culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, November 25, 2003
POGO! Yesterday when the story broke about Dragon Lady Darleen Druyun's
firing, this site got a flurry of hits from Google and So I googled "darleen druyun" and, yay for our team, Skimble was the #3 listing, with Boeing at #1.

But #2 was POGO, The Project on Government Oversight, which "investigates, exposes, and seeks to remedy systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests. Founded in 1981, we are a politically-independent, nonprofit watchdog that strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry." Of course, they were all over the Druyun story first.

With the current market rally in "systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests," could anybody be busier than POGO these days?
Adultery still sacred in France. While his brother blathers on about the
holiness of heteromarriage in the United States, Neil Bush wines and dines with his new squeeze in France (society columnist Shelby Hodge in the Houston Chronicle):
First stop Paris (make that France), where Houstonians Neil Bush and lawyers Laura and John Spalding joined Houston transplant Maria Andrews for a week of birthday celebrations at eateries that included the Ritz and Alain Ducasse. The Spaldings also celebrated the 40th birthday of Bracewell & Patterson lawyer Warren Harris at famed Taillevent restaurant, the "gazillion-course dinner" hosted by his wife, Lauren Beck Harris.
While Neilsie cavorted at the Ritz, jilted ex-wife Sharon Bush stayed home with the kids and stuck pins in her Barbara Bush voodoo doll.
Victory, irony, tragedy. As John Ashcroft plans his next attack on domestic "narco-terrorists" (via the so-called
Victory Act, his planned sequel to the Patriot Acts designed to nab pot smokers with cell phones and any swarthy-looking Arabs with cash), the irony is that his petulant boss has set the stage for the biggest opium crop ever — by ignoring the aftermath of his fruitless excursion into Afghanistan.
Blame the salesman, the auditor, someone, anyone. The irregularities in the mutual fund industry have a new scapegoat. Here's the logic: the president of the company is stealing, so senior management intends to pin the blame on the people who sell the products (this
Investment News link probably won't last long):
Some mutual fund companies are looking to pass the buck to broker-dealers over potential liabilities stemming from market timing and late trading of funds, brokerage executives say.

Over the past two months, many mutual fund companies have been sending additions and revisions to selling agreements to broker-dealers that sell their funds.

In the revised agreements, the fund companies often ask brokerage executives to sign off to ensure that no adviser or broker is engaging in late trading, which is illegal, or market timing, which is loosely defined and supposedly discouraged by the industry.


The mutual fund companies are looking to put a potential legal burden on the broker-dealer networks that sell their funds, says another brokerage industry executive, also asking not to be named. "They want to limit their liability, and place it on the shoulders of the broker-dealer," the executive says.
Shifting responsibility to the salesman does nothing to stop the thievery carried out by insiders in senior management.

The solution to the mutual fund crisis is the same as the solution to the Enron crisis: put those responsible in jail, with sentences that are proportionate to their crimes. Make the convictions substantial and humiliating.

More than half of federal prisoners layjailare imprisoned for drug offenses. But white collar CEO crime, which arguably is much likelier that drug possession to victimize innocent people — by stealing their money, health or livelihoods — is punished with the gentlest of reprimands.

Blaming anyone else is all the rage right now. Bush's top contributor Ken Lay is still at large because the Department of Justice blamed the auditor instead of the perpetrator.

Note that all this deflected responsibility comes from the people who promised to bring accountability back to America. Ultimately, your view of this issue depends on your relative definition of what corruption is. Would you rather your president lie about accepting $2 million from Enron, or a blow job?
Monday, November 24, 2003
Dragon Lady's pink slip. Darleen Druyun, enemy combatant in the war against US taxpayers, is gone. At issue is the potential $5.7 billion overcharge for Boeing refueling tankers she helped orchestrate while still a US Air Force acquisitions officer (
WSJ, sub. req'd):
CHICAGO -- Boeing Co. fired its finance chief over the improper hiring of a former Air Force official and covering up the circumstances during an internal investigation, the company said.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mike Sears violated company policy by communicating with the official when she hadn't disqualified herself from acting in her official government capacity on matters involving the company, Boeing said. layjail
American taxpayers,
I really hate all of you.
An internal review found that both attempted to conceal their misconduct, the company said.

The official, Darleen Druyun, was dismissed from her position in the company's missile-defense unit.

"Compelling evidence of this misconduct by Mr. Sears and Ms. Druyun came to light over the last two weeks," Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Phil Condit said in a prepared statement. "Upon review of the facts, our board of directors determined that immediate dismissal of both individuals for cause was the appropriate course of action."

Boeing said it has informed the Air Force of the actions taken and will continue to cooperate with the government in its probe of the matter. The company said it couldn't predict the outcome of the Air Force investigation or what action the government might take against the company or the individuals.


Ms. Druyun had several personal ties to the aerospace giant while she was negotiating on behalf of the government a controversial plan valued at over $20 billion to lease Boeing jetliners as airborne refueling tankers.

During her tenure as deputy acquisitions chief for the Air Force, she agreed to sell her Virginia home to a Boeing attorney working on the tanker-lease arrangement, according to information compiled by a conservative nonprofit research group in Washington. In addition, her daughter and her son-in-law were employed by the company.
Evidence of misconduct "came to light over the last two weeks"? You could have read all about Druyun, affectionately known as Dragon Lady, right here last week and way back on September 12, thanks to Paul Krugman via Arms and the Man.
Sunday, November 23, 2003
Iraq occupation "going well." Corpse desecration and attacks on civilian aircraft are apparently now the measures of a successful US occupation (
Yahoo News):
MOSUL, Iraq - Iraqi teenagers dragged the bloody bodies of two American soldiers from a wrecked vehicle and pummeled them with concrete blocks Sunday, witnesses said, describing a burst of savagery in a city once safe for Americans. Another soldier was killed by a bomb and a U.S.-allied police chief was assassinated.


About a dozen swarming teenagers dragged the soldiers' bodies out of the wreckage and beat them with concrete blocks, the witnesses said.

"They lifted a block and hit them with it on the face," Younis Mahmoud, 19, said.


Television video showed the soldiers' bodies splayed on the ground as U.S. troops secured the area. One victim's foot appeared to have been severed.

The frenzy recalled the October 1993 scene in Somalia, when locals dragged the bodies of Marines killed in fighting with warlords through the streets.


In Kirkuk, 150 miles north of Baghdad, a bomb exploded at an oil compound, injuring three American civilian contractors from the U.S. firm Kellogg Brown & Root. The three suffered facial cuts from flying glass, U.S. Lt. Col. Matt Croke said.

KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton, also has a significant presence at Baghdad's Palestine Hotel, which was rocketed by insurgents Friday, wounding one civilian.

"We all know that Americans are being threatened," Croke said.

Kimmitt told reporters in Baghdad that witnesses saw two surface-to-air missiles fired Saturday at a cargo plane operated by the Belgium-based package service DHL as it left for Bahrain.

The plane was the first civilian airliner hit by insurgents, who have shot down several military helicopters with shoulder-fired rockets.

DHL and Royal Jordanian, the only commercial passenger airline flying into Baghdad, immediately suspended flights on orders of the coalition authority.

Despite the ongoing violence, U.S. officials insisted the occupation was going well.
Is Halliburton the new flypaper? And was there any strategically significant cargo on that DHL flight to Bahrain?
Saturday, November 22, 2003
This Bush doesn't blush. No matter where he is, Crawford or Buckingham Palace, the man has to be pandered to like an uncouth child (
...despite all the elaborate rituals and customs the president had to observe, the palace made certain accommodations to suit his tastes. The orchestra played "King Cotton," a Sousa march, and "My Heart Will Go On," the theme song from the movie "Titanic." And, just before the guests arrived, the palace butlers placed bottles of Coca-Cola alongside decanters of the queen's port.
Speaking of sinking ships and other follies, three years ago today while Jim Baker was busy destroying American democracy: "Amid the Florida recount battle, Republican vice-presidential candidate Dick Cheney was hospitalized with what doctors called a ''very slight'' heart attack."
Today is the 3rd birthday of the predator class. A coinage by
Dick Meyer of CBS News (for "a professional, well-trained elite, supported by large institutions, that is adept and willing to use corrupt practices to accumulate wealth") is expanded upon by xymphora:
Those who aren't completely corrupt can't compete with those who are. [...] In the context of the United States, we can pin down the exact moment when this predation finally completely took over the Republican Party, and thus the whole country. It was on November 22, 2000, exactly three years ago, when the 'Brooks Brothers Riot' - the use of violence by Republican Party operatives under the direction of James Baker to disrupt the vote recount in Florida - formally ended any pretense that politics was a game played by rules, and thus completely changed the United States forever. Politics fell into line with commercial morality, and we can now see the culmination of the process in the completely unembarrassed way the Bush Administration caters to the predator class. Unless you decide to become a predator yourself, you are doomed to become prey.
Three years ago today Republicans removed all constraints of rules, laws, or even the human conscience from politics in their slavish devotion to wealth and power.

But three years and one more day ago, there was no mutual fund crisis, no corporate governance crisis, no Ken Lay dictating energy policy, no international alliance crisis, no American reputational crisis, no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no deaths of one-weekend-a-month reservists, no oil CEOs in the White House, no multibillion dollar conflicts of interest, no Bechtel and Halliburton in Iraq, no $400 billion annual deficit, no $350 billion tax cut for the wealthy, no anthrax, no Office of Homeland Security to play local politics for Tom DeLay in Texas, no worldwide antiwar protest in advance of unilateral American invasions, no environmental crisis, no crisis in first responders, no nationwide state budget crisis, no talk of tax-free dividends, no tax deduction for luxury SUVs, no inexplicable energy blackouts, no John Ashcroft and no Patriot Acts, and, yes, the World Trade Center was still standing.

What a difference a day makes.
Friday, November 21, 2003
Holier than the law. Another CEO pretending to offer moral leadership is exposed as a common crook (Matt O'Connor in the
Chicago Tribune):
The head of a purported multimillion-dollar religious communications business was indicted on federal fraud charges for allegedly swindling equipment leasing companies out of more than $11 million, federal authorities said Thursday.

Rodney Dixon, chief executive of Lacrad International Corp., was also charged with falsely inflating Lacrad's net worth and income to obtain a $2.25 million bank loan in order to buy a corporate jet.

Dixon was also hit with a money laundering charge for allegedly using $47,500 of the profits from the fraud to buy a Jaguar automobile in 2000.


Lacrad International, which sold religious sermons on compact discs, had offices in [Chicago suburbs] Elmhurst and later in Oakbrook Terrace.


According to a civil lawsuit filed by the companies, Dixon had claimed that Lacrad's annual revenue exceeded $100 million in the late 1990s.

But the indictment contends that Lacrad's annual sales never topped $100,000.

Dixon also claimed Lacrad had offices around the world, but that, too, proved to be false, the charges allege.

The indictment also says Dixon lied about Lacrad's financial condition to obtain the $2.25 million loan from Regions Bank in Tyler, Texas, in 2000 in order to buy the jet.
Why would a Chicago company go to Texas for a loan? Texas banks — now an offshoot of the Republican Christian theocracy — apparently never heard of due diligence or even healthy skepticism. "Christian business? That's all we need to hear. Loan approved!"

Until recently, Lacrad was a gleaming example of Christian entrepreneurship: one company handling duplication orders from an assortment of churches, "demand grew from a minimum average order of 50 to 250 CD-R copies several years ago, to orders ranging from 250, 500, and 1,000 to 25,000 copies per customer per week." Move over, Thriller.

That company, Lacrad International, probably the busiest (and hippest) company I've seen in a long time, has been catering in a variety of capacities to churches, synagogues, temples, and plain old secular businesses since 1984. Today, it offers everything a digital ministry might require, including—and this is only scratching the surface—Internet broadcast (it's home to four Christian Internet stations—picture west Texas or eastern North Carolina in cyberspace), Web hosting for both content delivery and CD sales, and technical consulting. As far as duplication goes, Lacrad offers several different trademarked "media services," such as CD Visitor (for people unable to attend services), CD Outreach, and CD Sermons. All the company's efforts to date have been audio-only; plans for the future include IP broadcast movies and television, as well as conversion to DVD-R on the duplication side, within the year. Lacrad has its own plant in Ohio, all set for the upgrade.

Lacrad's facility in Ohio began with four Rimage Protégé units; later, four Rimage ProStar units were added; today, there are a grand total of eight ProStar units churning out discs. These ProStar systems aren't exactly small change: that's eight drives a piece, officially supporting up to 12X recording, with a 500-disc capacity, which is to say, if one of them fought me, it would win. Cooler than these items, though, is the fact they're run remotely from Lacrad Corporate headquarters in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois: data becomes an image, which, in turn, becomes a disc, all over a WAN. Bill Blank, executive vice president of operations, says of the rig, "It's working beautifully. The primary benefit is the ability to load it up and walk away. Return, and the job is done; the automation is fabulous."
Isn't it interesting that a Christian front for a run-of-the-mill fraud operation feels the need to express itself in the language of high technology and Michael Jackson?

Rodney Dixon makes Satan smile.
Astroturf is now a business model. The advocates of hetero-holiness at the
American Family Association are now charging $20 for their antigay astroturf kits.
Thursday, November 20, 2003
Wrong and wrongerer. The Cheney-led cabal may be well past the turning point in Iraq (
Christian Science Monitor):
When George Bush decided to invade and occupy Iraq with only Britain as a major ally, he went against the earlier best judgments of most people with any experience in the region, including that of his own father during his own time of war against Iraq.

The grand vision of a pacified, democratized Iraq, with vast oil reserves enabling it to pay its own way cheneyand shine the light for the rest of the region, must have seemed quickly achievable. Clearly, it did to Mr. Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz - the architects of this adventure.

But they were wrong. And every day of every week, more Americans are being maimed and killed because of their wrongness.

Lately, the fear has shifted from whether America would stay too long in Iraq to whether it would leave too soon, especially with the White House eye on next November.

Even the most committed opponents of the invasion recognize that leaving too soon would add another wrong to the first wrong. Rumsfeld was right to ask for help from abroad. Every member of this administration should ask for help, from every quarter, to help stabilize Iraq, even if it means Washington doesn't have full control.

And come next November, Americans should remember this November - and who took us on this ill-fated, deadly adventure.
But enough about Iraq. Today's headlines aren't about Tikrit. They're focused on Michael Jackson.

Before we Americans can "remember" this ill-fated, deadly adventure, we need to get even an approximate understanding of what's actually going on — something closer to that of the average bystander in Trafalgar Square. And that requires a media willing to tell the truth, and an audience willing to hear it. I'm fairly certain we have neither.

The author of the above excerpt is G. Jefferson Price III, The Baltimore Sun's Perspective editor. He was that newspaper's Middle East correspondent in the 1970s and '80s.
Kiss Blair, fuck Britain. A few billion here, a few billion there (
WASHINGTON, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The parent company of Airbus has told Pentagon investigators that any proprietary data shared by the Air Force with Boeing Co. in a U.S. aerial tanker competition would give the Chicago-based company an "unfair advantage" in a multibillion dollar U.K. tanker deal.

This would constitute "real harm" to EADS, and could also violate British law, a lawyer representing EADS told the Defense Criminal Investigative Service hooverville
"Dragon Lady" Druyun
in a letter dated Oct. 31 that was obtained by Reuters.

DCIS is an arm of the Pentagon's Office of the Inspector General, which has concluded that enough credible information exists to warrant a formal investigation into possible impropriety in the U.S. Boeing tanker deal.

Defense officials say the investigation is focused in part on whether Darleen Druyun, a former Air Force official now with Boeing, improperly shared Airbus pricing data with Boeing during the U.S. competition for mid-air refueling tankers.
Darleen, the subject of a recent post on her $5.7 billion scam, coincidentally also sold her $692,000 house to a Boeing lawyer.

Small world!

⇒ This post was updated on November 24, 2003.
Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Marriage is so motherfucking sacred. Marriage should never be between two men or two women. That would pervert the special hetero-holiness of the institution.

The supreme sanctity of marriage, as defined by
the president, should only take place between a woman and a man like the president's brother (Houston Chronicle):
Sharon Bush has asked a state district court judge to order her ex-husband -- President Bush's brother Neil Bush -- to submit to a blood test to settle a paternity question at the heart of a defamation lawsuit against her.

The request, filed Monday, asks that the judge order Neil Bush and Robert Andrews to submit blood tests to determine the paternity of Andrews' 2-year-old son.

Sharon Bush contends she needs the tests to defend herself against a $850,000 defamation lawsuit filed against her by Andrews. Andrews' suit contends Bush defamed him barbarawhen she suggested in conversations with reporters, friends and restaurant employees that his son may have been fathered by Neil Bush.

Andrews and his wife, Maria Andrews, divorced in October 2002 after 14 years of marriage. The Bushes divorced in April after a 23-year marriage. Neil Bush and Maria Andrews met several years ago when she was working as a volunteer for former first lady Barbara Bush.
Compassionate conservative and education exploitation entrepreneur Neil Bush informed his wife and the mother of his children that he wanted to divorce her via email.
SUVs: GOP terrorism on wheels. Tucked into that GOP-dictated energy bill is a continuing tax loophole for the most ridiculous gas-guzzling vehicles (
Republican leaders on Monday killed a Senate plan to close a loophole allowing small-business owners to deduct up to $100,000 from their taxable income for buying a luxury sport utility vehicle.


Republican Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma offered the proposal to drop the tax break for doctors, lawyers, real estate agents and other business owners who buy expensive SUVs. "There is enormous abuse of this provision. People are driving SUVs through this loophole," Nickles said.

The deduction of up to $100,000 from taxable income dramatically cut the price of a Hummer H2, Land Rover and other expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs for small business owners in the highest tax bracket.

The loophole was part of the $350 billion Bush tax cut enacted in May and applied to the purchase of a vehicle for business use weighing 6,000 pounds or more.
Having fought two wars on the US taxpayers' credit card for the sake of the terror-financing Saudi and Kuwaiti monarchies, by now it should be clear that the Bush family's interest in energy independence is less than nil. Therefore, only the most obscenely and ostentatiously wasteful vehicles will qualify for the tax loophole.

These are not oversights in a 1,100-page pile of "policy." This is only the latest volley in a deliberate, coordinated and unconscionable attack on America. The so-called War on Terror is in effect a war on American energy independence, a war on American taxpayers, a war on American democracy, and, most of all, a war on reason itself.

This post from August 2003 spells out the original luxury SUV loophole, as written up in Kiplinger's personal finance magazine.
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
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.
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


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.
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.
Monday, November 17, 2003

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."
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.
"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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
"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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, November 03, 2003
What's new in Bush's America? Poverty. Recovery without jobs is like dinner without food (
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?

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

. . .