Wednesday, February 22, 2006

$putnik $peaks: it's about the money

Follow the Money Edition + a little satire

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Dirty Little Secret Behind the UAE Port Security Flap

Politicians and the media are loudly decrying the Bush administration's
proposal <> to
turn over port security to a firm owned by the United Arab Emirates
(UAE) - a country with ties to terrorists. They are talking tough about
national security - but almost no one is talking about what may have
fueled the administration's decision to push forward with this deal: the
desire to move forward Big Money's "free" trade agenda.

How much does "free" trade have to do with this? How about a lot. The
Bush administration is in the middle of a two-year push
<> to ink a
corporate-backed "free" trade accord with the UAE. At the end of 2004,
in fact, it was Bush Trade Representative Robert Zoellick who proudly
boasted of his trip to the UAE
to begin negotiating the trade accord. Rejecting this port security deal
might have set back that trade pact. Accepting the port security deal -
regardless of the security consequences - likely greases the wheels for
the pact. That's probably why instead of backing off the deal, President
Bush - supposedly Mr. Tough on National Secuirty - took the
extraordinary step of threatening to use the first veto of his entire
presidency <> to
protect the UAE's interests. Because he knows protecting those
interetsts - regardless of the security implications for America - is
integral to the "free" trade agenda all of his corporate supporters are

The Inter Press Service <>
highlights exactly what's at stake, quoting a conservative activists who
admits that this is all about trade:

"The United States' trade relationship with the UAE is the third largest
in the Middle East, after Israel and Saudi Arabia. The two nations are
engaged in bilateral free talks that would liberalise trade between the
two countries and would, in theory at least, allow companies to own and
operate businesses in both nations. 'There are legitimate security
questions to be asked but it would be a mistake and really an insult to
one of our leading trading partners in that region to reject this
commercial transaction out of hand,' said Daniel T. Griswold, who
directs the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, a
Washington-based libertarian think tank."

Look, we've seen this before. Just last year, Congress approved a U.S.
taxpayer-funded loan by the Bush administration to a British company to
help build nuclear technology in Communist China
Despite major security concerns raised - and a legislative effort to
block the loan - Congress's "free traders" (many of whom talk so tough
on security) made sure the loan went through so as to preserve the
U.S.-China free trade relationship that is allowing lawmakers' corporate
campaign contributors export so many U.S. jobs.

There is no better proof that our government takes its orders from
corporate interests than these kinds of moves. That's what this UAE deal
is all about - the mixture of the right-wing's goal of privatizing all
government services (even post 9/11 port security!) with the political
Establishment's desire to make sure Tom-Friedman-style "free" trade
supercedes everything. This is where the culture of corruption meets
national security policy - and, more specifically, where the unbridled
corruption of on-the-take politicians are weakening America's security.

The fact that no politicians and almost no media wants to even explore
this simple fact is telling. Here we have a major U.S. security scandal
with the same country we are SIMULTANEOUSLY negotiating a free trade
pact with, and no one in Washington is saying a thing. The silence tells
you all you need to know about a political/media establishment that is
so totally owned by Big Money interests they won't even talk about
what's potentially at the heart of a burgeoning national security scandal.

Iraq's civil war has cost $3,000 per U.S. family -- so far

By Richard Reeves
Universal Press Syndicate
February 3, 2006

LOS ANGELES -- God forbid critics of the war on Iraq should compare it
with the war in Vietnam. But perhaps it is worth mentioning that the
liberation of Iraq is now costing more each month than the preservation
of the Republic of South Vietnam did more than 30 years ago.

As the admitted direct cost of the war reached $250 billion last week --
and the White House asked for $120 billion more on Thursday -- new
analyses estimate that the invasion of Iraq could end up costing $2
trillion before it is over.

If you remember, the White House's own economic adviser, Lawrence
Lindsey, was fired for predicting, in September 2002, six months before
the invasion, that the total cost of the war might reach between $100
billion and $200 billion. What I (and perhaps others who questioned the
wisdom of the war before it began) remember is the hundreds of e-mails
and letters I received after I quoted Lindsey and used the higher figure
as more likely. "Moron" and "traitor" were among the more polite
epithets of the day. [1]

Misleading Numbers

Numbers can be misleading, of course. Some, such as the long-term cost
of treating damaged survivors of battle, can be exaggerated or
minimized. Some can be hidden in other budgets or drawn from confusing
off-budget accounts. And even the most accurate audits and projections,
while they translate all the numbers into current dollar amounts, rarely
mention that the U.S. economy is much bigger than it was in the 1960s
and 1970s, so that while the Vietnam War at times was using almost 10
percent of the gross national product, this one and the war in
Afghanistan might be in the 2 percent range.

But the exact figures are not the issue. The Washington issue is that
the Bush administration has been lying from day one about the cost of
this "preventative" war of choice. The original White House estimate of
the total war cost was $75 billion, including the destruction of all
Iraqi "weapons of mass destruction." Undersecretary of Defense Paul
Wolfowitz, whose fiscal acumen won him the presidency of the World Bank,
even offered the theory that the war would be self-financing, paid for
by Iraq's oil production. That's rich. And so are oil producers everywhere.

Escalating Cost of Petroleum

The war, in fact, is a factor in the escalating cost of petroleum
products here and everywhere else in the world. Leaving that aside as
you watch the gas-pump digits rise to Super Bowl numbers this weekend,
two anti-war research institutes, the International Relations Center and
the Institute for Policy Studies, estimate that the war's cost per
citizen has reached $727 -- or close to $3,000 for a family of four. By
the end of this year, those figures should reach about $1,300 per
citizen, or more than $5,000 for that family of four.

That calculation was based on a very conservative estimate of war costs
to date of $204 billion. But even with that low-balling, those billions
could have provided health care for 46 million Americans without health
insurance, the hiring of 3.5 million elementary school teachers, or the
construction of 2 million units of affordable housing. It's money lost
in the fog of war -- or perhaps it will be used to do wonderful things
for us all by Halliburton and the other defense contractors and private
militaries being paid to make Iraq into Iowa with oil.

One final point. One of the lessons we supposedly learned in Vietnam was
that foreign intervention can no longer prevail in civil wars. I
happened to run into a couple of Americans just back from Iraq, one of
whom had also served as a U.S. Marine officer in Vietnam. Their verdict
on what was happening in Iraq now was: "Well, we're exactly where we
were determined not to be. We're in the middle of a civil war."

© Copyright 2006 Universal Press Syndicate.

Fraud, Incompetence and Confusion, Molly Ivans

The special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction released an audit
last week containing extensive findings of fraud, incompetence and
confusion. Among the billions of dollars listed as wasted, I especially
liked the $100,000 someone decided to spend to refurbish an
Olympic-sized swimming pool, except that all that got done was shining
the pumps. Soldiers used reconstruction money for gambling, and millions
were stored in footlockers and bathrooms. Three Iraqis fell to their
deaths in a supposedly rebuilt hospital elevator that had been certified
as safe.

Because of its total misjudgment of the war in Iraq, the administration
has failed to enlarge the regular Army and has therefore put the entire
institution under immense strain. The "stop-loss" refusal to let people
leave at the end of their enlistments now affects 50,000 soldiers, and
mobilization of the reserves and extended service are a form of draft.

Despite chipper denials from the Pentagon, the Army has serious problems
with recruiting, especially getting quality recruits, and with regular
Army re-enlistment. The reason the numbers are not worse is because of
the bonuses being offered.

The officer corps is also being hollowed out, as younger officers quit
in such numbers that 100 percent of those remaining are automatically
moved up the ladder. For example, last year the Army promoted 97 percent
of all eligible captains, up from as historical average of 70 percent to
80 percent. This information is from Pentagon data in a report by the
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. It is quite possible
this administration is destroying the professional Army.

The most important question about the war in Iraq is whether it is doing
any good, and an increasing pool of evidence shows that it has become a
rallying and recruiting tool for global terrorists. Like the other
information in this article, the evidence comes from official reports.

I do hope this is responsible criticism that aims for cures, not
defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure.


Neocon architect says: 'Pull it down'


NEOCONSERVATISM has failed the United States and needs to be replaced by
a more realistic foreign policy agenda, according to one of its prime

Francis Fukuyama, who wrote the best-selling book The End of History and
was a member of the neoconservative project, now says that, both as a
political symbol and a body of thought, it has "evolved into something I
can no longer support". He says it should be discarded on to history's
pile of discredited ideologies.

In an extract from his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads, Mr
Fukuyama declares that the doctrine "is now in shambles" and that its
failure has demonstrated "the danger of good intentions carried to

In its narrowest form, neoconservatism advocates the use of military
force, unilaterally if necessary, to replace autocratic regimes with
democratic ones.

Mr Fukuyama once supported regime change in Iraq and was a signatory to
a 1998 letter sent by the Project for a New American Century to the then
president, Bill Clinton, urging the US to step up its efforts to remove
Saddam Hussein from power. It was also signed by neoconservative
intellectuals, such as Bill Kristol and Robert Kagan, and political
figures Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and the current defence secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld.

However, Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of
war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

"The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing
the United States from radical Islamism," he argues.

The rest of the story here:

America for Sale: The Ultimate Culture of Corruption Report

by Chris Bowers <>, Tue Feb 21, 2006 at
07:02:21 PM EST

I just received a huge 100+ page report from the always magnificent
Representative Louise Slaughter <>
that is almost certainly the most extensive and in-depth study of the
Republican Culture of Corruption yet produced. Considering that the
report is over 100 pages long and has over 600 pages of supporting
documents, I have not yet had a chance to look through it yet. It won't
be posted on the web until tomorrow, but I think the cover sheet I
received with it should be more than enough to whet your appetite: Here
it is:

Read the rest here. These folks make Cosa Nostra look like a girl scout
troop or petty shop lifters.

Orrin Hatch, The Senate's resident crackpot or should I say crack head.

Maybe he should take a breathalyzer test. This guy is off the charts.

Poll: Fifth of Americans think calls have been monitored

Tuesday, February 14, 2006; Posted: 6:41 p.m. EST (23:41 GMT)



Interactive: Wiretapping poll results


. Eavesdropping explainer

. Poll: Nervousness over Iran

. Bush defends program

Iran should prepare for the bombing to begin soon. Bush's poll numbers
in the tank

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About a fifth of Americans think federal agents have
listened in on their phone calls, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released
Tuesday suggests.

Twenty-one percent of the 1,000 adults who replied to the survey
conducted Thursday through Sunday said it was very likely or somewhat
likely their conversations had been wiretapped, while 52 percent said it
was not at all likely.

Twenty-four percent said it was not too likely.

The sampling error for the question was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush authorized the National Security
Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of communications -- phone
calls, e-mails and text messages -- between people inside the United
States, including Americans, and terrorist suspects overseas, bypassing
a secret court set up to provide warrants for such surveillance.

The Bush administration has said the program is designed to monitor
terrorists, while critics say the spying is illegal and may infringe on
the civil liberties of Americans.

According to the poll, Americans appear to be split over the legality of
the domestic eavesdropping program. About 49 percent of respondents said
the president had definitely or probably broken the law by authorizing
the wiretaps and 47 percent said he probably or definitely had not.
(Poll results

Those numbers were similar to a question about whether the program is
right or wrong -- 47 percent said it was right and 50 percent called it

And who the hell is in that 47percent?

The sampling error for those questions was plus or minus 5 percentage

On the lighter side -- Satire

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I want you to think very carefully with
me now. I plead with each one of you seated here today to tell me what
good has come of this once great nation since the since post-colonial
city-dwelling liberals got it into their thick, demon encamped skulls to
force our True Christian^(TM) forefathers to free their slaves? You
don't have to think too hard do you? Well, that's an added bonus of
being a True Christian^(TM). I'll tell you what's become of our country
since we spat in God's face and ignored the divine gift of slavery. It's
gone downhill ever since
<>. There's no
discipline, there's no order, there's just ten-million little colored
pickaninny children running around the streets with no direction. And
decent folks like us are flipping the bill. They've even got our
innocent little Christian children brainwashed into glorifying the
ghetto lifestyle by wearing backwards hats and hand-me-down trousers! I
guess that's how God punishes a country for electing a homosexual
President like Abraham Lincoln

As Paul Harvey would say, And now for the rest of the story


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