C'mon along and check out the new home!
With oil prices at $135 dollars per barrel, the pressure is on for car makers to innovate and create more fuel efficient vehicles. Volkswagen seems to be taking this task seriously with the 1L, a prototype that is capable of traveling for 235mpg using 1 gallon of gasoline, or 100km on 1L of gas. Adding to the excitement of this breakthrough is recent news that VW plans to get this concept out to market in 2010!More pics and info here
What Warrantless Wiretapping Means to Me
For a good chunk of my 26 year Air Force career, I was directly involved in surveillance programs for the National Security Agency (NSA).
For decades, these programs have played a crucial role in protecting our country from its enemies and all who seek to undermine the constitutionally protected freedoms that so many brave service members have died defending--including several of my Air Force Academy classmates.
I flew missions that monitored electronic communications around the world--often with Soviet MIGs flying off my wing and hoping I'd make a wrong turn. Our standing order was "if you even suspect you are collecting data on an American citizen, you are to cease immediately, flag the tape, and bring it to a supervisor." We knew failure to comply would yield serious consequences--the kind that can end your career, or worse, land you in jail.
In short, professional, accurate intelligence collection guidelines were used to protect America "from all enemies, foreign and domestic," without also undermining the very freedoms we were protecting.
So I've watched the debate in Congress over warrantless wiretapping and the manner in which private companies have been encouraged to violate the laws that so many of us dedicated our careers to upholding with great interest---or, more appropriately, with shock and awe.
Let me be clear---I strongly believe intelligence agencies need the power to conduct electronic surveillance of anyone who would mean our nation harm---particularly in a post 9/11 World. And if there are loopholes that prevent appropriate agencies from doing this work within the bounds of the Constitution, those holes can and must be closed.
But this debate isn't just about security; it's about accountability. As an officer who was both involved in these programs and held personally accountable for my actions in the name of defending America, I have a problem with giving a few well-connected, well-healed companies who knowingly usurp the law a free pass.
Every day, less than 1% of our country puts on the uniform and dedicates themselves to the security and the freedom of every single American. They do so knowing that breaking the chain of command, or ignoring orders, comes with consequences---no matter how "patriotic" your intentions.
When I see low ranking officers tossed in jail for carrying out the explicit directives of civilian leadership (I.E. Abu Gharib) that is not held accountable, silence is not an option.
When I see our national security institutions compromised by the mistakes of Washington politicians, silence is not an option.
When I see our intelligence community being used for partisan political gain instead of for defending our nation, silence is not an option.
And when I see companies acting "in the interest of national security" held to a lower standard of accountability than the dedicated professionals charged with our nation's defense, silence is not an option.
And to those few companies seeking immunity for breaking the law despite the best of intentions---might I offer a few comforting words on behalf of all who serve, and all who have borne the responsibilities of safeguarding our great nation...freedom isn't free.
Charlie Brown, Lt. Col. USAF Ret.
Don't let his name fool you, he is not a cartoon, he is the real deal, a real spy.
Going after Doonothings' Congressional seat against a carpetbagger, Tom McClintock.
Tom has been in politics in CA for a long time and this would be his springboard to the 'BIG time', so he moved up from LA to make District 4 his home. Charlie has been around the area for 16 years.
Nasty nest of crabby old repug geezers here and the current rate of expiration should be down to the nubs in about 15 years. Better hope the hometown boy can pull it off.
I saw two Bush/Cheney stickers on vehicles coming to work this AM proving people are stubbornly clinging to the sinking life raft that was the repug party.
Hey people! Get out your little scrapers and get busy or be forever relegated to the idiot bin.
|AP photo / Charles Dharapak, file|
By Chris Hedges
Washington has become Versailles. We are ruled, entertained and informed by courtiers. The popular media are courtiers. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are courtiers. Our pundits and experts are courtiers. We are captivated by the hollow stagecraft of political theater as we are ruthlessly stripped of power. It is smoke and mirrors, tricks and con games. We are being had.
The past week was a good one if you were a courtier. We were instructed by the high priests on television over the past few days to mourn a Sunday morning talk show host, who made $5 million a year and who gave a platform to the powerful and the famous so they could spin, equivocate and lie to the nation. We were repeatedly told by these television courtiers, people like Tom Brokaw and Wolf Blitzer, that this talk show host was one of our nation’s greatest journalists, as if sitting in a studio, putting on makeup and chatting with Dick Cheney or George W. Bush have much to do with journalism.
No journalist makes $5 million a year. No journalist has a comfortable, cozy relationship with the powerful. No journalist believes that acting as a conduit, or a stenographer, for the powerful is a primary part of his or her calling. Those in power fear and dislike real journalists. Ask Seymour Hersh and Amy Goodman how often Bush or Cheney has invited them to dinner at the White House or offered them an interview.@ Truthdig
WASHINGTON — The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops.
The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.
Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”
But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block.
Army officials denied that Mr. Smith had been removed because of the dispute, but confirmed that they had reversed his decision, arguing that blocking the payments to KBR would have eroded basic services to troops. They said that KBR had warned that if it was not paid, it would reduce payments to subcontractors, which in turn would cut back on services.
“You have to understand the circumstances at the time,” said Jeffrey P. Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command. “We could not let operational support suffer because of some other things.”@ TNYT
NISKAYUNA, N.Y. — Rising oil and gasoline prices have put spring into the steps of the engineers at General Electric's global research headquarters, who're developing new battery technologies to power everything from hybrid cars to tugboats, city buses and diesel locomotives.
"The price of gasoline is going up dramatically, so we're looking more seriously at this," said Robert King, a senior hybrid engineer who's researched hybrid technologies for more than three decades. "The cost is still one challenge, but I think as we see the price of gasoline going up, more effort is going into the development of technology."
The silver lining in high oil prices is that they may hasten the arrival of energy alternatives that should bring a number of benefits.
Oil historian Daniel Yergin calls today's high prices a "tipping point" that will lead to alternatives to oil. New battery technologies could leave the United States less reliant on foreign oil while reducing harmful carbon dioxide emissions.
Sound like a pipe dream? General Motors' chairman and chief executive officer, Rick Wagoner, announced Tuesday that his board has given the green light to begin manufacturing the Chevy Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle.
“The Chevy Volt is a go. We believe this is the biggest step yet in our industry’s move away from our historic, virtually complete reliance on petroleum to power vehicles,” Wagoner said in a statement, pledging to get the Volt into dealerships by late 2010.@ McClatchy
Our new book, A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry, isn't all road trips and sightseeing. In between travels to nuclear bunkers and missile test ranges, we paid visits to gadflies of the nuclear world who we thought could help us plan our travels. That's how we (well, Sharon, anyhow) ended up in the office of Curt Weldon, the former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania.
Weldon, for those of you not familiar with the former lawmaker, was famous for securing funding for some Russian flying saucers, his conspiratorial belief that a classified program had identified several of the 9/11 terrorists, and his determination to insert himself in nuclear issues, ranging from North Korea to Iran. It was actually the Russians that got him in trouble. We'll get back to that.
We wanted to see Weldon because we were trying to get access to Russia's closed nuclear cities, and frankly, Weldon was known for having good contacts with the Russian government. How close? Well, we'll get to that, too. Weldon, on hearing of our interest, was thrilled to talk, just thrilled. Because he wanted to tell us all about how he could single-handedly solve the world's nuclear problems. I mean, this is a man who kept a mock-up of a suitcase nuke in his office.
This was in 2006. Not long after that,the FBI raided Weldon's office and he subsequently lost his seat in the House. It is suspected that Weldon may have helped secure funding for Russian companies that in turn, paid money to his daughter. Nowadays, it's tough to get Weldon, who is at the center of a corruption probe, to talk about Russia, let alone the International Exchange Group, or IEG, the nonprofit Russian corporation that appears to be part of the FBI's investigation into the former Congressman. The Kremlin-connected IEG, the Wall Street Journall notes, was dedicated to "promoting U.S.-Russia business exchange" and "removing bureaucratic obstacles to the implementation of U.S.-funded nonproliferation programs" in Russia.
Weldon remains under investigation, though he has not yet been charged. Ken Silverstein at Harper's has been covering this issue for several years now, as has Laura Rozen writing at War and Piece. But the latest twist comes from the Journal, which reported that IEG may have paid money to the wife of a Weldon staffer. Many of the questions center on the mysterious figure at the head of IEG, Vladimir Petrosyan, and his relationship with Weldon. How close were Petrosyan and Weldon?@ Wired
Fervent supporters of Barack Obama like to say that putting him in the White House would transform America. With all due respect to the candidate, that gets it backward. Mr. Obama is an impressive speaker who has run a brilliant campaign — but if he wins in November, it will be because our country has already been transformed.
Mr. Obama’s nomination wouldn’t have been possible 20 years ago. It’s possible today only because racial division, which has driven U.S. politics rightward for more than four decades, has lost much of its sting.
And the de-racialization of U.S. politics has implications that go far beyond the possibility that we’re about to elect an African-American president. Without racial division, the conservative message — which has long dominated the political scene — loses most of its effectiveness.
Take, for example, that old standby of conservatives: denouncing Big Government. Last week John McCain’s economic spokesman claimed that Barack Obama is President Bush’s true fiscal heir, because he’s “dedicated to the recent Bush tradition of spending money on everything.”
Now, the truth is that the Bush administration’s big-spending impulses have been largely limited to defense contractors. But more to the point, the McCain campaign is deluding itself if it thinks this issue will resonate with the public.
For Americans have never disliked Big Government in general. In fact, they love Social Security and Medicare, and strongly approve of Medicaid — which means that the three big programs that dominate domestic spending have overwhelming public support.
If Ronald Reagan and other politicians succeeded, for a time, in convincing voters that government spending was bad, it was by suggesting that bureaucrats were taking away workers’ hard-earned money and giving it to you-know-who: the “strapping young buck” using food stamps to buy T-bone steaks, the welfare queen driving her Cadillac. Take away the racial element, and Americans like government spending just fine.
But why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?
Part of the credit surely goes to Bill Clinton, who ended welfare as we knew it. I’m not saying that the end of Aid to Families With Dependent Children was an unalloyed good thing; it created a great deal of hardship. But the “bums on welfare” played a role in political discourse vastly disproportionate to the actual expense of A.F.D.C., and welfare reform took that issue off the table.
Another large factor has been the decline in urban violence.
As the historian Rick Perlstein documents in his terrific new book “Nixonland,” America’s hard right turn really began in 1966, when the Democrats suffered a severe setback in Congress — and Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California.
The cause of that right turn, as Mr. Perlstein shows, was white fear of urban disorder — and the associated fear that fair housing laws would let dangerous blacks move into white neighborhoods. “Law and order” became the rallying cry of right-wing politicians, above all Richard Nixon, who rode that fear right into the White House.
But during the Clinton years, for reasons nobody fully understands, the wave of urban violence receded, and with it the ability of politicians to exploit Americans’ fear.
It’s true that 9/11 gave the fear factor a second wind: Karl Rove accusing liberals of being soft on terrorism sounded just like Spiro Agnew accusing liberals of being soft on crime. But the G.O.P.’s credibility as America’s defender has leaked away into the sands of Iraq.
Let me add one more hypothesis: although everyone makes fun of political correctness, I’d argue that decades of pressure on public figures and the media have helped drive both overt and strongly implied racism out of our national discourse. For example, I don’t think a politician today could get away with running the infamous 1988 Willie Horton ad.
Unfortunately, the campaign against misogyny hasn’t been equally successful.
By the way, it was during the heyday of the baby boom generation that crude racism became unacceptable. Mr. Obama, who has been dismissive of the boomers’ “psychodrama,” might want to give the generation that brought about this change, fought for civil rights and protested the Vietnam War a bit more credit.
Anyway, none of this guarantees an Obama victory in November. Racial division has lost much of its sting, but not all: you can be sure that we’ll be hearing a lot more about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and all that. Moreover, despite Hillary Clinton’s gracious, eloquent concession speech, some of her supporters may yet refuse to support the Democratic nominee.
But if Mr. Obama does win, it will symbolize the great change that has taken place in America. Racial polarization used to be a dominating force in our politics — but we’re now a different, and better, country.@ TNYT
WASHINGTON — Defense Department counterintelligence investigators suspected that Iranian exiles who provided dubious intelligence on Iraq and Iran to a small group of Pentagon officials might have "been used as agents of a foreign intelligence service ... to reach into and influence the highest levels of the U.S. government," a Senate Intelligence Committee report said Thursday.
A top aide to then-secretary of defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, however, shut down the 2003 investigation into the Pentagon officials' activities after only a month, and the Defense Department's top brass never followed up on the investigators' recommendation for a more thorough investigation, the Senate report said.
The revelation raises questions about whether Iran may have used a small cabal of officials in the Pentagon and in Vice President Dick Cheney's office to feed bogus intelligence on Iraq and Iran to senior policymakers in the Bush administration who were eager to oust the Iraqi dictator.
Iran, which was a mortal enemy of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and fought a bloody eight-year war with Iraq during his reign, has been the primary beneficiary of U.S. policy in Iraq, where Iranian-backed groups now run much of the government and the security forces.
The aborted counterintelligence investigation probed some Pentagon officials' contacts with Iranian exile Manucher Ghorbanifar, whom the CIA had labeled a "fabricator" in 1984. Those contacts were brokered by an American civilian, Michael Ledeen, a former Pentagon and National Security Council consultant and a leading advocate of invading Iraq and overthrowing Iran's Islamic regime.
According to the Senate report, the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity unit concluded in 2003 that Ledeen "was likely unwitting of any counterintelligence issues related to his relationship with Mr. Ghorbanifar."
The counterintelligence unit said, however, that Ledeen's association with Ghorbanifar "was widely known, and therefore it should be presumed other foreign intelligence services, including those of Iran, would know."
Stephen Cambone, then the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, shut down the counterintelligence investigation after only a month, the Senate report said.@ McClatchy
In his office, on a private floor above the Brussels office of the Suez conglomerate lined with political cartoons of himself, he told me what he thought of allegations that Bilderberg is a global conspiracy secretly ruling the world.
"It is unavoidable and it doesn't matter," he says. "There will always be people who believe in conspiracies but things happen in a much more incoherent fashion."
Lack of publicity
In an extremely rare interview, he played down the importance of Bilderberg in setting the international agenda. "What can come out of our meetings is that it is wrong not to try to deal with a problem. But a real consensus, an action plan containing points 1, 2 and 3? The answer is no. People are much too sensible to believe they can do that."
Every year since 1954, a small network of rich and powerful people have held a discussion meeting about the state of the trans-Atlantic alliance and the problems facing Europe and the US.
Organised by a steering committee of two people from each of about 18 countries, the Bilderberg Group (named after the Dutch hotel in which it held its first meeting) brings together about 120 leading business people and politicians.
At this year's meeting in Germany, the audience included the heads of the World Bank and European Central Bank, Chairmen or Chief Executives from Nokia, BP, Unilever, DaimlerChrysler and Pepsi - among other multi-national corporations, editors from five major newspapers, members of parliament, ministers, European commissioners, the crown prince of Belgium and the queen of the Netherlands.
"I don't think (we are) a global ruling class because I don't think a global ruling class exists. I simply think it's people who have influence interested to speak to other people who have influence," Viscount Davignon says.
"Business influences society and politics influences society - that's purely common sense. It's not that business contests the right of democratically-elected leaders to lead".
For Bilderberg's critics the fact that there is almost no publicity about the annual meetings is proof that they are up to no good. Jim Tucker, editor of a right-wing newspaper, the American Free Press for example, alleges they organise wars and elect and depose political leaders. He describes the group as simply 'evil'. So where does the truth lie?
Professor Kees van der Pijl of Sussex University in Britain says such private networks of corporate and political leaders play an informal but crucial role in the modern world.
"There need to be places where these people can think about the main challenges ahead, co-ordinate where policies should be going, and find out where there could be a consensus."@ BBC