culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, April 22, 2003
New blogs added to the roll. Blogger software difficulties have prevented these fine blogs from appearing here sooner:
Billmon
No More Mister Nice Blog
pfaffenBlog
words mean things
Back In Iraq 2.0
BADATTITUDES JOURNAL
Demagogue
Blog :: Gary Hart
HugoZoom
INTEL DUMP
painpill
Silver Rights
unmedia
We Want the Airwaves!
Go visit! (And thanks to everyone who has linked here, including one of our favorites: Cursor.)
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"We will try and endeavor to get the menu." Spring frost continues in the White House, where deputy press secretary Claire Buchan answered none of about 75 questions posed to her by the press corps, even on such innocuous subjects as the menu for Easter dinner at the Crawford ranch. Dana Milbank in the
Washington Post:
When the matter is inconsequential, such as what the president is eating for dinner, the White House's determination not to answer the question is harmless, and often amusing. But it is indicative of something larger. In a study of communications in the Bush White House, to be published in the June issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly, academic Martha Joynt Kumar writes that the administration's intense control over information has the benefit of keeping the message simple and unified. But it also leaves presidential policies unexplained and White House responses inflexible.

"While previous administrations regularly explained policy proposals from the White House podium, it has not been a practice of the Bush administration to do so," she writes. Kumar also observes that "one of the byproducts of a communications operation geared toward action is the difficulty inherent in listening while selling."
Similar to the difficulty inherent in pronouncing the word "nuclear," walking and chewing gum, etc.

But answers to basic questions are indeed coming out of the White House — delivered in theocratic action, not secular words. From the same article:
Muslims were upset that Franklin Graham, who had condemned Islam as evil, preached at the Pentagon last week. Now comes word that the White House held a private briefing for 141 evangelical Christian leaders March 27 to discuss the Iraq war and other subjects.

Those invited included Jerry Falwell, who apologized last year for calling the prophet Muhammad a "terrorist," and broadcaster Marlin Maddoux, who has proclaimed an "irrefutable connection" between Islam and terror. Also invited were the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, which is sending food to Iraq labeled "grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ," and Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who said Iraqis are "desperately in need of the gospel." Invited, too, was D. James Kennedy, whose ministry published an article calling Islam "one of the greatest challenges to Christianity."
Meanwhile, Rumsfeld says (New York Times), "...we hope (for) a system that will be democratic and have free speech and free press and freedom of religion."

Of course, he meant in Iraq, at the same time his boss is calling America's most notorious theocratic wannabes to the Pentagon and the White House for a joint salivation session over all those appetizing, newly-conquered souls.

Dress the salad with this Moonie news crouton (MSNBC link via Atrios):
For his new Deputy of U. S. Trade, Bush has selected Josette Shiner, a longtime member of the Unification Church, whose members are sometimes derisively called "The Moonies." Shiner was also the managing editor for Moon's Washington Times newspaper.

In December, Bush gave another longtime Moon follower a plum appointment. He named David Caprara to head AmeriCorps at VISTA, leading some to question whether Bush is paying back the reverend for his generosity to the Bush family.
So what's it going to be for dinner in America? Democracy or theocracy?

We will try and endeavor to get the menu.
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Devious Iraqi bosses contract with devilish Halliburton.
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd):
"They're all with Saddam," said many in a group of workers who made an 80-kilometer journey in a crowded bus from Basrato to this dusty town, where oil pipelines snake across the desert scrub brush. The reference was to senior Iraqis working with Kellogg, Brown & Root, a unit of Halliburton Co. (HAL), which the U.S. has contracted to rehabilitate Iraq's oil infrastructure.

"They (Iraq oil managers) were all corrupt, making 1 million to 1.5 million dinars a month, while we took home 50,000 to 60,000 dinars a month," said one of the oil workers, mechanic Asad Jabar.
Iraqi oil managers made 20 to 25 times more than workers? That's undemocratic! Inhumane! How can bosses be treated so disproportionately?

"The average [US] chief executive's pay was 42 times that of the average hourly worker in 1980, according to Business Week. By 2000, the CEO compensation was 1,531 times as much as the hourly worker's" (Houston Chronicle). Regardless of how fast workers' wages rose in those twenty years, CEO compensation rose over 36 times faster.

It's an undeclared war, but American CEOs sure are winning it.
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Monday, April 21, 2003
On the eighth day, after He rested, He built a creationists' theme park along Interstate 275. Even stupid people deserve their own
museum:
The cold winter is over, flowers are blooming and steel is going up at the unique Creation Museum, under construction in Northern Kentucky. Massive steel beams — some 50 feet high — now rise above the scenic skyline along Interstate 275.

Answers in Genesis, a nonprofit apologetics ministry based in the Cincinnati suburb of Florence, Kentucky, is building a 95,000 sq. ft. complex (which will include the new AiG headquarters) debt- free, as donations come in. Over $7 million has already been raised.

"Plans for the interior of the museum are taking shape, as well. As soon as guests walk through the front doors, realistic, life- size dioramas will provide a snapshot of an early world -- including Adam with dinosaurs -- that will challenge evolutionary worldviews," according to AiG's Mark Looy.
These "Answers in Genesis" geniuses have all the answers. Here's how they blithely explain the troublesome dinosaur problem:
The Bible tells us that God created all of the land animals on the sixth day of creation. As dinosaurs were land animals, they must have been made on this day, alongside Adam and Eve, who were also created on Day Six (Genesis 1:24-31). If God designed and created dinosaurs, they would have been fully functional, designed to do what they were created for, and would have been 100% dinosaur. This fits exactly with the evidence from the fossil record.
Wouldn't it be great if the world were explained as simply and as neatly as these cretins seem to think it can be? On second thought, maybe not.

Sad excuse for an educator, Dr. David Menton will be explaining all about dinosaurs this weekend to the 11-year-olds of Indiana.

How soon before these deranged people get science research grants from the US government?

Via ArchPundit.
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Jesus died for your congressman's $1.1 million townhouse. Amazing how a million dollars here, a million dollars there, can blind your average Christian lawmaker from the fact they they are rolling in
theocratic conflicts of interest (Yahoo/AP):
Six members of Congress live in a $1.1 million Capitol Hill town house that is subsidized by a secretive religious organization, tax records show.

The lawmakers, all Christians, pay low rent to live in the stately red brick, three-story house on C Street, two blocks from the Capitol. It is maintained by a group alternately known as the "Fellowship" and the "Foundation" and brings together world leaders and elected officials through religion.

The Fellowship hosts receptions, luncheons and prayer meetings on the first two floors of the house, which is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a church.

The six lawmakers — Reps. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn.; Bart Stupak, D-Mich.; Jim DeMint, R-S.C.; Mike Doyle, D-Pa.; and Sens. John Ensign, R-Nev. and Sam Brownback, R-Kan. — live in private rooms upstairs.

Rent is $600 a month, DeMint said.

[...]

It organizes the annual National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president, members of Congress and dignitaries from around the world. The group leaves its name off the program, even though it spent $924,373 to host the event in 2001, bringing in $606,292 in proceeds, according to the most recent available IRS records, and pays travel expenses for foreign officials to attend.

[...]

"We feel like it's nobody's business but our own," said former Rep. Steve Largent, R-Okla., who lived there before leaving Congress to run unsuccessfully for governor in his home state last year.

That secrecy is unsettling to the Rev. Barry Lynn, a United Church of Christ minister who heads watchdog group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

"What concerns people is when you mix religion, political power, and secrecy," Lynn said. "Members of official Washington should always be open and direct about the groups they choose to join, just to dispel any concerns that there's an inappropriate or unconscious agenda in these groups."
Subsidized housing is so nice — too bad so few people beyond CEOs and Christian members of Congress are entitled to it.

Because the Capitol Hill townhouse is a "church," it's supposed to be "religious," and that means it's all "tax-free" too!

But ordinary American citizens don't have the benefit of their leaders' secretive benefactors, whose chief result was the claim to have helped not legislators but the poor.

Consider the spiritual symmetry of this arrangement: Congressional Christians get to make more money and pay less rent than their own interns and staffers:
Cameron McCree, a recent graduate of the University of Arkansas, was at the bottom of the scale when he interned on Capitol Hill in the summer of 2001. He earned $1,000 a month, but it cost him $800 a month to rent a room at George Washington University, not to mention the cost of food and sightseeing.
With even a little scrutiny, this scheme is looking less Christian and more routinely opportunist.

Once again, the most outwardly pious people turn out to be the sneakiest conniving bastards you'd ever want as your representatives in government.

UPDATE: Via The Agonist comes this long article on the benefactors' cult from Harper's.
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It's better late than never, I hope, to point out that, while on the post-surgical mend,
The Sideshow's Avedon Carol is posting at Avedon's other weblog, a temporary depository of all that is good and just and sane in this crazy, mixed-up world of ours.
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President as Pet Rock. The Bush brand didn't outsell the Gore brand — it just had better (and much more expensive) packaging to attract your average Wal-Mart customer, says
Digby. The deceptive tactics of marketing are now married to the deceptive tactics of corrupt CEOs and the deceptive tactics of Republican political strategy:
The Bush administration, then, really is the political equivalent of Enron. Ken Lay and George W. Bush and Karl Rove and Andrew Fastow and Jeff Skilling and Dick Cheney are all cut from the same cloth.
And what stingy, threadbare, conformist crap that cloth turns out to be.

But walking in lockstep comes naturally to the right. The larger problem is organizing people who celebrate diversity and nonconformity in thought and styles of self-expression. That is, Democrats with a capital D.

After the debacle of the midterm congressional elections last November, I had plenty of similar thoughts. But how will we get where we need to go while we're immersed in Republican-compliant media? I agree with the commenter at Digby's Hullabaloo who said that if the Bush administration is the political equivalent of Enron, then the press is Arthur Andersen.

The absence of a critically thinking mainstream American press is the void that all this blogging energy is meant to fill.
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Riley Bechtel and the crony economy. The joys of the Bush economy are limited to the administration's innermost circle of influence and affluence (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
...Bechtel is widely perceived as the front-runner for future [Iraqi reconstruction] business as the U.S. spends up to $100 billion in what is seen as the biggest reconstruction project since World War II's aftermath.

[...]

At least two current Bechtel executives have ties to the Bush administration.

A senior vice president, Jack Sheehan, sits on the Defense Policy Board formed to advise Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who himself once lobbied for a Bechtel project. Sheehan, a retired Marine Corps general, manages Bechtel's petroleum and chemical operations.

And President Bush appointed Bechtel's chairman, Riley Bechtel, in February to the Export Council, which advises the president on international trade matters.

[...]

Bechtel's critics don't doubt the company is up to the job. Instead, they say that by limiting the bidding to Bechtel and five other U.S. companies, the federal government might not have gotten the best free-market deal.

"We are concerned that the government seems to be handpicking their buddies for these contracts," said Seth Morris, research associate for the nonpartisan Washington-based Project on Government Oversight.

[...]

Riley Bechtel, 51, is the great-grandson riley b
I'm so rich!
of company founder Warren Bechtel and has been chief executive for 13 years. He has emerged as one of the world's richest people with an estimated fortune of $3.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

The company has backed its personal contacts within Washington with sizable campaign contributions. Bechtel gave $1.3 million to political candidates from 1999 through 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

That is a lot less than other influential businesses. The donations look like small change compared to the money Bechtel earns from the government.

In the fiscal year ended in September 2002, the Department of Defense paid Bechtel $1.03 billion, making it the 17th-largest military contractor in the country.
In retrospect, Bechtel makes even more sense than Cheney's Halliburton.

Why? Because it's a private, family-owned company, and therefore not bothered by such messy details as disclosure or accountability. It's logical for one dynasty — the Bushes — to honor the Bechtel dynasty.

Bechtel's past, too rich to go into detail here, is fascinating in its contrivances — first by wooing Saddam Hussein as a suitor (with one Donald Rumsfeld popping a breath mint and holding the bouquet), then by punishing him by killing him for his rejection of its affections:
After serving as treasury secretary in the Nixon administration, George Shultz was Bechtel's president for seven years before he left in 1981 to become secretary of state in the Reagan administration.

And Casper Weinberger was its general counsel and served on the company's board from 1975 to 1981 before becoming secretary of defense under Reagan.

While Shultz was U.S.'s top diplomat, the U.S. government tried unsuccessfully to persuade Saddam Hussein to let Bechtel build a pipeline to carry Iraqi crude oil through Jordan to the Red Sea port of Aqaba.

In 1983, Rumsfeld, while working as a special U.S. envoy in the Middle East, traveled to Baghdad to discuss the pipeline with Saddam and Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz
, according to memos in the National Archives.

Iraq rejected the pipeline idea in 1986. Shultz has since returned to Bechtel's board of directors.

Bechtel exemplifies "the revolving door between government and business that Washington has helped perpetuate for years," said Jim Vallette, a research director at the Institute for Policy Studies, a nonpartisan Washington-based think tank. "We should have a separation between the state and corporations. Instead, they're acting more like partners."
Bechtel reminds us that the war wasn't totally about political hypocrites craving Iraqi oil.

It was also hypocritical hyper-opportunists moving American taxpayer money from the US Treasury directly into the hands of the Bush dynasty's supporters. And cynical geopolitical strategies designed to pilfer international assets. And the new Faustian alliance between corporate financial power and American military power.

Who would have thought that a choice other than Halliburton could stink quite as detestably?
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The Book of Sharon. Michael Moore's publisher is ponying up the advance to get Neil Bush's jilted wife Sharon Bush's backstory on the Bush dynasty (Cragg Hines in the Houston Chronicle):
...Los Angeles publisher Michael Viner confirmed "a deal in principle" to handle Sharon's book. The Bushes viewed this as an especially bad sign: Viner also saw into print Stupid White Men, the work of Bush/Republican scourge Michael Moore.

Sharon's working title: Family First. Sharon's advance: "six figures," which covers a lot of territory and is apparently not close to "seven figures." Sharon's outlook: "It will be positive, not negative," said Suzanne Wickham, a publicist for Viner's New Millennium Entertainment.
Now that Sharon has been voted off the island, former first lady Barbara Bush is already practicing at the firing range for the 2004 Battle to Defend Her Family's Values:
The former first lady will view Sharon's book as another assault on her carefully cultivated image as the nation's grandmother, when, in fact she has the longest, most exacting political memory of any member of the family*. Runner-up in that category is the current president**.

It's not made any easier for Barbara Bush knowing that Neil's family-busting affair was with a former volunteer at the former first lady's good-works foundation. Or that the volunteer's own recent divorce case featured several letters from Neil to the "other woman" -- reportedly with lots of syntactical problems.
Syntactical problems are evidently a large part of the Bush legacy.

The current administration was supposed to be the alternative to adultery, but Sharon's book will put an end to that ludicrous notion — given that her syntactically-challenged banking criminal husband repeatedly porked one of Mom's assistants before the Republican slattern's most recent child even turned two years old.

Instead of the alternative to adultery, the Bushes have given us many other alternatives... to international peace, jobs, homeland security, civil liberties, environmental protection, the separation of church and state, ethics in business, viable stock markets, and fair elections within our borders.

*Translation: Bitch with grudge.

**Translation: Takes after Mom.

Previous post about Sharon and Neil Bush here.
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Thursday, April 17, 2003
Syringes from Jesus. A crusade by any other name would smell as sickening (
Christian Science Monitor):
Christians have been present in the Middle East since the first century, living harmoniously with Muslims for long periods. Some claim the problems are with a more assertive Western Christianity that uses its wealth in manipulative ways.

"There are very sincere missionaries whom Muslims like," says Dr. Nasr. "But what makes them angry is that US proselytizing is combined with worldly advantages: Poor people are wooed with medicine for their children, syringes for their cows, and then are expected to attend services."
Broadly speaking, a more assertive Western Christianity "using its wealth in manipulative ways" could include things like bombing and invasion. Especially since the purported rationale for the war — WMD and terrorism — has so far turned out to be an utter fraud.

Now the conquered people can suffer further indignities, bartering their spiritual lives for medicine and food. Aren't we nice for helping the armless orphan boy, whose family we killed and whose arms we blew off? I wonder if he has yet accepted Jesus as his true savior.

The way all these people act in the name of God — George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, Franklin Graham, millions of others — only supports the idea that if a deity exists at all, it is nowhere in the vicinity of any of them.

Happy fucking Easter.
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Go read Monkey Media Report's excellent post on
Syria and al Qaeda.
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"It didn't have to happen." Yahoo tells us that
Bush Cultural Advisers Quit Over Iraq Museum Theft:
The head of a U.S. presidential panel on cultural property has resigned in protest at the failure of U.S. forces to prevent the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities museum.

"It didn't have to happen," Martin Sullivan said of the objects that were destroyed or stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in a wave of looting that erupted as U.S.-led forces ended President Saddam Hussein rule last week.

Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property for eight years, said he wrote a letter of resignation to the White House this week in part to make a statement but also because "you can't speak freely" as a special government-appointed employee.

The president appoints the 11-member advisory committee. Another panel member, Gary Vikan, also plans to resign because of the looting of the museum.
The President's Advisory Committee on Cultural Property has its own website stating that the United States Department of State is responsible for implementing the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.

Even though he was lone dove of the Bush bunch, former military leader Colin Powell is going to get the Chaos of the Chickenhawks pinned on him.
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Is it still considered looting
if you have keys? From the Houston Chronicle:
Some looters emptying Iraq's museums of centuries-old treasures were possibly professional thieves who used keys to enter locked safes and vaults, experts said today. [...]

A gathering of 30 art experts and cultural historians in Paris said that while much of the looting in Iraq was haphazard, some of the thieves clearly knew what they wanted and where to find it -- suggesting they were prepared professionals.

"It looks as if part of the looting was a deliberate planned action," said McGuire Gibson, a University of Chicago professor and president of the American Association for Research in Baghdad. "They were able to take keys for vaults and were able to take out important Mesopotamian materials put in safes."
McGuire Gibson is coincidentally the same expert who repeatedly conferred with the Pentagon (Washington Post) in advance of the war.

We wrote about the deviousness behind this "looting" previously.
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Please pay before pumping. Except no one is there to take our money for the
51 percent increase in oil imported to the USA from Iraq in February, the month before we invaded it.

In January 2003, we imported only 600,000 barrels of Iraqi crude a day. In anticipation of our invasion, we upped our order to 909,000 barrels per day in February.

Hopefully we put the purchase on a credit card so we can skirt the bill and also get a half-billion frequent flyer miles for Colin Powell.
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The New, Improved Jessica Lynch Show. A healthy dose of artistic license can often make a drab story seem more dramatic (
Washington Post):
Accounts of the U.S. military's dramatic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from Saddam Hospital here two weeks ago read like the stuff of a Hollywood script. For Iraqi doctors working in the hospital that night, it was exactly that -- Hollywood dazzle, with little need for real action.

"They made a big show," said Haitham Gizzy, a physician at the public hospital here who treated Lynch for her injuries. "It was just a drama," he said. "A big, dramatic show."
This may come as a surprise to average Iraqi civilians and other recent amputees (see the same article above), but the American style of leadership is now 100% show business. The scripts, editing, camera angles, costuming, sets and props are much more carefully planned than any other aspect of government actions. The Jessica Lynch Show, like the The Fall of the Statue Show, is a fraud.

The war between surface and substance is over. Surface won. Why else put an empty suit in front of a painted warehouse backdrop — inside a real warehouse?

fakebox

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Wondering about Jessica. I found myself wondering aloud about POWs Jessica Lynch and Shoshana Johnson and casualty Lori Piestewa, and saw that
Jeanne d'Arc of Body and Soul had already wondered about the same issues that troubled me. Her post is dated April 6, a week before POW Shoshana was found:
...I had found myself wondering, too, if the situations were reversed and Lori Piestewa, the Hopi woman who was killed in Iraq, had been rescued, and Jessica Lynch had died, if we would not now be seeing the tragic death as more important than the rescue. If we wouldn't be thinking, yes, thank God that one woman was rescued, but we must not forget the brave, blonde girl who died at the hands of evil men, and fight all the harder in her memory. The word "wondering" is the key there. I'm aware of how often the issues and concerns of anyone who isn't white, male or middle class (preferably all three) get shoved to the margins, and when something like this happens, it's pretty hard not to notice that the media is obsessed with one particular woman, and that her pigmentation is different from that of the majority of women in the military.
Lori's story is told in "What about Private Lori?" in The Guardian.

Links via Progressive Gold and The Agonist.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Next up for looting: The Art Museum of Enron. Another glorious aspect of Enron's past excesses is now coming to light — the company had a multimillion dollar art collection hand-picked by the wife of its now-indicted CFO. So says the
Houston Chronicle:
What Enron hoped would be a world-class collection of contemporary art promoting its cutting-edge image will go on the block next month.


switchThe first round of the auction, approved by a U.S. bankruptcy judge on Tuesday, is scheduled for May 15-16 in New York. Up for sale will be the most valuable pieces, including Claes Oldenburg's Soft Light Switches and nine other artworks.

About 50 other pieces will be auctioned by Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg in the fall.

Much of the collection was bought by an in-house art committee, chaired by Lea Fastow, wife of indicted former Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow. Given a $20 million budget, she traveled to New York; Venice, Italy; and elsewhere in search of pieces.

The spree continued from late 2000 to the following fall, when Enron went into the tank and shopping was stopped, having spent about $4 million.

"It's like The Beverly Hillbillies," said Hiram Butler, co-director of the Devin Borden Hiram Butler Gallery in the Heights. "What's not fun -- flying around, buying art?"

Examining a partial list of the artists and pieces represented in the collection, Butler, who specializes in contemporary art, "I'm wondering, 'Who are these guys?' "

Five pieces that will be auctioned May 15 are the highlights "are all 'A' quality" representative pieces of contemporary genres, including pop, op (for optical) and minimalism, said Amalia Dayan, a contemporary art specialist at Phillips de Pury.

The majority of the collection, to be auctioned this fall, is "lower value work," Dayan said. "It was a corporate collection. You have huge spaces you have to fill with art. When you have to fill huge spaces, you buy less valuable art. You combine that with a few quality examples."

Oldenburg's Soft Light Switches, a vinyl pop sculpture of what appears to be a melted light switch, is by far the most valuable piece in the collection. Enron bought it from Phillips de Pury three years ago for about $590,000, including commission.
Light switches, energy company — get it?

Effortlessly mixing the sublime with the banal, Enron's hamburger-helper art collection will be auctioned instead of looted, as if that makes any difference at all to the acquirers of such fabulously expensive objects.

I picture Lea Fastow in a Venetian gallery, haggling over price in louder and louder English with an Italian dealer. Ugly art for ugly Americans.

The Enron quote of the day for these "Beverly Hillbillies" is "What's not fun -- flying around, buying art?" For a contemporary art expert with a sense of humor, I give a lot of credit to the immediately likeable Hiram Butler.

Image credit: Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, who receives luscious commissions on both the original purchase and the subsequent auction of many of these artworks.

May 1, 2003 UPDATE: Photos at this post: Lea Fastow is charged and surrenders to federal authorities.
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Neil Bush offers soon-to-be ex-wife Sharon $1,000 a month. Brother to presidential candidates George and Jeb and compassionate bank criminal Neil Bush is taking full advantage of his divorce proceedings to exercise his Inner Miser (
Denver Post):
...Neil infamously served as a director of Silverado Banking, Savings & Loan. The S&L failed in the late '80s, costing taxpayers more than $1 billion. Neil received federal sanctions and, with 11 other defendants, agreed to pay $49.5 million to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The family moved to Houston in 1991.

Maybe that $49.5 million is why Neil's final settlement offer to Sharon was $1,000 a month, which she refused. The case goes to jury trial this month.


bbushAccording to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, Neil is involved with Maria Andrews, mother of three (the youngest 18 months), who divorced her husband in October. Neil met Andrews when she worked for a Barbara Bush foundation. Dozens of letters from Neil to her have been admitted as exhibits. Ouch. Houston insiders expect Neil and Andrews to marry once his divorce is settled.
Adultery among parents! It's always refreshing to see Republican family values as they're actually lived.

Neil's offer of $12,000 a year precludes any more fancy Egyptian vacations for Sharon Bush. What a contrast from Neil's remarks about their March 2001 family getaway to a painfully obvious destination — the Mideast:
First of all, this is our first visit to Egypt as a family. My wife Sharon and my daughters have been to Luxor and Cairo, but never to the Red Sea. We’ve heard so much about the snorkeling and diving here, so we decided to spend a portion of our trip in this part of Egypt. I dive, but I’m not a master. My wife has been diving many times, but this is actually the first time for us to dive together as family.
Perhaps it also turned out to be the last time they would dive together as a family.

Sharon's refusal of the thousand-a-month offer was understandable, given the lifestyle to which she's become accustomed as part of the Bush dynasty.

Also interesting in the Egyptian article is the dyslexia angle, trumpeted as Neil's triumph of entrepreneurial insight:
Neil Bush has recently initiated a revolutionary interactive learning tool in the United States, which he calls the Ignite! Learning System. Ignite! is a computer program designed to replace classroom textbooks and help teachers teach and students learn more effectively. In his youth, Neil Bush suffered from dyslexia, and his 7th grade teachers told his mother, Barbara Bush, that he would not graduate from high school. Bush triumphed in his challenge to live with dyslexia, and was inspired to promote ways of learning such as Ignite! to enable children to be better educated by methods that help them develop their full learning potential. Ignite! will be launched in the United States this summer, actively promoted by members of Neil Bush’s family, including two of his children, Ashley and Pierce.
Readers in Texas and especially Houston — you know who you are (wink!) — are invited to email me as many local stories as possible as the divorce trial proceeds.

See a previous post about Neil Bush here. Lauren Bush has been hailed as a Republican Babe of the Week. Denver Post link via BuzzFlash.

UPDATE: The Daily Kos reports on a New York Observer story about Sharon's pitch for a tell-all book. Sharon is supposedly willing to break Bush family silence about its overt dynasty-building, since they collectively refused to budge on the $1,000 a month offer.
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Thieves favored in California. The voters of California apparently prefer known thieves to unknown Democrats according to
this poll, that shows Bush (45 percent) ahead of any Democrat (40 percent) if the 2004 election were held today.


bushfaceBush's chief campaign financiers included Enron, one of the masterminds behind the California energy crisis that wiped $45 billion from the state economy.

Enron, of course, imploded in a wave of accounting scandals based on fraudulent earnings only months after helping Junior secure the White House and helping Dick Cheney determine US energy policy in secret.

Californians, no more snooze button. The alarm is ringing. It's time to wake up.
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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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