Just Foreign Policy Iraqi Death Estimator    

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Probe deepens in missing hedge fund manager (partner to John Ellis - Bush cousin)

Source: Reuters
BOSTON (Reuters) - U.S. authorities were trying to determine on Friday whether a fugitive financier who was thought to have faked his suicide will have enough money to sustain life on the run.
Four days after Samuel Israel III, manager of the Bayou Group hedge fund, failed to report to prison to serve a 20-year sentence for stealing $450 million from wealthy investors, speculation over his whereabouts was rampant.
Israel's family and friends could be expected to be questioned and have their telephones tapped, said Aitan Goelman, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.
"A lot of it is kind of what you would expect -- going to family and friends," said Goelman, now a white-collar criminal defense attorney at law firm Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.
"Who was the last person who he talked to and what did he tell her? Did he pack a lot of stuff?" he said. "You don't need a lot of luggage if you're reporting for a 20-year prison term."


Friday, June 13, 2008

McCains Report $100,000 In Credit Card Debt

With news of the McCain family's six-figure credit card debt cropping up today, its not too hard to imagine a little light-hearted chuckling among middle class folks getting a look at the spendthrift habits of elites. As The Hill reported this morning, based on disclosure reports released today, Sen. John McCain and his wife Cindy owe at least $100,000 to American Express, with a "dependent child" also holding a card with a balance between $15,000 and $50,000.
But not all credit card debts are created equal. In fact, according to a prior disclosure form filed in May that was provided to The Huffington Post, a significant amount of the McCains' credit card debt is being held by American Express at an interest rate of zero percent -- making their debt a lot less like the costly credit card pitfalls facing many Americans and a lot more like the big sweetheart loans that can get national political figures in hot water. (Sen. Barack Obama's first choice to head up his vice presidential search committee
resigned this week after a controversy emerged over a favorable mortgage he received from Countrywide, a key player in the current housing crisis.)
Zero-percent credit card interest rates are not exclusively for the rich or well-connected, of course. But the most common offers of that kind are often capped at a few-thousand dollars and shed their zero percent rate after six to nine months.
According to the May 15, 2008 disclosure form, though, during 2007 Cindy McCain originated an individual debt of between $250,000 and $500,000 with a zero-percent interest AmEx that was still not paid off by the time of the time of that filing.
Click here to see page 18 from May disclosure form.]
In other McCain family financial news, Megan McCain -- she of
McCainBlogette.com -- has announced she'll be producing a children's picture book about her father. While the publisher, Simon & Schuster, will be donating a portion of the money it makes off the title to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, a veterans' charity, it appears Megan will not. Perhaps she has a little credit card debt to pay off. But even if that's the case, there's no need to hurry -- the "dependent child" credit card debt listed on McCain's May disclosure form is also being charged at a rate of zero percent.

Live Vote on MSNBC:

As of 3:15 PM on 6/13/08, out of 705,000+ people, 89% answered "Yes"!
Do you believe President Bush's actions justify impeachment?


Analysis: Court's course in next president's hands

By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent Thu Jun 12, 4:52 PM ET
WASHINGTON - In a campaign dominated by the economy and the Iraq War, the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling Thursday on detainees at Guantanamo marks a forceful reminder that John McCain promises one course and Barack Obama pledges another in picking future justices.

the current controversy, McCain quickly expressed his disapproval of the opinion, while Obama issued a statement of support. It fell to outsiders to point out the broader implications in the race for the White House.
"With the replacement of a single justice from the majority ... today's four dissenters could become tomorrow's majority," said Nan Aron of the Alliance For Justice. The group supported the court's decision, which said detainees in the war on terror held at Guantanamo have the constitutional right to challenge their incarceration in the federal courts.
Security must exist "in fidelity to freedom's first principles," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for a majority seeking to balance the nation's security needs with individual rights enshrined in the Constitution. He went on to criticize the Bush administration and Congress for yielding too much to the former at the expense of the latter.
Of the five justices who created a majority in the case of the Guantanamo detainees, Justice John Paul Stevens is 88, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 75, and David Souter and Stephen Breyer are each 69. Kennedy is 71.
The generally younger dissenters were Chief Justice John Roberts, 53, and Justices Samuel Alito, 55, Clarence Thomas, 59 and Antonin Scalia, 72.
Since Supreme Court seats are lifetime appointments, vacancies do not always occur in the four years allotted to a presidential term. That makes any discussion about the impact of a campaign on the high court inherently speculative.
But hardly pointless.

New U.S. proposals have failed to overcome Iraqi opposition to a proposed security pact, two lawmakers said Thursday

Tim Russert Dies Of Heart Attack At Age 58

NBC's Tim Russert has died of a heart attack at the age of 58.

McCain Stacks Fox News 'Town Hall' With Supporters

Tonight was the first in a much-hyped series of 'town hall' forums scheduled by John McCain's campaign, in which Barack Obama had been challenged to show up to discuss the issues directly with the GOP nominee.
Except, as Fox News reported, McCain's campaign misled the public about the nature of the event. The forum was "billed by the McCain campaign as a town hall with independent and Democratic voters," but Fox News noted at the end that the audience was actually "made up of invited guests and supporters," the Democratic National Committee said in a statement.
Here is FNC's Shepard Smith breaking the news:


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Oil futures "Dark Markets" & how the prices are fixed

McCain Defends 'Enron Loophole'
By Jason Leopold
20 May, 2008Countercurrents.org
Sen. John McCain says he opposes the $307 billion farm bill because it would dole out wasteful subsidies, but his chief economic adviser Phil Gramm also wants to stop its proposed regulation of energy futures trading, a market that was famously abused when Enron Corp. manipulated California’s electricity prices in 2001.
Clearing the way for that California price gouging, Gramm, as a powerful Texas senator in 2000, slipped an Enron-backed provision into the Commodities Futures Modernization Act that exempted from regulation energy trading on electronic platforms.
Then, over the next year, Enron – with Gramm’s wife Wendy serving on its board of directors – worked to create false electricity shortages in California, bilking consumers out of an estimated $40 billion.
Gramm left the Senate in 2002 but now has emerged as what Fortune magazine calls “McCain’s econ brain,” not only filling the Arizona senator’s acknowledged void on economic expertise (“I don’t know as much about the economy as I should”) but recognized as one of McCain’s closest friends in politics. The two men talk daily.
A McCain aide told me that the Arizona senator opposes the farm bill because it “rewards lobbyists” by granting rich farmers lucrative subsidies, although he would support “a reasonable level of assistance and risk management to farmers when they need America's help.”
But the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee also opposes the farm bill because Gramm advised McCain that he should resist its regulatory language on the energy futures market.
Democrats have dubbed that gap in energy futures regulation the “Enron loophole,” but it played a part, too, in the more recent attempt by the Amaranth Advisers hedge fund to corner the national gas market by shifting trades to the unregulated “dark markets” of the Intercontinental Exchange.
The “Enron loophole” also has become part of the debate over the soaring price of oil. Last week, a study sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, concluded that speculative futures markets were partly to blame for the surge in oil prices that have pushed gas at the pump toward $4 a gallon
At a May 15 news conference, Levin said the skyrocketing price of oil is “not the result of supply and demand. Speculators have taken over most of the futures market."
However, the 673-page farm bill, containing the regulatory provisions on electronic energy trading, still faces obstacles amid overall concerns about the bill’s largesse to farmers at a time of rising food prices.
President George W. Bush has vowed to veto the bill, although it cleared the House and Senate by margins wide enough for an override, assuming Republicans don’t rally behind Bush and McCain, their current and future standard bearers.
Gramm and Enron
The battle over the “Enron loophole” also could draw attention to McCain’s dependence on Gramm as his chief economic adviser and Gramm’s key role in passing legislation that let Enron trade commodities on electronic platforms without federal oversight.
In 2000, with the Republicans in charge of Congress and Gramm chairing the Senate Banking Committee, the exemption on electronic trading was approved without a Senate hearing.
Internal Enron documents, which were released in 2002, revealed that the Houston-based company helped write the legislation, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in December 2000.
Freed from regulatory interference, Enron then used manipulative trading practices to game the California electricity market and drive up electricity prices across the state.
While California consumers were getting fleeced, the new Bush administration shielded Enron from early accusations of market manipulation. President Bush personally joined the fight against imposing caps on the soaring price of electricity, buying additional time for Enron although the company’s house of cards collapsed anyway in fall 2001. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Bush’s Enron Lies.”]
In 2006, the “Enron loophole” allowed Amaranth Advisers hedge fund to shift its trades from the regulated New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) to the unregulated Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) in Atlanta.
That let Amaranth corner the natural gas market, betting that futures prices would rise. The hedge fund lost about $6 billion and imploded as natural gas prices fell to a two-year low in September 2006.
Last July, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission charged that Amaranth manipulated prices paid in the physical natural gas markets. FERC has proposed $291 million in penalties and the forfeiture of “unjust profits.”
“Unregulated markets are known as ‘dark markets’ because there is very little oversight of the trades,” said Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Michigan, chairman of the subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, during a hearing on energy speculation last December.
By trading on the “dark” ICE market, traders can avoid the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s rules which are in place to prevent price distortions or supply squeezes.
Stupak said trading volumes on ICE “have skyrocketed in the past three years and are now as large or even larger in some months, than the volumes traded on the regulated futures market.”
The lack of oversight “makes it difficult for regulators to detect excessively large positions which could lead to price manipulation,” Stupak said.
Advising McCain
Gramm, who is now a vice chairman of financial services company UBS, began advising McCain in 2005 when the Arizona senator indicated he planned to run for President.
Since then, McCain has adopted much of Gramm’s anti-tax, anti-regulatory agenda. Most strikingly, McCain shifted to support Bush’s tax cuts, which McCain had voted against in 2001 and 2003. He now vows that, if elected President, he would make them permanent.
Yet Gramm’s influence over McCain’s economic agenda – and the checkered political-business history of Gramm and his wife Wendy – have largely escaped media scrutiny.
Gramm received more than $34,000 in campaign contributions from Enron and served as one of the company’s key legislative allies in Washington, including his help in 2000 removing federal oversight from energy trades on electronic platforms.
At the height of the Enron scandal in January 2002, Gramm’s press secretary Larry Neal told The New York Times that Gramm did not “recall a conversation” he apparently had with Enron’s chairman Ken Lay in 2000 to discuss that Enron legislative priority.
An internal Enron e-mail dated Aug. 10, 2000, under the subject “CFTC Reauthorization” – sent by Enron’s top lobbyist Richard Shapiro to Steve Kean, Enron’s executive vice president – said the company needed to get Lay on the phone with Gramm so the bill could be passed.
“The bill is not moving quickly in the Senate due to Senator Phil Gramm's desire to see significant changes made to the legislation (not directly related to our energy language),” Shapiro said.
“Last week at the [2000] Republican Convention, I asked the Senator about the bill and he said they were working on it, but much needs to be changed for his support. More telling perhaps, were Wendy Gramm's comments that she would rather the current bill die if a better bill can be passed next year.
“What this means is that we must, at the least, remove Senator Gramm's opposition to the bill to move the process and more importantly seek to gain his support of the legislation.”
Shapiro added: “However, with less than 20 or so legislative days left, we need Senator Gramm to engage.
“A call from Ken Lay in the next two weeks to Senator Gramm could be an impetus for Gramm to move his staff to resolve the differences. Gramm needs to fully understand how helpful the bill is to Enron.
“Let me know your thoughts on this approach. I am prepared to assist in coordinating the call and drafting the talking points for a Ken Lay/Sen. Gramm call.”
Several other internal Enron e-mails briefed company staffers on the status of Gramm’s position and Enron’s lobbying of the senator. Gramm finally removed a “hold” on the bill in December 2000, reintroduced the bill under a different number, and forced a vote on it without floor debate.
It was then attached to an appropriations bill that was signed by President Clinton on Dec. 21, 2000.
California Crisis
Less than a month later, California began to experience rolling blackouts due to artificial electricity shortages which, according to documents later released by federal energy regulators, were the result of manipulative trading practices employed by Enron.
The California crisis centered on Enron’s energy trades through a new platform called EnronOnline, which had been freed from regulatory oversight by the legislation pushed by Gramm.
In April 2002, Gramm blocked an amendment by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, that would have closed the loophole that Gramm had helped open.
Gramm’s wife, Wendy, also had played a role in the anti-regulatory policies that contributed to the Enron scandal.
On Jan. 14, 1993, in the final days of the first Bush administration, Wendy Gramm – as chairwoman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – pushed through a key regulatory exemption removing energy derivatives contracts and interest-rate swaps from federal oversight.
That was a major financial boon to Enron, where Wendy Gramm landed five weeks later as a member of the board of directors. She also became a member of the audit committee that signed off on another one of Enron’s fraudulent schemes, partnerships that hid the company’s growing debt.
Even after Enron had collapsed in fall 2001, Sen. Gramm continued to resist congressional efforts at tightening up the rules.
In 2002, despite the accounting scandals at Enron, WorldCom and other major companies, Sen. Gramm objected to the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform bill designed to hold executives accountable for inaccuracies in financial reports.
Now, the Gramm family’s anti-regulatory agenda is returning via McCain’s presidential campaign.
As Fortune’s editor-at-large Shawn Tully wrote, “economic conservatives should take heart. McCain’s chief economic adviser – and perhaps his closest political friend – is the ultimate pure play in free market faith, former Texas Sen. Phil Gramm. … Most of [McCain’s] current positions are vintage Gramm indeed.” [Fortune, Feb. 19. 2008]
The first test of McCain’s commitment to Gramm’s anti-regulatory purity may come in the looming battle over the “Enron loophole” that the farm bill seeks to close.


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kucinich referendum to impeach passes to the judiciary

Source: C-Span

The House: 251 voted yes, 156 voted no. On to the judiciary!

No link yet.

Where it will languish and die?

A true bumper sticker message!

Doctors To Study Iraq Birth Defects

By Lisa HollandForeign Affairs correspondentUpdated:12:40, Tuesday June 10, 2008
Sky News recently reported on families in the Iraqi city of Fallujah who are calling for an independent investigation into their concerns about a rise in the number of newborn babies suffering from deformities.
Deformed children common in Fallujah
They raised concerns about the weapons used by American forces in 2004 during the war in Iraq - and are now questioning whether there could be any links with the deformities.
As a result of seeing our exclusive report, one of the world's leading authorities on foetal medicine, Professor Kypros Nicolaides, has decided to offer three scholarships to obstetricians in Fallujah.
This would involve the doctors coming to study at the Fetal Medicine Foundation in London, and on their return being supported to work in hospitals in Fallujah.
The hope is to improve the care of pregnant women in the city, and with better training and scanning equipment, ultimately doctors would be able to set up a birth registry which may throw some light on the concerns of those who believe Fallujah is suffering an abnormal rate of birth deformities.

Bush regrets Iraq tough guy talk

35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush

The Heinous Crimes of George W. Bush in 35 Articles of Impeachment
Monday, June 9, 2008 was an astoundingly historic night for the United States of America. In the evening a mild mannered Congressman named Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) took to the floor of the House of Representatives and began to read a startling document, a document laying out 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush.
For five hours Congressman Kucinich read clearly and concisely each of the 35 counts against President Bush. Occasionally taking sips from a cup, Kucinich didn’t falter, didn’t take a break, and didn’t seem to tire with the long reading, in fact right up to the last article Kucinich, with unwavering passion, said for the 35th time that evening:
“In all of these actions and decisions, President George W. Bush has acted in a manner contrary to his trust as President and Commander in Chief, and subversive of constitutional government, to the prejudice of the cause of law and justice and to the manifest injury of the people of the United States. Wherefore, President George W. Bush, by such conduct, is guilty of an impeachable offense warranting removal from office.”
These 35 astounding, criminal, impeachable, and in many cases monstrous offenses were spoken out loud for all to hear and watch on
CSPAN. So where was the rest of the media, the supposed fourth estate? Where’s the in-depth public reporting on this occasion? Where’s Nancy Pelosi who has said all along that impeachment was “off the table” because she had seen no evidence for any criminal wrongdoing by the president and if anyone had such evidence could they “please let her know”. The evidence was read for the world to hear last night, it is now a matter of public record, and it couldn’t be more obvious that George W. Bush has committed an incredible amount of high crimes and misdemeanors.
Two Articles That Could be the Undoing of a President
Must Not Waste Kucinich' Courage
Late Monday evening, a skinny little man from Ohio stood to address the mostly empty seats of the House or Representatives. His words need no further embellishment here. We can, however, be grateful for this mountain of political integrity and courage finally after too many years of treachery by an incumbent government and cowardice by the so-called opposition, even after we had returned it to majorities in both houses of Congress..Now, that the king's evil nakedness has been at long last publicly announced in our Congress, what are WE to do? Allow Congressman Kucinich to dangle alone amidst the more "prudent, reasonable and less extreme" positioning of his fellow "representatives of the people" and the pontificating pundits of prudence? And are we to bask smugly in celebration at this "example," exchange acknowledgement of our moral superiority, call a special meeting, re-paint the signs for this week's sidewalk demonstration?.Hey, "life goes on" -- or does it? The answer is NO! And Kucinich will be squashed like a bug if we, WE permit it..Now is the time to exercise our disgust and rage actively and productively. Now is the time -- lest we waste last night's rare display of courage -- to finally DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE..I think it should be done in Washington, and it will take a million or more of us, camping on the Mall, living on the streets, or wherever we are most visible, and we need to remain in place however long it takes, whatever the circumstances, the discomforts and the threats. We need to go to the seat of treachery and power and not return until we deserve and regain America."-"-"-"-"-

Guilty even if proven Innocent.

Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues
Some of you who have been following my blog regularly now (thank you) know of Kamel's story my relative who has been detained by the Americans on false "insurgency/terrorist" charges. He was then transferred from a U.S prison to another Iraqi prison controlled by the racist sectarian Shias. In this last prison, the Shia prison guards asked for extortion money in exchange for his release, since there was no trial and no real charges. The money was gathered and given as asked. They double crossed us and Kamel was not released. Kamel is a frail over 60 years old man. In prison his health deteriorated greatly and visits were hardly allowed. He also contracted scabies. Yesterday, we were informed that he has been transferred to an American prison again. And we were also told that he was found not guilty - again, and that there are absolutely no charges against him - again, that he is innocent and that he will be released "some day"- again. As I said before, no trial was conducted in the first place. What do they mean will be released some day ? The man is very ill. They said he needed some paperwork done. What paperwork ? The man is innocent and they said so themselves. "So when will he be released", we asked , "we don't know" they said "paperwork." Omar, (another relative) on the other hand has been finally found. I have also written about Omar. He was found in yet another prison in the South. He was shipped from a Baghdad US prison to a Basra (Shia controlled prison) about 2 years ago. Omar has been illegally detained for over 2 years and was underage at the time of his arrest. Again no charges, no trial...

Agreement with Iraq requires no Senate approval

Voices of Iraq
David Satterfield, U.S. State Department's Coordinator for Iraq, on Tuesday said that the bipartisan long-term agreement between Iraq and the U.S., currently being debated, will be executive, legal, and international between two sides. He added that the treaty will embrace no items that require Senate approval."The bipartisan long-term agreement between Iraq and the U.S. will be executive, legal, and international between two sides, and during the negotiations with the Iraqi government's negotiators, the U.S. government stresses that Iraq is a state that has sovereignty, and a partner in the negotiations that rely on the Iraqi national decision," Satterfield said in a press conference in Baghdad."The agreement will embrace no items that require Senate approval, as it is not the first treaty that the U.S. holds with a state that has sovereignty," he added...
continua / continued

A Glee of Satisfaction....

Layla Anwar, An Arab Woman Blues
I just love it when am proven right. Not because am pompous or anything, but because it means that what I happen to see is correct and not some figment of my imagination. After all, with all the bullshit I read on blogs and even on my own comment section, I do ask myself questions. But then, an article appears just in time to confirm my initial vision. In my post Surreal Concidences dated May 28th, 08 -- I textually said there will be a breakthrough between Hezbollah and Israel on the Shabaa farms as these are tied in with Syria. And guess what ? Olmert is hoping for talks with Lebanon and ...now the hot piece of news -- Hezbollah willing to negotiate over Shabaa farms...
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told his cabinet on Tuesday he hoped Lebanon would follow Syria in opening talks on peace with Israel, a political source said. "Just as we started talks with Syria, I would hope it would be possible to start talks with Lebanon," the source quoted Olmert as saying. Israel and long-time enemy Syria have been holding indirect talks under Turkish auspices and further meetings in Turkey are expected later this week...Under a deal mediated last month, Hezbollah agreed to join a Lebanese national unity government in which it is guaranteed effective veto power.... continua / continued
Hezbollah officials have reportedly told French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the group is not opposed to a diplomatic solution to the Shaba Farms dispute, according to a report published in the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat on Monday. This would mean a departure from the Shi'ite militia's traditional policy on the matter, which has been to support the use of force in order to return the 8 square mile disputed area in the Golan Heights.... continua / continued
Iran has withdrawn a huge sum of its foreign exchange reserves from European banks and has deposited some of it into Asian banks.

58 bases in Iraq

"The points that were put forth by the Americans were more abominable than the occupation," said Jalal al Din al Saghir, a leading lawmaker from the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq.
A leading Iraqi Shiite cleric said Monday the status of forces agreement between Washington and Baghdad could lead to an uprising in Iraq.

Who Will Be The Next US President?

By John StewartA very telling piece from John Stewart showing what Jimmy Carter said that ANY Presidential Candidate MUST be approved by AIPAC. Continue

"Largest War Profiteering In History"

By The BBC"It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history." Continue

Iraq Nears Title as World's Most Corrupt

By Joel Brinkley During the five years the United States has occupied Iraq, the Bush administration has created a new state with a number of notable features: A venal, dysfunctional government. A terrorist haven and training ground. A nation so violent and dangerous that 10 percent of the population has fled. Continue

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Ailing Paul Newman Turns Over $120 Million To Charity


Movie star Paul Newman has quietly turned over the entire value of his ownership in Newman's Own -- the company that makes salad dressing and cookies -- to charity.
Completed over a two-year period in 2005 and 2006, the amount of his donations to Newman's Own Foundation Inc. comes to an astounding $120 million.
This is unprecedented for any movie star or anyone from what we call
Hollywood. Of course Newman and actress wife Joanne Woodward have never been Hollywood types. They've lived their lives quietly in Westport, Conn., for the last 50 years. (They were married in January 1958. And people said it wouldn't last!)
This column learned about this extraordinary gift as news started coming out recently about Newman's battle with lung cancer. This is not news to my readers. I told you several months ago that Newman -- who has five grown daughters -- was seeing an oncologist, that he'd been in and out of Memorial Sloan Kettering hospital on many visits from Westport. Like everything else, the Newmans tried to keep Paul's illness a private matter.

"Countdown" Beats "O'Reilly Factor" In Ratings Demo For First Time Ever

MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" beat Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" in the key Adults 25-54 demographic for the first time ever last week.
"Countdown" averaged 477,000 viewers (A25-54) vs. O'Reilly's 472,000 (excluding Tuesday's primary coverage). This marks the first time that MSNBC has beaten Fox News in O'Reilly's 8pm time slot since June 2001.


BBC uncovers lost Iraq ($23) billions ("largest war profiteering in history")

BBC investigation estimates that around $23bn (£11.75bn) may have been lost, stolen or just not properly accounted for in Iraq.
For the first time, the extent to which some private contractors have profited from the conflict and rebuilding has been researched by the BBC's Panorama using US and Iraqi government sources.
A US gagging order is preventing discussion of the allegations.
Henry Waxman who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform said: "The money that's gone into waste, fraud and abuse under these contracts is just so outrageous, its egregious.
"It may well turn out to be the largest war profiteering in history."
In the run up to the invasion one of the most senior officials in charge of procurement in the Pentagon objected to a contract potentially worth seven billion that was given to Halliburton, a Texan company, which used to be run by Dick Cheney before he became vice-president.
Unusually only Halliburton got to bid - and won.

EXCLUSIVE: Obama Campaign will Launch 'Joshua Generation Project'

The Brody File has learned that in the next two weeks Barack Obama's campaign will unveil a major new program to attract younger Evangelicals and Catholics to their campaign.
It's called the "Joshua Generation Project." The name is based on the biblical story of how Joshua's generation led the Israelites into the Promised Land.
A source close to the Obama campaign tells The Brody File the following:
"The Joshua Generation project will be the Obama campaign's outreach to young people of faith. There's unprecedented energy and excitement for Obama among young evangelicals and Catholics. The Joshua Generation project will tap into that excitement and provide young people of faith opportunities to stand up for their values and move the campaign forward."
The official rollout won't be for another two weeks or so, but The Brody File has been told the activities will include house parties, blogging, concerts and more.
You can see the logo on this page above.
Obama spoke about the "Joshua Generation" in a speech he gave in Selma, Alabama in March of 2007. Read part of that speech below. It will give you an good idea of where the Obama campaign is heading with this effort:

"I'm here because somebody marched. I'm here because you all sacrificed for me. I stand on the shoulders of giants. I thank the Moses generation; but we've got to remember, now, that Joshua still had a job to do. As great as Moses was, despite all that he did, leading a people out of bondage, he didn't cross over the river to see the Promised Land. God told him your job is done. You'll see it. You'll be at the mountain top and you can see what I've promised. What I've promised to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You will see that I've fulfilled that promise but you won't go there. We're going to leave it to the Joshua generation to make sure it happens. There are still battles that need to be fought; some rivers that need to be crossed. Like Moses, the task was passed on to those who might not have been as deserving, might not have been as courageous, find themselves in front of the risks that their parents and grandparents and great grandparents had taken. That doesn't mean that they don't still have a burden to shoulder, that they don't have some responsibilities. The previous generation, the Moses generation, pointed the way. They took us 90% of the way there. We still got that 10% in order to cross over to the other side. So the question, I guess, that I have today is what's called of us in this Joshua generation? What do we do in order to fulfill that legacy; to fulfill the obligations and the debt that we owe to those who allowed us to be here today?"
The whole speech is here.
The Brody File said awhile back that the Obama campaign would be making a concerted effort to attrack Evangelicals and Catholics to their campaign.
Yes, the Obama campaign understands that the issue of abortion is a problem for some voters of faith. They respect that and understand if some just simply can't come on board because of that. However, they look at this project as a way of broadening the values discussion. Poverty, Darfur, Climate Change and yes, even the war are issues younger Evangelicals may be able to see eye to eye on with the Obama campaign.
Whatever you think of the "Joshua Generation Project," you have to give the campaign their due because they are making concerted efforts to NOT ignore faith voters. In my reporting, I can tell you this is not a contrived effort.
The folks behind this believe in not only the mission of winning over faith voters to Obama but the larger mission of not ignoring faith voters when it comes to politics.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Obama could raise $100 million in June, fundraisers say

Source: The Hill
Leading Democratic fundraisers predict that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) will raise hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few months if he opts out of public financing and begins raising money for the general election.
Specifically, they say Obama could raise $100 million in June and could attract 2.5 million to 3 million new donors to his campaign.
These fundraisers say Obama could increase his fundraising dramatically because of three factors: a boost of enthusiasm among Obama donors following his clinching of the nomination; the migration of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) donors to his camp; and the mobilization of big Democratic donors who have given little so far this year.
Record-breaking projections give Obama strong incentive to pass up $85 million in public funds that his opponent, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), has said he would accept.
Alan Kessler, who served as one of Clinton’s national finance co-chairmen, said that Obama’s record-breaking fundraising has left little doubt that he could raise $100 million in a single month, a total that would have been considered impossible a few years ago.

Impeachment Happening in Congress Right Now

Let Justice roll down like waters in a mighty stream . . Source: American Chronicle
David Swanson
Congressman Dennis Kucinich is on the floor of the House of Representatives right now introducing 35 articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush.
Yes, 35. He'll be reading for a while.
Watch C-Span Now! .....
http://c-span.org ....
Take your laptop outside and turn the volume up!
Read more:

2 million poll workers wanted for November elections

Source: USA Today
States and counties are putting out "help wanted" signs five months before Election Day in hopes of finding hundreds of thousands of younger, tech-savvy poll workers needed to handle an expected record turnout.
In many cases, workers don't even have to be old enough to vote.
With a one-day workforce of nearly 2 million poll workers wanted by November, election officials are busily recruiting at high schools, colleges and businesses. They're looking for people who can speak foreign languages or help voters with disabilities. They're making training more convenient and splitting long workdays in half.
"The first challenge is just in the sheer numbers," says Dean Logan, acting clerk of Los Angeles County, which needs 25,000 poll workers in the nation's most populous voting jurisdiction.
More than 122 million Americans voted in 2004, up from 105 million in 2000. The number is expected to jump again because of high interest in the White House contest, which drew near-record primary turnout on a percentage basis.


McCain Campaign Removes Clinton Slur From Website Months After Posting

Does John McCain's campaign have its own message on Sen. Hillary Clinton straight? Last Tuesday, during his poorly received speech in front of the now infamous lime-green backdrop in Louisiana, Sen. John McCain began an attempt to woo disaffected supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton when he said she deserved "great respect" for her campaign.
Before McCain decided to launch a charm offensive, however, he might have scrubbed his own website free of gender-loaded expletives. As of this morning, the Center for American Progress Action center discovered that JohnMcCain.com still featured a comment culled from Andrew Sullivan's blog last November, in which Clinton is described as "a bitch." By 12:30 this afternoon, however, the page was
pulled down from view.
Click here for a screengrab of what the McCain campaign immediately realized could become a public relations disaster.
The Arizona Republican's campaign is, of course, not responsible for the original post's existence, though its placement on McCain's official site lends the "critique" something like sanctioned status. It is, at a minimum, a loss of message control at precisely the same time many conservatives are
wondering whether McCain can defeat Barack Obama on the communications front.
And it's not the first time the Republican nominee has appeared callous in response to a sexist cry aimed Clinton's way, either. In November of last year, a female questioner at a town hall event asked McCain "how do we beat the bitch?" McCain appeared to laugh in a convivial manner before answering the question straightforwardly.

In an attempt to quiet the minor uproar that followed, McCain's campaign issued a statement
saying: "McCain has on many occasions expressed his respect for Senator Clinton, just as he did when confronted with the question in South Carolina."
Then, as now, "respect" was the watchword of the McCain camp when it comes to Clinton. But how many slip-ups will their intended audience endure before judging the outreach enterprise as less than fully sincere?


Truth: The American Bottom Line


Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, whose scathing memoir about his time in the Bush administration sent waves through Washington D.C., has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee, a senior committee official told The Huffington Post.
McClellan's book "What Happened" detailed the "propaganda campaign" that led up to the Iraq war. His hearing is expected to focus heavily on the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, an episode that McClellan has said was driven by political motivations from within the Oval Office. But the committee could press the former press secretary on other matters within its jurisdiction, including the possible authorization of torture by administration officials (though it remains to be seen how much knowledge McClellan has of that topic).
Earlier on Monday, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers sent an letter to McClellan requesting his testimony.
"I have extended an invitation...after discussions between Committee staff and his attorneys," wrote Conyers. "In his book, Mr. McClellan suggests that senior White House officials may have obstructed justice and engaged in a cover-up regarding the Valerie Plame leak. This alleged activity could well extend beyond the scope of the offenses for which Scooter Libby has been convicted and deserves further attention."
The date on the invitation, June 20, was set in advance to accommodate McClellan's schedule, the official said. >>>cont


House Report Details White House, Abramoff Connections

Reps. Henry Waxman and Tom Davis have released a draft of the House Oversight Committee's investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal. Despite facing some restraints in their capacity to gain information (largely in part because the Justice Department is pursuing concurrent investigations), the report offers a few jems to those following the story.
It turns out that Abramoff was indeed fairly friendly with the Bush White House. He was thought well of by senior officials, helped guide the hiring and firing process of federal employees and provided gifts for White House staff (at least one of whom is now an economic adviser to John McCain).
Check out a few experts from the report below, or
read the entire thing here. (pdf)
FIRING: The report confirms that Abramoff used the White House to remove a government official that opposed his client:
One action that White House officials took at the request of Mr. Abramoff was to intervene to force the removal of a State Department official, Alan Stayman. In a previous position at the Office of Insular Affairs in the Department of the Interior, Mr. Stayman had advocated positions opposed by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, then a client of Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Stayman was appointed to his position at the Department of State during the Clinton Administration.
In a recent Committee deposition, Monica Kladakis, then-Deputy Associate Director in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel (OPP), confirmed that OPP became involved in Mr. Stayman's removal after White House officials were contacted by Mr. Abramoff's team.
HIRING: Abramoff had insight into hiring decisions facing the White House, and was able to provide (and in some cases was solicited for) his opinion on nominees: >>>cont


Obama Says He's Partnering With Elizabeth Edwards On Health Care

Obama's speech in Raleigh launching his economy tour is underway, and towards the end, during a discussion of health care, he drops a surprise aside that wasn't in the speech's prepared remarks:
"By the way, I'm going to be partnering with Elizabeth Edwards, we're going to be figuring all this out."
More on this when we can establish the details. >>>cont

Elizabeth Edwards Responds: Why Are People Like Me Left Out Of Your Health Care Proposal, Sen. McCain?»
I freely admit that I am confused about the role of overnight funding in repurchase markets in the collapse of Bear Stearns. What I am not confused about is John McCain’s health care proposal. Apparently Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a senior policy advisor to McCain, thinks I do “not understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s proposal.” The problem, Douglas, is that, despite fuzzy language and feel-good lines in the Senator’s proposal, I do understand exactly how devastating it will be to people who have the health conditions with which the Senator and I are confronted (melanoma for him, breast cancer for me) but do not have the financial resources we have. In very unconfusing language: they are left outside the clinic doors.
Senator McCain likes to start speeches with a litany of questions that, presumedly, less plain-spoken politicians would refuse to answer. Well, here are some questions he does not ask but, as that plain-spoken politician, he might want to answer:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Lawyer: Gitmo Interrogators Told to Trash Notes

Defense lawyer: US urged interrogators at Gitmo to destroy notes in case they had to testify
The Pentagon urged interrogators at Guantanamo Bay to destroy handwritten notes in case they were called to testify about potentially harsh treatment of detainees, a military defense lawyer said Sunday.
The lawyer for Toronto-born Omar Khadr, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were included in an operations manual shown to him by prosecutors and suggest the U.S. deliberately thwarted evidence that could help terror suspects defend themselves at trial.
Kuebler said the apparent destruction of evidence prevents him from challenging the reliability of any alleged confessions. He said he will use the document to seek a dismissal of charges against Khadr.
A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Cmdr. Jeffrey Gordon, said he was reviewing the matter Sunday evening.
The "standard operating procedures" manual that contained the purported instructions was made available to Kuebler last week as part of a pretrial review of potential evidence, the Navy lawyer said.


A General's False Testimony on KBR

Will the Pentagon correct Major Gen. Jerome Johnson's tainted testimony on the potentially contaminated water KBR provided to the troops?
When Major Gen. Jerome Johnson appeared under oath before a congressional committee last year, he told enough untruths about KBR's work for the military that the US Army took the unusual step of retracting a portion of his testimony. Now it appears that Johnson also misled members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on another KBR-related matter: its provisioning of potentially contaminated water to US troops in Iraq.
Nearly three months ago Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates on the subject of Johnson's testimony, but he has yet to received a reply. "This was either an attempt by General Johnson to deliberately deceive the Congress, or a display of negligent disregard for facts," Dorgan wrote in the March 12 letter. "I hope you will review this matter and take appropriate action."
In April 2007, Johnson, then the commanding general of the US Army Sustainment Command, which is responsible for providing food, lodging, and a range of logistical support to the troops, appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee to answer questions about the Pentagon's primary logistics contract in Iraq. During the hearing, the committee's chairman, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), alleged that the Army had reimbursed KBR, then a Halliburton subsidiary, for the cost of overpriced trailers the company had purchased through a subcontractor.
"[T]he [Defense] department has not paid KBR the $100 million for the trailers," Johnson told Levin. "As a matter of fact, KBR's cost is still suspended." Johnson when on to say that the DOD document from which Levin drew his information was "inaccurate." But it was Johnson who didn't have his facts straight.
More than seven months passed before the Army acknowledged Johnson's misstatement. "We sincerely regret the confusion that arose during the testimony and apologize for any impact to the Committee's deliberations," wrote Claude Bolton, assistant secretary of the Army, to Levin. In his "correction for the record," Bolton wrote that the Army had indeed paid KBR for the trailers, even though the Defense Contract Audit Agency had called the purchase "unreasonable due to KBR purchasing the [trailers] from someone other than the low bidder without...adequate justification."
The media paid little attention to the slip-up and subsequent correction, perhaps in part because, as the Army Times noted, "Bolton's letter ends the argument between the Army and Levin's committee because there is no way to recoup the money."

Did His Bank Help Wealthy Clients Evade Taxes?

For someone who wants to change Washington, John McCain has surrounded himself with plenty of guys who game the system. His campaign in recent weeks had to boot out a bunch of lobbyists, though his two top campaign aides—Rick Davis and Charles Black—remain in their posts, despite the fact they recently were high-powered lobbyists. Then there's Phil Gramm, a campaign cochairman and economic adviser to McCain. After leaving the US Senate, he became an executive and lobbyist for UBS, the Swiss mega-bank. And as I noted recently, eight years ago, when he chaired the Senate banking committee, he helped create the current subprime meltdown by slyly slipping into a must-pass appropriations measure a bill that completely deregulated certain financial instruments. Isn't that the sort of person you want advising a president and in line to be Treasury secretary?
Gramm is back in the news today. The New York Times
reports that federal authorities are investigating UBS to determine whether the bank helped thousands of wealthy Americans hide their assets from the IRS in UBS offshore accounts. Without mentioning that Gramm is a top McCain ally, the paper notes:

Fox News Isn't Even Trying Anymore

Maybe the Republican Party's struggles are driving Fox News employees to hit the bottle. Because there's no other explanation for this video clip. Make sure to watch the second half, which is arguably worse than the first.
Fox News & Malkin Making Stuff Up About Obama


Did Iranian agents dupe Pentagon officials?

Three Days in Rome
News: In which a neoconservative jack-of-all-trades, a pair of Pentagon hawks, and an Iranian exile with a knack for tall tales try to outflank the CIA and conjure a coup in Tehran.
By Laura Rozen
The Cocktail Napkin Plan for Regime Change in Iran
Enlisting high-level contacts in the White House, Pentagon and Congress, Iran-Contra figure Michael Ledeen relentlessly pushed a freelance intelligence collection and Iran regime change plan on behalf of another veteran of the scandal, according to a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (PDF) released Thursday.
The proposed plan to change the Iran regime, which requested $5 million in initial "seed" money from the U.S. government, was outlined on a cocktail napkin by Iran contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar at a Rome bar during a three-day meeting in December 2001 that brought the Iran contra actors together with two officials from the Pentagon. The Pentagon officials’ attendance at the meeting was authorized by Stephen Hadley, now the top White House national security advisor, the report found. Revelations that Iran Contra figures Ledeen and Ghorbanifar were involved in a new channel to the Bush administration set off
alarm bells throughout the US government, and prompted multiple inquiries into whether the channel amounted to an unauthorized covert action and a possible counterintelligence threat. The latter issue was never resolved, after a top Pentagon official shut down the counterintelligence inquiry only a month after it had begun.
Later operations would require as much as $25 million, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar advised US officials, but could be financed in part, they said, by a foreign government in exchange for commitments of future Iran oil contracts to the foreign government’s state energy company, believed to be Italy’s ENI. Italy’s military intelligence service Sismi facilitated Ledeen’s Rome meeting, which, highly unusually, was not cleared with the US embassy in Rome or the CIA, even though it involved interaction with a foreign intelligence service.
The new Senate Intelligence committee report presents more evidence that the U.S. government under the Bush administration has been uniquely vulnerable to the intelligence schemes and foreign policy freelancing of discredited individuals and deemed fabricators such as Manoucher Ghorbanifar, and potentially even counterintelligence threats of an Iranian or other nature. It details how top officials in the Bush administration endeavored to permit such an ill-advised channel, took affirmative measures to conceal it in order to bypass the professional intelligence service, and then took steps to protect their role in the matter by shutting down the counterintelligence investigation launched by the Pentagon and to stall the Senate probe. The report also documents that Ghorbanifar has been able to influence US policy and intelligence channels in particular through Ledeen's contacts within Cheney's office and the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz Pentagon.

Is John McCain really 100% disabled?

John McCain gets tax-free disability pension
The disclosure of the Navy benefit for injuries incurred as a Vietnam POW may raise fitness questions.
By Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer April 22, 2008 Sen. John McCain has long said he is in robust health and is strong enough to hike the Grand Canyon, but he also is receiving what his staff Monday termed a "disability pension" from the Navy.
When McCain released his tax return for 2007 on Friday, he separately disclosed that he received a pension of $58,358 that was not listed as income on his return.
On Monday, McCain's staff identified the retirement benefit as a "disability pension" and said that McCain "was retired as disabled because of his limited body movements due to injuries as a POW."
McCain campaign strategist Mark Salter said Monday night that McCain was technically disabled. "Tortured for his country -- that is how he acquired his disability," Salter said.
Certain types of military and veterans pensions are either partially or completely tax-exempt, depending on the seriousness of the disability. In McCain's case, the exemption is 100%.
If McCain had to pay taxes on the full amount of the pension, it would have increased his tax bill by about $18,000 based on the percentage of his income he paid to the federal government.

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