Friday, January 30, 2004

Kissinger and Cisneros: Birds of a Feather in Separate Coups

The U.S. based NGO Global Women’s Strike issued a press release today protesting an award expected to be given by the Inter-American Economic Council to Gustavo Cisneros, a Venezuelan billionaire identified by sources such as Newsweek, local Venezuelan publications and analysts as one of the protagonists and financiers of the April 11, 2002 coup d’etat against President Hugo Chavez.

Cisneros is also credited with being a driving force behind the December 2002 nationwide lock-out and sabotage of the oil industry, which instead of ousting President Chávez from his elected office, drove the Venezuelan economy into the ground by causing a historical drop of 27% in the country’s GDP in the first trimester of 2003.

Cisneros is the owner of AOL, Coca-Cola, DirecTV and Pizza Hut in Latin America, Univision in the US, and Venezuela’s biggest TV network Venevision.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who according to declassified documents headed the CIA operation to overthrow Chilean democratically-elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, will be in charge of awarding fellow coup plotter Cisneros.

Bush boosts estimated Medicare costs by a third - Conservatives can't believe he lied again

Bush defended the recently enacted Medicare overhaul on Friday despite a dramatic increase in its projected costs, as his budget director received an earful from angry Republican lawmakers.

. . .

They also expressed disbelief over why the administration did not reveal the new, higher Medicare estimates earlier. Some of them said they believed the bill would not have passed had the higher cost projections been known, the participants said.

. . .

"Very messy," said Joe Antos, a health policy expert at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, describing the reaction among conservative lawmakers.

He said many of them felt "brow beaten" into backing the legislation, which passed the House in November by five votes after leaders held the roll call open nearly three hours while nailing down support.

Poor fellas - they put out and Bush never called back the next day. Who woulda thunk?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Bush Administration to Ease Pesticide Reviews for Endangered Species

WASHINGTON (AP) - Officials admit they pretty much ignore an Endangered Species Act requirement that they consult with one another before licensing new pesticides. Now they want regulations to say they don't always have to do what they're already not doing.

The Bush administration proposes allowing the Environmental Protection Agency to approve new pesticides without a formal signoff in every case from the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

By not requiring so many consultations, the government says it becomes more likely that the ones still required will occur.

"There haven't been any effective consultations in the last decade, and few before that," said Clint Riley, special assistant to the Fish and Wildlife Service director. "This has been sitting around under the cover for a lot of years."

Will Vice President Cheney be indicted--and will the US media report it?

A French investigation into $180 million in bribes paid by oil companies to government officials in Nigeria threatens to implicate US Vice President Richard Cheney, according to reports in the French and British press. The conservative French daily newspaper Le Figaro wrote last month that “the Paris court contemplates an eventual indictment of the present United States’ vice president, Richard Cheney, in his capacity as former CEO of Halliburton.”

The American media, however, has been all but silent on the subject. The first reference to appear in a major US daily occupied all of nine brief paragraphs in the Washington Post January 21. The newspaper buried on page A23 a report that the second highest official in the US government was under investigation for authorizing bribes.

The Post article made no mention of any possible indictment of Cheney, only noting that the bribes were allegedly paid while he was Halliburton’s chief executive, from 1995 to 2000.

. . .

It is worth contrasting their kid-glove treatment of Cheney with the frenzy whipped up, especially by the New York Times and the Washington Post, over the Whitewater investigation. A 15-year-old real-estate deal, involving $150,000 of undeveloped land in the Ozarks, in which no criminal acts were committed and Bill and Hillary Clinton lost money, but which became a cause celebre in the American media. But there is virtually no media interest in the ongoing probe into $180 million in bribes in which the vice president of the United States may be directly implicated.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Lieberman says he's got the 'Joementum'

Guess he stopped taking the antibiotics too early . . .

Halliburton, G.E., Conoco doing business with terrorists

U.S. law does ban virtually all commerce with the rogue nations, but there's a loophole that G.E., Conoco-Phillips and Halliburton have exploited: The law does not apply to any foreign or offshore subsidiary so long as it is run by non-Americans.

“These three companies, as far as we were concerned, appear to have violated the spirit of the law,” says Thompson. “In the case of Halliburton, as an example, they have an offshore subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. That subsidiary is doing business with Iran.”

That subsidiary, Halliburton Products and Services, Ltd., is wholly owned by the U.S.-based Halliburton and is registered in a building in the capital of the Cayman Islands – a building owned by the local Calidonian Bank. Halliburton and other companies set up in this Caribbean Island, because of tax and secrecy laws that are corporate friendly.

Halliburton is the company that Vice President Dick Cheney used to run. He was CEO in 1995 to 2000, during which time Halliburton Products and Services set up shop in Iran. Today, it sells about $40 million a year worth of oil field services to the Iranian Government.

In the case of Iran, Thompson says they earn most of their revenues through their oil industry. So what is the connection between that oil business and terrorism and weapons of mass destruction?

“The Iranian Government is receiving dollars from it. And then turning around and exporting terrorism around the world. It benefits terrorism. At least that's our belief,” says Thompson.
Cheney 'waged a guerrilla war' against UN backing for Iraq invasion

Dick Cheney, US vice-president, "waged a guerrilla war" against attempts by Tony Blair, the British prime minister, to secure United Nations backing for the invasion of Iraq.

Mr Cheney remained implacably opposed to the strategy even after George W. Bush, US president, addressed the UN on the importance of a multilateralist approach, according to a new biography of Mr Blair.

. . .

The extent of Mr Cheney's opposition emerges in the biography of the British prime minister by Philip Stephens, the Financial Times' political columnist.

In the run-up to the war, Mr Blair worked closely with Mr Bush to try to secure prior UN backing.

But Mr Stephens writes that Mr Cheney's opposition to UN involvement left Mr Blair uncertain whether Mr Bush would go down the UN route until he uttered the relevant words in his speech to the UN general assembly in September 2002. One Blair aide remarked: "[Mr Cheney] waged a guerrilla war against the process . . . He's a visceral unilateralist". Another agreed: "Cheney fought it all the way - at every twist and turn, even after Bush's speech to the UN."

In the US, Democrats have also accused Mr Cheney of putting pressure on intelligence agencies to produce evidence Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. On Friday, David Kay, the top US weapons inspector in Iraq, resigned, saying he did not believe Iraq had large stocks of biological and chemical weapons."
Progress in Iraq?

A dubiously sourced email, allegedly from Lt Karl Nielson, Chaplin, has been making the rounds of the warblogger contingent. The email sets forth a list of Coalition accomplishments since the Iraq invasion. The original list, along with information debunking each claim, can be found at "Back to Iraq".

Here's some more good news you might have missed in Iraq since the American invasion:

- Iraqis no longer driven to soul-rending insanity by the tenticled Cthulhu.

- 50 cent wing night at BW3s.

- Indoor plumbing now functional in up to 10% of Iraqi homes.

- Free Bagdad concert by Carrot-Top to promote the new 1-800-CALL-ATT system.

- Kathy Lee Gifford tenatively considering relocation of clothing factory to Basra.

- One-third drop in needless civilian slaughter in many Iraqi neighborhoods.

- Tacky black-felt paintings of naked women removed from Saddam's palaces since Paul Bremer moved in.

- Grease payments over $100.00 entitle payer to "Honorary IGC Member" t-shirt.

- McRibbs available at participating McDonalds (limited time only).

Monday, January 26, 2004

Ashcroft defends war on Iraq, says Saddam used "Evil Chemistry"

In the wake of remarks by outgoing weapons inspector David Kay -- who said he does not believe Iraq possessed outlawed weapons of mass destruction -- U.S. Attorney-General John Ashcroft on Monday strongly defended the war that toppled Saddam Hussein, saying his past use of “evil chemistry” and “evil biology” justified U.S. actions.

Ashcroft went on to state that he knew Saddam's chemistry was evil because, "He turned me into a newt!" Met with incredulous stares, Ashcroft explained, "I got better".
Weapons Inspector David Kay Asks Why U.S. Thought Iraq Had WMD

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence agencies need to explain why their research indicated Iraq (news - web sites) possessed banned weapons before the American-led invasion, says the outgoing top U.S. inspector, who now believes Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) had no such arms.

"I don't think they exist," David Kay said Sunday. "The fact that we found so far the weapons do not exist — we've got to deal with that difference and understand why."

. . .

Asked whether President Bush (news - web sites) owed the nation an explanation for the gap between his warnings and Kay's findings, Kay said: "I actually think the intelligence community owes the president, rather than the president owing the American people."

That darned bad ol' intelligence community . . .

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Iranian agent warned US of 911 attack

The United States was warned of impending September 11 terrorist attacks by an Iranian spy, but ignored him, German secret service agents testified yesterday in the trial of an alleged al-Qaida terrorist.

The spy, identified as Hamid Reza Zakeri, tried to warn the CIA after leaving Iran in 2001, but was not believed, two German officers who interviewed him told the Hamburg court.

. . .

The testimony at the Hamburg trial could heap more embarrassment on the US state department and secret services, which have denied allegations that they were forewarned of the attacks.

The White House and US intelligence agencies have been plagued by accusations of a catastrophic failure since the four planes were hijacked to such devastating effect in 2001.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Scalia Poo-Poos Conflict of Interest

Government watchdogs are raising concerns about a potential conflict of interest for Justice Antonin Scalia because he had dinner and went on a hunting trip with Dick Cheney while the Supreme Court was involved in a case about the vice president's energy task force.

Scalia and Cheney, longtime friends, had dinner at a restaurant on Maryland's Eastern Shore in November, two months after the Bush administration asked the justices to overrule a lower court's decision requiring the White House to identify task-force members.

The men went duck hunting in Louisiana this month, not long after the court agreed to hear the case.

Scalia says there is no reason to question his ability to judge the case fairly. Cheney's office referred questions about the propriety of the social encounters to the court.

Watchdogs said Scalia and Cheney should have kept their distance until the court had ruled.

"It gives the appearance of a tainted process where decisions are not made on the merits where you have judges fraternizing with people before the court," said Charles Lewis, director of the Center for Public Integrity.

. . .

Scalia, in a written statement to the Los Angeles Times for its story Saturday on the duck hunting trip, said: "I do not think my impartiality could reasonably be questioned."

Friday, January 16, 2004

Conservative groups break with Blank-Check Bush

"National leaders of six conservative organizations yesterday broke with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, accusing them of spending like "drunken sailors," and had some strong words for President Bush as well. "The Republican Congress is spending at twice the rate as under Bill Clinton, and President Bush has yet to issue a single veto," Paul M. Weyrich, national chairman of Coalitions for America, said at a news briefing with the other five leaders. "I complained about profligate spending during the Clinton years but never thought I'd have to do so with a Republican in the White House and Republicans controlling the Congress."

From the Washington (Moonie) Times!
Network news criticizes Dean most

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Howard Dean received significantly more criticism on network newscasts than the other Democratic presidential contenders, who were the subjects of more favorable coverage, according to a study released Thursday.

More than three-quarters of the coverage of Dean's foes by the nightly news programs was favorable, while a majority of attention to Dean was negative, the Center for Media and Public Affairs found.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Suicides of U.S. Troops Rising in Iraq

At least 21 U.S. troops have committed suicide in Iraq, a growing toll that represents one of every seven American "non-hostile" deaths since the war began last March, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.

"Fighting this kind of war is clearly going to be stressful for some people," Assistant Defense Secretary for Health Affairs Dr. William Winkenwerder told reporters in an interview.

Ya, but for the petrochemical-funded chickenhawks running the war, its a pretty low-pressure affair.
Last Copter Out of Baghdad

George Bush is selling out Iraq. Gone are his hard-liners' dreams of setting up a peaceful, prosperous, and democratic republic, a light unto the Middle Eastern nations. The decision makers in the administration now realize these goals are unreachable. So they've set a new goal: to end the occupation by July 1, whether that occupation has accomplished anything valuable and lasting or not. Just declare victory and go home. The tyranny of Saddam Hussein will be over. But a new tyranny will likely take its place: the tyranny of civil war, as rival factions rush into the void. Such is the mess this president seems willing to leave behind in order to save his campaign.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

US military 'brutalised' journalists

The international news agency Reuters has made a formal complaint to the Pentagon following the "wrongful" arrest and apparent "brutalisation" of three of its staff this month by US troops in Iraq.

The complaint followed an incident in the town of Falluja when American soldiers fired at two Iraqi cameramen and a driver from the agency while they were filming the scene of a helicopter crash.

The US military initially claimed that the Reuters journalists were "enemy personnel" who had opened fire on US troops and refused to release them for 72 hours.

Although Reuters has not commented publicly, it is understood that the journalists were "brutalised and intimidated" by US soldiers, who put bags over their heads, told them they would be sent to Guantanamo Bay, and whispered: "Let's have sex."

At one point during the interrogation, according to the family of one of the staff members, a US soldier shoved a shoe into the mouth one of the Iraqis.

The US troops, from the 82nd Airborne Division, based in Falluja, also made the blindfolded journalists stand for hours with their arms raised and their palms pressed against the cell wall.

"They were brutalised, terrified and humiliated for three days," one source said. "It was pretty grim stuff. There was mental and physical abuse."

Monday, January 12, 2004

MSNBC - Halliburton gets No Bid, No Audit Deal

The Army has allowed Halliburton to increase the supplies of fuel delivered to Iraq without giving the usual data to justify its cost, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The December action by the Army Corps of Engineers does not exonerate Vice President Dick Cheney’s former company in a dispute with the Pentagon over fuel prices, Army corps spokesman Ross Adkins said Tuesday.

But the decision does mean that Halliburton subsidiary KBR does not have to provide price figures for the increased flow of gasoline and kerosene it buys in Kuwait and delivers to Iraqi civilian markets, Adkins said. He said Halliburton’s Kuwaiti supplier, the Altanmia Marketing Co., refused to provide the price data required under U.S. contracting regulations.

Study Published by Army Criticizes War on Terror's Scope

A scathing new report published by the Army War College broadly criticizes the Bush administration's handling of the war on terrorism, accusing it of taking a detour into an "unnecessary" war in Iraq and pursuing an "unrealistic" quest against terrorism that may lead to U.S. wars with states that pose no serious threat.

. . .

"[T]he global war on terrorism as currently defined and waged is dangerously indiscriminate and ambitious, and accordingly . . . its parameters should be readjusted," Record writes. Currently, he adds, the anti-terrorism campaign "is strategically unfocused, promises more than it can deliver, and threatens to dissipate U.S. military resources in an endless and hopeless search for absolute security."

Whitehouse Dictates Washington Post Editorial Policy

Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank tells Auletta that the White House froze him out after he wrote such stories as "For Bush, Facts Are Malleable" in 2002. (Milbank adds, in an interview, that he was referring to not being called on at news conferences and that things have improved under spokesman Scott McClellan.)

The Post's political editor, Maralee Schwartz, tells Auletta that Rove and former White House aides Karen Hughes and Ari Fleischer all suggested Milbank was in the wrong job. Initially, she says in the piece, "there was a lot of attitude in his copy" but this "got detoxed in the editing process and Dana has come to understand his role better." Executive Editor Leonard Downie is quoted as praising Milbank's reporting.

He's making a blacklist, he's checking it twice . . .

(Columnist David) Horowitz is seeking funds to develop a huge database of so-called "leftist" and "liberal" individuals and organizations, a massive snitch file. In a "confidential" memo floating around the Web, he asked for help in financing this database, which will "make transparent the network of the left, including individuals, organizations, groups, and government legislators and officials along with the funding sources that underpin them."

These groups, according to the memo, include "peace groups, anti-nuke groups, civil liberties groups, Muslim groups, anti-Israel groups and immigration groups." Soon to be added will be "science groups, labor groups, business groups, gun-control groups, abortion groups, and various special interest lobbies." Presumably not included, however, are those lobbies that represent right-wing views. The fact that many of these "leftist" groups are pretty mainstream is irrelevant to Horowitz.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Payrolls Barely Rise, Worse Than Expected

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American employers barely took on any new workers in December, a disappointing government report on Friday showed, indicating the economic recovery has yet to translate into sustained jobs growth.

The unemployment rate fell to 5.7 percent, the lowest level in over a year and down from 5.9 percent in November. But this was largely due to people leaving the workforce, according to the Labor Department's report.

The number of workers on U.S. payrolls outside the farm sector in December increased by just 1,000, after a downwardly revised rise of 43,000 in November. It was the fifth consecutive monthly rise but was far worse than economist expectations of a rise of 130,000.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

MSNBC - Study sees mass extinctions via warming

Global warming could wipe out a quarter of all species of plants and animals on Earth by 2050 in one of the biggest mass extinctions since the dinosaurs, according to an international study.

“A quarter of all species of plants and land animals, or more than a million in all, could be driven to extinction,” said Chris Thomas, professor of Conservation Biology at England’s University of Leeds.

Thomas, lead author of the study published in the science journal Nature, said emissions from cars and factories could push temperatures up to levels not seen for one million to 30 million years by the end of the century, threatening many habitats.

. . .

Among the already threatened species that could go extinct are Australia’s Boyd’s forest dragon, Europe’s azure-winged magpie and Mexico’s Jico deer mouse.

Know what? Fuck the deer mouse. I'm buying a Hummer.

That Pesky Bush-Hitler Thing

Just because his grandfather Prescott Bush financed Hitler's rise to power, do they think that means George W. Bush has Nazi tendencies? That's absurd. Is it fair to say that just because the U.S. government had to step in and shut down Prescott Bush's Union Banking Corporation operations in New York in 1942, under the Trading With the Enemy Act, that this Bush should viewed with caution and skepticism? That's just silly.

And who are these bloody Europeans who keep comparing Bush to Hitler? Take that German Justice Minister, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, who compared Bush's dealings on Iraq to those of Hitler. That really takes the cake, now doesn't it? What do the Germans know of Hitler anyway? Why should they feel empowered to warn the world of such impending dangers? Why couldn't they just shut-up and help us kill the Iraqis?

Friday, January 02, 2004

Blueprint for an Oil War

The United States gave serious consideration to sending airborne troops to seize oil fields in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi during the 1973 Arab oil embargo, according to a top-secret British intelligence memorandum released Wednesday night.

The document, titled "Middle East -- Possible Use of Force by the United States," says that if there were deteriorating conditions such as a breakdown of the cease-fire between Arab and Israeli forces following the October 1973 Middle East war or an intensification of the embargo, "we believe the American preference would be for a rapid operation conducted by themselves" to seize the oil fields.

It cites a warning from Defense Secretary James R. Schlesinger to the British ambassador in Washington, Lord Cromer, that the United States would not tolerate threats from "under-developed, under-populated" countries and that "it was no longer obvious to him that the United States could not use force."