culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
AWOL cartoons.
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The Warrior President.
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Noted: Wampum blogger Mary Beth Williams is officially running for her legislative seat in
Maine. Good luck!
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More from xymphora on the
Bush-Bath-bin Laden-Saudi-CIA connection.
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Monday, February 16, 2004
Drug-induced paranoia. Thanks to Helen Thomas (with some help from the blogosphere), the smell of Republican panic is in the air and the real target is being revealed — not Dubya's military record, but his community service. From
Josh Marshall's post on the Thomas/McClellan exchange last week:
Q: Did he have to do any community service while he was in the National Guard?

Scott McClellan: Look, Helen, I think the issue here was whether or not the President served in Alabama. Records have documented --

Q: I'm asking you a different question. That's permissible.

Scott McClellan: Can I answer your question? Sure it is. Can I ask you why you're asking it? I'm just -- out of curiosity myself, is that permissible?

Q: Well, I'm interested, of course, in what everybody is interested in. And we have a very --

Scott McClellan: Let me just point out that we've released all the information we have related to this issue, the issue of whether or not he served while in Alabama. Records have documented as false the outrageous --

Q: I asked you whether he had to do any community service while he was in the National Guard.

Scott McClellan: Can I walk through this?

Q: It's a very legitimate question.

Scott McClellan: And I want to back up and walk through this a little bit. Let's talk about the issue that came up, because this issue came up four years ago, it came up four years before that -- or two years before that, it came up four years before that --

Q: Did my question come up four years ago, and was it handled?

Scott McClellan: Helen, if you'll let me finish, I want to back up and talk about this --

Q: Don't dance around, just give us --

Q: It's a straightforward question.

Q: Let's not put too fine a point on it. If I'm not mistaken, you're implying that he had to do community service for criminal action, as a punishment for some crime?

Q: There are rumors around, and I didn't put it in that way. I just --

Q: Could you take that question? I guess apparently that's the question, that he had to take time out to perform community service --

Scott McClellan: That's why I wanted to get to this because --

Q: -- as a sentence for a crime.
Xymphora follows up on this line of questioning with a blunt hypothesis about the evidence for the probable crime of cocaine possession:
Rove is on his game here. By holding back the military records he has made the military records the issue, and has has managed to divert the media from the real issue, which is the community service. If those legal files ever get out, showing that Bush was convicted of a serious drug offence, his political career will be finished. The real reason that Bush went AWOL was that he couldn't afford to take a drug test. The real reason he couldn't afford to take a drug test was that it would have been a condition of his sentencing that he remain clean. If word of the failed drug test had filtered back to the court, he would have gone to jail. His fear of the criminal legal consequences is why he went AWOL, and that's why the community service is the key to understanding what is going on here. By concentrating on the military records, the media is walking right into Rove's trap.
So, you see, kids, drugs are bad. They can make you lose your illegitimate residency in the White House even thirty-odd years after you stopped snorting them.
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Sharon Bush jumps ship. Dining with the Democrats on a full plate of Bush dynasty secrets (
San Francisco Chronicle):
In the crowd: It must have been some dish served up the other night at PlumpJack Cafe in the Marina.

There, gathered in one place, were billionaire Gordon Getty, his son Billy Getty, downtown tycoon and Democratic rainmaker Walter Shorenstein, mega- attorney and Democratic powerhouse Joe Cotchett and, the guest of honor -- Sharon Bush, soon-to-be ex-wife of Neil Bush, President's Bush's politically radioactive brother.

In case you've missed it, Sharon and hubby Neil have been providing more than their share of tabloid headlines lately with their nasty divorce proceedings.

The juicy disclosures go beyond just adulterous sex and a child possibly born out of wedlock. There's the more sensitive question of whether Neil used his White House ties to land a deal that could be worth millions, consulting for a computer chip company managed in part by the son of former Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

As for why Sharon Bush was sharing a table with this Democratic A-team, nobody is talking for the record. But a spy says Cotchett has been advising her on a book deal that could come on the heels of an upcoming piece about her and the "Bush family values'' in Vanity Fair.
Sharon's book could be much more explosive than David Brock's or Ron Suskind/Paul O'Neill's.

Here's the back story on the "child possibly born out of wedlock," and other Neilsie shenanigans.
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Friday, February 13, 2004
Lou decodes globalization. Here's an astonishing statement by CNN's
Lou Dobbs to James Glassman, Resident Fellow of the American Enterprise Institute (scroll down to the Glassman interview):
"What you are refusing to acknowledge, a half trillion dollar current trade deficit. We are importing capital. We are squandering our wealth on a short-term basis, corporate America and U.S. multinationals are shipping jobs for only one reason, not for greater productivity, not for efficiencies, those are purely code words for cheaper labor costs and you know it and you won't admit it."
There's a lot here. Lou's loaded for bear and not backing off.

Via Nick Confessore at TAPPED.
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New Photoshop tool: "Smear." Lies and the lying liars who Photoshop them (
snopes):
Claim:   Photograph shows Senator John Kerry with Jane Fonda at an anti-war rally.

Status:   False.
Via jmhm at Sisyphus Shrugged, who offers a detailed Photoshop critique of the faked photo.

UPDATE: If you're going to play the Photoshop game, at least call it a parody. From the FARK/Drudge contest.
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One-trick pony loses his trick. Josh Marshall at
Talking Points analyzes the difference between having multiple strengths and having just one:
Every president has characteristic strengths and weaknesses. For better or worse, by the end of his term of office, Bill Clinton's reputation as a truth-teller was in tatters. But that was never his strong suit with voters anyway. The measure of his enduring strength with voters is best gauged in a question pollsters usually frame as 'does candidate X care about/understand the problems that affect people like you.'

Clinton always did very well on that question. It's the politics of empathy -- a topic which, when it comes to Clinton, one could literally write a whole book.

People never warmed to President Bush as a literary critic or a raconteur. And he's usually done okay, but not great, on the 'care about/understand' question. His strong suit has always been honesty and trustworthiness -- that and the closely related quality of 'leadership'. If he loses that, politically speaking, he's finished.
No one enjoys being lied to, particularly the hundreds of families who have lost loved ones to the dishonesty of this administration. Slowly but surely they're waking up to the falseness of the "patriotic" rush to war that has benefited no one but Bechtel, Halliburton and other corporate pals of the White House.

The Halloween presidency may have tricked itself out of a second term.
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Thursday, February 12, 2004
Real pilots tell their side of the story. Bush's years of Halloween hijinks are being challenged by men who actually do things (
Memphis Flyer):
Recalls Memphian [Bob] Mintz, now 63: “I remember that I heard someone was coming to drill with us from Texas. And it was implied that it was somebody with political influence. I was a young bachelor then. I was looking for somebody to prowl around with.” But, says Mintz, that “somebody” -- better known to the world now as the president of the United States -- never showed up at Dannelly in 1972. Nor in 1973, nor at any time that Mintz, a FedEx pilot now and an Eastern Airlines pilot then, when he was a reserve first lieutenant at Dannelly, can remember.

[...]

“There’s no way we wouldn’t have noticed a strange rooster in the henhouse, especially since we were looking for him,” insists Mintz, who has pored over documents relating to the matter now making their way around the Internet. One of these is a piece of correspondence addressed to the 187th’s commanding officer, then Lt. Col. William Turnipseed, concerning Bush’s redeployment.

Mintz remembers a good deal of base scuttlebutt at the time about the letter, which clearly identifies Bush as the transferring party. “It couldn’t be anybody else. No one ever did that again, as far as I know.” In any case, he is certain that nobody else in that time frame, 1972-73, requested such a transfer into Dannelly.

Mintz, who at one time was a registered Republican and in recent years has cast votes in presidential elections for independent Ross Perot and Democrat Al Gore, confesses to “a negative reaction” to what he sees as out-and-out dissembling on President Bush’s part. “You don’t do that as an officer, you don’t do that as a pilot, you don’t do it as an important person, and you don’t do it as a citizen. This guy’s got a lot of nerve.”

Though some accounts reckon the total personnel component of the 187th as consisting of several hundred, the actual flying squadron – that to which Bush was reassigned – number only “25 to 30 pilots,” Mintz said. “There’s no doubt. I would have heard of him, seen him, whatever.” Even if Bush, who was trained on a slightly different aircraft than the F4 Phantom jets flown by the squadron, opted not to fly with the unit, he would have had to encounter the rest of the flying personnel at some point, in non-flying formations or drills. “And if he did any flying at all, on whatever kind of craft, that would have involved a great number of supportive personnel. It takes a lot of people to get a plane into the air. But nobody I can think of remembers him."

[...]

“I never saw hide nor hair of Mr. Bush,” confirms [Paul] Bishop, who now lives in Goldsboro, N.C., is a veteran of Gulf War I and, as a Kalitta pilot, has himself flown frequent supply missions into Iraq and to military facilities at Kuwait. He voted for Bush in 2000 and believes that the Iraq war has served some useful purposes – citing, as the White House does, disarmament actions since pursued by Libyan president Moammar Khadaffi – but he is disgruntled both about aspects of the war and about what he sees as Bush’s lack of truthfulness about his military record.

“I think a commander-in-chief who sends his men off to war ought to be a veteran who has seen the sting of battle,” Bishop says. “In Iraq: we have a bunch of great soldiers, but they are not policemen. I don’t think he [the president] was well advised; right now it’s costing us an American life a day. I’m not a peacenik, but what really bothers me is that of the 500 or so that we’ve lost almost 80 of them were reservists. We’ve got an over-extended Guard and reserve.”
So who has shown the ultimate disrespect for the Guard and Reserves? The Democrats for bringing the issue up, or Bush for sending 80 reservists to their deaths — without managing to find a single weapon of mass destruction?

Via Atrios.
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"Don't worry about price. It's cost plus." Whistleblowing at Halliburton (David Ivanovich,
Houston Chronicle):
Two former Halliburton Co. employees are accusing the Houston firm of routinely overcharging American taxpayers for work performed under a military contract, two Democratic lawmakers say.

Halliburton, which as a government contractor is supposed to keep a lid on costs, selected embroidered towels when ordinary ones would have cost a third as much and leased cars, trucks SUVS and vans for up $7,500 a month, the would-be whistleblowers said.

Indeed, the motto at Halliburton was "Don't worry about price. It's cost plus," one of the ex-workers told lawmakers.

That's a reference to a type of government contract in which a company like Halliburton would be reimbursed for the cost of providing a service, plus receive an additional percentage as profit.

One of the former employees, a field buyer named Henry Bunting, stationed in Kuwait, is scheduled to testify Friday before a panel of Senate Democrats.

These latest allegations were made public today by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., both frequent Halliburton critics, in a letter to William Reed, director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency.

If the former employees' "accounts are accurate, the company is systematically overcharging the taxpayer on hundreds of routine requisitions every day. While the dollar amounts involved in any single procurement may be small, the cumulative cost to the taxpayer could be enormous," the lawmakers wrote.

Halliburton's subsidiary KBR, formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root, builds bases, cooks food, washes clothes, delivers mail and provides other basic services for U.S. troops under a 10-year contract with the Pentagon valued at $3.6 billion.
Embroidered towels? $7,500 a month cars and SUVs?

Who do Pentagon contractors think they are — Tyco?
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1973:
AWOL and high.

Bush pot-smoking link via skippy. See CalPundit for the latest on the AWOL story.
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Neil "Self-Deal" Bush. Neilsie can't help but plunge both hands into the cookie jar (Ron Nissimov,
Houston Chronicle):
Neil Bush's involvement in raising money for an HISD charitable foundation to help buy his company's educational software raises serious legal and ethical concerns, experts say.

The head of a national watchdog group described it as "self-dealing" and characterized the agreement as pushing "the border of legality."

[...]

Bush's Austin-based company, Ignite, agreed last summer to provide its eighth-grade U.S. history software to 23 HISD schools at half price this academic year, on the condition that the HISD Foundation, a philanthropic group, would come up with the remainder of the funds. The schools, which have been using the curriculum since August, each paid Ignite $5,000.

Some observers question the role that Bush and his company played in raising the additional money through the philanthropic organization because Bush and other Ignite executives contacted major donors, asking them to make tax-exempt, charitable contributions earmarked for the for-profit business.

[...]

LIST OF DONORS
Donations made to the HISD Foundation for purchasing educational software from Neil Bush's company came from:
• The Friedkin Companies, Inc. $25,000
• Landry's Restaurant Foundation $25,000*
• Wells Fargo Foundation $25,000
• Former Iranian Ambassador and Mrs. Hushang Ansary $25,000
• Astros in Action Foundation $10,000
• Stearns Charitable Fund $5,000
Neil, with his whoring, conniving crony capitalism, represents in many ways a more forthright version of the entire Bush family in microcosm.

*Landry's generous contribution, by the way, represents Chairman and CEO Tilman Fertitta's desire to bet on two horses, given his prior charitable support of Sharon Bush's pet projects and now of her adulterous ex-husband's self-directed charity.

Still more on Rolls-Royce dealer Fertitta here.
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"My favorite kind of music is a tie between the kind that uses notes and the kind that uses beats, though the kind that uses both is super and best." —
Nate Patrin, Pazz & Jop 2003

"For the Black Eyed Peas to get on pop radio with a slickly produced but smart and soulful rap that associates the CIA with international terrorism and implies that George Bush is a liar would deserve our attention. That the tune is impossibly catchy, with a boy-pop pinup singing the candy-coated chorus, makes it a subversive cultural milestone." — Rick Mitchell, Pazz & Jop 2003

"Coup of the year: Fountains of Wayne seduce the cool boys of VH1 with a sexy video about MILFs. Safely inside the palace walls, the band then blindsides 'em with an entire album full of sad songs about downsized America with such sunny harmonies that even Mo Rocca has to sing along." — Tim Grierson, Pazz & Jop 2003
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Wednesday, February 11, 2004
The subpoena paradox. Within the Bush administration it's seen as reasonable
not to subpoena the White House over 9-11-01 and yet somehow it's okay to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago:
The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals, Crain's sister publication Modern Healthcare has learned. Besides Northwestern, Mr. Ashcroft is seeking patient records from University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor; Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

[...]

Northwestern received the subpoena in December, a month after obstetrician/gynecologist Cassing Hammond, a member of Northwestern’s staff and medical school faculty, was served with subpoenas seeking his patient records. Hammond is one of seven doctors and three groups who has challenged the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the National Abortion Federation; Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which are all filing challenges to the law. A hearing for all of the challenges has been scheduled for March 29 in U.S. District Court in New York.

Dr. Hammond refused comment last week. His case is pending.
You think stuff like this doesn't hit home? That it's some vague privacy-related matter that happens to other people?

It hits home. The doctors of Northwestern’s staff and medical school faculty are my healthcare providers. Disgust is not a strong enough word to express how I feel about Ashcroft's fingers riffling through the same filing cabinets that contain my medical records.

Link via Tapped.

UPDATE: Nick Confessore at Tapped has reader responses to the controversy.
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"In that exact moment I knew what was happening, I knew who was doing it, I knew why they were doing it, and I knew how to stop them."

bad things reports on the conversion of Dave Louthan from a "happy slaughterer to a food safety crusader."

In other words, mad cow is still very much with us — and people will die as a result of the twisted, ass-covering, population-endangering logic of the USDA.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2004
First Command, second choice. I am suddenly getting a flurry of Google hits for First Command, the financial planning firm that I
wrote about before because of its unconscionable treatment of US military personnel.

I assume it's because military people are looking for alternatives. It's hard to know what to do with your personal investments, but that's the price we all pay as Americans for the privatization of our retirement funding — a cherished Republican ideal that doesn't help those of us without expensive financial advisors.

So let me tell you what I do, because I don't have a financial advisor either, and I don't like the idea of paying huge loads (sales commissions) to financial "planners" whose whole idea of planning is taking your money.

Find some no-load mutual funds that are specifically designed for retirement and put your money there. They are the right mix of stocks and bonds and international and all that stuff you don't want to worry about.

In my case, I use the Fidelity Freedom funds, like the Fidelity Freedom 2020 or Fidelity Freedom 2030 or Fidelity Freedom 2040 funds (the number means the approximate year you expect to retire. Go to fidelity.com or Yahoo Finance and poke around for more information.

If you are in the military and you want more information about investing for retirement, email me and if there are enough of you I'll start an online course right here. Free, of course.

I think it's such a crying shame what they're doing to you. In light of very little evidence justifying our actions, there isn't a day goes by that I'm not grateful for the enormous sacrifices you've made.
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The presidency: the world's most lavish entitlement program. Paul Krugman on Kevin Phillips' new book American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush in the
New York Review of Books:
...the Bush dynasty differs from other American families that have mixed wealth with political prominence. While the Kennedys and the Rockefellers may have a sense of entitlement, they also display a sense of noblesse oblige—what one might call an urge to repay, with charitable contributions and public service, their good fortune. The Bushes don't have that problem; there are no philanthropists or reformers in the clan. They seek public office but, if anything, they seem to feel that the public is there to serve them.
Phillips sees the activity of the Bush family as a return to the royalist privilege and imperial tendencies of European dynasties: "When Bush took office in 2001, a parallel to Stuart and Bourbon arrogance quickly emerged in the new regime's insistence on ideological conservatism despite the lack of any such national mandate."

It is precisely this arrogance that fuels the hatred of Bush, the hatred that his supporters supposedly find so confounding. The reason is Bush is hated, in contrast to conservatives who are merely opposed, is the sense of entitlement without competence — a Bush trait, not a conservative trait.

The president's supporters cannot see how or why people who believe in actual (as opposed to staged) democracy regard the Bush brand of political maneuvering as disastrous and reprehensible if not criminal. Why not? Because they are royalist courtiers themselves.
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Monday, February 09, 2004
Meet the Pressure. The three most illuminating posts I've found so far on Bush's Meet the Press appearance can be found at
Howler, DeLong, and, with the scoop of new "disciplinary" military records, Calpundit.

Even with Rove's stage-managed ground rules — tape on Saturday, home court advantage, no followup questions allowed — the interview revealed a thoughtless, dodgy, repetitive man who is clearly out of touch with the issues, the American people, and reality itself.

How else could he say that the trouble with Vietnam (which he managed to escape) was "politicians making military decisions"?
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Sunday, February 08, 2004
All-American high school sex party. Here's a tidbit that gives some badly needed perspective on Janet Jackson's egregious "breast exposure" before that vast group of naive innocents — the American football-loving audience (
FindLaw/Reuters):
The head football coach at the University of Colorado told a former colleague it would be harder to recruit star athletes if the school did not show them a good time and take them to sex parties, according to a deposition released on Friday.

"If recruits aren't being shown these type of activities ... it would be a recruiting disadvantage," Robert Chichester, a former associate athletic director at the university, quoted head coach Gary Barnett as having told him.

[...]

The depositions were taken as part of a lawsuit filed by three women who claim they were raped at or after a December 2001 off-campus recruiting party attended by high school recruits.
One nipple on camera, or an authority-condoned system of rape among minors — which is the right way to feed the voracious, monopolistic football entertainment industry?

Sex parties are, of course, a great way to become a Republican gubernatorial candidate.

Here's a previous post on Terri Carlin, the genius behind the class action suit against Janet Jackson and her co-conspirators.
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Saturday, February 07, 2004
The War on Dissent — and on Catholics. All that so-called War on Terror legislation was a sham — its real purpose was to identify not international terrorists but domestic enemies of the Republican Party (
Yahoo/AP):
DES MOINES, Iowa - In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

[...]

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq (news - web sites) in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."

[...]

According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake subpoena asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations made of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."
The focus of the inquiry is on the National Lawyers Guild, an extremely dangerous organization as judged by the aims stated on its subversive website:
• to eliminate racism;

• to safeguard and strengthen the rights of workers, women, farmers and minority groups, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends;

• to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them;

• to use the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression.
The federal judge, unnamed in the article, should be asked why we ought to subpoena the Catholic Peace Ministry but not Dick Cheney's energy task force for meeting minutes, or Enron CEOs for their documents, or the White House for 9-11-01 documentation, or John Ashcroft for campaign funding, or the complete military records of George W. Bush.

Catholics are identical to "Islamofascists" in the eyes of these blind cretins. The faith-based favoritism of the Bush administration mysteriously vanishes unless the protesting faith happens to be, ironically, Protestant.

UPDATE: As I was writing the above, Dick Cheney was a few miles away with some comments of his own:
Cheney called on Congress to renew the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism bill that critics say has curbed civil liberties but Cheney defended as allowing federal law enforcement to share more intelligence information.

"We used these tools to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers and we need these tools as well to hunt terrorists," he said.*

[...]

The fund-raiser at Rosemont's [Illinois] convention center, sponsored by the National Republican Congressional Committee, raised money to help elect Republicans to the U.S. House. Organizers said 187 people paid $1,500 each for lunch and to hear Cheney speak, which means the event raised more than $280,000.
*Note that Dick didn't mention Catholic peace activists or anti-racism legal advocates — although they happen to be among the subpoenaed.

Note also that Dick Cheney did not include himself among the embezzlers for his role in Halliburton bribes totalling $180 million while he was CEO of that company.

Incidentally, has anyone who did not pay at least a thousand dollars ever even seen Dick Cheney? How do we know he exists?


UPDATE: Kos has more on this story.
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Friday, February 06, 2004
A comparison of breast problems. Tennessee woman
Terri Carlin is suing Janet Jackson et al., saying millions of people are owed monetary damages for having witnessed lewd conduct and "breast exposure."

If Terri gets her way on breast exposure and George W Bush gets his on tort reform, Terri and other traumatized tit-viewers could receive billions of dollars while Linda McDougal will receive no more than $250,000.

Who is Linda McDougal? The recipient of an unneeded double mastectomy.

"The issue here is accountability," says grief-stricken Super Bowl viewer Terri Carlin, asking no more for herself than "gross annual revenues of each defendant [i.e., Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, CBS, MTV, Viacom] for the last three years..."

Terri is of course a fool and charlatan for claiming that "breast exposure" ruined her life and that someone must be held accountable — but so is anyone who under the guise of tort "reform" proposes that $125,000 per breast is adequate compensation for the removal of healthy tissue. That's a sure bet to ruin lives in a non-frivolous way and hold no one accountable beyond the extraction of chump change.
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What candidates
eat. Beware: it's disgusting.
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Get on your knees and thank God for upstanding figures of moral authority.
"God will understand. I am a clergyman."
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This chart of
political patterns among bookbuyers is pretty interesting stuff.

I wish it could be expanded to books beyond the political sphere to see what kinds of fiction or other areas of nonfiction track well with political affinities.
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Thursday, February 05, 2004
Bin Laden "obviously" warehoused for political effect. The words "convinced" and "confident" reveal startling changes in Republican rhetoric, as seen in
The Hill:
He doesn’t bother to attend secret CIA briefings of his fellow senators because he seldom learns anything he hasn’t read in the newspapers, but Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is convinced the U.S. will track down the elusive mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks before November.

Obviously, he’ll be caught between now and the election,” Grassley said Monday when asked if he’s disappointed that Osama bin Laden hasn’t been killed or captured.

“I think they’re on his trail now in a way they haven’t been all year,” Grassley said. “It will happen because we will be able to divert more resources [to hunting down bin Laden].”

Grassley, who’s an overwhelming favorite to win a fifth term in November, declined to say why he’s so confident that bin Laden will be brought to justice.
How will they find bin Laden? My money's on a charred corpse with ostensible "positive" DNA identification performed by vague, unverifiable means.

The corpse is probably already in custody, hence the story above. For political purposes, it's immaterial if the body actually belonged to Osama bin Laden or not — he has already descended to evil-icon status just like Nazis, the stock villains in the B movies of the past sixty years. And the Bush-Cheney War on Terror, with its shock and awe over Baghdad, and "Mission Accomplished" flight suit, and spider-hole Hussein, is very much B movie stagecraft with D-minus effectiveness. It's as if Ronald Reagan starred in Apocalypse Now.

When will they find bin Laden? Grassley already spelled out the timetable: "Before November."

A good guess would be mid to late July, the ideal time for a preemptive action against the protests of shrill New Yorkers sickened by the cremation of their neighbors in lower Manhattan, as well as the subsequent callousness and incompetence of the Afghan, Iraqi and homeland (via the Patriot Acts) invasions. Trotting out any old corpse and calling it bin Laden will be intended to dampen the effect of the passion and outrage that New Yorkers must still feel, and create a gauzy halo of "security" around what matters most to the administration: the Republican convention.
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A bribe too far. Any sentence containing the words "embezzlement" and "Cheney" is apt to get our attention (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
WASHINGTON (AP)--The Justice Department is looking into allegations that a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. (HAL) was involved in payment of $180 million in bribes to win a contract for a natural gas project in Nigeria, officials said Wednesday.

The $4 billion Nigerian Liquified Natural Gas Plant was built in the 1990s by a consortium that included a Halliburton subsidiary, Kellogg, Brown & Root, during a time when Vice President Dick Cheney headed Halliburton.

[...]

A French magistrate, Renaud Van Ruymbeke, is also investigating the Nigerian payments and has said in a memo that embezzlement charges could ultimately be filed against Cheney in Paris. Cheney's aides have refused comment on the allegations.
With Enron's (and Merrill Lynch's) bogus Nigerian barges, Halliburton's Nigerian dirty bomb ingredient americium, and now Halliburton's Nigerian bribes, we have to ask the question:

What other yet-undiscovered secrets link the Bush-Cheney administration with Nigeria?
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High-wage job creation under Bush? Only in Iraq. From Russell Gold's "The Temps of War: Blue-Collar Workers Ship Out for Iraq" in the
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd.:
HOUSTON -- In a shuttered J.C. Penney store here, more than 500 job recruits sat at long tables and leafed through packets of information. John Watson, a staffing supervisor for Halliburton Co., welcomed them with a somber introduction.

"I'd like to start out by saying we've already had three deaths on this contract so far," he told the workers, who had signed up to support the U.S. military in Iraq. "If you're getting any pressure from home, if you have any doubt in your mind ... now is the time to tell us. We'll shake hands and get you a plane ticket home."

By the end of that early January week, four of every five recruits would be packing to leave for a one-year stint in Iraq. There, in the largest mobilization of civilians to work in a war zone in U.S. history, they drive trucks, deliver mail, install air conditioners, serve food and cut hair.

[...]

One recruit is Skip Hoehne, a goateed 26-year-old who had been making $12 an hour hauling chickens in Destin, Fla. He had heard about the job from his brother, who was already in Iraq driving trucks for Halliburton. Mr. Hoehne was drawn by the money and a chance to see the world beyond the Florida panhandle.

The civilian wartime duty, hazardous and uncomfortable, offers a hard-to-find opportunity for blue-collar workers such as Mr. Hoehne: a paycheck of $80,000 to $100,000 and a chance to feel they are serving their country.

The Iraq-bound employees aren't adventure-seeking hired guns, there to bolster military strength. They are unemployed and underemployed workers with few opportunities in a U.S. economy that isn't producing many new jobs. They are willing to drive forklifts, install plumbing and wash clothes in a hostile environment for a substantial salary.

Halliburton, which has an open-ended logistics contract with the Army, has 7,000 workers on the ground in Iraq and is bringing another 500 each week to Houston. It posts fliers at truck stops and takes out banner ads on job-listing Web sites. Most recruits come in by word of mouth. So far, Halliburton has plenty of takers.

[...]

All along, officials from Halliburton talk about the dangers and difficult living conditions. The company isn't just being helpful. Halliburton stands to earn a performance bonus if attrition is kept down. Under the contract, Halliburton can bill all legitimate expenses to the military, subject to auditing. When the recruits line up for dinner at an ad hoc buffet in the closed J.C. Penney, they sign their names so the military is billed for an accurate headcount. Halliburton gets a 1% profit margin and can qualify for another 2% in performance awards. So far under the contract, Halliburton has racked up $1.35 billion in revenue.
The desperate jobseekers quoted in the article come from Houston and the Florida panhandle. What these regions have in common are a couple of Bush governors, George and Jeb, who are now evidently content to wage war in central Asia at national expense to recruit the forsaken citizens of the states they mismanaged.
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Wednesday, February 04, 2004
Skimble is taking a brief pause. Back later in the week.
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Tuesday, February 03, 2004
Blow jobs or no jobs. Take your pick — an actual newspaper-reading president who gets blow jobs and oversees the greatest economic expansion in history, or a faux Christian who speedily investigates Janet Jackson's right tit and loses jobs by the millions (
FindLaw/Reuters):
Planned job cuts in January were 26 percent higher than in December as U.S. jobs moved to countries like India, China and the Philippines, and as mergers made some jobs redundant, according to a report on Tuesday.

The outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., said post-holiday job cuts reached 117,556 in January surpassing the 100,000 threshold for the first time since last October.

Financial markets were on their toes awaiting January's payrolls report to be issued by the Labor Department on Friday after a disappointing December report that showed an increase of only 1,000 jobs.

Analysts had expected 150,000 new jobs to show up in the data, and the worse-than-expected outcome showed that the U.S. economic recovery has yet to produce sustained jobs growth. Economists again expect a figure of 150,000 new jobs in January.

Poor job creation is a headache for President Bush as he seeks re-election in November. The economy -- specifically job creation -- is expected to be a key issue in the campaign. Since Bush took office, more than 2.3 million non-farm jobs have been lost.
Economists who "expect" 150,000 jobs to be created in January 2004 should revise their expectations to something six digits south of zilch.
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Flash mobbing the GOP. Maybe the vogue for flash mobs in New York can revive long enough to annoy some
Republican conventioneers who are using the city as an opportunistic backdrop for their emperor-pageant in August and September.

The print edition of the above article had a handy hotel map that I can't find online.
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Disproportionate poisons. Am I the only one who finds it striking that the natural poison ricin is mailed to the
Republican Senate leader Frist while the considerably deadlier weaponized anthrax is mailed to Democrats Daschle (former Senate majority leader) and Leahy?

From the article linked above: "Unlike anthrax, ricin is not easily absorbed through the skin. Experts say it is not an efficient way of killing large numbers of people. It's estimated that 4 tons of ricin dispersed by aerosol would be needed to kill half of the people within an area of about 40 square miles, versus only 2 pounds of anthrax."
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Monday, February 02, 2004
Senator Durbin addresses CBS's cowardice.
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Meals on deals. Soldiers, taxpayers — mere trivialities to Halliburton (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Halliburton Co. allegedly overcharged more than $16 million for meals at a single U.S. military base in Kuwait during the first seven months of last year, according to Pentagon investigators auditing the company's work.

[...]

This dispute focuses on meals served at Camp Arifjan, the huge U.S. military base south of Kuwait City. The e-mail memo that went out Friday said that in July alone, a Saudi subcontractor hired by KBR billed for 42,042 meals a day on average but served only 14,053 meals a day. The difference in cost for that month exceeded $3.5 million, according to Pentagon records. The Pentagon last year paid KBR more than $30 million for meals at the camp from January through July, a tab that included charges for nearly four million meals the government asserts were never served. Pentagon officials couldn't provide an estimate for the total cost of feeding troops in Iraq.

[...]

Instead of formally paying back the money, KBR will deduct the sum from future bills to the U.S. government, a common practice when contractors agree to reimburse overcharges.*

[...]

In television spots that began to appear last month, Halliburton highlighted the work it is doing supporting the U.S. Army under the slogan, "Halliburton, proud to serve our troops." In one ad, a U.S. soldier is shown talking on the phone and blurting out to his fellow soldiers, "It's a girl!"

KBR's troop-catering work falls under the large logistics contract the company won during 2001. Work in Iraq and vicinity tied to that contract has so far amounted to about $3.8 billion. KBR is also doing repair work on Iraq's oil fields and delivering fuel supplies from Kuwait and Turkey, under the Army Corps of Engineers contract that has cost more than $2 billion so far.
*And they get to keep the money! Overcharges are "deducted" from future overcharges. Such a deal for Halliburton — only 543 Americans had to die so far.

Oddly enough, Hallibuton refuses to say how much it cost to have an actor play a soldier and gush, "It's a girl!" in a Halliburton image ad.
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Help the neediest: Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Some large "aid" packages are flying the direction of a couple of rocket programs (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Senior Pentagon officials are crafting a major aid package to help money-losing rocket programs at Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp., including possibly adding hundreds of millions of dollars to existing government launch contracts.

[...]

Such a contracting change would benefit the two companies, largely because it would cushion their businesses from the recent sharp dropoff in the number of commercial satellite launches.

Defense Department officials didn't disclose the specific size of the aid package under consideration, and they stressed that no final decisions have been made because "the acquisition strategy" for the next round of launches hasn't yet been approved. Nonetheless, their comments amounted to the first official confirmation that both White House and Pentagon leaders are mulling a package to funnel significant funds to rocket programs, over and above the fixed-price contracts for anticipated launches.

[...]

Pentagon officials said they hope to award rocket-launch contracts by the summer, after Boeing is expected to become eligible to bid again. The Chicago aerospace company was handed a suspension last year after Air Force officials determined the company had improperly obtained thousands of pages of proprietary Lockheed Martin documents.

On Friday, Pentagon officials said Boeing's transgressions are projected to eventually cost the Air Force an extra $223 million, to switch launches, underwrite construction of a second West Coast launch facility and complete more engineering work. The Pentagon is expected to try to recover those funds from Boeing.
Boeing's velvet wrist-slap is to have to wait until summer (so long!) for its share of those hundreds of millions of dollars. By then maybe we all will have hopefully forgotten about those purloined Lockheed Martin documents, as well as the crimes of former Air Force procurement officer and Boeing CFO confidante Dragon Lady Darleen Druyun.

This still cracks me up: Michael Sears — the Boeing CFO who hired Dragon Lady Darleen Druyun away from the Air Force after she deviously took Airbus out the running — wrote and was about to publish a business management self-help book called "Soaring through Turbulence" on the theme of ethics in business. Oddly enough for an author, he had no direct experience of such a mythical concept, based on the abysmal example of his own management behavior at Boeing.
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"In order to maintain the charade that [WMDs] would be found, Bush gave [David] Kay $600 million to go back to Iraq and pretend to look for them. Since the Administration already knew that there were no weapons to be found, the only purpose of the $600 million was to delay admitting that there were no weapons to a time when it would be less politically sensitive for Bush and the Republicans. Shouldn't the Republicans be offering to pay this completely wasted $600 million back to the American taxpayers?" —
xymphora
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Fifteen years, no fingerprints. Is the net tightening around Ken Lay? I'll believe it when I see it (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Though the 61-year-old Mr. [Ken] Lay was Enron's chief executive for some 15 years, he apparently didn't leave many fingerprints. A recent report by a court-appointed examiner in the Enron bankruptcy case, for example, said that Mr. Lay, as well as Mr. Skilling, was an infrequent user of e-mail and "also apparently did not retain many documents."
"Apparently"? Appearances can be vile and deceitful, particularly when they belong to Enron chief executives.

If you give Lay and Skilling two and a half years to learn how to operate a shredder, you think they're not gonna take it?

By now the money's long offshore, and all the documents are confetti for the afterparty.
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Saturday, January 31, 2004
Behold the holiness of a Bush marriage. This just in — some of that Bush sperm may have ended up outside the holy matrimonial loins (
AP):
HOUSTON - A judge ordered DNA testing to determine whether President Bush's brother Neil fathered a child with another woman while he was married.

Neil Bush's ex-wife, Sharon, requested the tests to defend herself against a defamation lawsuit filed by the other woman's ex-husband.

Sharon Bush testified during the couple's contentious divorce that she heard rumors that her husband had an affair with Maria Andrews and is the father of her 3-year-old son. Andrews and Neil Bush are now engaged.

Andrews' ex-husband, Robert, filed a defamation lawsuit against Sharon Bush in September, saying he is the boy's father.

The DNA testing was ordered by the court on Friday.

Dale Jefferson, Robert Andrews' attorney, said the child will submit a swab in March and he is confident it will prove Robert Andrews' paternity.

Similar testing requested by Sharon Bush during her divorce case was denied because Robert Andrews was not a party to that case.
Most recently we wrote bout Neilsie here but feel free to peruse this more complete list. Don't neglect Neil's dalliances with shady business deals and pre-paid Asian prostitutes.

With such a supremely lousy example of heterosexual marriage as Neil Bush's, it will be difficult for George to argue for anti-homosexual constitutional amendments — with a straight face.

Cross-posted at American Samizdat.
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Friday, January 30, 2004
Handy Super Bowl checklist. There are only three things you need to see for a truly complete Super Bowl broadcast:
⇒  Commercial for beer-flavored water
⇒  Commercial for penis stiffener
⇒  Commercial censored by CBS
And now for a daring prediction...

The winner of Super Bowl XXXVIII will again be the same team to win the last several dozen Super Bowls — Anheuser-Busch.
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Republicans go for the Guinness Book of World Records. Like every other area of policy, Bush continues to blather about economic recovery
in total defiance of reality (WaPo):
A record-high 375,000 jobless workers will exhaust their unemployment insurance this month and an estimated 2 million workers will find themselves in the same predicament during the first half of the year, according to an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

[...]

Congress voted in 2002 to give unemployed workers an additional 13 weeks of benefits and extended the program twice. But it expired just before Christmas. Congressional Republicans said another extension wasn't necessary because the economy was gaining strength and job growth was near at hand.

[...]

The center's report said the 375,000 workers who will draw their last jobless check this month is the highest number for January in the three decades that the statistics have been tracked.
The expiration of jobless benefits "just before Christmas" reveals the moral quality of Republicans who wear their Christianity like a Halloween mask. "Trick and treat," they think to themselves as they redistribute all the candy from those who have less to those who have more.

Bush-haters must remember one thing: it's not just the boy emperor who deserves our wrath. He's just a pretzel-eating, nuclear-mispronouncing symptom. It's his whole party, their congressional toadies, and their ugly-is-pretty financiers that are the cancer.

Regarding that fiscal sucking sound, Nick Confessore at TAPPED makes a related point about Givers and Takers — and the candidates they supported.
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534
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Selling out her sisters for just $2,776. Noted
lesbian Mary Cheney, daughter of Vice President Cheney, gets $2,776 in after-tax checks from the Bush-Cheney campaign every two weeks (WaPo).
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Halliburton's offshore swilling. Bob Herbert in the New York Times takes a look at Halliburton's extensive tax shelters in
the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Liechtenstein, and Vanuatu.
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Thursday, January 29, 2004
Mouth opens, sounds come out. From the
New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 — President Bush will seek a big increase in the budget of the National Endowment for the Arts, the largest single source of support for the arts in the United States, administration officials said on Wednesday.

The proposal is part of a turnaround for the agency, which was once fighting for its life, attacked by some Republicans as a threat to the nation's moral standards.

[...]

The agency has a budget of $121 million this year, 31 percent lower than its peak of $176 million in 1992. After Republicans gained control of Congress in 1995, they cut the agency's budget to slightly less than $100 million, and the budget was essentially flat for five years.
Bush has much interest in the arts as he does in NASA or Mars or AIDS in Africa. None at all.

Rove evidently found a poll saying that people seem to like art ("can you believe what people are actually interested in?" he must be thinking) and he simultaneously learned that Robert Mapplethorpe is dead. Voila! A politically expedient, meaningless presidential pronouncement is born.

No need to think too hard about Bush and the courage of his convictions — he has neither.
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Flipside of the deficit. While the federal budget goes from double-plus to quintuple-minus, one well-connected company moves in the opposite direction (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
Halliburton posted earnings from continuing operations [revenue jumped 63% due to the government-related business in the Middle East], which exclude the asbestos-related items, of $146 million, or 34 cents a share. A year earlier, the company reported a loss from continuing operations of $132 million, or 30 cents a share.
A loss of $132 million transforms into positive earnings of $146 million in just a year. How? One little war is all it took.

Of course, the company still managed to lose nearly a billion dollars anyway because of asbestos-related litigation and the "prepackaged bankruptcy of its DII Industries and Kellogg Brown & Root units."

All of which begs the question — was the war fought not only to restore George H. W. Bush's faulty legacy with respect to Gulf War I, but also Dick Cheney's faulty legacy with respect to his mismanagement of Halliburton?

As we've noted before, Halliburton's and therefore Cheney's financial secrets are safe now that its auditor Arthur Andersen was obliterated under the cover of the Enron scandal.

The Iraqi invasion killed two birds — Hussein ("he tried to kill my dad") and Halliburton's greedy missteps — with one stone, as it were, the stone being the fiscal health of the USA and the lives of hundreds of Americans and thousands of Iraqi civilians.

In Bush's and Cheney's minds that's a small price to pay for the ultimate historical legacy of a couple of privileged, secretive, deceitful, incompetent, useless men.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2004
Chicago clichés never die. Howard Dean in Manchester, New Hampshire, as reported by
Josh Marshall:
"Bring your kids if they're old enough [to vote]. And if they're not old enough, then move to Chicago and register them there, and move back."
Funny, but counterproductive.
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Write-wing voters. New Hampshire observations by
Kos:
The best story of the night? The one that should unite us all? From the Republican primary results:

Bush 57,670
Kerry 835
Dean 633
Clark 545
Edwards 541

That's over 2,500 registered Republicans who wrote in a Democrat in their ballot.

That's got to scare the shit out of Rove.
There's no hanging-chad ambiguity about it — four percent deliberate write-in votes for Democrats in a Republican primary is a slap in the smirk of the boy emperor.
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Speaking of deserters... Looks like many American troops are following the example of George W. Bush and simply not showing up for duty (
Vancouver Courier):
According to an Associated Press wire story from last November, at least 17 U.S. troops have committed suicide in Iraq, and the actual number is almost certainly higher, prompting demands for answers from family members.

[U.S. activist Carl] Rising-Moore suspects the suicides are the result of the pressures of combat, and lack of control of the situation in the embattled country, where U.S. soldiers have been targeted virtually daily in bomb attacks-deaths have already topped 500.

"For every death you've got 10 times as many injuries," says Rising-Moore. "I've heard 11,000 have been evacuated from illnesses or injuries due to combat."

The French weekly magazine Le Canard Enchaine reports that 1,700 U.S. soldiers have deserted their posts in Iraq, many of them failing to return to military duty after getting permission to go back to the United States. They simply disappear off the radar, and some of them may well be in Canada.

Rising-Moore believes the numbers of suicides will rise as U.S. soldiers returning to the States choose to take their own lives rather than face another tour of duty in Iraq. The so-called "stop-loss" orders to U.S. army duty, extending a soldier's tour beyond his or her contractual agreement, are expected to be expanded to greater numbers of troops. According to reports in the U.S. press, more soldiers due to return from Iraq and Afghanistan over the next several months will not be allowed to retire or otherwise leave the service for 90 days after they return to their home bases, while it's decided whether they'll be reassigned.
Link via xymphora who says, "Bush must be the first American President who served in the military who made a big thing about trying to hide his military records."
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Tuesday, January 27, 2004
Who's afraid of Cherie Blair? When the Bush and Blair couples get together for a private evening, sometimes
the wives freak out:
As the two couples sat down to dinner, with the officials no longer there, Mrs Blair could not resist an argument. She is a human rights lawyer and turned to the death penalty, a subject on which she has blunt views.

Judicial executions were an immoral violation of human rights, an affront under the US Constitution as much as under European laws to the fundamental principles of justice, she said. This opinion was delivered to a man who as Governor of Texas signed warrants for more than 150 executions.

Mr Blair was reported to have “squirmed”, even though he shares her opposition to the death penalty. The author says that when he asked Mr Blair about the incident during research for the book he looked uncomfortable — all he would say was that Cherie had raised the issue but as far as he was concerned the United States and Britain simply had different systems.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “She has always had a good relationship with President Bush and has of course discussed many issues with him, including capital punishment. The discussions have always been good-natured.”

Stephens also states that later in the evening Mr Bush had been embarrassed by his wife. Laura Bush had made it clear that her views on abortion were a great deal more liberal than his.
Link via the crucial Cursor.
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"An epitome of white Christian morality." When you hear a phrase like that, you know they must be talking about
Neil Bush:
Moral indignation; arrogant, rude hypocrite; a known thief; an abusive husband; incapable of loving own wife and own children; incapable of raising own kids. How many times have you heard about him? How many times have you heard about millions like him, who determine how others live, who mold the thoughts others must think, who enact the laws under which others must live? Henry Hyde, Bill Clinton, Gary Bauer, Dan Burton, Tom Delay, Bob Livinston, Bobb Barr, Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Baker, Philip Marquardt;
purveyors of Christian/American/white morality.

Because not publicized, you are led to believe that they and their depraved ways do not exist.
But of course Neil Bush and his adulterous fiancee Maria Andrews do exist, cavorting in France ("Old Europe," according to Donald Rumsfeld). Presidential brother Neil spends his time in Paris avoiding his wife Sharon Bush and their children when he isn't in Asia sucking stock options and fucking pre-paid prostitutes.
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Monday, January 26, 2004
Sure, now he shuts up. The chief disseminator of fake intelligence (thanks to his bud Ahmed Chalabi) abruptly clams up (
FindLaw):
Vice President Dick Cheney defended the U.S.-led Iraq war Monday but did not address mounting criticism over the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and his own part in U.S. charges that Iraq had stockpiled them.

"Today the former dictator (of Iraq) sits in captivity; he can no longer harbor and support terrorists, and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are at an end," Cheney told Italian political and business leaders.

But in his speech in the Italian Senate, he made no mention of earlier U.S. charges that Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons -- the heart of the U.S. case for invading the country last March.

At a photo-call later with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Cheney did not answer a reporter who asked whether U.S. intelligence problems were behind the administration's argument that Iraq had unconventional weapons stockpiles.

[...]

Cheney's spokesman declined to comment. Cheney said in a National Public Radio interview last week: "I believe they (the Iraqis) had programs designed to produce weapons of mass destruction. We still don't know the whole extent of what they did have ... it's a tough intelligence problem."
Cheney's sudden silence is quite a contrast with his belligerence a year ago.

Shame about the 519 dead Americans, thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, and hundred of billions of dollars gone from the US Treasury.
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Leave no surplus behind. Those tax cuts and that WMD-free spider hole photo op turned out to be the most expensive purchases in history (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
The federal deficit will hit a record $477 billion this year and get worse if lawmakers cut taxes or increase spending, the Congressional Budget Office projected Monday in a report sure to become ammunition in the election-year fight over red ink.

[...]

The budget office also estimated that deficits for the decade ending in 2013 would total nearly $2.4 trillion. The August report foresaw deficits totaling $1.4 trillion over 10 years. The added red ink was due in part new costs, such as the prescription-drug benefit created last year.

[...]

The deficit hit $375 billion in 2003, the highest-ever in dollar terms. The previous record was $290 billion in 1992.

[...]

Many analysts say the budget office's deficit projections will probably prove too low -- especially in the long-term -- because they omit expenses the president and Congress are likely to approve.

[...]

The two parties are already fighting over the red ink that has materialized during the Bush years.

The budget's health has taken an abrupt nosedive after four straight years of annual surpluses that ran through 2001. Only last January, the budget office estimated 10-year surpluses -- not deficits -- of $1.3 trillion. And in January 2001, when Mr. Bush took office, the projection was for a decade of black ink totaling $5.6 trillion.

Republicans say Mr. Bush isn't to blame for the turnabout. Analysts say the surpluses have dissolved due to the recession, the tax cuts Mr. Bush pushed through Congress and growing spending for defense, Medicare and other programs.
From a surplus of $5.6 trillion to a deficit of $2.4 trillion. $8 trillion vanished from the US Treasury into thin air entirely on George W. Bush's watch.

The previous record deficit was in 1992 back when his daddy was president, protecting Neil Bush from the S&L regulators.

It's all Barbara's fault — her and her entire family of leeches. Barbara is the matriarch of a dynasty raised to destroy America by fiscal bleeding.
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Friday, January 23, 2004
gywo

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Everything to fear, and nothing to gain. How to scare the American population, as analyzed and catalogued by
Tom Engelhard:
In the first half of the [State of the Union] speech, the words "terror" or "terrorists" were used 14 times; some form of "kill" ("killers," "killed," "killing") 10 times; war 7 times; and that doesn't count the various stand-ins for war or warlike actions ("aggressive raids," "attack," "offensive," "patrols," "operations," "battle," "armored charges," "midnight raids," "on the offensive," and the slightly more opaque "pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the Greater Middle East," a favorite phrase of our vice president as well);"weapons" was used 8 times (usually in the phrase "weapons of mass destruction" or "of mass murder," or in one case in the extraordinarily convoluted phrase, "weapons of mass destruction-related program activities"); "threat" appeared 4 times, "hunting" or "manhunt" 3 times; "capture" 3 times; ditto "tracking"; "plotting" four times; "danger" in some form four times including "ultimate danger"; some form of the word "violent" three times; "thugs" twice; some form of "enemy" 3 times.

Among other words occurring at least once were: patrolling, vigilance, assassins, disrupt, seize, tragedy, trial, catch, fear, chaos, carnage, torture, tyrant, tyranny, despair, anger, brutal, hateful propaganda, prison cell, shake the will.

And even some normally positive words fell into this category in a process akin to guilt-by-association as in the phrase, "enemies of reform and allies of terror."
Irrational fear is a wall that divides people. Words like these are bricks that build the wall of fear.

The ultimate mission of the Bush administration is to slake the greed of its donors by capitalizing on the fears it manufactures among voters.

Bush is building a fortress of artificial fears to distract us from his own incapacity to face actual threats. Let's face it, Bush couldn't catch the real Osama bin Laden so instead he went after his imagined enemy — his daddy's and Cheney's nemesis.

Link via the glorious Cursor.
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And they say he's not
stupid.
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Halliburton: "Kick me." Cheney's minions get caught with their greasy hands in the Kuwaiti kickback cookie jar (
WSJ, sub. req'd.):
WASHINGTON -- Halliburton Co. has told the Pentagon that two employees took kickbacks valued at up to $6 million in return for awarding a Kuwaiti-based company with lucrative work supplying U.S. troops in Iraq.

The disclosure is the first firm indication of corruption involving U.S.-funded projects in Iraq and raises new questions about Halliburton's dealings there. The company's work already is being scrutinized because of accusations that the U.S. government was overcharged for gasoline under another controversial contract.

Halliburton has strenuously defended its Iraq work as fairly priced and free of taint. A discovery of kickbacks could expose the company to hefty fines and other punishments such as potential fraud charges. At the least, contracting experts say, Halliburton will be required to reimburse the money.

[...]

The latest revelation, though, is sure to increase the already intense scrutiny Halliburton has received from congressional Democrats, some of whom charge that the Houston-based company benefited from political favoritism in securing lucrative work in Iraq. The news also is likely to further raise suspicions abroad that Iraq reconstruction work is largely benefiting U.S. companies and their employees.

Vice President Dick Cheney, who was chairman of Halliburton until he left in 2000, defended the company Wednesday in a Fox Radio Network interview. "They get unfairly maligned simply because of their past association with me," he said.

[...]

The Pentagon has had to reject two huge proposed bills from KBR, including one for $2.7 billion, because of myriad "deficiencies," the memo says. "We consider [the company's] estimates in the area of subcontracts to be inadequate," the memo says. The agency is now auditing proposed KBR bills totaling $2.1 billion, the memo says.

Pentagon auditors last month said that KBR's Kuwaiti supplier, Altanmia Commercial Marketing Co., was charging the U.S. almost double the market price for gasoline. Auditors said the overcharging amounted to $61 million through September, and as much as $20 million a month since then.

The Army Corps defended the company's hiring of Altanmia in a lengthy Jan. 6 report. The report said KBR had "urgent and compelling needs" to use the Kuwaiti supplier, even at significantly higher prices than other potential suppliers.

Still, Pentagon officials are likely to home in on the circumstances under which KBR hired Altanmia. The Army Corps report says KBR picked Altanmia on May 5 after making phone calls to just two other bidders. Officials say there is no indication of kickbacks involving Altanmia.

A number of anonymous whistleblowers have come forward in recent weeks with often-detailed allegations of KBR wrongdoing in Kuwait, including accusations of paybacks from companies that received lucrative subcontracting work from KBR, according to U.S. officials and congressional sources. These reports in turn have been taken up by the Pentagon's IG office.
"They get unfairly maligned simply because of their past association with me," Cheney says, apparently unaware that he himself is one of the greatest examples of "conflict of interest" in American history — a CEO who resigns to become vice president and then to wage a war based on fake evidence to provide multibillion no-bid contracts to his company.

Correction: Halliburton is fairly maligned because of their past association with Cheney.

Note also the magnanimous depth of the gratitude Kuwait shows the United States for our role in supporting its monarchy, thanks to not one but two Bush Gulf wars.
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Thinking out of the lockbox. A leading Social Security privatization advocate was captured yesterday at a Houston motel (
Houston Chronicle):
A Southern California investment adviser authorities believe bilked $814 million from thousands of clients in a nationwide scam was arrested early this morning at a Houston motel, an FBI spokesman said.

James Paul Lewis Jr., 57, was expected to appear before U.S. Magistrate Frances Stacy today. He was arrested without incident at a Houston motel sometime after midnight , said Bob Doguim, a Houston FBI spokesman.

[...]

Doguim said Lewis is accused of "stealing from Paul to pay Mary."

"That money was never invested in anything," he said. "All he was doing was finding others (investors). That is the money he used to show some kind of return."

When the FBI raided his office Dec. 22, Lewis was supposed to have $814 million on hand for the firm's clients, but bank accounts held about $2.3 million. Federal authorities have frozen those accounts.

[...]

The FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission allege Lewis fabricated more than $730 million in interest payments. Even accounting for the fictitious funds, Lewis still should have $75 million more than investigators can find, the SEC said. A temporary receiver appointed to find more assets put the shortfall at $100 million.
Speaking of nationwide scams, all retirement funding privatization schemes lead to stories just like this one. Which is not to say that all privatization advocates are crooks, but they are advocates of an inherently riskier system that allows for criminal negligence of the types we've seen in a number of mutual fund companies — thanks largely to the investigations of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

"Stealing from Paul to pay Mary" is Lewis's variation on the Republican theme of "stealing from working taxpayers to pay corporate donors."

James Paul Lewis Jr. was captured only because his namesake father did not have the foresight to fix the Supreme Court, get him appointed president of the United States, and turn his crimes into federal policy.
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It's the year of the
monkey. And hopefully the last year of the chimp.
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Thursday, January 22, 2004
"...for you were a stranger..." This past weekend I was fortunate enough to attend a preview of a new play opening Friday, January 23, entitled "...for you were a stranger..."

The play tells the story of two women, an Arab and a Jew, who meet three times across the 4000-year span of their common heritage. First they meet as Sarah and Hagar, the matriarchs of the Bible; later they move to medieval Spain as daughters of the Golden Age of Muslim/Jewish culture; and finally to the modern Middle East of 1967.

What's especially notable about the play is how the experiences of motherhood and femaleness relate to the rival sibling nations of Israel and Palestine — as dramatized by the two women who, quite literally, gave birth to the Jews and to the Muslims. We see their goddess-based polytheism eclipsed by a pair of monotheisms in the form of their sons, who grow up to become both patriarchal and unkind to their mothers' feminine traditions.

The play asks us to bear witness to the women on both sides of the political/religious equation as history began to take its terrible course. As only great political plays can do, "...for you were a stranger..." transforms daunting and abstract political situations into something immediate, palpable, and human.

Actress/playwright Donna Blue Lachman collaborated on the work with Rula Sirhan Gardenier, an Arab actress and playwright who lives in Chicago. Lachman has played Frida Kahlo, Rosa Luxemburg and Peggy Guggenheim, among others, in her solo performance career. The Piven Theatre Workshop's Jennifer Green directs the piece, which is scheduled to run through March 21.

There was a preview feature in the
Chicago Sun-Times, and Tony Adler also wrote a fascinating preview piece in the Chicago Reader that I was unable to locate on their site. Next week I'll post more reviews as they come online.

Here is the show's listing at the HotHouse, where the show is being performed and where you can also buy tickets online.

The HotHouse, in case you don't know, is Chicago's greatest venue for nightclub-scale performing arts, especially world music. The HotHouse is in downtown Chicago next to the Chicago Hilton and Towers on Grant Park. With this new play they are expanding their lineup to include cutting-edge theatre.

See it!
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Let us praise Margaret Cho who can take a routine piece of hate email and turn it into a
brilliant, streetsmart debate.

Link via Atrios.
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Krugman on class immobility. In
"The Death of Horatio Alger" in The Nation, Krugman states that "over the past generation upward mobility has fallen drastically," and chronicles exactly how, if you like that sort of thing, you can promote further class immobility.

In other words, the Bush administration has worked tirelessly to tear down the American Dream that was a reality only a generation ago — and replace it with a caste society in which tremendous wealth creates family dynasties that employ and govern the rest of us. But you had to be paying attention to see it coming.

(Look! Over here! Christian prisons! Men on Mars! Athletes on steroids!)
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Monday, January 19, 2004
The Silence of Cheney: a poem. While reading Mark Leibovich's profile of Dick Cheney in the Washington Post yesterday, I realized there was a
poem lurking in his reportage.

So, with some cutting but without reordering, here is his poem, a meditation on the silence of Dick Cheney:
The Silence of Cheney
by Mark Leibovich


Cheney doesn't like to talk
unless he has to.
He sits for long stretches of conversation,
holding his fingertips
together at his lips,
peering over his glasses.

When he does speak,
it is in a brisk cadence
and often in partial sentences,
as if to conserve every word.

He has no use for self-revelation,
yours or his own.
He is impatient
with small talk and niceties.
"Not enough hours in the day"
is his recurring platitude
for anything he deems wasteful.

Cheney relishes quiet and solitude,
the better to absorb information.
Excess words can bloat and complicate.
Information escapes.
And you never learn anything
when you're talking.

Cheney is the one known for disappearing,
into a "secure undisclosed location."
("There are a few of them, actually," he says.)

Few people know where he is much of the time,
where he resides at night.

Only that he's somewhere.

And powerful.

And if he feels your pain --
double gosh forbid --
he's certainly not going to say so.

Cheney rarely gives interviews.
The media has changed
a great deal, he says.
"As an institution.
Evolved.
Kind of thing where it's almost impossible
to catch up with a bad story.
Factual errors."
He mentions Lexis-Nexis, search engines,
24-hour news cycles, cable news.
"Nobody goes back to check the accuracy,"
he says.
"Can be frustrating."

He likes to ask questions,
pointed and at times rapid-fire.
This is a variation on silence
in that he does not explicitly express his views
or divulge information.
He just acquires.

You hear Cheney cough.
You see Cheney's lips move.
If you're standing close enough,
maybe you'll hear a quick mutter.
But it's next to impossible
to decipher his words.

Cheney then retreats to a corner
and digs his hand into a bag
of Werther's hard caramels.

Cheney deploys his quiet
to great, sometimes intimidating effect.

Cheney is ardently unsentimental,
especially in business settings.
He is not prone to teary speeches,
elaborate goodbye ceremonies
or, for that matter,
thoughtful reassurances.

Cheney stares at his shoes
as he makes a slow walk from Air Force Two
to a group of servicemen and their families
in a hangar at McChord Air Force Base.
They are hoisting camcorders,
raising toddlers up
for a better view of the
balding adult
in a navy blue suit.

Cheney has a long-standing curiosity --
obsession, some have said --
with catastrophic scenarios
involving biological,
chemical and
radiological weapons.
This long precedes Sept. 11, 2001.

In his skull
resides the nation's most chilling intelligence.
Lynne and their daughters never ask about it.

Is this too much information
for a man
with a sick heart?

Cheney was found best-suited
to being a funeral director.
His voice is soft and even,
like an airline pilot's.
When shaking hands,
Cheney grips hard for a split-second
then pulls away quickly,
as if he's touched a hot stove.
You can't hear what Dick is saying.

At one point, Dick is posing
with Staff Sgt. Denise Caspers.
Their hands rest awkwardly
on each other's backs.
But the camera keeps misfiring.
Cheney endures this
for several seconds.
His face is frozen
in a smile,
his hand limp
on Caspers's spine.
His body slumps
until a replacement camera is found,
and he is finally delivered.

He is professorial
but hard to hear.

Cheney has much to share,
except that he doesn't.

He is asked if he will write a memoir.
The question elicits a slight wince.
But he's not thinking about it.

An aide hands him
a folded piece of paper,
which Cheney looks at and closes.
He runs two fingers across the fold
to reinforce the crease.

He looks at the paper again.
"I gotta call I gotta take,"
the vice president says.
He excuses himself and
the moment fades to silence.
There was also this somewhat less poetic passage:

"One of Cheney's favorite recent books is An Autumn of War, a collection of essays published by historian Victor Davis Hanson in National Review after 9/11. Hanson, a scholar of ancient Rome and Greece and a senior fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institute, believes that bloodshed is a natural condition of humanity. Evil exists in the world and the evildoers need to be met head-on."

Evil exists in the world, but those Iraqi WMDs apparently didn't.

Tough luck for the silent Dick Cheney and the 512 dead US soldiers, their grieving families, and the thousands of Iraqi civilians whose disprove Cheney's silent theories with their tears and their lives.
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Hubble's loss is Halliburton's gain. Actual science takes a back seat to Cheney's actual cronies (
Center for American Progress, scroll down to "Mars – Red Planet Motivations"):
HALLIBURTON ACTIVELY PUSHING FOR MARS FUNDING: In the 4/24/00 edition of Oil & Gas Journal, Halliburton scientist Steve Streich pointed out why a Mars program would be so lucrative for Halliburton. He says a "Mars exploration program presents an unprecedented opportunity" for the industry and that it "warrants the support of both government and industry leaders." He says "one area of great importance is finding out of what the inside of Mars consists. That's where the petroleum industry comes in." Specifically, benefits for "the oil and gas industry may lie in technology that NASA will use for drilling into the surface of Mars." He says there is "great potential for a happy synergy between space researchers" on a Mars project and "the oil and gas industry."

HALLIBURTON ALREADY INVOLVED IN MARS PLANS: The 4/24/00 edition of Oil & Gas Journal also reported that Halliburton is already involved in a preliminary consortium of industry and academia "organized to support the development of new technology required for the Mars mission." A 2/28/01 report in Petroleum News confirmed that "NASA has been working with Halliburton and others to identify drilling technologies that might work on Mars."
As if we needed it, here's further proof of the Cheney-Halliburton presidency.

If you want to know what's being sacrificed to make way for Halliburton on Mars, take a look at the Hubble gallery.
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Greatest Hits · Alternatives to First Command Financial Planning · First Command, last resort, Part 3 · Part 2 · Part 1 · Stealing $50K from a widow: Wells Real Estate · Leo Wells, REITs and divine wealth · Sex-crazed Red State teenagers · What I hate: a manifesto · Spawn of Darleen Druyun · All-American high school sex party · Why is Ken Lay smiling? · Poppy's Enron birthday party · The Saudi money laundry and the president's uncle · The sentence of Enron's John Forney · The holiness of Neil Bush's marriage · The Silence of Cheney: a poem · South Park Christians · Capitalist against Bush: Warren Buffett · Fastow childen vs. Enron children · Give your prescription money to your old boss · Neil Bush, hard-working matchmaker · Republicans against fetuses and pregnant women · Emboldened Ken Lay · Faith-based jails · Please die for me so I can skip your funeral · A brief illustrated history of the Republican Party · Nancy Victory · Soldiers become accountants · Beware the Merrill Lynch mob · Darleen Druyun's $5.7 billion surprise · First responder funding · Hoovering the country · First Command fifty percent load · Ken Lay and the Atkins diet · Halliburton WMD · Leave no CEO behind · August in Crawford · Elaine Pagels · Profitable slave labor at Halliburton · Tom Hanks + Mujahideen · Sharon & Neilsie Bush · One weekend a month, or eternity · Is the US pumping Iraqi oil to Kuwait? · Cheney's war · Seth Glickenhaus: Capitalist against Bush · Martha's blow job · Mark Belnick: Tyco Catholic nut · Cheney's deferred Halliburton compensation · Jeb sucks sugar cane · Poindexter & LifeLog · American Family Association panic · Riley Bechtel and the crony economy · The Book of Sharon (Bush) · The Art of Enron · Plunder convention · Waiting in Kuwait: Jay Garner · What's an Army private worth? · Barbara Bodine, Queen of Baghdad · Sneaky bastards at Halliburton · Golf course and barbecue military strategy · Enron at large · Recent astroturf · Cracker Chic 2 · No business like war business · Big Brother · Martha Stewart vs. Thomas White · Roger Kimball, disappointed Republican poetry fan · Cheney, Lay, Afghanistan · Terry Lynn Barton, crimes of burning · Feasting at the Cheney trough · Who would Jesus indict? · Return of the Carlyle Group · Duct tape is for little people · GOP and bad medicine · Sears Tower vs Mt Rushmore · Scared Christians · Crooked playing field · John O'Neill: The man who knew · Back to the top






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