culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Friday, May 30, 2003
Tom Tomorrow tells the story of the
red states pill.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Run! Go see
Billmon's indispensable compilation of administration quotes on WMD.
How to hide $44 trillion. Shove bad news under a rug at the White House, but first fire the messenger (MSNBC):
WASHINGTON, May 29 — The Bush administration has shelved a report commissioned by the Treasury that shows the U.S. currently faces a future of chronic federal budget deficits totaling at least $44 trillion in current U.S. dollars.

The study, the most comprehensive assessment of how the U.S. government is at risk of being overwhelmed by the “baby boom” generation’s future healthcare and retirement costs, was commissioned by then-Treasury secretary Paul O’Neill.

But the Bush administration chose to keep the findings out of the annual budget report for fiscal year 2004, published in February, as the White House campaigned for a tax-cut package that critics claim will expand future deficits.

The study asserts that sharp tax increases, massive spending cuts or a painful mix of both are unavoidable if the U.S. is to meet benefit promises to future generations. It estimates that closing the gap would require the equivalent of an immediate and permanent 66 percent across-the-board income tax increase.

The study was being circulated as an independent working paper among Washington think-tanks as President George W. Bush on Wednesday signed into law a 10-year, $350 billion tax-cut package he welcomed as a victory for hard-working Americans and the economy.
The wealthiest 20% of Americans will receive 79.3% of this year's tax cut. Only "hard-working Americans," by the design of the Bush cabal, will finance the military ambitions of sons of millionaires whose dividend and inheritance income will remain untaxed and free to grow forever.

In a sane world, this — and not lying about a blow job — would be an impeachable offense.
Add your voice to stop the FCC. Free speech, particularly at the local level, is in grave danger. From the
Washington Post:
Substantial grass-roots resistance to the Federal Communications Commission's plans to relax or eliminate several major media ownership rules has been building in recent weeks, turning a number-crunching bureaucratic process into a growing debate on free speech.

On June 2, the five-member commission is scheduled to vote on changes that would allow broadcast networks to buy more television stations and would lift the 28-year-old ban preventing newspapers from buying television stations in the same city.

Hundreds of thousands of e-mails and postcards are urging the FCC to put off a decision.

Those who favor relaxing and lifting the rules -- mainly, media corporations and the FCC's three Republican members -- say the regulations are no longer legally enforceable and have been made obsolete by the explosion of cable television channels and Web sites, which provide consumers with more sources of information than when the ownership rules were crafted years ago.

On the other side are the two Democratic commissioners, Michael J. Copps and Jonathan S. Adelstein, several public-interest groups and organizations that say what is at stake is nothing less than the health of the democracy. More consolidation, they say, will lead to fewer voices, making it difficult for minority viewpoints to be heard. Unexpected alliances have formed between liberal and conservative groups, opposing further deregulation.

In recent days, the FCC has been inundated with hundreds of thousands of e-mails and e-petitions., a public-interest organization founded by two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, says it has collected 170,000 signatures on a petition to the FCC, urging the agency to keep the rules in place.
The current Bush administration agenda at the FCC, led by Colin Powell's son Michael, is so threatening to free speech that it is making strange bedfellows of those in opposition to it. How many other efforts unite Common Cause and the National Rifle Association against proposed policy?

Go to Move On's Stop the FCC page (also in the green box at the top of this column), where you can spend half a minute sending an email message to the FCC.

But do it now — before the vote next Monday.
S&L crook and presidential brother Neil Bush can now get an
online divorce from Sharon Bush, the wife he jilted for a married employee of his mother's. An online split would be the fitting course of action for family man Neil, considering that he dumped her via email.
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, find that the threat of attachment or other judicial process against the Development Fund for Iraq, Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations, or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, obstructs the orderly reconstruction of Iraq, the restoration and maintenance of peace and security in the country, and the development of political, administrative, and economic institutions in Iraq. This situation constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States and I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.

I hereby order:

Section 1. Unless licensed or otherwise authorized pursuant to this order, any attachment, judgment, decree, lien, execution, garnishment, or other judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void, with respect to the following:

(a) the Development Fund for Iraq, and
(b) all Iraqi petroleum and petroleum products, and interests therein, and proceeds, obligations, or any financial instruments of any nature whatsoever arising from or related to the sale or marketing thereof, and interests therein, in which any foreign country or a national thereof has any interest, that are in the United States, that hereafter come within the United States, or that are or hereafter come within the possession or control of United States persons.
In other words, don't sue us for the oil — it's ours because we declared a national emergency.

Oil is the only Iraqi national resource mentioned in the order. Given the absence of WMD and the singular focus on Iraqi petroleum, could the administration's interest in the invasion be any clearer?

This executive order is dated May 22, 2003, and can be viewed
here, courtesy of Cryptome.
"A philosophical investigation into Enron" in The Guardian:
A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that the $38 billion of debt run up by Enron would pay around a-fifth of the capital costs of providing safe drinking water to every human being on earth who currently lacks it. Universally available safe water would avoid some five million deaths a year and countless person-months of debilitating water-borne illness. It would have economic as well as humanitarian benefits, but those benefits would not show up as profit on any of the balance sheets that currently matter.

Enquire into almost any of the numbers that abound in the world of finance, and one discovers that it is the endpoint of an often complex chain of construction. Those chains often also lead deep into people's lives: into what happens to their savings and their pensions, into whether or not they have jobs or homes.

Bill Peterson's wife and children will tell you that. Mr Peterson worked for Enron, and was being treated for cancer when the corporation became bankrupt. He lost his job, and with it his Enron-subsidised health insurance. With expenses mounting, and his wife unable to take up paid work because she needed to look after him, the $800 a month the couple had to pay to keep their insurance going could be met only by selling the house in which they had brought up their children. Mr Peterson died last September, not at home but while staying with relatives 175 miles away from the rest of his family. "He should have been allowed to die in his own bed," his wife told the Financial Times.

What happened to Mr Peterson is one of the casual cruelties of the American system, cruelties that are the other side of its restless, innovative, money-making, winner-takes-all energy. His fate should also remind us that numbers matter. We need to understand how they are constructed, and perhaps to start to imagine ways in which they can be reconstructed to better ends.
The "casual cruelty" of the American system is of course what Bush conservatives mean when they say "compassion."
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
"Oklahoma's job cuts are part of a deep nationwide retrenchment eating away at the public sphere. According to some analysts, the states, which control most public services, are going through their worst crisis since the Depression. While the US is at the zenith of its global power, its health and education systems would be grounds for a scandal in poorer countries.


As a result of the cuts, 275,000 fewer Texan children will receive health care, and in Nebraska almost 25,000 low-income mothers have lost medical cover for their families because eligibility thresholds have been raised. Over this year and next, 1.7m Americans risk losing their health insurance."

The Guardian via URLDJ.
Seeing the Forest notes it isn't the Republican party that created the mess we're in — it's the right wing philanthropists working in the background. And the only effective counterweight to the ideologues who generated the "message amplification infrastructure" is the cultivatation of left wing philanthropists who can seed the funding of advocacy for the progressive agenda.

It's a great post. Read it.
Art or Crap: the

My score was 14/16. Yay me. Via RuminateThis.
Friday, May 23, 2003
Hang 'em high. It's time for the two Texas Toms — DeLay and Craddick — to go down.
Houston Chronicle:
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay admitted Thursday he provided Texas Speaker Tom Craddick with the same information that state police used to enlist a homeland security agency in the search for runaway Democratic legislators.

DeLay said his staff used public information at the Federal Aviation Administration to track former Texas Speaker Pete Laney's airplane.

Laney was among 55 Democrats who broke a House quorum on May 12 to kill a congressional redistricting bill sought by DeLay, R-Sugar Land. Craddick and DeLay wanted the errant legislators arrested and returned to the House to force a vote on the bill.

"I was told at the time that that plane was in the air coming from Ardmore, Oklahoma, back to Georgetown, Texas," DeLay said of the FAA's information, which he said was also available on the agency's Web site. "I relayed that information to Tom Craddick."

Texas Department of Public Safety officers working in Craddick's office had the same information when it contacted a federal air interdiction agency to seek its help in finding Laney's airplane. The federal agency has since said it was misled into believing Laney's airplane was missing and possibly had crashed.

Homeland Defense Secretary Tom Ridge, meanwhile, said Thursday his agency is investigating "potentially criminal" misuse of the federal air interdiction service by the DPS.

DeLay said he played no part in the DPS' decision to contact the federal air interdiction service. And Craddick denies knowing anything about how the DPS came to call the agency.

"I don't know who contacted who," Craddick said.
How could Craddick not know how DPS came to call the agency? They were installed in the reception room adjacent to his office.
DeLay's admission is the latest revelation that state and federal Republican officials were directly involved in the widespread manhunt.

DeLay has said his office contacted justice officials May 12 "about the appropriate role of the federal government in finding Texas legislators who have warrants for their arrest and have crossed state lines."

Craddick had signed an order requiring any Texas "peace officer" to arrest the missing members. But Craddick's command was not a "warrant," which is an arrest order issued by a court for an accused criminal.

DeLay, in an impromptu interview with Texas reporters, said his office tracked Laney's airplane by contacting the FAA in Washington.

FAA officials told DeLay's staff that public information showed the airplane was en route from Ardmore to Georgetown, north of Austin.

State Rep. Mike Krusee, R-Round Rock, was in the DPS command center outside of Craddick's office May 12. He has said there was a belief that Laney was ferrying lawmakers from Georgetown to Ardmore and the DPS thought some legislators might be caught when the plane landed.

When the plane did not arrive, Krusee said people worried that it had crashed. He said he did not know if that is what prompted DPS to call the homeland security agency, which could not locate the plane.

At 9:39 a.m. on May 14, the DPS ordered all records of the search to be destroyed. DPS claims the records were destroyed because the investigation was over, but the House did not drop the order to arrest the wayward members until 11:25 a.m.

Ridge told the House Select Committee on Homeland Security he cannot release tapes of the May 12 DPS telephone call because of the ongoing investigation.

"This is now a potentially criminal investigation," Ridge said.
Republican claims of honesty and integrity are simply lies unsupported by empirical evidence.

The assistant inspector general conducting the investigation is looking for evidence of "fraud, waste, and abuse." As if there could be any doubt — they are three of the chief characteristics of Republican power. Add hatred, mendacity, and divisiveness, and there you have the state of Texas-bred conservatism in a nutshell.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
Book-of-the-Month Club tilts right. Following on the heels of
Penguin and Random House, which have a total of thirty new right-wing books in the works, the Book-of-the-Month Club is planning a copycat venture that panders to the Coulter and Bennett fans (Yahoo/AP):
The operators of the Book-of-the-Month Club announced Tuesday that they are forming a new club, as yet unnamed, devoted to works with a conservative point of view. Within the past month, Penguin Putnam and the Crown Publishing Group have started conservative imprints.

"We don't think we've done enough in this area. We have featured conservative authors like Bill Bennett, but we've never presented them in a coherent way," says Mel Parker, senior vice president and editorial director of Bookspan, which runs the Book-of-the-Month Club and several other clubs.

Bookspan is co-owned by Bertelsmann AG and AOL Time Warner Inc., and its new club is scheduled to begin by early next year. Brad Miner, a former literary editor with the conservative National Review, will serve as editor.

Miner should have plenty of material. Penguin and Crown, a division of Random House, Inc., each plan to publish about 15 conservative books a year. Regnery Publishing, a conservative press based in Washington, D.C., puts out between 25-30.
Does genuine demand really exist for all of these planned books? Relative to its already-exaggerated status, how much bigger can the market for specious reasoning, inaccuracy, and hatred be?

Link via Moby Lives.
Dick Cheney's owners forbidden from approving his paycheck. Halliburton continues to pay the vice president of the United States of America an
annual six-figure "deferred compensation" but the company's shareholders have no say in the exit packages of its executives, according to a new vote reported in the subscription-requiring Wall Street Journal:
A proposal on termination benefits for senior executives was defeated Wednesday by Halliburton (HAL) shareholders but gathered a large number of votes.

The proposal urged the board of directors to seek shareholder approval of any future severance agreements that would pay senior executives more than twice the sum of their base salary plus bonus.

The motion was defeated when 61% of shareholders present voted against it, but 36% of shareholders voted for the proposal. The others abstained.

Halliburton's board of directors had opposed the measure. "If this proposal was adopted, it would have undermined Halliburton's ability to attract and retain highly qualified senior executives*," Wendy Hall, Halliburton's public relations manager, said in a statement.
*By "highly qualified senior executives," I think Wendy meant war-crazed, bunker-bound, cardiac-challenged crony capitalists.
Wednesday, May 21, 2003
Last chance to spend tonight with Sharon Bush and a Rolls Royce dealer. Hurry! A thousand bucks will let you join Neil Bush's jilted wife and her wealthy friends at tonight's benefit dinner, according to the Houston Chronicle's
Shelby Hodge:
Wednesday [May 21, 2003]

The American Ireland Fund benefits Special Olympics with its garden dinner at the River Oaks home of Paige and Tilman Fertitta, with special guest entertainment by Irish tenor Ronan Tynan.

Chair: Sharon Bush.

Tickets: $1,000.

Details: 832-868-5570
Despite Neil's initial offer of $1,000 a month, Sharon can still afford to hang with her cherished River Oaks friends thanks to generous financial support from her in-laws, George H. W. and Barbara Bush, the last Republican failures in the White House.
Texas Republicans destroy evidence of their partisan abuse of Homeland Security. Don't take my word for it, read the
Houston Chronicle:
AUSTIN -- While under heavy criticism of its investigation into the House Democratic walkout, the Texas Department of Public Safety ordered all records related to that investigation destroyed.


The order to destroy the records was made May 15.

Democrats involved in the walkout began complaining May 13 that the agency investigation involved the harassment of their families.

Congressional Democrats also raised questions May 14 about whether the DPS misused a federal Homeland Security Department agency in searching for former Speaker Pete Laney's airplane on May 12.

A DPS officer had called the Air and Marine Interdiction Coordination Center asking for help locating Laney's aircraft.

The federal agency last Thursday put out a statement saying the DPS had mislead the interdiction service into believing it was searching for an aircraft that was missing and possibly crashed.

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has refused to release tapes of the telephone call from DPS.

A total of 55 Texas House Democrats vanished on May 13 in order to break a quorum to keep the House from debating legislation to redraw the state's congressional district boundaries.

As soon as Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican, knew a quorum was not present, he ordered the missing lawmakers to be arrested and returned to the House. The state Constitution gives the House and Senate presiding officers the power to do that.

The DPS set up a command post in the reception room adjacent to Craddick's office.

All but four of the missing legislators had gone into hiding in Ardmore, Okla. DPS was following a rumor that Laney was using his airplane to ferry lawmakers between Georgetown north of Austin to Ardmore.
Hmm, I wonder who started that rumor. Craddick's unseemly behavior was previously discussed here.
Jeb sucks sugar cane. The 2008 GOP presidential nominee already demonstrates his obedience to his industrial masters, as shown by this story from jeb
Mmm... sugar.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida Gov. Jeb Bush signed into law on Tuesday a sugar industry-backed bill relaxing requirements to clean up the Everglades, which critics say threatens the health of the massive Florida wetland.

The bill has come under fire from U.S. lawmakers who say it threatens federal funding critical to the $8 billion restoration of the Everglades, the unique "River of Grass" that supplies drinking water to millions of people and is home to numerous endangered species.

The U.S. District judge overseeing a decade-old cleanup agreement between the state and federal governments expressed grave concerns about the bill, which critics say eases water-quality standards and delays a 2006 deadline.

Judge William Hoeveler said he would forge ahead with the 1994 pact even if Bush, younger brother of President Bush, signed the measure.

The governor said the bill needed work, but that its underlying premise was sound. He asked lawmakers to "clarify" language in the new law.

"The Everglades bill recently passed by the House and Senate is strong legislation built upon good policy," Bush, a Republican, said in a prepared statement prior to the signing. "(It) reinforces our commitment to restore water quality in the Everglades by providing a strategic plan to achieve this goal."

Critics say the bill eases water quality standards meant to reduce the level of phosphorus in the Everglades, polluted for decades by fertilizer-tainted runoff from sugar plantations.

The sugar industry, led by U.S. Sugar Corp., helped push the bill through the Florida legislature.

Environmental groups, which worked for years to establish the 1994 "Everglades Forever Act," have derisively dubbed the latest legislation the "Everglades Whenever Act."


Bush, who met with federal officials in Washington this month, said he has asked lawmakers to tighten language that now states restoration efforts should be concluded at the "earliest practicable date" and pollutants be reduced to the "maximum extent practicable."

Bush has repeatedly brushed aside questions about Florida's commitment to Everglades restoration, saying the state has already earmarked $500 million toward restoration and ongoing efforts have already significantly reduced phosphorus levels in 90 percent of the region.
Sugar and spice, industrial vice, that's what little Jebs are made of.

See also FlaBlog, especially here.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
"Your autobiography" by DARPA. Just imagine: the Pentagon keeping track of all the details of your life in a convenient, searchable format!

"The embryonic LifeLog program would dump everything an individual does into a giant database: every e-mail sent or received, every picture taken, every Web page surfed, every phone call made, every TV show watched, every magazine read." —
Wired News

The fact that this program is run by Iran-Contra felon John M. Poindexter should give us pause.

It would be nice if some clever programmer with a conscience infiltrated this stupid effort and created back doors in the code, leaked its overseers' LifeLogs, and generally mucked things up enough to disgrace and ruin the program. Otherwise, the USA will likely become Brazil.
Clear Channel left-wing radio? I'm not sure I agree with the conclusion of this article. Is the move by Clear Channel just a spin ploy that will last only until the big media dereg push wins the FCC on June 2?
The birth of global is the death of local. From a long piece called "World of media shrinks as it widens: In vote next month, FCC is expected to loosen restraints on corporations" in the
Baltimore Sun:
"The days of the locally developed TV show, the locally developed TV talk show or children's shows don't exist anymore. It's not right or wrong. It's simply the time we live in," [Mark] Hyman [vice president of corporate communications and government relations for Maryland's Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc.] said.
Actually, the death of local programming is wrong. The airwaves are a public resource and we have a right to see to it how they are used — as well as who gets to use them. If large corporations don't want to invest in local production infrastructure, THEY SHOULD STAY OUT OF OUR MARKETS. And we should enforce that concept by limiting the amount of ownership across markets and across media.

We have a duty to see to it, through the FCC, that what remains of mass media does not dissolve inevitably into a soup of corporate sludge.

Make your voice heard: Stop the FCC from giving more opportunity to fewer corporations.

Link via Convergence Chaser, May 20, 2003.
Monday, May 19, 2003
Hypocritical scoundrel Tom Craddick rewrites his own history, decrying the disappearing Democrats in the Texas legislature "when he was one of 30 members of the Texas House who disappeared during the 1971 legislative session."

Link via Liquid List. We last wrote about Craddick, his "emergency" tax breaks concocted with co-conspirator Guvna Dubya, his lobbyist daughter, and his energy industry pimping here.

UPDATE 5/20/03: This May 19 Washington Post editorial puts the whole issue into perspective: "The Texas Republican plan is a naked power grab that pushes in the opposite direction [of a rational system]. The Post's Lee Hockstader reported that one street in Austin would cross four districts -- one of which snakes 300 miles to the Mexican border. Democracy is supposed to be about voters picking their representatives, not the other way around."
Aaron Sorkin's 25th Amendment. Richard Just writes in an
online-only article for The American Prospect about the departure of the creator of The West Wing from his own show, and the loss we viewers will feel: "When the show was firing on all cylinders -- which was not always, but often enough -- it had the sophistication of literature."

Agreed. The intellectual passion that Just rightly identifies as the heart and soul of the show — as opposed to its liberal ideology — will be sorely missed. Its expected disappearance will serve as yet another reflection of the pandering coarseness of our times, and of the sad homogeneity of the broadcast networks, the conjoined quadruplets of marketplace mediocrity.
Friday, May 16, 2003
Lea Fastow: bad art buyer. Wife of disgraced Enron CFO Andrew Fastow made not only aesthetic mistakes but also economic ones when she became the company's $20 million-toting art guru, described at length

Now that an auction of Enron's precious objets d'art has taken place, the first of several planned to raise funds for its 23,000 creditors, we learn that a piece she bought for $590,000 switchesthree years ago sold earlier this week for $360,000, an investment return of –39%, still a much better return than her husband and Ken Lay were able to produce on Enron stock.

From the subscription-loving Wall Street Journal:
Bankrupt Enron Corp. raised nearly $1 million to pay creditors during an art auction that sold prized possessions such as Claes Oldenburg's pop sculpture "Soft Light Switches," which fetched $360,000.

A U.S. bankruptcy judge earlier this week authorized Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, an international art auction house, to conduct the sale.

The five-lot collection had been expected to bring between $720,000 and $1.03 million, Enron spokeswoman Karen Denne said. In Thursday's auction, it raised $952,000 for Enron, including $135,000 for Jack Pierson's sculpture "Stardust" and $265,000 for Donald Judd's untitled minimalist sculpture of two boxes.

Enron creditors have filed 23,000 claims worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
If I owed you a few hundred thousand dollars, and managed to raise one dollar, how happy would you be? Proportionally, that's what the auction proceeds of $1 million will be to the creditors — nothing.

Phillips de Pury & Luxembourg, on the other hand, got commissions both ways — on the original sale and on the auction. Round trip trading in the art world mirrors that of the energy industry.
Retired oil millionaire overseeing Iraqi oil. Pick up a newspaper and find any number of Bush administration conflicts of interest, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day (
Houston Chronicle):
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Retired Houston oil executive Philip Carroll, the Pentagon's handpicked adviser overseeing the reconstruction of Iraq's oil industry, acknowledged Thursday that he faces potential conflicts of interest because of his financial holdings in American companies planning to bid on Iraqi oil contracts.


Carroll had a 32-year career with Shell Oil Co. in Texas, where he retired as its chief executive officer, and another four years as the head of Fluor.

"You have to realize that oil occupies a very important and unique place in the minds of the Iraqi people," the Texas oilman said. "It constitutes the overwhelming, dominant economic force in the country. It provides the wherewithal of building a better life for the Iraqis.

"There are also feelings throughout the population that oil represents, in essence, the national heritage of Iraq."

Securities and Exchange Commission documents show Carroll continues to be paid more than $1 million a year by Fluor Corp. in retirement benefits and bonuses. He also owns about 1 million shares of the company's stock, documents show.

Fluor has said it plans to bid on an Army Corps of Engineers contract to rebuild Iraq's oil industry to prewar levels.

Last fall, Carroll said, he began working for the Pentagon, developing contingency plans for Iraq's oil sector in the event of war. He assumed his work was completed, he said, until Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called him shortly after the U.S.-led invasion began and offered him the oil adviser's job.

"My response was, `Well, this is not high on my hit parade list right now,' " Carroll said. "But under the circumstances, you just can't say no."
We're the ones who should be saying no to government by, for and of CEOs, especially the Texas variety.

The "national heritage of Iraq" is, oddly enough, one of the foundations of Western civilization, a point that is beyond the comprehension of your average Houston oil executive. And everything we've seen so far about this administration's grasp of foreign policy and homeland security is well below average, so it follows that a clueless joker like Carroll would equate Iraq's national heritage with the object of his desire — its oil.

Thanks to Junior's administration, soon not only our entire country but all those under its influence will become the carcinogenic, larcenous, murderous shithole that Texas is.

⇒ Additional resource: A beginner's guide to Iraqi oil.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Lunar eclipse tonight. "If the weather is clear, skywatchers across most of the Americas, Europe and Africa will have a view of one of nature's most beautiful spectacles: A total eclipse of the Moon." Link via Plep.
Quick hits:
Enron's "mighty man adventure vacations." An SEC complaint filed a couple of weeks ago supposedly offers a "road map" (the metaphor du jour) to the prosecution of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling for fraud.

But what's interesting about this
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd) account by Rebecca Smith is the Testosterone-Helper culture of Enron's senior management:
The complaint details occasions in which EBS [Enron Broadband Services] executives allegedly misled investors by painting a rosy picture of the division's prospects, despite their knowledge of actual difficulties. Mr. Skilling was present at some of those meetings and participated actively, according to attendees and, in some cases, documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. [Kenneth] Rice, along with the others, was charged with defrauding the investors while reaping millions of dollars in Enron stock sales. He is the person closest to Mr. Skilling to have been indicted in the continuing government investigation into the collapse of the onetime energy-sector highflier. Mr. Rice, who resigned from Enron before Mr. Skilling left in August 2001, worked with Mr. Skilling for more than a decade and was one of a handful of company officials who accompanied the chief executive on so-called mighty man adventure vacations to Mexico, South America and Australia.
That these dickless wonders committed fraud is hardly doubtful:
Earlier, in July 2000, Mr. Skilling, in a recorded conference call, told analysts that the broadband division was experiencing "breakout performance" in the content-service business and that the Blockbuster contract could be valued "well over $1 billion."

What listeners had no way of knowing was that the venture struggled from the start. Enron soon set up an off-balance-sheet partnership, called Braveheart, to convert into earnings a portion of the value supposedly embedded in the fledgling content-services business. The company realized more than $110 million in profit in late 2000 and early 2001, essentially with money borrowed from a Canadian bank, even though the actual underlying venture with Blockbuster had revenue, during its brief life, of only a few thousand dollars. Enron reversed those gains during the third quarter of 2001, contributing to the erosion in investor confidence that led to the company's downfall.

Later in that same July 2000 call, Mr. Skilling lauded the capabilities of Enron's fiber-optic system, claiming that it, alone, was able to deliver movies-on-demand for Blockbuster. In the conference call, Mr. Skilling said the ability to deliver "television-quality video ... is something that our entire network is devoted to." He said Enron's unique software could "control the signal ... all the way to the end user. We believe at this point we're the only people that could provide this comprehensive service to Blockbuster or anybody for that matter.... That's kind of our space, and that's the one that we want to dominate."

Whether this was hyperbole common to the technology firms at the time or constituted fraud is something prosecutors will have to decide. Even as the broadband business was collapsing, Mr. Skilling sought to allay investor concerns. "EBS is coming along just fine," he said in an earnings conference call on March 23, 2001. "We're in a situation where we clearly have a surplus in supply, and we have real fast declining prices, so that's good. In fact, that is better for us as time goes on. So EBS is looking good."

Shortly after Mr. Skilling resigned [four months later in August 2001], Enron shut down the entire broadband business and wrote off most of its investment.
Lying on this scale is no longer lying. The garbage that flowed so effortlessly from the lips of Jeffrey Skilling represents something much bigger and more harmful than lying, because it simultaneously destroyed the livelihoods and retirement savings of thousands of Enron employees — and helped to put another dickless wonder, a Texas governor who suffers from the same susceptibility to ersatz manhood (fake ranch, borrowed military uniform, etc.), into the White House.
Wednesday, May 14, 2003
More right wing homo panic. The message below comes from an email sent to me by the American Family Association, whose mailing list I got onto when I complained about their misunderstanding of the subtleties of South Park's satire, a message that was totally lost on them:
YWCA hires lesbian feminist as leader

"We fear the focus will now become homosexual indoctrination among young girls." — Don Wildmon

The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) has just hired Patricia Ireland to become the chief executive officer of the girl's organization. Ireland is the former leader of the
National Organization for Women (NOW), a radical feminist group that is pro-abortion and pro-homosexual.

Patricia Ireland is also an admitted bisexual who has had a husband living in Florida and a female homosexual "partner" in Washington, DC. In her biography, What Women Want, she wrote: "I have a husband, and he is very important in my life. I also have a companion, and she is very important in my life, too."

"We fear the focus will now become homosexual indoctrination among young girls," says Don Wildmom, Chairman of American Family Association (AFA). "Ireland has a long history of promoting a radical agenda and will not hesitate to incorporate her left-wing values into the mission."

Wildmon says the YWCA made a concious decision in hiring Ireland and wants parents to be aware of the organization's dangerous direction. "Lesbianism, cross-dressing, and abortion are all part of Ireland's history. It will soon become YWCA's present."
The email goes on to suggest a three-point plan of action:
1. Refuse to support the YWCA organization. The dangers presented to young girls, by far, overshadow any positive public image the group may project.

2. Most local United Way programs help fund the YWCA. Make United Way donations exempt from going to the YWCA.

3. Send a letter to YWCA, letting them know you oppose Patricia Ireland as their leader.
The neo-McCarthyites persist even in the face of being called as much, according to this Christianized "news" report:
YWCA stands for "Young Women's Christian Association," and those words are inconsistent with the new president of the group, according to Andrea Lafferty lafferty
Andrea Lafferty:
"I hate you"
of the Traditional Values Coalition. Lafferty insists that Ireland, who was a self-proclaimed bisexual and formerly head of the radical feminist group, National Organization for Women, should not be in charge at the YWCA.

"She is none of the above. She's not young ... and she's not a Christian," she said. Lafferty noted that, in an appearance on the popular FOX News channel show The O'Reilly Factor, Ireland would not answer host Bill O'Reilly's specific questions concerning whether or not she was a Christian. "She wouldn't respond and called that 'McCarthyism,'" Lafferty said.
Andrea Lafferty is a full-blown fanatical bigot nutcase, as witnessed by her attack on NPR, her attack on Rosie O'Donnell, her attack on Britney Spears, and her attack on Democratic senators filibustering the judicial nominations of ideologues Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen. With a tolerance level of zero for anyone she disagrees with, she embodies the lockstep hatred and anti-freedom of the New Right.

When the YWCA — a Christian organization — is targeted by the right wing's cultural revolutionaries, it's Cannibal Time at the Trough of Greed. Circuits are shorting, sparks are flying, and the whole ugly machine is going haywire.

How sad and immature these people are, because sexual topics never lose currency with them. Their president can be an ex-drunk AWOL deserter, his married brother can ditch his wife and family for the former First Lady's assistant, and their morality czar can rack up $8 million in losses at the slots in Vegas, and still their focus remains on the private and often imagined sex lives of qualified and responsible adults.

In the third paragraph, despite the fact that the AFA's Fearless Leader's name is Wildmon, the typo "Wildmom" was in the original email — a Freudian slip, no doubt.

Check out the great, inclusive, all-American organization National Organization for Women (NOW), as well as their presidential site The Truth about George W. Bush, a compendium of facts about a very destructive person.
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Unlikely activists. Here in Skimbleland we reserve special admiration for unlikely activists — those folks who are not academics or journalists or bloggers or rabblerousers but are just sick and tired of the abuse or the bullshit they must put up with, and do something about it.

Today we look at a Mississippi farmer who is not allowed to save the seed he owns. From the
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
Mitchell Scruggs hardly fits the profile of an activist.

A 53-year-old Mississippian, Scruggs runs a cotton gin and owns the biggest farm in three counties surrounding Tupelo. Until a few years ago, he had never protested over civil rights, the environment or anything else.

That changed when he found that Monsanto forbids those using its product from the age-old practice of saving seeds from one crop to plant the next. The licensing agreement says they must buy new seed each year.

Now Scruggs is fighting in the courts, by word of mouth and just about any way he can. He helped form Save Our Seed, a farmers' rights group that advocates seed recovery as it has been done for generations.

"I'm opposed to what Monsanto's about," Scruggs said in an interview last week. "They're raping farm communities and breaking farmers, because farmers do not have any other place to go to get this planting seed."

The manufacturer says it is entitled to protect the value of its "intellectual property" and to recover research costs. It says those who violate the licenses commit "seed piracy."

Scruggs, whose family has farmed in Mississippi for more than a century, is among 73 farmers sued by Monsanto in the past five years on civil claims of patent violations. He countersued, saying that the patents are invalid and that Monsanto enforces a monopoly over the seed industry. The case is pending in U.S. District Court in Tupelo.
Another illustration of the stupidity of patenting lifeforms, turning family farms into indentured corporate servitude. How does saving something you own constitute "piracy"?

Link via bad things.
Texas: scolded. California: fucked. Enron has become a one-word punch line, but it represents just one of several Texas energy companies that were all involved in same basic business: creating false profits that swindled consumers and simultaneously financed the campaigns of George W. Bush. The multibillion dollar energy crisis in California was engineered by a group of companies of which Enron is only the most well-known example.

Reliant is one company that fits the pattern perfectly — lying, thieving, screwing Californians, donating to Bush, and suffering no serious repercussions whatsoever (Nelson Antosh in the
Houston Chronicle):
Reliant Resources' bogus power trades and transactions designed to shift earnings from one period to the next have drawn the minimum punishment from securities regulators.

Putting an end to a near yearlong investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a cease-and-desist order Monday against Reliant Resources and Reliant Energy, now CenterPoint Energy.

The Houston-based companies received no fines or other penalties.

Neither company admits nor denies the agency's findings of reporting and record-keeping violations and securities fraud in the settlement that was advanced by the companies.

The 17 round-trip trades between 1999 and 2001 involved the same-day purchase and sale of power, to the same company at the same price.

For the most part, these trades resulted in no profit or loss to either side, the commission said.

"Instead, the trades were designed for the sole purpose of increasing trading volumes to improve respondents' standing in the gas and power trading rankings in industry publications," according to the commission.

These were giant transactions, ranging from 30 times to 46 times the size of a normal large trade.
An article in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) adds the following details:
The SEC said its probe showed that Reliant, starting in 1999, set out to become one of the nation's top-tier traders. The company arranged so-called wash trades with smaller competitors, buying and selling identical amounts of electricity or gas at identical prices on the same days. These transactions boosted revenue and trading volumes without lifting earnings.

During the period from 1999 through 2001, Reliant did 17 "wash" trades for a total of 134.43 million megawatt hours of electricity, with the average false trade, by the end of 2001, nearly 50 times the size of a normal large trade.

With that push, investigators said, Reliant was lifted from the No. 10 position in electricity trading to No. 7 by 1999, to No. 5 by 2000 and, finally, to No. 3 by 2001, when widespread allegations of trading improprieties began unraveling the wholesale-electricity market. Among gas traders, it was lifted to No. 7 from No. 8 through a smaller number of fake trades.
Fake, fake, fake. In two years, Reliant went from No. 7 to No. 3 in electricity trading on the basis of... nothing at all.

And yet these unfined and unpunished frauds were useful to someone else — George W. Bush. The architects of Reliant's brilliant fake business plan, former Reliant CEOs Don D. Jordan and R. Steve Letbetter are both Bush Pioneer donors, having raised well over $100,000 each.

No fines, no penalties, not even the sound of another shoe dropping.

Texas swindled California and gave the crooked money in record amounts to its governor to run for president.

⇒ Additional resources: Reliant's corporate home page and a post on the fake California energy crisis.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top

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