Friday, June 29, 2007

by Art Levine

Democrats at last night's debate essentially ignored President Bush's full-scale assault Wedneday on SCHIP, which helps lower-income kids whose families don't qualify for Medicaid get health care.

John Dean:The Misunderestimated Mr. Cheney

The Vice President’s Record of Willfully Violating the Law, And Wrongly Claiming Authority to Do So

By Joe Conason

Thursday, June 28, 2007

In one full term, this Court has severely curbed local efforts to promote racial diversity in schools, upheld a right-wing ban on a necessary medical procedure for women, curbed students' free speech rights, crippled Congress' ability to keep corporate money out of political advertising, prevented taxpayers from challenging the constitutionality of Bush's faith-based initiatives, made it almost impossible for women to prevail on claims of longterm sex discrimination . . . and they're just getting started.

New details about his secret mission to expand the power of the president show that Cheney, at the end of his career, refuses to loosen his grip.

By Sidney Blumenthal
Woody Guthrie: Still Relevant After All These Years

Deportees (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos)
Lyrics by Woody Guthrie
Music by Martin Hoffman

The crops are all in and the peaches are rotting
The oranges are piled in their cresote dumps
They're flying you back to the Mexico border
To pay all your money to wade back again

My father's own father, he waded that river
They took all the money he made in his life
My brothers and sisters come working the fruit trees
And they rode the truck till they took down and died

Good-bye to my Juan, good-bye Rosalita
Adios mis amigos, Jesus y Maria
You won't have a name when you ride the big air-plane
And all they will call you will be deportees.

Some of us are illegal, and others not wanted
Our work contract's out and we have to move on
But it's six hundred miles to that Mexican border
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like theives.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts
We died in your valleys and died on your plains
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes
Both sides of the river, we died just the same.


A sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos canyon
Like a fireball of lightning, it shook all our hills
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says they are just deportees.

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except deportees?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Washington Post

Taxpayer Loss, Halliburton Gain

A new report on Halliburton's role in the failed reconconstruction of Iraq documents how profits of the merchants of death are rising, Robert Scheer reports.
The Daily Show: "Dick Move"

Monday, June 25, 2007

Juan Gonzalez: In the week after 9/11, Christie Whitman assured New Yorkers that "their air is safe to breathe and their water is safe to drink." Today, she will finally face tough questions about those words

Friday, June 22, 2007

Trent Lott Compares Illegal Immigrants To Goats: "One Of The Ways I Keep Goats In The Fence Is I Electrified Them"

From Taegan Goddard's Political Wire:
"If the answer is 'build a fence' I've got two goats on my place in Mississippi. There ain't no fence big enough, high enough, strong enough, that you can keep those goats in that fence.

"Now people are at least as smart as goats. Maybe not as agile. Build a fence. We should have a virtual fence. Now one of the ways I keep those goats in the fence is I electrified them. Once they got popped a couple times they quit trying to jump it."

Read more here.

David Corn:SiCKO Is Boffo

Thursday, June 21, 2007

But "insurgent' deaths mean success, right?

Iraq Deaths Don't Mean Failure, Pace Says

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 22, 2007; A13

The recent rise in U.S. troop deaths in Iraq is the "wrong metric" to use in assessing the effectiveness of the new security strategy for Baghdad, Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday in a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Despite military reports to Congress that use numbers of attacks and overall levels of violence as an important gauge of Iraq's security status, Gates and Pace told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that violence is not a useful measure of progress. Setting the stage for mandatory reports to Congress in September, both officials said violence could go up in the summer months as troops try to give the Iraqi government time to set the country on the right track.

"If you had zero violence and people were not feeling good about their future, where are you?" said Pace, emphasizing that the sentiment of the Iraqi people is a much better measurement than the number of attacks. "So it's not about levels of violence. It's about progress being made, in fact, in the minds of the Iraqi people, so that they have confidence in their government in the way forward."

Pace and Gates acknowledged that violence could rise -- as it has in recent days, when at least a dozen U.S. troops have been killed -- but said the number of attacks has gone up largely because there are more U.S. brigades in harm's way. Pace said that the number of attacks per brigade has not increased but that the enemy in Iraq has focused on inflicting greater U.S. casualties because it wants to affect the American public's view of the war.

"As we do these sweeps in areas that we've been through before but now we're going to go in and hold, as we're taking the fight to the enemy with the additional troops, we can expect that there's going to be tough fighting ahead," Pace said. "And we can expect that our enemy is going to want to impact the psyche here in the United States with regard to the number of significant incidents that they're able to pull off and the total number of casualties that they're able to produce. So it is an expectation that this surge is going to result in more contact and therefore more casualties."

Gates agreed. "Our troops and the Iraqi troops are going into areas where they haven't been for some time, and they anticipated that there would be a high level of combat as they did that," he said.

Looking toward the September report by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, Gates said the month of September has taken on an "aura" because it is a legislated benchmark for the Bush administration, the first of its kind since the war started in March 2003. Numerous political benchmarks in Iraq -- such as achieving sovereignty, the writing of the constitution, and general elections -- have come and gone with promises of major improvements failing to materialize. Gates said he expects Congress to be focused on that report and the subsequent decisions President Bush will make.

Gates has been increasingly cognizant of Congress's position on the war, as indicated by his recent decision not to recommend Pace's renomination. Appearing together at a news conference for the first time since Gates announced Pace would be leaving his position at the end of September, Gates reiterated that he had listened to lawmakers from both parties and decided that a confirmation hearing for Pace would "reopen all of the issues of the past six years" and would drag the nation through a painful process. Gates and Pace sat together at a table in front of reporters, as they have previously.

"As I said at the time, that was a recommendation to the president that I made with great regret and that he accepted with reluctance," Gates said. "It had been my hope that I would have the opportunity to continue to serve with General Pace through the end of the administration."

When asked if he felt personally responsible for the fact that the Iraq war has not gone as well as had been hoped, Pace said that he had "the great honor and privilege" of serving four years as vice chairman and two years as chairman and that he worked with a great team "to give my best military advice."

The imperial presidency is null and void
By Sidney Blumenthal
Bill and Hillary Soprano Campaign Spoof

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A disastrous war, no domestic achievements, an administration besieged by scandals -- President Bush's legacy is truly a miserable one. Glenn Greenwald argues it's the product of a good vs. evil mentality. Salon
Bloomberg declares his independence

Billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg added a little intensity to the will-he-run-for-the-presidency talk Tuesday night by announcing that he's leaving the Republican Party.
Bloomberg, who endorsed George W. Bush's reelection while hosting the Republican National Convention in New York in 2004, now says that he wants to move beyond the world of partisan politics. "Any successful elected executive knows that real results are more important than partisan battles, and that good ideas should take precedence over rigid adherence to any particular political ideology," he said in a statement last night.

Bloomberg said that his "plans for the future haven't changed," but what that means depends entirely on what his "plans for the future" have been. As Walter Shapiro reported in Salon the other day, Bloomberg has waved off talk of a presidential run, but his "top political advisors make scant secret that they are currently plotting ways for him to enter the 2008 White House field as a problem-solving independent, socially liberal and fiscally responsible."

It could be an uphill run, at least if voters in Bloomberg's home state have anything to say about it. In a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning, New York voters were asked to name their favorites in a hypothetical three-way presidential race among three New York-based candidates. The result: Hillary Clinton leads the pack with 43 percent, Rudy Giuliani -- whose South Carolina campaign chairman was indicted yesterday on cocaine charges -- comes in second with 29 percent, and Bloomberg brings up the rear with 16 percent.

-- Tim Grieve

by Devilstower

Imagine Ralph Nader, only sane. Wait, that's too tough. Imagine Ross Perot, only sane. Or... hold on a sec.

Launching an independent bid for president requires that you first have an ego slightly larger than Mt. Rushmore, and a grounding in reality somewhere near that of Peter Pan. Reading the list of the third party candidates over the last few decades doesn't present a picture of good-hearted little guys trying to shrug free of a rigid, corporate-sponsored system. It's more of a rogue's gallery, filled with would-be czars and ayatollahs (thought the Personal Choice Party did offer the prospect of Vice-President Marilyn Chambers).

So if Bloomberg is really sane, then surely he'd never make that jump, right? He may have billions to toss around, but there's a limit to what even dollars can bring. What might him think that an independent run is possible? You.

Well, not just you. Here, let me get out my patented Romper Room magic looking glass. It's you, Kenny. And you, Susie. And you, Bobby. And... you get the idea. Don't expect Bloomberg to jump into the campaign any time soon. He won't make an announcement this week, this month, and probably not this year. First he's counting on you to do his work for him.

He's counting on you to get tired of all the fighting generated during the primary season. He's counting on you to buy into the mud slung by the same corporate interests from which he will then claim to be oh-so-independent. He's counting on you to indulge in "I'll never vote for X" talk, and slice and dice potential nominees so that they all stagger into the convention bleeding from a thousand wounds.

He's counting on you to be so sick of the process, that he can go around the process, jumping in at the time when the media has dragged out every skeleton back to kindergarten. Is that a winning strategy?

Maybe. If you help.

But he's one thing that's sure: the one way for the minority of hard-right Republicans to end up victorious in 2008, is to take the majority and split it in half. A President McCain might never get 50% of the vote, but if he can get into office with only 34%... Right now, the Republican campaigns are looking at Bloomberg's potential entry as a clear sign that God is on their side. They're rubbing their hands together and chuckling like Mr. Burns on a bender, seeing this as their best opportunity to avoid disaster. They likey Mikey.

I absolutely believe that if Bloomberg were to enter, the Democratic nominee would still win the race. But I'd just as soon not roll those dice. And the best way to do that is through maintaining Democratic solidarity, by making it clear that the support will be there for the Democratic nominee, even if that nominee isn't your first (or second, or third) choice.

And the best way to court disaster, the best way to boost the chances of President Rudy, or President Williard, or President Tancredo, is to start dropping hints that if your favorite doesn't get the nod, you just might flip the switch for Bloomberg. That's just what he -- and the Republicans -- are dying to see.

So please, before you press the button on that "Bloomberg is great!" diary, remember that the title might as well be "Hey, I'm so ticked that things aren't going exactly my way that I'm willing toss Republicans a rope in a year when we had our best chance this century to get the neocons out of power." And don't be surprised if those responding treat your diary exactly that way

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Another NeoCon Success Story

Iraq, 'Sinking Fast,' Is Ranked No. 2 on List of Unstable States

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 19, 2007; A13

Iraq now ranks as the world's second most unstable country, ahead of war-ravaged or poverty-stricken nations such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast, Congo, Afghanistan, Haiti and North Korea, according to the 2007 Failed States Index, issued yesterday by the Fund for Peace and Foreign Policy magazine.

Despite billions of dollars in foreign aid and the presence of more than 150,000 U.S. troops, Iraq has declined steadily over the past three years, according to the index. It ranked fourth last year, but its score dropped in almost all of the 12 political, economic, security and social indicators on which the index is based.

"The report tells us that Iraq is sinking fast," said Fund for Peace President Pauline Baker. "We believe it's reached the point of no return. We have recommended -- based on studies done every six months since the U.S. invasion -- that the administration face up to the reality that the only choices for Iraq are how and how violently it will break up."

In a parallel series of reports, the Fund for Peace, a research and advocacy group, suggests a policy of managed partition for Iraq.

Sudan, largely because of the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur, is the world's most unstable country, the group concluded. As many as 450,000 Sudanese have died, and an additional 2 million to 3 million have been displaced.

"There were only marginal differences between Iraq and Sudan, and Iraq is worse then Somalia, which is already a failed state," Baker said.

There are two driving forces behind Iraq's escalating problems, Baker said. The first is internal fragmentation, marked by the proliferation of militias and other groups that the United States and Iraqis have been unable to control. The second is interference by external forces in the country.

The organization reported that Africa is the continent with the most significant slide. Eight of the 10 most unstable countries are in Africa, the report concludes.

The other two are Iraq and Afghanistan, countries where the Bush administration has made enormous military and financial commitments since 2001. Their experiences show that billions of dollars in development and security aid may be futile unless accompanied by a functioning government and plans for peacekeeping and economic development, Foreign Policy reports in its July-August issue, in which the index is forthcoming.

Afghanistan ranked eighth, Haiti 11th, North Korea 13th and Burma 14th. Pakistan and North Korea, which have nuclear weapons, are among the 15 most unstable countries, according to the report.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company

Monday, June 18, 2007

Body of War
Phil Donahue
This film is our effort to spread news that is hidden behind the doors of homes all over this country. Dwellings occupied by the mere five percent of our population actually sacrificing for this war.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Abu Ghraib Investigator Reveals Shocking New Details
by Seymour Hersh


Tara McKelvey

Soldiers' videos show how obscene games and simulated violent acts became part of everyday life and led to a culture of abuse in Iraq's detention facilities. Says one whistleblower, "It wasn't just a few bad apples or an outbreak of sadism. Those MPs thought what they were doing was acceptable."
The NYT on the administration's "debate" over whether to attack Iran
A front-page article examining the possibility of a new war includes some questionable facts and excludes some relevant ones.
By Glenn Greenwald

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shadow War

Iraq Contractors Face Growing Parallel War
As Security Work Increases, So Do Casualties

By Steve Fainaru
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, June 16, 2007; A01

BAGHDAD -- Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.

While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months.

The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials. Blackwater USA, a prominent North Carolina firm that protects U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, and several other companies have not applied, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. Blackwater said that it obtained a one-year license in 2005 but that shifting Iraqi government policy has impeded its attempts to renew.

The security industry's enormous growth has been facilitated by the U.S. military, which uses the 20,000 to 30,000 contractors to offset chronic troop shortages. Armed contractors protect all convoys transporting reconstruction materiel, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police. They guard key U.S. military installations and provide personal security for at least three commanding generals, including Air Force Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Scott, who oversees U.S. military contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'm kind of practicing what I preach here," Scott said in an interview on the use of private security forces for such tasks. "I'm a two-star general, but I'm not the most important guy in the multinational force. If it's a lower-priority mission and it's within the capabilities of private security, this is an appropriate risk trade-off."

The military plans to outsource at least $1.5 billion in security operations this year, including the three largest security contracts in Iraq: a "theaterwide" contract to protect U.S. bases that is worth up to $480 million, according to Scott; a contract for up to $475 million to provide intelligence for the Army and personal security for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; and a contract for up to $450 million to protect reconstruction convoys. The Army has also tested a plan to use private security on military convoys for the first time, a shift that would significantly increase the presence of armed contractors on Iraq's dangerous roads.

"The whole face of private security changed with Iraq, and it will never go back to how it was," said Leon Sharon, a retired Special Operations officer who commands 500 private Kurdish guards at an immense warehouse transit point for weapons, ammunition and other materiel on the outskirts of Baghdad.

U.S. officials and security company representatives emphasized that contractors are strictly limited to defensive operations. But company representatives in the field said insurgents rarely distinguish between the military and private forces, drawing the contractors into a bloody and escalating campaign.

The U.S. military has never released complete statistics on contractor casualties or the number of attacks on privately guarded convoys. The military deleted casualty figures from reports issued by the Reconstruction Logistics Directorate of the Corps of Engineers, according to Victoria Wayne, who served as deputy director for logistics until 2006 and spent 2 1/2 years in Iraq.

Wayne described security contractors as "the unsung heroes of the war." She said she believed the military wanted to hide information showing that private guards were fighting and dying in large numbers because it would be perceived as bad news.

"It was like there was a major war being fought out there, but we were the only ones who knew about it," Wayne said.

After a year of protests by Wayne and logistics director Jack Holly, a retired Marine colonel, the casualty figures were included. In an operational overview updated last month, the logistics directorate reported that 132 security contractors and truck drivers had been killed and 416 wounded since fall 2004. Four security contractors and a truck driver remained missing, and 208 vehicles were destroyed. Only convoys registered with the logistics directorate are counted in the statistics, and the total number of casualties is believed to be higher.

"When you see the number of my people who have been killed, the American public should recognize that every one of them represents an American soldier or Marine or sailor who didn't have to go in harm's way," Holly said in an interview.

According to the logistics directorate, attacks against registered supply convoys rose from 5.4 percent in 2005, to 9.1 percent in 2006, to 14.7 percent through May 10. The directorate has tracked 12,860 convoys, a fraction of the total number of private supply convoys on Iraqi roads.

"The military are very conscious that we're in their battle space," said Cameron Simpson, country operations manager for ArmorGroup International, a British firm that protects 32 percent of all nonmilitary supply convoys in Iraq. "We would never launch into an offensive operation, but when you're co-located, you're all one team, really."

ArmorGroup, which started in Iraq with 20 employees and a handful of SUVs, has grown to a force of 1,200 -- the equivalent of nearly two battalions -- with 240 armored trucks; nearly half of the publicly traded company's $273.5 million in revenue last year came from Iraq. Globally, ArmorGroup employs 9,000 people in 38 countries.

The company, with headquarters at a complex of sandstone villas near Baghdad's Green Zone, is acquiring a fleet of $200,000 tactical armored vehicles equipped with two gun hatches and able to withstand armor-piercing bullets and some of the largest roadside bombs.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that ArmorGroup has lost 26 employees in Iraq, based on insurance claims. Sources close to the company said the figure is nearly 30. Only three countries in the 25-nation coalition -- the United States, Britain and Italy -- have sustained more combat-related deaths.
A Turning Point

In spring 2004, Holly built the logistics network for Iraq's reconstruction from scratch. The network delivered 31,100 vehicles, 451,000 weapons and 410 million rounds of ammunition to the new Iraqi security forces, and items as varied as computers, baby incubators, school desks and mattresses for every Iraqi government ministry. The network came to rival the military's own logistics operation.

Holly also discovered he was at the center of an undeclared war.

He assembled a small private army to protect materiel as it flowed from border crossings and a southern port at Umm Qasr to the 650,000-square-foot warehouse complex at Abu Ghraib and on to its final destination.

"The only way anything gets to you here is if somebody bets their life on its delivery," said Holly, a burly civilian with a trimmed gray beard who strikes a commanding presence even in khakis, multicolored checked shirts and tennis shoes. "That's the fundamental issue: Nothing moves anywhere in Iraq without betting your life."

The most dangerous link in Holly's supply chain is shipping. It requires the slow-moving convoys to navigate Iraq's dangerous roads. Holly erected a ground-traffic control center in a low-slung trailer near his office in Baghdad's Green Zone. The security companies monitor their convoys in air-conditioned silence, which is shattered by a jarring klaxon each time a contractor pushes a dashboard "panic button," signaling a possible attack.

On May 8, 2005, after dropping off a load that included T-shirts, plastic whistles and 250,000 rounds of ammunition for Iraqi police, one of Holly's convoys was attacked. Of 20 security contractors and truck drivers, 13 were killed or listed as missing; five of the seven survivors were wounded. Insurgents booby-trapped four of the bodies. To eliminate the threat, a military recovery team fired a tank round into a pile of corpses, according to an after-action report.

The convoy had been protected by Hart Security, a British firm that used unarmored vehicles. Within a month, another Hart-led convoy was hit. The team leader informed the ground-control center by cellphone that he was running out of ammunition. He left the cellphone on as his convoy was overrun.

"We listened to the bad guys for almost an hour after they finished everybody off," Holly said.

The attacks represented a turning point in the private war.

Holly vowed he would never again use unarmored vehicles for convoy protection. He went to his primary shipper, Public Warehousing Co. of Kuwait, and ordered a change. PWC hired ArmorGroup, which had armed Ford F-350 pickups with steel-reinforced gun turrets and belt-fed machine guns.

Other companies followed suit, ramping up production of an array of armored and semi-armored trucks of various styles and colors, until Iraq's supply routes resembled the post-apocalyptic world of the "Mad Max" movies.
Bolstered Tactics, Armor

ArmorGroup started in Iraq in 2003 with four security teams and 20 employees. It now has 30 mechanics to support its ground operation. "It's a monster," said Simpson, the country operations manager, strolling past a truck blown apart by a roadside bomb.

ArmorGroup operates 10 convoy security teams in support of Holly's logistics operation. The company runs another 10 to 15 under a half-dozen contracts, as well as for clients who request security on a case-by-case basis, Simpson said.

The company charges $8,000 to $12,000 a day, according to sources familiar with the pricing, although the cost can vary depending on convoy size and the risk. For security reasons, the convoys are limited to 10 tractor-trailers protected by at least four armored trucks filled with 20 guards: four Western vehicle commanders with M-21 assault rifles and 9mm Glock pistols, and 16 Iraqis with AK-47s.

The Western contractors, most with at least 10 years' experience, are paid about $135,000, the same as a U.S. Army two-star general. The Iraqis receive about a tenth of that.

"Every time I think about how it was at the beginning, arriving here with a suitcase and $1,000, and there was no one else around, it's just incredible," Simpson said. "Nobody envisioned that private security companies would be openly targeted by insurgents."

ArmorGroup prides itself on a low-key approach to security. Its well-groomed guards travel in khakis and dark blue shirts. The company's armored trucks are adorned with stickers issued by the Interior Ministry, where the company is fully licensed. Holly's former deputy, Victoria Wayne, said ArmorGroup turned down an opportunity to use more powerful weaponry as the insurgent threat increased.

"As a publicly traded company, they didn't want to be perceived as a mercenary force," she said.

But the company is under constant attack. ArmorGroup ran 1,184 convoys in Iraq in 2006; it reported 450 hostile actions, mostly roadside bombs, small-arms fire and mortar attacks. The company was attacked 293 times in the first four months of 2007, according to ArmorGroup statistics. On the dangerous roads north of Baghdad, "you generally attract at least one incident every mission," Simpson said.

Allan Campion, 36, who joined ArmorGroup after 18 years in the British infantry, said one of his convoys was recently attacked three times on a two-mile stretch outside Baghdad. One bomb exploded near the team leader's vehicle, but the convoy managed to continue, he said. Within minutes, another bomb exploded, followed by small-arms fire.

A firefight ensued as the convoy continued through the "kill zone," Campion said.

"We were still moving, so whether you've hit anybody or not, it's very hard to say," he said.

With the insurgents employing more-lethal roadside bombs, ArmorGroup has responded by changing tactics and spending $6.8 million to bolster its armor. Its new armored "Rock" vehicles are built on Ford F-550 chassis and are favored by ArmorGroup because of a V-shaped hull that provides better protection against roadside bombs.

Chris Berman, a former Navy SEAL who helped design the Rock for North Carolina-based Granite Tactical Vehicles, said its main deterrent is its twin gun hatches. "That gives you twice as much firepower," Berman said. "With two belt-fed machine guns in there, that's enough to chew up most people."
'Caught Up in the Mix'

Built on the site of a former Iraqi tank factory, the Abu Ghraib warehouse complex is known variously as Fort Apache, the Isle of Abu and Rocket City, a reference to when rockets and mortars frequently rained down on the compound.

The bleak, windswept facility consists of 64 buildings spread over a 1 1/2 -mile-long and half-mile-wide area; employees of Public Warehousing (now Agility) -- barricaded inside the fortress -- installed a driving range and a small fishing pond for entertainment. The perimeter is protected by double blast walls, guard towers equipped with belt-fed Dushka machine guns and uniformed Kurdish guards who answer to a military-style rank structure and carry AK-47 assault rifles.

Over the past two years, warehouse personnel "probably average four to six KIA a month and six to eight wounded a month," said Leon Sharon, the Falcon Security representative, dressed in a khaki military uniform with a "Falcon 6" patch identifying him as a field commander for the company.

"It's not a game," Sharon said. "People get killed here trying to go home. People trying to come here get killed because they work here. People on convoy escort get killed because of the materiel that we're shipping out of here. Truck drivers get killed because they get caught up in these ambushes. And you have security personnel who end up caught up in the mix. And the work has to go on as normal."

Attacks on Iraqi employees became so common that a trauma center was set up inside the main warehouse. Dozens of Iraqis, fearful of going home after work, live in barracks-style housing in the compound.

Sharon, 61, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is rail thin with a weathered, intelligent face shaped by chain-smoking and four decades of military work. He works out of a small office that is also his bedroom. A humidor sits on his desk. A U.S. flag covers his window. Cartons of Marlboro Reds are stacked behind him near a leather-bound copy of the Koran.

Sharon called Falcon Security a "private military company."

"When you have this many men, you don't manage it as you do a corporation. You manage it very much in the military style," he said. "My men aren't carrying potatoes; they're carrying AK-47s. It's not pilferage we're worried about. It's people storming the walls."

Falcon performs "a military-like role" in Iraq, he said, "with one key exception: We do not, and have no desire to, conduct offensive operations."

But even behind the blast walls, the private and public wars collide, Sharon said. Last year, insurgents attacked a passing U.S. military convoy on a highway outside the gates. Kurdish guards in one of the towers opened fire, killing two insurgents. "The Americans were thrilled," he said.

"All of the work that's being conducted here in Iraq by private security companies would have to be conducted by somebody, and that somebody is U.S. military personnel," he said. "If you had 500 soldiers here, that's 500 less soldiers that you have on the battlefield. And this isn't the only site. There are hundreds of sites around Iraq where you have private security. Where are you going to get this personnel?"

Sharon turns 62 in October. Asked when he planned to leave Iraq, he smiled.

"Last man here, please put the key under the door," he said.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Giuliani Contradicts Himself in Rush to Blame Dems for Terrorism

Rudy Giuliani's efforts to fit in with the Republican mainstream by, in part, Democrat-bashing is resulting in some ugly contortions. Speaking recently on FOX News, Giuliani slammed Bill Clinton's presidency for making America less safe, saying the administration's attitude towards terrorism was "don't react, let things go."

Not only is that wrong (see Richard Clarke's work) and misdirected, it directly contradicts what Giuliani said just nine months ago, when commenting on ABC's 9/11 docudrama:
"The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don't think he deserves it."

One can only hope that if Rudy wins the Republican nomination, the mainstream media will focus on contradictions such as this and what even conservatives say is Rudy's facile understanding of foreign affairs.

Posted by Jonathan Stein

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

They Came Here to Work

The punitive rage directed at illegal immigrants grows out of a larger blindness to the manual labor they perform that makes our lives possible, writes Barbara Ehrenreich.
‘President’ Lieberman: A Cautionary Tale

by Robert Scheer —

What would have happened if, by some twist of political fate, Sen. Joe Lieberman had assumed the U.S.’s highest office instead of George W. Bush? Judging by his hawkish leanings of late, particularly vis-à-vis Iran, the man who ran alongside Al Gore in 2000 proves the point that not every (once) Democratic candidate would have been better than Bush.


Gen. Wesley Clark: Joe Lieberman Is At It Again
Lieberman's saber rattling does nothing to help dissuade Iran from aiding Shia militias in Iraq, or trying to obtain nuclear capabilities. It's highly irresponsible and counter- productive, and I urge him to stop

Monday, June 11, 2007

Democrats Engage in Circle Jerk; look like total Jerkoffs

So war funding passes with no strings, Lieberman floats Iran attacks, no rebuke of Fredo Gonzalez and the American public feels abandoned.

Great (hand) job, Chuck and Harry.

By Peter Birkenhead

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Paris Hilton & Iraqi Prisoners
by Juan Cole

American cable news has been fixated on the jailing of socialite Paris Hilton for the past week, on grounds that she twice violated the probation sentence she earlier received for drunk driving. They interrupted coverage of world leaders at the G8. They briefly spliced in Gates's decision not to reappoint Peter Pace as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff. A new frenzy broke out with every tiny twist . She was brave, she was weeping, she was mentally fragile. She was released, she was rejailed, she shouted it was unfair and cried, she was undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

Just for a little perspective, we could consider the news from Iraq on Saturday. Incoming mortar fire from guerrillas hit Bucca prison, killing 6 inmates and wounding 50.

The US military is holding 19000 Iraqis, 16000 of them at Bucca. Although most are guerrillas or their helpers, a lot of them were picked up because they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once arrested, an inmate often cannot clear himself for months or years. I don't think they have access to attorneys. No one cares if they are depressed. At Abu Ghraib earlier on, some inmates were systematically tortured. It is unlear if all such practices have ceased.

Some Iraqi women have been held in this way. Some were essentially hostages, taken to make them reveal where their husbands or fathers were or to guarantee their good behavior. Their reputations were shot, since Iraqis think Americans are sex fiends and wouldn't trust the virtue of a woman who had been in their custody. The unmarried among them are likely doomed to be spinsters.

American television never mentions that the US has 19000 Iraqis in jail, or that some have been women, or that some are innocent, or how they feel about being in prison.

So is Paris Hilton being given special treatment by our media? We all are, folks.

Scuttle all diplomatic efforts by threats aka shouldn't Turkey launch attacks into Iraq?

The New York Times
June 10, 2007
Lieberman Backs Limited U.S. Attacks on Iran

WASHINGTON, June 10 — Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent who strongly supports the war in Iraq, said today that unless Iran stops training Iraqis to carry out anti-coalition attacks, the United States should launch cross-border attacks into Iran.

“I think we’ve got to be prepared to take aggressive military action against the Iranians to stop them from killing Americans in Iraq,” Mr. Lieberman said in an interview on the CBS News program “Face the Nation.”

This could be achieved mostly with air attacks, Mr. Lieberman said, adding, “I’m not talking about a massive ground invasion of Iran.”

The comment from Mr. Lieberman of Connecticut, who is sometimes a swing vote in the closely divided Senate, went far beyond the official position in the Bush administration, which has warned Iran about supporting Iraqi insurgents but also recently held high-level talks with Iranian officials. There was no immediate White House reaction.

The administration has criticized Tehran for failing to stop the flow of highly destructive explosives into Iraq, and training Iraqis in their use, but American officials concede that they are unable to prove that senior Iranian officials are behind the smuggling.

Mr. Lieberman said he supported the high-level talks with Iran, but added that there was “incontrovertible” evidence that Iranians were training Iraqis to use the explosives, which are blamed for killing as many as 200 Americans.

"They can’t believe that they have immunity for training and equipping people to come in and kill Americans," he said. "We cannot let them get away with it.”

The senator also said he doubted that the White House decision not to renominate Gen. Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presaged any strategy shift for Iraq.

White House spokesmen have pointed to a caution from Senator Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, that a Pace reconfirmation hearing would have provided a platform for a bruising re-examination of mistakes made in Iraq.

The president “would have loved to renominate Pete Pace,” the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said on CBS. “That was his intent.” But he said there was a desire to avoid “getting mired in a backward-looking debate.”

Mr. Snow denied, in an appearance on Fox, that the White House was effectively giving the Democratic Congress a preemptive veto over its nominations.

But some Democrats suggested that, congressional opposition aside, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates wanted his own man in the job — not the last high-ranking holdover from the Pentagon regime of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

“To suggest that tough sledding on Capitol Hill is a reason to pull the plug on Peter Pace, I don’t think that’s a good argument,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. He said he probably would have voted to confirm General Pace.

In the past, the Bush administration has not shied away from such battles — and Mr. Snow said today that the White House would pay no mind Monday if a Senate no-confidence vote in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales prevailed. Mr. Snow called it “a purely symbolic vote.”

Mr. Durbin expressed surprise at that reaction. “This is a White House that is prepared to fight for Attorney General Gonzales,” who has faced intense bipartisan criticism for his handling of the firings of several United States attorneys, “but not fight for Marine Corps General Peter Pace?”

Friday, June 08, 2007

Leading Conservative Activist Seeks Punitive Damages

Judge Robert Bork, one of the fathers of the modern judicial conservative movement whose nomination to the Supreme Court was rejected by the Senate, is seeking $1,000,000 in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, after he slipped and fell at the Yale Club of New York City. Judge Bork was scheduled to give a speech at the club, but he fell when mounting the dais, and injured his head and left leg. He alleges that the Yale Club is liable for the $1m plus punitive damages because they "wantonly, willfully, and recklessly" failed to provide staging which he could climb safely.

Judge Bork has been a leading advocate of restricting plaintiffs' ability to recover through tort law. In a 2002 article published in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy--the official journal of the Federalist Society--Bork argued that frivolous claims and excessive punitive damage awards have caused the Constitution to evolve into a document which would allow Congress to enact tort reforms that would have been unconstitutional at the framing.
Bush's Missile Fantasy

Why is the Bush administration seeking to impose a weapons system on the Czech Republic that Europe doesn't want to fight a threat that doesn't exist? Katrina vanden Heuvel asks. But Putin's gambit to propose a radar-based missile system in Azerbaijan catches the President at his own game.
Fox Attacks: Black America

by Joe Conason —

The only way for Rudolph Giuliani to protect his status as the Republican Party’s leading presidential aspirant is to distract his party’s primary voters from the long list of issues that divide them from him.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Monday, June 04, 2007

Looking Back on 40 Years of Occupation

by Chris Hedges —

Israel captured and occupied the Gaza Strip and the West Bank 40 years ago this week. The victory was celebrated as a great triumph, at once tripling the size of the land under Israeli control, including East Jerusalem. It was, however, a Pyrrhic victory. As the occupation stretched over the decades, it transformed and deformed Israeli society.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, ace political columnist Matt Taibbi sinks his fangs into former New York mayor and presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. Maybe you know him as the hero of 9/11? You need to know more. Read the piece and tell us what you think. Is Rudy destined to be Bush III?

Poof! So much for civil rights


A female supervisor at Goodyear Tire was earning 40 percent less than all 15 of her male colleagues at the same management level. She didn't know that until someone anonymously sent her a list of the other managers' salaries. By then, it had been nearly 20 years. She'd started out about equal but gotten consistently lower raises.

You might think that with nearly 20 years of provable differential treatment, the woman would walk away with a fat settlement to coast through her old age.

But the new U.S. Supreme Court has scrapped the old rules on how to calculate inequality.

The woman sued for discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. At first it was a slam dunk. A court awarded her more than $3 million; another dropped it down to $360,000.

Then a U.S. Court of Appeals tossed out the verdict, and last week, the newly constituted U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire that Lilly M. Ledbetter wasn't entitled to one dime.With that decision, the court rewrote rules on civil-rights claims that have long been understood by the federal government agency created to enforce them.

The issue isn't whether she was discriminated against, but when the discrimination occurred. The law requires charges be filed within 180 days of the occurrence. The Supreme Court said the occurrence was whenever her employers originally decided to pay her less, and that had happened more than 180 days before she sued.

What matters to the plaintiff, of course, is the amount she was cheated out of over her career, and the fact that even in retirement, her benefits will be lower because they're based on what she earned.

By declaring that the only "unlawful employment practice" was when the first disparate salary decision was made, the court ignored the cumulative effects of ongoing discrimination.

With every single paycheck, the woman's employers had the option of continuing to discriminate against her or adjusting her pay to what the men were making. They chose to continue the inequality.

That's how the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sees it, anyway. It's called the "paycheck accrual rule," and it says each differential paycheck reflects an act of discrimination.

Isn't that obvious? How can an employee be expected to file a claim for discrimination she never knew about? There's no law requiring employers to disclose that information. Why reward employers who have discriminated the longest, and kept their employees from finding out?

Only Congress can undo the damage this ruling will do, by clarifying the 180-day rule. But the case is a reminder of why we need to pay close attention to what can happen when the Supreme Court is stacked with justices who put big business interests over those of working Americans.

Every time there's been a vacancy, the candidates' views on abortion have dominated the discussion. But civil rights and gender equality also became casualties when a moderate justice like Reagan-appointee Sandra Day O'Connor was replaced with ultra-conservative Samuel Alito, who wrote this decision.

As we gear up for a presidential election, now is the time for Iowans in particular, because we have access to candidates, to grill them on what they would look for in court nominees. Ask them about Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire. Do it for your mother, your sister, your daughter, your wife, yourself.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Who Really Supports the Troops?

by Eric Alterman
The media continues to say progressives are anti-military, but it’s the Bush administration that can’t admit the enormity of its error.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Is Martial Law Coming?

By Matthew Rothschild

The ACLU isn’t worried about the new Presidential directive, but I still am.

The Moment of Disillusion

by Terence Samuel

Cindy Sheehan threw in the towel and quit the anti-war movement this week. Her feelings of weariness, frustration, and anger at congressional Democrats are, of course, shared by millions of others. Their outrage is understandable -- but the dangers of over-reaction are serious.

Why the anti-war movement shouldn't lose heart just yet.

Looking at both sides of Bush's face is scary.

Bush, Translated
by Andrew Gumbel

George Bush on global warming is one of those marriages of speaker and subject that can't help but generate its own peculiar brand of spectacular bullshit. The president's speech to the United States Global Leadership Council today was no exception. In fact, it generated enough hot air to create its own microclimate -- of obfuscation, double-speak and rank insincerity. For those of you who prefer your political messages in plain English, here is a translation of some of his choice remarks.

BUSH: In recent years, science has deepened our understanding of climate change and opened new possibilities for confronting it.

TRANSLATION: In recent years, my refusal to acknowledge the reality and seriousness of global warming has turned me into a laughing-stock and contributed to my record low poll numbers. So now I have to look like I'm interested.

BUSH: The United States takes this issue seriously.

TRANSLATION: Al Gore takes this issue seriously, his movie was a big hit, and it's causing me no end of grief.

BUSH: The new initiative I am outlining today will contribute to the important dialogue that will take place in Germany next week.

TRANSLATION: The new initiative I am outlining today will put the brakes on the much more robust proposal the Germans are putting forward at the G8. As long as the dialogue continues, we won't have to abide by any binding decisions.

BUSH: By the end of next year, America and other nations will set a long-term global goal for reducing greenhouse gases.

TRANSLATION: By the end of next year, I'll be weeks away from the end of my presidency and then this can be someone else's problem.

BUSH: To develop this goal, the United States will convene a series of meetings of nations that produce the most greenhouse gasses, including nations with rapidly growing economies like India and China.

TRANSLATION: We're going to look as busy as we can without actually doing anything.

BUSH: Each country would establish midterm management targets and programs that reflect their own mix of energy sources and future energy needs.

TRANSLATION: Nobody will actually be obliged to take any painful decisions.

BUSH: Over the past six years, my administration has spent, along with the Congress, more than $12 billion in research on clean energy technology.

TRANSLATION: But we've spent a lot more molly-coddling my buddies in the oil and gas industries. Not to mention Iraq...

BUSH: We're the world's leader when it comes to figuring out new ways to power our economy and be good stewards of the environment.

TRANSLATION: But we're also the world's leader in allowing our political decisions to be determined by the power of energy industry lobbyists.

BUSH: America makes a compact with developing nations. We give aid, and in return they agree to implement democratic reforms, to fight corruption, to invest in their people -- particularly in health and education -- and to promote economic freedom.

TRANSLATION: We reserve the right to tell them what to do, while continuing to act however we please.

BUSH: We're spending a lot of money on clean, safe nuclear power.

TRANSLATION: The nuclear power industry has Dick Cheney's ear, and mine too.

BUSH: We are a compassionate nation.

TRANSLATION: Until the bombing begins.

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