Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Victim of sexism" tries pole dancing instead.

Polly Courtney worked for Merrill Lynch in London but she quit her job complaining the men were "sexists". She has written a fictional account of her experiences with this "sexism".

So what did Polly rush off to do for "fun". She's a pole dancer. That's her in the photo. On one website she wrote: "Sold my soul to the City [London's finance district], quit banking. Now writing fiction set in the City, working in FYEO nights." That is the abbrevition for For Your Eyes Only, which is a table dancing establishment.

But Polly says she "was just being sarcastic" and "I'd never do anything like that." Apparently never doesn't mean never as she also said: "I have done pole dancing a few times with friends for a laugh, but it's not a regular hobby or anything." I hope she writes better than she speaks. But then maybe she doesn't. The publisher she is using also specializes in a "self-publishing programme for authors of any subject." This could explain why she is hyping herself so heavily and giving contradictory interviews. And according to this web site her book is indeed published by Matador Fiction which is the "self-publishing" imprint of the company. Sounds like just another con job using "sexism" as the excuse.

Monday, August 28, 2006

That should settle it.

Right from the start the case of John Karr was sensationalistic and smarmy. It had a touch of filth to it along with large degrees of insanity. This blog argued from the start that we didn't think he was involved at all and that he was someone with a few screws loose.

Now it has been announced that no charges aginst Karr in relation to the Ramsey murder will be filed. This blog said the evidence indicated Karr could not possibly have done it and only the DNA could place him at the scene of the crime. The DNA tests have come back and the samples found at the crime scene don't match with his own. He wasn't there.

However, Karr still ought to be carefully investigated for the possibility that his obsession with girls being murdered could have led him into some other action. He was clearly not involved with the Ramsey case. But he is not a well person and may have gone off the deep end and actually done what he was so obsessed with. I simply say investigate him for this possibility. And no more jumping to conclusions without evidence.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Here is a video worth watching by former drug warriors who have learned the prohibition is a failure. Included here is Jerry Cameron who I met in Amsterdam a few days ago and who gave an excellent presentation on the problems of drug laws. Note: I will post regarding the conference shortly. My internet connection at my hotel wouldn't work but I'm home now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

What is it about Americans and nudity?

The Boston Globe reports that politicians in Brattleboro, Vermont are in an uproar. As if politicians are ever in any other state. It seems that in one area of the downtown area some people sunbath nude. Horror, shock, terror, strikes the hearts of American citizens from coast to coast.

Apparently Vermont does not ban nudity so it is up to each city to do so and Brattleboro is now spending hours debating the ban. The proposal to ban such activity brought out five young men who stripped naked in protest of the ban. The Police Chief, John Martin, seems rather reasonable especially for a cop. He said he can't arrest anyone as there is no law and: "What's the harm? It's a problem to the extent that it bothers people, but we've always had it here."

Theresa Toney sees it differently. Mother Theresa is adamant: "This is a problem. What about children seeing this?"

Good question. What about children seeing it? In all my life I've heard people, in the US, getting hysterical about children seeing nudity. But not once have I heard anyone cite a study of any kind showing any harm. When some nudists set up a camp for their children to attend politicians got all huffed up wanting to ban it because it allowed nudity. But tens of thousands of children, in the US alone, attend naturist camps all the time without any harm done.

Brattleboro is out of the mainstream in the US but not very different from much of the Western world (outside the United States).

Take a walk through the Tiergarten, the large park in the centre of Berlin. Just a few yards from busy sidewalks and a major intersection is a wide open field and on any sunny day it is filled with hundreds of people in the nude lying in the sun. Several major walkways through the park go through this section. Now the people on the walkways tend to be dressed but a metre or two to the side that is not the case. Yet old couples stroll down the sidewalk without looks of horror on their faces. Families, parents and children, walk past the naked people and the kids don't seem shocked by any of it.

I attended a conference some years ago in Paris and stayed in a conference centre overlooking a local pool. Women there swam topless with dozens of high rises looking down on the pool. No one seemed to notice except Americans staying in the centre. There are huge streatches of beaches in much of Europe where nudity is common place. And no one seems to die because of it. Crime doesn't escalate. But in the US there is this fury that rises from the mere thought of people having naked bodies. One wag described the US obsession with the topic this way: "Take off you clothes and walk down an American street with a machete in one hand and an Uzi in the other, firing away randomly and someone will call the police to complain that there is a naked person outside."

A Reasonable week

This blog will endeavour to post for the next few days from the REASON in Amsterdam conference which is obviously in... Amsterdam. Two points if you guessed correctly.

I arrive early afternoon with plenty of time to get settled in. Tomorrow will be dinner with Matt Stone and Trey Parker the creators of South Park. I'm looking forward to the next few days immensely. I love Amsterdam and was only there visiting with Marc Victor (the libertarian attorney, powerhouse and gadfly from Phoenix) and his lovelier half, Amy, just a few weeks ago.

And once again this will be great fun as many old friends will be there and hopefully a new ones as well. Vince Miller and Jim Elwood of the International Society for Individual Liberty are coming in. It will be nice to see them especially since they are bringing my DVD of V for Vendetta. I've seen them several times in the last year. First, in Germany a year ago, then in Phoenix about 10 months ago, then again in Colorado Springs in the Spring, then last month in Prague. I think they're following me.

The libertarian Hobbits from Holland, Hubert and Rita Jongen are on the list to be there. I was disappointed they didn't make it to Prague in July so it will be doubly nice to catch up with them again on their home tuft.

Tom Palmer from the CATO Institute is speaking. Other than a brief visit in Phoenix few months ago the last time I saw Tom was quite sometime ago in Washington, DC when I was attending a CATO conference and stayed with Tom during my visit. Science write Ron Bailey is speaking and he's always interesting. I met Ron a few years ago at the World Conference on Sustainable Development in South Africa and had him speak there at a supper club I was organizing.

I will try to blog about the speakers and what they have to say. I have wireless in my hotel room but I won't be getting there much during the day. But each evening before I go to sleep I'll try to give you a report.

The first hurdle will be the flight but I believe the flight I'm one, not going through either British or US airspace, should be relatively easy without any of the silly regulations that the Blair/Bush twins are imposing. But it's really getting to be a pain to fly. I couldn't figure out if I'm allowed to take a folding umbrella or not in my carry on. And since I'm only doing carry on I decided that they probably have it listed as a weapon and will leave it. I hope it doesn't rain. I also left a small video camera tripod for the same reason. I'm assuming this flight will allow dangerous items like deoderant and toothpaste. We'll see. I know the flight to Amsterdam in July wasn't too bad. The insanity is localized to the US and Britain but they are using their pull to force others to follow suit.

All in all it will be a feast for the mind, a feast for the body and a feast of friendship. Not a bad combination.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

And the difference is....

President Franklin Delano Bush has said that leaving Iraq would be a disaster. And how would that be different from staying?

Terrorists disquised as violinists??

The more total, as in totalitarian, measures the Blair regime imposed on airlines regarding banning hand luggage is not only putting discount airlines out of business but imposing "significant lost earnings" on classical musicians according to the UK's Musicians' Union. Violins and other such instruments can cost tens of thousands of dollars. But these delicate instruments, according to the Department of Transportation, have to be dumped in the luggage hold with massive suitcases thrown around by ground crew.

Now anyone who has seen how luggage is handled will realize the dangers here. And the British bureuacrats are promising the new rules will "be in place for as long as they need to be." Sounds like a forever proposition to me -- sort like other temporary government measures.

Two classical musicians from the US are in a quandry. They wrote the BBC about their problems saying they had gone to Europe to play music festivals and return to the US next week but have been told they can't take their instruments as carry on. I assume if you mix the right two violins they could explode! Olivia Hajioff told the BBC: "Our violins are extemely valuable and delicate. There is no way that we, or any other serious musician, could consider putting them in the hold." She said she and her partner are afraid they will have to leave their instruments in the UK instead.

I have a suggestion for her. First, they should take a ferry or the Chunnel to Free Europe. Second, I suggest they stay there. But if they insist on returning to the United States of Homeland Security then they should fly to Mexico or Canada and drive into the US. Last I heard the borders are semi-open and the wall hasn't gone up yet. Of course I can't predict how long that will be true.

The Musicians's Union says some of their members have been unable to travel thus breaking contracts they have and opening themselves up to law suits for breach of contract. I presume the British will be working to reinforce cockpit doors lest some sneak a Stradivarius aboard and use it to bash their way in to get at the pilots. What I don't understand is why, in total disregard of public safety, they allow thousands of people to gather in enclosed spaces with dozens of lethal musical instruments. But apparently if they call it a "concert" then it's okay. But isn't "orchestra" just another word for conspiracy?

Do they believe their own statements?

Sometimes you have to wonder if the bureucrats, politicians and thugs that permeate government actually believe the claims they are peddling. Look at this photo for a second and think about it.

Remember the background of this. Breathless politicians rushed to the press room to announce that all liquids would be confiscated from passengers on flights in the UK and the US because of..... as if you didn't know, terrorists! They were going to smuggle liquids aboard the plane to mix and instantly create bombs to blow up the plane. "Danger!" they screamed. It's as if Bush and Blair jumped out from behind a curtain and yelled "Boo!"

So millions of passengers lost their toothpaste, their shampoo and even something to drink. All because the government said the chances of some of this stuff being explosive was real. How real was it?

Well look at the picture of the travel Nazis from the "Transportation Security Administration" are just roughly throwing the liquids into the trash. Throwing! Aren't they worried about explosions? Doesn't the possibility of mixing that stuff together increase the possibility of indvertantly creating a bomb? And they are doing this in sections of the airport where they have forced thousands, and I mean thousands, of peopel to accumulate for security checks. Oh, the humanity! One deoderant bottle mixing with the wrong bottle of aftershave, the carnage would be too horrific for words.

If the risk of allowing people to carry it on board is so high that millions of people are prevented from brushing their teeth shouldn't they take more care in how they dispose of this potentially toxic mix?

And it gets worse. Much worse! Associated Press reported that at least in one area the TSA is allowing a shelter for the homeless to take anything they want from the bin.

Are they mad? Giving bombs to the homeless to brush their teeth with? One dab of toothpaste followed by some mouthwash could blow the whole place to pieces. At the very least it could knock out a few teeth and a lot of homeless don't have that many teeth to begin with. And wouldn't these potentially explosive liquids be toxic?

Of course they would. I remember quite clearly that even the travel Nazis didn't want to stop infants from having a bottle so they allowed mothers to bring a bottle aboard provided they tasted it first! Why taste it first? Obviously because liquid explosives would be lethal and they presumed that mother terrorists with babies wouldn't taste the milk thus proving, with her life, that it was not an explosive -- as if there was ever a terrorist attack from a mother carrying her baby. But say you do have a terrorist mother, infant in arms, who is prepared to die by blowing up the plane. Would she be really that afraid of dying that she wouldn't taste the milk? But if the travel Nazis actually targeted the one group that carries out these attacks they wouldn't have as much power nor the fun of forcing old women out of wheelchairs.

So TSA and the breathless scaremongers in government do believe the liquids are potentially lethal. Yet they are willing to let the homeless shelter take this material for use by their clients. How inconsiderate? Don't they worry they could be sending some homeless man to a premature and awful death from poisoning, if he doesn't blow his head off first.

At Seattle's airport a spokesman for the airport said people understand the necessity of disposing of their bottled water. "They understand there is a serious situation in the world," said Bob Parker. But TSA doesn't! Look at how they are handling this stuff! They could destroy a whole wing of the airport throwing around potentially explosive material like that.

One old woman at the aiport told the newspaper that this "brings the reality of war home." Of course she never thought that this brings the reality of scare-mongering, vote hungry politicians home.

Of course maybe they give lethal explosives to the homeless to play with because they don't believe they are dangerous at all. Surely if the risk was as high as they claimed they wouldn't manhandle the confiscated liquids the way they do or hand them off to homeless shelters for use.

Incoherent policies, incoherent man

This transcript from a Bush press conference shows exactly how incoherent the man and his policies are when he is asked about them. You will see he is incapable of answering the question but he does admit the invasion of Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attack on 9/11. Too bad he didn't tell the American people that before he went into Iraq.

QUESTION: A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn’t gone in. How do you square all of that?

BUSH: I square it because imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein, who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who had relations with Zarqawi.

You know, I’ve heard this theory about, you know, everything was just fine until we arrived [in Iraq] and — you know, the stir-up-the-hornet’s- nest theory. It just doesn’t hold water, as far as I’m concerned.

The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East. They were …

QUESTION: What did Iraqi have to do with that?
BUSH: What did Iraq have to do with what?

QUESTION: The attacks upon the World Trade Center.

BUSH: Nothing. . . . .Except for it’s part of — and nobody’s ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — Iraq — the lesson of September the 11th is: Take threats before they fully materialize,

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Imagine if a US official said this.

Imagine the outrage on the kooky Right if a top US government official said: “This is a country which is founded on a democracy. According to our Constitution, we have a secular state, Our laws are made by the Congress,. If those are not your values, if you want a country which has Biblical law or a theocratic state, then America is not for you. This is not the kind of the country where you would feel comfortable....”

Of course it is unlikely that the current administration would ever say any such thing. After all what’s a little theocracy between friends. Now in fact something quite similar to the above was said, in Australia. And conservatives actually applauded and praised the official. American conservatives actually liked it!

Hard to believe. Not really. You see the speaker didn’t mention Biblical law but Sharia law and instead of Congress he said parliament and he said Australia not America. But the principle would apply equally in both places. The double standards of the nutty Right are almost comical. If you demand a secular state, keeping religious values from being mandated by law, etc. you are 1) a hero if you are referring to Islam and 2) a vile monster if you mean fundamentalist Christianity.

I actually applaud the sentiments expressed by this Australian official. I wish the US took a similar position as well. It should apply whether it is Sharia law or Biblical law that the person proposes. Of course if the US took that position the Republicans wouldn’t have any campaign issues left. Of course I remember the old days when they stood for small government, balanced budgets, less regulation, respect for the Constitution, etc. But I'm getting nostalgic again. None of that sort of rot in George Bush's America.

Did he eat it?

Michael Lind argues that libertarianism is dead. Nope. Not dead. But it does appear he may have eaten it. When he finishes devouring libertarianism he hopes to consume socialisn for desert leaving conservativism for a late night snack.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Old tapes of Karr revealed

Five years ago Wendy Hutchens met John Karr, the "suspect" in the JonBenet Ramsey murder. She exchanged emails and recorded hours of phone conversations with him. These tapes supposedly reveal his obsessive interest in the cases of Ramsey and Polly Klaas.

While infatuated with the case the full delusion of his being JonBenet's lover had not taken over. Nor did he seem to think she died accidentally as he claimed recently. He is heard saying: ""She was in a lot of pain before she died and suffered and was tortured. There is physical evidence of that. What a shame. It's shameful. That person did that to the most beautiful girl in the world." It is clear that is already obsessed with JonBenet but he knows that someone killer her violently.

It is reported that nothing in the tapes indicates he killed JonBenet but that he claimed a deep "spiritual connection" with young children who had been murdered.

Meanwhile the attorney for Karrs ex-wife, now Lara Knutson, says his client "really absolutely detests" the suspect. "Believe me, her better instinct would be to find some way to bury him for the rest of his life." But she says she can't ignore the fact that Karr spent each Christmas of their married life with his family in Alabama. And since JonBenet was killed between Christmas night and the next morning, in Colorado, Karr couldn't have been there.

Bush/Blair announce new travel restrictions

The Terrible Twosome, George Bush and Tony Blair, have announced new travel restrictions as measures to stamp out terrorism and any shreds of individual rights that previous anti-terrorist measures might have missed. Below is a photograph of the first flight taken under these new regulations.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Does anyone seriously think him guilty now?

I have to wonder if anyone, who knows the lest bit of information regarding the tragedy of JonBenet Ramsey can actually believe that John Karr killed her. The depth of his delusion seems to become more and more obvious with each passing hour. His obsession with men who kill girls is actually rather scary and he has lied in the past about this case and himself.

He told his father, Wexford Karr, that in 2001 he was under investigation for the Ramsey killing. This was years before his name was even noticed by the police and the notice he got was only because he pushed for it. Now if the police never heard of him in 2001 why would he claim they were investigating him for this case? His obsession with the case is the only reason I can think of.

And it was clear that his emails to Professor Tracey were troublesome. He sounded deluded in them and he sounded dangerous. He also lied in them, building himself up as a major suspect in the murder of young girls in four different states. Certainly at the time he was not a suspect in the murder of anyone. Yet he told Prof. Tracey quite explicitly that he was. It is as if he so identified with these killers that pretending he was one gave him some sort of emotional kick. Former FBI profiler Clint Van Zandt sid: "I'm not saying that this guy didn't do it. But watching him respond to questions on television was like watching a guy trying to think up an answer. This appears to be somebody obsessed with the case. This appears to be someone who has learned every detail about the case."

That Karr was questioned on television itself is a disgrace. But this is part of the disgusting circus engineered by the Thai police. Shame on them, they disgrace Thailand. I should also say that this obsession does indicate that Karr should be carefully investigated. While the evidence doesn't point to him being involved in Ramsey case it is possible that his obsessive identification with such killers could have caused him to perpetrate such an act later on. One good thing from this arrest is that he may have been caught before that happened.

Thai media circus responsible for false confession.

It's taken a day or so but the mainsteam media is catching up with this blog. We published our rather lengthy essay on why we thought the suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case was mentally disturbed but not guilty of the crime. If I had to give odds on his guilt I would think he has about a one in ten chance of being guilty -- probably less. Now the media is noticing there is no evidence beyond his constant desire to give interviews and tell everyone how he was involved.

Associated Press reported that "the only public evidence against John Mark Karr is his own words" and says that some are now wondering if Karr is a "disturbed 'wannbe' trying to insert himself into high-profile case." They also finally noticed he was "vague in details". One former prosecutor told AP, "I have to believe they have more than his kooky confession." But don't bet on it. The AP also confirms what I said yesterday when I voice doubt that JonBenet had been "drugged" as Karr so readily confessed to the ever-present Thai police. AP reports the "autopsy report found no evidence of drugs".

AP also reported on Karr's wife saying he was with her that Christmas and noted that the professor we mentioned yesterday is also refusing to link Karr to the case even though Karr came to police attention through him. In other words AP is today reporting what we wrote yesterday -- almost as if they read it. One former prosecutor said: "This confession seemed delusional. He looked like a drugged-out Lee Harvey Oswald." The original prosecutor in the Ramsey case, who doesn't have a spotless record in this matter himself, said: "At this point, I haven't heard anything very reassuring that we have the right person. It is disconcerting. I am hoping that they based the arrest on corroborating evidence."

By the way part of this problem is due to the typically disgraceful way the Thai police behave. They love to drag suspects out and subject them to barrages of questions from the media. In Thailand suspect apparently have no rights. And the Thai police are publicity hungry and shameless, not to mention, corrupt. So they have dragged this man from interview to interview.

What I suspect happened is that Karr has been obsessed with the case and "fell in love" with JonBenet from the reports of her and the photographs. He learned the case inside and out. He started pushing to become linked to the case by writing Patsy Ramsey and by corresponding with Professor Tracey who made the documentary on the case. Karr used his knowledge of the case to appear more suspicious than he actually was. And the police jumped too soon, the Thai police then spread the story around the world without using any of the skepticism that police ought to employ -- again typical of them as they assume all their suspects are guilty. So when Karr was put on public display his delusion about being the killer took over completely and he is playing the role to the hilt.

Fox News has Carlton Smith, the author of a book on the Ramsey case, saying: "It's clear to me that he's somewhat interested or maybe obsessed by the case and the real question is whether he's inserting himself into it for some obscure psychological reason." They also report another discrepency. Karr told the ever present, ever incompetent, Thai police that the day he killed her he had picked her up from school. School was not in session as it was the Christmas holiday. As I said since Karr thinks he is in love with the girl he is concocting a story that fits his delusion of the romance and accidental death. None of which is substantiated by the facts.

One thing I didn't mention, because I wanted to confirm it, was that Karr and his wife had three children. The boys would have be six, four and three in 1996 during the Christmas that JonBenet was killed. When Lara Karr says tht her then-husband was with her she has good reason to know. As I did note it was Christmas and if your spouse deserts you on Christmas you remember. But you especially remember it if he left you with three small children by yourself.

Another sceptic in the case is Marc Klaas, the father of Polly Klass, who was murdered in California. Karr also obsessed about the Klaas killing and corresponded with the killer of Klaas, Richard Davis. He also had a copy of the death certificate from the girl. Marc Klaas said it was creepy that Karr moved to Petaluma, where Polly was abducted. He said he's a "very, very disturbed guy" for "collecting mementos of dead girls" but doesn't think Karr is the killer. Nate Karr, John's brother, who we quoted yesterday, is clearly doubtful that his brother was involved. He said the family was going to go through old photos from Christmas holidays. If they turn up a 1996 photo showing Karr with his family that would seriously damage the theory that Karr was over 1,000 miles away that evening killing JonBenet. And it is very possible such a photo exists. Nate told Atlanta TV station WAGA that the family "will provide information Friday to prove the allegations that Karr killed Ramsey is 'just ridiculous'." (Please note I suspect that that publication making this report may have misreported an interview that Nate Karr did where he said they were looking for the photos and instead reported he would provide the evidence on Friday. I think they got it wrong but it possible there was another interview which I can't find.)

I did say one thing that could be misconstrued. I assumed the DNA found on the girl's underwear was sperm. Police have not said it was. They merely call it a DNA sample but the girl was not raped -- which doesn't leave out the possibility that the DNA was still semen. Karr was asked by the ever present Thai police why he had sex with the girl and he vaguely answered affirming he did but not answering the question. But the killer did not have sex with JonBenet. He did not drug her and he did not pick her up from school all of which are part of the Karr confession.

It also appears that the attorney for the Ramsey family has been a hinderance to finding the truth. He was quoted as saying that the Ramseys had provided Karr's name to the police early in the investigation. But John Ramsey says he doesn't think he ever knew Karr. Now the attorney is saying that "a prosecutor does not make an arrest simply because there's probably cause for the arrest --- but when he or she has evidence to prove the case with a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt." If this is his real view never hire him as a defense attorney. He is saying that such arrests are always based on hard evidence. If that were the case we wouldn't need defense attorneys. It is not the case and no doubt this attorney would argue the contrary when defending a client.

Karr needs to be removed from Thai custody immediately and brought to the US so that a real investigation can be made. So far we have the media circus engineered by the incompetent Thai authorities. The US says they are talking to the Thais to arrange this. Thai authorities, who have revoked Karr's visa, are stalling as they bask in the linelight of the false confession they helped engineer.

I also think the media circus is misreporting another fact. They regularly say that Karr lived near the Ramseys in Atlanta. This insinuates much more than the facts do. Karr and the Ramseys did live in the Atlanta area at the same time for awhile. But this was when Karr was a child. He moved at the age of 12 and went to live with grandparents in Hamilton, Alabama and he stayed in Alabama until he moved to California. JonBenet was not yet born when Karr lived within 30 miles of the Ramseys and there is no indication that as a child he meet the John or Patsy Ramsey, we already know he couldn't have meet JonBenet. Mentioning this "connection" gives the impression that Karr could have met the child and/or known the family. For JonBenet's entire life Karr was in Alabama and never lived close to her at all.

I am convinced that we will discover this confession is false. Karr's obsession with the case turned delusional and he tried to insert himself into the case by writing Professor Tracey and Patsy Ramsey. Boulder police officials, anxious to solve the case, decided to arrest Karr on the basis of his knowledge of the case, gleaned from years of research, not personal experience. Unfortunately Karr was in Thailand, a nation known for corrupt and incompetent police anxious to put on a media circus for their own benefit. Thrusting the delusional Karr into the middle of this Thai manipulated frenzy clinched the delusion for him and he is know playing the role that was handed him. He may even believe everything he has said. But so far the evidence is all saying he could not have done it. Unless the prosecutor has evidence that has been kept secret, or the DNA matches, I don't think we have the right man at all. And that is sad.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Would it have worked?

I have neglected to comment on the alleged terrorist plot to blow up airplanes in mid air because, to date, there is very little information available. I can't appraise whether they arrested people who appear to be terrorists of not. Certainly none of the "cellphone terrorists" in the US panned out to be what they were first alleged. So I'm waiting for the British to actually supply what amounts to evidence on which I can make an educated guess. But it does seems that there is reason to suspect whether the methods employed to blow up the plane would work or not. The alleged plot involved bringing aboard benign chemicals independently and they mixing them on board to produce the explosion.

One web site has looked into that. They write: "We're told that the suspects were planning to use TATP, or triacetone triperoxide, a high explosive that supposedly can be made from common household chemicals unlikely to be caught by airport screeners." Simple? Not really. They discuss the actual process needed for this to work:

First, you've got to get adequately concentrated hydrogen peroxide. This is hard to come by, so a large quantity of the three per cent solution sold in pharmacies might have to be concentrated by boiling off the water. Only this is risky, and can lead to mission failure by means of burning down your makeshift lab before a single infidel has been harmed.

But let's assume that you can obtain it in the required concentration, or cook it from a dilute solution without ruining your operation. Fine. The remaining ingredients, acetone and sulfuric acid, are far easier to obtain, and we can assume that you've got them on hand.

Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them.

It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie.

Easy does it

Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.

The genius of this scheme is that TATP is relatively easy to detonate. But you must make enough of it to crash the plane, and you must make it with care to assure potency. One needs quality stuff to commit "mass murder on an unimaginable scale," as Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Stephenson put it.

The full article goes into much more detail and is worth reading. So provided the alleged terrorists were not so alleged but legitimate, and assuming they actually planned to do what we have been told they were going to do, the implication seems to be that the plan wouldn't have worked.

Don't jump to conclusion in Ramsey case yet!

I already stated below that John and Patsy Ramsey were the victims of a witch hunt. Certainly the DNA found at the crime site would have been compared to their own or would have been similar enough to JonBenet’s own DNA to show them guilty. No such thing happened. They were treated, not as innocent until proven guilty but as guilty until proven innocent.

That said I want to state that we should not be jumping to conclusions that the confessed killer, John Karr, is in fact guilty of the crime either. Now it may sound strange since the man has confessed. But a confession does not establish guilt. Many people have sought fame in a perverted form by confessing to crimes which they did not commit.

Karr certainly would fit the profile of the potential killer. He apparently has a sexual obsession with small girls, which could easily cause him to commit the crime. But it could just as easily cause him to falsely confess to it.

There are a few points that are troublesome. First, Karr was not living near JonBenet at the time of the killing. He lived halfway across the country. His ex-wife, Lara Karr, says she is baffled by the confession. She says they were still together at the time of the crime and were in Alabama. It should be noted that she has no motive to defend him as she split with him precisely over this kind of obsession after he was arrested for having pornographic images of young girls. Nor would she be likely to confuse the dates. JonBenet was killed sometime between Christmas night and the next morning. If John had disappeared on Christmas his wife would have noticed.

She says Karr was obsessed with the case of JonBenet as well as with the kidnapping and killing of Polly Klaas in California. Nate Karr, the suspect's brother, says that John spent hours researching these cases and said he wanted to write a book on why men would committ such a crime. Nate says that as far as he knew his brother had never even been to Boulder. There is a file indicating he expressed interest in teaching in Colorado but he never pursued it and this was filed well after the murder.

Karr's obsession with JonBenet began innocently enough. After his sons were born he went to college to pursue a degree. He wrote a paper for one of his classes regarding the murder. His professor was impressed and urged him to consider writing a book on the topic.

The brother says John lived in Alabama until about four of five years ago when he moved to Petaluma, which was the home of Polly Klaas. He clearly has no links to that case as Polly's killer was apprehended. Nate Karr says that John was writing people who had committed such crimes trying to get into their heads and thought he had written Polly’s killer in prison.

It appears that Karr became a suspect after he corresponded with a Colorado university professor who had done a documentary Who Killed JonBenet Ramsey?. The professor, Michael Tracey, had an ongoing email correspondence with Karr and as time passed Karr started making comments about being present at the crime scene. As the comments became more startling Tracey contacted the police who encouraged him to continue corresponding with Karr. Karr also wrote letters to Patsy Ramsey during this time.

The critical evidence in the case are the DNA samples taken from JonBenet. And it is clear that at the time of his arrest the police had no idea whether Karr's DNA matched or not. His first DNA sample was only taken after his arrest e so it will be a few days before the results are known. And one news report stated:

“ A lawyer for the Ramseys told MSNBC that Karr was arrested only on his confession and the fact that he knew things about the case that police believe only the killer would know.” There were conflicting press reports out which said the Ramseys had mentioedn Karr as a suspect originally but others say they never heard of him until recently.

If this report is correct, and Karr was arrested based only on the facts he knew and his confession, then the police may well have a problem. The problem could be that Karr knows these facts because he was obsessive about the case and spent years researching it. They would need to explain how he could disappear at Christmas from his home in Alabama, go to Colorado, kill the child and return to Alabama without his now estranged wife noticing his absence.

The current prosecutor in this case was very reserved in her press conference urging the media and the public not to judge the case. She admitted that Karr was arrested without any hard evidence saying: "There are circumstances that exist in any case that mandate an arrest before an investigation is complete." She urged everyone to "heed the poingnant advice of John Ramsey yesterday. He said do not jump to conclusions, do not rush to judgment, do not speculate, let the justice system takes its course."

Even Professor Tracey, whose correspondence with Karr led to the arrest, urged people to be cautious. He said he doesn't know if Karr is guilty and said "Let him hve his day in court." He said: "Anyone who's covered this case knows there's a lot of wingnuts out there." Asked if he doubted Karr's confession he said: "I'm trained to be sceptical" and that he turned the situation over to police because he felt it was the responsible thing to do.

Of course if the DNA matches then that, with his confession, would clinch the case and the Ramsey murder would be solved. If the DNA does not match, or they claim it was “inconclusive”, then the chance they have the actual murderer is dramatically lowered. It must not yet be ruled out that Karr’s obsession with the case pushed into some sort of indentification with it where he now imagines himself the murderer. And we can’t ignore that his confession doesn’t match some facts.

Karr says the killing was accidental but JonBenet was beaten and strangled. That was not an accident. And he says he drugged her. I may have missed this from previous reports but there was no discussion of drugging that I can remember. That doesn’t jive. He says he loved her yet there is no reason to think they could have spent any time together since he live in Alabama and she lived in Colorado. Nor is there any indication they ever met. And when asked how he knew the Ramseys Karr could not, or would not, respond saying it would take hours to explain.

An alternative explanation for this is that he is disturbed, that he became obsessed with the case over the years, that his knowledge of the case was learned through years of extensive research and that he was with his wife the day JonBenet was murdered. His research and possible predilection toward young girls became an obsession. He “fell in love” with JonBenet as a result of the research and never met the child. And his obsession got so out of control that he imagined himself her “lover” and the only way that could happen would be if he killed her. Yet with his supposed love for the child he can not see himself acting the way the actual murderer acted. His crime had to be an “accident” as he claimed. I fear that Karr is a very disturbed man. But I am not at all convinced he is the killer.

The police have had this case on the books and want it cleared. Most the public would like it “solved”. But if Karr is not the killer then the case is not cleared no matter whether he is convicted or not. The media is getting ahead of the facts again. I hope this arrest resolves the case myself. I hope it does so for the sake of the Ramseys and for the sake of JonBenet. As much as I hope for a resolution I wouldn’t be the lest bit surprised to learn that DNA test indicate that Karr was not there. Time will answer the question but until those results come in caution is required.

The rats have life preservers. The ship is sinking.

Sure all the polls indicate the Republican Party will pay the price of the botch ups of the Bush administration. That's just one indication that God's Own Party is in trouble. A second is that Republican candidates are not very anxious to be seen as Republicans. They aren't exactly lining up to get King George to campaign for them. But if there is one group that pays close attention to what is happening it is the lobbyists.

These are people who make billions by pulling the political strings in Washington. A few may lobby for freedom but very few. Most are there to use political power to transfer wealth from the public to their special interest or to secure legislation that gives them a similar benefit. In other words these are the professional parasites. And for sometime the lobbyists have been staffed heavily with Republicans. Why? Because the GOP controlled the Senate, the House and the White House. No magic. They wanted favours and the people to ask were Republicans and the best people to get Republicans to act like Democrats is other Republicans. I should note it didn't seem to take much persuading for that to happen. Some, like King George, quickly out spent the Democrats and proved that Republicans could love big government too.

But now the lobbyists, trade groups and others are running around recruiting more Democrats to act on their behalf. Republicans are being quietly moved out of their positions and Democrats are being brought in. If you doubt the ship is seeking check and see which way the rats are swimming.

Is Bush an Idiot?: TV discussion

An interesting discussion as to whether or not George Bush is an idiot. It is sort of like debating whether the Pope is Catholic -- though not in Mel Gibson's church. Now John Fund, who for reasons known to himself, defends Bush. I've known John for many years and am a bit surprised. Perhaps he took the position as that was what was expected of him. Now he makes good points. It is true that one can be inarticulate without being stupid. Of course one often is both. And if it were just the famous Bushisms I would say that John could have a point. But add on top of that the fact that he seems way over his head in the job. He seems to have no grasp of economics, no grasp of the conservative principles he claims to uphold, no grasp of the problems of his foreign policy and an inability to handle problems. Everything about Bush, not just his absurd comments, implies that he is a man who can't cope because the lacks the ability. And I suspect John would not willingly inflict Bush on the American people if he had the choice.

It is true, as John notes, that the "dumb" label was inflicted in the past quite unfairly. Reagan was one such individual. There was never any indication of a lack of mental ability. And Reagan was probably better read than most his opponents and I suspect smarter than them. But George Bush is no Ronald Reagan. He's far more like a Lyndon Johnson. Here is the discussion.

For the Ramseys justice will never be done.

It was almost ten years ago that the body of JonBenet Ramsey was found in the basement of her Boulder, Colorado home. She was six-years-old. That morning her mother awoke to find a strange ransom note in the home and called the police. It was first assumed the child was kidnapped but her body was discovered much later in the basement. The case was sensationalised by the media and attracted unprecedented attention.

But as it dragged on some started to wonder about the family. At first the questions were more sceptical. Could the parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, have been involved? What about nine-year-old brother, Burke? And then they got more accusatory. Rumours spread like wildfire. And the police, who had botched the initial investigation, turned their attention on the Ramseys.

People were talking. The parents didn’t “act right” when interviewed, it was said. People claimed to have knowledge but it was mostly invented on the spot. Some law enforcement officials were adamant the parents did it. Prosecutors were hinting at the Ramseys as the perpetrators. The media feed the speculation. The horrified parents insisted they could not have done such a thing but the feeding frenzy had started.

Consider the dilemma of someone at the centre of such outrageous scrutiny. Speak to the media and worry about interviews being edited in ways that twist what you say. It is emotionally wrenching to be surrounded by people demanding answers. Your nerves are shot, you can’t sleep, you can’t eat. You can’t think. And if you have just buried your youngest child you are devastated. And like a flock of carnivorous sea gulls the media descends on you. Pecking at you, constantly pecking at your flesh trying to find something to get ahold of. One wrong word and you look guilty. So you are terrified to speak. Don’t speak and you look guilty. Your entire life is shattered.

And the tongues are wagging. The rumours are accumulating, getting grander and more detailed and more false with each retelling. Every little thing is twisted out of proportion into an accusation. The entire nation is focused on you and in your heart you know the accusations are false, distorted, twisted beyond the facts.

So it was for the Ramseys. And the cased dragged on and on for years. It only takes seconds on the internet to find all the opinions expressed pointing a finger at them. Innuendo becomes common knowledge though it is knowledge without substance. The longer the case dragged on the more the public was convinced the parents had to be the culprits. Everyone wanted “someone” to pay and “who else could have done it?”

One problem we humans have is that once we get an idea in our head, right or wrong, we tend only to see only that which confirms our beliefs. Evidence to the contrary tends to be ignored. So it was with the Ramseys. Once everyone’s attention was turned on them other possibilities were not investigated. The District Attorney said the family was under an “umbrella of suspicion”. The parents were interrogated. The young brother was questioned by police for six hours. A Grand Jury investigation into the family and the killing began. And nothing. But the suspicion remained.

In 2003 a federal judge looked at the case in light of the rules of evidence, and not the trial by innuendo that was rampant in the media. He concluded that the evidence seemed to imply an intruder was the culprit and not the parents or brother. A month later a new District Attorney in the case said she agreed with the judge. An attorney for the family said: "I think the public's mind was so poisoned against the family that no one was able for too many years to look at the evidence." Now the police went back to reinvestigate the case. And this time they found a DNA sample they overlooked before.

Now a suspect has been arrested. According to media reports he has confessed. And everything we know about his history indicates he may well be guilty. Only time will tell for sure. Certainly if the DNA matches there will be no question

But as comforting as this will be to those subjected to trial by media is it enough? Patsy Ramsey did not live to see the man suspected of killing her daughter arrested. She died of ovarian cancer only a few weeks ago. At least she was informed that police were focusing on a suspect. If this man is convicted of the crime Patsy will never know the feeling of being totally vindicated.

For ten years millions of people were convinced she had brutally murdered her own young daughter. Millions of others pointed their accusatory fingers at John or at Burke. And for years nothing swayed people from this cruel indictment. Had the police dropped the matter the truth would never have come out and the family would have been viewed as killers for the rest of their lives.

Such horror should not be inflicted on anyone. A sceptical approach must always be entertained. It took ten years to vindicate the Ramsey family and to put them back in the category where they belonged: victims. They were victims of the killer. But they were needlessly victims of the press, the police, the district attorney as well. They were victims of innuendo and rumour and exaggeration.

It might be said that justice is being done. But for the Ramseys justice can never be done. Once such viciousness is unleashed on someone it can never be recalled. The pain and the suffering will be with them their entire lives. Patsy died with the scars inflicted on her by so many. Such scars never heal. The years they lost will never be returned to them. The pain that was so cruelly inflicted on them can not be reversed. And even now, when they seem most vindicated, they know that someone will always think the accusations true. They will never get their lives back and they know it.

How Israel put Hezbollah in the Cat's Seat

In recent days Israeli media reported that the attack on Lebanon was planned well in advance. The strategy was to smash civilian targets throughout Lebanon causing massive misery to the civilian population intentionally. The net result was supposed to be that the populace would then clamour with their own government for the expulsion of Hezbollah. In the meantime the attack had a back up strategy which said that while this was happening Israel would also severely damage or annihilate Hezbollah themselves.

The flaws in the plan seem obvious. First, even if the people did rush to the ramparts demanding the expulsion of Hezbollah, much as they demanded the withdrawal of the Syrian army, could the Lebanese government heed their wishes? If Israel couldn’t dismantle Hezbollah during the years it occupied Lebanon why do they assume the weaker Lebanese government could do it?

Unlike the Syrian army which is conspicuous in their uniforms it is far more difficult to expel an organisation made of up of citizen combatants. So it is unlikely that the Lebanese state could carry out such wishes even if they did materialise. But the chance of the attack doing this seemed rather miniscule from the start.

Destroying people’s homes, killing their children, devastating their infrastructure is not exactly what Dale Carniege was talking about in How to Win Friends and Influence People. Instead of making people angry with Hezbollah it would only cement their fury with Israel. And that could only help Hezbollah who was seen as standing up to Israel. Such an attack improves the standing of Hezbollah and weakens the more moderate Lebanese government.

Now Israel has stopped their attacks. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is under fire at home because most Israelis see this as a major defeat for Israel. Hezbollah and their allies, Iran and the US installed Iraqi government, see this as a victory for their side bolstering their confidence.

Israel devastated some $2.5 billion worth of infrastructure alone. Israel is very good at creating ill will and very bad at encouraging good will. And what fuels groups like Hezbollah is exactly this. The devastation wrought by Israel benefited Hezbollah and so will the reconstruction. The New York Times reports that it has become increasingly clear “that the beneficiary of the destruction was most likely to be Hezbollah.” And the reason is that Iran is willing to pour millions in relief and rebuilding efforts.

Now let us step back to a time before oil was running over $70 a barrel. The invasion of Iraq destabilised world oil markets by severely restricting supply and creating fear of a regional conflagration. All that pushed up oil prices significantly. And that mean windfall profits for the Islamists who run Iran. In fact it also gives the Marxist dictator in Venezuela his power as well but that’s another story.

The New York Times reports: “Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an ‘unlimited budget’ for reconstruction.” Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Nasrallah was confident enough to say: “Completing the victory can come with reconstruction.”

The paper reports that the moment Israel withdrew from an area that Hezbollah members “began cleaning, organising and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble.” Road that were shut by collapsed buildings are “fully passable”.

One thing that has created support for Hezbollah is that they actually help the citizens who are hurting. The Lebanese government has not been able to do this.

The paper notes the weakness of the Lebanese government to much while Nasrallah is able to carry out the promise he gave: “All our brothers will be in your service starting tomorrow.” The government may get some roads and bridges rebuilt but it will be Hezbollah that rebuilds the homes that were destroyed. What this means is that Hezbollah, regardless of what short term damage was inflicted by the assault, will come out of this far stronger than before.

Professor Saad-Ghorayeb told the Times that “Hezbollah has two pillars of support, the resistance and the social services. What this war has illustrated is that it is best at both.” Surely that is the last thing that Israel would have wanted. But then the best laid plans often lead to the worst unintended consequences.

Israel effectively isolated the PLO once it had power in Palestine. The result was not a weaker PLO but their replacement by a more radical Hamas. The Lebanese government was one of the more moderate forces in the Arab world. Israel’s attack has made it far, far weaker than before and strengthened the hand of Hezbollah.

With the US having removed the Iraqi counterbalance to the radical Islamists in Iran the region is now dominated by Islamists in way that was not possible before the US invasion. Israel’s attack has done something similar.

And the excuse used to start the whole mess was the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah. Israel said they would not negotiate a prisoner exchange, though they had done so in the past. But that was really an excuse to put this brilliant plan into action. Well, now Israel says they will negotiate the release of the prisoners.

Actually that is good. Israel is going to have to get used to negotiating with Hezbollah since they have now made the group a far more formidable power than it was a month ago. I suspect that the next Lebanese election will push Hezbollah into the seat of government and their ability to rebuild Lebanon, combined with anger toward Israel for the destruction, will be the reason.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Some can't go home, others can't serve.

It has to be sad to think of the soldiers on their way home from Iraq when Donald Rumsfeld ordered them to return to Iraq for another 4 months of duty. It is sad to think of their families, the wives who won’t see their husbands for four more months or sooner in a casket. Children without fathers, Broken families. Meanwhile the military is throwing out gay soldiers willing to serve. Does it make sense?

Last year, Fort Campbell alone, discharged 49 soldiers for being gay. They only managed to find 19 the year before. In 1999 a soldier there was murdered by an anti-gay soldier who erroneously thought his victim was gay. The response of the military was to blame the victims and increase the number of discharges of people for being gay. This would be like the old south dealing with the problem of lynchings by deporting blacks.

At the Marine base in Parris Island, 22 Marines were discharged because of their sexual orientation. At the Norfolk Naval Station 35 sailors were discharged for the same reason. And it has been estimated that the cost of replacing these individuals has been in the range of $369 million. But Bush doesn't mind spend money -- lots of it. The more the better.

Last year the military threw out 726 soldiers for being gay. That’s 11 percent more than the previous year. It should be noted that under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy some 11,000 service members have been removed from duty.

The military has discharged dozens of badly needed Arabic translators from the military because they are gay. Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell one is supposed to be able to serve provided they don’t tell anyone they gay and the military is not supposed to ask. Of course if they find out in other ways they didn’t ask and the individual can still be discharged.

Sargeant Bleu Copas was stationed at Fort Bragg and followed the policy. But someone sent an anonymous email claiming he was gay. He was discharged. Copas enlisted after the 9/11 attacks and was a proficient Arabic translator having studied at the Defense Language Institute. Now the military is short another translator to keep Christianists happy. Actually he was just one of 55 Arabic translators who have been dismissed for being gay. Hey, it's not like the US needs Arabic translators.

Like their fellow Islamic fundamentalists, the Christianist Right is vehemently opposed to gay people to the point of being obsessive. A student at the US military academy at West Point wrote a thesis subtitled “A Philosophical Analysis of the Gay Ban in the US Military. He won a West Point award for the quality of his work.

The student, Alexander Raggio, who is heterosexual said that a relative of his is gay, something he discovered when in his teens. He was displeased to see the pain the relative was forced to go through because of it and that got him thinking about the military ban. Officials at West Point said he received the award becuase it “was a closely argued piece of philosophical prose. He tackled a substantive issue, took a stand, and didn’t back down from the controversy. He presented a good case.”

Yet a Christian conservative group has demanded an investigation of the award because of the position taken.

Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness went on American Family Radio to denounce the student and the award. “I question the judgment of the leadership at West Point, who would recognize such an essay and give it an award that can be used contrary to military policy.” Perhaps they won’t be satisfied with merely throwing out gay people but want to throw out people who don’t want to throw out gay people? Meanwhile there are families who don’t see their loved ones because people willing and able to serve are forbidden from doing so.

The photo is of Mr. Copas.

New terror regulations may sink budget airlines

The newest panic about terrorism may sink some airlines especially low cost airlines. One way low cost airlines reduce cost is have more and more luggage carried by the passengers instead of being put through baggage control. The newest panic regulations pushed by Blair and picked up, to some degree, elsewhere makes this difficult.

John Mattimore, an analyst with Merrion Stockbrokers says this undermines the low cost airlines competitive edge. He says that the new regulations “will take away the advantage the low-cost airlines are trying to seek.” He notes that such airlines “have been very active in recent months in encouraging passengers to check in less luggage and carry more luggage onboard.” He also warns there are efforts to permanent reduce carry on luggage to half the size currently allowed.

Apparently that hundreds of millions of carry on bags were purchased to comply with the old regulations is of no interest to the bureaucrats. It costs them nothing to impose hundreds of millions in costs to everyone else. All regulations currently proposed hurt the small airlines the most. But, duh, that is the nature of regulations. They always hurt the small competitor and work to the advantage of the big guys --- something opponents of “big business” haven’t figure out with their constant campaign for new regulations.

On the way home, US troops ordered back

The men had been in Iraq for a year fighting Bush’s war on terror they were told. Their year was over and they started returning home to loved ones --- the ones who were still alive that is.

They were part of the 3,900 man Stryker Brigade. Some had already made it to their home base in Alaska. Several hundred were in Kuwait looking forward to the rest of their journey. But US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld unilaterally ordered them to turn around and go back to Iraq. All agreements in the military are one way agreements and the soldiers are being sent back to a deteriorating situation in Iraq.

Soldier who live will earn an extra $1000 per month in the meantime.

As for the situation in Iraq. The President my paint rosy pictures but they, like the weapons of mass destruction, are all in his head. Things are not improving. And the call back of troops, exhausted after a year of this, along with the deploying of new troops shows that things are getting much worse than the Administration will admit.

Terrorist cell phone balloon bursts.

After two men of Lebanese descent were arrested as terrorists for purchasing cell phones in Ohio there was a rash of publicity. And just as all panics do it created more victims. Three men in Michigan were arrested when a Wal-Mart employee snitched to the police that they had purchased cell phones. The men themselves said that they, like hundreds of people, are part of a thriving business where cheap cell phones, on sale, are purchased and then resold elsewhere at a profit.

The men were found with 1,000 recently purchased cell phones. Now a cell phone can be used to detonate a bomb. But 1,000 cell phones are not needed for that, just one. The poor men in Ohio were false labelled terrorists but some prosecutor seeking instant fame, had purchased 600 phones over the previous several months. This is far in excess of the total number of cell phones ever used to detonate bombs in terrorist attacks since cell phones were invented. The very presence of hundreds of phones is a good indication that no terrorism is involved. That ought to be obvious. The real terrorist doesn't go out and buy hundreds of phones. He needs only one.

So now we end with five men in jail and prosecutors calling press conferences while dreaming of higher office. The men in Michigan had driven over, or past, the Mackinac Bridge. And like people who have never see the bridge, which is 5 miles long, they photographed it. "Terrorists!!" screamed local prosecutors who felt they had a real case. Not only did these men have 1,000 dangerous cell phones but they took pictures of a bridge. I have picture of the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben but I'm not planning to blow either of them up.

But in the new Bushian America there are crimes previously unknown. The men were charged with "material support for terrorist acts", that's buying the cell phones. And they were charged with "terrorism surveillance of a vulnerable target", which is taking tourist pictures of the bridge. As a result of the arrests and police hysteria the Coast Guard stepped up patrols around the bridge to make sure it was safe. Meanwhile people on the bridge were crossing it and most probably had a cell phone in their car. Some might even have cameras. By the way, in typical fashion, the local prosecutors refused to say what reason they had for laying any charges against the men. We are just supposed to trust them.

So what happens? Well, the flimsy cases fall apart. There was no substance to the accusations. The Federal Bureau of Investigations came out and said that there is no evidence that any of the men arrested had anything to do with terrorism whatsoever. The first two victims of prosecutors with visions of grandeur had their felony charges dropped. In other words all charges that related to terrorism. But Prosecutor James Schneider, no doubt wanting to save some face in the matter, says he intends to prosecute the men on misdemeanour charge saying they lied to police. Of course there is no chance the police are lying, none, zero, nada, zilch. Yeah, right!

Now realize the alleged "lying" is supposedly about what they were going to legally do with legally obtained cell phones. So at most they supposedly lie about an entirely legal activity. Have we reached the point where the police are free to question anyone, anytime, about entirely legal business dealings? And more importantly, where you can be forced to answer them. What happened to "probably cause"?

But the prosecutor will keep the misdemeanour charges around, at least for awhile, until the publicity dies down so he can pretend they at least had some reason to arrest the two men. Damn the Constitution, he has a political career to save. As for the other men arrested in Michigan. The FBI says no connection to terrorism and no threat to the bridge. The State Police Director, Col. Peter Munoz, said "there is no nexus to terrorism or a terrorist threat." Of course they are scurrying about like rats looking for garbage to find anything they charge the men with in order to show that they aren't wasting tax money and all the free publicity they drummed up for themselves. And if you can't find some crime to charge someone with, in the over legislated theocracy of America, then you aren't looking hard enough.

And lets look at how the Orwellian Homeland Security gestapo was involved. According to this press report: "The FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent out joint bulletins in February and March to police departments nation-wide warning about the bulk purchase of phones for personal profit or financing terrorism."

Read that carefully. These federal agencies pushed the police to take action against anyone making a "bulk purchase of phones for personal profit or financing terrorism". Since when did "personal profit" get equated with terrorism? Is it a crime to sell cell phones for a profit? Is Vodaphone now a criminal terrorist organization? What the hell is going on in America? It is incredible to think that Federal thugs are now pushing the police to put people under surveillance, or arrest them, for purchasing phones "for personal profit".

Notice how the government uses the smallest possibility to make the widest net possible. Men in the UK are plotting to blow up planes, allegedly. They thought of using liquids so the government, and Blair was even worse, banned liquids, several restricted all carry on luggage and created such chaos that hundreds of flights were cancelled cost airlines millions. No worries to the government. If the airlines go broke the government will take them over and run them putting all travel effectively under state control. Watch for it to happen.

If a man tries to use his shoes as a bomb, and failed, then hundreds of millions of people have to remove their shoes for decades to come in reply. A terrorist may use a cell phone so all purchases of cell phones become suspect. A terrorist may make a phone call so the government wants to listen in on all calls without restriction or warrants required. Every incident is used to justify clamping down on hundreds of millions of people. This is how dictatorships are born. And if you keep the people afraid they will go along with the erosion of their own freedom. And by the time they reach the point where they say "enough" they will find it's too late and saying "enough" is no longer legal.

Of course Attorney General Alberto "The Rack" Gonzales chimed in with his nonsense over the arrests. He doesn't mind arresting people. If the government is arresting people it isn't doing it's job. His motto seems to be: so many civilians, so few cells. Well Gonzales said: "I don't know how many of you have ever gone to a store to purchase 80-100 cell phones at a time. I would consider that somewhat unusual and I think it would be perfectly legitimate to say, 'Hey, is there something gong on here?'"

Of course it is unusual. But unless we have secret legislation, and anything seems possible these days, unusual is not illegal. I've gone into bookstore and purchased a couple of dozen copies of the same book if the price was right and I could resell them. But I sold books. People sell cell phones and if the price is right will buy hundreds to resell. That is called business. Of course not everyone does it. That is called specialization. It's basic free market economics though apparently no one in the Bush administration likes the idea.

Mr. Gonzales misses one other point. It is unusual and somebody might ask: "Hey, is there something going on here?" But that is not what happened. The five men in question were arrested. They were put in jail cells. Prosecutors held press conferences splashing the names and pictures of them men for hundreds of millions of people to see while smearing them with the label "terrorist". Had someone simply asked the question none of this would have happened. Gonzales, who downplays actual torture, is downplaying the massive injustice done to innocent people on the flimsiest of evidence and the most absurd logic around. There was lot more going on here other than asking a question. And what happened is indicative of the kind of fear, hysteria and panic that is leading a kind of Orwellian police state.

Buy a cellphone go to jail.

Two university students were arrested for purchasing too many cell phones. Of course the police are finding terrorism. But so far the accusations don’t make much sense and no evidence to support them is being publicized. It could well be two students arrested for being of Lebanese descent.

First, we will get the story from the students and their families. They say the two young men would drive around the mid-West purchasing large quantities of cell phones when sales were being held at major outlets like Wal-Mart. They would then resell the phones to smaller dealers and make a profit. This is quite plausible. I know that various items on sale at Wal-Mart have retailed at prices below the normal wholesale price to other dealers. So it’s a believable story.

Police pulled the boys over for a routine traffic stop. They found two boys with Arabic names. They found 12 cell phones in the car the boys were driving along with $11,000 cash. Their imagination apparently took over from there. Police in the United States have often arrested people merely for having large amounts of cash and confiscated the money claiming it was illegally obtained or for illegal uses. When they do that they get to keep the money for their department so they are very quick to accuse with no evidence at all since they benefit from the accusations under the tyrannical asset forfeiture laws.

The two students were charged with money laundering which is a pretty meaningless charge that can be concocted against any business that has a fast turnover. In this case it could be the $11,000 in cash was being turned into telephones which are then sold for a profit producing more cash. That alone is sufficient to claim money laundering since the original $11,000 is converted into phones and then into a different bundle of cash.

Police said the car contained a security guide for a major Arab airline. This, the family says, is because the mother of one of the young men left it in the car and she works for for Royal Jordanian airlines. Susan Vessels, a assistant prosecutor in Ohio where the boys were arrested was trying to come up with plausible terrorist links for the boys. She told one newspaper that maybe they were going to send the phones overseas where they would be used to detonate bombs.

That seems to be clutching at straws to me. If you were a terrorists using cell phone to set off bombs are you going to have two students in Michigan, where the boys live, running around and buying them all in the same place. Considering that the terrorists can easily walk into stores and purchase cell phones themselves why bother shipping them half way around the world? I would think that the way to divert attention is not by buying all the cell phones in the store. You would buy just one and only one.

Vessels also made the claim that prepaid mobile phones can be used to make international calls “and have been linked to use by terrorists.” Now this is a favourite ploy of the government. The term “linked” to terrorists may mean nothing at all. If the government says you are a terrorist you are “linked” to a terrorists merely by the accusation. It doesn’t mean they have evidence that you are connected to a terrorist. So the accusation itself becomes evidence through this slight of hand.

Vessels has to know she is being dishonest or at least implying something dishonest. What she is saying is that some terrorists somewhere have used prepaid mobile phones to make calls. These students thus had in their possession phones which are like the phones used by terrorists elsewhere in the world. But it sounds as if she is saying these particular phones were linked to terrorists. She isn’t. And if possessing such a phone links you to terrorism then every one in the world with a prepaid mobile phone is linked to terrorism. It is a statement that sounds ominous but contains no substance whatsoever.

USA Today seemed baffled by the charges as well, or at least the Associate Press reporter who wrote the story was. That article said: “Vessels declined to say how the phones, cash or flight information involved terrorism.” Perhaps she doesn’t know and had just shot off her mouth with evidence. In the Detroit Free Press it is reported: “Vessels would not comment on how the two men were tied to terrorism. But she said an Ohio law that went into effect this year allows prosecutors to charge people suspected of using money to purchase items that would support terrorists or that terrorists would use.”

This law is scary, sounds over broad and is no doubt written by brain dead legislators. What does it mean to purchase itmes “that terrorists would use”? Terrorist use cars, cell phones, shoes, refrigerators. Terrorists use about everything in one way or another. In this case the law is used to arrest two young men for buying cell phones. Vessels goes one futher and says that the sudents knew the phones were being used for illegal purposes because “no one would ever use over 600 phones for legal purposes.” No one except somebody in the business of selling cell phones.

Reuters reported the men were alleged to be “money laundering on behalf of Hizbollah” but noted that the “tie to Hizbollah was not detailed by authorities.”

Originally the men were charged with obstructing official business. That just means the police didn’t like their answers or their refusal to answer questions. Then when the men admitted they purchased cell phones and resold them the money laundering charges, which are more serious, were laid against them and the original charges were dropped. It appears the original charges were just excuses to hold the men until something more serious could be laid at their door. But so far there is no evidence being made public to indicate this was anything more than two students buying and selling to make money over the summer.

Their attorney says the two youths resold the phones and were paid by cheque for them. “This was not cash under the table or some hiddent hing. These are college students. This is what college students do. They’re more willing to drive around to try to make money.”

If the authorities have any evidence, and it doesn’t sound like they do, they ought to come forward with it. So far they are merely offering theory and no evidence. We shall see as time goes by but I think this one is bogus to the bone. I suspect this is wishful thinking on the part of an incompetent prosecutor and over-anxious cops each wanting to make a name for them self by “catching real live terrorists”. This is more hysteria than substance.

[Apologies, this was written two days ago and got lost in the shuffle of things.]

First the kiss, now the dagger.

When George Bush played smoochy-face with Joe Lieberman he sealed Lieberman's fate as the Democratic Senator from the state of Connecticut. Joe's fellow citizens are not too keen on the war mongering. Add in that Joe is a welfare statists and authoritarian on social issues and you can see why Bush was ready to exchange saliva with him. In a time when most Americans are sick unto death with Bush cuddling up to the man is one way to run into trouble electorally -- which is why so many Republicans are playing down their party affiliation or exaggerating their disagreements with King George.

So George's kiss put the end to one career for Joe Lieberman. But it looks like the White House is anxious to resurrect him even if they have to stab another Republican in the back to do it. Expediency, not principles, has really been the hallmark of this administration. They talk principles so much because they have none. If you need to lie about weapons of mass destruction you lie. If you have lie to the UN you lie. If you have to lie to the voters you lie. The one principle they bow down before is power.

Now consider the problems of Alan Schlesinger, the Republican candidate for the Senate seat in Connecticut. I presume the man is a loyal Republican but unfortunately for him the president is not. First the chairman of the Republican Party refused to say he would support Schlesinger for Senate. How odd! The man is their candidate. He was nominated by them. But power comes before principles like loyalty. And then a reporter asks Bush' mouthpiece, Tony Snow, in a press conference if the president will support Schlesinger.

Snow gives a typical Bushian evasive answer: "The President supports the democratic process in the state of Connecticut, and wishes them a successful election in November." No one asked that question. It's sort of like looking for bin Laden but finding yourself in Iraq instead. No one exactly saw the link between the start of the exchange and the finish. The reporter is obviously aware that Snow "question and answer" time was more like avoid the answer time and pressed the matter asking why wouldn't the President commit to supporting his party's own candidate. Again Snow simply evaded the question saying "I don't know. Why do you ask? Is there something about the candidate that I should know about that would lead to judgements?"

So Snow tries to make it sound like the reporter is questioning Mr. Schlesinger. The evasion shows that something is going on in the White House and apparently it means shafting Mr. Schlesinger. The reporter pressed again, which is what you do when someone tries to slither out from the question: "Why wouldn't he support a member of his own party? Is it because he's, well, behind in the polls? Is it because the President likes Joe Lieberman?"

Now the reporter is zeroing in and almost catches Snow off guard. "There may be -- there are a whole host of reasons the President -- I'm just not going to play." Did he almost say "there are a whole host of reasons the President won't support his party's candidate"? It sounds that way.

Joe Lieberman is now out on his own and he might take company no matter how odious it may be and welcome Bush's support. But then Lieberman has no loyalty to the Republican Party or it's candidates and obviously neither does Bush. Now this sort of back stabbing by the president would normally worry incumbent Republicans but then so many of them are running away from so quickly that the best assurance of their re-election is Bush endorsing their opponent.

But the question in Connecticut is whether or not the GOP will start putting money and effort behind Lieberman's campaign or simply just leave Schlesinger dangling on his own with any support from his own party. I suspect that there the Rove Republicans, Machiavellian to the core, may be trying to get Schlesinger to pull out and get the GOP to back Lieberman "for the good of the party". Of course the party doesn't matter one iota to Bush. He's just worried he won't have a rubber stamp Congress after the next election. That interferes with his power grabs and if it comes down to power for Bush or the election of candidates from his own party he'll take the power any day. It's what motivates him.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Lord Acton is famous for saying that power corrupts. Conservatives love the saying and with good reason. But they ignore it when it comes to the police. These are men who are given guns and immense powers to do nasty things to people. Of course such power is corrupting. Worse such power attracts people who are bullies, who are nasty and sometimes downright inhuman. Conservatives refuse to see it.

And the situation gets even worse when the police code of silence is put into effect. Cops will cover up for one another. That has been proven in case after case. The one group that can committ crimes against others, and get away with it, are the police. Their fellow "brothers" will not stop them. They will not testify against them. They will not investigate them unless forced to do so. If forced to investigate they will do a lousy job of it or neglect evidence. There are some good cops of course. But it seems that most are happy to cover up for the bad ones and that makes all of them bad cops. They don't understand a simple moral principle. As Gandhi put it: "Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good."

Let me give some examples of the corrupting influence of power over the police. Take two well known men: the Unser brothers. Bobby Unser and Al Unser, Sr are well known race car drivers. And together they own quite a bit of property in Albuequerque, New Mexico. One morning recently the brothers left their separate homes to drive to their property. Neither was aware the other was going at about the same time.

They found two unmarked cars askew across the road. First Al and then Bobby arrived and each thought there had been an accident involving these cars. So they attempted to drive around the cars by cutting through a piece of property they owned. In each case the local police began screaming at them and arrested them. Neither was told the unmarked cars were a roadblock because police said a man was shooting off a gun down the road. The brothers contend they would not willingly drive to where someone might shoot them and that when they asked the police what was the problem the police refused to answer. Sounds typical to me.

Bobby Unser says that when handcuffed they pulled the cuffs very tight pulling on a shoulder that had just been operated on. When he told the officer the reply was: "handcuffs are supposed to hurt." No, they aren't. They are supposed to restrain not inflict pain. Inflicting pain is what bullies like to do. To add a touch of the ironic the brothers were arrested at different times but both were on Unser Boulevard, a street named after them. To see the interview go here.

Here is more film showing a demonstration in Miami in 2003. This site totally disagrees with the anti-free trade protestors. But they have the right to demonstrate their opposition to a program that benefits the poor of the world even if they are wrong about their view. In this film you can see the demonstrators walking, peacefully, in front of the police in full riot gear. The protestors are carrying signs and not much else. Elizabeth Ritter, an attorney, is holding a sign in front of her as she walks with the police several meters behind her. As she is walking one of the officers for no apparent reasons shoots her with a rubber bullet.

The stunned woman turns and yells, "Did you shoot me? Why did you shoot me?" She turns to the media there and asks if they saw what just happened. Within a few seconds the entire line of officers begin firing rubber bullets into the peaceful crowd. Ritter crouches on the sidewalk trying holding her sign in front of her hoping to be protected. She is shot five times even though she has not acted violently in any manner. One bullet hits her in the face. A rubber bullet would blind someone if they are hit in the eye. This is all filmed.

To make matters worse the police had video of themselves having a good laugh about how they shot Ritter even though she was not a threat and was walking peacefully. The head of the terrorism unit (whether they protect from it or inflict it is unclear) was taped telling the officiers the next morning: "How about yesterday, huh? I would go to war with everyone here. I went home, I couldn't sleep. I was just so pumped up about how good you guys were...." "The good news about be able to watch you guys live (sic) on TV is that the lady with the red dress. (Ritter) I don't know who got her, but it went right through the sign nd hit smack dab in the middle of the head." Apparently he is proud of this. The officers applauded and laughed about shooting this woman and were dumb enough to film themselves doing it.

A police investigation said the comments might be inappropriate but that shooting peaceful protestors was not a violation of department policy. The police said they would apologize to Ritter for the comments but not for shooting her. She replied that they "committed battery on an unarmed citizen peaceably expressing an idea." She's right. No officer will be disciplined. As usual.

Or take a case involving a petty, authoritarian, sheriff named Joe Arpaio, a man who never met a constitution right he respected. One of Arpaio's SWAT tems raided a home outside Phoenix. The team attacked the home of a very dangerous criminal. They fired tear gas into the home. They managed to set the house alight. A small puppy tried to escape the fire and ran out and the sheriff's men chased the dog back into the house where it burned to death. A massive armoured vehicle was used in the raid. They left it parked without the brakes on. It rolled down the hill and hit a car that seconds before been occupied by a woman and small child, both escaped when they saw the vehicle coming toward them And the dangerous criminal? Oh, yes it was someone wanted for traffic tickets. The picture above shows the tank used to raided someone for taffic citations.

In another incident police were found illegally in the home of Wilfred Rousseau when he was at work. His 15-year-old daughter came home to find two officers going through her bedroom. The officers claimed to be looking for a runaway kid and said they entered because the door was open. In fact the Rousseau's cat was in heat that day and the door was quite clearly shut to keep the cat from running out. The officers then changed their story to say the door was closed but not locked so them entered. That is illegal. They had no warrnt, no permission to enter and were not in pursuit of a criminal at the time. Police refused to identify the officers involved to the media.

One man who discovered the problem of rampant police authority is Kenneth Jammar. Jammar was bed ridden with gout. The "war on drugs" terrorists, I mean the police, raided his home by mistake. They were looking for his nephew not for Jamar and the warrant was supposedly for a different address entirely. In fact the man they were looking for never stayed with his uncle according to family members. The raid was a joint project of about every power-hungry agency in the area: the SWAT team, the DEA, Immigration thugs, and the Alabam Bureau of Investigation. The local Shefiff however was not told about the raid.

Police of course have their own jargon to cover up the fact that they illegally raided a man's home. They also shot the bed-ridden man. He was referred to as an "armed suspect" though he was not a suspect. He was armed but the Constitution allows that just in case the government starts killing people. Of course they wouldn't do that. Because Jamar was armed the police say they "neutrlized the threat". In other words they shot Jamar four times in his own home, a man had not violated the law at all. Of course a police investigation said the officers acted within departmental policy.

The fact is that more and more police departments are being turned into militry style outfits armed for war not for policing. Exactly on whom will they be waging this new war? The Department of Homeland Security brownshirts are the ones financing this militarization of local police departments. Warning bells ought to be going off in your heads. But Bush has so played up the war on terror that Americans are handing away liberties they will never get back. Give these people the power and they will snatch away all your freedonm. Ignore it if you wish but the warning bells will keep ringing until the day that warnings are silenced. Until then do not ask for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.