culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, September 23, 2003
The crony surplus. There's a limitless supply of Texas energy insiders for Iraq (
Houston Chronicle):
Houston's Robert E. McKee III, a former ConocoPhillips executive, has been appointed the new senior adviser to the Iraqi Oil Ministry.

He will replace Philip J. Carroll, the one-time head of Shell Oil Co. who has overseen the often tumultuous effort to jump-start Iraq's oil sector for less than five months.

His selection as the Bush administration's energy czar in Iraq already is drawing fire from Capitol Hill because of his ties to the prime contractor in the Iraqi oil fields, Houston-based Halliburton Co. He's the chairman of a venture partitioned by the giant Houston oil well service and engineering firm.


McKee's appointment already is coming under scrutiny because of his role as chairman of Houston-based Enventure Global Technology, an oil-field joint venture owned by Shell and Halliburton.

Halliburton's role in Iraq has been highly controversial, since the Corps of Engineers chose the firm once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney for the job of repairing Iraq's energy infrastructure without seeking bids from competing companies.

"The administration continues to create the impression that the fox is in charge of the hen house," said Rep. Henry Waxman of California, ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and a persistent critic of the Halliburton contract.

"Given Mr. McKee's close relationship with Halliburton, he's an odd choice to hold them accountable for the billions of dollars they are charging American taxpayers."


He retired in April, leaving what had become ConocoPhillips a wealthy man. McKee ranked second in the Houston Chronicle's latest list of 100 highest-paid executives, taking home $26.2 million in total compensation last year.
$26.2 million is chump change. McKee can expect to see a sweet payday, given that the US expects to pay over $20 billion for Iraqi ZIP codes and an atrocity museum.
Conjoined twins: Texas and Iraq. Not even the propagandists can tell them apart (
Yahoo News):
U.S. Army hero Jessica Lynch is Canadian, snipers loyal to Saddam Hussein crouch on a roof flanked by the skyscraper that was home to television's J.R. Ewing and the streets of the Iraqi city of Nassiriya are near downtown Dallas.

Welcome to the world of NBC's made-for-television movie "Saving Jessica Lynch" where Iraq meets Texas in the telling of the 20-year-old Army private's ordeal in Iraq.


When production officials looked at what they quickly needed to do to get the movie on TV in time for its November airing, Texas emerged as the best locale.

To create the illusion of Iraq, several blocks of warehouses in south Dallas were transformed into Nassiriya by spraying sand-color concrete onto buildings destined to be condemned and creating removable facades for other buildings.


"I felt this movie should be shot on American soil because the film is about an American icon," [Executive Producer Dan] Paulson said.

The American icon is played by Canadian actor Laura Regan, who said it is an honor for her to portray Lynch.


The Iraqi street scene in Dallas will remain intact after the movie is aired, and some country music stars indicated they may use it for patriotic music videos that celebrate the war.
Texas and not Hollywood is apparently the best place to go for "removable facades."

Here is Dan Paulson's filmography, a list desperately in need of some cynical publicity.

This will be the second fake TV movie dramatization in three months intended to mythologize the Bush administration — i.e., tell new lies about the previous lies.

So Jessica Lynch will be played by a Canadian. French-Canadian?

And what is it about the intimate connection between country music and blind war-support?
Friday, September 19, 2003
The late twentieth century in just two years. Let's see — in two short years we've revived the repression and witchhunts of the 1950s, the military quagmire of the 1960s,
the floundering stock market of the 1970s, and the tax-averse corporate greed of the 1980s.

The only thing missing is the peace and prosperity of the 1990s.
Podhoretz joins "West Wing." It's shark-jumping time over at General Electric's little television venture known as NBC (
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When NBC's White House drama "The West Wing" returns next week for its fifth year, the most obvious difference from last season will be that John Goodman, not Martin Sheen, is calling the shots in the Oval Office as the famously liberal show gets more bipartisan.


To represent the Republican point of view, Wells has recruited former Reagan chief of staff Ken Duberstein, along with John Podhoretz, a conservative columnist who wrote speeches for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George Bush senior. Wells said Podhoretz has been one of the show's "staunchest critics" in recent years.
There goes a good show. Partisan maniac and non-artist Podhoretz will not have a clue that it was West Wing's creative execution and not its politics that made it great.

"I don't know about you, but frankly, I don't need any lessons on theology, destiny, public service, job creation, pay equity, or conservative ideology from a crack addict," he said of show creator Aaron Sorkin.

Actually, those are all lessons he needs.
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Shaming Wall Street. CalPundit uses the resignation of the NYSE's Dick Grasso to
make a much larger argument:
Here's a point that sometimes gets lost in conversations about growing income inequality in America as represented by gargantuan pay packages like Grasso's. Although liberals like me generally support limited government actions like progressive taxation as a way to ameliorate income inequality, most of us understand that there's a limit to how much government can and should do about this.

However, even if you don't believe the government should be involved in arguments over executive pay, there's nothing to prevent shareholders and public figures from trying to shame our nation's plutocrats into more responsible behavior. That's largely what happened here and I applaud it. Incestuous compensation committees will continue to expand executive paychecks far beyond anything that a free market would ever deliver until society simply makes this unacceptable. If people like Grasso are shunned and embarrassed over this kind of legalized thievery often enough, maybe we can put an end to it and redirect some of that money back to shareholders, to whom it properly belongs in the first place.
The advocates of the free market traditionally operate in markets that are anything but free: the tightly-controlled, interlocking circles of influence known as boards of directors. "More responsible behavior" from the people who consistently argue for self-regulation would help their arguments a great deal.

Until then, let's shame and regulate the bastards. The entire concept of public equity and individual shareholders is in danger of falling apart if the plutocrats successfully return to robber-baron tactics.

Kevin is right — the money stolen by maneuvers such as Grasso's properly belongs to shareholders. Shame alone won't get it back.
Beware the Merrill Lynch mob. The collusion between Merrill Lynch, Enron and the Bush administration becomes more evident with each passing day (
Washington Post):
The Bush money machine relies primarily on a corps of "bundlers" -- chief executive officers, contractors, investment bankers and others primarily from the business, legal and medical communities. They tend to have extensive networks of employees, suppliers, subcontractors, clients and others who are receptive* to their pitch for campaign donations.

For example, one Bush bundler is E. Stanley O'Neal, chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch & Co. The Center for Responsive Politics recently reported that Merrill Lynch employees and their immediate relatives already have given the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign $264,750.
*So if you are a supplier or subcontractor of Merrill Lynch's, you would undoubtedly be "receptive" to Merrill Lynch's suggestion that you donate to Bush-Cheney 2004 in the same way that any supplier of Tony Soprano's would be to a request for contributions to his pet political cause. They call it "bundling" — we call it "extortion."

It's only 2003, and already Merrill Lynch has loosened $265,000 from its network. Imagine what they'll come up with next year.

Of course it's the right of the fine people of Merrill Lynch to donate to whatever political causes they choose — but not when their efforts are supported by organized criminal activity. Yesterday's indictments were explicitly due to the fact that "Merrill Lynch knew that the [Enron barge] 'purchase' was not real" (today's Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
Prosecutors said the bankers engaged in a sham transaction in late 1999 in which Merrill appeared to buy an interest in Nigerian barges from Enron that allowed Enron, now operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy-court protection, to record $12 million in earnings. In reality, the indictment states, Mr. Bayly got an oral assurance from then-Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow that Merrill would get its money back with interest within six months.

"Merrill Lynch knew that the 'purchase' was not real," the indictment states.


The deal [to indict individuals and not the firm of Merrill Lynch] appeared to be aimed at preventing Merrill "from being Andersenized," said Jacob Frenkel, a former federal prosecutor and SEC attorney.

Wednesday, Justice Department officials seemed to be trying to play up the differences between Andersen and Merrill. "This is the kind of response that the DOJ encourages and frankly expects from companies in the course of a criminal investigation," said Christopher Wray, assistant attorney general for the criminal division, who later added, "There's a right way and a wrong way to respond when the government comes knocking at your door."
The problem with this is that Merrill Lynch was involved at the firm level with this grand deception, and both they and their client Enron are responsible for and beneficiaries of the administration that is dragging the United States into a horrific fiscal crisis.

And why does the Justice Department view its role in the matter as "trying to play up the differences between Andersen and Merrill"? Shouldn't the Justice Department be slightly more interested in, oh, I don't know, justice?

We also wrote about Merrill Lynch, the #1 wealth manager in the United States, yesterday.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Let's repeat this over and over and over until it sinks in:

Rumsfeld Sees No Link
Between Iraq, 9/11

Bush: No Proof of
Saddam Role in 9-11

Don't miss
Kicking Ass, a new blog by the Democratic National Committee. It and a bunch of others will soon be added to the permanent list.
Enron, Merrill Lynch, class warfare. Behold the strategic alignment of Enron, Bush-Cheney 2000, Merrill Lynch, and Nigerian barges (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
Former Merrill Executives Are Charged With Fraud

(Associated Press) HOUSTON -- Three former Merrill Lynch executives were charged with fraud Wednesday for allegedly helping Enron Corp. inflate earnings with a loan the energy trader disguised as a sale.

Daniel Bayly, Robert Furst and James Brown were named in a three-count federal indictment unsealed Wednesday in Houston. They were scheduled to appear before a judge later in the day. All three were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsifying books and records.

Mr. Brown was named in two additional counts accusing him of committing perjury before a grand-jury investigating the Enron scandal and of obstruction before the same grand jury.

The charges stem from a scheme in which Enron, with Merrill's knowledge, allegedly booked a short-term investment from the brokerage firm as profit from the sale of Nigerian barges. The income was then used to make Enron appear to have met earnings targets.

The three agreed to buy the Nigerian barges only because Merrill Lynch "knew the 'purchase' was not real," according to the indictment.
Neither is the "administration" real, based as it is on the whims of the Supreme Court and lavish campaign contributions from fraudulent Enron profits, facilitated by Merrill Lynch.

So who is Merrill Lynch? According to a 2003 survey by Barron's, Merrill Lynch is the #1 wealth manager in the United States, with private client assets of $630 billion, more than the Bush deficit for this year. With a minimum account balance of $1 million, these are the people who benefit most — by a long shot — from the Bush tax cuts. It was in Merrill Lynch's best interest to help create the fraud that was Enron because Enron helped create the fraud that is Bush who helped create the fraud that is current fiscal policy.

With full knowledge of what it was doing, the largest wealth manager in the US facilitates the deceptions of the largest energy trader in the US who contributes mightily to the Bush campaign and who directly recommends energy policy to the vice president, himself the CEO of the largest oil services corporation, and still on six-figure annual deferred compensation from Halliburton while he occupies the office of vice president.

What boggles the mind is the scale and coordination of this national hoax — to drain the US Treasury into the grasping hands of the rich.

Hello, special prosecutor? Can you hear me?

UPDATE: Merrill Lynch has cut a deal that ensures it will not meet the same fate as the scapegoat firm of Arthur Andersen, which acted not only as Enron's auditor, but also Halliburton's while Dick Cheney was CEO. Killing two birds with one stone, as it were. Under the politico-plutocratic logic of the Bush administration, Andersen the auditor was dispensable; Merrill Lynch the wealth manager is not.
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
CalPundit aka Kevin Drum provides an excellent, exclusive interview with
Paul Krugman, who recently published an outstanding article entitled "The Tax-Cut Con" in the New York Times Magazine.
The Texas goose step. Adventures in procedural fascism continue in the Texas redistricting crisis. Story from the
Houston Chronicle:
A Democratic crowd in the gallery pelted the Republican leadership with jeers of "Nazis" as the Senate adjourned quickly to deny boycotting senators a chance to re-enter the Senate triumphantly while it was in session.


The other 10 boycotting Democrats walked into the Senate chamber at 12:07 p.m. A ring of television cameras and boom microphones surrounded them. The gallery crowd cheered wildly.

"Thank you, Texas!" Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, shouted back to the crowd.

Van de Putte, chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, said the boycott was about more than partisan politics. She said the Democrats wanted to make certain the Republicans did not stifle the voices of rural Texans and minorities with redistricting plans harmful to their interests.

Sen. Mario Gallegos made fun of the Republicans for adjourning so quickly.

"If they were so eager for us to come back to work, where are they?" said Gallegos, D-Houston. "If they were so eager for us to make a quorum and make the issues on the floor, where are they?"
At the center of the storm is Republican Texas Speaker Tom Craddick who, with Tom DeLay, was a conspirator in the craven illegal abuse of the federal Department of Homeland Security just to shore up Craddick's petty fiefdom in Midland, West Texas.
Monday, September 15, 2003
L. Jean Lewis and the two faces of scandal. "The really germane question is this: How exactly did L. Jean Lewis rise suddenly from the ranks of minor RTC [Resolution Trust Corp.] investigator to the overseer of a massive Defense Department bureau [that investigates fraud and audits Pentagon contracts, including the billions of dollars being awarded in Iraq to companies like Halliburton and Bechtel]? What exactly were her qualifications? The ones she put on display for the RTC: Namely, ginning up scandals against Democrats, and covering up scandals against Republicans."

That's David Neiwert at
Orcinus (see also here). Via Atrios posts here and here.
Friday, September 12, 2003
Darleen Druyun, enemy combatant
in the war against US taxpayers

Darleen's $5.7 billion surprise. Darleen Druyun, an Air Force acquisitions officer, apparently notified Boeing that a competitor had underbid them by several billion dollars.

She's no longer with the Air Force. Guess where she works now...
[Forbes/Reuters:] Boeing Co. rejected published reports on Friday that it might have obtained rival bidder Airbus SAS's proprietary information en route to a proposed $22.5 billion refueling tanker lease-purchase agreement with the U.S. Air Force.

Darleen Druyun, hired by Boeing after leaving her job as a top Air Force acquisition official last year, told the Chicago-based company "several times" that Airbus's price was $5 million to $17 million less than Boeing's, an internal Boeing e-mail published on Friday said.


The lease of 100 tankers based on the Boeing 767 would cost as much as $5.7 billion more than an outright purchase, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office said in an Aug. 26 report.
This is the issue recently alluded to by Paul Krugman as evidence of the American press missing or barely covering important stories (via Arms and the Man).

⇒ This post was updated on November 24, 2003.
The profitable War on Terror. We know where more than $2 billion of that $87 billion interim price tag is going (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
HOUSTON -- Halliburton Corp.'s (HAL) U.S. government contracts to restore Iraqi oil production and provide support services to troops will cost taxpayers an estimated $2 billion and are expected to rise further, Army spokesmen said Wednesday.

An Army Corps of Engineers contract to rehabilitate the country's oil fields is now valued at $948 million, more than $200 million above the level projected last month. Halliburton's Army Field Support Command contract is now estimated to cost $1 billion in Iraq alone, up more than $400 million from the level in late May.

Although only a small fraction of the value of the contracts will end up as Halliburton profits, the higher price tag could pose political challenges for the Bush administration because Vice President Dick Cheney was previously the company's chief executive.

As with the cost of the overall U.S. effort in Iraq, the Halliburton contracts have escalated in value as Iraqi infrastructure continues to be plagued by looting and sabotage.


Halliburton reported $292 million in Iraq-related revenues for the quarter ended June 30. Analysts said the Iraq work added two or three cents per share. Halliburton reported second-quarter net income of $26 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a net loss of $498 million, or $1.15 a share, in the same period the year before.

A Halliburton spokeswoman said the company wouldn't comment on the future earnings impact of its Iraq-related work.
What a difference an invasion makes: a net loss of $498 million versus a quarterly profit of $26 million. That's over a half billion dollar swing to the plus side for Halliburton in a single quarter, comparing 2003 to 2002. And it's in the exact opposite direction of the swing our federal budget has taken from the plus to the minus column. Coincidence, or chicanery?

Did you catch that other detail? Looting and sabotage increase the value of the Halliburton contracts.

Now we know why there's so much chaos in Iraq since the invasion — it's so fucking profitable.
Thursday, September 11, 2003
110 Stories

A poem by John M. Ford

Via Making Light
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
"California receives less than $5 per person in first responder grants, while Wyoming receives more than $35." This column by Christopher Cox, California Republican, who is chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' Select Committee on Homeland Security, was published in the Washington Times. Via
The September 11, 2001, attacks drew immediate attention to the key role of our "first responders" -- the police, firefighters and emergency medical teams who are the first on any crisis scene.

Subsequently, the nation's attention has also focused on the deficiencies in information sharing within our federal government, notably the FBI, CIA and other intelligence community agencies.

These two crucial elements of homeland security are inextricably linked, because information about an attack that reaches the front lines of local authorities could potentially reduce its impact if not stop it entirely.

In the two years since the September 11 attacks, the focus on first responders has increased awareness that federal money isn't reaching them where it is needed. But while much of the discussion has focused simplistically on calls for ever-higher spending, an even greater problem is that information gathered by counterterrorism experts at significant taxpayer expense is ignored in the disbursement process.


All sides agree this takes money. And Congress has responded. Since that terrible day in September two years ago, Congress has spent more than $20 billion on first responders -- an increase of more than 1,000 percent. Even for Washington, this is an incredible amount of money.

But the involvement of such large sums only accentuates the importance of spending wisely. That means all funds should be disbursed on the basis of hard-nosed threat assessment. However, current federal funding for first responders is parceled out among the states with a guaranteed minimum for every state (presumably, because every state has two senators). One obvious distortion is that California receives less than $5 per person in first responder grants, while Wyoming receives more than $35. The same result obtains in other large states, including New York.
Dick Cheney's home state is financially buffered against the threat of terrorists, while California and New York are left dangling in the wind.

Wyoming is to states as Halliburton is to corporations.

There seems to be a pattern here.
Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Department of Redundancy Department.

Monthly premiums for employer-sponsored health care in the United States jumped by 13.9 percent between spring 2002 and 2003.


Nearly every publicly traded HMO posted record profits in recent quarters.

Correct answer: 7) All of the above. We have William F. Buckley to thank for this concise summary (
The inquiry continues: Why the [hateful] feelings toward Bush? The answer, as agreed upon in this improvised study, was: 1) He is not legitimately president of the United States. The other guy got more votes. Bush slipped in because of capricious conduct by the courts. 2) Bush is a Christer. He takes every opportunity to inform the American people that he is in touch with the Lord and therefore that, by deduction, what he does is the Lord's work. 3) He gravely miscalculated the onus of what he set out to do in Iraq. The consequences of that miscalculation are deaths unending, and more money spent than King Solomon dreamed of. 4) The economy lacks the kind of resiliency it might have shown if more resourcefully tended. 5) His truckling to the rich in his tax cuts shows a callous disregard of civil adjudications between America's poor and America's rich. And finally, 6) He is a liar. He specifically informed the public that Iraq had in hand instantly deployable weapons of mass destruction. These, it proved, did not exist.
I especially like the passive, tortured double-conditional construction of #4.
"People in the wider world don't care." Lies, facts — it's all the same to the propaganda machine supporting Jessica Lynch, Caucasian poster girl for the fraudulence behind the invasion of Iraq by the US (
Moby Lives, see 8 September 2003):
Knopf announced last Tuesday that it had signed a book deal with recently discharged Private Jessica Lynch concerning her rescue from an Iraqi medical facility, with the book to be written by recently discharged New York Times writer Rick Bragg. A Publishers Weekly report by Charlotte Abbott says, "Called I'm a Soldier Too: The Jessica Lynch Story and set for publication on Veteran's Day, November 11, it has become one of the fall's most anticipated books almost overnight." But as Abbott points out, the publisher will also have to deal with "lingering questions" about Lynch's rescue — subsequent reports showed she was under little threat and her wounds were perhaps exaggerated — and "Bragg's reputation in the wake of his resignation from the Times on May 28" for having filed reports lifted largely from the work of an assistant. Says Knopf publicity v.p. Paul Bogaards, "People in the wider world don't care."
Regarding Bragg's recent troubles: "In bylining a story that he did not witness, and writing vivid descriptions of things he did not see, Bragg comes perilously close to the techniques of Jayson Blair," says Jack Shafer in Slate.

Rick Bragg couldn't write the "vivid descriptions of things he did not see" in Showtime's "DC 9/11" because that job was already taken, not because the things he purports to describe existed.

What propagandists who call themselves journalists write cannot even disparagingly be called "fiction" — it's just deception, pure and simple. But, as we're constantly reminded, "People in the wider world don't care."

For her role in the charade, Jessica Lynch will receive 100% of all book royalties and split the $1 million advance with Bragg, who receives the sole author credit. Ka-ching!

And now please join me in a silent prayer for Leni Riefenstahl.
Monday, September 08, 2003
A brief hiatus. Back soon.
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Big ol' grab bag o' links. Here are just a few of the hundreds of things I've been meaning to share with you:
David Neiwert, the go-to guy for tracking the rise of American fascism, has published his entire "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism" mega-essay. You can download it whole as a pdf on his site Orcinus, or you can read it in chapters on the indispensable Cursor.

BP Solar provides this calculator for determining how much you'd pay/save if you were install a solar power system to generate electricity for your home. It supposedly works by zip code, figuring your area's capacity for sunlight into the mix.

Free books in pdf format for the asking.

Acres of newspapers — 273 front pages from 37 countries presented alphabetically, courtesy of Newseum. Refreshed daily.

Via Cryptome, a civil action: The Estate of John O'Neill v. The Republic of Iraq. John P. O'Neill, Sr. was a former top FBI counter-terrorism official who had become director of security for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey shortly before September 11, 2001. He died in the World Trade Center. We've written about him before.

Brian Montopoli looks at the 9/11 investigation, or lack thereof, in Washington Monthly. Montopoli also has a blog of his own.
Visit one and all.
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Paul Hill: Anti-child activist. One of the most remarkable things about the homicidal zealotry of some so-called "pro-life" activists is their hatred of children. Paul Hill, the abortion doctor killer who is actively looking forward to his execution scheduled for later today, is
the father of three children (Fox News).

His willingness to orphan his own sacred progeny reveals an irrational derangement that destroys whatever message his actions were supposed to impart to those of us who disagree with him.

But his message is nevertheless clear: he wants all women not to have dominion over their own bodies, and he wants his own children not to have a father.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
To a Bush, all facts are useless. Reality deprivation runs in the Bush family, including the president's brother, dyslexic adulterer and Saudi PR adviser Neil Bush (
USA Today):
The problem with education, says Neil Bush, is that we create prison-like environments that suppress many students' natural gifts and bore them with useless facts.

The president's brother is speaking on a panel at Whitney High, a Southern California academic powerhouse, where his company's social studies software is being tested by eighth-graders. But Bush quickly finds himself alone, pitted against several bright-as-lights Whitney students who like calculus. They think the problem isn't that school is boring, but that educators, parents and kids set their expectations too low.

"I hear students say, 'Oh, math is boring, or that subject is boring, so I don't want to do it.' I say, that's an excuse, a crutch. A student should want to learn everything. That's what we're here for," notes one.
Fortunately, today's crutch-free eighth-graders — the ones who appreciate the finer things in life, like calculus, or anything factual — will be writing the educational software of the future.

In the meanwhile, California kids will be hobbled by the software equivalent of Billy Beer.
Friday, August 29, 2003
Celebrate Owners Day Weekend with the GOP. I received this email:
Dear Skimble,

As we celebrate with our friends and family this [Labor Day] weekend, let us be thankful for the small business owners throughout the country who are the engine of our economy.[1] With over 22.9 million small businesses across the country, they provide approximately 75 percent of the net new jobs added to the economy.[2] The President understands that when small business owners can keep more of their money, they are going to reinvest it in their businesses.[3] With the ability to update or expand, small-business owners will hire more employees, give raises to the employees they have, buy new equipment or invest in advertising.[4] The hard work of small business owners and their entrepreneurial vision creates jobs and helps to stimulate our economy.[5]

In celebration of their vision and our shared Republican ideals, let's renew our commitment to America[6] this weekend.[7]



Ed Gillespie
Republican National Committee
Our annotation:
[1] Small business is certainly not the engine of the Bush campaigns, which depend on the generosity of — and expected reciprocal generosity in favor of — big, not small, businesses.

[2] Bush has the worst job creation record since
Herbert Hoover's Great Depression era administration.

[3] I can speak to this one from personal experience as a small business owner. Any extra money scraped together will be allocated to skyrocketing medical insurance premiums, thanks to the total lack of a sensible medical care policy for American citizens — another GOP failure.

[4] Hire? Raises? Equipment? Advertising? I don't think so. See #3. Also, advertising is increasingly only for insiders, thanks to a media cabal controlled by a handful of boards of directors.

[5] Recent economic stimulus has been attributable to dramatic increases in defense spending, hardly the normal playing field for small businesses, except possibly one of Halliburton's Canadian suppliers called HEAT.

[6] It will be difficult for Republicans to renew their patriotic commitment to the sacrifices made by the Small Businesses of America since the party has outsourced its fundraising telemarketing efforts not to Indiana, but to India.

[7] None of this letter (including the edited portion) is about laborers — the point of Labor Day, which originally commemorated the effort, opposed by big business owners, to limit employment to the 8-hour work day at a time when 12 or 16 hours of work per day was the norm. For the party of ownership and big business, "shared Republican ideals" naturally refer to employers' opposition to the 8-hour work day — the celebration of a holiday weekend in an alternate GOP universe: an anti-Labor Day.
We're getting so used to the Republican party meaning the exact opposite of what it says that no one is even fazed any more. The propaganda is so chock full of nonsequiturs that criticism has nowhere to begin its work. What comes out of the mouths of leadership is uniformly expected to be utter self-serving nonsense.

In other words, America under Bush II has become the Soviet Union.

Happy Labor Day.

UPDATE: Looks like Matt Singer at Not Geniuses got the same letter.
"A Big Mac, freedom fries, and $23 billion worth of secret sauce." The Pentagon has placed its order — they're just not going to tell anyone
what it is (Washington Post):
"Black," or classified, programs requested in President Bush's 2004 defense budget are at the highest level since 1988, according to a report prepared by the independent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The center concluded that classified spending next fiscal year will reach about $23.2 billion of the Pentagon's total request for procurement and research funding. When adjusted for inflation, that is the largest dollar figure since the peak reached during President Ronald Reagan's defense buildup 16 years ago. The amount in 1988 was $19.7 billion, or $26.7 billion if adjusted for inflation, according to the center.

"It's puzzling. It sets the mind to wondering where the money's going and what sort of politically controversial things the administration is doing because they're not telling anybody," said John E. Pike, director of, a research group in Alexandria that has been critical of the administration's defense priorities.


...[Pike] said it is a good bet that some of [the classified money] is going to programs that the administration is known to strongly favor, such as missile defense and the development of hypersonic planes that can fly beyond Earth's atmosphere.

"This is an administration that likes to play I've got a secret," he said. "The growth of the classified budget appears to be part of a larger pattern of this administration being secretive."
There's that old discredited but never-say-die 1980s standby, missile defense. Further proof that Dubya's real father is Ronald Reagan.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
Only the crony survives. Bechtel is reaping the rewards of its insider track, the natural outcome of
yet another Bush administration lie (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
August 28, 2003 8:52 a.m.

Faced with escalating costs and continued instability in Iraq, U.S. officials in Baghdad have decided to boost Bechtel Group Inc.'s postwar reconstruction contract by $350 million, or more than 50%.

The decision to steer additional funds to Bechtel is the latest sign that the Bush administration has seriously underestimated the cost and complexity of rebuilding Iraq. Although the U.S. plans a dramatic push for new reconstruction funds -- part of what one U.S. official said will be a $2.75 billion emergency budget request for Iraq next month -- the administration remains vague on what the overall project is likely to cost.

The new Bechtel money, which could be turned over within days, is part of at least $1 billion the U.S. hopes to pour into Iraqi power generation alone over the next year. U.S. officials and Bechtel assessment teams now estimate Iraqi reconstruction will cost at least $16 billion and likely much more. L. Paul Bremer, the top U.S. official in Iraq, has said that the costs of rebuilding Iraq and revitalizing its economy could top $100 billion.

San Francisco-based Bechtel was originally awarded an 18 month, $680 million contract for Iraqi reconstruction work on airports, water, power, schools, roads and government buildings. After business rivals and some legislators criticized the limited competition involved in that award, Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, promised that no additional taxpayer money would go into the Bechtel contract beyond the $680 million ceiling.

According to a funding document from the U.S.-led Iraqi provisional authority, however, U.S. officials recently decided that Bechtel requires the additional $350 million "to maintain momentum in high-priority infrastructure projects." Mr. Bremer approved the new projects on Aug. 20, according to the document.

Wednesday, an AID spokeswoman said that "security conditions" had evidently led Mr. Bremer to lift the limit and give more work to Bechtel. The additional $350 million will come from what's left of a $2.5 billion Iraq reconstruction fund Congress approved early this year.
All Bush administration promises are broken because all Bush administration promises are, essentially, lies.

US taxpayers will pay for Bechtel's reconstruction of Iraq's power grid, because the Bush administration insisted on the urgency of invading a country without WMDs. But US consumers will pay for the reconstruction of America's post-blackout power grid.

Since the US tax base is increasingly made up of the lower and middle classes, thanks to Bush administration tax relief for the most wealthy, working Americans will first pay Bechtel and Halliburton to rebuild Iraq and further enrich the Dick Cheneys and Riley Bechtels who have built a rhetoric-rich neocon smokescreen for their crass robber baron capitalism. Then, once taxes have paid for Republican enrichment, what remains of the lower classes' after-tax dollars will go toward higher utility prices to rebuild the American power grid for negligent power providers like FirstEnergy, the likely source of the blackout, a company led by a Bush Pioneer who had raised several hundred thousand dollars for his 2000 presidential campaign.

Billionaire Riley Bechtel, like Cheney's employer Halliburton and a phalanx of shadowy cronies, is using his insider status within the Bush administration to place personal profit above the national interest.

$100 billion, the latest underestimate, is an extraordinary price to pay for imaginary Iraqi weapons. The lies of the Bush administration may be among the most profitable the world has ever seen, and among the most needlessly expensive that taxpayers will ever bear.
Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Enron's secrets are safe with this Republican judge. The Houston Chronicle has led the charge to open up the testimony of former Enron CFO Andrew Fastow, possibly the single most important witness in the case (yet to be made) against former CEO, insider thief, and Bush über-contributor Ken "Kenny Boy" Lay.

But Judge Kenneth Hoyt is not feeling very generous with what is ordinarily
public information:
A federal judge today held two more closed hearings in the criminal case against Andrew Fastow and two other former Enron executives, and refused to unseal the transcript of a July 28 hearing he also held in secret.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt denied a motion by the Houston Chronicle to make public the record of the unusual closed hearings in July and the two on today. One conference was held in the morning with prosecutors and the lawyers for defendant Ben Glisan and a second in the afternoon with prosecutors and lawyers for Fastow, Glisan and Daniel Boyle.

All have pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud in connection with various deals at Enron. Fastow faces nearly 100 counts himself.

Hoyt denied a Chronicle request to be allowed to attend the two Tuesday hearings. The Chronicle's reporter and lawyer were told to leave the hallway outside by court security officers, who said Hoyt ordered them to do so. The officers said the two would be detained if they did not leave.

"There are matters that do not need to be discussed in public in ways that embarrasses or humiliates the government or the defense and particularly the court," Hoyt said from the bench.

The judge made clear that the defendants' lawyers had not asked for the multi-defendant closed hearings but that he had closed them himself. Hoyt said sessions with lawyers in a judge's chambers are common and his goal is a fair trial for the defendants and for the government.

He said some matters should not be public. He said it would be impossible to discuss publically such as questions about how much evidence has been obtained, when more evidence might be available or what the two sides recommend for a case schedule.

In other Enron cases and in most criminal cases such questions are routinely asked in open court.
Hoyt was appointed by George W. Bush's real father, Ronald Reagan.

UPDATE: It only gets worse: Hours later, the Chronicle reports "Chronicle shut out of 2 more hearings":
"Embarrassment is not an exception to the First Amendment," Chronicle Editor Jeff Cohen said. "With all due respect to the judge, we will continue to press him to open these hearings until he provides a better explanation."
I'm not an attorney, so I can't comment on whether Hoyt's rhetoric of embarrassment and humiliation is commonplace or appropriate. But to a legal outsider, it sounds overly secretive, disingenuous, and just plain weird.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
Hoovering the country. Herbert is everywhere, first at Al Franken's appearance on CNN's Crossfire
FRANKEN: Listen, he's going to be the first president since Hoover not to add any new jobs in his first term.

CARLSON: I know. I'm sorry. We're totally, completely out of time. I'm getting it in my ear. They're saying they're going to cut us off.
Notice the timing of Tucker Carlson's not-so-smooth segue to commercial break.

Then in Slate is "The Best of George W. Bush: hooverville
Hooverville in New York
The bravest thing he ever did," by William Saletan and Ben Jacobs:
As to keeping Americans constantly informed, Bush held only nine press conferences in the first two and half years of his presidency, the lowest rate since Herbert Hoover.
Similar Hoover lines are popping up in the speeches of Dean and Kerry. None of this is new, it's just nice to see such comparisons trotted out in a coordinated fashion to gain critical mass in the public imagination.

The coordination of the Hoover references, of course, doesn't make them any less true.
Clear Channel: The Bootleg Sessions. Clear Channel is generating new sources of revenue for music acts — by creating instant, quasi-legal* CD-R recordings of live concerts that you can buy on your way out of the venue. The entire concert an audience has just witnessed, including the stage banter between songs, is preserved as a souvenir for each night's fans.

Because they create new cash streams for artists, Clear Channel is simultaneously devising new ways to control dissent (
Pitchfork Media):
Given that it's rock and roll, there's also a risk that an artist-- in a Replacements-like case of career suicide-- could record comments against Clear Channel or one of its properties. [Clear Channel Executive Vice-President Steve] Simon [the project director for the Instant Live program], allows that "there are all sorts of conceivable ways that one might deal with that," but he didn't consider it likely: "If an artist goes through the paces of doing this with us, they're doing it because they want to sell discs. They're doing it because we have a relationship with them, or have created a relationship... By the time you've been through all that I don't think there's much of a concern that the band's going to then get up there and call you names."
You hear that, rock and roll rebels? No name-calling. Clear Channel said so. If you want concert promotion, nationwide airplay, or Instant Live souvenir bootlegs, get on your knees and kiss the hem of your relationship with Clear Channel.

*The thorny issue of compensation for cover songs — songs written by someone other than the artists performing them — is sidestepped by Clear Channel according to this report.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Four moms, two towers,
one enormous pattern of lies.

The itch of incompetence. So who should be the new Secretary of the Navy? How about an executive vice president of General Dynamics? Check.

Need to nominate a director to the board of the United States Institute of Peace? How does an anti-Muslim racial profiler sound?
President Bush will nominate Deputy Homeland Security Secretary Gordon England to be Secretary of the Navy, the White House said on Friday.

The White House also said in a statement that Bush had signed the recess appointment of Daniel Pipes to the board of directors of the United States Institute of Peace, a controversial decision because Pipes has been accused of being anti-Muslim.

England, who has served previously as Navy secretary, replaces Bush's previous Navy nominee, oil executive Colin McMillan, who committed suicide in July.

He is a former executive vice president of General Dynamics Corporation.

Pipe's pending appointment has generated controversy because some Muslim-Americans and Democrats in Congress accuse him of defending racial and religious profiling.

Pipes has also suggested that mosques in America should be targets of police surveillance.
Once again, the least beneficial and most inflammatory choices are brought to you by Preparation W.

Link via Seeing the Forest.

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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