culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Monday, March 31, 2003
We Want the Airwaves is an important new blog — a co-production between Avedon Carol of The Sideshow and Lisa English of RuminateThis — dedicated to covering the degradation of media. It's not just about reportage, it also focuses on the quality of ownership of the media or the lack thereof. If you're concerned about bias in the media, or if you think too few companies own too many news outlets, go to We Want the Airwaves.

This is a subject near and dear to our hearts that we've written about a number of times. Here's a sample of home-grown posts on the subject of media consolidation and degradation.

Poynter's Convergence Chaser is another good resource in this area.
Deficit 2003: More than a half trillion. From the
LA Times:
...the obvious question is whether cutting taxes makes sense just two years after Bush's [first] $1.35-trillion tax cut took effect in 2001. Three big arguments loom against further tax cuts.

First, Washington is already facing mammoth deficits. Private congressional estimates project that, excluding the money raised for Social Security, the federal government could run a deficit of as much as $530 billion this year, by far the largest ever. Under Bush's plan, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects huge deficits every year through the next decade.

Second, those deficits are undermining Washington's last opportunity to improve its fiscal position before the baby boom's retirement explodes the cost of Social Security and Medicare.


Third, cutting taxes during a war -- not only the conflict in Iraq but also the broader struggle against terrorism -- is unprecedented in American history. It amounts to asking the next generation to fund the national defense through a higher national debt.
Funding Cheney's war will indeed "leave no child behind."
Golf course and barbecue military strategy. Egyptian weekly
Al-Ahram has this to say about the quality of the advice the White House has been using to guide its military strategy:
As the military operation enters its second week and as the Iraqi resistance continues, a question has arisen in regards to whether some sections of the Iraqi opposition in exile have painted an unrealistic picture of Iraq for their US patrons. Prior to the launch of the military strikes, it was repeatedly suggested in some western media outlets that the Iraqi Shi'ite population in the south and the Kurdish groups in northern Iraq could be helpful to US efforts to topple the Iraqi regime. But one week later, the south did not rise against Saddam, the population remains defiant and the regime is still standing its ground.

Kubba laid the brunt of the blame for these assumptions on some sections of the Iraqi opposition, particularly those associated with the Iraq National Congress (INC) which, he says, have "misled their US contacts". His views were shared by Kamil Al-Mahdi, a professor of Middle East Economics at Exeter University and a member of the liberal Iraqi opposition in exile. Al-Mahdi believes that the resistance to the Iraqis inside the country will embarrass those groups of the opposition who allied themselves with the Bush administration. These groups, says Al-Mahdi, created assumptions about a regime on the verge of imploding once the US forces enter Iraq. "There were those within the ranks of the Iraqi opposition who portrayed this war to be a walk in the park for the allied troops. Hence, Americans were led to believe that the Republican Guard units would soon switch sides and this would be coupled with a Shi'ite uprising in the south against Saddam. But to their surprise, this did not materialise, at least until now."

Al-Mahdi said that the fact that the opposition in exile miscalculated the strength of the Iraqi resistance is strong proof of how they have lost touch with reality in Iraq. "They can no longer claim to say they represent either the interests or the will of the Iraqi people. It will be very difficult to impose them as the new rulers of Iraq after Saddam is gone," Al-Mahdi said. There were no comments made by any of the main Iraqi opposition factions in exile about the duration of the battle. But on wednesday the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper reported that representatives of various factions of the Iraqi opposition held secret rounds of talks to discuss the role of the Iraqi opposition in the aftermath of the war and the US exclusion of the Iraqi opposition from any talks on the post-war order. The meetings were attended by representatives from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Unionist party (PUK), the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress (INC).
We previously noted Chalabi in this 3/17/03 article from the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.d):
But with little public notice, [after September 11] Mr. Cheney began working on the Iraq issue with a new dedication. He quietly sought out experts on the politics and culture of the country. He reached out to Iraqi exiles such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile whose family led the country decades ago and who seeks to lead a post-Hussein Iraq. And he began hosting a series of small dinner parties -- some at his elegant official residence in Washington and others at the "undisclosed locations" where he'd been secluded for security reasons -- to share ideas with anti-Hussein intellectuals such as Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis, Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami and conservative author Victor David Hanson.

State Department and CIA officials mistrust the wealthy, American-educated Mr. Chalabi, who was convicted in a Jordanian banking scandal more than a decade ago. But Mr. Cheney and his senior staff have remained stubborn advocates of Mr. Chalabi, a man they first got to know in the mid-1990s at the barbecues and golf games held at private seminars hosted by groups such as the Aspen Institute. [Emphasis added.]
The strategic advice that guided American military planning came not from the CIA or the State Department, but from "barbecues... golf games... a series of small dinner parties." Nobody at any of these events can "claim to say they represent either the interests or the will" of citizens anywhere — particularly in Iraq or in the USA. Representative democracy now exists in America only for the plump asses that fill the chairs of corporate boardrooms.

It's a country club war, directed from the fairway by the unencumbered upper class, paid for with taxes on the wages of the middle class, and paid for in blood by the lower class.

Al-Ahram link via Counterspin.

A related post is here.
"Many Arabs already define this neo-colonial war as a historic turning point which might have as profound an effect on the Arab psyche as September 11 did on Americans. Arabs have long been accustomed to seeing Israeli tanks running rampant. Now the puppet-master, arrogant and unashamed, has sent his helicopter gunships and armoured vehicles to Arab soil."

— Jonathan Steele in Damascus for
The Guardian.
Saturday, March 29, 2003
War as mind fuck. Go read this terrific post by Digby on
the ongoing influence of Newt Gingrich.
Jerry Bruckheimer's next film slated to win 2003 Academy Award for best documentary:
"Bask in Glory".

For his acceptance speech, a standing ovation and amplified cheers from stage hands are guaranteed by show producers.
"Think of the media as an offensive weapon," says
Jerry Broeckert, a retired Marine public affairs officer. He calls Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld "a master of information control and media manipulation." Interesting insights from a military PR insider in Rake Magazine.

Link via Romanesko.
Friday, March 28, 2003
Ethel the Blog is covering a number of interesting angles. All of today's posts are worth your while; start with
this one and work your way backwards.
This just in:
Halliburton's out. "After taking some political heat, Halliburton is stepping out of the kitchen. The giant energy and construction firm once managed by Vice President Dick Cheney is no longer in the running for a $600 million rebuilding contract in postwar Iraq, NEWSWEEK has learned."

Via Agonist.

UPDATE: I was corrected on the Agonist comments board for confusing this contract with the Halliburton firefighting and other deals which are not affected. A related post is here.
The 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers. Hilarious.

Link via TalkLeft via Tapped.
Meet an unlikely activist: Warren Langley. This will be the first in a series of profiles of people whose antiwar activism is "unlikely." Please feel free to submit others you find, especially from local sources.

Today we focus on Warren Langley, veteran and managing principal of a venture capital firm (interview by Jennifer Saranow in the
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
Warren Langley, a former president of the Pacific Exchange in San Francisco, was arrested March 14 while blocking the entrance to the exchange during an antiwar protest. The 60-year-old Air Force veteran talked to us about why the conflict in Iraq prompted him to protest war for the first time, and what he is doing to get others in the business community involved.

What's different about this war that led you to get involved opposing it?

I was in my 20s and 30s [during the Vietnam War] and my view of the world was different. I was in the Air Force and was trying to do my job as best I could. … I didn't question whether the war was right or wrong or any of those things at that point in time. [Mr. Langley served as a U.S.-based engineer and professor for the Air Force during the Vietnam War.]

Now, I turned 60 in January so I have a different perspective of the world. … I watched things unfold after Sept. 11 and it seemed to be that we jumped from protecting against terrorism to focusing on Iraq, and that never made sense to me. As we kind of marched through the fall there was this huge disconnect between what are we doing and why are we doing this. … It started to feel like a political war to me.

Fundamentally, I think war is the last resort. War is when you can't find other ways to accomplish your means, and it appeared to me there were lots of ways to disarm Saddam Hussein without invading him. That just didn't make sense to me and I always rebel against things that just seem totally out of whack. I have to say that that feeling got stronger on my 60th birthday in January. My wife said, "Well, what do you want to do for your birthday?" And I said, "Well, I'd like to march in this march they're having here in San Francisco." And so on my 60th birthday I went down and marched.

What was your role up until then in the antiwar movement?

I had been writing to [my senators] and asking them why they haven't been speaking out more strongly against the war because they're my elected representatives. I've always followed the rules and that's what you're supposed to do.


How did it feel to get arrested?

It's one of those things where you're nervous because you've never done it before and it is certainly something that you've been taught all your life is wrong, so there's this overhanging guilt. The police acted very appropriately and it wasn't confrontational. There was a group of us sitting around in a circle at the intersection and the police went around with a last warning, and then you got up and they handcuffed you. It was a bit strange to suddenly have this helmeted guy with a face mask, a plastic face shield, putting handcuffs around my arms and putting me into a prison bus with metal barriers all around it. That felt really strange. The next day I was actually riding in a taxi someplace and I saw a police car and my stomach flip-flopped. … I do look at the world slightly differently because I went through that process.

How would you characterize the protesters?

There are a lot of different groups. There was a very strong veterans' group and I kind of identified with those guys. There were more traditional protesters, if you will, and then there were some odds and ends like me. A trader I used to know very well from the floor came and sat with me on the street until the police warned us for the last time and then he got up and left. People were mostly in their 20s and 30s and my gray hair stood out.


Is the goal now still to stop the war?

You don't want to take on things that are totally impossible. You need to take on things that are achievable.

What do you think the protestors will achieve?

I hope it makes politicians who are in office right now more accountable and gives those who need it more courage to stand up because they realize there are people out there, more than they thought, who think a certain way. I hope in the next year or two it affects choices we have to make about supporting peace in Israel, about reorganizing Iraq, about not going into North Korea and about not going into Iran.

What have you found the reaction to the war to be in the business community?

I think people who are in the middle of their careers, I found a number of them who agree with me. But they are reluctant to speak out because they see it as a risk. If I'm running a business, what if half my customers don't like what I say?


What's going to happen when you go to court?

I don't think I'll contest it. I did it. I'm used to consequences. When you make choices, you have consequences. [Protesting] is one of things I'm most proud of in my life. I feel like my taking a little bit of risk myself has had an effect. I certainly didn't stop the war, but certainly maybe will add one stick to the pile of stopping the next war.
Kudos to the Journal for this interview, which presents a point of view quite different from its opinion pages. In the online version there was a picture and biographical highlights, a nice tribute to an ordinary hero.
Gary Hart is now a blogger too. We applaud the move and wish him much success in his effort "to engage people on critical policy matters and the future of our country."

We also hope that the blog doesn't ever devolve into pleasantries written by staff. Oh, and good luck keeping the comments tidy.
"Put on something else," my wife said to me as I was scanning the cable news channels this morning. "Cartoon Network is showing 'Baby Loonie Tunes' — is that all right?" I asked. "Sure," she said. "Anything's better than this news."

So I switched to Cartoon Network's 'Baby Loonie Tunes,' a preschool cartoon show, which was on commercial break. They were showing a Navy recruiting commercial.

No kidding. This was about twenty minutes ago.
Thursday, March 27, 2003
19 million pages of Enron documents to be released. My eye doctor will be pleased (
Houston Chronicle):
U.S. District Judge Melinda Harmon indicated today she will make public the bulk of 19 million pages of Enron documents the company provided to the government and has also produced in two massive would-be class action lawsuits.


John Strasburger, the Houston-based lawyer representing Enron, said the company wants to protect private employee information and information on on-going contracts, asset sales and lawsuits that could lessen the value of assets if revealed. He said the company has already reviewed 10 million pages and found 4,000 documents that it wants kept private.

Strasburger said Enron has already produced to the depository most of what it has given to federal authorities. "For more than a year the federal government has been waging a campaign of shock and awe against Enron," he said. He said the public has been well served by the mass of information the company has provided the government agencies, and now the depository in the civil case.

Paul Howes, lawyer for lead shareholder plaintiff the University of California Board of Regents, agreed some personnel information should be kept private but not personnel performance reviews. He said Enron's request for categories of confidentiality like ongoing lawsuits or contracts are too broad and could be used to hide important information from the public.

"This is not an ordinary case. What we are talking about is a case of historic proportions, " Howes said. "The public interest has to be balanced."

Harmon indicated she will ask Enron to provide a list of the documents it wants kept confidential and that it may take another few months to finish compiling the full list if it provides some intermediate lists in the mean time.

The list will also be provided to the news media, the judge indicated. A lawyer representing several news interests including the Houston Chronicle asked that all the information be made available to the public as soon as possible.
I think it's a little early in the game to use "shock and awe" as an all-purpose cliché and metaphor, considering that the Siege of Baghdad hasn't even happened yet, and, besides, this particular metaphor is being used in defense of Enron, fraudulent financier to Bush's cabal and their Husseinomania.

I hope the Chronicle stays on top of this story. They've been doing a very good job so far, and I have to admit I'm looking forward to reading Andrew Fastow's performance reviews.

We also urge all plaintiffs and their attorneys to release as much information as possible online, where it can be searched and dissected and analyzed among the Volunteer Brigade for Justice — namely, us bloggers.
More death and more secrecy.
Oil thieves act "quietly." Here's an article from the
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd.) with the apt headline "Oil Companies Quietly Advise Soldiers on How to Save Fields":
The oil industry has gone to great lengths to distance itself from any planning related to the potential post-war opening of Iraq's massive fields, now partly in U.S. and British hands. But it is becoming clear that a number of companies played significant advisory roles in military operations taking place on those fields, underscoring an unusual partnership between the military and private companies in the Iraq campaign.

BP PLC employees in Kuwait showed the Royal Engineers and other combat troops how oil fields operate before their assault on South Rumeila, along the Kuwaiti border. Houston fire-fighting firm Boots & Coots International Well Control Inc. helped draw up emergency and contingency plans for securing the field, and private-sector U.S. oil executives, serving as U.S. reserve officers, ran soldiers and combat engineers through fields in West Texas in preparation for the attack.


Army engineers have been working with Halliburton Co. subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root for months, drafting a plan of action for rebuilding Iraq's oil infrastructure. The Army Corps of Engineers plans to dole out other contracts to oil-field service companies in the days and weeks ahead.

But it is now apparent that oil companies have played a greater behind-the-scenes role in military planning than previously known. For centuries, private companies and citizens have volunteered to help their governments in time of war. But Iraqi oil -- a primary focus of the Pentagon's military campaign -- has been a thorny political issue for the Bush administration, which has strong ties to the oil industry. Vice President Dick Cheney ran Halliburton until 2000, for instance, when he resigned to run for office. He has since divested his stock in the company.
Cheney divested his stock, but is even today still on the Halliburton payroll.
With the Bush administration eager to avoid accusations that it is going to war for oil -- and executives sensitive to appearing opportunistic as soldiers fight and die in Iraq -- companies have shied away from talking about their discussions with U.S. or British officials concerning Iraqi oil.
Of course Texas oil executives are sensitive about appearing opportunistic — because they are opportunistic, exchanging human lives for illegitimate claims to foreign oil. And while US soldiers fight and die in Iraq to protect oil fields while US civilians sit mesmerized by CENTCOM and FoxNews, guess who's making off with all the money — in the form of tax cuts for the wealthy, war profiteering, no-bid government contracts, and a whole raft of corporate fraud schemes that will never stop surfacing as long as we all live on this faith-based, god-forsaken planet.
Even more Enron manipulations, and a comment from Bush. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released a
series of reports that expose the energy market manipulations of Enron and other companies (Houston Chronicle):
Federal regulators condemned energy companies for past market manipulation Wednesday and started pursuing sanctions against several of them for their roles in the 2000-2001 California power crisis.


All of the Enron-related companies that are mentioned in the report are in bankruptcy, so any effort by the state of California to get refunds from the companies will need to go through a U.S. bankruptcy court in New York.

The commission also signaled that it probably will not force energy companies to renegotiate more than $20 billion in long-term power contracts California agreed to when natural gas and electricity prices soared to record levels in 2000 and 2001.


The report also says that Enron could not have done the transactions that allowed it to manipulate the markets without the help of other parties, such as municipal utilities that would buy or sell power at Enron's request to create certain conditions.

The report also refers to a handbook that Enron had for employees. The handbook had directions on which counterparties to call in certain market situations so that the counterparties could take advantage of the conditions.
Did I understand that right? Enron couldn't have pulled the manipulations off without the help of municipal utilities — "counterparties" — that were in on the scheme.

This vast right-wing conspiracy even had a market manipulation handbook of phone numbers to call to move the market in this or that direction. The laissez-faire "unseen hand of the marketplace" was rooting around in California's pockets — and removing $45 billion in one fell swoop.

enronMeanwhile, the beneficiary of all that Texas energy industry largesse was a certain George W. Bush, who had this to say about the California energy crisis during a White House press conference on March 29, 2001 (shortly after Cheney's six secret energy meetings with Enron): "We need a full affront on an energy crisis that is real in California and looms for other parts of our country if we don't move quickly."

Language mash-up aside, there are several things wrong with this statement. One, the energy crisis in California was not real. Two, the energy crisis was engineered by his campaign contributors and personal friends. Three, it is a bad idea to extrapolate from a phony situation concocted by cronies to create scenarios of looming crisis for the rest of the country.

The energy crisis wasn't real, but the "full affront" is quite real — and it's on us.

Enron, although one of the most egregious, wasn't the only company identified by the FERC. The others include Reliant, BP, Dynegy, El Paso, Williams, Duke, Mirant, CMS and Coral.

UPDATE: bad things once again comes through with the telling detail. None other than the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and several smaller municipal utilities were involved in "Death Star," a ploy of scheduling nonexistent energy transmissions to create the appearance of congestion so that utilities and power generators could collect payments to relieve it. Go read the whole post. Bonus points if you catch the phrase "bad thing" in the cited text.
Still more Enron fraud. Two of Enron's fraud engineers get indicted (
Houston Chronicle):
The specially called Enron grand jury Wednesday indicted two former midlevel executives on charges of conspiracy and fraud in scheming to generate $111 million in false earnings through a failed Enron online movie service.

Kevin Howard, former chief financial officer of Enron Broadband Services, and Michael Krautz, former EBS senior accounting director, were both indicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire and securities fraud, one count of securities fraud, and one count each of making false statements to federal investigators.

The two men were arrested on these charges March 12.

The indictment issued Wednesday clearly shows the government thinks lies were told about EBS and appears to indicate more EBS-related charges could surface.

"However, many of the representations made about Enron's network and software at the Jan. 20, 2000, analyst conference were false, in that Enron did not possess the network software or capabilities that it claimed. Subsequently, EBS failed to generate any significant recurring revenue from its telecommmunications business," the indictment stated under a section headed "the scheme to defraud."
Belated apologies to mmw of bad things who correctly pointed out to me in a 3/12/03 email that Howard and Krautz are "not Ken Lay, but not exactly nobodies either" after one of my extended rants about Enron CEOs not being in captivity. He provided news of their arrest from that bastion of liberalism, Forbes.
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Two Nobel Peace Prize winners arrested at the White House. (
Police arrested two Nobel Peace prize winners along with more than 60 other people protesting on Wednesday near the White House against the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Police handcuffed Mairead Corrigan Maguire, who won the prize in 1976 for peace activism in the Northern Ireland conflict, and Jody Williams, a 1997 winner for her work to ban land mines, after they refused to leave Lafayette Park opposite the home of the U.S. president.

The Nobel laureates were detained along with religious leaders and Vietnam-era protester Daniel Ellsberg as they sat in a circle in the park and chanted "Peace, shalom." They held roses as well as gruesome posters showing civilian casualties from the war.
Internationally recognized peace activists arrested for protesting war. Only in Bush country.

Another shameful day for America. Go read the whole thing.
The Memory Hole will show you photographs of the civilian and military casualties that embedded reporters are somehow managing not to file. [Warning: graphic, unsettling and tragic images]
Democrats invade California. Or they should, anyway, now that the electoral votes are theirs to lose with this story (
Pat Wood, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, said that as a result of the manipulation California would receive more than the $1.8 billion in refunds recommended by a FERC judge in December. The exact amount is to be determined in the coming months.

The FERC singled out seven subsidiaries of bankrupt Enron Corp. and five other companies for taking advantage of a dysfunctional market and reaping millions of dollars in unjust profits.

"The price gouging abounded," Commissioner William Massey said. He said he regretted that FERC did not intervene earlier to police the newly deregulated power market in California.


"Enron manipulated thinly traded physical markets to profit in financial markets," FERC said, estimating that Enron made more than $500 million in online trading in 2000 and 2001.

FERC investigators recommended that the companies be forced to give up unfairly earned profits.

The energy crisis cost the state as much as $45 billion over two years in higher electricity costs, lost business due to blackouts and a slowdown in economic growth, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
How mad are Californians that they were so publicly and humiliatingly gouged by the bankrupt company that was instrumental in making George W. Bush Governor of Texas and then Occupant of the White House?

Mad enough to vote for someone else in 2004?

UPDATE: Zed of MemeMachineGo politely refreshes my faulty memory with the following email: "Well, we already voted against him in 2000 (Gore had 5.6 million to Bush's 4.4 million.) I expect the Democrats to take CA again in 2004 (but it's easy to get tunnel vision living in one of the most liberal areas in the country, and I'm not taking this for granted as something that's going to happen without people working for it.)"

I would hope that the missing $45 billion would be reason enough for many of those 4.4 million Californians to use the power of their vote NOT to enable corporate criminals who put the state into financial crisis next time around. Orange County, are you listening?
New drug czar actually a bong czar. News reports focus on the fact that Karen Tandy is
female, but we choose to focus on the fact that the Bush nominee for a new "drug czar" is actually more of a paraphernalia czar (US Department of Justice):
Today [2/24/03], the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, under the leadership of Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson and Associate Deputy Attorney General Karen Tandy, has taken three decisive steps to dismantle the illegal drug paraphernalia industry by attacking their physical, financial and Internet infrastructures.
Karen Tandy was in charge of stealing the websites of bong dealers. Wow. So much for effective drug policy.

Link via TalkLeft.
When will the US media realize that their gung-ho coverage of the
Tomahawk bombing of Iraqi television is a direct attack against civilians?

The rest of the world has already figured this out, and is beginning to refer to the bombing as a breach of the Geneva Conventions.

Are the US media so blind as not to realize that treating the media as a legitimate military target virtually guarantees that potential future terrorist attacks will occur against them?

UPDATE: More on this topic from the BBC.
How your children will cover Saddam Hussein's mortgage payments. It isn't just Halliburton who will profit from the war — it's also a host of creditors who are lining up for some of the spoil of the oil (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
The [U.S.] Energy Department, which regularly reviews oil-producing countries, estimates Iraq's foreign debt at between $100 billion and $200 billion. The U.S. is working on a broad plan to set up the economy of a post-Hussein government, and dealing with the debt is part of that plan.
Who are these creditors? Let's start naming names:
One company already seeking repayment from Baghdad, for about $1.1 billion in debt, is Hyundai. The company was one of nearly a dozen Korean contractors that made a push into Iraq in the late 1970s, seeking to reap big cash rewards from the petrodollars then washing over the Middle East. In all, Hyundai landed 34 infrastructure projects that were set to earn the company more than $4 billion in revenue. The company built power stations, housing complexes, a fertilizer plant and an expressway linking Baghdad to neighboring Jordan and Syria.


But following the initial imposition of U.N. sanctions on Iraq in 1990, Mr. Hussein's government placed a moratorium on all debt payments. Hyundai has kept a representative office in Baghdad and annually confirms the debts owed to it with Iraqi government officials. The company also filed lawsuits in London and New York to try to get back some of the cash it is owed. Today, Hyundai officials say the possible arrival of a new Iraqi government, backed by Washington and its allies, offers a real chance to settle its debts.

"We'll be in a much better position to get back the money, as they're sovereign debts owned to Hyundai," says Min Su Kwang, Hyundai's executive vice president in charge of foreign contracts. Mr. Min says the firm is expecting a creditors committee to be set up once the war is over. Hyundai officials say the company is looking at alternative ways for Iraq to pay back its debt, such as the transfer of even more crude oil or awarding the company reconstruction contracts.
So regime change will benefit Hyundai. I feel better as an American taxpayer already.

But, wait, there's more...
States such as Russia and France also are expected to get in line for debt repayments once the war is over. Moscow says Iraq owes it at least $9 billion, mostly for weapons supplied during the Soviet era. Government officials have said in recent days that they expect repayment, despite Russia's strong opposition to the U.S.-led war. "Our priority is to protect our lawful interests," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said this week.

Russian companies, too, will have claims to press when the dust settles. Mr. Hussein has promised half a dozen Russian concerns the rights to develop big oil deposits, though only two of the deals have been solidified in contracts, according to Russian officials. The rest are described as handshake agreements.
Dumb move. Looks like Pootie-Poot misplaced his bet in opposing Junior's war. An oral agreement with Saddam Hussein isn't worth... oh, never mind.

Smartest of all? The French. They wrote the bad debt off.
French companies, historically among Iraq's biggest trading partners, have written off the money owed them by Mr. Hussein's regime, analysts say. Iraq's unpaid bills to France, for weapons and other purchases, come to between €2.13 billion and €2.44 billion ($2.26 billion and $2.59 billion), according to a report written for the French National Assembly's Defense Commission.
Meanwhile, with a $75 billion down payment on the war, US taxpayers will protect Hyundai from Saddam Hussein's bad credit history. And the world will be safer for American corporations. Or at least more creditworthy, thanks to the Bush-invoked generosity of the US Treasury.

Next expense for the American taxpayer: protecting South Korea and Japan from North Korea.
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
cigarCigars all around — it's a Halliburton! Dick Cheney's former company and ongoing
sugar daddy finally announced the birth of a healthy $500 million no-bid Iraq firefighting contract. The record-breaking pregnancy lasted 18 months after the final decision to invade Iraq was made on September 11, 2001.

Refresh your memory about Halliburton's colorful history of $3.8 billion in corporate welfare, as well as its extensive lobbying efforts, manic corruption, alleged connections to Russian organized crime, and other cronyish behavior with this very readable August 2000 report from Center for Public Integrity. "If Halliburton has benefited from government generosity, it also has reciprocated with substantial political contributions, largely to Republicans." You don't say!

There's also a bunch of worthwhile Halliburton links (Guantanamo Bay! Nigerian dirty bomb americium!) in this post and here too.
Federally funded cults. This is not a joke about neoconservative or military cults. Moonie World enlightens us as to the existence of
a federally funded, faith-based cult called "the Straights," which makes use of techniques of physical debasement, humiliation and "psychic murder", supposedly in the service of a substance treatment program.

Betty S. Sembler is one of the founders of a cult whose methods have been compared to the brainwashing techniques of North Korea. President Carter refused to endorse the Sembler approach because, as he said, "The treatment shouldn't be worse than the drug."

The Straights have received plenty of faith-based kickbacks (i.e., secular tax dollars flowing downhill toward faith-based lunacy) from the Bush administration, even welcoming future GOP presidential candidate ( Jeb Bush to its advisory board.

In an effort to distance itself from its own reputation, The Straights have resurfaced under the name of DFAF (Drug Free America Foundation). These crusaders hide behind 501(c)(3) status and faith-based labelling to fund their zealotry of pro-workplace drug testing and irrelevant attacks on medical marijuana.

The evil of this sort of federally-funded righteousness should not go unpunished.

Google the cult leaders for links to their propaganda, and responses to it: Betty S. Sembler, one of ten founding members of Straight, Inc., and Calvina L. Fay, executive director of DFAF and Save Our Society From Drugs (SOS).
Round-the-clock war coverage at The Agonist (linked in the right column) is creating bandwidth problems, so please use and bookmark any of the mirrors Sean-Paul has set up, giving you the identical site:
Agonist One
Agonist Two
Agonist Three
How to know your value as a soldier: "If CNN is in your fighting hole, what you're doing is important." (Matt Labash in
The Weekly Standard.)

Forget principles, forget context, forget history, forget strategy. The media pecking order provides the map to the military pecking order. The mission of these particular Marines becomes more meaningful because CNN is there with them. So if your unit is assigned an embedded reporter from, say, Joliet or Trenton, you know you're toast.
Barbara Bodine, former ambassador to Yemen, future ruler of postwar Iraq, and
omen of death, will not go away, as pointed out by Sisyphus Shrugged.
In other news of the war, Enron leaders still not charged. Today's
Houston Chronicle points out the obvious, if forgotten, fact that the key financiers of the Bush regime are still at large with their Weapons of Mass Influence still intact:
The arrest of two relatively unknown Enron executives this month raises hopes that the investigation is moving forward but also raises questions of whether criminal charges will ever reach the top of the corporate ladder.

Of the 12 criminal charges filed in connection with Enron's demise, only seven have been against Enron insiders and only one of those against a big fish -- the 78-count indictment against former chief financial officer Andrew Fastow.

Sixteen months after the company revealed accounting problems that lead to its downfall, a year after a special grand jury was seated and indicted Enron's accounting firm, the question that's being asked in office chatter and at dinner tables throughout Houston is whether executives such as former Chairman Ken Lay, former CEO Jeff Skilling or others will be charged.

"This is like Chinese water torture," said a lawyer familiar with the investigation. "There are all these threats and muscle-flexing from the government, but then nothing much happens."
The miilitary invasion of the world's second-largest known oil reserves doesn't really cut it as "nothing happening."

Lay, Skilling, and their Enron fraud helped these madmen come to power. Now that Cheney has sealed off the minutes of his six secret Enron meetings, and now that American profiteering has moved on to Iraqi slaughter, the White House is furiously rewriting history in the ugly scrawl of Karl Rove's and Karen Hughes's partisan penmanship.
Monday, March 24, 2003
iraqi girl

A baffling question.

No Osama bin Laden yet found in Iraq.

No weapons of mass destruction yet found in Iraq.

For what did the US invade this country?

Image of wounded Iraqi child via BBC/AP.
Fifteen years ago today on March 24, 1988, former national security aides Oliver L. North and John M. Poindexter and businessmen Richard V. Secord and Albert Hakim pleaded innocent to Iran-Contra charges.

Despite their initial pleas of innocence, all eventually pleaded or were found guilty and were
Oliver L. North -- Indicted March 16, 1988, on 16 felony counts. After standing trial on 12, North was convicted May 4, 1989 of three charges: accepting an illegal gratuity, aiding and abetting in the obstruction of a congressional inquiry, and destruction of documents. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on July 5, 1989, to a three-year suspended prison term, two years probation, $150,000 in fines and 1,200 hours community service. A three-judge appeals panel on July 20, 1990, vacated North's conviction for further proceedings to determine whether his immunized testimony influenced witnesses in the trial. The Supreme Court declined to review the case. Judge Gesell dismissed the case September 16, 1991, after hearings on the immunity issue, on the motion of Independent Counsel.

John M. Poindexter -- Indicted March 16, 1988, on seven felony charges. After standing trial on five charges, Poindexter was found guilty April 7, 1990, on all counts: conspiracy (obstruction of inquiries and proceedings, false statements, falsification, destruction and removal of documents); two counts of obstruction of Congress and two counts of false statements. U.S. District Judge Harold H. Greene sentenced Poindexter June 11, 1990, to six months in prison on each count, to be served concurrently. A three-judge appeals panel on November 15, 1991, reversed the convictions on the ground that Poindexter's immunized testimony may have influenced the trial testimony of witnesses. The Supreme Court on December 7, 1992, declined to review the case. In 1993, the indictment was dismissed on the motion of Independent Counsel.

Richard V. Secord -- Indicted March 16, 1988 on six felony charges. On May 11, 1989, a second indictment was issued charging nine counts of impeding and obstructing the Select Iran/contra Committees. Secord was scheduled to stand trial on 12 charges. He pleaded guilty November 8, 1989, to one felony count of false statements to Congress. Secord was sentenced by U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey E. Robinson, Jr., on January 24, 1990, to two years probation.

Albert Hakim -- Pleaded guilty November 21, 1989, to a misdemeanor of supplementing the salary of Oliver L. North. Lake Resources Inc., in which Hakim was the principal shareholder, pleaded guilty to a corporate felony of theft of government property in diverting Iran arms sales proceeds to the Nicaraguan contras and other activities. Hakim was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Gerhard A. Gesell on February 1, 1990, to two years probation and a $5,000 fine; Lake Resources was ordered dissolved.
Fifteen years have passed. Where are they now?

Oliver North was allegedly flying alongside the helicopter that went down, marking our first casualties in Operation Iraqi Freedom. According to Fox, he has the whole thing on tape and has handed it over to the Pentagon.

John Poindexter is still the Director of DARPA's Information Awareness Office, according to this February 2003 PDF file FAQ.

Richard V. Secord is heading up a penny stock company and may face an insider trading scandal, according to the New York Post:
Computerized Thermal Imaging, Inc. This Nevada penny stock has been headed since 1996 by Gen. Richard V. Secord, of Iran/Contra fame. During Iran/Contra, Secord worked closely with U.S. Marine Corps Col. Oliver North to sell arms to Iran, then funnel the profits to anti-Communist forces in Nicaragua.

With Secord as the company's face to the world, the firm's shares soared from $1 to nearly $14 in the tech bubble, then instantly collapsed when the bubble popped, and are today selling for 10 cents. In February, the company acknowledged that a federal grand jury in New York is probing possible insider trading in its shares last December. Early this month, the company issued a report saying its finances are so shaky it may not survive.
Oliver North's personal insurance broker Albert Hakim is nowhere to be found, but is probably in Switzerland if he is still alive, resting comfortably with what's left of the Iran-Contra money.
War is "strangely beneficial" to corporate media. This strangely disheartening statement comes from the people who ought to know, namely the
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd):
The cable networks, including AOL Time Warner Inc.'s CNN, News Corp.'s Fox News and MSNBC, which is jointly owned by General Electric Co.'s NBC and Microsoft Corp., on Saturday returned commercials to their screens amid continued heavy war coverage, although not as many ads as before the war began. Many advertisers still are hesitant about having commercials run alongside violent footage of bombs and tanks.

For NBC, Viacom Inc.'s CBS and Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, the pace of the war has been strangely beneficial to their own programming concerns. Before last week's initial attacks, the general consensus was that the broadcast networks likely would go days with uninterrupted, commercial-free coverage, as was the case after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. But some networks returned to regular programming as early as Thursday night, and all had returned to entertainment and sports by the weekend.
A commercial in a war broadcast is morally equivalent to selling concessions at a gladiator forum. Just as in ancient Rome, such commerce and routine consumption are to be regarded as normal — from the point of view of the Empire that stages and broadcasts the spectacle of the killing.

The phrase "theater of war" has never had so much resonance.
The Bush bubble. George Soros compares W's manic unilateralism with the manic distortions of the marketplace (
The Bush doctrine is grounded in the belief that international relations are relations of power; legality and legitimacy are decorations. This belief is not entirely false but it exaggerates one aspect of reality -- military power -- at the exclusion of others.

I see a parallel between the Bush administration's pursuit of American supremacy and a boom-bust process or bubble in the stock market. Bubbles do not grow out of thin air. They have a solid basis in reality but reality is distorted by misconception. In this case, the dominant position of the United States is the reality, the pursuit of supremacy the misconception. Reality can reinforce the misconception but eventually the gap between reality and its false interpretation becomes unsustainable. During the self-reinforcing phase, the misconception may be tested and reinforced. This widens the gap leading to an eventual reversal. The later it comes, the more devastating the consequences.
The stock market bubble of the 1990s was based on fundamental misconceptions, and so is the Bush doctrine now. The longer we wait to push him and his cabal out of office, the higher the price US citizens and the rest of the world will pay for the unintended consequences of his mania.
Friday, March 21, 2003
I'm away from here for the weekend. Go check out Sean-Paul's moment-by-moment account at
The Agonist.
Get Your War On (Page 22).
Good news for a change. Alternative weekly
Chicago Reader published a print-only story today about a fascinating Northwestern University history student named Conor O'Neil who is using formidable family financial resources to produce his own first-class speaker series with featured appearances by:According to Deanna Isaacs of the Reader, "Every lecture will be recorded on DVD and made available without cost to public libraries in Evanston and Chicago and to anyone else who asks for them.... He wants the organization, which is also screening documentary films (schedule at, to be thought of as an 'open mike' and invites program suggestions. The group is applying for nonprofit status, after which O'Neil says foundation money should start coming in. In any case, he says, he'll keep it going: these thinkers and writers 'are my heroes.'"

Talk about using your powers for good and not evil. Add yourself to my list of heroes, Conor.

Richard Perle:
A $725,000 gratuity
from bankrupt friend
Global Crossing
Influence peddler Richard Perle wants his tip. He's the chairman of the Defense Policy Board and the infamous initiator of a
frivolous libel lawsuit in the UK. Richard Perle also insists upon his right to collect a tip for exercising his Rolodex (New York Times):
Even as he advises the Pentagon on war matters, Richard N. Perle, chairman of the influential Defense Policy Board, has been retained by the telecommunications company Global Crossing to help overcome Defense Department resistance to its proposed sale to a foreign firm, Mr. Perle and lawyers involved in the case said today.

Mr. Perle, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, is close to many senior officials, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who appointed him to lead the policy board in 2001. Though the board does not pay its members and is technically not a government agency, it wields tremendous influence in policy circles. And its chairman is considered a "special government employee," subject to federal ethics rules, including one that bars anyone from using public office for private gain.


According to lawyers involved in the review and a legal notice that Global Crossing is preparing to file soon in bankruptcy court, Mr. Perle is to be paid $725,000 by the company, including $600,000 if the government approves the sale of the company to a joint venture of Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by the Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, and Singapore Technologies Telemedia, a phone company controlled by the government of Singapore.
The influence of people like Perle is destroying America. The twisted illogic, the lying, the conniving, and, most of all, the pocket-lining reveal their complete lack of morality — and not in the prurient Republican sense. Surely the only way Perle or anyone in the administration could get a blow job would be to pay for it with the money of foreign industrialists.

Could this administration and its influence brokers be any more unseemly?

UPDATE: Later I found out that Atrios and RuminateThis and bloggy were already all over Perle today.
Unlearned lessons. As the Iraq war continues, it becomes clearer than nothing was learned by the Bush administration from the events of September 11, 2001. The focus on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction ignores the simple fact that 9/11 was a weaponless attack, involving the misuse of benign and commonplace technologies — commercial jets and high-rise office buildings — in new and malignant ways.

But if the White House is obliviously focusing on the supposed Iraqi threat, others in government are concerned about the real threats. This is an excerpt of just the first two paragraphs of a 46-page document from the General Accounting Office (
PDF file):
Chemical facilities may be attractive targets for terrorists intent on causing economic harm and loss of life. Many facilities exist in populated areas where a chemical release could threaten thousands. EPA reports that 123 chemical facilities located throughout the nation have toxic “worst-case” scenarios where more than a million people in the surrounding area could be at risk of exposure to a cloud of toxic gas if a release occurred. To date, no one has comprehensively assessed the security of chemical facilities.

No federal laws explicitly require that chemical facilities assess vulnerabilities or take security actions to safeguard their facilities from attack.
More than a million times 123 is roughly half the US population.

While Tom Ridge fingerpaints with his terror colors and Rumsfeld serves as Secretary of Offense, no one's minding the security of the country itself — except for the same GAO that Dick Cheney has effectively (and partisanly) silenced.

GAO link via Cryptome.
Thursday, March 20, 2003

Julianne Ingles

Oil and mixed media on canvas
60" x 84"

Painted in 1991, during Gulf War I.

The artist is currently seeking a location for public display.
Contact the artist by email via her website
Killing credibility. I was all set to write a post about Rand Beers, the National Security Council's counterterrorism director who resigned Monday under hazy circumstances, but
Atrios informs me that Monkey Media Report has already done an excellent job of it.

Instead I offer you only these additional words from the Washington Post tracing the pattern that arcs across a number of similar resignations:
Beers declined to comment yesterday, but close associates said he had considered leaving the high-pressure job for some time before submitting his one-paragraph resignation letter on Monday. Although some speculated that his resignation was a protest against the White House's increased concentration on Iraq at the expense of the overall counterterrorism effort, others cited general weariness with fighting internal battles.

News of Beers's departure was followed yesterday by the third resignation of a U.S. diplomat over Iraq policy since last month. Mary A. Wright, the number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia, had spent 15 years in the foreign service and 26 years in the Army and Army Reserves.

"I strongly believe that going to war now will make the world more dangerous, not safer," Wright said in a letter to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. "In our press for military action now, we have created deep chasms in the international community and in important international organizations. Our policies have alienated many of our allies and created ill will in much of the world."

Wright, the highest-ranking diplomat to resign over the current situation, also criticized what she called a "lack of policy on North Korea" and said she disagrees with the administration's "lack of effort" in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. She said the United States has "done little" to end the violence. She called on the administration to "exert our considerable financial influence" on the Israelis and Palestinians alike.

"I have served my country for almost 30 years in some of the most isolated and dangerous parts of the world," concluded Wright, who won a State Department heroism award in 1997 in Sierra Leone. "I want to continue to serve America. However, I do not believe in the policies of the administration and cannot defend or implement them."

John Brady Kiesling, a political officer at the U.S. Embassy in Athens resigned in February, telling Powell in a letter that he no longer believed he was upholding the interests of the American people and the world by supporting President Bush's policies.

"The policies we are now asked to advance are incompatible not only with American values but also with American interests," Kiesling said. "Our fervent pursuit of war with Iraq is driving us to squander the international legitimacy that has been America's most potent weapon of both offense and defense since the days of Woodrow Wilson. We have begun to dismantle the largest and most effective web of international relationships the world has ever known. Our current course will bring instability and danger, not security."

John H. Brown resigned last week from the foreign service after serving for 22 years. He said: "The president's disregard for views in other nations, borne out by his neglect of public diplomacy, is giving birth to an anti-American century."
I imagine it must be very difficult to act in any counterterrorist capacity when every executive decision contradicts your very purpose. US counterterrorism efforts — the first line of true "homeland security" — have been eviscerated by Bush and scribbled over by Tom Ridge and his tiny, useless box of domestic alert crayons.

Harkening back to the blissful state of America before 9/11/01, it's hard not to be reminded of ousted FBI counterterrorism expert John O'Neill who sparred with then-ambassador to Yemen and soon-to-be administratrix of postwar Iraq, Barbara K. Bodine. He, too, couldn't get Bodine or anyone above him in the FBI to listen to his Chicken Little arguments about the sky falling — but the sky did fall on September 11, and it took him with it.

Because We the People can't hear a thing except for the bloodthirsty din of CNN and Fox News and the meaningless blathering of a docile White House press corps, the current crop of counterterrorism professionals is yelling a warning to all of us as loudly as they can — with their feet.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
Infinite war proximity, zero moral proximity. Steve Bowbrick in
The Guardian:
Our proximity to the fighting is unarguable. The collision of network-era news gathering tools, weblogs and interconnected internet communities will produce a kind of ecstasy of information and communication. The war will be fought as if it were on the other side of the thinnest sheet of glass. It will be as if we are there.

But will our high definition connections with the front line and the increasingly powerful illusion of understanding provided by the weblogs and news sites genuinely close the gap of understanding? As we get closer to events, have we gained any moral proximity? Are we any closer to genuine connection with those affected by war, with the effects of our judgments and those of our leaders? The answer, inevitably, is no.
All the technological superiority in the world does not make Americans or the British morally superior. To borrow Clarence Thomas's phrase, the Iraqi people will be subjected to a "high-tech lynching."

The author Steve Bowbrick also writes bowblog.

UPDATE: In this bowblog post, commenter Mike Butcher points us to the personal word-, photo- and audioblog of CNN correspondent Kevin Sites who is now in northern Iraq.
Paying for the war with economic slavery. From the Associated Press via
The New York Times:
The House on Wednesday considered legislation that would make it more difficult for consumers to erase their debts in bankruptcy court. Democrats assailed the measure as unfairly to people who have been knocked off their financial feet by tough economic times.


Democrats evoked the specter of last year's corporate scandals in floor debate Wednesday, contrasting executives of bankrupt companies like Enron who received millions of dollars in bonuses with the plight of ordinary employees and retirees who were wiped out and may have had to file for bankruptcy.

Under the new requirements of the bill, ``People ... will be in economic slavery for five years,'' said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.

Democrats objected to Republicans having excluded from the vote several Democratic amendments, including one that would have made unemployed people who have exhausted benefits, terrorism victims and military personnel exempt from the bill's new requirements for bankruptcy filings.
The people at Webster's are feverishly rewriting the definition of "compassion," based on the degradation of American standards of usage.
BBC reporters' war log.
sears towerI can see Sears Tower from my house here in Chicago. At 1,450 feet and 110 stories high, it is the
tallest building in North America. Ten thousand people work there. Twenty-five thousand people visit daily. On a clear day, you can see the structure 35 miles away. I live just a few miles from it.

In a sane America that recognized the true meaning of 9/11/01, we would address the vulnerability of Sears Tower instead of playing Iraqi roulette. But Mayor Daley cannot even get the Federal Aviation Administration to impose a downtown Chicago no-fly zone (Chicago Sun-Times):
"Give me one reason why Washington, D.C., and New York have to be protected and no other city should be protected," Daley said, noting they have stringent no-fly zones. "Don't you think we should have the same protection as the people of Washington, D.C.?"
Downtown Chicago is unusual in that it has a small working airport right at the edge of its illustrious skyline. About a mile away from Sears Tower is Meigs Field.

The FAA has not seen fit to create a no-fly zone in skyscraper-laden Chicago or to close Meigs Field, despite its proximity to the United States' tallest object of terrorist focus.

Why not? Because "homeland security" consists of protecting not American people but the really important stuff — inanimate objects of presidential significance like Mount Rushmore.

In George W Bush's America, human beings are expendable. Presidential images are not.
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
It's all in the tell.
Tom Tomorrow and South Knox Bubba look at the art and science of lying, using the face of George W Bush as evidence.
"There is surely no more obvious symptom of the corruption of western politics than the disproportion between the money available for sustaining life and the money available for terminating it," says George Monbiot in The Guardian. "As the US prepares to spend some $12bn a month on bombing the Iraqis, it has so far offered only $65m to provide them with food, water, sanitation, shelter and treatment for the injuries they are likely to receive."
This year, George Bush "forgot" to produce an aid budget for Afghanistan, until he was forced to provide another $300m by Congress.

The Afghan government, which has an annual budget of just $460m - or around half of what the US still spends every month on chasing the remnants of al-Qaida through the mountains - is effectively bankrupt. At the beginning of this month the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, flew to Washington to beg George Bush for more money. He was given $50m, $35m of which the US insists is spent on the construction of a five-star hotel in Kabul. Karzai, in other words, has discovered what the people of Iraq will soon find out: generosity dries up when you are yesterday's news.
Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who did not elect George W Bush, the consequences of this short-sightedness will be with us for generations.

Tomorrow's terrorists are cultured in the Petri dish of yesterday's news. That's how the current batch was made, and that's how the next, bigger batch will be made too.

US foreign policy exhibits no sense of cultural strategy short of cheap sloganeering and leaflet airdrops. This administration shows zero understanding of national uniqueness, a blindness toward complex human needs, and, most importantly, a faith-based lack of comprehension of the concepts of cause and effect.
Christian civilians are scared of their Christian commander-in-chief. Wariness about the loose and troubling interpretations of biblical ideas that are emanating from the White House appears to be growing — even among Christians. The discomfort among believers is obvious in this editorial from
The Christian Century Magazine:
What is alarming is that Bush seems to have no reservations about the notion that God and the good are squarely on the American side. As Joe Klein put it in Time, the President's "faith offers no speed bumps on the road to Baghdad; it does not give him pause or force him to reflect. It is a source of comfort and strength but not of wisdom."

Bush's actions, if not his words, seem also to be in line with end-times scenarios imagined by some conservative Christians and fictionalized in the "Left Behind" series that has sold over 50 million volumes since 1995. Up to 40 percent of Americans believe that we are living in the last days, says historian Paul S. Boyer, and that history is racing toward an apocalyptic clash between the forces of good and evil. Millions of Americans believe that the Bible foretells regime change in Iraq, that God established Israel's boundaries millennia ago, and that the United Nations is a forerunner of a satanic world order (The Chronicle Review, February 14). Bush is giving tacit support to such a perspective with his hands-off policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, his antipathy toward international cooperation and agreements, and his near apocalyptic discourse of good contending with evil.

Does the President believe we are living in the last days of history and does he see his own actions as leading toward a divinely ordained, cataclysmic conflict with the forces of evil? If it is not a literal reading of biblical prophecy that is informing his policies, then what does he mean by his talk of providence?

The American people have a right to know how the President's faith is informing his public policies, not least his design on Iraq.
The Christian Century describes itself as "a magazine that believes the Christian faith calls people to a profound engagement with the world--an engagement of head and heart. We think Christians must articulate their faith in a way that is socially meaningful and intellectually compelling."

The alarm these reasonably sympathetic Christians are feeling with respect to the potential outcome of Bush's rhetoric must be recognized for the threat it represents.

We secular American citizens must figure out more concrete ways to forestall an artificial, Republican-bred but American taxpayer-funded Apocalypse.

Link via Cursor.
Ensuring a crooked playing field. Who gets the spoils of war? The American taxpayer who, willingly or not, finances the White House's unilateral military campaigns? The "liberated" newly-democratic Iraqi people? Let's see.

First comes a statement (
Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd) that sounds reasonable, even honorable, upon first hearing during a White House news saturation cycle earlier this year:
In January Secretary of State Colin Powell said the U.S. would not exploit Iraqi oil reserves for its own purposes, and that oil would be held "in trust" for the Iraqi people. The U.S. government has held talks this year with Iraqi opposition groups about administration of oil fields after Saddam Hussein leaves power.
Later, in whispered tones that you must listen closely for, comes the following (same article):
Speaking Friday at the European Institute conference, James Placke, Middle East specialist at Cambridge Energy Research Associates, said in the aftermath of a potential war, existing Iraqi oil field agreements with foreign companies will likely have to be recast.

"I think it's likely that the playing field will be leveled, which probably means that the existing memoranda of understanding will be renegotiated to fit into a very different framework from the one in which they were originally agreed upon," Placke said.

In the initial two-to-three-year phase of recovery and rebuilding, oil services companies like Halliburton Co. (HAL) and Schlumberger Ltd. (SLB) would be the main foreign contractors, rather than large integrated oil firms like Shell, he said. Assuming political stability and internal security, Iraq could use that transition phase to set a framework for longer-term relationships with foreign oil firms, he said.

Iraq's oil reserves are estimated at more than 112 billion barrels, the second-largest after those of Saudia Arabia. Recent production capacity under the U.N. oil-for-food program has been 2.5 million barrels a day, but industry analysts project production could be more than twice that level with sufficient time and investment.

In December the Council of Foreign Relations and the Baker Institute projected Iraq's oil export infrastructure would need investment of $5 billion, and its fields would need another $5 billion plus $3 billion per year in operating costs to raise production to pre-1990 levels of 3.5 million barrels a day.
"Likely have to be recast," "renegotiated," "assuming political stability," "could be," and "would need" conditionalize every promise ever made to anyone, anywhere. Except, of course, for clandestine promises made to Halliburton, Dick Cheney's company and current compensator extraordinaire.

But in the article you will find another name, Baker, that brings back unhappy memories of December 2000, when the name of the president of the United States was still unknown. Besides running post-election campaigns for children of his cronies, James Baker — James A. Baker III to his friends — has an institute of his own. This institute issues papers, like "Guiding Principles for U.S. Post-Conflict Policy in Iraq", which pays lip service to other concerns but is more about oil than anything else. The document is explicitly about the setting of priorities. For example, the 270 trillion cubic feet of Iraqi natural gas receive a chapter of their own in the addendum, entitled "Good potential, but not a priority."

With the international focus of its recommendations, this report appears to have been the foundation of Colin Powell's remarks in January. The uni-national involvement of Halliburton was evidently appended after the initial publicity, which suggests that the entire paper might have been a Powell-appeasing tactic from the get-go. "Let's get Colin to present this 'oil in trust for the Iraqi people' concept — we can always change it later," is the thinking.

To better understand how these men want this campaign to unfold, we must go back in time. Like any good right-wing think tank, the Baker Institute comes up with radical ideas, pronouncements, and wish lists, such as those found in this set of policy recommendations from April 2, 1997:
...Iran's influence on the question of exports from Central Asia should also be revisited.

The United States, with its global responsibilities, must maintain a firm and consistent policy on Iran. However, the United States must recognize that it has not been successful in bringing our allies to the same level of sanctions on Iran.
Iraq is mentioned, but the focus on Iran in unmistakable. In other words, there will be an aftermath to the Iraq campaign, and it will consist of Iran.

"I think it's likely that the playing field will be leveled," Placke said in the first article cited above. Not "level." Leveled.

The playing field will indeed be leveled, one way or another, by unscrupulous US corporate concerns. The coming war is a campaign of military clear-cutting for American industrial interests to get closer to the assets they crave.

For the Cheneyesque gang, the playing fields from which obstacles must be removed are actually three: First, Iraq. Second, Iran. Third, the Central Asian republics.
Monday, March 17, 2003
Richard of
tendentious parallels yesterday's bulldozer murder of a peace activist in Israel with the case of Ben Linder in Nicaragua during the 1980s.
The grudge match begins. But whose grudge is it? Today's
Wall Street Journal (sub. req'd) seems to argue that the grudge match in Iraq is more a product of Cheney than of Junior:
As the Iraq drama unfolds, Mr. Cheney has become the war counselor with the lowest profile but the highest credibility with Mr. Bush. Repeatedly, he has defined the bottom line for U.S. policy: Mr. Hussein's prompt removal from power, with or without a broad international coalition.

Messrs. Bush and Cheney have shared that goal since shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks made vivid the threat posed by anti-American terrorists who might obtain weapons of mass destruction. Before then, the administration had been content to contain Mr. Hussein. A debate over whether to join with Iraqi exiles in a renewed push for regime change languished inside the State Department. Mr. Bush never really addressed the question directly, for it never was pushed up to him.

Even after Sept. 11, the White House initially postponed its move toward regime change to keep focused on its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. "We've got Saddam Hussein bottled up for now," Mr. Cheney said at the time.

But with little public notice, Mr. Cheney began working on the Iraq issue with a new dedication. He quietly sought out experts on the politics and culture of the country. He reached out to Iraqi exiles such as Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmed Chalabi, an Iraqi exile whose family led the country decades ago and who seeks to lead a post-Hussein Iraq. And he began hosting a series of small dinner parties -- some at his elegant official residence in Washington and others at the "undisclosed locations" where he'd been secluded for security reasons -- to share ideas with anti-Hussein intellectuals such as Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis, Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami and conservative author Victor David Hanson.

rumsfeldThe hard line struck at these gatherings provided intellectual support for Mr. Bush's own instincts. As the defense secretary in the first Bush administration, which closed the first Persian Gulf War without removing Mr. Hussein from power, Mr. Cheney had been called on for years to account for that decision. In the months after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Rumsfeld adopted a wicked grin once when he prodded the vice president to admit to a crowded room of Pentagon employees that "not going to Baghdad" was one decision he regretted from his stint as Pentagon chief. "Yeah, I guess you're right," the vice president responded.


State Department and CIA officials mistrust the wealthy, American-educated Mr. Chalabi, who was convicted in a Jordanian banking scandal more than a decade ago. But Mr. Cheney and his senior staff have remained stubborn advocates of Mr. Chalabi, a man they first got to know in the mid-1990s at the barbecues and golf games held at private seminars hosted by groups such as the Aspen Institute.


The last act of the diplomatic endgame has remained a subject for debate into its final hours. Administration officials say Mr. Powell doesn't want to force a Security Council vote that faces certain defeat, fearing long-term damage to the U.N. and American alliances. Mr. Cheney and his allies would be happy to force Security Council members to "show their cards," as Mr. Bush put it in a recent news conference.

He is also content to endure the barbs of world opinion to achieve the goal he shares with the president. Noting his own Western heritage, Mr. Cheney said on NBC Sunday that "the notion that the president is a cowboy ... is not necessarily a bad idea. He cuts to the chase ... . The leaders who will set the world, if you will, on a new course, deal effectively with these kinds of threats we've never faced before, will be somebody exactly like President Bush."
"Showing their cards"? "Cowboys"?

Enough with the manly metaphors. These are not rough-and-tumble cowpunchers. They are among the most insular and coddled men this country has ever produced, and Cheney's particular brand of partisan "cartel-capitalist" arrogance and incompetence, driven by insatiable industrial appetites, ranks among the most disgusting displays of official behavior in American history.
"Texans worried about having enough for retirement" says the Houston Chronicle. Did they somehow think that their lousy governor would magically become a genius in the White House?
Kip of Long story; short pier remembers not Iraq but
Arak, Iran. Fascinating.
Oscar gets a muzzle. God forbid anyone speaking on television should ever say anything. Link via Cursor.
Protesters, like companies, start to focus on oil. London antiwar protesters broke into the International Petroleum Exchange today and
halted business (Reuters).

At least they're getting the linkage between oil and war right — as opposed to W's administration which fraudulently insists that this all has something to do with 9/11/01.

But ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, Shell and BP are not as stupid as American adults and are already jockeying for position (Newsweek) to get their share of the spoils of war.
The march of astroturf. Since
ten days ago when we first located a fake Medicare letter that Republicans had written for shills to sign and send to their local papers, those letters have so far appeared verbatim in four newspapers:
Juneau Empire, courtesy of GOP shill Jeff Pomeroy of Eagle River.

Honolulu Star-Bulletin, courtesy of GOP shill Dirk Maurins of Honolulu, whose astroturf we've noted before but Unblinking has documented most thoroughly.

The Zephyr (Galesburg, IL), courtesy of GOP shill Paul Burnett of New Baden.

Norwich (CT) Bulletin, courtesy of GOP shill Raymond C. Joyner of Manchester.
Q: Why is astroturf bad?

A: When you read the Letters to the Editor in your home newspaper, the assumption is that you are reading the unvarnished opinions of your fellow citizens, not the scribbling-for-hire of professional political hacks at GOP headquarters. All questions of the mean-spiritedness of the policies themselves aside for the moment, the astroturf deception is especially insidious because it's so petty. You think you're reading your neighbors' views when in fact you're reading a political advertisement. Upon discovering that you have unwittingly read a piece of astroturf, you feel cheap, dirty and violated afterward. Or you should, anyway.

Q: Why do Republicans have to stoop so low?

A: Because their domestic agenda never resonates with anything resembling popular appeal, so they are forced to create phony consensus with tacky bribes, like the shabby bumper stickers, mouse pads, T-shirts and tote bags that astroturfers Jeff Pomeroy, Dirk Maurins, Paul Burnett and Raymond C. Joyner will receive for being good apparatchiks via GOP Team Leader, the official GOP propaganda and bribery website.

If you're just tuning in, "astroturf" refers to bogus Letters to the Editor because they represent "fake grass roots" politics.

UPDATE: The Mad Prophet has found even more examples.
Friday, March 14, 2003
Duct tape is for little people. Only cockroaches and Republicans will survive Kim Jong Il's Saddam Hussein's nuclear Armageddon, thanks to their
safe rooms (Wall Street Journal, sub. req'd):
roachFor Jack and Lani Garfield, duct taping the bedroom just won't do. Instead, they've totally updated an old bomb shelter in their backyard, complete with a special ventilation system, a generator and a two-way radio. The retired dentist and his wife, from Palm Springs, Calif., even fixed up the decor, hanging Cold War-era bomb test photos on the wall. "We're ready," says Dr. Garfield.
Cold War nostalgia? I remain dumbfounded at the kinds of atrocities that affluent people are willing to commit in the name of home decor.
With war looking likely, worried homeowners are investing in the latest home addition: the "safe room." With the help of home-security companies, they're putting in food-storage tanks in the basement, blast-proof walls in the garage and fiberglass pods that can be buried in the backyard. One security specialist is selling a portable shelter on eBay -- with two-day shipping included. And while experts say the rooms may not be as safe as some people hope, folks are shelling out from $3,000 to more than $50,000 for one, even when it's just a closet.

Of course, the number of people putting these things in is still small, but companies like American Saferoom Door in Los Angeles say business is up 20% in the past two months, while Zytech, a recently launched Maryland safe-room builder, says it already has a backlog of a dozen orders for its $26,000-and-up customized rooms. Alliance Security Products, a New York company owned by an ex-Israeli army officer, says its six-person tent can function as a safe room on the go. The company says it's sold 150 in the past month -- and has a waiting list four times that long.

Rex Bost's version will be a little more permanent. "We live in scary times," says the North Carolina builder. "This gives me peace of mind." His will be in the basement with foot-thick concrete walls and its own separate ventilation system. And in the event nothing bad happens, the space won't go to waste: He's planning to have it double as a place to practice his guitar, because it will have soundproof walls.
Woohoo! What a rock and roll rebel! I bet Rex Bost even has bumper stickers that say "If the safe room's Iraqin', don't come a-knockin'."
This week, more people have visited this site than in any entire month of our humble enterprise, thanks especially to mentions from
Tom Tomorrow at This Modern World, Matthew Yglesias, and Atrios.

Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

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

. . .