Tuesday, July 18, 2006
David Addington: Dictator's Lawyer
Washington insiders call David Addington the most powerful person in the Bush adminstration whom the public doesn't know anything about. He refuses to have his photo taken by the media and refuses interviews by the press. He doesn't give public speeches, but prefers to work long and hard in the corridors of power within the administration. Addington has been Vice President Dick Cheney's longtime ally and has now replaced indicted Scooter Libby as VP Chief of Staff.
Why do I label David Addington as a dictator's lawyer?
David Addington is the legal mind behind all of the Bush administration's exertion of executive power in the most extreme examples:
- Guantanamo Bay "illegal enemy combatants" detention
- Torture as a means for intelligence gathering
- Warrantless NSA spying on U.S. citizens
- Author of presidential signing statements to ignore laws
These are things a dictator would do. A dictator's government feels they can ignore the people's legislative branch of government or even the judicial branch when it doesn't suit their agenda. Luckily, our president is still an elected official and while our country is run like a dictatorship is some cases, it is not beyond help. People can still vote these warmongering freaks out of office, allow them to run corporations and pillage on a smaller scale, or retire.
Addington has also been called Cheney's Cheney. In other words, if Bush is the public, plain-speaking bubba and Cheney is the real policymaker in the White House -- Addington is even less politically-adept, abrasive, and single-minded than Cheney. He is absolutely dogmatic and immovable in the legalese that the President is the Commander-in-Chief and can do anything the administration pleases.
For example, while Alberto Gonzales is the Attorney General, he doesn't know anything about constitutional nuances and international law. Addington does. Addington schools Bush's DUI lawyer when it comes to presidential power. Then, Alberto is trotted out in front of Congressional hearings and other public venues to parrot the administration's policies with a friendly face, instead of Addington who would likely react angrily to any questions concerning the president's power.
I'm not going to paraphrase or give you biographical history here why David Addington is the man behind these dictatorial policies. I'll just say that Addington doesn't appear to have any foreign policy agenda except his devout belief that the president should have even more power than he has now.
Cheney and Addington have been linked at the hip since Watergate. While Cheney and Rumsfeld may be correctly described as neo-cons with global corporate visions based in Cold War mentalites, Addington is really just the legal wonk that tells the policymakers that their agendas are legal. He has been effective at keeping high-ranking people out of the Cheney stovepipe who don't immediately agree with the Bush-Cheney vision for the wider Middle East. He is an enabler and an effective administration opposition legal hitman.
Here are some clearly enlightening articles concerning David Addington:
These longer investigative journalism articles can explain Addington's biography, his possible motivations, and his interaction with opposition voices to the current policies. Everyone has heard that the Bush administration appreciates loyalty over intelligent analysis and outcome prediction. Addington is single-minded.
These articles explain why Addington has been promoted to VP Chief of Staff -- rather than fired -- even when his legal advice has been shot down by Congress and the Supreme Court.
Monday, June 26, 2006
According to NASA
, "The Space Shuttle Discovery and its seven-member crew are set to launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center at 3:49 p.m. EDT on Saturday, July 1. Commander Steve Lindsey and his crew will continue evaluating new shuttle safety improvements during the 12-day mission. They'll also carry supplies and a third crew member to the International Space Station. At least two spacewalks are planned."
There are two main objectives for the STS-121 mission, Return To Flight and International Space Station assembly. Return To Flight
Since the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, safety and inspection is a priority. The Columbia Accident Investigation
determined that a piece of insulating foam came off the huge orange fuel tank on its launch and struck the leading edge of the wing on the shuttle. This caused damage to that section of the black heat shielding tile system that protects the space craft from the immense heat generated during shuttle's re-entry through the atmosphere. That damage caused the tragic disintegration of Columbia during re-entry, destroying the shuttle and killing all of its STS-107 crew members
The last space shuttle mission, STS-114, was a great success, but some insulating foam debris was also detected coming off the external fuel tank during the launch phase. That fuel tank has since been redesigned to correct known probable causes for debris. In addition, this launch will be filmed by a large number of additional cameras set up to detect any tank debris during launch. Cameras located on the Discovery shuttle, on the launch pad, on the ground, and even in chase aircraft will film the launch of STS-121.
When the external fuel tank seperates from Discovery, cameras will film it as it falls away to capture additional images for inspection and analysis to determine if foam has come off of it. Also, before Discovery docks with the International Space Station, the shuttle will perform a rollover maneuver so cameras located on the ISS can film the heat shielding tiles to inspect the integrity of them.
During the 12-day mission, the crew will also perform some testing and evaluation of possible repair measures that could be taken, if needed. One of the Extra-Vehicular Activities (spacewalks) NASA has planned will test the viability of using the long loading arm as a platform for performing repairs on the shuttle. Not officially scheduled, another EVA will entail testing the performance of a patching substance, called novax, on a set of sample damaged tiles, if time permits.
The EVA that will test the arm should be fairly interesting. Imagine for a moment that you fixed a certain weight on the end of your car's radio antenna or at the end of a fishing rod. The Discovery crew will be testing whether or not the slow motion deflection of the loading arm with the weight of a man would prohibit him from doing repairs. In other words, would the swaying or bouncing of the arm itself -- estimated to be as much as four feet in simulation -- prohibit a man from doing repairs that require fine motor skills. If so, the crew will test a repair platform position that only utilizes a position halfway on the arm to limit the instability. International Space Station assembly
As important as the Return To Flight objectives are, 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the actual mission goals for STS-121 will be International Space Station assembly and will take up much of the Discovery's crew time in space. The big picture dictates that the NASA shuttle program fulfill its obligations to its international partners in building the ISS before the program is mothballed in 2010.
Equipment and supplies will be transferred from the shuttle to the station. Three new EVA suits will be tested and left on the ISS. Repair and replacement of equipment will take place inside the ISS, and outside, involving the second planned EVA mission.
The second EVA will repair one umbilical system that accidently cut its cable earlier this year with the installation of a new part to prevent accidental damage, and also totally replace another one. From all accounts, the total replacement portion of that EVA will be tricky. One crew member will be on the arm while another "translates" himself around the outside of ISS and Discovery. The piece of replacement equipment to be manhandled from Discovery to the ISS -- and conversely -- the old one to be taken from the ISS back to Discovery, is described as weighing about 350lb (160kg) and as cumbersome and bulky as moving a refrigerator. Don't you hate when your friends ask you to help them move?
Equipment and supplies are often delivered by our Russian partners in unmanned delivery vehicles, launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan. The Progress 22 cargo spacecraft
just docked at the ISS at 11:25 EDT on Monday in anticipation of STS-121. Progress 22 is destined to be a semi-permanent ISS closet rather than a delivery craft that is subsequently filled with trash and discarded by detaching it and letting it burn up in the atmosphere. The Russian Soyuz style craft can also be used as "lifeboats" should the need arise.
Discovery, on the other hand, will leave one of its crew members, European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, to complement the current ISS crew of Commander Pavel Vinogradov and Flight Engineer Jeff Williams.
The STS-121 crew includes Commander Steven Lindsey, Pilot Mark Kelly and Mission Specialists Michael Fossum, Lisa Nowak, Stephanie Wilson, Piers Sellers and Thomas Reiter, an astronaut with the European Space Agency.
While I know I'll run outside my house and try to see the launch
with my own eyes this upcoming Saturday, I'll be watching the rest of the mission on NASA TV
. May everyone complete their mission and return safely back to us, here on Earth.
Monday, June 19, 2006
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Friday, June 09, 2006
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Thursday, June 01, 2006
The Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) is attempting to crawl out of the decades of chaos that had previously characterized the large African nation and continues to do so. The Kabila government in Kinshasa has scheduled democratic elections in the coming weeks, something the Congolese haven't seen in 40 years. This coming election is a pivotal event for the DRC. If it will actually help the country is anybody's guess.
The situation in the DRC came to my attention recently when I read in the Orlando Sentinel that two local central Florida men had been detained and accused of a coup attempt against the Kabila government. As I like to do, I look up names and places in some news articles in order to gain a better understanding of the story. The local angle seemed intriquing enough. These men did work for an Orlando consultancy firm subcontracted into the often very shady world of private military contractors (PMC).
Retired Orlando police captain, Joe Robinson and retired U.S. Secret Service Agent, Kevin Billings, were being held in the DRC because of their work for AQMI Strategy Corp. Following all the subcontractor corporations currently involved in the DRC providing private security with names like Nexia Strategy, Omega International and Tactical Intelligence LLC, led me to wonder about all the PMCs from South Africa, Nigeria and the U.S. running around the DRC.
As it turns out, AQMI is owned by Frank Amodeo, who sits on the board of Nexia Strategy, Nexia received $5 million in venture capital from multinational conglomerate Mirabilis Ventures, and Mirabilis seems to have had a relationship with the presidential candidate that AQMI was working with, Dr. Oscar Kashala. Dr. Oscar Kashala is actually a dual citizen of the U.S. and the DRC. He had been residing in Virginia until he decided to become a candidate in the DRC presidential election.
I can only describe the history of political leadership in the DRC to that of Star Trek's Klingon Empire. More often than not, the leader is assassinated and replaced. Rinse and repeat. Here's some reference reading for you:
You'll have to read those one page references to understand what I say now. The history of the DRC depends upon your perspective. I don't mean to seem simplistic, but the 'official' history written by the Kabila government is very telling and might explain the paranoia of the government of young Joseph Kabila. His father, Laurent Desire Kabila, was killed by a personal bodyguard in 2001, after all.
Because of all the pre-election turmoil, the actual day of free elections in the DRC is a little hard to nail down. The CIA has June 18th as the date. Sadly, that's not current. I've seen June 30th and July 30th in various news articles.
Just for you, I went so far as to call the DRC Permanent Mission to the United Nations office to get the correct elections date, because I have Skype, and it's basically a free phone call. However, I had to leave my inquiry on some answering machine. That seemed a little lame to me for an entire country's U.N. office in this day and age, but their web site is also stuck in a wayback machine, too.
The Democratic Republic of Congo will be in your news this Summer. If the country survives and doesn't descend into further chaos -- it might be a good news story -- no matter who is elected as the next president. There is alot more to the DRC story and I'll post that in the next entry.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
One of the ways to make your blog more available to a wider audience of readers is to utiltize the syndication features available on all blogdrive blogs, even the free ones. While all subscription levels offer extended feeds, a free blog still automatically creates a feed with previews of your last ten entries and links back to your blogdrive blog. Now, all you need to do is use the feed provided and tell your readers how they can use it.
People visiting your blogdrive blog can use its automagically generated index.xml or atom.xml file for their own news readers and feed aggregators. For easiest recognition, I have added some of the more popular services that can use my Dark Skies feed in that little icon cluster on the left side section.
Except for the [+ favorites] icon and link, which simply adds Dark Skies to a visitor's browser bookmarks, the rest of the icons are linked to my blog's feed. If you wish to have all of these icons, the HTML code to add them to your side section, and some simple instructions -- I put together a little compressed ZIP file that you can download: jfz_addicons.zip
I personally use the Yahoo and Google portal pages to stay updated with a number of blog feeds on blogdrive. If you only wish to use one or two of these icons on your blog, you can copy and save the icon, and copy and edit the shortcut associated with it.
There are a number of free third-party blog tools and services you should use. Blogdrive has integrated PhotoBucket into its entry editor. That is one free account you should activate. Another very useful free service is FeedBurner.
FeedBurner is useful not only as a one-stop shop for your blog's feed, but also for the added free services, like automatically pinging Technorati
I like FeedBurner because they get (understand) it. They can help you optimize your feed and publicize it. The future of syndication and feeds is being developed everyday. The orange icon, above, will soon be the internationally recognized icon for your blog's feed.
Until everyone understands this, I will display my icon cluster during the transition phase. Sometimes, we all get so excited about tech stuff, that we forget that everyone doesn't share our enthusiasm for changes in the geekdom.
Sunday, May 21, 2006
Since I was old enough to understand that there were other law makers out in the big world other than my mother, I've never really understood the logic or rationale underpinning government policies that advocate marijuana prohibition. Marijuana has been a naturally-growing herb for an epoch, specifically cultivated by mankind for thousands of years, and used by millions upon millions of people at one time or another -- right up to the present day. Apparently, "because I told you so" is the best government argument available.
The U.S. federal government has some alligator clamp down upon the issue of marijuana remaining one of the most controlled substances, equal to cocaine and heroin. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a rare statement that no one requested entitled, "Inter-Agency Advisory Regarding Claims That Smoked Marijuana Is a Medicine."
I dare you to read the FDA statement. It's only one page long. Most of the logic presented in the narrative falls along the lines of, "because I told you so." It simply cites other government agencies whose very existence depends upon illicit drugs and their bloated agency budgets enforcing and supporting prohibitions -- the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA). When their own studies have shown that marijuana is the most widely-used illicit drug, these agencies can't throw away their cash cow.
The modern government agency attitude toward weed seems to have been formed from taking too much LSD, or something. Perhaps after some Cold War MK-Utlra studies by the black cells of the military industrial complex, someone decided that marijuana caused communist subverseness.
Marijuana was placed on the schedule I list of contolled substances in 1970. Richard Nixon apparently thought that might fix his administration's problem of all those anti-war hippies protesting Viet Nam all over the country. The so-called War on Drugs was then militarized during the Reagan administration. While first lady Nancy was wearing "just say no" swag in American schools, Ronald's idea was to go after the source. The Columbian cocaine cartels found themselves on the receiving end of joint task forces comprised of CIA, DoD, DEA and Customs assets.
George H.W. Bush continued the War on Drugs by signing the drug asset forfeiture laws. Average U.S. citizens worried that they could lose their car or home, if they got busted with a bag of weed. However, the forfeiture system has grown into a self-funding law enforcement racket much larger than that. According to this news item from the DEA:
Nationwide in Fiscal Year 2005 the Department of Justice forfeited assets valued in excess of $687,000,000; shared in excess of $101,000,000 with state and local law enforcement agencies; and used $5.7 million in forfeited assets to make restitution directly to crime victims.
What would you do with over a half-billion dollars a year? Why you could fund an international, high tech, Mission Impossible-like scenario called Operation Twin Oceans. On May 17th, the DEA announced the conclusion of this 3-year-old Op and the seizure of over $70 million in assets -- including three frackin' tropical islands! Only Ian Fleming could've have made up this truth.
Personally, I have a libertarian attitude about all drugs. If you want to kill yourself smoking crack or meth, I don't care. It's your troubled life, not mine. Of course, I reserve the right to put a bullet into your forehead the very nano-second your drug addiction drives you to enter my house in the middle of the night to steal my PC.
If I were to compromise with the socially conservative fascists on current U.S. drug policy, I would advocate the Dutch model. No one has ever overdosed on marijuana, ever. The "gateway drug" argument is pure psychobabble. Even official government statements seem to be very lukewarm for this argument, so we're not protecting children from using crack because they might steal and smoke their uncle's stash of pot. In addition, the wacky Dutch model hasn't seemed to impair Norwegian economic institutions or standard of living.
There are religious reasons for not smoking pot. Many religions believe that the body is the temple of the soul. I fully support you practicing your religious beliefs, in private. I don't support you forcing your Christian or Islamic fundamentalism upon society-at-large where marijuana possession leads to lengthy sentences, life imprisonment and death penalties.
If I were dying of cancer or aids, I don't think God would look upon me as a sinner for smoking marijuana instead of using FDA-approved chemical synthetics that profit the multi-billion-dollar pharmaceutical industry. That is what this issue seems to be about -- money. If the powerful pharmaceutical industry doesn't profit from it and the government can't control and tax a frackin' weed grown in a person's backyard, they will be against it.
To me, the medical marijuana debate is a no-brainer.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
The big news of the day about the National Security Agency (NSA) datamining hundreds of millions of phone records with the direct cooperation of U.S. telecommunications corporations seem to push this issue far enough in the public's face that president George W. Bush actually took the time to read a brief statement before hopping on air force one for a post-Katrina photo junket. The prepared statement was undoubtedly crafted for the benefit of cable and nightly news soundbytes to give the Bushworld side of this.
I can appreciate the value of getting the NSA story out to the public in venues with larger audiences, like USA Today and Good Morning America. Many Americans don't go online, and don't read news only two minutes old, and don't read news alerts in their email, and they certainly don't read any of a million blogs with endless opinion and commentary. Many Americans need to be reminded to sign up for Medicare part D by the May 15th deadline with TV and print newspaper stories and advertisements.
To be honest, I think it's great that the non-digital demographic is starting to pay attention to this issue. Oftentimes, the younger crowd is either too self-absorbed or apathetic to some issues about the nature of our country. Older people, with a sense of history, often take a great interest in it.
Other than some policy wonks in cyber rights, law, constitutional issues, or politics -- and conspiracy theorists -- most of the general public had no interest in this issue. Many people simply channel surf among evening TV news outlets while trying to relax and have dinner. Apparently, "keep me safe" and "keep gas affordable" are the top Pavlovian soundbytes expected while dining.
In politics, this story is news not only for reaching a wider audience, but also because of the upcoming confirmation hearings for CIA director. The Bush nominee, General Michael Hayden, will likely have to dodge questions concerning the scope and nature of the NSA programs. Call it "warrantless wiretapping," "terrorist surveillance," or "impeachable high crimes." It doesn't matter. Label it in the languages of the libertarian, dittohead or moonbat, the Puzzle Palace datamining of phone records is just the tip of the data iceberg.
In December 2005, the story broke in the New York Times -- six months ago. The Democrusader immediately responded by trotting out Alberto Gonzales (DOJ) and General Hayden (DNI) for the dog and pony show. You might have missed that.
Days later, Senate Judiciary committee member Joseph Biden had an Op-Ed in the Miami Herald on January 1st, "No President is Above Our Constitution." Perhaps you were too hung over to read a newspaper that day.
The president is taking actions incompatible with the expressed will of Congress and the intent of the Constitution .... The president needs to stop this unconstitutional, and, I believe, illegal expansion of executive power. No president is limitless in his power.
The term datamining, itself, came swimming up to the public focus around the time of the 911 Commission and the news about a military program called Able Danger. It was talked about in Congress quite a bit by Representative Curt Weldon and in his book, Countdown to Terror. Some history of the pre-911 datamining ops of the military by Able Danger can be found on the Early Warning Washington Post blog of William M. Arkin -- history, demise, and future impacts.
Outside of normal oversight, the DOD has been using the excuse of force protection to physically surveil U.S. persons for some time. These programs are generally done in secret. Since no politician is going to cut the defense budget, don't expect this activity to change anytime soon.
People in business and marketing have also used datamining for some time. Did you know that the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class action lawsuit against one of the telecom giants, AT&T, over this NSA privacy issue? Don't you also remember the fight between DOJ and Google over your surfing habits?
Most online Terms of Service and Privacy statements generally strike a mutual bargain between the use of the service and the privacy of your data. When your personal data is commonly being sold or given away for doing evil, or stupid things, Google is the exception to the rule. Just about every company quickly co-operates with any idea law enforcement or governmental security concerns put forth. Terrorists and Sexual Predators are the popular bogeymen to use in order to ignore the U.S. Constitution and laws.
Honestly, I think the majority of people leading corporations fold immediately because they don't want any trouble from the government at all, especially after seeing the Enron example. Only the minority actually have to wait to fold after subtle insuation of greater legal hassles by an alphabet of federal agency acronyms, like EPA, or IRS, or FTC, or SEC, or DOJ, or FBI. Even more rare is the corporation that tells the government to fuck off and try again.
By February, this fun fact wasn't aired much in the local TV news, but it did get published in Government Security News magazine. Here is an excerpt from Jacob Goodwin's article, "Wal-Mart defends itself with new intel unit," in which he interviews David Harrison of the Wal-Mart Analytical Research Center:
The company maintains personal data – names, addresses, social security numbers – on its 1.6 million current employees; millions of additional former employees; and 47 million members of its Sam's Club operations. It keeps records of anyone who has tried to use fraudulent checks or filed a claim against Wall-Mart; anyone who uses a Wal-Mart's pharmacy; as well as the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), license plate number and home address of any motorist who has had his automobile's oil changed at a Wal-Mart, said Harrison.
Even more noteworthy, Wal-Mart keeps track of any customer who has a history of buying propane tanks at its stores or anyone making "bulk purchases" of prepaid handheld cell phones, which some law enforcement officials have tied in the past to terrorist or criminal activities. "If you try to buy more than three cell phones at one time, it will be tracked," said Harrison.
The vast majority of the data being collected by Wal-Mart is not currently being used for any investigation purposes, said Harrison, but the company would be willing to cooperate with law enforcement officials, if necessary, to fight terrorism, or to defend itself against criminal activity.
Let's not debate the wrong thing. Security and Civil Liberties are not mutally exclusve of each other, no matter what entity wishes to erode your constitutional rights for whatever reason. Don't let the NSA, Walmart, or Bushworld make excuses to do it to you.
Believe or not, the erosion of civil liberties under Bush has become so bad that the idea of a rebel alliance between the far left and the far right is gaining popularity. The unchecked reality of an all-powerful American Emperor/Dictator/CEO president isn't what most Americans want.