culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Advice on protecting antiquities was sought and ignored (Washington Post). The Pentagon was warned about looting, consulted with experts for months, and is now acting surprised that "it happened," in Rumsfeld's words.
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What's your blog's sign, Senator? It turns out that The Rittenhouse Review is an
Aries.
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Department of Homeland Obscurity. The levers of power are being used to
flush money down the federal toilet (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
The new Homeland Security Department's budget is about $38 billion, but as little as $3 billion to $4 billion in new money is going to state and local coffers, according to state officials. That isn't even enough to cover new federal security mandates, according to the complaints of some governors and mayors, who have had to increase taxes and lay off municipal workers, such as firefighters and police officers.

For defense contractors, the new government money is helping stem a decade-long decline in military orders. But the companies are still hurting from a recent collapse in their civilian business and are saddled with facilities that have been half-empty for years. Productivity gains in manufacturing also have helped the companies add work without having to add workers.
Adding work without adding workers is every capitalist's dream. But We the People have to account for some of this spending by the pluto-bureaucrats.

How did only $3 or $4 billion get allocated to state and local governments? Who was responsible for making the numbers line up with the new mandates? Talk about fuzzy math.

September 11 was supposed to have shown us how important firefighters and police officers are (especially to Peggy Noonan). But the irrationality of Bush spending is forcing them to be laid off.

So if only $4 billion goes to states and municipalities, $34 billion is staying right in Washington for... what?
In metropolitan Washington, the unemployment rate was only 3.5% in January, the lowest of any metro region with more than one million workers. The region contains tracts of suburban Maryland and Virginia and is home to many companies that have landed homeland-security contracts, often for computer services. It gained more than 42,000 jobs in 2002, far more than any other metropolitan area.
$34 billion for a handful of computer consultants in industrial parks in Chevy Chase and Fairfax County? Sounds a bit steep.

While computer services companies outside the Beltway thrive on federal generosity, public health labs — the ones who would be called upon in a real terrorist event involving, say, a bioweapons or toxic chemical attack — are calling the homeland security effort and its funding "missing in action."

Yet another happy thought for Tax Day.
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An April 15 anagram. Here's a word-puzzle conundrum for working American taxpayers.

Come up with anagrams for "Texas/Wyoming"— the states from which our plutocratic president and vice president officially hail.

The best one I found is "My owing taxes."
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The
cost of the war.
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Monday, April 14, 2003
The trappings of civilization go to the highest bidder. It's likely that the globalized wealthy elite, who specified and ordered this war against Iraq as if it were an item on a menu, must now be in whispered communication with the shady (is there any other kind?) dealers of antiquities who are relieving Iraq of its
indescribably priceless treasures. Fences dealing in stolen artifacts must be working the backrooms and outskirts of Baghdad in record numbers. The hoards of ancient rarities don't get any rarer than this.

After all, if you backed this war, what authority on this planet could prevent you from participating in its plunder?

There's a bit more detail in The Age (Australia):
It is a cultural catastrophe. Yesterday the [Iraq National Museum]'s exhibition halls and security vaults were a barren mess - display cases smashed, offices ransacked and floors littered with hand-written index cards recording the timeless detail of more than 170,000 rare items that were pilfered.

Worse, in their search for gold and gems, the looters got into the museum's underground vaults, where they smashed the contents of the thousands of tin trunks.

It was here that staff had painstakingly packed priceless ceramics that tell the story of life from one civilisation to the next through 9000 fabled years in Mesopotamia.

In tears of anger and frustration, archaeologist Moysen Hassan, 56, itemised the pieces he was certain were stolen: a solid-gold harp from the Sumerian era, which began about 3360BC; a sculptured head of a woman from Uruk, one of the great Sumerian cities; gold necklaces, bracelets and earrings more than 4000 years old, and a rare collection of gold-trimmed ivory sculptures.

Too distraught to talk about the collection, he gave me a copy of the catalogue for The Grand Exhibition of Silk Road Civilisations, which toured the world in the late 1980s and for which the museum set aside its traditional reluctance to allow any of its treasure abroad.

All the items that made it safely around the world and back to Baghdad have been looted.

They include centuries-old carvings of stone bulls, kings and princesses, shoes made of copper and cuneiform tablets, pieces of tapestries and ivory figurines of goddesses, women and Nubian porters, friezes of fighting soldiers and ancient seals and tablets on geometry, and ceramic jars and urns and bowls, all dating back at least 2000 years, some more than 5000 years.

[...]

The sacking of the museum took two days, interrupted only for 30 minutes when pleading staff convinced members of a Marines tank unit to go to the museum and scare off the looters with a few warning shots over their heads.

Abdul Rakhman, the museum's live-in guard, 57, was a gibbering wreck as he told of the arrival of a shouting crowd armed with axes and iron bars to smash the doors and cases.
The history of civilization is a small price to pay for the continued fuel inefficiency of American automobiles and SUVs. Meanwhile, consider how the Halliburton logo would look rendered in cuneiform.

Link via Dublog.

UPDATE: pfaffenBlog has a wealth of insight to contribute to this story.
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Tomorrow is tax day — please give all your wages to the Republican Party. The centerpiece of Junior's economic "stimulus package" is simply to eliminate all taxes on dividends, so that only working wage-earners will bear the full brunt of his budgetary irresponsibility.

Let's look at the justice of this system in light of the actual figures on Dick Cheney's 2002 tax return (
FindLaw/Reuters):
Bush's earnings were outpaced by Vice President Richard Cheney's $1.166 million in adjustable gross income and $945,051 in taxable income [in 2002]. But the vice president's earnings were down from more the than $4 million in taxable income for 2001, which included bonuses and stock options from his previous employer, Halliburton Co.

Cheney, who took $221,684 in deductions, had a tax bill of $341,114 for 2002. This entitled the vice president to a refund of nearly $95,858, but he chose to apply $20,000 to his 2003 tax bill.

Cheney reported $162,392 in deferred compensation from Halliburton, which he served as chief executive before becoming vice president. His office said the pay is unaffected by the financial performance of Halliburton.

A subsidiary of Halliburton has been awarded U.S. contract reportedly worth up to $7 billion to put out oil fires in Iraq stemming from the war launched by the Bush administration. Democratic lawmakers have requested an investigation into whether Halliburton received special favors, but the White House has denied this.

The earnings of Cheney and his wife, Lynne, also included $490,999 in dividends and $129,000 in business income. Mrs. Cheney in 2002 earned money from service on corporate boards and work for the American Enterprise Institute think tank. The Cheneys donated $121,983 to charity, primarily from book royalties earned by Mrs. Cheney.
Where should we begin with this analysis? Let's start with the $4 million in income "which included bonuses and stock options from his previous employer, Halliburton Co." for the year 2001 — a year which was notable for Cheney's eleven-plus months of service as vice president while receiving corporate benefits, his six secret and sealed energy policy meetings with Enron, the al Qaeda attacks on the US, and Cheney's initial planning of the war against Saddam Hussein, which coincidentally rewarded Halliburton with a no-bid $7 billion contract announced only days ago.

Even in 2002, Cheney was still on the take from the Halliburton till, to the tune of $162,392 in deferred compensation. "His office said the pay is unaffected by the financial performance of Halliburton." But they got it the wrong way around — the financial performance of Halliburton is inextricably affected by Cheney's office.

But here's the part that is perhaps the sickest of all: $490,999 in dividends and $129,000 in "business income," whatever that might mean, since no one is bothering to define or question it. A half-million dollars in dividends that he wants tax-free so you can pick up the tab for his war. Don't you hate guys in bars who think that because they told you a joke and clapped you on the back, you ought to buy them a drink? Except Cheney never told you a joke or clapped you on the back.

Note also that more than half of Cheney's income was in dividends — he didn't work for it. Everything about the Bush dividend-promoting "stimulus package" is a big juicy kiss on the asses of the wealthy and a slap in the face of anyone who works for a living. Those who own will get ahead. Those who work will fall behind. Talk about simplifying the tax code!

Then add in Lynne's earnings — at corporate boards where she is working so hard to destroy shareholder value, and at the American Enterprise Institute which toils ceaselessly to destroy our nation's judiciary. (And just who is buying those Lynne Cheney books that earn almost $121,983 in royalties?* You can almost see the dagger in the New York Times bestseller lists: "This book reports having bulk orders — from the American Enterprise Institute.")

I can't decide which is more stunning — the speed, or the scale, of their immoral perversions of American justice. The obscenity of their abusive policies, pathological secrecy, class warfare, and military war profiteering are all the more pointed now that the insult of Tax Day is upon us.

Whatever happened to centrist Republicans? As We the Little People send the wages from our little "jobs" to the US Treasury, somewhere a Republican cell is quietly metastasizing into yet another plutocratic malignancy.

*An Amazon reader's word-for-word review of Lynne Cheney's Sisters: "If you want to read about the USA and how it works, from the perspective of a rich, dillusional white lady, run right out and by this book. Lynne Cheney has a warped perspective on everthing (unless you're rich and white, then maybe you can relate). I'd say wait till it shows up in a trash can near you. That's when the price would be right." I guess that's another way of saying that if our markets were truly free, Lynne Cheney wouldn't receive $121,983 in royalties.
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Friday, April 11, 2003
The climactic scene of victory plays to an empty theater. Kynn at
Shock and Awe demonstrates just how idiotic the Hussein statue-felling was, once you realize that even though zillions saw it on television, almost no one was there in person.

Go look at the pictures for yourself. The event was as staged as any of Junior's painted backdrops.

Another view of the same scene from Information Clearing House. Link via Tom Tomorrow.

And another from CalPundit.

And another from Get Your War On.
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Name that loon. Who said, "the wife is to subordinate herself to her husband" and "the woman is to place herself under the authority of the man" in the same way that "the church is to place herself under the protection of Christ"? Choose one:
Here's another maniac nominee from the people who lost the election but won the Supreme Court. James Leon Holmes, former president of Arkansas Right to Life, seeks a seat on the Federal District Court in Little Rock, his hometown.

Link via TalkLeft. See also the comments there.
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"Black files" will never see the light of day. You can be sure that the pathologically secretive Bush Junior administration will never let any of this material out into the open (
Asia Times):
When it comes to file-keeping, the Baathists of Iraq were often referred to as the "Prussians of the Middle East". Saddam Hussein's officials kept impeccable and detailed records on virtually all realms of government and society. But as looting grips Baghdad and throngs of civilians rush government buildings to exact retribution in whatever small way they can, the fate of these records is an open question. In post-war Iraq, these documents will prove to be of inestimable value for determining guilt and meting out justice. But it will all depend on whether the prized materials have already been destroyed or disappeared.

Discreet discussion about the status of Iraqi files began long before the start of the war. The United Nations was still in the throes of heated debate back in August of last year when some in the US intelligence community anonymously leaked information about Saddam's so-called "black files". Allegedly, these files contain indications of covert payments to various African countries to procure pro-Iraq votes at the UN. The same sources reported that Morocco in particular was getting nervous.

Others have said that it is US indiscretions that are at root in Washington's concern over the files. These sources point to the incident late last year when the US representative to the UN had several thousand pages removed from Iraq's weapons disclosure report before it was released for general review. These pages were reportedly removed because they contained unflattering disclosures about US corporations and US government agencies that had cooperated with Baghdad over the years.
Why did we send 300,000 people at great expense to central Asia — to find questionable weapons of mass destruction, or irrefutable memos of mass collusion?

UPDATE: Was Saddam the CIA's anti-communist hit man? Link via MaxSpeak.
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Start bombing Lubbock! A smuggled biological weapons cache has been discovered in
Texas (BBC).
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Opposition politics. More on Ahmed Chalabi — exiled Iraqi, pal of Dick Cheney, and convicted bank embezzler — from
Slate: "Chalabi 'has been entirely ineffective, except in one area, which is undermining other opposition groups,' an anonymous U.S. official told the Philadelphia Inquirer last year. In a war, behavior like that can get you killed. In a democracy, it makes you president."
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The Axis of Execution: "
China, Iran and the USA accounted for 81 per cent of all known executions [worldwide] in 2002."
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Like a slanderous, miserly neighbor. The legal tactics of State Farm are thoroughly dissected at
PLA (look for the April 10, 2003 post), where we are given the following advice:
The next time you hear that an insurance company pays millions of dollars and frivolous claims, remember this case. State Farm refused to pay $50,000 to settle both a wrongful death case and a permanent disability case when its own investigators determined its insured [driver Curtis Campbell] to be at fault.

[...]

Tort reformers tell us that insurance companies routinely pay millions of dollars on frivolous claims. That contention is hard to square with the actions of insurers like State Farm.

State Farm was willing to lie, cheat, defraud, harm its customer, create false documents, destroy evidence, intimidate the weak and slander the dead in order to avoid paying a total of $50,000 on a wrongful death claim and a permanent disability claim when State Farm knew that liability was clear.

Does that sound like a company that would pay millions of dollars on a frivolous claim?

State Farm ordered its attorneys to use "mad dog litigation tactics" including "using the company's large resources to "wear out" opposing attorneys by prolonging litigation, making meritless objections, claiming false privileges, destroying documents, and abusing the law and motion process." Tort reformers would have more credibility if they proposed any reform to address those sort of abuses.

If you believe that insurance companies pay out millions of dollars for frivolous cases and that litigation abuse occurs only on the plaintiff’s side, we expect that you would also believe that State Farm acts "like a good neighbor."
The full post is revealing in its detail — State Farm's tactical use of a concocted "pregnant girlfriend" and its Enron-style document destruction, to name just two examples. It's yet another PLA gem you should read.
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It's official — Cheney's pimping is extremely effective. The New York Times reports on the
$7 billion no-bid contract to Halliburton:
WASHINGTON, April 10 — The Pentagon contract given without competition to a Halliburton subsidiary to fight oil well fires in Iraq is worth as much as $7 billion over two years, according to a letter from the Army Corps of Engineers that was released today.

The contract also allows Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary, to earn as much as 7 percent profit. That could amount to $490 million.

The corps released these new details in a letter to Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California and one of the two senior lawmakers who asked the General Accounting Office to investigate how the Bush administration is awarding contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The reconstruction effort could cost up to $100 billion and become one of the most lucrative building programs in decades.
Link via Atrios.
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More fuck-ups in the real war on terror. Before the USA decided to invest its formidable resources in toppling statues of Saddam Hussein, there was a completely unrelated terrorist incident known as September 11. But before September 11, there was a pivotal event in the history of terrorist attacks on Americans — the uss coleUSS Cole bombing that occurred in Yemen in October 2000, less than a year before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

At the time, US ambassador to Yemen
Barbara Bodine obstructed the FBI investigation into al Qaeda's participation in the USS Cole bombing.

And while the world now distracts itself with the spectacle of Iraq unraveling in chaos, the alleged Yemeni terrorists have quietly escaped (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd.):
SAN'A, Yemen -- Yemeni authorities were hunting for 10 of the main suspects in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole after they escaped from prison Friday [April 11, 2003], officials said.

The fugitives, including chief suspect Jamal Al-Badawi, had been jailed in the port city of Aden since shortly after the destroyer was bombed, killing 17 American sailors.

[...]

Yemen, the ancestral home of Mr. bin Laden, has been a hotbed of terrorist activity. Supporters of al Qaeda have claimed responsibility for several bombings targeting security officials and government offices in the past few months. Yemen committed itself to joining the war on terrorism following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America and has allowed U.S. forces to enter the country and train its military.
So the real terrorists are running free while we chase down the framed ones in Iraq. Too bad Yemen doesn't have more oil — maybe then our craven leaders would see fit to do something effective against terror beyond color-coding it.

Meanwhile Barbara Bodine, who according to The Observer is "known for a mixture of her expertise in the region and fervent hostility to a politically organised Muslim world," is now on deck to become the viceroy of New Baghdad. She'll step into her new position over the corpses of 17 American sailors and thousands of civilians in southwestern Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and lower Manhattan.
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Thursday, April 10, 2003
It's not a war. It's a way of life. Other members of the Bush dynasty are living the lifestyle that soldiers (and journalists) are defending with their lives (
Houston Chronicle):
Don't count on Sharon Bush to go quietly into the night once her ties to the Bush dynasty are severed by divorce. The ongoing legal action between Neil and Sharon Bush notwithstanding, she continues on her long-established path of community service.

On May 21 Sharon Bush will chair a garden benefit for the prestigious American Ireland Fund with Irish tenor Ronan Tynan as guest entertainer. The Boston-based organization, which works for peace in Ireland, honored former President George Bush here in 1995.

The upcoming benefit should be a slam dunk for Sharon. Paige and Tilman Fertitta will open the verdant gardens of their River Oaks home for the dinner evening, which is limited to 150 guests. Minimum ticket -- $1,000. Bush has already sold eight of the 15 tables.
Thank the Lord for Sharon Bush and Tilman Fertitta. Peace in Ireland will be restored by the near-ex-wife of the president's banking criminal brother and a Rolls-Royce dealer:
rolls royceTypically one step ahead of the game, Tilman Fertitta, owner of Post Oak Motorcars and chief of Landry's Restaurants, has landed the first Rolls-Royce Phantom to be seen in Texas. The astronomically pricey new generation Rolls debuted in the Post Oak showroom last week and will be on display this week during the River Oaks International Tennis Tournament.

Fertitta beat out Dallas in securing the Lone Star premiere of the car that is custom-crafted to the owner's specifications. Price tag: $350,000. And, yes, Post Oak Motorcars is receiving orders. Who said economic downturn?
But then economic downturns don't matter much to your family — intact or divorced — if you can wage war using a phony morality and a facade of Christian piety to cover up corporate fraud, media manipulation, and gated communities of the affluent dedicated to "peace."

The fuel tank of the Rolls-Royce Phantom has the capacity to hold 26.4 gallons of liberated Iraqi petroleum products. Gas mileage has not yet been determined.
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Billionaires plan their next conquests. The rich are not like you or me — they want to become world conquistadors. From
FindLaw/Reuters:
Emboldened by the U.S. military's apparent quick rout of Iraqi forces, conservative hawks in America are setting their sights on regime change in Iran and Syria.

"It's time to bring down the other terror masters," Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute* wrote on Monday -- two days before U.S. troops swept into the heart of Baghdad -- in a piece entitled "Syria and Iran Must Get Their Turn."

"Iran, at least, offers Americans the possibility of a memorable victory, because the Iranian people openly loath the regime, and will enthusiastically combat it, if only the United States supports them in their just struggle," he added. "Syria cannot stand alone against a successful democratic revolution that topples tyrannical regimes in Kabul, Tehran and Iraq."

[...]

Frank Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official under former President Ronald Reagan, said he believed that regime change should be the U.S. policy toward Iran and Syria and said the United States could not rule out the use of force.

"If the threat metastasizes in such a way that we consider it to leave us no choice but to use military force then that would have to be an option," he said.

Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy* think tank, said many Iranians would like to see their government change and the United States should help them through information flows, economic assistance and possibly covert activity.

"The use of military force is probably genuinely the last resort here, but I certainly think it's like that we're going to see efforts made to bring about change in Iran as well as Syria ... and perhaps elsewhere in the region as a matter of the natural progression of this war on terror," he added.
*These institutes and think tanks are endowed by the likes of Richard Mellon Scaife and the Bradley Foundation in what amounts to an attempt at a plutocratic global coup under the twin Trojan horses of "democracy" and a "war on terror."

Media Transparency has profiled the American Enterprise Institute, the Bradley Foundation, the Center for Security Policy, and many other fronts set up by the affluent right to slake their power lust.

Also valuable in understanding how the world was bought by billionaires is Commonweal Institute's information resources on the funding of right-wing ideology.
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Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Cheney's priorities become clearer. While soldiers are being pummeled with flowers in Baghdad, Dick Cheney isn't wasting any time celebrating. This story came out at noon Eastern Time today (
Yahoo/Reuters):
NEW ORLEANS (Reuters) - Iraq's oil production could rise as much as 50 percent from 2002 levels by the end of the year if the country is given outside help in restoring its fields' capacity to pump crude, Vice President Dick Cheney said on Wednesday.

Cheney, speaking to a meeting of U.S. newspaper editors, made his remarks in response to a question about Iraq's oil capability. He said production could hit 2.5 million to 3 million barrels per day by the end of this year.

Last year, Iraq was producing about 2 million barrels of oil per day, down from a high of about 3 million barrels in 1988, according to the U.S. Energy Department.

Even though the country will need outside help, Cheney said Iraqis will have to "make decisions on how much they want to reinvest" in their oil sector.

The country controls more than 112 billion barrels of oil, second only to Saudi Arabia in proven reserves.

Sketching out a postwar scenario now that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appears to have lost power, Cheney, a former oil company executive, spoke of "an organization to oversee the functioning of their oil ministry."

That body, he said, "will be composed primarily of Iraqis*. It may have international advisers from outside."


Revenues from the oil sales, Cheney said, "will then flow to the Iraqi government," which he said will provide a "resource base" to rebuild the country.

But he added that the United States was prepared to provide help.
*Oversight of the oil ministry will be led by Iraqis named Ahmed Chalabi, if his carefully-stoked post-9/11 relationship with Dick Cheney bears any fruit.

"International advisers from outside" could include, oh, I don't know, Halliburton maybe. What do you think?
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The GOP Congress: frauds, charlatans, and liars. "After spending years (in the '90s) fetishizing about Bill Clinton's failure to state consistently the number of years it would take to balance the budget [
link], and after spending months (last year) making a strong, principled stand about what an outrage it was that the Daschle Democrats in the Senate couldn't pass a budget blueprint [link] , the Republican-controlled Congress is having trouble living up to its own standards." — ABC News, The Note, April 9.

The bitter irony is that Clinton did keep his promises, unlike the Republicans.
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Hurry up and plunder! Don't miss the 20% early bird discount on the $1,100 admission price to the
Rebuilding Iraq business convention in Washington DC on May 1. Mark your calendar now — you can save big if you register before April 14!

From the convention description:
U.S. government officials, experts from key international agencies, and experts in the post-conflict reconstruction field will discuss the likely political situation and legal environment businesses will face.

Speakers with specific private sector expertise in structural issues faced in post-conflict environments will address priority questions, such as risk mitigation for contractors, insurance, sanctions, Iraq’s existing contracts and financial obligations.

Particular sectoral opportunities in post-war Iraq will be analysed through the prism of the security and political challenges that will exist. How will the security environment affect the delivery of key goods and services? How will businesses interact with the security presence on the ground?
Best part of all? IT'S SECRET!
Participate in a not-for-attribution session that will permit a dynamic, frank exchange of views on the opportunities and challenges businesses will face in post-conflict Iraq.
Who should attend? The usual suspects: "Senior executives who will be involved in the strategy and execution of supporting the reconstruction of Iraq," and "Service firms (law firms, financial institutions, accounting and consulting companies) who will be supporting the prime contractors in Iraq." Dick Cheney's Rolodex is working 24/7.

The registration form doesn't mention if there will be goodie bags with badges and T-shirts that say, "I killed the US surplus to kill Saddam — and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Link via Cryptome.
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Tuesday, April 08, 2003
What's an Army private worth? In Sunday's
New York Times:
rinconPrivate [Diego Fernando] Rincon, whose family moved to the United States from Colombia when he was 5, mailed a letter to his mother at the end of February. His unit was preparing to roll off in its Bradley fighting vehicles, he told her, and he might not be able to write soon. He told his mother he loved her. He also told her of his fears, the jarring flashes he had of what might come next.
What came next was that he died on March 29, 2003. He was nineteen years old. For his first full year of service he would have earned what every private earns, a little over $15,000.

Elsewhere in the Times we notice a special report on executive compensation. There we learn that Edward D. Breen, breenthe new CEO of disgraced Tyco International, was very well compensated in 2002 — to the tune of $65,034,965. (Ironically enough, Tyco is suing its former officers for "looting" the company.)

What's a CEO worth? That's easy — Tyco CEO Edward D. Breen is worth 4,335 Private Rincons.

It takes over four thousand American war casualties to match the dollar value of a single CEO.

Welcome to George W. Bush's America.
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Monday, April 07, 2003
War profiteer Halliburton's PR flack tells yet another lie. As reported in today's
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd.):
Wendy Hall, a Halliburton spokeswoman, declined to comment specifically on the demonstration [against Halliburton war profiteering], but said the decision to go to war wasn't made by Halliburton, adding that, "We live in a country where people have fought so that others may peacefully demonstrate."
Wendy Hall, you are so very wrong.

The decision to go to war was indeed made by Halliburton, in the form of a certain famously hawkish Dick Cheney who served as Halliburton's CEO in 2000, the same year he campaigned to become the vice president.

It is precisely this confluence that makes every word, every action, and every policy out of the White House suspect whenever the scent of oil or energy services or Iraqi reconstruction is in the air.

If you want to, here's how you can reach Wendy Hall to set her straight with the facts.
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Friday, April 04, 2003
Friday Blogtacular.
  • Digby's hot this week.
  • The Rittenhouse Review spells out Lynne Cheney's alphabet in an April 1 post.
  • Matthew Yglesias says, "James Woolsey would, if given the chance, intentionally provoke a war with Syria and Iran and powerful actors within the US government want to give him that chance."
  • Steve Gilliard at The Daily Kos wonders, "Who is the president?"
  • TBOGG on Michael Kelly: "I don't know how to describe the sadness and irony of this man dying in this war that he so whole-heartedly supported."
  • Back in Iraq is back in Iraq.
  • PLA follows up on IOLTA — legal representation for the poor, attacked by the right. Read everything else too while you're there.
  • soundbitten wonders about the supposed existence of Iraq's secret prisons.
  • xymphora always has interesting observations on a one-megabyte home page (dial-up surfers: you have been warned).
  • Everything's always great at Plep and wood s lot.
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All the king's horses and 48 firms couldn't put Enron back together again. Bush's chief benefactor, campaign contributor and energy policy advisor Enron is providing a gusher of legal fees for our nation's finest bankruptcy law firms (
Houston Chronicle):
Now in its 17th month of bankruptcy, Enron has hired 48 law firms, accounting firms and other specialized professionals nursing it through the process. Some of the law firms are helping the creditors committee and an examiner studying causes of the company's collapse.

Legal and other expenditures billed to the company now exceed $318 million, far more than it cost to build the ballpark formerly known as Enron Field.

By some estimates, the total legal bill for Enron's bankruptcy could exceed half a billion dollars. It is already the most expensive bankruptcy ever.

On Thursday, Enron bankruptcy lawyer Brian Rosen sought to retain Venable, Baetjer and Howard to help resolve complicated energy trading contracts Enron negotiated before its bankruptcy.

Rosen's firm, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, Enron's primary bankruptcy law firm, has billed the company $60 million for its work so far, not including as-yet unsubmitted invoices for recent work.

As Enron filed for bankruptcy on Dec. 2, 2001, Weil sought a law firm specializing in complicated energy matters and brought in Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft to handle the contract negotiations. Through Jan. 31 Cadwalader has billed $7.8 million.

But in some instances, the law firms Enron hired could have conflicts of interest, such as representing a counterparty. So the day after Enron filed for bankruptcy it hired Togut, Segal & Segal to handle such situations. Togut has billed $4.9 million through last December.
Less than a year and a half of bankruptcy, and they've burned through over $300 million with a half-billion dollars clearly in sight. Too bad Enron employees had to lose their life savings and 401(k) retirement money, so that what little was left of the company's fortunes could be funneled to 48 hand-picked firms.

Forget medical malpractice reform. We should look into Republican campaign contributor reform instead. It's apparently a very deep trough, circled by the squeals and oinks of America's most venerable legal professionals.

Aside to Ken Lay: How are your bankruptcy-immune annuities holding up in this bear market? All investors, even small ones with under a hundred million dollars, are facing the same twin problems — the corporate governance crisis you created, and your candidate's oil war — both of which are holding down the Dow and S&P indexes. Those caches of Weapons of Mass Campaign Contributions you made from your insider trades might be safer in Switzerland or the Cayman Islands — but you already knew that.

Anyway, if the media ever jogs itself from its war-induced amnesia and notices that you and Jeff Skilling are still running free, there are two words that you must repeat as often as necessary because they are guaranteed to get those pesky but easily distractable journalists off your back: Martha Stewart.
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Thursday, April 03, 2003
Amazing bullshit from a corporate liar. Equating tax cuts for the rich with military patriotism, Treasury Secretary and
$164 million corporate welfare beneficiary John Snow reveals his Bushistic talent for false connections (FindLaw/Reuters):
Congress should approve the Bush administration's full $726 billion tax cut to provide economic security in the same way that troops in Iraq are fighting for national security, Treasury Secretary John Snow said on Thursday.

Snow coupled the call for recognition of the practical benefit with a suggestion that it could be seen as a patriotic act.

"We cannot afford to fail the American people, especially our troops overseas," he said in a speech to the Orlando Chamber of Commerce.

Snow, at the start of a two-day swing, through Florida urged voters to tell Congress they want tax cuts. Snow claimed more jobs will be lost if lawmakers decline to approve the tax reductions and implied it was a test of patriotism.

"I believe that these are the two pillars supporting our nation's greatness and the well-being of our people: national security and economic security," Snow said in prepared remarks.

"As a matter of principle, this administration believes we have an obligation to the American people to rebuild our economy, even as we protect our national security," Snow said.

"Choosing one over the other is a false choice."

[...]

The tenuous nature of the U.S. economy's pace was underlined on Thursday by new government statistics showing a sharp uptick in new applications for jobless pay last week -- a 38,000-person increase to 445,000.

Snow said there was urgency in applying a tonic to the economy, saying the White House was doing all it could on the national and economic security fronts and suggesting Congress was dragging its feet.

"We cannot wait until the war is over to focus on economic growth. We must act now," Snow said. "Those here in Florida who are looking for work cannot wait for a job, and should not have to wait for a job."

Florida is considered ripe territory for an appeal for reduced taxes. Its sunny, palm-lined streets and beaches are home to a large community of wealthy and patriotic retirees who are among prime recipients of dividend income.

The dividend tax exclusion "would provide tax relief for 7 million senior taxpayers by an average of $1,252, and 4.5 million taxpayers, mostly seniors, will have a smaller portion of their Social Security benefit payments taxed if the president's plan is enacted," Snow said.
It boggles the mind that Snow can say all of this with a straight face while Bush's record deficits pile up, not even including a $75 billion down payment on Bush's fraudulent war. No expected him to be anything but a lapdog for the administration, but these lies are truly offensive.

The blood of American soldiers is NOT equal to tax-free dividends for the rich. Repeat, NOT. Comparing patriotic support for our troops with a $104,823 cut in Dick Cheney's personal tax bill is not just disingenuous — it's a profound corruption of our government's ability to establish or communicate our national values and policies.
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Heartwarming tales from the front.
"Green-card soldiers get posthumous U.S. citizenship" (Houston Chronicle/Reuters).
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Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner and the rest of the postwar puppet show. In Kuwait, defense contractors are planning Phase Two of the war: the bureaucratic invasion of Iraq. The postwar leadership wannabes are lined up in their beachfront villas, ready to assume control of the country bought for them with borrowed money and American and British blood (
New York Times):
Along a promenade of beachside villas, several hundred American government officials — from well-worn former generals to fresh young aid workers — are working at their laptops, inventing flow charts and examining maps of Iraq in what has become Potomac on the Persian Gulf.

This is the nucleus of the Bush administration's new Iraqi government. One of the faraway masters, in the minds of many here, is someone known fondly, or not so fondly — depending on one's political orientation — as Wolfowitz of Arabia.

[...]


garnerThe overall boss of this Iraqi government-in-waiting, an operation that has been endowed with the Washington-speak title "Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance," is retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner. When he gets to Baghdad, he will be in charge of everything the American military is not: feeding the country, fixing the infrastructure and creating what the Bush administration has said will be a democratic government.

A stocky 64-year-old, on leave from a top post at the defense contractor L-3 Communications, General Garner was responsible for protecting Kurdish refugees in northern Iraq after the first gulf war, a smaller task than the one at hand but one that gave him a taste for the country, a colleague said.

[...]


garnerMr. Carney is preparing to run the Baghdad Ministry of Industry. Another person the Pentagon is resisting, at least temporarily, is the former ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine. But she has also arrived, established an office in one of the villas, and is informally known on the campus as the mayor of Baghdad.

[...]

Ahmad Chalabi, the head of the Iraqi National Congress, has made it clear that he would not be satisfied with just an advisory position. The State Department has made clear it would prefer a diminished role for Mr. Chalabi. In recent days Mr. Chalabi has said through spokesmen that he wants the formation of a provisional government in which he would be a leading figure. In this he has backing in the Pentagon.

"The decision on the new political class in Iraq is very hot. It has yet to be made in Washington," said one member of the Garner team here.
It all sounds so cozy — laptops at the beach, a Star Wars and missile defense contractor at the helm, a convicted embezzler who insists he will not be satisfied with "just" an advisory position.

Jay Garner's L-3 Communications is one of the 100 Fastest Growing US Companies, thanks in no small part to Garner's friendship with Donald Rumsfeld and the company's devotion to US military contracts:
L-3 Communications makes secure and specialized systems for satellite, avionics, and marine communications. The US government (primarily the military) accounts for nearly 70% of the company's business, but L-3 is using acquisitions to expand its commercial offerings. Commercial products include flight recorders (black boxes), display systems, and wireless telecom gear. L-3 has added aircraft repair and overhaul services to its offerings with the purchase of Spar Aerospace and what is now L-3 Communications Integrated Systems.
"Star Wars" defense system guru Jay Garner has also been accused of double-dipping (scroll down):
Biff Baker, of Colorado Springs, is running for Congress against Joel Hefley on the strength of his reputation as the whistleblower who recently shed light on Department of Defense contractual double-dipping and corporate favoritism.

Baker, who received the Libertarian nomination for the Sixth Congressional District in May, has publicly accused two Army buddies-U.S. Army General John W. Holly, a former vice chief of staff with the Army, and retired three-star General Jay Garner-of arranging duplicate contracts with Boeing and SY Technology, a division of L-3 Communications which employs Garner as president. The redundant contracts were for computer training of Army personnel.

Baker, a West Point graduate, retired Army Space Command lieutenant colonel and a former Airborne Ranger, believes he was fired without cause from his job as a contract auditor for DOD sub-contractor COLSA's Independent Assessment Team. By doing his job correctly, Baker discovered that SY Technology had been awarded a $48-million, five-year contract which duplicated work already assigned to Boeing on a sole-source, $1.6-billion contract.
Here's another story about Baker, the Garner whistleblower.

Here is Garner's official L-3 biography (in the middle of a lengthy page). More troubling aspects of Garner appear in Business Week:
While Garner is widely admired for his work with the Kurds, he has his critics. Michael Young, a leading columnist in Lebanon who writes often about Islamic issues, says Muslims are suspicious of Garner because of his strong ties to Israel. It's easy to see why. In 2000, Garner signed a statement by the conservative Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, praising Israel for its handling of the Palestinian intifada. And as president of SY Technology, a unit of L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., Garner worked closely with Israeli security to develop its Arrow missile-defense system. "There is the problem of credibility if you have someone who can be tagged as [Zionist]," says Young.
Here is a view of Garner from Lebanon's Daily Star, pointing out that "Franks should feel at ease with three former generals working alongside him."

Garner, Bodine, Chalabi — these choices of postwar administrators are as uninspired as Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and Perle were as war architects.

Garner photo from the Christian Science Monitor. Here are previous posts about Barbara Bodine and Ahmed Chalabi.

4/17/03 UPDATE: CBS News provides a Jay Garner biography, for all you Googlers who come here looking for that.

4/28/03 UPDATE: And here's an interesting "About Jay Garner" page for the curious at heart. Note also that, to usher in the new era of Iraqi democracy, Jay Garner has chosen as his headquarters one of Saddam Hussein's palace compounds. Yet another culturally sensitive exercise in nation-building from the George W. Bush administration.
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The Photoshop war. War photography is falling off the credibility cliff. The LA Times issues a mea culpa for digitally doctoring a front-page photograph:
On Monday, March 31, the Los Angeles Times published a front-page photograph that had been altered in violation of Times policy.

The primary subject of the photo was a British soldier directing Iraqi civilians to take cover from Iraqi fire on the outskirts of Basra. After publication, it was noticed that several civilians in the background appear twice. The photographer, Brian Walski, reached by telephone in southern Iraq, acknowledged that he had used his computer to combine elements of two photographs, taken moments apart, in order to improve the composition.

Times policy forbids altering the content of news photographs. Because of the violation, Walski, a Times photographer since 1998, has been dismissed from the staff.
See the
Editor's Note to view the before-and-after photographs. Link via Romenesko.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2003
"The heartbreaking thing is, this is a turning point in history. Listen to me. I'm going on and on and on. But I love this country, I love the accomplishments of American democracy. But we've never done anything like what we're doing: waging war with imperial purposes. It feels very tragic, especially because it's being done in the name of 9/11. Before he was elected, Bush openly acknowledged a hatred for New York City, and now he's benefiting from our tragedy."
— Playwright
Tony Kushner. Link via TBOGG.
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Sneaky bastards at Halliburton. Two articles in today's Wall Street Journal show that Cheney's
private checkbook Halliburton hasn't given up the dream of obscene war profiteering, despite public noises to the contrary.

First up, this article with the subheadline "National Security Is Cited as Reason Few Knew of $1.7 Billion in Contracts" (sub. req'd):
USAID [U.S. Agency for International Development] began approaching preselected bidders for postwar Iraq work as early as late January, when the possibility of going to war with Iraq was still being hotly debated at the United Nations. Requests for proposals went out for four contracts in mid-February, with two more early last month. Altogether, the work -- including rebuilding highways and bridges and rehabilitating Iraq's school system -- is expected to cost at least $1.7 billion.

[...]

The uncertainty over how to proceed also reflects mounting unease over the U.S.-led military campaign, which has so far offered scant evidence that average Iraqis are ready to embrace American control of their country.

Reconstruction officials within the administration had planned to use the southern city of Basra as a test case for the U.S. rebuilding effort. Iraq's second-largest city has a dominant Shiite population that has long been at odds with Saddam Hussein. But continued fighting there, and signs that the local population might be less receptive than some predicted, have put those plans on hold.

Competition for the big infrastructure-rebuilding contract, valued at $600 million, was limited to seven large U.S. engineering companies, several of which have now either been dropped from the running or formed teams with other bidders. People involved in the bidding say the lead competitors are Bechtel Corp. and Parsons Corp, which has taken on Halliburton Co.'s Kellogg Brown & Root as a subcontractor. Halliburton announced Monday that its KBR division won't seek to be the prime contractor for rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, but "remains a potential subcontractor for this important work."
Silence is golden, and secrecy is wealth.

Next up, a different angle on Halliburton's multifaceted activities — domestic natural gas (sub. req'd):
Halliburton has significant leverage to the global natural gas market, through both its energy services business and KBR division, [Chief Operating Officer Doug] Foshee said.

It is poised to benefit from any future natural gas drilling in the U.S. by virtue of having had a stake in the drilling of three-quarters of the known gas reserves in the combined territories of the western U.S., Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, he said.
The administration slavishly continues to make good on Cheney's promise to "improve oil and gas exploration technology through continued partnership with public and private entities" — a highly asymmetric partnership that consists of the public partners (i.e., taxpayers and consumers) doing all the giving and the private partners doing all the taking.
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Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Jenna goes off to war... as do the children of Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld, and Jeb Bush. Here's Dubya:
"That's why my daughters have volunteered to join the Army. They’re going to put their money where my mouth is by defending this great land of ours. I'm so proud that they’re following in my footsteps by joining the military at their country’s time of need. But they won’t be defending the skies of Texas from the Viet Cong, like I did for a little while before skipping my last year of service. They're actually going to be in Iraq, flying troop-transport helicopters behind enemy lines. Me and Laura call them 'our little bullet-stoppers.'"
If only.

Link via Ethel.
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Bush vs. Bush: Who's winning? Since they made it so easy for us to compare them by warring against Iraq twice, let's see how the people feel about Daddy versus Junior (
USA Today):
If the 2004 election were held today, 51% of registered voters would vote for Bush, compared with 36% for a Democratic nominee, the poll found. On the eve of war two weeks ago, Bush led the Democrat 45%-42%, which amounts to a tie, given the poll's 4 percentage-point error margin.

Such numbers can be fleeting, as Bush's father learned after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. During the fighting, the senior Bush was preferred over an unnamed Democrat 54%-33%. But he lost his bid for re-election 21 months later to Bill Clinton, largely because he was seen as inattentive to the nation's economic problems. [USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Saturday and Sunday, March 29-30]
One-term Daddy vs. unnamed Democrat: 54-33.

Junior vs. unnamed Democrat: 51-36.

Even with a bump-up in the polls thanks to active fighting, Daddy, the re-election loser, is marginally beating his own son, who is therefore well poised to become an even bigger loser. Junior is not shaping up to be the "inevitable" creation that Dr. Karl Rove stitched together in his laboratory. Barring another election decided by Antonin Scalia, Junior may well lose his bid for a second shot at cynically Christianized demagoguery.

Maybe then we civilized Americans can stop feeling so apologetic every time we talk to any citizen of the rest of the civilized world.
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Yemen Arrests 11 for Links to al-Qaida. Too bad it's two years later than FBI al-Qaida expert John O'Neill might have done it, way back in 2001, the culmination of the American Age of Innocence, the year leading up to horrors no one else saw coming.

And it's too bad Barbara Bodine had him banished from Yemen the same year he was killed in the World Trade Center. But at least she's all lined up for her next gig in postwar Iraq.
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clownlynneIt's April 1, 2003. Do you know where the Cheneys keep their integrity?

It's a trick question, because they don't have any.
Here is how the issue of Lynne's anti-defamation legal campaign got started, when White House lawyers got into the act:
Cheney counsel David S. Addington warned Wooden's Chickenhead Productions Inc. that Lynne V. Cheney's name and pictures - altered to show her with a red clown's nose and a missing tooth - could not be used to make money without her consent, and asked Wooden to delete the photos and "fictitious biographical statement about her."
"Schlock and oy" says Neal Pollack.

UPDATE: The post above is not funny, but this one at The Rittenhouse Review certainly is — so go.
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Chicago's yes-bulldozer, no-fly zone. Chicago had North America's tallest building and a unique downtown airport until yesterday, when the mayor had the airport runway bulldozed. sears towerFrustrated with
earlier attempts to get a no-fly zone declared by the FAA in the wake of 9/11/01, Mayor Richard M. Daley finally took matters into his own hands and had Meigs Field's one runway destroyed under the cover of darkness.

Local accounts of the action are here (April 1) and here (March 31) (Chicago Sun-Times). And here is the city's official press release.

Critics of the mayor contend that he is behaving autocratically, because it is common knowledge that his not-so-secret agenda is to replace the small airport in the heart of downtown Chicago with an 80-acre lakefront park.

Now that we are living in a era of autocratic American leaders, it is interesting to compare Mayor Daley's unilateralism with that of George W Bush. When Republican Bush acts dictatorially, he creates enormous deficits, undermines civil liberties, accelerates crony capitalism, and starts an ill-conceived war with hundreds of civilian casualties within the first two weeks. When Democrat Daley acts dictatorially, he bulldozes a tiny airport, used only by Cessna-flying cardiologists and Illinois governors, to protect downtown airspace from terrorism, and proposes a lakefront park for all citizens.

Bush is acting arrogantly to slake the greed and bloodlust of his insane constituents: neoconservative fanatics, Cheney's sugar daddy Halliburton, the murderous Christian right, the gun lobbyists, and the energy and defense industries.

Daley's critics are correct in that he acted arrogantly — but he did so for the safety and benefit of the people of Chicago. Although I am not pleased by the process, I, for one, am grateful for the result.

What's fascinating is the difference between what motivates a Democratic dictator and a Republican one. The Democrats favor promoting public good. The Republicans favor enriching private interests.

Same means, wildly different ends. There's nothing new here, but the essential difference between the parties is heightened and thrown into greater relief by the extremism of contemporary American life since the White House's misfired response to 9/11/01.
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Monday, March 31, 2003
We Want the Airwaves is an important new blog — a co-production between Avedon Carol of The Sideshow and Lisa English of RuminateThis — dedicated to covering the degradation of media. It's not just about reportage, it also focuses on the quality of ownership of the media or the lack thereof. If you're concerned about bias in the media, or if you think too few companies own too many news outlets, go to We Want the Airwaves.

This is a subject near and dear to our hearts that we've written about a number of times. Here's a sample of home-grown posts on the subject of media consolidation and degradation.

Poynter's Convergence Chaser is another good resource in this area.
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Deficit 2003: More than a half trillion. From the
LA Times:
...the obvious question is whether cutting taxes makes sense just two years after Bush's [first] $1.35-trillion tax cut took effect in 2001. Three big arguments loom against further tax cuts.

First, Washington is already facing mammoth deficits. Private congressional estimates project that, excluding the money raised for Social Security, the federal government could run a deficit of as much as $530 billion this year, by far the largest ever. Under Bush's plan, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects huge deficits every year through the next decade.

Second, those deficits are undermining Washington's last opportunity to improve its fiscal position before the baby boom's retirement explodes the cost of Social Security and Medicare.

[...]

Third, cutting taxes during a war -- not only the conflict in Iraq but also the broader struggle against terrorism -- is unprecedented in American history. It amounts to asking the next generation to fund the national defense through a higher national debt.
Funding Cheney's war will indeed "leave no child behind."
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Golf course and barbecue military strategy. Egyptian weekly
Al-Ahram has this to say about the quality of the advice the White House has been using to guide its military strategy:
As the military operation enters its second week and as the Iraqi resistance continues, a question has arisen in regards to whether some sections of the Iraqi opposition in exile have painted an unrealistic picture of Iraq for their US patrons. Prior to the launch of the military strikes, it was repeatedly suggested in some western media outlets that the Iraqi Shi'ite population in the south and the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq could be helpful to US efforts to topple the Iraqi regime. But one week later, the south did not rise against Saddam, the population remains defiant and the regime is still standing its ground.

Kubba laid the brunt of the blame for these assumptions on some sections of the Iraqi opposition, particularly those associated with the Iraq National Congress (INC) which, he says, have "misled their US contacts". His views were shared by Kamil Al-Mahdi, a professor of Middle East Economics at Exeter University and a member of the liberal Iraqi opposition in exile. Al-Mahdi believes that the resistance to the Iraqis inside the country will embarrass those groups of the opposition who allied themselves with the Bush administration. These groups, says Al-Mahdi, created assumptions about a regime on the verge of imploding once the US forces enter Iraq. "There were those within the ranks of the Iraqi opposition who portrayed this war to be a walk in the park for the allied troops. Hence, Americans were led to believe that the Republican Guard units would soon switch sides and this would be coupled with a Shi'ite uprising in the south against Saddam. But to their surprise, this did not materialise, at least until now."

Al-Mahdi said that the fact that the opposition in exile miscalculated the strength of the Iraqi resistance is strong proof of how they have lost touch with reality in Iraq. "They can no longer claim to say they represent either the interests or the will of the Iraqi people. It will be very difficult to impose them as the new rulers of Iraq after Saddam is gone," Al-Mahdi said. There were no comments made by any of the main Iraqi opposition factions in exile about the duration of the battle. But on wednesday the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that representatives of various factions of the Iraqi opposition held secret rounds of talks to discuss the role of the Iraqi opposition in the aftermath of the war and the US exclusion of the Iraqi opposition from any talks on the post-war order. The meetings were attended by representatives from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Unionist party (PUK), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC).
We previously noted Chalabi in this 3/17/03 article from the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.d):
But with little public notice, [after September 11] Mr. Cheney began working on the Iraq issue with a new dedication. He quietly sought out experts on the politics and culture of the country. He reached out to Iraqi exiles such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile whose family led the country decades ago and who seeks to lead a post-Hussein Iraq. And he began hosting a series of small dinner parties -- some at his elegant official residence in Washington and others at the "undisclosed locations" where he'd been secluded for security reasons -- to share ideas with anti-Hussein intellectuals such as Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis, Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami and conservative author Victor David Hanson.

State Department and CIA officials mistrust the wealthy, American-educated Mr. Chalabi, who was convicted in a Jordanian banking scandal more than a decade ago. But Mr. Cheney and his senior staff have remained stubborn advocates of Mr. Chalabi, a man they first got to know in the mid-1990s at the barbecues and golf games held at private seminars hosted by groups such as the Aspen Institute. [Emphasis added.]
The strategic advice that guided American military planning came not from the CIA or the State Department, but from "barbecues... golf games... a series of small dinner parties." Nobody at any of these events can "claim to say they represent either the interests or the will" of citizens anywhere — particularly in Iraq or in the USA. Representative democracy now exists in America only for the plump asses that fill the chairs of corporate boardrooms.

It's a country club war, directed from the fairway by the unencumbered upper class, paid for with taxes on the wages of the middle class, and paid for in blood by the lower class.

Al-Ahram link via Counterspin.

A related post is here.
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"Many Arabs already define this neo-colonial war as a historic turning point which might have as profound an effect on the Arab psyche as September 11 did on Americans. Arabs have long been accustomed to seeing Israeli tanks running rampant. Now the puppet-master, arrogant and unashamed, has sent his helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles to Arab soil."

— Jonathan Steele in Damascus for
The Guardian.
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Saturday, March 29, 2003
War as mind fuck. Go read this terrific post by Digby on
the ongoing influence of Newt Gingrich.
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Jerry Bruckheimer's next film slated to win 2003 Academy Award for best documentary:
"Bask in Glory".

For his acceptance speech, a standing ovation and amplified cheers from stage hands are guaranteed by show producers.
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"Think of the media as an offensive weapon," says
Jerry Broeckert, a retired Marine public affairs officer. He calls Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "a master of information control and media manipulation." Interesting insights from a military PR insider in Rake Magazine.

Link via Romanesko.
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Friday, March 28, 2003
Ethel the Blog is covering a number of interesting angles. All of today's posts are worth your while; start with
this one and work your way backwards.
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This just in:
Halliburton's out. "After taking some political heat, Halliburton is stepping out of the kitchen. The giant energy and construction firm once managed by Vice President Dick Cheney is no longer in the running for a $600 million rebuilding contract in postwar Iraq, NEWSWEEK has learned."

Via Agonist.

UPDATE: I was corrected on the Agonist comments board for confusing this contract with the Halliburton firefighting and other deals which are not affected. A related post is here.
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The 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers. Hilarious.

Link via TalkLeft via Tapped.
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Meet an unlikely activist: Warren Langley. This will be the first in a series of profiles of people whose antiwar activism is "unlikely." Please feel free to submit others you find, especially from local sources.

Today we focus on Warren Langley, veteran and managing principal of a venture capital firm (interview by Jennifer Saranow in the
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
Warren Langley, a former president of the Pacific Exchange in San Francisco, was arrested March 14 while blocking the entrance to the exchange during an antiwar protest. The 60-year-old Air Force veteran talked to us about why the conflict in Iraq prompted him to protest war for the first time, and what he is doing to get others in the business community involved.

What's different about this war that led you to get involved opposing it?

I was in my 20s and 30s [during the Vietnam War] and my view of the world was different. I was in the Air Force and was trying to do my job as best I could. … I didn't question whether the war was right or wrong or any of those things at that point in time. [Mr. Langley served as a U.S.-based engineer and professor for the Air Force during the Vietnam War.]

Now, I turned 60 in January so I have a different perspective of the world. … I watched things unfold after Sept. 11 and it seemed to be that we jumped from protecting against terrorism to focusing on Iraq, and that never made sense to me. As we kind of marched through the fall there was this huge disconnect between what are we doing and why are we doing this. … It started to feel like a political war to me.

Fundamentally, I think war is the last resort. War is when you can't find other ways to accomplish your means, and it appeared to me there were lots of ways to disarm Saddam Hussein without invading him. That just didn't make sense to me and I always rebel against things that just seem totally out of whack. I have to say that that feeling got stronger on my 60th birthday in January. My wife said, "Well, what do you want to do for your birthday?" And I said, "Well, I'd like to march in this march they're having here in San Francisco." And so on my 60th birthday I went down and marched.

What was your role up until then in the antiwar movement?

I had been writing to [my senators] and asking them why they haven't been speaking out more strongly against the war because they're my elected representatives. I've always followed the rules and that's what you're supposed to do.

[...]

How did it feel to get arrested?

It's one of those things where you're nervous because you've never done it before and it is certainly something that you've been taught all your life is wrong, so there's this overhanging guilt. The police acted very appropriately and it wasn't confrontational. There was a group of us sitting around in a circle at the intersection and the police went around with a last warning, and then you got up and they handcuffed you. It was a bit strange to suddenly have this helmeted guy with a face mask, a plastic face shield, putting handcuffs around my arms and putting me into a prison bus with metal barriers all around it. That felt really strange. The next day I was actually riding in a taxi someplace and I saw a police car and my stomach flip-flopped. … I do look at the world slightly differently because I went through that process.

How would you characterize the protesters?

There are a lot of different groups. There was a very strong veterans' group and I kind of identified with those guys. There were more traditional protesters, if you will, and then there were some odds and ends like me. A trader I used to know very well from the floor came and sat with me on the street until the police warned us for the last time and then he got up and left. People were mostly in their 20s and 30s and my gray hair stood out.

[...]

Is the goal now still to stop the war?

You don't want to take on things that are totally impossible. You need to take on things that are achievable.

What do you think the protestors will achieve?

I hope it makes politicians who are in office right now more accountable and gives those who need it more courage to stand up because they realize there are people out there, more than they thought, who think a certain way. I hope in the next year or two it affects choices we have to make about supporting peace in Israel, about reorganizing Iraq, about not going into North Korea and about not going into Iran.

What have you found the reaction to the war to be in the business community?

I think people who are in the middle of their careers, I found a number of them who agree with me. But they are reluctant to speak out because they see it as a risk. If I'm running a business, what if half my customers don't like what I say?

[...]

What's going to happen when you go to court?

I don't think I'll contest it. I did it. I'm used to consequences. When you make choices, you have consequences. [Protesting] is one of things I'm most proud of in my life. I feel like my taking a little bit of risk myself has had an effect. I certainly didn't stop the war, but certainly maybe will add one stick to the pile of stopping the next war.
Kudos to the Journal for this interview, which presents a point of view quite different from its opinion pages. In the online version there was a picture and biographical highlights, a nice tribute to an ordinary hero.
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Gary Hart is now a blogger too. We applaud the move and wish him much success in his effort "to engage people on critical policy matters and the future of our country."

We also hope that the blog doesn't ever devolve into pleasantries written by staff. Oh, and good luck keeping the comments tidy.
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"Put on something else," my wife said to me as I was scanning the cable news channels this morning. "Cartoon Network is showing 'Baby Loonie Tunes' — is that all right?" I asked. "Sure," she said. "Anything's better than this news."

So I switched to Cartoon Network's 'Baby Loonie Tunes,' a preschool cartoon show, which was on commercial break. They were showing a Navy recruiting commercial.

No kidding. This was about twenty minutes ago.
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Thursday, March 27, 2003
19 million pages of Enron documents to be released. My eye doctor will be pleased (
Houston Chronicle):
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon indicated today she will make public the bulk of 19 million pages of Enron documents the company provided to the government and has also produced in two massive would-be class action lawsuits.

[…]

John Strasburger, the Houston-based lawyer representing Enron, said the company wants to protect private employee information and information on on-going contracts, asset sales and lawsuits that could lessen the value of assets if revealed. He said the company has already reviewed 10 million pages and found 4,000 documents that it wants kept private.

Strasburger said Enron has already produced to the depository most of what it has given to federal authorities. "For more than a year the federal government has been waging a campaign of shock and awe against Enron," he said. He said the public has been well served by the mass of information the company has provided the government agencies, and now the depository in the civil case.

Paul Howes, lawyer for lead shareholder plaintiff the University of California Board of Regents, agreed some personnel information should be kept private but not personnel performance reviews. He said Enron's request for categories of confidentiality like ongoing lawsuits or contracts are too broad and could be used to hide important information from the public.

"This is not an ordinary case. What we are talking about is a case of historic proportions, " Howes said. "The public interest has to be balanced."

Harmon indicated she will ask Enron to provide a list of the documents it wants kept confidential and that it may take another few months to finish compiling the full list if it provides some intermediate lists in the mean time.

The list will also be provided to the news media, the judge indicated. A lawyer representing several news interests including the Houston Chronicle asked that all the information be made available to the public as soon as possible.
I think it's a little early in the game to use "shock and awe" as an all-purpose cliché and metaphor, considering that the Siege of Baghdad hasn't even happened yet, and, besides, this particular metaphor is being used in defense of Enron, fraudulent financier to Bush's cabal and their Husseinomania.

I hope the Chronicle stays on top of this story. They've been doing a very good job so far, and I have to admit I'm looking forward to reading Andrew Fastow's performance reviews.

We also urge all plaintiffs and their attorneys to release as much information as possible online, where it can be searched and dissected and analyzed among the Volunteer Brigade for Justice — namely, us bloggers.
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More death and more secrecy.
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Oil thieves act "quietly." Here's an article from the
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd.) with the apt headline "Oil Companies Quietly Advise Soldiers on How to Save Fields":
The oil industry has gone to great lengths to distance itself from any planning related to the potential post-war opening of Iraq's massive fields, now partly in U.S. and British hands. But it is becoming clear that a number of companies played significant advisory roles in military operations taking place on those fields, underscoring an unusual partnership between the military and private companies in the Iraq campaign.

BP PLC employees in Kuwait showed the Royal Engineers and other combat troops how oil fields operate before their assault on South Rumeila, along the Kuwaiti border. Houston fire-fighting firm Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc. helped draw up emergency and contingency plans for securing the field, and private-sector U.S. oil executives, serving as U.S. reserve officers, ran soldiers and combat engineers through fields in West Texas in preparation for the attack.

[...]

Army engineers have been working with Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root for months, drafting a plan of action for rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to dole out other contracts to oil-field service companies in the days and weeks ahead.

But it is now apparent that oil companies have played a greater behind-the-scenes role in military planning than previously known. For centuries, private companies and citizens have volunteered to help their governments in time of war. But Iraqi oil -- a primary focus of the Pentagon's military campaign -- has been a thorny political issue for the Bush administration, which has strong ties to the oil industry. Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton until 2000, for instance, when he resigned to run for office. He has since divested his stock in the company.
Cheney divested his stock, but is even today still on the Halliburton payroll.
With the Bush administration eager to avoid accusations that it is going to war for oil -- and executives sensitive to appearing opportunistic as soldiers fight and die in Iraq -- companies have shied away from talking about their discussions with U.S. or British officials concerning Iraqi oil.
Of course Texas oil executives are sensitive about appearing opportunistic — because they are opportunistic, exchanging human lives for illegitimate claims to foreign oil. And while US soldiers fight and die in Iraq to protect oil fields while US civilians sit mesmerized by CENTCOM and FoxNews, guess who's making off with all the money — in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy, war profiteering, no-bid government contracts, and a whole raft of corporate fraud schemes that will never stop surfacing as long as we all live on this faith-based, god-forsaken planet.
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Even more Enron manipulations, and a comment from Bush. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released a
series of reports that expose the energy market manipulations of Enron and other companies (Houston Chronicle):
Federal regulators condemned energy companies for past market manipulation Wednesday and started pursuing sanctions against several of them for their roles in the 2000-2001 California power crisis.

[...]

All of the Enron-related companies that are mentioned in the report are in bankruptcy, so any effort by the state of California to get refunds from the companies will need to go through a U.S. bankruptcy court in New York.

The commission also signaled that it probably will not force energy companies to renegotiate more than $20 billion in long-term power contracts California agreed to when natural gas and electricity prices soared to record levels in 2000 and 2001.

[...]

The report also says that Enron could not have done the transactions that allowed it to manipulate the markets without the help of other parties, such as municipal utilities that would buy or sell power at Enron's request to create certain conditions.

The report also refers to a handbook that Enron had for employees. The handbook had directions on which counterparties to call in certain market situations so that the counterparties could take advantage of the conditions.
Did I understand that right? Enron couldn't have pulled the manipulations off without the help of municipal utilities — "counterparties" — that were in on the scheme.

This vast right-wing conspiracy even had a market manipulation handbook of phone numbers to call to move the market in this or that direction. The laissez-faire "unseen hand of the marketplace" was rooting around in California's pockets — and removing $45 billion in one fell swoop.


enronMeanwhile, the beneficiary of all that Texas energy industry largesse was a certain George W. Bush, who had this to say about the California energy crisis during a White House press conference on March 29, 2001 (shortly after Cheney's six secret energy meetings with Enron): "We need a full affront on an energy crisis that is real in California and looms for other parts of our country if we don't move quickly."

Language mash-up aside, there are several things wrong with this statement. One, the energy crisis in California was not real. Two, the energy crisis was engineered by his campaign contributors and personal friends. Three, it is a bad idea to extrapolate from a phony situation concocted by cronies to create scenarios of looming crisis for the rest of the country.

The energy crisis wasn't real, but the "full affront" is quite real — and it's on us.

Enron, although one of the most egregious, wasn't the only company identified by the FERC. The others include Reliant, BP, Dynegy, El Paso, Williams, Duke, Mirant, CMS and Coral.

UPDATE: bad things once again comes through with the telling detail. None other than the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and several smaller municipal utilities were involved in "Death Star," a ploy of scheduling nonexistent energy transmissions to create the appearance of congestion so that utilities and power generators could collect payments to relieve it. Go read the whole post. Bonus points if you catch the phrase "bad thing" in the cited text.
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Still more Enron fraud. Two of Enron's fraud engineers get indicted (
Houston Chronicle):
The specially called Enron grand jury Wednesday indicted two former midlevel executives on charges of conspiracy and fraud in scheming to generate $111 million in false earnings through a failed Enron online movie service.

Kevin Howard, former chief financial officer of Enron Broadband Services, and Michael Krautz, former EBS senior accounting director, were both indicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count each of making false statements to federal investigators.

The two men were arrested on these charges March 12.

The indictment issued Wednesday clearly shows the government thinks lies were told about EBS and appears to indicate more EBS-related charges could surface.

"However, many of the representations made about Enron's network and software at the Jan. 20, 2000, analyst conference were false, in that Enron did not possess the network software or capabilities that it claimed. Subsequently, EBS failed to generate any significant recurring revenue from its telecommmunications business," the indictment stated under a section headed "the scheme to defraud."
Belated apologies to mmw of bad things who correctly pointed out to me in a 3/12/03 email that Howard and Krautz are "not Ken Lay, but not exactly nobodies either" after one of my extended rants about Enron CEOs not being in captivity. He provided news of their arrest from that bastion of liberalism, Forbes.
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Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top






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