I am the best man in the world, and yet I have already killed three men

I found this piece via The Reality-Based Community, SWIFT and Europe

European citizens are unlikely to be any happier about foreign authorities going through their financial information than US citizens would be under similar circumstances. Hostile newspaper stories are already beginning to bubble up (e.g. this one from the front page of today’s Irish Times). Even if EU member states have (as is entirely possible) known about the SWIFT arrangement and turned a blind eye, it’s going to be very hard for them to come out and justify it in public.

So while it may be that the way Bush/CIA is using SWIFT may be legal ( disregarding for the moment the constitutional issues involved in not having Congressional oversight) according to U.S. law, the EU may see it differently. Certainly there will be those back water conservatives that could care less what the Europeans think, but the two thousand dollar suit conservatives who do business with the EU are probably not thrilled at any action taken by Bush that may dampen business relationships. Some may be shaking their heads now wondering why Bush didn’t put his all his ducks in a row by checking with the individual European interests that might be effected. Bush’s arrogance has again further isolated us from our most reliable partners in fighting terrorism. The EU, being closer to the threats posed by terrorism has a bigger stake in fighting terrorism then the U.S. so it doesn’t seem that it would be in our best interests to alienate people that we rely on for intelligence and strategic cooperation anymore then we already have. People in Europe do vote and have plenty of experience dealing with governments that claim to be taking away civil liberties in the name of security. Some lowly adviser somewhere in the basement of the State Department or elsewhere probably mentioned this and was ignored, as all advisers are in the Bush administration when they do not tell Sir George and Sir Dick what they want to hear. Like much of what Bush does within his inflatable wall of self delusion, with the usual smattering of applause from the wing-nut cheer-leading squad, is erect multiple obstacles to fighting terrorism for every one that he takes down. The conservative movement seems to really enjoy the idea that Bush has done more to extend the battle against terrorism then to shorten it. The whole wobbly Bush stage production, cheap seats, smoke and  mirrors is the porn of choice for those that think wistfully of the end-times. Every Bush screw-up is really a victory for conservatives, it extends for some indefinite time their theme song “Keep us in Power or Die”. Bill Clinton’s eight years of relative peace and prosperity is something that they hope people will forget in light of the threat of imminent death – the only thing that conservatives have to fear is that people will stop being afraid – from which only the big Daddy of conservatism can save us, while with boring predictability yet another misbegotten plan gets us deeper into the tar pit. Much easier to attack the press which only rolls over like an obedient little puppy for conservatives most of the time.

update: As the sheep herd of conservatism runs around assuring everyone that once again the world is coming to an end because one of Bush’s pet programs has been revealed by the big bad liberal press, remember that the Bush administration revealed that they were watching bank activities back in 2002, Bank-tapping: What’s the big deal?

Repeatedly since 9/11 a barrage of Bush administration press releases, speeches and congressional testimony heralded its aggressive works to target terrorist finances around the world. In a June 2002 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Deputy Treasury Secretary Kenneth W. Dam boasted that the United States was working with private-sector partners internationally on “developing monitoring systems” of bank accounts, noting that such cooperation was necessary because “you can’t bomb a foreign bank account.”

The other major objection is that jihadists were not reading newspapaers in 2002 so they were still using international bank transfers to send money (try not to laugh as hard as the jihadists probably do at conservatives) Commentary: Hawala — swifter than SWIFT

President Bush’s denunciation of the New York Times seemed a tad hyperbolic. Transnational terrorists have studiously avoided getting tangled in the ones and zeros of electronic interception in favor of a time-honored, time-tested, interception-proof system known as Hawala (Arabic for “transfer” or “wire”). It’s an informal funds transfer (IFT) mechanism, swifter than SWIFT that leaves no paper or digital trail.

It is based entirely on trust between two individuals separated by thousands of miles. Hawala is much faster than a normal bank transfer. Originally devised as protection against the dangers of traveling with gold and precious stones and other forms of payment on roads prowled by bandits, today’s system is transnational.

Do conservative get their foreign policy and national security insights from Larry, Moe, or Curley.

Have Your Burger and Eat It, Too

What’s a health-conscious burger lover to do? The real thing tends to have too many calories and too much fat, but meatless burgers seem to lack the flavor and consistency of real beef.

St. Louis-based Solae has come up with a solution, a patent-pending invention called SoleCina that involves both the process and the ingredients to produce either a “hybrid” meat — part soy, part real meat — or a completely meatless food that tastes like chicken, beef, pork or turkey.

The company said both versions taste — and feel to the mouth — much like real meat, but are much healthier. For example, a hybrid burger dubbed the “Better Burger” by Solae has two-third the calories and half the fat and saturated fat as a burger of comparable size.

I had a few soy burgers years ago and wasn’t impressed, maybe they have come up with a better recipe. One that doesn’t taste like old cereal would be a good start.

A New Assault on Workers’ Rights

The pending decisions in Kentucky River could be Yeshiva on steroids for workers in every state, occupation and industry who have ever given incidental direction to a colleague or coworker in the performance of their job. The United States is already paying a high economic, social and political price for its failure to protect workers’ freedom to form unions; the Bush labor board’s rulings may be about to make a bad situation dramatically worse.

For America’s workers, the stakes could not be higher. When it comes to wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment, collective bargaining plays a critical role. It raises wages, not only for union members, but for all workers. It reduces race and gender pay gaps by bringing the wages of women and workers of color closer to parity with white males.

In the United States, the only industrialized nation without universal public health insurance, collective bargaining enables workers and their families to have decent affordable health care; only 2.5% of union members lack health insurance coverage, versus 15% of non-union workers. Retirement income security has become virtually non-existent for workers who lack the protection of a union contract, but is still widespread for union members. Workers without a union contract rarely have recourse if their employer disciplines or fires them unjustly; union members are nearly always protected against wrongful discipline or discharge by strong contract language. Collective bargaining gives workers a voice in their workplace and dignity on the job.

“Perhaps,” said he, “my dear Candide, we shall be fortunate enough to enter the town, sword in hand, and recover my sister Cunegund.”

“Ah! that would crown my wishes,” replied Candide; “for I intended to marry her; and I hope I shall still be able to effect it.”

“Insolent fellow!” cried the Baron. “You! you have the impudence to marry my sister, who bears seventy-two quarterings! Really, I think you have an insufferable degree of assurance to dare so much as to mention such an audacious design to me.”

Candide, thunderstruck at the oddness of this speech, answered:

“Reverend Father, all the quarterings in the world are of no signification. I have delivered your sister from a Jew and an Inquisitor; she is under many obligations to me, and she is resolved to give me her hand. My master, Pangloss, always told me that mankind are by nature equal. Therefore, you may depend upon it that I will marry your sister.”

“We shall see to that, villain!” said the Jesuit, Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, and struck him across the face with the flat side of his sword. Candide in an instant drew his rapier and plunged it up to the hilt in the Jesuit’s body; but in pulling it out reeking hot, he burst into tears.

“Good God!” cried he, “I have killed my old master, my friend, my brother-in-law. I am the best man in the world, and yet I have already killed three men, and of these three, two were priests.”

from Candide by Voltaire