Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hey Joe: What US Troops Really Told Sen. Lieberman on His Iraq Visit

Joe Lieberman, another well-known hawk on the war, made a surprise visit to Iraq today, complete with market stroll dressed in helmet and flak jacket and ...

The adoring adjectives heaped on the "folksy cultural conservative" by his fans bear no relationship to his life. It's his acting career that matters. By Glenn Greenwald
Former lobbyist's presidential campaign is being run by a tobacco exec and a who's who of DC insiders. By Ari Berman

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

DeLay Explains How His Adultery Was Different Than Gingrich's
by Jeffrey Goldberg

In the book, DeLay criticizes Gingrich for, among other things, conducting an affair with a Capitol Hill employee during the 1998 impeachment trial of Bill Clinton. (The woman later became Gingrich's third wife.) "Yes, I don't think that Newt could set a high moral standard, a high moral tone, during that moment," DeLay said. "You can't do that if you're keeping secrets about your own adulterous affairs." He added that the impeachment trial was another of his "proudest moments." The difference between his own adultery and Gingrich's, he said, "is that I was no longer committing adultery by that time, the impeachment trial. There's a big difference." He added, "Also, I had returned to Christ and repented my sins by that time."

By Juan Cole

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Shooting Blanks at Sudan

President Bush’s Announcement on Darfur

Bush’s newly-announced punitive measures could have marked a real turning point in U.S. policy, but once again it does not.

Amy Goodman interviews Chris Hedges author of "American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America"

Part 2

Part 3

Monday, May 28, 2007

Jason Giambi finally got around to telling the truth about baseball and steroids, Dave Zirin writes. So naturally, Major League Baseball is out to smear him.

High Gas Prices Mean Big Profit for Big Oil. Christian E. Weller and Amanda Logan show how the oil industry has turned economics on its head, passing off costs to the consumer.

Frank Rich:Operation Freedom From Iraqis

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Texas Oil Companies Tell Employees They Should Bike To Work
Godfather IV "Fredo's Revenge"

The veep last spoke at West Point four years ago. He is still peddling the phony link between Iraq and Al Qaeda
Hometown Baghdad: "Sick of This"

Sergeant: "Now, 95 Percent Of My Platoon" Wants To Get Out Of Iraq
"I thought, 'What are we doing here? Why are we still here?' " said Safstrom, a member of Delta Company of the 1st Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry, 82nd Airborne Division. "We're helping guys that are trying to kill us. We help them in the day. They turn around at night and try to kill us."

Goodbye to Wolfowitz and his failed policies

By Sidney Blumenthal
When The President Talks To God

Ron Paul: 'Peace is powerful message'

Speaking as a guest on Bill Maher's HBO show this week, the underdog Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul issued a rebuke to the tough-talking Rudy Giuliani and spoke at length about the value of non-intervention in the pursuit of peaceful change.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Price of Citizenship

When the super-rich use offshore tax havens to avoid paying what they owe in taxes, the consequence ought to be the loss of their U.S. citizenship.

Robert B. Reich

After suggesting a couple of weeks ago that the stratospheric earnings of equity-fund managers ought to be considered income rather than capital gains and therefore taxed at 35 percent rather than 15 percent, I was deluged with emails telling me the plan wouldn't work. It would just drive fund managers into offshore tax havens. No less than Jon Corzine, the former chief executive of Goldman Sachs and now governor of New Jersey, admitted recently in a television interview that many fund managers would take their money out of the country before they'd pay the 35 percent rate.
Corzine and my other critics may have a point. Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation recently estimated that America's super-rich already sock away more than $100 billion a year in offshore tax havens. So any attempt to get them to pay what they owe is doomed, right?

Maybe. But I've been thinking a lot about the immigration bill now pending before Congress -- especially the conditions undocumented workers will have to meet if they want to become American citizens. One of them is to pay all the taxes they owe.

The new immigration bill may not make it through Congress, but that provision about paying taxes that are owed in order to be a citizen serves as a reminder that paying taxes is one of the major obligations of citizenship. After all, if we didn't pay the taxes we owe, we wouldn't have public schools, police and fire protection, national defense, homeland security, roads and bridges, Medicare and Social Security, and other things we need.

So when the super-rich use offshore tax havens to avoid paying what they owe in taxes, they're reneging on their duties as citizens. It seems only fair to me that the consequence of that kind of tax avoidance ought to be loss of citizenship. If it's more important to someone to avoid paying what they owe in taxes than to continue being an American, then let them keep their money. They can become a citizen of the Cayman Islands or Bermuda or wherever else they store their wealth, and come here on a visitor's visa -- if they can get one.
Surprise, Surprise! Cavuto Supports Oil Price Gouging

Apocalyptic Times for the GOP Faithful

by Joe Conason —

The party Jerry Falwell worked so hard to promote to white evangelical America may soon tear itself apart over one candidate who dares to be Mormon and another who is dangerously sane on gays, guns and abortion.

Attention Immigrants: Thanks for Your Hard Work. Now Leave.

What could be better for business than a workforce that toils for next to nothing, drives down wages for everyone else, can't protest or unionize, and then goes away when you're done with them? Your guide to the guest worker program. James Ridgeway

Friday, May 25, 2007

Fitzgerald: Jail Libby up to 3 years

See You in September
by E.J. Dionne

Vet Prosecuted for Opposing Recruitment in Library
Vet Prosecuted for Opposing Recruitment in Library
May 14, 2007 By Matthew RothschildHis wife was putting up 3x5 cards on the window of the room used by the recruiters. “Don’t fall for it! Military recruiters lie,” said one. “It’s not honorable to fight for a lying President,” said another. Then the police came.

Top Teacher Shown the Door After Showing “Baghdad ER”
Top Teacher Shown the Door After Showing “Baghdad ER”
May 10, 2007 By Matthew Rothschild“Teachers that teach against the grain often have difficulties with school systems. What has happened to me is certainly not unusual.”

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Crooks and Cronies, Part 312

Feel Safer, America?

Rules Skirted, Millions Wasted on Navy Boat Barriers

By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, May 24, 2007; A01

The men from al-Qaeda guided their bomb-laden skiff through the harbor and drew near the USS Cole, detonating a quarter-ton of C-4 plastic explosive that killed 17 sailors and tore a 40-foot hole in the side of the Navy destroyer.

Pentagon officials vowed that nothing like the Oct. 12, 2000, attack in the Yemeni port of Aden would happen again. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service embarked on a plan to shield U.S. ships around the world with rings of floating, rubberized barriers.

The investigative service is responsible for security and probing criminal wrongdoing, including fraud in Navy contracts. But auditors concluded that NCIS hired companies that did little or no significant work on the boat barriers yet collected millions of dollars in fees.

Invoices, e-mails and audit documents obtained by The Washington Post also show that the General Services Administration, the agency that awards and oversees federal contracts, allowed the Navy to sidestep federal procurement rules designed to ensure competition and protect taxpayers from abuse and fraud.

"Millions of taxpayer dollars went out the window, given to companies who did nothing in return," said Eugene L. Waszily, a former deputy GSA inspector general who reviewed spending under the boat-barrier contract. "This was particularly disturbing because it was a national security project."

Another problem emerged for the project, which cost at least $100 million. "Navy officials advised us that the barriers were prone to leaks, can deflate completely, and that defects caused barrier gates to remain open," the GSA auditors said in a 2004 report.

Eventually, NCIS investigated its own contract. NCIS officials said the GSA had "responsibility for ensuring that contracts are properly awarded and executed." An NCIS spokesman declined to elaborate or discuss the allegations, saying "there is a joint, ongoing criminal investigation into this matter."

GSA spokesman Edward Blakely said his agency had no comment.
Contracting Markup

After the Cole bombing, the Navy decided it would deploy hundreds of 82-foot-long, 8-foot-wide, floating rubberized barriers to prevent terrorists from getting close to its ships while in port. The barriers would be held in place by a system of anchors, large foam buoys and chains. A network of underwater sensors would detect potential threats.

NCIS had preferred contractors it wanted to hire for the job, auditors would find, and it did not want to undertake an elaborate and time-consuming open competition for the work.

So NCIS turned to the GSA and a program at the time reserved for small businesses that permitted government agencies to hire companies without seeking traditional bids. The program allowed government officials to buy products and services directly from companies after their prices for labor and overhead had been approved by GSA contracting officials. GSA collects user fees from companies for helping to facilitate those kinds of transactions.

In the boat-barrier case, the GSA, at the request of NCIS, selected Northern NEF of Colorado Springs as the prime contractor for the project, documents show.

Northern was a small technology firm -- small enough that did not have to compete under federal rules for government contracts unless they were worth more than $3 million. It had never worked on a boat-barrier project before, but it had worked for the Pentagon on other projects.

Northern was told by NCIS officials to hire P-Con Consulting of Alexandria. The company's sole employee was Patrick Condon, who already worked as a security consultant to NCIS. Condon received a title for his role in the project: deputy program manager for Navy boat barriers.

"Northern NEF officials said they had been directed by the Navy to procure the barriers through the consulting firm instead of dealing directly with the manufacturer," auditors wrote in a 2004 report. "We found documentary evidence that showed the consulting firm was the Navy's 'recommended' contractor."

P-Con, in turn, hired a company in England to manufacture the barriers and one in Northern Virginia to install them.

The former director of government programs for Northern, Dave Nelson, said in a recent interview that he did not know why NCIS selected his company or why his company was directed to hire P-Con.

"Northern played middleman," Nelson said.

Northern stayed below the $3 million threshold when it sought payments for the work from the GSA, invoices show. Each individual payment was approved by NCIS and the GSA as though they were separate projects, even though the work was being done under one contract.

Federal contracting regulations prohibit splitting up payments to avoid competition limits.

"Almost all of the over $53 million in boat barrier harbor tasks we analyzed were split to avoid the competitive threshold," GSA auditors wrote in their report.

Between September 2001 and February 2003, at least 30 invoices came in under the $3 million limit. Three examples:

· 55 boat barriers for $2.6 million on Sept. 28, 2001.

· 24 for $1.4 million on Oct. 1.

· 58 for $2.9 million on Oct. 12.

On May 9, 2002, three invoices came in for an identical amount -- $2,956,762 each. On Feb. 14, 2003, six invoices came in for $2,678,813 apiece.

GSA officials later told auditors they "believed each order represented a discrete boat-barrier system installed at a discrete harbor, but this was clearly not the case."

Nelson said Northern officials knew the project was being structured to stay beneath the $3 million cap. But he said company officials believed that it was being done properly by NCIS and GSA in the interests of speed and national security.

"It was pretty obvious what they were doing," said Nelson, who is now at another company. "We figured somebody who was in authority knew what they were doing. We didn't go out and try to win this work. It just came our way."

At each step in the process, Northern and P-Con received a percentage of the proceeds from the project.

For example, the base cost for each boat barrier was supposed to be $45,250. Northern charged a 4.8 percent fee for "acting as GSA's order administrator," the auditors said. P-Con charged a 7.5 percent on all expenses as a "Consultant Markup." The final cost to taxpayers for each boat barrier was $50,978.65, auditors estimated.

Even larger markups took place for the installation of the barriers and the buoys to hold them in place, documents show. The base cost for each buoy was supposed to be $31,000. The company responsible for installing the barriers added a 9.8 percent administrative fee and another unspecified 20 percent fee. Company officials told auditors the fees were the standard industry markup.

Northern charged another 5 percent fee. The final cost to taxpayers for each buoy was $42,825.68, documents show.

"Millions of dollars were wasted by compensating the contractors for doing little more than placing orders with other favored contractors to do the actual work," the auditors said.

Auditors also found that NCIS paid too much for radar, sonar video systems and a command control console to monitor boat traffic near the barriers, according to contracting documents. Fifteen sonar systems were purchased through Northern for $5.4 million. That was 40 percent more than necessary, according to the auditors.

"We concluded that free and open competition could have substantially reduced the prices for the sonar systems supplied to the Navy," the auditors wrote in their report.

The auditors concluded that Northern collected a total of $2.6 million in fees, even though "it performed none of the work." They also reported that P-Con collected more than $1 million in administrative fees.

Nelson said Northern kept little of the fees.

"They were passed along to the contractors," he said. "There was some markup that was kept."

In a brief interview, Condon disputed the auditors' findings that he collected $1 million in consulting fees for his role in the project. "That's probably not correct," he said. Condon referred questions to his lawyer, Roy Krieger.

Krieger said Condon was a "physical security" contractor at NCIS before he was recruited to manage the boat-barrier project. Condon was unaware of any inappropriate activity involving the contract, Krieger said.

Working under intense pressure, Condon earned his money by traveling the world on the project's behalf, Krieger said. Condon spent his own money on the project and is owed more than $200,000 by the government.

"This was a crash program to get this thing in place," Krieger said. "This was a fire drill when this was happening. The chief of naval operations said, 'This is never going to happen again.' "

GSA's user fees for its role in the project amounted to about 2 percent, invoices show.

In February 2003, Northern was acquired by a larger company and lost its status as a small business. As a consequence, it could no longer receive no-bid jobs from the government program. The Navy had to find another small business to serve as the prime contractor.

The new prime contractor was RMES Communications, a small business that provided coin telephone service at Denver International Airport along with "other communications technology solutions."

On Feb. 14, 2003, RMES sent the government invoices for six payments of $2,678,813 each for the boat-barrier project, according to invoices and contracting documents obtained by The Post. An RMES invoice instructed the government to deposit money in the same bank account that Northern had been using to receive funds on the project, according to the documents.

RMES President Herman Malone said in an interview that he could not recall much about the boat-barrier contract. "I'm a little cloudy in terms of the details," he said. "We were a small player in that."

In the fall of 2003, GSA auditors told NCIS officials they had turned up evidence of improprieties. The auditors wanted to question NCIS officials about the boat-barrier project, but the NCIS officials declined to discuss it, auditors reported.

Two NCIS agents later met with GSA auditors and asked about the thrust of the pending audit. The NCIS agents said they were conducting an investigation of their own and wanted to take over the case. GSA auditors agreed.

That was nearly four years ago.

Researchers Alice Crites and Rena Kirsch contributed to this article.

Sen. John Kerry

Bottom line: we support the troops by getting the policy right, and this bill doesn't do that. We need a deadline to force Iraqis to stand up for Iraq and bring our heroes home, not watered down benchmarks and blank check waivers for this president.

Don't just get angry about Congressional inaction on Iraq, Medea Benjamin writes. Pick up the phone.

Michael Moore discusses his bold takedown of the American healthcare system, "Sicko," in a roundtable interview at Cannes -- a Salon podcast

By Andrew O'Hehir

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Statement of U.S. Senator Russ FeingoldOn the Iraq Supplemental Conference Report
May 22, 2007

“Under the President’s Iraq policies, our military has been over-burdened, our national security has been jeopardized, and thousands of Americans have been killed or injured. Despite these realities, and the support of a majority of Americans for ending the President’s open-ended mission in Iraq, congressional leaders now propose a supplemental appropriations bill that does nothing to end this disastrous war. I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.”
Second Surge Planned, Total Troops to Top 200,000

The Pentagon is quietly making plans to send a second surge of troops to Iraq. The increase, when including support troops, will bring the total number of American soldiers in Iraq to 200,000, the largest number in the war to date.
Worse Than Watergate, Part II
Robert Scheer

If Attorney General Alberto Gonzales wasn’t in enough trouble already, he now has to deal with the fallout from his disgraceful behavior in John Ashcroft’s hospital room in March of 2004, when Gonzales attempted to strong-arm Ashcroft into reauthorizing the domestic surveillance program implemented by the White House after 9/11—as Ashcroft lay ailing on his sickbed.
Return Of McCain's Outbursts Has Republicans Worried
Los Angeles Times

An angry, profane exchange between Sen. John McCain and another Republican senator last week prompted a new round of questions Monday about whether McCain's legendary temper is becoming a liability to his campaign for the presidency.

In a private meeting just off the Senate floor, McCain (R-Ariz.) got into a shouting match Thursday with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) over details of a compromise on immigration legislation. Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy with his campaign to take part in the negotiations, prompting McCain to utter "F... you."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dear MoveOn member,

As of yesterday, gas prices are the highest in U.S. history—we just passed the 1981 record, even adjusted for inflation.1 Prices could reach $4.00 per gallon in parts of the country, just in time to crimp summer vacation plans. As consumers suffer, the oil industry continues to reap the windfall—breaking profit records on an almost quarterly basis. It's outrageous!

Enough is enough. Hearings start today on H.R. 1252, a House bill that would make gas price gouging a federal crime, punishable by 10 years in prison. Speaker Pelosi has said she'll move the bill to a vote this week—if there's the two-thirds majority required to fast track the bill through the process.

Oil company lobbyists are frantically trying to stop the bill. Your representative needs to hear from you today. Will you sign our petition asking Congress to pass the price-gouging bill—and then send it to your friends?

"Gasoline price gouging should be made a federal crime before the summer price increases hurt more American families."

Clicking here will add your name:
9/11 Debunkers Hide From Slam Dunk Evidence Of Controlled Demolition

Electron microscope analysis of steel spheres from WTC site proves thermate, proves collapse of twin towers was an act of deliberate arson.

Paul Joseph Watson
Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Professor Steven Jones presented brand new and compelling evidence for the controlled demolition of the twin towers and WTC 7 recently, but the 9/11 debunkers and the corporate media are loathe to tackle it because it represents a slam dunk on proving the collapse of the buildings was a deliberate act of arson.

During a talk at the Rebuilding America's Senses event at the University of Texas last month, Jones laid out facts about steel samples recovered from the WTC site that Popular Mechanics dare not even attempt to debate. Debunkers are scared to even get near this information because the science behind it fundamentally contradicts the official story of what happened on 9/11.

Jones detailed his lab experiments in which he attempted to replicate NIST's conclusion that the lava like orange material flowing out of the south tower is aluminum from Flight 175, the plane that hit the building. Jones clearly documents the fact that liquid aluminum is silver and not orange as is seen in the video of the south tower, therefore the material cannot be aluminum. Jones then explains that the material is in fact a compound that can cut through steel like a hot knife through butter, thermite with sulphur added to make thermate.
New presidential directive gives Bush dictatorial power

National Security & Homeland Security Presidential Directive establishes "National Continuity Policy"

by Larry Chin
Global Research, May 21, 2007

The National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive, signed on May 9, 2007 declares that in the event of a “catastrophic event”, George W. Bush can become what is best described as "a dictator": "The President shall lead the activities of the Federal Government for ensuring constitutional government." This directive, completely unnoticed by the media, and given no scrutiny by Congress, literally gives the White House unprecedented dictatorial power over the government and the country, bypassing the US Congress and obliterating the separation of powers. The directive also placed the Secretary of Homeland Security in charge of domestic “security”.

The full text is below. A critical analysis on the directive can be found here.

This is another step towards official martial law (see “US government fans homeland security fears”), which suggests that a new "catastrophic event" 9/11-type pretext could be in the pipeline.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Shades of White

By Andy Borowitz

In a nationally televised debate last night, the 10 candidates for the Republican presidential nomination engaged in a battle royal, with each candidate staking his claim to the title of the whitest white male in the GOP race.

With the elusive white male voter holding the keys to victory in the GOP nomination, all 10 candidates seemed mindful of reaching out to that often-forgotten voting bloc.

The question of “who is the whitest” came up in the opening minutes of the debate held on the campus of the University of South Carolina, where hundreds of concerned white male voters gathered to hear the candidates speak.

"Not only am I the whitest male in this race, I am the whitest male named Thompson in this race,” said former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson in an apparent reference to former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson, who is poised to become the 11th white male vying for the GOP nod.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney went on the offensive when he cited his “impeccable whiteness credentials,” telling the crowd, “I was a governor, a businessman, and before that, a generic white male Clipart character.”

But perhaps the most electrifying moment in the debate came from Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who at 70 years of age would be the oldest white male ever elected president.

"With all due respect, I have been whiter longer than any of the men on this stage,” he said, to thunderous applause.

Elsewhere, the U.S. Postal Service announced that it would now charge 41 cents to lose a first-class letter.

Seven US soldiers and their interpreter were killed by two different roadside bombs in Iraq, the US military said yesterday.

Crooks and Cronies

"I did not think it was even possible to make John Ashcroft into a civil libertarian," Neas said in an interview. "But somehow Alberto Gonzales for at least one moment managed to make John Ashcroft into a defender of the Constitution."
"Sicko's" tough medicine

Michael Moore's scathing, important look at the U.S. healthcare system has plenty to rile the far right -- and a lot more to enrage the larger American public

By Andrew O'Hehir

Friday, May 18, 2007

by Eugene Robinson —

We already knew Alberto Gonzales was happy to bend the law to suit the bidding of the president, but accosting a sick man in his hospital room? The more one learns about him, the more unbelievable it is that this man is still our attorney general.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beware Murdoch’s ‘Necessary Promises’
by Joe Conason —

While Rupert Murdoch is as conscious of his image as any other legendary villain, he also seems to possess a sense of humor—or at least somebody around him does. Early in his ongoing bid to take over Dow Jones Publishing and The Wall Street Journal, a Murdoch spokesman said that the media mogul would reassure those who may fear for the paper’s independence and integrity with all of the “necessary promises.”

Millions of Felonies? Billions of Felonies?
by Rusty1776

Ever since October 2001, a felony has been committed every time an American citizen has been illegally spied on. Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee provides damning evidence that George Walker Bush is guilty of millions of felonies. Throughout these years of illegal NSA spying, how many felonies has Bush committed? 5 million? 10 million? 50 million? 300 million? Has the NSA been spying on all of us every day for more than five years? How many felonies would that be? 10 billion? 10 trillion?

Do Bush/Cheney et al have to commit felonies at the speed of light before Democrats will start Impeachment hearings?

Excerpt here.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Cheney Sabotages Talks with Tehran

By Matthew Rothschild

Leave it to Dick Cheney to dash hopes for any cooler heads to prevail between Washington and Tehran.
read more

Jerry Falwell spent a career demonizing others. Upon his death, what else could he expect in return?
By Alan Wolfe

Jerry Falwell was a complicated political figure, who demonized his ideological foes yet grew beyond some of his worst intolerances, John Nichols writes. Yet as the influence of the religious right on the GOP wanes, John McCain and most other Republican contenders still fear the wrath of the evangelicals Falwell led into their fold.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist preacher who founded the Moral Majority, died today shortly after he was found unconscious in his office at Liberty University.

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