Friday, September 30, 2005

Woe is them! GOP full of legal & political trouble

The GOP is in the eye of the perfect political storm.

On one side of Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is embroiled in a stock scandal. On the other, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has had to temporarily relinquish his post after being indicted on a conspiracy charge.

Meanwhile, President Bush's approval numbers are in the toilet, with Americans questioning if he can keep them safe and chafing under $3-per-gallon gas prices.

His war in Iraq is an unpopular morass and his plans to revamp Social Security and beef up tax cuts have been blown off the map. Even rank-and-file Republicans are pitching fits over the explosion of new spending on Iraq, Katrina cleanup and Medicare.

It's not a good time to be a Republican.

"It's like that old '60s saying: They're down so low that everything looks like up," said Stephen Hess, a George Washington University political science professor.

"The Bush Era is over," proclaimed Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne.

The Democrats are eagerly shopping around a new slogan tut-tutting about the "Republican culture of corruption."

What with Frist and DeLay - not to mention the arrest last week of a top official at the White House Office of Management and Budget in a corruption probe and the ongoing investigation of Bush political guru Karl Rove in connection with the leaking of a CIA operative's name - they expect to get some mileage out of it.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg found that a year after Bush won reelection with 51% of the vote, fewer than four in 10 Americans want to continue his policies. A Newsweek poll found only 38% of Americans would vote for a Republican in a congressional race held today.

But there are two silver linings for the GOP in the black clouds roiling over Washington. For one, the Democrats - lacking a single strong leader or any effective message beyond criticism - have been ineffective in capitalizing on GOP woes. For another, the 2006 midterm elections are still a year away.

"All this happened early enough that they still have the potential to dig themselves out," Hess said. "You will see eventually some wave of up-news for the Republicans."

Can't think of anyone who deserves it more!

Cindy Sheehan, Our Imploding President

[Note to Tomdispatch readers: This is the third in an ongoing series of interviews at the site. The first two were with Howard Zinn and James Carroll. Tom]

Katrina Will Be Bush's Monica

A Tomdispatch Interview with Cindy Sheehan

My brief immersion in the almost unimaginable life of Cindy Sheehan begins on the Friday before the massive antiwar march past the White House. I take a cab to an address somewhere at the edge of Washington DC -- a city I don't know well -- where I'm to have a quiet hour with her. Finding myself on a porch filled with peace signs and vases of roses (assumedly sent for Sheehan), I ring the doorbell, only to be greeted by two barking dogs but no human beings. Checking my cell phone, I discover a message back in New York from someone helping Sheehan out. Good Morning America has just called; plans have changed. Can I make it to Constitution and 15th by five? I rush to the nearest major street and, from a bus stop, fruitlessly attempt to hail a cab. The only empty one passes me by and a young black man next to me offers an apologetic commentary: "I hate to say this, but they probably think you're hailing it for me and they don't want to pick me up." On his recommendation, I board a bus, leaping off (twenty blocks of crawl later) at the sight of a hotel with a cab stand.

A few minutes before five, I'm finally standing under the Washington monument, beneath a cloud-dotted sky, in front of "Camp Casey," a white tent with a blazing red "Bring them home tour" banner. Behind the tent is a display of banged-up, empty soldiers' boots; and then, stretching almost as far as the eye can see or the heart can feel, a lawn of small white crosses, nearly two thousand of them, some with tiny American flags planted in the nearby ground. In front of the serried ranks of crosses is a battered looking metal map of the United States rising off a rusty base. Cut out of it are the letters, "America in Iraq, killed ___, wounded ___." (It's wrenching to note that, on this strange sculpture with eternal letters of air, only the figures of 1,910 dead and 14,700 wounded seem ephemeral, written as they are in white chalk over a smeared chalk background, evidence of numerous erasures.)

This is, at the moment, Ground Zero for the singular movement of Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey, who was killed in Sadr City, Baghdad on April 4, 2004, only a few days after arriving in Iraq. Her movement began in the shadows and on the Internet, but burst out of a roadside ditch in Crawford, Texas, and, right now, actually seems capable of changing the political map of America. When I arrive, Sheehan is a distant figure, walking with a crew from Good Morning America amid the white crosses. I'm told by Jodie, a stalwart of Code Pink, the women's antiwar group, in a flamboyant pink-feathered hat, just to hang in there along with Joan Baez, assorted parents of soldiers, vets, admirers, tourists, press people, and who knows who else.

As Sheehan approaches, she's mobbed. She hugs some of her greeters, poses for photos with others, listens briefly while people tell her they came all the way from California or Colorado just to see her, and accepts the literal T-shirt off the back of a man, possibly a vet, with a bandana around his forehead, who wants to give her "the shirt off my back." She is brief and utterly patient. She offers a word to everyone and anyone. At one point, a man shoves a camera in my hand so that he and his family can have proof of this moment -- as if Cindy Sheehan were already some kind of national monument, which in a way she is.

But, of course, she's also one human being, even if she's on what the psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton would call a "survivor mission" for her son. Exhaustion visibly inhabits her face. (Later, she'll say to me, "Most people, if they came with me for a day, would be in a coma by eleven A.M.") She wears a tie-dyed, purple T-shirt with "Veterans for Peace" on the front and "waging peace" on the back. Her size surprises me. She's imposing, far taller than I expected, taller certainly than my modest five-foot, six inches. Perhaps I'm startled only because I'd filed her away -- despite every strong commentary I'd read by her – as a grieving mother and so, somehow, a diminished creature.

And then, suddenly, a few minutes after five, Jodie is hustling me into the backseat of a car with Cindy Sheehan beside me, and Joan Baez beside her. Cindy's sister Dede, who wears an "Anything war can do, peace can do better" T-shirt and says to me later, "I'm the behind-the-scenes one, I'm the quiet one," climbs into the front seat. As soon as the car leaves the curb, Cindy turns to me: "We better get started."

"Now?" I ask, flustered at the thought of interviewing her under such chaotic conditions. She offers a tired nod -- I'm surely the 900th person of this day -- and says, "It's the only way it'll happen." And so, with my notebook (tiny printed questions scattered across several pages) on my knees, clutching my two cheap tape recorders for dear life and shoving them towards her, we begin:

Tomdispatch: You've said that the failed bookends of George Bush's presidency are Iraq and Katrina. And here we are with parts of New Orleans flooded again. Where exactly do you see us today?

Cindy Sheehan: Well, the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake, and the invasion and occupation have been seriously mismanaged. The troops don't have what they need. The money's being dropped into the pockets of war profiteers and not getting to our soldiers. It's a political war. Not only should we not be there, it's making our country very vulnerable. It's creating enemies for our children's children. Killing innocent Arabic Muslims, who had no animosity towards the United States and meant us no harm, is only creating more problems for us.

Katrina was a natural disaster that nobody could help, but the man-made disaster afterwards was just horrible. I mean, number one, all our resources are in Iraq. Number two, what little resources we did have were deployed far too late. George Bush was golfing and eating birthday cake with John McCain while people were hanging off their houses praying to be rescued. He's so disconnected from this country -- and from reality. I heard a line yesterday that I thought was perfect. This man said he thinks Katrina will be Bush's Monica. Only worse.

TD: It seems logical that the families of dead soldiers should lead an antiwar movement, but historically it's almost unique. I wondered if you had given some thought to why it happened here and now.

CS: That's like people asking me, "Why didn't anybody ever think of going to George Bush's ranch to protest anything?"

TD: I was going to ask you that too…

CS: [Laughs.] I don't know. I just thought of it and went down to do it. It was so serendipitous. I was supposed to go to England for a week in August to do Downing Street [Memo] events with [Congressman] John Conyers. That got cancelled. I was supposed to go to Arkansas for a four-day convention. That got cancelled. So I had my whole month free. I was going to be in Dallas for the Veteran's for Peace convention. The last straw was on Wednesday, August 3 -- the fourteen Marines who were killed and George Bush saying that all of our soldiers had died for a noble cause and we had to honor the sacrifices of the fallen by continuing the mission. I had just had it. That was enough and I had this idea to go to Crawford.

The first day we were there -- this is how unplanned it was -- we were sitting in lawn chairs, about six of us, underneath the stars with one flashlight between us, and we were going to the bathroom in a ten-gallon bucket.

DeDe: Five-gallon…

CS: A Five-gallon bucket, sorry. So that's how well planned this action was. We just planned it as we were going along and, for something so spontaneous, it turned out to be incredibly powerful and successful. It's hard for some people to believe how spontaneous it was.

TD: You've written that George Bush refusing to meet with you was the spark that lit the prairie fire -- and that his not doing so reflected his cowardice. You also said that if he had met you that fatal… fateful day…

Joan Baez: Fatal day…

TD: Fatal -- it was fatal for him -- things might have turned out quite differently.

CS: If he had met with me, I know he would have lied to me. I would have called him on his lies and it wouldn't have been a good meeting, but I would have left Crawford. I would have written about it, probably done a few interviews, but it wouldn't have sparked this exciting, organic, huge peace movement. So he really did the peace movement a favor by not meeting with me.

TD: I thought his fatal blunder was to send out [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley and [Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe] Hagin as if you were the prime minister of Poland. [She laughs.] And it suddenly made you in terms of the media…

CS: …credible.

TD: So what did Hadley and Hagen say to you?

CS: They said, "What do you want to tell the President?" I said, "I want to ask the President, what is the noble cause my son died for?" And they kept telling me: Keep America safe from terrorism for freedom and democracy. Blah-blah-blah… all the excuses I wasn't going to take, except from the President. Then we talked about weapons of mass destruction and the lack thereof, about how they had really believed it. I was: Well, really, Mr. Stephen (Yellowcake Uranium) Hadley… I finally said, "This is a waste of time. I might be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid. I'm very well informed and I want to meet with the President." And so they said, "Okay, we'll pass on your concerns to the President."

They said at one point, "We didn't come out here thinking we'd change your mind on policy." And I said, "Yes you did." They thought they were going to intimidate me, that they were going to impress me with the high level of administration official they had sent out, and after they explained everything to me, I was going to go [her voice becomes liltingly mocking], "Ohhhh, I really never saw it that way. Okay, let's go guys." You know, that's exactly what they thought they were going to do to me. And I believe it was a move that did backfire because, as you said, it gave me credibility and then, all of a sudden, the White House press corps thought this might be a story worth covering.

TD: What was that like? I had been reading your stuff on the Internet for over a year, but…

CS: I think in progressive circles I was very well known. But all of a sudden I was known all over the world. My daughters were in Europe when my mother had her stroke. My husband and I decided not to tell the girls. We didn't want to ruin their vacation, but they saw it on TV. So it really just spread like wildfire. And not only did it bring wanted attention, it brought unwanted attention from the right-wing media. But that didn't affect me, that didn't harm me at all.

I'd been doing this a long time. I'd been on Wolf Blitzer, Chris Mathews, all those shows. I'd done press conferences. It was just the intensity that spiked up. But my message has always remained the same. I didn't just fall off some pumpkin truck on August 6th and start doing this. The media couldn't believe someone like me could be so articulate and intelligent and have my own message. Number one, I'm a woman; number two, I'm a grieving mother; so they had the urge to marginalize me, to pretend like somebody's pulling my strings. Our President's not even articulate and intelligent. Someone must be pulling his strings, so someone must be pulling Cindy Sheehan's too. That offended me. Oh my gosh, you think someone has to put words into my mouth! [She laughs.] Do some research!

TD: Did you feel they were presenting you without some of your bluntness?

CS: God forbid anybody speak bluntly or tell the truth. Teresa Heinz Kerry, they marginalized her too because she always spoke her mind.

TD: Would you like to speak about your bluntness a little because words you use like "war crimes" aren't ones Americans hear often.

CS: All you have to do is look at the Nuremberg Tribunal or the Geneva Conventions. Clearly they've committed war crimes. Clearly. It's black and white. It's not me coming up with this abstract idea. It's like, well, did you put a bullet in that person's head or didn't you? "Yes I did." Well, that's a crime. It's not shades of grey. They broke every treaty. They broke our own Constitution. They broke Nuremberg. They broke the Geneva Conventions. Everything. And if somebody doesn't say it, does it mean it didn't happen? Somebody has to say it, and I'll say it. I've called George Bush a terrorist. He says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent people. That's his own definition. So, by George Bush's own definition, he is a terrorist, because there are almost 100,000 innocent Iraqis that have been killed. And innocent Afghanis that have been killed.

And I think a lot of the mainstream opposition is glad I'm saying it, because they don't have to say it. They're not strong enough or brave enough or they think they have something politically at stake. We've had Congress members talk about impeachment and war crimes. I've heard them. But they're the usual suspects. They're marginalized too. They've always been against the war, so we can't listen to them.

You know, I had always admired people like the woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving or John Walsh for starting the Adam Walsh Foundation after his son was killed. I thought I could never do anything like that to elevate my suffering or my tragedy, and then, when it happened to me, I found out I did have the strength.

[It's about 5:30 when we pull up at a Hyatt Hotel. Cindy, Dede, and I proceed to the deserted recesses of the hotel's restaurant where Cindy has her first modest meal of the day. The rest of the interview takes place between spoonfuls of soup.]

TD: I've read a lot of articles about you in which your son Casey is identified as an altar boy or an Eagle Scout, but would you be willing to tell me a little more about him?

CS: He was very calm. He never got mad. He never got too wild. One way or the other, he didn't waver much. I have another son and two daughters. He was the oldest one and they just idolized him. He never gave anybody trouble, but he was a procrastinator, the kind of person who, if he had a big project at school, would wait until the day before to do it. But when he had a job -- he worked full time before he went into the Army and he was never late for work or missed a day in two years. I think that's pretty amazing. The reason we talk about him being an altar boy was that church was his number one priority, even when he was away from us in the Army. He helped at the chapel. He never missed Mass. He was an usher. He was a Eucharistic minister. When he was at home, he was heavily involved in my youth ministry.

For eight years I was a youth minister at our parish and for three of those years in high school he was in my youth group; then for three of those years in college he helped me.

TD: Tell me about his decision to join the Army.

CS: A recruiter got hold of him, probably at a vulnerable point in his life, promised him a lot of things, and didn't fulfill one of the promises. It was May of 2000. There was no 9/11. George Bush hadn't even happened. When George Bush became his commander-and-chief, my son's doom was sealed. George Bush wanted to invade Iraq before he was even elected president. While he was still governor of Texas he was talking about: "If I was commander-and-chief, this is what I would do."

Back then, my son was promised a twenty thousand dollar signing bonus. He only got four thousand dollars of that when he finished his advanced training. He was promised a laptop, so he could take classes from wherever he was deployed in the world. He never got that. They promised him he could finish college because he only had one year left when he went in the Army. They would never let him take a class. They promised him he could be a chaplain's assistant which was what he really wanted to do; but, when he got to boot camp, they said that was full and he could be a Humvee mechanic or a cook. So he chose Humvee mechanic. The most awful thing the recruiter promised him was: Even if there was a war, he wouldn't see combat because he scored so high on the ASVAB [Career Exploration] tests. He would only be in war in a support role. He was in Iraq for five days before he was killed in combat.

TD: Did you discuss Iraq with him at all?

CS: Yes we did. He didn't agree with it. Nobody in our family agreed with it. He said, "I wish I didn't have to go, Mom, but I have to. It's my duty and my buddies are going." I believe we as Americans have every right to, and should be willing to, defend our country if we're in danger. But Iraq had nothing to do with keeping America safe. So that's why we disagreed with it. He reenlisted after the invasion of Iraq, because he was told if he didn't, he'd have to go to Iraq anyway -- he'd be stop-lossed -- but if he did, he'd get to choose a new MOS [military specialty] when he got home.

TD: Can you tell me something about your own political background?

CS: I've always been a pretty liberal democrat, but I don't think this issue is partisan. I think it's life and death. Nobody asked Casey what political party he belonged to before they sent him to die in an unjust and immoral war.

TD: You met with Hillary Clinton yesterday, didn't you? What do you think generally of the Democratic... well, whatever it is?

CS: They've been very weak. I think Kerry lost because he didn't come out strong against the war. He came out to be even more of a nightmare than George Bush. You know, we'll put more troops in; I'll hunt down terrorists; I'll kill them! That wasn't the right thing to say. The right thing to say was: This war was wrong; George Bush lied to us; people are dead because of it; they shouldn't be dead; and if I'm elected, I'll do everything to get our troops home as soon as possible. Then, instead of seeing the failure Kerry was with his middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy, cowardly policies, the rest of the Democrats have just kept saying the same things.

Howard Dean came out and said he hopes that the President is successful in Iraq. What's that mean? How can somebody be successful when we have no goals or defined mission or objectives to achieve there? They've been very cowardly and spineless. What we did at Camp Casey was give them some spine. The doors are open to them, Democrats and Republicans alike. As [former Congressman and Win Without War Director] Tom Andrews said, if they won't see the light, they'll feel the heat. And I think they're feeling the heat.

I can see it happening. I can see some Republicans like Chuck Hagel and Walter Jones breaking ranks with the party line. We met with a Republican yesterday -- I don't want to say his name because I don't want to scare him off -- but he seems to be somebody we can work with. Of course, as it gets closer to the congressional elections, we'll be letting his constituents know that he can be worked with.

TD: So you're planning to go into the elections as a force?

CS: It's totally about the war, about their position on the war. If people care about that issue, then that's what they should make it about too. We're starting a "Meet with the Moms" campaign. We're going to target every single congressman and senator to show their constituents exactly where they stand on the war. People in the state of New York, for instance, should look at their senators and say, if you don't come out for bringing our troops home as soon as possible, we're not going to reelect you.

TD: Did Hillary give you any satisfaction at all?

CS: Her position is still to send in more troops and honor the sacrifices of the fallen, which sounds like a Bush position, but the dialogue was open.

TD: Don't you think it's strange, these politicians like [Senator] Joe Biden, for example, who talk about sending in more troops, even though we all know there are no more troops?

CS: Yes... Where you gettin' ‘em? Where you gettin' ‘em? It's crazy. I mean we're going to send more troops in there and leave our country even more vulnerable? Leave us open for attack somewhere else, or to be attacked by natural and man-made disasters again?

TD: You want the troops out now. Bush isn't about to do that, but have you thought about how you would proceed if you could?

CS: When we say now, we don't mean that they can all come home tomorrow. I hope everybody knows that. We have to start by withdrawing our troops from the cities, bringing them to the borders and getting them out. We have to replace our military with something that looks Arabic, something that looks Iraqi, to rebuild their country. You know, they have the technology, they have the skills, but they don't have any jobs right now. How desperate for a job does one have to be to stand in line to apply to the Iraqi National Guard? I mean, they're killed just standing in line! Give the Iraqis as much help and support as they need to rebuild their country which is in chaos. When our military presence leaves, a lot of the violence and insurgency will die. There will be some regional struggles with the different communities in Iraq, but that's happening right now. The British put together a country that should never have been put together. Maybe it should be split into three different countries -- who knows? But that's up to them, not us.

TD: And what do you actually expect? We have three and a half more years of this administration…

CS: No we don't! [She chuckles.] I think Katrina's going to be his Monica. It's not a matter of "if" any more, it's a matter of "when," because clearly… clearly, they're criminals. I mean, look at the people who got the first no-bid contracts to clean-up and rebuild New Orleans. It's Halliburton again. It's crazy. One negative effect of Camp Casey was it took a lot of heat off Karl Rove for his hand in the [Valerie] Plame case. But I hear indictments are coming down soon. So that's one way it's going to come about. George Bush is getting ready to implode. I mean have you seen him lately? He's a man who's out of control.

[Note: For those who would like to read Cindy Sheehan in her own words, or more about her, check out her archive at LewRockwellcom, or go to the Truthout website which has been carrying her latest statements and has extensive coverage on her, or visit which offers thorough, up-to-date coverage of her activities and much else.]

Copyright 2005 Tomdispatch

Yellow Dog Blog: Democrats Who Voted For Roberts

Here are the 22 Democrats who just minutes ago voted to confirm John Roberts Jr. to be the next Chief Justice on the United States Supreme Court:

  • Max Baucus (D - MT)
  • Jeff Bingaman (D - NM)
  • Robert Byrd (D - WV)
  • Thomas Carper (D - DE)
  • Kent Conrad (D - ND)
  • Christopher Dodd (D - CT)
  • Byron Dorgan (D - ND)
  • Russell Feingold (D - WI)
  • Tim Johnson (D - SD)
  • Herb Kohl (D - WI)
  • Mary Landrieu (D - LA)
  • Patrick Leahy (D - VT)
  • Carl Levin (D - MI)
  • Joseph Lieberman (D - CT)
  • Blanche Lincoln (D - AR)
  • Patty Murray (D - WA)
  • Bill Nelson (D - FL)
  • Ben Nelson (D - NE)
  • Mark Pryor (D - AR)
  • Jay Rockefeller (D - WV)
  • Ken Salazar (D - CO)
  • Ron Wyden (D - OR)
Take Note

Yesterday we said that Blunt was as crooked as Delay

Here's The Record ! ! !
Blunt's record shows he's as corrupt as DeLay
Republicans would like you to believe that since Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) yesterday resigned his leadership post, they have cleaned up their act. But a quick look at DeLay's replacement, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), shows the GOP has once again opted to be led by one of Congress's most corrupt figures.

Just look at the record:

BLUNT DOES FAVORS FOR SON-TURNED-TOBACCO-LOBBYIST: "Only hours after Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the House's third-highest leadership job" he tried "to quietly insert a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA into the 475-page bill creating a Department of Homeland Security...The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company... Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm." Blunt later married Philip Morris's lobbyist. – Washington Post, 6/11/03

BLUNT DOES FAVORS FOR SON-TURNED-LOBBYIST, PART II: "In April, for instance, Blunt managed to have a provision inserted into a Senate bill, without debate, on behalf of United Parcel Service Inc. and FedEx Corp. The two companies were seeking to block the expansion of a foreign rival's U.S. operations. Blunt's son Andrew also represents UPS in Missouri, as the Wall Street Journal first reported, and the two companies have contributed a total of $120,000 to Blunt since 2001, according to Federal Election Commission data." – Washington Post, 6/11/03

BLUNT SECURES ETHICS WAIVER AFTER MARRYING TOBACCO LOBBYIST: "Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had a happier year, marrying a prominent lobbyist and obtaining the House ethics committee's permission not to report their wedding gifts." – Washington Post, 6/17/04

BLUNT USES LOBBYISTS AS DE FACTO WHIPS TO PASS CORPORATE TAX CUT: "Blunt's mobilization of the lobbying community proved crucial in winning passage" of a massive special-interest tax cut bill in 2004. Though the public opposed the bill, Blunt had a "solution to breaking the logjam: Every major lobbying interest got something... The task of rounding up the votes was delegated by Blunt's whip operation to a coalition of lobbyists, all of whom had clients with huge stakes in the outcome." – Washington Post, 5/17/05

BLUNT USES SAME CONSULTANT UNDER INDICTMENT WITH DELAY: "The political committee of Rep. Roy Blunt, who is temporarily replacing Rep. Tom DeLay as House majority leader, has paid roughly $88,000 in fees since 2003 to a consultant under indictment in Texas with DeLay, according to federal records... Records on file with the Federal Election Commission show the fund linked to Blunt retains Ellis' firm, J.W. Ellis Co., and has made periodic payments for services. Political Money Line, a nonpartisan Internet tracking service, places the total at about $88,000." – AP, 9/29/05

BLUNT HAS CLOSE TIES TO LOBBYIST UNDER FEDERAL INVESTIGATION: "Rep. Blunt and his staff have close connections to uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is the subject of criminal and congressional probes. In June 2003, Mr. Abramoff persuaded Majority Leader Tom DeLay to organize a letter, co-signed by Speaker Hastert, Whip Roy Blunt, and Deputy Whip Eric Cantor, that endorsed a view of gambling law benefitting Mr. Abramoff’s client, the Louisiana Coushatta, by blocking gambling competition by another tribe. Mr. Abramoff has donated $8,500 to Rep. Blunt’s leadership PAC, Rely on Your Beliefs. If, as it appears, Rep. Blunt was accepting campaign contributions from Mr. Abramoff in exchange for using his official position so support a view of gambling law that would benefit Mr. Abramoff’s client, he would be in violation of the law." – Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, 9/27/05

BLUNT TRIES TO GIVE "ONE-OF-A-KIND" EXEMPTION TO COMPANY UNDER FEDERAL INVESTIGATION: "Westar, the biggest electric utility in Kansas, is seeking an exemption that would free it from new oversight by the Securities and Exchange Commission...The company wanted the one-of-a-kind exemption inserted in a wide-ranging energy bill. It was criticized as the kind of loophole that contributed to the failure of Enron Corp....House Republicans were pushing the provision at the request of two Missourians, GOP Reps. Sam Graves and Roy Blunt... state regulators [had] barred the company from splitting off its unregulated business [and] a congressional exemption 'would have the effect of removing an important obstacle to Westar splitting its companies and leaving non-utility debt with the utility companies,' Kansas Corporation Commission chairman John Wine wrote" on the same day Westar disclosed it was the target of a federal investigation. – AP, 10/1/02


The truth is, Blunt has so many connections to people and companies under investigation by federal law enforcement you'd think you were reading about a gangster, rather than one of America's most powerful politicians.

Meet The Fuckers

Senator Demands Bennett Apology for Remark (Mr. Morality is nothing but a g--damned racist!)

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and other Democrats on Thursday demanded that former Education Secretary William Bennett apologize for remarks on his radio program linking the crime rate and the abortion of black babies.

Bennett responded that the comments, made Wednesday on his "Morning in America" show, had been mischaracterized and that his point was that the idea of supporting abortion to reduce crime was "morally reprehensible."

The author of "The Book of Virtues," answering a caller's question, took issue with the hypothesis put forth in a recent book that one reason crime is down is that abortion is up.

"But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," Bennett said.

He went on to call that "an impossible, ridiculous and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

On his show Thursday, the anti-abortion Bennett said he was "pointing out that abortion should not be opposed for economic reasons any more than racism .. should be supported or opposed for economic reasons. Immoral policies are wrong because they are wrong, not because of an economic calculation."

Reid, D-Nev., said he was "appalled by Mr. Bennett's remarks" and called on him "to issue an immediate apology not only to African Americans but to the nation."

Rep. Raum Emanuel, D-Ill., said in a statement, "At the very time our country yearns for national unity in the wake of hurricane Katrina, these comments reflect a spirit of hate and division."

What the Hell is Bennett Smoking? His own socks apparently!-

Paul, we love ya, but the real crisis was in 2000

...when we were all stupid enough to allow an un-elected, failed CEO to take the White House by a 5 to 4 vote at the Supreme Court.
I include myself among the stupid!
America Today: Crisis? What Crisis?
The Krugman, nails it as usual.... (We love Paul, we just aren't real happy with his employers)
We don't doubt there is a huge crisis now, but that was predictable. It took this to awaken the country. The nation had to hit bottom with the Rethugs, again. Just like an addict....

Al-Qaeda cleric exposed as an MI5 double agent

But it isn't! People are dying every day, as a result of misguided policies, not to mention the out-right criminal, amoral ones. People will be dying for years because of these policies, even if the governments that made these policies were all over-thrown tomorrow.
Depleted Uranium has been used in Iraq, twice now, in 'the Gulf War and now this fiasco.
(Let us not forget that it was also used by the Clinton administration against Milosevic).
People will be dying, and worse, from this invisible nuclear war for generations to come, in Iraq and at home.
Memo to world: Don't trust the clerics of any religion that has violent, in word or deed, sects?
These people advocate violence every day, when they are not committing violence themselves.
It matters not what they call themselves; Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Christian or loyal followers of the tooth fairy.
They are all quite insane.
Never trust a Holy man/woman who is crazier than you are. It is a fool's folly.
Look up the word "fanatic."
The religions themselves are not foolish nor folly; just have become twisted, by some, over the centuries.
Ordinary people, who really live according to their faith are the ones who should be heard now and they should be heard by other ordinary people.
Governments have failed their people and so have the religious authorities!

The U.S. Has Plans to Invade Iran Before Bush's Term Ends

By Walter C. Uhler

Bill Gertz is a right-wing national security reporter for the Rev. Sun Yung Moon's neo-fascist newspaper, The Washington Times. He's also a spigot from which flows much classified information illegally leaked by like-minded "patriots" seeking to advance their hawkish agenda in the military-industrial-congressional complex. And, frankly speaking, that's the only reason I pay any attention to him.

So I was hardly surprised when, on September 16, 2005, Gertz reported on the Bush administration's "computer slide presentation." which was aimed at persuading whoever would listen that Iran is working feverishly to build nuclear weapons.

According to Gertz, the report claims: "Iran's nuclear program is well-scaled for a weapons capability, as a comparison to [Pakistan's] nuclear weapons infrastructure shows…When one also considers Iran's concealment and deception activities, it's difficult to escape the conclusion that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons."

The report also states that "Iran's uranium ore resources are insufficient for Tehran to produce enough fuel for civilian electrical power generating reactors. 'However, Iran's uranium resources are more than sufficient to support a nuclear weapons capability.'" [U.S. Report Says Iran Seeks To Acquire Nuclear Weapons," Washington Times, 16 September 2005]

Unlike the Washington Post's article on the subject two days earlier, Gertz predictably failed to mention that the slide show "dismisses ambiguities in the evidence…and omits alternative explanations under debate among intelligence analysts." He also failed to mention that several diplomats "said the slide show reminded them of the flawed presentation on Iraq's weapons programs made by then-secretary of state Colin L. Powell to the UN Security Council in February 2003" ["US Deploys Slide Show to Press Case Against Iran," Washington Post, 14 September 2005]

Moreover, in order to serve as water boy for the Bush administration, Gertz had to ignore (or discount) the recent report from Britain's prestigious International Institute for Strategic Studies, which concluded that Iran "was at least five years away from producing sufficient material for 'a single nuclear weapon,'" Instead, Gertz obediently and dutifully noted that the Bush administration "is pressing the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to refer the issue… to the United Nations Security Council," which "could then impose economic sanctions against Iran or possibly a future authorization for the use of force." [Ibid.] Ah yes, "authorization for the use of force"—the source of many a neocon and chickenhawk wet dream.

But much more disconcerting than Gertz's piece was one written by Claude Salhani on 22 September 2005 for the same loony "Moonie" scandal sheet. Salhani shamelessly reintroduced the tactics, which proved so successful in inflaming a frightened American public about the threat posed by Iraq. He invoked the words of an Iranian dissident (today's Ahmad Chalabi), as well as former U.S. government officials (seeking to "empower resistance" inside Iran), to make the claim the Iran is, in fact, "gearing for war" with the United States.

No, notwithstanding the inflammatory title that the Moonie editors attached to Salhani's article—"Is Iran Geared For War?"—Iran is not planning to attack the United States. Instead, it is merely taking very prudent measures to defend itself against a possible illegal preventive war instigated by the "war party" in the Bush administration.

Although America's past is riddled with instances in which a "war party"—remember the "War Hawks" Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun?—within a given party or administration labored mightily to con its subjects into wars of aggression, it's America's singular misfortune today to be guided by a "war party" in and around the Bush administration, which consists of neocons and chickenhawks who seek to compensate for personal cowardice or neglect of military duty (especially during the Vietnam war) with martial rhetoric and by sending courageous soldiers to fight, kill, and perhaps die for them. Note President George W. Bush's "Bring 'em on."

But it is America's greater misfortune today to be informed by a so-called "watch dog" mainstream news media that supinely reports this war party's will to kill without insisting upon the hard evidence necessary for justifying war. Although they failed miserably in their 2002-03 coverage of Iraq, unfortunately this is not a recent phenomenon. For as John L. Harper has recently concluded: "The premises on which the United States decided to go to war in 1812, 1846, 1898, 1917, 1950, 1964–65 and 2002–03, were largely false." [John L. Harper, "Anatomy of a Habit: America's Unnecessary Wars," Survival, Summer 2005, p. 79]

But, forget the past. Just a few days ago, on September 26, 2005, The Telegraph of Calcutta, India issued an astounding report that has yet to cause a ripple within America's mainstream news media. In the fifth paragraph of the article, "Gulf factor key to PM's Iran vote decision," were the following words: "Top-ranking Americans have told equally top-ranking Indians in recent weeks that THE US HAS PLANS TO INVADE IRAN BEFORE BUSH'S TERM ENDS" (author's emphasis).

Thoughtful, decent, moral citizens of these United States: I urge you to write to the editors of your local and national news outlets to insist that they authenticate or repudiate the information reported by The Telegraph. And I further urge you to write your congressman (or congresswoman) to inquire about their knowledge concerning this assertion. Finally, I urge you to write to President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and/or Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to inquire about their plans to invade Iran before they leave office.

We simply cannot permit the Bush "war party" to run roughshod over America's democracy once again.

Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA).

Just in case they lose the White House, they want to make sure the Democrats are stuck with a huge mess!

N.Y. Times reporter in CIA outing case freed

WASHINGTON - After nearly three months behind bars, New York Times reporter Judith Miller was released Thursday after agreeing to testify about the Bush administration’s disclosure of a covert CIA officer’s identity.

Miller left the federal detention center in Alexandria, Va., after reaching an agreement with Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. She will appear Friday morning before a grand jury investigating the case.

“My source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations,” Miller said in a statement.

LINK: Her source, says the Times, was Scooter Libby 
...and we are one step closer to Dick Cheney.

Cuban Terror Case Erodes US Credibility, Critics Say (What Credibility?)

Published on Thursday, September 29, 2005
by Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - The decision Tuesday by a U.S. immigration judge in Texas to deny Venezuela's request to extradite Luis Posada Carriles, whom Caracas has dubbed "the Osama bin Laden of Latin America", was greeted with surprise and disappointment by Latin American activists and even some former U.S. officials.

Venezuela wants Carriles to stand trial for the October 1976 bombing of a civilian Cubana Airlines flight that killed all 73 people aboard shortly after it took off from Barbados.

Venezuela's ambassador here, Bernardo Alvarez, accused the George W. Bush administration of using a "double standard" on terrorism. He said the White House and U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which represented the administration before the court, "virtually" collaborated with Posada by failing to contest statements by one defence witness that Posada would be tortured if he were returned to Caracas.

"There isn't a shred of evidence that Posada would be tortured in Venezuela," said Alvarez, adding that "if we examine our respective records on torture, a prisoner is more likely to be tortured in the custody of the U.S. government than in the custody of Venezuelan officials".

Some U.S. officials, who declined to speak on the record, also deplored the decision by immigration judge William Abbott not to extradite Posada on the grounds that he could face torture in Venezuela.

"It's bad enough when the world knows that we're rendering suspected Islamic terrorists to countries that routinely use terror," said one State Department official. "But here we have someone who we know is a terrorist, and it's clear that we're actively protecting him from facing justice. We have zero credibility."

"The long and short of it is that we are harbouring a terrorist," agreed Wayne Smith, who headed the U.S. Interest Section in Havana in the late 1970s and early 1980s. "This is really a total farce."

Posada, now 77 years old, entered the U.S. illegally last spring after he was unexpectedly freed by outgoing Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso from an eight-year prison term that followed his 2004 conviction for conspiring to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro during the latter's visit to Panama in 2000. Among those who successfully lobbied Moscoso to release Posada were several Cuban-American lawmakers from south Florida.

Even as reports of his presence in Miami mushroomed, and his lawyer announced that he intended to request political asylum, during April and early May, neither the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) nor DHS, which controls the U.S. immigration service, made any effort to apprehend him.

Posada was finally arrested -- on immigration-related charges only -- after appearing at a well-attended press conference in Miami, and was quickly transferred to a jail in El Paso, Texas. Even before extradition papers had been received, however, DHS announced that it would not deport him to Cuba or to "a country acting on behalf of Cuba" -- an apparent reference to Chavez's close relationship to Castro.

Nonetheless, Caracas formally requested his extradition in mid-June and has since submitted reams of documents in support of its request, including assurances that he would not be mistreated if he were returned.

According to the independent National Security Archive (NSA) here, the Cuban-born Posada joined the U.S. military in 1963 and was recruited by the CIA, which trained him in demolitions. CIA documents posted on the NSA's website show that he was terminated as an asset in July 1967 only to be reinstated four months later.

A series of 1965 FBI memos obtained by NSA describe Posada's participation in a number of plots involving sabotage and explosives, as well as his financial ties to Jorge Mas Canosa, another anti-Castro activist who would later go on to found and lead the Cuban American National Foundation.

Plots included efforts to blow up Cuban or Soviet ships in Veracruz, Mexico, and the bombing of the Soviet library in Mexico City. One memo links him to a major plot to overthrow the Guatemalan government, an effort halted by the discovery by U.S. Customs agents of a cache of weapons that included napalm and explosives. During this period, Posada was working with the CIA.

His relationship with the CIA lasted until 1974, although he retained contact with the agency at least until June 1976, three months before the plane bombing, according to CIA documents. During that period, he worked in Caracas as a senior official in the Venezuelan intelligence agency, DISIP.

A 1972 CIA document described Posada as a high-level official in charge of demolitions at DISIP. The report noted that Posada had apparently taken CIA explosives supplies to Venezuela and was associated with a Miami mafia figure named Lefty Rosenthal.

In one of the very first reports on the Oct. 6, 1976 bombing of the Cubana Air flight, a cable from the FBI Venezuelan bureau cites an informant who identified Posada and Orlando Bosch as responsible and notes that the two Venezuelan suspects -- who both worked for a Caracas private security firm set up by Posada in 1974 -- had been arrested by police in Barbados.

Bosch, another anti-Castro radical, was pardoned by former President George H. W. Bush in 1990 despite a recommendation by the U.S. Justice Department that he be deported. He currently lives in Miami and has repeatedly called for Posada to be granted asylum

Another CIA document released last June cited a report several days after the plane was blown up by a former Venezuelan government official characterised as "usually a reliable reporter" that Posada had bragged a few days before the bombing that he and Orlando Bosch were planning to "hit" a Cuban airplane.

A Nov. 2, 1976, CIA cable cites information from another Cuban-exile informant for DISIP, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, also known as "Monkey" Morales, about Posada's participation in planning meetings before the bombing.

Posada was arrested by Venezuelan authorities shortly after the bombing in what one former FBI counter-intelligence official described to the New York Times last spring as a "preventative measure -- to prevent him from taking or being killed."

Posada then spent the next eight years in jail, punctuated by two inconclusive trials, before escaping Venezuela in 1985 and making his way to Central America where he quickly found employment with the "Contra" resupply operation run out of the National Security Council under former President Ronald Reagan until it was exposed in late 1986 when he went underground again.

In a 1998 Times interview in Central America, Posada admitted to organising a wave of bombings in Cuba in 1997 that killed an Italian tourist and injured 11 others.

None of this was deemed relevant to the immigration judge, however, who wrote that "the most heinous terrorist or mass murderer would qualify for deferral of (extradition) if he or she could establish ..the probability of torture in the future."

In fact, the only testimony before the judge that Posada could face torture if returned to Venezuela came from a single witness, Joaquin Chaffardet, a close friend of Posada's, and his attorney, Matthew Archambeault.

To the amazement of Venezuela's attorney, Jose Pertierra, U.S. government lawyers offered no rebuttal to Chaffardet's testimony and went on to voice reservations about Venezuela's judicial system and its "increasingly tight" relations with Cuba.

"DHS gave this decision to the judge on a silver platter," Pertierra told reporters. "We feel very deceived with the conduct of the prosecutors and DHS, which didn't litigate this case in good faith."

"All the government lawyers had to do was to point to the State Department's annual human rights report on Venezuela that says there is no recent history of people being tortured in Venezuela," said Smith, who added that the result "may work very well for the Bush administration which can now hide behind the judge's dubious finding. This is really shameful."

Peter Kornbluh, a Cuba expert at the NSA who has played a key role in getting secrets documents on Posada's activities declassified, said the government's handling of the case was a "travesty that compromises its fight against terrorism".

"How the Bush administration expects to be taken seriously on the war on terrorism given the way it has handled every stage of Luis Posada's return to the United States that will haunt U.S. security interests for a very long time," he said.

For its part, the administration stressed that Posada may still be subject to deportation to another country, although their efforts thus far to persuade several Latin American countries have proved fruitless.

But Archambeault said he planned to make a new effort at securing Posada's release in the United States. "We are pleased. This is what we envisioned as going to happen from the beginning."

Copyright © 2005 IPS-Inter Press Service

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fw: Santorum Is At It Again: Capitol Buzz

Santorum is really pushing the hypocrisy envelope. Last night, he sent out a fundraising appeal hitting Bob Casey for raising money after Katrina.  The only problem is that Santorum doesn't practice what he preaches (shockingly enough): Santorum enjoyed a Pittburgh golf tournament that collected $225,000 on August 30, just as people in New Orleans were experiencing hell on Earth. 
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Help spread the word about Capitol Buzz by forwarding this email to ten of your friends!!!

If Rick Santorum gets re-elected, there may have to be a Pennsylvania Boycott, like the Jebistan (Florida) Boycott . It won't hurt us so much, if we do not ski this year.
As a matter of fact, unless your parents are on their last legs, don't go home for any holiday, Thanksgiving or Christmas, unless they live within walking distance.
Besides, we should leave as much of the heating oil and gas for northerners who will freeze to death without heating oil and gas, as we possible can.

Keep it up Oil Guys, and you might wind up with your heads on spikes

Stormy weather allows big oil to practice a crude sort of blackmail
by James Ridgeway
September 27th, 2005 11:00 AM

With gas prices pushing ever higher—maybe reaching $5 a gallon, according to some industry experts—oil company profits are going through the roof. As for the hyped shortage of oil, it's a game of smoke and mirrors. No doubt the hurricanes have caused, and will cause, some short-term shortages just by prompting the closing of refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast, which produce nearly a quarter of our gasoline supplies. But before, and even after, Hurricane Katrina, government reports showed a surplus of crude oil in the U.S. marketplace. According to the Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency, prices of crude oil rose even in this surplus situation. Gasoline is another matter. Having been suppressed because of low profit margins, supplies of gasoline actually increased right after Katrina. The situation doubtless will change after Hurricane Rita. Petroleum analyst Tom Kloza of the Oil Price Information Service in Houston told the Associated Press last week that refineries in Houston were different from those in Louisiana because Houston's are all well above sea level and made it through previous big storms. Power outages might put them out of business for as long as a week after past storms, but then they'd be back up and running.

Take a hike

As the price of gas went up and the numbers of dead and distressed people in New Orleans rose, and as Texas worked to evacuate some 2 million or more people in the path of Rita, the right-wing Republicans who control Congress were cutting back three social-welfare programs to help pay for George W. Bush's public relations version of the Marshall Plan.

The Republican Study Committee, made up of 100 members of the House, wants to raise premiums for Medicare, postpone introduction of its drug program, cut Amtrak subsidies, and reduce contributions to the United Nations. While the Senate, in a bipartisan move, sought to win approval for a temporary measure to extend Medicaid coverage to all affected by Katrina, the Bush administration stood by, refusing to commit itself. House conservatives are expected to gut the measure.

Bush's new tax-free zone along the Mississippi Gulf Coast will extend 50 percent tax write-offs to the already profitable casinos. Instead of extending Section 8 vouchers to hurricane homeless so they can rent apartments, Bush wants them to live in trailer parks and on leased cruise ships. The right-wingers were taking up amending the Head Start Bill so as to include faith-based charities. Earlier in the week they broke off to party for the ailing Jesse Helms, who Jerry Falwell said was one of the two greatest men of our times, the other being Ronald Reagan.

Crude blackmail

U.S. oil companies have bitterly assailed environmentalists for blocking construction of new refineries, but as reported last week in Mondo, environmental approvals were obtained for a new refinery in Arizona. The industry press has been quoting the CEO of the Arizona company as saying environmental rules did not block the project. More to the point, the big oil companies are looking to add refining capacity abroad. They see a surplus of gasoline in Western Europe, which is using more and more diesel for transportation, and in the Middle East—such places as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The Europeans have already said they are prepared to ship us more gasoline if need be. Over the short term, these sources of supply should prevent shortages in the U.S.

The rising price of gasoline may turn out to have little to do with the hurricanes. "Profit margins for U.S. oil refiners have been at record highs," Tyson Slocum, the research director of Public Citizen's energy program, testified last week before the Senate Commerce Committee. "In 1999, U.S. oil refiners made 22.8 cents for every gallon of gasoline refined from crude oil. By 2004, they were making 40.8 cents for every gallon of gasoline refined, a 79 percent jump. It is no coincidence that oil corporation profits—including refining—are enjoying record highs." Over the past four years ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, Shell, and BP, the five oil giants operating in the U.S., have racked up $254 billion in profits.

Bottom-line questions remain: Since the Texas-Louisiana coasts are our soft industrial underbelly, open to devastation by natural disasters and terrorists, why hasn't the government taken steps to break up the concentration of refineries there? Moreover, the Europeans have a reserve of gasoline. Why don't we have the same thing?

Foreign substances

Over the long term, our energy future looks increasingly rocky, made even more so by our aggressive and so far unsuccessful gunboat diplomacy. Consider the new Arizona refinery, located in the southern part of the state near the border; it will obtain its crude supplies from Mexico via a pipeline. And under free-trade arrangements, the U.S. ought to be obtaining more and more oil from Mexico and Canada. But the Canadians have grown uneasy about watching the U.S. drain their country of its rich lode of energy sources. In any event, the Chinese appear to have snapped up one of Canada's most prized future energy sources: the Alberta tar sands. Chinese business has taken options on the deposits there. In Mexico, Pemex, the state oil company, produces oil for export, much of it to the U.S. Mexicans sell their oil cheap to the U.S. and then import high-priced gasoline back home—getting screwed going and coming. Mexico ought to be building and running its own refineries, but that would cut into U.S. sales. So that's not going to happen anytime soon.

Like every other president, Bush promises to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, especially oil from the Middle East. Instead, we seem set to have a growing dependence on the Middle East and Central Asia.

This can't last for long. Over the summer, American petroleum experts knowledgeable about Saudi resources—supposedly the biggest in the world—say the Saudis have faked their reserve figures in an effort to inflate them. The war in Iraq has brought to a virtual standstill any exports from that oil-rich country and wrecked its antiquated energy infrastructure. We are counting on imports from the Caspian Basin, but here again, the Chinese have been busily planning a long pipeline all the way back to Shanghai for natural gas. They need the gas to slow the pollution from their booming industries. We could increase oil and gas shipments from the Caspian by routing the fuel in pipelines down through Iran. But we don't do business with Iran. Hence it appears that instead of going to the U.S., Caspian energy supplies will increasingly go by pipeline and ship to China—and to India, as that country's energy market grows. In short, our foreign policy is walking us into a trap.

The U.S. looks to make up part of its growing energy deficit by importing natural gas in the form of enormously expensive liquefied natural gas (LNG). Bush, like Bill Clinton, looks to free enterprise as the mechanism to adjust supply and demand. No government—Democrat or Republican—has ever seriously suggested investing in clean alternative-energy resources. It is safe to say there was more interest in the early 20th century in solar energy than there is today.

There is no free market in oil and gas. It is a business dominated by a handful of companies that have managed to regulate themselves through various joint ventures and other deals. During the 20th century they worked openly through cartels, theoretically against the law in the U.S. When times got rough, they persuaded the government to apply various forms of regulation, such as oil depletion allowance, low or nonexistent royalties for oil produced in the public domain on the outer continental shelf. If the situation gets out of hand, there will doubtless be a call for price controls to help the industry keep its head above water, while its executives laugh all the way to the bank.

Don't forget the National Strike, December 1

: Where has all the money gone?

On 12 April 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Erbil in northern Iraq handed over $1.5 billion in cash to a local courier. The money, fresh $100 bills shrink-wrapped on pallets, which filled three Blackhawk helicopters, came from oil sales under the UN’s Oil for Food Programme, and had been entrusted by the UN Security Council to the Americans to be spent on behalf of the Iraqi people. The CPA didn’t properly check out the courier before handing over the cash, and, as a result, according to an audit report by the CPA’s inspector general, ‘there was an increased risk of the loss or theft of the cash.’ Paul Bremer, the American pro-consul in Baghdad until June last year, kept a slush fund of nearly $600 million cash for which there is no paperwork: $200 million of this was kept in a room in one of Saddam’s former palaces, and the US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds.

The ‘reconstruction’ of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan. But there is a difference: the US government funded the Marshall Plan whereas Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the ‘liberated’ country, by the Iraqis themselves. There was $6 billion left over from the UN Oil for Food Programme, as well as sequestered and frozen assets, and revenue from resumed oil exports (at least $10 billion in the year following the invasion). Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on 22 May 2003, all of these funds were transferred into a new account held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), so that they might be spent by the CPA ‘in a transparent manner . . . for the benefit of the Iraqi people’. Congress, it’s true, voted to spend $18.4 billion of US taxpayers’ money on the redevelopment of Iraq. But by 28 June last year, when Bremer left Baghdad two days early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA had spent up to $20 billion of Iraqi money, compared to $300 million of US funds.

There goes the rest of the House of Cards that Rove built; Follow the money

MODO is a hoot this week.

 Can't wait to see what's next.

Dick Cheney carpooling downtown with Brownie? Rummy Rollerblading down
the bike path to the Pentagon? Condi huddling by a Watergate fireplace
in a gray cardigan?

Maybe now that our hydrocarbon president is the conservation president,
he'll downgrade from Air Force One to a solar-powered Piper Cub as he
continues to stalk the Gulf Coast towns and oil rigs like Banquo's

The once disciplined and swaggering Bush administration has descended
into slapstick, more comical even than having Clarence Thomas et al.
sit in judgment as Anna Nicole Smith attempts to get more of the moolah
of her late oil tycoon husband.

We've got the clownish Brownie still on FEMA's payroll, giving advice
on cleaning up the mess he made. ( Let's hope the White House is paying
him only long enough to buy his good will, not to take any of his bad

We've got two oilmen in the White House whose administration was built
on urging us to consume and buy as much oil and energy as possible. Now
they're suddenly urging us to conserve. (Since Mr. Cheney considers
conservation a "personal virtue," at least he'll get some virtue.)

The president called on Americans to drive less, and told his staff
members to turn off their computers at night, turn down the
air-conditioning, form carpools and take the bus.

At the same time, he set a fine example by wasting gazillions of
gallons of fuel with all the planes and Secret Service vans and press
motorcades and police escorts that follow him around every time he goes
on one of his inane photo-ops from the Colorado bunker to what's left
of the Mississippi Delta and the Bayou. He did his part by knocking off
a few cars from his motorcade on his seventh trip to the gulf yesterday
- but if residents had hoped he'd bring them some water, they went

"Even so," as The Times's Elisabeth Bumiller wrote, "security dictated
that Mr. Bush's still-impressive caravan pick him up at the base of Air
Force One in Lake Charles, La. - and drop him off just yards away for a
meeting with local officials at an airport terminal."

Noting that the Bush administration has proposed new fuel economy
standards that critics say could make huge S.U.V.'s and pickups even
more popular, Reuters published some arithmetic about the president's
notorious fuel inefficiency.

Air Force One costs $83,200 to fill up and more than $6,000 per hour to
fly. Then there's the cost of helicopters and a 2006 Cadillac DTS limo
that gets less than 22 miles per gallon.

Karen Hughes, the Bush nanny who knows nothing about the Muslim world
and yet is charged with selling the U.S. to it, wasted even more fuel
this week flying to Saudi Arabia to tell women covered from head to toe
in black how much she likes driving even though they can't.

She knows so little about the Middle East that she looked taken aback
when some Saudi women told her that just because they could not vote or
drive did not mean that they felt they were treated unfairly.

One thing Saudi women like even less than not having certain rights is
to have hypocritical Americans patronize them.

The moment when America should have used its influence to help Saudi
women came on Nov. 6, 1990, as U.S. forces gathered in the kingdom to
go to war in Iraq the first time. Inspired by the U.S. troops,
including female soldiers, 47 women from the Saudi intelligentsia took
the wheels from their brothers and husbands and drove until the police
stopped them.

They were branded "whores" and "harlots" by Saudi clerics, had their
passports revoked, and were ostracized from society for a dozen years.
Even their husbands suffered.

The experience made them more angry at the U.S. than at their own
rulers. They feel that the Bushes play up the repression of women in
the Middle East when it suits their desire to bang the war drums, but
do not care what happens to women once the ideological agenda has been

They feel the administration and the American media have emphasized the
repression of Saudi women post-9/11 as a way to demonize Saudi Arabia
and paint Saudi men as bullies and terrorists.

When Ms. Hughes goes to Saudi Arabia to introduce herself as "a mom"
and to talk about Americans as people of faith, guzzling fuel all the
way in a country getting flush selling us oil, I think we can consider
it taxpayer money well spent.

W. doesn't really need to worry about turning down the lights in the
White House. The place is already totally in the dark.

We fail to see the need for comment

The Anti-War Speech Everyone Is Talking About

Etan Thomas Electrifies Anti-War Washington

By Dave Zirin 

09/28/05 "ICH"
--- Every generation the wide world of corporate sports produces an athlete with the iron resolve and moral urgency to step off their pedestal and join the fight for social justice. A century ago, it was boxer Jack Johnson, flaunting, as WEB DuBois put it, "his unforgivable blackness." In the 1930s, "the Brown Bomber" Joe Louis and track star Jesse Owens took turns spitting in Hitler's eyes, and Mildred Babe Didrikson continued to show that a woman could be the equal - if not superior – of any man. In the 1940s and 50s, Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, and the Brooklyn Dodgers advanced the cause of civil rights through the transgressive act of the multi-racial double play. In the 1960s, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, David Meggyesy, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos showed how mass struggle could ricochet into the world of sports with electric results. In the 1970s, Billie Jean King used a wicked forehand, and took to the streets, to demand equal rights for women, and Curt Flood showed the labor movement - and the bosses - how to go from crumbs to a bigger piece of the pie. In the 1980’s Martina Navratilova came out of the closet and onto center court, with her girlfriend on her sinewy arm in plain view of all. 

Today we may just have a figure to join their ranks in the NBA’s Etan Thomas. Regular readers of this column will know that I have interviewed the Washington Wizards' Power Forward on numerous occasions and highlighted his views on everything from the death penalty to the ravages of Hurricane Katrina. He is also the author of a book of poems called More Than An Athlete. 

But this past weekend, Etan made a play for pantheon status. Etan took it to that Ali level, by delivering a blistering poetical speech as part of the weekend’s antiwar demonstrations in Washington DC. His contribution, which was played in its entirety on Democracy Now!, is being hailed as “the best of the day” in various nooks and crannies of the blogosphere. 

Here is the transcript. Read and pass it along – it has the power to topple tyrants. 

“Giving all honor, thanks and praises to God for courage and wisdom, this is a very important rally. I'd like to thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts, feelings and concerns regarding a tremendous problem that we are currently facing. This problem is universal, transcending race, economic background, religion, and culture, and this problem is none other than the current administration which has set up shop in the White House. 

In fact, I'd like to take some of these cats on a field trip. I want to get big yellow buses with no air conditioner and no seatbelts and round up Bill O'Reilly, Pat Buchanan, Trent Lott, Sean Hannity, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Bush Jr. and Bush Sr., John Ashcroft, Giuliani, Ed Gillespie, Katherine Harris, that little bow-tied Tucker Carlson and any other right-wing conservative Republicans I can think of, and take them all on a trip to the ‘hood. Not to do no 30-minute documentary. I mean, I want to drop them off and leave them there, let them become one with the other side of the tracks, get them four mouths to feed and no welfare, have scare tactics run through them like a laxative, criticizing them for needing assistance. 

I’d show them working families that make too much to receive welfare but not enough to make ends meet. I’d employ them with jobs with little security, let them know how it feels to be an employee at will, able to be fired at the drop of a hat. I’d take away their opportunities, then try their children as adults, sending their 13-year-old babies to life in prison. I’d sell them dreams of hopelessness while spoon-feeding their young with a daily dose of inferior education. I’d tell them no child shall be left behind, then take more money out of their schools, tell them to show and prove themselves on standardized exams testing their knowledge on things that they haven’t been taught, and then I’d call them inferior. 

I’d soak into their interior notions of endless possibilities. I’d paint pictures of assisted productivity if they only agreed to be all they can be, dress them up with fatigues and boots with promises of pots of gold at the end of rainbows, free education to waste terrain on those who finish their bid. Then I’d close the lid on that barrel of fool’s gold by starting a war, sending their children into the midst of a hostile situation, and while they're worried about their babies being murdered and slain in foreign lands, I’d grace them with the pain of being sick and unable to get medicine. 

Give them health benefits that barely cover the common cold. John Q. would become their reality as HMOs introduce them to the world of inferior care, filling their lungs with inadequate air, penny pinching at the expense of patients, doctors practicing medicine in an intricate web of rationing and regulations. Patients wander the maze of managed bureaucracy, costs rise and quality quickly deteriorates, but they say that managed care is cheaper. They’ll say that free choice in medicine will defeat the overall productivity, and as co-payments are steadily rising, I'll make their grandparents have to choose between buying their medicine and paying their rent. 

Then I'd feed them hypocritical lines of being pro-life as the only Christian way to be. Then very contradictingly, I’d fight for the spread of the death penalty, as if thou shall not kill applies to babies but not to criminals. 

Then I’d introduce them to those sworn to protect and serve, creating a curb in their trust in the law. I’d show them the nightsticks and plungers, the pepper spray and stun guns, the mace and magnums that they’d soon become acquainted with, the shakedowns and illegal search and seizures, the planted evidence, being stopped for no reason. Harassment ain’t even the half of it. Forty-one shots to two raised hands, cell phones and wallets that are confused with illegal contrabands. I’d introduce them to pigs who love making their guns click like wine glasses. Everlasting targets surrounded by bullets, making them a walking bull's eye, a living piñata, held at the mercy of police brutality, and then we’ll see if they finally weren’t aware of the truth, if their eyes weren’t finally open like a box of Pandora. 

I’d show them how the other side of the tracks carries the weight of the world on our shoulders and how society seems to be holding us down with the force of a boulder. The bird of democracy flew the coop back in Florida. See, for some, and justice comes in packs like wolves in sheep's clothing. T.K.O.'d by the right hooks of life, many are left staggering under the weight of the day, leaning against the ropes of hope. When your dreams have fallen on barren ground, it becomes difficult to keep pushing yourself forward like a train, administering pain like a doctor with a needle, their sequels continue more lethal than injections. 

They keep telling us all is equal. I’d tell them that instead of giving tax breaks to the rich, financing corporate mergers and leading us into unnecessary wars and under-table dealings with Enron and Halliburton, maybe they can work on making society more peaceful. Instead, they take more and more money out of inner city schools, give up on the idea of rehabilitation and build more prisons for poor people. With unemployment continuing to rise like a deficit, it's no wonder why so many think that crime pays. 

Maybe this trip will make them see the error of their ways. Or maybe next time, we'll just all get out and vote. And as far as their stay in the White House, tell them that numbered are their days.”

Dave Zirin's new book "'What's My Name, Fool?': Sports and Resistance in the United States" [Haymarket Books] is available now. Check out his writings at . Contact the author at 

From a Cave in Afghanistan: It's the al-Zarqawi Show

Kurt Nimmo


09/28/05 "Another Day in the Empire" -- -- Osama, finally blessed with a donated kidney from a Pakistani religious student (the transplant was performed in one of his better equipped caves in Afghanistan), has launched an internet news show entitled “the Voice of the Caliphate,” featuring an anchorman wearing a black ski mask and an ammunition belt.

I’m not making this up. Well, I made up the part about the donated kidney (although Pakistani religious students have offered to donate their kidneys to their hero Osama), but the business about the internet show and the anchorman is true, if we can believe the Washington Post.

“The anchorman, who said the report would appear once a week, presented news about the Gaza Strip and Iraq and expressed happiness about recent hurricanes in the United States. A copy of the Koran, the Muslim holy book, was placed by his right hand and a rifle affixed to a tripod was pointed at the camera.”

Note all the pedestrian al-Qaeda stereotypes here—a prominent copy of the Koran, a rifle, the ski mask (brought back into vogue after Black September by that nimble—for a guy with one leg—Abu Musab al-Zarqawi), and of course expressions of joy over the death and misery of Americans, especially by way of natural disaster attributable to the will of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him.

“The lead segment recounted Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, which the narrator proclaimed as a ‘great victory,’ while showing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia walking and talking among celebrating compatriots,” reports Daniel Williams for the Post. “That was followed by a repeat of a pledge on Sept. 14 by Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, to wage all-out war on Iraq’s Shiite Muslims. An image of Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Sunni Muslim, remained on the screen for about half the broadcast.”

In other words, al-Qaeda wants to reaffirm its support for the Palestinians (and these people want their own state) and al-Zarqawi is the leader and Osama is the titular head of al-Qaeda, if that. It is interesting this video or program would appear so close to the airing of a 60 Minutes “Osama who?” episode. “If he (bin Laden) is hiding in a hole, neither the electronic nor the human intelligence can find him. Is it all that important to find him? If he’s taken out tomorrow, his ideology is not going to come to an end. I don’t think that it’s important … if he is captured,” Gen. Safdar Hussain, a top army commander supposedly responsible for anti-terrorism operations in northwestern Pakistan, told 60 Minutes. The Pakistani military and intelligence should know something about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda—hell, with a lot of money and TLC from the CIA, they made Osama into what he is today (or was before he died of kidney disease) and turned a handful of cantankerous Islamic fanatics and goat herders into a formidable world-class terrorist organization.

It makes absolutely no sense and is completely counterproductive for al-Zarqawi to “wage all-out war on Iraq’s Shiite Muslims,” but then, recall, we are assured the guy is none too bright, even if he is billed as a logistical mastermind. If al-Qaeda “in Iraq” is busy killing Shi’ites—and thus perpetuating the age-old Islamic schism—there will be less time and effort put into killing American and British occupation troops. Obviously, al-Qaeda needs a couple net meetings to hammer out its mission statement. I mean, it is rather muddled and impulsive to take on the Great Satan and millions and millions of Shi’ites at the same time.

“The masked announcer also reported that a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq claimed to have launched chemical-armed rockets at American forces in Baghdad,” the Post continues. “A video clip showed five rockets fired in succession from behind a sand berm as an off-screen voice yelled ‘God is great’ in Arabic. The Islamic Army asserted responsibility last year for the killing of Enzo Baldoni, an Italian journalist who had been kidnapped in Iraq.”

“According to Atmane Tazaghart and Roland Jacquard, in the French Figaro magazine, [the Islamic Army in Iraq was] founded by Abu Abdallah Hassan Ben Mahmoud on the 29th of September 2003, and is composed by internationalist salafist islamists, former baathists and also former militants of the Palestine Liberation Front of Abu Abbas,” notes Wikipedia.

Of course, it makes perfect sense the Palestine Liberation Front would fire chemical weapons at Americans. Bush told us as much about these evil-doers. Abu Abbas was responsible for tossing the wheelchair-bound Leon Klinghoffer off the Achille Lauro and into the sea (after shooting him) back in 1985. It is said Abbas died in American captivity in Iraq—and none too soon, since it was claimed by Ari Ben-Menashe, a salesman for the Israel Defense Forces’ armaments business, that the Achille Lauro hijacking was a Mossad operation designed to make Palestinians look like brutal killers and cutthroats. It appears “internationalist salafist islamists” and Palestinians will do whatever it takes to build their rep as scurrilous terrorists and thus conform to our worst nightmares, possibly with a little help from Mossad and the CIA. Even Italian journalists are not safe these days.

“A commercial break of sorts followed, which previewed a movie, ‘Total Jihad,’ directed by Mousslim Mouwaheed. The ad was in English, suggesting that the target audience might be Muslims living in Britain and the United States.”

More likely, the “target audience” consists of Americans and Brits, regardless of religious persuasion. The ad—in fact, the entire program—sure the heck is not intended for average Muslims in the Middle East because most of them don’t have computers or broadband internet connections (many of them, especially Iraqis, are lucky to have consistent electricity and clean drinking water). It’s also curious how much “Total Jihad” sounds like one of those late night infomercials. Instead of exercising equipment or vegetable preparation tools, the al-Qaeda infomercial sells death to infidels.

“The final segment was about Hurricane Katrina. ‘The whole Muslim world was filled with joy’ at the disaster, the anchorman said. He went on to say that President Bush was ‘completely humiliated by his obvious incapacity to face the wrath of God, who battered New Orleans, city of homosexuals.’ Hurricane Ophelia’s brush with North Carolina was also mentioned.”

In short, all Muslims are sadistic and want every last American to suffer and suffocate in toxic sludge. No wonder we declared war on them. As for the homosexual comment, it would seem the producers of the al-Zarqawi Hour consulted with Jerry Falwell and the Christian Zionists, many who believe the same thing about Katrina—it was an act of God in response to our wickedness and our inability or unwillingness to ferret out gay people and stone them to death, as mandated in the Old Testament.

“Numerous radical Islamic organizations, some claiming affiliation with al Qaeda, spread information, including photos and videos, by the Internet. Some evade ongoing efforts to shut them down by disguising their presence within innocuous Web sites.”

Hell, you never know—there might be an al-Qaeda QuickTime movie hidden on this website. If we are to believe the above, al-Qaeda techs are savvy at stealing FTP login information and passwords and uploading their propaganda to “innocuous Web sites” all across the internet. It is truly amazing how this dastardly organization graduated from humble beginnings in caves to hacking websites from internet cafes in Peshawar. Obviously, we need more controls imposed on the internet—we can follow China’s example— to wipe out this scourge.

Sarcasm aside, the idea al-Qaeda and the so-called “Global Islamic Media Front” would produce internet-based videos is nothing short of preposterous, mostly because the people they are supposedly attempting to reach—impoverished Muslims—do not have access to the internet. It would make more sense to distribute audio tapes, as Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran, or VHS tapes. But then, of course, the “target audience” is not impoverished Muslims but gullible Americans who need to be reminded every few weeks that al-Qaeda is still out there and it’s going to get them if they don’t listen to Bush and his neocon masters of forever war.

All of this makes perfect sense when the facts are considered: al-Qaeda “was armed by the CIA and funded by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally ‘the database’, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians,” as the late Robin Cook, former leader of the House of Commons and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, has noted. Bush and the neocons are reverse engineering the idea—as put forth by Eisenhower and Nixon—that in order to end war all one need do is eliminate fear from the national psyche. Bush and crew are shoving as much fear down the throats of Americans as possible in order to unleash World War IV, as the neocons fondly call it.

And that’s what the al-Zarqawi Show is all about—instilling fear and loathing in the hearts and minds of all Americans, or rather Americans gullible enough to take the bait. It’s part of the process to get us to surrender our rights and allow the state to militarize all facets of our society. Of course, the internet is the perfect medium for this Freddy Kruger horror show with a strange Islamic twist, since most Americans do not really understand the internet and have been conditioned to mistrust it—with all its spam, porno, and lurking pedophiles—and so they are easily persuaded the United States needs to “stay the course” in the war on terrorism, long as it may last, maybe a decade or a generation or however long it takes to subdue the Muslim Middle East.

© Copyright 2005 Another Day in the Empire