Zebra 3 Report by Joe Anybody
Saturday, 12 December 2009
The People Speak (links included)
Mood:  bright
Now Playing: Howard Zinn - TV - and - WebSite information

The People Speak airs on History

On Sunday, December 13, at 8 PM Eastern and Pacific / 7 PM Central


The long awaited documentary film inspired by Howard Zinn's books A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History of the United States will air on History 

Tune in!

More details are at



Using dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries and speeches of everyday Americans, the documentary feature film THE PEOPLE SPEAK gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history, forging a nation from the bottom up with their insistence on equality and justice.

Narrated by acclaimed historian Howard Zinn and based on his best-selling books, A People's History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People's History, THE PEOPLE SPEAK illustrates the relevance of these passionate historical moments to our society today and reminds us never to take liberty for granted.

THE PEOPLE SPEAK is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn, co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn, and features dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O'Malley, Morgan Freeman, Q'orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.






Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:05 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 12 December 2009 2:11 PM PST
What the OPR Torture Report Will Not Say
Mood:  amorous
Now Playing: Torture Memos and Judge ByBee Bullshit: by David Swanson

What the OPR Torture Report Will Not Say

Annotated Aggression: Being Jay Bybee

By David Swanson 


It's October 23, 2002, and you're Jay Bybee, the man in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel in the United States Department of Justice. John Yoo and a bunch of other lawyers willing to claim that absolutely anything is legal work for you. But you'd much rather be a judge. That would be a cushy job, a lifetime job, a job with a book of the Bible named for it, a job where you would get to decide which crimes to legalize rather than being told by someone else, a job where you might eventually even get to rule on the legality of some of the crimes you were presently engaged in committing. At the moment, however, if you want to become a judge you're going to have to follow instructions, and that means legalizing the greatest crime of them all. Millions may die in the process, but you will get that nomination and you will become a judge.

You pray for divine guidance and sit down to write (or at least sign) this apology for, authorization of, and confession to mass murder, another term for which is often genocide. Here's your opening line in all caps:




This is a remarkable thing for you (or even Yoo, your psychotic sidekick) to have written, because the Constitution is the supreme law domestically, and it gives Congress the exclusive power to decide to wage war. And under the United Nations Charter, no nation has the authority to attack another. But you were Jay Bybee. You were the man. You were the authority handing out personalized torture laws for individual victims. You were, in fact, already a judge convicting and sentencing people in lengthy rulings before "legalizing" and imposing their sadistic punishments. Granting U.S. presidents the power to launch aggressive wars didn't trouble you in the way it might have someone who cared about people and their lives. But this single memo would mean far more pain and suffering than all of your soon-to-be-famous torture memos put together.

You added a bit more to your composition, about 50 pages more in fact. You (or whoever wrote this for you) began thus:

"The President possesses constitutional authority to use military force against Iraq to protect United States national interests."


Now you were showing off, digging yourself deeper. Now you would need to explain how the United States could have national interests in somebody else's distant nation that outweighed that nation's own interest in not being attacked or invaded.

And you were just warming up. You dug deeper:

"This independent constitutional authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution."


This is apparently a reference to the 1991 version of this type of congressional buck passing. In fact, such a resolution could not alter the Constitution to either remove or augment anything. In addition, it was more than a decade old. That wouldn't faze you, Jay Bybee, because you'd already given the president "independent constitutional authority" to treat such an authorization as redundant and superfluous. Its primary purpose was to pack these pages and obscure the simplicity of your primary argument, if that's a name merited by your bald assertion that verily this is that.


You did some international digging too:

"Using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law because it would be authorized by the United Nations Security Council or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense."


Now you were digging deep indeed. By citing the two exceptions that the UN Charter makes to its ban on war, you were acknowledging its authority. But neither exception applied. The UN rejected a US attack on Iraq as something it could not authorize, and such an attack would -- of course -- not be self-defense. But that didn't matter either, because you'd already begun to alter the law. You invented something called "anticipatory self-defense." But international law did not recognize such a thing, and no international authority agreed that it legalized an attack on Iraq. Your citation-packed memo failed to present any citations for this hooey.

Through such alterations, of course, you were increasing the "legal" acceptability of almost any future war launched by any nation against any other.

What could possibly be more damaging? Or more well documented? Your crime is in black and white and continues for almost 50 more pages. Yet, as of December 2009, congressional committees were pretending to await a report on your memos from the Justice Department itself, with the incorporation of watering-down edits from you and your co-conspirators. Even bar associations were awaiting the same report before concluding that a desk-chair mass-murderer like you was unfit to be a lawyer.

Rule for civilians: first kill all the lawyers. Rule for lawyers: first kill everyone else? 

This "memo" you were drafting for White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales was going to be treated as a secret law, but it would remain on record as some sort of quasi-law after becoming public. Years later it still hasn't been rejected (its existence in fact barely acknowledged), even if your public reputation has been ruined and the failure of Congress to impeach you now in your current office is commonly cited as evidence of the death of Congress as an institution. In fact, you're facing civil prosecutions at home and a possible indictment in Spain for having drafted much less criminal memos than this one. Here's what you wrote to Gonzales, who had asked you on behalf of President George W. Bush to legalize aggressive wars for him:


"You have asked our Office whether the President has the authority, under both domestic and international law, to use military force against Iraq. This memorandum confirms our prior advice to you regarding the scope of the President's authority. We conclude that the President possesses constitutional authority for ordering the use of force against Iraq to protect our national interests. This independent authority is supplemented by congressional authorization in the form of the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution, Pub. L. No. 102-1, 105 Stat. 3 (1991), which supports the use of force to secure Iraq's compliance with its international obligations following the liberation of Kuwait, and the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224 (2001), which supports military action against Iraq if the President determines Iraq provided assistance to the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001."


Now this is curious. You've already granted the president absolute authority. Then you've granted him authority on the basis of an AUMF from 1991. Now you throw in the 2001 version that allowed the attack on Afghanistan. That one will provide additional redundant authorization, you claim, if Iraq provided assistance to 9-11, or rather: if the president determines that to be the case. Congress passed yet another non-declaration of war less than two weeks before the date on your memo. This one, even if you chose to accept it as constitutional, had terms attached to it that George W. Bush had no intention of complying with and in fact violated. And none of these domestic justifications for the crime you are here "legalizing" fit with any of the international justifications you were alleging in this same memo. A war is no more authorized by the UNSC or defensive because Congress misplaces its spine or the president "determines" that pigs fly. And your arguments for the domestic legality of the war do not attempt to portray it as defensive of U.N.-approved.

So, you returned to the international arena with this thesis, to be argued for below:

"In addition, using force against Iraq would be consistent with international law, because it would be authorized by the United Nations ("U.N.") Security Council, or would be justified as anticipatory self-defense."


And you were still just clearing your throat:

"This memorandum is divided into three sections. First, we explain the background to the current conflict with Iraq, touching upon the U.N. Security Council resolutions related to the Persian Gulf War and its aftermath, and highlighting the situations in which the United States has used force against Iraq between 1991 and the present. Second, we discuss the President's authority under domestic law to direct military action against Iraq, examining both his constitutional authority and supplementary congressional support. Finally, we detail the justification under international law for the United States to use force against Iraq, considering the circumstances in which the U.N. Security Council has authorized such action and the scenarios in which it would be appropriate to use force in anticipatory self-defense."


Appropriate? If what is legal morphs into what is appropriate, and the determiner of what is appropriate is Jay Bybee, what are the law books for? And what would best make an aggressive war appropriate? Why, pretending it was simply an ordinary and even defensive continuation of a war long-since legalized. Making that case, however, would require providing some background. Forgive me if I quote and then quickly dismiss a large stinking, steaming pile of it (background). I've deleted your footnotes throughout, by the way, Mr. Bybee, simply because they are in the same vein as the rest of the document and consequently make it even worse, not better. Those wanting to read the footnotes can go to your original:




PDF.To continue reading this annotated blogger's edition of Bybee's confession to mass-murder, open one of these documents:
PDFWordOld Word.


David Swanson is the author of the new book "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union" by Seven Stories Press.  You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book. To receive updates from After Downing Street register at http://afterdowningstreet.org/user/registerTo subscribe to other lists go tohttp://davidswanson.org/node/921  

Posted by Joe Anybody at 1:07 PM PST
Updated: Saturday, 12 December 2009 1:15 PM PST
GITMO innocdent prisoneer released 12-2009
Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: oooppppss! A mistake ...? Or maybe more like "abuse and neglect"

Innocent Guantánamo Torture Victim Fouad al-Rabiah Is Released in Kuwait

by: Andy Worthington, t r u t h o u t | Report

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: takomabibelot / Flickr)

The long ordeal of Fouad al-Rabiah, an innocent man and a 50-year-old father of four, who had been in US custody for almost exactly eight years, finally came to an end today, when he was flown back to his homeland of Kuwait from Guantánamo, where he had spent the majority of those lost years, after several brutal months in US custody in Afghanistan.

Until the moment of his release, everything about his treatment at the hands of the US government was shameful.Twelve weeks ago, when District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly granted his habeas corpus petition, and ordered his release, she revealed the most extraordinary - and extraordinarily depressing - story. This shone the most unflinching light on Guantánamo as a place where men, who were rounded up for bounty payments by the US military's allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and were never adequately screened on capture, were then sent to Guantánamo. Once there, in the absence of any information to back up the administration's claims that they were "the worst of the worst," they became the victims of false allegations made by other prisoners (who were either coerced to do so, or were bribed with the promise of improved living conditions), and were then tortured and abused to make false confessions.

During the prisoners' habeas corpus petitions over the last 14 months, numerous examples of dubious allegations made by unreliable witnesses have been exposed by the judges, as well as other examples of cases that "defie[d] common sense" or exposed the use of torture, but until al-Rabiah's case was examined, the existence of a clear chain of torture and threats inflicted to produce false confessions at Guantánamo had never been revealed with such alarming clarity.

Al-Rabiah's story began when he traveled to Afghanistan in 2001 to provide humanitarian aid, but was caught up in the chaos following the US-led invasion, and ended up in the hands of the US military. What followed was truly shameful. In Guantánamo, unreliable witnesses - whose unreliability was acknowledged by the authorities - claimed that he had met Osama bin Laden and had provided him with a suitcase of money, and also claimed that he had played a supporting role to al-Qaeda in the battle of Tora Bora, the showdown between al-Qaeda and US-supported Afghan forces in December 2001, when bin Laden escaped into Pakistan.

Under torture, which included, but was not limited to prolonged sleep deprivation - being moved from cell to cell every few hours over a period lasting for several weeks at least, in a program that was euphemistically known as the "frequent flier program" - al-Rabiah finally broke down, inventing a story to please his captors, and dutifully repeating it in 2004 during his Combatant Status Review tribunal, a military review board designed to establish that he had been correctly designated as an "enemy combatant," who could continue to be held without charge or trial.

Although the authorities knew that the witnesses were unreliable, and interrogators and other personnel cast serious doubts on al-Rabiah's story, he was, nevertheless, put forward for a trial by military commission  at Guantánamo in November 2008, based on the credible-sounding story he had parroted at his tribunal, and it was only when Judge Kollar-Kotelly was able to review his case that the whole sordid story emerged.

As she noted in her ruling, in one of several passages loaded with controlled disdain for the Bush administration (and for the Obama administration for pursuing the case):

Not only did al-Rabiah's interrogators repeatedly conclude that [his] confessions were not believable - which al-Rabiah's counsel attributes to abuse and coercion, some of which is supported by the record - but it is also undisputed that al-Rabiah confessed to information that his interrogators obtained from either alleged eyewitnesses who are not credible and as to whom the Government has now largely withdrawn any reliance, or from sources that never even existed ... If there exists a basis for al-Rabiah's indefinite detention, it most certainly has not been presented to this Court.

What makes this story even more shocking is that al-Rabiah's innocence was established in the summer of 2002, when a CIA analyst and an Arabic expert interviewed him as part of a fact-finding mission to Guantánamo, which revealed that a large number of the men held "had no connection to terrorism whatsoever." As Jane Mayer described his findings about al-Rabiah in her book, "The Dark Side":

One man was a rich Kuwaiti businessman who took a trip to a different part of the world every year to do charity work. In 2001, the country he chose was Afghanistan. "He wasn't a jihadi, but I told him he should have been arrested for stupidity," the CIA officer recalled. The man was furious with the United States for rounding him up. He mentioned that every year up until then, he had bought himself a new Cadillac, but when he was released, he said, he would never buy another American car. He was switching to Mercedes.

What followed was even more disturbing and demonstrates, succinctly, how the "enemy combatant" program developed by the Bush administration was fueled by the most damaging arrogance. As Mayer explained, when John Bellinger, the legal adviser to the National Security Council (NSC), and Gen. John Gordon, the NSC's senior terrorism expert, learned of the agent's report and tried to reveal the information to President Bush to ask him to urgently review the cases of the men held at Guantánamo, a meeting with Alberto Gonzales, who was then the White House counsel, was hijacked by David Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's legal counsel, who dismissed their concerns by declaring, imperiously, "No, there will be no review. The President has determined that they are ALL enemy combatants. We are not going to revisit it!"

As Fouad al-Rabiah prepares to greet his family for the first time in over eight years, having spent the last 12 weeks detained at Guantánamo for no reason whatsoever (beyond the two weeks' notice demanded by Congress before any prisoner is released), David Cynamon, one of his attorneys, provided me by email with the following statement on behalf of the legal team that worked so hard to secure his release:

We are pleased that the US Government has at long last complied with the court order to return Mr. al-Rabiah to Kuwait. The court's opinion in his case is proof that his release is long overdue. Mr. al-Rabiah is an innocent man. His complete innocence is clearly demonstrated in the trial court's decision, which the U.S. Government did not attempt to appeal. In fact, at the very outset of Mr. al- Rabiah's confinement, the United States' own expert intelligence analyst concluded Mr. al-Rabiah was an innocent man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, this innocent citizen of one of the United States' best allies was wrongfully imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay for almost eight years, during which he was tortured, abused, and coerced into making false confessions. We call upon President Obama to provide both a formal apology on behalf of the United States and appropriate compensation for Mr. al-Rabiah's ordeal. Mr. al- Rabiah can never reclaim the eight years he lost at Guantánamo Bay - and the United States must not simply turn and forget.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 1:58 AM PST
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
The End of the Washington Times _Pink Slips coming
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: corporate news shame and reconfiguration for their next demise
Topic: MEDIA

The end of the Wash. Times and Rev. Moon's right-wing charity

December 08, 2009 8:42 am ET

You'd think that somebody with a direct line to the Almighty, and tapped by Jesus to save mankind on Earth, would be able to come up with a better business plan for running a daily newspaper. But, alas, after nearly three decades of unrelenting financial losses, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon, a federal tax cheat, accused cult leader, and founder of the Unification Church, has decided to pull out. Actually, according to news reports, it's more like Moon's U.S. college-educated sons, as part of an internal family power struggle, have decided to finally cut off the endless stream of Asian church cash that's kept The Washington Times afloat.

With the announcement that 40 percent of the Times' staff is getting pink-slipped, and that the daily's no longer even going to bother with traditional who/what/where/when/why reporting, instead publishing an opinion-heavy publication that will be free of charge at a diminished number of local outlets, Times owners look like they're angling to be a Weekly Standard wannabe, churning out lots of predictable GOP Noise Machine opinion prattle. (Paging Andrew Breitbart!) What is clear is that the daily's days as a functioning newspaper are now over.

R.I.P. The Washington Times.

At this time of reflection, it's worth pondering two rather astonishing facets about the Times and its bizarre life and looming death. The first is the deep irony of how the Times, a clarion voice of partisan right-wing values, was run as a charity for nearly three decades and whose business model made a mockery of the free-marketplace system supposedly cherished by conservatives. The second is the even deeper irony of how the Times was owned by a delusional prophet whose apocalyptic visions made an even bigger mockery of the Christian values supposedly cherished by conservative activists.

Indeed, the woeful Times has for decades stood at the center of a Beltway marriage-of-convenience for the ages, as conservatives nearly developed cataracts turning a collective blind eye to the glaringly obvious contradictions that Moon's worldview created with conservatives. (FYI, Moon proclaims to be more powerful than God, that Jesus was a failure, and that dictatorial rule is best. Hmm.....)

The failed Times venture was nonetheless a shining example of how conservative ideologues view journalism. To them, it's not a craft to be used for public good (or even to make money, as it turns out), but a tool to be used for mainly propaganda purposes. And specifically, in Moon's case, it was used to impress his friends back in Seoul, South Korea, and to inflate the influence of his Unification Church.

The messianic Moon, who has referred to himself as "humanity's Savior," never cared about journalism in the traditional, American, free-marketplace sense of the word. Yes, he launched a product that looked like a newspaper, but its central goal was never really to inform its readers. Its goal seemed more often to misinform and to enhance Moon's reputation outside the United States. Moon and Unification Church leaders used the newspaper as a symbol, most often in Asia, to suggest that Moon moved freely among world leaders. That the newspaper in 2009 had a modest circulation roughly matching that of the Chattanooga Times Free Press was irrelevant to the paper's publishers, although the newspaper's evaporating readership probably was not lost on the Times' shrinking band of local advertisers.

Now, I'm not a press hater. And unlike conservative media critics, I don't take pleasure in watching news orgs struggle financially. I don't relish a world with fewer hard-working journalists. (I think democracies are best served with more journalists.) But I am hard-pressed to think of one thing that will be missed about the Times.

Indeed, the problem most recently wasn't that the Times was a Moonie newspaper, per se; it was that the Times became a chronically dishonest, and often proudly hateful, one. Indeed, the Moonie connection over time became largely irrelevant, in part because the Unification Church today barely even exists as a religious entity in America. (Experts suggest the movement boasts less than 5,000 members nationwide.)

The real problem, and the real damage the daily was doing to public discourse, was that the Times, like the rest of the right-wing movement post-Obama Inauguration Day, ran off the rails in 2009. And much like Fox News, it cut whatever ceremonial newsroom ties it still had with actual journalism.

I'm tempted to call the Times a failed news experiment. But it seems obvious that Moon knew it was going to fail financially, so it wasn't really an experiment. In other words, Moon may be the only big-city publisher in American history who set out to launch a money-losing newspaper; the only big-city American publisher who honestly did not care, nor did he ever expect, his newspaper to turn a profit -- or even come close.

Moon and the Times' parent company never open their books, but it's been estimated the self-proclaimed messiah has spent nearly $3 billion propping up the right-wing daily since its inception in 1982. As the paper now implodes, Moon is certainly the proud owner of the most expensive failed newspaper in the world, and it's possible that the Times stands as the most expensive failed American news property. Ever.

The irony, of course, is that the American conservative movement proudly -- and loudly -- worships at the altar of the marketplace. (No handouts!) And specifically when it comes to the media marketplace, the movement insists newspapers can no longer sustain themselves, in part, because they're so liberal that they've lost touch with news consumers, and that's why subscribers are abandoning the dailies. And that's why the dailies deserve to fail.

But oops, The Washington Times (not to mention the right-wing New York Post) has been losing subscribers by the tens-of-thousands in recent years, and if ever left strictly to the beloved marketplace, the Times would have been shuttered years ago for the simple reason that (surprise!) there is no mass market demand for the often shoddy right-wing product.

As a for-profit business, The Washington Times could never sustain itself. Period. So instead, its right-wing ideologue owner supported the daily as a form of conservative welfare -- as a charity. The Times was run for decades as sort of right-wing workfare project as Moon created hundreds of unneeded newsroom jobs, paid for in the name of giving its owner a (money-losing) media platform.

Of course the other glaring disconnect (or blatant hypocrisy, if you prefer) was the way the strongly Evangelical-flavored conservative movement embraced a free-spending media baron who, thanks to his own fantastic claims of divinity and looming world domination, made a mockery out of Christian traditions.


I am God's ambassador, sent to earth with his full authority. I am sent to accomplish his command to save the world's six billion people, restoring them to heaven with the original goodness in which they were created. The five great saints and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin, who committed all manner of barbarity and murders on earth, and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways, and been reborn as new persons.

For those who might not know, the Korean-born Moon claims that at the age of 16, Jesus appeared to him in the mountains, on an Easter Sunday, and told him he'd been selected by God to accomplish the mission Jesus himself was unable to complete before he was crucified. Moon's task as God's new Messiah was to create "an "automatic theocracy to rule the world." (aka the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.)


And as former Unification Church official Michael Warder once told The New Republic, "Within the Moon movement, there is no foundation for the ideas of freedom, the rule of law and the dignity of the individual as they are understood in the West."

Double yikes.

Recall that a 1978 congressional investigation reported "reliable information" tying Moon's church to the Korean Central Intelligence Agency.

Triple yikes.

And don't forget that Moon was convicted of falsifying records in order to avoid paying income taxes.

Quadruple yikes.

And this: Moon claims to have communicated with God, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed. Moon also claims to have freed Adolf Hitler from hell, and that 36 former U.S. presidents have all endorsed him from beyond the grave.

What that kind of brazen nuttiness ever had to do with conservative values remains a mystery. But the Moonie checks were cashed all over town as Beltway conservative activists embraced Moon and his largesse, which for decades poured into right-wing think tanks. It paid for elaborate anti-communism conferences; it lined the pockets of high-profile guest speakers; and of course sustained a newspaper that could not otherwise sustain itself.

It kept alive a newspaper that utterly failed in the marketplace.

And no, I can't say I'm going to miss The Washington Times.

See comments here: http://mediamatters.org/columns/200912080004


Posted by Joe Anybody at 9:40 PM PST
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
I am supporting Dennis Kucinich in his anti-war resolutions
Mood:  caffeinated
Now Playing: Kucinich and his efforts to stop this war
Topic: WAR

Kucinich Resolution to End the War Dear Friends,

(December 9, 2009) Congressman Dennis Kucinich is circulating two "privileged resolutions" to trigger votes to end the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Congressman Kucinich, in a written release, earlier today stated:
"Today, I will begin circulating two privileged resolutions which will trigger debate and votes on a timely withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan."

"Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution of the United States makes it Congress' responsibility to determine whether or not we go to war or stay at war. Consistent with Article I, Section 8, the privileged resolutions will invoke the War Powers Resolution of 1973. I ask for your support of these resolutions, which will be introduced in the House in January."

"Yesterday, with the U.S. Secretary of Defense at his side, the President of Afghanistan declared that his country's security forces will need financial and training assistance from the United States for the next 15-20 years."

"We cannot afford these wars. We cannot afford the loss of lives. We cannot afford the cost to taxpayers. We cannot afford to fail to exercise our constitutional right to end the wars."

"Please sign onto the privileged resolutions to end the wars and to bring our troops home."

"Stand up for our troops. Stand up for the truth. Stand up for the Constitution and Congress' responsibility."




Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 December 2009 2:00 PM PST
Monday, 7 December 2009
The Factory
Mood:  not sure
Now Playing: LED's & USB's help create pollution, and capitalisms poverty

The Factory



By John Biggs on December 7, 2009


The driver pulled up to a small office complex in the heart of the city and beckoned us into the back of his scuffed white van. The surface of the vehicle was caked in dust and the seats, clad in new blue velvet, were sized for someone much smaller. I curled up in the back and we were off into the city, cars coming at all sides and bikes darting out in front of the unflappable driver, his smile never wavering as we drove.


I was on my way to a factory outside of Shenzhen, a city of 14 million people mostly dedicated to the manufacture of the things we buy. If it beeps, makes phone calls, or increasingly, if you can wear it, it’s probably come from out here. We roll through the city to the outskirts and then onto a wide five-lane highway that rolls up through the smog, past rocks and hills that look like a stage set for a Kung Fu fable. This is modern China, a place of conflicting images and a world of untrammeled growth.

The factories are about forty minutes outside of town in a special economic area dedicated to commerce. Sadly, the smoke from the endless stream of cars and trucks heading back and forth from the manufacturing center along with whatever is coming out of the factories themselves casts a pall on the landscape; little can be done about that right now, though. Motorcycles are outlawed here for safety and environmental reasons, and if this van is indicative of the current state of repair of many work vehicles, it’s going to take a long time to scrub this city’s skies clean again. Most of this most recent smog comes thanks to this chilly November. People outside of town – and in – are burning wood. It won’t get clear again until the Spring and then the Summer will bring idling cars, their air conditioners cranked up in the heat.

We trundle along into the economic zone, down long roads lined with people returning from work. We narrowly miss a man on a bike and we pass electric cycles carrying huge, heavy loads of plastic and other scrap. This zone is where the factory workers live and raise families. There are no street lights and I see children meeting their parents after work, silhouetted by the lights of a stream of cars.

We pull into a guarded complex of smaller factories. The man I’m here to see runs a company that makes USB keys. I probably have twenty of his products, all of them given to me by PR people, in a jar at home and don’t even know it. He has clients all over the world and most don’t even know they’re doing business with him. A chain of distributors come to him to make the finished product. When people say “OEM,” this is who they’re talking about.

I climb up the dark stairway into a wood-paneled office area where sales and marketing people sit. I sit down with the president who offers me a water and a cigarette. He shows me his new selection of LED lights: he’s coming in on the ground floor with these just as compact fluorescents are leaving the realm of the profitable and moving into the commodity. He’s betting on these new lights to take him through the next decade.

He’s been doing this for about seven years. He used to work in integrated circuits but he bought a few used Japanese PCB manufacturing machines and started making devices for clients. He stuck with USB keys because it’s a steady market and he lives comfortably.

We walk into the factory. This is no “Intel Inside” clean room. A dozen long benches run through the room. There are ten old Dells with CRT monitors for quality control and a line of soldering irons at the ready. It’s late – about 6pm – so everyone is home. During the day the factory is full of people. All of them are making USB keys and the company can punch out about 30,000 a day, a minuscule number compared to the capacity of the behemoths down the road.

The keys start out as circuit boards. There are about five keys per board and they come already milled to specifications. One employee lays down a layer of solder and puts the board through to the SMT machine. SMT stands for surface mount technology; it’s a way to tell a robot how and where to place resistors, transistors, and capacitors on a board. The machines here are old. They still use 3.5″ floppies to program them and they’re all in Japanese. They cost about $100,000 each, now, used. The better ones can hit the $1 million mark.

The first SMT machine grabs tiny components from a long reel of electronic parts. It’s a mad dance. The hand – a box with pistons, really – picks the part and then places it. Pick, place, pick, place. It takes about a minute to do a set of five. Another employee checks the work and then it moves on. There’s plenty of room of error here simply because this is a commodity. The machine breaks down, it places transistors a bit skew. It doesn’t matter. In the end it’s going to hold whatever data you put on it, at least for a while. The dead devices go back into the recycling bin.

The second SMT places the IC chips, the controllers and the memory. A final employee spot checks the board and sends it out to the soldering line. There they solder on each USB port by hand. The PCB itself costs maybe 50 cents to manufacture – that’s only parts – but the IC and the memory add about three dollars more. In the end, you’re looking at about $5 in costs, including labor. The final step is the application, by hand, of the silk screen, embossing, or laser etching. Each piece. By hand. The margin is slim at best, especially considering distributors sell these things to customers for about $7.

So is this a place of horror? No. This is where men and women are given a wage and living quarters to make USB keys. There are few amenities here, no child care, no donuts at lunch. The toilets are squat toilets; the sinks are overflowing into the bathroom. The lockers are six inches by six inches. Enough for shoes, maybe, and a jacket.

But this is how this stuff is made. Bigger companies won’t touch these orders – a run of 1000 pieces to them isn’t even worth the energy it takes to start up the machines. This factory fills a hole in the market. The employer fills a hole in the employee’s life. The employee lives in a free house and comes to a steady job. It’s hard, to be sure, and it’s a mess — but it’s a living.

We moved our manufacturing over here. That’s what happened. To say this is good or bad, positive or negative, is not my place. The employees here are content and the owner has a nice car and is planning a vacation to the US next year. On a micro scale, this is what countless small businesses have done all over the world for about two centuries. You fill a need. You fill an order.

On the macro scale you can cry and moan about exploitation, pollution, and capitalism. Pittsburgh was probably once as dirty as Shenzhen is right now. Blue laws were put into place there early on to prevent desolate employees from drinking themselves into an oblivion. We changed, and China will change.

My fear, however, is that we’ve become inured to the way things are made here. We love how our phones spring to life a touch of a button. We love how we can buy a terabyte of disk space for $100. We love how Moore’s law is always punching something new across the transom. But consumption clouds the true value of this stuff. We need to rethink what we buy and expect more from the companies that try to sell it to us. This is a mom and pop USB factory. Someone like Foxconn, manufacturers of the iPhone, are a different animal entirely. But both are part of the menagerie that is Chinese manufacturing. It’s globalized. It’s monstrous. It caused this smoke and this darkness and this mind-numbing work. Don’t be fooled by clean rooms and white walls you see on TV with magical robot arms carrying iPhones into the heavens. This is dirty work and it will get dirtier.

This is an industrial process to fulfill our desire. Shenzhen, and this small factory on her outskirts, show us the price of that desire.

Next: Order Fulfillment




Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Updated: Tuesday, 8 December 2009 9:37 AM PST
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Climate Coverup ...or is it
Mood:  loud
Now Playing: ClimateGate




— By Kevin Drum

| Mon Nov. 30, 2009 10:15 AM PST

As near as I can tell, ClimateGate is almost entirely a tempest in a teacup.  Among the stash of emails recently hacked from computers at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, one mentioned a "trick" for producing a nice looking graph, but the word "trick" was plainly used in the sense of "technique," not chicanery.  There's nothing questionable there.  Another bunch of emails shows that when scientists are communicating privately they can be as catty and nasty as anyone else.  It's good gossip fodder, but nothing more.  Another set of emails deals with outraged reaction to a particular journal article, but this isn't news.  It was an entirely public incident when it happened a few years ago, and half the board of the journal resigned in protest.  The emailers were determined not to have shoddy science published in peer-reviewed journals, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Then there are some emails about which research should and shouldn't be included in the next IPCC report, which, again, is entirely normal.  Every scientist who worked on the IPCC report surely had opinions about which research was on point and which was shoddy.  Finally, there's the revelation that CRU has destroyed some raw temperature data, but this happened back in the 1980s, before global warming was even on anyone's radar screen, and was obviously motivated by space considerations (they were paper records), not any kind of coverup.  What's more, the raw data is still available from the original sources that provided it to CRU anyway.

Unfortunately, there are also a couple of messages that suggest an effort to destroy emails that might have been subject to a Freedom of Information request.  That's a genuine problem, though it's not clear to me just how big a problem it is.

So on a substantive level, there's really very little to this.  Certainly nothing that changes the actual science of climate change even a little.  The earth is still warming and disaster is still highly likely if we sit around and do nothing.  But George Monbiot thinks we lefties have our heads in the sand if we think that makes any difference:

I have seldom felt so alone. Confronted with crisis, most of the environmentalists I know have gone into denial. The emails hacked from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, they say, are a storm in a tea cup, no big deal, exaggerated out of all recognition. It is true that climate change deniers have made wild claims which the material can't possibly support (the end of global warming, the death of climate science). But it is also true that the emails are very damaging.

....The crisis has been exacerbated by the university's handling of it, which has been a total trainwreck: a textbook example of how not to respond....When the emails hit the news on Friday morning, the university appeared completely unprepared. There was no statement, no position, no one to interview. Reporters kept being fobbed off while CRU's opponents landed blow upon blow on it. When a journalist I know finally managed to track down Phil Jones, he snapped "no comment" and put down the phone. This response is generally taken by the media to mean "guilty as charged".

....The handling of this crisis suggests that nothing has been learnt by climate scientists in this country from 20 years of assaults on their discipline. They appear to have no idea what they're up against or how to confront it. Their opponents might be scumbags, but their media strategy is exemplary.

It's hard to argue with this.  Climate change skeptics have gotten fantastic mileage out of this affair, but that's only partly because technical explanations of facially damaging statements are never very convincing to the general public.  An even bigger part of the problem is that a lot of the scientists involved haven't even been providing the technical explanations, leaving that up to others who are trying to get a handle on what's going on.  From a PR standpoint, it's been a disaster so far.

For years the CRU has resisted public release of its underlying datasets, partly for the understandable reason that they're tired of dealing with amateurs who comb though raw data looking for ways to pretend that warming isn't really happening, and partly because they don't have the authority to release it all.  Still, science is all about transparency, and annoying or not, the data should be available.  Now it probably will be, and under the worst possible circumstances.  It's going to be rough sledding for the next couple of years against the fever swamp crowd, aided and abetted by the coal industry.  Buckle up.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 12:01 AM PST
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Ralph Nader and the W.H. Public Library announcement
Mood:  amorous
Now Playing: Great News regarding my favorite "real politician"
Topic: NADER
Nader visits W.H. Public Library

WEST HARTFORD - At approximately 4 p.m. on Black Friday, Ralph Nader, the 75-year-old consumer activist from Winsted, took his seat inside a room at the West Hartford Public Library and began scribbling his autograph on copies of his new book, "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!"


A line of about 50 people spilled out into the library's main room, eager to meet Nader, who gave a speech downstairs after the signing. Upon seeing Nader enter the room, a cluster of six reporters spiked to the front of the line and set their recorders down at his table, forming their own shield around him as fans approached one by one. Some local television news techies erected a wall of cameras directly in front of Nader's face as he tried to make small talk with fans.

When the line ended, Nader stood up and acknowledged the press, who in unison zoned in for the close-up with their cameras, tape recorders and microphones in hand.

"Big question is, Ralph, are you going to run for the US Senate?" blurts out a local TV reporter with the first question.

The local media was not there to talk about Nader's new book. They wanted to get down to brass tax and see if the three-time presidential candidate would declare to them that he would challenge Chris Dodd for his Senate seat next year.

"It's premature," said Nader, who acknowledged that there is growing resentment with the two senators who represent the state (Joe Lieberman being the other). People don't agree with how they "represent them on a number of issues, including their pensions, financial crimes and health care," he said

Nader expressed concern with the Senate and the passing of legislature.

"The crisis in the Senate is really the big issue. The Senate is the graveyard of the legislative hopes of the country," he said.

Nader said his declaration to run isn't dependent on just him, but whether people from around the state are going to be willing to work and put together a grassroots campaign. He said it is hard for him at this point to truly gauge the political field for a run. He isn't sure if people want him to run just because they're upset with the two incumbent senators or whether there is an actual force out there that will work in 169 towns in Connecticut.

The one force that could serve as his main vehicle to run a campaign is the Green Party. Two members of the Green Party showed up with signs urging Nader to run here at the library on Friday.

Vic Lancia, a weathered former state worker out of the Department of Labor, walked up to greet the man he has admired since 1967.

"I'm retired, Ralph. I've got good legs to go to work for you," said Lancia. "Give me something to do next year Ralph."

Lancia attended to get Nader to start seriously thinking about a run for the Senate. Asked what difference Nader offers from someone like Dodd, he said Nader wouldn't be penetrated by lobbyist money. Lancia feels the current healthcare bill moving through the House and Senate will still leave millions of uninsured. He favors single-payer healthcare, a system that cuts down costs and extends universal coverage through a single government source, like Medicare.

"The blogosphere is going crazy. This is the most important senate race in the country," said Tim McKee, a national committee person from the Green Party who held a sign saying "Run Ralph, Run."

"He's definitely intriguing," said Danielle Barry of West Hartford, who waited in line at the library.

Although the reporters were hoping to get Nader to admit a run for the Senate (Nader concluded the session with reporters by saying "Must be a slow news day"), the questions they were asking him seemed to suggest otherwise.

"Do you really want to be a US Senator? You say the whole system is broken, so do you want to be a part of that?" asked an Associated Press reporter. Another reporter from Channel 8 asked "What would Ralph Nader lose by running for U.S. Senate?" Nader shrugged it off by simply saying "time."

The conversation then focused on Dodd, the longest serving senator in Connecticut history. Nader says Dodd is very resilient despite facing challengers from his own party in 2010.

"Chris Dodd is very personable and I wouldn't write him off," said Nader. "He has been very concessionary to the banks and relied heavily and successfully on Wall Street contributions."

Nader said the real test for Dodd is seeing how far he'll push for real consumer organization in the Financial Consumer Regulatory bill. Nader proposed the creation of a Financial Consumer Association to Dodd as a non-profit for consumers, investors and savors of financial services to keep a check on banks. If it isn't done Wall Street will control the regulatory agency, he said.

"The test for Sen. Dodd is, as chair of the Banking Committee, (to) sponsor this Financial Consumer Association which does not cost the tax payer anything," said Nader.

Down a floor below, there are no reporters present as Nader talks to a packed room about his new book. He speaks about his crusades to perform real change in Washington by trying to route out corporate lobbyists who began their vice-like grip on both Democrats and Republicans in the 1970s. The Democrats, the party that had high hopes as being a real alternative to the Republicans, ended up being "depreciated" by lobbyist money as well, according to Nader.

"Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!" is a fictional book using real characters. It talks about the wealthiest citizens in our country, like Warren Buffett, assembling a cast of 16 plutocrats who use their power to save America's troubles. To get to the heart of the story, Nader uses fiction to point out certain truths about our modern culture.

"A society that has a lot of justice doesn't need charity," he said.

Posted by Joe Anybody at 7:24 PM PST
Updated: Thursday, 3 December 2009 7:26 PM PST
CIA: Our Drones are Killing Terrorists. Promise.
Mood:  chatty
Now Playing: Drones
Topic: WAR

CIA: Our Drones are Killing Terrorists. Promise.


Al Qaeda is so spooked by CIA drone attacks that Osama’s crew is staging spectacular bombings in Pakistan, in an attempt to get America to call off its unmanned attack fleet, former U.S. officials and counterterrror advisers say. And the CIA is apparently so spooked about the possibility of a withdrawal that they’re spilling details about their supposedly-secret drone strikes to the New York Times.

On April 19th, agency sources tell the paper, a CIA drone hit a truck parked inside an al Qaeda compound in Pakistan’s tribal province of South Waziristan. Packed with “high explosives, apparently to be used as a bomb,” the truck “erupted in a fireball” when it was struck. “A second, empty truck destroyed in the same attack may also have been there to be outfitted with explosives,” intelligence officials say. “In another significant attack, on April 29, missiles fired from a C.I.A. Predator killed Abu Sulayman al-Jazairi, an Algerian Qaeda planner who American intelligence officials say they believe helped train operatives for attacks in Europe and the United States.”

In other other words: Pay no attention to those reports of civilian casualties, like those reports of “25 bodies” in the latest unmanned attack. These drones are killing terrorists.

The Times goes on to report that “in meetings this past week in Washington, American and Pakistani officials discussed the possibility of limited joint operations with American Predator and Reaper drones. Under one proposal, the United States would retain control over the firing of missiles, but it would share with the Pakistani security forces some sophisticated imagery and communications intercepts that could be relayed to Pakistani combat forces on the ground.”

But according to Gen. David McKiernan, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan, the U.S. military already shares its drone footage with the Pakistanis. “We exchange frequencies, we exchange intelligence, we have a Predator feed going down to the one [Afghanistan/Pakistan] border coordination center at Torkham Gate that’s looked at by the Pak military,” he said in November.

And according to the Wall Street Journal, the CIA is already sharing footage from its unmanned air force, too.


On Jan. 22, Pakistani paramilitary forces arrested Zabu ul Taifi, a Saudi national and alleged al Qaeda operative… [He] was located at a safe house in the Khyber Agency… through a combination of human intelligence from Pakistani agents, informants on the ground and aerial surveillance by U.S. drones.

Once authorities were confident Mr. Taifi was in the walled, mud compound, Pakistani paramilitary forces backed by helicopters grabbed him, the officer said. Throughout, Predator drones hovered overhead and would have attacked if Mr. Taifi or other suspects had tried to escape, the officer said. In all, Mr. Taifi and six other men — Afghans and Pakistanis — were nabbed in the raid.

That seems to be in direct contradiction to the Times report. Something’s not adding up here.

Meanwhile, Pakistani president Asif Ali Zadari keeps saying that he wants killer drones of his own. On Meet the Press yesterday, Zadari was asked if he considered the “drones that fire missiles and target Taliban” to be effective. The Pakistani’s answer: “I would consider them to be very effective if they were part of my arsenal.  I’ve been asking for them, but I haven’t got a positive answer as yet.  But I’m not giving up.”

Apparently not. According to Air Force Times, “Pakistan is working on its own Predator-like unmanned aerial vehicle,” or UAV.

The country’s air force and government-owned defense conglomerate, the National Engineering and Scientific Commission, are flight-testing a new-design aircraft to be equipped with a… laser designator and laser-guided missiles. The Burraq UAV is named for a winged horse creature in Islamic tradition, similar to Pegasus.

According to local news reports, Pakistan is focusing its unmanned aircraft efforts on upgrading various older UAVs with Chinese help.

But the sources note that no domestically produced UAV is large enough to heft both a missile and a targeting system. The military’s most capable UAV is the air force’s Selex Galileo Falco, which can laser-designate targets for other platforms but cannot deliver munitions.

UPDATE: IF you’re new to the killer drone world, this 60 Minutes segment, which aired last night, is a good primer.

[Photo: Noah Shachtman]


Posted by Joe Anybody at 4:11 PM PST
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
Homeland Security Incarcerating Refugees in USA
Mood:  blue
Now Playing: Human Rights are in the USA made toilet

Why Is the Department of Homeland Security Incarcerating Refugees Across the U.S.?



By Emily Creighton, Immigration Impact.

Posted December 1, 2009.

Last month, President Obama authorized the admission of 80,000 refugees into the U.S. in fiscal year 2010, something every President has done annually since passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. The United States has long recognized the importance of providing a safe haven for refugees. Beginning with laws granting refugee status to displaced persons after World War II and culminating with the comprehensive Refugee Act of 1980, the U.S. has sought to safeguard those who are unwilling or unable to return to their homeland based on a "well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion."

Despite this commitment to helping refugees resettle in the U.S. permanently, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its sub-agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have adopted a policy of incarcerating refugees who have not adjusted to permanent resident status after one year of residency in the U.S. (“unadjusted refugees”). Often ICE comes in contact with unadjusted refugees who have had some contact with local law enforcement; however ICE also has detained refugees who have no criminal charges pending against them. In recent months, advocates have alerted DHS and ICE about such detained refugees in regions including Minneapolis, MN; Florence, AZ; Eloy, AZ; York, PA; Atlanta, GA; Los Angeles, CA.

ICE defends this detention policy by citing section 209(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) which states that refugees who have not acquired permanent resident status after one year “shall return or be returned to the custody of the Department of Homeland Security for inspection and examination for admission.” ICE says “return to custody” means that refugees who have not applied for permanent resident status after one year may be detained and held while they complete their adjustment application and while ICE’s sister organization, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), adjudicates it. This interpretation is particularly unfair since the law prohibits refugees from applying for permanent residence until one year after they have been admitted to the U.S. as refugees. In essence, ICE detains refugees for not doing what the law bars them from doing.

ICE’s interpretation of the law has particularly harsh consequences for refugees. First, the refugee is not in removal proceedings, so he or she cannot request bond before an Immigration Judge. Without an opportunity to be released, the refugee must complete the adjustment application process in detention -- for example, he or she must appear for the required USCIS interview and obtain vaccinations while detained. In some cases, the process can take over a year.

Second, even if USCIS denies the refugee’s application for adjustment and he or she is placed in removal proceedings, ICE has charged the refugee as an "arriving alien." Under the relevant law, "arriving aliens" may not ask an Immigration Judge for a bond hearing and are entirely dependant on ICE -- the prosecutor in the case—for release from detention. The interpretation of refugees as “arriving aliens” is incorrect because refugees have already been admitted to the U.S. as a refugee. Despite this, when the agency charges them as "arriving aliens," refugees are unable to seek release from detention from a neutral decision-maker -- neither during the pendency of the adjustment application, nor during removal proceedings.

In Arizona—where representatives of detained refugees recently filed a number of habeas lawsuits challenging the detention of unadjusted refugees—ICE stated that it will release unadjusted refugees or put them in removal proceedings within 48 hours. It also promised to stop charging refugees in removal proceedings as "arriving aliens," which therefore enables refugees to seek bond from a neutral immigration judge. Yet in light of these changes, advocates in Arizona report that unadjusted refugees continue to spend time in detention and cannot proceed with their immigration cases until DHS adjudicates their adjustment applications. In addition, DHS has not officially committed to these changes or to any widespread changes in policies related to detention of unadjusted refugees.

DHS’ policy of detaining unadjusted refugees is extremely problematic -- it is not required by the language of the statute and is unsupported by the policies that drove lawmakers to pass laws protecting refugees. The word “custody” in the statute does not require ICE to take physical custody of unadjusted refugees, something ICE’s predecessor organization recognized. The former Immigration and Nationality Service reasoned that "custody" in INA § 209(a) could be satisfied by simply requiring refugees to apply for adjustment of status and compelling them to appear at the agency.

Organizations that work with detained refugees continue to urge DHS to reconsider its policy of detaining unadjusted refugees and to this end, recently submitted a letter to DHS with policy suggestions. DHS acknowledged receipt of the letter. Hopefully, in any new policy, DHS will cease using "custody" in INA 209(a) as another means to detain refugees. This is not the purpose or intent of this statutory provision. Instead, the statute was designed to encourage refugees to apply for adjustment and to lawfully remain in the United States. Let’s hope the agency acts quickly to issue fair and humane new policy, so that future refugees will not have to suffer the unnecessary detention that current refugees face.


Posted by Joe Anybody at 2:16 PM PST

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