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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 06/13/2010 - 06/20/2010
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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Barack, go f*** yourself...

i put up a post about talon, the defense department's domestic spying operation under george bush, all the way back in 2005... now, like a vampire rising from the coffin, it's back under our hopey-changey president obama...
The Pentagon's spy unit has quietly begun to rebuild a database for tracking potential terrorist threats that was shut down after it emerged that it had been collecting information on American anti-war activists.

The Defense Intelligence Agency filed notice this week that it plans to create a new section called Foreign Intelligence and Counterintelligence Operation Records, whose purpose will be to "document intelligence, counterintelligence, counterterrorism and counternarcotic operations relating to the protection of national security."

But while the unit's name refers to "foreign intelligence," civil liberties advocates and the Pentagon's own description of the program suggest that Americans will likely be included in the new database.

FICOR replaces a program called Talon, which the DIA created in 2002 under then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as part of the counterterrorism efforts following the 9/11 attacks. It was disbanded in 2007 after it emerged that Talon had retained information on anti-war protesters, including Quakers, even after it was determined they posed no threat to national security.

DIA spokesman Donald Black told Newsweek that the new database would not include the more controversial elements of the old Talon program. But Jeff Stein at the Washington Post reports that the new program will evidently inherit the old Talon database.

"Why the new depository would want such records while its parent agency no longer has a law enforcement function could not be learned," Stein reports. "Nor could it be learned whether the repository will include intelligence reports on protest groups gathered by its predecessor."

The Pentagon's notice states that the database will collect "identifying information such as name, Social Security Number (SSN), address, citizenship documentation, biometric data, passport number, vehicle identification number and vehicle/vessel license data." As only US residents have Social Security Numbers, it appears the program is being designed at least partly to contain domestic information.

Newsweek cites two unnamed US officials as suggesting that the new program essentially echoes the old one. When CIFA, the DIA division running Talon, was disbanded in 2008, "many of its personnel and some of its functions were transferred" to the new DIA unit running the new database program. The new program will be housed "in the same office space that CIFA once occupied, in a complex near suburban Washington’s Reagan National Airport."

now, 17 months into obama's term of office, i can now say without hesitation, "barack, you can go f*** yourself"...

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The BP defense vs. the huge and still-evolving massive scope of the disaster

posting in justmeans, a site that focuses on corporate social responsibility, madeline ravich, a justmeans staff writer who has an interest in corporate social responsibility rating and ranking systems, offers her takeaway from the following graphic below...

(click on graphic for larger version)
The graphic touches on environmental risks, economic costs, impacts on local industries, the financial costs of cleanup, and expected government spending. Fine print at the bottom cites the references used for the graphic as including the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, The Gulf of Mexico Alliance, BP, Washington Post, American Bird Conservancy, Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, EPA, CNN, CBS, Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and regional newspapers. Below is a summary of what I learned about impacts:

Wildlife: Animals are dying. The Gulf Coast contains 5 million acres of habitat, and is home to 45,000 bottlenose dolphins and 34,000 birds. 75%of the waterfowl that traverse the U.S. migrate through the Gulf, as do 5 sea turtle species.

Food Prices: The spill will make seafood less available and/or more expensive. As a result of the spill, you can expect to pay more for shrimp and oysters until the Gulf recovers. As of 2008, the Gulf was home to 73% of all U.S. shrimp fishing and 59% of all U.S. oyster fishing. The initial cost estimate to the fishing industry was $2.5 billion.

Tourism: The spill is threatening livelihoods. At risk are the $9 million dollars in wages paid each year to tourism and recreation workers in the Gulf region, 620,000 jobs in the Gulf region provided by tourism and recreation, and 7,700 jobs generated in Louisiana by saltwater sport fishing.

Companies: The companies responsible for the spill will foot some or all of the $300+ billion estimated cost of the spill in a worst-case scenario. The license where the well was drilled is owned 65% by BP, 25% by Anadarka, and 10% by Mitsui & Co. and responsibility will be shared in those proportions. Less clear is the responsibility to be borne by operators and contractors Transocean, Cameron, and Halliburton. These companies have lost $20 billion in market value due to the spill and BP is already spending $6 million per day.

Americans: Today, 46% of Americans favor offshore drilling (down from 64% in July of 2008) and 41% think the risks are too great (up from 28% in July of 2008). Those who still favor it may be part of the 51% who view the spill as an isolated incident and those who don't may include the 14% who know little to nothing about the Gulf.

Oil supply: The spill has underscored how detrimental a spill in the Gulf region is to the U.S. oil supply. 52% of U.S. total crude oil comes from the Gulf region, and in a worst-case scenario, 6.8 million gallons could begin gushing out of the well each day (the U.S. consumes 819 million gallons of crude oil each day.)

and yet, here is what an individual from a corporate social responsibility rating and ranking organization has to say in defense of the high marks it awards bp...
Our rating system is broad and balanced. It is backward-looking--but incorporates enough data points to be a good estimate of recent reality. Much of our evaluation is comparative--a company is judged against the performance of others in its industry. We measure twelve subcategories of performance--plus more than a dozen special issues. So, a company that performs poorly in one area can redeem itself in the others.

If you look at BP, it has remarkably good scores for a major oil company. I've attached a screen shot of the data you'd see if you were a subscriber. You'll see several subcategory ratings above 70. It is pretty hard to get this good a score. We are tough enough that we don't hand out any "As" and very few "Bs!" The average score is in the mid 40s.

For instance, BP has excellent governance scores. Take a look at the attached report from Governance Metrics (the best source IMHO of governance info). BP has excellent scores for its handling of board and transparency issues--especially when you compare it to other oil industry companies. Regardless of how BP did with the oil spill disaster, it probably is a pretty well governed company, with a balanced and responsible board.

Similarly, if you look at our custom report from Asset4, you'll see that BP garnered 20 awards for its community service (one of the top numbers in our system). The organizations that granted their favor to BP were not all stupid, fooled, or swayed only by PR. They did real work to investigate and check on BP's performance. Of course, many may regret the honors they bestowed on BP and renounce them after the fact. We are certain to see a drop in BP's community scores, as we move forward.

Look at the other sources on our list. The Accountability list contains only 100 companies. It is hard to get on it. Universum says BP is great to black people. This is not what you'd expect from a bunch of red neck oil people! The Human Rights Council only has 100 companies on their list--and they check each carefully. BP joined BSR, UN Global Compact, and Carbon Disclosure Project. Joining these groups does not prove BP is good. But, it does say they care about transparency and communication--one valid component of social responsibility.

Someone using our system could knock BP for their involvement in military contracting or for their pollution problems. Some people will want to be anti any company that pumps oil or that does any kind of resource extraction. That is OK, because we are not saying there is a "right" overall number for BP or that they should always be a top company. However, looking at them broadly and fairly, they are not that bad--and they are certainly as good or better than most of the rest of the oil industry.

And based on that, he concluded: I don't think the mistakes they've made changed their intentions or erased the reality of the hundreds of positive programs and initiatives they put in place over the last twenty years.

(above courtesy of yves smith in naked capitalism...)

here's what robert reich has to say about bp and csr (corporate social responsibility)...
BP has been making public statements about its supposed corporate social responsibility for as many years as it’s behaved irresponsibly. It’s the poster child for PR masquerading as CSR.


Ad campaigns about corporate social responsibility are cheap. So are public scoldings by politicians about a corporation’s irresponsibility. Watch not what they say but what they do.

and bp, amazingly enough, still cannot seem to accept responsibility for its actions... even worse, the economist, that perennial ass-kisser of the super-rich elites, has the nerve to say this...
America’s justifiable fury with BP is degenerating into a broader attack on business.


Vilifying BP also gets in the way of identifying other culprits, one of which is the government. BP operates in one of the most regulated industries on earth with some of the most perverse rules, subsidies and incentives. Shoddy oversight clearly contributed to the spill, and an energy policy which reduced the demand for oil would do more to avert future environmental horrors than fierce retribution.


If [Mr. Obama] he sees any impropriety in politicians ordering executives about, upstaging the courts and threatening confiscation, he has not said so. The collapse in BP’s share price suggests that he has convinced the markets that he is an American version of Vladimir Putin, willing to harry firms into doing his bidding.

the following from the columbia journalism review is contained in a daily kos diary (which, btw, excerpts the full yves smith post referenced above)... i don't think any summary of the still-unfolding disaster could do a better job than this does...
So, it's in one of the most regulated industries, but at the same time, regulators are responsible for its actions because they didn't regulate? Huh?


You have a few drinks and are driving home at about 100 mph, when it starts to rain. You lose control, crash, taking out a bunch of other drivers and starting a fire which burns down a lot of the surrounding neighborhood. Your defense -- there were laws in place that should have prevented the accident. The fault lies with the cops who failed to stop you before the unfortunate accident which was triggered by an act of God (the rain).

kinda says it all, doesn't it...?

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Fiddling while Rome burns

i don't know what these guys understand "leadership" to mean but one of the cardinal principles is that appearances are everything... i don't think anybody would begrudge mr. hayward some downtime to recuperate from the incredible pressure he's been under but the bastard also needs to understand that the entire world is watching his every move... the last thing he needs is to have an article highlighting his tony, elite, leisure pursuits with his very well-heeled fellow elites while an entire ecosystem and the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people are being destroyed thanks to his company's greedy heedlessness... otoh, i doubt if he really gives a shit... just let those "small people" eat cake...
BP chief executive Tony Hayward, often criticized for being tone-deaf to U.S. concerns about the worst oil spill in American history, took time off Saturday to attend a glitzy yacht race off England's Isle of Wight.

Spokeswoman Sheila Williams said Hayward took a break from overseeing BP efforts to stem the undersea gusher in Gulf of Mexico to watch his boat "Bob" participate in the J.P. Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race.

The one-day yacht race is one of the world's largest, attracting hundreds of boats and thousands of sailors.

In a statement, BP described Hayward's day off as "a rare moment of private time" and said that "no matter where he is, he is always in touch with what is happening within BP" and can direct recovery operations if required.

That is likely to be a hard sell in Gulf states struggling to deal with the up to 120 million gallons of oil that have escaped from a blown-out undersea well.

what this says to me is just how incredibly far-removed from ordinary people's reality guys like tony hayward really are... to tony hayward, "getting his life back" means he can continue his extraordinarily privileged lifestyle unfettered by the concerns of the peasantry... it also tells me that he was removed from the front lines of the crisis because he's a walking public relations disaster... evidently, the strategy isn't working so well...

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Friday, June 18, 2010

You don't protect cyberspace as a national asset by disconnecting the internet

the inmates are still running the asylum...
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), along with one Republican and Democratic senator, introduced a bill late last week that would allow the President to effectively disconnect the internet by emergency decree.

The Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act would allow the President to disconnect Internet networks and force private websites to comply with broad cybersecurity measures.

Future US presidents would have their Internet "kill switch" powers renewed indefinitely.

The bill was introduced by Lieberman, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). A parallel bill was drafted last year by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) which would allow the federal government to unilaterally "order the disconnection" of certain websites.

given that the internet is fast BECOMING the phone system, the newspaper, the television and the radio for a large chunk of the populace, the only reason to include provisions for shutting it down is to prevent the free flow of communication... otherwise, they would be talking about how to make sure it stays up and running safely despite any hostile attempts to take it down or compromise its integrity...

i don't know who these people think they're trying to bullshit, but i ain't one of 'em... you don't "protect" national assets by disconnecting them... you notice there aren't bills to turn off the phone system, newspapers, tv or radio... oh, wait... those are probably in the works too...

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

It occurred to me that spending the night over at my RV tonight would be a good idea

i found out why...


cool, huh...?

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BP in the Gulf - are we facing a disaster of Biblical proportions...?

it ain't sounding good...

from a commenter on the website the oil drum...

What eventually will happen is that the blow out preventer will literally tip over if they do not run supports to it as the currents push on it. I suspect they will run those supports as cables tied to anchors very soon, if they don't, they are inviting disaster that much sooner.

Eventually even that will be futile as the well casings cannot support the weight of the massive system above with out the cement bond to the earth and that bond is being eroded away. When enough is eroded away the casings will buckle and the BOP [blow out preventer] will collapse the well. If and when you begin to see oil and gas coming up around the well area from under the BOP? or the area around the well head connection and casing sinking more and more rapidly? won't be too long after that the entire system fails. BP must be aware of this, they are mapping the sea floor sonically and that is not a mere exercise. Our Gov't must be well aware too, they just are not telling us.

All of these things lead to only one place, a fully wide open well bore directly to the oil deposit...after that, it goes into the realm of "the worst things you can think of" The well may come completely apart as the inner liners fail. There is still a very long drill string in the well, that could literally come flying I said...all the worst things you can think of are a possibility, but the very least damaging outcome as bad as it is, is that we are stuck with a wide open gusher blowing out 150,000 barrels a day of raw oil or more. There isn't any "cap dome" or any other suck fixer device on earth that exists or could be built that will stop it from gushing out and doing more and more damage to the gulf. While at the same time also doing more damage to the well, making the chance of halting it with a kill from the bottom up less and less likely to work, which as it stands now? the only real chance we have left to stop it all.

It's a race now...a race to drill the relief wells and take our last chance at killing this monster before the whole weakened, wore out, blown out, leaking and failing system gives up it's last gasp in a horrific crescendo.

this nightmare scenario is hinted at in this clip from keith olbermann's countdown program on msnbc...

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

maybe this time we've actually gone and screwed the pooch...

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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Canada and the UK "get" accountability, why doesn't the U.S.? The sad case of Mahar Arar

The British soldiers who killed 13 Catholic demonstrators in Northern Ireland during "Bloody Sunday" nearly four decades ago committed "unjustified and unjustifiable" killings of unarmed and innocent victims and then lied about it, a fact-finding investigation concluded Tuesday after a 12-year hunt for the truth.

More than 1,000 Londonderry residents applauded, hugged and cried outside city hall as the long-awaited verdict was announced live on a huge television screen. They had campaigned for 38 years for the victims — originally branded as Irish Republican Army bombers and gunmen — to have their good names restored and the guilt of the soldiers proved beyond doubt.

"Unjustified and unjustifiable. Those are the words we've been waiting to hear since January the 30th of 1972," Tony Doherty, the son of one Bloody Sunday victim, told the crowd to cheers. He was one of dozens of relatives who took turns declaring the innocence of lost loved ones to the crowd as the TV screen displayed black-and-white portraits of each of the 13 dead and 15 wounded.

"The victims of Bloody Sunday have been vindicated, and the soldiers of the Parachute Regiment have been disgraced. Their medals of honor have to be removed!" Doherty declared to more cheers.

In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the investigation — based on evidence from 921 witnesses, 2,500 written statements and 60 volumes of written evidence — demonstrated that the soldiers' shooting into the crowd protesting the internment without trial of IRA suspects was "both unjustified and unjustifiable."

Canada will formally apologize on Friday [26 January 2007] to software engineer Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist, and offer him C$10 million ($8.5 million) compensation, according to media reports.

Arar, who says he was repeatedly tortured during the year he spent in Damascus jails, had initially sued Ottawa for C$400 million, a figure he later cut to C$37 million. CBC Television said the settlement would be for C$10 million, while CTV said Ottawa would also pay Arar's C$2 million legal bills.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will make a statement on the case at 12:15 p.m. (1715 GMT).

The affair tarnished the reputation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and strained Canada's relations with the United States, which has kept Arar on a security watch list even though Ottawa insists he has no links to terror groups.

CTV said Harper was likely to criticize Washington's stance, something which could prove useful politically. Critics regularly accuse Harper's Conservative government of being too close to President Bush.

"I think it (the settlement) is wonderful because it will hopefully put this thing behind Mr. Arar and he can live his life now like a normal Canadian," Paul Cavalluzzo, lead counsel for an official probe into the affair told CTV.

"He suffered severe economic -- and most importantly -- psychological damage as a result of what occurred to him."

but, in the case of mr. arar and the u.s., as glenn laments, accountability is still a very foreign concept...
The Supreme Court today denied a petition of review from Maher Arar, the Canadian and Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government at a stopover at JFK Airport when returning to Canada in 2002, held incommunicado for two weeks, and then rendered to Syria, where he spent the next 10 months being tortured, even though -- as everyone acknowledges -- he was guilty of absolutely nothing. Arar sued the U.S. Government for what was done to him, and last November, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of his lawsuit on the ground that courts have no right to interfere in these decisions of the Executive Branch. That was the decision which the U.S. Supreme Court let stand today, ending Arar's attempt to be compensated for what was done to him.


By stark contrast [to Canada], the U.S. Government, which played a far more active role in his abduction and rendition to Syria, has never apologized to Arar (though individual members of Congress have). It has never clearly acknowledged wrongdoing (the only time it even hinted at this was when Condoleezza Rice called U.S. conduct in this case "imperfect" -- you think? -- and generously added: "We do not think this case was handled as it should have been"). In fact, it continuously did the opposite of providing accountability: in response to Arar's efforts to seek damages from the U.S. Government, the U.S. raised -- under two successive administrations -- a slew of technical arguments to persuade American courts not to hear his case at all, including the argument that what was done to Arar involved "state secrets" that prevented a judicial adjudication of his claims. The U.S. even continued to ban Arar from entering the U.S. long after it was acknowledged that he had done nothing wrong, thus preventing him for years from appearing before Congress or in the U.S. to talk about what was done to him. Indeed, after the Bush administration spent years arguing that courts were barred from hearing Arar's case on the ground of "state secrets," the Obama administration embraced those same arguments and then urged the Supreme Court not to hear his appeal.

tonight's focus in the mba class on leadership that i'm teaching in the summer session is on accountability... where are the role models...? patético...

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Did it take you a long time to get so old, Grandpa?

quote of the day from my 8 year-old grandson... sigh...

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