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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Fun Facts

Ninety-seven percent of all bills in the US test positive for the presence of cocaine.


Magnum Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg (Lucianne's answer to Rosemary's baby) at the National Review on why it's okay to torture detainees:

I have no problem with playing a little smacky-face with prisoners. Think about it. The standard being put forward by Sullivan and others on all this would rule the tactics of Detective Andy Sipowicz on NYPD Blue unacceptable. For years, Sipowicz has been smacking suspects around in order to force them to confess. He threatens to "beat their balls off" every other show. It is beyond me why this should be considered beyond the pale for terrorists.

Um, isn't the NR the the same self-anointed guardian of public decency who bemoans the fact that Americans absorb their values from television generated by a morally bankrupt Hollywood? I guess that criticism only applies when you're not walking in lockstep with their own particular brand of mouth-breathing fascism. (Thanks to World O'Crap)


Amen to That

"One day history books will speak of how the bloggers saved democracy." - Zackpunk (via Soj)


It's All Susan Sontag's Fault

The Poor Man, on the importance of staying in touch with reality:

The true situation is that there is a large and popular insurgency in Iraq, made up of disparate interests, but all drawing their strength from the long-standing popular discontent with the American and coalition occupation, a discontent based on a very understandable dislike of foreign armies, and fueled by the thousands of Iraqis we have killed, intentionally or not, to say nothing of Abu Ghraib - here, 6 months later, almost completely forgotten. This is the reality that was apparent to journalists well outside the “Sunni triangle” last March, as well as to the Marines who first “liberated” Baghdad. True, many soldiers in Iraq have been in places where people were nice and glad to have them, which is great, but misses the main point. Kennedy was shot on a sunny day, but most newspapers didn’t lead with the nice weather.

Appreciate this. Understand that the people killing us in Iraq aren’t motivated by Gore Vidal or inspired by Susan Sontag or organized by Michael Moore or in cahoots in any way with any of the right’s celebrity piñatas - not literally, not metaphorically, not if you look at it in a certain way, not to any infinitesimal degree, not in any sense, not in any way at all. They do not lead a clandestine international conspiracy of Evil which has corrupted everything in every foreign country plus everything in America not owned by loyal Bush Republican apparatchiks; nor are they members of such a conspiracy; nor does a conspiracy remotely matching that description exist. To think otherwise is, literally and to a very great degree, insanity. It is insane.

As Michael Berube correctly notes, "the Iraqi insurgency has not issued so much as one statement of sorrow at Ms. Sontag’s recent death, and Muqtada al-Sadr has so far failed completely to thank her for her distinctive and pathbreaking work as an American public intellectual."

Maybe Emily Post hasn't made it into Gulf Arabic yet. (Note to Titan: $100 million summer project?)


Friday, January 07, 2005

Quotes of the Day

The GOP nationally has increased its Congressional majority in part because of brutal gerrymandering in Texas that obviated the regular procedures. Call it Tom DeLay Republicanism: whatever it takes to win. - Andrew Sullivan

"It had better not, or you can get yourself another naked dame!" - burlesque queen Georgia Sothern, on being told by H.K. Minsky that she wouldn't be hit in the head with a microphone again during her next show.


Shameless Plug for Blog Award

I'm up for the Middle-Class Punk Rock Slummer Anti-Award on Feministe, which I think I stand a good chance of winning because the first person to nominate themselves wins, and I have just appointed myself head of the nominating committee. (Kind of like Dick Cheney being the head of the committee to choose a Vice Presidential candidate in 2000, you know?) Anyway, I think I deserve it because my sole qualification for writing this blog in the first place is a lifetime of punk rock slackerdom and the fact that I'm educated way past my intelligence (as my father used to say). In addition, as a veteran of Jello Biafra's mayoral campaign in San Francisco I know a thing or two about doomed Quixotic political endeavors. So cross your fingers for me, and check out the Feministe site, they're pretty cool.


And Another Thing: Resistance Is Not Futile

While they have clear majorities in both the House and Senate, the Republicans must still lure a few Democrats over to the dark side in order to carry out their Social Security looting agenda. From Salon (subscription required):

Congressional Republicans seeking Democratic support for Bush's plan were set back Tuesday when a Tennessee lawmaker they had hoped to woo firmly shut the door to the overhaul.

"I do believe that the system needs to be reformed but I do not support changing the Social Security system as President Bush has proposed," said Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tenn.

Ford, in his statement, said he opposed borrowing to pay for the estimated $2 trillion in transition costs to fund the accounts, which the White House is likely to propose. Supporters of Bush's idea had hoped Ford would join their side on Social Security as he explores a Senate run for 2006.

Readers of this blog will remember that the effort to put pressure on the wobbily Ford began here. Without his support, it appears BushCo. is having a hard time mustering even a tiny Coalition of the Democratic Willing. I feel a little bad, because since that time Ford has been piloried relentlessly by virtually everyone, frequently for stuff he didn't even do, but his fate at the hands of the blogosphere is evidently serving as a cautionary tale for any Democrat thinking of selling out Granny in a deal with the Devil.

We don't make a dime from this stuff, folks. But we do make a difference. The joy I get thinking we played some little part in putting a crimp in the dastardly plans of the evil Chimp is...well, indescribable. I have visions of him spinning dervish-like with unquenchable rage, plunging his foot through the floor in a Rumplestiltskin-esque riot of temper...

Okay. Time to lay off the Mountain Dew.


Democatic Balls, 101

Our favorite Rude One weighs in on the significance (or lack thereof) of yesterdays's electoral college protest vote:

...what this really was about was the scene four years ago when Al Gore took a dive that'd make Terry Malloy proud. It was goddamn pathetic, like when an asshole gets in your face at a bar to fight you, and when you back down, he calls you a "tit-sucking mama's boy." Then, on the shameful car ride home, you think, "Yeah, I should have said, 'Tell your mama to keep her tits in her shirt'" before kicking yourself for the missed opportunity. The only thing more pathetic than your initial action would be to go up to the asshole the next time you see him and say it. Yeah, it'd been a beautiful thing if, in 2000, some Senator had had the balls to stand up to the unending bullying by Republicans. But you know what would have happened - the Republicans would have whined like bitch puppies about unfairness and the Democrats would have gone prone and said, "Oh, okay, fuck away."

That's because they hadn't seen the true face of squalid hate that is the way of the Bush Republican party. And now that they have seen it? They're still fuckin' prostrate at the overwhelming debauchery of the Republicans.

I still think the consistent courage of the CBC is really praise-worthy, and it was great to see Boxer show some friggin' signs of life in a party heretofore riddled with rigor mortis. Still, you've got to admit, the Rude One has a helluva point.

You can congratulate Boxer and Reid for not completely bitching out here. Though the gesture only resulted in more of the same-old same-old, they risk being Daschled by the GOP for their efforts. And they're not going to get any steel in their spine until we let 'em know that when they stand up and do the right thing, we've got their backs.

And please, please send an email to the magnificent Sheila Jackson-Lee, who moved everyone (okay, well, at least, those few pathetic C-SPAN watching bloggers like myself) with her magnificent speech that wound up with Hastert cutting her off, and Jackson-Lee shouting to be heard before she threw her papers at him. SHE should be leading the charge against these unrelenting bastards and writing the playbook that everyone else follows.


Decisions, Decisions...

Roy Edroso at Alicublog on the brain schism caused among right wing pundits by loathing for Democratic Yushenko-backer George Soros vs. love of seeing Kremlin in woodshed:

What's stronger in the wingnut worldview -- hatred of Russia, or hatred of Democratic contributors? Depends perhaps on whether they're in a conservative (beat the kids) or conservatarian (fuck the wife in the ass, complain about sodomites) sort of mood.

BTW, Roy is up for Most Humorous Blog at the 3rd Annual Koufax Award. Check him out. He gets three snaps up from me.


Sheila Jackson-Lee on Voter Suppression

During yesterday’s Congressional discussion on ratification of the Ohio electoral vote, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) kicked out the jams:

This is a sacred debate. This is not a frivolous time in our history. This is about avoiding the suppression of votes, and might I say when the people of Ukraine rose up against a flawed election they understood what democracy is all about. Mr. Speaker, I rise to object to the vote in Ohio.

I rise under the Constitution of the United States in Article 4, 14 and 15. I argue the point that we have an inconsistent election, and I argue the point that we do believe in democracy.

The equal protection and due process clauses of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution operate to protect the rights of citizens to vote for the candidate of their choice. Furthermore the well-settled case on this issue, Reynolds vs. Simms, states that the right to vote freely for the candidate of one’s choice is of the essence of a Democratic society, and any restrictions on that right strike at the heart of representative government.

How would you like to be in Ohio and be told that the election was on November 3rd, 2004 instead of November 2nd, 2004? Mr. Speaker, the Constitution’s due process clause requires fundamental fairness, or that a state official not conduct an election or implied vote count with procedures that are so flawed. Mr. Speaker I believe that the American people value the value of one vote one person, all votes counted.

I came here as a slave, I now want the right to vote.

It was hard to hear the final sentence because DeLay’s marionette, Denny “rent boy” Hastert, was banging the gavel and cutting her time off. Jackson-Lee would not be silenced. Her stirring oratory managed to move even a Congress suffering from a fundamental lack of shame.


Thursday, January 06, 2005

Nothing But Softballs for Gonzales

The Administration learned its lesson when they promoted the summarily creepy and generally unbalanced-sounding John Ashcroft to the role of Attorney General. After listening to numerous Senators kiss the teflon on Alberto "The Electrode" Gonzales' ass all morning on C-SPAN (the only exception being, weirdly, Lindsay Graham, R-SC), it's pretty obvious this guy is going to skate. He has an easy manner and genial likeability that is making it easy for him to squirm out from answering any tough question in a meaningful way.

See: Hanna Arendt, The Banality of Evil.


Tucker Carlson -- Good for the Democrats?

The eloquent Matt Taibbi in the New York Press, on why Tuckie's presence on MSNBC would be a boon to the left:

Carlson puts a soothing face on conservatism for educated East-coast progressives—because even the biggest neo-Marxist wanker from Brown takes one look at Carlson and sees the one man in America he would feel sure of being able to kick the shit out of in a back alley.

That same wanker could probably take Savage or O'Reilly, too, but those guys have supplicants and constituents by the millions who would come rushing to their aid. Not Carlson. In a bar fight, no 35-year-old man with a bow tie has friends. Especially not a smart-aleck closet case like Carlson. You would be hard-pressed to find an American who would not leap to his feet to cheer the sight of Tucker Carlson getting his teeth kicked down an alley, which I suspect is the reason CNN picked him to be their champion of conservatism. He is a patsy and a fraud—the kind of public personality totalitarian regimes used to nurture for years in order to execute for a lack of orthodoxy at some opportune historical moment much later on. That MSNBC hires him thinking they're getting the real thing, a big ticket to red-state ratings, just shows how clueless that network really is.

Note to Taibbi: NY Press needs to get with the whole link/bookmark thing. It's a bitch always having to chase you down.


Lautenberg Waxes Blackwell

Unbelievable. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) went after Blackwell, and introduced the now-famous memo where the Ohio Secretary of State took credit for "delivering" the Ohio vote to BushCo.

No matter where you stand on this issue, it's a great day for netroots and the blogoshere. All the junk we spew about all day is finally taking root. No white politician would've given a rat's ass if it hasn't been for a full frontal assault by African Americans in Congress and massive netroots support. The Christian Right no longer have a monopoly of noisy letter writing campaigns.

Drop Lautenberg an email an let him know he made us all proud.


Breaking News

Word just in: The Democratic Senator from the all-white state of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, could give a shit about your black ass.

Hope everyone is watching C-SPAN.


GOP Initiates Circular Firing Squad

As the 109th Congress convenes, Republicans are taking pity on the Democratic minority who still find themselves in search of a spine, by offering up their first blood sacrifice: Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO). According to the WaPo:

House Republicans have decided to replace the chairman of the ethics committee, who has crossed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay so many times that the two barely speak, top leadership aides said yesterday. The chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), has not been told his fate but said in an interview that his fellow leaders are "probably going to boot me."

With all the genuflecting DeLay obviously expects on the part of a new chairman, might we suggest David Dreier (R-CA), whose experience in blind obiescence to Republican talking points already gives him a leg up?


Houston, We Have Liftoff...Well, Maybe...

Keith Olbermann reports that it appears "all but certain" that up to six Senators will challenge the Electoral College slate from Ohio when the votes are opened in a joint session today. That'll be me glued to the TV set. But I'm not holding my breath.

On a similar note, Jon Stewart condenses new Republican minority leader Harry Reid's message to his party: "At least we're not dying in a mine shaft." Again, not holding with the breath.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Will Boxer Walk on Water?

California Senator Barbara Boxer told a group of 20 women that if she gets enough support from her constituents, she will back the Congressional Black Caucus in their efforts to keep the electoral college from being certified this week. If you are a California resident, or even if you're not, PLEASE contact her and let her know that you support the efforts of John Conyers and Maxine Waters to look into voting irregularities before the presidential election is certified! The systematic, endemic disenfranchisement of African-American voters in the US is criminally shameful. You can email her here, call her at (213) 894-5000, or fax her at (213) 894-5042.


Not One Damn Dime Day

In honor of the coronation of King George II, Thursday, January 20 has been dubbed "Not One Damn Dime Day." You don't have to show up anywhere, email anyone, or do anything. Just commit to purchasing absolutely nothing. No controlled substances, no Brittany thongs, no Prada poodle collars. Let's do what we can to show them who has the power in a way that they can understand. (Thanks to the lovely Yolanda for the tip)


Staples Gives Shove to Sinclair

Concluding that their business interests lie with people who can actually read, Staples has announced that they have withdrawn their advertising from Sinclair Broadcasting's right wing propaganda-spewing local news shows. Sinclair, if you'll recall, is the largest single owner/operator of television stations in the US -- the same people who tried to broadcast "Stolen Honor," the two-hour anti-John Kerry film the week before the election and pass it off as "news" (stopped by bloggers) and who also wouldn't allow the airing of the Nightline episode where names of American soldiers killed in Iraq were read, saying "we do not believe political statements should be disguised as news content." Thanks to pressure from customer protests generated in the blogosphere and led by Media Matters and, Staples announced that they would "no longer be airing advertising on any Sinclair station's local news programs as of January 10, 2005."

This is huge. It's not going to sit well with Sinclair stockholders, and it puts pressure on other advertisers to do the same. Next on the list? Kraft, Target, Geico, Sprint and McDonald's. Also, drop Staples a line, and let 'em know you support their decision.

Bloggers-2, Sinclair-0.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

LA Times Says Gonzales Knew about Torture

In today's LA Times, Robert Scheer says that based on the language he used in memos to the President advising him how to subvert US law, that Gonzales must have known that the torture of prisoners in Iraq was an active, ongoing practice, and was seeking to preempt legal opposition:

Acting like a sleazy attorney advising a client on how not to be convicted of an ongoing crime, Gonzales was apparently not worried about irrational foreign courts or high-minded jurists in The Hague, but rather U.S. prosecutors who might enforce federal laws that ban torture of foreign prisoners of war. Indeed, Gonzales made the case for a legal end run around the 1996 War Crimes Act, which mandates criminal penalties, including the death sentence, for any U.S. military or other personnel who engage in crimes of torture.

"It is difficult to predict the motives of [U.S.] prosecutors and [U.S.] independent counsels who may in the future decide to pursue unwarranted charges based on Section 2441" of the act, Gonzales wrote. "Your determination [that Geneva protections are not applicable] would create a reasonable basis in law that Section 2441 does not apply, which would provide a solid defense to any future prosecution."

In light of what we have learned since about the rationalization and use of torture by U.S. interrogators over the last three years, it is difficult to ignore the possibility that Gonzales already had knowledge that such violations had occurred and expected more.

In fact, Gonzales in his memo singles out language from the Geneva Convention (and incorporated into U.S. law) that explicitly brands as a war crime "outrages against personal dignity" — a perfect description of the pattern of mental, sexual and physical degradation of U.S. detainees that has been reported by prisoners, military whistle-blowers and even FBI agents in recent months.

Scheer wraps it up by saying that "to make a man with so little respect for both the spirit and the letter of the law the nation's top law enforcement official would be a terrible advertisement for American democracy."

Human Rights First has a website where you can send a letter to your Senator to oppose Gonzales's approval. There is also one at

BTW, if you Google "Oppose Gonzales," the DailyKos comes up first out of 49,900 entries. The blogosphere is leading the way.


"Thou Art as Wise as Thou Art Beautiful"

Suffering from no shortage of inspiration, the Rude Pundit on why Ann Coulter is a cunt:

Yeah, Coulter's factually correct when she sleazes, "American hero Pat Tillman won a Silver Star this year. But unlike Kerry, he did not write his own recommendation or live to throw his medals over the White House fence in an anti-war rally." Uhh, that'd be because he was dead, Ann. And, you know, because the relatives of the dead and wounded are only useful when they blindly support the cause, one can be sure Coulter has little use for the now famous words of Tillman's brother, Rich, at the funeral, "Pat isn't with God. He's fucking dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's fucking dead."

Many thanks to the Rude Pundit for counterbalancing Coulter's fecal factor in the universal equation.


Best Album of 2004 - Bad Relgion, The Empire Strikes First

Let's face it, rock'n'roll has been consigned to virtual cultural irrelevance any more, unable to wean itself from the sagging tit of that aging, syphallitic whore, the corporate music industry. The burning cultural energy that fueled Stax/Volt or the summer of love, late 70's punk or early NWA has taken flight for more urgent pastures (and to my mind they've landed in the blogosphere, but that's another topic altogether). But if I had to pick an album that gave me hope this year, it would be Bad Religion's The Empire Strikes First, worthy of acclaim for its title alone. Bad Religion have quietly and consistently confounded the cliches about what a rock'n'roll band is supposed to be (singer Greg Graffin recently completed his PhD in Biology at Cornell), and they have refused to die on the wings of fashion, celebrating their 25th anniversary this year. As my friend David Jenison noted in Mean Streets, their new album digs at the right with songs like Let them Eat War, about "Southerners living in poverty [who] support an administration that theoretically gives tax breaks to the rich and deployment orders to the poor.” But in Los Angeles is Burning, overtly written about last year's LA brush fires, they also lament the soulless, valueless and morally bankrupt iconography and ideology served up by those who would offer themselves as spokespersons for the left – the Hollywood elite. It’s also catchy as hell. When I gave my 11 year-old nephew an MP3 player for Christmas, Los Angeles is Burning was on it, along with Green Day’s American Idiot and the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia. (I figure, start ‘em early, before they come home and horrify you with some walking Justin Timberlake nightmare. But that’s just me.)


Best Online Music Stream of 2004 – Jonesy’s Jukebox

Okay, now that I’ve dismissed most new music as utter crap, I want to pay tribute to Steve Jones (ex-Sex Pistols) and his radio show Jonesys’s Jukebox that streams over the internet every weekday from 12 noon – 2 pm. Because without it, life up here in a coastal town of 100 people would be unbearable. Jonesie is a testament to the penetrating, comprehensive grasp of modern popular music that informed late 70’s punk, standing in sharp contrast to the a-historic churning of clichés that passes for early 21st century “creativity.” One minute he’s playing Kay Starr, the next it’s Husker Du, then he’s off to some glam-rock nobody I’ve never heard of, all served up in a wash of Cockney rhyming slang and trenchant political insight (“All politicians are tossers, even Paris Hilton”). Jonesy proves that cultivated discernment and creative juxtaposition are imaginative acts, not merely exercises in meaningless nostalgia. So indulge yourself. Take a vacation from the crap. Tune in.


Biggest Loss of 2004: TechTV and The Screensavers

Those witless mongoloids over at Comcast paid $300 million for Paul Allen's Tech TV and proceeded to dismantle the most interesting network on television by jamming a joystick up its ass and folding it into the utterly worthless G4 gaming network, turning it into a 24 hour marathon of masturbatory Playstation arcana. In the process, they gutted my favorite show, the peerless Screensavers, firing the eminently articulate, talented and qualified duo of Patrick Norton and Leo LaPorte in a blatant act of ageism and replacing them with a pair of modestly trained chimpanzees. (No offense meant to Kevin Rose, 'cos THAT didn't last long, did it?) A show that introduced me to Michio Kaku and had Eno demonstrating his 10,000 year clock, that told me about Serial Experiments: Lain and made my life richer on a daily basis by helping me to understand the highly technical political frontiers where our future is being determined was in one blinding flash dumbed down to the level of rodent feces. Paul Allen, wherever you are, you must find these two and put them back on the air. Somewhere. The universe will forgive you your karmic burden.


Monday, January 03, 2005

Shirley Chisholm 1924-2005

Seeing this photo made me cry a little.  Too few people remember "Fighting Shirley Chisholm--Unbought and Unbossed," the fact that she co-founded NOW, had an all-female staff, ran for president, and was an early proponent of state aid to day-care centers.  With everyone in the Democratic party abandoning women in their flight to the center these days, she stands tall for her principles and her courage.  

What a loss.

"My greatest political asset, which professional politicians fear, is my mouth, out of which come all kinds of things one shouldn't always discuss for reasons of political expediency." -- Shirley Chisholm


Circle Jerks

Anyone want to explain why Thomas R. Saving, one of Public Trustees of the Social Security and Medicare Trust Fund, whose job is to a) hold the trust funds, b) report to the Congress each year on past and future status, c) report to the Congress immediately if the amount in either trust fund is too small, and d) review policies followed in managing trust funds and recommend changes, is listed as one of the experts for the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), whose stated goal is "to develop and promote private alternatives to government regulation and control, solving problems by relying on the strength of the competitive, entrepreneurial private sector"?

Just asking.

(thanks to taxismom & lapin at dkos for the tip)


War Profiteering, Corruption and Greed: The True WMDs

There is much evidence that the so-called “reconstruction effort” in Iraq has amounted to little more than a depraved carnival of corporate greed. But just how bad is it? It’s bad. Really bad. So bad that Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Il), along with Senators Larry Craig (R-ID) and Daniel Akaka (D-HI) have introduced a resolution to re-convene Harry Truman’s WWII committee on war profiteering. The shit COULD hit the proverbial fan shortly after the first of the year, when BushCo. is expected to belly up to the trough once again and ask for another $100 billion for Iraq.

At last report, fewer than 140 of the 2,300 reconstruction projects funded by the US were underway in Iraq. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) has consistently bypassed Iraqi firms in awarding billions in reconstruction contracts, when Iraqi companies could have done the work more cheaply and quickly, in addition to generating good will in the country. So let's take a closer look at the Top Ten War Profiteers (as determined by the Center for Corporate Policy) and examine how each has fared in the news of late:

1. AEGIS: Awarded biggest piece of the private-security pie in Iraq, they coordinate security operations among thousands of private military companies or “PMCs” (read: mercenaries). Headed by former mercenary Tim Spicer, who has been linked to arms sales to Sierra Leone in 1998 in violation of a UN arms embargo. In 1992, two soldiers in a unit commanded by Spicer were convicted of murdering an 18 year-old Catholc boy in North Belfast. He also figured prominently in a 1997 military coup in Papua New Guinea. Yes, this is the guy we've hired to coordinate security operations and guard against physical abuse of detainees. "This contract is a case study in what not to do," according to Peter Singer of The Brookings Institution. "The Army never even bothered to Google this guy to find out that he was involved in political scandal, that he was the source of parliamentary investigations and the owner of failed businesses.”

2. BearingPoint: Management-consulting firm who received the contract to help develop Iraq's competitive private sector. Ironic, since they wrote the specs for the contract they were bidding on, and sent some employees to Iraq to begin work before the contract was awarded. Gave more to the Bush election campaign than any other Iraq contractor. Subpoenaed by a California Grand Jury last month regarding federal contracts; a former BearingPoint employee has already plead guilty to one count of criminal conspiracy in connection with the government inquiries. In April of this year they agreed to pay $34 million to settle charges of overbilling clients.

3. Bechtel: Really, where to start? Former company President and Reagan Secretary of State George Schultz was head of "Committee for the Liberation of Iraq." No wonder. No-bid contract for building schools, bridges, airports, water treatment plants and other Iraqi infrastructure could be eventually be worth $100 billion. Overcharged City of San Francisco for unnecessary and overpriced work, as well as employees' personal expenses, in 2002. Bechtel's errors in design and construction of a highway cost city of Boston $1 billion plus, and in a truly Homer Simpson-esque moment, they installed one of the reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant -- backwards -- which resulted in all manner of marine life, including seals, being sucked in with the waters to cool the reactors. Not to mention the environmental chaos and massive cost overruns that ensued. Bechtel nearly caused a revolution in Bolivia when it tried to charge the country's poor exorbitant rates for their own rainwater. (I guess it was one of those “triumphs of privatization.”) Good at hiring Iraqis to do grunt work, bad at hiring Iraqi engineers and managers for jobs that required hands-on knowledge of the country's infrastructure. Funny enough, has yet to meet any of the deadlines in its original contract, including the restoration of basic services like electricity. Spreading good cheer all 'round.

4. BKSH & Associates: PR firm chaired by Charlie Black, old time Bush family friend, Republican lobbyist and big fundraiser for Bush/Cheney campaign. Represent big Iraqi contractors including Fluor International, Cummins Engine and the Iraqi National Congress. Until 2003 BKSH & Associates was paid $25,000 per month by the State Department to promote liar, embezzler, would-be dictator and Bush crony Ahmet Chalabi and the INC. In June of this year, an Iraqi judge ordered the arrest of Francis Brooke, Evangelical Christian and consultant for BKSH, for reportedly obstructing a raid on Chalabi's headquarters in Baghdad. Brooke bragged last year to New Yorker that he engineered the war by delivering evidence of WMD to the Pentagon.

5. CACI and Titan: CACI had a hand in drawing up its own no-bid contract to provide interrogation services; Titan has a $400 million contract to provide translation services. Recently, as the result of a military investigation, six CACI employees were referred to the Justice Department for prosecution in the Abu Graib prison abuse scandal. The WaPo said that "about half of CACI's interrogators were not properly trained and that the military officer in charge of interrogation did not screen them before allowing them to conduct interrogations." The military concluded that interrogators and linguists were involved in 16 of the 44 alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib. The Center for Constitutional Rights has filed RICO suits against both Titan and CACI, saying that they promoted their businesses by "proving they could extract information from detainees in Iraq, by any means necessary."

6. Custer Battles: A politically connected start-up firm awarded a no-bid contract to provide security for Baghdad's airport, suspended from all federal contracts in September for fraudulent billing practices. Maybe it should have happened in 2003, when CPA employees found a misplaced Custer-Battles spreadsheet showing that their currency exchange operation had cost the company $3,738,592, but they had billed the CPA $9,801,550? Or when they submitted a $2.7 million invoice that the Air Force said was based on "forged leases, inflated invoices and duplication?" A former employee, Robert Isakson, has filed a claim against Custer Battles for "war profiteering...[that] contributed to the deaths of at least four Custer Battles employees." Says Isakson's attorney: "This is corruption at its worst, perpetrated by Bush cronies and protected by the Bush administration."

7. Halliburton: Awarded a 5-year oil-related contract worth up to $10.8 billion, now the subject of numerous investigations into overcharging and kickbacks. Government auditors have found "widespread, systemic problems with almost every aspect of Halliburton's work in Iraq, from cost estimation and billing systems to cost control and subcontract management." Their subsidiary, Kellog, Brown & Root (KBR) has been the subject of a House Government Reform Committee investigation. Seems they submitted bills totaling more than $3 billion that were "so lacking in documentation" that they were summarily rejected even by the Pentagon. They encored with a new bill, $700 million cheaper, that was hastily withdrawn due to "continuing pricing issues." Forced to refund the Pentagon $27.4 million for food they never delivered to US troops; as a result soldiers were limited to one bottle of water a day in the desert heat. Scammed $61 million in overcharges for gas trucked from Kuwait to Iraq, not including the $6.3 milliion in kickbacks that went to two Halliburton employees. The list goes on. And on. And on.

8. Lockheed Martin: Dollar for dollar, Lockheed continues to be the biggest war pirate, with Pentagon contracts worth $21.9 billion in 2003 alone. E.C. Aldridge Jr., the former undersecretary of defense for acquisitions and procurement, gave final approval for the F-35 contract worth $200 billion to Lockheed just prior to leaving the Pentagon to join Lockheed's board. Have paid millions in the past in the past three years through their partnership with Northrup Grummon to settle charges they defrauded the Pentagon.

9. Loral Satellite: Chairman Bernard L. Schwartz is close chum with big BushCo. neocon war hawks and principle funder of "Blueprint," the newsletter of the DLC. Stand to profit big time from Pentagon's decision to create a new global intranet for military that will take two decades and hundreds of billions of dollars to build. Suspected of giving away classified missile guidance secrets to the Chinese in 1996.

10. Qualcomm: Iraq's cellular market is worth millions of dollars for any company who can establish itself as the standard for the region. Which maybe explains why two CPA officials claimed that John Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense technology security, put the screws to them to change an Iraqi police radio contract to favor Qualcomm's patented cellular technology. Shaw says he, in turn, was nudged by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), whose district Qualcomm calls home. Issa previously sponsored a bill that would require the military to use Qualcomm technology. The DoD's inspector general has asked the FBI to investigate Shaw's activities.

As if that weren’t enough -- in October, it was revealed that the CPA used $12 billion in Iraqi oil revenues to pay US contractors, rather than using the money earmarked by Congress. (Way to go with the hearts and minds!) As Henry Waxman said, "This money belongs to the Iraqi people. It is not a slush fund."

The real kicker (and here you thought it couldn’t get any better) -- thanks an order issued from the CPA by Paul Bremer, contractors and other foreign personnel are granted immunity from Iraqi law -- even if they injure or kill someone. Neither are they subject to US military law. And since BushCo. has issued contradictory memos about the CPA’s status to whether it’s a government agency or not, nobody is sure WHO the hell has oversight authority over private contractors, if anyone.

So what can we do? Well, for starters, email Dick Durbin, Larry Craig and Daniel Akaka and let them know you support their efforts to re-convene the Truman Committee on War Profiteering. And while you're at it, drop a note to Republicans Richard Luger (R-IN), who blasted BushCo. as “incompetent” in their failure to provide management and oversight, and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), who has said that “it''s beyond pitiful, it's beyond embarrassing, it's now in the zone of dangerous.” On the rare occasion when the GOP does something worthwhile, positive reinforcement is a good thing; besides, bi-partisan support is going to be essential.


Sunday, January 02, 2005

Coming Soon: BushCo.'s Fawlty Tower

From N2: WaPo reports this morning that the Defense Department has asked Congress for $25 million for a facility to hold detainees for life without benefit of a trial. "The new prison, dubbed Camp 6...would be designed for prisoners the government believes have no more intelligence to share" and would provide "a more permanent approach for potentially lifetime detentions, including for hundreds of people now in military and CIA custody whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts."

Earth to Dubya: were you paying any attention to the Supreme Court this summer when they ruled that the 600 men from 42 countries who were being detained at Guantanamo Bay had the right to fight their detention in federal court? When Justice John Paul Stevens said that "a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens"?

I feel my breakfast brewing an editorial comment.


All God's Orphans

The president we get is the country we get. With each president the nation is conformed spiritually. He is the artificer of our malleable national soul. He proposes not only the laws but the kinds of lawlessness that govern our lives and invoke our responses. The people he appoints are cast in his image. The trouble they get into and get us into, is his characteristic trouble.

Finally, the media amplify his character into our moral weather report. He becomes the face of our sky, the conditions that prevail. How can we sustain ourselves as the United States of America given the stupid and ineffective warmaking, the constitutionally insensitive lawgiving, and the monarchal economics of this president? He cannot mourn but is a figure of such moral vacancy as to make us mourn for ourselves.

-- E. L. Doctorow