Monday, November 28, 2005

So here it is, Merry Fitzmas...

...everybody's having fun. Well, everybody apart from Karl Rove.

Yes, Fitzmas is about to come a second time this year. And this time it's going to be Karl Rove facing multiple indictments for perjury and obstruction of justice.

As always, it's the little details that lead to downfall. As one of my favourite writers, Robert Green Ingersoll, said when acting as counsel for the contestants in the "Davis will case":

There is this beautiful peculiarity in nature - a lie never fits a fact, never. You only fit a lie with another lie, made for the express purpose, because you can change a lie but you can't change a fact, and after a while the time comes when the last lie you tell has to be fitted to a fact, and right there is a bad joint; consequently you must test the statements of people who say they saw, not by what they say but by other facts, by the surroundings, by what are called probabilities; by the naturalness of the statement.

Rove's former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston, had previously testified that Cooper's call to Rove did not appear in the phone logs because Cooper had called the White House switchboard and been transferred, rather than calling Rove directly. Fitz looked through the logs and found other instances of calls being transferred by the switchboard which had been logged (or else he couldn't have found them). Right there you had the bad joint between the truth (transferred calls are logged) and the lie (the call wasn't in the logs because it had been transferred).

With that lie exposed, there is then another bad joint between it and the lie that it had been crafted to fit. Ralston was called to testify again. Faced with a possible indictment for perjury she told the truth: that Rove had instructed her not to log the call.

Another lie exposed. And with that exposure yet another bad joint. This time, Rove's repeated testimony about events. So Rove is now facing multiple indictments for perjury and obstruction of justice.

Who knows? Libby may yet flip and implicate Cheney in order to get a reduced sentence. Rove may cut a deal and implicate Cheney and/or Bush rather than be indicted. Both cases may come to trial, when other lies may be exposed and more bad joints revealed.

Somebody meticulous enough to scour the phone logs in order to expose a small lie, then leverage that up to multiple indictments against Rove, is going to keep researching every little fact until he's indicted everyone he possibly can on every charge he can bring.

Full details of this coming Fitzmas are here.

So here it is

merry fitzmas

everybody's having fun

look to the future now

it's only just begun

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Democratic Strategy

As we all know, Democratic Strategy is (sadly) inadequate. They don't have a clue. It has been stated by linguistics professor George Lakoff that Republicans are better at framing the issues by choosing their terminology carefully. I'd like to propose a way of framing the issues that (I think) would put the Democrats way out in front. But I'll have to give some technical background first.

An article in this week's New Scientist explains that our sense of morality is a mixture of logical reasoning and emotional reactions and which predominates is dependent upon the precise situation (introduction to article here but you have to be a subscriber to read it in full). In certain situations we evaluate the harms and benefits of various actions rationally but in other situations (particularly where a quick response is necessary) we react emotionally. This is not a hypothesis, it has been verified by brain scans of people presented with various situations and different areas of the brain come into play in different circumstances. The article goes on to say that emotional reactions are conditioned to a significant degree by social interactions: at one time mixed-race marriages and homosexuality were felt by most people to be emotionally disgusting but as attitudes have changed most (sane) people no longer feel a sense of revulsion at those ideas.

An example given in the article is that of a tram (the article used the US terminology "trolley" even though New Scientist is a UK publication) obviously out of control. It is heading down the track towards five people who are stuck on the track and who will surely die. However, you are in a position to divert the tram onto a fork in the track, sparing those five people, but where it will kill one person stuck on the other track. What do you do: walk away and let five people die or throw the lever and have one person die? Most people evaluate this rationally and throw the lever because it is better that one dies than five die.

I'm a bit more critical and would want to know (if possible) the merits of the potential dead: five 99-year-old Alzheimer's sufferers who have lived long, happy lives and are now living vegetables are not worth one five-year-old child with a potentially long life ahead of it. Five brain-retarded infants who will never manage to even go potty by themselves are not worth one Albert Einstein with only a year of life left (in my opinion, of course). One Mohamed ElBaradei (who won the Nobel Peace Prize recently) is worth far more than Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and Rice (who lied the US into war). But I'm a realist and know that in an imperfect world I wouldn't have this information available to me, so I'd sacrifice one life to save five.

The article then recasts the problem in a different way. Again, there is a runaway tram (trolley). Again, five people are stuck on the track and will surely die. But this time there is no fork in the track. And this time you are on a bridge above the track. However, this time there is one person in a car that you could nudge off the bridge onto the track using your own car (the article actually posits an incredibly obese person not in a car whom you could push off the bridge and whose body mass would halt the tram, but I found that scenario stretched my credulity too far). So now the situation is that by inaction you can allow five people to die or you can deliberately murder one person to save those five.

Isn't that the same as throwing the lever to shunt the tram onto the other track? If you throw that lever haven't you murdered the guy on the other track? Logically, yes. But that's not how our brains process the information. In the first situation you are confronted with a simple decision between greater and lesser. In the second situation your brain handles things emotionally and it feels like you are murdering somebody. Different areas of the brain are involved and different conclusions are reached.

As the article points out, politicians say it's about winning hearts not minds. The difference in the two situations is whether the problem touches the rational parts of our brain or the emotional parts (the heart is popularly used as a way of referring to the emotions). Same problem, but the reaction depends entirely upon how it is framed. With that in mind, I'll propose a TV advert for the Democrats (undoubtedly it could be greatly improved upon).

The advert uses the visuals and words of Democratic Representative John Murtha from a recent speech to the House of Representatives. There is, of course, also text on the screen.

It starts with Murtha's words calling for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq and that our military has accomplished its task and done its duty, words spoken as Murtha struggled to choke back tears. The text on screen points out that Murtha is a Korean and Vietnam vet with a bronze star and two purple hearts.

It continues with Murthas word's that the US troops have become the primary target for the insurgency; that they have become a catalyst for violence; that all US troops could be withdrawn within six months. The text points out that Murtha is a hawk, a strong ally of the Pentagon and originally supported the war in Iraq.

It continues with Murtha relating that several times a year he visits Iraq to assess the situation and frequently visits troops in hospitals in the US. The text explains that the Bush administration is trying to cut veterans' benefits and funding for VA medical treatment.

It finishes with Murtha's poignant explanation, with his voice cracking and tears flooding his eyes, that one of the wounded soldiers he visited in Walter Reed Hospital was blinded and lost both hands. When Murtha asked his family if there was anything he could do, they complained bitterly that because the injuries were caused by "friendly fire" the soldier had been denied a purple heart. As Murtha said:

I met with the commandant. I said, If you dont give him a Purple Heart, Ill give him one of mine. And they gave him a Purple Heart.

The text on screen points out that Bush has not shed a single tear over the death of more than 2,000 US troops but Murtha weeps because a deserving soldier is denied a purple heart. The Bush administration claims to care about the troops but does not. It is because the Democrats care about the troops that they want to bring them home.

OK, maybe I've had too much wine and am in a maudlin mood, but creating that scenario made me weep as I wrote it. Did a tear come to your eye as you read it? Can you visualize the impact of Murtha saying those words, with his voice cracking and his eyes flooding with tears without weeping yourself? Can you imagine anything more powerful that will wrench the guts of anyone who sees it? Can you imagine Bush's popularity remaining above 1% after it airs?

It's about winning hearts not minds... (and if you can do so by telling the truth rather than lying then it's actually justifiable).

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cheney has fucked himself

The Center for Public Integrity reports that Cheney is refusing to comply with travel disclosure rules which apply to all agencies of the executive branch. Cheney's excuse is that the Office of Vice President is not part of the executive branch.

The article quotes Stephen D. Potts (Office of Government Ethics Director under Reagan and Bush-the-slightly-smarter) as saying that the claim for exemption is "unusual." Potts then says he thinks a case could be made for excluding the VP but that such an exclusion would also apply to the pResident. I am not a lawyer, but Potts is talking crap and Cheney is right.

The Constitution does not define any executive-branch rôle for the VP as long as the pResident is able to carry out his functions. If the pResident dies then the VP becomes pResident. If the pResident becomes incapacitated then the VP becomes acting pResident until the pRresident is once again able to carry out his duties or his term of office ends. Therefore the Office of Vice President is not part of the executive branch (as long as the pResident is capable of carrying out his duties).

Does that leave the VP in Constitutional limbo? No, because the Constitution does define a governmental rôle for the VP: he is President of the Senate. That puts the VP very firmly into the congressional branch, not the executive branch. So Cheney is correct, he is not part of the executive branch.

And that is why Cheney has just fucked himself. He has steadfastly refused to make public the minutes of his energy policy meetings. He has argued the case in court, and won, because he claimed executive privilege. But Cheney has just claimed that he is not part of the executive branch, and a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution says that he is correct. Therefore Cheney cannot withold those minutes on the grounds of executive privilege because it cannot apply to him.

Cheney cannot have it both ways. If he is part of the executive branch then he can withold those minutes but is in breach of travel disclosure regulations. If he is not part of the executive branch then he is not in breach of travel disclosure regulations but cannot withold those minutes.

Of course, the Supreme Court may let Cheney have it both ways. But even they must be feeling a little guilt over aiding Bush steal the election in 2000 and what five years of Bush/Cheney maladministration has done to the US.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Jean Shit

After Jean Shit's (she spells her surname "Schmidt," but it's pronounced "shit") attack on Murtha, let me remind her of something.

The Republican Party of today, like the UK's Thatcherites of years gone by, wants to return to "Victorian values." The values that say that if you screw up badly, you retire to your bedroom, place your service revolver (what's that - Jean didn't serve but Murtha did?) to your temple and pull the trigger out of fucking shame.

Fucking kill yourself, Jean, just fucking kill yourself. Put yourself out of your misery for being a moronic bitch and save the rest of the world from another Bush supporter. Just fucking do it.

You know it makes sense.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Creation Physics

Creationism (the idea that all species were created by God as described in Genesis) has been relabelled as "Intelligent Design" in the hopes of sneaking it into the classroom as a science. So it's time to look not only at Creation Biology but Creation Physics.

During the Englightenment many writers mocked the physics of the Old Testament and poured scorn on the authors of Genesis for such silly ideas. Since I am an atheist, you might expect me to take the same tack, but you'd be wrong. And before you write, I know that Genesis and the rest of the Pentateuch is attributed to Moses, but in the Pentateuch you will find a description of Moses' death and funeral and a listing of events that took place after he died, so at least some of the Pentateuch was written by people other than Moses.

The authors of Genesis came up with what they thought was a reasonable explanation of how things were:

  • The earth was flat.

  • A hemispherical dome of a solid, non-transparent material, which they called the firmament and which we call the sky, covered the earth.

  • Atop the firmament was God's throne and Heaven.

  • The sun and the moon were navigation beacons which travelled around between us and the firmament (sky). Somehow, at night, the sun was transported to a new position ready to rise again in the east.

  • The sun and the moon gave off light, but were not the source of daylight. Light just was ("let there be light, and there was light") without a specific source.

  • Holes in the firmament allowed water to fall through as rain. At night those holes admitted light from Heaven and showed up as stars.

Most people with a reasonable degree of intelligence and education know just how wrong those ideas are. Some people may even know that when Genesis was written there were those who believe the earth to be spherical (and in 230 BCE Eratosthenes measured the diameter of the earth). So why am I not mocking the authors of Genesis? Because I remember being a child, and how things appeared.

The earth looked flat to me. Sure there were hills and valleys in the distance, but the ground didn't look curved. Sure I knew when my parents drove me somewhere a long way away I'd see new stuff I couldn't see from home, but things in the distance look very small, so maybe I really could see the new stuff all along but it was so small I couldn't make out the details. It was only when my parents took me on holiday to the seaside and I saw a ship disappear over the horizon that I had evidence from my own eyes that supported the idea of a spherical earth.

Look up at the sky on a cloudless (or near cloudless) day. That deep, baby blue with no hint of anything beyond. Doesn't it look hemispherical to you? Damned right it does, because what you can see of it is a portion of a sphere. It's a good deal less than a hemisphere, but your eyes cannot detect that. And it sure as hell looks like it touches the earth at the horizon.

If the sky is solid and not transparent (and it certainly looks that way because you can't see anything beyond it) then the sun and moon have to be closer than the sky. But suppose you thought the sky transparent, like blue glass, and said the reason you couldn't see anything beyond it was because there wasn't anything beyond it (other than God and his throne, but they're invisible to mortal eyes), you still wouldn't think the sun was further away than the sky. You'd know that if the sky were transparent and the sun were further away you'd see the same sort of effects as if you looked at a candle through blue glass.

Light coming from nowhere seems implausible. But go outside. If the sun is visible you'll see a shadow from the sun. But if the sun is obscured by cloud there will be no shadow but there is light. If the sun were the only source of light then when it was obscured by cloud there would be no daylight. If you don't know about Rayleigh scattering in the upper atmosphere then that's pretty damned obvious. So the sun emits light but it is not the source of daylight.

And that's why I'm not mocking the authors of Genesis. They did a pretty good job of describing what they saw and trying to explain it. Others (like Eratosthenes) did a better job, but given the limitations of a nomadic tribe what they came up with was not stupid. Absolutely, totally, utterly wrong, yes, but not stupid. It was an honest attempt to explain the world about them. They do not deserve scorn for an honest attempt to understand the world about them.

But that is why the religious fundamentalists who claim the BabbleBible is the inerrant word of God do deserve scorn and contempt. Because there are only two ways the authors of Genesis could have come up with a theory that was so wrong. The first is that they made it up and God did not tell them all this stuff. The second is that God lied to them to see how gullible they were. Both alternatives prove that the BabbleBible is not the inerrant word of God.

Don't give me that bullshit about God having to feed them with stuff they could cope with. He's fucking God. He can work miracles. He can moon Moses. Yes, God really did moon Moses - the radiance of God's face was too much for Moses' eyes so God showed Moses his nether parts. If you can prove you're fucking God (y'know, by doing miracles) then you can say things like "You won't believe this, but the earth is a sphere and the sky is an illusion."

Some fucker performs miracles (and I do mean miracles as opposed to stage magic) in front of me, I'm going to take his word for stuff even if it doesn't make sense to me. Well, actually, I wouldn't, because I'm a cynical bastard. But I'd at least try to check it out. And whether I could prove it or disprove it, I'd document what this dude said.

So, basically, the BabbleBible was the attempt of nomadic tribesmen to explain the world around them and the events that had happened to them. It is the words of fallible men, not of God. If it were the inerrant word of God then Creation Physics wouldn't be such a load of crap.

While I'm here, I might as well cover Creation Mathematics. The BabbleBible says that π is three. The ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter is not 3.141592625358979... as modern mathematics tells us but 3.

Somebody will no doubt say that God had to limit what he said to what Moses could understand. That the Jews of the time knew about counting numbers (positive integers, e.g., 1, 2, 3...) and rational numbers (fractions such as one-half, three-quarters, ten-thirds) but not negative numbers, irrational numbers or transcendental numbers. OK, I'm not God, but let me see how well I can explain it given those limitations...

The circumference of a circle is approximately three times its diameter. In fact it is a little greater than this.

If the diameter is one cubit, the circumference is a little over three cubits. If the diameter is ten cubits, the circumference is a little over 31 cubits. If the diameter is 100 cubits, the circumference is a little over 314 cubits. If the diameter is 1000 cubits, the circumference is a little over 3141 cubits. If the diameter is 10000 cubits the circumference is a little over 31415 cubits. If the diameter is 100000 cubits the circumference is a little over 314159 cubits.

No matter what whole number of cubits you choose for the diameter, the circumference will never be a whole number of cubits. One day, perhaps, your descendents will understand enough to be able to prove this for themselves.

In the meantime, three is a good approximation for everyday purposes.

Just imagine if the BabbleBible had said that. This was a time when nobody in the world had even the faintest concept that there were irrational numbers (numbers that could not be expressed as the ratio of two whole numbers, such as five-eighths) let alone that there were transcendental numbers (not the roots of non-zero polynomial equations). This was a time when nobody in the world knew that π was a transcendental number and in fact thought it was the integer 3. This was a time when nobody in the world had the mathematical tools to prove that π was not an integer, let alone calculate it to five decimal places.

If that were in the BabbleBible, I'd find it a compelling reason to believe there was a God. That would be the sort of thing that God would know (he is, after all, omniscient) and the sort of thing those in Babblical times clearly did not know. It would have been the favourite mathematical puzzle for centuries until somebody finally proved it. And they'd have seen that the tools needed to prove it, and to calculate π to five decimal places, were far beyond the abilities of the authors of the Old Testament.

Inerrant fucking word of God? Don't make me laugh.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Fitzgerald, Libby, Woodward

The latest revelations out of Plamegate are that some (as yet unidentified) administration official divulged Plame's name to Bob Woodward before Irvine Lewis "Scooter" Libby divulged it to other reporters.

Libby's lawyers immediately spun the issue as blowing apart Fitzgerald's case that Libby was the first official to leak Plame's name to a reporter, which is pure bullshit.

Some of the mainstream media, and a lot of left-wing bloggers, have tried to show why that claim is bullshit, but all of the ones I've seen have missed the obvious.

All of them point out this comment by Fitz (emphasis mine):

In fact, Mr. Libby was the first official known to have told a reporter when he talked to Judith Miller in June of 2003 about Valerie Wilson.

They all point out that later in his statement, Fitz said this, which is what Libby's Lawyer and the right-wing spin machine pounced on:

He was at the beginning of the chain of phone calls, the first official to disclose this information outside the government to a reporter.

As the others point out, it should be understood in light of Fitz's earlier comment which included the word "known" that he intended that meaning here too. It was a long statement. Humans often "contextualize": that which is said should be understood in the light of earlier comments. An example is the use of the indirect pronoun "he" in the first sentence of this paragraph, which refers back to Fitz. Another example is the use of "Fitz" in the first sentence of this paragraph, which refers to Fitzgerald. Contextualization can extend back much further.

But here's the point that the others miss. It should go without saying that even if Fitz had not first used the phrase "first official known" and instead had said "first official" that it was the first official known to Fitz's investigation.

Fitz would have to have interviewed every reporter on the planet and be absolutely certain that he had obtained the truth from every last one of them in order to know which reporter was given the information first. He would have had to persuade every last one of them to divulge the identity of their source to find out which official was the first to leak.

God, if there is one, knows which administration official leaked first. The leakers themselves may know which one leaked first, if they have all discussed it with each other. In a Grand Jury investigation, Fitz can know only what the evidence uncovered so far tells him. He can know only which official, according to the evidence uncovered so far, is known to the Grand Jury to have leaked first.

That ought to be so damned obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that Fitz ought not to have needed to emphasise it. But he did so anyway, for the benefit of the hard-of-thinking. And he did so early in his statement, so that there would be no doubt if he later contextualized and omitted the "known."

Look at it another way: how the hell could Fitz tell us what he doesn't know? He can't.

For those who want to have us believe that Fitz should have been more careful throughout his very long statement, they should first demonstrate that President Fucktard can string together two coherent sentences without a single error, and the meaning of which does not contradict reality.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Osama bin Laden - Evil Supergenius?

Osama bin Laden is an evil supergenius, so we have been told by the Bush administration (but most people now understand that the Bushies lie about everything). Only a supergenius could have come up with such a plan and carried it out, they say.

If that's the case, why was the plan that was executed on 9-11 so completely fucking crap? The plan should not have worked. The plan was guaranteed to fail, and you didn't have to be even a genius, let alone a supergenius, to know it would fail. The best that plan could have possibly achieved was to force the USAF to shoot down four passenger aircraft carrying US civilians. Indeed, it was a very good plan for forcing the USAF to shoot down passenger aircraft, but that was not the intention of the plan. Why do I insist the plan that was carried out on 9-11 was totally unworkable?

For several decades before 9-11, NORAD (the North American Air Defense Command), ATC (US Air Traffic Control) and the USAF had a set of standard operating procedures. If an aircraft did not make a scheduled contact with ATC, or if an aircraft failed to respond to a contact initiated by ATC, or if an aircract deviated from charted course, or if an aircraft switched off its transponder (which sends out an idenfication code and the altitude of the aircraft), then NORAD and the USAF were immediately alerted. The USAF would scramble one or more jet fighters to intercept the aircraft, and the fighters are expected to be alongside the aircraft within fifteen minutes of being alerted.

The fighter pilot would assess the situation. If he saw structural damage that had caused depressurization and no sign of movement of crew or passengers he'd know they were probably all dead and the plane was travelling on auto-pilot (this was precisely what had happened to the Learjet carrying golfer Payne Stewart). If the (uniformed) crew were in the cockpit and moving, the fighter pilot would try to contact them by radio. If that didn't work, the fighter pilot and passenger pilot would exchange signals by (in daylight) manœuvres such as rocking wings or (at night) by flashing navigation lights. These signals are pre-defined by the USAF and are taught to all pilots who fly in US airspace.

Until a few months after Bush stole the 2000 election, if all on the passenger plane were dead, or if it appeared that the passenger plane's crew were out of action (possibly through food poisoning or illness) and passengers were struggling to control the plane, or if it appeared that the plane had been hijacked, then the fighter pilot was authorized to shoot down the passenger plane if it appeared to pose a threat to life or property. The fighter pilot didn't have to ask up the chain of command because the delays that would entail could mean an answer came too late. It makes sense that it should be that way: if the passenger plane is about to crash into a populated area then all on board will be killed whether it is shot down or crashes, but if it is shot down then people on the ground will be saved.

After Bush stole the election, Rumsfeld (for reasons never explained) decided that the fighter pilot would need to obtain presidential authority for a shoot-down. A life-or-death situation with possibly only minutes to make a decision. Yet the pilot would have to go through his chain of command until reaching somebody with sufficient rank to wake up President Chimp in the middle of the night, or in the middle of a nap (and we all now know how ratty he is if his sleep is interrupted because of the atrocious impoliteness of his in South America because they kept him up past his bedtime).

Anyone who knows how the military chain of command works knows what would really happen. If there was sufficient time the pilot would work his way up through the chain of command and would very shortly hit somebody who would say "I'll try to reach the President but if time runs out then shoot the bastard down and I'll take the blame by saying I lied to you about Presidential authority." If there wasn't even time for that then the pilot would shoot down the passenger plane anyway. Whether the pilot made the decision or one of his superiors did, there would be an expectation that an honourable President (i.e., one who does not have the surname "Bush") would check on what happened, figure out that the right action had been taken, and claim to have given Presidential authorization (one of the few lies I could condone a President for telling).

Would Osama have known about this standard operating procedure? Until 9-11 it was documented on various USAF websites and on the ATC website. The highjackers would have been told about it during the knowledge part of their training. Very early on in their training, because it's one of the things you really need to know about: being shot down because your radio isn't working and you don't know what a USAF fighter rocking his wings in front of you means can really ruin your day. One way or another, Osama would have learned of it and would have adjusted his plans accordingly.

Except he didn't. All four hijacked planes stopped communicating with ATC. All four planes turned off their transponders. They arrived at their targets at different times, with over an hour's gap in some cases, giving ATC plenty to be suspicious about after WTC1 was hit. And all four planes went wildly off-course: take a look at the map below (there are bigger maps which show that flight 11 even had a small semicircular deviation in its course). And they all did so at least 30 minutes' flying time away from their targets, so there was plenty of time to realize something was wrong and scramble a fighter to intercept.

As I said, a good plan for forcing the US to shoot down passenger planes. Of course, if Osama had just wanted to kill the passengers the highjackers could have flown the planes into the ground. But I suppose there is some added benefit in terms of humiliating the US in having the USAF have to shoot down the planes. But as a way of achieving the events of 9-11 it is a totally fucking crap plan. It could not possibly have worked. I'm no supergenius, but even I can figure out a better plan than that. If I were a supergenius I could figure out the answer without needing intermediate steps, so bear with me as I work my way through the alternatives.

All the known targets, and the hypothesised target of flight 77 (Washington, DC) had nearby airports. So why not hijack planes which were destined for the airports near the targets and divert at the last moment? No suspicious gallivanting all over the sky. No suspicious diversion when so far from the target that an interception was possible. Before ATC even had chance to alert the USAF the plane would have struck its target. Perfect! Except for one thing.

It's hard to be sure what Osama did intend with the twin towers. There is a videotape of dubious provenance of somebody who looks a little like Osama saying that he thought the towers might collapse but he wasn't sure. I wouldn't have been sure either because those towers had been designed to withstand an impact from a fully-fuelled 707 (which has almost the same kinetic energy, mass and fuel load as the 767s which actually hit). I'd have been even less sure since no tower of similar construction has ever collapsed as a result of fire, not even fires that were far more intense, were burning on more floors, and which burned for far longer. But whether Osama merely thought there would be a "Towering Inferno" or hoped there was a chance the towers would collapse, he'd want as much fuel as possible. He'd also want as much fuel as possible in case one of his novice pilots hit a tower at an angle and a lot of fuel slooshed out the adjacent side of the building (as happened with WTC2, causing a spectacular fireball).

Planes generally do not start their journies with full tanks. The more weight a plane carries, the more fuel it has burn to carry that weight. So carrying fuel in excess of what is required is just burning money carrying fuel you didn't need (by the same token your car's fuel economy will improve a lot if you don't fill the tank more than half full except when you have a journey with a hell of a long way between gas stations). Planes carry the minimum amount of fuel needed to get the payload to the destination, plus a little extra as a safety margin in case there are unexpected headwinds or the plane is forced to divert to an alternative airport. So there wouldn't be enough fuel for what Osama wanted to do. Can we improve upon the plan and somehow minimize suspicion while maximizing fuel? We can indeed.

Hijack planes departing from airports near their targets. Once you've taken control, report a problem to ATC that requires a return to the airport. There are a good many reasons why this may be required. As long as you take control before the plane is closer to a different airport than the one you departed from, it's going to work. Maximum fuel load because you're near the start of the journey. In fact you can get a lot more fuel for the twin towers if you hijack a transatlantic flight instead of an internal flight. Although ATC might be a little suspicious about you turning back, particularly if they recognize that the voice making the request wasn't the one they originally talked to, they won't be too suspicious. You could say you were a passenger with no experience in that type of aircraft because the flight crew had come down with food poisoning. You could even say you were a hijacker and wanted to hold the passengers hostage until some terrorist prisoners were released and you wanted to be sure there was enough fuel on board that you could use that plane to get those prisoners out of the US. You could even persuade a radical muslim who speaks English with a US accent to join your hijack team. Your plane, with as much fuel as possible, is on its way back to the airport it took off from. At the last minute you divert to your target. Perfect! Well, almost.

Departures are frequently delayed. But ideally you want all your hijacked planes to hit their targets within no more than five or ten minutes of each other. After the first aircraft hits ATC might wonder if the other aircraft that turned back are going to do something similar. After the second aircraft hits they'll be damned sure of it. Fighters will be scrambled, so the rest of the hijacked aircraft have to hit their targets before they can be shot down. Can we cope with that? Yes.

All the planes had skyphones. Shortly after takeoff one of the hijackers would phone an accomplice on the ground saying when the aircraft departed. As soon as the hijackers take control, they would again phone the accomplice saying when it happened. When the accomplice is told of the time the final aircraft is hijacked, he works out when each would have to turn around in order to arrive at their targets close together. Every five minutes the hijackers phone the accomplice to ask him when to turn around. It may seem a complex calculation, perhaps even an impossible requirement to meet. But if you hijack transatlantic flights scheduled to depart NW before the others depart DC, they have plenty of extra fuel anyway. If the DC flights are delayed the NY flights still have plenty of fuel. If the NY flights are delayed that just brings their departure time closer to that of the DC flights. The calculations may seem a little complex, but a supergenius would have no difficulty writing a computer program to perform them.

So there you have it. None of the four planes do anything that would cause a USAF fighter to be scrambled until they divert at the very last moment (when no fighter could reach them in time). All of them have as much fuel as possible so as to cause the most damage. All of them arrive so closely together that by the time ATC has figured out what's going on and fighters have been scrambled then the last plane has hit its target. Now that really is perfect.

And you don't have to be a supergenius to figure it out (because I know I'm not even a genius). So that must have been how supergenius Osama planned it, and it must have been how it was carried out. Right? As we all know, wrong. Osama did it in the worst way possible. A way guaranteed to fail. In fact it was such a totally fucking crap plan that Osama makes Inspector Clousseau look like the world's smartest and most competent man.

But wait, I hear you say. On 9-11, Dick Cheney was personally supervising several exercises designed to test the response to a situation exactly like what happened that day (how coincidental) even though "nobody would ever have anticipated aircraft being used as missiles." Maybe Osama got wind of that and figured out he could do it the way he did, burning off valuable fuel, rather than the sensible way that maximized fuel.

That doesn't fly. In the first place, why would Osama trust such information? It could well be that the CIA had learned of his plans and was feeding him disinformation in the hope of luring him into doing it the stupid way so that the USAF would have a bigger safety margin in the amount of time needed to intercept. In the second place, why waste all that fuel doing it the stupid way? In the third place, he had to have figured that the exercise would be a full end-to-end test involving interceptors because the fighters would have no knowledge of the hijacked plane's altitude once it switched its transponder of and, anyway, part of the exercise would be checking that the fighters scrambled and intercepted within the specified time. In the fourth place he had to have figured out that the military top brass would be observing results and be comparing when a plane was intercepted against when it was scheduled to misbehave: as soon as one of Osama's hijacked planes misbehaved the top brass would realize it was a real hijack.

Ah, you say, but it was an exercise so the fighters would have been fitted with dummy weapons to prevent accidents. Maybe, but a sane exercise would plan for the possibility that a real hijack might occur in the middle of the exercise and plan accordingly. But even if not, the fighter pilots had another option.

Air Force pilots of many countries have found themselves in a crippled aircraft. Normally they eject and let the aircraft crash. But in cases where they are near a populated area and there is a chance that the aircraft will kill civilians, they stay with the aircraft right to the end in order to guide it to an unpopulated (or at least less-densely populated) area. They haven't been given orders that they must do that, they do it from a sense of duty. They knew when they signed up that one day they might have to give their lives to protect their fellow countrymen, so they stay with the aircraft until it hits the ground. With that sort of tradition, do you think there is any USAF pilot who would not have willingly rammed a hijacked plane about to hit the World Trade Center?

The only reason that Osama succeeded is that the Bush administration, the intelligence agencies, ATC, NORAD, and the USAF were all apparently even more staggeringly, bumblingly incompetent than Osama was. Apparently, rather than being a battle between the mighty, competent, smart US and supergenius Osama, it was a battle of the clowns. Or maybe not...

It all makes sense if it was an inside job. One in which Dick Cheney's exercises were designed to confuse the hell out of ATC and delay them reporting to NORAD and the USAF. Those four hijacked planes were assumed to be part of the exercise. An exercise that should have been a full end-to-end test of interception times and that should have made provision for a real hijack occurring during the exercise (especially after the August 6th Presidential Daily Brief warning that Osama was determined to hijack planes and attack the United States) but, as events of that day clearly show us, did not do end-to-end tests or allow for the possibility of a real hijacking occuring at the same time.

And that explains why every shred of evidence points to the twin towers and WTC7 being dropped by controlled explosive demolitions. If Osama had been able to plant such charges he wouldn't have needed the hijacks. But the only way Osama would have been able to place the many charges required throughout the building would be if his brother, Jeb bin Laden, were a senior executive for the company which handled World Trade Center security (by contrast, George W Bush's brother, James Ellis "Jeb" Bush, was a senior executive for the company which handled WTC security). The hijacks were a cover for an inside job.

But why, if it was an inside job, do it the wrong way? Why not do it the way it should have been done if Osama really had been behind it? Why do it in a way which made ATC, NORAD and the USAF look like incompetents and fools? Why do it in a way that means that people like me can point out that Osama wouldn't have done it that way? Why do it in a way that the only plausible explanation for how it happened is that it was an inside job?

Simple. It was a made-for-TV reality horror movie. One that kept the audience glued to its seats. A hijacked aircraft has been flown into WTC1. There are three (or, as some reports said, four) more hijacked aircraft. Where will they strike? Will it be the building I, or one of my loved ones, is in? What will happen next? Oh no! Now an aircraft has hit WTC2. How much longer will it take them to find these other hijacked aircraft? Oh my God! WTC2 just collapsed. What about WTC1? Will it collapse too? What about those remaining two (three?) hijacked aircraft? Oh god! Now it's the Pentagon! Where next? They think Washington, again, maybe.

An emotional roller-coaster that kept everyone (in a position to watch it happening) glued to their seats. Just blowing up the buildings would not have had as much effect. Nor would it have permitted the introduction of the draconian, inaptly-named USA PATRIOT Act. And just blowing up the buildings would have led to questions of how Osama had managed to rig up a controlled explosive demolition (a simple bomb, as used in his first attempt, would have caused the tower to topple). So now you know why it happened the way it did, using a plan that could not possibly have worked.

I know what you're going to say. Osama would have liked that emotional roller-coaster too. So maybe he did do it that way after all. Yes, but Osama would have known he'd have only one shot. After that airport security would be tightened up to the extent that he could never do it again anywhere in the world (actually, US airport security hasn't been tightened up enough to stop him). He'd be gambling everything, being almost guaranteed to lose, to get a little extra shock and horror. If he thought there was a reasonable chance he could get away with it then maybe he'd have taken that risk. But as an evil supergenius he'd know he'd blow his one and only chance to cause serious damage to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and wherever that fourth plane was headed. As a supergenius he'd realize that doing it the wrong way in the hope of getting a little extra shock and horror was about as sensible as playing Russian Roulette with a fully-loaded revolver in the hope of impressing people how brave he was.

As mathematicians and philosophers say: "reductio ad absurdum" meaning "reduced to absurdity" or "proof by contradiction." You set out to disprove something (that Osama was an evil supergenius behind the attacks) by assuming, for the sake of argument, that which you wish to disprove is true. You then show that if the thing you wish to disprove were true it leads to logical contradictions (Osama is a supergenius yet he is also a bumbling, incompetent fucktard). That which you wished to disprove must, therefore, be false.

Osama may or may not be a genius. Osama may or may not even have been involved. It was an inside job, and if Osama was involved the reason it happened the way it did was because his masters in the Bush administration told him to do it that way.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Intelligent Design

Koffee Anna just done tol' me that ah wuz intelluhguntly designed!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Abuse of Presidential pardons are the road to tyrrany

The founding fathers tried to ensure that no one branch of government (president, congress and judiciary) could dominate the other two. This was the reason for the so called "separation of powers." As James Madison put it in Federalist Paper No. 47:

No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value, or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty, than that on which the objection is founded. The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.

Sadly, the founding fathers did not spot the loophole in the presidential power to pardon that could be exploited, and has already been exploited by past presidents. The problem is that the Constitution does not allow for a judicial or congressional challenge to a presidential pardon. The President can be impeached by Congress for issuing the pardon, but when both houses are held by the same party as the President, and when those houses are dominated by corrupt, unethical, power-hungry, evil men, that's not going to happen. But even if Congress suddenly came down with a case of ethics and impeached the President, abuse of the presidential pardon may render the impeachment null and void.

Take Scooter Libby. If his case goes to trial, and if he is found guilty, Dubya can issue a pardon without challenge. Therefore if the presidential pardon is abused in this way it follows that anyone in the executive can get away any crime. Of course, if the crime is serious enough, and the abuse of the pardon power egregious enough, Congress might impeach the President.

Of course, if the Libby case went to trial there would likely be testimony and evidence that damns Cheney, Rove and Bush as conspirators in Plamegate. So Dubya may abuse his powers even more by issuing a pre-emptive pardon. That not only gets Libby off the hook, it prevents others such as Rove, Cheney and even Bush himself from being put on the hook as a result of whatever would have come out at Libby's trial. It has been done by past Republican Presidents, so the precedent is there. You can basically have an executive that is composed of a bunch of corrupt crooks and they can get away with anything they want (or the President wants).

It is possible to conceive of cases involving national security (and by that I mean real national security which affects the well-being of the US rather than cover-your-ass stuff) where allowing a case to come to trial would reveal sensitive information to foreign powers, and so a pre-emptive pardon might, in rare cases, be justifiable. I believe that in the case of pre-emptive pardons, Congress should have the power to compel the President to explain his reasons (in closed session, of course); to compel the President to turn over all relevant documents; to compel the President to answer questions under oath; to sub-poena any other relevant person to answer questions under oath; and finally that the pardon will only be allowed to stand if both houses each approve it by a majority vote.

Recent Republican presidents took their abuse of the pardon power even further. They issued pre-emptive pardons not just for charges on indictments to prevent the case going to trial but for all crimes that may have been committed but are as yet unknown to prosecutors, and all crimes that may result in the future as an inexorable consequence of past crimes. The natural consequence of this is that a President can, at the very start of his term, put all of the executive above the law by granting them all pre-emptive pardons for anything they may do.

Again it's possible to conceive of a national security issue where this might be justifiable, one where any charge that might appear against a person would reveal something vital to national security. It would have to be one hell of a justification though. I believe that this, like the "ordinary" pre-emptive pardon, must be challengable by Congress. But that in this case each house must approve the pardon by a supermajority of two-thirds.

Finally, if we allow that the President should be able to issue pre-emptive pardons which cover not just known past crimes not just past crimes not yet known to prosecutors, but also future crimes, then there is one truly frightening possibility for abuse. One so horrible that Nixon, Reagan or Bush 41 didn't dare try it. But with the precedent of pre-emptive pardons against future crimes set by Bush 41, it is no longer unthinkable. What if, at the start of his term or whenever it becomes expedient, the President pardons himself for all future crimes committed while in office? The President truly becomes above the law. It is not even clear that he could then be successfully impeached. Congress might impeach the President, but how could they make it stick if he refused to vacate the office? Sure, refusing to vacate the office after being impeached is a crime, but the President has just put himself above the law. It is doubtful that there could be any legal redress that could be used to force him to step down. But even if the impeachment did succeed, the President has gotten away with all crimes committed and cannot be punished.

It is clear that the founding fathers did not intend the presidential pardon to be used in that way. It is also clear that this type of abuse is just one tiny step up from the precedent set by Bush 41. And the only way to prevent that happening would be to exclude the President from being able to pardon himself and say that only Congress, if each house approves by a supermajority of two-thirds, can pardon the President.

To put all these safeguards in place would require a Constitutional amendment. An amendment, in my opinion, that is required very urgently. Unfortunately, I doubt that such an amendment would be passed by Congress even if the Democrates gain supermajorities in both houses next year (and by then it would probably be too late even if they did pass it).

Hey Jude

Hi Ms Miller, I hope you'll forgive my overfamiliarity by referring to you as "Jude."

I see you are still defending your position against all comers, even though the NYT felt the time had come to let you go.

I see your claim that "if your sources are wrong, you are wrong" but wonder how thoroughly you vetted those sources.

I see that you referred to yourself as "miss run amok" indicating that you were a law unto yourself yet you also claim that you were not out of control and resent Maureen O'Dowd saying that you ought to have been put on a leash.

I note a consistent pattern here: it's not your fault - your sources were wrong, but it's not your fault that they were wrong, you just reported what you were told. Despite the fact that I don't trust a single word you say, for the sake of argument I will accept that claim. But here's my problem with it.

Even if I accept your claim that you were an unwitting accomplice in the lies the administration used to lead the US into an illegal war, over 2,000 US military personnel have died. US mercenaries (known as "contractors") have died. Members of the few allies the US has in Iraq have died. Tens of thousands of US military personnel have suffered severe wounds (more severe than anything seen in the Vietnam war), post-traumatic stress syndrome, etc. Many tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. Many, many tens of thousands of Iraqis have been wounded. So much death and destruction based upon lies. Lies that you, unwittingly (you claim) facilitated.

And yet you express not the slightest sorrow that, however unwittingly, you facilitated this. Nary a word to say that you wish you had known the truth earlier so that you could have, perhaps, reduced the suffering and bloodshed. Not the slightest concern for the dead and wounded, only for yourself.

The only way I can express my feelings for you is to paraphrase the words Joseph Welch uttered to Joseph McCarthy: Have you no fucking sense of decency, woman? At long last, have you left no fucking sense of decency?

In an earlier era most newspaper correspondents would have served a term in the military before becoming journalists. In that earlier era, those journalists would have retained their service revolvers after leaving the military. And in that earlier era, any journalist who had, however unwittingly, facilitated the number of deaths and casualties that you had, would have retired to his or her bedchamber, placed the service revolver against his or her temple, and pulled the trigger. They would have done that because they could not live with the shame of even indirectly and unwittingly having facilitated those deaths and casualties.

Do the honorable thing. Kill yourself. Now. No more fucking self-publicity. No more fucking self-promoting web-site. No more fucking multi-million book deal. No more fucking defending the indefensible. No more fucking excuses. Fucking kill yourself, now. Have you no fucking sense of decency, woman? At long last, have you left no fucking sense of decency? You cannot have, because if you did you'd have killed yourself by now rather than live with the shame of what you've done.

Friday, November 11, 2005

This far!

Did we torture that Iraqi prisoner? No. Did we interrogate him vigorously? Yes. How far did we shove a broomstick up his ass? We shoved it this far up his ass.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Whaddaya mean?

Whaddaya mean oh god, oh god, yes you can hear yesssssss a buzzing sound ahhhhhh, ahhhhh, ahhhhh coming from between my legs?


For those who find Eric Blumrich's excellent flash animation Idiot Son of an Asshole a little too abrasive, I can thoroughly reccomend the more relaxed (but just as critical) Filmstrip International's American Civics Volume II

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Why torture?

Dickhead Cheney still wants to be able to torture people. McCain added an amendment to the military spending bill re-affirming the many existing laws and treaties against torture. So Cheney is now trying to get the CIA excluded from the amendment, so that they can still torture people even though Bush keeps lying that the US doesn't torture people. Why?

McCain shouldn't have needed to add that amendment. The US is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit torture, and since those conventions are an international treaty they are constitutionally the supreme law of the land. The US is a signatory to an international treaty against torture, and again because it is an international treaty it is constitutionally the supreme law of the land. The eighth amendment to the US constitution forbids "cruel and unusual punishment." The US army rulebook prohibits torture. But Cheney wants the right to torture anyway. Why?

The CIA and other intelligence agencies know that torture is ineffective at getting information. In many cases the enemy uses "cells" to limit how much any one person knows, so the prisoner may simply not know the information you want. In many cases the enemy runs to a tight schedule, so even if the prisoner knows the information you want he can hold out long enough until the event you sought to prevent has happened. A clever prisoner will deliberately appear to "break" and feed you false information, sending you on wild goose chases and wasting your resources. And finally, even innocent people who were captured in error will eventually "break" and say absolutely anything to make the torture stop. The CIA must have made Cheney aware of all this but he wants the right to torture anyway. Why?

Well, there are three cases where torture is effective. None of them involve obtaining accurate information:

  1. Obtaining a (false) confession from the innocent.

    One reason for wanting a false confession is for a "show trial." Korea and the USSR have used this technique against Americans so they could wave the "confession" in front of the world and prove that the US was involved in doing "bad things." The USSR used the technique against its own political and military officials when they seemed on the point of gaining too much power.

    Another reason for wanting a false confessions is to steal. When the Vatican altered the rules of the Spanish Inquisition so that inquisitors got to keep a large percentage of the possessions of the people they tortured, they switched from torturing widowed crones living in poverty to torturing the rich aristocracy.

    I doubt Cheney wants torture for these purposes.

  2. Suppressing a rebellion.

    This has long been standard practise in tyrranies. People learn that anyone who shows the slightest sign of dissent vanishes. Months or even years later a tortured corpse might show up. A small fraction of those tortured are released so they can tell others just how bad it was. This is terrorism, pure and simple.

    However, for this to be effective you need a fairly good domestic intelligence agency. If people think you're just torturing people at random then they have nothing to lose by rising up in rebellion. If, however, they know that you are fairly good at identifying those planning rebellion, they'll turn in anybody who even mentions rebellion.

    The US does not have good enough intelligence in Iraq for this to work.

  3. Keeping a rebellion going.

    As I have stated before, the Bush administration wants to stay in Iraq until the oil runs out. The Bush administration is constructing 14 permanent military bases in Iraq from which it can attack the other oil-producing countries in the region. The Bush administration is constructing the largest ever embassy in Iraq, far larger than is needed, and which is almost certainly intended to become the administrative hub of the new oil colonies. Oil companies, defence contractors, Halliburton and Bechtel are all making money hand-over-fist as long as Iraq is in chaos.

    If Iraq became a stable and peaceful country, capable of self-government, then the US would be obligated under the Geneva Conventions to withdraw. OTOH, as long as Iraq is in chaos then the Geneva Conventions require it to stay and fix things (there is a way of avoiding that obligation, by saying that staying is making matters worse and that stability will only occur if the US withdraws).

    So the US tortures people in Iraq. Pictures and videos of the torture "leak." Women in Abu Ghraib smuggle out letters begging their relatives to kill them for the shame of being raped by US personnel. Some of the prisoners are released, and they recount their tales and show their scars. Iraqis are enraged, and the rebellion keeps growing.

So that is the reason why Cheney wants to be able to torture. He needs to be able to keep fanning the flames. Of course, the botched reconstruction efforts also fan the flames, but that's really a bonus side-effect of the racketeering by Halliburton and Bechtel rather than the primary purpose. It's the torture that's inflaming passions. It's the torture that's keeping this whole profitable (for the Bush administration and its cronies) exercise going.

It's the torture that is inflaming the entire islamic world against the US, and a very large percentage of the islamic world lives in countries that have a lot of oil. Inciting the people of those countries to carry out terrorist acts against the US will give the US the excuse it needs to invade them (if necessary, terrorist acts will be manufactured by the US itself).

And now you know why Cheney is desperately trying to retain the right to use a barbaric practise that the civilized world condemns. That treaties signed by the US and which are the supreme law of the land prohibit. That the 8th amendment to the US Constitution prohibits. Cheney wants to be able to torture because, for what Cheney wants to achieve, it is extremely effective.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Federal Reserve

Many others have covered this subject, but with Alan Greenspan about to retire as chairman of the Federal Reserve it's worth covering it again.

If you read this post, your first thought will be that I have spun an incredible, incoherent tale, based upon fantasy, to test your gullibility. When you realize that I am being completely serious and mean every word, you will think me insane. If you check out what I claim, you'll realize that the legislators who created the Federal Reserve were crooks of the highest order and that the Federal Reserve is the biggest scam you've ever heard of.

The full name of the Federal Reserve is "The Federal Reserve Bank," but it's more usually referred to as "The Federal Reserve" or just "The Fed." Two words in the full names are out-and-out lies.

The Federal Reserve Bank is not a branch of Federal Government. It is not under the control of Federal Government. A President can replace only a handful of the governors of the twelve constuent banks that make up the Fed during his two terms, so cannot hope to exert influence upon the Fed that way.

The Federal Reserve Bank has no reserves.

However, the Federal Reserve Bank is a bank. A consortium of twelve privately-owned banks.

Aside: A brief history of money.

Trade was originally done by barter: exchanging an object you had for an object you wanted more. But there were problems with that. You might not be able to find somebody who had what you wanted and who wanted what you had. Even if you did, the values of the two objects might be vastly different ("I'd like that knife. Do you have change for a pig?") So money was invented. Originally, money consisted of coins of precious metals that had an intrinsic value. Gold, silver and copper were the usual metals. All had intrinsic value in their own right (gold and silver for jewellery, copper for pipes, tools, alloys).

Storing your coins at home was a problem: they could be stolen. So banks were invented. You could store your coins in a secure bank and they'd record how much of your money they had and let you withdraw it on request (keeping track of how much you'd withdrawn, obviously). But you had to carry the coins you needed on a day-to-day basis around with you, and they were heavy. So banks came up with the idea of "banknotes." Technically, they are one of the many items collectively known as "promisory notes." IOUs are also promisory notes.

The difference between a banknote and an IOU was the fact that the bank honoured the banknote. A bank would only give you a banknote if you gave the bank one of your intrinsically-valuable coins. All banknotes promised that if you surrendered the note to the bank it would give you an equivalent amount in coin. The British one-pound banknote (no longer issued, ironically replaced by a coin, though one of an alloy with little intrinsic value) used to say "I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of one pound" and bore the signature of the governor of the Bank of England.

British banknotes still carry that promise (though for different numbers of pounds, depending upon the denomination of the note). The banknotes of most other countries carry a similar promise. Originally, a one-pound note could be redeemed for one (British) pound of sterling silver (sterling meant a specific purity). This is why the full name of British currency is "the pound sterling." But there's no way you can exchange a five-pound note for five pounds of sterling silver (which, because of inflation, would cost a very great deal more). All you can do is exchange banknotes for other banknotes or for coins made of an alloy with little intrinsic value (if you melted them down and sold the alloy you'd end up out of pocket).

Back in the days when you could still theoretically exchange your note at the bank for gold, banks had a reserve of gold equal in value to the number of notes they issued. They were not allowed to issue more notes than they had gold to redeem, so that if everyone suddenly decided they wanted their gold instead of notes they would all be satisfied. The promise on the note was valid.

Years pass and banks persuade their respective governments to allow "fractional reserves." To issue more notes than they could redeem with their reserves of precious metal. Their reasoning was that not everyone would want their gold at the same time. In fact, hardly anyone asked for their gold. So the governments allowed it. Issuing more notes ("increasing the money supply") is one of the major causes of inflation. But the banks and governments were happy. Until the great crash in the US, when suddenly everyone wanted their gold (a "bankrush") and the banks had no possible way of redeeming more than a fraction of their notes.

Back to the story. The Fed has no reserves because some time after "fractional reserves" came into play, the US stopped backing currency with even fractional amounts of gold. It went off the "gold standard." US currency is now what is technically "fiat currency". Worthless bits of paper that can only be exchanged for other worthless bits of paper or for worthless coins. The economy works only as long as we all believe in the fairy tale and collectively agree that we will work an hour for a certain number of bits of worthless paper and that we can buy things like food for a different number of bits of worthless paper. When everyone stops believing the fairy tale you get hyperinflation (as in pre-WWII Germany) where you need a wheelbarrow to transport enough 1-million-deutschmark notes to pay for a loaf of bread.

But that's not the crazy part of the story. The governor of the Fed is the person who decides how much money will be in circulation and what the interest rate will be. The President can certainly ask the Fed to put more money into circulation, but the governor has to approve that request. The US Government is not in control of the US dollar, the Fed is, even though it is the US Treasury (which is a branch of Federal Government) which runs the printing presses that churn out dollar bills. The US Treasury is not permitted to print notes except as necessary to replace worn notes that are withdrawn from circulation and destroyed (by the US Treasury in a big furnace) unless they receive explicit authorization from the Fed. In fact, US dollar bills do not say that the US Government promises to redeem them but that the Federal Reserve Bank promises to do so. The Treasury may print the notes, but that's only because the Fed sub-contracts the work. Those notes are backed and honoured by the Fed.

And even that's not the crazy part of the story. Let's suppose Dick Cheney decides he would like an additional $1 billion in circulation. So he sends his pet monkey, Dubya, to go cap-in-hand to the Fed to make Cheney's case. After a long interview with the governor of the Fed (during which Dubya has to make many phone calls to his boss to ask for help), the governor of the Fed is persuaded that he will allow Dubya to put another $1 billion into circulation. Does the governor of the Fed go down to his vaults and return with a big pile of dollar bills? Nope, because the Fed doesn't have any reserves. What he does is authorize the US Treasury to print up those additional bills and put them into circulation.

That wasn't the crazy part of the story either, although you might have thought so. Here's the crazy part. The part you won't be able to believe because it seems so insane. You won't be able to believe the system really works that way. But it does. As Dubya turns to leave, the governor of the Fed reminds him that the Fed is a private bank and that it has just let Dubya have billion dollars. A billion dollars that the Fed, and the Fed alone, can redeem. In fact, that billion is not a gift from the Fed to the US Government but a loan.

Now you think I'm mad, but it has to be a loan. You can't go into a bank and expect them to simply give you money because that bank has to redeem that money somehow. You have to ask for a loan, and frequently you have to back the value of that loan with collateral (usually of greater value) that the bank can take away from you if you do not repay the loan. And you have to pay interest upon that loan.

Just think that over. Every US banknote in circulation has been borrowed from the Fed by the US Government. Every US banknote in circulation must eventually be paid back to the Fed (which would mean no money in circulation). As long as US banknotes are in circulation, the Fed is charging interest upon them. Suppose that, one day, the US Government said that enough was enough and decided to pay all the notes back to the Fed and issue its own notes. The Fed would then say "pay back the interest too." Which is absolutely impossible, because the US now has no banknotes with which to do so. So the US Government says to the Fed that they're printing their own notes and will pay back the interest with those. To which the Fed responds that it won't accept those notes, only its own notes.

At this point you've concluded either that the Fed is the biggest scam in the history of the US or that I am insane. At this point you should think about the "national debt." You've probably heard of it. You may even know that it only ever gets bigger. But you probably don't know why it exists in the first place. The national debt is all the money the US Government owes to the Fed: the amount of currency in circulation plus all the accumulated interest.

The Fed wasn't the first bank to operate this way. Other countries have long since had what are known as "central banks" running the same scam. One of the first was the Bank of England. They sold this crazy scheme to an inbred, somewhat insane, monarch (similar to Dubya) on the basis that although there would be an ever-increasing national debt, inflation would decrease the value of the notes and everything would balance. Most of us know that banks are like people who will lend you an umbrella, but only if it's not raining. However, this inbred monarch fell for the scheme, and so did others.

Perhaps you've guessed this already, but the same family started all these central banks, from the Bank of England to the US Federal Reserve Bank. Usually, there is a long, twisted, trail of ownership. The twelve constituent banks of the Fed are owned by other banks, which are owned by a small number of families, acting as cut-outs for this one family. At the top of the pyramid is the Rothschilds. At the second level of the pyramid are twelve families such as the Morgans, Lazards, and Rockefellers. See this for the very twisted trail of ownership, which finally culminates in the Rothschilds.

For those who want more detail, see this (a book-length read, and perhaps too much to take in at once.

Actually, the Fed was not the first attempt by the Rothschilds to create a central bank in the US. Although the predecessor central banks failed or had their charters revoked, they kept on trying. And here is the curious thing. Any president who tried to shut down those banks, or have the US issue its own currency, or return to the gold standard, was the subject of an assassination attempt (almost all of them successful):

  • 1832, Andrew Jackson vetoes renewing the charter of the "Bank of the United States." There were at least two attempts upon his life after that.

  • Lincoln needed finance for the Civil War but the central bank wanted to charge ridiculous rates of interest. Lincoln decided the US Government would issue its own curency (known as the "greenback" because the back of the note was printed in green). He was shot at a play and the greenback died shortly after.

  • James Garfield ran on a return to the gold standard and a promise to fight the international bankers. Assassinated.

  • William McKinley wanted a return to the gold standard and to get rid of the central banks. Assassinated.

  • June 14th, 1963. John F. Kennedy signs executive order 11110 authorizing the US Treasury to issue US Government notes up to the value of the bullion reserves held by the Treasury, bypassing the Fed completely. Six months later JFK left his brains on the back seat of a car in Dallas. Lyndon Johnson (his successor) rescinded executive order 11110.

  • One person since, although not a president, tried to investigate the Federal Reserve Scam. Robert F. Kennedy, too, was assassinated.

The message is clear. You don't fuck with the Rothschilds and their central bank scam.

If you research my claims (as you should), you're likely to unearth these nuggets:

  • The Rotshchilds (either directly or through their subordinate families) have fomented every major war in the past few hundred years. They, and their subordinate families, have benefited by speculating on the outcome of the war, and by selling arms and materiel to both sides.

  • The Rockefellers and some of their associated second-level families bankrolled Karl Marx and the Russian Revolution.

  • The Venezuelan subsidiary of Rockefeller-owned Standard Oil (as it was before it was split into several smaller companies like Exxon, Texaco and Mobil, although all really still owned by the Rockefellers) supplied oil to Hitler during WW II.

  • Working for the second-level Brown and Harriman families, the third-level Prescott Bush acted as banker and financier for Hitler during WW II. When the US gov't found out, they confiscated his German assets under the Trading with the Enemy Act. However, the US gov't didn't find all the German assets, so Bush continued to run those he had left. After the war, all of those assets were returned and form the basis of the Bush family fortune.

  • It was Lord Rotschild who engineered the Balfour Declaration and delivered it to the Zionists. That declaration committed Britain to establishing a Jewish homeland in its Mandate of Palestine.

  • The US has long given Israel far more in aid, per capita, than to any other country. The US sells Israel arms. The US turned a blind eye to Israel developing nuclear weapons.

  • Most of the neocons, who are either key players in the Bush administration or exert major influence upon it, are of jewish descent and strong supporters of Israel. They are Zionists who support the "Likkudniks" in Israel. The Likkudniks want all Palestinians out of Israel, and to conquer surrounding countries until they have established "Greater Israel" and returned to the boundaries of the biblical lands of Israel and Judea. This is, supposedly, a precondition for the Jewish and Christian versions of the end times.

  • The Rothschilds, and their second-level subordinate families, are all of Jewish descent.

Supposedly-democratic Senator Jay D Rockefeller is amongst those calling for an investigation into how the Bush administration abused intelligence over Iraq. Given that Rockefeller-owned oil companies have made record profits as a result of the Iraq war, this is rather surprising. The only conclusion is that the Rothschilds have decided that Bush has departed too far from their plan and has to be replaced before he does more damage.

I promise you...

Some people have accused me of flip-flopping because I said that anybody in my administration who leaked Valerie Plame's name would no longer work in my administration but later said that anybody in my administration who committed a crime by leaking Valeria Plame's name would no longer be in my administration.

To those people, I say that there is an old saying in Tennessee, at least it's in Texas, maybe Tennessee too: "fool you twice, I can keep on fooling you forever."

For those who wish me to clarify my position, I can say this (thanks to Unka Karl for the wording). I promise you, hand on heart, that if somebody in my administration leaked Valerie Plame's name, and if that person is indicted for leaking Valerie Plame's name, and if that person is convicted of leaking Valerie Plame's name, and if that person is sentenced to death for leaking Valerie Plame's name, and if that person is executed for leaking Valerie Plame's name, then that person will no longer work in my administration.

I promised, when I was selected in 2000, that I would restore honour and dignity to the White House. Unlike my predecessor, who refused to make this commitment, I pledge not to appoint dead people to my administration. Unless I learn the secret of reanimating the dead as zombies, of course.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Fitzgerald - it will probably get a lot better

I've seen many blog articles bemoaning that Fitz isn't going to touch the really important issues behind Plamegate like the lies that led us into an illegal war and whether those lies were the result of incompetence and overenthusiasm or pure malice. I think those articles are wrong.

I can see why those articles say what they do. Most of it comes from interpretations of Fritz's answers to questions at the Press Conference. But Fritz is very cagey and doesn't give anything away. Legally he cannot reveal Grand Jury proceedings nor indicate which individuals may yet be indicted. But Fitz is even cagier than he need because he knows that way people who testify don't know what other cards he's holding and can drop themselves in deep shit on perjury charges (Hi, Scooter).

So now to read between the lines of the press conference. The most revealing bits come in the Q&A session where Fitz had to think on his feet.

I can tell you, the substantial bulk of the work in this investigation is concluded.

That doesn't mean it's all over. It means he's got the bulk of the testimony and physical evidence he wanted, and it took him two years to get it. But all it takes is for Libby to beg for a deal and hand over some additional evidence to give Fitz a winning hand. Not much extra work involved, but a big payoff. So that could mean Fitz has done everything he wants and there won't be any more indictments or it could mean that Fitz is still pressuring people to flip (or flip some more).

The people who think Fitz is not going to dig into the lies behind the war probably get that idea from this question and answer. Note that the emphasis appearing in Fitzgerald's comments has been added by me to bring out salient points.

QUESTION: A lot of Americans, people who are opposed to the war, critics of the administration, have looked to your investigation with hope in some ways and might see this indictment as a vindication of their argument that the administration took the country to war on false premises.

Does this indictment do that?

FITZGERALD: This indictment is not about the war. This indictment's not about the propriety of the war. And people who believe fervently in the war effort, people who oppose it, people who have mixed feelings about it should not look to this indictment for any resolution of how they feel or any vindication of how they feel.

This is simply an indictment that says, in a national security investigation about the compromise of a CIA officer's identity that may have taken place in the context of a very heated debate over the war, whether some person -- a person, Mr. Libby -- lied or not.

The indictment will not seek to prove that the war was justified or unjustified. This is stripped of that debate, and this is focused on a narrow transaction.

And I think anyone's who's concerned about the war and has feelings for or against shouldn't look to this criminal process for any answers or resolution of that.

The first two paragraph's of Fitz's response make it clear that he is talking about this indictment of Irvin Lewis "Scooter" Libby and of no other indictments. The Grand Jury can issue a superceding indictment of Libby that contains additional charges. The Grand Jury can issue indictments of other individuals that contain charges of other crimes that do not appear on this indictment of Libby.

The third paragraph starts "the indictment" rather than "this indictment, but in the context of the preceeding two paragraphs and the rest of the third paragraph, it's clear Fitz is still referring to this indictment of Libby, not a superceding indictment of Libby nor of indictments against other individuals.

The fourth paragraph refers to "this criminal process," and I suspect many interpreted that to mean the Grand Jury investigation. But "criminal proceedings" refer to a trial. There can be no trial until an indictment has been made. As Fitz stated several times in several ways, the reason for Grand Jury secrecy is to prevent harm to the reputations of individuals who were under investigation but found not to have done anything wrong (or might have done something wrong but the case wasn't strong enough). Those who have not been indicted are not criminals. Therefore when Fitz says "criminal process" he means the trial against Libby, and Libby alone, and based upon this indictment rather than a superceding indictment (should there be one).

Another answer by Fitzgerald shows clearly that all you can conclude from Libby's indictment is that so far Libby is the only one to have been indicted:

I'm not making allegations about anyone not charged in the indictment.

Now, let me back up, because I know what that sounds like to people if they're sitting at home.

We don't talk about people that are not charged with a crime in the indictment.

I would say that about anyone in this room who has nothing to do with the offenses.

We make no allegation that the vice president committed any criminal act. We make no allegation that any other people who provided or discussed with Mr. Libby committed any criminal act.

But as to any person you asked me a question about other than Mr. Libby, I'm not going to comment on anything.

Please don't take that as any indication that someone has done something wrong. That's a standard practice. If you followed me in Chicago, I say that a thousand times a year. And we just don't comment on people because we could start telling, "Well, this person did nothing wrong, this person did nothing wrong," and then if we stop commenting, then you'll start jumping to conclusions. So please take no more.

The reason Fitz won't comment about anyone other than Libby is that if he said Bush had done nothing wrong but refused to comment about Cheney then you'd know Cheney was a target and Cheney's reputation would suffer if no indictment was brought (God knows how Cheney's reputation could be any worse, but that's the law). But if Fitz had already concluded that no further indictments were possible, he would be able to say so: "The only person we will be indicting is Libby and the only charges we'll be bringing are those on this indictment. We've gone as far as possible." The reason Fitz cannot exclude Cheney is because he cannot say he's brought all the indictments he wants to.

Am I parsing that too hard? Nope. The Libby indictment identifies several people (but by official title such as "Vice President" rather than by name) where the evidence of those people's interactions with Libby is probably not indictable. But in one instance, an individual's interaction with Libby may amount to conspiracy, so that individual may yet be indicted on the basis of material that appears in Libby's indictment. That official is referred to as "White House Official A" (and is almost certainly Karl Rove). The material in Libby's indictment referring to Cheney won't be used in an indictment against Cheney, the material referring to Official A may be. But there may be other material, which does not appear on Libby's indictment, that may form the basis of indictments against others (such as Cheney and Bush).

So my take is that Fitz in no way excluded the possibility of digging into the lies behind the war. If that happens, and Fitz can prove the lies were deliberate, that opens up the possibility of war crimes charges! You're probably thinking that I'm basing all this upon an overly-careful parsing of the above question and answer. But there was more in the press conference to justify that interpretation.

Another answer from Fitzgerald:

And as you sit back, you want to learn: Why was this information going out? Why were people taking this information about Valerie Wilson and giving it to reporters? Why did Mr. Libby say what he did? Why did he tell Judith Miller three times? Why did he tell the press secretary on Monday? Why did he tell Mr. Cooper? And was this something where he intended to cause whatever damage was caused?

Or did they intend to do something else and where are the shades of gray?

And what we have when someone charges obstruction of justice, the umpire gets sand thrown in his eyes. He's trying to figure what happened and somebody blocked their view.

As you sit here now, if you're asking me what his motives were, I can't tell you; we haven't charged it.

Fitzgerald needs to know deeper motives before he can bring charges for leaking. Some of the (arcane) statues against leaking require very specific circumstances to be met. Most of them require mens rea (intent) and that is impossible to prove unless you can prove what the motive was, because it could have been unintentional or accidental or negligent rather than deliberate. But that last paragraph gives it away. Fitz isn't saying he doesn't know the motives but that he cannot (yet) prove them and bring additional charges.

How do I know that Fitz would actually try to dig as deep as it goes and not stop once he had enough charges to put people away for many years? His behaviour in other cases. He brings every charge he can against every individual possible and he goes as far to the top of the tree as he can. Again, from the press conference:

Agent Eckenrode doesn't send people out when $1 million is missing from a bank and tell them, "Just come back if you find wire fraud." If the agent finds embezzlement, they follow through on that.

What Fitz didn't say, but is evident from his past behaviour, that if the agent finds both wire fraud and embezzlement they follow through on both. They go after anything they find.

Here's another part of the Q&A that may have misled people into thinking Fitz won't go after anything and everything:

QUESTION: Have you sought any expansion of your authority since February of 2004?


I do know there was a letter, and I haven't looked back. There was a clarified letter...


FITZGERALD: Yes. I think there were two letters in early 2004, and that's it. There's nothing changed since then.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) further issues that you want to look into or anything like that?

FITZGERALD: I'm not looking to expand my authority or mandate and haven't -- I think the second letter is a clarification of the first. Nothing has changed since February 2004 at all.

Note that exchange very carefully. The first question was if Fitz had sought an expansion of his authority, and the answer was that he had not. The second question was if Fitz wanted to look into further issues, which Fitz side-stepped by saying he wasn't looking to expand his authority. Of course he wasn't looking to expand his authority because he already had the authority he needed to investigate any violations of Federal criminal laws related to the "alleged unauthorized disclosure" (see this memo).

As I already stated, in order to prove intent to leak Plame's name Fitz needs to look into the lies that led to the war in order to prove motive. And if that investigation uncovers further crimes (like treason or even war crimes) then Fitz already has all the authority he needs to bring indictments (if he can) for those crimes.

Another answer from Fitzgerald:

That's the way this investigation was conducted. It was known that a CIA officer's identity was blown, it was known that there was a leak. We needed to figure out how that happened, who did it, why, whether a crime was committed, whether we could prove it, whether we should prove it.

And given that national security was at stake, it was especially important that we find out accurate facts.

Today I came across an article (no link because I think it's a disinformation exercise) that claims Fitz is actually a shill who was brought in to make it seem like there was a thorough investigation and then to indict Libby as a scapegoat, but to hold off the indictment until after the election. Two questions: why indict Libby (known as "Cheney's Cheney" because he was effectively Vice Vice President) rather than somebody lower down? Why does "White House Official A" appear on Libby's indictment?

I think, given all the above, Fitz is doing an honest job. And he's not going to stop until he's indicted everyone that he can indict on every charge that he can. And that could mean some very serious shit going right the way to the top.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Death Penalty

It would appear that the same states that supported slavery, the same states that were in favour of Bush, the same states where the majority of the population votes against its own self interests, the states that hate "nanny government" but get more in federal subsidies than they pay in federal taxes, the states that are most religious, the states that have the most abortions, the states that have the most divorces, the states that have the most violence, the states that have the most murders, the "red states," the shit-for-brains states, are in favour of the death penalty.

I believe that religion and a hankering for the death penalty go hand-in-hand. If you were logical, religiousity would require you to be against the death penalty. But religion means never having to confront reality.

In the religion held by most of those in the "red states," if you do everything right and worship the tooth fairy the right way, you are granted an eternity of bliss (which is like an orgasm but without the messy bodily fluids and the wet spot in the bed). You can be an evil shit (i.e., a Dick Cheney) all your life yet recant on your death bed and earn your eternity of bliss.

Eternity is a fuck of a long time. Compared to eternity, a human lifespan is no more than the blink of an eye. Compared to eternity, a million human lifespans is no more than the blink of an eye. Compared to eternity, a gazillion human lifespans is no more than the blink of an eye. Eternity is infinite, and compared to infinity any number you can think of is so small in comparison that it may as well be zero.

Whether or not you think it better to imprison somebody or to execute them depends entirely upon religiousity. And, worse, if you are religious then your decision is hypocritical.

Consider Timothy McVeigh. Many deaths to his name. He converted to Christianity before being executed, so supposedly goes to Heaven. Suppose that there is a God, and an afterlife, and McVeigh happened to choose the one correct creed of all the thousands of creeds of Christianity, and that McVeigh was sincerely repentent of his sins, and so went to Heaven.

In this scenario, McVeigh has a few years of suffering on death row, then an eternity of fucking bliss. Compared to eternity, a human lifetime is but the blink of an eye, and a few years on death row is even less than the blink of an eye.

Now suppose that McVeigh had been given a life sentence rather than the death penalty, but had still converted. He'd have spent even more years suffering, but compared to eternity those twenty, or thirty, or fourty years would have been as naught.

So, y'know, it's pretty damned clear. If you want somebody to pay for his crimes, even though he later gets an eternal orgasm, you don't execute him. Killing him sends him off for an early bath. It takes him out of the hardship of the game and sends him off to the post-game celebrations early.

In the long run, if there is a Heaven and eternal orgasm. and a criminal converts to the right one of many thousands of Christian creeds and is sincere about repenting his sins, the difference between execution and a life sentence is trivial. The life sentence results in more suffering, and by any standard of logic ought to be preferred by the shit-for-brains people. However, if the invisible easter bunny myth is just another fairy tale, then a life sentence is more of a punishment than execution. Life in prison is not pleasant. It's not meant to be. The more time you spend in prison, the less enjoyable it is. Death is an early release from prison, and even if there is no afterlife you might prefer an early end to your woes. But if you think you're on a fast track to perpetual orgasm, bring that death penalty on!

Of course, when faced with death, even the religious try to avoid it. Deep down they know the tales of the magic tooth fairy are just fairy tales. So they all try to defer execution. But that's when they're on death row. When they're walking around free, it's another matter.

Hey, that guy pissed me off. I'ma gonna shoot him. If God didn't want me to shoot him, God would make my gun jam. But my gun didn't jam. So if that guy was good, God wanted him to go to Heaven early; and if that guy was bad, God wanted him to go to Hell early. I am just an agent of God. And if I get caught and sentenced to execution, that just means I go to Heaven early, which is a bonus.

Is there any fucking wonder the shit-for-brains religious states have the highest per-capita murder rates and endorse the death penalty? When you base your life around a non-existent invisible sky being and ignore reality because it conflicts with your beliefs, crap like that is bound to ensue.