BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I Need More Coffee

Hey.

Another excellent post from Josh Marshall at TPM: Marshall unveils an important character in the case of Randy "Duke" Cunningham:
A few more points to mull about the Duke saga.

First, remember that "co-conspirator #1" in the charges against Duke is Brent Wilkes, a defense contractor who owns ADCS Inc.

In addition to various other bribes he gave Duke, Wilkes also rented a corporate jet which appears to have existed more or less entirely to ferry around members of Congress. Mainly Duke.

But also Rep. Tom DeLay and Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt.

Wilkes is also an '04 Bush Pioneer.
Cool.

Marshall gets into another intersting cat, Thomas Kontogiannis, aka "co-conspirator #3":
In a previously undisclosed link between Cunningham and Kontogiannis, the developer accompanied the congressman to Saudi Arabia last year. A Saudi-American businessman flew Cunningham to Saudi Arabia twice last year aboard a private jet. On the second trip, the jet stopped in Athens to pick up Kontogiannis, a native of Greece with businesses interests in several countries.

Ziyad Abduljawad, founder and chairman of San Diego-based PLC Land Co., paid for Cunningham's two trips to Saudi Arabia, each at a cost of more than $10,000. Cunningham has described Abduljawad as an acquaintance who shares his interest in improving U.S.-Saudi relations.

Kontogiannis "went as a friend of Duke's," said Harmony Allen, Cunningham's chief of staff. "That's the extent of it. Duke asked him to go as a friend.

I'm not sure if (Kontogiannis) had a special interest (in visiting) Saudi Arabia or not."

It was unclear who paid for Kontogiannis' trip.
Youch.

Again, visit Talking Points Memo for more info on the Dukester.

Meanwhile...

Republicans Denounce Ex-Lawmaker

Meaning, they are "distancing themselves" from Cunningham:
With several investigations focusing on top Republican officials and growing public unease over the war in Iraq and economic policy at home, party leaders moved to distance themselves and their party from Mr. Cunningham's felony plea.
Funny: Back in June, Tom Delay said that, "(Cunningham) is an honorable man of high integrity."

"What a difference...a day makes."
Though some Republican officials said Democrats in Congress were equally guilty of questionable behavior, including lobbyist-paid trips and underreporting of campaign contributions, they acknowledged that Republicans, because they control the White House and Congress, are being held to a higher standard by many voters.
No.

Republicans are being held to a "higher standard" because they spend way too much time screaming and yelling about morals and family values.

Remember, they're "God's Own Party."

And to the point that "Democrats in Congress (are) equally guilty of questionable behavior?"

Ha.

Will someone please add up the total $ taken in by the Repubs through all of these recent scandals?

The number will DWARF anything taken in by the Dems...because it's stupid to throw money at a losing horse.
Prosecutors said the contractors also gave Mr. Cunningham hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of gifts, including a Rolls-Royce, two 19th-century French commodes, four armoires, a wooden sideboard with turned wooden spindles, three nightstands, a necklace, a laser shooting simulator and $15,000 worth of Oriental carpets (described in court documents as "one Indo Herati, one Karaja, one Indo Keshan and two Cino Kerman rugs").

The contractors also paid for tens of thousands of dollars' worth of repairs to the Rolls-Royce and to Mr. Cunningham's boat, the Kelly C, and essentially bought the former congressman a $2.55 million home in the exclusive San Diego County community of Rancho Santa Fe.
Good times.

Back on Nov. 17, I posted some of the figures that have been thrown around in the Abramoff/Indian Casino case.

See Lawmakers Acted on Heels of Abramoff Gifts for more info:
WASHINGTON - Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.
Again --

Denny Hastert, R-The creepiest suburbs outside of Chicago - $100,000

Thad Cochran, R-Miss - $77,000

The Hammer, R-Hell - $57,000

Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa - $62,200

T. Lott - $65,000

Pete Sessions, R-TX - $5,000

J. Doolittle, R-CA - $33,000

Roy "I'm taking over for The Hammer" Blount, R-Miss - $3,000

Vitter, R-LA - $6,000

And Dems:

Reid, D-NV - $66,000

Mary Landrieu, D-LA - $24,000

J. Breaux, D-LA - $11,000

Long story short...Repubs take in more cash.

Methinks that our dear friends on the other side of the aisle will not rest until they find the Dem version of Duke Cunningham.
New evidence is emerging that the top Democrat on the Senate committee currently investigating Jack Abramoff got political money arranged by the lobbyist back in 2002 shortly after the lawmaker took action favorable to Abramoff's tribal clients.

A lawyer for the Louisiana Coushatta Indians told The Associated Press that Abramoff instructed the tribe to send $5,000 to Sen. Byron Dorgan's political group just three weeks after the North Dakota Democrat urged fellow senators to fund a tribal school program Abramoff's clients wanted to use.
$5,000.

Ooooh.

BTW: The Dorgan story is fading.

Currently.

More later...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Winter Wonderland

Big news...and a quick follow-up to yesterday's post.

LRon's "Winter Wonderland" (at Hollywood & McCadden) is up and running again - just in time for Xmas.

"And there was much rejoicing."

I predict big lines, and, yes, "personality tests" are available next door.

Listen to the lyrics of the quasi-carols, people: They contain important messages!

"On the day that we finally learn to trust each other...we will trust each other." (Or something like that.)

"Man cannot know what he does not know."

Moving on...

Phenomenal post on Talking Points Memo re: Mitchell Wade, "formerly CEO and founder of MZM, Inc., the man whose sweetheart purchase of (Duke) Cunningham's house was the thread that started Duke's skein of corruption unravelling."

(Cunningham went down in flames yesterday.)

A must read, b/c Josh gets into Wade's relationship with Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA).
Goode was the principal sponsor of a provision in 2003 defense legislation that called for the creation of a military center in his district, known as the Foreign Supplier Assessment Center, which MZM was hired to run, said a senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

The official added that the center, which is meant to check on the ownership of foreign companies that contract with the Defense Department, will do useful work, but was not a Pentagon priority and was not requested by the Defense Department.
It was mandated by Goode on MZM's behalf, the official said.
The question is this: What did Congressman Goode "get" from MZM?

He did get some pretty decent "campaign contributions."

Read the whole post.

* * *

Hopefully, you've read Seymour Hersh's latest article in the New Yorker (Up in the Air).

Simply put - Hersh details the chaos within the Bush Administration re: Iraq and the debate over "troop withdrawl."

Excerpts:
Current and former military and intelligence officials have told me that the President remains convinced that it is his personal mission to bring democracy to Iraq, and that he is impervious to political pressure, even from fellow Republicans.

They also say that he disparages any information that conflicts with his view of how the war is proceeding.

Bush’s closest advisers have long been aware of the religious nature of his policy commitments. In recent interviews, one former senior official, who served in Bush’s first term, spoke extensively about the connection between the President’s religious faith and his view of the war in Iraq.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the former official said, he was told that Bush felt that “God put me here” to deal with the war on terror.
"NO I DIDN'T."

Apparently, he thinks you did.

"I DIDN'T."

Well...
The President’s belief was fortified by the Republican sweep in the 2002 congressional elections; Bush saw the victory as a purposeful message from God that “he’s the man,” the former official said.
"AW, MAN."

You see?

"YEAH, BUT...JESUS...I WANTED THE GUY TO BE...MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL COMMISIONER. NOT THE PRESIDENT."

He didn't hear you.

"HE HAS A HABIT OF DOING THAT, DOESN'T HE?"

Yep.
Publicly, Bush depicted his reëlection as a referendum on the war; privately, he spoke of it as another manifestation of divine purpose.

The former senior official said that after the election he made a lengthy inspection visit to Iraq and reported his findings to Bush in the White House: “I said to the President, ‘We’re not winning the war.’ And he asked, ‘Are we losing?’ I said, ‘Not yet.’ ”

The President, he said, “appeared displeased” with that answer.

“I tried to tell him,” the former senior official said. “And he couldn’t hear it.”
"YOU SEE? THAT DRIVES ME CRAZY."

Me, too.
“The President is more determined than ever to stay the course,” the former defense official said.

“He doesn’t feel any pain. Bush is a believer in the adagePeople may suffer and die, but the Church advances.’”
"WHAT THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN?!"

I don't know: Very old school. Sounds like...Knights Templar vs the Pope's army kinda stuff.

"GOT IT."
He said that the President had become more detached, leaving more issues to Karl Rove and Vice-President Cheney.

“They keep him in the gray world of religious idealism, where he wants to be anyway,” the former defense official said.

Bush’s public appearances, for example, are generally scheduled in front of friendly audiences, most often at military bases. Four decades ago, President Lyndon Johnson, who was also confronted with an increasingly unpopular war, was limited to similar public forums.

“Johnson knew he was a prisoner in the White House,” the former official said, “but Bush has no idea.”
Okay - fine - typical stuff - we've heard these stories before - Bush is detached from reality - believes he has a "calling from on high" - he's a dry drunk - pops off at people - doesn't read - never hears bad news - white knuckle alcoholism making him nuts - the Emperor has no clothes - yada yada.

However...

At the end of the article, you'll find this key bit of info:
Meanwhile, as the debate over troop reductions continues, the covert war in Iraq has expanded in recent months to Syria.
Hey now.
A composite American Special Forces team, known as an S.M.U., for “special-mission unit,” has been ordered, under stringent cover, to target suspected supporters of the Iraqi insurgency across the border.

(The Pentagon had no comment.)

“It’s a powder keg,” the Pentagon consultant said of the tactic. “But, if we hit an insurgent network in Iraq without hitting the guys in Syria who are part of it, the guys in Syria would get away. When you’re fighting an insurgency, you have to strike everywhere—and at once.”
Entiendes?

We're messing around in Syria.

"Mark it '8,' Dude."

More later...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Land of Enchantment

Praise Jesus, Black Sabbath has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"Let me see your f*cking hands!"
NEW YORK - Black Sabbath, Miles Davis and the Sex Pistols are among five musical legends to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation will hold its induction ceremony March 13 at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan, the organization announced Monday.

Also to be inducted into the class of 2006: 1980s New Wave band Blondie and Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Solid class.

Van Halen and Rush next year?

The Hall rules, BTW: A great place to visit.

"God bless you all!"

Now...a story near and dear to my heart, because it involves two of my favorite subjects; L. Ron and New Mexico.

From the Washington Post --

A Place in the Desert for New Mexico's Most Exclusive Circles

Our dear friends in the big blue building on Sunset are up to something in the Land of Enchantment:
From the state that gave us Roswell, the epicenter of UFO lore since 1947, comes a report from an Albuquerque TV station about its discovery of strange landscape markings in the remote desert. They're etched in New Mexico's barren northern reaches, resemble crop circles and are recognizable only from a high altitude.

Also, they are directly connected to the Church of Scientology.

(Cue theremin music.)

The church tried to persuade station KRQE not to air its report last week about the aerial signposts marking a Scientology compound that includes a huge vault "built into a mountainside," the station said on its Web site. The tunnel was constructed to protect the works of L. Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded the church in the 1950s.
You need a mountain vault to protect "Battleship Earth?!"

What's wrong with the "Author Services" building on Hollywood?
The archiving project, which the church has acknowledged, includes engraving Hubbard's writings on stainless steel tablets and encasing them in titanium capsules.
Cool.
It is overseen by a Scientology corporation called the Church of Spiritual Technology.

Based in Los Angeles --
Of course --
...the corporation dispatched an official named Jane McNairn and an attorney to visit the TV station in an effort to squelch the story, KRQE news director Michelle Donaldson said.

The church offered a tour of the underground facility if KRQE would kill the piece, the station said in its newscast.

Scientology also called KRQE's owner, Emmis Communications, and "sought the help of a powerful New Mexican lawmaker" to lobby against airing the piece, the station reported on its Web site.

McNairn did not respond to messages requesting comment; an employee said that McNairn was traveling last week, and that no one else from the church would be able to comment.

What do the markings mean?

For starters, the interlocking circles and diamonds match the logo of the Church of Spiritual Technology, which had the vault constructed in a mesa in the late 1980s. The $2.5 million construction job was done by Denman and Associates of Santa Fe, but company Vice President Sally Butler said of the circles, "If there is anything like that out there, it had nothing to do with us."

Perhaps the signs are just a proud expression of the Scientology brand. But there are other, more intriguing theories.

Former Scientologists familiar with Hubbard's teachings on reincarnation say the symbol marks a "return point" so loyal staff members know where they can find the founder's works when they travel here in the future from other places in the universe.
They'd better be careful.

Remember: Last week, a former Canadian Defense Minister claimed that the Bushies were building a moon laser to blast the aliens.

(See Friday's Brandoland for more on that particular story.)
"As a lifetime staff member, you sign a billion-year contract. It's not just symbolic," said Bruce Hines of Denver, who spent 30 years in Scientology but is now critical of it. "You know you are coming back and you will defend the movement no matter what. . . . The fact that they would etch this into the desert to be seen from space, it fits into the whole ideology."

*

The church maintains two other vaults in California to preserve Hubbard's materials and words, according to Hines and another longtime staff member who also quit a couple of years ago, Chuck Beatty of Pittsburgh.
Bet there's a vault in the basement of the "Life Exhibition" building near Ivar.
"The whole purpose of putting these teachings in the underground vaults was expressly so that in the event that everything gets wiped out somehow, someone would be willing to locate them and they would still be there," said Beatty, who spent 28 years in Scientology.

Some loyalists are tasked specifically with the "super-duper confidential" job of coming back to Earth in the far-off future, he added.
I'm going to assume that "super-duper confidential" is one of their terms.

They do get lazy with some of their words and phrases - from time to time.

On that note, the Psychiatry Kills Museum (on Sunset) has been re-named.

It's now called...the Psychiatry and Industry of Death Museum.

No joke.

The Cat & the Fiddle is still the Cat & the Fiddle.

More later.

"Now fairies wear boots and you gotta beleive now! I saw 'em, I saw 'em with my own two eyes! All right now!!!"

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Bears V. Tampa

Yo.

Last day of activity with the fam: Back to full-time blogging tomorrow.

But first -

A Journey That Ended in Anguish

A story of war, suicide and "defense contracting."

Don't know why, but the LA Times has run a bunch stories re: contractors, mercs and the privatized military in Iraq.

Maybe they're mad because they're not in on the action?
WASHINGTON — One hot, dusty day in June, Col. Ted Westhusing was found dead in a trailer at a military base near the Baghdad airport, a single gunshot wound to the head.

The Army would conclude that he committed suicide with his service pistol. At the time, he was the highest-ranking officer to die in Iraq.

The Army closed its case. But the questions surrounding Westhusing's death continue.

Westhusing, 44, was no ordinary officer. He was one of the Army's leading scholars of military ethics, a full professor at West Point who volunteered to serve in Iraq to be able to better teach his students.

He had a doctorate in philosophy; his dissertation was an extended meditation on the meaning of honor.

So it was only natural that Westhusing acted when he learned of possible corruption by U.S. contractors in Iraq.
That company was "Virginia-based USIS, which had contracts worth $79 million to train a corps of Iraqi police to conduct special operations."

More on USIS below.

Back to the beginning of the article.
A few weeks before he died, Westhusing received an anonymous complaint that a private security company he oversaw had cheated the U.S. government and committed human rights violations.

Westhusing confronted the contractor and reported the concerns to superiors, who launched an investigation.

In e-mails to his family, Westhusing seemed especially upset by one conclusion he had reached: that traditional military values such as duty, honor and country had been replaced by profit motives in Iraq, where the U.S. had come to rely heavily on contractors for jobs once done by the military.

His death stunned all who knew him. Colleagues and commanders wondered whether they had missed signs of depression. He had been losing weight and not sleeping well. But only a day before his death, Westhusing won praise from a senior officer for his progress in training Iraqi police.

His friends and family struggle with the idea that Westhusing could have killed himself. He was a loving father and husband and a devout Catholic. He was an extraordinary intellect and had mastered ancient Greek and Italian. He had less than a month before his return home. It seemed impossible that anything could crush the spirit of a man with such a powerful sense of right and wrong.

On the Internet and in conversations with one another, Westhusing's family and friends have questioned the military investigation.

A note found in his trailer seemed to offer clues. Written in what the Army determined was his handwriting, the colonel appeared to be struggling with a final question:

How is honor possible in a war like the one in Iraq?
Here's the quick info on USIS:
(In May), Westhusing received an anonymous four-page letter that contained detailed allegations of wrongdoing by USIS.

The writer accused USIS of deliberately shorting the government on the number of trainers to increase its profit margin.

More seriously, the writer detailed two incidents in which USIS contractors allegedly had witnessed or participated in the killing of Iraqis.

A USIS contractor accompanied Iraqi police trainees during the assault on Fallouja last November and later boasted about the number of insurgents he had killed, the letter says.

Private security contractors are not allowed to conduct offensive operations.
Um, do they know that?
In a second incident, the letter says, a USIS employee saw Iraqi police trainees kill two innocent Iraqi civilians, then covered it up. A USIS manager "did not want it reported because he thought it would put his contract at risk."

Westhusing reported the allegations to his superiors but told one of them, Gen. Joseph Fil, that he believed USIS was complying with the terms of its contract.

U.S. officials investigated and found "no contractual violations," an Army spokesman said. Bill Winter, a USIS spokesman, said the investigation "found these allegations to be unfounded."
Of course they did.

Please read the whole piece.

Again, more tomorrow...

Friday, November 25, 2005

More War!

Happy post-Thanksgiving Friday.

According to a former Canadian Minister of Defense, the Bushies are getting ready for another war.

"Againt the Iranians?"

No.

The Romulans.

Former Canadian Minister Of Defence Asks Canadian Parliament Asked To Hold Hearings On Relations With Alien "ET" Civilizations

Uh...
(PRWEB) - OTTAWA, CANADA (PRWEB) November 24, 2005 -- A former Canadian Minister of Defence and Deputy Prime Minister under Pierre Trudeau has joined forces with three Non-governmental organizations to ask the Parliament of Canada to hold public hearings on Exopolitics -- relations with “ETs.”

By “ETs,” Mr. Hellyer and these organizations mean ethical, advanced extraterrestrial civilizations that may now be visiting Earth.

On September 25, 2005, in a startling speech at the University of Toronto that caught the attention of mainstream newspapers and magazines, Paul Hellyer, Canada’s Defence Minister from 1963-67 under Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Prime Minister Lester Pearson, publicly stated:

"UFOs, are as real as the airplanes that fly over your head."
Tom & Katie know that.
Mr. Hellyer went on to say, "I'm so concerned about what the consequences might be of starting an intergalactic war, that I just think I had to say something."
I'm glad you did.

If we're having a tough time with the insurgents in Iraq, we're gonna have a fuck of a time with the Klingons.
Hellyer revealed, "The secrecy involved in all matters pertaining to the Roswell inident was unparalled.
Cool.
"The classification was, from the outset, above top secret, so the vast majority of U.S. officials and politicians, let alone a mere allied minister of defence, were never in-the-loop."

Hellyer warned, "The United States military are preparing weapons which could be used against the aliens, and they could get us into an intergalactic war without us ever having any warning."
Not cool.
He stated, "The Bush administration has finally agreed to let the military build a forward base on the moon, which will put them in a better position to keep track of the goings and comings of the visitors from space, and to shoot at them, if they so decide."

Hellyer’s speech ended with a standing ovation. He said, "The time has come to lift the veil of secrecy, and let the truth emerge, so there can be a real and informed debate, about one of the most important problems facing our planet today."
Memo to Messrs Rumsfeld & Cheney: Your "moon laser" is no match for the awesome power of the Death Star.

And this looks like a job for Superman.

More later...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

No snarky comments today.

FYI: A six Stella Artois is $12.99 at the Rock and Roll Ralph's.

Good times.

Peace out, motherf*ckers!

Brando

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Dense Reading Today

About to drive to LAX to pick up me brother.

But first - the latest cherry-picking story - from the National Journal:

Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel

Excerpts:
Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
We know this.

"This" is all the stuff that Richard clarke was screaming about...back in the day.

However...
The information was provided to Bush on September 21, 2001 during the "President's Daily Brief," a 30- to 45-minute early-morning national security briefing. Information for PDBs has routinely been derived from electronic intercepts, human agents, and reports from foreign intelligence services, as well as more mundane sources such as news reports and public statements by foreign leaders.
The Bushies are still keeping this PDB from the Senate Intelligence Committee.

They have admitted that the PDB exists, but won't turn it over.
One of the more intriguing things that Bush was told during the briefing was that the few credible reports of contacts between Iraq and Al Qaeda involved attempts by Saddam Hussein to monitor the terrorist group.

Saddam viewed Al Qaeda as well as other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

At one point, analysts believed, Saddam considered infiltrating the ranks of Al Qaeda with Iraqi nationals or even Iraqi intelligence operatives to learn more about its inner workings, according to records and sources.

The September 21, 2001, briefing was prepared at the request of the president, who was eager in the days following the terrorist attacks to learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda.
Yes: Our Kid was very eager to "learn all that he could about any possible connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda."

AS LONG AS THERE WAS ONE.

Here's a key passage from the "National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States" report.

The commission was chaired by Tom Kean and paid for with your tax dollar:
Clarke has written that on the evening of September 12, President Bush told him and some of his staff to explore possible Iraqi links to 9/11. "See if Sad-dam did this," Clarke recalls the President telling them. "See if he's linked in any way."

While he believed the details of Clarke's account to be incorrect, President Bush acknowledged that he might well have spoken to Clarke at some point, asking him about Iraq.
Cool.

Let's get some more info from Richard Clarke, via his interview in the Guardian, dated March 23, 2004 :
JB: Condoleezza Rice argued today that when President Bush was asking you to find evidence linking September 11 to Iraq, he was simply showing due diligence, asking you to explore the options.

RC: That's very funny.

There are two ways of asking. There's: 'check every possibility - don't assume its al-Qaida look at everybody'. That's due diligence. Then there's the: 'I want you to find every shred of evidence that it was Iraq and Saddam' - and said in a very emphatic and intimidating way, and the other people who were with me got the same impression as I did.

This was not due diligence. This was: 'come back with a memo that says it was an Iraqi attack'.

JB: And when you didn't find any evidence, the memo was bounced back?

RC: Yes.
Back to the original article (from the National Journal):
The highly classified CIA assessment was distributed to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the president's national security adviser and deputy national security adviser, the secretaries and undersecretaries of State and Defense, and various other senior Bush administration policy makers, according to government records.
Simply put, the highly classified assessment was sent to the Neo-Cons...and they threw it in the trash.

Back to Richard Clarke:
B: Do you think they came into office with (Iraq) as a plan?

RC: If you look at the so-called Vulcans group [Bush's pre-election foreign policy advisors] talked about publicly in seminars in Washington. They clearly wanted to go after Iraq and they clearly wanted to do this reshaping of the middle east and they used the tragedy of 9/11 as an excuse to test their theories.

*

JB: What do you think drove these people on Iraq?

RC: Some are ideologues - they have a superpower vision of us reshaping the Middle East. Changing the historical balance. Condi Rice has this phrase: 'We needed to change the middle east so terrorists would not fly aircrafts into buildings'.

*

JB: What was Cheney's role in all this.

RC: Quite enormous. Huge. Very quietly and behind the scenes he sat in all the national security meetings chaired by Condi Rice, and no vice president had done that before. He would listen and then give his thoughts. But he bought the compromise that it was al-Qaida first, Iraq second.

*

JB: Did the Pentagon and the Office of Special Plans play an important role in the processing of intelligence?

RC: Certainly.

The people in Rumsfeld's office and in Wolfowitz's operation cherry-picked intelligence to select the intelligence to support their views.

They never did the due diligence on the intelligence that professional intelligence analysts are trained to do. [The OSP] would go through the intelligence reports including the ones that the CIA was throwing out. They stitched it together they would send it out, send it over to Cheney. All the stuff that a professional would have thrown out.

As soon as 9/11 happened people like Rumsfeld saw it was opportunity. During that first week after September 11, the decision was made.

It was confirmed by president We should do Afghanistan first. But the resources necessary to do a good job in Afghanistan were withheld. There was not enough to go in fast, to go in enough to secure the country. Troops were held back. There were 11,000 troops in Afghanistan. There were fewer in whole country than police in the borough of Manhattan.
Final excerpt from Kean's commission.
On the afternoon of 9/11, according to contemporaneous notes, Secretary Rumsfeld instructed General Myers to obtain quickly as much information as possible. The notes indicate that he also told Myers that he was not simply interested in striking empty training sites.

(Rumsfeld) thought the U.S. response should consider a wide range of options and possibilities. The secretary said his instinct was to hit Saddam Hussein at the same time-not only Bin Ladin.

Secretary Rumsfeld later explained that at the time, he had been considering either one of them, or perhaps someone else, as the responsible party.
Keep tying it together, people.

National Journal:
"You can't distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror," President Bush said on September 25, 2002.

The next day, Rumsfeld said, "We have what we consider to be credible evidence that Al Qaeda leaders have sought contacts with Iraq who could help them acquire … weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities."


Keep tying it together.

More later...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Surprise, surprise

Yo.

Blair talked Bush out of bombing al-Jazeera: report

Which means that Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera, the "CNN of the Arab World":
LONDON (AFP) - US President George W. Bush planned to bomb pan-Arab television broadcaster al-Jazeera, British newspaper the Daily Mirror said, citing a Downing Street memo marked "Top Secret".

The five-page transcript of a conversation between Bush and British Prime Minister
Tony Blair reveals that Blair talked Bush out of launching a military strike on the station, unnamed sources told the daily which is against the war in
Iraq.

The transcript of the pair's talks during Blair's April 16, 2004 visit to Washington allegedly shows Bush wanted to attack the satellite channel's headquarters.

Blair allegedly feared such a strike, in the business district of Doha, the capital of Qatar, a key western ally in the Persian Gulf, would spark revenge attacks.
Qatar is Qatar: It's not Iraq, it's not Afghanistan, and it's not Iran.

It's an ally.
The Mirror quoted an unnamed British government official as saying Bush's threat was "humorous, not serious".
Right: Bush was just being "folksy."

Frat-boys reveal their true feelings when they try to be funny.
Al-Jazeera's perspectives on the war in Iraq have drawn criticism from Washington since the US-led March 2003 invasion.

The station has broadcast messages from Al-Qaeda terror network chief
Osama bin Laden and the beheadings of Western hostages by insurgents in Iraq, as well as footage of dead coalition servicemen and Iraqi civilians killed in fighting.

A source told the Mirror: "The memo is explosive and hugely damaging to Bush.

"He made clear he wanted to bomb al-Jazeera in Qatar and elsewhere. Blair replied that would cause a big problem.

"There's no doubt what Bush wanted to do -- and no doubt Blair didn't want him to do it."
"Gotta do it, Landslide."

"Mr. President, with all due respect -- "

"Gotta hit Al-Jazeera before they hit us -- "

"Sir, they are not -- "

"Tonester, you're either with me -- "

"Mr. President -- "

"Or against me."

"I don't think that you -- "

"Pass me those pretzels, would ya?"
Another source said: "Bush was deadly serious, as was Blair. That much is absolutely clear from the language used by both men."

A spokesman for Blair's Downing Street office said: "We have got nothing to say about this story. We don't comment on leaked documents."

The Mirror said the memo turned up in the office of then British lawmaker Tony Clarke, a member of Blair's Labour Party, in May 2004.

Civil servant David Keogh, 49, is accused under the Official Secrets Act of handing it to Clarke's former researcher Leo O'Connor, 42. Both are bailed to appear at Bow Street Magistrates Court in central London next week.

Clarke returned the memo to Downing Street. He said O'Connor had behaved "pefectly correctly".

He told Britain's domestic Press Association news agency that O'Connor had done "exactly the right thing" in bringing it to his attention.

The Mirror said such a strike would have been "the most spectacular foreign policy disaster since the Iraq war itself."

The newspaper said that the memo "casts fresh doubt on claims that other attacks on al-Jazeera were accidents". It cited the 2001 direct hit on the channel's Kabul office.
No, seriously, that was a total accident.
Blair's former defence minister Peter Kilfoyle challenged Downing Street to publish the transcript.

"I hope the prime minister insists this memo be published," he told the Mirror.

"It gives an insight into the mindset of those whe were architects of the war."
The Yahoo Message Board posts attached to this story are definitely "pro-bombing."

"Consarebetter" wants to bomb "CNN, NY Times, LA Times," and writes "KILL ALL LIBERAL RAGS."

Typical.

More later...

Monday, November 21, 2005

A Boy Can Dream

Yo.

Scanlon, Abramoff `Backroom Guy,' Points Probers at DeLay, Ney

A boy can dream, can't he?
Nov. 21 (Bloomberg) -- For more than a year, Michael Scanlon has been a shadowy presence behind former partner Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist at the center of a corruption probe. Now, Scanlon may help prosecutors raise the investigation to a higher level.

Scanlon, a former aide to Representative Tom DeLay, is scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court to present a plea bargain with the Justice Department likely to lead to his cooperation with investigators. His testimony would ratchet up the pressure on Abramoff and aid prosecutors in widening the investigation to members of Congress, such as Republicans DeLay and Representative Robert Ney of Ohio.
I truly believe that "somebody" has decided that it's time for DeLay to go.

Somebody bigger than all of us:
Scanlon, 35, is the second person to face criminal charges in connection with the Justice Department-led probe of the 46- year-old Abramoff. In October, a federal grand jury indicted the White House's former chief procurement officer, David Safavian, once an Abramoff associate, for obstruction and making false statements.

"Now you have two people instead of one,'' said Stan Brand, a former counsel to the House of Representatives when it was controlled by the Democrats. "What you're building is a ladder. You have Abramoff at the intermediate step, elected officials above him, and Scanlon and Safavian underneath.''

Beyond the potential legal concerns, Scanlon's cooperation with authorities may spell political jeopardy for Republicans leading into next year's elections, especially if he helps draw other lawmakers into the investigation. "He knows where all the bodies are buried,'' said a congressional aide who worked with Scanlon.

`Representative #1'

The Justice Department on Nov. 18 charged Scanlon with conspiring with "Lobbyist A'' -- identified by a person close to the investigation as Abramoff -- to defraud Indian-tribe clients and corrupt federal officials. Those officials included a lawmaker identified only as "Representative #1.''

Ney, chairman of the House Committee on Administration, who took an Abramoff-sponsored trip to Scotland in 2002, said earlier this month that prosecutors had subpoenaed records. A spokesman for Ney, 51, said the lawmaker hasn't been told he's a target.

Scanlon's lawyer, Stephen Braga, said his client agreed to the plea bargain to "resolve the charge,'' declining further comment.

As investigators get closer to Abramoff, they may also get closer to DeLay, said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, an Austin-based group that has called for a special prosecutor to investigate DeLay.

`Dirt on DeLay'

"It's likely that Abramoff has lots of dirt on Tom DeLay,'' McDonald said. "The further Abramoff sinks into trouble, the more likely he is to start pitching that dirt.''

DeLay, 58, who once called the lobbyist "one of my closest friends'' and went on an Abramoff-sponsored trip to Scotland in 2000, stepped down as House majority leader after being indicted in September in an unrelated campaign-finance case in Texas.

Other Republican lawmakers may find themselves under scrutiny as well. Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican, helped win a $3 million government award for the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan to build a school, the Washington Post reported earlier this year.

The Interior Department ruled the tribe was ineligible because its Soaring Eagle casino makes it one of the richest, the Post reported.

The tribe, an Abramoff client, donated $32,000 to Burns from 2001 to 2003.
Real players...play Barona.

More later.

Bush is still in Asia - not sure where McClellan is...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Another Curveball

The headline from the LA Times:

How U.S. Fell Under the Spell of 'Curveball'

We covered "Curveball" back in April (with help from the UK's Guardian, of course): Glad to see the MSM is finally catching up.

The LA Times:
BERLIN — The German intelligence officials responsible for one of the most important informants on Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction say that the Bush administration and the CIA repeatedly exaggerated his claims during the run-up to the war in Iraq.

Five senior officials from Germany's Federal Intelligence Service, or BND, said in interviews with The Times that they warned U.S. intelligence authorities that the source, an Iraqi defector code-named Curveball, never claimed to produce germ weapons and never saw anyone else do so.

According to the Germans, President Bush mischaracterized Curveball's information when he warned before the war that Iraq had at least seven mobile factories brewing biological poisons.

Then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell also misstated Curveball's accounts in his prewar presentation to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003, the Germans said.

Curveball's German handlers for the last six years said his information was often vague, mostly secondhand and impossible to confirm.

"This was not substantial evidence," said a senior German intelligence official. "We made clear we could not verify the things he said."

The German authorities, speaking about the case for the first time, also said that their informant suffered from emotional and mental problems.

"He is not a stable, psychologically stable guy," said a BND official who supervised the case.

"He is not a completely normal person," agreed a BND analyst.
No, but he's got a cool nickname.

Once again, we set the Brandoland Time Machine to April 01, 2005.

* * *

Here's the latest from the Guardian UK:

"US intelligence on Iraq chaotic and incompetent, says Bush commission"

Actually, the headline shoud read, "US bases its entire rush to war on info from a crazy guy":
A presidential commission investigating the intelligence debacle that preceded the Iraq invasion reported yesterday that the damage done to US credibility would "take years to undo."
Fine - great - dry set up - we've heard that charge before.

Get ready: It's time to take another drive through Crazytown.
The incompetence described in the report occasionally descends into farce, particularly over an Iraqi defector codenamed CURVEBALL, whose FABRICATED TALES about MOBILE biological LABORATORIES and their influence on US decision-makers were reminiscent of Graham Greene's accidental spy in Our Man in Havana. Despite warnings that he was "CRAZY", "a waste of time", and that he had not even been in Iraq at the time of an event he supposedly saw, his claims became the subject of almost 100 Defence Intelligence Agency reports and a focus of the National Intelligence Estimate in October 2002.
"What's the guy's name again?"

"Curveball, sir."

"Why? He throw a mean one? Heh heh."

"Don't know, sir."

"Nolan Ryan. He threw a mean curveball. But...he was all about the fastball. (Pause) Colin ready to talk to the UN people?"

"He is, sir."
Most critically, Curveball's description of MOBILE LABORATORIES provided one of the highlights of COLIN POWELL'S ADDRESS to the UN security council on February 5 2003, in which the then US secretary of state laid out the JUSTIFICATION for the INVASION.

Curveball's story has already been told in part, but yesterday's account is the most comprehensive. He was an IRAQI CHEMICAL ENGINEER who was first debriefed in 2000 by a foreign liaison service - not named in yesterday's report but elsewhere reported as being German intelligence.

Before the war, the Germans refused to let US interrogators question Curveball directly, saying that he "would refuse to speak to Americans"; they just passed on his claims, according to the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Warning signs emerged in MAY 2000 when a military intelligence officer was allowed to visit Curveball.
Wait. May 2000? May 2000?!

"That's a long time before the War on Terror."

Yep.
He reported: "I do have a concern with the validity of the information, based on Curveball having a terrible HANGOVER the morning of [the meeting]."
"I will not talk to the Americans until somebody brings me a bottle of Chivas!"
The warning fell on deaf ears, but by autumn 2002 the CIA was growing increasingly nervous, knowing it had not met an important source. So a meeting was arranged between the local CIA division chief and German intelligence officers.

When the division chief asked whether US agents could question the defector, "the foreign intelligence service responded with words to the effect of 'You don't want to see him because he's CRAZY' - furthermore, the [German] representative said that he worried that Curveball was 'a FABRICATOR'."

The division chief passed on this alarming news to his superiors, but George Tenet, then CIA chief, and his deputy, John McLaughlin, both denied having been told of it.
Good move.
Curveball is reportely related to a senior member of the Iraqi national congress (INC), then an exile group. However, the commission found that the INC had not brought him forward.
Gee. I wonder who Curveball is related to?

"Any chance it's that Chalabi guy?"

YA THINK?
THE REPORT is another nail in the coffin of Mr Tenet's reputation and CLEARS THE WHITE HOUSE AND PENTAGON of trying to shape intelligence to justify war.
You're kidding.
It concludes: "The commission found NO EVIDENCE OF POLITICAL PRESSURE to influence the intelligence community's prewar assessments of Iraq's weapons programmes."
No evidence of political pressure. Right. Glad that's been cleared up. I was beginning to think that the Bushies were gettin' good at putting political pressure on their peeps.
It warns only of the dangers of intelligence leaders becoming too close to the president and risking the loss of objectivity. In other words, the commission found that Mr Tenet had been TOO EAGER TO PLEASE.
Wow.

I hope Mr. Tenet walked away from the Bushies with some steak knives. ("Always be closing!")

Read between the lines: The Bushies wanted to go to war with Iraq...long before 9/11. They just needed a good EXCUSE, and didn't care where they found "it."

PART OF THAT EXCUSE CAME FROM A DRUNK CRAZY GUY.

Grrrrr.

"This info is from a drunk crazy guy?"

"Years of...torture...under Saddam...turned him to the bottle, sir."

"I hear that. Hey, what's his poison? Let's send him something, you know, for his efforts."

"Right away, sir."

LAST THING - Curveball? Come on, people. You've got to come up with some better nicknames.

* * *

Enough. A lot of bad comedy, but you get the picture.

(Memo to self: Reading old blog pages much like reading old diary passages. Don't do it.)

Finally...

Pentagon Probes Office Headed by Feith

This is huge - and another sign that the career military types are going after the Neo-Cons.
WASHINGTON - The
Pentagon's inspector general said Friday it has begun an investigation into allegations that an office run by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's former policy chief, Douglas J. Feith, engaged in illegal or inappropriate intelligence activities before the
Iraq war.

The probe, which two senators requested two months ago, comes at a contentious point in the political debate over President Bush's decision to invade Iraq and the intelligence upon which Bush based his decision.

*

In a letter Wednesday to Feith's successor, Eric Edelman, and to Rumsfeld's intelligence chief, Stephen Cambone, the inspector general's office asked for points of contact for the investigation no later than Dec. 1.

"The overall objective will be to determine whether personnel assigned to the Office of Special Plans from September 2002 through June 2003 conducted unauthorized, unlawful or inappropriate intelligence activities," the letter said. A copy was released by the Pentagon late Friday afternoon.

*

A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said the small office that Feith set up prior to the start of the Iraq war to evaluate intelligence on Iraq — the Office of Special Plans — has been the central focus of numerous inquiries by members of Congress and others who question whether it performed improper intelligence functions.
Could Rumsfeld be next? The OSP was his baby.

This all ties together, people: Curveball, Niger, WMD's, the OSP, the White House Iraq Group, and the Neo-Cons.

It's all about fixing intelligence to fit the policy.

More later...

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saturday, Nov. 19

Yo.

Still feelin' funny: Thought I'd take this opportunity to re-post a story from 11/19/2004 - to see how far we've come.

But first...

The big freaking Republican babies in the House are on the attack:

GOP Lawmakers Float Ethics Probe of Murtha

This move is far more disgusting than yesterday's fake resolution vote:
Republican lawmakers say that ties between Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and his brother’s lobbying firm, KSA Consulting, may warrant investigation by the House ethics committee.
If that's the case, let's investigate the lot of you fuckers.

Unbelievable.

Murtha makes 'em look bad and....Jesus.

Remember: On Thursday, Murtha said that "people with five deferments" had no right to attack war critics. A clear reference to Cheney.

DICK couldn't have been happy about that.

"I'm not."

"Yes, sir."

"You know what to do."

"We're on it."

I can't deal with this.

Let's go back to 11/19/2004.

* * *

Good morning.

Billy Graham at the Rose Bowl last night? Out of fucking control.

War Pigs, Into the Void, Children of the Grave...

Spit on the crowd, jumped around, bit the head off a dove.

It was crazy.

BTW - the headline on Drudge this morn?

"Iran in Nuke Race."

Planting the seeds...for a March 2006 blitzkrieg. (How much does he get for that?)

Man.

Deja Vu?

Hell yeah.

"Hey, anyone else talkin' Iran today?"

You bet! The headline from the New York Times:

"Bush Confronts New Challenge on Issue of Iran"

Wahoo! Some excerpts from the article by Steven Weisman:
SANTIAGO, Chile, Nov. 18 - While assembling a new national security team, President Bush is confronting what could become the biggest challenge of his second term: how to contain Iran's nuclear program and what some in the administration believe to be Tehran's support of violence in Israel and insurgents in Iraq.

In an eerie repetition of the prelude to the Iraq war, hawks in the administration and Congress are trumpeting ominous disclosures about Iran's nuclear capacities to make the case that Iran is a threat that must be confronted, either by economic sanctions, military action, or "regime change."

But Britain, France and Germany are urging diplomacy, placing their hopes in a deal they brokered last week in which Iran agreed to suspend its uranium enrichment program in return for discussions about future economic benefits.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell thrust himself into the debate on Wednesday by commenting to reporters that fresh intelligence showed that Iran was "actively working" on a program to enable its missiles to carry nuclear bombs, a development he said "should be of concern to all parties."

The disclosures alluded to by Mr. Powell were seen by hard-liners in the administration as another sign of Iranian perfidy, and by Europeans as little new.
Uh...

Okay.

I think I just discovered the secret of time travel.

You just...repeat...something...something you had fun doing...and you make everyone else...everyone you know...do the same.

Voila; repeat experience...repeat fun...time travel.

My god.

Here's today's crucial article.

More later...

* * *
And more on 11/20/2005.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Sick Again

Faithful reader,

A bit sick - can't think - check back tomorrow - in the a.m. - gotta rest up for my rock show on Sunday.

Peace out...

Brando

Thursday, November 17, 2005

When You Really Wanna Go...

Go Primm, Nevada.

Lawmakers Acted on Heels of Abramoff Gifts

"At least 33 lawmakers wrote letters to Norton and got more than $830,000 in Abramoff-related donations as the lobbying unfolded between 2001 and 2004, AP found."

A bunch of people - Reps and Dems.

Mostly Reps, though. Had to point that out.

Wait. The donations were made between 2001 and 2004? That's when we were solely focused on the "war on terror," right?

Sure:
WASHINGTON - Nearly three dozen members of Congress, including leaders from both parties, pressed the government to block a Louisiana Indian tribe from opening a casino while the lawmakers collected large donations from rival tribes and their lobbyist, Jack Abramoff.

Many intervened with letters to Interior Secretary Gale Norton within days of receiving money from tribes represented by Abramoff or using the lobbyist's restaurant for fundraising, an Associated Press review of campaign records, IRS records and congressional correspondence found.

Lawmakers said their intervention had nothing to do with Abramoff, and the timing of donations was a coincidence.
Rrriiiggghhhttt.
They said they wrote letters because they opposed the expansion of tribal gaming — even though they continued to accept donations from casino-operating tribes.

Many lived far from Louisiana and had no constituent interest in the casino dispute.
Constituent interest.

Ha!
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, held a fundraiser at Abramoff's Signatures restaurant in Washington on June 3, 2003, that collected at least $21,500 for his Keep Our Majority political action committee from the lobbyist's firm and tribal clients.

Seven days later, Hastert wrote Norton urging her to reject the Jena tribe of Choctaw Indians' request for a new casino. Hastert's three top House deputies also signed the letter.

Approving the Jena application or others like it would "run counter to congressional intent," Hastert's June 10, 2003, letter warned Norton.

It was exactly what Abramoff's tribal clients wanted. The tribes, including the Louisiana Coushattas and Mississippi Choctaw, were trying to block the Jena's gambling hall for fear it would undercut business at their own casinos.
Here's the tally of Abramoff & Tribal contributions to our friends in Washington.

Repubs:

Denny Hastert, R-The creepiest suburbs outside of Chicago - $100,000

Thad Cochran, R-Miss - $77,000

The Hammer, R-Hell - $57,000

Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa - $62,200

T. Lott - $65,000

Pete Sessions, R-TX - $5,000

J. Doolittle, R-CA - $33,000

Roy "I'm taking over for The Hammer" Blount, R-Miss - $3,000

Vitter, R-LA - $6,000

And Dems:

Reid, D-NV - $66,000

Mary Landrieu, D-LA - $24,000

J. Breaux, D-LA - $11,000

QUESTION: What's the best Indian Casino in the US?

Your comments, please.

More later...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Big Daddy, Big Oil

Well...

By now, you should know that --

Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force

Gee. You're kidding:
A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.

The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
Like drilling in ANWR.
In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips their firms saiddid not participate in the 2001 task force.

The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.

Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force.
"We'd like to get the price of gas up to three bucks in Southern California."

"By the summer of '05, definitely."

"Done and done."

(Still $2.77 at the Mobil on Silverlake and the 101.)
The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records.
Wikipedia: "The organisations Judicial Watch and Sierra Club launched a law suit (U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia: Judicial Watch Inc. v. Department of Energy, et al., Civil Action No. 01-0981) under the FOIA to gain access to the task force's materials."

However, if you go here, you'll see that Judicial Watch obtained some documents (from the Commerce Dept.) used during the task force.

MAPS OF THE IRAQI OIL FIELDS.

And the task force met in...?

The spring of '01.

Before 9/11.

Think, think, think.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who posed the question about the task force, said he will ask the Justice Department today to investigate.

*

Toward the end of (last week's) hearing, Lautenberg asked the five executives: "Did your company or any representatives of your companies participate in Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001?"

When there was no response, Lautenberg added: "The meeting . . . "

"No," said Raymond.

"No," said Chevron Chairman David J. O'Reilly.

"We did not, no," Mulva said.

"To be honest, I don't know," said BP America chief executive Ross Pillari, who came to the job in August 2001. "I wasn't here then."

"But your company was here," Lautenberg replied.

"Yes," Pillari said.

Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who has held his job since earlier this year, answered last. "Not to my knowledge," he said.
As you might imagine, those execs were not under oath.

Pure comedy.

Now, back to the point that "environmentalists" (read "liberals") have long "suspected" that Cheney consulted with big oil and energy.

Of course they knew!

A simple Google search (Cheney, energy task force, 2001) will take you everywhere you need to go.

Like here: Cheney won't turn over energy task force records

From July, 2001:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney refused a General Accounting Office demand for records of the task force that laid the groundwork for President Bush's national energy policy, his spokeswoman said Thursday.

"We are acting 100 percent within the law, and the GAO does not have the authority to make this request," said Cheney spokeswoman Juleanna Glover-Weiss.

*

GAO officials want to know the names of people who met with the task force during nine different meetings; the names of the six professional staff assigned to the vice president's office; information about staff meetings with outside individuals consulted on the energy policy.

The agency also wants records of Cheney's meetings with outside individuals about the energy policy and all records on the cost of developing the national energy policy.
"Outside individuals" is a nice way of saying "oil execs."

And Ken Lay:
Waxman and Dingell want to know whether the task force met with major Bush campaign contributors. One Bush friend and large contributor -- Enron CEO Kenneth Lay -- was among those the task force consulted.

Waxman and Dingell allege other major GOP contributors were consulted.
And now we know that "they" were.

Also: Company With Ties To VP Cheney's Energy Task Force Faces Criminal Indictment For Gaming California Electricity Market

From Common Dreams, 5/22/04:
Three years ago, while California’s energy crisis was spiraling out of control, Vice President Dick Cheney secretly met with half-dozen corporate executives of the country’s largest energy companies to hammer out a national energy policy for President George W. Bush.

Cheney appeared on a number of news programs in May 2001 to promote his new energy policy, which turned out to be a boon for the energy industries, but abandoned consumers and environmental groups.

Naturally, during some of those interviews, Cheney was asked whether a handful of the energy companies that sold electricity in California and stood to benefit financially from the new policy were behaving like a “cartel” and manipulating prices in the state’s deregulated electricity market.

“No,” Cheney said in a May 17, 2001 interview with PBS‘ “Frontline;” a day after the final energy policy report was released. "The problem you had in California was caused by a combination of things--an unwise regulatory scheme, because they didn't really deregulate. Now they're trapped from unwise regulatory schemes, plus not having addressed the supply side of the issue. They've obviously created major problems for themselves...”
This was the stage that was set for the Terminator.
Later this month, the United States Attorney’s office in the Northern District of California is expected to issue its first criminal indictment against an energy company for manipulating wholesale energy prices in California that could boost the state‘s claims that it‘s owed billions in refunds for overcharges. The company at the center of the probe is Houston-based Reliant Resources, Inc.

Reliant said in a news release March 8 that it was notified by the US Attorney’s office about the pending indictment, which stems from allegations that the company deliberately shut down its power plants in California for a few days in June 2000, creating an artificial shortage and causing wholesale prices to skyrocket.
Hmm.

This leads us to...

Greg Palast, 10/03/03:
It's not what Arnold Schwarzenegger did to the girls a decade back that should raise an eyebrow. According to a series of memoranda our office obtained today, it's his dalliance with the boys in a hotel room just two years ago that's the real scandal.

The wannabe governor has yet to deny that on May 17, 2001, at the Peninsula Hotel in Los Angeles, he had consensual political intercourse with Enron chieftain Kenneth Lay.
Ken Lay.

Wonder what they talked about?

Hey now.
The biggest single threat to Ken Lay and the electricity lords is a private lawsuit filed last year under California's unique Civil Code provision 17200, the "Unfair Business Practices Act."

This litigation, heading to trial now in Los Angeles, would make the power companies return the $9 billion they filched from California electricity and gas customers.

It takes real cojones to bring such a suit. Who's the plaintiff taking on the bad guys? Cruz Bustamante, Lieutenant Governor and reluctant leading candidate against Schwarzenegger.

*

Once Arnold is Governor, he blesses the sweetheart settlements with the power companies. When that happens, Bustamante's court cases are probably lost. There aren't many judges who will let a case go to trial to protect a state if that a governor has already allowed the matter to be "settled" by a regulatory agency.

So think about this. The state of California is in the hole by $8 billion for the coming year.
Needless to say, Arnie became the governator.

My head hurts.

I'm in serious tin-foil hat territory.

More later...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Chalabiland

(Pass this blog off to one new person today. Thanks in advance.)

So...

Arianna Huffington got some face time with Ahmed Chalabi, the "George Washington of Iraq," at a chi-chi restaurant in Manhattan.

I'll ask this question again: If Chalabi's got time to eat at Megu, why isn't he sitting before the Senate Committee on Intelligence?

(Megu review from the New York Magazine: "At the city’s latest high-end Asian eatery, the menu is baffling, the portions are small, the prices are astronomical, and the result is fantastic.")

Here are the key bits from Arianna's blog, minus her snarky comments and references to her pal John Cusack:
I arrived at Megu at 11:30 and was led past a phalanx of American security guards (provided, I was told, by the U.S. State Department), to a small, private room where Chalabi, his daughter Tamara (a Harvard PhD who lives in Baghdad and works closely with her father), and a half-dozen members of his entourage were seated.

*

Everything about him suggested a man in full: smart, articulate, and, above all, totally present.

*

But he is also a study in contradiction, at one moment talking like the only power broker who could bring Shiites, Kurds, and Sunnis -- even former Baathists -- together, and then at the next moment coming across as a virtuoso victim, complaining that the CIA is trying to make him a scapegoat for all the prewar intelligence failures.

"They even tried to stick Curveball on me," he told me, reflecting on his long and bitter history with the agency.
For more info on "Curveball," check out this recent Brandoland post.

Back to dinner:
On the political front, Chalabi kept returning to his life's goal: to overthrow Saddam. Not because of WMD, he told me, but because of human rights abuses (he gave me a long exposition on Saddam's mass graves).

But I had spent some time researching Chalabi for the posts I wrote last week about his trip to Washington -- so what he had actually said in the lead up to the war was still fresh in my mind.

"Saddam is a major threat," he had said in July 2002. "You have the choice of using military force to liberate Iraq or of having your own civilians killed in the thousands."

Chalabi may want to rewrite history, but there is no question that he used the WMD threat again and again as a means to his end. And there is no question that Chalabi will now, and in the future, use all means at his disposal to achieve his ends.

*

Chalabi definitely wants American troops to stay in Iraq -- even though he had a lot of horror stories about the way the U.S. military is operating "with total immunity and impunity."

"American soldiers," he said, "are breaking into people's homes and are arresting and detaining Iraqi citizens without charges.

Even if they run over an Iraqi and kill him they will not be charged with a crime, because they are above Iraqi law."
Wow.
He's convinced that the administration, for political reasons, is looking for a way out of Iraq.

And he wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

But his other objective, which he told me he was planning to discuss with both Rumsfeld and Cheney, is to change the way U.S. troops are operating in Iraq.

"America," he said, "has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs how U.S. forces operate inside a sovereign nation, with over 100 countries.

But the Bush administration refuses to have one with Iraq -- and, as a result, the U.S. Army is operating outside the law.

Rumsfeld feels that a SOFA will tie the hands of the U.S. military and not allow it to fight the insurgency. Of course, the lack of such an agreement has the opposite effect since it causes great resentment towards the U.S. among the Iraqi people."

Another thing made clear through the night was how much Chalabi hates Paul Bremer and what the Coalition Provision Authority did in Iraq.
For more on that subject, please read Naomi Klein's brilliant article, Baghdad Year Zero.
So much so that he's willing to praise Henry Waxman, who has criticized him harshly, but who, according to Chalabi, has done the most thorough work on what he regards as "the tragic waste and abuse of billions of dollars that belonged to the Iraqi people."
Chalabi praised Henry Waxman?!

That's like Tony Soprano praising the FBI agents who've been trying to send him to prison.
"The administration wants to cover this (waste and abuse) up," he told me. "Let's hope Waxman won't let them."
More shameless self-promotion: Here's another old Brandoland post on the waste and abuse of US cash money in Iraq.

The post includes some info on Dale Stoffel, the American "Defense Contractor" who was gunned down in Iraq AFTER he complained to US & Iraqi offcials about the 27 MILLION BUCKS the Iraqis owed him for "services rendered."

(Quickly: Stoffel knew that "something was wrong" with the way that $ was being dished out in Iraq, and even wrote in an e-mail to US military officials that "news of it will be on the front page under the photos of President Bush, Rumsfeld, me...Jobs will be lost and congressional hearings will be held.")

Final bits from Megu:
(Chalabi) wanted me to know that his meetings were not just with Republicans, but included Sen. Carl Levin, Rep. Tom Lantos, and Dick Holbrooke.

"Ultimately," he said, "we have no friendships -- only interests."
Wow.

Wow.

Understanding Power, 101: There are no friendships - only interests.

Gives us new insight into Chalabi's dealings with Iran, doesn't it?

No evidence Iran supporting Iraqi insurgents: Chalabi

Huh?
In an interview with CNN, Chalabi said that the current insurgency is based in western Iraq while Iran is the country’s eastern neighbor.

The Iraqi National Congress leader also stressed the need to strengthen the friendly trend in Tehran-Baghdad ties.
Dude plays all sides, doesn't he?
(Chalabi) also dismissed accusations he had transferred secret information from the U.S. to Iran.

“I officially reject the accusations,” Chalabi asserted. Referring to his recent trip to Iran, he noted, “I lobbied with them (Iranians) on Iran-Iraq ties and told them that democratic elections would soon be held in Iraq and that we seek transparent relations with Iran as much as we seek good and strategic ties with the United States.”
Hey, speaking of those strategic ties --

Rumsfeld Meets With Iraq's Chalabi

But not at Megu.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld discussed Iraqi security and political developments on Monday with Ahmad Chalabi, the former Iraqi exile tainted by the since-discredited claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

*

Pentagon officials did not allow TV or photo coverage of Chalabi's arrival at the Pentagon, and there was no coverage of the talks.
Spineless bastards all.
Chalabi met later with Vice President Dick Cheney, and he also had talks with Robert Zoellick, the deputy secretary of state.

Last week he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser.

In the 45-minute Rumsfeld meeting, Chalabi stressed the importance of improving the intelligence-gathering capabilities of the U.S.-led military coalition to enhance the Iraqi security forces' ability to disrupt and ultimately defeat the insurgents, a Pentagon official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

*

Chalabi is a now a deputy prime minister of Iraq and is considered a likely candidate to be the next prime minister.
That's why the Bushies are still playing ball with Chalabi.

Even though...
Last year, U.S. forces raided Chalabi's Baghdad office after he was accused of giving U.S. intelligence information to Iran.

He is still under investigation regarding those allegations.
Remember, there are no friendships.

Only interests.

"Always be closing!"

More later...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Hi, I'm Jimmy Carter

Simple post today: Excerpts from Jimmy Carter's stunning op-ed piece, "This isn't the real America."

It's a must read:
IN RECENT YEARS, I have become increasingly concerned by a host of RADICAL government policies that now threaten many basic principles espoused by all previous administrations, Democratic and Republican.

These include the rudimentary American commitment to peace, economic and social justice, civil liberties, our environment and human rights.

Also endangered are our historic commitments to providing citizens with TRUTHFUL INFORMATION, treating dissenting voices and beliefs with respect, state and local autonomy and fiscal responsibility.

At the same time, our political leaders have declared independence from the restraints of international organizations and have disavowed long-standing global agreements — including agreements on nuclear arms, control of biological weapons and the international system of justice.

Instead of our tradition of espousing peace as a national priority unless our security is directly threatened, we have proclaimed a policy of "preemptive war," an unabridged right to attack other nations unilaterally to change an unsavory regime or for other purposes.

When there are serious differences with other nations, we brand them as international pariahs and refuse to permit direct discussions to resolve disputes.

Regardless of the costs, there are determined efforts by TOP U.S. LEADERS to exert American imperial dominance throughout the world.
This is huge.

Protocol has been thrown out the window, yo: "Former" presidents are not supposed to criticize the White House.

Love it.
I am extremely concerned by a fundamentalist shift in many houses of worship and in government, as church and state have become increasingly intertwined in ways previously thought unimaginable.
And Jimmy is a very religious & spiritual man.
As the world's only superpower, America should be seen as the unswerving champion of peace, freedom and human rights.

Our country should be the focal point around which other nations can gather to combat threats to international security and to enhance the quality of our common environment. We should be in the forefront of providing human assistance to people in need.

It is time for the deep and disturbing political divisions within our country to be substantially healed, with Americans united in a common commitment to revive and nourish the historic political and moral values that we have espoused during the last 230 years.
Sounds good to me.

Read the whole piece.

More later...

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saturday's Round-Up

Hi-lites from the week, yo.

1. Utah judge with 3 wives fights for job

Fans of WARREN JEFFS will love this story:
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP) -- A judge will ask the state Supreme Court on Wednesday to let him stay on the bench after a commission that oversees judges ordered him dismissed because he has three wives.

Those pursuing the case against Judge Walter Steed say his plural marriage creates a conflict: After taking an oath to uphold the law, he shouldn't be breaking it.
But there's just one thing: Steed is FLDS - a Mormon Fundamentalist.

In his mind, he's not breaking the law.

"God's law," that is.
Steed has served for 25 years in the southern border town of HILDALE, handing down rulings in drunken driving and domestic violence cases.
This piece from the AP fails to follow up on this key bit of info.

Steed lives and works in Hildale/Colorado City - the largest polygamist colony in the United States - a community ruled by Warren Jeffs.

10,000 Mormon fundamentalists...living under the watchful eye of "Uncle Warren."

Odds that Steed is NOT a member of this community?

"Not good."

Jon Krakauer covers Hildale - and "Uncle Warren" - in "Under the Banner of Heaven." (A great read, people.)

Here's a simple Wikipedia page on Jeffs. You can "Google" him, too.

BTW, his middle name...is Steed.

Like Judge Steed.

"Creekers" (as in Short Creek) have a short list of family names to pull from.
Plural marriage was an original tenet of the mainline Mormon church, but the faith abandoned the practice as a condition of statehood in 1890.

About 30,000 polygamists, who split from the main church into various fundamentalist sects more than 100 years ago, are believed to be living in Utah.
Like I said: Most of 'em are living in Hildale.

*

2. This is a good time to bust out the BRANDOLAND TIME MACHINE.

Set the controls to "March 16, 2003."

Destination? "Meet the Press."

Subject? "Dick Cheney."
We know (Hussein) is out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization.
Got it.

*

Plan ahead, people:

3. Iraq plans hotel and theme parks for a tourism boom

Boom as in "an increase in business."

Not a "massive explosion in the Green Zone."
A £48m, five-star, 23-storey hotel rising in the city centre; an opulent palace complex being turned into a THEME PARK --
Six Flags Over Fallouja?
Cheap flights to the picturesque "Venice of the east" - all the trappings of a country gearing up for a tourist boom.

Except the country in question is IRAQ. With a new constitution and elections in the offing, officials insist there is a new beginning. The tourist board has 2,400 staff and 14 offices.

There has been a rise in the volume of TRAVELLERS, with Iraqis either leaving or expatriates returning for visits.
"Travellers?"

That's a nice way of saying "foreign born mercs looking for work."
And there is also the continuous and steady number of foreigners, mainly CONTRACTORS, coming in for the huge wages they can now command for working in such a risky environment.

The planned HOTEL is very much at an embryonic stage.















The land - in the heavily guarded GREEN ZONE - has been donated by the Iraqi government, and the finance is being provided by an Iraqi businessman.

Thair Feeley, of the Iraqi Commission for Investment, insists everything is in place.

"It is not true that it will be a five-star hotel," he says with a flourish, "but a seven and half stars one".
A seven and a half stars hotel?!

Don't think Vegas has a "seven and a half stars" hotel.

"Sam's Town."

Right.

"The Silverton."

Okay.

"Palace Station."

Fine.

Hey, if you don't wanna vacation in Iraq...
















There's always "Havasu!"

"Wooo!!!"

"Shot time!"

"Take it off!"

"What school do you go to?!"

"Bro-ham!!!"

(Vomit.)
The building will have to be built to withstand mortar and rocket attack, just as the one major existing hotel in the Green Zone, Al Rashid, was built to do.

Despite the carnage outside and its shabby appearance, the Rashid can still charge $150 (£86) a night.

*

BASRA in the south has already officially declared itself OPEN FOR TOURISM. But, says an official: "Tourists should dress like locals and maybe dye their hair. AND THEY SHOULD HAVE ARMED GUARDS and they should be always vigilant."
One more time:
"Tourists should dress like locals and maybe dye their hair. AND THEY SHOULD HAVE ARMED GUARDS and they should be always vigilant."
Need I say more?

*

The BIG story, though --

4. Lobbyist Sought $9 Million to Set Bush Meeting

And got it.

I'm chasing after the wrong career:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 - The lobbyist Jack Abramoff asked for $9 million in 2003 from the president of a West African nation to arrange a meeting with President Bush and directed his fees to a Maryland company now under federal scrutiny, according to newly disclosed documents.

The African leader, President Omar Bongo of Gabon, met with President Bush in the Oval Office on May 26, 2004, 10 months after Mr. Abramoff made the offer.
President Bongo?

Bongo?!

(Insert bad joke here.)
There has been no evidence in the public record that Mr. Abramoff had any role in organizing the meeting or that he received any money or had a signed contract with Gabon.
No evidence in the public record.

Obviously, there's plenty of evidence in the, uh, private record.
In a draft agreement with Gabon dated Aug. 7, 2003, Mr. Abramoff and his associates asked that $9 million in lobbying fees be paid through wire transfers - three of them, each for $3 million - to GrassRoots instead of the Washington offices of Greenberg Traurig, the large lobbying firm where he did most of his work.

The agreement promised a "public relations effort related to promoting Gabon and securing a visit for President Bongo with the president of the United States."
Okay then.
White House and State Department officials described Mr. Bush's meeting with President Bongo, whose government is regularly accused by the United States of human rights abuses, as routine.
"You like baseball?"

"Yes. We see it on the TV."

"You guys have TV? Man, I learned something new today."
The officials said they knew of no involvement by Mr. Abramoff in the arrangements. Officials at Gabon's embassy in Washington did not respond to written questions.

"This went through normal staffing channels," said Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman, who said the meeting was "part of the president's outreach to the continent of Africa."
Normal channels.

Hopefully, the "normal channel" goes "Abramoff to Norquist to Rove."

Capice?

"Here's a hat. 'Texas Rangers.' That's my team."

"I shall wear this proudly."

"Whaddaya know? You kinda look like 'El Duque.' But with a moustache."

"Excuse me?"

"Don't worry. He's a great player."

*

Bongo Goes to Washington, Part II!

"I'd like to thank...President Gabon here for coming in."

"Bongo."

"Come again?"

"President Bongo. Of Gabon."

"President Bonguvgabon?"

"Bongo."

"Uvgabone?"

"Bongo. Bongo."

"I'd like to thank the President of Bongo Bongo."

"Bongo of Gabon!"

"Like I said, I'd like to thank the President for coming in. You oughta take in a Redskin game. FedEx Field has some great food."

"Grrr."

*

In other DICK moves:

5. Robertson warns Pennsylvania voters of God's wrath

Apparently, the Good Lord is about to ignore the Keystone State:
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: if there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected Him from your city," Robertson said on his daily television show broadcast from Virginia, "The 700 Club."

"And don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin."
"WHAT DID HE SAY?"

He said, "Don't wonder why He hasn't helped you when problems begin, if they begin."

"WHAT A DICK."

Yeah.

"I MEAN, JESUS, WHAT'S HIS PROBLEM?"

The man trades in fear.

"I'LL SAY."
"I'm not saying they will, but if they do, just remember, you just voted God out of your city. And if that's the case, don't ask for His help because he might not be there," he said.
"VOTED ME OUT OF THEIR CITY?! I WASN'T RUNNING FOR ANYTHING."

Right.

"IF I WAS GONNA RUN FOR SOMETHING IN PENNSYLVANIA, I'D RUN FOR SENATE. YOU KNOW, SO WE COULD SEND THAT WING-NUT SANTORUM BACK TO PITTSBURGH."

Please do that.

Early PA polls:

God (D) - 77%
Santorum (R) - 23%

"CHRIST, IF I WAS GONNA PUNISH SOMEONE, I'D PUNISH HIM."

Do it.

*

6. Finally:
"If I would do another 'Terminator' movie I would have Terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election," the former action film star joked.
Well...

I can handle that scene.

But, if you do another Terminator, Arnold, you have to set most of the thing in the future.

We have to see the machines fighting the rebels, we have to see John Connor kicking total ass, and we have to see him capturing and re-programming a couple of Terminators. (See T2 & T3.)

More on Sunday...