The Daily Pulse, 07.13.05

Damn, woke up late, and since I actually want to turn something in this week, I’d better rush something out to you. So let me just summon and ride the whirlwind…

WHO’S RUNNING THIS SPACE PROGRAM?

From CNN:

A faulty fuel sensor aboard the space shuttle Discovery forced NASA on Wednesday to scrub its first attempt to launch a shuttle after the Columbia disaster 2 1/2 years ago.

NASA said the device was showing low fuel levels despite the exterior tank having been filled just hours before.

“It will take some time really to understand what to do to remedy the situation,” NASA said. “We haven’t ruled out tomorrow, but that’s speculative.”

The current launch window expires July 31, and the next begins in September. A Thursday launch would be at 3:28 p.m. ET.

Crew members were all aboard the orbiter when the announcement to cancel was made.

A series of mishaps marked the last 24 hours before Discovery’s scheduled launch.

Earlier Wednesday, it appeared foul weather might postpone the high-profile mission to the international space station. Filling the massive external fuel tank was delayed early in the morning while a ground heater was repaired.

On Tuesday, a cockpit window cover fell and damaged two protective tiles near the orbiter’s tail section.

But it was the fuel sensor that stopped the launch, a little more than three hours before the scheduled 3:51 p.m. launch.

The first Damn Vaninator actually had a broken fuel gauge, which I never got replaced. I ended up driving by odometer. Of course, that’s not possible with something like the space shuttle, even though it doesn’t have the misfortune of being built by Ford.

No matter how much I wanted to see this happen, and I did, NASA made a good decision. Columbia is still too fresh in the minds of a lot of people, and more importantly in the minds of a lot of people in Congress who vote for NASA’s appropriations. Another mishap, no matter how small, could shut the pipeline off from the narrow-minded individuals who don’t believe we should be going into space. No matter how many Richard Bransons there are out there, we still need government-funded space flight. We need for the ISS to be functional and running. Most of all, we need space tourism to start up soon. I was promised this as a kid, and I’m not getting any younger, dammit. I want to be up in space before I’m dead. Of course, how much I’m going to enjoy that experience with nicotine fits is conjectural.

But this series of delays should point out one things to the troglodytes in Washington: the space shuttles are old. They keep saying that jets of the space shuttles’ vintage are still flying quite well, and, in general, the shuttles work, so why replace them? Just keep refurbishing, and everything will be fine. No, it won’t. We need the next generation of shuttles, and we need them to start being built now. You want safety, and you’re going to entrust it to machines that are almost thirty years old? Give me a break.

So let’s start forking over money to those wonderful defense contractors in different areas. I’m sure that some can be found somewhere, like, for instance, supporting an immoral and interminable unjustified war.

AT LEAST THE PHONE CALLS WILL BE FREE

From CNN:

Ex-WorldCom chief executive Bernard Ebbers was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison for his role in orchestrating the biggest corporate fraud in the nation’s history.

Legal experts said the sentence, effectively a life term for the 63-year-old, is the largest ever against a high-profile CEO found guilty of committing corporate crimes.

Ebbers was convicted in March for his part in the $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom that was the biggest in a wave of corporate scandals at Enron, Adelphia and other companies.

WorldCom, now known as MCI, filed the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2002. The company’s collapse led to billions of dollars in losses for shareholders and employees.

Ebbers was convicted in March of nine felonies that carried a maximum prison term of 85 years.

Ebbers, who is appealing the conviction, had asked for leniency. His lawyers cited Ebbers’ failing health, history of community service and personal financial losses from WorldCom’s collapse warranted a lighter sentence.

Henry Bruin, a former WorldCom sales agent, disagreed. At Wednesday’s hearing, Bruin told U.S. District Court Judge Barbara Jones about how he rose through the ranks of WorldCom’s sales division only to be laid off in 2003 without notice. Bruin said he lost money, his medical benefits and is still unemployed.

“I was one of the hard-working employees at a great company that was destroyed by Bernard Ebbers,” said Bruin.

After Ebbers was sentenced Wednesday, his lawyer told reporters that Ebbers too has paid a steep price.

“He has a very serious heart condition and this trial was not helpful,” said Reid Weingarten, a partner at Steptoe & Johnson in Washington, D.C.

Judge Jones ordered Ebbers to begin serving his sentence in October.

Legal experts were not surprised by the stiff sentence. They pointed to a series of harsh punishments that have come down in recent years, including the sentences that came down last month for two former Adelphia Communications executives.

Last month John Rigas, Adelphia’s founder, and his son Timothy, the cable company’s former chief financial officer, got 15 years and 20 years, respectively.

Peter Henning, a white-collar crime expert who teaches at Wayne State University Law School, said prior to Ebbers’ sentencing that the Rigas punishments put pressure on Judge Jones to determine a sentence that fell within a general range of 20 years. Judges, he said, like to be consistent.

They also like to send clear messages, said New York defense lawyer Barry Felder.

“When it comes to issues of fraud committed by chief executive officers, judges are very emphatic in trying to set a harsh tone,” said Felder, who represented Theodore Sihpol, a former Bank of America broker who was found not guilty last month in a closely-watched criminal case over mutual fund trading practices. Felder is a partner in the law firm Brown Raysman Millstein Felder & Steiner.

Unless the court of appeals overturns his conviction or revises his sentence, federal sentencing guidelines suggest that Ebbers could serve slightly more than 21 years if prison officials determine he’s a model prisoner.

In that event, said former prosecutor John Hemann, Ebbers would likely be released several months early to serve out the remainder of his sentence in home detention or a halfway house.

Hemann said he thinks the sentence was reasonable.

“The reality is that Ebbers was the CEO of one of the biggest companies in America. The jury found that he intentionally defrauded the thousands of shareholders that owned the company and that it resulted in the biggest bankruptcy in American history,” he said.

Well, finally. One of those pus-bags got the sentence he deserved. Frankly, what Ebbers did at WorldCom would have made Ken Lay say, “Damn”. How in the name of hell do you steal a multinational telecommunications giant blind? What Ebbers and his cronies were able to siphon out of WorldCom in one day would set me up for life. Who in the name of hell needs eleven billion dollars?

It’s just staggering to think of the scale of fraud that was going on at WorldCom, and when you combine Enron and the other great frauds of our time in this, it’s almost an indictment of capitalism. Every philosopher in history has assumed that human greed has a limit. Philosophies from Christianity to Marxism are based on the innate goodness of man. This proves them wrong, as if further proof was needed.

Now, I don’t mind people making money. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m a capitalist. But what was done at WorldCom went beyond that. They violated the trust of shareholders and customers (including myself). Without that trust, the system breaks down. This sentence sent a very, very clear message to rapacious corporate chiefs everywhere: violate trust, and you spend the rest of your misbegotten life in jail. It’s a message that should reverberate in countries whose economies are less secure than the United States. Let’s hope that those countries start taking similar actions.

Ah, if only it had been done with Enron as well. That way, this country would have been spared a great deal of trauma. And speaking of the people causing that trauma…

LOOSE LIPS SINK CIA AGENTS

From the AP Wire:

President Bush said Wednesday he will withhold judgment about top aide Karl Rove’s involvement in the leaking the identity of a CIA operative until a federal criminal investigation is complete.

The lack of an endorsement surprised some Bush advisers who had expected the president to voice his support.

“This is a serious investigation,” Bush said at the end of a meeting with his Cabinet, with Rove sitting just behind him. “I will be more than happy to comment on this matter once this investigation is complete.

“I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports,” he said, when asked whether Rove acted improperly in discussing CIA officer Valerie Plame with a reporter.

Bush’s statement was a surprise for some White House advisers and senior Republicans who had expected the president to deliver a vote of confidence for Rove, his deputy chief of staff. Two Bush advisers, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt the president, said shortly before his remarks that the president intended to signal his support of Rove — without prejudging the merits of the case — during that picture-taking session.

However, the press secretary said Bush had been prepared to show his confidence in Rove but the question from reporters focused on the investigation.

However, White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush had been prepared to show his confidence in Rove but the question from reporters focused on the investigation.

Bush said last year he would fire anyone found to have leaked Plame’s identity.

Bush refused to directly answer questions about whether he had spoken to Rove about his discussion with Cooper.

In September and October 2003, McClellan said he had spoken to Rove about the Plame matter and that Rove said he wasn’t involved in the leak. McClellan refused for a third day Wednesday to discuss the denials of two years ago, saying that to do so would impinge on the ongoing criminal investigation of the leak.

Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, said Rove did not disclose Valerie Plame’s name, a point that Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, called a distinction without a difference.

“The fact that he didn’t give her name, but identified the ambassador’s wife … doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who that is,” Biden said on CNN’s “Inside Politics.” “If that occurred, at a minimum, that was incredibly bad judgment, warranting him being asked to leave.”

Sens. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, have said it is time for Rove to leave.

White House allies have weighed in, with expressions of support for Rove from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania.

Republican National Committee chairman Ken Mehlman said Tuesday that Rove was the victim of partisan political attacks by Democrats.

Oh, bullshit. Rove leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, pure and simple. I’ve avoided commenting on this one until it became absolutely clear where the illegal occupiers of the White House were going to go with this one. Simply, they’re going to try to shove it under the rug for now until the cover-up…sorry, investigation, is complete.

This is a demonstration to the moronic 51% of how the Junta works. You criticize them, and they take action against you. It doesn’t matter if it prejudices the national interest, like revealing the identity of an undercover intelligence officer. If you’re on the shit list, then you’re screwed, period. This is an alleged government that’s only in it for themselves. And yet the 51% “re”elected Dubbaya. Dear God, I hope you’re ashamed of yourselves.

And this isn’t an organization that has any shame of its own, so why should the voters who put these criminals into office be ashamed? Condi Rice lied up and down to the September 11th Commisssion, and what happened? She got SecState. Rove committed a crime by revealing Plame’s identity (no matter if he didn’t say her name; he sure as hell left enough clues as to her identity). What’s going to happen? Nothing. The “investigation” will drag on for months, if not years, until the story dies down. Dubbaya can’t be reelected anyway, so it’s irrelevant to them on how much damage was done. The jailing of Judith Miller for failing to reveal her source on her NYT story is a further demonstration of their power; they’ve already done root damage to the Constitution with the Patriot Act, so why not destroy Freedom Of The Press too?

The tactics of this right-wing fascist conspiracy masquerading as the American Government have become obvious. Why can’t the American people seem to understand that?

Hey, I had to do a full jeremiad against them sometime in this column. It’s what the readers expect.

AND THE JUNTA ALSO SPECIALIZES IN HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES AS WELL

From the AP Wire:

Military investigators said they proposed disciplining the prison commander at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, because of abusive and degrading treatment of a suspected terrorist that included forcing him to wear a bra, dance with another man and behave like a dog.

They said Wednesday they recommended that Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller be reprimanded for failing to oversee his interrogation of the prisoner, who was suspected of involvement in the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.

Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, commander of U.S. Southern Command, said he overruled their recommendation and will instead refer the matter to the Army’s inspector general. Craddock concluded that Miller did not violate any U.S. laws or policies, according to officials familiar with the report.

The chief investigator, Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall M. Schmidt, described the interrogation techniques used on Mohamed al-Qahtani, a Saudi who was captured in December 2001 along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Schmidt said that to get him to talk, interrogators told him his mother and sisters were whores, forced him to wear a bra, forced him to wear a thong on his head, told him he was homosexual and said that othe
r prisoners knew it. They also forced him to dance with a male interrogator, Schmidt added, and subjected him to strip searches with no security value, threatened him with dogs, forced him to stand naked in front of women and forced him onto a leash, to act like a dog.

Still, he said, “No torture occurred.”

So exactly what do you call this? A bit of harmless fun? And before any idiot out there says, “Well, he’s a terrorist. He deserves it.”, put yourself into that guy’s shoes. Would you want that done to you?

“It is clear from the report that detainee mistreatment was not simply the product of a few rogue military police in a night shift,” said Carl Levin of Michigan, the top Democrat on the committee.

Bush administration officials have sought to portray the excesses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq as just that.

Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Virginia, said investigators found only three instances, out of thousands of interrogations, where military personnel violated Army policy. He did not immediately describe those incidents.

Investigators determined that interrogators violated the Geneva Conventions and Army regulations three times. It was unclear from the aide’s description what those instances were.

Three times is three times too many. As I’ve said before, we’re supposed to be the Good Guys. We don’t violate the Geneva Convention. And, guess what, my former employer, the US Army, is going to let the perpetrators get away with it. And someone who has a lot of power is calling them out on it:

“I am deeply concerned about the failure — indeed, outright refusal — of our military and civilian leaders to hold higher ups accountable for the repeated and reports of abuse and torture of the prisoners at Guantanamo,” said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts.

Okay, it’s Teddy, so it doesn’t help my side, but give him credit for saying it.

Here are some of the other salacious details of what “our boys and girls” did:

A female interrogator in one case smeared what she described as menstrual blood — it was fake — on a prisoner, but they recommended no further action on the allegation because it happened some time ago. The woman was disciplined, investigators said.

A Navy officer threatened one high-value prisoner by saying he would go after his family. This was in violation of U.S. military law, the investigation found.

Military interrogators impersonated FBI and State Department agents. This practice was stopped after the FBI complained.

Interrogators improperly used duct tape on a detainee. An FBI agent said a prisoner was bound on the head with duct tape, his mouth covered, because he was chanting verses from the Quran, the Muslim holy book.

Interrogators used cold, heat, loud music and sleep deprivation on prisoners to break their will to resist interrogation. These techniques were approved at certain times at Guantanamo.

Chaining a detainee to the floor in a fetal position was not authorized; however, the investigation could not confirm an FBI agent’s allegation that detainees were left in this position for long periods.

What interesting things they teach in MP school these days, huh? I wonder how much time is spent on human rights in those classes. An hour, perhaps? Jeez, we preventive medicine technicians got two weeks on venereal diseases.

The fact is this: American military personnel, who are trained better than this, committed barbarous acts, and those acts have been tacitly approved by their higher-ups and by the Junta. The only time action has been taken against this practice is when they’ve been caught (another old Army tradition). We’re just as bad as “they” are, people. You have to admit it.

And you wonder why I’m considering leaving this country.

I think I’ll close it off. I know, it’s a sort of blow-off, and I didn’t deal with, oh, the NHL reaching a tentative labor agreement or the Sixth Sign Of The Anti-Christ, otherwise known as the new Harry Potter book (no, no spoilers this time; my ass is still hurting two years later after I mentioned the character who died in the last one). However, I got my spleen vented, and at least it’s still Wednesday. I’ll be back with the Short Form over the weekend, and maybe contribute to the TNA round-table as well. Until then, dress up like a woman and call yourself gay.