Konformist: KN4M 08-20-04

Submitted by Editor on Sat, 21/08/2004 - 22:29

* September Surprise
* Russians add new twist to old UFO myth
* Dick Cheney, Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton's Band


August 21, 2004

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September Surprise

By Bob Harris,

August 12, 2004

The Department of Homeland Security issued an official press release on August 10 that announces September as National Preparedness Month. The timing is probably just a coincidence. But wait, the "official" announcement is on September 9th.


Why September 9th? That's awfully late if it's supposed to be the entire month. My guess, thinking like Karl Rove: This year's 9/11 anniversary falls on a Saturday, so an announcement on that date or even Friday would only get a burst of free media on a weekend. But by timing it for the 6:00 p.m. news on Thursday, it will reach the Friday papers and thus be fully injected into all of the emotion-laden anniversary coverage, plus the Sunday morning talk shows.

The idea, obviously, is to throw a large amount of focus, possibly for weeks on end, on the only issue on which Bush outpolls Kerry. And of course this will come on the heels of the GOP convention. So where the Democrats' post-convention media got blitzed with terror warnings based on years-old intelligence, the Republicans' afterglow might well be favorably extended, implied message being:

"Why, with George Bush and enough shovels, we'll all be just fine."

And what else is going on during National Security Month? The "America Prepared Campaign" has a downloadable .pdf calendar of events. Let's see what's going on.

The very first scheduled event is an August 30 "preparedness quiz" in Parade magazine, coinciding with the kickoff of the GOP convention.

(Parade, incidentally, is a flag-waving Sunday supplement to over 340 newspapers, with a readership of (seriously) almost eighty million people; purchasing a full page costs over $800,000. How nice that they're plugging the GOP's key issue on the opening day of the convention, probably with a cover story, free of charge... sweeet deal.)

Other September Surprises: a whole "educate the family" campaign, with kits available at various retailers; an in-school "Ready Deputy" duck-and-cover training program; and a website called Readykids.gov (not yet online), all launched in the first week.

Brilliance. Tie the concept of Bush's only winning issue to family and children. Unspoken, deniable implication: "Vote for Bush if you want your kids to live." Nice.

On the 7th, there's another newspaper supplement, then there's the official announcement on the 9th. Look for Tom Ridge, possibly flanked by tremulous herds of frightened waifs, sometime around noon EST.

On 9/11 itself, there's a "NASCAR race in Richmond" listed. This would be the "Chevy Rock 'N' Roll 400" at the Richmond International Raceway. Obviously, a NASCAR race has nothing - nothing - whatsoever to do with homeland security. It is, however, a GOP-friendly event in Virginia, a battleground state where Bush's lead is within the margin of error.

Hmm. There are two other NASCAR races in September: one in New Hampshire, the other in Delaware. Both are solidly in the Kerry camp. And, gosh, nothing is scheduled. Apparently non-swing state voters just don't need to be quite so, ahem, "prepared."

If we don't see "preparedness" rallies at the other two races - and they ain't scheduled, folks - that certainly suggests Bush Co. are using fear as a political tool.

This is transparently a continuation of the Bush campaign by other means, financed with everyone's tax dollars, out of funds that could be used, say, to hire more actual first-responders, Pushtun translators, or troops to replace the exhausted guardsmen.

Bush should be called out on this - now - by journalists, by the Kerry campaign, and by everyone who prefers actual security over campaign propaganda.

My tipster in Washington said something I want to share: "Those of us who actually work on this sort of thing, in addition to wondering what the other 35 months since 9/11 have been, are of course not thrilled that this is so obviously being politicized."

It's three years after 9/11, and less than three months before an election. Now we get a National Preparedness Month.

And yes, let's ask Bush and Tom Ridge the simple question: What the hell do you people think the previous 35 months were?

USA Today asked Sec. Ridge about National Preparedness Month in an interview on August 10:

USA Today: Talking about politics, some might wonder why you've designated next month as "National Preparedness Month" so close to the elections?

Ridge: I'm going to dismiss that conclusion. We can't stop doing what we think we need to get done because we're holding an election. People can look at it through a political prism. But if we say we're not going to do anything else for the balance of the year because people may interpret it as being politically motivated, it's just not the approach we're prepared to take.

We said toward the end of last year that one of our public goals is to get 50% of Americans involved in some form of preparedness. And we began almost a year ago with an annual preparedness effort. We worked exclusively with the Ad Council. You remember those black-and-white ads with the burly firemen talking to America about being prepared? Well, we got pretty good results from that. The polls say that 40% of the families in America have taken some step in embracing a preparedness kit and making a communication plan.

But clearly we need to do much more. So we decided in our second year to be much more aggressive. With this campaign, the focus is on kids, and a good time to focus on kids is September, not June, July, August. We'll deal with whatever commentary is forthcoming with whatever we do.

Ridge says this is not a political - much less - partisan enterprise, but he's targeting the self-avowedly pro-Christian, pro-family, pro-business GOP base: the groups they've signed up to participate are really quite telling. Look at the list. You'll find the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, something called "The National Fatherhood Initiative" (which, one presumes, is courageously taking on the powerful anti-fatherhood lobby), the American Legion, the VFW, the USO, the Points of Light Foundation, and a whole slew of various military, religious, law enforcement, and business lobbying organizations.

Aside from the obvious inclusion of emergency health organizations like the Red Cross, there are only a handful of other listings (the DC Metro Transit Authority, for example). And while many of these groups are expressly conservative, you won't find a single group - not one - with a progressive agenda. Not one. Was the ACLU involved, to make sure that our civil liberties are factored into emergency discussions? Nope. Obviously, that's not part of the equation here.

This is, in short, a deeply politicized, partisan, Republican deal. On its face.

What troubles me most of all, really, is the one other set of groups pledged as active participants - the media, in the form of the Ad Council, the NAB, the Outdoor Advertising Association, and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

...and then the deluge.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

This article has been adapted from an entry on This Modern World.




JULY 27, 2004


Last week, USA Today reported a joint effort between Qualcomm and American Airlines' to allow passengers to make cellphone calls from aircraft in flight. According to the story, the satellite-based system employs a "Pico cell" to act as a small cellular tower.

"It worked great," gushed Monte Ford, American Airline's chief information officer. "I called the office. I called my wife. I called a friend in Paris. They all heard me great, and I could hear them loud and clear."

Before this new "Pico cell," it was nigh on impossible to make a call from a passenger aircraft in flight. Connection is impossible at altitudes over 8000 feet or speeds in excess of 230 mph.

Yet despite this, passengers Todd Beamer, Mark Bingham, Jeremy Glick and Edward Felt all managed to place calls from Flight 93 on the morning of September 11. Peter Hanson, en route to Disneyland with his wife and daughter, phoned his dad from Flight 175. Madeline Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant, made a very dramatic call from Flight 11 as it sped to the North Tower. Barbara Olson made two calls, collect, to her husband at his government office from Flight 77 as it made its way to the Pentagon.

Each call was initially reported as coming from a cellphone. Later, when skepticism reared its ugly head and the Grassy Knollers arrived, the narrative became fuzzy; it was suggested that $10-a-minute Airfones were involved. Olson was an easy candidate for Airfone (one doesn't call collect from a cell), but as the stories developed, Olson - and Felt - were said to have called from inside locked lavatories. No Airfone there.

In the very near future, numerous technological miracles and wonders will rise up out of the ashes of that terrible day, much the way the space program supposedly gave us Tang and Velcro. Satam Al-Suqami's indestructible passport, for one, is currently under the microscope in the Reverse Engineering Department at Area 51. My old passport was falling apart when I finally replaced it last year, just from spending 10 years in my pocket. His survived the destruction of the World Trade Center. I want one of those.

Likewise, professional bowlers could benefit from inquiries into whatever physical force brought about the collapse of WTC 7. And as a frequent flyer who finds long-term parking difficult and expensive, I'd like to know by what mechanism Mohammed Atta got to Portland, ME, where he was videotaped boarding a flight to Logan Airport in Boston. His rental car was found at Logan.

And last but not least, every suburban homeowner will want the miraculous PentaGrass. Whatever that lawn at the Pentagon is made out of, it sure is amazing stuff - it resists and repels fire, explosion, skid marks, aircraft debris, jet fuel, luggage and body parts. Shit from your neighbor's dog won't stand a chance!

Who would've thought there'd be a silver lining even in the debris cloud made that Tuesday morning?

Volume 17, Issue 30


Russians add new twist to old UFO myth
Tale of 1908 Tunguska explosion gets even more tangled

By James Oberg
NBC News space analyst
Special to MSNBC

Aug. 12, 2004

HOUSTON - A flurry of reports from Russia about the discovery of fragments of an alien spaceship at the site of the 1908 Tunguska explosion may be nothing more than wish fulfillment by devotees of a half-century-old Russian space myth, or they may actually have been based on genuine spacecraft fragments - but of Russian origin.

Either way, or even in the highly unlikely event the reports turn out to be credible, these stories reflect the way the century-old Tunguska blast continues to resonate in the human psyche.

Expedition leader Yuri Lavbin prefers the alien technology interpretation. That's the theory he admits he started with, even before he got to the area. But other space experts have pointed out that the region is a drop zone for discarded rocket stages launched into space from Russia's Baikonur base, and in fact was the crash site of one prototype manned space capsule at the very dawn of the space age.

On June 30, 1908, residents of southern Siberia spotted a dazzling fireball crossing the sky, followed by a flare brighter than the sun. Minutes later, a shock wave knocked many of those residents off their feet. When later expeditions reached the nearly inaccessible swamps where the explosion had occurred, they found trees flattened down in a pattern pointing away from ground zero - but no crater, and no meteorite fragments.

The first Soviet expedition was sent to the site in 1927, in hopes of finding metallic ore. Although a series of natural theories followed over the years, a Russian scientist and science-fiction author who visited Hiroshima in late 1945 postulated that the Tunguska blast, too, must have been nuclear in nature - and hence, the result of a visit by space aliens.

But Dutch space historian Geert Sassen suggests an earthly origin for the space fragments reportedly just found, and they could well have no connection with the 1908 event. "They might have found some parts of the fifth Vostok test flight," he told associates via e-mail.

Sassen was referring to a flight on Dec. 22, 1960, meant to carry two dogs into space. According to "Challenge to Apollo," NASA's definitive history of the space race, "the payload landed about 3,500 kilometers downrange from the launch site in one of the most remote and inaccessible areas of Siberia, in the region of the Podkamennaya Tunguska River close to the impact point of the famed Tunguska meteorite."

A team of space engineers located the capsule, disarmed the destruct system, and rescued the canine passengers.

Natural explanations

Initially, astronomers were attracted to the idea that the object had been a comet nucleus, to account for the explosion when it slammed into the atmosphere. They toyed with other theories, including proposals involving antimatter and "mini-black holes," but for many years there were no reliable theories on what happens when large objects hit Earth's atmosphere.

That changed in the 1980s, as observations of artificial and natural fireballs expanded, along with the power of computer simulations.

"When the first modern models for atmospheric impacts were published in 1993," NASA asteroid expert David Morrison said, "it became clear that this was a stony body." He suggested that it was "somewhere between an ordinary chondrite and a carbonaceous chondrite in physical properties."

It couldn't have been a "dirty snowball" - that is, a light, fluffy comet, he continued. "In contrast, cometary objects with this mass, of low density and/or icy composition, would explode tens of kilometers above the surface and cause no harm." We know this now because Pentagon satellites have actually been observing such explosions for several decades.

Unfortunately, Morrison adds, "the old comet theory persists out of inertia." As to current scientific thinking, he says "Tunguska was very likely a stony object about 60 meters [196 feet] in diameter that disintegrated explosively at an altitude of approximately 8 kilometers [5 miles]."

UFO versions

It didn't do the new Russian UFO story's credibility much good that it first appeared on the pages of the newspaper Pravda on Tuesday. In Soviet days, Pravda was the propaganda arm of the Soviet Communist Party, but under new management, it became a tabloid-style scandal sheet with a special penchant for wild paranormal tales.

"Explorers believe they have discovered blocks of an extraterrestrial technical device," the article stated, adding that they assumed it was the one that had crashed in 1908. After dismissing a century's worth of scientific investigation into natural theories for the H-bomb-sized explosion, the article concluded: "The only real explanation can be linked with powerful electromagnetic phenomena," presumably of artificial origin.

The head of the expedition, Yuri Lavbin, told journalists that his team had concluded that the object moved from west to east, not from southeast, on its approach to the explosion zone. Using satellite photographs, he identified search areas near the town of Poligus, and that is where he located the metal fragment.

Lavbin reported that he knew all along that the crash had been caused by a UFO, and that his expedition had been organized to find the proof. In his scenario, there was a natural object that threatened to destroy Earth, but aliens intervened to save our planet.

"I am fully confident and I can make an official statement that we were saved by some forces of a superior civilization," he explained. "They exploded this enormous meteorite that headed toward us with enormous speed."

Photographs of the fragments may become available in the near future, as well as the results of laboratory testing. This would help differentiate something truly alien from the space debris that the Russians have been scattering across the Tunguska region for the last 50 years.

History of a mystery

Sassen's suggestion that the mysterious "space fragment" found in the Tunguska area is more likely to be of Russian origin than Martian origin is supported by decades of history during which the Soviet government tolerated public interest in UFOs as a way of camouflaging actual space and missile events. Many of the most famous Soviet UFO stories that are still promoted in Western books and on Internet sites have been traced back to original - but highly classified - military space missions.

The most spectacular Soviet "UFO wave" in history occurred over the southern part of the country in 1967 and 1968, when crescent-shaped giant spaceships were reported flying across the skies. Endorsed as "unexplainable" by top Russian scientists, the widely witnessed apparitions turned out to be secret tests of Soviet thermonuclear warheads diving back from orbit.

In 1978, the smoking gun of Soviet ufology was a "jellyfish" UFO that drifted through the skies of northwest Russia, zapping computers and panicking predawn witnesses. It turned out to be the contrails from a rocket carrying a spy satellite from a secret space base. A similar secret launch in September 1984, seen by the crews and passengers of several commercial airliners, sparked stories of death rays and alien attacks.

At the time, Moscow officials denied that such space and missile events were occurring - and some were borderline violations of arms control treaties. Thus, it was convenient to have an explanation for ordinary people who saw them in the skies and wondered what they could have been. So for a generation of Russians, "alien visitors" became the explanation of choice for unusual lights in the sky.

NBC News space analyst James Oberg spent 22 years at NASA's Johnson Space Center as a Mission Control operator and an orbital designer. He is the author of several books on UFOs as well as the Soviet space effort, including "UFOs and Outer Space Mysteries" and "Uncovering Soviet Disasters."


Dick Cheney, Hugo Chavez and Bill Clinton's Band
Why Venezuelans have voted again for their 'negro e indio' president

By Greg Palast
Online Journal Guest Writer

August 16, 2004 - There's so much BS and baloney thrown around about Venezuela that I may be violating some rule of US journalism by providing some facts. Let's begin with this: 77 percent of Venezuela's farmland is owned by 3 percent of the population, the 'hacendados.'

I met one of these farmlords in Caracas at an anti-Chavez protest march. Oddest demonstration I've ever seen: frosted blondes in high heels clutching designer bags, screeching, "Chavez - dic-ta-dor!" The plantation owner griped about the "socialismo" of Chavez, then jumped into his Jaguar convertible.

That week, Chavez himself handed me a copy of the "socialist" manifesto that so rattled the man in the Jag. It was a new law passed by Venezuela's Congress which gave land to the landless. The Chavez law transferred only fields from the giant haciendas which had been left unused and abandoned.

This land reform, by the way, was promoted to Venezuela in the 1960s by that Lefty radical, John F. Kennedy. Venezuela's dictator of the time agreed to hand out land, but forgot to give peasants title to their property.

But Chavez won't forget, because the mirror reminds him. What the affable president sees in his reflection, beyond the ribbons of office, is a "negro e indio" - a "Black and Indian" man, dark as a cola nut, same as the landless and, until now, the hopeless. For the first time in Venezuela's history, the 80 percent Black-Indian population elected a man with skin darker than the man in the Jaguar.

So why, with a huge majority of the electorate behind him, twice in elections and today with a nearly two-to-one landslide victory in a recall referendum, is Hugo Chavez in hot water with our democracy-promoting White House?

Maybe it's the oil. Lots of it. Chavez sits atop a reserve of crude that rivals Iraq's. And it's not his presidency of Venezuela that drives the White House bananas, it was his presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. While in control of the OPEC secretariat, Chavez cut a deal with our maximum leader of the time, Bill Clinton, on the price of oil. It was a 'Goldilocks' plan. The price would not be too low, not too high; just right, kept between $20 and $30 a barrel.

But Dick Cheney does not like Clinton nor Chavez nor their band. To him, the oil industry's (and Saudi Arabia's) freedom to set oil prices is as sacred as freedom of speech is to the ACLU. I got this info, by the way, from three top oil industry lobbyists.

Why should Chavez worry about what Dick thinks? Because, said one of the oilmen, the Veep in his bunker, not the pretzel-chewer in the White House, "runs energy policy in the United States."

And what seems to have gotten our Veep's knickers in a twist is not the price of oil, but who keeps the loot from the current band-busting spurt in prices. Chavez had his Congress pass another oil law, the "Law of Hydrocarbons," which changes the split. Right now, the oil majors - like PhillipsConoco - keep 84 percent of the proceeds of the sale of Venezuela oil; the nation gets only 16 percent.

Chavez wanted to double his treasury's take to 30 percent. And for good reason. Landless, hungry peasants have, over decades, drifted into Caracas and other cities, building million-person ghettos of cardboard shacks and open sewers. Chavez promised to do something about that.

And he did. "Chavez gives them bread and bricks," one Venezuelan TV reporter told me. The blonde TV newscaster, in the middle of a publicity shoot, said the words "pany ladrillos" with disdain, making it clear that she never touched bricks and certainly never waited in a bread line.

But to feed and house the darker folk in those bread and brick lines, Chavez would need funds, and the 16 percent slice of the oil pie wouldn't do it. So the president of Venezuela demanded 30 percent, leaving Big Oil only 70 percent. Suddenly, Bill Clinton's ally in Caracas became Mr. Cheney's - and therefore, Mr. Bush's - enemy.

So began the Bush-Cheney campaign to "Floridate" the will of the Venezuela electorate. It didn't matter that Chavez had twice won election. Winning most of the votes, said a White House spokesman, did not make Chavez' government "legitimate." Hmmm. Secret contracts were awarded by our Homeland Security spooks to steal official Venezuela voter lists. Cash passed discreetly from the US taxpayer, via the so-called 'Endowment for Democracy,' to the Chavez-haters running today's "recall" election.

A brilliant campaign of placing stories about Chavez' supposed unpopularity and "dictatorial" manner seized US news and op-ed pages, ranging from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times.

But some facts just can't be smothered in propaganda ink. While George Bush can appoint the government of Iraq and call it "sovereign," the government of Venezuela is appointed by its people. And the fact is that most people in this slum-choked land don't drive Jaguars or have their hair tinted in Miami. Most look in the mirror and see someone "negro e indio," as dark as their President Hugo.

The official CIA handbook on Venezuela says that half the nation's farmers own only 1 percent of the land. They are the lucky ones, as other peasants owned nothing. That is, until their man Chavez took office. Even under Chavez, land redistribution remains more a promise than an accomplishment. But today, the landless and homeless voted their hopes, knowing that their man may not, against the armed axis of local oligarchs and Dick Cheney, succeed for them. But they are convinced he would never forget them.

And that's a fact.

Greg Palast's reports from Venezuela for BBC Television's Newsnight and the Guardian papers of Britain earned a California State University Journalism School "Project Censored" award for 2002.

View photos and Palast's reports on Venezuela at GregPalast.com.

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