Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Bush's Credibility Has Jumped the Shark

Judging by AP reporter Calvin Woodward's report on Bush's big speech today on how we're going to achieve victory in Iraq, nobody's buying what Bush is selling anymore. It begins

President Bush's depiction of Iraqi security forces as "helping to turn the tide" is difficult to square with persistent setbacks in handing control of the country back to its own people. His suggestion that Americans are solidly behind the mission also understates opposition at home, and his hard sell on the rising quality of Iraqi forces overlooks complexities on the ground.
And it ends
As he did before the invasion, Bush tied Iraq to terrorism, to make the case that a stable Iraq would make for a safer America. He declared, "The terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity. And so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror." Iraq was not, however, the terrorists' chosen battlefield until Saddam was defeated and extremists poured across unsecured borders.
That's not just skepticism. That's somewhere between derision and contempt.


I see Steve Gilliard has discovered the walking, talking bag of bigotry who calls himself "Vox Day". Now, Theodore "Vox Day" Beale isn't just a sexist dork. He's also an anti-Semitic dork. He used to be employed as a techie/gaming columnist for the St. Paul Pioneer Press until he got booted for being an anti-Semitic pig in print. His daddy, who is one of the guys behind the vile right-wing electronic hate crime known as World Net Daily, is apparently rich enough for Ted to never have to learn from his mistakes. He's a Pretend Man. Ewwwwww. Let's wash the taste of him out of our minds. Here's a Real Man, Paul Hackett. And here's another Real Man, Harry Reid.


Let's Crack Down On Obscenity!

And here's a good place to start. (Not Gilly, but the story to which he links.) Makes a hell of a lot more sense than doing this.


Winning Scamming Hearts and Minds

Today's Los Angeles Times reports:

As part of an information offensive in Iraq, the U.S. military is secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq. The articles, written by U.S. military "information operations" troops, are translated into Arabic and placed in Baghdad newspapers with the help of a defense contractor, according to U.S. military officials and documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. [...] The Pentagon has a contract with a small Washington-based firm called Lincoln Group, which helps translate and place the stories.
And what, you may ask, is the Lincoln Group? According to SourceWatch, a service of the Center for Media and Democracy,
The Lincoln Group, formed in 1999, is "a D.C.-based business 'intelligence' company that handles services from 'political campaign intelligence' to commercial real estate in Iraq."
Isn't that interesting? It was formed right about the time George W. Bush was being anointed as the "frontrunner" in the presidental race. And who is the Lincoln Group? One of its executives is Christian Bailey, who (again according to SourceWatch), was on the Board of Directors for the 2004 Republican National Convention. Billmon reports that Bailey's not the only Bush crony in the operation:
...some details of Iraqex's operations have made it into the press, such in as this story from the Chicago Tribune ("Word Warriors, 2/4/05), which inadvertently highlighted the fact that the most experienced firm in Iraq has a penchant for hiring GOP political hacks with absolutely no experience in Iraq...
When [Jonathan Blessing] and another political consultant who had been working for the Bush campaign in Illinois heard about an opportunity to work for a company doing public relations in Iraq, the two jumped at the chance . . . Blessing and Swift are working for a private company called Iraqex, a subcontractor for the U.S. Department of Defense . . . Swift worked for the Bush-Cheney campaign in Illinois, and Blessing worked for the state GOP.
...So to sum up: We have a tiny start-up venture, controlled by persons unknown, that suddenly materializes in late 2003 doing "private equity" deals in the middle of a war zone, and then obtains a huge PR contract from the Pentagon, and then hires a bunch of unemployed GOP campaign operatives to execute that contract, and then is absorbed by a shadowy DC company that specializes in corporate and political detective work and that may have close ties to both the Republican Party and the intelligence community, which then is awarded an even bigger contract to produce even more Pentagon propaganda.
Gosh, what a surprise. The comments for this Moon of Alabama post contain even more interesting information about Mr. Bailey. Interesting and scary. But then, everything even remotely connected to the Bush regime is scary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


Powell aide, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, says Cheney may be war criminal

...or maybe just a common criminal Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, singled out Mr Cheney in a wide-ranging political assault on the BBC's Today programme...Asked whether the vice-president was guilty of a war crime, Mr Wilkerson replied: "Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well." In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word "terror" to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners.

"I Was Paid To Blame Syria"

Most interesting. Wonder if this will make the US news media?

Beirut - A man has claimed on Syrian state TV that he was bribed to accuse top Syrian officials of the murder of Rafiq Hariri in his testimony to the United Nations commission into the former Lebanese premier's assassination. Husam Taher Husam, a former conscript in the Syrian army, alleged in a 75-minute interview on Sunday night that Saad Hariri, the son of the slain Hariri, met him several months ago and offered him $1.3m to testify against top Syrian officials. The spokesperson for the Syrian inquiry into Hariri's murder, Ibrahim Daraji, said on Monday that if Husam is the unidentified key witness quoted in the UN commission's interim report, then the United Nations' case "has completely collapsed." Daraji spoke at a press conference in Damascus on Monday at which Husam reiterated the allegations he had made on Syrian television the night before. Syria criticised UN report Husam told the television that UN officials told him what to say when he gave evidence to the UN commission, in particular that he was "close to" Brigadier General Assef Shawkat, the chief of Syrian military intelligence and brother-in-law of Syria's president, who was named in the commission's interim report last month. "But I've never seen him in my whole life," Husam said of Shawkat in the television interview. It was not possibly to reach Saad Hariri for a response on Monday as he was travelling in South America. News bulletins on Hariri's own Future TV station did not refer to Husam's claims. The UN commission rarely responds to media reports about the investigation.
We probably should not accept this unquestioningly. (No one will ever confuse Syrian state-run TV with a free and fair press; but then again, the US press isn't all that hot, either.) But, when one considers that the main source cited in the UN report is not exactly a paragon of honesty, things obviously aren't quite as the Bush Administration wants us to think they are.


GOP Trying To Muddy The Abramoff Waters

A GOP lobbyist, Jimmy Faircloth, is attempting to use the AP to smear Byron Dorgan and Harry Reid. As Kagro X says, read the AP story carefully. Note that Dorgan and Reid aren't among the folk that the JD's investigating. But the AP story tries to make it sound like they are. To contact the AP:

The Associated Press Headquarters 450 W. 33rd St. New York, NY 10001 Main Number +1-212-621-1500 When sending e-mail messages to The Associated Press, do not send attachments. As a result of the huge volume of e-mail received daily, we may be unable to provide a response. However, all comments are read and taken into consideration. For general questions and comments;or to contact a specific employee: For career opportunities:
And yes, I've already notified Eschaton and Media Matters. :-) ------------------------------------------------------------------- UPDATE: Byron Dorgan's stepped forward to debunk the AP story:
An Associated Press story last week that tied Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., to tribal campaign contributions arranged by a scandal-plagued lobbyist is “disgusting and wrong,” and “a fabrication,” Dorgan said Monday. [...] Dorgan said the story’s suggestion that he signed a letter in February 2002 in support of the cost-share Indian school construction program as a favor to Abramoff and in exchange for political donations is “demonstrably false.” “In fact, I had always supported that program,” Dorgan said Monday, including pledging his support in August 2001. That proves his support is not connected to Abramoff, he said.
I'd tend to agree. But wait, there's more:
Dorgan said the story’s allegation that he sent one of his staff people to the Interior Department to support the program is not true. The staffer worked for the committee’s past ranking member, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.V., until 2003, when Byrd left the committee and Dorgan became ranking member. Dorgan said he then “inherited” the staff person. And, he said, the staff person did not go to Interior on behalf of the cost-share program, but to express reservations about it. Dorgan said he will not recuse himself from the investigation into Abramoff’s dealings with tribes.
There you go.


More Threads, More Sweaters

When the news of the Cunningham blowup hit yesterday, I was wondering who else Cunningham's buddy Mitchell Wade had dealt with in the GOP legislative caucus on the Hill. Josh Marshall provides us with two names: Katherine Harris and Virgil Goode. Well, both of these folk can forget about aspiring to higher office. Heh.

Monday, November 28, 2005


SEIU Organizing The South

One of the reasons why organizing people in the service industries is so important is the fact that the service industries, by their very nature, are a lot harder to outsource overseas than are manufacturing jobs. Which is why it's very good news that the SEIU is making good steps in organizing the South, the traditional homeland of anti-labor practices:

Union organizers have obtained what they say is majority support in one of the biggest unionization drives in the South in decades, collecting the signatures of thousands of Houston janitors. Skip to next paragraph Michael Stravato for The New York Times Ercilia Sandoval, top, with her daughters Jennifer, 4, and Genesis, 7, and Flora Aguilar say they struggle to make ends meet as office cleaners in Houston. Janitors in the city typically earn $5.25 an hour. In an era when unions typically face frustration and failure in attracting workers in the private sector, the Service Employees International Union is bringing in 5,000 janitors from several companies at once. With work force experts saying that unions face a slow death unless they can figure out how to organize private-sector workers in big bunches, labor leaders are looking to the Houston campaign as a model. The service employees, which led a breakaway of four unions from the A.F.L.-C.I.O. last summer, has used several unusual tactics in Houston, among them lining up the support of religious leaders, pension funds and the city's mayor, Bill White, a Democrat. Making the effort even more unusual has been the union's success in a state that has long been hostile to labor. "It's the largest unionization campaign in the South in years," said Julius Getman, a labor law professor at the University of Texas. "Other unions will say, 'Yes, it can be done here.' "
Make no mistake, the SEIU has a tough job ahead of it. But it's already done better than its predecessors in the South:
In recent days, the union has collected cards signed by about three-fifths of the workers at four of Houston's biggest janitorial companies. An agreement signed in August calls for the American Arbitration Association to inspect the cards and certify when the union has received majority support. The janitorial companies have promised to recognize the union once that happens. Even if the union is recognized, it still faces a big obstacle in negotiating a contract that delivers some of the hoped-for improvements in wages and benefits. Yet the union's Texas achievement stands in stark contrast to the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s failed drive in the early 1980's, which sought to recruit tens of thousands of Houston workers. Known as the Houston Organizing Project, that $1-million-a-year effort faltered along with the economy, as unions retreated and focused on holding onto the workers they had, and as Texas companies fought hard against unionizing.
Go get 'em, SEIU!


IRS Complaint Filed Against Focus On The Family

Press release:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) today filed an Internal Revenue Services (IRS) complaint against Focus on the Family, a conservative, non-profit organization led by its Founder and Chairman James C. Dobson. The complaint asks for the IRS to investigate activities by the group which may violate IRS regulations and require a revocation of its tax-exempt status. Although barred from electioneering, Mr. Dobson has endorsed candidates for political office several times. In early April, 2004, Mr. Dobson endorsed Republican Representative Patrick J. Toomey in his race for Senate in Pennsylvania. In addition, it was reported that Mr. Dobson actively campaigned during a rally for Rep. Toomey. Other candidates that Mr. Dobson reportedly endorsed in 2004 include North Carolina Republican candidate Pat Ballentine for Govenor and Oklahoma Republican candidate Tom Coburn for Senate. [...] The IRS complaint is available at
Does anybody think that the IRS will pursue this complaint as expeditiously as the complaint against the church where a minister preached a sermon against the Iraq war?

DailyKos Readers Setting Up Long-Term Aid In New Orleans Area

Check it out.


The American KGB nears birth

Via Avedon Carol's Walter Pincus says: The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world. The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage...."We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America....Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said in a recent interview. In Senate-House conference, the crimes of ideological deviance, parasitism, and premature anti-Saddamism were added to CIFA's purview. Yes, that was a joke. Probably.

The "Moral Hazard" Myth

"Moral hazard" is another way for American conservatives to say that helping poor people (especially poor black people) is bad for them. This is of course ridiculous, and here's the debunking thereof.


Corn Salvation?

Corn stoves are becoming popular again, particularly in rural areas. They tend to wax and wane in popularity, as this story from 2001 shows. The main problem I see with them is that they have to be fed constantly and watched regularly -- unlike electric or even steam/gas heat, which is generally "set it and forget it". You can't just set the thermostat to, say, fifty degrees (just enough to keep the water pipes from freezing) and then go on vacation for a week, the way you can with other forms of heat. But if a way is ever found around that -- and with this particular corn stove, it seems like they're getting close -- then these babies will really start to take off.

Sunday, November 27, 2005


Early Monday Morning Puppy Blogging

His name is "Peanut", he belongs to my parents, and he's a 2 1/2 month old Samoyed puppy that thinks humans are for licking.


The Winds Of Change

Yet another sign of the changing political winds: A Minnesota exurb that hasn't elected a Democrat in over ten years has done so now -- among other things:

It was a busy week, what with travel and relatives and cooking marathons, so you might have missed news of the minor political earthquakes in the western 'burbs on Tuesday. In District 43's state Senate special election, DFLer Terri Bonoff, a Minnetonka Planning Commission member and school activist, defeated Republican Mayor Judy Johnson of Plymouth by an unmistakable 1,000 or so votes. [...] ... If a well-known, well-credentialed, well-liked candidate like Johnson doesn't sell to second-ring suburbanites over an (initially) lesser-known DFLer, what Republican can? I'd say, probably not one whose major differences with her DFL opponent are over tunes on the religious right's hit parade. Johnson is a Ramstad-Robertson moderate on matters like school and transportation funding. As president of the Minnesota League of Cities, she sides with DFLers on city funding questions. As a former welfare recipient, she's in sympathy with government support for the poor. But she wants abortion and gay marriage constitutionally banned. She danced around the question of teaching intelligent design in public schools with moves that had to leave voters confused, if not dizzy. Not so long ago, Republicans who wanted to win in districts like 43 chose fiscally conservative candidates willing to keep abortion legal and to steer clear of the rest of the social conservative agenda. Maybe that formula isn't out-of-date. The other trembles after Tuesday's election had to be felt in the Independence Party. For the little third party that Jesse Ventura rode into the governor's office seven years ago, the results in exurban District 19 had to be dispiriting. Del Haag was the IP's super-qualified candidate -- former League of Minnesota Cities president, National League of Cities board member, 17-year Buffalo City Council member, Montrose Public Works director. He came in third, with not quite 17 percent of the vote. The Republican winner, Buffalo businesswoman Amy Koch, garnered a solid 52 percent. It cannot be claimed that the presence of a third-party candidate altered the outcome. Yet it's worth wondering what might have happened if Haag had said yes a few weeks back, when the DFL Party called and asked him to be its candidate. Haag then would have had the resources of a real party -- voter lists, volunteers, special interest friends, fundraisers -- that the Independence Party lacks. More voters would have heard about his impressive résumé and thoughtful views. Haag's answer to the DFL was no, he related, but not because he disagrees with much that moderate DFLers like Senate leader Dean Johnson say. The GOP's inflexibilty on social issues has got Haag leaning toward the D side. Rather, Haag said, he went with the IP because the DFL label hasn't been worn by a winner in Wright County for many years. And because, after 17 years in nonpartisan office, he didn't feel right about plunging into the DFL water. And because the chance to be part of building something new "sort of gives you a tingle." He said that a few days before the election. He's likely felt something a little different since.


Conrad Black, a Man Without a Country?

PW will love this. The Viscount of Darkness, Conrad Black, is trying to renounce his British citizenship and have his Canadian citizenship reinstated. This follows his renunciation of Canadian citizenship to be able to gain British citizenship and a seat in the Lords. Naturally, he wants express treatment. You see, if immigration is too slow or denies the request, he's more likely to be extradited to the United States, where, we learn, "Black is manoeuvring for his appointment in a Chicago federal courtroom next Wednesday with Patrick Fitzgerald, probably the most feared US prosecutor..." Maybe Canada and the UK could team up to do the best thing of all. Accept Black's renunciation of British citizenship and deny his application for reinstatment of Canadian citizenship, making him a stateless person. That would for certain sure make his appointement with the "most feared US prosecutor" lively indeed. He might have something to say about Bush, Barrick, and Bulyanhulu.

It's Official: Iraq Human Rights Abuses Now *WORSE* than Saddam

It's official because PM Iyad Allawi says so: 'People are doing the same as [in] Saddam's time and worse,' Ayad Allawi told The Observer. 'It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam. These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam and now we are seeing the same things.' In a damning and wide-ranging indictment of Iraq's escalating human rights catastrophe, Allawi accused fellow Shias in the government of being responsible for death squads and secret torture centres. The brutality of elements in the new security forces rivals that of Saddam's secret police, he said. And in this cheering note: He added that he now had so little faith in the rule of law that he had instructed his own bodyguards to fire on any police car that attempted to approach his headquarters without prior notice, following the implication of police units in many of the abuses. It should be great to watch Scott McClellan spin this one.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


The Automatons And The Raw Meat

I have a friend who's back from two tours and about to do a third. His term for the PNAC civilian yes-men Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz have used to replace actual experienced, war-tested Pentagon brass: "The Automatons". Barring a bloodletting by whoever replaces Bush in office, the Automatons are the ones who will guide Pentagon policy for decades. Even as the rest of our armed forces are downsized as per Rumsfeld's policy (he believes that high-tech gizmos can do all our fighting for us, plus they don't need to be paid salaries, much less pensions), they will remain unless they are actually sent into combat (and Heaven help the troops they are sent to command). You see, my friend sees Rumsfeld's current policy as designed to ensure that nobody -- aside from the well-bred, monied, PNAC-vetted, and/or lickspittlish drones destined to be new Automatons -- stays in the armed services long enough to draw a pension. That's why the VA is being gutted. That's why soldiers' pay is so low that many military families need to go onto food stamps or other kinds of public assistance. It's the Wal-Mart-ing of the US military, and it's destroying it from within. Time was when the military tried to keep people on for as long as they could. They valued the concept of institutional memory. Rumsfeld, in his quest to remake the armed forces, is actively and deliberately destroying this institutional memory, just so it's easier for him to install his Automatons. Everyone else is just so much raw meat as far as Rummy's concerned. Which is why he has no problem with them getting used up in Iraq's meat grinder.


Slightly Late Friday Cat Blogging

Sleeping off the Thanksgiving feast. Alexander curled up asleep Lightfoot curled up asleep

Toilet Bowl Rising: The Occupation of Haiti.

There really are no heroes among public figures. I listened to Col. James Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former aide, who is being feted for being so brave as to say that the Iraq invasion was a mistake, say that doing exactly the same thing to the elected government in Haiti was absolutely necessary: Secretary Powell and the United States government and our ambassador in Haiti, in particular, did a marvelous job..." From the Beeb Haiti poll postponed a third time Electoral campaigning is already under way The first round of Haiti's presidential and legislative elections have been put back to 8 January, say officials. The impoverished Caribbean country has been blighted by political and criminal violence and instability over the last two years, despite[because of] an interim government and the presence of UN peacekeepers. With UN tanks rolling through slum neighborhoods and shooting indiscriminately, what bloodshed has been prevented? With the leaders of the most popular political party, Fanmi Lavalas in prison without charges, what sort of "fair elections" have been achieved? With two years without elections, how can Haiti be said to have a government? An occupation, yes. A UN-sponsored dictatorship, yes. How can any world leader look at the restoration of death squad leaders as the doing of justice? They are all grown worthless, every one. In regards to world leaders, the toilet bowl is rising and needs a flush and a scrub.

Spitting On The Troops: The Ultimate Case Of Right-Wing Projectionism

Ever since Vietnam, one of the right-wing's biggest talking points has been that The Lefties Hate Our Troops. This TP, which in its simplest and most visceral form has been codified as the "Vietnam vets were spat upon" story -- a story which has been as thoroughly debunked as the old Dolchstoß ("stab in the back") theory, first used by German right-wingers during World War One and revived by American right-wingers during Vietnam -- is what has driven many military people into the arms of the Republican Party. In fact, the only known and confirmed spitting on the troops being done during the Vietnam War was, in fact, done by pro-war conservatives attacking World War II veterans who were protesting our involvement in Vietnam. And George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic candidate for president who opposed the Vietnam War, was hailed as one of the best bomber unit commanders ever to touch a throttle in the European theater of operations during World War II. With that in mind, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the persons desecrating memorials to America's fallen in Iraq, or who are attacking honorable veterans such as John Murtha, are in fact right-wingers and Republicans. (Let's not even go into how the GOP and the Bush administration want to destroy the Veterans' Administration.) War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Attacking the Troops is Supporting the Troops. I think you get the idea.

Friday, November 25, 2005


Turkish police fake Kurdish bombing, killing one

Our gallant ally, Turkey The scandal began on November 9 when an explosion tore through a bookshop in Turkey's most south-easterly town, Semdinli, killing one man. It was the 17th bomb attack in the remote Kurdish region in two months. The others remain unsolved, blamed on the Kurdish separatist PKK which declared war last summer after a five-year ceasefire. This time local people caught the suspected bomber as he attempted to flee in a car with two other men. Investigations showed him to be a former PKK guerrilla turned informer. His two colleagues were members of Turkey's shadowy paramilitary police intelligence service, JIT.

Second Battle of Fallujah: Estimated 4,000-6,000 civilian deaths.

Take it or leave it. It's an estimate.

Clean(er) Elections in Virginia

Alice Marshall explains. For all those who thought Kerry should have fought in Ohio to the bitter end. (And everyone else, for that matter.)

Thursday, November 24, 2005


Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

And make sure your cats don't get at the turkey before it reaches the oven, OK?

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


Two Good Men

On this Thanksgiving Eve, I was looking, as the Marines say, for a few good men for which to be thankful. (Besides Patrick Fitzgerald, of course.) So, in that spririt, here are two good men. Good Man #1: Jacques Gaillot was, up until ten years ago, the Bishop of a Parisian suburb. But he cared a bit too much about the poor and downtrodden -- meaning that he wanted to see actual societal change that would help the poor and might inconvenience the very rich. What's more, he also was in favor of married priests and -- quel horreur! -- condom usage. So of course somebody (most likely then-Cardinal Ratzinger) persuaded the then-pope John Paul II to move this meddlesome priest out of his diocese and into the long-vacant diocese of Partenia. Since "Partenia", a location in what is now present-day Algeria, hadn't been a functional diocese for about fifteen hundred years, this was obviously intended as both a punishment and a way to deprive Bishop Gaillot of a platform from which to reach his flock. They reckoned without some computer-literate friends of the Bishop's, who talked him into creating the world's first virtual diocese, Partenia not only was the world's first virtual diocese, it was online well before the Vatican's own website. In fact, I suspect that it was the fact that Partenia was online that caused the Vatican to go online in the first place! (However, I seriously doubt that the Vatican's website will ever have an online forum, much less a chat room, as does Partenia.) Bishop Gaillot continues to speak out on issues concerning the poor and the marginalized, both in France and in places like New Orleans. And Partenia will celebrate its eleventh birthday in January. Good Man #2: Jeff Seemann is running for Congress next year as the Democratic candidate for Ohio's sixteenth district. He's also concerned, like Bishop Gaillot, with the plight of those who are marginalized in society. Recently, he decided that in order to help the homeless and the working poor, he had to know about how they lived their lives: what survival skills they used, how they got by, what people or groups helped them. And the only way to do that was to actually be homeless for a while:

Starting this Sunday, I will spend 100 hours homeless in Stark County, Ohio. From Sunday afternoon until late Thursday evening, I'll disappear into the city. No cell phone, no hot shower in the morning, no evenings with my girlfriend, no money in my pocket, and no Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I believe I need to immerse myself into the life with no cheating. If I want to understand what homelessness is like (and how to confront it legislatively), I need to experience it for myself. Every day, I will make one phone call so I can check in with one friend. That friend will post my experiences online, and I will personally post a recap at the end of the 100 hours. I will NOT be notifying the local media of this experience until it is complete. I do not view this as a photo-op or a hot story, and I do not want any reporters looking for me while I'm trying to learn from experience. Also, this is no joke and I am not trying to gain anything from the plight of homelessness, except an understanding of what it takes to survive. I ran this idea past several people to get their take on it....and it's been almost unanimously supported. Christy Harvey of the Center For American Progress actually said it "had a Morgan Spurlock feel to it", which completely flatters me. When the experience is all over, I will be summarizing who treated me the best, which agencies need to work on their community outreach, and which shelters (if any) can make the best with a little more funding. And when it's done, the agency/shelter which most deserves the support will get a check from my campaign for 10% of everything we raise from now until the end of the 100 hours.
Thus began this week an experience that has been detailed here, here, here, and here. (Oh, and did I mention that he was doing this in sub-freezing temperatures?) As promised, he talks of who helped and who didn't -- and of how his experience ended (he was picked up for vagrancy and decided to go home rather than spend a night in jail; remember, he was doing this without telling the media or the authorities what he was doing). And he has a lot of pertinent suggestions and ideas, most of them having to do with long-term care for the homeless, in which this country is sorely lacking.


Sugar Biofuels. Hmmmm.

The Guardian informs us that sugar-based biofuels are popular at the petrol pumps in Brazil, in large part because they're much cheaper than regular gasoline. Brazil wants to export the biofuels revolution. Certain carmakers, such as Peugeot, are skeptical that it'll catch on outside Brazil. Erm, what about Cuba? They used to be awash in sugar, back when the Soviets were propping up their sugar market. And I'll bet even Katherine Harris might swallow her revulsion at dealing with Commies if she could figure out a way to make her family's Florida sugar plantations as profitable as they were in the old days.


The pro from Dover

Once or maybe twice a year, I disagree with Gene Lyons. Not this week. Here he is on the Dover court case. Totally pro. ID got exposed as Biblical Fundamentalism in a badly fitting lab coat. Lest you suspect exaggeration, ponder this sentence from creationist textbook called “Of Pandas and People” cited in the Louisiana case: “Creation means that various forms of life began abruptly through the agency of an intelligent creator, with their distinctive features already intact - fish with fins and scales, birds with feathers, beaks, and wings, etc.” Here it is again from a post-1987 edition of the same book, purchased by the Dover school board: “Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact - fish with fins and scales, etc. Not much additional research appears to have been done. ... The scientist who fared worst on the witness stand was Michael Behe, a biochemist from Lehigh University and author of the best-selling book “Darwin’s Black Box.” Surrounded by stacks of books and journal articles dealing with the evolution of the human immune system, a mystery his book argued “scientific literature has no answer” for, Behe was reduced rhetorically dismissing works he obviously knew nothing about. In a real country, this would mean the end of ID. In Bushco, it's just another act in the circus.

09/21/01 PDB: No Iraq Link to 9/11

That's right. Even as Dick Cheney and the rest of the gang (including their media and legislative surrogates) were trumpeting the alleged connection -- and continued to do so for years afterward, even now -- they'd already been shown that it was bullshit. They KNEW.


The Un-Science Of Economics

Most scientists, in my experience, do their best to try to communicate their theories and findings in a clear, understandable language. Most economists, in my experience (and with Krugman being the honorable exception that proves the rule), prefer to hide behind pillars of quasi-religious psychobabble. I'd always half-suspected that most of what is called economics really isn't grounded in a scientifically-verifiable reality. Now along comes James Galbraith to confirm what I've always suspected. (He also shows why the self-styled hard-headed businessmen are so fond of airy-fairy ideas such as "the invisible hand" and the idea that helping poor people is bad for them.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Miami Township, Ohio could you please secede from the Union?

And please take the rest of OH-2 with you. It is an embarrassment to the United States. It should be an embarrassment to both the Republican Party and to Ohio. And yet they plunge on. Let's roll the tape. 1. Reflecting Iraqi desires, decorated Marine veteran says we should withdraw from Iraq. 2. Newly-elected congressman, already in a tenuous position because of links to Ohio corruption scandal violates House rules by implying said veteran is a coward and using both his name the name of another member of service in House debate. 3. Other member of the service, who turns out to be a Republican operative, denies using decorated veteteran's name, strongly suggesting that newly-elected congressman is a liar. 4. So, what do Republican on-line operatives do? Strap on the hip boots, because you're entering a tank filled with... #4 - bull shit. You people always start it by calling the President a liar. Liberals have the thinnest skin in America considering the slander they throw around on a daily basis. AND Murtha is a coward - he doesn’t even have the balls to vote for pullout. Just bitch about it. Comment by The Northeast Dilemma — November 22, 2005 @ 9:39 am But better take a condom because you can.... Go screw yourself. When Kennedy, Kerry, Pelosi and the rest of the Filthy Left in Washington apologize for saying the President lied and for other treasonous acts too numerous to mention we’ll think about rephrasing what Schmidt said. That fat old fart Murtha might have served but it doesn’t make him a hero and the fact is only cowards and traitors cut and run. Oh, by the way…Kerry should be shot for a traitor for consorting with the N. Vietnamese in Paris spilling his guts and conspiring to actively subvert US operations in SE Asia. Comment by I-RIGHT-I — November 22, 2005 @ 9:41 am But better bring along the sauce for some pit barbecue because #12 - right on. If liberals’ skin is so thin, maybe they should STFU and stop attacking the Commander in Chief on a daily basis. MURTHA IS A SHAMELESS PIG like Cindy Sheehan. Comment by The Northeast Dilemma — November 22, 2005 @ 9:42 am But there's more from that bottomless cesspit, The Freak Republic (continues in comments):

Slow walking the bad news

It has been well over two months since the destruction of New Orleans. So, why are 300 bodies not included in the official death toll? Does the medical examiner have reason to believe they will return to life? 6,644 people are still missing. And heaven knows how complete that figure is. Now, hopefully, many are alive and just haven't reported in. It happens in disasters, especially with kids separated from their parents. But this is a national disgrace. Bushco is slow walking the bad news, probably hoping to dump it on Christmas Day

Monday, November 21, 2005


It's Déja Vu All Over Again

Exiled Iranian Says Nation Hides Materials

Iran has expanded the tunnels it uses to hide a major part of its nuclear weapons program to a network covering a large area of southeastern Tehran, an Iranian exile who opposes that nation's Islamic government said Monday. Alireza Jafarzadeh said the secret construction of missiles extends well beyond Parchin, a military zone 20 miles southeast of the Iranian capital. Jafarzadeh told reporters in September about the Parchin tunnels.
Haven't we seen this movie before? "Alireza Jafarzadeh" must be Persian for "Ahmed Chalabi".

Who Served?

An email is making the rounds, and being quoted in blogs, that lists Republicans and Democrats and whether they served in the military. Today I saw it quoted by Steve Gilliard, who in turn was quoting Kos diarist jgkojak, who commented, "I am sure this one has been around, but I had never seen everything together in one place." I have seen the list before. I'm almost certain the email list was copied, though not verbatim, from the Who Served? page in AWOLBUSH.COM.


Some people make me tired.

Joshua Holland of the Gadflyer argues that Dems should not defend Congressman John Murtha against the Republican ethics charge. What he fails to acknowledge is that the ethics process in the House is irretrievably broken. It's like saying to a Hatfield accused of wrongdoing in a county run by the McCoys that he should turn himself in to prove he's better than them. The ethics process was designed to address conduct short of criminal in order to defend the good name of the House. Once Newt Gingrich established the precedent that congressmen can take tax-deductible money intended for inner city orphans and convert it to producing political campaign materials, the House ethics process had no credibility. Even now, the House has not stood up for Congressman Jim McDermott, who was the second-to-last person willing to put his own a-- on the line to restore integrity for the ethics process (Joel Hefley, a Republican, was the last, and he only offered half a cheek). The House has no good name to defend, nor would the sacrifice of Jack Murtha restore it. If what Murtha has done is illegal, fine. Prosecute it and let twelve men and women, brave and true decide his fate. But ethics charges? pffft. What Holland is arguing for is actually, at its heart, unjust. The fundamental principle of justice is, as enunciated by the Torah (or, as us postmodernists would have it, the Pentateuch, that we are forbidden to be partial not only the wealthy, but also to the poor. He is arguing for a separate standard of justice for a congressman in the minority. Minority congressmen don't control committees. If Murtha did something wrong, why are all the Republicans on his committee, who had to approve anything he asked for, mysteriously missing from Holland's argument? What I say is, let's look at all of the potential ethics charges that could be filed against House members. If Murtha's anywhere near the top ten, I'll stop defending him. But with DeLay and Ney clearly at the top of the list, calling the possible preferential treatment of a few million in defense contracts on behalf of a congressman in the minority just makes me tired. It was by such distorted values that Clinton was impeached over heavy petting (or, more precisely, over a fib in a civil suit about heavy petting) by a Republican leadership filled with adulterers and liars. Absent clear evidence that whatever Murtha did or did not do is outside the bounds of normal congressional behavior, I'll dance with the one what brung me.

The NYT And The Door Incident

Atrios notes that the NYT uses up 30% of its front page on Bush making an ass of himself with a door. As he says, it's funny, but he wonders why the NYT did it. My guess: I suspect that the NYT -- and the rest of the media -- may be trying to make up for all the Bush gaffes it hasn't covered. The thing about the Door Incident is not that it happened. Frankly, as the film Fahrenheit 9/11 showed, Bush does stupid stuff like this every hour of every day.

What's important is that up until fairly recently, the news media chose not to tell us about it.

Ever wonder why you didn't recall seeing a lot of the F 9/11 archival news footage in real time? You know, the bits where Wolfowitz gobs on his comb, et cetera? That's because much if not most of it never was aired, and Michael Moore got hold of it only by conning the networks into coughing it up.

The same networks that transcribed every "um" that Bill Clinton or any other Democratic politican says, are notorious for dutifully cleaning up transcripts of Bush's utterances -- and making sure that footage of things like the Bush Door Incident are kept hush-hush.

Until now.

Why the change, I wonder? Why are the US Corporate Media suddenly willing to show Bush's flaws?


Sunday, November 20, 2005


Want to live forever?

The day when that is possible is not too far off. Are we ready? I thought I might summarize a bit of recreational reading for the weekend, volume 1019 of the New York Academy of Sciences, Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence . NYAS is one of the best place to learn about medical scientific trends. In my humble opinion, of course. I'll spare you the technical details, many of which I am not competent to discuss anyway. There are many articles in this 592 page volume that I didn't read, so don't feel as if I've given away the ending. But here's a brief dip. The book is organized mostly by organ system, with the brain getting top billing and the cardiovascular system next. But oxidative stress gets ca. 70 pages and protein and DNA damage figure prominently, too, as does cancer. The Nervous System * Is amyloid plaque what causes Alzheimers, or is it a protective anti-oxidant response? (my opinion, which is worth at least twice as much as the electrons this page is printed on, is that it is the latter.) * Instead of using stem cells to replace lost tissues, how about using them to manufacture from glial cell growth factor to protect neurons? * Cold sores cause brain sores. Herpes simplex is statistically associated with Alzheimer's in people with a specific allele of the gene for apolipoprotein E. * Aging affects mitochondrial competence in handling calcium in neurons. Mitochondria are heterogeneous in both size and competency. In rats, this does not seem to be age related, at least as measured in cytochrome oxidase positive synaptic mitochondria. * Women are three years ahead of men in developing Alzheimer's (the gross oversimplification in this statement is mine, not the author's) * Could Vitamin E deficiency cause premature aging? It may affect the production of a protein called MAP-2 that may affect growth, differentiation, and plasticity of neurons. It does not affect GAP-43, a protein associated with development, learning, and regeneration. In rats. In the "cerebeller cotex" (double sic). * Cytidine phosphocholine seems to act as a neuroprotector, causing an increase in astrocytes and a decrease in NADPH-d neurons, from which we can conclude that authors who fail to spell out all abbreviations should be shot and not hanged (NADPH-d is NADPH-diaphorase, an activity associated with the production of nitric oxide). * Does aluminum cause Alzheimer's, perhaps through oxidative stress? Elderly male Wistar rats say yes. The concentration of aluminum increases in the prosencephalon + mesencephalon (PME) and pons medulla. The PME and PMD also picked up copper, zinc, and manganese. The mossy fibers of the hippocampal C3 subfield were enlarged. The authors propose that metals destabilize cell membranes and facilitate oxidative stress. * Play with your rat to keep it from becoming senile. Potential human implications: give grandma new toys for Christmas, ideally from Lamborghi or Silicon Graphics. * From authors at Max Planck Institute, the Institute of Management Problems, and Duke University: Some of the herbals and several commercial antidepressants may have beneficial effects. These incldue improved learning, memory, brain metabolism, and capacity, reduce oxidative stress damage, and even regenerate brain. Some of these include gamma amino butyric acid, piracetam, gingko biloba, deprenyl, trental (pentoxyphilline, hydergine, estrogen, aspirin, and Vitamin E. Before rushing out any buying any of these, you might want to read the fine print. Like, aspirin and gingko's effects are evident only in very elderly cohorts. Vitamin E may worsen infections in the elderly. Vitamin A good, iron bad (but results not in publishable form yet). And so on. I'll try to cover other topics from this fascinating book as time permits.

Magic 8 Ball Says: Future Cloudy. Ask Again

I happen to have access to a copy of the latest JP Morgan Private Bank letter, Portfolio, which is sort of the gold standard of full service portfolio investment. Since it comes out quarterly, it's for long term investment rather than day trading. Their economic forecasting is pretty good, but the impartiality of the writing seems to have deteriorated with the Chase merger and especially with the merger with BankOne, making it far more difficult to read. The present issue is a blend of wildly rosy brokerspeak overlaid on a far more sober economic analysis. The item by Cembalest, Caffrey, Harris, Madigan Jr., Schweitzer, and Werley is titled Investment outlook: pressure points all around The thesis of the article is that inflation, driven by energy prices, is the major problem. But read more deeply within, and one learns that everywhere else in the world has seen excellent growth. The US borrowed somewhere upwards of $300B in order to increase GDP by about the same amount. (Think about that) Europe is sluggish, but it's also not juicing its economy with deficit spending. Japan had its best growth since '97. Asia is running at 6.6%. And this shows up in markets, which are not fooled by deficits and other means to mask economic decline. In dollars, the S&P 500 is up 2.8% year to date, while Europe is up 7.8%, Japan 12.3%, Asian developing countries 17.2%, and Latin America 45.3%. Take that Hugo Chavez! Morgan thinks that investors aren't worried enough about "risky asset classes." They mention developing countries, junk bonds, and small companies, but I immediately thought of Halliburton. They think that the central banks will remember the 1970s, jack up interest rates, and that this will cause "a material slowdown in growth." They recommend "buffered equity structures." It took me a few pings on Google and a consultation with a Ouija board to figure out what that meant, but basically they seem to be reminding people that dividends might fall if growth does. Preferred stocks, undervalued stocks, and ::gulp:: futures might be means to buffer a typical small investor's equity structure. I use Turtle Wax. The strange thing is the contradiction in their advice about getting out of risky equity classes and into "structured equity." "Structured equity," which is crucial to understanding their recommendations is fundamentally an obscure term. Business Week gives a basic definition as providing a floor for losses through derivatives. Interestingly, in May of this year, Business Week said Investors smell trouble ahead. Since January, outflows from junk-bond funds have totaled $6.9 billion, while low-grade companies are struggling to borrow money. The shift in sentiment is enough to depress bond prices -- with the added leverage of derivatives intensifying any move. Says Mark H. Adelson, structured finance research director at Nomura Securities International Inc. (NMR ): "These products magnify exposure to adverse changes. When things deteriorate and defaults go up, the consequences can be even worse....Some analysts fear credit risk is, in fact, concentrated among the five largest U.S. banks. They not only issue new derivatives contracts and trade them but also are the ultimate insurers backing them...When asked about the most likely source of the next corporate crisis, one high-ranking European regulator replied: "Derivatives." I think JPM is one of the five largest banks. After pioneering their merger, JP Morgan split derivatives out from equities about 18 months ago . Portfolio has a great graph on oil. One of the toughest jobs in long-term financial analysis is figuring out what rises in price represent. For example, if the US borrows money, one possible outcome is a fall in the dollar. Prices of foreign goods would rise. But a decline in supply could also cause a rise in price. In figuring out where to invest, one wants to know how heavy a burden oil prices place on the world economy. A major cause of the crash of the 1980s was that oil costs jumped from 1% of world GDP to 4% in 1974 and then to over 6.5 in ca. 1980. To put it in familiar terms, that's as if you have an income fixed at $40K and pay $400 in gas one year, $1600 the next, and $2400 a few years later. After cutting back everywhere you can, you're probably going to be asking your boss for a raise. From the late 1980s until the the Reign of the Boy King, oil prices were at 1-2% of world GDP. They're headed for 5%. So far, wages haven't followed. If the price hikes are sustained, recessions and inflation will probably follow. Or we could start walking more and borrowing less. Morgan says that foreign stocks have risen more tha US stocks because Japan and Europe have finally gotten tough on workers, increasing profit margins. But they show a graph in which the relative profit growth of US vs. European companies flipped in 1 Q 2003 (when Euro stocks showed negative profit growth) to the present, where Euro profit growth is ca. double that of US profit growth. Does 1Q 2003 ring a bell? I thought it might. And that means that Morgan is full of... well, whatever a non-physical body possessing the rights of a citizen can be said to be full of. The profit growth flip is more plausibly due to the trashing of Brand America that a certain alcoholic National Guard deserter has been engaged in, the fact that interest rates have been tightened in response to Republican fiscal profligacy, and other consequences of invading a country whose name begins with the same letter as Inflation. Morgan's prescription to avoiding a crash of the housing bubble is raising interest rates. Of course, that means that the cost of housing (and cars) goes up, growth and jobs go down, and the risk of recession goes up. Recessions are bad for economic growth, very good for people who are positioned to take advantage of a recession. People with cash and people with puts. Bottom line is this. Morgan says market gains will continue to be "single digit" for the foreseaable future. That sounds like they won't be on average much above inflation, which means that the only advantage of stocks over cash is dividends. They advise drastically reducing exposure to US equities, especially mid- and smallcaps, dump "core fixed income" products (10 year notes?), stay about even on foreign equities, dive into "structured equity," and move as much as 5% into cash. The "structured equity" advices sounds as if they are suggesting that their customers to buy derivatives. They are positioning for very high turbulence and "buying opportunities." Americans should be positioning for joblessness and stagflation. Republicans have lost control of the country. Eventually it will sink in that they must be removed for the sake even of the wealthy. But even DLC Dems have lost so much credibility that there will be political instability. Until higher growth/lower waste policies can be implemented, there will be a struggle between inflation and interest rates. Just saying. _______ Postcript: Another reason to think twice about investing in small companies. They can essentially secretly sell large numbers of shares at discounts of up to 50% in what are called PIPES to hedge funds. The hedge funds hedge risk against the stock falling by, um, well, selling it. So, in a marvel of non-transparency, small investors learn that their holdings have been diluted by watching the stock drop. Getting your money into PIPEs isn't easy. First, you must have a net worth of at least $1 million or an annual income above $200,000 -- what it takes to buy into any hedge fund. (Fees are similar to those of most hedge funds: 1% to 2% annual management fee, plus 20% of the profits.) Even then, PIPE funds are a small and not well-known subset of the hedge fund world. "Often you have to know somebody who knows somebody to get into one of these funds," says Brian Overstreet, CEO of Sagient Research Systems, a firm that tracks PIPE deals. Until transparency is restored to its former merely foggy level, small investors should be doubly cautious about small companies. And, no, none of this is investment advice. The entirety of my investment advice is: "It's your money. Do whatever the h---l you want with it, within the bounds of the law, propriety, and common sense."

The Rummy Affair of Lord Tubby

A friend of ours here at Mercury Rising posted this in the comments section of this thread on Conrad Black the other day:

Now, of course, the betting is on whether the lordly Conrad will leave Toronto and go to Chicago, to turn himself in. My bet is that he'll stay put right here in Toronto and essentially dare the American legal system to come and get him. Especially since he believes he's above the little people and their rules. The amusing thing about all of that is that, having renounced his Canadian citizenship altogether, so he could become a Lord in Britain and literally fulfill his vision of his own lordly superiority -- he isn't in fact entitled, now, to any of the usual legal protections available to Canadian citizens. So Canada could, in theory, kick him out of the country any time it wants to. I doubt we'll do that, since it would be too over-the-top vindictive. But it's amusing, in a nasty sort of way, that while lord Conrad was so eager to dump Canada to fulfill his great plans for himself, he was very hasty in running back here to Canada's protections as soon as he got into trouble. I'm afraid the schaudenfreude is pretty thick around here just now.
Canadians! How about a letter-writing campaign to encourage your government to do the right thing and throw Tubby Black onto the tender mercies of the US courts and Patrick Fitzgerald? Let's raise awareness of the fact that this clown can and must by law be extradited to the US to face the music. Let's make his lordship do the perp walk! Write a snail-mail letter to the Minister of Justice, Irwin Cotler: The Honourable Irwin Cotler Minister of Justice 284 Wellington Street Ottawa, Ontario Canada K1A 0H8 Again, the letter to the Minister should be hard copy, not e-mail. Send an abbreviated e-mail version of your letter (no more than 400 words so that it is more likely to get published and not edited) to your local newspaper(s) editor. If you reside outside of Canada, please consider sending an additional letter to the editor of a Canadian city or town of your choice. (Canadians: Please let the Minister know that you are a voter, and that you are sending a copy of this letter to your local newspaper's editor.) Please express your opinion as to why you feel that Lord Black of Crossharbour should be extradited to the US, prominently mentioning his renunciation of Canadian citizenship in exchange for a ridiculous title. Please be polite and respectful, of course. Make sure the letter includes your signature. Thanks in advance for helping to bring a malefactor to justice!

Saturday, November 19, 2005


TreasonGate: Woodward's Source

Sunday Times says it's Hadley.



Jewish Leader Blasts 'Religious Right'

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said "religious right" leaders believe "unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person." "What could be more bigoted than to claim that you have a monopoly on God?" he said during the movement's national assembly in Houston, which runs through Sunday. [...] He used particularly strong language to condemn conservative attitudes toward homosexuals. He said he understood that traditionalists have concluded gay marriage violates Scripture, but he said that did not justify denying legal protections to same-sex partners and their children. "We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations," Yoffie said. "Yes, we can disagree about gay marriage. But there is no excuse for hateful rhetoric that fuels the hellfires of anti-gay bigotry." [...] Yoffie said liberals and conservatives share some concerns, such as the potential damage to children from violent or highly sexual TV shows and other popular media. But he said, overall, conservatives too narrowly define family values, making a "frozen embryo in a fertility clinic" more important than a child, and ignoring poverty and other social ills.


No Honor Among Kleptocrats

Jane Hamsher of firedoglake points out that the White House has cut its press secretary off at the knees:

...the White House came out from underneath the cone of silence on November 16 to announce that neither George Bush nor certain senior members of his staff were Woodward's source. Anyone want to count the number of times Scott McClellan has said "we will not comment on an ongoing investigation"? [...] The decision by the White House to break its own rule means that nobody this side of Les Kinsolving is going to provide Scottie with any shelter from the storm. Although the next gaggle should sure be some entertaining fodder for Crooks & Liars, McClellen was effectively neutered by the announcement. He's toast.
People keep asking, is Bush evil or stupid? Things like this show that the answer is "Yes."

Stock Up on Popcorn

DeLay Ex-Aide to Plead Guilty in Lobby Case

Michael Scanlon, a former top official for Representative Tom DeLay and one time partner of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has agreed to plead guilty in a deal with federal prosecutors, according to his lawyer. The deal reveals a broadening corruption investigation involving top members of Congress.
Halliburton Case Is Referred to Justice Department
Pentagon investigators have referred allegations of abuse in how the Halliburton Company was awarded a contract for work in Iraq to the Justice Department for possible criminal investigation, a Democratic senator who has been holding unofficial hearings on contract abuses in Iraq said yesterday in Washington. The allegations mainly involve the Army's secret, noncompetitive awarding in 2003 of a multibillion dollar contract for oil field repairs in Iraq to Halliburton, a Texas-based company. The objections were raised publicly last year by Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, then the chief contracts monitor at the Army Corps of Engineers, the government agency that handled the contract and several others in Iraq.
Pentagon Inspector General To Probe Feith's Role In Iraq War
The Pentagon's inspector general said Friday it has begun an investigation into allegations that an office run by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's former policy chief, Douglas J. Feith, engaged in illegal or inappropriate intelligence activities before the Iraq war.... One of the questions to be probed by the Pentagon inspector general, [Senator Carl] Levin said, is whether Feith, in his position as under secretary of defense for policy, "provided a separate channel of intelligence, unbeknownst to the CIA, to the White House — which he did."
Fitzgerald sees new grand jury proceedings
In a sign he may seek new or revised charges in the CIA leak case, special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald said on Friday his investigation would be going back before a grand jury.... Lawyers in the case said the investigation into who leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, which has reached into the highest levels of the White House, could be moving into a new phase that could result in charges against other top administration officials.


"ID" Textbook Is Old Creationist Textbook

By this time we've all heard the story, as pitched by the "intelligent design" people: "ID's not the same thing as creationism!" This is, of course, a way for these people to get around the fact that the courts have forbidden the teaching of religion as science in American public schools -- and that creationism was not science, but religion. And if you wanted further proof of this, just look at the history of Of Pandas and People, the favorite textbook of the ID crowd. As the excellent science blog The Panda's Thumb demonstrated back in September, this textbook is nothing more than an old creationist book reworked to drop all references to creationism, substituting instead references to intelligent design. It's taken the national media a while to catch on, but the Boston Globe did a piece last week on the textbook that mentions its publishing and revision history, but doesn't explain how the book's history serves to undermine the entire ID scam -- perhaps because the BG fears being swarmed by angry religio-racist right-wingers.



By now we can say it in unison. Or even four-part harmony. "Just imagine if Clinton had done this." "This" is Bush giving his campaign contributors and corporate cronies access to highly classified information, by making them "foreign intelligence advisors". That's right. He's allegedly getting advice on foreign intelligence from people who have as much experience in foreign policy and intelligence matters as Paris Hilton. Maybe less. Bush gives cronies access to classified info

No discussion of cronyism in the Bush administration would be complete without talking about PFIAB, short for the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. George W. Bush's latest appointments to the PFIAB, which advises the president on how various intelligence agencies are performing, represent a who's who of the Halliburton-Texas Rangers-oil business crony club that made Bush into a millionaire and helped propel him into the White House. [...] Last month, the White House announced that Dallas oil billionaire Ray Hunt, one of Bush's biggest financial backers, was reappointed to the PFIAB. So was Cincinnati financier William DeWitt Jr., who has backed Bush in all of his business deals going back to 1984, when DeWitt's company, Spectrum 7, bailed out the faltering entity known as Bush Oil Co. The new appointee of note to the PFIAB is former Commerce Secretary Donald Evans, a Bush confidant since his days in Midland, Texas. [...] PFIAB members are granted access to America's most secret secrets, known as SCI, for Sensitive Compartmented Information. Members of PFIAB have security clearances that are among the highest in the U.S. government. They have access to intelligence that is unavailable to most members of Congress. They are privy to intelligence from the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the military intelligence agencies and others. [...] Hunt's position at PFIAB may benefit a familiar entity in the Bush crony network: Halliburton, which is doing billions of dollars' worth of reconstruction and logistics work for the U.S. government in Iraq and on the Gulf Coast. Hunt sits on Halliburton's board of directors.
Would someone please give him a blow job so we can impeach him?

The Unfinished Business of the Reagan Era: Torture and Murder in Central America

From the Beeb A former deputy defence minister of El Salvador has been found responsible for torture and murder in a US trial. The court ordered Nicolas Carranza to pay $1.5m to each of four accusers. He was found to have let soldiers under his command torture and kill civilians during El Salvador's military-dominated government in the 1980s. ...Mr Alvarado told the court that as a student he was seized by government agents, hung blindfolded from a ceiling, shocked with electrical wires and beaten repeatedly, AP reported. Another woman testified that she had been made to listen as her mother was shot. ...More than 75,000 people died during El Salvador's 12-year civil war between the US-backed government and left-wing rebels, which ended in 1992. What the Beeb leaves out is that the large majority of the slain were civilians executed by terrorists like Carranza. Some were soldiers killed by people defending their lands and their lives and maybe 10% but probably less were from non-governmental terrorism. Oh, and that the US under Reagan financed and directed a lot of the carnage. Your tax dollars at work, turning human beings into rotting meat.

Remember This for the 2006 Elections

Congress Helps Self to $3,100 Pay Raise

The Republican-controlled Congress helped itself to a $3,100 pay raise on Friday, then postponed work on bills to curb spending on social programs and cut taxes in favor of a two-week vacation. [...] Lawmakers automatically receive a cost of living increase each year, unless Congress votes to block it. By tradition, critics have tried to block increases by attaching a provision to the legislation that provides funding for the Treasury Department. One such attempt succeeded in the Senate earlier in the year, but the provision was omitted from the compromise measure moved toward final approval.
It's okay for children to starve, but don't deprive the politicians, eh? Throw the rascals out.

Friday, November 18, 2005


Sanctimonious liberalism vs. dubious financial figures. One of the worst interviews ever on DemocracyNow!

To: cc: Wal-Mart Watch (by webform) While I would agree with Ron Galloway that the Wal-Mart debate is more nuanced than many opponents would like, and while I think Ms. Sefl did a notably bad job of presenting the case for her side, I wanted to draw to attention figures used by Mr. Galloway. At least one is simply incorrect. Others are doubtful. Mr. Galloway said: "Wal-Mart pays $22 billion – let's accept the number that is bandied about, which is that Wal-Mart costs taxpayers between $1.5 billion and $2 billion. Well, let's accept that, but Wal-Mart pays $22 billion in federal taxes, collects $11 billion in state and local taxes, and through their vendors – and this is sort of the unrecognized story – their vendor-suppliers, they also are responsible for another $40 billion in income tax. Wal-Mart is a complete cash cow, so if you add those three up, that's $73 billion. So sort of a flip side of looking at it is if Wal-Mart is paying or costing $2 billion, $73 billion is coming back into the treasury." These are some very interesting figures. They bear no relationship to the financial statements that Wal-Mart issues to the investment world. Wal-Mart paid $5.6B in total taxes in the year ending in 2005. Not $22B as claimed by Mr. Galloway. Now, it's theoretically possible --and highly doubtful--that Wal-Mart's employees could have paid the $16.4B difference between claimed and actual Total Sales, General, and Administrative costs (listed as $51B for the year ending in 2005). But as the Republican Party is so fond of saying, it's their money. Not Wal-Mart's. And then there's the figure of $40B Mr. Galloway claims for taxes paid by vendor-suppliers. This is very doubtful. Neither Chinese suppliers nor Liberian shippers are likely to be paying taxes to the United States, so we're left with American truckers and longshoremen and American manufacturers, such as Tyndale House. I could spend the time over at the SEC's Edgar site or reading the detailed S&P reports available to any Business Week subscriber to figure out what the true salary and tax figures are, but the fact is that Mr. Galloway and Ms. Sefl should do serious and skeptical research as the minimum courtesy for the privilege of accessing the public airwaves. While radio talk is probably not the format for providing sources, Mr. Galloway has a website where he could provide them. I went there. They are absent. Mr. Galloway is correct to paint the issue as a balance between taxes paid and services received, something that Ms. Sefl should pay attention to. A case can be made that some Wal-Mart employees (notably the elderly, but perhaps also the illegal immigrants Wal-Mart seems to accidentally hire so often) have no alternative jobs to go to and would not even if Wal-Mart closed its doors. But if Wal-Mart closed its doors, other retailers would open new shops and life would go on. Americans might buy fewer goods if prices were higher. It's not clear that would be a net loss. A few decades ago, we bought an expensive telephone expecting to have it for many years years. Now we seem to buy a cheap one every year. Higher costs of appliances, to take one retail category, might mean higher quality items or new jobs in appliance repair and lower landfill costs. It's a more complicated story than Mr. Galloway wants to make it. Also, if Mr. Galloway wants to do cost-benefit analysis, he ought to count Industrial Revenue Bonds and other incentives the company received. Wal-Mart also relies on roads and cheap gas to get consumers to their stores, the Securities and Exchange Commission to provide it the credibility in financial markets to raise capital, American courts to enforce the contracts it makes, and so on. Those are benefits it receives from society. Other corporations might well ask why Wal-Mart deserves what amounts to a special tax rebate in the form of Medicaid. Why shouldn't the government pay for their employees's health costs, too? Mr. Galloway should also study the debate that arose over a study by Alan Blinder on the minimum wage. Whatever the Wall Street Journal thinks, Blinder pretty well proved to people who understand finance and economics that raising the minimum wage has small, but positive effects on business profitability. Look at Costco. It presents a business model that pays employees more and costs consumers about the same as Wal-Mart. It seems to being doing fine. Henry Ford discovered the virtues of paying a living wage almost 100 years ago. How stupid we are to have forgotten. While hard data are very hard to come by, a case can be made that Wal-Mart is economically inefficient, existing only because of market distortions either created or abetted by the government. It is not unreasonable to suspect Wal-Mart has a long term strategy of creating a monopoly through predatory business practices that exploit such distortions. It's not as if this has not been tried before, with varying outcomes. These are the questions that needed to be debated on Democracy Now! Instead, we heard what are at best gross oversimplifications, and a moderator who let them slide by. Sincerely etc.

The GOP's Manufactured Outrage

To watch the rabidly overwrought Republican reaction to John Murtha's speaking truth to power, you'd think he'd done something really heinous. You know, like he might have used false information and pretexts to invade a country and kill 120,000 people in the process? But as I listen to the House and Senate Republicans make asses of themselves in the most hilarious of faked expressions of theatrical "outrage", and watch as people like John Kerry use this opportunity to remind us that Dennis Hastert (who called Murtha, who happens to be highly-decorated Korean and Vietnam War veteran, a "coward" who wants to "cut and run") is a chickenhawk who somehow managed to avoid his chance at a lovely 1960s vacation in Southeast Asia, I am struck by this: Trying to shout the media and the Democrats into submission is the GOP's favorite pastime. But now that the Democrats have found their spines again, this doesn't work as well as it once did. However, I think that the Republicans in Congress have another reason for their prolonged yammering. It goes kinda like this: The more time the Republicans spend promoting their counter-resolution to Murtha's original resolution to bring the troops home, and the more time the Democrats spend promoting Murtha's original resolution, the less time there is to vote on such atrocities as the feed-the-poor-to-the-rich budget bill (the House and Senate have two different versions which have yet to be reconciled) or the various extensions to the "Patriot" Act. (Not that Bingaman's amendment is really an atrocity, unlike the various Republican amendments. But the best thing is simply to allow the sunset provisions built into the Act to take effect at the end of this year. Well, actually, the very best thing would be to vote to repeal it in toto, but that's not going to happen just yet. But I digress.) Could it be that the Congressional Republicans -- who know better than anyone else just how unpopular they are -- are looking for some sort of way out from having to vote "yes" on either the budget bill or the PA amendments? Would this be why they seem so intent on wasting so much of the time left before December 31st? (Especially considering that the Thanksgiving and Christmas recesses will take big chunks out of that time?) That would explain a hell of a lot, wouldn't it? [UPDATE: Senator Feingold reports that even as the country's attention is focused on the GOP House's bizarre swift-boating of Murtha, Senate Republicans have quietly decided to give up on any attempts to make the "Patriot" Act even worse than it already is. Told ya. ;-)]


Friday Cat Blogging

The paws that refreshes. Alexander the black-and-white cat, lounging in a hammock attached to the window head and forepaws of Lightfoot the black cat, as she sleeps


BAM!ford: Bush Administration used illegal propaganda operation to sell war

BAM! The house of cards Bush has been hiding in just collapsed. Author James Bamford, famous for his writings on intelligence has just printed the following: Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad. It was damning stuff - just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa. The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation - part espionage, part PR campaign - that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon. I don't think that using government facilities and personnel, under the direction of a PR firm, to knowingly create a fake case for war is so much an impeachable offense as a capital one. Obviously, Bamford's allegations have to be examined, tested, and challenged, but there are no more serious allegations that could be made against a president. Not even getting blowjobs.

US military all but concedes that Guantanamo torture accusations are true

I realize that for many, torture at Guantanamo is old news. But it's important to watch the twists and wriggles, because this is where the proof of deliberate, pre-meditated crimes of war will come. I still remember the day, almost four years ago, when I learned from Amnesty International that Guantanamo inmates were being held in pens too small to stand up or sleep properly, exposed to the blazing Caribbean sun and the pests for which the tropics are famous, and designated with a status that deprived them of due process or even the protections accorded to prisoners of war. It was obvious to me on that day that the American authorities had embarked on steps to torture their inmates. And I recall clearly one member of the paranoid right, a man who I speculate may have been a member of military counterintelligence, who claimed it was all perfectly legal. How could one make a case to a jury that this was not a lack of foresight, not a failure at a lower level, not a dispute over basic international law, but a crime against civilization, a crime against everything we value? Reluctantly, I understood. The only way to make the case would be by allowing to unfold what has, more and more wrong until the stones themselves will cry out against it. Even those who hate the prisoners should feel revulsion at what has been done. The inmates may suffer and die. But America's good name is in danger of perishing forever. As we march on the road to judgment, mark each step with the stroke of a drum. On this step, the US military has refused to allow privacy for prisoner interviews by an independent body. What we know to date has been obtained from intensely controlled interviews and leaks from FBI interrogators. And now, From the Beeb UN human rights experts said the US had refused to grant them the right to speak to detainees in private. UN senior official Manfred Nowak said private interviews were a "totally non-negotiable pre-condition" for conducting the visit. ...Mr Nowak, the UN's special rapporteur on torture, told the BBC his team would accept nothing less than unfettered access.... "If you want to hear from a detainee or know from a detainee whether he or she has been subjected to torture or ill treatment then you must be allowed to speak to this person in private," he said. "In front of prison guards they would never tell you the truth because of being afraid of reprisal.

House Republicans lose control

You had to see it to believe it. For once, conservative Democrats were refusing to be split off. In fact, the Blue Dogs were furious. They had offered a 12 point proposal for budget reduction, and the Republicans kept throwing in their face the claim that they hadn't. They denounced the so-called budget reconciliation process (aka sausage making) as a sham two weeks ago. By baiting the Blue Dogs on the House floor-- repeatedly (and, if you understand the arguments, inappropriately) calling people liars--they may have forced those Democrats to understand that no compromise is possible. What happened instead of a Democratic cave-in is that a few Republicans wanted to be seen as moderates (I don't know how they imagine they will accomplish this after going along with extremists for 10 years), and they splintered away from their party on the big vote. Grant the Republicans one thing: they know how to confuse people. What is this "entitlement spending" that's rising so rapidly? A lot of people imagine that it's welfare. They'd be shocked to learn that it's Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and veterans benefits. It's rising because the nation is aging and putting soldiers in harm's way. Or take this example: Is it a "cut" when a program rises 7% a year while general inflation is rising at 3-4% a year? Well, with medical insurance costs up 11.2% in 2004, yes, it's a cut. You deliver fewer services or deliver the same services to fewer people. So, why are the Republicans calling people "liars" for pointing this out? The thing is, they've been playing this game for so many years that they've gutted the social services side of the budget. People will freeze to death this winter, because Low Income Heating (LIHEAP) is being cut. People are being denied vital medications like insulin. If we have an epidemic, whether of drug resistant TB or of avian flu or of flesh eating bacteria, it has an excellent chance of becoming a catastrophe, because public health has all but ceased to exist. Tonight, the Republicans lost control of the House. But more important, they have lost control of the country, which is, I think, rapidly headed toward a crash of some kind. There is no victory to celebrate, except perhaps the victory that Democrats, who have let the Republicans take the country to the brink, are not 100% hopeless. But we are all about to suffer the consequences of 10 years of Republican control. Even Republicans.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


McCain Griles Republican Astroturfer Italia Federici

No, that is not a misprint. Italia Federici of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy appeared before John McCain's Indian Affairs committee for one of the best Punch and Judy shows of the session. McCain produced an astonishing number of e-mails showing that Federici was serving as Jack Abramoff's go-fer in sending political messages from Abramoff to Deputy Secretary of the Department of Interior Steven Griles. Griles was in at the ground floor on James Watt's notoriously corrupt DoI before moving on to helping coal companies despoil West Virginia countryside. This is how CREAps describe themselves: Like the great GOP President, Theodore Roosevelt, we are Republicans who believe conservation benefits all Americans. The Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (CREA) is committed to preserving America’s natural resources, air, water, and scenic beauty for future generations. CREA's mission is to foster environmental protection by promoting fair, community-based solutions to environmental challenges, highlighting Republican environmental accomplishments and building on our Republican tradition of conservation. This is how the Department of Justice describes CREA: Under subpoena CREA is so absolutely shameless that in their CREA in the News section, they link to The Free Republic, a site so notorious, it needs no introduction. But do notice the references to "Hanoi John" Kerry.... those are some of the dogs from whom CREA gets its fleas. McCain on Federici was like the Kefauver organized crime hearings, except funnier. So far, no executions. I mean since the hearings. Here's Salon's take on the McCain hearings.

Wow! That's One Fast-Healing Broken Ankle!

I didn't think one could be going about without crutches or even an apparent leg cast less than three weeks after allegedly breaking one's ankle -- like Scooter said he did the night before he was officially served with the indictment.


The Irony Fairy's on the Job

Earlier today I got an email from a Canadian friend:

There was a party last night, celebrating Maclean's Magazine's (a Canadian news mag) 100th anniversary. One of the people there was Peter C. Newman, who was editor of Macleans for a few years, and who recently published both a book about former P.M. Brian Mulroney, and a book of his own memoirs. Newman walks into the party last night, and is immediately served papers for a law suit Conrad Black has launched against him, for "libelous remarks" Newman supposedly made about him in his memoir. Conrad Black was also at the party. The thing Black is suing Peter C. Newman for, in his book, is a quotation. It was written by Black's own Board of Directors, claiming that Black engaged in specific illegal activities! Newman didn't even write it, but quoted it!
A few hours later, she sent me the followup: Ex-publisher Conrad Black indicted
Criminal fraud charges were announced on Thursday against Conrad Black by U.S. prosecutors who accused the one-time publishing tycoon of looting his media empire, once one of the world's largest.
Do you think that Black will withdraw the libel suit now? ...Neither do I.

Knight-Ridder: "Bush Lied"

Unfortunately, they didn't come right out and say the L-word, they just say he tinkers with truth. But they do spell out the evidence in detail. For one of Bush's and Cheney's many lies, they do come right out and call it as they see it. This one's especially important, because it specifically attacks the Democrats who criticizing Bush's misuse of the intel.

ASSERTION: In his speech, Bush noted that "more than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate - who had access to the same intelligence - voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power." CONTEXT: This isn't true. The Congress didn't have access to the President's Daily Brief, a top-secret compendium of intelligence on the most pressing national security issues that was sent to the president every morning by former CIA Director George Tenet. As for prewar intelligence on Iraq, senior administration officials had access to other information and sources that weren't available to lawmakers. [...] Moreover, officials in the White House and the Pentagon received information directly from the Iraqi National Congress (INC), an exile group, circumventing U.S. intelligence agencies, which greatly distrusted the organization. [...] War hawks at the Pentagon also created a special unit that produced a prewar report - one not shared with Congress - that alleged that Iraq was in league with al-Qaida. [...] Meanwhile, lawmakers didn't have access to intelligence products that may have been more temperate than what they got, even after they investigated the prewar intelligence assessment. [...] The resolution that authorized use of force against Iraq didn't specifically address removing Saddam. It gave Bush the power to "defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq" and to "enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq."


GOP: Partisan Punks, Revisionist Historians

Sid Blumenthal explains:

On Veterans' Day, Nov. 11, Bush addressed troops at an Army base: "It is deeply irresponsible to rewrite the history of how that war began." He charged that "some Democrats and antiwar critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people," even though they knew "a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs." In fact, the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction was not authorized to look into that question, but only whether the intelligence community was correct in its analysis. Moreover, the Senate Intelligence Committee under Republican leadership connived with the White House to prevent a promised investigation into the administration's involvement in prewar intelligence. Its revival by Democrats is precisely the proximate cause that has triggered Bush's paroxysm of revenge. Several days later, Bush spoke before troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, where he stated that "some Democrats who voted to authorize the use of force are now rewriting the past," and are "sending mixed signals to our troops and the enemy." U.S. soldiers "deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them," Bush admonished. His essential thrust was that as "a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life" besieges us from without, the most insidious undermining comes from within. Thus an American president updated the "stab in the back" theory first articulated in February 1919 by Gen. Erich Ludendorff, who stated that "the political leadership disarmed the unconquered army and delivered over Germany to the destructive will of the enemy." The former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, a member of the Defense Policy Board, always notable for his visions, has compared George W. Bush in his travails to Abraham Lincoln before Gettysburg. Gingrich, who has recently written a series of counterfactual novels depicting a Southern triumph in the Civil War, communicated his latest flight of fancy to a longtime former diplomat who has served under Republican and Democratic administrations alike. The diplomat, who asked to remain anonymous, recounted their conversation to me. "We are at war," insisted Gingrich. "With whom?" the diplomat asked. "The Democrats," Gingrich replied without hesitation. For Gingrich, ever the Republican guru, history is a plaything of the partisan present.

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