Saturday, October 29, 2005

Watch out for Martians! Mars is closer
than it's going to get for a long long time. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"There is really something tragic about America in the idea that we have only daily life to tell us what life is about."

Eric Fischl
The Beta Version

SAN ANDRES ISLAND, Colombia (AP) - The storm Beta strengthened as it battered the tiny Caribbean island of Providencia on Saturday, setting a record by becoming the 13th hurricane of this relentless Atlantic season.

Beta lashed the mountainous Manhattan-sized island owned by Colombia with damaging winds, torrential rains and high surf, said the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

``Extensive damage to homes has occurred on the island,'' the hurricane center said. Though the center said all communications to Providencia have been lost, there was intermittent phone service. A total of 25 inches of rain could fall on the island, the hurricane center said.

At 5 a.m. EDT, the National Hurricane Center said Beta was a Category 1 hurricane. The hurricane, which began whipping Providencia on Friday, was expected to move north-northwest and slam into Central America by Sunday as a Category 2 storm. It was not expected to affect the United States.

The hurricane was the 13th this year, more than any Atlantic season on record. This hurricane season has also seen 23 named storms, more than at any point since record-keeping began in 1851. The previous record of 21 was set in 1933. Last week Tropical Storm Alpha formed, the first time a letter from the Greek alphabet has been used because the list of storm names was exhausted.

Captain Future's Log

Rover, Rover

Can Karl come over? That seems to be the key question that remains for the Fitzgerald investigation.

Hours after the indictment and resignation of Scooter Libby, there was a growing consensus in the press that Karl Rove had engineered a narrow escape in a last minute meeting with prosecutors. Even the authors of the Raw Story report excerpted here Friday pulled back from their assertions that Rove was up for even more---and more serious—charges, in an investigation that was widening its scope.

Nearly every other sign indicated that more indictments are unlikely, and Rove partisans worked the press to make sure that impression made the conventional wisdom pundit programs from Friday through Sunday.

Still, there was Fitzgerald’s cryptic, “it’s not over.” And the haunting observation on the BooMan blog that Fitzgerald is not somebody you’d want to play poker with. Some suggest that the airtight Libby indictment is a classic prosecutorial maneuver to get Libby to inform, which would broaden the inquiry and bump it up to directly involve vice president Cheney.

There was the fresh revelation, or semi-confirmation, that one of Robert Novak’s sources in the column that started it all by outing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent, was in fact Karl Rove. He was apparently the second or confirming source. He’s referred to in the indictment as official A, and prosecution lawyers were said to be naming Rove as that official.

There is still only speculation on the name of Novak’s original source. If that person isn’t indicted, Fitzgerald will not reveal who it was. But in that case, since it’s likely Novak told the grand jury who it was, he probably will reveal it himself. It will be his last big scoop.

So Rove either lied to Bush about his involvement, or parsed his statement with great precision, or possibly Bush knew and is lying himself. Rove almost certainly lied to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, who told the press categorically that Rove told him he was not involved in outing Plame to reporters. McClellan then passed on the lie to the press and the American people, who were yet to cast their votes in the 2004 election.

This timing was mentioned by Fitzgerald in his press conference, when he was talking about the long process of obtaining Judy Miller’s testimony. He said that if it had been freely given, his investigation might have ended in October 2004 instead of this year. It would have ended before the election. It’s possible that without his lies, Libby and everyone else would have been exonerated. But it’s also possible that the truth could have led to the underlying crimes, the conspiracy to out Valerie Plame and the act of outing a CIA agent whose employment as an agent was classified. Though Fitzgerald did not draw this conclusion, it’s reasonable to believe the 2004 elections might have had a different outcome (assuming Diebold voting machine fraud and the Republicans’ vote fraud and suppression effort wasn’t extensive enough to reverse a decisive majority.)

Though Friday’s events did not have the instant H-Bomb effect on the Bush White House that many expected, desired or feared, it may yet serve to dramatize to a larger audience the pattern of deceit that led to congressional approval of the Iraq invasion and occupation.

But unless there are those additional indictments showing a wider conspiracy, including the effort to distort and sell those distortions in order to trick the US into war, the protracted nature of mostly offstage events could allow the quagmire that is the Bush administration as much as the Iraq war to continue. It’s a depressing prospect.

Those who are counting on the revelations of Libby’s trial may have to wait a long time, and then be disappointed if there is some sort of settlement and subsequent pardon. What needs to happen is for the Democrats to give up their waiting game.

They watched this case and others spill over the media with fresh revelations of Bushie and Republican corruption every week, and then every day. They watched as the tragedies of Katrina and Iraq inflicted more damage on the Bush image than their speeches ever could. And this month they watched Bush’s conservative religious right base revolt over his nomination of Harriet Miers, until he had to essentially withdraw it.

But the time for waiting is over. The concerted effort to win back the Congress by winning the country must begin in earnest.

Escaping from a bad bad week in Washington,
Bush is clearing brush at Camp David,
and searching for a new Supreme Court
nominee. (We hear Scooter Libby is available.) Posted by Picasa
When the Chickenhawks Come Home to Roost

from an article by By George E. Condon Jr. [excerpts; emphasis added]

It is a measure of just how bad things have been going for President Bush that the first indictment of a senior presidential adviser in more than a century was greeted Friday with more relief than shame inside the White House. As scandalous as the criminal charges against Lewis Libby are, the president's top aides had been braced for more charges and the possible forced resignations of even more senior officials.

Almost exactly one year after he triumphantly celebrated his re-election victory, these are not happy days for the president, his administration and his party.

It's been the worst week of the worst month of the worst year of the Bush presidency," said Charles Cook, editor of a respected nonpartisan political newsletter, who said the president's team is making the same mistakes seen in many second-term White Houses and is in dire need of fresh blood.

Just since last weekend, Bush has had to endure another significant terrorist bombing inside Iraq, the passing of a major milestone with the 2,000th American military death in the war, more bad poll numbers, more complaints about slow response to a hurricane in Florida, the humiliating withdrawal of his Supreme Court nominee and, now, the criminal indictment of one of the most influential members of the administration.

There are 161,000 US troops in Iraq, the largest
number of the war. Official death toll reached 2010
this week. Posted by Picasa


Carl Bernstein on the Plame Game

from Editor and Publisher, an article by Joe Strupp [emphasis added]
We are obviously watching and the press is beginning to document the implosion of a presidency," Bernstein said Thursday, just hours before the Plame grand jury is set to expire. "How destructive that implosion is going to be, ultimately, we don't know yet."

"But what the Plame leak investigation has unveiled is what the press should have been focusing on long before and without let up--how we went to war, the dishonesty involved in that process in terms of what the president and vice-president told the American people and the Congress, and the routine smearing by members of the Bush administration of people who questioned their actions and motives."

Bernstein compared that to the way the Watergate investigation uncovered widespread dishonesty in the Nixon administration in a similar way. "Beware of exact comparisons," he said. "However, in Watergate, the cover-up of the role of Nixon's aides in the Watergate break-in led to the discovery by the press and the political institutions of the larger crimes -- the so called 'White House horrors' -- meaning the constitutional crimes of the president and his men.

"In the case of the disclosure of the identity of Valerie Plame, there also has been a political cover-up, not necessarily a criminal one, having to do with the question of how we went to war and the smearing of this administration's opponents," he added. "The question of whether or not there is criminal culpability by Lewis Libby or Karl Rove is less-important, I believe, than the fact that their actions have finally shed light on questions that long ago should have been examined much more closely by the press and the political establishment, and particularly the president's fellow Republicans."

Bernstein found a similarity there as well, noting "in the Nixon administration, courageous Republicans decided it was important that the president's actions be scrutinized and that hasn't occurred in large measure (in the Plame case). But the implosion that seems to be occurring would indicate that that kind of scrutiny might be on the way."

Citing the Plame case's connection to the Iraq War, and the lies that led up to U.S. involvement, Bernstein found another similarity to Watergate. "The long range interests of the country are affected every bit as much by the (Iraq) war as (by) the events of Watergate," he declared. "What we are seeing is a broad question of the honesty of how we got into this war and the honesty of a presidency."When asked how the special prosecutors in the Watergate case compared to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's work in the Plame matter, Bernstein zeroed in on his subpoenaing of reporters to testify. "Most of our sources in Watergate were in the Nixon administration and some of them probably broke the law," he said.

"I think the unfortunate thing about this special prosecutor's investigation is that it took him hauling reporters in to court before a lot of the relevant questions about the president were raised in the press."That delay in press alertness, he said, was similar in both the Watergate case and the Plame matter. "It took a long time for the press to stay with the story of Watergate and it has taken the press a long time to stay with the story of this presidency's truthfulness and how it went to war."

Friday, October 28, 2005

Karl (the puppetmaster) Rove: is he next? Posted by Picasa
"It's Not Over"

from Raw Story: "Fitzgerald expands probe, believes he can get Rove on more serious charges, lawyers say" by Jason Leopold [emphasis added]

In one of the boldest moves yet in the 22-month investigation into the outing of a covert CIA agent to a handful of top reporters covering the White House, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is extending his probe and pursuing much more serious charges against senior White House officials, specifically President Bush’s Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, lawyers directly involved in the case told RAW STORY Friday.

While many people were left confused by news reports that said Rove wouldn't be indicted Friday, the lawyers said that Rove remains under intense scrutiny and added that Fitzgerald is betting on the fact that he can secure an indictment against Rove on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, the misuse of classified information, and possibly other charges, as early as next week.

“This investigation is not yet over,” one of the lawyers in the case said. “You must keep in mind that people like Mr. Rove are still under investigation. Rather than securing an indictment on perjury charges against Mr. Rove Mr. Fitzgerald strongly believes he can convince the grand jury that he broke other laws.”

The lawyers said that in the past month Fitzgerald has obtained explosive information in the case that has enabled him to pursue broader charges such as conspiracy, and civil rights violations against targets like Rove.

Specifically, the lawyers said Fitzgerald is focusing on phony intelligence documents that led to the outing of Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity: the documents that claimed Iraq was attempting to purchase yellow-cake uranium from Niger.

A court filing posted on Fitzgerald’s website last week was the first such confirmation that the prosecutor has in fact decided to pursue the broader claims that intelligence the Bush administration used to build support for the Iraq war was flawed and, as a result, the reason many officials inside and outside of the White House went out of their way to out Plame, whose husband was a vocal critic of the Iraq war who was sent on a mission to Niger to investigate allegations that Iraq had attempted to buy Niger from the African country.

NATO sources told United Press International Monday that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.
This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House."

Fitzgerald will draw on another grand jury that is already empaneled. Federal law says that a grand jury’s term cannot be extended more than once, which is the case with the grand jury that has been hearing testimony in the case.

former Cheney chief of staff Scooter Libby Posted by Picasa
Libby Indicted, Self-Canned

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald today announced a five count indictment of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, vice-president Cheney's chief aide, involving perjury and obstruction of justice. Libby promptly resigned.

Fitzgerald indicated his investigation will proceed. A new grand jury will be used for any further indictments.

Karl Rove is one of those under continuing investigation.

One element of the indictments that is at the heart of the media debate over the past few days in particular is Valerie Plame's secret or non-secret status. The indictment says clearly that Plame's employment at the CIA was classified, and not widely known. Fitzgerald in his press conference stressed that the security status is separate from whether she was covert or not covert. But within the indictment it was established that Libby was told in which branch of the CIA she worked, which in itself would have told an official with experience in national security that she was covert.

More details in excerpts from a Reuters report with additional reporting from Macon Daily.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, was indicted on Friday for obstructing justice, perjury and lying after a two-year CIA leak investigation, dealing a damaging blow to the beleaguered White House.

Libby, who could face up to 30 years in prison, resigned minutes after the indictment was filed in a case that has put a spotlight on how the administration sold the nation on the war in Iraq and countered its critics.

In a statement, Cheney said Libby would "fight the charges brought against him."President George W. Bush's top political adviser, Karl Rove, was not indicted along with Libby, but special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has made clear to Rove he remains under investigation and in legal jeopardy, lawyers said.

"It's not over," Fitzgerald told a news conference.

Bush said the investigation and legal proceedings were "serious and now the process moves into a new phase.""I am confident that at the end of this process I will be completely and totally exonerated," Libby said in a statement.


Plame's cover was blown after her diplomat husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of twisting prewar intelligence to support military action against Iraq. Wilson said it was done deliberately to erode his credibility."Today is a sad day for America," Wilson said in a statement. "When an indictment is delivered at the front door of the White House, the Office of the President is defiled."

Some Republicans have accused Fitzgerald of being overzealous by pursuing "legal technicalities" instead of the underlying crime. Libby was not charged with illegally disclosing the name of a covert CIA operative."I'll be blunt," Fitzgerald said in response. "That talking point won't fly."

He also sought to distance the indictment from the growing national debate over the Iraq war, saying the issue was whether "Libby lied or not" and not whether "the war was justified or unjustified."

The charges accuse Libby of lying to FBI agents who interviewed him on October 14, 2003, and November 26, 2003, committing perjury while testifying under oath to the grand jury twice in March 2004, and engaging in obstruction of justice by impeding the grand jury's investigation.

Fitzgerald said Libby lied "under oath and repeatedly."Wilson based his criticism of the administration in part on a CIA-sponsored mission he made to Africa in 2002 to check out an intelligence report that Iraq sought uranium from Niger.Bush cited intelligence that Iraq sought uranium from Africa in his 2003 State of the Union address, but Wilson later said the claim was unsubstantiated.


Cheney's office sought to discredit Wilson and his findings by suggesting the trip had been arranged by his wife.

The indictment showed that Libby began seeking information about Wilson and his wife in late May 2003, some six weeks before Plame's identity was publicly disclosed in a July 14, 2003, newspaper column by Robert Novak.It appears that Libby first learned that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA -- and that she was involved in organizing his trip to Niger -- on June 11 or June 12, 2003 in conversations with the undersecretary of State and a senior officer at the CIA, who were not identified by name.

The undersecretary referred to in the documents is Marc Grossman.

The indictment also highlighted Cheney's role. Libby learned from Cheney himself on June 12, 2003, that Wilson's wife worked in the counterproliferation division of the CIA.Fitzgerald declined to predict when Libby's trial would begin but said he would not be arrested.

As for Rove, legal sources said the key Bush aide could at a later date face perjury charges for initially failing to tell the grand jury he talked to a Time magazine reporter about Plame.

Fitzgerald said he would use a new grand jury if necessary for any additional charges since the one that handed up Libby's indictment expired on Friday.

"The special counsel has advised Mr. Rove that he has made no decision about whether or not to bring charges and that Mr. Rove's status has not changed," Rove's attorney, Robert Luskin, said in a statement.Libby's indictment was available here. ent_28102005.pdf.

Cheney and Libby: conspiracy to kill. Posted by Picasa
Smoke This Gun: Cheney and Scooter' s Murderous Deception

From National Journal [excerpts; emphasis added]
" Cheney, Libby Blocked Papers To Senate Intelligence Panel "
By Murray Waas, special to National Journal

Vice President Cheney and his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, overruling advice from some White House political staffers and lawyers, decided to withhold crucial documents from the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004 when the panel was investigating the use of pre-war intelligence that erroneously concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, according to Bush administration and congressional sources.

Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.

Among the White House materials withheld from the committee were Libby-authored passages in drafts of a speech that then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell delivered to the United Nations in February 2003 to argue the Bush administration's case for war with Iraq, according to congressional and administration sources. The withheld documents also included intelligence data that Cheney's office -- and Libby in particular -- pushed to be included in Powell's speech, the sources said.

The new information that Cheney and Libby blocked information to the Senate Intelligence Committee further underscores the central role played by the vice president's office in trying to blunt criticism that the Bush administration exaggerated intelligence data to make the case to go to war.

The disclosures also come as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up the nearly two-year-old CIA leak investigation that has focused heavily on Libby's role in discussing covert intelligence operative Valerie Plame with reporters. Fitzgerald could announce as soon as tomorrow whether a federal grand jury is handing up indictments in the case.

Central to Fitzgerald's investigation is whether administration officials disclosed Plame's identity and CIA status in an effort to discredit her husband, former ambassador and vocal Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson, who wrote newspaper op-ed columns and made other public charges beginning in 2003 that the administration misused intelligence on Iraq that he gathered on a CIA-sponsored trip to Africa.

In recent weeks Fitzgerald's investigation has zeroed in on the activities of Libby, who is Cheney's top national security and foreign policy advisor, as well as the conflict between the vice president's office on one side and the CIA and State Department on the other over the use of intelligence on Iraq. The New York Times reported this week, for example, that Libby first learned about Plame and her covert CIA status from Cheney in a conversation with the vice president weeks before Plame's cover was blown in a July 2003 newspaper column by Robert Novak.

The Intelligence Committee at the time was trying to determine whether the CIA and other intelligence agencies provided faulty or erroneous intelligence on Iraq to President Bush and other government officials. But the committee deferred the much more politically sensitive issue as to whether the president and the vice president themselves, or other administration officials, misrepresented intelligence information to bolster the case to go to war. An Intelligence Committee spokesperson says the panel is still working on this second phase of the investigation.

Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.

In addition to withholding drafts of Powell's speech -- which included passages written by Libby -- the administration also refused to turn over to the committee contents of the president's morning intelligence briefings on Iraq, sources say. These documents, known as the Presidential Daily Brief, or PDB, are a written summary of intelligence information and analysis provided by the CIA to the president.

At the same time, however, administration officials said in interviews that they cannot recall another instance in which Cheney and Libby played such direct personal roles in denying foreign policy papers to a congressional committee, and that in doing so they overruled White House staff and lawyers who advised that the materials should be turned over to the Senate panel.

But some congressional sources say that had the committee received all the documents it requested from the White House the spotlight could have shifted to the heavy advocacy by Cheney's office to go to war. Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.

In advocating war with Iraq, Libby was known for dismissing those within the bureaucracy who opposed him, whether at the CIA, State Department, or other agencies. Supporters say that even if Libby is charged by the grand jury in the CIA leak case, he waged less a personal campaign against Wilson and Plame than one that reflected a personal antipathy toward critics in general.

Harriet Miers, done in by her own. AP photo. Posted by Picasa



In a striking defeat for President Bush, White House counsel Harriet Miers on Thursday abandoned her bid to become a Supreme Court justice after three weeks of brutal criticism from fellow conservatives. The Senate's top Republican predicted a replacement candidate within days.

"In effect, she was denied due process by members of her own party," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va. And former GOP Sen. Dan Coats, whom the White House assigned to assist Miers' confirmation campaign, said outside groups and pundits and "perhaps even some senators" had rushed to judgment.

Bush, beset by poor poll ratings, an unpopular war in Iraq, high energy prices and the possibility of indictments of White House officials, offered no hint about his thinking on a new nominee. He pledged to make an appointment in a "timely manner."

While White House aides had assembled a lengthy list of contenders prior to Bush's selection of Miers less than a month ago, most if not all of them were prominent conservative jurists who could be expected to trigger a sharp clash with Democrats. Other, less contentious contenders could come from outside what Bush calls the "judicial monastery," possibly a current or former senator who could easily win confirmation on a bipartisan vote.

Ironically for conservatives, the withdrawal means an extended tenure for Justice
Sandra Day O'Connor, whose vote has been decisive over the years on 5-4 rulings that upheld abortion rights, sustained affirmative action and limited the application of the death penalty.

The White House worked to depict the collapse of Miers' nomination as a simple matter of principle — upholding executive privilege. However, in an interview two weeks ago, Sen. Arlen Specter , chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was asked whether he thought there was a chance Bush would withdraw the nomination. "Absolutely not," the Pennsylvania Republican responded. "I think that would be a sign of incredible weakness."

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Is the European vision the guide to tomorrow? Painting by Magritte. Posted by Picasa

Captain Future's Log

Investing in Ourselves

Since the Reagan years, the reigning orthodoxy is that economies succeed when the wealthy and corporations are free from taxes, government is virtually nonexistent except to subsidize favored corporations, and businesses cut costs by shedding jobs to countries where living standards are poor and labor is therefore cheap, and by forcing employees in western nations to work harder and longer for less pay and smaller pensions and health care support that can be disappeared at any time, while businesses spend freely on lobbyists, legal and illicit graft, and executive pay and perks, all in response not to the longterm health of a company, an industry or a polity, but to keep stock prices going higher by means of favorable quarterly reports.

This philosophy, considered radical everywhere but in the U.S., is increasingly been forced on other nations by the U.S. and its puppet international institutions. But necessary to that philosophy's success is that economies that pursue other courses of action be less successful, and even fail, so that this particular approach doesn't look like a convenient mask on the greed and avarice of a few already wealthy and powerful cabals.

So the U.S. economy must constantly be inflated as the most successful in the world, and other economies, particularly those of European nations that have evolved a philosophy mixing market capitalism with social supports, be seen as failures.

Unfortunately the only way that strategy can succeed is if Americans are ignorant of what's going on in Europe, and why. So far, we are.

But European economies are successful. Despite having the most extensive and expensive social supports for workers in the world, Germany has the strongest industrial export economy in the world. And it's getting better.

German economy at Forbes :

The Ifo Institute announced this morning that its business climate index rose to 98.7 in October from 96.0 in September, the highest reading since October 2000 and well above forecasts for a very slim rise to just 96.1. The news suggests that Europe's largest economy is holding up much better than many had hoped.

'The outcome came as a surprise and reflects improving prospects for the German economy, with both the current and expectations components registering solid gains,' he added.

Bloomberg on Italy:

Business confidence in Italy, Europe's fourth-largest economy, rose to the highest in 11 months in October ...``It's still not a given that there's a sustainable recovery under way in Italy, but there are comforting signs,'' said Paolo Pizzoli, a senior economist at ING Bank NV in Milan. ``These signs are being reflected in France and Germany too, which is always good for Italy, considering they are our biggest trading partners.''

Today's report is at least the sixth in a week to suggest faster growth in the dozen nations sharing the euro. French and German executives, as well as Italian consumers also became more optimistic this month.

But perhaps the most impressive news comes from Finland.

Reuters on Finland :

Fifty years ago, Finland was known for little more than the wood pulp from its endless forests. A poverty-stricken land of poorly educated loggers and farmers on the edge of the Arctic Circle, few paid it any attention.

Today, this small Nordic nation boasts a thriving hi-tech economy ranked the most competitive in the world, the best educated citizenry of all the industrialized countries, and a welfare state that has created one of the globe's most egalitarian societies.

The article points out that Finland's success is due in part to it being a small, homogeneous country, which once were its major drawbacks. But any nation can decide to invest in itself by investing, for example, in education and related social services.

Mr. Nygard and his partner, Minna Sirelius, have certainly enjoyed the fruits of Finland's exceptionalism. Neither of them paid a cent for their university education, though they took seven years to complete their respective degrees in history and psychology. Ms. Sirelius enjoyed free healthcare throughout her pregnancy and the birth of their daughter, Emilia, and she plans to stay on leave from her job in IBM's human resources department for 11 months.

She can afford to: The government is paying her 60 percent of her salary to look after her baby. Next year Nygard and Sirelius will choose among the Finnish-, Swedish-, English-, or Spanish-language day-care centers in their neighborhood, and the state will pick up four-fifths of the cost.

If either of them loses their job, they will be able to count on unemployment benefits that range up to 70 percent of their salaries for 18 months. And when they retire they can look forward to generous pensions that amount, for the average Finn, to 60 percent of their last salary.
These benefits come at a cost, of course: Finland levies some of the highest taxes in the world, and if Ms. Sirelius does well in her career, she will pay more than 45 percent of her personal income toward taxes. But she does not object. "I feel that is what keeps our society and country running," she explains. "We can't keep the welfare state running unless everyone pitches in and helps with the costs."

But what Mikko Kautto, a researcher at the government's Welfare Research Center, calls "universalist thinking," goes further. Finns do not regard social spending as a drag on economic growth and job creation, he says, but as a positive force.

"The merit of thinking socially," he argues, "is that having everybody involved, with all our human capital working for the benefit of society, is part of the reason for our [economic] competitiveness."

The World Economic Forum'which runs annual business summits in Davos, Switzerland, has ranked Finland the most competitive economy in the world, ahead of the United States, for four of the past five years.

Nowhere is this approach clearer than in Finland's schools, which at the end of World War II turned out some of the worst educated young people in the industrialized world, and now graduate the best, according to comparative studies by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Making sure that every Finnish child, wherever he lived and whatever his background, could get a decent education had a very deliberate goal, says Riita Lampola, head of international relations for the Finnish Board of Education, which oversees schooling.

High level education is the key to what Pekka Himanen, a brilliant young philosopher who advises the Finnish government, calls his country's "virtuous circle."

"When people can fulfill their potential they become innovators," Dr. Himanen argues. "The innovative economy is competitive and makes it possible to finance the welfare state, which is not just a cost, but a sustainable basis for the economy, producing new innovators with social protection."

Other European countries could copy Finland's efforts to improve its education system, Himanen insists, just as they could emulate Finland's heavy investment in research and development.

Finland is still recovering from years of economic crisis, so its services are not yet on par with neighboring Scandinavian countries. But this model is widely supported in Finland, especially in a changing world economy.

Indeed, says Mr. Rouvinen, the challenges of globalization mean that "we specifically need our social model. As a small country on the edge of the world we will have steep ups and downs. We have to have mechanisms so that individuals won't suffer from that."

In the end, says Jorma Sipila, the Chancellor of Tampere University, Finland's inclusive social model is its best guarantee for the future. "The conditions for a flourishing economy are so demanding that the state has to make social investments to raise competent people and take care of dropouts so that they carry their share of the burden," he argues. "Marrying prosperity and social protection is the only sustainable future."

As Jerome a Paris puts it, "wealth capture is not wealth creation. " Yet businesses are captive of their own mythologies of cost-cutting and short-term profits.

Even on their own terms, business people talk about investment but so few seem to believe in it or understand it on a larger scale. Consider the publishing business in the U.S., which has gotten increasingly enslaved to short-term, high-profit margin thinking. Then you go into a huge Barnes & Noble and see portraits ringing the wall of famous writers who now are the brand names that give these stores their identity, and few if any of them made anybody any money for a long time. And today they just wouldn't be published by commercial trade publishers.

Quality is future-oriented. Decently paid workers with health care and cared-for families return investment in many, many ways, for generations. Europe is years ahead, perhaps light years ahead, in the sometimes difficult enterprise of dealing with all realities: those of world economics, the common good, the greater good, the ecological and energy and design practices for long-term prosperity.

Economics is health. The soul of a nation is as important as its wealth. It is the better part of its wealth.

Whatever it is, I'm against it. Posted by Picasa
This Day in Baby Boomer History

1947- "You Bet Your Life" with Groucho Marx begins as radio quiz show.
1954- "Disneyland" TV show premieres.
1967- Four people in Baltimore pour blood on Selective Service draft records.
1969-Ralph Nader forms consumer watchdog group, Nader's Raiders .
1982- China announces its population has passed one billion.
1988- "E.T." released on home video.

Fantasyland, Frontierland,
Tomorrowland and Adventureland.
No theme park, not even
the wonderful world of color.
But coming soon: Davy Crockett. Posted by Picasa
No To Secret Torture

From "US told to give data on Guantanamo hunger strikers" by Will Dunham
(Reuters) - [excerpts; emphasis added]

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the U.S. government to provide medical records on Guantanamo prisoners who are being force-fed while on a hunger strike and to notify their lawyers about forced feedings.

U.S. District Court Judge Gladys Kessler acted after lawyers representing about a dozen men held at the prison for foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, expressed urgent concern over their deteriorating health amid a hunger strike launched in early August.

Kessler stated in her opinion that the detainees' lawyers had presented "deeply troubling" allegations of forced feedings in which U.S. personnel violently shoved tubes as thick as a finger through the men's noses and into their stomachs without anesthesia or sedatives.

"If the allegations are true -- and they are all explicitly, specifically and vigorously denied by the government -- they describe conduct of which the United States can hardly be proud," the judge wrote.

The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights has estimated that about 210 were participating in the hunger strike. Detainee lawyers accused the government of deliberately under-stating the strike's scope.

The judge ordered the government to provide notice to the prisoners' lawyers within 24 hours of the beginning of force-feeding. Kessler also ordered the government to provide lawyers medical records for their clients spanning the week before a forced feeding, and provide these records at least weekly until force-feeding ends.

The hunger strike is the latest flash point between the government and human rights groups over the camp, which activists call a blight on the U.S. human rights record.

Many Guantanamo prisoners have been there for more than 3-1/2 years, and just four have been charged with crimes. Rights activists have denounced these indefinite detentions and treatment they say amounts to torture. Most detainees were picked up in Afghanistan after a U.S. invasion in 2001 to oust the Taliban government and dislodge al Qaeda bases.

John Kerry, seen here at another university speech,
spoke at Georgetown Wednesday. Posted by Picasa


Bring the Troops Home, for the Future of Iraq

Excerpts from "The Path Forward,” John Kerry's speech at Georgetown University on Wednesday, October 26, 2005. Emphasis added

A few weeks ago I departed Iraq from Mosul. Three Senators and staff were gathered in the forward part of a C-130. In the middle of the cavernous cargo hold was a simple, aluminum coffin with a small American flag draped over it. We were bringing another American soldier, just killed, home to his family and final resting place.

The starkness of his coffin in the center of the hold, the silence except for the din of the engines, was a real time cold reminder of the consequences of decisions for which we Senators share responsibility.

Now more than 2,000 brave Americans have given their lives, and several hundred thousand more have done everything in their power to wade through the ongoing internal civil strife in Iraq. An Iraq which increasingly is what it was not before the war — a breeding ground for homegrown terrorists and a magnet for foreign terrorists. We are entering a make or break six month period, and I want to talk about the steps we must take if we hope to bring our troops home within a reasonable timeframe from an Iraq that’s not permanently torn by irrepressible conflict.

American families who have lost, or who fear the loss, of their loved ones deserve to know the truth about what we have asked them to do, what we are doing to complete the mission, and what we are doing to prevent our forces from being trapped in an endless quagmire.

The country and the Congress were misled into war. I regret that we were not given the truth; as I said more than a year ago, knowing what we know now, I would not have gone to war in Iraq.

And knowing now the full measure of the Bush Administration’s duplicity and incompetence, I doubt there are many members of Congress who would give them the authority they abused so badly. I know I would not.

I understand that as much as we might wish it, we can’t rewind the tape of history. There is, as Robert Kennedy once said, ‘enough blame to go around,’ and I accept my share of the responsibility.

But the mistakes of the past, no matter who made them, are no justification for marching ahead into a future of miscalculations and misjudgments and the loss of American lives with no end in sight. We each have a responsibility, to our country and our conscience, to be honest about where we should go from here. It is time for those of us who believe in a better course to say so plainly and unequivocally.

To set a new course, we must be strong, smart, and honest. As we learned painfully during the Vietnam War, no president can sustain a war without the support of the American people. In the case of Iraq, their patience is frayed and nearly to the breaking point because Americans will not tolerate our troops giving their lives without a clear strategy, and will not tolerate vague platitudes or rosy scenarios when real answers are urgently needed.

It’s time for leaders to be honest that if we do not change course, there is the prospect of indefinite, even endless conflict - a fate untenable for our troops, and a future unacceptable to the American people and the Iraqis who pray for the day when a stable Iraq will belong to Iraqis alone.

The path forward will not be easy. The administration’s incompetence and unwillingness to listen has made the task that much harder, and reduced what we can expect to accomplish. But there is a way forward that gives us the best chance both to salvage a difficult situation in Iraq, and to save American and Iraqi lives. With so much at stake, we must follow it.

We must begin by acknowledging that our options in Iraq today are not what they should be, or could have been.

The reason is simple. This Administration hitched their wagon to ideologues, excluding those who dared to tell the truth, even leaders of their own party and the uniformed military.

When they could have given the inspectors time to discover whether Saddam Hussein actually had weapons of mass destruction, when they could have paid attention to Ambassador Wilson’s report, they chose not to. And they were wrong. Instead they attacked him, and they attacked his wife to justify attacking Iraq. We don’t know yet whether this will prove to be an indictable offense in a court of law, but for it, and for misleading a nation into war, they will be indicted in the high court of history. History will judge the invasion of Iraq one of the greatest foreign policy misadventures of all time.

This difficult road traveled demands the unvarnished truth about the road ahead.
To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately - I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase “we will stay as long as it takes,” who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say - No, that will only lead us into a quagmire.

To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks.

At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays.

The Administration must immediately give Congress and the American people a detailed plan for the transfer of military and police responsibilities on a sector by sector basis to Iraqis so the majority of our combat forces can be withdrawn. No more shell games, no more false reports of progress, but specific and measurable goals.

General George Casey, our top military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence “feeds the notion of occupation” and “extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant.” And Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, breaking a thirty year silence, writes, ‘’Our presence is what feeds the insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency.” No wonder the Sovereignty Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is already asking for a timetable for withdrawal of our troops; without this, Iraqis believe Iraq will never be its own country.

We must move aggressively to reduce popular support for the insurgency fed by the perception of American occupation.

The draw down of troops should be tied not to an arbitrary timetable, but to a specific timetable for transfer of political and security responsibility to Iraqis and realignment of our troop deployment. That timetable must be real and strict. The goal should be to withdraw the bulk of American combat forces by the end of next year. If the Administration does its work correctly, that is achievable.

Our strategy must achieve a political solution that deprives the Sunni-dominated insurgency of support by giving the Sunnis a stake in the future of their country. The Constitution, opposed by more than two thirds of Sunnis, has postponed and even exacerbated the fundamental crisis of Iraq. The Sunnis want a strong secular national government that fairly distributes oil revenues. Shiites want to control their own region and resources in a loosely united Islamic state. And Kurds simply want to be left alone. Until sufficient compromise is hammered out, a Sunni base can not be created that isolates the hard core Baathists and jihaadists and defuses the insurgency.

The Administration must use all of the leverage in America’s arsenal - our diplomacy, the presence of our troops, and our reconstruction money — to convince Shiites and Kurds to address legitimate Sunni concerns and to make Sunnis accept the reality that they will no longer dominate Iraq. We cannot and should not do this alone.

The Administration must bring to the table the full weight of all of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors. They also have a large stake in a stable Iraq.

The administration must immediately call a conference of Iraq’s neighbors, Britain, Turkey and other key NATO allies, and Russia. All of these countries have influence and ties to various parties in Iraq. Together, we must implement a collective strategy to bring the parties in Iraq to a sustainable political compromise. This must include obtaining mutual security guarantees among Iraqis themselves. Shiite and Kurdish leaders need to make a commitment not to perpetrate a bloodbath against Sunnis in the post-election period. In turn, Sunni leaders must end support for the insurgents, including those who are targeting Shiites. And the Kurds must explicitly commit themselves not to declare independence.

To enlist the support of Iraq’s Sunni neighbors, we should commit to a new regional security structure that strengthens the security of the countries in the region and the wider community of nations. This requires a phased process including improved security assistance programs, joint exercises, and participation by countries both outside and within the Middle East.

Showing Sunnis the benefits that await them if they continue to participate in the process of building Iraq can go a long way toward achieving stability. We should press these countries to set up a reconstruction fund specifically for the majority Sunni areas. It’s time for them to deliver on their commitments to provide funds to Iraq.

We need to jump start our own lagging reconstruction efforts by providing the necessary civilian personnel to do the job, standing up civil-military reconstruction teams throughout the country, streamlining the disbursement of funds to the provinces so they can deliver services, expanding job creation programs, and strengthening the capacity of government ministries.

We must make it clear now that we do not want permanent military bases in Iraq, or a large combat force on Iraqi soil indefinitely.

And as we withdraw our combat troops, we should be prepared to keep a substantially reduced level of American forces in Iraq, at the request of the Iraqi government, for the purpose of training their security forces. Some combat ready American troops will still be needed to safeguard the Americans engaged in that training, but they should be there to do that and to provide a back stop to Iraqi efforts, not to do the fighting for Iraqis.

Simultaneously, the President needs to put the training of Iraqi security forces on a six month wartime footing and ensure that the Iraqi government has the budget to deploy them. The Administration must stop using the requirement that troops be trained in-country as an excuse for refusing offers made by Egypt, Jordan, France and Germany to do more.

Finally, and without delay, we must fundamentally alter the deployment of American troops. While Special Operations must continue to pursue specific intelligence leads, the vast majority of our own troops should be in rear guard, garrisoned status for security backup.

We will never be as safe as we should be if Iraq continues to distract us from the most important war we must win - the war on Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, and the terrorists that are resurfacing even in Afghanistan.

These are the make or break months for Iraq. The President must take a new course, and hold Iraqis accountable. If the President still refuses, Congress must insist on a change in policy. If we do take these steps, there is no reason this difficult process can not be completed in 12-15 months. There is no reason Iraq cannot be sufficiently stable, no reason the majority of our combat troops can’t soon be on their way home, and no reason we can’t take on a new role in Iraq, as an ally not an occupier, training Iraqis to defend themselves. Only then will we have provided leadership equal to our soldiers’ sacrifice - and that is what they deserve.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Vigils like this one in front of the White House Tuesday
(led by Cindy Sheehan) will be held in at least 900
locations across America Wednesday. Posted by Picasa

The Daily Quote

"The spirit does not dwell in concepts, but in deeds and facts."

Cheney to the World: Torture R Us

After the third 2004 debate, Lynn Cheney told the television cameras, "John Kerry is a bad man." But if she truly wants to see real evil, she need only look to the other side of the bed. This from a Washington Post Editorial today,"'Vice President for Torture" [emphasis added]:

VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans.

"Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.

His position is not just some abstract defense of presidential power. The CIA is holding an unknown number of prisoners in secret detention centers abroad. In violation of the Geneva Conventions, it has refused to register those detainees with the International Red Cross or to allow visits by its inspectors. Its prisoners have "disappeared," like the victims of some dictatorships.

The Justice Department and the White House are known to have approved harsh interrogation techniques for some of these people, including "waterboarding," or simulated drowning; mock execution; and the deliberate withholding of pain medication. CIA personnel have been implicated in the deaths during interrogation of at least four Afghan and Iraqi detainees.

Official investigations have indicated that some aberrant practices by Army personnel in Iraq originated with the CIA. Yet no CIA personnel have been held accountable for this record, and there has never been a public report on the agency's performance.

It's not surprising that Mr. Cheney would be at the forefront of an attempt to ratify and legalize this shameful record. The vice president has been a prime mover behind the Bush administration's decision to violate the Geneva Conventions and the U.N. Convention Against Torture and to break with decades of past practice by the U.S. military.

These decisions at the top have led to hundreds of documented cases of abuse, torture and homicide in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Cheney's counsel, David S. Addington, was reportedly one of the principal authors of a legal memo justifying the torture of suspects. This summer Mr. Cheney told several Republican senators that President Bush would veto the annual defense spending bill if it contained language prohibiting the use of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by any U.S. personnel.

The senators ignored Mr. Cheney's threats, and the amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), passed this month by a vote of 90 to 9. So now Mr. Cheney is trying to persuade members of a House-Senate conference committee to adopt language that would not just nullify the McCain amendment but would formally adopt cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment as a legal instrument of U.S. policy. The Senate's earlier vote suggests that it will not allow such a betrayal of American values. As for Mr. Cheney: He will be remembered as the vice president who campaigned for torture.

American Friends Service Committee creating a ribbon
of 2,000 names of Americans killed in Iraq. AP photo. Posted by Picasa
2,000th Death Sparks Nationwide Protests

By Sari Gelzer t r u t h o u t

The 2,000th soldier has died in Iraq. The Pentagon announced that Staff Sgt. George T. Alexander Jr., 34, of Killeen, Texas, died Saturday in San Antonio of injuries sustained October 17.

While protests are planned throughout the week in Washington, Wednesday is a day of protests in cities across the country. These protests have been organized via the Internet by and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) website. has begun organizing a vigil and reflection on the war by notifying its three million subscribers who are organizing locally for the event which begins at 6:30 tommorow.

Wednesday protests are also being organized by the "Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar" initiative through the AFSC website. It is co-sponsored by Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Military Families Speak Out.

The vigil and protests organized by the "Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar" initiative, will be occuring throughout the day, depending on the city. The goal of this initiative is to bring attention to the 2,000 dead by representing the toll visually with boots or stars bearing names and death dates. These public gatherings, says the AFSC, will be public actions for politicians and fellow Americans to see the death toll. In addition, these gatherings will collect signatures to give to Congress, telling them to end the government funding for the war in Iraq.

The activists will also be publicly recognizing the Iraqis who have been killed.

The Iraq Body Count, a British research group that compiles its figures from reports by the major news agencies and British and US newspapers, has said that as many as 30,051 Iraqis have been killed since the start of the war.

A "lie-in" in front of the White House
Tuesday to mark the 2,000 death
of American soldiers in Iraq. AP photo. Posted by Picasa
Last Best Guesses

In eight hours or so (or not) we will know (1) what special prosecutor Fitzgerald is going to do and/or (2) who won the third game of the World Series or (3) one of these or (4) neither.

Here's my prediction (not about the game, except that it probably will end, someday, possibly before the 4th game starts.) Fitzgerald will issue four (maybe five) sealed indictments, for perjury and conspiracy, and will continue his investigation with a new grand jury. Rove and Libby will be told they are among the four (or three), but this will not be announced to the public. In fairly short order, Rove and Libby will announce they are resigning and leaving the White House to spend more time with their lawyers.

In justifying further investigation, Fitzgerald will mention leads that point to vice president Cheney. While Fitzgerald quietly investigates, Cheney will resign and leave the White House to spend more time with his money.

In a couple of years Fitzgerald will indict Cheney, but there will be no trial because on his last day of office, Bush will pardon him. Bush will then leave the White House to become the new CEO of Halliburton, but will mostly be at his ranch where he will spend more time with his brush.

Wal-Mart To Elder Employees: Drop Out

from "Wal-Mart Memo Suggests Ways to Cut Employee Benefit Costs"
By STEVEN GREENHOUSEand MICHAEL BARBARO New York Times [excerpts; emphasis added]

An internal memo sent to Wal-Mart's board of directors proposes numerous ways to hold down spending on health care and other benefits while seeking to minimize damage to the retailer's reputation. Among the recommendations are hiring more part-time workers and discouraging unhealthy people from working at Wal-Mart.

In the memorandum, M. Susan Chambers, Wal-Mart's executive vice president for benefits, also recommends reducing 401(k) contributions and wooing younger, and presumably healthier, workers by offering education benefits. The memo voices concern that workers with seven years' seniority earn more than workers with one year's seniority, but are no more productive.

To discourage unhealthy job applicants, Ms. Chambers suggests that Wal-Mart arrange for "all jobs to include some physical activity (e.g., all cashiers do some cart-gathering)."

The memo acknowledged that Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, had to walk a fine line in restraining benefit costs because critics had attacked it for being stingy on wages and health coverage. Ms. Chambers acknowledged that 46 percent of the children of Wal-Mart's 1.33 million United States employees were uninsured or on Medicaid.

Wal-Mart executives said the memo was part of an effort to rein in benefit costs, which to Wall Street's dismay have soared by 15 percent a year on average since 2002. Like much of corporate America, Wal-Mart has been squeezed by soaring health costs. The proposed plan, if approved, would save the company more than $1 billion a year by 2011.

Acknowledging that Wal-Mart has image problems, Ms. Chambers wrote: "Wal-Mart's critics can easily exploit some aspects of our benefits offering to make their case; in other words, our critics are correct in some of their observations. Specifically, our coverage is expensive for low-income families, and Wal-Mart has a significant percentage of associates and their children on public assistance."

The memo, prepared with the help of McKinsey & Company, said the board was to consider the recommendations in November. But the memo said that three top Wal-Mart officials - its chief financial officer, its top human relations executive and its executive vice president for legal and corporate affairs - had "received the recommendations enthusiastically."

Ms. Chambers's memo voiced concern that workers were staying with the company longer, pushing up wage costs, although she stopped short of calling for efforts to push out more senior workers.

The memo noted that Wal-Mart workers "are getting sicker than the national population, particularly in obesity-related diseases," including diabetes and coronary artery disease. The memo said Wal-Mart workers tended to overuse emergency rooms and underuse prescriptions and doctor visits, perhaps from previous experience with Medicaid.

"It will be far easier to attract and retain a healthier work force than it will be to change behavior in an existing one," the memo said. "These moves would also dissuade unhealthy people from coming to work at Wal-Mart."

Ron Pollack, executive director of Families U.S.A., a health care consumer-advocacy group, criticized the memo for recommending that more workers move into health plans with high deductibles. "Their people are paying a very substantial portion of their earnings out of pocket for health care," he said. "These plans will cause these workers and their families to defer or refrain from getting needed care."

The memo noted that 38 percent of Wal-Mart workers spent more than one-sixth of their Wal-Mart income on health care last year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Rosa Parks in 1955. Arrested for disobeying
a Jim Crow law in Montgomery, Alabama.
The rest is history. Posted by Picasa
2002 ---and Counting

The number of Americans killed in Iraq has passed 2,000. Vigils are being organized for Wednesday. To find one near you, or to register one you will organize, go to the Move On site.

Captain Future's Log

Nobody Knows

The Plame Game continues, as reporters await whatever action the special prosecutor and his Grand Jury are going to take.

Today's news on the subject is dominated so far by the New York Times report that:

I. Lewis Libby Jr., Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, first learned about the C.I.A. officer at the heart of the leak investigation in a conversation with Mr. Cheney weeks before her identity became public in 2003, lawyers involved in the case said Monday.

Notes of the previously undisclosed conversation between Mr. Libby and Mr. Cheney on June 12, 2003, appear to differ from Mr. Libby's testimony to a federal grand jury that he initially learned about the C.I.A. officer, Valerie Wilson, from journalists, the lawyers said.

The notes, taken by Mr. Libby during the conversation, for the first time place Mr. Cheney in the middle of an effort by the White House to learn about Ms. Wilson's husband, Joseph C. Wilson IV, who was questioning the administration's handling of intelligence about Iraq's nuclear program to justify the war.

Lawyers involved in the case, who described the notes to The New York Times, said they showed that Mr. Cheney knew that Ms. Wilson worked at the C.I.A. more than a month before her identity was made public and her undercover status was disclosed in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak on July 14, 2003.

Just what does this mean? Nobody knows. It could mean perjury charges, depending on who said what to the Grand Jury. It could mean more, or less.

That's about where the speculation is. Raw Story claims their sources say Fitzgerald is preparing at least one indictment probably for perjury, maybe for conspiracy. Lawyers for Rove and Libby have reportedly been told their clients are in serious jeopardy.

Others are expecting 10 or 20 indictments (and will be damn disappointed if they don't get them), ranging from perjury to conspiracy to treason and impeachable offenses. It's known that Fitzgerald was looking into the forged memo that seems to have been the basis for the wrong information about Iraq acquiring the makings of nuclear weapons, but no one knows how far that went or if it will result in indictments.

Still others, like John Dean, are expecting very little, because the claim of national security can trump successful prosecution for many charges. Dean thinks there will be no indictments at all.

But the bottom line at the end of the day (there must be at least one more cliche for this): nobody knows.

How about when will we know? Normally the Grand Jury meets on Wednesday and Friday, so maybe tomorrow or maybe the end of the week, when this grand jury must be discharged.

But if I'm Patrick Fitzgerald, I'm busy reading all these reports in the media and on the Internet. Lawyers in the case are leaking like sieves, there's informed speculation that Karl Rove himself leaked portions of his own testimony, and reporters are finding other sources suddenly willing to talk about events under investigation. There seems to be a game of tumbling dice involved in the main event. Rove may have turned on Libby, Libby on Cheney and/or vice-versa, Mr. Vice-President. Bush loyalists are vainly trying to insulate their guy against Cheney loyalists.

There's even relevant news coming out of Italy (don't ask). So fresh information (at least to us) as well as all this turmoil and speculation about what Fitzgerald is going to do may be pointing his investigation in new directions, or at least confirming information they have. So the case may still be changing, and Fitzgerald has the power under law to ask for a new Grand Jury, and keep everybody in suspense for several more months.

Who leaked the Plame name to Robert Novak, the first "journalist" to print it? What did Novak tell Fitzgerald? Are officials once or now in Cheney's office cooperating with the investigation---i.e. informers? Are they tattling about Libby, or is Libby tattling about Cheney? Or vice-versa, Mr. vice-president.

I can almost hear David Brinkley's voice saying it, because he said it often: Where is all this leading? Nobody knows.

UPDATE: At least in terms of rumor, on Tues. evening CBS News and other media are reporting that Fitzgerald will seek up to five indictments Wednesday, with some kind of announcement on Thursday. However, some are saying they will be "sealed" indictments, which apparently means that the persons indicted may not be named. There's also a rumor that Fitzgerald will seek an extension. Some investigatory activity was allegedly going on Tuesday at the White House and in Valerie Plame's neighborhood. What does it all mean? David?

An American Hero

She missed the fiftieth anniversary of her history- making act by just a few weeks: on December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to go to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She was arrested, tried and convicted. The next day, an unknown minister named Martin Luther King, Jr. helped organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Civil Rights movement began in earnest.

Rosa Parks died Monday at the age of 92.

She was not the first African American to refuse to sit in the Negro section---Jackie Robinson did it while he was in the Army. And to some extent, she knew what she was doing---she was already aware of Civil Rights organizations and ideas. But she acted on her own, and movement leaders saw her case as the one they wanted to use to begin to attack Jim Crow laws throughout the South.

Nevertheless, Rosa Parks was the little lady who started this big movement. She was strong and modest then and for the rest of her life. No more American a hero ever lived than Rosa Parks.

R.I.P. Rosa Parks Posted by Picasa
Launching a Global Campaign to End Neglect of Children with AIDS

UNICEF announcement

25 October 2005 – UNICEF, UNAIDS and other partners today launched a global campaign focusing on the enormous impact of HIV/AIDS on children, saying it was a disgrace that fewer than 5 per cent of HIV-positive children receive treatment and that millions of children who have lost parents to the disease go without support.

UNICEF said that children affected by the disease are the “missing face” of AIDS – missing not only from global and national policy discussions on HIV/AIDS, but also lacking access to even the most basic care and prevention services. Millions of children are missing parents, siblings, schooling, health care, basic protection and many of the other fundamentals of childhood because of the toll the disease is taking, the two UN institutions said.

The global campaign is entitled Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS. People can follow developments in the campaign at Launching the campaign at the United Nations with Secretary-General Kofi Annan, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot noted that every minute:
A child dies of an AIDS-related illness
A child becomes infected with HIV
Four young people aged 15-24 become infected with HIV

In addition, an estimated 15 million children have lost at least one parent because of AIDS. Yet less than 10 percent of children orphaned and made vulnerable by AIDS receive public support or services. In sub-Saharan Africa, where the impact is greatest, coping systems are stretched to the limit.

“In the past quarter-century, HIV/AIDS has claimed the lives of more than 20 million people and lowered average life expectancy in the hardest-hit countries by as much as 30 years,” Veneman said. “A whole generation has never known a world free of HIV and AIDS, yet the magnitude of the problem dwarfs the scale of the response so far.”

The global campaign aims to achieve measurable progress for children based on internationally agreed goals in four key result areas:

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission: The vast majority of the half-million children under the age of 15 who die from AIDS-related illnesses every year contract HIV through mother-to-child transmission. The campaign aims by 2010 to provide 80 percent of women in need with access to services to prevent transmission of HIV to their babies. Currently less than 10 per cent of women have access to these services.

Pediatric treatment: Less than 5 per cent of HIV-positive children in need of AIDS treatment are receiving it, and only 1 per cent of children born to HIV-infected mothers have access to cotrimoxazole, a low-cost antibiotic that can nearly halve child deaths from AIDS by fighting off deadly infections. The campaign aims by 2010 to provide antiretroviral treatment and/or cotrimoxazole to 80 percent of children in need.

Prevention: Adolescents and young people age 15-24 account for roughly half of all new HIV infections, but the vast majority of young people have no access to the information, skills and services needed to protect themselves from HIV. The campaign aims by 2010 to reduce the percentage of young people living with HIV by 25 per cent, in line with agreed international goals.

Protection and support of children affected by AIDS: By 2010, it is estimated that there will be 18 million children who have lost at least one parent to AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Well before parents die, children – especially girls – have to take on adult tasks such as caring for the sick, looking after younger siblings, generating income to pay for health costs, or producing food. Often they must drop out of school. The campaign aims by 2010 to reach 80 per cent of children most in need of public support and services.

UNICEF said that children must be at the forefront of the fight against AIDS. According to UNAIDS, $55 billion will be needed over the next three years, $22 billion in 2008 alone, to confront the AIDS pandemic. There is currently a funding gap of at least $18 billion from 2005-2007. Not only does AIDS funding need to increase dramatically, but a significant portion should be specifically targeted for children affected by the disease.

The two organizations welcomed the commitment of a number of governments to prioritize children affected by HIV/AIDS by allocating funding to children.
Death By "Questioning": Whose Law in Whose Hands?
from "ACLU Links Detainee Deaths to U.S. Interrogations" [excerpts; emphasis added]
By John Hendren Los Angels Times

The American Civil Liberties Union said today that its analysis of 44 prisoners who died in U.S. military custody in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that the deaths often followed abusive interrogations by Navy SEALs, military intelligence and the CIA.

The ACLU's analysis of documents obtained from the U.S. Army under the Freedom of Information Act concluded that 21 of 44 deaths of people in custody were homicides, and eight appear to have resulted from abusive tactics, the organization said.

The documents detailed some new cases and a number of instances of deaths that have been previously reported, and show a "pervasive" abuse by elite Navy SEALs and interrogators, the organization found.

ACLU officials called for senior military officials to be identified and held accountable for the deaths."These documents present irrefutable evidence that U.S. operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations," said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. "The public has a right to know who authorized the use of torture techniques and why these deaths have been covered up."

The documents marked the latest in a drumbeat of reports that have been highly critical of the U.S. military's handling of prisoners since a spate of abuse cases at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were revealed graphically in a series of photographs of often-naked prisoners forced into humiliating poses.

"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal that has rocked our military."


Short Takes from the PopTech Conference

From Wired

Marcia McNutt of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute pointed out that that vast region between the ocean's surface and the much-explored seafloor is home to "more biomass and more biodiversity than all of the rainforests combined."

Her research team, she noted, finds not only new species regularly but often entirely new families and genuses as well. One recent discovery, of a deep-sea microbe that consumes methane and produces elemental hydrogen, represents a novel form of energy generation that could tap into the largest remaining source of fossil fuel on earth, methane clathrate deposits on the ocean floor. But unlike oil or gas, the carbon-dioxide exhaust this fossil-fuel consumption would produce would -- because of pressures at the bottom of the ocean -- remain in liquid form and remain sequestered in the briny deep.

Fossil fuels, carbon dioxide and global warming formed the core of Mark Lynas' presentation on his three-year globetrotting adventure to the Peruvian Andes, the Mongolian plains and to the tiny Pacific island nation of Tuvalu. All destinations are veritable canaries in the coal mine, according to Lynas, currently experiencing irreversible consequences from global climate change.

Lynas wrote about retreating glaciers, melting permafrost and island paradises lost to sea-level rise in his recent book High Tide: The Truth About Our Climate Crisis. Explorations through the most populous regions of the globe informed three of PopTech's Grand Challengers.

Two trained their focus on China, professor and author Oded Shenkar and Harvard Law School Berkman Fellow and former CNN Beijing bureau chief Rebecca MacKinnon. Shenkar, author of The Chinese Century, cautioned against disturbing the now-awakening bear across the Pacific.

The United States, he said, is much like Great Britain during the mid-19th century: A nation that farms out its manufacturing to a developing superpower but arrogantly presumes the developing nation is incapable of assuming the role of world leader. "The British woke up in 1880," he said. "They realized this former colony is now making new things. Even the new jokes were coming from America!"

MacKinnon, a specialist on the internet in China, observed that while the Chinese have taken to the democratizing influence of blogging and podcasting, this acceptance is primarily in the realm of popular culture. The Chinese government still retains a tight control over political speech.

And she said this institutional censorship -- symbolized by the absence of any hits in a Chinese Google News search for the words "Tianamen massacre" -- is becoming increasingly hardwired into the Chinese internet by western companies such as MSN and Yahoo.

What she termed the "great firewall of China" could be readily spread into the non-Communist controlled world. "We must prevent censorship from being baked into the code and into the business model," she said.

By contrast, conference participants got an inside glimpse at the world's largest democracy: India. Author and journalist Suketu Mehta, whose first book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, described his father's native city Mumbai (Bombay) as "the future of urban civilization on the planet, God help us."

While India has a lower population density than the Netherlands (385 people per square kilometer), Mumbai is the most densely populated region of the planet. At 45,000 people per square kilometer, Mumbai contains more than seven times the concentration of humanity than does the bustling city of Singapore (6000 per square kilometer).

Yet despite the ever-more teeming masses, Mehta still finds cause for hope in India's most populous city. "In India, the poor vote," Mehta said, adding it's a bloc that has occasioned one of the greatest transfers of power in world history. "In 1997, an untouchable became president," he said of Kocheril Raman Narayanan, India's leader from 1997 to 2002. "There are reformers," Mehta said, "waiting in the wings."