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Current Topic: Current Events

Zbigniew Brzezinski's Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony, 2/1/2007
Topic: Current Events 1:39 am EST, Feb 20, 2007

Testimony from Zbigniew Brzezinski, National Security Advisor, 1977-1981. Original is a PDF. Also available via Google in HTML.

I've quoted four contiguous paragraphs below. Interesting words from one of the architects of the Mujahideen resistance forces in Soviet occupied Afghanistan. When he says that "most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism," he's probably in a position to know something about the subject.

* * *

If the United States continues to be bogged down in a protracted bloody involvement in Iraq, the final destination on this downhill track is likely to be a head-on conflict with Iran and with much of the world of Islam at large. A plausible scenario for a military collision with Iran involves Iraqi failure to meet the benchmarks; followed by accusations of Iranian responsibility for the failure; then by some provocation in Iraq or a terrorist act in the U.S. blamed on Iran; culminating in a "defensive" U.S. military action against Iran that plunges a lonely America into a spreading and deepening quagmire eventually ranging across Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.

A mythical historical narrative to justify the case for such a protracted and potentially expanding war is already being articulated. Initially justified by false claims about WMD's in Iraq, the war is now being redefined as the "decisive ideological struggle" of our time, reminiscent of the earlier collisions with Nazism and Stalinism. In that context, Islamist extremism and al Qaeda are presented as the equivalents of the threat posed by Nazi Germany and then Soviet Russia, and 9/11 as the equivalent of the Pearl Harbor attack which precipitated America’s involvement in World War II.

This simplistic and demagogic narrative overlooks the fact that Nazism was based on the military power of the industrially most advanced European state; and that Stalinism was able to mobilize not only the resources of the victorious and militarily powerful Soviet Union but also had worldwide appeal through its Marxist doctrine. In contrast, most Muslims are not embracing Islamic fundamentalism; al Qaeda is an isolated fundamentalist Islamist aberration; most Iraqis are engaged in strife because the American occupation of Iraq destroyed the Iraqi state; while Iran, though gaining in regional influence, is itself politically divided, economically and militarily weak. To argue that America is already at war in the region with a wider Islamic threat, of which Iran is the epicenter, is to promote a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Deplorably, the Administration's foreign policy in the Middle East region has lately relied almost entirely on such sloganeering. Vague and inflammatory talk about "a new strategic context" which is based on "clarity" and which prompts "the birth pangs of a new Middle East" is breeding intensifying anti-Americanism and is increasing the danger of a long-term collision between the United States and the Islamic world. Those in charge of U.S. diplomacy have also adopted a posture of moralistic self-ostracism toward Iran strongly reminiscent of John Foster Dulles's attitude of the early 1950's toward Chinese Communist leaders (resulting among other things in the well-known episode of the refused handshake). It took some two decades and a half before another Republican president was finally able to undo that legacy.

Zbigniew Brzezinski's Senate Foreign Relations Committee Testimony, 2/1/2007


Don't Let Congress Shackle Digital Music
Topic: Current Events 3:14 pm EST, Feb  7, 2007

Via jwz:

* * *

The new Congress has barely begun, but the major record labels are already up to their old tricks.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein has re-introduced the PERFORM Act, a backdoor assault on your right to record off the radio. Satellite and digital radio stations as well as Internet webcasters would have to adopt digital rights management (DRM) restrictions or lose the statutory license for broadcasting music. Letters from constituents like you helped beat this dangerous proposal last year -- take action now to block it again.

This bill aims to hobble TiVo-like devices for satellite and digital radio. Such devices would be allowed to include "reasonable recording" features, but that excludes choosing and playing back selections based on song title, artist, or genre. Want to freely move recordings around your home network or copy them to the portable player of your choice? You'll be out of luck if PERFORM passes.

This bill would also mess with Internet radio. Today, Live365, Shoutcast, streaming radio stations included in iTunes, and myriad other smaller webcasters rely on MP3 streaming. PERFORM would in effect force them to use DRM-laden, proprietary formats, so you can say goodbye to software tools like Streamripper that let you record programming to listen to it later.

Tell your representatives to oppose the PERFORM Act now.

Don't Let Congress Shackle Digital Music


Texas Requires Cancer Vaccine for Girls
Topic: Current Events 5:12 pm EST, Feb  2, 2007

Gov. Rick Perry ordered Friday that schoolgirls in Texas must be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, making Texas the first state to require the shots.

The girls will have to get Merck & Co.'s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass laws in state legislatures across the country mandating it Gardasil vaccine for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.

...

Perry has several ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, his former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.

...

Perry also received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign.

...

/cynic mode ON

Welcome to Utopia. Now we vaccinate your children for sexually transmitted diseases. Please report to Central Immunization immediately. Failure to comply within seven days will result in quarantine.

/cynic mode OFF

I don't believe this. I'm dumbfounded. Corporate cronyism at it's boldest. If this comes to your state, not only should you say no, you should say HELL NO. Since when is it the State's place to give preventative STD vaccines to children? I know the carrot here is oh it's such a great thing, it prevents cervical cancer. But is cervical cancer really a US health epidemic? Everything I've read says otherwise.

Even if you trust the State to inject whatever they deem necessary into your children, think about the economics here. $360 a head for the vaccine treatments. Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper to provide education about the importance of regular pap smears? Even if you get this vaccine, you still need them anyway.

And yes, I did not miss the part about an affidavit being available to opt out. I won't bore you with stories I've read about how that has been abused in the past, where kids were quarantined then the parents were charged with truancy, etc... Hit me up if you want the skinny on that.

Recommended reading:

10 Things You Might Not Know about Gardasil

Notable quotables:

4. While we're on the subject of liability, lawsuits, and profits, there's another angle to consider. If Merck can get state governments to put Gardasil on their lists of vaccines that are required for schoolchildren, it can become a part of a federal vaccine liability program. Meaning that Merck will not be liable if Gardasil turns out to be harmful some time in the future.

5. There have been no long-term studies done on the effect of the vaccine after 5-10 or more years, and testing on young girls has been extremely limited.

6. It is unknown how long the immunity provided by Gardasil actually lasts.

7. The studies done on Gardasil were not set up to investigate whether the vaccine itself has the potential to cause cancer.

More recommended reading:

A New Vaccine for Girls, but Should It Be Compulsory?

Texas Requires Cancer Vaccine for Girls


Real Nightmare? Or much ado about nothing?
Topic: Current Events 11:43 am EST, Jan 26, 2007

I was reading Slashdot this morning and ran across the article about Maine rejecting the Real ID act. In the article they linked to the ACLU's anti Real ID website.

Some interesting opinions are listed under the "opposition voices" section. The main arguement is that this system will be costly to implement and will provide a false sense of security. They also touch on trust: where a fraudulent ID would now open doors that before required supporting documentation.

I'm personally opposed to the Real ID. It will become a national ID card tied into a federal database. I don't believe ID makes you safe. The potential abuses of this database far outweigh any purported safety benefits.

Recommended reading: Your Papers Please, an oped from the 2/22/2004 Washington Times about Dudley Hiibel's case. He's the guy in Nevada who was accosted by police and asked to identify himself. When he refused, it sparked a case that when through Nevada's Supreme Court, and ultimately the US Supreme Court. Final verdict? There is nothing wrong with police asking people for their name "because in this case disclosure of his name presented no reasonable danger of incrimination." So much for the right to remain silent.

A more Real ID favorable counter opinion can be found here: Government Technology: Papers Please (Nov 4, 2005) Admittedly, I have not read the whole article. The parts I skimmed were counterarguements to the premise that this legislation was originally doomed, so that's why it was tacked onto a war spending bill. Who would vote against the troops? Also good talk about how many states are already ahead of the curve with ID technology, and they are being looked to for guidance with the program.

So what do you think?

Real Nightmare? Or much ado about nothing?


Chinese Regime Admits To Organ Harvesting From Prisoners
Topic: Current Events 12:07 pm EST, Jan 24, 2007

In the middle of January, 2007, the BBC Chinese website published an interview regarding organ harvesting in China. For the first time, China's Ministry of Health spokesman Mao Qunan admitted to the practice of organ harvesting from executed prisoners in China, which he had publicly denied before. However, Mao evaded key evidences of organ harvesting from Falun Gong practitioners and denied that accusation.

This interview was conducted by BBC senior reporter Hua Ying. An Epoch Times journalist also did an interview with Dr. Wang Wenyi, who protested at the White House during communist regime leader Hu Jintao's visit to the United States on April 20, 2006 regarding the BBC's interview

The Chinese regime has had a long history of harvesting organs from executed prisoners, and an equally long history of denying this practice. In November of 2005, the regime's Deputy Minister of Ministry of Public Health, Huang Jiefu, admitted to using organs taken from executed prisoners, at an international conference in Manila.

Later in April 2006, Mao stated that organs from executed prisoners constituted a very small portion of organs used in China's organ transplant industry.

In November 2006, Minister Huang again admitted in a conference in Guangzhou that most of the organs used in transplants, except for a small portion from organ donors in traffic accidents, came from executed prisoners. His statement was quoted by newspapers in China.

Chinese Regime Admits To Organ Harvesting From Prisoners


U.S. plans envision broad attack on Iran: analyst
Topic: Current Events 4:47 pm EST, Jan 23, 2007

U.S. contingency planning for military action against Iran's nuclear program goes beyond limited strikes and would effectively unleash a war against the country, a former U.S. intelligence analyst said on Friday.

"I've seen some of the planning ... You're not talking about a surgical strike," said Wayne White, who was a top Middle East analyst for the State Department's bureau of intelligence and research until March 2005.

"You're talking about a war against Iran" that likely would destabilize the Middle East for years, White told the Middle East Policy Council, a Washington think tank.

"We're not talking about just surgical strikes against an array of targets inside Iran. We're talking about clearing a path to the targets" by taking out much of the Iranian Air Force, Kilo submarines, anti-ship missiles that could target commerce or U.S. warships in the Gulf, and maybe even Iran's ballistic missile capability, White said.

...

I checked this guy's CV, he probably know's what he's talking about.

He's no fan of the misuse of pre-war Iraq intelligence. Is this an attempt at whistleblowing?

What interests me is the build up coupled with the open threats from the President and the occasional "leak" of details about the war plans. Is this just classic psychological warfare strategy or is communication technology in this day and age making plans like these more transparent more immediately?

A second opinion in the article echoes the sentiment of the recently meme'd Stratfor article : Rhetoric rarely equates to reality.

Makes me wonder if we are on the way to implement a war plan or really just serve a big cup of STFU to Iran.

U.S. plans envision broad attack on Iran: analyst


Agreement on Social Security Between The United States of America and The United Mexican States
Topic: Current Events 7:14 pm EST, Jan  9, 2007

I'm taking this to a new thread from the Immolate Me Elmo thread.


Decius wrote:
Its not that I don't care, its that I'm skeptical. SS is something that people get real emotional about. So is illegal immigration. This is a press release from an advocacy group and I don't trust it. I don't understand why the US would pay social security benefits to an illegal alien. I'm thinking thats not actually the real story here. A similar agreement exists between the US and Canada, and its fairly reasonable, and I'm quite sure it doesn't apply if you moved between the countries illegally.

The Social Security Administration signs an agreement with a foreign government, does not release the agreement to the US citizenry, is repeatedly uncooperative with FOIA requests to produce the agreement, which results in legal action to have it released. It doesn't seem like the advocacy group is the one not to be trusted to me. Why keep this agreement secret?

I believe we have a right to see this before it is signed into law. This gives us a chance to write our representatives with our opinions. I thought that's what our political system was about. I don't believe we should be bound to laws passed in secrecy.

Far from not trusting someone just because they are with an "advocacy group," I applaud their efforts. I assume you distrust them because they have an agenda. Well, who doesn't? I'll listen to what anyone says, you never know when they might have a point.

Aside from the secrecy aspect of this, I fear what happens if this passes then we have another amnesty. I do not believe we should reward illegal behavior. The precedent has been set that illegal immigrants will be able to collect SS benefits based on past illegal employment thanks to last years immigration bill. All it takes is a change in their status and they are collecting.

Read the agreement, it's what I linked this post to. The benefits of totalization will be retroactive. From Part V, Article 17:

2. In determining the right to benefits under this Agreement, consideration shall be given to periods of coverage or contribution under the applicable laws of either Party and other events material to the determination of benefits which occured before the entry into force of this Agreement.

I guess for me, I can see the writing on the wall. I read stories like these in the context of larger plans like the Council on Foreign Relations' Building A North American Community and the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. It's especially prudent to pay attention to task forces like the CFR when current members are in high positions of power, like Dick Cheney as Vice President. Right now he is the tie breaking vote in an almost equally divided Senate. Even though his name is not in this report, I have never seen him on record about his opinion about a North American Union. I'm watching his votes carefully.

Am I speculating and worrying about some event in the future that may or may not occur? Sure. Is it unrealistic to expect that the millions of illegals here now will be given amnesty in the near future? Absolutely not. I won't launch into a long list of quotations from well known Senators, but you know it's coming.

Have you noticed something I haven't mentioned? This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is about US sovereignty and whether we want to keep it or not. This issue is central to whether we will remain a Constitutional Republic, or become a superstate. It's incrementalism, and this is just one issue out of many on the plate.

Agreement on Social Security Between The United States of America and The United Mexican States


Social Security Agreement With Mexico Released After 3 1/2 Year Freedom of Information Act Battle
Topic: Current Events 3:41 pm EST, Jan  3, 2007

After numerous refusals over three and a half years, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has released the first known public copy of the U.S.-Mexico Social Security Totalization Agreement. The government was forced to make the disclosure in response to lawsuits filed under the Freedom of Information Act by TREA Senior Citizens League, a 1.2 million-member nonpartisan seniors advocacy group.

The Totalization Agreement could allow millions of illegal Mexican workers to draw billions of dollars from the U.S. Social Security Trust Fund.

The agreement between the U.S. and Mexico was signed in June 2004, and is awaiting President Bush's signature. Once President Bush approves the agreement, which would be done without Congressional vote, either House of Congress would have 60 days to disapprove the agreement by voting to reject it.

"The Social Security Administration itself warns that Social Security is within decades of bankruptcy -- yet, they seem to have no problem making agreements that hasten its demise," said Ralph McCutchen, Chairman of the TREA Senior Citizens League.

...

The Social Security Totalization Agreement was one of the bullet points listed in the CFR's "Building a North American Community" report. We're on the cusp of having it become law.

Social Security Agreement With Mexico Released After 3 1/2 Year Freedom of Information Act Battle


C-Span Airing Of L.A. Conference Shows Mainstreaming Of 9/11 Truth
Topic: Current Events 10:18 am EDT, Jul 28, 2006

A decision that many of us were waiting on with baited breath - C-Span's scheduling of the American Scholars Symposium highlights - infuses the 9/11 truth movement with a fresh injection of credibility and exposure to more mainstream audiences.

The panel features incredible presentations by 9/11 Scholars for Truth founder James Fetzer, BYU Physics Professor Steven Jones, President of the Institute for Space and Security Studies Dr. Robert M. Bowman, Lt. Col., USAF, ret., Filmmaker and Radio Broadcaster Alex Jones, and Terrorism Expert Webster Tarpley.

C-Span viewers will witness what many consider to be the most hard hitting conference to date including the most professional and credible speakers ever assembled.

...

The program will air on C-SPAN 1 at 8PM EST (7PM CST) on Saturday, July 29th and then air again for the West Coast at 11pm EST (10pm CST).

...

I've been a subscriber to Alex Jones' website for the last two years. I've seen most of the presentations from this conference. It's fairly amazing to me that CSPAN is airing some of the talks.

I know 9/11 conspiracies are still a hot button topic, but nothing is going to be easier that setting your Tivo's to record this and spending a couple of hours out of your life to at least hear what the people on the other side of the fence are saying.

I've been lambasted for my views in the past on Memestreams and have pretty much given up trying to talk about my research here. You have to arrive at your own conclusions. I've been equated with people who believe the towers didn't really collapse and were just special effects and Holocaust deniers in the same breath (thank you for that Elonka, it made my day let me tell you.) There are too many unanswered questions about 9/11 for me though, so I press on with research.

Still, this should be an easy pick. I really believe you should check it out. You can even watch CSPAN online if you don't have cable TV (like me.)

Would love to hear back from all of you that choose to watch it and tell me what you thought.

C-Span Airing Of L.A. Conference Shows Mainstreaming Of 9/11 Truth


China, Russia welcome Iran into the fold
Topic: Current Events 11:57 am EDT, Apr 18, 2006

I had never heard of the SCO before. This looks like an interesting marriage. Wonder if this is part of the reason a lot of bad China press is now hitting mainstream news. I'm thinking about the films of the Chinese government seizing people's homes and land.

A few selections from the article:

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which maintained it had no plans for expansion, is now changing course. Mongolia, Iran, India and Pakistan, which previously had observer status, will become full members. SCO's decision to welcome Iran into its fold constitutes a political statement. Conceivably, SCO would now proceed to adopt a common position on the Iran nuclear issue at its summit meeting June 15.

...

The SCO, an Intergovernmental organization whose working languages are Chinese and Russian, was founded in Shanghai on June 15, 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO's change of heart appears set to involve the organization in Iran's nuclear battle and other ongoing regional issues with the United States.

...

A People's Daily commentary on April 13 read: "The real intention behind the US fueling the Iran issue is to prompt the UN to impose sanctions against Iran, and to pave the way for a regime change in that country. The US's global strategy and its Iran policy emanate out of its decision to use various means, including military means, to change the Iranian regime. This is the US's set target and is at the root of the Iran nuclear issue."

...

By virtue of SCO membership, Iran can partake of the various SCO projects, which in turn means access to technology, increased investment and trade, infrastructure development such as banking, communication, etc. It would also have implications for global energy security.

...

A third aspect of the SCO decision to expand its membership involves regional integration processes. Sensing that the SCO was gaining traction, Washington had sought observer status at its summit meeting last June, but was turned down. This rebuff - along with SCO's timeline for a reduced American military presence in Central Asia, the specter of deepening Russia-China cooperation and the setbacks to US diplomacy in Central Asia as a whole - prompted a policy review in Washington.

China, Russia welcome Iran into the fold


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