Saturday, July 10, 2004


It's Constitutional Amendment time -- Take action

To quote from the website,
The attempt to amend the Constitution to discriminate against same-sex couples and families will come to a head the week of July 12, when our Senators vote.

Please join hundreds of thousands of fair-minded Americans in telling our leaders NOT to write discrimination into the U.S. Constitution...

Take action through the Human Rights Campaign.

Score one for the NY Times -- Florida felon voter list exposed

The NY Times has been to investigative reporting what Arnold Schwarzenegger was to professional acting — they both went through the motions and made a lot of money.

But not this time. They've actually investigated a Bush-controlled criminal enterprise—the Florida felon voter list—and found it wanting. Of Hispanic voters, that is.

Of course, credit where credit is due. None of this would have happened if CNN and other news organizations hadn't sued the State of Florida to permit a copy of the list to be issued and if Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark hadn't ruled in CNN's favor.

Circuit Judge Nikki Ann Clark said ... that the Florida Constitution "grants every person the fundamental right to inspect or copy public records." Further, the state had previously allowed the public and news media to inspect the list and not make copies, but Clark cited previous state court rulings that said the public's access was "valueless without the right to make copies."

Florida is one of a handful of states that excludes ex-felons from voting unless they jump through a number of hoops to have their voting rights restored. This year's list had 47,763 names on it. The state doesn't vet the list for accuracy, but mandates that the county registrars attempt it. (I have written on the list previously "In case you're worried about the November election" and mentioned it as one of the techniques the Republicans might use in an attempt to throw the election.)

So last week the list was revealed before God and everybody, and certain anomalies immediately began to appear. The Miami Herald got right on it and found that

at least 2,119 of those names ... shouldn't be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state's clemency process.

That's a potentially jarring flaw, critics say, in a state that turned the 2000 presidential election to Gov. Jeb Bush's brother George on the narrowest of margins -- 537 votes.

The state promptly admitted its error, but then asserted that those who were mistakenly on the list would have to re-register to vote because they had registered before receiving clemency. Last Wednesday they backed down.

The Florida Division of Elections has done an about-face and decided it will allow voting by almost 2,500 former felons whose restored voting rights had been threatened with revocation.
Secretary of State Glenda Hood backtracked on the issue Wednesday.

"It goes without saying that our guiding principle throughout this process will be to err on the side of the voter," Hood said in a statement.

It goes without saying that they have your ass in a sling, Glenda.

The next anomaly was the ratio of Democrats to Republicans. Turns out there were "28,025 Democrats and just 9,521 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated."

That's a ratio of 3 Democrats for every Republican.

Now if they kept crime statistics for elected officeholders who had been convicted of felonies, I have no doubt that this ratio of Republicans to Democrats would be reversed. But since the state of Florida tries to keep as many blacks in jail as possible and 90% of blacks are Democrats, the number at first blush doesn't look all that implausible.

But then you get to the racial breakdown.

Among racial groups, the largest reported group was non-Hispanic whites with 24,197, followed by 22,084 non-Hispanic blacks, 1,384 unknowns, 61 Hispanics, 14 Asian or Pacific-Islanders, 12 American Indians and 11 others. The list consisted of 37,777 men and 9,986 women.

Sixty-one Hispanics? In a state that's 8% Hispanic? Even the NY Times couldn't miss it.

Florida election officials used a flawed method to come up with a listing of people believed to be convicted felons, a list that they are recommending be used to purge voter registration rolls, state officials acknowledged yesterday. As a result, voters identifying themselves as Hispanic are almost completely absent from that list.

And here's Glenda, through a spokesperson--

"This was absolutely unintentional," said Nicole de Lara, spokeswoman for the Florida secretary of state, Glenda E. Hood, an appointee of Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother. "The matching criteria were approved by several interested parties in the lawsuit, and the court. I don't know how it got by all those people without anyone noticing."

And the Democrat's response?

Democrats said yesterday that the latest disclosure should be the last straw. "Either this administration is acting incompetently in regard to voters' rights," said Scott Maddox, the Democratic state chairman, "or they have ill will toward a certain class of voters. Either way, it's unacceptable."

"The honorable thing to do," Mr. Maddox added, "is throw the list out and not purge people erroneously on the eve of election."

Yes, sir.

Friday, July 09, 2004


Pentagon admits some Bush records destroyed

In April the Associated Press (AP) filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Bush's military records. They've just received a response.
Military payroll records that could more fully document President Bush's whereabouts during his service in the Texas Air National Guard were inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.

In a letter responding to a freedom of information request by The Associated Press, the Defense Department said that microfilm containing the pertinent National Guard payroll records was damaged and could not be salvaged. The damaged material included payroll records for the first quarter of 1969 and the third quarter of 1972.

"President Bush's payroll records for those two quarters were among the records destroyed," wrote C.Y. Talbott, of the Pentagon's Freedom of Information and Security Review section. "Searches for back-up paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful."

Need I say more?


Russian oil for Europe - US worries about environment

This story appeared yesterday on the AP wire. As of this morning, no American newspaper has picked it up, including the NY Times and the Washington Post, so I’m linking you to the Moscow Times.

Ukraine has just announced a decision to allow a pipeline to carry lower grade Russian oil from the city of Brody, near the Russian border, to Odessa, on the Black Sea. The oil will then be shipped by tanker to southern Europe. If the deal is completed, Russia will be able to ship 9 million tons of crude a year.

The pipeline was built in 2001 to transport oil from the Caspian northward for sale to Europe, but the Caspian producers—primarily Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan—haven’t been producing, so the pipeline is getting little use. Russia has been wanting to use it to carry oil in the opposite direction, and the two countries have been bickering back and forth about it practically since the pipeline was built.

The story concludes that

The United States has strongly opposed sending Russian oil from Brody to Odessa, saying it will increase Ukraine's dependence on energy from Moscow and increase chances of an oil spill as more oil tankers travel from the Black Sea through Turkey's clogged Bosporus strait.

This caught my eye, because U.S. interest in the environment, especially in matters of petroleum, is practically unheard of. But rather than see Russian oil transported, the U.S. wants Caspian oil developed, which according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, will occur atop this environmental disaster

Untreated waste from the Volga River--into which half the population of Russia and most of its heavy industry drains its sewage--empties directly into the Caspian Sea, while pesticides and chemicals from agricultural run-off are threats to the Sea's flora and fauna. Thousands of seals that live in the Caspian Sea have died since 2000 due to pollution that weakened their immune systems, and overfishing, especially of the prized sturgeon, has caused a dramatic decline in fish stocks.

And why would the U.S. be worried about Ukraine’s dependence on Moscow for energy?1 Could it have anything to do with U.S. efforts to encircle Russia?2

Ukraine, resuming nationhood after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, has had a stormy relationship with the Russians, but they get most of their gas and oil from Russia. As a part of the U.S. encirclement strategy, all the former Soviet countries are being encouraged to look to Europe.3

What most people haven’t noticed, because it’s only carried in the print media--if at all--is that U.S.-Russian relations are not all that hunky-dory, despite what you may have heard about Putin’s supporting Bush-Cheney on the Iraq-al Qaeda connection.4 It is my belief that Putin supports Bush because he feels that he will have a freer hand in Chechnya and the former Soviet countries of the Caucasus if Bush is re-elected. To put it more plainly, the U.S. will be weaker under Bush.5

Back in February, the Russians held a huge military exercise. Yuri Baluyevsky, first deputy chief of the Russian armed forces, said the exercise

was prompted in part by Russia's concern about the development of low-yield nuclear weapons in the United States, which he described as destabilizing.

"They are trying to make nuclear weapons an instrument of solving military tasks, lower the threshold of nuclear weapons use," Baluyevsky said. "Shouldn't we react to that, at least on the headquarters level? I'm sure that we should and we are doing that."

Which brings me to another point. Bush administration actions—abrogation of the anti-ballistic-missile treaty and early steps toward development of low-level nuclear armaments, among other things—are leading to a new arms race with the Russians.

Most Americans have no idea just how much damage these people are wreaking. Unfortunately, the messes they’ve made in Afghanistan and Iraq are masking the mischief they’re up to in the rest of the world.


1 According to the CIA’s World Factbook,

Ukraine depends on imports of energy, especially natural gas, to meet some 85% of its annual energy requirements.
Ukraine's dependence on Russia for energy supplies and the lack of significant structural reform have made the Ukrainian economy vulnerable to external shocks.

2 Asia Times carried a piece in June by Michael Weinstein that begins

Now that the experiment in American unilateralism has failed with the collapse of the adventurist campaign in Iraq, the world returns to the two foundational models for global power relations: multilateralism and multi-polarism.

In discussing the multipolar model, he says this of Russia:

The second major site for the emergence of the New Regionalism is Russia. Under Vladimir Putin, Russia has returned to its traditional strategic doctrine of containing encirclement and, if possible, expanding its cordon sanitaire (in this case, restoring it). Putin has made it explicit that Russia has to take care of its own economy and society, pursue an independent foreign policy, and aggressively militarize. The strategic aim of those principles is to regain control over Russia's periphery: to draw Ukraine and Belarus firmly into its orbit and to re-exert influence over the former Soviet republics in the Caucasus and Central Asia. Specifically, Russia's goals are to edge American bases out of Central Asia and to gain some control over Caspian Sea oil.

Russia is hampered by economic weakness, dependence on oil revenues, the war in Chechnya and an inefficient military. Its effectiveness as a center of multi-polarism will hinge on its ability to generate a sufficient economic surplus to deliver on the promise of a state-of-the-art military. As the re-militarization program proceeds, Russia will attempt to exploit dissidence in the former Soviet republics to its south when that is to its advantage, and to cultivate closer relations with them when that is advantageous. The United States will seek to hold on to its gains in the region, but the question again is whether it will have the resources and will to do so. The former Soviet republics are not eager to fall under Russian hegemony and rely for their independence on Euro-American protection. The Iraq adventure has not changed that. Russia has chosen to pursue a multi-polar strategy, but it is a work in its early stages. [emphasis mine]


3 The Dept. of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) says,

The country has been engaged in a partnership agreement with the European Union (EU) since 1998, and the two sides are currently considering a draft action plan which Ukraine hopes will pave the way for eventual integration with the EU. Meanwhile, in September 2003, Ukraine joined Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in creating a "single economic area" designed to coordinate the countries' trade regulations and reduce tariffs. While some observers have criticized this dual-track economic strategy as contradictory, Kiev insists that the newly formed post-Soviet economic bloc will compliment its EU integration strategy and thereby serve the national interest.

4 This silliness was surely a reward to Bush & Co. for keeping their mouth shut on the Russian war crimes going on in Chechnya, though what anyone has to fear from this crew on the topic of war crimes I cannot say. [back]

5 Zbigniew Brzezinski, Secretary of State under Jimmy Carter, wrote a piece for Foreign Affairs back in 1997, "A geostrategy for Eurasia."

Russia's future is less certain and the prospects for its positive evolution more tenuous. America must therefore shape a political context that is congenial to Russia's assimilation into a larger framework of European cooperation, while fostering the independence of its newly sovereign neighbors. Yet the viability of, say, Ukraine or Uzbekistan will remain uncertain, especially if America fails to support their efforts at national consolidation.
Russia is more likely to make a break with its imperial past if the newly independent post-Soviet states are vital and stable. Their vitality will temper any residual Russian imperial temptations. Political and economic support for the new states must be an integral part of a broader strategy for integrating Russia into a cooperative transcontinental system. A sovereign Ukraine is a critically important component of such a policy, as is support for such strategically pivotal states as Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. [boldface mine]

Thursday, July 08, 2004


Buying an HVT for the Democratic Convention

No. An HVT is not a new-fangled television set, it's a "high-value target"— preferably Osama bin-Laden, but Mullah Omar or Zawahiri will do in a pinch.

Buzzflash is spotlighting an article in The New Republic (TNR), "July Surprise," that shows that despite what critics have said, Bush & Co. really are planning ahead.

Using their usual carrot-and-stick approach, which consists of a very big stick and very little carrot, the administration is demanding of Pakistan that it produce an "HVT." But not just when the Pakistanis feel like it. No. They'd like it, please, somewhere at the beginning of the Democratic Convention.

Through a spokesman for the National Security Council, Bush & Co. says,

Our attitude and actions have been the same since September 11 in terms of getting high-value targets off the street, and that doesn't change because of an election.

Like hell, it doesn't.

TNR gets its story from three sources in the Pakistani government. An official from Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) informs,

[The Pakistanis] have been told at every level that apprehension or killing of HVTs before [the] election is [an] absolute must.... The last ten days of July deadline has been given repeatedly by visitors to Islamabad and during [ul-Haq's] meetings in Washington... [I]t would be best if the arrest or killing of [any] HVT were announced on twenty-six, twenty-seven, or twenty-eight July. [boldface mine]
The threat to Pakistan, if they don't produce, is a resurrection of the nuclear-proliferation issue, which so far the administration has kindly let drop. As one Pakistani general so colorfully put it,
If we don't find these guys by the election, they are going to stick this whole nuclear mess up our asshole.

But if Musharraf produces the prized HVTs, it's likely to have consequences.

First, going into the tribal areas risks destabilizing the Western border and provoking a civil war. Some of you may remember the "spring offensive" that Bush & Co. so boldly announced. Pakistan went through the motions, but you could tell their hearts weren't in it. So we had them kill some villagers and go home.

Second, the administration is dangling F-16 fighter planes in front of Musharraf along with a $3 billion "aid" package that he would presumably need to buy them with. Should he get them, this will piss off the Indian government mightily and give a boost to the new-found spirit of cooperation that is arising between India and China, which is just about as welcome in the State Dept. as a gay wedding.

You know, Osama bin-Laden is at the very least contained; that's more than can be said for the Bush administration.


Paying to protest

On Tuesday the New York Times editorialized on the need for New York City to accommodate the protesters coming for the Republican Convention.
The city has not been forthcoming in its offers of protest sites, and it has been unduly dismissive of the free-expression interests at stake. It should do a better job of coming up with an acceptable site for the protesters.

The city has rejected the request for Central Park—too “fragile,” they say—and has offered the West Side Highway instead, which makes the word “gathering” meaningless. The Times suggests that they should either find a space in Central Park or offer Times Square.

Times Square is just right. It calls up associations with the New Year’s Eve celebration—watching the Ball come down—as we watch the other shoe drop. It will be convenient for the media too, offering excellent vantage points for crowd shots. And there will be a crowd. The permit request anticipates 250,000; I think that number may be modest.

The Times concludes,

The city is already rolling out the red carpet for the Republicans, with an ad campaign urging New Yorkers to "make nice" to the delegates. People who want to take exception to Republican policies are also a legitimate part of convention week, and the city needs to make nice to them, too.

While this is the proper sentiment and all, it really misses the point. As I noted in a previous post, the city expects the convention to generate over $250 million in business, and is of course the reason they’re so proud to have the Republicans.

Now the city’s website doesn’t tell us how they arrived at that figure. Does it already include an estimation of the money to be spent by protesters, for instance? I’m sure that on a per capita basis, the Republicans will far outspend the protesters, but on the other hand, the protesters are going to have a lot more capita.

Let’s do a modest estimate.

Per day, there will be

Why that’s $120 per day! And if you know anything about NYC, you know what a low-ball estimate this is. So we have $120 x 5 days x 250,000 people or $150,000,000!

The Times is damned right that the city should accommodate the protesters. The city's interest should be purely economic, not political.


1 Food at most demonstrations is purchased from vendors who pop up out of nowhere. [back]

2 In the 60s this would have been bottles of Boone’s Farm Strawberry. Tastes have changed. [back]

3 I’m setting this number so low because many protesters will sleep in parks, churches and under bridges. [back]

Wednesday, July 07, 2004


Leon Holmes confirmed by the Senate

Judge Leon Holmes of Arkansas, the anti-abortion judge who wrote that conceptions from rape are as rare as a "snowfall in Miami," was confirmed yesterday to a federal judgeship by the Senate in a 51-46 vote.

Five Republican Senators voted against him, but this was offset by the votes of six Democrats:

Zell Miller's vote, of course, was expected, since he's essentially a Republican right-winger holding a Democratic seat. It's also usual for Senators from the home state to support the candidate.

What is surprising is that two women Democratic Senators supported him. If you give Senator Lincoln a "pass" for being from Arkansas and therefore unable to help herself, we still have Mary Landrieu. By contrast, Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine as well as Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas all voted against him.

If you live in Arkansas, Louisiana or Nebraska, you might want to advise your Senator of your opinion of their vote. For a rundown on the ugly details of Holmes' past, People for the American Way has a summary.


Quote of the Day

Republicans in the House took more than 140 hours of testimony to investigate whether the Clinton White House misused its holiday card database but less than five hours of testimony regarding how the Bush administration treated Iraqi detainees. --Henry Waxman, writing in the Washington Post

Republicans respond to Edwards

The Republican National Committee (RNC) was first out of the starting gate with a 40-page website denouncing Edwards as “a disingenuous, unaccomplished liberal and friend to personal injury trial lawyers.” I’m always surprised when Republicans use the word “accomplished” while sporting a candidate who needs help with his shoelaces.

The “business community” is reported to be nervous, according to CBS MarketWatch.

"We believe Edwards's choice could be perceived negatively for companies in the pharmaceutical, managed care, property/casualty insurance and student loan industries, among others, in our view," wrote Charles Gabriel, a policy analyst with Prudential Equity Group.

The Democratic ticket's two big worries for Wall Street, Valliere [chief political strategist at Schwab Soundview Capital Markets] said, is that Edwards adds a more "protectionist" cast to the campaign. Also, a Kerry-Edwards ticket would presumably be less likely to make tort reform a high priority, he said.

The Washington Post adds that

Jerry Jasinowski, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said Edwards has shown “conspicuous hostility to manufacturing and business."

I like it when they’re “nervous,” but I’d be happier if they were “worried,” as in

[A]nalysts see worries for Wall Street should the Kerry-Edward tickets prevail. (CBS MarketWatch)

Culture warriors were also prompt to respond.

The socially conservative Concerned Women for America portrayed Edwards as trying to have it both ways on issues such as gay marriage. "He's a Kerry clone with charisma: He flip-flops on the issues, very hard to nail down," said Janice Crouse, an official with the group.

As for the horse race in the South,

[E]lection watchers say that while Edwards may be unlikely to tilt North Carolina to Bush, he may help the Democrats retain his Senate seat.

University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato changed his rating on the North Carolina Senate race from "toss-up" to "leans Democratic" in the wake of the selection. Erskine Bowles, who served as chief of staff in the Clinton White House, has been leading Republican Rep. Richard Burr in the battle over the open seat.

When you consider the Supreme Court vacancies coming up, gaining a Democratic Senate is at least as important as winning the Presidency.

The New York Post, unfortunately, was unable to comment. Their front page shouted “Dem Picks Gephardt as VP Candidate.”

Tuesday, July 06, 2004


Bush Country - Check your salvation

I’m still working on that piece about General Karpinski, lately of Abu Ghraib and other Iraqi prisons, but I didn’t want to leave you without something to contemplate, so I’ve pulled out of the file a wonderful little piece from Bush Country.

It seems the end of the world was upon us last month. I’m still pinching myself in hopes of establishing once and for all my own corporeality (which is not the same as corpulence, by the way) after this dire event. I worry that events like those described below have occurred and I just didn’t notice.

Before laying out the evidence, Bush Country reassures its readers with this:

... Although the information in this article points to "apocalyptic" events within a month's time frame, unless the Anti-Christ is revealed to the entire world in June, we believe they will not occur. Why? We believe a pre-tribulation rapture event will take place but in order for it to take place, scripture points out that the Anti-Christ will be revealed to the world before this rapture occurs. Therefore, unless the entire world is introduced to the Anti-Christ in June, we have to believe these events will not be taking place, so you should rest safely on that. The coincidences are incredible though and do lead one to check your salvation.

I was not totally reassured. It seems to me that George Bush comes as close to the Anti-Christ as I want to get.

So Bush Country published an email from “Aussie Bloke,” who purports to be a Dr. Elford Gartrell, an Australian scientist. it is. I AM DR GARTREL. [Unfortunately, Dr. Gartrell has not learned to spell his own name.] Happy now? As for what I know....I've already told you. You want bloody have them already. You want to know what will happen? the above posts. You don't believe me?...YOUR problem! YOU have brains...USE THEM... The times locations and eta of the cloud and objects has already been posted. NOW all you have to do is hope to hell that someone out there copied it. NOW...GET THE WORD OUT!!!! THIS IS LEGIT. FAREWELL TO ALL. SEE YOU IN ETERNITY.

Yes, Aussie Bloke was predicting a comet arrival, which taken together with an expansion of the M3 money supply and a naval deployment to the Pacific, pretty much cinched the case for the end of the world. As a prelude we had a meteor sighting near Grover’s Mill, New Jersey and strange “lights” over Washington State on June 4.

Now another website, Christian Media Daily, turned up evidence that it was all a hoax done by a group calling itself “Blind Skies”

You are all to be commended for your exemplary performance these past several weeks. Your unwitting participation in BLIND SKIES has proven most informative, and quite frankly entertaining to many project members. To say that it got out of hand would be an exercise in understatement.

Our initial hypothesis was straightforward enough: Given the barest minimum of verifiable evidence, ordinary citizens of average to above-average intelligence could be duped into wholesale belief in a catastrophe scenario, provided there was ample corroboration from equally ambiguous, non-credible sources.
BLIND SKIES is not, as many have claimed, a ´PSY OP´. Although we have an affiliation with the government, our mandate was not intended to be any sort of disinformation campaign, mass brainwashing, or subliminal manipulation. We conducted a serious experiment to study the panic reflexes of a virtual community, and quite frankly the experiment ran away from us. AUSSIE BLOKE has now become our Frankenstein´s Monster.

This surely looks like Bush Country to me.

It's Edwards!

National Public Radio is reporting this morning that Kerry has selected Edward as his choice for Veep. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm relieved. Edwards can do a great deal of good in the South, and the South needs a great deal of good done to it.

Monday, July 05, 2004


Just a warm-up [updated]

You know how, on some days, when facing a mountain of difficult tasks, you take on the most trivial? Well, maybe you don't. But it's definitely one of my weaknesses. Which is why I'm beginning my blogging day with an email I've just sent to Steve Lovelady of the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR). He's the managing editor of their section known as "The Campaign Desk."

According to their website,

... The Campaign Desk attempts to get inside the news cycle and enrich campaign journalism in real time. Our goal is to straighten and deepen campaign coverage almost as it is being written and produced.

The Desk is politically nonpartisan; its only biases are toward accuracy, fairness, and thoroughness. Its focus is not on what politicians say and do, but on how the press is presenting (or not presenting) the political story to the public. It will monitor not just news reporting, but also political analysis and commentary, assessing the accuracy of the facts behind the argument and the fairness of the framing. It will be a resource not only for conscientious journalists, but also for all citizens who want the best possible version of a free press at a time when it matters most.

That's all well and good, though I might quibble with their next (shall we say?) self-serving sentence--

Columbia Journalism Review is recognized throughout the world as America's premier media monitor.

I haven't seen any polls on that recently--or ever, come to think of it.

In any case, I was reading an article by Agence France Presse (AFP) this morning-- "Bloggers come of age in US presidential race"--in which Mr. Lovelady is quoted.

"It's just the latest manifestation of the vanity press," said Steve Lovelady, managing editor of Columbia Journalism Review's Campaign Desk, that analyzes bloggers as part of its media coverage.

"Most of them don't consider themselves journalists and I'll be the first to tell you that," Lovelady commented.

This did not sit well with my morning coffee. Vanity press, indeed! So I had to fire off a riposte.

Dear Mr. Lovelady,

I just read your quote in the AFP article "Bloggers come of age in US presidential race."

[quote from above]

Most of us don't want to be considered journalists, and I'll be the first to tell you that. It is no accident that journalists, last time I looked, polled below Congressmen in terms of trust.

But a brief example. About a week and a half ago, John Gorenfeld published an article in Slate about the coronation of Rev. Moon in the Dirksen Building.

He is a blogger, and this information has been on his website since the time of its occurrence. I knew about it; anybody who cared knew about it. Only the general public didn't know about it.

Now you would think that the coronation of a religious nut as the Messiah in the Senate Office Building, attended by a number of members of Congress, would have been newsworthy. Well, you would have thought wrong.

Only when Gorenfeld got an article into Slate did this become "news." At this point the NY Times, the Washington Post, the networks and NPR carried the story. But that's all they carried, and NPR carried it somewhat as a "joke." They did not go below the surface to elucidate Moon's enterprises, political connections, history, effects upon the country, whether it be the Washington Times or his enterprises receiving federal dollars to teach virginity. Well, the news is still there--on John Gorenfeld's blog. You can get caught up at

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue blogging away over at Simply Appalling because "connecting the dots" and "giving perspective" is a task that journalists have foresworn.

Handy Fuse

There. I feel better now, so maybe I can get around to telling you about some matters that are really important, such as the latest on Gen. Karpinski and the doings with Iran.

Correction and update

John Gorenfeld's article first appeared in Salon, not Slate. A reader sent in a link to an excellent recap of the Moon affair by Tim Rowland in Hagerstown, Maryland's Herald-Mail Online.

Sunday, July 04, 2004


Nine lawmakers request UN observers for presidential election

A little political theater is always refreshing.

Quote of the Day

We must promote a more entrepreneurial approach to developing military capabilities, one that encourages people, all people, to be proactive and not reactive, to behave somewhat less like bureaucrats and more like venture capitalists -- Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to the National Defense University, 1/31/02

The gall of it all

U.S. officials in charge of the Development Fund for Iraq drained all but $900 million from the $20 billion fund by late last month in what a watchdog group has called an "11th-hour splurge." [Baltimore Sun]

The Development Fund was set up by the U.N. Security Council at the start of the U.S. occupation. The U.N. kick-started the fund with the residue of the money from its Oil for Food program. The money was to be used for the rebuilding of Iraq.

So what was $19.1 billion dollars spent on? No one is quite sure. Along with the fund, the Security Council also set up an oversight board, perhaps sensing that Bush & Co. should not be left with their hands entirely alone in the till. Well, the board noticed in February that a number of noncompetitive contracts had been approved. Contracts with companies like, say—oh, come on, guess!

The next month, the board was told that Halliburton won some of the contracts without competitive bidding. The provisional authority "indicated that as a general rule, effective January 2004 contracts were no longer awarded without competitive bidding," according to the board's minutes.

So the board then asked for audits of the contracts by the time of its June meeting. It has so far received nada. So now the board is trying to find out just how many sole-sourced contracts there are. Good luck, guys!

Now why would Bush & Co. do such a thing, now that they’ve brought accountability and integrity to the White House? To avoid oversight?

Some critics have suggested that American authorities tapped the Iraqi money to avoid the stricter controls Congress demanded on the spending of U.S. tax dollars, after reports last year of overcharges by Pentagon contractors.

"Perhaps they prefer to have the flexibility to give away contracts to whichever companies they want on whatever terms they want," said Svetlana Tsalik, director of the George Soros-funded Revenue Watch, part of the Open Society Institute.

What the U.S. has revealed so far is that they’ve spent $10 billion on the Iraqi ministries of the Interim Governing Council (IGC). That’s quite a nice chunk of change for a non-governing temporary group that was best known for not showing up for meetings.

The rest went to relief and reconstruction projects; out of that money, about $350 million was put at the discretion of U.S. military commanders for projects intended to improve relations with Iraqis.

So far the Iraqis have certainly not received relief, and the U.S. military, for its expenditure of over a third of a billion, has demonstrated that public relations efforts sometimes require more than money. I hope Bush & Co. has noticed this as it looks toward November.

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