Friday, May 06, 2005


The Bush League's Neo-Con Job on Iraq

It is truly appalling we're not hearing more about The secret Downing Street memo describing how W and the Bush League planned in the summer of 2002 to invade Iraq using intentionally distorted intelligence:
...Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime's record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action

CDS said that military planners would brief CENTCOM on 1-2 August, Rumsfeld on 3 August and Bush on 4 August.
...It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran...
...Regime change and WMD were linked in the sense that it was the regime that was producing the WMD...If the political context were right, people would support regime change.
(Source: Timesonline [Emphasis added.])
Long story short: The entire Bush Administration knew George Bush wanted to overthrow Saddam Hussein by invading Iraq. The entire Bush Administration knew Saddam Hussein's alleged WMD threat was minimal. Despite this, they cooked up an invasion scheme with the plan of justifying an otherwise illegal war of aggression by cooking up fake WMD "intelligence."

Juan Cole has an excellent post on this as well, noting:
So the "justification" would have to be provided by "fixing" the intelligence around the policy. Bush was just going to make things up, since the realities did not actually justify his planned war! The British cabinet sat around and admitted to themselves that a) there was no justification for the war into which they were allowing themselves to be dragged and b) that the war would be gotten up through Goebbels-like techniques!

It is even worse. British Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith was at the meeting. He had to think up a justification for the war in international law. Britain is in Europe, and Europe takes international law seriously. You could have war crimes trials. (Remember that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet almost got tried in Spain for killing 5000 people in the 1970s).
George W Bush has made his place in history: the first US President guilty of war crimes.

Here's a Knight-Ridder news article on the scandal: British memo indicates Bush made intelligence fit Iraq policy


How Republican Are You?

I found this via a post at Suburban Guerilla:

I am:
"You're a complete liberal, utterly without a trace of Republicanism. Your strength is as the strength of ten because your heart is pure. (You hope.)"

Are You A Republican?


Krugman on the Bush League's Medicare Drug "Benefit"

Click on the title and read the whole thing - as always Paul Krugman's arguments are quite sound.
A Serious Drug Problem
Published: May 6, 2005

...But the real scandal is what's in the legislation. It's an object lesson in how special interests hold America's health care system hostage.

The new Medicare law subsidizes private health plans, which have repeatedly failed to deliver promised cost savings. It creates an unnecessary layer of middlemen by requiring that the drug benefit be administered by private insurers. The biggest giveaway is to Big Pharma: the law specifically prohibits Medicare from using its purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices.
Meanwhile, Thomas Scully, the former Medicare administrator - who threatened to fire Medicare's chief actuary if he gave Congress the real numbers on the drug bill's cost - was granted a special waiver from the ethics rules. This allowed him to negotiate for a future health industry lobbying job at the very same time he was pushing the drug bill.

If all this sounds like a story of a corrupt deal created by a corrupt system, it is. And it was a very expensive deal indeed. According to the Medicare trustees, the fiscal gap over the next 75 years created by the 2003 law - not the financing gap for Medicare as a whole, just the additional gap created by legislation passed 18 months ago - will be $8.7 trillion.

That's about three times the amount President Bush proposes to save by cutting middle-class Social Security benefits...
(Source: New York Times)

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Freedom of Speech: Nice While it Lasted

The First Amendment is not required to protect Kate Smith's right to sing "God Bless America." Even in Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany, your right to say what those in power wanted to hear was unquestioned. The First Amendment's purpose, is to protect people's right to say unpopular things.

As I've noted before, the question of whether something is Incitement or Free Speech has been used throughout this country's history to criminalize unpopular speech. During World War I, anyone criticizing the war was subject to arrest because listeners might decide to evade the draft laws - hence the speaker was guilty of "incitement." The Bush Administration is already using this logic overseas:
"It's not a question of freedom of speech," (State Dept spokesman Richard Boucher) said.

"It's a question of incitement to violence. And we don't see why here or anywhere else a terrorist organisation should be allowed to spread its hatred and incitement through the television airwaves."
(Source: BBC News TV station put on US terror list, December 17, 2004.
Now, they're starting to apply it in the US by arresting "disruptive" people:
County jail releases Ann Coulter disrupter
Ajai Raj, an English sophomore, was released from Travis County Jail around 3 a.m. Wednesday after being arrested for disorderly conduct during political commentator Ann Coulter's speech at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library auditorium on Tuesday.

According to the police affidavit written by an arresting officer, Raj was arrested for using "profane and vulgar language" and performing an "obscene gesture."
When Coulter, a right-wing pundit who is also the author of four New York Times best-sellers, opened the room for a question-and-answer session on Tuesday night, Raj used profanity in asking a question about sodomy.

After the question, Raj ran about 30 yards from the microphone to the back of the aisle, making a repeated hand motion simulating masturbation, according to the police affidavit. This caused an "immediate breach of the peace within the crowd," the affidavit stated. At this time, two University of Texas Police Department officers approached him and arrested him for disorderly conduct.

"What I did was to make a joke of the whole thing," Raj said in a . "I have no regrets ... Saying profanity at a college isn't a crime, last time I checked. It seems like the whole free-speech thing is a myth."
(Source: Daily Texan Online, May 5, 2005
Jumping up with a bullhorn and interrupting the speaker is one thing - but Mr. Raj had permission to ask a question. He was then arrested because the police decided they didn't like the question's content.

Under current free speech law, one would expect Mr. Raj could sue the police for false arrest and deprivation of civil rights under color of local ordinance. However, if Bush's "nuclear judges" get on the bench, we could see a return to the pre-Warren Court definition of "free speech." Under that definition, anyone questioning whether Ann Coulter went overboard by calling liberals "traitors" risks arrest for "incitement to riot" even if the comment is made by a blogger hundreds of miles away.

Too bad we exported so much democracy - we sure could use more here.


Barbara Boxer Punches Holes in the "Texas Plan"

From the Senator's web site:
April 26, 2005

Thank you all for coming here.

Today, I am releasing a new report -- prepared by my office with technical assistance from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service -- that should be a wake-up call to anyone who still thinks privatizing Social Security would be good for the American people.

As this study shows, privatization is a real loser.

In 1981, three counties in Texas decided to opt out of Social Security and instead provide their public employees with a system of privatized accounts.

This study compares two sets of families in three different income brackets. We show what happens to their retirement in 2005 under Social Security and under the Texas plan.

The bottom line is that Americans are clearly better off with Social Security’s guaranteed, inflation-protected retirement benefit.

And, minor children are protected with Social Security’s survivor benefits and completely left out in the Texas plan.

(Full press release HERE)


Will the UN Investigate Possible US Corruption?

I know it's an old story for the folks paying attention, but how dare Senate Republicans criticize the UN's handling of oil-for-food funds without first investigating how 80% of the cash being handled by the US mysteriously vanished?
Federal auditors can't trace $96.6 million earmarked for Iraq
By Seth Borenstein
Knight Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Nearly $100 million in Iraqi reconstruction cash - which was supposed to be handed out by U.S. workers in shrink-wrapped bricks of new hundred-dollar bills - can't be accounted for, federal auditors reported Wednesday.

A criminal investigation into possible fraud in a handful of cases is under way to determine what happened to some of the $96.6 million that was earmarked to rebuild south-central Iraq, according to a new report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.
The inspector general examined a total of $119.9 million in cash, but auditors could properly account for only $23.3 million of that money.

The inspector general's office was unable even to estimate how much of the missing $96.6 million was due to sloppy recordkeeping and how much was lost to criminal activity.
(Source: Knight Ridder Washington Bureau, May 4, 2005 [Emphasis added])
Let's see: $23.3 million traceable out of $119.9 million = 19.4% of the funds could be traced, and 80.6% of the money could not be traced. Even Enron had better accounting than that.

In fairness, the auditors think most of the money just wasn't tracked properly:
The SIGIR has concluded that of nearly $120m in cash paid out in south-central Iraq more than $7m is unaccounted for and that payments worth $89m do not have the proper paperwork.
(Source: BBC News US Iraq audit reveals major flaws, May 5, 2005[Emphasis added])
However, if I lost track of 4 out of every 5 dollars I was entrusted with at a business, I'd be blogging from a jail cell. I sure wouldn't be running around criticizing other people's accounting practices.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Feith Aide Arrested for Passing Secrets

Remember Doug Feith's Office of Special Plans? The office Donald Rumsfeld set up to distort intelligence about Iraq and justify an invasion? Well, this guy used to work there as one of the intelligence cookers:
Analyst Charged With Passing Secret Info

The Associated Press
Wednesday, May 4, 2005; 12:10 PM

WASHINGTON -- The FBI arrested a Pentagon analyst Wednesday on charges that he illegally passed classified information about potential attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq to employees of a pro-Israel group.

Larry Franklin, 58, of Kearneysville, W. Va., turned himself in Wednesday morning, FBI spokeswoman Debra Weierman said. He was scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., later Wednesday, Weierman said.
Franklin, who specialized on Iran and Middle Eastern affairs, allegedly gave the information to two people not entitled to receive it at a luncheon meeting at a restaurant in Arlington, Va., in June 2003, FBI agent Catherine Hanna said in an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint against Franklin. The people at the lunch were employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a law enforcement official said on condition of anonymity because they are not identified in court papers.
(Source: Washington Post)
It'll be interesting how far up the food chain this one goes. I wonder whether George Bush will promise a Franklin a pardon in exchange for a lack of frankness upon Franklin's part regarding the Bush League's rush to war?

UPDATE: Here's an interesting tidbit from 2004 - looks like John Bolton was involved in cooking up the fake Iraq intelligence:
In interagency discussions, Feith and the two offices communicated almost exclusively with like-minded allies in other agencies, rather than with their official counterparts, including even the DIA in the Pentagon, according to Kwiatkowski.

Rather than working with the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, its Near Eastern Affairs bureau, or even its Iraq desk, for example, they preferred to work through Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security (and former {American Enterprise Institute} executive vice president) John Bolton; Michael Wurmser (another Perle protégé at AEI who staffed the predecessor to OSP); and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs, Elizabeth Cheney, the daughter of the Vice President Dick Cheney.
(Source: Jim Lobe Pentagon Office Home to Neo-Con Network August 7, 2003)

[UPDATE]It looks like in John Bolton's involvement in the Bush League's intelligence-cooking.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Red Herring Time

When "journalists" agree to accept payments from the Bush Administration in return for favorable press, the scandal dies out quickly. When Sinclair Broadcasting decided to air an anti-Kerry "documentary" in critical swing states just before the last election, coincidentally while asking the Bush appointee running the FCC for approval to expand their network, the story disappeared.

Why is everyone so concerned with possible campaign payments to bloggers, and why does this story keep getting play?
On Bloggers and Money
Some Seek Disclosure Rules for Web Sites Paid by Candidates

By Brian Faler
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 3, 2005; Page A19

You could almost hear the blogosphere sigh with relief earlier this spring when federal election officials indicated that they did not plan to crack down on bloggers who write about politics.

The Federal Election Commission, which has been considering issuing new regulations on a range of political activities on the Internet -- and was said by some to be contemplating taking a tough stance on the online commentators -- revealed in late March that it intends to be much less aggressive than many had feared. But now some observers are wondering whether the FEC is not being aggressive enough when it comes to one category of bloggers: those who take money from political campaigns.
The big difference between bloggers and the infamous "mainstream media" is that a reasonable and prudent web surfer expects bloggers to express opinions while the "mainstream media" (except Faux Fox News) tries to be neutral. This is why one should always check a blogger's sources - they're usually grinding their favorite axe.

It doesn't matter to me whether bloggers are getting paid for their opinions as I don't confuse opinions with facts. I don't care whether a newspaper's Editorial page is blatantly partisan because the owner fires any editor who disagrees. I care very strongly, however, if their NEWS coverage gets slanted.

The Bush Administration issued partisan "news releases" which were aired as "news" by supposedly neutral, fact-checked television stations. They claimed this was perfectly legal. Why, then, regulate bloggers?

Can it be that by making a big enough stink about individual's behavior, the big players hope to sidetrack the discussion? Tune in to the Red Herring Report tonight for details...

Monday, May 02, 2005


God, Inc.

Looks like televangelist profits are being used to consolidate the Republican base:
Onward corporate soldiers, say religious activists
Mon May 2, 2005 09:41 AM ET
By Alister Bull

ST. LOUIS (Reuters) - Armed with the power of faith and billions of dollars, America's mighty religious establishment is trying to reform the country's boardrooms on issues from human rights to television violence.

Faith-based groups, like other special interest groups, have strategic investments in hundreds of companies that let them use shareholder resolutions to push their agendas.
(Source: Reuters)
If the Radical Right can buy up Corporate America and use the profits to fund opportunistic politicians, it is going to be back to the Middle Ages for these United States.

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