Archive for November, 2007

Coincidence?

This is curious…

Republicans are significantly more likely than Democrats or independents to rate their mental health as excellent, according to data from the last four November Gallup Health and Healthcare polls. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans report having excellent mental health, compared to 43% of independents and 38% of Democrats. This relationship between party identification and reports of excellent mental health persists even within categories of income, age, gender, church attendance, and education.

Please click through to see this remarkable data. Note that this data shows self-reported mental health.

Here’s another group of people who self-report excellent mental health.

In their desperate search for solutions people trapped in a destructive and seemingly hopeless relationship with a psychopath frequently are told: Quit indulging him and send him for therapy. A basic assumption of psychotherapy is that the patient needs and wants help for distressing or painful psychological and emotional problems. Successful therapy also requires that the patient actively participate, along with the therapist, in the search for relief of his or her symptoms. In short, the patient must recognize there is a problem and must want to do something about it.

But here is the crux: Psychopaths don’t feel they have psychological or emotional problems, and they see no reason to change their behavior to conform with societal standards they do not agree with.

Hmm. Go figure.

A Masterful Move

Iran diplomats plan to bring Pope Benedict into the fray to dial down the tensions between Iran and the US. A very clever, astute and telling move, in my opinion, should they go through with it.

The government of Iran is preparing to ask for Vatican mediation to stave off a possible crisis in relations with the United States, Time magazine reports. According to Time, Iranian diplomats are ready to ask the Holy See to serve as intermediary in talks if relations with the US– already tense– escalate further toward a possible military conflict. The Time report does not say whether or not the Vatican has indicated a willingness to act as a mediator. But Pope Benedict– like his predecessor Pope John Paul II — has consistently raised his voice in opposition to military confrontations. In May the Holy Father received Iran’s former president, Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, in an unusual private audience. (The meeting was unusual in that Khatami, who remains highly influential although he no longer holds a top government post, was accorded the diplomatic courtesies ordinarily reserved for major political leader.) After that meeting the Vatican issued a statement saying that the two had discussed their shared commitment to “overcoming the severe tensions that mark our time.”

Clever because it’s totally unexpected.

Astute for several reasons. As everybody knows, the United States is a “Christian” nation. Therefore, we can presume that US goals will align with the Vatican on many important issues. But here come the Iranians, apparently having nurtured an independent relationship with the Vatican, surprising us no end, appealing to the Pope to prevent an unjust war. What’s the Pope going to do? Say no? He must help if asked. I don’t know what possible grounds he could find to reject this appeal for help. To shirk this responsibility would be beyond scandalous, making a complete mockery of the Catholic Church.

This could be very telling. Conservatives, especially the Catholic variety, gloated when Benedict became Pope because he’s one of them. They were happy he had been given this supreme moral authority to tell people what’s right and wrong. So how are they going to like it if he tries to prevent a war with Iran, which is the only possible moral thing he could do if asked to intercede. I don’t think the Conservatives will like it very much at all, but it will be awfully hard to make lemonade out of them lemons. How very clever for Iran to ask the Pope to walk the walk of the Catholic faith, to defend the culture of life in all it’s fullness, even at the expense of the neocon’s political goals. We’ll see how much Conservatives like the Pope’s moral authority when it’s pushing against them.

Also, if this comes to pass, and I certainly hope it does, what does it say about the Pope’s relationship with George Bush? I think it would be perceived as quite the snub for Pope Benedict to go to bat for Iran, Bush’s mortal enemy du jour. I’d love to hear Bush explain why the Pope is wrong to oppose war. That should touch off some good examples of semantic aphasia.

Like I said, a masterful move by the Iranians, should they make it.

Dilettante Diplomacy

I am not making this up.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has put her reputation on the line by delving into Arab-Israeli peacemaking, a high-risk gamble that experts say will be hard to pull off.

I could just stop right there, because that alone is so spectacularly funny, but it’s only the lede.

Rice is expected to do most of the Bush administration’s heavy lifting in negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians that were revived at a U.S.-hosted Middle East conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.

[snip]

“Clearly, this is an effort to give President Bush an achievement. It’s heritage-building time,” added Dunbar, a former U.S. ambassador to Qatar and Yemen.

[snip]

“We have never seen her deeply involved in a process of this sort that allows us to judge her creativity and her capacity to think outside the box,” said Marina Ottaway, director of Middle East programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think-tank.

[snip]

“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ — the next day you would come in and it had come apart again,” said Rice, according to a transcript of an interview with USA Today in August last year.

[snip]

U.S. officials had sought every step of the way to lower expectations before the conference but now the bar has been raised and all eyes will be on Rice.

“You have a U.S. president and secretary of state who have put their reputations on the line for this (peace effort),” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said. “It would be foolish to be anything other than cautious,” he told reporters in Annapolis.

[snip]

In the past year Rice has made eight trips to the region to try to lay the groundwork for Israeli-Palestinian talks. She has promised to use every ounce of her energy to shepherd a deal.

As she shuttles back and forth, a key question will be whether Rice will have the backing of Bush when it comes to taking hard decisions, especially those unpopular with close U.S. ally Israel.

[snip]

“In the game of importance on world issues, where would you put Israel and Palestine versus Iraq … Palestine, my goodness, that is the big issue of the century,” said Stephen Hess of the Brookings Institution.

“That is what they hand out Nobel peace prizes for,” added Hess, a veteran staffer of the Eisenhower and Nixon administrations and an adviser to former U.S. presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter.

But even if she fails, some analysts say the consequences will not be devastating for the 53-year-old Rice who would join a “distinguished crowd” of others who did not succeed.

“She is young, she has her health, she has a long way to go in terms of doing more with her life,” Dunbar said. (Editing by Howard Goller)

Inquiring minds want to know…Can Condi be any more condescending? Can she take the plight of millions of people any less seriously? Can Middle East peace possibly be any more about Condi and George: their “valuable” reputations, their legacies, their possible Nobel Peace Prizes? Could Condi have possibly waited any longer to try her hand at thinking outside the box? If she fails, can it be brushed off any more blithely?

Even though some people may suffer, it’s good to know that Condi will recover from this no matter what happens. I mean, that’s the stuff that keeps me up at night.

Paragon of Virtue

Just checking in on the latest Rudy Giuliani problem. Click here to read a full rundown. Go here for more.

In short: Rudy’s security is a precious, precious thing. Armed details attend his every move because he has been threatened by…well, by unnamed people. But they were exceedingly dangerous. And menacing. And Rudy has had to travel. A lot. All over New York State in fact, especially to the Hamptons. And he would love to explain why all these travel expenses were incurred and spread like peanut butter around the NYC budget, but for security reasons, unfortunately, he simply cannot. And let me just add that any insinuations that Rudy Giuliani misused taxpayer money to cheat on his second wife with Judith in the Hamptons are completely untrue. He did all that cheating on his own dime. And you should be ashamed of yourself for impugning Rudy’s good name. Because he is a hero, you *&^*&%&* ingrates.

Well, I think that about covers it.

Conversations with God

Have you ever noticed that God gets very chatty with some people?

Richard Roberts told students at Oral Roberts University Wednesday that he did not want to resign as president of the scandal-plagued evangelical school, but that he did so because God insisted.

God told him on Thanksgiving that he should resign the next day, Roberts told students in the university’s chapel.

“Every ounce of my flesh said ‘no’” to the idea, Roberts said, but he prayed over the decision with his wife and his father, Oral Roberts, and decided to step down.

Roberts said he wanted to “strike out” against the people who were persecuting him, and considered countersuing, but “the Lord said, ‘don’t do that,’” he said.

After submitting his resignation, he said, for “first time in 60 days peace came into my heart.”

To stand up in front of students and claim that God insisted and gave direct quotes strikes me as rather, um…what’s the word… presumptuous. He could have said that he prayed and prayed, and after praying he really felt that this was the right thing to do. By claiming that God literally spoke to him, he’s making several other implied claims. 1) He can speak directly to God, unlike most people who simply hope and pray they are doing the right thing, and therefore he is special/blessed/favored; and 2) he’s not responsible for the consequences of this decision, since it’s really God’s decision, and Roberts is just following orders. It’s a very short leap to conclude that in Robert’s mind, he and God are pretty much the same guy.

A lawsuit accuses Roberts of lavish spending at a time when the university faced more than $50 million in debt, including taking shopping sprees, buying a stable of horses and paying for a daughter to travel to the Bahamas aboard the university jet.

Roberts has previously said that God told him to deny the allegations. The week the lawsuit was filed, Richard Roberts said that God told him: “We live in a litigious society. Anyone can get mad and file a lawsuit against another person whether they have a legitimate case or not. This lawsuit … is about intimidation, blackmail and extortion.”

On Wednesday, Roberts said God told him he would “do something supernatural for the university” if he stepped down from the job he held at the 5,700-student school since 1993.

To call Roberts’ claims preposterous would just understate the case. This man gives wishful thinking an entirely new meaning.

Roberts said he would return to the full-time evangelistic healing ministry, “which is where my heart has always been,” and told students and faculty that he will be praying for them every day of his life.

“I believe with all my heart the best is yet to come for ORU,” he said.

Roberts walked out of the chapel through a side door to more cheers. Regents Chairman George Pearsons followed, telling students the ORU administration is “endeavoring to do the right thing” during a very difficult time.

“This is a good university,” Pearsons said. “ORU is a place where love is king.”

Love of WHAT, pray tell? This is one of those linguistical hanging chads, where the unsuspecting person fills in the missing piece according to his or her own tastes. We see what we want to see, and we hear what we want to hear. But let us look at the facts: this man has done some very bad things, he will not take responsibility, and he does not appear to feel any remorse whatsoever. He is only stepping down because his father and wife God told him to, though “every ounce” of his flesh rebelled against this Godly edict. So he is very sad because he’s losing his prestigious job. About what he did? Not so very sad. In fact, he anticipates that God will reward his tearful sacrifice. God said so on Wednesday. Ho-kay.

Gary Richardson, the attorney who filed the lawsuit accusing Roberts of lavish living, said Wednesday there was a possibility for settlement with the university, but held out little hope for settling with Richard Roberts after what he said was his failure to admit in chapel he did anything wrong.

“You can’t imagine the people who say to us, ‘Don’t let it be swept under the carpet,’” Richardson said.

Actually, I can imagine.

PSYOPS 101

According to this source, a CIA psyops operation against Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been popped. Whether this is true or not, and I would guess it is, we should pay attention to the methods.

On a scarier note, an internal CIA memorandum has been obtained by Venezuelan counterintelligence from the US Embassy in Caracas that reveals a very sinister - almost fantastical, were it not true - plan to destabilize Venezuela during the coming days. The plan, titled “OPERATION PLIERS” was authored by CIA Officer Michael Middleton Steere and was addressed to CIA Director General Michael Hayden in Washington. Steere is stationed at the US Embassy in Caracas under the guise of a Regional Affairs Officer. The internal memorandum, dated November 20, 2007, references the “Advances of the Final Stage of Operation Pliers”, and confirms that the operation is coordinated by the team of Human Intelligence (HUMINT) in Venezuela. The memo summarizes the different scenarios that the CIA has been working on in Venezuela for the upcoming referendum vote on December 2nd. The Electoral Scenario, as it’s phrased, confirms that the voting tendencies will not change substantially before Sunday, December 2nd, and that the SI (YES) vote in favor of the constitutional reform has an advantage of about 10-13 points over the NO vote. The CIA estimates abstention around 60% and states in the memo that this voting tendency is irreversible before the elections. [emphasis in original]

Officer Steere emphasizes the importance and success of the public relations and propaganda campaign that the CIA has been funding with more than $8 million during the past month - funds that the CIA confirms are transfered through the USAID contracted company, Development Alternatives, Inc., which set up operations in June 2002 to run the USAID Office for Transition Initiatives that funds and advises opposition NGOs and political parties in Venezuela. The CIA memo specifically refers to these propaganda initiatives as “psychological operations” (PSYOPS), that include contracting polling companies to create fraudulent polls that show the NO vote with an advantage over the SI vote, which is false. The CIA also confirms in the memo that it is working with international press agencies to distort the data and information about the referendum, and that it coordinates in Venezuela with a team of journalists and media organized and directed by the President of Globovision, Alberto Federico Ravell.

The following tactics were proposed: (partial list)

  • Engage in a “plan to implode” the voting centers on election day by encouraging opposition voters to “VOTE and REMAIN” in their centers to agitate others
  • Start to release data during the early hours of the afternoon on Sunday that favor the NO vote (in clear violation of election regulations)
  • Coordinate these activities with Ravell & Globovision and international press agencies
  • Creating an acceptance in the public opinion that the NO vote will win for sure
  • Generate a sensation of fraud
  • Use a team of experts from the universities that will talk about how the data from the Electoral Registry has been manipulated and will build distrust in the voting system

Operation Tenaza has the objective of encouraging an armed insurrection in Venezuela against the government of President Chavez that will justify an intervention of US forces, stationed on the military bases nearby in Curacao and Colombia. The Operation mentions two countries in code: as Blue and Green. These refer to Curacao and Colombia, where the US has operative, active and equipped bases that have been reinforced over the past year and a half in anticipation of a conflict with Venezuela.
The document confirms that psychological operations are the CIA’s best and most effective weapon to date against Venezuela, and it will continue its efforts to influence international public opinion regarding President Chavez and the situation in the country.

It strikes me how familiar these tactics feel. It’s just as if we’ve already experienced them ourselves. And I seem to recall that Fox News has made similar “mistakes” on air (see article), like labeling certain congressional cretins as “Democrats” when they were “Republicans”, and other things of that nature.

I mean, we know we’ve been manipulated and continue to be manipulated, but it’s kind of strange to see the tactics laid out so clinically. It really makes one appreciate the level of coordination involved. These people take their evil seriously.

A Seven-Level Wipe

These people remind me of Russian nesting dolls.

The federal official helming a probe into potentially illegal partisan political activities conducted by Karl Rove and other White House officials is himself the focus of a federal investigation.

Scott Bloch, the Bush-appointed head of the US Office of Special Counsel, is under investigation for the alleged improper deletion of emails on office computers, The Wall Street Journal’s John R. Wilke reports.

“Recently, investigators learned that Mr. Bloch erased all the files on his office personal computer late last year,” writes Wilke. “They are now trying to determine whether the deletions were improper or part of a cover-up, lawyers close to the case said.” The inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management is examining the case at the urging of the White House.

The Special Counsel is also under scrutiny for claims that he used his position to retaliate against other employees, and that he “dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.” Investigation began in that case in 2005.

Interesting. I wonder if the White House will throw him under the bus as a nice, juicy scapegoat.

The Journal reports that Bloch called the tech support service Geeks on Call for help deleting computer files instead of using his agency’s own in-house computer technicians. That company “dispatched a technician in one of its signature PT Cruiser wagons,” according to Wilke, who adds that Bloch confirms contacting Geeks on Call but maintains it was part of an effort to “eradicate a virus that had seized control of his computer.”

“Mr. Bloch had his computer’s hard disk completely cleansed using a ’seven-level’ wipe: a thorough scrubbing that conforms to Defense Department data-security standards,” the report continues, describing a process which makes it “nearly impossible for forensics experts to restore the data later. Technicians were also directed to erase laptops used by Bloch’s former political deputies, Wilke adds.

[snip]

“Geeks on Call visited Mr. Bloch’s government office in a nondescript office building on M Street in Washington twice, on Dec. 18 and Dec. 21, 2006,” according the paper’s review of a company receipt. “The total charge was $1,149, paid with an agency credit card, the receipt shows. The receipt says a seven-level wipe was performed but doesn’t mention any computer virus.”

OK. There’s more, and I don’t know what to make of it. Is he just another Bush automaton covering his tracks, or was he actually trying to uncover wrongdoing? I don’t know. Maybe I’m tired, but this doesn’t quite add up.

Fun with Real Estate

Did you know that finding foreclosures is like going on a scavenger hunt? Have fun!! Make money off other people’s misfortunes!! It’s a great time to BUY!!!

Mmmmhmmm.

Remember, being depressed about our situation simply testifies to your commitment to reality. Beware of people with zero gravitas, unless they are children, in which case enjoy the reprieve.

Client State

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Iraq will be a client state of the US. This was always the PNAC plan. That’s why we built the giant embassy. We are never leaving, and we were never supposed to leave. Note how they couch all this as a new development, emerging from the fog of war…progress.

President Bush on Monday signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term U.S. troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated over matters that have defined the war debate at home — how many U.S. forces will stay in the country, and for how long.

The agreement between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirms that the United States and Iraq will hash out an “enduring” relationship in military, economic and political terms. Details of that relationship will be negotiated in 2008, with a completion goal of July, when the U.S. intends to finish withdrawing the five combat brigades sent in 2007 as part of the troop buildup that has helped curb sectarian violence.

[snip]

The proposal underlines how the United States and Iraq are exploring what their relationship might look like once the U.S. significantly draws down its troop presence. It comes as a Democratic Congress — unsuccessfully, so far — prods Bush to withdraw troops faster than he wants.

It’s miraculous how this will all get ironed out just before the US elections. And all this time Bush has been complaining about timetables, but now they don’t seem so bad.

Two senior Iraqi officials familiar with the issue say Iraq’s government will embrace a long-term U.S. troop presence in return for U.S. security guarantees as part of a strategic partnership. The two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the subject is sensitive, said U.S. military and diplomatic representatives appeared generally favorable, subject to negotiations on the details, which include preferential treatment for American investments.

Preferential treatment for U.S. investors could provide a huge windfall if Iraq can achieve enough stability to exploit its vast oil resources. Such a deal would also enable the United States to maintain leverage against Iranian expansion at a time of growing fears about Tehran’s nuclear aspirations.

[snip]

“The basic message here should be clear: Iraq is increasingly able to stand on its own; that’s very good news, but it won’t have to stand alone,” said Lute, who rarely holds televised briefings.

He said it is too soon to tell what the “shape and size” of the U.S. military commitment will look like, including military bases.

The Iraqi officials said that under the proposed formula, Iraq would get full responsibility for internal security and U.S. troops would relocate to bases outside the cities. Iraqi officials foresee a long-term presence of about 50,000 U.S. troops, down from the current figure of more than 160,000.

I’m sure the Iraqi people won’t mind living in a puppet state so that the US can control their natural resources, meddle in the region from the comfort of their giant military base and embassy, and enable greedy investors to siphon off whatever remaining Iraqi wealth may still exist.

Vets Commit Suicide at a Staggering Rate

Read full article here.

Bush has also expressed the opinion that suicide bombers are motivated by despair, neglect and poverty. The demographic statistics on suicide bombers suggest that this isn’t the necessarily the case. Most of the Sept. 11 terrorists came from comfortable middle- to upper-middle-class families and were well-educated. Ironically, despair, neglect and poverty may be far more significant factors in the deaths of American soldiers and veterans who are taking their own lives.

[snip]

There is a particularly terrible irony in the relationship between suicide bombers and the suicides of American soldiers and veterans. With the possible exception of some few sadists and psychopaths, Americans don’t enlist in the military because they want to kill civilians. And they don’t sign up with the expectation of killing themselves. How incredibly sad that so many end up dying of remorse for having performed acts that so disturb their sense of moral selfhood that they sentence themselves to death.

There is something so smugly superior in the way we talk about suicide bombers and the cultures that produce them. But here is an unsettling thought. In 2005, 6,256 American veterans took their own lives. That same year, there were about 130 documented deaths of suicide bombers in Iraq.* Do the math. That’s a ratio of 50-to-1. So who is it that is most effectively creating a culture of suicide and martyrdom? If George Bush is right, that it is despair, neglect and poverty that drive people to such acts, then isn’t it worth pointing out that we are doing a far better job?

Basically, I agree. However, I have to quibble with the reference to the 911 hijackers. From time to time I read some piece that’s making sense but then refers back to the “official” 911 story. Of course, 911 is not something that can be deconstructed on the fly, but certainly enough questions have been raised about the “official” story that, in my opinion, it should never be referenced as a supporting fact in any serious discussion.

For example, this two-minute video raises questions about the supposed hijackers, like how is it that some of them are still alive? These questions have never been answered to my knowledge, and there’s tons of this stuff in the public domain. You could literally spend weeks checking it all out. Why? Is it because there are conspiracy theorists everywhere? No, it’s because there are so many &$^# unanswered questions. So until we have answers, I say concede nothing excepting that thousands of innocent people were murdered. Who did it, and why and how: TBD.