Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Revealed: how MI6 sold the Iraq war

THE Secret Intelligence Service has run an operation to gain public support for sanctions and the use of military force in Iraq. The government yesterday confirmed that MI6 had organised Operation Mass Appeal, a campaign to plant stories in the media about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

The revelation will create embarrassing questions for Tony Blair in the run-up to the publication of the report by Lord Hutton into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dr David Kelly, the government weapons expert.

A senior official admitted that MI6 had been at the heart of a campaign launched in the late 1990s to spread information about Saddam's development of nerve agents and other weapons, but denied that it had planted misinformation. "There were things about Saddam's regime and his weapons that the public needed to know," said the official.


Democrats' brawling delights Republicans

WASHINGTON - Infighting between Howard Dean and some of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination has gotten so nasty of late that Dean called on party chairman Terry McAuliffe to step in and tone things down. In the process, Dean managed to insult McAuliffe.

Republican strategists, meanwhile, are watching it all with barely contained glee.

“They are beginning to really gouge this guy,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff said about Dean, chuckling. “Look at Howard Dean and, as a Republican, think about the advertising we’re going to run.”

McInturff said Republicans could use John Kerry’s quotes about Dean wanting to tax the middle class, or the “wonderful attack” from Wesley Clark about Dean’s draft status or the “terrific comments” from Joe Lieberman about Dean’s stance on Saddam Hussein’s capture.



Monday, December 29, 2003

Did Someone Say Jobless Recovery?

Since July the average hourly wage increase for the 85 million Americans who work in non-supervisory jobs in offices and factories is a flat 3 cents. Wages are up just 2.1 percent since November 2002 -- the slowest wage growth we've experienced in 40 years. Economists at the Economic Policy Institute have been comparing recoveries of late, looking into the growth in corporate-sector income in each of the nine recoveries the United States has gone through since the end of World War II. In the preceding eight, the share of the corporate income growth going to profits averaged 26 percent, and never exceeded 32 percent. In the current recovery, however, profits come to 46 percent of the corporations' additional income.

Conversely, labor compensation averaged 61 percent of the total income growth in the preceding recoveries, and was never lower than 55 percent. In the Bush recovery, it's just 29 percent of the new income coming in to the corporations.

Someone with an antiquarian vocabulary might rightly note that this is a recovery for capital, not labor; indeed, that it's a recovery for capital at the expense of labor.

But we are none of us antiquarians, so let's just proceed.

There are only a couple of ways to explain how the capacity of U.S. workers to claim their accustomed share of the nation's income has so stunningly collapsed. Outsourcing is certainly a big part of the picture. As Stephen S. Roach, chief economist for Morgan Stanley, has noted, private-sector hiring in the current recovery is roughly 7 million jobs shy of what would have been the norm in previous recoveries, and U.S. corporations, high-tech as well as low-tech, are busily hiring employees from lower-wage nations instead of from our own.

The jobless rate among U.S. software engineers, for instance, has doubled over the past three years. In Bangalore, India, where American companies are on a huge hiring spree for the kind of talent they used to scoop up in Silicon Valley, the starting annual salary for top electrical engineering graduates, says Business Week, is $10,000 -- compared with $80,000 here in the States. Tell that to a software writer in Palo Alto and she's not likely to hit up her boss for a raise.

That software writer certainly doesn't belong to a union, either.

Indeed, the current recovery is not only the first to take place in an economy in which global wage rates are a factor, but the first since before the New Deal to take place in an economy in which the rate of private-sector unionization is in single digits -- just 8.5 percent of the workforce.

In short, what we have here resembles a pre-New Deal recovery more than it does any period of prosperity between the presidencies of the second Roosevelt and the second Bush. The great balancing act of the New Deal -- the fostering of vibrant unions, the legislation of minimum wages and such, in a conscious effort to spread prosperity and boost consumption -- has come undone. (The federal minimum wage has not been raised since 1997.) And the problem with pre-new deal recoveries is that they never created lasting prosperity.



Newsday.com - Durable Goods' Take a Header

America's factories saw orders for big-ticket goods drop by 3.1 percent in November, the largest decline in more than a year, raising new questions about how firm a grip manufacturers have on their own fragile recovery.

The drop reported by the Commerce Department Wednesday in orders for "durable goods" - costly manufactured items expected to last at least three years - came after a brisk 4 percent advance in October and a solid 2.2 percent increase in September.

The 3.1 percent decrease was the first decline since August and the largest since September 2002, when durable-goods orders fell by 6 percent.

The performance in November was considerably weaker than economists were expecting. They were forecasting a 0.6 percent rise.
How High Is Unemployment?

"A front-page LAT piece reminds that the real unemployment rate is higher than the official one, which is 5.9 percent. About five million workers are part-time but want to be full- time, the highest number in a decade. Another 1.5 million aren't looking for work because they're "discouraged." The LAT adds them up and gets an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent, up from 9.4 percent a year ago. And that doesn't take into account the growing number of people who are going on disability as a kind of alternative to welfare.

TP isn't sure why people who are underemployed should be counted the same as the unemployed. But the general point still holds. As one professor told the LAT, "There's certainly an arbitrariness to the official rate. It irks me that it's not put in proper perspective." Newspapers usually don't do so. "



Rummy and Saddam, Sittin' in a tree . . .

"Fresh controversy about Donald Rumsfeld's personal dealings with Saddam Hussein was provoked yesterday by new documents that reveal he went to Iraq to show America's support for the regime despite its use of chemical weapons.

The formerly secret documents reveal the Defence Secretary travelled to Baghdad 20 years ago to assure Iraq that America's condemnation of its use of chemical weapons was made 'strictly' in principle."
E-voting firm reports computer break-in

BELLEVUE, Wash. - A company developing encryption-based software for secure electronic voting has itself become the victim of a computer break-in, the company’s top executive told MSNBC.com. Federal authorities have confirmed that the incident is under investigation.

The intrusion into Bellevue-based VoteHere’s corporate network occurred in October, said Jim Adler, VoteHere’s founder, president and chief executive officer. No suspects have yet been named, but Adler said his company, in cooperation with investigators, had developed substantial information about the source of the intrusion over the past two months.

“We feel that it may have been politically motivated,” Adler said.




Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Happy Orange Alert Mad Cow Christmas, Ever'body!!!

Don't let the fearmongers spoil your holiday. Back on Monday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Misleader.org: Whitehouse Scrubs Lies from Gov't Websites

"In a high-tech cover-up, the Washington Post this morning reports the White House is actively scrubbing government websites clean of any of its own previous statements that have now proven to be untrue.1 Specifically, on April 23, 2003, the president sent his top international aid official on national television to reassure the public that the cost of war and reconstruction in Iraq would be modest. USAID Director Andrew Natsios, echoing other Administration officials, told Nightline that, 'In terms of the American taxpayers contribution, [$1.7 billion] is it for the US. The American part of this will be $1.7 billion. We have no plans for any further-on funding for this.'

The president has requested more than $166 billion in funding for the war and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan this year. But instead of admitting that he misled the nation about the cost of war, the president has allowed the State Department 'to purge the comments by Natsios from the State Department's Web site. The transcript, and links to it, have vanished.' (The link where the transcript existed until it caused embarrassment was http://www.usaid.gov/iraq/nightline_042403_t.html). "
Quote of the Day

"Clearly, a truly free press would have a higher stake in exposing the government's manipulation of reporters — and the truth — than in trafficking in innuendo and unsubstantiated rumor." - Robert Scheer, L.A. Times


FEAR!!

In other news, CONSUME!!!

Monday, December 22, 2003

Cheney faces prosecution in Halliburton bribe scandal

A French official is examining whether to prosecute US Vice President Dick Cheney over alleged complicity in the abuse of corporate assets dating from the time he was head of the services company Halliburton, the French newspaper Le Figaro said.

The case stems from a contract by a consortium including the American company Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary, and a French company, Technip, to supply a gas complex to Nigeria, the newspaper reported.

A Paris investigating magistrate has been conducting investigations since October into allegations that $US180 million ($A243.18 million) was paid in secret commissions during the late 1990s up to 2002 from funds established by the consortium in Madeira, the report said.

Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive between 1995 and 2000.




'Medi-bribe' demands federal probe

Did top Republicans solicit a congressman's support on Medicare reform by attempting bribery and blackmail? The Justice Department says it is reviewing this matter. This is serious business, worthy of the close attention of prosecutors, journalists and citizens alike.

At 3 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 22, House members got 15 minutes to vote on the new $2 trillion drug entitlement. Two votes shy of passing the bill, Republicans abused House rules and let the vote run nearly three hours. This chicanery also included GOP arm twisting by House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois, Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and even Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who violated custom and trolled the House floor for aye votes.

As columnist Robert Novak reported Nov. 27, Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., said he was told on the House floor (he won't say by whom) that if he switched and backed the Medicare bill, "business interests" would provide $100,000 to his son's campaign to replace him in Congress.

This looks like bribery. Smith said as much in a newspaper column the day after the vote. "... because the leadership did not have the votes to prevail," Smith wrote, "this vote was held open for a record two-hours and 51 minutes as bribes and special deals were offered to convince members to vote yes."




Halliburton Refuses to Release Evidence

WASHINGTON (AP) Halliburton's own auditors warned of problems with the company's contract to deliver fuel in Iraq even before Pentagon investigators raised similar concerns, a Democratic presidential candidate says.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said a Pentagon official told him Halliburton was refusing to turn over copies of the internal audit, which Defense Department investigators found but did not copy.

Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall said the internal audit was confidential and a Pentagon auditor may have broken the law by reading it. Hall said the audit neither warned of excessive fuel charges nor pointed out possible violations of federal regulations.
But they still have the freedom to thank Preznit Bush . . .

"TIKRIT, Iraq (Reuters) - Tanks have rolled out on to the streets of Tikrit, as a message that the U.S. army will not tolerate shows of support for Saddam Hussein in the captured president's home town.

U.S. troops forcibly broke up at least four attempted pro-Saddam demonstrations and three soldiers were wounded when a bomb went off as their Humvee patrolled the streets."
Bush declares: "We must get rid of Arafat"

Maybe it was the "christmas drinks" talking?

JERUSALEM, (AFP) - US President George W. Bush told an Israeli journalist that "we must get rid of" Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat (news - web sites), the mass-circulation Yediot Aharonot daily has reported.

Bush's comments came in a brief exchange with the paper's correspondent during a Christmas drinks party in Washington, several hours after a keynote speech by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (news - web sites) Thursday in which he outlined plans for unilateral disengagement from peace negotiations with the Palestinians.


Time for another delicious mug of Pre-emptive Action.



The True Story of Saddam's Capture: drugged, held by Kurdish forces, and then left for US troops

LONDON, (AFP) - Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) was captured by US troops only after he had been taken prisoner by Kurdish forces, drugged and abandoned ready for American soldiers to recover him, a British Sunday newspaper said.

Saddam came into the hands of the Kurdish Patriotic Front after being betrayed to the group by a member of the al-Jabour tribe, whose daughter had been raped by Saddam's son Uday, leading to a blood feud, reported the Sunday Express, which quoted an unnamed senior British military intelligence officer.


I guess this goes in the file with "Two Gun" Jessie Lynch, and the "Did I just see Airforce One?" story.



Thursday, December 18, 2003

Ashcroft Accepts Illegal Campaign Contributions

The Federal Election Commission has determined that Attorney General John D. Ashcroft's unsuccessful 2000 Senate reelection campaign violated election laws by accepting $110,000 in illegal contributions from a committee Ashcroft had established to explore running for president.

In documents released yesterday by the FEC, Garrett M. Lott, treasurer for the two Ashcroft committees, the Spirit of America PAC and Ashcroft 2000, agreed to pay a $37,000 fine for at least four violations of federal campaign law. Lott agreed "not to contest" the charges.




Another Fake Memo Tying Al Qaeda to Saddam

And another case of "put the story on page one, put the retraction on page 23".

A widely publicized Iraqi document that purports to show that September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta visited Baghdad in the summer of 2001 is probably a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records showing Atta was staying at cheap motels and apartments in the United States when the trip presumably would have taken place, according to U.S. law enforcement officials and FBI documents.

The new document, supposedly written by the chief of the Iraqi intelligence service, was trumpeted by the Sunday Telegraph of London earlier this week in a front-page story that broke hours before the dramatic capture of Saddam Hussein. TERRORIST BEHIND SEPTEMBER 11 STRIKE WAS TRAINED BY SADDAM, ran the headline on the story written by Con Coughlin, a Telegraph correspondent and the author of the book "Saddam: The Secret Life."

Coughlin's account was picked up by newspapers around the world and was cited the next day by New York Times columnist William Safire. But U.S. officials and a leading Iraqi document expert tell NEWSWEEK that the document is most likely a forgery—part of a thriving new trade in dubious Iraqi documents that has cropped up in the wake of the collapse of Saddam's regime.






Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Think this time the media dog'll bark? Me niether.

"For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

'This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right,' said Thomas Kean.

'As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't done and what should have been done,' he said. 'This was not something that had to happen.' "


I'm guessing the news boys will stick this in the back with the Plame spy outing, the missing WMD, the Enron/Bush connection, the soaring jobless numbers, etc., etc.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

War Goes Well in Eastasia

Our allies in Eurasia continue to support us.
Where's the Jobs?

You know the economic happy dance over at the 24 Ho'er News Channel?

The problem with this scenario is that there are no facts to back it up. The closer you look at employment in this country, the more convinced you become that the condition of the ordinary worker is deteriorating, not improving.

The problem is that we are not creating many jobs, and the quality of those we are creating is, for the most part, not good. Job growth at the moment is about 80,000 per month, which is not even enough to cover the new workers entering the job market.

And when the Economic Policy Institute compared the average wage of industries that are creating jobs with those that are losing jobs, analysts found a big discrepancy. The jobs lost paid about $17 an hour, compared with $14.50 an hour for those being created.

The Bush administration and its corporate allies give the impression that they would welcome a big surge in employment that would raise the wages and quality of life for all working Americans and their families. But their policies tell an entirely different story. A fierce and bitter war — not bloody like the war in Iraq, but a war just the same — is being waged against American workers. And so far, at least, the Bush administration has been on the wrong side.

The war is being fought on several fronts. For example, after years of shipping manufacturing jobs out of the U.S. to absurdly low-wage venues, we are now also exporting increasing numbers of technical and professional jobs.

Another example: Despite the loss of more than two million jobs over the past three years, and the fact that nearly nine million Americans are officially unemployed, the Bush administration has refused to support a Christmastime extension of crucial unemployment benefits.

Worse, the administration is trying to implement a regulation that would deny overtime protection for more than eight million men and women.

Efforts to get an increase in the pathetic $5.15 minimum wage continue to fail. The benefits from productivity increases that have resulted primarily from an incredible squeeze that employers have put on workers are not being shared with workers. Health and pension benefits are in a downward spiral.

And so on.


Like a half-forgotten ad pitch, the jobless recovery is the Latest Blast from the Past from the Bush and the Iran-Contra Cowboys.
Bush Signs Patriot Act ver. 1.5: Broader Warrantless Searches and the Return of Total Information Awareness

WASHINGTON -- President Bush has signed legislation making it easier for FBI agents investigating terrorism to demand financial records from casinos, car dealerships, and other businesses.

The changes were included in a bill authorizing 2004 intelligence programs. Most of the details of the bill are secret, including the total cost of the programs, which are estimated to be about $40 billion. That would be slightly more than Bush had requested.

. . .

In other provisions, the bill:

- Creates a Treasury Department office to work with intelligence agencies on fighting terrorist financing.

- Creates pilot programs to share raw data between agencies.

- Authorizes agencies to continue research on computerized terrorism surveillance suspended by the
Pentagon.





Halliburton units file for bankruptcy

HOUSTON - Halliburton Co. Tuesday said its Kellogg Brown & Root and DII Industries units filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a Pittsburgh court to resolve asbestos claims against the company.

Houston-based Halliburton, its energy services group and Kellogg Brown & Root's government services unit, which is providing support services to the U.S. military in Iraq, are not included in the bankruptcy filings, the company said.

. . .

The bulk of the claims came from employees who worked on industrial furnaces made by DII prior to Halliburton's purchase of the company in the late 1990s, when U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney was chief executive of Halliburton.


Looks like Unka Dick was too busy war profiteering to push the Halliburton Asbestos Relief Act through congress. So many grifts, so little time . . .
Hate to say Ayatollah so . . .

"Six months before the planned transfer of sovereignty in Iraq, new political forces have been filling the vacuum left by the fall of Saddam. But a brush with the new authorities can mean a familiar encounter over identity cards and threats.

. . .

The murals of Saddam had gone, but they had been replaced everywhere by faces of Islamic leaders.

In the Basra market they were selling posters of Ayatollahs as they had once been selling Saddam memorabilia.

Restaurants were banned from selling alcohol and in the mosques the Imams were recounting historic battles as if they had happened the day before and not hundreds of years ago.

They must have known it in Washington but, amazingly, by getting rid of Saddam, the Americans have seamlessly given birth to Islamic fundamentalists. "





Saturday, December 13, 2003

GREAT NEWS! I just received the first donation to my blog!

Apparently your truly caught the attention of a certain Chief A.A.Mkpitima, J.P., a government official of an undisclosed African nation. Turns out the Chief, as his friends call him, has a sum of money he needs to transfer out of the county, and, well, I let him explain it in his own words:

NATIONAL HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY CONTRACT REVIEW COMMITTEE (NHACRC)

Dear,

I am chief Adewale Adeolu Mkpitima (J.P) I am fourty five years old, married with three children. I entract your utmost reliance in this informations and the transaction as whole.

I am the head of the National House of Assembly Contract Review
Committee (NHCRC), this is a four man committee set up by the National House of Assembly members/senators, to review all the contracts awarded by the Department of Petroleum Resources(D.P.R) ten years ago (1993-2002) to foreign firms on turn around/ gen.maintenance of the Refineries. This action is reached as a result of the collapse of all the Refineries in our Country that has led to the importation of Fuel which has resulted to persistent Fuel scarcity in our country.

In the course of our assignment we discovered some contract
misappropation (OVER-INVOICE} among them is this particular contract that was OVER-INVOICED of the tune $15 Million Dollars( Fifteen Million U.S Dollars) which we the members of this committee have unanimously agreed to use as a compensation for this great assignment, since then we have been safeguarding this tune awaiting the appropriate time to channel this tune (amount) into a utilisation account

With the death of the one time Senate President Chief Chuba Okadigbo whom has been a threat to the arrangement.We deem it
appropriate/neccessary to transfer this tune into a UTILISATION foreign account, but this arrangement will not be complete without a foreign utilisation account. it is in this regard you are contacted (partnership is required)

For effective actualisation you are to forward to us the following
informations;-

A) Your full name and brief information on your profile.

b) Your confidential Tel/Fax numbers (mobile)

c) Your full contact /office address.

We have agreed to offer you 30% of the total sum for this essential role, 5% has been ear-marked for settlement of any incidental expenses that may come up in the course of this transaction. please note that the hope, confidence bestowed on you should not be over-emphasised, and you are also to assist us in investing our share 65% while we are there in your country.

NOTE: EVERY INFORMATION SHOULD REMAIN A TOP SECRET.

Please forward your anticipated reply on my confidential e-mail
address: ademkpitima@netscape.net


Regards
Chief A.A.Mkpitima J.P.


So you see, with a little hard work, a little patience, and the death of Senate President Chief Chuba Okadigbo, good things can happen. The important part is, I'M RICH, Be-yotch!




Bush touts "year of accomplishment"

Here's some more of Bush's accomplishments. More here. And even more. Of course, Bush always has been a man of great accomplishment.
AWOL!

Another "do as I say, not as I do" moment for George W. Bush.
Merry Christmas - GOP Does Not Extend Jobless Benefits

WASHINGTON - Citing the improving economy, Republicans decided Monday against extending federal unemployment benefits before Congress leaves for the year. Democrats said it would mean a joyless Christmas for tens of thousands of jobless Americans.

"It's almost inconceivable to me that Republican leaders are poised to play the Grinch again," said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.



Friday, December 12, 2003

Meet the new boss - Same as the old boss

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S. bombs never hit Saddam Hussein's grandiose presidential palace in Baghdad, making its ample meeting rooms and vast conference tables an ideal headquarters for U.S.-led occupation authorities after the war.

Now the building -- the physical seat and biggest symbol of Saddam's 23-year dictatorship -- is the likely site for the next U.S. Embassy in Iraq, U.S. officials in Washington and Iraq said this week.



Halliburton overcharged, probe finds

A Pentagon investigation has found overcharging and other violations in a $15.6 billion Iraq reconstruction contract awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company, a defense official said Thursday.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Take No Prisoners: Death and the Happy Marines

Video of U.S. Marines cheering after shooting wounded Iraqi. WARNING: Graphic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

The Hessians are coming: U.S. privatisation of war

Private corporations have penetrated western warfare so deeply that they are now the second biggest contributor to coalition forces in Iraq after the Pentagon, a Guardian investigation has established.

While the official coalition figures list the British as the second largest contingent with around 9,900 troops, they are narrowly outnumbered by the 10,000 private military contractors now on the ground.

The investigation has also discovered that the proportion of contracted security personnel in the firing line is 10 times greater than during the first Gulf war. In 1991, for every private contractor, there were about 100 servicemen and women; now there are 10.




Iraq's Health Ministry Ordered To Stop Counting Civilian Dead

Baghdad, Iraq (AP) - Iraq's Health Ministry has ordered a halt to a count of civilians killed during the war and told its statistics department not to release figures compiled so far, the official who oversaw the count told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The health minister, Dr. Khodeir Abbas, denied in an email that he had anything to do with the order, saying he didn't even know about the study.

Dr. Nagham Mohsen, the head of the ministry's statistics department, said the order was relayed to her by the ministry's director of planning, Dr. Nazar Shabandar, who said it came on behalf of Abbas. She said the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which oversees the ministry, also wanted the counting to stop.

"We have stopped the collection of this information because our minister didn't agree with it," she said, adding: "The CPA doesn't want this to be done."


They don't count, get it?



Tapes: Nixon called Reagan 'an uncomfortable man to be around'

And considering how uncomfortable Nixon was to be around, that's saying something.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Winning Hearts and Minds: Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

(T)he secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."



So much for democracy - the US is looking for an Iraqi strongman

The Times of London writes that the US is starting to "think the unthinkable," considering a "search for a 'strong man with a moustache' to stop the present rot." The paper writes that the Americans have adopted the old British strategy of "deal with local leaders and leave them to it," and that the only goal now is to "get out with dignity."

"This strategy is now being rammed down the throat of the Pentagon proconsul in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, by George W. Bush’s new 'realist' Deputy National Security Adviser, Bob Blackwill. He answers to Ms. Condoleezza Rice, not Mr. Donald Rumsfeld, and is the new boss of Iraq. The Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, architects of the old 'idealist' strategy, are in retreat. The Iraqi Governing Council, which Mr. Bremer reluctantly created, will be disbanded. Washington must find someone with whom it can do business, someone who can deliver order in return for power. That search is Mr. Blackwill’s job."
Palast Puts Another One Over the Fence

Well, ho ho ho! It's an early Christmas for James Baker III.

All year the elves at his law firm, Baker Botts of Texas, have been working day and night to prevent the families of the victims of the September 11 attack from seeking information from Saudi Arabia on the Kingdom's funding of Al Qaeda fronts.

It's tough work, but this week came the payoff when President Bush appointed Baker, the firm's senior partner, to restructure the debts of the nation of Iraq.

And who will net the big bucks under Jim Baker's plan? Answer: his client, Saudi Arabia, which claims $30.7 billion due from Iraq plus $12 billion in reparations from the First Gulf war.


Read the whole thing, dammit!

Monday, December 08, 2003

Feds Phony Up Employment Numbers? Nah!

(Minnesota employment research director Steve Hines) said he wonders whether the federal government is cooking the books.

"The feds changed their process this spring, right around the time we started seeing this decrease [in national jobless claims]," he said. "I can't see how their unadjusted pattern differs that much from the state's.

"I wonder if there's something in that new methodology that gives us a rosier picture than we might otherwise be experiencing."



Clark: Great message, but did he join the race too late?

'I never believed we should have gone in there that way, and we went in there without the right kind of plan to do the job the right way,'' said Clark, explaining that the $150 billion ''mess'' has killed more than 400 Americans and critically injured 2,000 soldiers who are ''missing arms and legs'' and ''have stomach wounds they'll never get over.''

. . .

Clark said, ''This election is going to be about this president landing on that aircraft wearing a flight suit,'' with an audience member chiming in, ''That's a joke.''

He said, ''It's going to be about the president flying to Baghdad in the middle of the night to deliver turkeys to the troops,'' and someone else chimed in, ''Because he is one.''

''It's going to be about the Republicans trying to take away our flag and patriotism and our faith from us. With me as your candidate, I'm not going to let them do it,'' Clark said.



Iraq delays hand Cheney firm $1bn

Halliburton, the engineering group formerly run by US vice-president Dick Cheney, has been given $1 billion worth of reconstruction work in Iraq by the US government without having to compete for it, thanks to repeated delays in opening up a key contract to competition.

The Houston-based company was controversially awarded a (cost-plus) contract to repair Iraq's damaged oil infrastructure without competition in February.



Isreali Advisors and and Rumsfeld's Secret Army in Iraq

"The Bush Administration has authorized a major escalation of the Special Forces covert war in Iraq. In interviews over the past month, American officials and former officials said that the main target was a hard-core group of Baathists who are believed to be behind much of the underground insurgency against the soldiers of the United States and its allies. A new Special Forces group, designated Task Force 121, has been assembled from Army Delta Force members, Navy seals, and C.I.A. paramilitary operatives, with many additional personnel ordered to report by January. Its highest priority is the neutralization of the Baathist insurgents, by capture or assassination.

. . .

One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers—again, in secret—when full-field operations begin. (Neither the Pentagon nor Israeli diplomats would comment. “No one wants to talk about this,” an Israeli official told me. “It’s incendiary. Both governments have decided at the highest level that it is in their interests to keep a low profile on U.S.-Israeli coöperation” on Iraq.)

. . .

But many of the officials I spoke to were skeptical of the Administration’s plans. Many of them fear that the proposed operation—called “preëmptive manhunting” by one Pentagon adviser—has the potential to turn into another Phoenix Program. Phoenix was the code name for a counter-insurgency program that the U.S. adopted during the Vietnam War, in which Special Forces teams were sent out to capture or assassinate Vietnamese believed to be working with or sympathetic to the Vietcong. In choosing targets, the Americans relied on information supplied by South Vietnamese Army officers and village chiefs. The operation got out of control. According to official South Vietnamese statistics, Phoenix claimed nearly forty-one thousand victims between 1968 and 1972; the U.S. counted more than twenty thousand in the same time span. Some of those assassinated had nothing to do with the war against America but were targeted because of private grievances. William E. Colby, the C.I.A. officer who took charge of the Phoenix Program in 1968 (he eventually became C.I.A. director), later acknowledged to Congress that “a lot of things were done that should not have been done.”

. . .

The requirement that America’s Special Forces units operate in secrecy, a former senior coalition adviser in Baghdad told me, has provided an additional incentive for increasing their presence in Iraq. The Special Forces in-country numbers are not generally included in troop totals. Bush and Rumsfeld have insisted that more American troops are not needed, but that position was challenged by many senior military officers in private conversations with me. “You need more people,” the former adviser, a retired admiral, said. “But you can’t add them, because Rummy’s taken a position. So you invent a force that won’t be counted.”


Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker

Friday, December 05, 2003

The Howler Harpoons Krauthammer's Latest Whopper

"Charles Krauthammer is deeply dishonest. In fact, the Washington Post should fire him, now. In a fire-breathing column in this morning’s Post, Krauthammer tells the world what a crackpot that Howard Dean is. To promote his point, Krauthammer presents a “transcript” from Monday’s night’s Hardball—a “transcript” he has artfully doctored. Here’s how the scribe presents one Q-and-A from Monday night’s Hardball program:

KRAUTHAMMER:
Chris Matthews: “Would you break up Fox?”
Howard Dean: “On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but….I don’t want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not….What I’m going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one.”

Wow! “On ideological grounds,” Howard Dean wants to break up Fox! According to Krauthammer, this exchange shows that Dean “is now exhibiting symptoms of a related illness, Murdoch Derangement Syndrome (MDS), in which otherwise normal people believe that their minds are being controlled by a single, very clever Australian.”
Of course, Krauthammer was playing Post readers for fools. Because we’ve dealt with people like Krauthammer for years, our reaction to this “transcript” was virtually preordained; our eyes were drawn to those suspicious ellipses which broke up Krauthammer’s pleasing text. And so we did what we’ve done for years—we checked the official transcript. And yes, we found what we frequently do; Krauthammer was playing Post readers for fools. The key words in the transcript are [LAUGHTER], which Krauthammer deftly removed:

OFFICIAL MSNBC TRANSCRIPT:
MATTHEWS: Rupert Murdoch has the Weekly Standard. It has got a lot of other interests. It has got the New York Post. Would you break it up?

DEAN: On ideological grounds, absolutely yes, but—

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: No, seriously. As a public policy, would you bring industrial policy to bear and break up these conglomerations of power?

DEAN: I don’t want to answer whether I would break up Fox or not, because, obviously—

MATTHEWS: Well, how about large media enterprises?

DEAN: Let me—yes, let me get—

(LAUGHTER)

DEAN: The answer to that is yes. I would say that there is too much penetration by single corporations in media markets all over this country. We need locally-owned radio stations. There are only two or three radio stations left in the state of Vermont where you can get local news anymore. The rest of it is read and ripped from the AP.

MATTHEWS: So what are you going to do about it? You’re going to be president of the United States, what are you going to do?

DEAN: What I’m going to do is appoint people to the FCC that believe democracy depends on getting information from all portions of the political spectrum, not just one."
Pentagon Doesn't Have Enough Body Armor for US Soldiers in Iraq

Soldiers will not patrol without the armor — if they can get it. But as of now, there is not enough to go around. Going into the war in Iraq, the Army decided to outfit only dismounted combat soldiers with the plated vests, which cost about $1,500 each. But when Iraqi insurgents began ambushing convoys and killing clerks as well as combat troops, controversy erupted.

Last month, Rep. Ted Strickland (D-Ohio) and 102 other House members wrote to Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, to demand hearings on why the Pentagon had been unable to provide all U.S. service members in Iraq with the latest body armor. In the letter, the lawmakers cited reports that soldiers’ parents had been purchasing body armor with ceramic plates and sending it to their children in Iraq.


Thursday, December 04, 2003

Nigerian Fraudsters Defrauded

Computer buffs in New Zealand are "baiting" Nigerian fraudsters in a game dubbed the new internet bloodsport, a report said today.

The ultimate goal is to turn the fraud back on the Nigerians, but authorities warn the game is dangerous and are urging people not to play.

Scam-baiters start by replying to emails from African fraudsters trying to fleece recipients with fake charities or investments.

The baiters pretend to fall for the scams while secretly humiliating the fraudsters, whom they call "lads."

Typically, they make endless demands for proof of identity that force the lads to forge passports, bank accounts and documents.
US fires Guantanamo defense team on first day

A team of military lawyers recruited to defend alleged terrorists held by the US at Guantanamo Bay was dismissed by the Pentagon after some of its members rebelled against the unfair way the trials have been designed, the Guardian has learned.

And some members of the new legal defence team remain deeply unhappy with the trials - known as "military commissions" - believing them to be slanted towards the prosecution and an affront to modern US military justice.


Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Republicans Tried To Bribe Rep. Smith for Medicare Vote

Rep. Nick Smith, R-Mich., says that sometime late Nov. 21 or early in the morning Nov. 22, somebody on the House floor threatened to redirect campaign funds away from his son Brad, who is running to succeed him, if he didn't support the Medicare prescription bill. This according to the Associated Press. Robert Novak further reports,

"On the House floor, Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, [Rep.] Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat."