WASHINGTON -- Letters from hometown soldiers describing their successes rebuilding Iraq have been appearing in newspapers across the country as U.S. public opinion on the mission sours.
And all the letters are the same.
A Gannett News Service search found identical letters from different soldiers with the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Airborne Infantry Regiment, also known as "The Rock," in 11 newspapers, including Snohomish, Wash.
The Olympian received two identical letters signed by different hometown soldiers: Spc. Joshua Ackler and Spc. Alex Marois, who is now a sergeant. The paper declined to run either because of a policy not to publish form letters.
A seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va.
"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style."
He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.
It isn't enough that they're taking soldiers' lives and limbs — they want soldiers' signatures on Bush astroturf too. Stolen, if need be.
Chalabi came off as the super-evil, super-lying brother of his evil, lying identical twin Dick Cheney. The fraudulence, the incompetence, the arrogant air of privilege — all in full view. Like Cheney, Chalabi is less shocking than disgusting in his bald banality.
The UN Ambassador of Saudi Arabia terminated and goes a straight speech to outside into the lobby where he president Bush meets.
They vibrate themselves the hands and as them together continue, ask to the Saudi: "knowledge you, I has a question because of something, which I saw in America."
President Bush says: "now, I want to do your Eminenz, which always I can also do fur you, gladly."
The Saudi whispers: "my son saw this" Star Trek "series, and therein it gives but no Arabs to Russians, black ones and Asians. It is very applied over it. He does not understand, why there are no Arabs in Star Trek."
President Bush laughs, leans more near to the Saudi near and fluesetert back: "comes along, because it plays in the future..."
That Bush! Always vibrating the hands with the Saudis!
LONDON (Reuters) - The lives of Roman Catholics in some of the countries worst hit by HIV/AIDS are being put at even greater risk by advice from their churches that the use of condoms does not prevent transmission of the disease, according to a British television program.
"The Aids virus is roughly 450 times smaller than the spermatozoon," Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, president of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Family, told the program.
"The spermatozoon can easily pass through the 'net' that is formed by the condom."
The Archbishop of Nairobi, Raphael Ndingi Nzeki told the program: "AIDS...has grown so fast because of the availability of condoms."
While in Luak near Lake Victoria, Gordon Wambi, director of an AIDS testing center, said he had been prevented from distributing condoms because of church opposition.
[Steve] Bradshaw [reporter on the BBC Panorama program "Sex and the Holy City" that will be aired in Britain on Sunday night] told Reuters the program team did not go out looking for the story, but stumbled across it during research.
"We heard the same line so many times from different people in different places that we decided to approach the Vatican," he said.
"These incorrect statements about condoms and HIV are dangerous when we are facing a global pandemic which has already killed more than 20 million people, and currently affects at least 42 million," the WHO told the program.
It conceded condoms could break or be damaged and permit passage of semen, but said they reduced the risk of infection by 90 percent and were certainly secure enough to prevent passage of the virus if not torn.
Panorama said scientific research had found intact condoms were impermeable to particles as small as sexually transmitted infection pathogens -- a view rejected by Trujillo.
"They are wrong about that...this is an easily recognizable fact," he told the program.
From Nicaragua to Kenya and the Philippines, the Panorama team found the same tale from the Catholic church -- that condoms can kill.
"Condoms can kill."
In yet another Catholic irony of cause and effect, condoms can also kill the chances for parishioners to make the children that priests can sodomize and church leaders can pretend not to know about.
The willingness to endanger or kill people in distant countries by propagating the most blatant of lies is one more total collapse of moral leadership — most recently political leadership in the United States, now Catholic leadership in the Vatican.
Good Catholics, like good Americans, must rise up and demand accountability from the murderous liars who have seized control of their respective credibility — as a world religion, and as a world power.
The New York Stock Exchange's two top remaining executives have accumulated retirement pay totaling about $30 million apiece during their respective 30-year careers at the Big Board, according to people familiar with the matter.
The pay of the executives, Catherine Kinney and Robert Britz, the NYSE's co-chief operating officers, could cause a stir at the exchange, which has been roiled by last month's ouster of former New York Stock Exchange Chairman Dick Grasso after disclosures that he had accumulated retirement pay of nearly $190 million in his 36-year exchange career. A NYSE spokesman declined to comment.
At a securities-industry dinner earlier this year, Mr. Grasso teased his lieutenants about their chances [to succeed him]. Ms. Kinney and Mr. Britz had "suffered" about "60 years collectively of Dick Grasso," the then-chairman said, and were "just a heartbeat away from providing the leadership of the stock exchange that it sorely needs." To drive home the point, Mr. Grasso joked about what Mr. Britz would typically say to his boss on arriving at work at 7:45 each morning: "How's your heart?"
Heart? What heart? These aren't people — they're cyborgs from the future... no, wait, that's not the NYSE, that's California.
As the popularity of revivals continues to wane, evangelists must hold out faith that God will provide, their leaders say.
In 25 years as a vocational evangelist, Rob Randall has witnessed a steady decline in the number of churches holding revivals. While it once was common for churches to hold two revivals a year, some congregations now have one every five years at best, Randall said. Countywide revivals are increasingly rare.
The number of Southern Baptist evangelists also is down. There are about 500 on the mailing list of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, down from more than 700, according to Benny Jackson, president of the group.
Consistent work is difficult to come by for an evangelist, and some have picked up part-time jobs or found other full-time positions to support their families, Randall said. Even when a revival opportunity comes along, the evangelist is at the mercy of a congregation's love offering for support.
"The evangelist ... has to live by faith," Randall said. "He doesn't have a regular check. He doesn't have a large support base usually. He is out there to sink or swim based on his own ability to raise money."
"Our pews are full but full of people who do not want to give," Randall commented. "Our pews are full, but full of people not willing to commit. Our pews are full of people not willing to share their faith."
Hughes agreed that revivals have been cut back, but that's because individuals are "time poor," not because they are uncommitted. People are juggling many things in their lives and don't have time to attend a weeklong series of services.
The gospel message evangelists deliver is badly needed in churches, Randall argued. "There's a newness and a freshness to the evangelists' message," he said. "And the church needs to hear that."
The gospel is needed, Hughes agreed, but the way evangelists deliver it in the future may be different. He noted even Billy and Franklin Graham have altered their approach slightly, choosing not to call their efforts crusades and changing the music a bit.
A crusade by any other name would smell as sweet. Franklin Graham, the guy who called Islam a "wicked religion," runs a series of festivals designed to reach "uncommitted individuals" that include dazzling guest appearances by superhero Bibleman.
A mystery I've yet to figure out: I thought Christians were supposed to pray for sinners. How come they always throw the weight of their worshipful prayers behind privileged Caucasian idols whom they consider beyond reproach, and never pray for those colorful Democrats whose behavior they regard as morally repugnant — even sinful?
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Oh my, lump in the bed
How I've missed you.
Roses are redder
Bluer am I
Seeing you kissed by that charming French guy.
The dogs and the cat, they missed you too
Barney's still mad you dropped him, he ate your shoe
The distance, my dear, has been such a barrier
Next time you want an adventure, just land on a carrier.
The lump in the White House
for his negligence should
end up in the right house,
that is, prison, for good.
With the exception of the NPR crowd, which is both small and unsurprisingly liberal, people who rely on print media were substantially better informed on specific war issues than people who relied on any of the TV newscasts.
The survey comes from PIPA, the Program on International Policy Attitudes.
A federal judge in Texas ruled that former Enron Corp. Chairman Kenneth Lay and Northern Trust Corp., trustee of Enron's 401(k) retirement plan, can be sued under federal pension law for allegedly failing to protect Enron employees.
The ruling could lead to greater protections for workers with employer stock in their 401(k) and other retirement programs. Companies using their own stock in employee-retirement plans, a widespread practice, came under increased scrutiny from Congress and government regulators after Enron's stock collapse devastated its employees' retirement savings.
The wide-ranging, 329-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon in Houston came in response to motions brought in lawsuits by former employees of Enron, which filed for bankruptcy-court protection in late 2001. The ruling said Mr. Lay and Northern Trust -- along with others who oversaw Enron's retirement programs -- had a responsibility to ensure that the plans' investments were prudent. This responsibility extended to decisions about how much Enron stock employees held in their retirement accounts, the judge said.
More than 60% of Enron's $2.1 billion in 401(k) assets were invested in the company's own shares at the end of 2000. The plan covered about 20,000 Enron employees, retirees and their beneficiaries. Enron stock, which peaked at about $90 a share in 2000, currently trades for less than 10 cents a share in over-the-counter trading.
This is a wise ruling that demands accountability from those in charge of company retirement plans, who are effectively the stewards of their employees' retirement savings. The attachment of Northern Trust to this ruling only adds credibility to the obvious failure of prudent executive oversight.
Too bad it's too late. With this kind of legal exposure, expect Ken Lay to declare personal bankruptcy, after which Linda "Jus' Stuff" Lay will probably get another chance to weep glycerine tears on television. Ken Lay has had over two years to sequester all his purloined wealth in assets that are often protected from bankruptcy, such as real estate, annuities, and offshore accounts.
What needs to stay at the forefront of this story is not the talk-show punchline of Lay's criminal behavior, but rather the intimate connection between one irresponsible, thieving failure of an executive and another — George W. Bush.
AUSTIN -- The Republican legislative battle over redistricting may do more than give Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick a new U.S. House seat for his hometown of Midland. It also might send one of President Bush's friends and former business partners to Congress.
K. Michael Conaway -- who was vice president, secretary and treasurer of Bush Exploration for five years -- is the only known Republican poised to run in the proposed Midland-based congressional district if Craddick wins his fight with Senate Republicans on how to redraw West Texas.
Craddick has said he wants a Midland district that Conaway can win.
"I know Tom is way set to get it drawn the way he wants to or it goes down," Conaway, 54, said Tuesday. "Tom's prepared to go either way: not have a bill at all or get it done the way he wants it done."
Sue Brannon, the Midland County Republican chair, said she is confident Bush would like to see a congressional district created for his former hometown.
"I've talked to him about it, and I know a lot of people out here have talked to him about it," Brannon said. "I know what he thinks about it ... but me commenting publicly on what he thinks about it is not a wise thing to do."
Brannon said she knows of no Republicans who would challenge Conaway in a primary if the new district is created.
Conaway said he met Bush shortly after his 1978 run for Congress. As a certified public accountant, Conaway audited Bush's company for three years before joining it as vice president.
Conaway later was the senior vice president and chief financial officer of the United Bank of Midland, the institution that loaned Bush $500,000 so he could buy his share of the Texas Rangers baseball team.
And it was on that fake "loan" that Dubya made his fake fortune that paid for the fake ranch to support the fake presidency that waged the fake war based on fake intelligence and propped up with fake rhetoric about fake democracy.
He may be a fake cowboy, but he's a genuine horse thief.
In a radical move largely ignored by national news outlets, the Bush administration has abolished longstanding prohibitions against federal grants for social programs sponsored by churches and religious organizations.
"Faith-based" groups are now eligible to compete with secular organizations for some $28 billion in government money, subsidizing everything from housing to "mentoring" the children of prisoners.
The new rules, announced Sept. 22 at a White House press conference, give bureaucratic teeth to an executive order issued last year that banned so-called discrimination against religious institutions applying for government grants.
The administration has long argued that religious-based organizations can provide needed social services, especially when numerous federal programs are not being fully funded. But there's another, more disturbing facet to this debate that the recipients of these dollars don't want to acknowledge: Federal funding will greatly enhance their evangelizing and conversion activities.
The conversion agenda can be seen in the fine- and not-so-fine print in the new White House rules.
The most controversial change allows religiously affiliated federal contractors to discriminate against job applicants of other faiths. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao disingenuously insisted that the new rule simply "removes the barrier" preventing religious organizations from hiring members of their own faith.
But there never was a barrier preventing Catholic charities from hiring Catholics or Jewish charities from hiring Jews. What the government did do -- in the days when political leaders respected the First Amendment -- was tell federal contractors, "If you want public money, you can't refuse to hire someone simply because he doesn't share your religion."
The Bush administration is now not only actively encouraging religious discrimination, but promoting its public funding.
"American Taliban" isn't hyperbole — this is a bold move toward theocracy.
Although the Guard and Reserve say their retention rates have not suffered this year, the figures could be misleading. Under an order known as "stop loss," soldiers on active duty are prohibited from leaving the service until their tours end.
Active-duty and Reserve commanders fear that when U.S. soldiers on yearlong rotations come home next year, many will choose to leave the service.
It's safe to conclude that many reservists will leave the service. After completing their work for Halliburton, many older reservists — heads of households with children — are leaving not only the service but life itself.
This, remember, is all in Chicago, with a nationwide reputation as a very good news town. Here, Ted Koppel's "Nightline" routinely beats Jay Leno's "The Tonight Show."
Probably the most striking fact in this set of statistics is the illustration of a complaint that television networks have been making for years: that we in the media write way too much about cable news.
At 6 p.m. weekdays in the Chicago area, the audience for all the national cable news programs combined can't equal the viewership of PBS' stodgy old "NewsHour." Way up ahead, like an Olympic miler facing a Sunday jogger, are the numbers that the local news stations draw at the same time, or that the national newscasts do in the preceding half-hour.
The same is true at 7 p.m., where [PBS] WTTW-Ch. 11's newsmagazine "Chicago Tonight" not only kicks Bill O'Reilly's booty but that of all the national cable channels combined.
The most popular evening cable program is O'Reilly's hour of argument at 7 p.m., with 36,250 average viewers over the last four major sweeps months. By contrast, the least popular broadcast news program after 6 p.m. is WMAQ-Ch. 5's "NBC 5 Chicago News at 6," with 186,000 viewers.
Most popular cable show: 36,250 viewers. Least popular broadcast show: 186,000 viewers.
Note to O'Reilly: Shut up!
For confused readers on the east and west coasts — Chicago is Central Time, meaning that our eleven o'clock news is shown at ten. Adjust all showtimes accordingly.
One out of every four Texans lacks health insurance, the highest percentage of uninsured residents in any state in the nation, according to new Census Bureau figures.
The findings are part of a report that shows the ranks of the uninsured nationwide swelled by 2.4 million last year as insurance costs kept rising and more Americans lost their jobs and health care coverage.
Analysts say numerous factors contribute to the high numbers in Texas, including the state's lack of organized labor and a high percentage of Hispanics, some of whom are immigrants and less likely to hold jobs that offer health insurance.
"They have jobs, but they have jobs at the very bottom of the totem pole that provide no benefits whatsoever," said Stephen Klineberg, a sociology professor at Rice University.
But the lagging economy has also taken its toll.
The bureau report shows significant increases in uninsured rates occurred among whites, blacks, people 18 to 24, and middle- and higher-income earners nationwide.
"You have more unemployed people," said E. Dale Wortham, a board member at the Harris County Hospital District. "The other thing is you have people that are employed but cannot afford health insurance."
But Texas, home of Dubya's fake ranch, isn't the only symptom of what's wrong with bogus approaches to healthcare.
Presidential brother and eventual White House candidate Jeb Bush, using the state of Florida as a test case, has a simplistic one-size-fits-all answer to the insurance crisis: tort reform.
An internal assessment by the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded that most of the information provided by Iraqi defectors who were made available by the Iraqi National Congress was of little or no value, according to federal officials briefed on the arrangement.
In addition, several Iraqi defectors introduced to American intelligence agents by the exile organization and its leader, Ahmad Chalabi, invented or exaggerated their credentials as people with direct knowledge of the Iraqi government and its suspected unconventional weapons program, the officials said.
The arrangement, paid for with taxpayer funds supplied to the exile group under the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, involved extensive debriefing of at least half a dozen defectors by defense intelligence agents in European capitals and at a base in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil in late 2002 and early 2003, the officials said. But a review early this year by the defense agency concluded that no more than one-third of the information was potentially useful, and efforts to explore those leads since have generally failed to pan out, the officials said.
Mr. Chalabi has defended the arrangement, saying that his organization had helped just three defectors provide information to American intelligence about Iraq's suspected weapons program, and that two of them had been judged to be credible.
But several federal officials said the arrangement had wasted more than $1 million in taxpayers' money and had prompted them to question the credibility of Mr. Chalabi and the Iraqi National Congress. Both have enjoyed powerful backing from civilian officials at the Pentagon and are playing a significant role in the provisional government in Baghdad.
Intelligence provided by the defectors that could not be substantiated included information about Iraq's suspected program for nuclear, chemical and biological weapons as well as other information about the Iraqi government, the officials said. They said they would not speculate on whether the defectors had knowingly provided false information and, if so, what their motivation might have been. One Defense Department official said that some of the people were not who they said they were and that the money for the program could have been better spent.
Will we ever discover an end to the ways Dick Cheney has wasted taxpayer money, national credibility, and the blood of thousands of innocents, including our own soldiers?
"I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."
Dare we say it — treason! In his own dynasty!
But wait, there's more! He preceded those remarks with this:
We need more human intelligence. That means we need more protection for the methods we use to gather intelligence and more protection for our sources, particularly our human sources, people that are risking their lives for their country. (Applause)
Federal investigators have concluded President Bush's former telecommunications policy chief committed three ethics violations by allowing industry lobbyists to throw her a party. The Justice Department, however, is declining to prosecute her.
Ten days after the catered party in her honor in October 2001, Victory urged a policy change benefiting telecommunications companies that helped pay for the catered $3,000 event with 60 to 80 guests at her home in Great Falls, Va.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, released the findings from the IG's probe, which was triggered by stories last January by The Associated Press.
The party's six hosts were from the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, Cingular Wireless, SBC Communications, Intelsat Global Service Corp., Motorola Corp. and Victory's former law firm, Wiley, Rein & Fielding.
By accepting the gift, Victory also violated the ethics standard that requires employees to avoid any actions that create an appearance that they are violating the law, the IG said.
On Oct. 24, 2001, Victory asked the Federal Communications Commission to immediately repeal restrictions that SBC, Cingular Wireless and other major cellular companies had long complained about.
The FCC voted two weeks later to phase out by Jan. 1, 2003, the limits on how much of the spectrum individual carriers could own in a geographic area. The agency had put the limits in place in the early 1990s to promote competition.
So the person in charge of Bush's telecommunications policy has a catered party thrown in her house by six of the industry's biggest lobbyists. Less than two weeks later she is repealing the "restrictions" they don't like and phasing out limits that promote competition.
Shouldn't these conflicts warrant the attention of federal prosecutors?
Not in this administration, which lied when it set high ethical standards for itself. But those promises were made back in a more innocent time, months before Osama bin Laden killed 3,000 Americans and gave Dubya his undeserved and temporary 90 percent approval rating — a confidence, born out of fear, that his administration and its deep ties to various industries interpreted as a license to pillage the US Treasury.
The Nancy Victory violations, those long-vanished ethical standards, and even the continuing existence of Osama bin Laden are forgotten now. Federal prosecutors have opted to spend their time and our resources chasing a 65-year-old bong dealer.
September 24, 2003 -- Sam Waksal is working out, making friends and working as a janitor at the Schuylkill federal prison in Minersville, Pa. — and he's completely miserable, according to a fellow inmate.
"All in all, his days here are very long and sad. The general consensus seems to be that he won't last long here," Robert C. Lawrence, 39, wrote to PAGE SIX last week, the day before he was released.
"There seems to be a deal in the works that he will be cut loose once he turns over the 'correct' information regarding his dear friend Martha Stewart. If not, he will definitely end up being someone's meal ticket or jail bitch," Lawrence said in a neatly typed two-page letter.
Lawrence, convicted in Maryland of credit card fraud, served a 33-month sentence. Waksal is doing seven years for insider trading of shares in his ImClone cancer drug company.
"I thought I would write you this letter just to give you and your concerned readers a bit of inside information on the daily routine of our institution's new celebrity inmate, Mr. Sam Waksal," Lawrence begins.
"He starts out his day by engaging in a rigorous workout planned by his personal trainer/bodyguard... a steroid-head from New Jersey who fancies himself as a Steven Seagal/Sylvester Stallone/Soprano wannabe, complete with ponytail and unbelievable mob stories.
"This is usually followed by a quick shower, and then he makes his way back to the common area where he can be found watching the morning news with two gay guys. One of them happens to be an obnoxious fashion designer from New York who struts around like he is a supermodel or something.
"Some inmates say they have seen the three of them watching old Martha Stewart [TV] episodes... If so, that is just wrong.
"But now comes the best part of Mr. Waksal's day, his job. He works as a housing orderly... a janitor. He mops, sweeps and waxes the floors, and the ultimate degradation... he cleans the toilets. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
"Finally... he spends his time putzing around... 'making nice' if you know what I mean. He can be seen chatting to any number of brutal morons on one subject or another that always seems to leave the listener with a glazed look on his face."
No toilet brush for Ken Lay — not only a free man but a very wealthy one who still manages to fly first class, despite having overseen the bankruptcy of his company and the eradication of his employees' retirement savings while he stuffed his pockets and bought millions in Aspen real estate.
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."
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?
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.