culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Good riddance to 2003. Thousands dead in a war waged on falsified evidence, courtesy of a government run by self-enriching people untroubled by conscience.
Dependent investigation. Unlike the independent investigations of the Clinton era, the Plame investigation is very much dependent on the DoJ and, by extension, its "recused" head John Ashcroft.
It's important to note that the Justice Department will still be in charge of the investigation. The lead prosecutor will be U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald in Chicago. He will report to Deputy Attorney General James Comey.

No reason was given for Ashcroft's recusal--only that it is to avoid the appearance of impropriety. While Comey promises a full and independent investigation, we'll hold off on the celebration until we see if that indeed is what we get.

We think the investigators already know who the culprit is. It may be someone who is close to Ashcroft. A cynic would say that by having Ashcroft recuse himself, the Administration can try and claim he had nothing to do with any future determination not to bring criminal charges against the official on the grounds that the Justice Department doesn't believe it can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

So, which of the White House officials are Ashcroft buddies?
And, because the compromised DoJ is in charge of the investigation, will we ever find out?
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
The new Plame special prosecutor. Here's the Chicago Tribune's selection of stories on
US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald, appointed when Ashcroft recused himself from the Plame investigation.
A fistful of mercury. Another of Daddy's henchmen is helping energy interests at the expense of public health (Eric Pianin,
For nearly 21 months, a government task force steadily moved toward recommending rules that within three years would force every coal-fired power plant in the country to reduce emissions of mercury, which can cause neurological and developmental damage to humans.

The Environmental Protection Agency-sponsored working group had a well-regarded mix of utility industry representatives, state air quality officials and environmentalists. Without settling on specific emission reductions, the panel agreed that all 1,100 of the nation's coal- and oil-fired power plants must use the "maximum achievable control technology" (MACT) to reduce mercury and other hazardous pollutants.

But in April, the EPA abruptly dismantled the panel. John A. Paul, its co-chairman, said members were given no clue why their work was halted -- that is, until late last month, when the Bush administration revealed it was taking an entirely different approach, using a more flexible portion of the Clean Air Act.


...critics accuse the White House and its allies in the utility industry of subverting a process involving one of the most toxic chemicals known, which once airborne can pollute rivers, lakes and oceans and penetrate the food chain. John Stanton of the National Environmental Trust, a member of the working group, said the administration's decision marks "really a fundamental shift in the recognition of the threat posed by mercury to the very most susceptible," including the fetuses of pregnant women who eat mercury-tainted fish.


"This is a case of politics polluting science," Stanton said.

Some critics blamed White House political adviser Karl Rove, Office of Management and Budget regulatory experts or Vice President Cheney's office for dictating the new policy. In fact, the regulatory turnabout was engineered by Jeffrey R. Holmstead, the EPA's senior air quality official and a former industry lawyer, who is little known outside a circle of government regulators and utility industry executives.

Holmstead had been a scholar with a libertarian group that advocated market solutions to environmental problems and a partner at the Washington law firm Latham & Watkins, which has represented electric power companies and other industries before Congress. He was associate counsel to President George H.W. Bush, with primary focus on environmental issues.
Back in July, candidate John Edwards called for Holmstead to resign, citing him as "an extreme example of this administration's problem with telling the truth when it conflicts with its political agenda."

Like father, like son — the Bushes are awash in special interests that discount the value of Americans' lives. In contrast to the lubricious ass-kissing they offer the anti-abortion zealots, administration environmental policy is essentially "Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women," and their idea of family values includes only the Bush family itself.
There's money to be made in Libya. Xymphora questions a
business background story (a Texas VoIP company called GlobalNet, which until December 22 was called iDial Networks) behind the sudden thaw in relations with Libya and the subsequent elevation of once-reviled Gaddafi to "nice guy."
Monday, December 29, 2003
"The [National] Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups," said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. "The Bush Administration appears to be sponsoring a program of
Faith-Based Parks."

Via Cursor.
$1.2 billion MIA. The Pentagon plays three-card monte on an epic scale (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Having failed to apply "lessons learned" from previous U.S. military operations, the U.S. Department of Defense can't account for $1.2 billion of materials related to the Operation Iraqi Freedom, according to a government audit.

The report found "substantial logistics support problems," according to the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress. "Frustrated" reads a sign in a photo from one of a series of distribution centers in Kuwait, Bahrain and Germany, where military materials languished as operations personnel in Iraq did without intended supplies.

The missing $1.2 billion in materials is the discrepancy between what the military knows it sent out, and what auditors have been able to locate in the field. The materials could anything from consumables like food to weapons parts, said William Solis, GAO's director for defense capabilities and management.

"The actual military operation was deemed a success, but the logistics effort was less than perfect," Solis said. The logistics problems, he added, "could have impaired readiness."

Pentagon representatives, in oral comments to GAO, "generally concurred" with the findings and pointed to a series of corrective actions already taken, according to the GAO. The steps included designating a defense logistics executive and streamlining the distribution process. Pentagon spokesman Glenn Flood confirmed the Pentagon had implemented the policy changes, but was unfamiliar with the GAO report.

The Dec. 18 report, which covers [only] approximately $19.1 billion in government spending, pointed to an inadequate tagging system where items either weren't tagged or were undeliverable because the tag fell off.

The probe, compiled in response to a request from Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., chairman of a defense appropriations subcommittee, is the result of preliminary work on a full report expected in 2004.

Solis couldn't quantify a total as to the financial value of the boxes, crates and electrical equipment still sitting in storage, but said the materials took up a lot of space.

"It's acres," Solis said. "I forget how many. I know it's more than several football fields."
"Impaired readiness" equals "lives lost to administrative fuckups."

Body armor, food and weapons go missing, but there's always a fake turkey available in Baghdad for a presidential photo op.

Who knows the harm done to our soldiers and reservists without the right supplies? It's anyone's guess how many of the 489 soldiers (so far) died because "the tag fell off."
Sunday, December 28, 2003
American Family Association's anti-family values. The AFA's "marriage poll" was obviously intended to show Congress the popularity of bigotry and minority marginalization among their right-wing constituents — by denying adult couples in committed relationships the legal recognitions they deserve.

But their diabolical plan is backfiring on them. So far the results of their efforts show Tolerance beating Intolerance by a margin of almost 2:1. It turns out that poll respondents are more decent and respectful of others' privacy than the AFA bigots anticipated.

Why shouldn't committed adults in any configuration of genders enjoy equal rights with one another? Who deserves legal and social status more — a gay couple, a
divorcing Newt Gingrich, a gambling Bill Bennett, or a Rush Limbaugh in a Denny's parking lot trading his right-wing radio cash for his OxyContin stash?

Normal people don't need the bother of the AFA's moralizing hypocrisy. We're busy trying to live our lives — without the intrusions of abnormal zealots, and without intruding into other adults' pursuit of happiness. Live and let live, period.

Go vote in the damn poll. It only takes a few seconds.
Saturday, December 27, 2003
300,000 acres of dense, old-growth Christmas trees. While the mainstream media distracts us with breathless reports on Wal-Mart's Christmas sales figures as if they were some kind of oracular miracle, the Bushies slipped us another Christmas surprise (
The Bush administration opened up undeveloped areas of the largest U.S. national forest to logging on Tuesday, scrapping a Clinton-era rule aimed at protecting the wilderness.

The U.S. Forest Service announced that it will exempt the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska from a national rule prohibiting timber cutting in roadless areas. The decision means about 300,000 acres of dense, old-growth rain forest will be available for logging.


Environmentalists portrayed the policy change as a violation of public trust. They said the road-building likely to accompany the new logging could affect 2.5 million acres of the forest.

"The Bush administration has turned its back on the public, good science and the law in its effort to clearcut the Tongass," Tom Waldo, a Juneau-based attorney for the environmental group Earthjustice, said in a news release.

"This is obviously a Christmas present from the Bush administration to the timber industry, which wants the right to clearcut in America's greatest temperate rainforest."
Here's a picture of the area, and Earthjustice's coverage of the administration's wilderness bushwhacking on behalf of the timber industry.

See also this New York Times editorial blasting the move as a "holiday gift to Senator Ted Stevens and Gov. Frank Murkowski, both of whom have lobbied for the resumption of the clear-cutting that has already stripped the nation's only temperate rain forest of a half million acres of old-growth trees."

There is not a single issue on which these people can make the right decision untainted by political posturing. Like King Midas in reverse — everything they touch, from Afghanistan to Iraq to the federal budget to energy and environmental policy, turns to shit.
Friday, December 26, 2003
Matthew Yglesias reminds us why we should remain optimistic, because optimism about an optimistic candidate with optimistic policy initiatives — and let's not forget an optimistic vision of America — is a sure way to beat someone who is unelectable.
Praise for bilking taxpayers — from the bilkers. Boeing's new CEO praised the woman who allegedly bilked US taxpayers out of $5.7 billion (
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Bloomberg):
During an April 2001 speech, Harry C. Stonecipher, then the president of Boeing Co. and now its chief executive, touted the "partnership" he'd helped to set up with the Air Force.

Stonecipher singled out for praise Darleen Druyun, then the Air Force's second-ranking acquisition official, who'd described herself as the "godmother" of Boeing's C-17 cargo plane.


In his first month as chief executive, Stonecipher is trying to recover after two top Boeing executives - his predecessor, Philip M. Condit, and the chief financial officer, Michael M. Sears - left amid allegations that Druyun was recruited for a job as she negotiated a $21 billion contract for airborne tankers.


Stonecipher, 67, also must contend with a separate Justice Department investigation into Boeing's possession of thousands of pages of proprietary Lockheed Martin Corp. documents that might have helped Boeing to win rocket-launch bidding while he was president in 1998.

The Air Force stripped Boeing of $1 billion in business after an inquiry in July, and the military will incur $223 million in extra costs as a result because it shifted launches to Lockheed Martin. The Air Force won't try to recover the money, a spokeswoman said.
What the fuck is wrong with the Air Force? I know $223 million is just lunch money for a crooked Air Force procurement officer and her new employer — but, jeez, don't appearances even count anymore?
Naughty & Nice 2003, a handy list from the Center for American Progress.
The CEO docket. Carolyn Said gives us a good summary of 2003: the Year of Corporate Insiders and their trials — or lack thereof — in the
San Francisco Chronicle:
Enron started the corporate crime cavalcade and for many people remains the most-identifiable image of businesses run amok. Thus, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of the Enron debacle, seem like natural candidates to headline the feds' Most Wanted list of corporate criminals. They even star as ace and king of spades, respectively, in a Wall Street's Most Wanted card deck. But Lay, Enron's former CEO, and Skilling, its former president, have not been indicted.


Corporate trials on the docket

Dennis Kozlowski (Tyco), continuing, state court, New York

Martha Stewart, Jan. 20, federal court, New York

Scott Sullivan (WorldCom), Feb. 2, federal court, New York

John Rigas and sons (Adelphia), Feb. 9, federal court, New York

Lea Fastow (Enron), Feb. 11, federal court, Houston

Frank Quattrone (CSFB), March 22, federal court, New York

Andrew Fastow (Enron), April 20, federal court, Houston

Bernie Ebbers (WorldCom), spring, state court, Oklahoma

Richard Scrushy (HealthSouth), no date set, federal court, Birmingham, Ala.
That's a lot of corporate misbehavior to hit the news during primary season.

Some of them are major Bush fundraisers (Lay and the Gang of Enron) and some are Bush scapegoats (Martha Stewart). We'll be doing our part to keep the story of these thieving felons — and the proportionality of their treatment relative to the favor they enjoy within the Bush administration — front and center.

Here's Wall Street's Most Wanted, the deck of cards mentioned above.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Tom Tomorrow — today.
Put a happy face on your policy failures. As long as Republicans are in power, try your best not to get sick (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
The Bush administration released a pair of much-awaited reports on the quality of American health care, after extensive revisions that made the findings more upbeat than some experts thought justified.

The two studies, produced by a research arm of the Department of Health and Human Services, went through numerous drafts and were exhaustively reviewed within HHS, officials said.

In several cases, language included in drafts prepared this summer was toned down, emphasizing improvements or challenges rather than problems that afflict the quality of care in public and private health systems in the U.S.

For example, early versions of the National Healthcare Quality report warned that the U.S. health system "is not capable" of preventing or managing diabetes, while the final report said the health system "must respond in order to prevent and manage" the disease. Both versions of the report acknowledged diabetes as a growing problem in the U.S.


Some outside health-care advocates suggested that the two studies were toned down and delayed until after the Medicare overhaul and prescription-drug bill passed Congress for fear Democrats might seize on the reports to press for greater funding for quality initiatives, possibly complicating Republican efforts to pass the bill.


The reports' tone differs markedly from several reports on quality issued over the past few years by the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, which has spoken of a "quality chasm" that exists between everyday care and so-called best practice. The tone also differs from private research reports, such as that by a Rand Corp. researcher in the New England Journal of Medicine this June, which said Americans got, on average, 54% of recommended care, posing "serious threats to the health of the American public."


Several health advocacy groups immediately attacked the tone of the reports. "The report is strikingly different in tone from the administration's approach to quality over the last three years," said David Schulke, executive vice president of the American Health Quality Association, a group representing health professionals. "This looks almost as if written by somebody else. The numbers are there, but the text is oddly cheery about some frightening statistics."

Mr. Schulke said the report trumpeted the fact that 69% of heart-attack patients get beta blocker drugs upon admission to the hospital, as opposed to emphasizing that more than 30% don't get the beneficial drugs even though beta blockers have been on the market since the 1960s. "To not mention that fully 30% don't get that life-saving therapy leaps off the page as an omission," Mr. Schulke said, adding that he was puzzled by the tone of the reports, since he considers Dr. Clancy and Secretary Thompson to be acutely aware of safety and quality problems in the U.S. health system.
"Is not capable" describes a real truth; "must respond in order to prevent and manage" avoids the real truth and instead describes a potentiality.

Grades of 69 (percent of heart-attack beta blocker recipients) and 54 (percent of Americans receiving recommended care) were considered failing grades back when I went to school, but that was long before the advent of Leave-No-HMO-Behind Medicare legislation and healthcare CEO protectionism.
Monday, December 22, 2003
Orange is the color of failure. This is what happens when you fake, forge, and forget the facts (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
The government on Sunday raised the national threat level to orange, indicating a high risk of terrorist attack, and said threat indicators are "perhaps greater now than at any point" since Sept. 11, 2001, with strikes possible during the holidays.

Americans were promised "extensive and considerable protections" around the country and told to stick to their travel plans despite intelligence indicating the al Qaeda terrorist network is seeking again to use planes as weapons and exploit suspected weakness in U.S. aviation security.

Some of the intelligence information gathered in the past few days suggests that "extremists abroad" are anticipating attacks that will rival or exceed the scope of those of Sept. 11, Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge said.

He also said officials did not see a connection between last weekend's capture of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the heightened security alert.
Orange is the color of being greeted as liberators.

The meltdown of the neocon linkage between Hussein and 9-11 continues apace. See Atrios on the total collapse of Peggy Noonan's mind.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
Robert Pinsky, Phillips Brooks, and Bethlehem.
Robert Pinsky's thoughts from Christmastime last year:
The words of Phillips Brooks's Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem" have had a mysterious power for me since I first heard them sung, as a small child.

Brooks, I later learned, wrote the carol as a poem on a visit to Bethlehem in 1868. He was most famous in his time for a sermon he delivered, in that same period, on the subject of the Civil War dead.

Now I associate the silent, dark streets he describes with the silence of the young men missing from little towns all over the North and the South:

O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie!
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep
The silent stars go by;
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light;
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee to-night.
See you in 2004 — a monumentally important year for all our hopes and fears.
The Bush tax.
All roads lead back to 9-11. See TalkLeft on the administration's support for the proposed Victory Act and its war on
bogus narcoterrorism. Equating routine drug offenses with the activity of Al Qaeda serves as another false, preemptive linkage to further a preordained agenda that has nothing at all to do with 9-11-01.
Washington is no place for the squeamish.
During more than two years of investigating two campaign committees that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft maintained when he was in the Senate, the Federal Election Commission never directly questioned Ashcroft or obtained a sworn statement from him even though the issue of his personal ownership of a mailing list and the income it produced were central to the inquiry.

Ellen L. Weintraub, chairwoman of the FEC, said she and the other two Democrats on the panel did not have the required four votes to carry a motion to interview Ashcroft. In addition, she said, all the commissioners did not want to be seen as "harassing the attorney general of the United States" and so never sought to question him.

Critics of the commission say the handling of the case illustrates the FEC's reluctance to aggressively investigate people in power -- a tendency exacerbated by the partisan split among the six commissioners. By law, three are from each party.

"The FEC is known to be 'squeamish' about bothering people in the administration," said Lawrence M. Noble, a former FEC general counsel and now executive director of the Committee for Responsive Politics. Noble said the first choice when dealing with someone central to an investigation would be a deposition; second would be written questions; third would be an affidavit; and the last choice would be a statement from his lawyer.

"They bypassed all these," Noble said, "and the result is a weak ending to an important case."
$100 million for Whitewater, $3 million for 9-11-01... is anybody investigating anything worth revealing anymore?
...the Texas [redistricting] plan "is the single greatest setback for minority voting rights in the 38-year history of the Voting Rights Act. It would have been laughed out of any other Justice Department -- Republican or Democratic." (WaPo)
Friday, December 19, 2003
Doc Searls points us to Jay Rosen's fascinating explanations of the nine story lines that form the campaign meta-narrative.
Thursday, December 18, 2003
The VP who would be emperor. Dick Cheney's custom Hallmark Christmas card — with the inscription by Benjamin Franklin "And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?" — is depicted in

Empire? The capital-H "His"? Is Cheney oblivious or purposeful in his choice of words? Timothy Noah discusses.
Dragon Lady's multibillion dollar retirement party. The heartbreaking Ballad of Darleen Druyun, aka "When Air Force Procurement Officials Go Bad," is sung by Anne Marie Squeo and J. Lynn Lunsford (
How Two Officials Got Caught by Pentagon's Revolving Door, WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Darleen Druyun was a hot prospect when she retired from the Department of the Air Force in November 2002.

In three decades in various acquisition roles there, the lanky, no-nonsense civilian administrator had negotiated billion-dollar weapons contracts and amassed valuable insights into Pentagon policy and the strengths and weaknesses of defense contractors. At a retirement lunch at an Italian restaurant in northern Virginia near the Pentagon, more than a hundred industry executives and government officials gathered, some anxiously scanning the room for clues as to where she might land next.

By that Nov. 21 fete, Ms. Druyun had quietly talked about job opportunities with three of the nation's largest defense contractors -- Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. Lockheed President Robert Stevens attended. So did Boeing Chief Financial Officer Michael Sears and James Albaugh, the head of the company's space and defense businesses. When Mr. Sears sat down at Ms. Druyun's table to chat with her family, other executives in the room took note.


Talk of a job at Boeing for Ms. Druyun began as early as Sept. 3, 2002, more than two months before she recused herself from overseeing Boeing contracts, according to people familiar with the investigation.

While those job negotiations were under way, she was also continuing to push a controversial $21 billion plan to have the government lease and later buy 100 Boeing-made airplanes. Separately, Pentagon investigators are looking into whether Ms. Druyun broke the law by sharing a rival company's information with Boeing.


Ms. Druyun remained a high-profile champion of the defense industry during the 1990s cutbacks in military spending. In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the subsequent slump in the aviation industry, Ms. Druyun became an active promoter of a plan to have the Air Force lease 100 modified Boeing jets as air-refueling tankers. Critics of the plan said it was merely a bailout for Boeing and would cost taxpayers billions more than buying the planes outright. Top Air Force officials, including Ms. Druyun, contended the tankers were urgently needed to replace an aging fleet and that leasing would get them into service sooner.

On Sept. 3, 2002, an e-mail arrived in Mr. Sears's inbox. The sender, a 26-year-old employee in Boeing's St. Louis operation named Heather McKee, wrote that "mom" was making post-retirement plans. In a tone described by people familiar with it as a "friendly heads-up," the note told Mr. Sears that the woman was negotiating with other companies but would rather "live in Chicago," where Boeing is based.


...Boeing turned over more than 8,000 e-mails, including many involving Ms. Druyun. Many of the e-mails, which Mr. McCain later made public, indicated that internal Air Force memos about the tanker negotiations were passed on to senior Boeing executives. One April 2002 e-mail from a Boeing executive working on the deal to a colleague said that Ms. Druyun had told Boeing executives about rival company bids. The e-mail said that Ms. Druyun had told the company "several times" that rival European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co.'s offering of Airbus planes "was $5 million to $17 million cheaper" per aircraft than Boeing's tanker bid.

[from the timeline accompanying the article:]

Sept. 2002: Her daughter, a Boeing employee, e-mails Boeing CFO Michael Sears about her mother's retirement and job search. "

Oct. 2002: Ms. Druyun negotiates a NATO aircraft order that went to Boeing. Two days later, she and Mr. Sears meet to discuss employment. She agrees to sell her house to a Boeing attorney working on tanker deal.

Nov. 2002: Ms. Druyun officially recuses herself from Boeing decisions, retires mid-month.
Postscript: One of the ironies of the Druyun debacle is that her highly unethical mentor Michael Sears was about to publish a business self-help book that dealt with management ethics. Publisher Wiley has since pulled the web page advertising Sears's book Soaring through Turbulence.

Forget content. As Jack Welch and dozens of other market cannibals have demonstrated, the celebrity of power is all you need to get a book contract. With a publisher as clueless as Wiley, Michael Sears proved that the metastatic corruption of defense contracting can be parlayed in more ways than one would expect.
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Be Gone Demons! Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, Saddam's novel (
Chicago Sun-Times):
Saddam Hussein spent the final weeks before the war writing a novel predicting that he would lead an underground resistance movement to victory over the Americans, rather than planning the defense of his regime.

As the war began and Saddam went into hiding 40,000 copies of Be Gone Demons! were rolling off the presses.

Most were destroyed by bombing and looting but the Daily Telegraph has obtained one of the few remaining copies of the novel -- a historical epic that reveals both Saddam's increasing detachment from the world and his inflated sense of self.

The narrative meanders through the history of Iraq and is filled with paranoid invectives against the Jews, who delight in inciting troubles between Muslim nations and encouraging the Romans -- a synonym for the Americans -- to attack Iraq.
Cheney's novel (begun while he was in hiding following 9-11-01): Be Gone Democrats!

Karl Rove's novel: Be Gone Dean!

Texas's novel: Be Gone Dildos!

Ashcroft's novel: Be Gone Doobie!

Scalia's novel: Be Gone Democracy!

Bush, incapable of giving even a credible interview (see "what's the difference?" on page 2 of his sitdown with Diane Sawyer), isn't writing a novel, but reading one: Go Dog Go!

Link via MobyLives, 12/17/03.
Impossible to imagine the roles reversed. Clinton even tried to protect the US from the fallout of dynasty politics before it happened (
Houston Chronicle):
Saddam's capture was the latest salvo fired between the toppled Iraqi dictator and the Bush family. As president, the elder Bush helped gather a coalition of countries for the 1991 Persian Gulf War to oust Saddam's troops from Kuwait, which the Iraqi leader invaded in August 1990. U.S.-led coalition forces drove the Iraqis from the oil-rich emirate, but Saddam remained in power in Iraq.

In June 1993, the United States launched a missile attack against a government intelligence center in Baghdad as retaliation for what President Clinton said was "compelling evidence" of an Iraqi plot to assassinate the elder Bush in retaliation for the Gulf War.

Clinton said a car-bomb plot against Bush had been uncovered during Bush's April 1993 visit to Kuwait. The plan, devised by the Iraqi government, was foiled by Kuwaiti security personnel. Clinton said the plot amounted to an attack on the United States.
Clinton's behavior has nothing whatever to do with how Democrats are now routinely characterized by right-wing supporters of the current administration.

Clinton's actions were based on an adult, nonpartisan assessment of national security, not because Hussein "tried to kill my dad."
Where there's smoke, there's crime. The Pentagon doesn't want us to see where Darleen Druyun's misdeals might lead (Renae Merle in
The Pentagon has refused to release documents to the Senate Commerce Committee investigating a Defense Department contract to lease, then buy, Boeing Co. refueling tankers.

The committee requested documents from Chicago-based Boeing and the Pentagon in an effort to gain insight into the decision making on the contract and to determine how much influence Boeing had on the debate, congressional aides said.

The Pentagon's delay has angered key senators and raised the prospect that the committee will seek a subpoena for the documents.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the commerce committee, has accused the Air Force of acting as an advocate for Boeing instead of taxpayers in the negotiations on the program. "It's very important, given the swirl of allegations and appearances of impropriety, that we get the complete story," McCain said. "We can only do that by getting these documents."
Dragon Lady Darleen Druyun and her mentor Boeing CFO Michael Sears, both mentioned later in the above article, have been a particular subject of focus here in Skimbleland for the reasons articulated by Sen. McCain's accusations.

Here's the most recent Dragon Lady post and a whole bunch of others.
It's a good thing when Elaine Pagels stays in the news, even if it's for the wrong reasons (ahem, Da Vinci Code, cough, cough). See
Christianity Today and The New York Times for more.

We last wrote about Pagels in August when she discussed the politics of Christianity in a long interview at
Tuesday, December 16, 2003
More millions for Halliburton. Caught stealing $61 million in overcharges for fuel? No problem. If you're Halliburton, you simply wait until the day after Saddam is checked for lice before you announce your latest financial coup (
The U.S. military said on Monday Vice President Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton was allocated $222 million more last week for work in Iraq, at the same time as a Pentagon audit found the firm may have overbilled for some services there.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown and Root has now clocked up $2.26 billion under its March no-bid contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild Iraq's oil sector.

Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Bob Faletti said a new task order was made for KBR last week worth up to $222 million for the "restoration of essential infrastructure."
Halliburton spokesperson Wendy Hall said that as far as fuel is concerned, on each gallon of gas Halliburton made "only a few cents." Students of public relations, take note: these are highly paid professionals making creative use of the words "only," "a few," and "cents."

We can only wish that someday a humiliated Cheney will be pulled from his undisclosed location (i.e., spider hole) and checked for lice. Meanwhile, besides directing the Halliburton war crimes, in his spare time he kills over 70 pheasants in a single morning at Pennsylvania's Rolling Rock Club and Game Preserve.
World Trade Center neighbors unimpressed. Wall Street, where the so-called War on Terror actually started, didn't respond to the Hussein capture.

Yesterday, the first day of trading following the hallowed event, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.2%, the Standard & Poors 500 Index lost 0.6%, and the Nasdaq lost 1.6%.

I guess you could say the markets are not exactly thrilled with the news.
Monday, December 15, 2003
An emboldened Ken Lay. These are heady times for the captains of American corruption. Even Ken Lay is no longer content to sit in the shadows (Shelby Hodge in the
Houston Chronicle):
No longer taking a discreet table in the corner of La Griglia, former Enron CEO Ken Lay stepped into the power-lunch spotlight Friday [Dec. 12] when he invited former Mayor Bob Lanier and Elyse Lanier to join him there for a leisurely bite at a central table. No one missed the giant step forward.
Now that the political climate is warmer, punch line Ken Lay layjailis undoubtedly preparing for his next foray into organized pickpocketing via market manipulation, energy policy manipulation, election manipulation, accounting manipulation, regulatory manipulation, and just plain ol' lying.

While we're on the subject of Enron, consider the subject of profitably driving people to suicide. Isn't it odd that you can still find current stories on Vince Foster, who died in 1993, but none on Enron's J. Clifford Baxter, who died in 2002?
Jeb & Jesus Jails. Perhaps Hussein should be imprisoned in a
Florida faith-based, state-funded jailhouse (Jim Ash, Palm Beach Post):
Hard time will soon be hallowed time for nearly 800 Florida inmates who will be given the option of repaying their debt to society in the nation's first prison dedicated entirely to faith-based rehabilitation programs.

Gov. Jeb Bush made the surprise announcement Friday at a White House-sponsored news conference in Tampa that spotlighted President Bush's attempts to give religious organizations a greater role in solving social problems.

"I believe that when people commit violent acts, it is appropriate to enforce the laws and that people should be punished for their actions," Gov. Bush said. "But I also believe that lives can be changed.

"For those individuals who are motivated to change their lives, programs like this can make a tremendous difference and create a pathway out of the criminal justice system."

Under the governor's plan, the entire Lawtey Correctional Institution in rural Bradford County, with its eight prison dormitories and 791 inmates, will house inmates who have volunteered for the program. To be eligible, they will have to be within three years of completing their sentences and have had a clean prison record for the previous 12 months, said Florida Department of Corrections spokesman Sterling Ivey.

"To our knowledge, there is no other correctional system in the country that is operating a prison exclusively with faith-based programming," Ivey said.

Prisoners who meet the minimum requirements will be offered space at the facility on a first-come, first-served basis. Once accepted, they will receive religion-based classes in everything from parenting and character building to job training, Ivey said.


But critics were quick to condemn the move. Among them was the Washington-based Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which last month successfully sued to remove a replica of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama State Supreme Court, a legal battle that eventually cost that state's chief justice his job.

Eight months ago, the group filed a federal lawsuit challenging a program in the Iowa prison system that is similar to the existing Florida program. That suit has yet to be heard.

Spending taxpayer dollars on a faith-based prison violates Florida and federal constitutional bans on establishment of a state religion, said the group's executive director, Barry Lynn, who predicted his group would succeed easily if it challenges the Florida program.

Ivey said the state expects the program to survive legal challenges. "We understand the legalities involved here, but we're operating under a voluntary program," he said.

But Lynn said: "The voluntary aspect is almost of no consequence. It is government-supported religion, and it is just as unconstitutional in a prison as it would be in a public housing project...."
Link via Benedict@Large via American Samizdat.
What good news? The capture of Saddam Hussein does nothing at all about any of these continuing problems:
  • The encouragement of global vendettas among wealthy families
  • The perils of American unilateralism
  • The American Congress's willingness to go to war in the absence of credible intelligence
  • The White House's willingness to fabricate flimsy, forged intelligence in order to go to war under false pretexts
  • The accelerating deterioration of the American armed forces and reserves
  • The public funding and private profiteering of combat operations
  • The looting of the Mideast by neocon strategists and American corporations
  • The vulnerability of the American economy and infrastructure
  • American responsibility for the new vulnerabilities of the Iraqi economy and infrastructure
  • Continuing violence and instability in Iraq
  • The American upper class's complete lack of financial or personal stake in invasive military actions, the costs in money and blood having been fully shifted to the middle and lower classes
  • The corruption of American democracy and civil liberties
  • Anthrax, "Christian" militants, and domestic terrorism
  • Existing terrorist threats originating in Afghanistan, Africa, and Asia — and their global financiers
  • Future terrorist threats from a number of newly aggravated sources, including thousands of Iraqi children orphaned by the Bush admisnitration in the last nine months
  • Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and September 11, 2001
War in America has become Monday Night Football. This country, which used to be about something, has been reduced to an ugly mob in a stadium, cheering for and against groups of millionaires who aren't even from their hometown but who siphon money from their pockets with ruthless calculation.
Friday, December 12, 2003
Same as the old boss. Except for those hypermanaged photo opportunities, the Bushies truly have zero sense of symbolism:
"US eyes Hussein palace for embassy" (Boston Globe).
Serial marrier. Straight guy Neil Bush, taking a few tips on romance (France, champagne, chocolates) from the
Fab Five, woos his adulterous girlfriend with a proposal:
Love conquers all, or at least it does in the case of Neil Bush and Maria Andrews. President Bush's beleaguered brother and his girlfriend became engaged in France earlier this week.

Details are sketchy and the betrothed couple are not talking, but Houston friends say Bush popped the question over a romantic dinner in a château in France's Champagne country.

Bush ordered champagne and chocolates (Andrews' favorite) for dessert and used the interlude of sweets, we are told, as the moment to propose. She said, "Yes."

Bush said from Paris that he had other pressing matters on his plate at the moment and that discussing his engagement and marriage plans was "not appropriate."

The romance between the reluctantly high-profile love birds has survived press scrutiny into their personal lives, a nasty post-divorce battle with Bush's ex-wife Sharon Bush, paternity tests to prove that Neil Bush is not the father of Andrews' 2-year-old son, and endless rounds of gossip.

Andrews moved to Paris in late summer with her three children for a long-planned year abroad. She and ex-husband Robert Andrews had agreed that the children could benefit from learning French in Paris.

Bush has been a frequent visitor, spending Thanksgiving in Paris with Andrews and her children.
Even if they can't have an Iraqi reconstruction contract, at least we know France, part of Rumsfeld's "Old Europe," had a real turkey for Thanksgiving.

Let us all join hands and give thanks for Shelby Hodge, society columnist for the Houston Chronicle.
Thursday, December 11, 2003
Further suspicions about Bush in Iraq. I received this from a reader, a former Army helicopter pilot:
I bought a US News and World Report last week [12/8 issue, page 22/23]. It had a picture of Bush in Iraq on Thanksgiving. Not the famous one with the turkey that wasn't for consumption but this one seemed equally contrived. In the center of the picture Bush is giving a black female soldier a hug (more of a partial hug... so his face could be caught on camera) while two black soldiers watch with approval.

Then I studied the picture. There was a large crowd of people with only those three black soldiers visible. I could pick out one other African American but he in civilian clothes (press corps maybe). Most of the soldiers were not even paying attention to W. There is one guy who appears to be mocking W.

Then I realized none of the soldiers had weapons... not even side arms... in a combat zone. That is highly unusual. I then noticed there were two Secret Service agents in the picture. It seems odd that a guy who is supposedly loved would have SS protection in a room full of people who love him.

Compare that with the many pictures of Hussein... out in a crowded street surrounded by people, many of them holding and firing AK-47's in the air. A guy, who according to the US was hated and feared by his people, has no problem being surrounded by gun-firing masses. Seems odd.
His point is well-taken. Hussein didn't need to take the security precautions Bush does because he was less hated.

Future historians will doubtless describe the reasons for this "war" as corporate welfare for Bechtel/Halliburton and a series of expensively staged, artifical photo opportunities for the '04 election.

The article and the picture are not available online, unfortunately.

UPDATE: The pilot writes back with this observation on a more recent
WaPo article, saying, "prescreened eh? I knew it. Prescreened and disarmed, but he is loved and revered."

From Dana Milbank's article:

Stars and Stripes, the Pentagon-authorized newspaper of the U.S. military, is bucking for a court-martial.

When last we checked in on Stripes, it was reporting on a survey it did of troops in Iraq, finding that half of those questioned described their units' moral as low and their training as insufficient and said they did not plan to reenlist.

With the Pentagon just recovering from that, Stars and Stripes is blowing the whistle on President Bush's Thanksgiving visit to Baghdad, saying the cheering soldiers who met him were pre-screened and others showing up for a turkey dinner were turned away.

The newspaper, quoting two officials with the Army's 1st Armored Division in an article last week, reported that "for security reasons, only those preselected got into the facility during Bush's visit. . . . The soldiers who dined while the president visited were selected by their chain of command, and were notified a short time before the visit."

The paper also published a letter to the editor from Sgt. Loren Russell, who wrote of the heroism of his soldiers and then added: "[I]magine their dismay when they walked 15 minutes to the Bob Hope Dining Facility, only to find that they were turned away from their evening meal because they were in the wrong unit. . . . They understand that President Bush ate there and that upgraded security was required. But why were only certain units turned away?"

Russell added that his soldiers "chose to complain amongst themselves and eat MREs, even after the chow hall was reopened for 'usual business' at 9 p.m. As a leader myself, I'd guess that other measures could have been taken to allow for proper security and still let the soldiers have their meal."
Grassroots fundraising at Merrill Lynch. Today I received a personal (signed!) email from Marc Racicot, chairman of Bush-Cheney '04 [excerpt]:
Help us overcome the Democrats' liberal billionaire
by making your contribution and emailing five friends today!

[...] Now comes news from a Wall Street Journal investigative report that wealthy liberals "have plotted ways around the campaign finance law" to funnel millions in illegal soft money donations "to finance get-out-the-vote efforts and ads slamming Mr. Bush and Republicans."

One billionaire liberal, George Soros, has already pledged $25 million to get these efforts off the ground. Soros even said that President Bush reminds him of the Nazis.

Soros got another billionaire leftist, Peter Lewis, an ardent advocate of hard drugs, to promise $12 million as a down payment. Their goal is to raise over $400 million to defeat the President and they're halfway there.

To beat these billionaire liberals, we need your help today!

Please, will you send the Bush re-election campaign $25, $50, $75, $100 or whatever you can afford to give today?


Marc Racicot
Bush-Cheney '04

PS: The Wall Street Journal reported that George Soros views "America as the gravest threat to world freedom." Help us overcome this liberal billionaire that is clearly out of touch with real America. Please make your contribution to the President's campaign today and ask five friends to join you in this important effort. With your help, I know we will reach our goal.
Pretty compelling copy, I must say.

Too bad it's all based on lies and slander. The Wall Street Journal, in its unfounded attacks on Clinton and its absurd support for the most economically ungifted president in recent memory, is a graver threat to world peace than a
Nigerian barge full of George Soroses.

And the premise of Racicot's email — that liberals are supported by billionaires and Bush enjoys grassroots support — is exactly backwards. Howard Dean gets the most small contributions over and over — the real mark of grassroots success.

Besides the deeply entrenched energy industry and its thieving, bankrupt Enrons and its bloodthirsty Halliburtons, the White House also enjoys the support of banks, the financial industry overall, and the #1 wealth manager in the United States, with private client assets of $630 billion, more than the Bush deficit for this year.

The average contribution received by Bush-Cheney '04 is far and away the highest received by any of the ten candidates.

It's only logical that the president who gave three successive tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans would receive the most generous contributions from them. This is no example of grassroots support — it's another example of not politically twisted truth but outright lying.

Furthermore, the fact that criticism of Bush comes from one of the world's richest men, a man who would be poised to benefit from Bush's ludicrous tax and fiscal policies, only underscores Soros's credibility.

Small contributors to Bush-Cheney '04 are the most self-defeating people in the entire world, not because they don't embrace a progressive ideology, but because they enrich the rich at their own expense.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
I always love a good rant from
...and another thing. Stop ceding the goddamn debate. Who here thinks Howard Dean can beat Bush? Why Ted, you ignorant slut, Fred Flintstone could take Bush with Barney Rubble as his campaign manager. Wesley Clark should stop saying that he needs to be the nominee because someone needs to be able to match Bush at foreign policy. What Clark should say is that Joey Tribiani could match Bush at foreign policy, though he, Clark, has the most experience. Stop acknowledging that Bush is strong on anything. He's a big loser. He's a miserable failure. He's lost 3 million jobs. He got us into a screwed up war. Our soldiers are being killed by terrorists. The Middle East is a mess. Afghanistan is a mess. OBL is alive. Hussein is alive.
And even if they're both dead, by Bush's misguided policies we're encouraging millions of others to fill their shoes.
Dragon Lady's checkered past. Darleen Druyun, the former US Air Force procurement officer who gamed both sides of the dealmaking machinery with Boeing, has a bit of a past. Apparently the tanker overcharging deal that got her a brand new job at Boeing was not a one-off (reported by Anne Marie Squeo and J. Lynn Lunsford in the
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
The Air Force said in a statement that it has asked the Pentagon's inspector general to look into several contract awards, including $278 million for upgrades on E-3 Airborne Warning & Control System aircraft provided to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The contract, publicly awarded in mid-December 2002, was negotiated in October of that year by an Air Force team that included principal deputy assistant secretary for acquisition and management Darleen Druyun.

That October has become a pivotal month in the Pentagon investigation. At that time, Ms. Druyun began discussing employment opportunities with former Boeing chief financial officer Michael Sears, druyun
Darleen Druyun:
The face only Michael
Sears could love
company officials said. She didn't recuse herself until Nov. 5 from making Boeing-related decisions. Federal law prohibits government acquisition officials from having such discussions until their oversight role ends.

Ms. Druyun joined Boeing in January 2003. Two weeks ago, she and Mr. Sears were both fired for cause after the company uncovered the employment discussions as well as an attempt to hide them. Boeing has turned over e-mails and other documents related to these findings to the Pentagon inspector general. That agency is already investigating Ms. Druyun over whether she provided Boeing with competition-sensitive information while negotiating a plan to lease Boeing aerial tankers to the Air Force.
The hilarious aspect is that Druyun's Boeing mentor Michael Sears was about to publish one of those "you too can manage your pitiful company as brilliantly as I managed Boeing" self-help management books that are meant to inspire wonder and awe in the middle-management book-buying class that still clings tenaciously to something resembling a sense of right and wrong.
Tuesday, December 09, 2003
Dispassionate destructivism. Once again,
xymphora sums it up well:
With all the dead bodies, and the absence of gas and electricity, and the looting and the crime, the Americans have made much of the supposedly wonderful job they have done in restoring the Iraqi school system. Leaving aside the fact that the Iraqi school system needed restoring largely because of the American sanctions and the American bombs, not to mention the looting which took place because the Americans failed in their obligations under international law to keep the peace, it should not be surprising that the story told by the Americans about the Iraqi school system is another big lie. Bechtel got $1.03 billion to work on the school system, which is, needless to say, the real point of the exercise. They then subcontracted the work to shoddy Iraqi subcontractors, presumably in order to keep as much of the $1.03 billion as possible, and the subcontractors did lousy work. Bechtel never checked the work or even appeared at the school sites. American soldiers occasionally turn up at the schools to ask perfunctory questions of what they can do to help, but the schools never receive any of the requested help. Khadija Ali Medshwal of the Naguib Pasha Primary School in Baghdad said:

"I hate it when they turn up unannounced. The first time they came here, they went from classroom to classroom with guns dangling over their shoulders, asking the terrified children whom they loved more, Saddam Hussein or George Bush."
And in five or ten or fifteen years, chances are those children will fondly remember the American invasion by wanting to kill us all. Thanks to us, every school in Baghdad is now a school for potential terrorists. From the children's point of view, is there any significant difference between Hussein and Bush?

Links to sources in the original text.
Water, water everywhere. Sandwiched among four Great Lakes and boasting 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan is among the most water-rich states in the US.

That's why it's strange to hear that there's not enough water (
It might seem unlikely that the Great Lakes state could see water shortages. But in at least three Michigan counties, limited water supplies have led to finger-pointing and lawsuits between families and businesses. Some predict that as demand increases, it's only going to get worse unless the state makes sure the water supply is protected.

"If there are not limits, we're going to see more and more communities run dry," says Cheryl Mendoza of the environmental group Lake Michigan Federation. "It's a different time, there's millions more people and what we do impacts our neighbor."

According to the state Department of Environmental Quality, more than 1.1 million Michigan households use private wells, more than any other state. The amount of groundwater available in each area depends on geology, how it's being used and how fast it's being restored.


The state is trying to help. Gov. Jennifer Granholm in August signed two new groundwater laws designed to resolve disputes and determine where, and in what quantities, Michigan's groundwater exists.

The first law asks the DEQ and Department of Agriculture to investigate disputes, such as those in Saginaw County, and help negotiate an agreement. One remedy for homeowners could be replacement of their wells.

Under the other law, the state will create a list of major water users and map the state's aquifers, the underground water sources reached by wells. The maps will help officials figure out where groundwater is less plentiful to avoid future water conflicts.


Environmentalists and others say the state should go further and establish a water-use law that would encourage conservation and restoration. Such a law might require big users to make sure water isn't being removed from an aquifer faster than it's being replenished, and to certify that, by taking the water, they aren't damaging the aquifer or the environment, Mendoza says.
Perhaps part of the problem is the fact that Perrier (i.e., Nestlé) has a permit to remove 200 million gallons per year from Michigan. Perrier brands of spring water sold in the US include: Arrowhead (sold in the West), Calistoga (West), Deer Park (East), Great Bear (Northeast), Oasis (Texas), Poland Springs (in the Northeast), Ozarka (in the South), Zephyrhills (Florida), and its Midwest brand, Ice Mountain. Here's a primer in water privatization in Michigan, courtesy of Business Week covered this story in 2002.

How does water end up diverted into the hands of commercial interests? Here's an example ("Out of Sight, Cheney Is Power," by Greg Hitt in WSJ, sub, req'd.):
Late one Friday afternoon about a year ago, Vice President Dick Cheney put a call through to an unsuspecting lawyer at the Department of the Interior. On his mind: water rights in Oregon's Klamath River.

A prominent Oregon Republican had lobbied the vice president to allow more water to be diverted from the river for farmers, and Mr. Cheney was irked that the Interior Department wasn't moving fast enough. Instead of delegating the matter, as might be expected amidst the larger worries of terrorism and Iraq, Mr. Cheney took matters into his own hands. "What are you doing?" he said in a terse voicemail message left for the attorney, recalls a person familiar with the call. "Why are we doing this?"

The water eventually got released. But Mr. Cheney's role in the seemingly small-time drama never came to light, underscoring the way he prefers to do business: far behind the scenes.

That Mr. Cheney would plunge into the issue at all underlines how he has turned the very job of vice president upside down. Normally vice presidents have limited duties and make maximum efforts to publicize them. Mr. Cheney does the opposite. Never in modern times has there been a vice president who has taken on such extensive responsibilities, and never has there been a vice president who so assiduously sought to escape the public eye.
Upside down is the politest possible way to characterize the priorities of this administration. Peace, prosperity, air, water... nothing is safe from their thieving interventions.

None of Cheney’s Oregon interventions have any direct bearing on the Michigan situation so far as I know. But both cases are representative of the overwhelming GOP-led trend to move as many public resources as possible (clean water, Medicare, radio spectrum, the US Treasury) into fewer and fewer private hands (Nestlé, Pfizer, Clear Channel, Halliburton).
Monday, December 08, 2003
White House "concerns" about election domination. An ironic tidbit from the
Sunday's poll delivered a clear victory to allies of President Vladimir Putin.

But the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said Russia's Government used resources and control of the media to dominate the election.

The White House said Washington shared European concerns at how the United Russia Party achieved its success

The election was "overwhelmingly distorted" by pro-government bias, the OSCE said.
Huh? Since the sixties, have there been any three years of more consistently pro-government bias in the US media than those following the dimly remembered events of 9-11-01?
Calling all Log Cabin Republicans! Did you enjoy Al Pacino's portayal of you in Tony Kushner's Angels in America last night on HBO? Did you wince with recognition at his blunt portrayal of Roy Cohn's open-eyed lust for power enclosing a blind self-hatred that drives him to strengthen and enrich his oppressors* as he destroys himself? No?

Maybe you are sorry that Tom DeLay's
plans for a GOP convention gay cruise ship (via No More Mister Nice Blog) have been called off.

Tough luck. Instead of a fanciful frolic in New York harbor, you'll go back to the usual drudgery of Republican fundraising, campaigning against gay marriage, habitual toadying, and the occasional furtive grope interspersed with self-loathing. All courtesy of your political orientation.

(On the other hand, you could become Democrats. Our tent is bigger and more colorful.)

*See The Reagans on CBS Showtime for more information.
The shorter Sting, as condensed by
The Guardian: "I was far more intelligent than all my friends, and their resentment fuelled my inner sense of loneliness."

Via MobyLives.
Accept no Skimble imitations. This site has been phished by a bunch of Bible nuts, offering a "Mega site of Bible studies and information" instead of the hopefully-informative rants you ordinarily find here.

Notice the intentionally erroneous transposition of the "s" and the "p" in "blogspot":

Damn you, dirty apes!

Apparently we're not alone — they've phished all of blogspot as blogpsot.
Evil is as evil does. Boeing, Darleen Druyun, Richard Perle, Trireme Partners, the American Enterprise Institute — it's one big barrel teeming with rats (
Pentagon adviser Richard Perle came under fire on Friday for failing to disclose financial ties to Boeing Co., even while championing its bid for a controversial $20 billion-plus defense contract.

Perle co-wrote a guest column in The Wall Street Journal newspaper this summer praising the plan to lease then buy 100 modified refueling planes, a year after Boeing committed to invest up to $20 million in Trireme Partners, a New York venture capital fund in which Perle is a principal.


Chicago-based Boeing pledged in the middle of last year to invest up to $20 million over eight to 10 years in Trireme Partners, perle
Richard Perle:
"Hurry up
and give me
$2 million."
which invests in defense- and homeland security-related technologies. It is one of 29 such investments in cutting-edge technology funds worldwide totaling $250 million, said Anne Eisele, a Boeing spokeswoman. To date, Boeing has invested $2 million in Trireme, she said.


Boeing said it had briefed Perle on the tanker deal in his capacity as a resident fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, a private research group. President Bush, at the institute's annual dinner in February, said it was home to "some of the finest minds in our nation ... at work on some of the greatest challenges to our nation."
Warmonger Perle threatened a lawsuit over Seymour Hersh's exposé on him in the New Yorker, calling him "the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist," as reported in the WaPo.

Why all the suspicion? Lunching with controversial Saudi-born businessman Adnan Khashoggi and a Saudi industrialist a couple of months before your invasion of Iraq is about to commence would be one clue.

Now with Perle's ties to Boeing suddenly in the spotlight, another pillar of the Bush administration's infrastructure of corruption and conflict of interest is revealed.

American soldiers, reservists, and taxpayers deserve better than this.
Friday, December 05, 2003
Recount Dracula sucks Iraqi blood. He's baaacckk... (
President Bush today appointed former secretary of state James A. Baker III to a key new post in the U.S. effort to rebuild Iraq, announcing that the veteran political operative and renowned troubleshooter would become his "personal envoy on the issue of Iraqi debt."

"Secretary Baker will report directly to me and will lead an effort to work with the world's governments at the highest levels, with the international organizations and with the Iraqis in seeking the restructuring and reduction of Iraq's official debt," Bush said in a statement.

Iraq is saddled with an estimated $125 billion in foreign debt, and most international donors have pledged loans instead of grants. U.S. officials fear the debt load will badly hamper the country's economy as the United States takes steps to foster a sovereign, democratic government.


Baker, a 73-year-old Texan, has long undertaken challenging assignments for the Bush family. He was secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush, helping to assemble the international coalition for the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He then served as White House chief of staff and manager of the first President Bush's reelection campaign of 1992.

Baker later headed the Republican team during the Florida recount litigation after the disputed election of 2000.


Baker currently works as a senior partner in the international law firm of Baker Botts L.L.P., which has offices in Washington, New York, Houston, Moscow, London, Riyadh and other cities. The firm last year landed the Houston-based oil services company Halliburton as a client. Baker also serves as a senior counselor to The Carlyle Group, a merchant banking firm in Washington, and is honorary chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Houston's Rice University.
Can Baker credibly be expected to act on anyone's behalf except Bush's, Halliburton's, or The Carlyle Group's, all of whose interests he represents?

From the perspective of the civilians who will make up Iraq's purported new democracy, this development is like the scene in the film Brazil when the accused are presented with an invoice for the cost of their interrogation and torture.

Link via the ever-piquant Jerome Doolittle at BAD ATTITUDES, who also reports on those photographs of Dubya's padded testicles.
Wrong scapegoat? Regular readers will know that I tend to rattle on about how the Arthur Andersen indictment was a convenient smokescreen meant to shift attention from the real perpetrators of the Enron mess — namely, the lavish Bush-Cheney contributors also known as the senior management of Enron.

It turns out that other untouched mega-accounting firms may have had more direct responsibility in the Enron mess than their scapegoat auditors (Eric Berger,
Houston Chronicle):
An independent examiner in Enron's bankruptcy says accounting firm KPMG was "willfully blind" to the fraudulence of a series of financial transactions the energy company used to inflate its bottom line.

KPMG also knew that former Enron Chief Financial Officer Andrew Fastow, who managed the LJM1 and LJM2 financing vehicles, received about $40 million from the improper deals he helped arrange, the examiner says.

The conclusions come in an investigation into the roles three banks and two accounting firms played in Enron's collapse. They are part of a 457-page report submitted Thursday to Enron's bankruptcy court by Harrison Goldin, a former New York City controller.

The accounting firm denied the accusations in the strongest of terms, calling Goldin's report "utterly baseless and irresponsible."

This is the first time an accounting firm other than Arthur Andersen, now defunct, has been critically associated with misdeeds at Enron. Until Thursday, KPMG's role had gone largely undocumented.

In his report, Goldin also found another accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers, was "grossly negligent" in preparing a fairness opinion for certain transactions layjailinvolving LJM1 and Enron. The firm, known as PwC, relied on factual misrepresentations it knew were not justified from Enron executives, and the reports it prepared for Enron's board of directors were of no value.
There's no doubt it was partially involved, but was Arthur Andersen set up to take the full brunt of the Enron scandal? Probably. The firm also happened to be the auditors of a certain outfit also known for financial irregularities called Halliburton when its CEO was called Cheney. Destroying Andersen had multiple benefits of convenience for the entire White House — both the president and vice president.

Missing in action throughout these legal machinations are the Enron executives themselves (excluding former CFO Fastow and his lovely wife, Enron art buyer Lea Fastow). Kenny Boy and Skilling must have some sort of presidential magic force field of immunity surrounding their purloined estates.

Why is it that crimes involving enormous amounts of capital don't deserve capital punishment? This is, after all, Texas we're talking about.
Thursday, December 04, 2003
Savage contribution to society. The website
Spreading Santorum goes live today.
The Yellow Rose of Terror. Our fair and balanced media are AWOL when it comes to terrorists in Texas (
The [invaluable!] Memory Hole):
Federal authorities this year mounted one of the most extensive investigations of domestic terrorism since the Oklahoma City bombing, CBS 11 has learned.

Three people [William J. Krar, his common-law wife, Judith Bruey, and Edward Feltus] linked to white supremacist and anti-government groups are in custody. At least one weapon of mass destruction - a sodium cyanide bomb capable of delivering a deadly gas cloud - has been seized in the Tyler area.

Investigators have seized at least 100 other bombs, bomb components, machine guns, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and chemical agents. But the government also found some chilling personal documents indicating that unknown co-conspirators may still be free to carry out what appeared to be an advanced plot. And, authorities familiar with the case say more potentially deadly cyanide bombs may be in circulation.

Since arresting the three people in May, federal agents have served hundreds of subpoenas across the country in a domestic terror investigation that made it onto President Bush’s daily intelligence briefings and set off national security alarms among the country’s most senior counter-terror officials.
At a total of one so far, Texas apparently has more weapons of mass destruction than Iraq.

When do we invade?

Link via the glorious and indispensable Cursor.
Fake president, fake bird. The turkey that flew halfway around the world wasn't genuine either (
President Bush's Baghdad turkey was for looking, not for eating.

In the most widely published image from his Thanksgiving day trip to Baghdad, the beaming president is wearing an Army workout jacket and surrounded by soldiers as he cradles a huge platter laden with a golden-brown turkey.

The bird is so perfect it looks as if it came from a food magazine, with bunches of grapes and other trimmings completing a Norman Rockwell image that evokes bounty and security in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.

But as a small sign of the many ways the White House maximized the impact of the 2 1/2-hour stop at the Baghdad airport, administration officials said yesterday that Bush picked up a decoration, not a serving plate.

Officials said they did not know the turkey would be there or that Bush would pick it up. A contractor had roasted and primped the turkey to adorn the buffet line, while the 600 soldiers were served from cafeteria-style steam trays, the officials said. They said the bird was not placed there in anticipation of Bush's stealthy visit, and military sources said a trophy turkey is a standard feature of holiday chow lines.

The scene, which lasted just a few seconds, was not visible to a reporter who was there but was recorded by a pool photographer and described by officials yesterday in response to questions raised in Washington.
The turkey was as real as all those Iraqi WMDs and the Air Force One "Gulfstream Five" sighting by British Airways — that is, not at all.
Wednesday, December 03, 2003
A proud terrorist. His tactics may differ somewhat, but his opinions are in line with the Republican platform (
An anti-abortion extremist was convicted of 51 counts Wednesday for mailing hundreds of envelopes of fake anthrax to women's clinics. The jury deliberated for about two hours.

Clayton Waagner, who once was on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted'' list, concluded his defense Wednesday by telling the jury that he was a proud terrorist and that people who provide abortions should be shot.

Waagner, who represented himself, is already serving 49 years in prison for car theft and weapons violations.

In a rambling closing argument, Waagner said he was "tickled'' that letters containing death threats and white powder disrupted operations at clinics in 24 states in 2001. He said only his abhorrence for killing prevented him from doing "what I should have done: shooting them, abortionists and clinic workers, in the head.''
It's obvious he's just a pathetic loser, but his views are indeed reflective of the current sentiment on the right.

See the post immediately below this one for more.
Acting in self defense. I missed this post last week by
David Neiwert at Orcinus:
One of the important things I learned as a cops-and-courts reporter lo these many years ago was something about crime victims: That they often make themselves vulnerable to violent crimes because they are not prepared to deal with people who are sociopathic, or who exhibit antisocial or narcissistic personality disorders, or in some cases outright psychoses. That they project their own normalcy onto these other people -- they really cannot believe that someone else would act in a way substantially different from their own decent, sane base of operations.

In a way, I think this is a large part of what is happening to our national body politic: People in key positions of media and conservative ideological prominence (Coulter, Limbaugh, even Bill O'Reilly) exhibit multiple symptoms of being pathological sociopaths, either antisocial or narcissistic, or a combination of both. And not only their fellow participants in the conservative movement, but mainstream centrists and even liberals are unable to figure out that there is something seriously wrong with these people because they are projecting their own normalcy onto them. They cannot perceive because they cannot believe -- that, above all, these people are not operating within a framework guided by the boundaries of basic decency that restrain most of us.

They are political muggers out of control -- and as their rhetoric encourages both the figurative and physical elimination of liberals, they become ever more likely to actually tread into regions of real violence.
Neiwert's point about projecting normalcy onto sociopaths is well-taken — as a nation we so want our media figures and senior government officials not to be mentally ill that we ignore all evidence to the contrary.

In the period of time following the Oklahoma City bombing I often mused that what this country needs is a left-wing militia to act as a counterbalance.

I guess it's not a joke any more. These might be the seeds of another civil war — no metaphor intended. Liberals had better brush up on their skill at shooting back.
Neilsie's Asian avenues of commerce.
Josh Marshall points us to a very rich vein in the deep mine of Neil Bush's venality — namely, New Bridge Strategies (Miami Herald):
Neil Bush, a younger brother of US President George W. Bush, has had a $60,000-a-year employment contract with a top adviser to a Washington-based consulting firm set up this year to help companies secure contracts in Iraq.

Neil Bush disclosed the payments during divorce proceedings in March from his now ex-wife, Sharon. The divorce was finalised in April and the court papers were disclosed by The Houston Chronicle this week.

Mr Bush said he was co-chairman of Crest Investment Corporation, a company based in Houston, Texas, that invests in energy and other ventures. For this he received $15,000 every three months for working three or four hours a week.

The other co-chairman and principal of Crest is Jamal Daniel, a Syrian-American who is an advisory board member of New Bridge Strategies, a company set up this year by a group of businessmen with close links to the Bush family or administrations. Its chairman is Joe Allbaugh, George W. Bush's campaign director in the 2000 presidential elections.

Other figures at New Bridge include Ed Rogers, its vice-chairman and a senior official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, and Lanny Griffith, with whom he works in the lobby firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers. Lord Charles Powell, adviser to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, is listed as an advisory board member.

On its website, New Bridge describes itself as being created to "take advantage of business opportunities in the Middle East following the conclusion of the US-led war in Iraq''.
Note the key words "take advantage." If Cheney's Halliburton is on the Iraqi gravy train, shouldn't Neilsie stand by with his ladle poised and ready? (Here's more on the sleaze behind New Bridge.)

But, wait, there's more. $60,000 is chump change for the sublime uselessness of Neil Bush (Rick Casey, Houston Chronicle, 11/21/03):
Maybe the president of Taiwan did pay presidential younger brother Neil Bush a million bucks for a recent 30-minute meeting in New York.

I expressed skepticism in a recent column, but that was before I saw Exhibit 24 in the files of Bush's contentious divorce.

I didn't realize Bush's advice was so valuable.

The exhibit is a two-page contract between Bush and Grace Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., which recently opened a $1.6 billion computer chip production plant in Shanghai.

The co-founder and CEO is Winston Wong, son of a wealthy Taiwanese plastics magnate. The contract bears Wong's and Bush's signatures.

Under the contract Bush has two duties:

· "To provide GSMC from time to time with business strategies and policies; latest information and trends of the related industry, and other expertized advices (sic)."

· "To attend Directors Board Meetings."

For this the contract provides that Bush be paid $400,000 a year in company preferred stock for five years -- a total of $2 million worth of stock.


The question remains: What does Bush offer Grace that is worth $2 million?

In the deposition, Sharon Bush's attorney, David Brown, put it directly:

"Now, you have absolutely no educational background in semiconductors, do you Mr. Bush?"

"That's correct," Bush responded.

Pressed later, Bush said, "But I know a lot about business and I've been working in Asia quite a long time."


In some parts of the world it is assumed that members of the Royal Family have influence. And in those regions, anyone who has had both a father and a brother as presidents of the United States is a member of a Royal Family.

Membership is good for business. Bush, for example, had raised $23 million for his software firm at the time of the deposition, despite the fact that a series of businesses he started over the years went belly up.

Bush said 60 percent of the $23 million came from overseas -- layjail
Am I one of the many
pretty Bangkok girls
Neil Bush had sex with?
Click here to see others.
much of it from the Middle East and Asia.

Grace CEO Wong was already one of those investors when he signed Bush to the $2 million contract. His co-founder of Grace was Jiang Mianheng, son of then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin.


As has been reported, Bush admitted to having sex with several women in Hong Kong and Thailand during an earlier business trip. In the deposition, he said a woman would knock on the door of his hotel room.

Under questioning he said he didn't know them before or see them afterward, and he didn't pay them any money.

"Were they prostitutes?" he was asked.

"I don't know," he said.
Not knowing is one of Neilsie's chief areas of expertise. "The problem with education," says Neil Bush, "is that we create prison-like environments that suppress many students' natural gifts and bore them with useless facts." Neil is much more qualified to provide "expertized advices" than useless facts anyway.

It's quite the family portrait: the uselessness of facts, the boredom inherent in education, the profitability of having relatives in government, his brother's insistence on the sacredness of marriage, his mother's sexy and fertile volunteer Maria Andrews distracting him from his own wife and children, those several unknown Asian girls knocking at his hotel door to copulate with him for free.

What complex boys these Bushes are.
Tuesday, December 02, 2003
Stealing through turbulence. Dragon Lady
Darleen Druyun, the evil US Air Force procurement officer who helped bring a multibillion-dollar scandal to the House of Boeing, is now a major drag on her fired mentor's hopes for his amazing book on business ethics:
Book reviewers received a one-paragraph e-mail Tuesday from the publisher of “Soaring Through Turbulence.” It told them that the March launch of the book had been delayed indefinitely and to “please disregard the galleys.”

That’s because co-author Michael Sears, 56, was fired as Boeing’s chief financial officer a day earlier for allegedly discussing a job opportunity at Boeing with Darleen Druyun, who was representing the Air Force in contract negotiations with the aircraft maker.

The book, subtitled “A New Model for Managers Who Want to Succeed in a Changing Business World,” focuses in the early pages on what allegedly got him fired: business ethics.

Galleys, which are typeset proofs of books used to get publicity ahead of publication, arrived days before the firing.

Sears and his lawyer James Streicker did not respond to requests for comment, nor did publisher John Wiley & Sons publicist Mike Onorato, who sent the e-mail.

In a statement Wednesday, Sears said he was “deeply disappointed” that Boeing fired him.
Here is the publisher Wiley's description of this ridiculous mockery of "ethics" in business:
From the CFO of the Boeing Company, nine rules for business leaders on managing your company through change

In Soaring Through Turbulence, Mike Sears and Tom Schweich mmsearsshow how managers today can weather any turbulent time and plan for the future. In the wake of a year of setbacks to all companies–September 11th terrorist attack among them–and the resulting troubled economy, being prepared and flexible is even more critical. There is much to learn from Mike Sears’ success at Boeing. Despite a huge shakeup in the airline industry, the company remains the #1 commercial jet manufacturer and the #2 defense company, making crucial improvements in its customer response time and winning industry-wide praise for newly introduced technology despite a difficult business environment.

Based on a theory of leadership and management built over Sears’ career, Soaring Through Turbulence presents nine steps that can guide managers in moving forward, establishing credibility, making solid decisions, communicating, and aligning actions with new priorities. This groundbreaking approach is designed to help leaders win the trust of their employees, streamline the flow of information, and foster teamwork in unpredictable times.

Michael Sears (Chicago, IL) is Executive Vice President, a member of the Office of the Chairman, and Chief Financial Officer of the Boeing Company, the world’s largest aerospace company. He formerly served as president of McDonnell Douglas Aerospace and president of Douglas Aircraft Company. Thomas Schweich (St. Louis, MO) is a partner at the law firm Bryan Cave LLP and the author of three previous books. His work has been featured on CNN and the Bloomberg Financial Network.

Michael M. Sears, Thomas A. Schweich
ISBN: 0-471-45729-9
240 pages
February 2004
US $24.95
Can't they just retitle the damn thing? Something along the lines of Stealing through Turbulence: A New Model for Managers Who Want to Deceive in a Changing Business World.

At least then they could honestly call it nonfiction.

⇒ In this article from USA Today we learn that Sears "made" a salary of $746,154 and a $363,900 bonus in 2002 — not bad for the former McDonnell Douglas president whose new company's 9-11-01 troubles were now being solved by repositioning itself as a defense contractor in light of the administration's prevailing screw-the-evidence-and-go-get-em attitude.

Sears' co-author was also responsible for a Viagra-like book called Staying Power: 30 Secrets Invincible Executives Use for Getting to the Top — and Staying There. I guess Sears never read it.

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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