Archive for August, 2003

blanket immunity for US corporations in Iraq

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Holy Crap, how did I miss this story. Thanks Horst. Read this carefully.

“According to the order, ‘any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void, with respect to the following:

(a) the Development Fund for Iraq and

(b) all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons.’

The order defines ‘persons’ to include corporations, and covers ‘any petroleum, petroleum products or natural gas originating in Iraq, including any Iraqi-origin oil inventories, wherever located.’”

“The Iraqi resolution halted the immunity to the point of sale. Once the oil is sold, the revenues are there for the development fund’s Coffers. Bush went further, he went through the whole lifetime of that oil, once the title passes hands, it’s still immune, as long as it’s handled by U.S. corporations. So once it’s on a tanker, once in the U.S. marketplace, once it’s at the gas pump, it’s still immune from any kind of accountability for anything that happens associated with the handling of that oil.”

The story appears to originate from an LA Times article by Lisa Girion. She notes:

An executive order signed by President Bush more than two months ago is raising concerns that U.S. oil companies may have been handed blanket immunity from lawsuits and criminal prosecution in connection with the sale of Iraqi oil.

The Bush administration said Wednesday that the immunity wouldn’t be nearly so broad.

But lawyers for various advocacy organizations said the two-page executive order seemed to completely shield oil companies from liability — even if it could be proved that they had committed human rights violations, bribed officials or caused great environmental damage in the course of their Iraqi-related business.

“As written, the executive order appears to cancel the rule of law for the oil industry or anyone else who gets possession or control of Iraqi oil or anything of value related to Iraqi oil,” said Tom Devine, legal director for the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit group that defends whistle-blowers.

Taylor Griffin, a Treasury Department spokesman, dismissed that interpretation, saying the president issued Executive Order 13303 to protect proceeds from the sale of Iraqi crude oil, which are supposed to go into a special fund that the United Nations set up in May to help rebuild the war-torn country.

“This does not protect the companies’ money,” Griffin said. “It protects the Iraqi people’s money.”

I just can’t believe that position.

US used napalm-like bombs

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Very interesting story, and the quotes are quite….strange. [via Horst]

US forces used napalm-like MK-77 firebombs against Iraqi forces in their drive toward Baghdad last spring, a Pentagon official confirmed on Thursday, defending their use as legal and necessary.

US marine corps jets dropped the firebombs at least once in March to take out Iraqi positions at the town of Safwan just across the Kuwait border from the US-led invasion force, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“It is like this: you’ve got enemy that’s hard to get at. And it will save your own lives to use it, and there is no international contraventions against it,” the official said. “I don’t know that there is any humane way to kill your enemy.”

Marines used the napalm-like bombs on at least two other occasions during the drive to Baghdad – against Iraqis defending a bridge across the Saddam Canal and near a Tigris river bridge north of the town of Numaniyah in south central Iraq, the San Diego Tribune reported on Tuesday.

“We napalmed both those (bridge) approaches,” Colonel Randolph Alles, the commander of Marine Air Group 11, was quoted as telling the newspaper. “Unfortunately, there were people there because you could see them in the (cockpit) video.

“They were Iraqi soldiers there. It’s no great way to die,” he said.

The MK-77 are filled with a different mix of incendiary chemicals than napalm, but have the same terrifying effect, a penetrating fire that seeps into dug-in infantry positions.

“The generals love napalm,” Alles was quoted as saying. “It has a big psychological effect.”

The US military destroyed its stock of napalm bombs in 2001 because they were deemed an environmental hazard.

You have go to like that Colonel. “The Generals love napalm”.

BloggerCon

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Deb is back and points to:

Dave Winer’s organizing BloggerCon 2003 at Harvard on October 4. I’d love to attend but the $500 is about ten times my conference budget these days. Should be fabulous, so I encourage fellow bloggers to show up in force.

Myself and Bernie discussed going, but I doubt I will be able to make it. Anybody want to donate some money towards the trip? LOL.

Participatory Journalism

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Dan points to interesting series of articles on the benefits journalism may gain from blogging.

I remember Stephen Pollard making similar observations at the weblog seminar in Westminster. Ideas and written pieces can be published online and vetted by readers before going to print, blogging helps the journalism process. I love it.

Bush backs Arnie

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

George Bush has said of Arnie “I think he’d be a good governor”.

Watching the Running Man being interviewed I find that I like his style. I think he will be elected. And I’d vote for him.

Enlarging spam

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

God help us and save us. [via Bernie]

Why do your inboxes get full of spam, asking you if you want a drug to enlarge your penis? Because it works.

Thousands of dumbasses fall for it, and send off money only to receive a dud product or no product at all.

An order log left exposed at one of Amazing Internet Products’ websites revealed that, over a four-week period, some 6,000 people responded to e-mail ads and placed orders for the company’s Pinacle herbal supplement. Most customers ordered two bottles of the pills at a price of $50 per bottle.
Do the math and you begin to understand why spammers are willing to put up with the wrath of spam recipients, Internet service providers and federal regulators.

Since July 4, Amazing Internet Products would have grossed more than half a million dollars from Goringly.biz, one of several sites operated by the company to hawk its penis pills.

Is it more dumb people, or smart companies?

Irish blog meet

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Karlin is hoping to get the Irish bloggers together again for some beers. I guess I don’t really count since I am now an ex-pat(rick), but I would love to attend. I think it might conflict with my trip to Paris.

Give the UN a real force

Saturday, August 9th, 2003

Brian Urquhart calls for the UN to be given real military force.

But in the age of humanitarian intervention, the human catastrophes of failed states and civil wars will continue to come before the Security Council. If UN members can no longer urgently provide the necessary peacekeeping troops to moderate desperate, if politically insignificant, situations, some alternative must be found – unless of course, its members were to conclude that the Security Council has no responsibility in such matters.

Everyone involved, including the United States, has now expressed remorse for the failure to stop the Rwanda genocide nine years ago. How many more human disasters will fester and multiply before an effective means of international intervention is found? From a purely practical point of view, a highly trained rapid reaction force, permanently at the disposal of the Security Council, would be the most efficient way of spearheading international efforts to deal with the Liberias of the future. Even to mention this idea is heresy in some circles in Washington, and it is disliked by some governments, but amid the desperate appeals for help from victims of anarchy and civil war, surely it deserves renewed consideration.

I am inclined to agree, at least in theory, but if humans stop going to war will we cease to be human?

America and the UN, together again?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2003

The rebuilding of Iraq is exposing an interesting rift on the political right: Is “unilateralism” a matter of expediency or theology?

The United States is finding itself short of soldiers and money as it tries to bring democracy and stability to Iraq. It has deployed nearly 150,000 soldiers, many of whom have been there since last year, and some are openly grumbling that they want to go home. But given the demands of deployments in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, South Korea and elsewhere, there are few if any replacement units available.

There is also not much money available to cover reconstruction efforts that will probably cost more than $100 billion. With the United States spending almost $4 billion a month on its Iraqi military operations, and with this year’s budget deficit ballooning to more than $450 billion, neither the Bush administration nor Congress is eager to tap the Treasury for more reconstruction aid. Yet only $2.5 billion has been appropriated so far – a grossly inadequate amount.

The White House would love to get more help, financial and military, from America’s allies, but so far they are coming up with only a pittance. There are just 13,000 non-American soldiers in Iraq, most of them British. A Polish-led polyglot division of 9,000 more is set to arrive in September. But potential major contributors like Egypt, Germany, India, Pakistan, Russia and Turkey – to say nothing of France – have hinted they would help only if the occupation carried more of a United Nations imprimatur.

Are they serious? Who knows? But there’s no harm in testing their sincerity. If another UN resolution could reduce the strain on U.S. forces and wallets, why not seek it? The United States has worked well with the United Nations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and many other places. Why not in Iraq?

The only serious argument against the idea is that the occupation would be hindered by having to deal with tangled lines of authority and conflicting agendas. This is a legitimate worry, but it’s hard to believe that administrative efficiency is such an overwhelming consideration when you consider that the Polish-led division will field troops from more than a dozen countries. The Spanish will speak English with the Poles, who will speak Russian with the Ukrainians. (What language will they use with the Mongolians?)

A UN presence might entail some loss of U.S. control, but the U.S. viceroy, L. Paul Bremer, is already ceding power to a local governing council. And the vast bulk of military forces would still be from America – at the end of the day, it would still call the shots. Another Security Council resolution would change the perception of U.S. dominance more than the reality.

Yet there are many on the right who would rather vote for Howard Dean than come crawling back to the United Nations. Even many reasonable conservatives fear that any accommodation of Secretary-General Kofi Annan is unwarranted.

It is easy to see why conservatives are suspicious of the United Nations. Any organization whose human rights commission could be headed by Libya hardly deserves the adulation that it receives in some quarters. America will never cede to the Security Council the exclusive authority to make decisions of war or peace. Nor would any other major nation.

There was nothing wrong with President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq without UN blessing. President Bill Clinton and NATO did the same thing in Kosovo in 1999. The issue of whether to involve the United Nations in a particular problem should be based on pragmatic considerations: Does it help or hurt in achieving America’s foreign policy objectives?

Unfortunately, an excess of emotion in American politics has long made it hard to think rationally about this issue. Many on the left automatically assume that the United Nations is always the solution, while many on the right make the equally knee-jerk assumption that it is always the problem.

The reality is that the United Nations, while hardly a panacea, has its uses, especially in a place like Liberia where America has no intention of taking on the long-term task of nation-building. It’s too soon to know whether Iraq falls into this category. Much will depend on negotiations over what form an additional Security Council resolution might take. But conservatives shouldn’t try to short-circuit this process by ruling out UN involvement no matter what.

The primary objective should be to help Iraq and help America, not to hurt the United Nations.

The writer is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of “The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power.” A pragmatic alliance

Who are you calling evil?

Sunday, August 3rd, 2003

Janet Dubé on religion, and prayer in US politics

In President Bush’s now notorious phrase “axis of evil”, it is obviously the word evil that suggests he was using a religious idea for political purposes. Axis has scientific meanings in a way evil cannot. Some meanings of axis suggest the phrase axis of evil is nonsense: others amplify its vague menace.

But it is not just because they’re politicians that many find the idea of Bush and Blair in private prayer creepy or frightening. It is because they have power and we don’t want a holy war. Use religious language to pray for reconciliation, forgiveness and peace says Professor Pagels, and keep political discourse open to everyone

Danube is flowing into a new Europe

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

Richard Berstein from the NY Times has a good article in the IHT today. He talks about the river Danube, its history and the history associated with it.

I do see one small error in his piece. Well its actually a big error, and one I wouldn’t expect to see in the Herald Tribune.

After all, Romania, where the Danube empties into the Black Sea, not far from the border of Ukraine, is to become a full-fledged member of the European Union next year. The same is true of other countries along the eastern sections of the Danube: Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria. That may be of overriding importance to the future symbolism of the Danube.

In fact, Romania will not join the EU in 2004. More likely in 2007/8.

US government warns of imminent net attack

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

Interesting that the Microsoft website was taken down just as these warnings were going out.

US government computer experts have warned that hackers may be preparing a large-scale coordinated attack. This could involve the release of a virulent type of internet worm or use thousands of enslaved personal computers to bring down websites.

Hackers turn to Google to find weakest links

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

Computer hackers have adopted a startling strategy in their attempts to break into websites. By using the popular search engine Google, they do not have to visit a site to plan an attack. Instead, they can get all the information they need from Google’s cached versions of web pages, say experts in the US.

One way that hackers can break into a website is by hunting for private pages that contain the usernames and passwords required to access secure parts of the site. These pages are usually hidden from the casual browser because there are no hyperlinks to them on the web.

Coming Clean 2: Monaghan and Iraq

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

Seems that P45 have come clean on that Iraq-Monaghan similarity story. They managed to fool even the British Broadcasting Corporation and the almost always accurate Register.

Not alone that, they have also come clean on many other stories following a piece on Irish radio show, 5-7 live.

Well done lads! Darn those lazy reporters

God I read that Berlusconi story in the Irish Independent and it was given a fair amount of coverage! LOL

There’s Money Afoot!

Saturday, August 2nd, 2003

Ryan’s unique blog is worth a look on a regular basis. He is a good friend of mine from Cork. This week he looks forward to the return to school. I bet he never thought he would be looking forward to going back!