culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, November 18, 2003
Die, Grandma, die. The disgraceful behavior of the AARP's leaders acting against the interests of its own membership by endorsing the GOP-designed Medicare bill had such a political stink about it that Karl Rove had to be somewhere in the vicinity.

Sure enough, there he is in the final paragraph of the coverage in the
Post:
Rep. Eric I. Cantor (Va.), a member of the House GOP leadership, said "we are in full gear on the inside" trying to lock down votes for the bill "and the groups on the outside are going full force." Last week, Cantor convened a meeting with Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, and lobbyists in a coalition of 400 insurance, health care, business and other groups that support the legislation.
If "400 insurance, health care, business and other groups" support the legislation behind Karl Rove's closed doors — how good can it be for America's seniors?

AARP members should demand new leadership immediately.
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Letters celebrating Bush's UK arrival from 60 Brits and Americans appear in
The Guardian:
Dear President Bush,

I'm sure you'll be having a nice little tea party with your fellow war criminal, Tony Blair. Please wash the cucumber sandwiches down with a glass of blood, with my compliments.

Harold Pinter
Playwright

[...]

Dear George,

I would just like to say how much I hate you. You have done nothing positive in your whole time as president. You are the reason for the poverty in the Middle East. You have no idea what you are doing. You're killing loads of people, and that is not excluding your own nation too. There are still lots of very poor people in America, and they are getting poorer.

You keep making excuses about Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, but all you were in Iraq for was the oil. Saddam had been there for 30 years, so why is it only now you decided to act? You keep talking about September 11 when all you do is bomb other countries and give Israel lots of money. It is a very bad idea that you have come over here.

I don't want to grow up in a country which is so influenced by you and your policies.

Mickey (12)
There are also letters from DBC Pierre, Frederick Forsyth, Salam Pax (The Baghdad Blogger), and Richard Dawkins.
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A real American hero. Forget Jessica Lynch — there are still real heroes among us. Take Peter Scannell, a call center employee at Putnam Investments, who wouldn't take "shut up" for an answer to his inquiries about how his bosses were systematically destroying the savings of the company's small investors by turning a blind eye to a specialized form of rapid trading in mutual funds.

Scannell's tenacity puts not only the management of Putnam but the SEC to shame in their unwillingness to address the abuses they were overseeing (
WSJ, 10/28/03, sub. req'd.):
A call-center employee at Putnam Investments says he turned to Massachusetts regulators after Putnam and the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to act on his complaints about heavy "market timing" trades at the mutual-fund concern.

The Putnam call taker, Peter Scannell, has now emerged as an important source of evidence supporting charges against Putnam, as part of a continuing investigation that is sweeping through the nation's $7 trillion mutual-fund industry.

[...]

Mr. Scannell said Putnam ignored his repeated warnings, from 2001 until earlier this year, about heavy customer trading designed to reap short-term profits. He said he was motivated by his belief that the trading was hurting other Putnam investors. In February of this year, he said he was assaulted in an incident that he says was connected to his attempts to stop the trading, leading to a disability leave from Putnam. Mr. Scannell said he consulted with a lawyer over his employment and his injuries and to seek advice about his discussions with regulators. But he said he hasn't retained an attorney to sue Putnam.

[...]

According to the account he provided to regulators, Putnam retirement-fund customers, including members of Boilermakers Union, Local 5, in New York, made thousands of trades in and out of Putnam international funds through the call center, in a way that harmed other Putnam investors.

"I've worked at a casino," says Mr. Scannell, a former maitre d' at a Lake Tahoe casino resort. "I know a racket when I see it."

His tip, regulators said, led to the discovery of another breach that is expected to be part of the Massachusetts charges Tuesday, and is acknowledged by Putnam: Six of its own money managers were also using market-timing trades, and made $700,000 doing so. The SEC is also considering bringing civil charges against Putnam as early as Tuesday related to the trading of mutual-fund managers.

[...]

Between July 2000 and Jan. 31, 2003, Mr. Scannell's tally determined, 10 of the boilermakers made 5,340 trades involving $657 million of shares. Their total gains added up to $2 million. Mr. Scannell said he compiled the information by looking at transaction histories when he spoke with clients. He said the tally may not be a complete picture of market timing at Putnam and wouldn't include those who made transfers over the Internet.

The most successful trader, Richard Martin, churned $226 million in 542 trades, resulting in a gain of more than $886,000. At the door of his home in Malverne, N.Y., Mr. Martin declined to comment, except to say: "You shouldn't have printed my financial information."

[...]

Also that fall, Mr. Scannell said he stopped another supervisor, Richard Crowley, and showed him an account he had been working on. One boilermaker had appeared to have been market timing since 1998, using Putnam International Voyager Fund, making gains of more than $400,000. Mr. Crowley replied, according to information Mr. Scannell provided to the state: "Oh, a market timer, how old is he? . . . 38, he should be fine," according to the account that Mr. Scannell provided to Massachusetts regulators. Mr. Scannell said he took that comment to mean that the union member would have ample time to build retirement assets. Mr. Crowley didn't return calls seeking comment.

In September 2002, preferred specialists met with Robert Capone, now a Putnam managing director, Mr. Scannell said, and one colleague voiced concern about the boilermakers. "They're all getting rich doing nothing," he recalls the colleague said, asking why Putnam couldn't impose restrictions on trading.

"Listen, it isn't criminal," Mr. Capone said, according to Mr. Scannell's account for the regulators. "I couldn't believe my ears and felt myself turning red," Mr. Scannell remembers. Mr. Capone declined to comment.
Disbelief and embarrassment in the face of unethical behavior come naturally to some of us, Mr. Scannell included. Not so the aptly-named Mr. Capone.

What the heads of financial services firms and regulators want, more than anything, is for us to remain bewildered at the complexities of these maneuvers and simply to forget all about it (Boston Globe):
The longtime head of the SEC's Boston office, Juan M. Marcelino, resigned two weeks ago after the Globe and then other media reported that the SEC ignored the whistle-blower Scannell. But it was not known at the time that the SEC's Boston office also was undertaking a lengthy review of Putnam, the second-biggest funds company in Boston and the nation's fifth largest, at the time that Scannell came in.

Reached at his home, Marcelino declined to answer questions about the Putnam matter and his office's response. "I feel uncomfortable talking about this," he said. "I just want to fade into anonymity."
The moral of this story: One call center employee can bring down a CEO — even one whose five-year compensation was $163 million. By recognizing that real but invisible harm is being done and not taking "shut up and just do your job" for an answer, one person can change an industry — and help guarantee the financial integrity and trust that America's elderly depend on.

Putnam was recently one of the companies that the Republicans would have used as an example of why privatization of Americans' retirement savings is such a good idea. Putnam is now the perfect example of why it is not.

In an era when the din of corporate money and the barking of the Supreme Court is louder than the votes of citizens, it's comforting to know that the mighty can still fall when they abuse their offices.

Peter Scannell is a true American hero.
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Monday, November 17, 2003
coffin

Italians permitted to see their dead. Italian Carabinieri carry a coffin of one the 19 Italian soldiers killed in Iraq. If 19 lives must be wasted for the delusional fantasies of the American government, Italians at least can mourn them in public (
ABC News Australia).

In America, however, the media are prohibited from filming or photographing soldiers’ remains being sent home (Newsweek).
"It’s out of respect for the families," explains Dover’s Lt. Olivia Nelson. Even though none of the bodies are identified, letting the media in would not show the proper reverence for the dead. Plus, she explains, Dover is just a way station. The transfer is not ceremonial—even though an honor guard carries the body and a flag is draped over the container. Nelson argues that if the media were to show the offloading of remains it would create pressure on the families to be there when the body arrives rather than await delivery in the privacy of their homes.

But, of course, such images would create pressure on the administration, too. "Restricting access to Dover is part of a piece," says veteran war correspondent George Wilson, who did two tours in Vietnam. "It’s designed to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. That’s not limited to this administration, but it has accelerated."
We've all seen the immense power of Dick Cheney's accentuate-the-positive logic — how all of the 419 (as of yesterday, via Cryptome) American dead were "greeted as liberators."

Four hundred and nineteen flag-draped coffins weren't shown on the American news because the media had to make room for the cheerleader movies about Jessica Lynch and "DC 9/11."
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Friday, November 14, 2003
Give the gift of self-gratification. In my ongoing search for those cultural developments that best illustrate America's debasement as a society, the "give-to-yourself" movement stands near the top of the heap (
WSJ, sub. req'd):
With Christmas 2003 promising to deliver the first big shopping season in years, retailers are targeting the most important person on your shopping list: you. From Neiman Marcus to Macy's, shoppers are seeing everything from $130 sweaters with your own initials (in rhinestones no less) to "reward yourself" gift certificates to beefed-up wish-list programs (they work like wedding registries for yourself). In its holiday catalog, Pottery Barn suggests "gifts for everyone including yourself," while Henri Bendel in New York is devoting half a floor to personalized gifts it thinks may inspire double-dip buying. One of the biggest players in all this? The diamond industry with its campaign for "right hand" rings that women can select for themselves.

[...]

Even some retail experts are iraqi
Merry Christmas, Americans! Thank you for
giving your wages to your wealthiest people.
Iraqi citizens are giving too — our blood!
worried stores could be getting carried away with the whole give-to-yourself movement -- and in the process, dilute the gift-giving industry altogether. With registries, gift cards and now me-shopping, "gift-giving has become a lost art," says George Rosenbaum, chairman of Leo J. Shapiro & Associates, a survey research firm in Chicago. In Pittsburgh, Ellen Levick, owner of women's fashion boutique Allure, says the whole notion of wish lists doesn't sit well with her. "It seems a little forced," she says. "It can turn people off."
For Christmas I was going to give a bunch of heirs and heiresses a ten-year gift of $1.5 trillion, and for my favorite multinational corporations I was going to stuff a big red-white-and-blue stocking with $128 billion in small bills culled from workers' wages. But I'm too late.

As the true leaders of the give-to-yourself movement, they're already giving those gifts to themselves.
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"Greed springs eternal." Paul Krugman reviews Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America by Molly Ivins and Lou Dubose, and Big Lies: The Right-Wing Propaganda Machine and How It Distorts the Truth by Joe Conason, in
The New York Review of Books.
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Thursday, November 13, 2003
Fake heroes demand unchallenged propaganda. The Jessica Lynch story keeps on stinking (
The Macon Telegraph):
Officials at Georgia Military College turned away reporters and photographers who were invited to hear a speech Wednesday [November 12] by a helicopter pilot involved in the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

Col. Jim LeBrun, the principal of GMC's high school, and Janeen Smith, the public relations director for the school, stopped members of the media outside the auditorium with "bad news."

LeBrun said Marine Maj. Craig Kopel told them before giving the speech that he would not speak if any members of the media were present. They said he did not want his name or photograph printed, though his name was in a news release announcing his appearance. Kopel was scheduled to speak to junior and high school students.

LeBrun said Kopel would "get in trouble" if he spoke to or in front of the media.
Invited journalists were informed that they were "trespassing" and were told to stand in the street off campus to keep them away from the purported hero.

How exactly would Kopel "get in trouble"? And who exactly would force these troubles upon this supposedly heroic pilot ?

Marine Maj. Craig Kopel — dupe, phony, yes-man, or all three?
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The rats are fleeing the other rats. Now that so many ships are sinking, the rats are running away from one another. It's almost funny when scandal-ridden companies pretend they are taking the high road (
WSJ, sub. req'd):
Halliburton Co. (HAL) dropped Putnam Investments in the last month as a money manager for its pension plan, a company spokeswoman told Dow Jones Newswires.

Zelma W. Branch, in the global public-relations office of Halliburton, said that Putnam was one of about 20 money managers. The decision to drop Putnam "had nothing to do (with) current allegations against Putnam," she wrote in an e-mail.
Putnam's former CEO was recently ousted in a wave of scandal.

Halliburton's former CEO now oversees the invasion of other countries and the award of no-bid multibillion dollar contracts to his recent employer, from whom he still draws six-figure deferred compensation. His stint in the White House was richly financed layjailby another energy industry CEO whose criminal behavior is yet to be confronted.

But that's the United States, where CEOs wage war to promote and conceal corporate crime. In direct contrast, one country that has enough ethical backbone to indict, humiliate and jail energy industry CEOs who commit financial crimes is, oddly enough, France.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2003
Government by tantrum. babyDissatisfied that only 98 percent of their judicial nominees have been appointed, Senate Republicans are going to throw a 30-hour tantrum to try to get the other 2 percent on the bench (
Seattle Post-Intelligencer):
For 30 straight hours -- from this evening through midnight tomorrow -- senators will condemn each other and Bush for the impasse over four U.S. Appeals Court nominees: Alabama Attorney General William Pryor, Texas Judge Priscilla Owen, Mississippi Judge Charles Pickering and Hispanic lawyer Miguel Estrada. Frustrated at the delays, Estrada withdrew his nomination in September.

Democrats have refused to allow confirmation votes, and Republicans have not been able to get the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture to cut off debate and force final action on the nominations in a Senate split with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent.

The math to end a filibuster -- essentially endless debate -- just isn't there.

"What we really want, and the purpose of doing it, is an up-or-down vote," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "Just 'yes,' 'no'; move on to the next judge. And they won't give us that."

[...]

Republicans hope the all-night Senate session -- the first to go past 4 a.m. since 1992 -- will swing public favor and maybe some campaign cash their way during the winter break.

[...]

The Senate has confirmed 168 of Bush's judicial nominees, and Democrats have blocked four. Democrats point out that Bush's confirmation percentage is much higher than that of President Clinton.

"All of this probably matters to 500 people: 100 senators, their staffers, and the 50 reporters who cover us, and no one else," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said about the 30-hour debate.

But Democrats say they welcome the free 15 hours to criticize Bush and the GOP on the economy, Iraq and Bush's choices for key judgeships.
Companion to the plutocrats, Bill "Pussycat" Frist is doing his gosh-darnedest to please his social superiors. Frist's medical education doesn't really count for much in the GOP hierarchy after all — he's still just a servant to the wealthy dynasties that have decided to jerk our courts toward increasingly radical conservative ideologies.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2003
Ship of cowards and whores. Apparently New York may lose hosting the real business of the 2004 Republican Convention to its
harbor:
Republicans, including Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Vito Fossella, are considering docking a luxury cruise ship in New York Harbor where members of Congress and lobbyists could stay and play during the GOP convention next summer.

The idea of bunking members of Congress on the Norwegian Dawn cruise ship is under consideration because of the unique qualities the ship would bring, including privacy and security, according to a spokesman for Fossella (R-Staten Island).

[...]

The cruise ship, with accommodations for 2,200 guests and 14 bars and 10 restaurants, would mirror other hospitality suites DeLay (R-Texas) has championed for members of Congress at past conventions. At the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, DeLay secured private railroad cars, where members could meet and mingle with invited guests such as lobbyists - no media allowed. He also provided members of Congress with cars and drivers. The amenities were funded by corporate contributions to a political action committee.

"It's as if Tom DeLay is the personal concierge for members," said one Republican staffer who refused further identification.
Tom DeLay is the cum towel of corporate interests.

Pimp or whore, they're all cowards. They're just plain scared of New York. They realize that everyone, in sight of Ground Zero at least, is onto their game of the attachment of anything they want to 9/11/01. And they are managing once again to defile the crematorium of lower Manhattan with the stink of their decadent fraudulence.

Newsday link via bloggy.
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"The central focus of my life," by George Soros. The billionaire, philanthropist and tireless promoter of democracy, has a new target (
Washington Post):
George Soros, one of the world's richest men, has given away nearly $5 billion to promote democracy in the former Soviet bloc, Africa and Asia. Now he has a new project: defeating President Bush.

"It is the central focus of my life," Soros said, his blue eyes settled on an unseen target. The 2004 presidential race, he said in an interview, is "a matter of life and death."

Soros, who has financed efforts to promote open societies in more than 50 countries around the world, is bringing the fight home, he said. On Monday, he and a partner committed up to $5 million to MoveOn.org, a liberal activist group, bringing to $15.5 million the total of his personal contributions to oust Bush.

[...]

In past election cycles, Soros contributed relatively modest sums. In 2000, his aide said, he gave $122,000, mostly to Democratic causes and candidates. But recently, Soros has grown alarmed at the influence of neoconservatives, whom he calls "a bunch of extremists guided by a crude form of social Darwinism."

Neoconservatives, Soros said, are exploiting the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to promote a preexisting agenda of preemptive war and world dominion. "Bush feels that on September 11th he was anointed by God," Soros said. "He's leading the U.S. and the world toward a vicious circle of escalating violence."
Soros himself wrote an article articulating his position that appeared in The American Prospect:
According to the ideologues of the far right, who currently dominate the Bush administration, the success of the American model has been brought about by a combination of market fundamentalism in economic matters and the pursuit of military supremacy in international relations. These two objectives fit neatly together into a coherent ideology -- an ideology that is internally consistent but does not jibe with reality or with the principles of open society. It is a kind of crude social Darwinism in which the survival of the fittest depends on competition, not cooperation. In the economy, the competition is among firms; in international relations, among states. Cooperation does not seem necessary because there is supposed to be an invisible hand at work that will ensure that as long as everybody looks out for his or her own interests, the common interest will look after itself.

This doctrine is false, even with regard to the economy. Financial markets left to their own devices do not tend toward an equilibrium that guarantees the optimum allocation of resources. The theories of efficient markets and rational expectations don't stand up to critical examination.

[...]

The Bush administration's policies have brought about many unintended, adverse consequences. Indeed, it is difficult to find a similar time span during which political and economic conditions have deteriorated as rapidly as they have in the last couple of years.
Back in March, before the invasion of Iraq, we noted Soros's indignation at what he saw as a "parallel between the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy and a boom-bust process or bubble in the stock market."

Soros is another capitalist against Bush, not unlike billion-dollar money manager Seth Glickenhaus whom we profiled earlier.

Bleeding hearts aside, sooner or later even the moneymen figure out that what's bad for human beings is ultimately bad for business.

Thanks to reader Carl Tichler for the Soros Fortune link, which unfortunately moved into the paid subscriber archives.
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Monday, November 10, 2003
Muzzling London. The nastiness of the reality it created is causing the White House to insist on alternatives (
This Is London):
White House security demands covering President George Bush's controversial state visit to Britain have provoked a serious row with Scotland Yard.

American officials want a virtual three-day shutdown of central London in a bid to foil disruption of the visit by anti-war protestors. They are demanding that police ban all marches and seal off the city centre.

But senior Yard officers say the powers requested by US security chiefs would be unprecedented on British soil. While the Met wants to prevent violence, it is sensitive to accusations of trying to curtail legitimate protest.

Met officers came in for heavy criticism when banners were torn down and demonstrators prevented from coming within sight of Chinese President Jiang Zemin during his visit in 1999.

But with tens of thousands of protestors from around the UK set to join blockades and marches during the Bush trip, US officials are reportedly insisting on an "exclusion zone".
"Exclusion" of civil liberties is the guiding principle of policy, until voters eject the Bush administration next year.

The London trip starts on November 19.
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Friday, November 07, 2003
The case of the missing billions. At least $4 billion of funding for Iraqi reconstruction is
missing in action (Christian Aid, UK):
A staggering US$4 billion in oil revenues and other Iraqi funds earmarked for the reconstruction of the country has disappeared into opaque bank accounts administered by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA), the US-controlled body that rules Iraq. By the end of the year, if nothing changes in the way this cash is accounted for, that figure will double.

The financial black hole, uncovered by a Christian Aid investigation, is revealed as delegates gather for the donors' conference in Madrid. Before pledging money from their own countries' coffers to boost the reconstruction efforts, as requested by the US and UK governments, these delegates should first demand: 'What has happened to the missing billions?'

It is expected that a separate fund, managed by the UN and the World Bank, will be announced at the conference for donors' money, to allay fears of how this cash will be spent. But this should not stop donors from pushing for accountability of the original, massive reconstruction fund - most of it Iraqi oil money.
Which banks hold these "opaque" accounts? Are they foreign banks, or Americans banks that have financially supported Bush-Cheney 2004?

Link via an excellent overview in the Christian Science Monitor.
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Is there intelligent life on Texas school boards? Sure. Yesterday they managed to approve biology textbooks that include the theory of evolution — a major achievement by local standards.

But how can one board member, Don McLeroy of Bryan —
a dentist with an electrical engineering degree from Texas A&M — argue that presenting biological evolution is "dogmatic"?

Given the depth of his scientific education, didn't anything rub off on him? The scientific method? The overwhelming geological evidence? Comparative interspecies DNA sequences? Anything? Hmm?

Texas Citizens for Science are not amused at the dentist's anti-science, pro-creationist agenda.
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Thursday, November 06, 2003
Leave no governor behind. No More Mister Nice Blog examines why the House Ways and Means Committee is content to investigate child abuse in New Jersey but
not in Florida.

Hint: it's political.
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Wednesday, November 05, 2003
Touchscreen voting a mess in Houston. Apparently our entire democracy is now beholden to the whoops factor inherent in all electronic blackbox voting (
Houston Chronicle):
David Beirne, a spokesman for the Harris County Clerk's Office, said technicians quickly determined that there wasn't actually a problem with the eSlate voting machines and that election judges weren't following the correct steps to match voters with the right ballots. The repairmen also discovered, however, that the 12 machines at the hotel were improperly set up, with all linked to the one unit that seemed to be malfunctioning, instead of having half linked to another that would continue to operate in case of a glitch with one.
"...All linked to one unit that seemed to be malfunctioning" just about sums up what's wrong with electronic voting machines. They are dangerously centralized, and the mechanism behind how they work — regardless of what their pitchmen say — is totally opaque.

"Improperly set up" machines are, of course, the whole point behind electronic voting. It's so much easier to have the ability to fix an election that way.

Here's Travis County's FAQ on the eSlate system.
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Tuesday, November 04, 2003
Money is dirty paper, but dope is business. The business enterprises behind marijuana and hallucinogens are examined in next week's capitalist tool,
Forbes. Among the tidbits you'll find in this large, multi-page report:
With prices reaching $2,700 a pound wholesale, the [cannabis] trade takes in somewhere between $4 billion (in U.S. dollars) nationwide and $7 billion just in the province of British Columbia.

[...]

Small growers like David bring in $900 a pound at the low end, with net margins of 55% to 90%, depending on quality, depreciation and labor costs. They produce half a pound to 30 pounds every ten weeks, selling their product to local users or peddling it to "accumulators," who then smuggle it over the border or sell it up the chain to larger brokers. Accumulators and brokers typically add $80 a pound to the cost, as do the high-volume smugglers who buy from them. Smugglers returning money to Canada for other dealers skim a 2% laundering fee.

"The first time somebody gives you a bag of money so heavy that you can't lift it, it's surreal. Pretty soon, it's just dirty paper," says Jeff, who recently retired from smuggling up to a ton of weed a week.
The only other quick way I know to make $100 million gross in a few years is to be a mutual fund CEO market timer, like Lawrence Lasser of Putnam.

In the United States, the game of centamillionaires is called "Choose your enemy": John Ashcroft or Eliot Spitzer.
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Monday, November 03, 2003
What's new in Bush's America? Poverty. Recovery without jobs is like dinner without food (
Guardian):
George Bush's America is the wealthiest and most powerful nation the world has ever known, but at home it is being gnawed away from the inside by persistent and rising poverty. The three million Americans who have lost their jobs since Mr Bush took office in January 2001 have yet to find new work in a largely jobless recovery, and they are finding that the safety net they assumed was beneath them has long since unravelled. There is not much left to stop them falling.

Last year alone, another 1.7 million Americans slipped below the poverty line, bringing the total to 34.6 million, one in eight of the population. Over 13 million of them are children. In fact, the US has the worst child poverty rate and the worst life expectancy of all the world's industrialised countries, and the plight of its poor is worsening.

The ranks of the hungry are increasing in step. About 31 million Americans were deemed to be "food insecure" (they literally did not know where their next meal was coming from). Of those, more than nine million were categorised by the US department of agriculture as experiencing real hunger, defined by the US department of agriculture as an "uneasy or painful sensation caused by lack of food due to lack of resources to obtain food."

That was two years ago, before the recession really began to bite. Partial surveys suggest the problem has deepened considerably since then. In 25 major cities the need for emergency food rose an average of 19% last year.

Another indicator is the demand for food stamps, the government aid programme of last resort. The number of Americans on stamps has risen from 17 million to 22 million since Mr Bush took office.

In Ohio, hunger is an epidemic. Since George Bush won Ohio in the 2000 presidential elections, the state has lost one in six of its manufacturing jobs. Two million of the state's 11 million population resorted to food charities last year, an increase of more than 18% from 2001.
Three million Americans newly without jobs. An extra five million Americans on food stamps.

This is a recovery?
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Friday, October 31, 2003
It's a brush Bush fire. A blow job is a bit more vivid as a political image than the stock market manipulations of your biggest contributors, but for sheer spectacle and havoc, nothing beats
fire (LA Times):
SACRAMENTO — The Bush administration took six months to evaluate Gov. Gray Davis' emergency request last spring for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California.

The request fire
Just in time for Halloween: the
limitless horror of Bush/Schwarzenegger.
was finally denied Oct. 24, only hours before wildfires roared out of control in what has become the largest fire disaster in California history.

[...]

Davis' request, made in a letter to President Bush dated April 16, took months to process, [FEMA spokesman Chad] Kolton said, because "we obviously wanted to consider this issue very carefully."

Members of the California congressional delegation were informed of FEMA's decision in an e-mail last Friday, after some of the fires were already burning. Kolton said Davis' Sacramento office was also notified of the decision verbally and in a faxed letter.

In that letter FEMA offered no explanation for why it had taken six months to rule.
Looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger's new best friend just fucked up his insane ambitions — and possibly vice versa.

Link via Media Whores Online. Happy Halloween.
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Enron's criminal ladder. Another rung looks rotten (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
A former Enron Corp. (ENRNQ) executive pleaded guilty Thursday to a single charge of insider trading, laypart of an agreement to cooperate with the government's criminal investigation into the management of the failed energy company.

[...]

Under the guilty plea, Delainey [David Delainey, former chief executive of Enron North America and Enron Energy Services] will forfeit about $4.26 million in ill-gotten gains and cooperate with the government's ongoing investigation. Under the SEC's civil charges, Delainey agreed to pay a fine of about $3.74 million. He is also barred from serving as an officer of a public company, the SEC said.

Delainey, a Canadian citizen, was accused of selling Enron stock in a number of transactions between Jan. 10, 2000, and Jan. 23, 2001, while an officer of the company and in knowledge of Enron's financial misdeeds. Proceeds from the stock sales netted the executive about $4.26 million.

[...]

"A senior executive has now admitted that Enron company executives engaged in widespread and pervasive fraud to manipulate the company's earnings results," [Enron Task Force prosecutor Sam] Buell said. "The events today show that the truth will come out about Enron and its collapse."

Delainey helped manipulate Enron's financial reports to overstate earnings growth, then traded shares of the company with material information not available to outside investors, Buell said.
Of course, it's entirely possible that a divisional chief executive had full knowledge of Enron's financial shenanigans without Bush contributors and former CEOs Ken Lay or Jeff Skilling knowing anything.

Right?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
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It's the stupid economy. Republican shills are already hailing the growth numbers as a sign of their leader's economic genius. But it
doesn't hold up under scrutiny (Houston Chronicle):
The U.S. economy grew at a stunning 7.2 percent in the third quarter, the Commerce Department reported. That's a pace not seen in 19 years and more than double 3.3 percent growth rate in the second quarter.

[...]

U.S. businesses created a modest 57,000 jobs in September, but still lost 41,000 overall for the third quarter.

The hiring picture remains mixed. IBM has announced plans to hire 10,000 workers, but drug maker Merck & Co. plans to lay off 4,400, while Sony Corp. intends to hand out 20,000 pink slips.

The 80 Houston firms surveyed recently by the National Association of Purchasing Management -- Houston have shed jobs for 24 consecutive months and are likely to do so again this month, noted Doug Miller, chairman of the group's business survey.

[...]

Wall Street shrugged off the report as old news. The Dow Jones industrial average rose a mere 12.08 points, even though the 7.2 GDP growth was far stronger than many economists had predicted.

In contrast to the current job market, the nation added 1.2 million jobs in the first quarter of 1984, when the economy was cooking at a 9 percent rate. "This is not your father's 7.2 percent," noted Bryan Jordan, an economist with Banc One Investment Advisors in Columbus, Ohio.

Jordan estimates 55,000 more jobs or so have been created in October. But the economy needs to create 150,000 to 200,000 jobs a month "before we can sound the all-clear," he said.

Jim Glassman, senior U.S. economist for JP Morgan Chase, argues that if the nation can't create jobs when production is growing at such a clip "we're in a miracle economy."

[...]

But with job growth barely materializing, Democrats continue to cast President Bush as a latter-day Herbert Hoover.
In contrast to real growth of the kind the nation saw under Clinton, jobless growth helps only one class of people — the CEO class of owner/investors who pull the Bush/Cheney strings. Their net worth will rise without the troublesome bother of lower-class laborers to upset their view of pure, accelerating, untaxed profits.

Jobless growth is useless growth. The Bush economy is class warfare based on class hostility, characterized by the hatred of the privileged for the little people who mow their golf courses. Their logic runs something like this: "So what if they all lose their jobs — they can always work at Wal-Mart or enlist in the armed forces."

That's the economic plan in a nutshell.
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Thursday, October 30, 2003
Wow — the Windfalls of War. The Center for Public Integrity has released a major report called
Windfalls of War — US Contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One revelation revolves around a married couple that serve as a two-person microcosm of the usual multibillion conflicts of interest that characterize this administration and its international dalliances:
One of the more interesting Iraq contracts the Center uncovered involves a tiny firm called Sullivan Haave Associates.

Sullivan Haave is actually a one-man shop run by a government consultant named Terry Sullivan. Sullivan says his firm was hired as a subcontractor by Science Applications International Corp., one of the most successful and best politically connected government contractors doing work in Iraq.

Sullivan says his job was to spend four months in Iraq providing advice to various ministries being set up there by coalition and local authorities.

Sullivan has a much more intimate relationship with the Pentagon than his competitors, however. He happens to be married to Carol Haave, who, since November 2001, has been deputy assistant secretary of defense for security and information operations. And yes, Haave is the same person who appears in the name Sullivan Haave Associates.
If the efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and on the domestic front were humming along nicely, this report wouldn't have any weight at all. But they are all major fiascos, and these revelations therefore have a chance to capture the public imagination — if only we had a media that were up to the task of questioning these issues daily, relentlessly demanding answers that are not pet names for staff members or journalists, or cute runarounds, or mispronounced nonsequiturs, or the consistent up-is-down doubletalk that now passes for presidential speech.
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Perspiring minds want to know. Facts are the ultimate inconvenience to the current crop of hot carbon dioxide-spewing Republicans. It's not exactly an inspiring sign when the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Republican Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, is comfortable contradicting nearly every scientific body on earth when he calls global warming a
hoax.
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Cheaters' approval rating soars. If Florida and the Supreme Court and Enron and Halliburton and Merrill Lynch and ex-directors of Harken can do it,
why can't we?
The number of Americans who believe it's OK to cheat "a little here and there" on their taxes has risen 50 percent in the past four years, a government survey says -- a trend that new IRS Commissioner Mark Everson promises to reverse by going after scofflaws at all income levels.

"That can't continue," Everson said. "If that trajectory is allowed to continue, you won't be able to fund the government, and you'll have serious erosion of the basic rule of law."

[...]

The percentage of people who agreed with the statement that it was every American's civic duty to pay his fair share of taxes decreased from 81 percent in 1999 to 68 percent in 2003.
So much for the fake patriotic fervor fostered by an administration made up of shady businessmen, demagogues and cheaters. Americans can smell unfairness and will act accordingly — by eroding their own sense of decency when they believe they're not getting a fair deal.

The fish stinks from the head.
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Wednesday, October 29, 2003
California recalls voting. It wasn't enough to banish Gray Davis — now California is forgoing voting altogether (
FindLaw):
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that a new computerized touchscreen voting system in California was an acceptably fair and accurate way to cast ballots, even though it left no paper trail.
Paper trails are the only evidence that votes were even cast. You can see why at countthevote.org.
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Buying revenue with blood.
"The former employer of U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney [Halliburton Co.] reported revenues rose 39 percent to $4.1 billion, boosted mainly by work its KBR engineering and construction group is doing for the government in the Middle East and elsewhere."
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Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Memo from Kuttner. Co-editor and co-founder of
The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner lectured yesterday at the University of Illinois at Chicago and I had the pleasure of attending his talk entitled "Social Justice in the Age of Markets." It was a great opportunity to hear an economic policy expert talk in the broader context of what’s going wrong with America’s social agenda.

Kuttner mentioned he’s writing a new book on deregulation and the stock markets, and he also recommended a forthcoming Brookings book by Alicia Munnell on the highly suspect accomplishments of the 401(k) pension system.

Here are a few disconnected and paraphrased notes on what he said that I jotted during his talk (I can’t vouch for accuracy — the man talks fast and I write slow):
The free market does not comprehend "compassion" — only "efficiency."

A pure market economy is a social nightmare.

Oscar Wilde said, "A cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing," but that’s a better description of a free market economist.

The principal challenges in defeating the laissez-faire mindset are twofold: intellectual and political.

The intellectual challenge is to weaken the two dominant economic myths of "efficiency" and "people get what they deserve."

Real people don’t behave the way free market economic models predict. They’re generous. They help strangers. They value norms of fairness.

Some things are beyond price, beyond markets. Freedom (as opposed to slavery). Healthy infants. Organs for human transplantation.

The political challenge is to get across the idea that we achieve social justice by reining in the markets.

The boom following World War II gave more people more purchasing power than ever before, and was largely on the foundation of government interventions like the GI Bill, the FHA, and similar programs — all of which run counter to free market models.

How should the left rebuild our ethic of social solidarity? (1) Build out from our islands of strength. Rally people to the bulwark of social security — one of the most popular and successfully redistributive programs ever — and proposals for national medical insurance. (2) Attack the opposition. Managed care is a system hated by patients and doctors alike. The only ones who like it are the insurers who profit from it. Managed care shifts costs from employers to employees — effectively removing employers from the social contract for medical care. Half of the prescriptions in the USA go unfilled because people can’t afford to pay for their own medicines.
As Kuttner pointed out, social disaster emanates from the lack of regulation applied to the markets, and from the misapplication of market principles to social needs.

One of the themes of this blog is that vast amounts of power reside in the most boring of details. That’s why I spend so many of your monitor’s valuable pixels on the conflicts of interest among the economic elites that support George W. Bush’s concept of America while they hurt the actual citizens. That’s also why I spend so much time on Enron as the symbol of everything wrong with the direction of this administration. It encapsulates stock market regulation, energy market regulation, environmental policy, globalization, campaign finance reform, corporate and governmental secrecy, the invasion of Iraq, pension reform, accounting vs. consulting, investment banking vs. equity analysis, and a zillion other financial conflicts of interest — not to mention the corporate class warfare of the upper attacking the lower classes. As his thousands of employees scramble to find some way to fund their retirements, former Enron CEO Ken Lay not only remains to be indicted, he still flies first class.

Of the 150 or so in attendance, I may have been the only person there who had no affiliation with education. I went because I'm a regular reader of Kuttner's in his magazine The American Prospect which I probably started subscribing to a year or so ago because of Matthew Yglesias’s blog. Matt is now a writing fellow there and they are evidently glad to have him. In our brief private conversation after the lecture Kuttner had only the highest praise for Matt and told me to watch out for his upcoming print work. I’m also looking forward to Kuttner’s next book.
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Monday, October 27, 2003
Derailing the CEO runaway train. A lot of our favorite themes run through "Addressing Reform" by Stacy Forster in the
Wall Street Journal, subscription required:
Voters want to know what their elected leaders are doing to hold disreputable companies accountable for governance and put safeguards in place to prevent future scandals, says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, associate dean of the Yale School of Management's executive-education program, and president of the school's affiliated Chief Executive Leadership Institute (www.ceoleadership.com), a nonprofit group that examines CEO leadership and corporate governance.

[...]

Mr. Sonnenfeld says corporate malfeasance is so widespread that most of investing public considers fraud a prevailing practice. While the Bush administration is working to distance itself from shadowy corporate practices, he says, Democratic presidential candidates aren't doing a well enough job in taking the Republicans to task over the issue.

[...]

Q: What about President George Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney's own histories on this issue -- how much of a liability are they? (Mr. Bush was investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission for insider trading while serving as director of Houston-based Harken Energy Corp., but no misdeeds were found. Mr. Cheney was CEO of Halliburton Corp. during a period that also has come under SEC scrutiny, but he hasn't been implicated in any wrongdoing. Mr. Cheney also successfully blocked the release of records from his energy task force, which would have shed light on how Enron and other industry players influenced the administration's energy policy.)*

A: I'm not sure how much awareness there is about the president's own complicated situations. The political parties -- the Democrats -- will work to bring attention to it, but they surprisingly haven't been lately. But the vice president's [history] is better known, and the stubbornness to block the actual deliberations of an energy advisory board that both parties wanted shared is troubling. You can only imagine the worst and you can imagine there is some deep Enron involvement. But the administration has been working to distance itself from Enron.

[...]

Q: Many of the Democratic candidates talk about reining in executive pay, but how do they propose to accomplish this? And what do they do to prevent coming across as antibusiness?

A: [Efforts] shouldn't be on putting ceilings on pay, but it could be pressures put on negligent board directors that allow disproportionate pay packages that don't respond to a company's performance. If [the candidates] do it the right way, they should be pushing good business.

Q: This seems like a prime issue for many of these populist candidates …

A: There are some bad people and systemic reforms need to be addressed. If they fall into the trap of making it a class war**, it becomes one they are going to lose. This is not a society where haves and have nots hate each other … . This is a fluid society and people like the fact that some folks succeed and want to be among those successful people. Rather than make a crude attack on all successful people, go after the people who succeeded by cheating. But when politicians show they can't tell the difference they lose credibility and effectiveness.

Q: What's on the checklist for some practical steps that the next president might be able to take to shore up corporate governance?

A: Closing the offshore tax loopholes so you don't have pseudo-U.S. companies. Ensuring greater mechanism for shareholder voice on the board, such as transparency of votes of institutional fund managers -- and hold them accountable. Third is putting a good deal of pressure on public authorities to promptly investigate and swiftly prosecute corporate crime, and to use individual culpability. The federal white-collar crime guidelines need to be dramatically improved … .
Did you catch that? "What's on the checklist for some practical steps that the next president might be able to take to shore up corporate governance?" It's assumed that the present president will promote nothing substantive — even the Wall Street Journal says as much.

*Remember that the Department of Justice moved swiftly to indict not Enron, or Merrill Lynch, or Harken, or Halliburton, or any of the true insiders, but instead went after Arthur Andersen, the auditor of Halliburton on Cheney's watch. Andersen's demise became the convenient smokescreen behind which evidence of Cheney's and Halliburton's financial (and strategic and ultimately military) misdeeds could be not only forgotten but permanently destroyed.

**"They, not we, have brought class warfare back to America." That's Bill Clinton in The American Prospect, full interview by Michael Tomasky not yet online.
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Friday, October 24, 2003
Banking on corruption. Yesterday's observations about Enron and banking are expanding with today's news (Mary Flood,
Houston Chronicle):
The little Enron trial in Brenham got a lot bigger Thursday when an appellate court paved the way for Wall Street to join the fray.

The Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruled that Washington County Judge Terry Flenniken abused his discretion by refusing to add seven financial institutions to the civil lawsuit. The three-judge appellate panel ruled that the rural judge must grant defendant Arthur Andersen's request that the banks be added to the case.

Until the appellate court halted the case in August, the Brenham case was expected to be the first Enron shareholder fraud lawsuit to reach a jury, with a November trial date. It was filed on behalf of a handful of Washington County residents who bought stock after former Enron Chairman Ken Lay spoke at a local Chamber of Commerce forum.

The only defendants in the case were Lay, ex-Enron CEO Jeff Skilling, ex-CFO Andrew Fastow, Arthur Andersen and a few ex-Andersen executives.

[...]

"All Andersen ever wanted was if there is going to be a trial about what happened at Enron that all the primary actors who are potentially responsible will be there," said Andy Ramzel, one of Andersen's attorneys.

[...]

Andersen attorneys Ramzel and Rusty Hardin asked that J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Credit Suisse First Boston, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Barclays and Lehman Bros. be added to the case as defendants. They also want to add Michael Kopper, a former Enron executive who pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering.
The good news: layAs Andersen's attorney pointed out, this list of perps is much closer to those actually responsible for the Enron debacle.

The bad news: This will likely delay the proceedings as late or later than the shareholder class-action suit which is scheduled for October 2005 — eleven months after the presidential election that figures so prominently in the background of this drama.
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Thursday, October 23, 2003
Plugging the Enron gap. An hour ago the guys on
Squawk Box at CNBC were chatting with Kim Fennebresque, CEO of securities firm SG Cowen, and they were sharing their amazement at the depth of "participation" by the investment banks and financial community in the dark dealings of Enron.

"You can lose integrity incrementally," suggested Fennebresque somewhat apologetically, mentioning that he personally knew one of Enron's co-conspirators at Merrill Lynch who happened to be a "great guy."

Host Mark Haines brought up the fact that for every successful indictment, there are dozens of other deeply involved "participants" who are "still out there."

Which begs the question — what are those people doing since the demise of Enron?

Short answer: plugging the Enron gap. Contributing to Bush-Cheney 2004.

Enron is effectively gone, and now the Bushies need to address the gap that Enron left when its role as Bush's #1 campaign contributor went up in Wall Street smoke. When it comes to building the financial infrastructure for the energy-deregulating, environment-destroying, plutocrat-enriching, Bible-beating, oilfield-invading no-bid Bush administration, it should come as no surprise there are plenty of other Wall Street "participants" ready to pick up the slack (NYT):
After winning Congressional approval for cuts in taxes on dividends, capital gains and for certain business investments, and after navigating a raft of corporate accounting scandals that shook the investment community, President Bush seems to have won over many financial executives, who are now strongly supporting his re-election campaign.

A study to be released today shows that the financial community has surpassed all other groups, including lawyers and lobbyists, as the top industry among Mr. Bush's elite fund-raisers. The list of those generating $100,000 and $200,000 now includes chief executives like Henry M. Paulson of Goldman Sachs, John J. Mack of Credit Suisse First Boston and Stanley O'Neal of Merrill Lynch, whose firm has already raised twice the amount for Mr. Bush's re-election that it did during the entire 2000 campaign cycle.

[...]

The 2004 election is still more than a year away, but employees of securities and investment firms and their political action committees have contributed $3.8 million to the Bush campaign through September, just $159,000 less than they gave during the entire campaign cycle in 2000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign finance.

The president has raised more from the industry than all nine candidates in the Democratic field combined. While Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts counts the industry as his second-largest contributor, at about $1 million through September, others have not done as well. Howard Dean, the top fund-raiser in the field, raised about $302,000, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut raised about $639,000.

"All these guys are totally in Bush's camp," said a politically active executive, adding that "people are not hedging their bets at this point. There's not a lot of fund-raising being done for Democrats right now."

Mr. O'Neal of Merrill Lynch sent a series of letters to the homes of a few hundred of the firm's most senior executives in June, asking them to contribute to a fund-raising dinner in support of Mr. Bush. James E. Cayne, chairman and chief executive of Bear Stearns & Company, also sent a letter asking his executives to donate to the campaign.

Joseph J. Grano, who runs the brokerage operations of UBS, the Swiss bank, has been an avid backer of President Bush and the Republican convention. Mr. Grano promised to raise at least $200,000 for the re-election campaign and to gather money for the convention, said executives at the firm, formerly known as UBS PaineWebber.

Mr. Paulson, of Goldman Sachs, was recruited by Gov. George E. Pataki of New York to collect cash from the Wall Street firms to finance the convention, an official at the firm said, and has gathered $5 million so far.
Merrill Lynch's involvement in the Enron catastrophe, which involved firm-level knowledge of fake Nigerian barge purchases by Enron (in direct contrast to Arthur Andersen's knowledge of Enron misbehavior limited to a handful of partners in Houston and Chicago, yet the Department of Justice indicted the entire firm instead of the responsible individuals), means it has been called upon to plug the enormous contribution gap left by Enron.

Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O'Neal must understand that it is only by the grace of Ashcroft he is not out of a job. Merrill Lynch's continuing existence as the nation's largest wealth manager depends on the adminstration looking the other way and pretending there's nothing to see here. A befuddled public and a beholden press guarantee that the story will never have the momentum it deserves.

Banks, which only a decade ago used to spend equally on Democrats and Republicans, now favor Republicans more than two to one, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

We should point out that all this record-breaking financing is well in advance of the Republican convention for an unopposed candidate. So these contributions are effectively bribes or, to put it more delicately, pre-emptive favors, and nothing compared to what's coming. When the Dem front-runner is finally established, we'll learn how deep those Wall Street pockets really are and how Willie Hortonized the American media will have become by this time next year in the wake of all that money.

People complain about America's two-party system, but it's rapidly becoming a one-party system. Your vote, if it counts at all, is a whisper in a stadium. Your bank's, your broker's, and your insurance company's votes are the stadium PA system at 110 decibels.

Enron's just a punch line now, but it still serves as the most telling symbol of everything wrong with the administration in its fraudulence, its secrecy and its servile delivery of any little thing that only the largest businesses want. The Bush administration will drive to the ends of the earth at any financial or human cost to provide more wealth and power to its masters. Everything else, including the safety and the will of the American people and the rest of the world, is roadkill.

More from the Times article above:

Texans for Public Justice, a group that tracks campaign money, examined Mr. Bush's fund-raising network and which industries it represents. Its study, to be released today, shows that 20 percent now come from the financial sector, up from 14 percent in the last presidential election. The industry — defined broadly to include banks, finance companies, securities and investment firms and accounting and tax service firms — has produced at least 38 new elite fund-raisers for the Bush campaign.

Executives who have signed on include Mr. Cayne of Bear Stearns; Stephen M. Lessing, managing director at Lehman Brothers Holdings; and Henry Kravis, founding partner at Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Laughter is the best OxyContin. BuzzFlash readers have dug up a number of OxyContin possession and distribution sentences (it turns out it is illegal to take thousands of painkillers without a prescription, after all) that range from
21 to 80 years in prison as well as fines up of up to $6 million.

Fines? Prison? Guess that's just "the way things ought to be."
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The near-death penalty. FlaBlog is all over Jeb Bush's custom-designing legislation and pretending he's God in the Schiavo medical tragedy. See
here and here:
My favorite quote -- Whether it's legal or not, I'm telling you, you should support this bill -- Rep. Don Davis, R-Jacksonville.

In the gallery applauding was professional antiabortion extremist Randall "wave of hatred" Terry, formerly of Operation Rescue, is now a "spokesman" for the Schiavo family.

[...]

She [Terri Schiavo] is not being "saved." She is being condemned by politicians and activists to a perpetual near-death twilight -- possibly against her stated wishes. Too many headline writers seem content to mouth the slogans of right-to-life activists.
Taking after his brother's extreme fondness for the death penalty, now Jeb is revealing his affection for the near-death penalty.

It doesn't matter to Jeb what Schiavo's husband or the courts think. Given that the agendas of the Bush brothers disregard laws (or even facts), "whether it's legal or not" has apparently become the national GOP tagline.

For an overview of the Schiavo case, see here.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2003
golfing fools

Please die for me so I can skip your funeral.
"A White House spokesman said [George W.] Bush has not attended any memorials or funerals for soldiers killed in action during his presidency."

How many funerals has Bush skipped? More than one for every day of 2003 — 347 so far.
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Monday, October 20, 2003
Fire Boykin. The reasoning is provided by
Fareed Zakaria:
His [Boykin's] dissembling gets almost comic over another one of his comments. Boykin routinely told audiences that God elevated George W. Bush to the presidency. "Why is this man in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him," he would say. "I tell you this morning that he’s in the White House because God put him there." Boykin now explains that he believes God routinely decides American elections and has done the same thing for "Bill Clinton and other presidents." This is surely the first time a conservative evangelical has argued that Clinton’s election was caused by divine intervention.

When asked about these remarks, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld refused to condemn them, explaining, “We’re a free people.” But the issue is not whether the general is free to express his views, but whether Secretary Rumsfeld wants someone who holds such views in high office. After all, were the general to have expressed his opinion that the Iraq war was a blunder, he would have been fired. Were he to have made an anti-Semitic comment (like the noxious ones Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir made last week), he would have been fired. Why? Because those freely expressed views would contradict the Bush administration’s basic philosophy. So are we to assume that Boykin’s views do not contradict administration policy? No one is urging that Secretary Rumsfeld muzzle Boykin, merely that he allow him to enter the private sector, where he may express his views even more freely. He could even sit in for Rush Limbaugh.

This is not simply a matter of symbolism, though that is important because this story is now being broadcast across the globe. The position Boykin holds—deputy undersecretary for intelligence—is one in which he would have to interact routinely with Pakistanis, Egyptians, Afghans, Indonesians; Muslims from all over the world. Will he be effective in establishing close working relationships with these officials, who have all watched him slur their religion? Is this a man who will be able to objectively sift through intelligence and analysis about the state of Muslim societies, the difference between moderates and extremists, the distinctions among various fundamentalist groups? Or does he look at them all and see ... Satan?
Link and further observations by Matt Yglesias.
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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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