The EcoPorn Award; Is Bush Planning to Whack Burma and Egypt?; Oil Divers Are the New Eco-Heros; Bush Uses Weapons to Keep Allies in Line; Pentagon Caught Fixing Major Wargame; CEO's Get Emergency Hot-line to White House; etc.
August 30, 2002
The EcoPorn Award: Prostituting the Planet for Profit. Credit: Gar Smith/The-Edge
What's one of the Top Ten Worst Names you could assign to a company that sells benzene-wafting, MTBE-laden gasoline? "Redwood Tree Gasoline" would probably qualify.
And what could be more clueless than to top off your Redwood gas pump with an ad for America's other leading carcinogen, tobacco?
George! George! It Was Just a Joke!
We thought we were kidding when The-Edge proposed that the White House abandon plans for a "regime change" in Iran and focus instead on removing the military dictatorship that rules over Burma (the Republic of Myanmar). Now word leaks (the operative verb) from Washington that the White House is considering contingency plans to Bushwhack Burma - and Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia!
Newsweek reports that Defense Policy Board Chair Richard Perle has invited discussions on ways of "taking the Saudi out of Arabia." And Kenneth Katzman, an Iran specialist with the Congressional Research Service, says the Bush-pack's thinking "is really evolving toward the idea of promoting an overhaul of the Arab and Islamic world, rather than dealing with it as it is."
A week before the Newsweek revelations, Youssef Ibrahim of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations reported that jittery Saudi Arabian investors had pulled at least $200 billion out of the US. Saudi investments in the US are believed to total $800 billion. In the aftermath of the Newsweek story, Perle's plotting may have the effect of "taking the Saudi dollars out of America."
Reading between the Headlines
Here's a good example of why you should never get your news from reading just the headlines or the pull-quotes. On August 15, an AP dispatch by Robert Burns was breathlessly headlined: "US Detects Truck Movement from Iraqi Germ Weapons Site."
It wasn't until the fifth paragraph that the AP reported that "the purpose of the truck activity was not entirely clear," followed by "officials cautioned that the intelligence was subject to different interpretations" and, finally, "officials said the presence of trucks at a single weapons site probably meant little."
New Problems Call for New Heroes
Firefighters and police officers receive well-deserved praise for risking their lives in dangerous duty. Now there is a new breed of professionals that deserve the same recognition. Their work is so new, however, that profession doesn't even have a name. I suppose you could call them "pollution-fighters" or, in the case before us, "oil-divers."
In 1953, the oil tanker Jacob Luckenbach sank near the Farallon Islands marine sanctuary 17 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Nearly half a century later, the vessel's rusting tanks are beginning to discharge 132,000 gallons of fuel oil. Oil from the Luckenbach has been washing ashore for several years, killing birds and animals. The wreck poses a special danger to the Farralon Islands, a unique refuge for throngs of sea lions, otters and birds.
The Coast Guard and two state agencies have been entrusted with extracting the oil from the sunken vessel but the real heroes are the contract divers from Florida-based Titan Maritime. The bunker C crude oil is described as having "the consistency of peanut butter." Before it can be pumped from the Luckenbach, it must be heated.
At a depth of 175 feet, traditional divers can work only a few hours before being slowly raised to the surface to avoid life-threatening nitrogen narcosis ("the bends"). The Titan divers, however, are "saturation divers." These men are lowered to the wreck inside a pressurized diving bell. At the end of each long work day, the divers re-enter the diving chamber and are raised to the surface. Instead of leaving their pressurized environment, however, they pass through an airlock and enter a pressurized living quarters on the deck of the 400-foot-long recovery barge.
Saturation divers can live inside these pressurized environments for months at a time. It is, quite literally, one of the world most high-pressure jobs. But, thanks to Titan's heroic "oil divers," a recovery job that would have taken years is now expected to be completed by the end of the summer.
Play the Game Our Way or We'll Take Away Our Toys
With its refusal to accept the International Criminal Court, the US stands apart as a rogue nation. It is an especially ironic stance since it was the US that pressed for the creation of the special War Crimes Tribunal that is now putting former Yugoslavian President Slobodan Milosovic on trial.
When the Bush administration failed to convince its staunchest European allies to abandon the ICC, it fell back on the time-honored tradition of geopolitical blackmail. The White House let it be known that any allied nation that joined the ICC and failed to grant US troops and decision-makers immunity from the court's oversight, would be stripped of future US military assistance.
As the New York Times explained, the legislation (crafted by Texas Republican Rep. Tom Delay) is intended to "force as many countries as possible to sign bilateral agreements not to extradite Americans to the new court for trial."
The US likes to preen in its new role as "the World's Only Remaining Superpower." But observers outside the US recognize that if there is one thing that justifies the creation of an independent global court, it is the existence of a single, unchallenged Superpower.
The US also is the world's No. 1 arms dealer and, as such, the world's greatest purveyor of violence. The US controls 45 percent of the global traffic in weapons - a trade that netted US weapons merchants nearly $19 billion in 2000.
Bush's petulant "no-bombs-for-bums" threat left many observers scratching their heads.
"This makes the remote possibility of American prosecution by the court trump every other definition of national interest - it is fixation to the point of craziness," Human Rights Watch Director Kenneth Roth proclaimed.
Brookings Institution Vice President James B. Steinberg complained that military assistance programs "should not be used as a club to get these countries to sign agreements. We ought to be able to persuade [allies] rather than coerce them. This has a very heavy feel to it."
The chilling message that is writ large by this desperate act, is that the US, under the Bush administration, no longer has any moral authority. It has no other diplomatic or political chips worth playing. The White House is demanding the respect that comes with Superpower status but it is behaving with the all the arrogant dim-wittedness of a schoolyard bully.
Conference Call on the Fascism Hotline
When you have government working in the service of big business and corporations, that is the textbook definition of fascism. It now appears that the Good Oil Boys in the White House no longer feel the need to disguise their fealty to their corporate pals and sponsors. The latest sign that the Bushniks have abandoned any pretense of democracy came with the announcement that Homeland Security Honcho Tom Ridge and AT&T had conspired to create a corporate hot-line to the White House.
CEO ComLink, the brainchild of the high-powered members of Business Roundtable, would give the CEOs of 150 giant US companies what the Bloomberg News Service describes as "a secure phone link to each other and to government leaders for use in case of an emergency."
With CEO ComLink, an AT&T official boasted, "we can get all the Business Roundtable CEOs and the authorized government officials on the phone link within hours in case of an emergency."
Call it a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) for Fat Cats. As Bloomberg News explained, the network is designed to "help chief executives react quickly and take steps to protect their facilities." No word on how many millions of tax dollars were lavished on the ComLink system but we are assured that over the past few months, "CEOs from across the country have been trained to use the service."
Wargames Can Be Fixed: Real Wars Can't
Real-life Air Force gunners compliment the computerized mayhem of Millennium Challenge 2002. Credit: Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II/ US Air Force
It is no longer a secret that the Pentagon rigs its Star Wars missile decoys with homing beacons to improve the chances they will be "intercepted" by a clumsy array of hand-me-down Reagan-Rockets. Now it turns out the Pentagon can't even run a war game without stacking - and marking - the deck.
The Pentagon spent two years and $250 million tax dollars on a simulated computerized wargame called Millennium Challenge 2002 (MC02).
One of the key players in MC02 was Paul Van Riper, the all-too-perfectly named former head of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Van Riper was hired to role-play the leader of MCO2's enemy Red Team.
According to an article he penned for the privately published Army Times, Van Riper apparently took his role a little too seriously. Van Riper charged that MC02 was "an exercise that was almost entirely scripted to ensure a Blue (friendly forces) win." When Van Riper realized that he couldn't win for trying, he threw down his virtual weapons and stalked off in the middle of the battle.
The AP reported that Van Riper was "denied the opportunity to use his own tactics and ideas against the Blue forces, and, on several occasions, the Red forces were directed not to use certain weapons against Blue."
Van Riper's rant was confirmed by Robert Oakley, a retired ambassador who played a lower leadership role in the Red force. During the MC02 combat, Oakley claimed, the Blue Team was supposed to have the advantage of an expensive, state-of-the-art high-tech electronic eavesdropping system. Van Riper neutralized the system by having his soldiers hop on motorcycles and deliver orders by hand.
In another confrontation, Oakley recalled, the Blue Forces steamed proudly into the Persian Gulf only to be surrounded a sunk by a swarm of small ships and planes commandeered by Van Riper. "Much of the Blue force's ships ended up at the bottom of the ocean," the AP reported. "Oakley said Joint Forces Command officials had to stop the exercise and 'refloat' the fleet in order to continue."
Vice Admiral Marty Mayer, deputy commander of the Joint Forces Command admitted to resurrecting the Lost Fleet and confessed that "certain things are scripted" in the war game business. But, V-A Mayer stiffly insisted, "I want to disabuse anybody of any notion that somehow the books were cooked. You have to execute in a certain way or you'll never be able to bring it all together."
Sorry, Marty, but that recipe for disaster sound like it was lifted straight out of the Enron Cookbook.
Conservatives Call Bush/Ashcroft Champions of the "Unfree"
The conservative Cato Institute, a venerable Washington think tank, has issued a 21-page policy analysis that essentially labels Messrs. Bush and Ashcroft, Enemies of Freedom.
"Breaking the Vicious Cycle: Preserving Our Liberties While Fighting Terrorism," was authored by Timothy Lynch, who heads the institute's Project on Criminal Justice. Lynch writes that John and George "have supported measures that are antithetical to freedom, such as secretive subpoenas, secretive arrests, secretive trials and secretive deportations."
The Cato critique notes that Ashcroft's Patriot Act "will allow the police to compel records from any business regarding any person, including medical records from hospitals, educational records from universities, and even records of books that have been checked out from the local library or purchased from the bookstore."
The Cato Institute doesn't come straight out and accuse the Bushniks of promulgating a police state, but in slightly minced words, Lynch does conclude that all these acts "are telltale signs of societies that are unfree."
Get Your City to Defend the Bill of Rights
Are you indignant, riled and enraged at attempts by the Unelected President and his cohorts to make confetti of the constitution and blast asunder the Bill of Rights? If so, you might want to encourage your hometown to sign a "Resolution to Defend the Bill of Rights."
The city council of Northampton, Massachusetts unanimously approved just such a resolution in May and scores of other cities have followed suit, from Cambridge to Berkeley.
If you are part of the majority of Americans who are not ready to surrender your constitutional liberties to fight a "war on terrorism," you can get information on mounting your own resolution from the Northampton Bill of Rights Defense Committee [PO Box 1594, Northampton, MA 01061, www.gjf.org/BORDC].
For more information contact:
Contact the websites and resources listed in the above article.