culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Monday, May 12, 2003
L. Paul Bremer wins Iraq. There's a new saddle on the Iraqi horse, says the
Washington Post:
"I also want to say how proud I am of the work my good friend Jay Garner and the people who are working for him, how proud I am of everything they have done here in the last couple of weeks under extraordinary circumstances," [L. Paul Bremer III] said after arriving in Basra.

He said he wanted to "pay public tribute to Jay and all of his people for the great job they have done."

[...]

Bremer said former U.S. ambassador Barbara Bodine, who was coordinator for central Iraq, including Baghdad, within the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, was being reassigned back to Washington by the State Department "for their own reasons."

[...]

Bremer, 61, is a former assistant to former Secretaries of State William P. Rogers and Henry Kissinger. He was ambassador-at-large for counterterrorism from 1986 to 1989, and he also has served as U.S. ambassador to Holland. He most recently has been chairman of the Marsh Crisis Consulting firm.

Bremer reports directly to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. Gen. Tommy Franks, the Central Command chief, remains in charge of all U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and the region.
Further evidence of how Defense is trumping State — not that Garner and Bodine were especially intelligent choices in the first place, as pointed out here (Garner) and here (Bodine).

Wondering how Bremer got the gig? A public presidential blow job might have lubricated the way. This Kissinger crony and Reagan worshipper is moving his lips with a vast amount of sycophantic energy, as witnessed by his remarks in March 2003 in the New York Times:
...Europeans call the American President a "cowboy" blundering into an "unnecessary war" with Iraq.  But like Reagan before him, this President [has] a clearer worldview than his critics.

For a year and half, with remarkable clarity President Bush has laid out his understanding of the threat posed by a new breed of terrorists.  These Islamic extremists are motivated by a burning hatred of all things western — not just the superficialities of the West, our films, magazines and culture, but the very foundations of our societies — the separation of Church and State, universal suffrage, women's education, a free press and trade unions.  To understand their vision of an ideal society, one need look no further than the hideous Taliban regime.
As this administration attacks the very same foundations of our society that the "extremists" are accused of attacking, it selects another zealot against Islamic zealotry — too dense not to confuse Hussein with bin Laden — and sets Bremer loose in newly conquered lands of the Middle East.

It probably didn't hurt that bremer"

L. Paul Bremer:
"Star Wars will
save you from
Osama bin Laden"
Bremer authored a 2002 Heritage Foundation study entitled "Defending the American Homeland" that prioritizes domestic security interests. Examples: Infrastructure: "Priority #4: Enhance the private sector’s role in infrastructure protection." Intelligence and Law Enforcement: "Priority #2: Rapidly improve information-gathering capabilities at all levels of government." The task force for the study, "chaired by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer and former attorney general Edwin Meese III, reviewed the homeland security proposals in circulation and created a set of priority recommendations for preventing and responding effectively to potential terrorist attacks on the American homeland."

Bremer-Meese's Heritage Foundation study was reviewed as if it were a book:
Now, I’m not second-guessing a former Attorney General (that would be Mr. Meese, for all you Gen Xers; he served under Reagan) on policy, but from an analytical point of view, this is scary stuff. Solutions include more surveillance and drastically improved civil defense. It’s a strange mix of horrific language ("an all-source, Federal level, information fusion center") and one bleak possibility. For 170-plus e-pages, what you get is this message: "Spend this money this way, or lots of you will die. Implement these programs, or lots of you will die. Use our military this way, or lots of you will die. Beef up this part of our infrastructure, or lots of you will die."
Tragically, these self-misled homeland security "experts," supposedly insulating our collective future against suitcase bomb and bioweapon attacks, are actually more willing to spend the money on Star Wars missile defense systems.

And the ironies accumulate. In this age of Bush-crony corporate malfeasance, Bremer's day job is supposedly as an expert in corporate governance, which, in Bremer's Orwellian doublespeak, actually means "strikebreaking":
When a massive labor strike threatens a company's ability to achieve its financial goals or even survive, Management needs to be ready to manage that challenge with a comprehensive, fully integrated Crisis Readiness program.
Postwar Iraq report card: Bodine: F. Garner: F. Bremer: Too soon to tell, but our bet is on F.

Additional resources: Here's the introduction for a Financial Executives International speech Bremer gave in April 2003 at a Dallas country club, his "Crisis Academy library" and his official announcement as presidential envoy.
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Friday, May 09, 2003
Art Chicago 2003, the best annual large-scale art fair in Chicago and perhaps the country will be here today through May 12.

As the show producers say, "No other venue in this country offers such a dynamic and concise survey of contemporary art to the public." And they're not kidding — it's a great show.
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The sweet and patriotic smell of skunk. Journalism needs to wake up and indulge its Inner Pot-Stirrer, says
William Powers (May 9, 2003):
The problem, and the essential challenge for the news business right now, is that we are living through a moment that's inhospitable to our deepest talents and inclinations. The best journalists are troublemakers, pot-stirrers, naysayers, dirt-eaters. When the whole culture is saying "Yes, yes, yes" to some sparkly idea or popular leader, we love nothing better than to be the ones who rush in screaming "No, no, no," brandishing the ugly evidence. To the noble hack, there is no smell sweeter than the skunk spray of a major political scandal.

[...]

Maybe none of these stories are as solid as their promoters suggest. Maybe it's all a bunch of thinly disguised partisan trash. But then, some of the best stories have intensely partisan origins. The point is, we seem to have lost our appetite for this stuff, at exactly the moment when we should be indulging it. When flags are waving everywhere, it's time for journalists to get back in touch with their nasty, scandal-loving inner selves. It's the most patriotic thing we could possibly do.
"Patriotic" is a word that desperately needs a couple of viable variant definitions beyond the one promoted by the Bush-Rove Dictionary of Electable Language, Second Edition.

There's a lot of power to be had by journalists if they could shake off their slumbers. If these be dirt-eaters, bring on the dirt!
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Nigerian scam hits those suckers at Halliburton. Whoops! Halliburton paid a bribe of $2.4 million to
an impostor! From the subscription-loving Wall Street Journal:
HOUSTON (AP)--A subsidiary of Halliburton Co. paid a Nigerian tax official $2.4 million in bribes to get favorable tax treatment, the company disclosed in a federal filing.

In a filing made Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said its KBR subsidiary "made improper payments of approximately $2.4 million to an entity owned by a Nigerian national who held himself out as a tax consultant when in fact he was an employee of a local tax authority."

The filing stated that the payments were found during a routine audit, and that several employees were fired as a result.

Halliburton said it was cooperating with the SEC in its review, and added that none of the Houston company's senior officers were involved.*

A company spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle for its Friday editions that the bribes were paid between 2001 and 2002.

Company officials are trying to determine how much it owes Nigeria in back taxes. It could be as much as $5 million, the filing said.
*Such ineptitude would never have "happened" while former CEO Dick Cheney was running the company, you can be sure. Because it would be filed under "secret" and therefore "nonexistent."

Talk about your sucker bets — first Bill Bennett's $8 million to slots and video poker, and now Cheney's $2.4 million to some Nigerian scamster. How's this for a new right wing slogan: Pretty fucking stupid.

⇒ Here's the Houston Chronicle article.
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Felons reading your email and Visa bill. Felons, and people whose names are similar to those of felons, are not allowed to vote in Florida but soon they'll be surveilling your email and checking on your travel plans. Read all about it in the
New York Times:
Mr. [John M.] Poindexter* told a California audience then that "we must become much more efficient and more clever in the way we find new sources of data, mine information from the new and old, make it available for analysis, convert it to knowledge and create actionable options." He described a system that could tap into Internet mail, culling records, credit card and banking transactions and travel documents.
*On March 16, 1988, Poindexter was indicted on seven felony charges arising from his involvement in the Iran/contra affair, as part of a 23-count multi-defendant indictment. As of 2002, he is a Director of the DARPA Information Awareness Office.
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Thursday, May 08, 2003
Bombing to win Florida. James C. Moore, the co-author of Bush's Brain: How Karl Rove Made George W. Bush Presidential, doesn't like the way the war was waged for purely political ends (
Los Angeles Times):
Rove fancies himself an expert in both policy and politics because he sees no distinction between the two. This matters for a number of reasons. There is always a time during any president's administration when what is best for the future of the country diverges from what best serves that president's political future. If Rove is standing with George W. Bush at that moment, he will push the president in the direction of reelection rather than the country's best interests.

The United States is best served when political calculations are not a part of the White House's most important decisions. Rove's calculus is always a formula for winning the next election. He was less concerned about the bombing of Iraqi civilians or the bullets flying at our own troops, according to people who have worked for him for years, than he was about what these acts would do to the results of the electoral college, or how they influence voters in swing states like Florida.

There needs to be something sacred about our presidents' decisions to send our children into combat. The Karl Roves of the world ought to not even be in the room, much less asked for advice.
Measured against Junior's shot at re-election, the lives of Iraqi civilians and our "volunteer" armed forces, consisting largely of the lower classes, count for nothing.

It is depressingly amazing to witness not only the ignorance of the national interest, but also the extreme lack of morality within this sham-religious administration.
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Are you in the no-fly zone? "The next time you go to the airport, your name could be entered in a secretive new government database, and depending on your threat rating — red, yellow or green — you could be prevented from flying or even detained.

This new background check program, called Computer-Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System or CAPPS II, would assign a rating to every American based on information from secret intelligence and law enforcement databases and even commercial data such as purchase history and banking records.

Innocent Americans have already been stopped and banned from flying because their names erroneously appeared on government “no fly” lists.  Take the
ACLU’s quick quiz to find out who’s being stopped from flying, and whether you could become one of them."

Link via RuminateThis.
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Wednesday, May 07, 2003
The profane art of nickel-squeezing, by Richard Perle. Why did it take so long for the words "conflict of interest" to appear in the mainstream media? From the
Los Angeles Times:
Last February, the Defense Policy Board, a group of outside advisors to the Pentagon, received a classified presentation from the super-secret Defense Intelligence Agency on the crises in North Korea and Iraq.

Three weeks later, the then-chairman of the board, Richard N. Perle, offered a briefing of his own at an investment seminar on ways to profit from possible conflicts with both countries.

Perle and his fellow advisors also heard a classified address about high-tech military communications systems at the same closed-door session in February. He runs a venture capital firm that has been exploring investments in that very area.

[…]

On Feb. 27, 2003, two speakers — Henry D. Sokolski of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center and Michael Pillsbury, a Pentagon advisor under Feith — gave [classified] presentations to the Defense Policy Board on the risks and prospects of U.S. conflict with North Korea. The same day, the Defense Intelligence Agency, which works for the Pentagon, also briefed the board on North Korea and Iraq among other subjects, according to several people in attendance.

Three weeks later, perlePerle participated in a Goldman Sachs conference call in which he advised investors on opportunities tied to the war in Iraq. Perle's talk was called "Implications of an Imminent War: Iraq Now. North Korea Next?"

[…]

Retired Rear Adm. Thomas Brooks, who served on the policy board during the Clinton administration, said Perle's actions were "certainly questionable."

"It sounds like he's squeezing every nickel out of the Defense Policy Board," he said.

[…]

Defense Policy Board members are not paid but are subject to government ethics prohibitions that bar the use of public office for private gain. They are required to file a disclosure form with the Pentagon listing their business interests. The forms are not made public.

At the time Rumsfeld appointed him chairman of the board, Perle was just forming his new investment fund.

Planning documents from early July 2001 show that he and his partners hoped to raise $500 million, which they aimed to "invest in emerging growth companies," including defense and aerospace firms.

Perle would be "fully engaged in the investment activities of the Partnership," said the prospectus. Gerald Hillman, Perle's friend and business partner, would be the fund's "primary deal-maker." The following month, Hillman was named to the policy board.

Membership on the board, says its charter, "will consist primarily of private sector individuals with distinguished backgrounds in national security affairs."

Perle, who worked at the Pentagon during the Reagan years, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute think tank and directed its Commission on Future Defenses. He has also advised members of Congress and is frequently called to testify at defense hearings on Capitol Hill.

The biography of Hillman included in the draft prospectus lists no national security or defense qualifications. It says Hillman has "a strong background in industrial policy, corporate strategy and finance."

During a brief phone conversation, Hillman said he has known Rumsfeld for 35 years. He invited further questions by e-mail, but did not respond.

Several military experts said they had never heard of Hillman.

"He doesn't seem to have any apparent credentials for the board other than being a friend of Richard's," Brooks said. "To not see a causal relationship [between Perle being named as chairman and Hillman being named to the board] strains credulity."

In November 2001, the investment fund was incorporated in Delaware under the name of Trireme Partners.
Trireme is part of the story that Seymour Hersh broke in March 2003, as described by the LA Times: "The New Yorker magazine first reported on Perle's involvement with Trireme while he was serving as chairman of the Defense Policy Board. Its story, written by Seymour Hersh, revealed that Perle had met with Adnan Khashoggi, a controversial Saudi arms dealer, and Harb Saleh Zuhair, a Saudi businessman, and sought investments in the fund from them."

The appearance of the fabulously inexperienced Gerald Hillman on the Defense Policy Board is another coup for the Trireme venture capital vultures.

The terminology is somewhat troublesome. To experienced casino gamblers like Bill Bennett, a "nickel" is slang for $500. But "squeezing a nickel" must be venture capitalist slang for "bilking taxpayers out of $500 million."
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If the economic success of Texas is the model, soon Habitat for Humanity will be building
whole neighborhoods of houses across the country for the millions of people whose incomes and livelihoods were decimated by the economic policies of the dividend-revering ex-Governor of Texas, the oily son of an out-of-touch oil millionaire.
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In Texas, "oil" is pronounced "all." The war in Iraq is over, and Halliburton won (
Houston Chronicle):
On Tuesday, a key House Democrat continued his attacks on the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to hire Houston-based Halliburton Co. under an exclusive, but short-term, contract to perform emergency repair work in Iraq's oil fields.

In response to inquiries from Rep. Henry Waxman of California, Lt. Gen. Robert Flowers, commander of the Army Corps, said Halliburton's contract called for not only the putting out of oil fires and the cleanup of crude spills, but the "operation of facilities" and the "distribution of products" as well.

Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, pounced on the language to suggest that Halliburton's contract "is considerably broader in scope than previously known."

"Only now, over five weeks after the contract was first disclosed, are members of Congress and the public learning that Halliburton may be asked to pump and distribute Iraqi oil under the contract," Waxman wrote in a letter to Flowers.
Meanwhile, the taxpayers who funded this war are still waiting for the appearance of the anthrax and the other purported WMD that the seriously flawed (and probably fictional) intelligence provided by Rumsfeld and the Pentagon was supposed to have identified.

Cheney's oil industry intelligence on the Iraqi reserves, however, turns out to have been quite accurate.
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Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Skimble: The Poem
skimble culture, politics, commentary, yesterday:The
arrogance, conformity and are ultimately lowered as fresh
picture of
Americana. The mystery of that
highly subjective, and over. April
22 :million,
Americans without notice. Avoid operating heavy machinery or motor vehicles while
Clinton
could she say it does know,
that, April Foley is
a People and into
the mission statement. The
moon.
Autogenerated at
Rob's Amazing Poem Generator, which will create a poem (of sorts) out of any site you like.
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Monday, May 05, 2003
Follow the money. Until today, more than half of W's big-money financial support was secret (
Dallas Morning News):
An elite network of big-dollar donors to George W. Bush called "the Pioneers" was far more extensive than previously known, producing perhaps half the record-smashing $100 million for his 2000 presidential race, according to court documents.

While the Bush campaign initially made public a list of 226 members of the Pioneer network, there actually were more than 500, newly released court records show.

The size and scope of the Pioneer network revealed in the documents underscore how a relatively small group of wealthy energy company officials, corporate executives, lobbyists and others accounted for a sizeable portion of the money that helped catapult Mr. Bush to the White House.

Moreover, as the president prepares for re-election, he is expected to tap the same network of wealthy donors to build what Bush advisers hope will be a $200 million campaign treasury.
Was it understood that the earlier list of 226 names was meant to be complete? Isn't it illegal to disclose this information so late in the game? See the original article for the full list of all names.

Surely these people are in favor of a tax cut for the rich, no matter how ill-timed and in total defiance of common sense.

Okay, readers, let's get busy. Check the list and make note of your state's names. Then scour your hometown media, and send links to good stories here. To defeat these "Pioneers" and their bottomless pockets, we need scandalous local stories about each of these 500 people and their various business conflicts of interest, religious manias, hypocrisies, etc.

If they're going to bring down the whole country, they're coming with us.
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Iraqi News Channel. Head of Programming: Jesus Christ. Religious creeps live up to their name (
Common Dreams):
The U.S. government this week launched its Arabic language satellite TV news station for Muslim Iraq.

It is being produced in a studio -- Grace Digital Media -- controlled by fundamentalist Christians who are rabidly pro-Israel.

That's Grace as in "by the Grace of God."

Grace Digital Media is controlled by a fundamentalist Christian millionaire, Cheryl Reagan, who last year wrested control of Federal News Service, a transcription news service, from its former owner, Cortes Randell.

Randell says he met Reagan at a prayer meeting, brought her in as an investor in Federal News Service, and then she forced him out of his own company.

Grace Digital Media and Federal News Service are housed in a downtown Washington, D.C. office building, along with Grace News Network.

When you call the number for Grace News Network, you get a person answering "Grace Digital Media/Federal News Service."

According to its web site, Grace News Network is "dedicated to transmitting the evidence of God's presence in the world today."

"Grace News Network will be reporting the current secular news, along with aggressive proclamations that will 'change the news' to reflect the Kingdom of God and its purposes," GNN proclaims.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the U.S. government agency producing the television news broadcasts for Iraq, likes to say it is the BBC of the USA.

BBG runs Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, and Radio Sawa -- Arabic language radio for the Middle East.

"Our mission is clear," BBG's Joan Mower told us. "To broadcast accurate and objective news about the United States and the world. We don't do propaganda, leafleting -- we are like the BBC in that respect."

Well, then why hook up with Grace?

BBG's Joan Mower said that Grace Digital Media is a mainstream production house used by all kinds of mainstream news organizations.

"Grace will have nothing to do with the editorial side of the news broadcast," she said. "They are renting us equipment, space, studio. The Grace personnel we use include technicians, production people but no editorial people."

But Mower said she couldn't get us a copy of the contract between BBG and Grace Digital media. Nor could she say how Grace Digital was chosen as the production studio.

Grace News Network proclaims that it will be a "unique tool in the Lord's ministry plan for the world."

"Grace News Network provides networking links and portals to various ministries and news services that will be of benefit to every Christian believer and seeker of truth," according to the company's mission statement.

The CEO of Grace News Network is Thorne Auchter.

The same Thorne Auchter who began the dismantling of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under Presidents Reagan and George Bush I.
Surely this was not the only production facility available in the Washington area. The contract and the decision-making criteria were unavailable because they doubtlessly contain the unmistakable overtones of the editorial meddling for which Christian Republicans are so notorious.

Thanks for the heads-up from reader Steve D.
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American Family Association: Say no to comics. Dancing and rock and roll are next, as the American Family Association decides that the wild-eyed radical Make-a-Wish Foundation must support its boycott of the unseemly goings-on at the Pittsburgh Comic Convention. Take a peek at their
action alert page, including this astroturf-like letter addressed to the chapter and national presidents of the Make-a-Wish Foundation:
Dear President Stone,

When asked to disassociate with the Pittsburg Comic Convention last month, your chapter assured families the Pittsburgh Comicon would not subject children to pornography.

But according to eyewitnesses, the Comicon and the benefit activities subjected children to gratuitous amounts of porn, gambling, and alcohol throughout the convention.

I encourage you to re-evaluate your chapter's association with those who promote events that damage the reputation and trustworthiness of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

I will strongly consider your response to my concerns before making donations to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The insane base of the Republican Party is no longer content with threatening run-of-the-mill liberals — now even charities that help dying children must kowtow to their cultural revolution.

Like a wet dream of John Ashcroft, the AFA is known for its activist agenda, doing its utmost to bring us all to the level of sophistication of its stupidest members. Here are some articles that characterize its odor: "Yahoo: Portal to porn," decrying the "homosexual agenda," and a bunch of miscellaneous creationist crap.

Wait until South Park Republicans and Log Cabin Republicans find out that they are excommunicated too.

And as for debilitating effects of gambling on moral leadership — read the post directly below this one.

Here's a People for the American Way profile of the AFA, and here's an antidote to it.
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Friday, May 02, 2003
The moral voice of the right wing loses $8 million at casino gambling. William J. Bennett took the money he made from his self-righteous books, speaking engagements, and Scaife and Olin foundation support, and gambled it away — hundreds of thousands of dollars at a time — on $500 slots and video poker in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.

Read the whole damning article by Joshua Green in
The Washington Monthly. Yet another example of the common loutishness behind the pious finger-wagging of the right's hypocritical posturing.

Like any routine gambling addict, still Bennett swears he breaks even.

The death of outrage, indeed.

Link via Counterspin.
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Enron wants its tax refund. Shocking but true: Enron, MCI and Qwest and other Fortune 500 swindlers are all seeking refunds for taxes paid on their false profits (Rebecca Blumenstein, Dennis K. Berman and Evan Perez in
The Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
A parade of big companies is under investigation for inflating their earnings during the stock-market boom of the 1990s. Now some of them see an unusual silver lining: They want back the taxes they overpaid along the way.

In the latest wrinkle in the unfolding series of corporate scandals, MCI and Enron Corp. are in the process of collecting or filing for tax refunds or credits from the Internal Revenue Service because of tax payments on billions of dollars they falsely claimed to have earned. Qwest Communications International Inc., which plans to restate $2.2 billion in revenue, also is likely to seek a refund. Embattled HealthSouth Corp., accused of overstating its earnings by more than $2 billion, said that it hasn't made a final decision to file for a refund but is considering it.

Fraud or not, the current tax code makes no distinctions. It is a basic tenet of tax law -- both for individuals and corporations -- that those who overpay are entitled to a refund.

[...]

With the number of corporate scandals and expected financial restatements at a historic high, no one knows just yet how much the federal government could have to forfeit on the refunds and credits. Even if such credits are ultimately lowered as part of settlements, observers believe that the federal government will probably be out hundreds of millions of dollars.

Investigations into fraud at MCI, which recently changed its name from WorldCom Inc., have uncovered accounting irregularities that are now expected to reach $11 billion. The fraud masked two years of losses at the country's second-largest long-distance company during the height of the telecommunications and technology boom of the late 1990s.

Already, as MCI prepares to emerge from bankruptcy in September, a person close to the situation says it has collected tax refunds of nearly $300 million on those now-discredited profits.

[...]

Richard Lipton, a tax attorney for the Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, said corporate fraud should have no effect on the ability of companies to recoup tax overpayments. "It's not the government's money, it's the shareholders' money," Mr. Lipton said, adding that corporate penalties for making a false tax return are capped at $500,000.

The overpayments are one more thing for shareholders to be upset about, since companies were deprived of the use of that cash. "You are really in a sense shortchanging shareholders," says Henry Hu, a corporate and securities-law professor at the University of Texas Law School. "It is a perverse set of circumstances. You are basically making gifts to the government in order to make yourself not look bad."

[...]

In a recent study of 27 companies charged with fraud, a University of Chicago accounting professor, Merle Erickson, found that top management apparently was willing to sacrifice tax payments made in cash in order to publicly report sham earnings and revenue gains. His study found that, on average, companies "sacrificed" 11 extra cents in taxes for each dollar of fraudulent earnings.

As it turns out, companies committing fraud were more afraid of the IRS than of their own auditors. Also, tax payments in the late 1990s weren't too much of an impediment to earnings as companies touted the measure known as Ebitda, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization as a more accurate gauge of their results and growth potential.

Even Enron, which paid just $63 million in taxes between 1996 and 2001, is seeking tax credits, say people familiar with the matter. That may be tough to collect, however, since the IRS has claims of its own, one person familiar with the company said. Enron spokesman Mark Palmer said that the company is "in settlement discussions with the IRS."
As Richard Lipton and Henry Hu point out above, it really is the shareholders' money that was stolen and given as a gift to the government to prop up the appearance of respectability. The IRS acted as an unwitting toll booth on the way to legitimizing the imaginary profits. These companies couldn't have achieved have the results they did simply by doing business, so they created a house of mirrors that included paying hundreds of millions of dollars in actual taxes that protected the illusion from further scrutiny. For a while, anyway.

Getting the money back from the IRS, out of the hands of the Bush administration (which helped to create this haze of corporate irresponsibility), and into the deserving hands of the shareholders who were swindled is therefore, in the words of an embattled Martha Stewart, still a good thing.
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More on the Andrew and Lea Fastow indictments along with others of the Enron extended family, in today's
Houston Chronicle. Lots of pictures and thorough reporting by Mary Flood, Tom Fowler, and Bill Murphy and Harvey Rice.
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Thursday, May 01, 2003
Christian felon Chuck Colson wants $5 billion to preach abstinence to Africans. If it isn't greed from the Enrons and the Halliburtons and the Bechtels, it's greed from the Christian side of the Republican equation.

Watergate felon Chuck Colson, now a "Christian," wants to save Africans from viral exposure by preaching sexual abstinence at enormous expense to American taxpayers (
Christianity Today):
"Fighting AIDS on a global scale is a massive and complicated undertaking, yet this cause is rooted in the simplest of moral duties," President George W. Bush said Tuesday. "When we see this kind of preventable suffering, when we see a plague leaving graves and orphans across a continent, we must act. When we see the wounded traveler on the road to Jericho, we will not, America will not pass to the other side of the road."

Among those applauding Bush's speech were Focus on the Family's James Dobson, Prison Fellowship's Chuck Colson, and evangelists Franklin Graham and Anne Graham Lotz.

"Americans can do something about this modern plague—and we must," Colson and William J. Bennett wrote in a Washington Times op-ed that same day (which was very similar to Colson's March 17 Breakpoint radio commentary): "President Bush has correctly identified African AIDS as a humanitarian catastrophe of staggering proportions—one that a strong and merciful nation must throw its considerable resources into fighting. His $15 billion plan to do so is both simple and sensible."

In yesterday's Breakpoint commentary, Colson again affirmed the President's plan, but added a warning: "There's a danger that the president's initiative may be derailed in Congress. The House International Relations Committee failed to pass two critically needed amendments."

One would have set aside at least one third of the funding for abstinence and monogamy programs, and the other would have provided a conscience clause exempting faith-based groups from having to hand out condoms (some say the amendment would also allow groups to hire workers consistent with their religious beliefs).

A third amendment that some other religious conservatives were pushing for would limit funding to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is affiliated with the United Nations.
Who decided that it would cost at least $5 billion to say "stop having sex"? Only a theo-Republican without any understanding of virology or public health could have come up with that highly imaginative budget.

What do you expect from a felon who had a piety makeover?

Bush and Colson have so much in common, Colson wrote in his commentary yesterday:
The president made it clear that the House and Senate must act quickly, not only to pass a law, but also to make it clear that the faith-based community will be full participants. At the end of the meeting the president said, "We need to do this because it is the right thing."

I added, "It's not only the right thing, Mr. President—it works."

"I know that," he replied. "That's what delivered me from alcohol, and I wouldn't be sitting at this table otherwise."

I responded, "I wouldn't be sitting at the table either."
And think of all the Africans we could save if neither the ex-drunk deserter nor the Nixon felon were sitting at that table.

Fighting viruses with Bibles is not only bad medicine, it's another example of the fraud that passes for policy in the Bush administration.

Tell your representatives not to allocate AIDS in Africa money to any faith-based groups.
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Lea Fastow, Enron's art buyer, gets charged. The wife of Enron CFO Andrew Fastow and six others are charged and expected to be cuffed today (
Houston Chronicle):
All but one are expected to surrender to federal authorities this morning and will likely be paraded into the courthouse in handcuffs.

The former executives to be named today are Ken Rice and Joe Hirko, co-chief executive officers of Enron Broadband Services; Kevin Hannon, chief operating officer of EBS; F. Scott Yeager and Rex Shelby, EBS executives; Ben Glisan, Enron treasurer; Dan Boyle, vice president; lea fastowand [Lea] Fastow, who is married to former CFO Andrew Fastow and was a one-time assistant treasurer of Enron.

By 7:30 a.m., Rice, Hirko, Hannon, Yeager, Glisan and Boyle had surrendered at FBI headquarters on East T.C. Jester. "Prosecuting this guy is like prosecuting a piano player in a whorehouse," said Boyle's attorney Bill Rosch on the steps in front of the FBI building.
Piano players in the whorehouse indeed. What about the proprietors of the joint?

The best we can hope for is that Lea Fastow's indictment is a prosecutorial strategy to get her husband to implicate the twin madams of the best little whorehouse in Texas: Enron CEOs Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling. Hopefully this will happen sometime next year in the period leading up to the Republican convention in New York City, as fresh reminder of the damage these people and their lavish campaign contributions of fraudulent profits did to the office of the presidency.

Lea Fastow was most recently in the news for her $20 million Enron art-buying spree while the company was on the verge of collapse.

Photo by Carlos Antonio Rios from an October 2002 Chronicle story about Andrew Fastow's arraignment.

⇒ Here's a fresh picture of Lea Fastow from this morning, May 1, 2003.
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Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Peace is not part of the plan. The US Department of Defense's only institute devoted to peacekeeping is closing. From
The Observer:
As the US military grapples with the most ambitious peacekeeping and nation-building operation in 50 years, you might think that planners in the Pentagon are looking at ways to increase resources that support peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Well, you would be mistaken. The Department of Defense has just decided to eliminate its only institute devoted to such operations: the Peacekeeping Institute at the US Army War College in Pennsylvania. The Institute will close in October.

With only 49 peacekeeping centres in the world, some military and some civilian, Canada will have the sole remaining centre in North America.

The Peacekeeping Institute was created in July 1993 to guide the Army's strategic thinking on how to conduct peacekeeping and to document lessons-learned. It has operated with a staff of ten and a yearly budget of about $200,000 (out of an $81 billion annual Army budget).

[...]

Now we have come full circle, with US forces having to make the transition from war fighters to peacekeepers in Iraq in a matter of days. The looting and lawlessness in Iraq's major cities suggests that the US military is ill-prepared to perform as peacekeepers. So, at a time when US soldiers are doing civilian reconstruction in Afghanistan and are the stewards of post-conflict Iraq, how could it happen that the Peacekeeping Institute will shut its doors?

The Pentagon's rationale is simple: the Peacekeeping Institute is a casualty of "force realignment". All bodies are needed at the front to fight the Global War on Terror. The institute's former director, Colonel George Oliver, has himself been deployed overseas to work with the Pentagon-led reconstruction effort in Iraq.

The absence of political champions for the only federal organisation dedicated to thinking strategically about the US military in peace operations points to an increasingly obvious disconnect in Washington: the Institute has no strong political constituency. It is a post-Cold War policy orphan, regarded with suspicion from the Left for being a child of the military and scorned by the Right for having the word "peace" in its name.
Not spending $200,000 in peacekeeping strategy, versus spending $100,000,000,000 in post-looting reconstruction costs. Brilliant.

"My concern is, what message does this send to the world?" Oliver told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from his office in Carlisle, Pa [in 2002]. "It's going to say that the U.S. military doesn't really care about peacekeeping." (Via the Cato Institute.)

A bit of retrospective looking at the transition between Clinton and Bush from Government Executive Magazine:
The National Security Council [in 1993] brought together senior officials (mostly assistant secretaries) from a range of agencies to consult on the shape of the Haiti operation as a whole, while assigning each one clear responsibility for a particular problem: establishing security to the Pentagon, lining up allies to the State Department, reforming the police to Justice, rebuilding the economy to Commerce. The resulting plan was detailed and comprehensive, yet still flexible enough that President Clinton could turn an invasion around in midair when the Haitian junta backed down and allowed U.S. forces to enter peacefully.

The coordination for Haiti became the model, embodied in a document called Presidential Decision Directive 56. Admittedly, "PDD-56 never quite worked the way I wanted it to," said retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who helped write the doctrine while a Pentagon staffer and then saw it truncated in the Balkans. But at least there was a plan for how to plan. Said Col. George Oliver, director of the Army's Peacekeeping Institute: It "was only a partial step forward, but it was a big step—sort of like the first step on the moon."

In February 2001, the newly inaugurated Bush administration effectively revoked the Clinton directive. Whereas Clinton had formalized coordination and centralized control through the National Security Council, Bush prefers a looser process that relies on his powerful (and sometimes competing) Cabinet secretaries, such as Defense's Donald Rumsfeld and State's Colin L. Powell.
Our national interests are not being served. Our allies have seen through the lies. Iraqi civilians are suffering because of the poorly planned nature of the invasion. But at least we've secured the oil fields.

The Bush administration is less a government than a cult.
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Dogtown and Z-Boys is a fascinating documentary about a handful of people who created a vastly influential chunk of Americana. The film chronicles the invention of aerial skateboarding in 1970s California and its subsequent explosion into the universe of extreme sports. Great footage, stylish direction, and vivid characters add up to a very well-spent 90 minutes.

Here are
a bunch of reviews from various sources. Skimble says: 8 out of 10.
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Bill "Pussycat" Frist hides tail between legs. Hailed as a heroic medical genius or chastised for independent thought by his betters (depending on the day), Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist now shoves humble pie into his mouth with both hands (
FindLaw/Reuters):
Tuesday's 75-minute meeting was Bush's first face-to-face with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist since the Tennessee Republican cut a surprise Senate deal to limit the president's proposed tax cut to $350 billion -- less than half what the White House was initially seeking.

"I apologized. I made a mistake," Frist said before the White House session, which included House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican. "My goal is to grow the number as high as I possibly can," Frist added.
Nothing kittenis more sacred to Republicans than moving hundreds of billions of dollars from the US Treasury into the groping hands of the rich — it just took Frist a little while longer than usual to have the logic of it spelled out for him. Now he has seen the light, and is a changed man.

The man who practiced freelance surgery on helpless little pussycats has become one himself.
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Tuesday, April 29, 2003
The mystery of April Foley. Bush's ex-girlfriend helps recall his
Ivy League days (Washington Post):
Bush shrugged off the trappings of Harvard and avoided the official clubs that would showcase him in the yearbook and look good on his resume. Instead, he showed up for class looking like he had just rolled out of bed in the morning, often sat in the back of the room chewing gum or dipping snuff and made it clear to everyone he had no interest in Wall Street.


bushbubbleHe was one of the few people who posed for his yearbook mug shot in a sports shirt, a wrinkled one at that. The other prominent picture of him in the book showed him sitting in the back row of class with longish hair blowing a huge bubble.

"This was [Harvard Business School] and people were fooling around with the accouterments of money and power," recalled April Foley, who dated Bush for a brief period and has remained friends with him. "While they were drinking Chivas Regal, he was drinking Wild Turkey. They were smoking Benson and Hedges and he's dipping Copenhagen, and while they were going to the opera he was listen to Johnny Rodriguez over and over and over and over."
April Foley was just nominated by her ex-boyfriend, now the president of the United States, to the Export-Import Bank board, which has been called "a tool for an elite group of politically well-connected corporations to get sweetheart deals and cheap financing courtesy of American taxpayers."

Which well-connected corporations? "The bulk of Export-Import's benefits go to a small number of large companies that are sophisticated enough to get financing on their own: Boeing, Halliburton, General Electric, Northrop Grumman, Lucent Technologies, ChevronTexaco, Caterpillar and Dell Computer, among others...."

Go read all the gory details — including the international finance loops that include Osama bin Laden and Riley Bechtel — at bad things, who rightly points out that April Foley is a cipher as far as the Internet is concerned.
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Bush Two, Ground Zero. Junior wants the
open grave of Manhattan to serve as the theatrical backdrop for his reelection campaign.

The families of those whose remains he will desecrate with his cheap political stunt feel otherwise (New York Times letter to the editor):
To the Editor:

Re "Bush's Aides Plan Late Sprint in '04" (news article, April 22):

Since the worst terrorist attack in American history, which took the life of my brother, occurred in New York on Sept. 11, it seems appropriate that President Bush will be making his re-election bid from that city at that time in 2004.

Perhaps the millions of unemployed Americans, veterans whose benefits have been threatened, families of dead civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, working people who lost their pensions to corporate fraud, and 41 million Americans without health insurance can come to town and join him in celebrating the other achievements of his first term.

DAVID POTORTI
Cary, N.C., April 23, 2003
The achievements of Bush's first term are substantial. Too bad they're the wrong ones, having nothing at all to do with those who harm America. The Iraqi oil fields are open for business — but where's Osama bin Laden? The first tax cut for the rich was enacted and the second is on its way — but where's Ken Lay?

Link via Media Whores Online.
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Presidential compensation revealed. No, not what's he's paid, but what it is he's compensating for is revealed in this
official White House photo by Paul Morse, a transparent pseudonym for Sigmund Freud.

Link via Marstonalia, who will be added to the permanent links soon.
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Monday, April 28, 2003
Bush times are hard times, even in Texas. Now that he's lost the War on Terror (see below), Bush Junior apparently has also lost the confidence of his own "home" state, based on the results of this
2003 Houston Area Survey (Houston Chronicle):
  • In 2000 [while Clinton was still in office], 8 percent of Houston area residents called "economy, poverty" the biggest problem bushgolffacing the area. In 2003, that figure more than tripled to 25 percent.

  • Job opportunities were considered "excellent" or "good" by 73 percent back in 2000. In 2003, that figure is nearly halved to 39 percent. The proportion that considers job opportunities "poor" quadrupled over the same period.

  • A majority (53 percent, compared with 45 percent in 1997) support civil rights initiatives for gay men and women.
What a difference a few years make. Houston was of course hard-hit when Bush financier Enron went all MOAB on the region.

Funny how a governor of Arkansas can be more in step with what Texans want than a governor of Texas.
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Jay Garner, oblivious in his palace. "To the disapproval of some Iraqis and aid agencies, Mr Garner [Jay Garner, the retired US general heading the coalition reconstruction team] has established his headquarters inside a palace compound once lorded over by Saddam Hussein. Some here say that the choice of a palace, ringed now by razor wire and protected by tanks, sends entirely the wrong message to the Iraqi people."

The Independent via xymphora.
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Terrorists win War on Terror, with help from Bush administration. How else can anyone explain the epic scope of the Bush administration's irresponsibility (
Washington Post)?
KUWAIT CITY, April 24 -- Nearly three weeks after U.S. forces reached Iraq's most important nuclear facility, the Bush administration has yet to begin an assessment of whether tons of radioactive material there remain intact, according to military officials here and in Washington.

Before the war began last month, the vast Tuwaitha Nuclear Research Center held 3,896 pounds of partially enriched uranium, more than 94 tons of natural uranium and smaller quantities of cesium, cobalt and strontium, according to reports compiled through the 1990s by inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Immensely valuable rumsfeldon the international black market, the uranium was in a form suitable for further enrichment to "weapons grade," the core of a nuclear device. The other substances, products of medical and industrial waste, emit intense radiation. They have been sought, officials said, by terrorists seeking to build a so-called dirty bomb, which uses conventional explosives to scatter dangerous radioactive particles.

Defense officials acknowledge that the U.S. government has no idea whether any of Tuwaitha's potentially deadly contents have been stolen, because it has not dispatched investigators to appraise the site. What it does know, according to officials at the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command, is that the sprawling campus, 11 miles south of Baghdad, lay unguarded for days and that looters made their way inside.
First was the radioactive material from Halliburton and now this. How many ways do we need to supply anarchists with ingredients for dirty bombs?

And how many impeachable offenses do we need to get the ball rolling and end this perverse administration?
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What the world needs now is Spy Magazine. This Rake Magazine
interview with Kurt Andersen, founding co-editor of the brilliant Spy magazine, reminds us that there is a gaping hole in the somnolent 2003 media world — a hole that could be filled with smart, skeptical humor as an antidote to the arrogance, conformity and faux piety that saturates the American mainstream.

(Andersen hints at a Spy retrospective. Yes!)
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Friday, April 25, 2003
Shocker: Ken Lay loses money. All right, the loss was just a mere $125,000 out of a few properties in Aspen worth upwards of $22 million, but hey. From Danielle Reed in the subscription-requiring
Wall Street Journal:
Former Enron Chairman Kenneth Lay just lost some more money, though this time it was on the sale of his house.


greenlayIn a little-noticed transaction, Mr. Lay sold his Aspen, Colo., home for $4.7 million, a price $125,000 below what he and his wife, Linda, paid for the property in 1999, according to public records and people familiar with the transaction. The couple's second Aspen home, which is across the street, is now in contract for an undisclosed price after being listed at $6.15 million -- roughly what the Lays originally paid.

Prices like that are a far cry from the $8 million appreciation the couple saw on a third Aspen home, a 3,015-square-foot "cottage" on Shady Lane that a soap-opera producer bought last year for $10 million. Around the same time, the Lays also sold an undeveloped lot at the base of nearby Red Mountain for $2.15 million, or $500,000 more than what they paid in 1998. A spokeswoman for Mr. Lay confirmed the latest house sale, but declined to discuss financial details.
"Kenny Boy" — campaign financier to George W Bush and energy policy adviser to Dick Cheney — needs all the cash he can get to maintain his influence.

Note that over $20 million in Aspen real estate (what's up with a second home "across the street" from their first Aspen home?) was bought up in the couple of years leading up to the most spectacular bankruptcy in business history.

Too bad Ken Lay, as the poster boy for manic CEO thievery and perversions of corporate governance, helped Bush trash the American economy. Otherwise he would be getting higher prices for his pirated real estate.

⇒ Here's a Ken and Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay potpourri of posts from the ever-deepening skimble Enron archives.
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The vodka-powered Jenna Bush administration. Forget oil. The 21st century economy will be powered by energy produced by
fuel cells that run on vodka (New Scientist).

But don't rush to the liquor store just yet. We'll have to wait for a new president before this scientific development comes to fruition (New York Times):
"Perhaps in the Jenna Bush administration we'll see fuel-cell cars on the road, but we're not there yet," said Jon S. Coifman, a spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Meanwhile...

jenna

Image via The First Twins.


Is this a compelling ad for Marlboro Lights, or what? Here's a map to one of Jenna's favorite barsDouble Dave's, right off the University of Texas campus near 24th and Guadalupe in Austin.


UPDATE APRIL 2008: Get a preview of Jenna and Henry's honeymoon with the Republican Kama Sutra!
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The elder Bushes buy Sharon Bush's silence. Sharon Bush, the jilted witness to the Bush dynasty and ex-wife of S&L criminal Neil Bush, has been silenced with a generous financial arrangement by the president's parents (Shelby Hodge in the
Houston Chronicle, April 22):
With the divorce papers signed, the settlement reached, Sharon Bush is moving on. One week after the grueling two-day mediation that sealed the deal, Bush is turning philosophical about her split from presidential brother Neil Bush.

She won't be writing a Bush family exposé after all. "You know I'd never write a hateful tell-all," she said Tuesday.

But she is exploring the possibilities of life after the heady White House connections have ceased. A book remains among the options, even though a potential deal with Michael Viner and his New Millennium Press fell through late last week.

Viner said from Los Angeles Wednesday that the timing -- immediately following the divorce -- wasn't right and that Bush was having mixed feelings about the subject. "It just didn't make sense for us to go forward at this time," he said, adding that Millennium had not asked Bush to write a tell-all.

From the beginning, Bush has had her own thoughts about a tome. "It would be one that would be more of a book to help others. I need to make an income," Bush said after spending Easter weekend in New York with daughters Ashley and Lauren.

"I'm being offered several options, and one of them is to write a self-help book on what happens when a 23-year marriage is dissolved because of another woman. Because many people go through this ... about how you pick up the pieces and stay strong for your children."

Picking up the pieces, Bush plans to continue with the charitable works that have marked much of her tenure in Houston. She is currently working on the American Ireland Fund Special Olympics benefit set here for May 21. Ten of the 15 tables have already been sold for the event in the gardens of Paige and Tilman Fertitta's River Oaks home.

Monday, Bush joins daughter Lauren in New York for the Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute spring gala kicking off the Goddess exhibition. Among numerous "goddess" gowns on display will be one designed by Lauren in conjunction with Tommy Hilfiger. Later in the week, she and Ashley join a celebrity dog show (their mutt will be featured in a design by Lauren) benefiting the New York Humane Society.

As for her post-divorce financial situation, Bush said Tuesday, "The grandparents (former President George Bush and Barbara) have been good to me and to the children."
Sharon Bush's poker-playing skills aren't bad after all. But the bookstores will have to endure yet another treacly, uplifting volume from yet another talentless Bush — the price we all must pay so Sharon gets a divorce settlement that enables her to continue cavorting with Rolls-Royce dealers in the name of "peace."

Obviously she got a better than six-figure deal from the elder Bushes than was offered by Michael Moore's publishers, a deal that was sweet enough for her to renege on her earlier promise to expose the single-minded political machinations of the Bush dynasty.

Once again, money speaks louder than truth.

Previous posts about Sharon and Neil Bush are here and here.
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Thursday, April 24, 2003
Blogs: "A parallel journalistic universe." All journalistic writing must now be done under the explicit sponsorship of corporate entities whose power must remain intact. That's the moral of this story in
Editor & Publisher:
Hartford (Conn.) Courant Editor Brian Toolan recently told Courant Travel Editor Denis Horgan that he could no longer publish commentary on his Web log, DenisHorgan.com. Horgan is a former columnist for the paper who was transferred to the travel writing position earlier this year.

After losing his column, Horgan decided to set up his own Web page, where he has commented on everything from baseball to the Iraqi information minister to same-sex unions. "It kept me happy and gave me a chance to keep doing things that I wanted to do," Horgan told E&P Online. "I do it on my own time, from my own house. I'm not competing with the Courant. I'm not looking for advertisers. In fact, it costs me money to do this."

But Toolan sees it differently. "Denis Horgan's entire professional profile is a result of his attachment to The Hartford Courant, yet he has unilaterally created for himself a parallel journalistic universe where he'll do commentary on the institutions that the paper has to cover without any editing oversight by the Courant," Toolan said. "That makes the paper vulnerable."

The editor added that allowing an employee to set up his own opinion blog was a bad precedent. "There are 325 other people here who could create similar [Web sites] for themselves," Toolan said.
Interesting to see how threatened mainstream media are becoming. And it's about time. Creating "a parallel journalistic universe" is the point of much blogging.

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine puts it this way: "Many other media companies -- newspaper, magazine, TV, radio, online -- will need to start looking at the world in this way: from the other side, from the perspective of the audience, the audience as publisher."

Tip for Horgan: Pick a pseudonym like, I don't know, something weird like skimble, and then write whatever the hell you want.

Tip for Brian Toolan, his editor: Find a new career now, because the days of timid, pissant papers like the Courant are numbered.
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Publishing or pandering? The two largest publishing houses are undergoing a major shift to the right, according to
Publishers Weekly:
[4/22/2003] Now, within several days of each other, the country's two largest houses have announced their first incisions [into conservative titles a la Regnery Publishing]. Penguin says it will do fifteen new conservative-leaning titles in a yet-to-be-named imprint under Adrian Zackheim, who's been concentrating on business titles at Portfolio but also has notched Newt Gingrich's bestseller and other titles from Republican celebrities. The company calls the titles "books of political opinion and dissent with a conservative perspective."

[...]

In an interview, Zackheim said he wanted to establish Portfolio's business list before going ahead with a new line but that the idea has been percolating and gaining steam for a while. "It's a category neglected by mainstream houses," says Zackheim, "and it’s so hot that David and Susan didn't want to wait any longer." Zackheim says the company will "not be going after anyone's formula," and that books will range from the pop-journalism of the Regnery titles to memoir to even possibly some academic titles a la the more coneheaded Spence.

At Random House, Crown's Steve Ross has announced a new conservative line, coincidentally also for fifteen titles (the number of times Clinton did not have sex with that woman?). The division will be combining its own program with the recently incorporated list of Prima Forum, calling the imprint Crown Forum. (At the time of the Prima integration, it wasn't clear how many titles would be retained; now, Crown says, the house has decided to keep a chunk of them as well as build the list itself.)

The house kicked off the announcement with news of a new Ann Coulter book, titled Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, that it will bring out in June. Prima Forum was known for a number of bestselling conservative titles and was one of the more successful imprints at the soon-to-be-shuttered West Coast branch.
That's thirty new books from the right wing.

Regnery's recent catalog includes such literary gems as Absolute Power: The Legacy of Corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, Betrayal: How the Clinton Administration Undermined American Security, The Bible Is History, Brighter than the Baghdad Sun: Saddam Hussein's Nuclear Threat to United States, and, most convincingly of all, The Complete Guide to Wealth Preservation and Estate Planning. And that only includes selected titles through the letter "C."

Link via Moby Lives.
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Polygamist offended by Santorum. Going after gays is fair game, but when Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania starts in on polygamists, the gloves come off (
FindLaw/AP):
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The leader of one of Utah's largest polygamist sects has objected to Sen. Rick Santorum's comment lumping plural marriage with other practices the Pennsylvania Republican considers to be antifamily.

Santorum has been under fire for comparing homosexuality to bigamy, polygamy, incest and adultery.

Owen Allred, 89, head of the United Apostolic Brethen, based in the Salt Lake City suburb of Bluffdale, agreed with Santorum in part.

"He is absolutely right. The people of the United States are doing whatever they can to do away with the sacred rights of marriage," Allred told The Salt Lake Tribune.

But Allred said Santorum's inclusion of polygamy in his list tarnishes a religious tradition whose roots are traced to biblical figures such as Abraham, Jacob and Moses - defiling them as "immoral and dirty."
In other words, Allred is saying, "We're here, we're 89-year-old polygamists, get used to it." Or "It's okay to condemn and hate sexual nonconformists, as long as you don't condemn or hate my sexual nonconformism."

Here's a glimpse into the sordid world of Owen Allred, as told in the language of lawsuits.
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"Get me some of that Sumerian swag." Billionaires! Did you remember to place your order for merchandise from the
looter's paradise?
The collection at the Baghdad Museum included one of the first representations of a human face, plus thousands of cuneiform tablets and other objects that bear witness to everyday life thousands of years ago.

Experts say that up to 170,000 objects were lifted and that on the black market they could fetch from $5 for small items to $2 million for the best stuff. "When was the last time any of us saw great Sumerian art come on the market?" asks New York art dealer Andrew Kahane, who deplores the looting. "It's extraordinarily rare."

That may explain why the thievery seemed so well-organized. It was almost as if the perpetrators were waiting for Baghdad to fall to make their move. Gil J. Stein, a professor of archeology at the University of Chicago, which has been conducting digs in Iraq for 80 years, believes that dealers ordered the most important pieces well in advance. "They were looking for very specific artifacts," he says. "They knew where to look."

So where did the stolen art go? Knowledgeable dealers and scholars say a few well-informed and unscrupulous Iraqis probably arranged for poorly paid "mules" to truck the pieces through the trackless desert and across the porous borders into Jordan, Syria, or Turkey.

From there, the objects can be easily shipped by air to shady international dealers. Typically, the works are intentionally mislabeled, with their museum ID numbers stripped off, to evade detection.

Over time, such pieces acquire what’s known in the art world as "good provenance," or seeming legitimacy. Initially, people who buy the objects will make up histories for them. As the antiquities pass through several more hands, the trail becomes increasingly murky.
Speaking of "good provenance," these are banner years for the new American art of "making up history."

As for the loot: the $5 crap will end up on eBay. The $2 million pieces of swag will end up in a Swiss vault or as part of some American billionaire's untaxed* estate. The stuff in between has already been smuggled by FoxNews staffers.

Created as a response to the DoD card deck of evildoers, here's a card deck of missing artifacts, via BoingBoing.

Let's say for the sake of argument that the average piece of Iraqi pillage is worth $1,000. At 170,000 pieces gone, that brings us to a total booty value of $170 million. That's chump change measured against the $75 billion+ cost of the war and $100 billion+ for reconstruction. And that's why the White House and Pentagon didn't give a damn about the looting — it made no economic sense to them, the only sense that registers in the well-worn wormholes of their neocon brains.

*Billionaire estates are all 100% tax-free after the year 2010, thanks to Dubya's EGTRRA tax reform legislation of 2001 (Remember the $300 tax rebate checks? Those were EGTRRA bribes.). The children of billionaires who will inherit this astonishing concentration of American wealth will have economic and political leverage never before imagined on this planet. They will constitute a new generation of craven, nonworking, dividend-immersed leaders who will then your shape your children's bleak, dystopian Wal-Mart adulthood. Cheers!
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Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Swords into Blogshares. You can now use virtual money to buy virtual shares in
my virtual alter ego.
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What "terrorism insurance" really means in non-legalese is explained at
Upper Left Coast Review. Hint: it doesn't insure against all terrorists.

And here's further clarification from Barney Gumble at MWOW^4 (4/22, 12:07 AM).
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Another corporate criminal not in prison. Frank Quattrone, star investment banker, went and got himself
arrested (Yahoo/AP):
NEW YORK - A former star investment banker with Credit Suisse First Boston [CSFB] was arrested Wednesday on charges of obstructing investigations by a federal grand jury and the Securities and Exchange Commission and witness tampering.

The complaint said Frank Quattrone "unlawfully, willfully, and knowingly, corruptly influenced, obstructed and impeded ... the due administration of justice."

Quattrone was released on his own recognizance after agreeing at his initial court appearance to surrender his passport and confine his travel to within the United States. He declined comment outside court.
"Released on his own recognizance." What a gentlemanly way to treat someone responsible for billions in bullshit IPOs that he underwrote and used to enrich his corporate pirate friends (Gawker).


lay in jail?But the current administration prefers to keep children incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay (LA Times) rather than to imprison legitimately despised corporate criminals like Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling, the Enron CEOs still at large. Instead, the Quattrones and Lays and Skillings of the world are free to move about the country on their own recognizance or lack of indictment, instead of rotting away like the economy they destroyed.

Keeping corporate criminals free exposes true Republican priorities. After all, only the people who know how to fuck with finance at the highest levels are going to enable the GOP to double their campaign spending to a record-breaking $200 million (NY Times) leading up the Republican primary to advertise the appeal of an unopposed candidate.

(Why is Big Media so complacently uncritical of Bush? The answer will cost you $200 million — which is what corporate media will receive next year as a keep-your-voice-down gratuity for running homespun ads of Bush chopping cedar on his golf-cart ranch to prop up a counterfeit image without competition. It's every capitalist's dream — a monopoly — applied to its newest indentured servant, the George W. Bush presidency.)

Thanks to bad things for the Gawker link.
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Help unwanted: Franklin Graham. I don't usually cite whole articles here, but I couldn't agree more with the characterization of the Christianity being foisted upon Iraq in the aftermath of the war, as described by Dr. Mohammad T. Al-Rasheed in ArabNews:
Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham and an avid preacher of the new-style Christian fundamentalism, is coming to town.

Franklin Graham is to the right of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, if that is at all possible, and he wants to come to Iraq. I have recently written an article calling for Christians and Muslims to unite. That union, if anything, should be against Graham and his hate-filled brand of Christianity.

Graham is anti-Islam. He does not make any excuses for it. He called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” Graham, like his fellow American preachers, is stubbornly ignorant of history and other religions. He shoots his mouth off in all directions and then claims to bring his charity to aid the Iraqis.

He also admits, in his own words, that he believes “as we work, God will always give us opportunities to tell others about his Son... we are there to reach out to love them and to save them, and as a Christian, I do this in the name of Jesus Christ.”

The hidden items on this war’s agenda are becoming clearer by the day. Graham is a close friend of Bush and his family. He was the one who delivered the invocation at this president’s inauguration. For him to come proselytizing and evangelizing in the heartland of Islam is an insult, and a dangerous one at that. He should understand that he is not authorized to speak in the name of Jesus. Muslims know Jesus. Granted, that they do not know him as the “Son”, but they know he does not condone the hatemongering Graham is so accomplished at.

Iraq is home to the Shiite holy places. Graham has no idea what that means in terms of the dogma, fidelity, and deep faith these places and their residents have. I cannot put it better than Steven Waldman who wrote: “I am not sure any of this means that America’s foreign policy objectives are served by having a Bush-loving, Islam-bashing, Muslim-converting Christian icon on the ground in Iraq tending to the bodies and souls of the grateful but deeply suspicious Muslim population. Or, to put it more simply, the idea is absolutely loopy.”

I might add that it is also extremely dangerous and will play into the hands of extremists on all sides. It will not do for the Bush administration to say that Graham has the right to go where he wishes. They should stop him.

No one has the right these days to go where he wishes, least of all to the United States. People are vetted, interrogated, finger-printed, and perhaps denied a visa to enter America. So what gives this madman the right to enter Baghdad when we know what his agenda is? Will the occupying power facilitate his entry?

To the masses, Graham will not be recognized for what he is, nor will his sect be seen as an anomaly of the Christian faith. Most will see it as Christian vs. Muslim, regardless of sects. For this reason alone, President Bush should whisper into his confessor’s (to use a Catholic term) ear against this mad plan.

Graham is a throwback to Christian conceptions of Islam fanned by medieval stories in the style of chanson de geste. Those people did not bother to study Islam but viewed it as a pagan religion. More than 1,200 years after these stories were circulated in Europe, we find that a modern American knows no better. His actions are a recipe for more killings and fanaticism.

President Bush has been on record as praising Islam as a religion. That is not enough now.

If he allows Graham and his ilk to go into Iraq, those who do will not believe him anymore. The issue to most Muslims is: What next? Makkah? There is no parallel to this, except if you think sending Nassrallah of Hezbollah to preach in Israel a viable idea. I doubt, however, if Nassrallah is as stupid as Graham — or as bigoted.
Christian fundamentalist, right-wing, stupid, bigoted, fanatical, hatemongering — that about sums up Franklin Graham and his political sponsors.
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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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