BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Dude

Yo.

Gas prices here in Angeles City are a climbin.' Hard t' find stuff cheaper than $2.50. Gonna be high this weekend.

*

VOICE-OVER - They call Los Angeles the City of Angels. I didn't find it to be that exactly, but I'll allow as there are some nice folks there. 'Course, I can't say I seen London, and I never been to France, and I ain't never seen no queen in her damn undies as the fella says. But I'll tell you what, after seeing Los Angeles and this a here story I'm about to unfold--wal, I guess I seen somethin' ever' bit as stupefyin' as ya'd see in any a those other places, and in English, too, so I can die with a smile on my face without feelin' like the good Lord gypped me.

INT - RALPH'S - NIGHT

It is late, the supermarket all but deserted. We are tracking in on a fortyish man in Bermuda shorts and sunglasses at the dairy case. He is the Dude. His rumpled look and relaxed manner suggest a man in whom casualness runs deep. He is feeling quarts of milk for coldness and examining their expiration dates.

VOICE-OVER - Now this story I'm about to unfold took place back in the early nineties--just about the time of our conflict with SAD'M and the EYE-RACKIES. I only mention it 'cause some- times there's a man--I won't say a hee-ro, 'cause what's a hee-ro?--but sometimes there's a man.

*

Iraq: The carve-up begins:
As the costs of the Iraq occupation spiral, British and American oil companies meet in secret next week to carve up the country's oil reserves for themselves.

The Iraq war has so far cost America and Britain £105billion. But the financial clawback is gathering pace as British and American oil giants work out how to get their hands on the estimated £3trillion worth of oil.

Executives from BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Halliburton, Dick Cheney's old firm, are expected to congregate at the Paddington Hilton for a two-day chinwag with top-level officials from Iraq's oil ministry. The gathering, sponsored by the British Government, is being described as the "premier event" for those with designs on Iraqi oil, and will go ahead despite opposition from Iraqi oil workers, who fear their livelihoods are being flogged to foreigners.
*

INT. RALPH'S - MOMENTS LATER

The Dude glances furtively about and then opens a quart of milk. He sticks his nose in the spout and sniffs.

VOICE-OVER - And I'm talkin' about the Dude here--sometimes there's a man who, wal, he's the man for his time'n place, he fits right in there--and that's the Dude, in Los Angeles.

The Checkout Girl waits, arms folded. A small black-and white TV next to her register shows George Bush on the White House lawn with helicopter rotors spinning behind him.

GEORGE BUSH - This aggression will not stand. This will not stand!

*

Bush Trying to Reassure Americans on Iraq:
WASHINGTON - President Bush is using the first anniversary of Iraq's sovereignty to try to ease Americans' doubts about the mission and outline a winning strategy for a violent conflict that has cost the lives of more than 1,740 U.S. troops and has no end in sight.

In a prime-time address from Fort Bragg, N.C., home of the Army's elite 82nd Airborne Division, Bush was to argue that there is no need to change course in Iraq despite the upsetting images produced by daily insurgent attacks.

His assessment comes on the heels of a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll that showed public doubts about the war reaching a high point — with more than half saying that invading Iraq was a mistake.
*

INT. RALPH'S - MOMENTS LATER

The Dude, peeking over his shades, scribbles something at the little customer's lectern. Milk beads his mustache.

VOICE-OVER And even if he's a lazy man, and the Dude was certainly that--quite possibly the laziest in Los Angeles County.

*

"Snow says oil prices hurting economy":
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow acknowledged on Tuesday that record high oil prices are beginning to take their toll on the U.S. economy, but not enough to derail the economy's strong recovery.

"Energy prices are way too high," Snow said on CNBC television. "Clearly, it's hurting."

"CLEARLY, ENERGY PRICES SERVE AS A TAX, they reduce the disposable income available to do other things and they take some oxygen out of the economy," Snow said.
*

INT. RALPH'S - MOMENTS LATER

The Dude has his Ralph's Shopper's Club card to one side and is making out a check to Ralph's for sixty-nine cents.

VOICE-OVER - Which would place him high in the runnin' for laziest worldwide--but sometimes there's a man. Sometimes there's a man.

*

Sometimes there's a man.

Driving up to the Grand Tetons tomorrow. Can't wait to track the GAS PRICES along I-15. Especially in:

Barstow & Baker, CA. Primm, Nevada Landing & Mesquite, NV. St. George, Cedar City, Parowan, Scipio, Nephi, Spanish Fork, Provo, Layton, Ogden, & Tremonton, UT. Inkom, Pocatello, Blackfoot & Idaho Falls, ID.

You'll get a report on Thursday.

Thanks for listening...

Monday, June 27, 2005

War is Hell

Really sad.

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer -

"Father nabbed at airport after taking his two kids - Man spotted following an Amber Alert"

Any guesses re: why the dude snapped?
With the help of a Southwest Airlines passenger, an Amber Alert ended Saturday morning with the rescue of two children from their mentally disturbed father, police said.

According to Cleveland police Lt. Thomas Stacho and the Amber Alert issued to the media, this is what happened:

Nichole Abdul Zahir of East 113th Street told police that her husband, Muhammed S. Abdul Zahir, took their toddler and infant about 12:05 a.m. Saturday from a relative's Central Avenue home.

The alert was issued around 7 a.m., after police were able to determine that Muhammed Zahir, a custodial parent, could be a threat. Amber Alerts cannot be issued unless there is reason to believe a child might be harmed.

Zahir, 24, was seeing a psychiatrist at WALTER REED Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., who told police Zahir was paranoid and delusional and was at risk to "do something dangerous."

Zahir, a soldier in the Army WHO HAD RETURNED FROM IRAQ, was wearing desert camouflage clothes when his wife last saw him and when he was captured.
Post-traumatic stress...or good old-fashioned American domestic craziness?

Dunno.

But I do know this: Some guys are having a tough time re-adjusting. Dude comes home, attacks his elderly parents; dude comes home, beats his wife; dude comes home, hurts himself.

These guys (the soldiers who've been fighting in Iraq) better get 1000% of the CARE - and the MONEY - that's owed to them. And more.

If they're having trouble adjusting - if they're suffering from PTSD - if they're getting sick from exposure to dupleted uranium - whatever.

Whatever it takes.

Senators see red over Veterans Affairs $1 billion shortfall

Huh?
WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs has told Congress its health-care costs grew faster than expected and left a $1 billion hole in its budget this year, lawmakers say.

House Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Steve Buyer, R-Ind., said Thursday the department can meet this year's health-care costs by drawing on spare funds and money from other operations, including construction.

Yet next year's health-care budget falls more than $1 billion short, said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
"I was on the phone this morning with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Jim Nicholson letting him know that I am not pleased that this has happened," said Craig, chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said, "This shortfall results from either deliberate misdirection or gross incompetence by this administration and the Department of Veteran Affairs."

The shortage came to light during a routine budget review. Lawmakers said they still are gathering details, but it appears HEALTH CARE FOR VETERANS RETURNING FROM IRAQ and Afghanistan and poor budget forecasting contributed to the problem.
Oops.

The saddest story WILL BE this one:

"You're not sick, soldier. If you are, you didn't get 'sick' in Iraq. So 'we're' not responsible. But you live in America, son. A country with affordable health care for all. So head down to your local Kaiser and tell them that you..."

Read the Saturday & Sunday posts if you have the time.

More later...

Sunday, June 26, 2005

More B-Movie Stuff

MR. HAND - Yes?

SPICOLI -Yeah. I'm registered for this class.

MR. HAND - What class?

SPICOLI - This is U.S. HISTORY, right? I saw the globe in the window.

*

Today's lesson:

"Looted Art Said Used to Fund Terrorists"

SPICOLI - Sorry I'm late. This new schedule is totally confusing.
PARIS - Wealthy art patrons are buying stolen artifacts from Iraq and inadvertently funding terrorist activity, the director of Iraq's national Museum said Thursday. Some of the objects are entering the U.S., he said.

Iraqi museums were pillaged of treasures dating back 5,000 years during looting that occurred amid the chaos of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.
MR. HAND - Am I hallucinating here? Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?

SPICOLI - Learning about Cuba. Having some food.
"RICH PEOPLE are buying stolen material," museum director Donny George told reporters.
(RICH PEOPLE meaning - not Dr. Henderschott - the guy who owns your apartment building - but REAL rich people, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)
"Money is going to Iraq and they (terror groups) are buying weapons and ammunition to use against Iraqi police and American forces," he said.

"A lot of these objects are actually going to the United States."
Wait, what movie is this from?! Art smugglin' - arms dealin' - crazy international money - tuxedos - high-end call girls - explosions?

True Lies?

Die Another Day?

Charlie's Angels II?
Of the 15,000 objects stolen from the national museum, almost 4,000 have been returned to the country and more than 4,000 others are in neighboring countries for safekeeping, George said.
Hmm.

Speakin' of the insurgency:

Iraq could face insurgents for 12 years, Rumsfeld says

SPICOLI - So, like, what Jefferson was saying was 'Hey, we left this place England because it was bogus, and if we don't come up with some cool rules ourself, we'll be bogus, too!' Right?

Washington — U.S. Defence Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Sunday it may take as long as 12 years to defeat Iraqi insurgents and that Iraqi security forces will finish the job because U.S. and foreign troops will have left the country.

Mr. Rumsfeld, addressing a question about whether U.S. troops levels are adequate to vanquish the increasingly violent resistance, said, “We're not going to win against the insurgency. The Iraqi people are going to win against the insurgency. That insurgency could go on for any number of years."

"Insurgencies tend to go on five, six, eight, 10, 12 years."
MR. HAND - Very close, Jeff.
“Coalition forces, foreign forces are not going to repress that insurgency,” the Pentagon chief told Fox News Sunday”

“We're going to create an environment that the Iraqi people and the Iraqi security forces can win against that insurgency,” he said.

Mr. Rumsfeld, in interviews on the Sunday news shows, warned that the insurgency could GROW through the year as Iraqi leaders develop a constitution for a democratic government.

At the same time, Mr. RUMSFELD DEFENDED Vice President Dick CHENEY'S DESCRIPTION of the INSURGENCY as being in its “LAST THROES.” Mr. Rumsfeld said the U.S. commander in the Middle East did not contradict Cheney when he told the Senate last week that the insurgency was as strong as it was six months ago.

“If you look up 'last throes,' it can mean a violent last throe,” Mr. Rumsfeld said on ABC's This Week.
MR. HAND - Very close, Jeff.
The insurgency led by Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi “may very well continue to or get more violent because they have so much to lose between now and December,” he said.

*

Mr. Rumsfeld said Iraqi security forces have gained respect among the Iraqi people. He suggested that the ability of insurgents to kill in large numbers does not mean public support is diminishing or that political, economic and security progress has been lacking.

“It doesn't take a genius to go blow up a restaurant or attack a police station, a suicide bomber. You can kill — a kid with a suicide vest can kill a lot of people,” the secretary said.
MR. HAND - Very close, Jeff.

*

SPICOLI - Hey, Mr. Hand, can I ask you a question?

MR. HAND - What's that?

SPICOLI - Do you have a guy like me every year? A guy to... I don't know, make a show of. Teach other kids
lessons and stuff?

MR. HAND - Well, you'll find out next year.

SPICOLI (smiling) - No way, mon. When I graduate U.S. history I ain't even coming over to your side of the building.

MR. HAND - If you graduate.

SPICOLI (panicked) - You're gonna flunk me?

Mr. Hand pauses a moment, then breaks into the nearest approximation of a grin we have seen all year. It isn't much, but it's noticeable. His lips crinkle at the ends.

MR. HAND - Don't worry, Spicoli. You'll probably squeak by.

SPICOLI - All right!

*

Quick follow up to yesterday's post re: Iran, the price of oil, and the tendency for history to, uh, repeat itself:

Iran Will Pursue Nuclear Program, New President Says

Imagine that.

PLEASE READ yesterday's post if ya haven't already.

*

SPICOLI - Aloha, Mr. Hand!

MR. HAND - Aloha, Spicoli.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

More Honey

Re: yesterday's post

I found some more honey.

Iran's oil reserves expected to outlive Saudi Arabia's

You're kidding.
At the current rate of production, Iran's oil reserves will outlive those of Saudi Arabia, even though the kingdom's official reserves are nearly twice those of Tehran's, according to the London-based Economist magazine.
Imagine that.

Iran, did you say?
Using BP's latest Statistical Review of World Energy, the weekly calculated that Iran's proven oil reserves of 132.5 billion barrels at the end of 2004 will not be exhausted for another 89 years using last year's rate of production.
Can you imagine how much money you'd make - if you had control of that stuff?

132.5 billion X 60 is...uh...uh...a lot of honey.
In comparison, Saudi Arabia's 262.7 bn barrels, which represent 22 per cent of the world's official oil reserves, would last for only 68 years.
But...what will we do then?!

That's crazy "Road Warrior" shit!

"Don't worry. We'll all be flying. Individual jet packs, fueled by peanut butter."
The reserves of IRAQ, KUWAIT and the UAE, which are respectively placed third, fourth and fifth behind Saudi Arabia and Iran, were estimated to be able to continue 2004's rate for production for over 100 years each.
I bet.
Among Iran's other neighbouring states, none were calculated as being able to produce oil longer, with Kazakhstan's reserves expected to be exhausted in 84 years, Azerbaijan's in 60, Qatar in 42 and Oman in 19.

Based on BP's figures, the US will be only able to produce oil for another 11 YEARS, Canada for 15, Russia for 21 and Norway for 8 years.
Again - oil is at $60/barrel.

That's NOTHING compared to where it's going, BTW.

So where are we with Iraq?

A quick trip in the time machine will take us to -- January 21, 2005.

"Cheney: Iran A Top Trouble Spot"

CUE Darth Vader theme:
(AP) President Bush refuses to rule out war with Iran. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami says his country is ready to defend itself against a U.S. attack.

The United States is pushing for a peaceful solution to its nuclear impasse with Iran but, with mistrust on both sides running high, encouraging signs are hard to find.

"You look around the world at potential trouble spots, Iran is right at the top of the list," Vice President Dick Cheney said Thursday in a radio interview, hours before he and Bush were sworn in to a second term.
And the key bit --
Asked hypothetically whether the United States would yield to ISRAEL in a scenario in which an attack against Tehran was being considered, he said, "One of the concerns people have is that ISRAEL MIGHT DO IT WITHOUT BEING ASKED, that if in fact the Israelis became convinced the IRANIANS had a significant NUCLEAR capability, given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of the state of Israel, that the Israelis might well decide to act first and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterward."

"WE DON'T WANT A WAR IN THE MIDDLE EAST IF WE CAN AVOID IT," Cheney quickly added, "and certainly, in the case of the Iranian situation, I think everybody would best suited by, and or best treated or dealt with, if we could deal with it diplomatically."
"Sounds good to me."

And where are we today?

"Muslim Hard-Liners Cheer Iran Vote Outcome"

D'oh!
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Governments of Muslim countries offered muted congratulations in response to Iran's presidential election, while the UNITED STATES and BRITAIN SAID the VOTE FAILED TO GIVE IRANIANS A TRUE CHOICE FOR THEIR FUTURE.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the conservative mayor of Tehran, beat his relatively moderate rival Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani and was declared Iran's next president early Saturday. His triumph extends the conservatives' control in Iran and could lead to a return to social restrictions that were commonplace after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

*

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Joanne Moore indicated the result would not change the U.S. view of Iran, and what it considered to be a fundamentally flawed election that refused to accept scores of candidates, particularly women.
The US view of Iran: 132.5 billion X 60, 70, 80 equals...?

"Axis of evil."

"Nuclear capabilities."

"Weapons of mass destruction."

"Threat to Israel."

"Torture."

"They deny women the right to be...women."

Hmm.

Hey, speaking of evil, Joe Conason has a fantastic op-ed piece in Salon today re: Karl Rove and his now-classic comment that liberals "saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers"

Excerpt:
Karl Rove is a liar and a scoundrel. He is not a patriot but a pure partisan, as his own record proved long before now.

The other night Rove lied about the liberal reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks and again exploited patriotism for narrow partisan advantage in a time of war. He seeks to divert public opinion from the failures of the Bush administration by suppressing dissent, stigmatizing "liberals" and returning to the same old tactics that the Republican far right has used ever since the McCarthy era.

His unhinged rhetoric is a sign of deep worry within the White House, of course, as polls continue to show deepening public alienation from the president and growing skepticism about the war in Iraq. Most Americans now understand that they have been deceived about the war from the beginning, and most doubt the Bush administration's strategy for extricating our troops. Moreover, Rove must cope with Republicans as well as Democrats who are openly dissenting from the administration line, not only regarding Iraq but on the Bolton nomination and Social Security privatization.
Finally - and, really, this is the best story today - Cruise.

You've seen it, you've read about it, but methinks it's just gettin' good.

Because the "S" word ihas become a part of the dialogue.

My favorite piece on Tom's latest meltdown comes from the New York Daily News.

The writer, Tracy Connor, has the guts to go where no man has gone before.
Is "War of the Worlds" star Tom Cruise lost in space?
No.

He's got to be at least an OT5 - by this point.
The superstar Scientologist flipped out on the "Today" show yesterday, pompously lecturing Matt Lauer about the evils of psychiatry - and scolding actress Brooke Shields for taking anti-depressants.

"You don't know the history of psychiatry," the actor arrogantly told the newsman. "I do."

Cruise, 42, was on the NBC morning show to talk about his upcoming sci-fi flick and his quickie engagement to ingénue Katie Holmes, 26.

But the interview took a bizarre turn when Lauer questioned Cruise on critical comments he's made about Shields and her memoir about overcoming postpartum depression.

Cruise defended his claim that Shields was wrong to take depression pills to cure a crippling case of the baby blues after the the birth of her daughter.

"The things I'm saying about Brooke is that there's misinformation, okay?" he said.

"And she doesn't understand the history of psychiatry. She doesn't understand in the same way that you don't understand it, Matt."

The high school dropout launched into a diatribe about mental illness - calling psychiatry a "pseudoscience" and anti-depressants "very dangerous."

He insisted there's no such thing as a chemical imbalance and argued that mood disorders can be cured with "vitamins, exercise and various things."
"Various things?"

Are some of those "various things" on display at the "Psychi*try Kills Muse*m?" At Sunset & Seward? Next to the Cat & the Fiddle?

Hmm?

Look at me - using symbols instead of vowels. Am I afraid to take on...?

A: Yep.
He didn't say whether one of those things is Scientology, the religion that says humans are plagued by the souls of dead aliens who invaded the planet 75 million years ago.
OOPS!

Tracy, Tracy, Tracy.

You're playing hardball now.

Good luck!

(Back then...the planet was called Tee-gee-ack. No joke.)
Cruise interrupted and cut off Lauer as he tried to present the other side of the argument.

"Matt, Matt, Matt, you don't even - you're glib," he said.

With a $128 million movie riding on his popularity, Cruise's attack on Shields and well-established science could be risky business.

Coupled with his over-the-top courtship of Holmes, it could be the biggest career misstep since fellow Scientologist John Travolta made "Battlefield Earth."
WHOA!

There's the "S" word again. And a knock against "the biggest science fiction novel of all time!"

I'm thinkin' that...Ms. Connor will be getting a phone call...or a visit...very soon.

Wonder how Matt Lauer is doin' today?

More later...

Friday, June 24, 2005

TGIF

Gas prices climbing. I'm thinking...$2.85 for the cheap stuff here in Hollywood by the end of next week, just in time for the 4th of July weekend.

But don't worry; OPEC will announce "something" to reduce prices soon.

UNFORTUNATELY, the price WE PAY will not fall until July 9 or 10.

They'll squeeze us for that extra weekend after the 4th.

Bastards.

Now - for the past few days, I've posted articles dealing with Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, the missing Iraqi "reconstruction" cash (some 8-9 BILLION dollars!), shenanigans, American troops w/out decent equipment, and dead defense contractors who may or may not have had serious info re: $ and shenanigans.

*

"Who profits?" The only question you ever need to ask.

*

So - I'm gonna draw your attention - once again - to Naomi Klein's article, "Baghdad Year Zero," which originally appeared in Harper's in September of 2004.

Excerpts:
It was only after I had been in Baghdad for a month that I found what I was looking for. I had traveled to Iraq a year after the war began, at the height of what should have been a construction boom, but after weeks of searching I had not seen a single piece of heavy machinery apart from tanks and humvees. Then I saw it: a construction crane. It was big and yellow and impressive, and when I caught a glimpse of it around a corner in a busy shopping district I thought that I was finally about to witness some of the reconstruction I had heard so much about. But as I got closer I noticed that the crane was not actually rebuilding anything—not one of the bombed-out government buildings that still lay in rubble all over the city, nor one of the many power lines that remained in twisted heaps even as the heat of summer was starting to bear down. No, the crane was hoisting a giant billboard to the top of a three-story building. SUNBULAH: HONEY 100% NATURAL, made in Saudi Arabia.

Seeing the sign, I couldn’t help but think about something SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN had said back in October. IRAQ, he said, is “A HUGE POT OF HONEY THAT'S ATTRACTING A LOT OF FLIES.” The flies McCain was referring to were the Halliburtons and Bechtels, as well as the venture capitalists who flocked to Iraq in the path cleared by Bradley Fighting Vehicles and laser-guided bombs. The honey that drew them was not just NO-BID CONTRACTS and Iraq’s famed OIL WEALTH but the myriad INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES offered by a country that had just been cracked wide open after decades of being sealed off, first by the nationalist economic policies of Saddam Hussein, then by asphyxiating United Nations sanctions.

Looking at the honey billboard, I was also reminded of the most common explanation for what has gone wrong in Iraq, a complaint echoed by everyone from John Kerry to Pat Buchanan: Iraq is mired in blood and deprivation because George W. Bush didn’t have “a postwar plan.”

The only problem with this theory is that it isn’t true.

The BUSH Administration DID HAVE A PLAN for what it would do after the war; put simply, it was to lay out as much honey as possible, then sit back and wait for the flies.
2.4 BILLION DOLLARS IN CASH (see yesterday's post): That's a lot of honey.

Don't you think?

"Fuck yes."
The honey theory of Iraqi reconstruction stems from the most cherished belief of the war’s ideological architects: that greed is good. Not good just for them and their friends but good for humanity, and certainly good for Iraqis. Greed creates profit, which creates growth, which creates jobs and products and services and everything else anyone could possibly need or want. The role of good government, then, is to create the optimal conditions for corporations to pursue their bottomless greed, so that they in turn can meet the needs of the society. The problem is that governments, even neoconservative governments, rarely get the chance to prove their sacred theory right: despite their enormous ideological advances, even George Bush’s Republicans are, in their own minds, perennially sabotaged by meddling Democrats, intractable unions, and alarmist environmentalists.

Iraq was going to change all that. In one place on Earth, the theory would finally be put into practice in its most perfect and uncompromised form. A country of 25 million would not be rebuilt as it was before the war; it would be erased, disappeared. In its place would spring forth a gleaming showroom for laissez-faire economics, a utopia such as the world had never seen. Every policy that liberates multinational corporations to pursue their quest for profit would be put into place: a shrunken state, a flexible workforce, open borders, minimal taxes, no tariffs, no ownership restrictions. The people of Iraq would, of course, have to endure some short-term pain: assets, previously owned by the state, would have to be given up to create new opportunities for growth and investment. Jobs would have to be lost and, as foreign products flooded across the border, local businesses and family farms would, unfortunately, be unable to compete. But to the authors of this plan, these would be small prices to pay for the economic boom that would surely explode once the proper conditions were in place, a boom so powerful the country would practically rebuild itself.

The fact that the boom never came and Iraq continues to tremble under explosions of a very different sort should never be blamed on the absence of a plan. Rather, the blame rests with the plan itself, and the extraordinarily violent ideology upon which it is based.
Klein goes on to describe the Neo-Con plan to "shock" Iraq into submission (TO MAKE IT EASIER TO TAKE OVER), their economic plans for this fully privatized country, Paul Bremer's role with the CPA, international money nd the dangers of doing biz in Iraq, and the roots of the curent insurgency (pissed off Iraqis w/out jobs?).

Again, it's easier to take over a country if you "shock it into submission." And - you can do what you want - under that cover.

Think about the move to transfer 2.4 BILLION DOLLARS in CASH MONEY to the streets of Baghdad.

"Hey, man - there weren't no banks! What did you want us to do?!"

I don't know.

PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ THE WHOLE ARTICLE.

If Klein is right...our soldiers are not fighting for "your freedom."

They're fighting for their own lives - against this growing insurgency - and a Neo-Con plan that must be implemented, come Hell or high water.
The great historical irony of the catastrophe unfolding in Iraq is that the shock-therapy reforms that were supposed to create an economic boom that would rebuild the country have instead fueled a resistance that ultimately made reconstruction impossible.

Bremer’s reforms unleashed forces that the neocons neither predicted nor could hope to control, from armed insurrections inside factories to tens of thousands of unemployed young men arming themselves. These forces have transformed Year Zero in Iraq into the mirror opposite of what the neocons envisioned: not a corporate utopia but a ghoulish dystopia, where going to a simple business meeting can get you lynched, burned alive, or beheaded. These dangers are so great that in Iraq global capitalism has retreated, at least for now.

For the neocons, this must be a shocking development: their ideological belief in greed turns out to be stronger than greed itself.
Hmm.

Iraq is sitting on...what? 150 Million barrels of oil? 150 Billion? (Google it.) At $60 bucks a pop?

THAT is a lot of honey.

("It's a 10-speed. That's a 5-speed times two, eh?")

More later...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Where's the Money, Lebowski?

"Where's the money, Lebowski?!"

Somewhere in the Middle East.

A lotta stuff to dig through today.

U.S. was big spender in days before Iraq handover

A follow up to yesterday's post:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States handed out nearly $20 billion of Iraq's funds, with a rush to spend billions in the final days before transferring power to the Iraqis nearly a year ago, a report said on Tuesday.

A report by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, said in the week before the hand-over on June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ordered the urgent delivery of more than $4 billion in Iraqi funds from the U.S. Federal Reserve in New York.

One single shipment amounted to $2.4 billion -- the largest movement of cash in the bank's history, said Waxman.

Most of these funds came from frozen and seized assets and from the Development Fund for Iraq, which succeeded the U.N.'s oil-for-food program. After the U.S. invasion, the U.N. directed this money should be used by the CPA for the benefit of the Iraqi people.

CASH was loaded onto giant pallets for shipment by plane to Iraq, AND PAID OUT TO CONTRACTORS WHO CARRIED IT AWAY IN DUFFEL BAGS.

An audit by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said U.S. auditors could not account for nearly $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds and the United States had not provided adequate controls for this money.
Back to the duffel bag thing - and the missing cash.

This is old news.

I posted the following stuff - back in February.
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. officials in postwar Iraq paid a contractor by stuffing $2 MILLION worth of crisp bills into his gunnysack and routinely made cash payments around Baghdad from a PICK-UP TRUCK, a former official with the U.S. occupation government says.

Because the country lacked a functioning banking system, contractors and Iraqi ministry officials were paid with bills taken from a basement vault in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that served as headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority, former CPA official Frank Willis said.

Officials from the CPA, which ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, would count the money when it left the vault, but nobody kept track of the cash after that, Willis said.

''In sum: inexperienced officials, fear of decision-making, lack of communications, minimal security, no banks, and lots of money to spread around. This chaos I have referred to as a 'Wild West,''' Willis said in testimony he prepared to give Monday before a panel of Democratic senators who want to spotlight the waste of U.S. funds in Iraq.

Describing the transfer of $2 million to one contractor's gunnysack, Willis said: ''It was time for payment. We told them to come in and bring a bag.'' He said the money went to Custer Battles of Middletown, R.I., for providing airport security in Baghdad for civilian passengers.
"Custer Battles" is now under investigation for massive amounts of fraud - in Iraq.

Here.

Back to the issue at hand.

The CPA was dishing out an UNGODLY amount of cash in the period around the transfer of power. Dishing out cash to "contractors" (i.e. well connected companies to the US government) from the the back of a pick-up truck, keeping shoddy records, yada yada.

And now...8 to 9 BILLION DOLLARS is "unnacounted for."

Where did it go?

Yesterday, Rep. Chris Shays (REPUBLICAN - Conn) said, "Given my sense of human temptation, I suspect some of it was, frankly, taken."

Taken?

By...?

Another old post from this blog - and a wild story that first appeared in the LA Times:

Army ignored Broker on Arms Deal - US general supervised an Iraq contract that a slain American said was tangled in kickbacks

This is the story of Dale Stoffel, an American "defense contractor" who was gunned down in Baghdad AFTER he complained to US & Iraqi offcials about the 27 MILLION BUCKS the Iraqis owed him for "services rendered."
The U.S. contractor working on (a defense project) repeatedly warned the task force headed by Army Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus that a Lebanese middleman involved in the deal might be routing kickbacks to Iraqi Defense Ministry officials.

But senior U.S. military officials did not act on the contractor's pleas for tighter financial controls, according to documents and interviews.

"If we proceed down the road we are currently on, there will be serious legal issues that will land us all in jail," the contractor, Dale Stoffel, wrote in a Nov. 30 e-mail to a senior assistant to Petraeus.

Eight days later, Stoffel was shot dead in an ambush near Baghdad. The killing is being investigated by the FBI, according to people who have been interviewed by the bureau.
Again, the dude was hired by the interim Iraqi government and the Iraqi Defense Ministry to "to refurbish Iraq's tanks and personnel carriers and buy new equipment from Eastern European sources." Dude eventually billed the Iraqi to the tune 27 mil. The Iraqis then told Stoffel that the money would come to him via a Lebanese businessman , now identified as Raymond Zayna by the LA Times.

But...
The MONEY was never delivered to Stoffel, who in October began complaining to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad. He wrote letters, previously disclosed by The Times, to Sen. Rick SANTORUM (R-Pa.) and a senior Pentagon official spelling out his suspicions about Zayna.

Stoffel also e-mailed U.S. Army Col. David Styles, Petraeus' assistant on the project. He asked Styles to have Petraeus intervene to stop millions of dollars being funneled without oversight through Zayna.
"There is no oversight of the money and if/when something goes wrong, regardless of how clean our hands are, heads will roll and it will be the heads of those that are reachable, and the people who are suppose to know better (US citizens, military, etc.)," Stoffel wrote in the November e-mail to Styles.

*

By late November, Stoffel had returned to the United States to seek help in getting his payment. He asked Pentagon officials and Santorum's office to pressure the Iraqis to release the $24.7 million to him.

Stoffel suggested that an international accounting firm be brought in to supervise the contract's financial transactions and clear up questions about the missing money.

He warned of consequences if the money was not recovered.

"News of it will be on the front page under the photos of President Bush, [Defense Secretary Donald H.] Rumsfeld, me" and Petraeus' task force, Stoffel wrote to another military officer in early December. "Jobs will be lost and congressional hearings will be held."
If you and I were writing a bad script about war and war profiteering, that scene would be followed by a bit where a bunch of nefarious characters plot Stoffel's death.

CUT TO:

INT. MYSTERIOUS OFFICE - NIGHT
An unidentified MAN with reads Stoffel's letter to a smoky room filled with unidentified characters. Then...

MAN - Our...friend...is threatening to go public.

MAN #2 - Dees...ees no good.

MAN #3 - Something...must be done.

Another unidentified MAN picks up a cell phone...

KnowwhatImsaying??
U.S. military officials informed Zayna about the allegations of corruption, according to several people familiar with the matter. British Brig. Gen. David Clements summoned the parties to a Dec. 5 meeting in Iraq. Afterward, Clements ordered Zayna to release the money to Stoffel, sources said.

As of Dec. 8, Stoffel still had not received the money. That day, after he left the Taji military base outside Baghdad, his SUV was rammed by another vehicle. Stoffel and a business associate, Joseph Wemple, were cut down in a hail of bullets.

Another occupant of the vehicle apparently escaped unharmed, leading to suspicions among the victims' friends that he may have been involved in the attack.

About a week later, a previously unknown insurgent group, Brigades of the Islamic Jihad, claimed responsibility.
Brigades of the Islamic Jihad. Right.

Here's ANOTHER old post re: cash money, dead contractors and the conflict in Iraq:
"Suspicion surrounds missing Bay Area man - His fellow military contract worker pointed to kickback schemes -- and then was killed"
"Cliff Note" version: American defense contractors drum up some biz with the Iraqis, American defense contractors might have been privy to some shady deals, American defense contractors end up missing and dead.
Tikrit, Iraq -- In the midafternoon of Oct. 9, 2003, Kirk von Ackermann, an American contract worker from the Bay Area, used a satellite phone to call a colleague from a lonely desert road between Tikrit and Kirkuk in northern Iraq. He told his colleague he had a flat tire and needed a jack.

About 45 minutes later, the colleague found von Ackermann's car, abandoned. There was no sign of von Ackermann, who had been alone when he called. No hint of struggle, not even a footprint. All that remained was his satellite phone, his laptop computer, and, on the car's backseat a briefcase holding $40,000 in $100 bills.

"It was as if he had been abducted by aliens," Ryan Manelick told The Chronicle shortly after von Ackermann disappeared. Manelick was one of von Ackermann's colleagues at Ultra Services, a civilian contracting company they both worked for in Iraq, supplying U.S. military bases with tents, mobile homes, toilets, computers and Internet access.

Just over two months later, on the morning of Dec. 14, Manelick was shot dead near Camp Anaconda, a U.S. military base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and about 50 miles south of where von Ackermann had disappeared.
Again, von Ackermann missing, Manelick dead.
U.S. military officials looking into both cases will not comment on the progress, if any, of their investigations.

For the families of the two men, there is grief, frustration and anger. And there is also suspicion and paranoia -- and the belief that perhaps both men were eliminated because they knew too much.

*
On the same day Saddam Hussein was hauled out of his spider hole, Ryan Manelick was driving a 4x4 just south of Tikrit, near the Iraqi town of Balad, 10 miles from Camp Anaconda. A car pulled up alongside and someone inside opened fire with a machine gun. Manelick died instantly, a bullet through his brain. It was two days before his 31st birthday.

Later that week he was to fly home to Pennsylvania for a Christmas break with his family.
Manelick may have been a random victim of a vengeful Hussein supporter. Balad, a fiercely pro-Hussein town in the Sunni triangle, was the source of constant rocket and mortar attacks on Camp Anaconda.

But Manelick had said something startling THE NIGHT BEFORE HE WAS KILLED.

"I'm in fear of my life, you know," he said to a gathering at a Baghdad restaurant, at which a Chronicle reporter was present.

"It's not Iraqis I'm worried about, either," added Manelick. "IT'S PEOPLE FROM MY OWN COUNTRY."
His father, Greg Manelick, and a team of up to 20 investigators from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command have been trying to figure out ever since what Manelick meant.
What the hell is going on over there?!
According to Greg Manelick and other former associates, Ryan Manelick had earlier told Army investigators looking into von Ackermann's disappearance that large sums of money were being paid in KICKBACKS to a U.S. Army officer in Iraq in return for doling out lucrative contracts to another a business associate at Ultra Services.

Von Ackermann, who as a contract manager for Ultra Services spent a lot of time at various U.S. military bases in Iraq, knew all about it, did not approve and was about to blow the whistle to U.S. Army authorities, Ryan Manelick reportedly had maintained.

Manelick made that assertion to investigators, according to his father and former associates, shortly before his fateful last supper in Baghdad.
Wow.

Is this stuff related to all that missing cash?!

Your comments please...

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Cash Money

Yesterday, I --

CUT TO:

EXT. BAGHDAD - NIGHT

An unmarked truck pulls up to the loading dock of an Iraqi government building. A number of men, zooted to the freaking gills with high-tech assault weapons, guard the area as another group fills the truck with boxes and boxes of US cash money.

*

Well - here's the real story.

From the LA Times:

Worries Raised on Handling of Funds in Iraq

* A hearing details the transfer of $2.4 BILLION in $100 bills to BAGHDAD in 2004 and the billions more sent before. U.S. oversight is questioned. *

Excerpts:
WASHINGTON — It weighed 28 tons and took up as much room as 74 washing machines. It was $2.4 billion in $100 bills, and Baghdad needed it ASAP.

The initial request from U.S. OFFICIALS in charge of Iraq required the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to decide whether it could open its vault on a Sunday, a day banks aren't usually open.

"Just when you think you've seen it all," read one e-mail from an exasperated Fed official. "Pocket change," said another e-mail.

Then, when the shipment date changed, officials had to scramble to line up U.S. Air Force C-130 cargo planes to hold the money. They did, and the $2,401,600,000 was delivered to Baghdad on June 22, 2004.
It was the largest one-time cash transfer in the history of the New York Fed.

Disclosure of the frantic transfer in the final days of U.S. control over Iraq came during a daylong hearing Tuesday that indicated growing worry from Congress over U.S. oversight of spending in Iraq.

Both Republicans and Democrats appeared taken aback by the volume of CASH sent to Iraq: nearly $12 BILLION over the course of the U.S. occupation from March 2003 to June 2004, said a report by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Los Angeles), who had reviewed e-mails and documents subpoenaed from the bank.

The cash — a total of 363 tons, generated mostly from oil revenues — was Iraqi funds that had been held in trust by the Federal Reserve under the terms of a United Nations resolution.

The June 2004 money transfer was needed to run the country as the interim Iraqi government took over from the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, officials said.

Rep. Christopher Shays ( REPUBLICAN-Conn.), chairman of the House national security subcommittee, criticized the Pentagon's handling of the money known as the Development Fund for Iraq.

"It's very clear that … we didn't have systems in place to account" for the funds, he said.

"It doesn't mean they weren't spent well, but, given my sense of human temptation, I SUSPECT SOME OF IT WAS, frankly, TAKEN," Shays said.
Like this?

EXT. BAGHDAD - NIGHT

An unmarked truck RETURNS to the loading dock of the CPA building. A number of men - a combination of PRIVATE security guards and Iraqi troops - zooted to the freaking gills with high-tech assault weapons, guard the area as another group of men fill the truck with MORE boxes and boxes of US cash money.

*
Another quote from Shays.
"I can't believe that all this cash just floating around all went perfectly to the right place."
Maybe it went to --

EXT. FIVE STAR HOTEL - LATER

An IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER and a MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN are standing on the balcony of this five star hotel room...located "somewhere" in the Middle East. There are a number of HIGH END CALL GIRLS lounging around the pool., wearing nothing but money.

The defense minister and the businessman open a large box marked "cash." Then...

MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN - My friend, a toast!

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER - A toast!

MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN - A toast...to success!

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER - Success!

A number of NAKED YOUNG WOMEN enter the room and we...

CUT TO:

This bit from the related Reuters story.
Citing documents from the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank in New York, Waxman said the United States flew in nearly $12 billion overall in U.S. currency to Iraq from the United States between May 2003 and June 2004.

This money was used to pay for Iraqi salaries, fund Iraqi ministries and also to pay some U.S. contractors.
And HIGH END CALL-GIRLS.
In total, more than 281 million individual bills, including more than 107 million $100 bills, were shipped to Iraq on giant pallets loaded onto C-130 planes, the report said.
Hello, McFly?

McFly, hello?

McFly!

Draw your own conclusions.

More later...

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

As Long As We're Over There

Two related stories:

"Dad picks up $600 tab to get Marine battle ready"

Excerpts from the first story:
John Tod of Mesa had been prepared to face Father's Day worrying about his son's pending date with the war in Iraq.

Then Uncle Sam stepped in with more disappointing developments.

Marine Pfc. Jeremy Tod called home with news that his superiors were urging him and fellow Marines to buy special military equipment, including flak jackets with armor plating, to enhance the prospects of their survival.

The message was that such purchases were to be made by Marines with their own money.
"He said they strongly suggested he get this equipment because when they get to Iraq they will wish they had," Tod said.

Total estimated cost: $600.

Tod said his son's call about two weeks ago from the Marine Corps Air Station-Yuma was a sobering reminder that the military is not prepared to equip Pfc. Tod and fellow Marines with the best equipment.

Besides the essential flak jacket with steel "trauma" plates, the shopping list for the young Marine included a Camelbak (water pouch) special ballistic goggles, knee and elbow pads, a "drop pouch" to hold ammunition magazines and a load-bearing vest
Now the second story.

"Marine units found to lack equipment"

Excerpts:
WASHINGTON -- Marine Corps units fighting in some of the most dangerous terrain in Iraq DON'T HAVE ENOUGH WEAPONS, communications gear, or properly outfitted vehicles, according to an investigation by the Marine Corps' inspector general provided to Congress yesterday.

The report, obtained by the Globe, says the estimated 30,000 Marines in Iraq need twice as many heavy machine guns, more fully protected armored vehicles, and more communications equipment to operate in a region the size of Utah.

The Marine Corps leadership has ''understated" the amount and types of ground equipment it needs, according to the investigation, concluding that all of its fighting units in Iraq ''require ground equipment that exceeds" their current supplies, ''particularly in mobility, engineering, communications, and heavy weapons."

Complaints of equipment shortages in Iraq, including lack of adequate vehicle armor, have plagued the Pentagon for months, but most of the reported shortages have been found in the Army, which makes up the bulk of the American occupation force.

The analysis of the Marines' battle readiness, however, shows that the Corps is lacking key equipment needed to stabilize Al Anbar province in western Iraq. The province is where some of the bloodiest fighting has occurred in recent months between American-led coalition forces and Iraqi insurgents aided by foreign fighters who have slipped across the border.

Marine Corps forces and newly trained Iraqi soldiers battled insurgents in Al Anbar province for the fourth straight day yesterday as part of Operation Spear, launched last week along the Syrian border.The report also found that Abrams tanks and other combat vehicles are being so overused that replacements are needed quickly. It found that all of the Marines' battle tanks in Iraq have passed the normal criteria for replacing them.

*

Meanwhile, units need at least twice as many of the .50-caliber machine guns that are mounted atop vehicles and designed to protect an entire unit from enemy fire, the report said.

The units also need more M240G machine guns, a heavy gun used in battle, and more of the lighter MK19 machine guns, used at checkpoints to thwart insurgent attacks.

''Most infantry, logistics, and security battalions require approximately twice the number of .50-caliber machine guns and more M240G and MK19 machine guns than they would normally possess," according to the 40-page report, entitled ''Marine Corps Ground Equipment in Iraq."

Communications gear, too, is lacking. The Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters, known as Multinational Forces-West, ''has command responsibilities that far exceed any level contemplated by organizational and equipment planners," the report said. Radio and satellite tracking systems are ''in critical demand and constant use."
This is simple.

We're spending over a BILLION DOLLARS a day in Iraq.

ON WHAT?!

Not the troops. That's for sure.

"So where's the cash?!"

Somewhere, people. Somewhere.

CUT TO:

EXT. BAGHDAD - NIGHT

An unmarked truck pulls up to the loading dock of an Iraqi government building. A number of men, zooted to the freaking gills with high-tech assault weapons, guard the area as another group fills the truck with boxes and boxes of US cash money...

CUT TO:

EXT. FIVE STAR HOTEL - SAME

An IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER and a MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN are standing on the balcony of this five star hotel room...located somewhere in the Middle East. There are a number of HIGH END CALL GIRLS lounging around the pool.

MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN - My friend, a toast!

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER - A toast!

MYSTERIOUS US BUSINESSMAN - A toast...to success!

IRAQI DEFENSE MINISTER - Success!

A number of NAKED YOUNG WOMEN enter the room and we...

CUT TO:

More later...





More later.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Monday

ALERT!

OIL HIT $60/BARREL TODAY - THAT WOULDN'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE 4TH OF JULY VACATION WEEK, WOULD IT? WHEN A GIANT CHUNK OF AMERICA HITS THE ROAD?!

"No."

Just checking.

Prices are fairly low here in Hollywood today - around $2.35 for the cheap stuff - but they'll hit A NEW RECORD when the all the costs are figured out - BY THE 4TH OF JULY VACATION WEEK.

Mother-fuckers.

Gonna cost me $300 to drive the dog to the Grand Tetons.

"Get a better job!"

Will do.

*

Our Kid is at it again.

Sez we're in E-raq 'coz of 9/11.

Gonna tell us about it on June 28th.

A preview of stuff we've been hearing for the past FOUR YEARS -- Here.

And away we go:
WASHINGTON (AFP) - President George W. Bush defended the war in Iraq, telling Americans THE UNITED STATES WAS FORCED INTO WAR BECAUSE OF THE SEPTEMBER 11 terror strikes.
No.

WE were forced into war because the Neo-Cons wanted to invade Iraq - to take its assets, to create a fully privatized country for their big money friends, and to teach Saddam a lesson for not playing ball anymore - and saw a kick-ass opportunity in the post-9/11 world.

When most American were in a post-9/11 haze. And worried about another attack.
Bush also resisted calls for him to set a timetable for the return of thousands of US troops deployed in Iraq, saying Iraqis must be able to defend their own country before US soldiers can be pulled out.

"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens," Bush said Saturday in his weekly radio address.
No mention of BIN LADEN.

Dude had the chance to throw the full might of the US military toward the people who were truly responsible for 9/11, but divvied up the troops and sent most of 'em to Iraq. To carry out the Neo-Con plan. (Which they drew up - in the 90's)

And now...dude is covering his tracks.
Bush began a public relations offensive to defend the war as his approval rating has dropped well BELOW 50 percent with Americans expressing skepticism about the invasion.

*

"Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists HAVE NOW MADE IRAQ a central front in the war on terror," said the president.
Yeah. Because YOU had no plans for a post-Saddam Iraq, no plans to appease all the different (and feuding) Iraqi factions, and no plans to properly secure the country.

YOU created this situation, bud.

Iraq was NOT a central front in the "war on terror" on September 12, 2001.
"These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror," he argued.

"Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq SO YOU WILL NOT HAVE TO FACE THEM HERE AT HOME."
Bullshit.

I'm SO sick of that line.

Fear-mongering 101.

Remember during the Clinton years, when the "evil-doers" sacked Naperville, Illinois?

Jesus, that was terrible.

Thank God for Batman.

What about the time when the "people who hate our freedoms" blew up Whiskey Pete's in Primm, Nevada?

Terrible.
A June 13 USA Today poll showed that almost six of 10 Americans, 59 percent, want a full or partial pullout of US troops from Iraq.

In a New York Times/CBS News poll among 1,111 adults, Bush's approval rating dropped to 42 percent while 59 percent disapproved of his handling of Iraq.

Lawmakers from both parties, opposition Democrats and Bush's own Republicans, have called for a time frame for withdrawing from Iraq. More than 1,700 US soldiers have been killed there since US and British troops invaded in March 2003.
Speaking of Republicans --

Check this out:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush needs to tell Americans the nation faces "a long, hard slog" in Iraq, a KEY REPUBLICAN SENATOR said on Sunday, and another said the White House was "disconnected from reality" in its optimism over the war.

"Too often we've been told and the American people have been told that we're at a turning point," Sen. JOHN MCCAIN, an Arizona Republican, said on NBC's "Meet the Press." "What the American people should have been told and should be told ... (is that) it's long; it's hard; it's tough."

"It's going to be at least a couple more years," said McCain, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sen. CHUCK HAGEL, a NEBRASKA REPUBLICAN, was quoted by U.S. News and World Report as saying the administration's Iraq policy was failing.

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. THE WHITE HOUSE IS COMPLETELY DISCONNECTED FROM REALITY," said Hagel, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along."

"The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
Oops.

Chuck Hagel, people. Chuck Hagel.

Not Barbara Boxer, Chuck Hagel.

"Chuck Hagel? Meet the Right-Wing Hate Machine. Right-Wing Hate Machine? Meet Chuck Hagel."

"Have a good time, you two!"

More later...

Really Sad

Really Sad.

"Pummeled MP sues Pentagon - Soldier was impersonating unruly Guantanamo detainee in training"

Unbelievable:
A U.S. military policeman who was beaten by fellow MPs during a BOTCHED TRAINING DRILL at the GUANTANAMO Bay, Cuba, prison for detainees has sued the Pentagon for $15 million, alleging that the incident violated his constitutional rights.

Spec. Sean Baker, 38, was assaulted in January 2003 after he VOLUNTEERED to wear an orange jumpsuit and PORTRAY an uncooperative detainee. Baker said the MPs, who were told that he was an unruly detainee who had assaulted an American sergeant, inflicted a beating that resulted in a traumatic brain injury.

Baker, a Persian Gulf War veteran who re-enlisted after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, was medically retired in April 2004. He said the assault had left him with seizures, blackouts, headaches, insomnia and psychological problems.

*

The Pentagon first said that Baker's hospitalization after the training incident was not related to the beating.
You're kidding.
Later, officials conceded that he had been treated for injuries suffered when a five-man MP "INTERNAL REACTION FORCE" choked him, slammed his head several times against a concrete floor and sprayed him with pepper gas.
"Internal Reaction Force?"

Is that on Xbox...or Playstation?
Baker said he had put on the jumpsuit and squeezed under a prison bunk after being told by a lieutenant that he would be portraying an unruly detainee.

He said HE WAS ASSURED that MP'S conducting the "extraction drill" KNEW IT WAS A TRAINING EXERCISE and that Baker was an American soldier.
I know you righties love power and torture...but ask yourself this question: if they beat the bejesus out of a guy in a training drill...what are they doing to people in non-training exercises?

"You want the truth?! You can't handle the truth!"
As he was being choked and beaten, Baker said, he screamed a code word, "red," and shouted: "I'm a U.S. soldier! I'm a U.S. soldier!" The beating continued, he said, until the jumpsuit was yanked down during the struggle, revealing his military uniform.
Imagine that moment. What did Spec Baker go through...when his "out" failed?

Fookin' hell.
NO ONE has been disciplined or punished for the assault, said Baker's attorney, T. Bruce Simpson Jr. Simpson said the Army's Criminal Investigation Division told him last month that it had completed an investigation and had referred it to the Army's legal section for review.
If there is a real review...and anyone goes down...it'll be the poor saps who did the beating.

"The bad apples." "A few MP's who were out of control."

Never the higher-ups.

Who put these guys in a situation that was fucked from the get-go.
Separately Friday, the Pentagon announced that a subsidiary of Houston- based HALLIBURTON had been awarded $30 MILLION to build an improved 220-bed prison at GUANTANAMO.
Halliburton? What do they do?
Kellogg Brown and Root Services Inc. of Arlington, Va., is to build a two- story prison that includes day rooms, exercise areas, medical bays, air conditioning and a security control room, according to the Pentagon. It is to be completed by July 2006.
Don't think the Bushies will be shutting that place down...anytime soon.

More later...

Friday, June 17, 2005

Friday

Great article on the possible links between mercury, children's vaccines and autism - and our government's efforts to protect the drug companies from its customers - in Salon today.

Here.

(Yeah, you'll have to sign up for the day pass, but it shouldn't take more than 30 seconds to kick in.)

In the middle of the controversy? Our buddy - and future presidential candidate - Bill Frist.

The article was written by ROBERT KENNEDY JR:
"Deadly immunity"
When a study revealed that mercury in childhood vaccines may have caused autism in thousands of kids, the government rushed to conceal the data -- and to prevent parents from suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic.

*

June 16, 2005  |  In June 2000, a group of top government scientists and health officials gathered for a meeting at the isolated Simpsonwood conference center in Norcross, Ga. Convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the meeting was held at this Methodist retreat center, nestled in wooded farmland next to the Chattahoochee River, to ensure complete secrecy. The agency had issued no public announcement of the session -- only private invitations to 52 attendees. There were high-level officials from the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, the top vaccine specialist from the World Health Organization in Geneva, and representatives of every major vaccine manufacturer, including GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Wyeth and Aventis Pasteur. All of the scientific data under discussion, CDC officials repeatedly reminded the participants, was strictly "embargoed." There would be no making photocopies of documents, no taking papers with them when they left.

The federal officials and industry representatives had assembled to discuss a disturbing new study that raised alarming questions about the safety of a host of common childhood vaccines administered to infants and young children.

According to a CDC epidemiologist named Tom Verstraeten, who had analyzed the agency's massive database containing the medical records of 100,000 children, a mercury-based preservative in the vaccines -- thimerosal -- appeared to be responsible for a DRAMATIC INCREASE IN AUTISM and a host of other neurological disorders among children.

"I was actually stunned by what I saw," Verstraeten told those assembled at Simpsonwood, citing the staggering number of earlier studies that indicate a link between thimerosal and speech delays, attention-deficit disorder, hyperactivity and autism. Since 1991, when the CDC and the FDA had recommended that three additional vaccines laced with the preservative be given to extremely young infants -- in one case, within hours of birth -- the estimated number of cases of autism had INCREASED FIFTEENFOLD, from one in every 2,500 children to one in 166 children.
Long story short, mercury + vaccines = possible link to autism.
Even for scientists and doctors accustomed to confronting issues of life and death, the findings were frightening. "You can play with this all you want," Dr. Bill Weil, a consultant for the American Academy of Pediatrics, told the group. The results "are statistically significant." Dr. Richard Johnston, an immunologist and pediatrician from the University of Colorado whose grandson had been born early on the morning of the meeting's first day, was even more alarmed. "My gut feeling?" he said. "Forgive this personal comment -- I do not want my grandson to get a thimerosal-containing vaccine until we know better what is going on."
EVERYONE should have access to the same care and INFORMATION that a doctor would.

Enter the government and Bill Frist's ELI LILLY PROTECTION ACT:
But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line.

"We are in a bad position from the standpoint of defending any lawsuits," said Dr. Robert Brent, a pediatrician at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Delaware. "This will be a resource to our very busy plaintiff attorneys in this country."
Yes, those same plaintiff attorney's that are destroying our country and our freedoms.
"...The government has proved to be far more adept at handling the damage than at protecting children's health. The CDC paid the Institute of Medicine to conduct a new study to whitewash the risks of thimerosal, ordering researchers to "rule out" the chemical's link to autism. It withheld Verstraeten's findings, even though they had been slated for immediate publication, and told other scientists that his original data had been "lost" and could not be replicated. And to thwart the Freedom of Information Act, it handed its giant database of vaccine records over to a private company, declaring it off-limits to researchers. By the time Verstraeten finally published his study in 2003, he had gone to work for GlaxoSmithKline and reworked his data to bury the link between thimerosal and autism.

The drug companies are also getting help from powerful lawmakers in Washington. Senate Majority Leader BILL FRIST, who has received $873,000 in contributions from the pharmaceutical industry, has been working to immunize vaccine makers from liability in 4,200 lawsuits that have been filed by the parents of injured children.

On five separate occasions, Frist has tried to seal all of the government's vaccine-related documents -- including the Simpsonwood transcripts -- and SHIELD ELI LILLY THE DEVELOPER OF THIMEROSAL, from subpoenas. In 2002, the day after FRIST QUIETLY SLIPPED A RIDER known as the "Eli Lilly Protection Act" INTO A HOMELAND SECURITY BILL, the company contributed $10,000 to his campaign and bought 5,000 copies of his book on bioterrorism.
Hello, McFly? did you get that?

Frist tried to protect his buddies in the vaccine mess by slipping a rider in a HOMELAND SECURITY BILL. And if you've been paying attention for the past four years, you know that no one can mess with a homeland security bill.

Trixy hobbit!
Congress repealed the measure in 2003 -- but earlier this year, FRIST SLIPPED ANOTHER PROVISION into an anti-terrorism bill that would deny compensation to children suffering from vaccine-related brain disorders. "The lawsuits are of such magnitude that they could put vaccine producers out of business and limit our capacity to deal with a biological attack by terrorists," says Andy Olsen, a legislative assistant to Frist.
COME ON!

FOLKS, JUST READ THAT LAST SENTENCE AND DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS.

Luckily, some level headed conservatives are getting involved in this issue:
Even many conservatives are shocked by the government's effort to cover up the dangers of thimerosal. Rep. Dan Burton, a Republican from Indiana, oversaw a three-year investigation of thimerosal after his grandson was diagnosed with autism.
Personal experience has a way of leveling the playing field.
"Thimerosal used as a preservative in vaccines is directly related to the autism epidemic," his House Government Reform Committee concluded in its final report. "This epidemic in all probability may have been prevented or curtailed had the FDA not been asleep at the switch regarding a lack of safety data regarding injected thimerosal, a known neurotoxin." The FDA and other public-health agencies failed to act, the committee added, out of "institutional malfeasance for self protection" and "misplaced protectionism of the pharmaceutical industry."
Please read Kennedy's full piece.

Back to Frist.

During the height of the Terri Schiavo case, Frist, a doctor, questioned the official diagnosis after watching the now famous video of Terri (a video that FOX NEWS played over and over and over again). Remember? It looked like Terri was "following a balloon" with her eyes are "responding" to her parents in the room.

At the time, Frist claimed that, "(The) footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state."

He's getting grilled on those comments today, now that we know that she was in a persistent vegetative state. And blind.

His defense? "I never made the diagnosis. I wouldn't even attempt to make a diagnosis based on a videotape."

Except...he did. ON VIDEOTAPE.

And speaking of Terri Schiavo - Micahel Schiavo's trouble are not over.

Enter JEB BUSH (with nudging from Sean Hannity, methinks).

"Probe Sought in Terri Schiavo 911 Call"

Hannity has been implying "murder" for some time now. Jeb, a presidential candidate himself, might be "thinking" the same thing:
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor Friday to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, calling into question how long it took her husband to call 911 after he found her.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, BUSH SAID Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m., and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.
I would not want to be on the wrong side of the Bushies.

'Specially if you beat them in the court of public opinion.

"When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come?"


More later...

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Thursday

More stuff to put "Downing Street Memo" in perspective.

Let's get in the time machine - so we can go back Richard Clarke's appearance on "60 Minutes" in April of 2004. (Clarke was once Bush's top advisor on int'l terrorism, and a current critic of the Bush Administration's "War on Terror"):
(CBS) In the aftermath of Sept. 11, President Bush ordered his then top anti-terrorism adviser to look for a link between Iraq and the attacks, despite being told there didn't seem to be one.

The charge comes from the adviser, Richard Clarke, in an exclusive interview on 60 Minutes.

*

After the president returned to the White House on SEPT. 11, he and his top advisers, including Clarke, began holding meetings about how to respond and retaliate. As Clarke writes in his book, he expected the administration to focus its military response on Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. HE SAYS HE WAS SURPRISED THAT THE TALK QUICKLY TURNED TO IRAQ.

"RUMSFELD WAS SAYING THAT WE NEEDED TO BOMB IRAQ," Clarke said to Stahl. "And we all said ... no, no. Al-Qaeda is in Afghanistan. We need to bomb Afghanistan. And Rumsfeld said THERE AREN'T ANY GOOD TARGETS in Afghanistan. And there are lots of good targets in Iraq. I said, 'Well, there are lots of good targets in lots of places, but Iraq had nothing to do with it.

"Initially, I thought when he said, 'There aren't enough targets in-- in Afghanistan,' I thought he was joking.

"I think they wanted to believe that there was a connection, but the CIA was sitting there, the FBI was sitting there, I was sitting there saying we've looked at this issue for years. For years we've looked and there's just no connection."

Clarke says he and CIA Director George Tenet told that to Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Attorney General John Ashcroft.

Clarke then tells Stahl of BEING PRESSURED BY MR. BUSH.

"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that GEORGE BUSH WANTED ME TO COME BACK WITH A REPORT THAT SAID IRAQ DID THIS.
"Did these dudes come into office wanting to invade Iraq?"

Gee. Ya think?
"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'

"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."

Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.'

"I have no idea, to this day, if the president saw it, because after we did it again, it came to the same conclusion. And frankly, I don't think the people around the president show him memos like that."

"I don't think he sees memos that he doesn't-- wouldn't like the answer."
Obviously.

"Liberal media crazy talk!"

Sure.

Remember, one of the big questions behind the "Downing Street Memo" thing is this: Did the Bushies "fix the facts" to fit their policy?

And if they came into office wanting to remove Saddam...but knew an invasion would be a tough sell (at home and abroad)...how'd they do it?

Greg Palast has put together a nice little timeline to show SOME of the moves to do so.
Here is a small timeline of confidential skullduggery dug up and broadcast by my own team for BBC Television and Harper's on the secret plans to seize Iraq's assets and oil.

February 2001 - Only one month after the first Bush-Cheney inauguration, the State Department's Pam Quanrud organizes a secret confab in California to make plans for the invasion of Iraq and removal of Saddam. US oil industry advisor Falah Aljibury and others are asked to interview would-be replacements for a new US-installed dictator.

On BBC Television's Newsnight, Aljibury himself explained, "It is an invasion, but it will act like a coup. The original plan was to liberate Iraq from the Saddamists and from the regime."

March 2001 - Vice-President Dick Cheney meets with oil company executives and reviews oil field maps of Iraq. Cheney refuses to release the names of those attending or their purpose. Harper's has since learned their plan and purpose -- see below.
I'm gonna add 9/11. Right here.
October/November 2001 - An EASY military victory in Afghanistan emboldens then-Dep. Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to convince the Administration to junk the State Department "coup" plan in favor of an invasion and occupation that could remake the economy of Iraq. An elaborate plan, ultimately summarized in a 101-page document, scopes out the "sale of all state enterprises" -- that is, most of the nation's assets, "… especially in the oil and supporting industries."
Which follows Naomi Klein's claim that the NEO-CONS wanted to create a fully privatized country. for their big money buddies.

And if you lost your factory job during the summer of '03 - you're still pissed about it in the summer of '05.
2002 - Grover Norquist and other corporate lobbyists meet secretly with Defense, State and Treasury officials to ensure the invasion plans for Iraq include plans for protecting "property rights." The result was a pre-invasion scheme to sell off Iraq's oil fields, banks, electric systems, and even change the country's copyright laws to the benefit of the lobbyists' clients. Occupation chief Paul Bremer would later order these giveaways into Iraq law.

Fall 2002 - Philip Carroll, former CEO of Shell Oil USA, is brought in by the Pentagon to plan the management of Iraq's oil fields. He works directly with Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith. "There were plans," says Carroll, "maybe even too many plans" -- but none disclosed to the public nor even the US Congress.
Add US congressional elections. In an atmosphere dominated by talk of hunting the "evil-doers" and "terrorists." "Wherever they might be."
January 2003 - Robert Ebel, former CIA oil analyst, is sent, BBC learns, to London to meet with Fadhil Chalabi to plan terms for taking over Iraq's oil.

March 2003 - What White House spokesman Ari Fleisher calls "Operations Iraqi Liberation" (OIL) begins. (Invasion is re-christened "OIF" -- Operation Iraqi Freedom.)

March 2003 - Defense Department is told in confidence by US Energy Information Administrator Guy Caruso that Iraq's fields are incapable of a massive increase in output. Despite this intelligence, Dep. Secretary Wolfowitz testifies to Congress that invasion will be a free ride. He swears, "THERE'S A LOT OF MONEY TO PAY FOR THIS that doesn't have to be U.S. taxpayer money. …We're dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon," a deliberate fabrication promoted by the Administration, an insider told BBC, as "part of the sales pitch" for war.
It's now costing the the US TAXPAYER over a BILLION dollars A DAY.
May 2003 - General Jay Garner, appointed by Bush as viceroy over Iraq, is fired by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The general revealed in an interview for BBC that he resisted White House plans to sell off Iraq's oil and national assets.

"That's just one fight you don't want to take on," Garner told me. But apparently, the White House wanted that fight.

The general also disclosed that these invade-and-grab plans were developed long before the US asserted that Saddam still held WDM:

"All I can tell you is the plans were pretty elaborate; they didn't start them in 2002, they were started in 2001."
"But...I thought they didn't have plans to invade Iraq until...they invaded Iraq."

Right.

Read the whole article.

Fast approaching 1,800 US casualties.

Six U.S. Troops Killed in Western Iraq. Today.


More later...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Tin Foil Hat Stuff

The following bit comes from the Washington Times, so, you know, it might as well come from The Onion.

"(UPI) -- Insider notes from United Press International for June 8"
UPI Hears...

A former Bush team member during his first administration is now voicing serious doubts about the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9-11.

Former CHIEF ECONOMIST for the Department of Labor during President George W. Bush's first term MORGAN REYNOLDS comments that the official story about the collapse of the WTC is "BOGUS" and that it is more likely that a CONTROLLED DEMOLITION destroyed the TWIN TOWERS and adjacent Building No. 7.
"Morgan said what?"

"He said that the official story is bogus, sir -- "

"He said WHAT?!"
Reynolds, who also served as director of the Criminal Justice Center at the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas and is now professor emeritus at Texas A&M University said, "If demolition destroyed three steel skyscrapers at the World Trade Center on 9/11, then the case for an 'inside job' and a government attack on America would be compelling."
"You're fucking kidding me?!"

"No, sir."
Reynolds commented from his Texas A&M office, "It is hard to exaggerate the importance of a scientific debate over the cause of the collapse of the twin towers and building 7. If the official wisdom on the collapses is wrong, AS I BELIEVE IT IS, then policy based on such erroneous engineering analysis is not likely to be correct either."
"What the fuck does he mean by THAT?!"

"I think he's saying that...if the hijackers didn't bring the towers down...then...the War on Terror is wrong."

"Goddammit. (Then) Send a 'car' for Mr. Reynolds."

"Right away, sir."
The government's collapse theory is highly vulnerable on its own terms. Only PROFESSIONAL DEMOLITION appears to account for the full range of facts associated with the collapse of the three buildings."
"Christ....who is...who is, uh...picking him up?"

"We've sent the right people, sir."

"Good. (Pause) Jesus."

"Your wife is on the phone, sir."

"I'll call her back."

"Yes, Mr. Cheney."

*

On a lighter note, OUR KID made a tour stop at Penn State yesterday...talkin' to the Future Farmers of America 'bout Social Security reform.

My favorite moment:
MR. PRESIDENT: Guess what happened. There was a pretty famous person at the airport today. (Laughter.) And so I said, why don't you ride over to the college campus with me here, the university campus -- I need a briefing on what's going on. And Joe Paterno kindly agreed to travel with me. (Applause.) I said, let's talk football. He said, why don't you tell me what's going on in Washington? (Laughter.)
Bush had the chance to tell "Joe Pa" to retire (a move Joe should've made five years ago) but did not.
I tell you one thing about Joe Paterno; there's no more decent fellow on the face of the Earth. What a man who sets -- a man who sets high standards, he loves his family, he loves this university, he loves his country, and my mother and dad love him. Coach, thanks for coming. Proud you're here. (Applause)
Babs loves Joe Pa? Love it.

He does raise a lot 'o cash for the Repubs.

One more great moment:
MR. PRESIDENT: I've got a good man as the Secretary of Agriculture in Mike Johanns. He actually grew up on a farm. Some of you will be pleased to hear he grew up on a dairy farm.
How cute. He actually grew up on a farm.

Johanns left that farm, went to law school and ultimately became the Governor of Nebraska.

"So...he's not a total hayseed?"

"No, sir. Mike is, uh, an educated man."

"Good. Hey, increase the tension on the Lifecycle, would ya?"

More later...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

WH Press Corp

Quick review of Bush quotes:
The Downing Street Memo reported that in a July 23, 2002 meeting between Prime Minister Blair and his war cabinet, attendees of the meeting discussed the fact that President Bush had already made up his mind to attack Iraq. According to the minutes of the meeting:

“There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action.”

Yet, as the record below proves, President Bush claimed over and over after July 23rd until the war began that he had not made up his mind.

Bush: “Of course, I haven’t made up my mind we’re going to war with Iraq.” [10/1/02]


Bush:“Hopefully, we can do this peacefully – don’t get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there’s a chance he may decide to do that. And war is not my first choice, don’t – it’s my last choice.” [11/7/02]


Bush: “This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace. And the best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. It’s up to him to make his decision.” [12/4/02]


Bush: “You said we’re headed to war in Iraq – I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.” [12/31/02]


Bush: “First of all, you know, I’m hopeful we won’t have to go war, and let’s leave it at that.” [1/2/03]


Bush: “But Saddam Hussein is – he’s treated the demands of the world as a joke up to now, and it was his choice to make. He’s the person who gets to decide war and peace.” [2/7/03]


Bush:“I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.” [3/6/03]


Bush: “I want to remind you that it’s his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It’s Saddam’s choice. He’s the person that can make the choice of war and peace.” [3/6/03]


Bush: “We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.” [3/8/03]


Bush: “Should Saddam Hussein choose confrontation, the American people can know that every measure has been taken to avoid war, and every measure will be taken to win it.” [3/17/03

Okay.

The White House press corp is giving the Bushies a big pass on this story.

Here's the ONLY exchange from yesterday's WH press conference re: "the memo" and Bush's plans for war in Iraq:
MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, in back.

Q Could we go back to the press availability with Prime Minister Blair last week? In response to a question, the President said, about the Downing Street memo, "My conversation with the Prime Minister was, how could we do this peacefully." And then later on he says, "And so we worked hard to see if we could figure out how to do this peacefully."

"How to do this" -- that refers to regime change or just to weapons inspections?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, regime change was the policy of the previous administration -- remember, that goes back to the previous administration.

Q But the policy of previous administration was --

MR. McCLELLAN: I addressed the threat posed by Iraq.

Q Right, which was not to do it using military force at that time. The decision by this administration was to use military force. So when talking about this --

MR. McCLELLAN: NOT AT THAT TIME.

Q But when talking about this, and this response, is the President referring to regime change or referring to inspections of weapons --

MR. McCLELLAN: The threat posed by the regime in Iraq.

Q So regime change.
And that's it.

They should be HAMMERING the WH on this issue, but they just refuse to ask the hard questions:
When did you folks FIRST start planning the war in Iraq?

"After 9/11...or back in the 90's, when the NEO-CONS were working on their Project for a New American Century thing?"

And when did the President get a hard copy of those war plans?

"Did he doodle on them? If so, what did he draw?"
Man.

The mood is changing, though:

PRESIDENT RIDICULED AT INTERFAITH RALLY

Ouch.
The president of Gold Star Families for Peace, a mother who lost a son in Iraq, criticized the United States' "illegal and unjust war" yesterday during an interfaith rally in Lexington.

Cindy Sheehan of Vacaville, Calif., accused President Bush of lying to the nation about a war which has consumed tens of billions of dollars and claimed more than 1,700 American lives -- including the life of Army Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan.

Sheehan was one of more than a dozen activists who were scheduled to speak at yesterday's anti-war rally at the Red Mile, which was organized by the Clergy and Laity Network and co-sponsored by dozens of liberal religious organizations.

Sheehan ridiculed Bush for saying that it's "HARD WORK" comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq.

"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both," she said.

Since her son's death, Sheehan has made opposition to the Bush administration a full-time job.

"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people," she said, quoting a letter she sent to the White House. "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life," she said, as the audience of 200 people cheered.
Wow.

Wow.

Beating a political stake in your black heart.

"That will get her a visit from a suit or two."

Methinks so.

More later...

Monday, June 13, 2005

Car Trouble

Car trouble today, mates. No time to post a lengthy blog re: the new Brit Memo. Please check back tomorrow for more on that.

(Why do I get the feeling that Jacko's verdict will come in...just as more news breaks overseas re: the White House and its plans to go to war in 2002?)

Having said that, I do have time for the quote of the week (and it's only Monday):
"My view is FOX News is a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party and I don't comment on FOX News."
That's my main man, Howard Dean, responding to DICK Cheney calling him "over the top." This...during Viceroy Cheney's recent appearance on FOX News.

Awesome.

Thanks for understanding re: the blog. It's an alternator belt...or something.

Off to my mechanic in Glendale. (Ugh.)

More later...

Sunday, June 12, 2005

"You Can't Handle the Truth!"

All the important info...slips out after rush hour on Friday.

"Why is that?"

Because you should spend your weekend worrying 'bout 'portant stuff, like the Runaway Bride, Tom & Katie, and Jessica Simpson's new body.

A little bit different in the UK:

Ministers were told of need for Gulf war ‘excuse’

From the Times Online:
MINISTERS were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal.
Once again, "Ministers were warned in July 2002 that Britain was committed to taking part in an American-led invasion of Iraq and they had no choice but to find a way of making it legal."

Got that?
The warning, in a leaked Cabinet Office briefing paper, said Tony Blair had already agreed to back military action to get rid of Saddam Hussein at a summit at the Texas ranch of President George W Bush three months earlier.
In APRIL of 2002. Right after we CAUGHT OSAMA BIN LADEN.
The briefing paper, for participants at a meeting of Blair’s inner circle on July 23, 2002, said that since REGIME CHANGE was ILLEGAL it was “necessary to CREATE THE CONDITIONS” which would MAKE IT LEGAL.

This was required because, even if ministers decided Britain should not take part in an invasion, the American military would be using British bases. This would automatically make Britain complicit in any illegal US action.
Here are some excerpts from this new memo, entitled "Cabinet Office paper: Conditions for military action."

A sexy name for this NEW MEMO...has not been invented. Yet.

And away we go!
PERSONAL SECRET UK EYES ONLY

IRAQ: CONDITIONS FOR MILITARY ACTION (A Note by Officials)

*

Introduction

1. The US Government's military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, IT LACKS A POLITICAL FRAMEWORK. In particular, LITTLE THOUGHT has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.
"Little thought has been given."

"43" should have that slogan on his desk.

"How about, 'Biblical thought has been given?'"

Sounds good to me.
2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq's WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted.
"Okay. On point one, that's easy. EVERYONE has agreed to go easy, post 9/11. Fact is, some of the media groups have instituted a 9/11 rule: no coverage... critical of the White House. Plus, our people own the media. So we're cool there."

"Karl will lob a call to CNNFOXABCNBCCBS to make sure we're all on the same page. We've got some great promos for their war coverage, too"

"On point two, no worries. We'll call Sharon. Tell him to cool his jets for a while. Keep your tanks outta the 'evil-doer' neighborhoods for a week or two. You know."

"On point three...you guys are shit out of luck on that one. The UN inspectors can go fuck themselves."
3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because IT IS NECESSARY TO CREATE THE CONDITIONS IN WHICH WE COULD LEGALLY SUPPORT MILITARY ACTION.

Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support.

*

US Military Planning

6. Although no political decisions have been taken, US MILITARY PLANNERS HAVE DRAFTED OPTIONS for the US Government to undertake an INVASION OF IRAQ.
Remember: 43 has claimed ON NUMEROUS OCCASIONS that there were no such "plans."
In a 'Running Start', military action could begin as early as NOVEMBER of this year (2002), with no overt military build-up. AIR STRIKES and support for opposition groups in Iraq would lead initially to small-scale land operations, with further land forces deploying sequentially, ultimately overwhelming Iraqi forces and leading to the collapse of the Iraqi regime.

A 'Generated Start' would involve a longer build-up before any military action were taken, as early as January 2003. US military plans include no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign. Currently the preference appears to be for the 'Running Start'. CDS will be ready to brief Ministers in more detail.
There's a Pulitzer Prize waiting for the journalist who can show the planning, the time line, the air strikes and the MERCENARIES that were fighting in Iraq...in 2002...I mean...in the months before "Operation Desert Whatever."
The Viability of the Plans

8. The Chiefs of Staff have discussed the viability of US military plans. Their initial view is that there are a number of questions which would have to be answered before they could assess whether the plans are sound. Notably these include the realism of the 'Running Start', the extent to which the plans are proof against Iraqi counter-attack using chemical or biological weapons and the robustness of US assumptions about the bases and about Iraqi (un)willingness to fight.
That's a polite way of saying, "The inmates (NEO-CONS) are running the asylum, they're fucking crazy, and their ideas suck."
The Conditions Necessary for Military Action

10. Aside from the existence of a viable military plan we consider the following conditions necessary for military action and UK participation: justification/legal base; an international coalition; a quiescent Israel/Palestine; a positive risk/benefit assessment; and the preparation of domestic opinion.

Justification

11. US VIEWS OF INTERNATIONAL LAW VARY from that of the UK and the international community. Regime change per se is not a proper basis for military action under international law.
HA! HA! HA!

That's a polite way of saying, "The inmates are running the asylum, they're fucking crazy, they have NO RESPECT for international law, but we gotta play ball."
But regime change could result from action that is otherwise lawful.

We would regard the use of force against Iraq, or any other state, as lawful if exercised in the right of individual or collective self-defence, if carried out to avert an overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe, or authorised by the UN Security Council. A detailed consideration of the legal issues, prepared earlier this year, is at Annex A. The legal position would depend on the precise circumstances at the time.

Legal bases for an invasion of Iraq are in principle conceivable in both the first two instances but would be difficult to establish because of, for example, the tests of immediacy and proportionality. Further legal advice would be needed on this point.
Yada yada.

My head hurts.
Benefits/Risks

19. Even with a legal base and a viable military plan, we would still need to ensure that the benefits of action outweigh the risks. In particular, we need to be sure that the outcome of the military action would match our objective as set out in paragraph 5 above.

A POST-WAR OCCUPATION OF IRAQ COULD LEAD TO A PROTRACTED AND COSTLY NATION-BUILDING EXERCISE.

As already made clear, the US MILITARY PLANS ARE VIRTUALLY SILENT ON THIS POINT.
"Hello? McFly? Hello, McFly?! McFly!!!"
Washington could look to us to share a disproportionate share of the burden.

Further work is required to define more precisely the means by which the desired end-state would be created, in particular what form of Government might replace Saddam Hussein's regime and the timescale within which it would be possible to identify a successor.

We must also consider in greater detail the impact of military action on other UK interests in the region.
Obviously, the above mentioned UK fear was wrong.

We were greated as liberators, we lost NO SOLDIERS, every single Iraqi citizen embraced the new government, the new Iraqi govenment paid us back with its oil, oil is now at $20/barrel, and gas is $1.27 on the corner of Sunset & LaBrea.

PLEASE take the time to read the whole memo.

Here.

More later...