent their anger on corporations, the wealthy, and anyone else they see as privileged...What we are seeing in public opinion polls is a wave of populism that shows no sign of cresting. It is likely to remain high, and perhaps grow...

Consider this: Four out of five voters think politicians in Washington, D.C., should limit the pay of executives at companies that get federal bailout money. Three in 10 voters embrace the historically un-American notion that government should control the pay for executives of firms that don't get any cash from Uncle Sam...Or, how about the finding that only one in seven thinks executives of companies that needed federal help were victims of adverse economic circumstances they could not have anticipated. Three-quarters of Americans think these business leaders were either incompetent or crooked.

Perhaps that is why almost half of Americans want federal prosecutors to be more aggressive in pursuing criminal charges against these business leaders, compared to one in 10 who wants them to be less aggressive.

Of course these numbers are very, very frightening to those who spend their time defending the status quo from the gilded ramparts of the Establishment media. So I understand the self-interest of Klein and ass-cleaners like him who to try to use their platforms to tamp down the anger. But no amount of spin can obscure these kind of numbers.

Yes, newsflash - people are enraged. The problem isn't the anger, as the media would have us believe - it is what everyone is rightfully angry at.* The sooner the Village accepts this, the sooner it will start reflecting reality.

* Based on his rhetoric, President Obama (as opposed to many of his aides) seems to grasp exactly this, and thus his poll numbers remain encouragingly strong, which is a very good thing.