Tuesday, January 30
White House Laundering Funds through Afghistain for Covert Attacks on Iran?
Last week (January 26), the Associated Press reported the Bush administration would seek from the Democratically-controlled congress $10.6 billion to help the US-backed Afghani-government fight back resurgent Taliban forces.
Taliban forces, emboldened and rearmed, launched fierce attacks across the country beginning last spring, leading to Afghanistan's bloodiest year since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. Crop production for illegal drugs also hit a new high in 2006, and relations worsened between Afghanistan and Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the fight against global terrorism.
But just a year earlier, the White House was downsizing Afghani funding.
Meanwhile, on January 3,  The Washington Post headline announced: U.S. Cedes Duties in Rebuilding Afghanistan. The US budget will drop from $1b to $600m. The Afghanis will be expected to take on this task themselves (!). There are concerns amongst Afghan officials that America’s priorities are “shifting elsewhere.” Where is “elsewhere”?
The US also recently had to assure Gordon O'Connor, the Canadian Defense Minister, that the rumors he had heard of the Pentagon shifting more troops out of Afghanistan were unfounded.
"My hope is they won't draw any troops away from Afghanistan to reinforce Iraq. . . . That's the only thing I'd think about,"O'Connor told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation earlier this month.
But as Bush encounters resistance from Democratic congressional leadership to expanding the war fronts in the Middle East--principally in Iran but also in Iraq--could the inflated funding request for Afghanistan actually aid for American troops rumored covertly fighting in Iran since Spring 2006?
Despite numerous public reports stating that US troops are currently conducting operations within Iran, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) refused to answer repeated questions by Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) about US troops in Iran, today at a House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations.
Kucinich, the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee, repeatedly questioned Ambassador Bolton on the effect that US troops operating within Iran will have on diplomatic negotiations already underway, including those at the UN.
Recently, Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker magazine that US troops are already operating in Iran. Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner (Ret.) has made similar statements on CNN. In addition, Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA counter-terrorism chief, told the Guardian newspaper that special forces are operating within Iran identifying targets and aiding dissident groups.
After all, Afghanistan is the perfect venue for foreign aid funds to go missing. Three days after the AP reported Bush's impending funding request from Congress, the London Telegraph reported that half of Afghani aid routinely is stolen by corrupt officials.
Corrupt police and tribal leaders are stealing vast quantities of reconstruction aid that is intended to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from the Taliban, The Sunday Telegraph has learnt.
In some cases, all the aid earmarked for an area has ended up in the wrong hands. Defence officials in the United States and Britain estimate that up to half of all aid in Afghanistan is failing to reach the right people.The British paper, however, is disingenuous by overlooking the more serious problem of US contractors' unchecked theft. During his residency in the country, correspondent Stewart Nusbaumer learned most of the money disappeared through a money laundering scheme through "shabby" construction work permitted by U.S. contractors.
Where did the $12 billion that donor countries pumped into Afghanistan for reconstruction go? Where did the dough go?
"The money goes through a system that circles it back to the funding country," Fariba Nava, the Madonna of Afghanistan says in a soft, gravely voice. "If the US donates money to build a dam, it hires an American company to build it. That company takes its profits, its overhead, other expenses and then hires a subcontractor that does the same. What is left for building the dam is minimal so it's usually built below standard. Sometimes," she brushes her long blond hair away from her milky colored face, "money simply disappears, stolen or wasted on imported material."
... In her excellent investigative report, Afghanistan, Inc., Fariba Nava quotes Baz Mohammed Baz, the head of the construction for the Afghanistan education ministry, that Japanese contractors built solid classroom buildings at a cost of only $100,000 while an American contractor charged $274,000 for defective classroom buildings. She documents health clinics, schools, roads and other infrastructure projects with leaky roofs and broken plumbing, uncompleted interiors, sinking pavements. It's a litany of shabby work by American contractors and their subcontractors.
It's not like the White House's "redeployment" of the $10.6 billion for other than its publicly stated purpose would be the first Great Lie it has foisted on America.
We also should count on a substantial amount of those billions disappearing into Afghanistan's primary money laundering market--opium and heroin--a scam some critics argue provides American and British banks with regular infusions of cash.
But, hey, what's a billion or so among friends?
Additional 9/11 Deaths and Faux Denial
The New York Post reported Sunday (28 January) that more than 100 9/11 first responders-- police, firefighters, paramedics--are believed to have died from the toxic exposure at the World Trade Center. New York state is funding an investigation into those deaths.
According to 9/11 Blogger's Jon Gold, these deaths should be added to the 2973 officials deaths at the World Trade Center of 9/11.
According to the Post:
The state has launched the first study of deaths among World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers - a grim toll that now exceeds 100, officials told The Post.
With a $165,000 federal grant from 9/11 health czar John Howard, the state is contributing at least twice that in staff and resources to study what killed the cops, firefighters and other workers who have died after searching for survivors or helping in the cleanup.
"We want to know about every death, so we can evaluate any patterns with fatalities," said Kitty Gelber, chief epidemiologist with the state Bureau of Occupational Health. "People need to let us know who was there and who died."Read the rest of the story here.
Politics certainly is a strange contact sport. A month before Democrats assumed control of Congress last December, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) reported his party's congressional leadership had pulled a "bait-and-switch" on the American electorate on the Iraq War. Though campaigning on a "new direction" for the Iraq War, Kucinich fingered them for reneging of that party promise.
But now the "progressive" Democrat done a switch-a-roo on 9/11 not unlike that of his leaders, according to DZ at 9/11 Blogger.
You might recall a post almost a year ago when Kucinich said:
Do we see a pattern here? 9/11? Katrina? They knew something was going to happen and they didn't act.
Interestingly enough the following article is from just 11 days ago and seems to take a different position in regards to Kucinich:
Kucinich Office says, "9/11 is over...it's past" -- Review of 9/11 Report not a priority - 911citizenswatch.orgDZ, they already are gearing up for the '08 Prez race. As a putative Democratic candidate for the White House, Denny is obligated to develop a comparable level of public amnesia and distraction as the other 43 candidates who are competing for the chance to warm their sell-out buns in Boy George's old seat.
Thursday, January 25
Vintage Darwin Awards
Wednesday, January 24
Dumb Like a Fox
Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch's FOX TV announced last weekend (January 20) it is developing a new game show. The proposed show's name?
"Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" (or here; I am not making this up.)
Viewers (and contestants) demonstrating sufficient intellectual prowess to answer "yes" will be impressed they only channel surf through without watching programing fare Murdoch presents on his FOX News Network, the cable station with "fair and balanced" spin coverage of--and talking-head "critical" commentary on--their top manufactured non-stories.
What's next, Rupert? How about a reality show in which FOX-only viewers compete for college tuition funds for their children or themselves?
Now there's a TV project to fold promptly for lack of interested contestants.
Tuesday, January 23
CNN's Paul Zahn: Fascism's Kinder, Gentler Face
|... 5.) Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.|
|It's legal again, to fire gov't workers for being gay|
|Bush calls for Constitutional ban on same-sex marriages|
|Bush refuses to sign U.N proposal on women's "sexual" rights|
|W. David Hager chairman of the FDA's Reproductive Health Drugs Advisory Committee does not prescribe contraceptives for single women, does not do abortions, will not prescribe RU-486 and will not insert IUDs.|
|The State Department7 has awarded an explicitly anti-feminist U.S. group part of a US$10 million grant to train Iraqi women in political participation and democracy.|
CNN's “Journalism” is a Fool's Paradise
by Gail Dines
January 21, 2007
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me a couple of dozen times, and shame on me -- but also shame on what passes for journalism on television.
This truism comes to mind after my appearance on Paula Zahn Now on CNN this week to discuss the Duke rape case. I'm not naive about these kinds of shows -- which I know are not really about journalism but about ratings, most easily obtained through sensationalism and playing to the prejudices of the audience. But over the past 20 years I've gone on a number of them to discuss my work as a sociologist on issues of racism and sexism in media. Like many progressives, I do that with eyes wide open, knowing the limits but realizing it's one of the few shots we have at a mass audience.
But this time I foolishly had high hopes after a producer from Zahn's show actually conducted a thoughtful screening interview, unlike any I had spoken with in the past. Most producers typically are uninterested in my views and tend to ask banal questions in these pre-interviews over the phone. They usually don't care about my arguments, but simply want to check that I have a big mouth (which, I admit, I do) and will not freeze in fear when the cameras roll. When they recognize that I am not someone who is likely to cower in the face of adversarial arguments, that's enough for them.
But this CNN producer kept grilling me with questions that suggested that they were interested in doing a show that looked at the historical and contemporary issues of violence against black women in this society. Four phone calls later, I agreed to fly to Durham to do the show.
I was told I would be in at least two segments, possibly three. That promise was crucial; there's no sense flying halfway across the country to say a couple of sentences between the ads. So I dug in to prepare, reading and consulting colleagues (all of them busy activists and academics, including Mark Anthony Neal, Imani Perry, Robert Jensen and Jackson Katz) about the way the media has framed the story. What an utter waste of time and energy.
The first inkling that something wasn't going according to plan was on my ride from the airport to the makeshift outdoor studio at the Durham courthouse. A different producer called to tell me that although I study both race and gender, they don't want this show to be about gender. I answered that this woman was brought in as a stripper and is charging that the lacrosse team sexually abused her -- how could this not also be about gender? Yes, yes, yes, she answered, but the show is focusing on race. I know enough by now not to argue with a senior producer an hour before taping, and so I simply agreed.
The second clue was one of the people on the panel with me -- the Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, an African American man who has made his name by slandering blacks for their racism against whites and their continuing "unwillingness" to climb out of poverty. For Peterson, black men have been emasculated by black women, and his project is about making black men "real men" again. The one saving grace was that the other guest on my panel was Kristal Brent Zook, an insightful journalist with Essence magazine....
Read the rest of Dines' piece here.
*In his 1995 essay titled "In Praise of Invective" ("At the end of a murderous century, let’s curse the enemies of the individual"), American poet Charles Simic argued that groups denied access to civil justice to settle their grievances against the government are permitted (and encouraged) to use profanity when referencing members of the suppressing elite.
As a Heartland American whose civil, constitutional and voting rights were "disappeared" by the Bush White House in its contrived post-9/11 police state, I will be invoking my "Simic Rights" by incorporating more phraseology like "well hung" in my writing.
Friday, January 19
Online Database to Foster Transparency, Accountability in Federal Spending
The secrecy-plagued White House and its "Do Nothing" 109th Congress just couldn't get around to making up their minds if they wanted more transparency in how they doled out tax dollars to those footing the bill. So OMB Watch filled the bill for America.
Founded in 1983, the OMB Watch exists, according to its website "to increase government transparency and accountability; to ensure sound, equitable regulatory and budgetary processes and policies; and to protect and promote active citizen participation in our democracy."
FedSpending.org, the group's latest public transparency and accoutabilty project, offers those with a curious nature an online database to track government spending from 2000 through most of 2005. According to the kind folks at OMB Watch, "We hope you will explore this site. But mostly we hope you will use the data to hold our elected leaders and government agencies accountable for their actions."
Those on Capitol Hill eschewing any light shone on their activities--Dick Cheney and those of that ilk--won't appreciate having Americans afforded a resource--and a free one, at that--enabling them see who is receiving how many of our tax dollars.
I did a quick tour of the site and came up with some intriguing figures. For example:
Top 20 Recipients of Federal Contract Awards from the Dept. of Defense for FY 2005Table sorted by dollars: re-sort using column headers
|FY 2005 Rank||Parent Company Name||Dollars||% of total for agency|
|1||LOCKHEED MARTIN CORP||$19,699,896,978||7.22%|
|3||NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORP.||$13,492,944,639||4.94%|
|4||GENERAL DYNAMICS CORP.||$10,434,759,504||3.82%|
|7||UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORP.||$4,902,797,833||1.80%|
|8||L-3 COMMUNICATIONS HOLDINGS||$4,180,288,438||1.53%|
|9||COMPUTER SCIENCES CORP.||$2,798,892,231||1.03%|
|11||SCIENCE APPLICATIONS INTL CORP||$2,624,760,806||0.96%|
|14||GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY||$2,409,513,920||0.88%|
|16||OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH SERVICES||$1,924,311,986||0.71%|
|17||TRIWEST HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE CO||$1,803,606,315||0.66%|
|--||Total for top 20||$112,243,573,676||41.13%|
|--||All others for agency (includes 81,467 other contractors)||$160,642,201,069||58.87%|
Rather than search by federal agency, you could see how the states rank on federal contracts.
Federal Contract Awards by Contractor StateTable shows amounts in billions of dollars, and is sorted by FY 2005 dollars.
Switch to percentages or re-sort using column headers
How do federal legislators compare in getting money for constituents? Below are the top 50 for 2004-2005.
Federal Contract Awards by Place of Performance Congressional DistrictTable shows amounts in billions of dollars, and is sorted by FY 2005 dollars.
Switch to percentages or re-sort using column headers
Some data is unassignable by district. Click here to see it.
|Place of performance Congressional district||FY 2004||FY 2005||FY 2004-2005||FY 2005 Rank|
|District of Columbia non-voting (Eleanor Holmes Norton)||$14.9||$12.4||$27.2||1|
|Alabama 5 (Robert E. (Bud) Cramer Jr.)||$4.8||$5.1||$9.9||2|
|Virginia 10 (Frank R. Wolf)||$5.9||$4.0||$10.0||3|
|Maryland 8 (Chris Van Hollen)||$4.0||$3.9||$7.9||4|
|Virginia 8 (James P. Moran)||$6.4||$3.6||$10.1||5|
|Texas 22 (Tom DeLay)||$1.3||$3.4||$4.6||6|
|Washington 4 (Doc Hastings)||$2.5||$2.8||$5.3||7|
|Maryland 5 (Steny H. Hoyer)||$2.7||$2.7||$5.4||8|
|Mississippi 4 (Gene Taylor)||$1.2||$2.6||$3.8||9|
|Connecticut 2 (Rob Simmons)||$3.4||$2.6||$6.0||10|
|New Mexico 1 (Heather Wilson)||$2.7||$2.5||$5.1||11|
|Alaska At Large (Don Young)||$1.6||$2.3||$4.0||12|
|New Mexico 3 (Tom Udall)||$2.0||$2.3||$4.3||13|
|California 36 (Jane Harman)||$3.1||$1.9||$5.1||14|
|Utah 1 (Rob Bishop)||$1.5||$1.7||$3.2||15|
|Massachusetts 6 (John F. Tierney)||$2.3||$1.6||$3.9||16|
|Maine 1 (Thomas H. Allen)||$1.3||$1.5||$2.9||17|
|Maryland 1 (Wayne T. Gilchrest)||$1.3||$1.5||$2.8||18|
|Maryland 4 (Albert Russell Wynn)||$1.6||$1.5||$3.2||19|
|Wisconsin 6 (Thomas E. Petri)||$1.1||$1.5||$2.6||20|
|Indiana 2 (Chris Chocola)||$1.2||$1.5||$2.6||21|
|California 29 (Adam B. Schiff)||$2.3||$1.4||$3.8||22|
|Florida 15 (Dave Weldon)||$1.3||$1.3||$2.6||23|
|Iowa 2 (James A. Leach)||$1.0||$1.2||$2.2||24|
|Idaho 2 (Michael K. Simpson)||$1.0||$1.2||$2.2||25|
|Kansas 4 (Todd Tiahrt)||$0.9||$1.1||$2.0||26|
|California 14 (Anna G. Eshoo)||$4.1||$1.1||$5.2||27|
|Tennessee 3 (Zach Wamp)||$1.0||$1.1||$2.1||28|
|South Carolina 6 (James E. Clyburn)||$0.5||$1.1||$1.5||29|
|Virginia 11 (Thomas M. Davis)||$2.5||$1.0||$3.5||30|
|New Jersey 12 (Rush D. Holt)||$1.0||$1.0||$2.0||31|
|Florida 1 (Jeff Miller)||$0.8||$1.0||$1.8||32|
|Kansas 2 (Jim Ryun)||$0.7||$1.0||$1.7||33|
|Colorado 5 (Joel Hefley)||$1.0||$1.0||$2.0||34|
|Illinois 7 (Danny K. Davis)||$1.1||$1.0||$2.1||35|
|Maryland 6 (Roscoe G. Bartlett)||$0.7||$0.8||$1.5||36|
|Missouri 5 (Emanuel Cleaver)||$1.0||$0.8||$1.8||37|
|Maryland 2 (C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger)||$0.9||$0.8||$1.7||38|
|Maryland 7 (Elijah E. Cummings)||$1.2||$0.7||$1.9||39|
|Louisiana 2 (William J. Jefferson)||$0.4||$0.7||$1.2||40|
|Texas 13 (Mac Thornberry)||$1.3||$0.7||$2.0||41|
|Virginia 1 (Jo Ann Davis)||$0.8||$0.7||$1.5||42|
|Arizona 8 (Jim Kolbe)||$0.7||$0.7||$1.4||43|
|Indiana 3 (Mark E. Souder)||$0.7||$0.7||$1.3||44|
|Washington 2 (Rick Larsen)||$0.4||$0.7||$1.1||45|
|California 30 (Henry A. Waxman)||$0.7||$0.7||$1.4||46|
|Illinois 13 (Judy Biggert)||$0.7||$0.7||$1.3||47|
|Tennessee 6 (Bart Gordon)||$0.5||$0.6||$1.2||48|
|Virginia 4 (J. Randy Forbes)||$0.5||$0.6||$1.1||49|
|Pennsylvania 14 (Michael F. Doyle)||$1.1||$0.6||$1.7||50|
In conducting searches, you are limited only by imagination.
On the "Advanced Search by Agency" page, the category of contract competition listed as "not competed" caught my eye. So I again entered the agency providing the wealthiest their most welfare--the Department of Defense--and opted for "10. Weapons" under the Product or Service Category for a list of contractors.
My, my....Among the discoveries is that the Caryle Group, the #10 contractor in my first query that just happens to be the former employer of both George Bushes, ranks among 2005 leaders in no-bid contracts: $90.5 million dollars.
|NADA, GOVERNMENT OF||CANADIAN COMMERCIAL CORPORATIO; CANADIAN COMMERCIAL CORPORATION; canadian commerical corp; Government of Canada; ENVIRONMENT CANADA; INSTITUTE OF OCEAN SCIENCES; DEFENCE R&D CANADA-ATLANTIC; INSTI||$1,918,618|
|CAPCO INC||CAPCO INC||$2,176,021|
|CARDWELL CONDENSER CORP||VIKING TECHNOLOGIES, LTD||$24,169|
|CARLSON COMPANIES, INC.||THE HILTON ALEXANDRIA MARKCENT; AUGUSTA RIVERFRONT LIMITED PAR; RADISSON HOTELS INTERNATIONAL (0000); RADISSON RIVERWALK HOTEL; RADISSON HOTEL CORPORATION (3333); RADISSON HOTEL MIAMI; RAHN BAHIA MAR||$22,919|
|CARLYLE GROUP||UNITED DEFENSE, L P; SOUTHWEST MARINE INC; BAE SYSTEMS NORFOLK SHIP REPAI; B A E SYSTEMS LAND & ARMAMENTS; BAE SYSTEMS SAN DIEGO SHIP REP; NORFOLK SHIPBUILDING & DRYDOCK; BAE SYSTEMS LAND &||$90,478,925|
|CASPIAN ARMS LTD||CASPIAN ARMS LTD||$4,406|
|CDW CORPORATION||CDW GOVERNMENT INC; CDW-G; CDWG; CDW-GOV; MICRO WAREHOUSE INC; CDW COMPUTER CENTERS INCORPORATED; CDW CONSULTANTS, INC; CDW CORPORATION; CDW G GOVERNMENT; CITIBANK USA; CDW GOVERNMENT INC (CDWG); MICR||$0|
I wonder if having two presidents on board would have had anything with the company obtaining those millions without having to bother going through the plebian competition process?
You can convey your appreciation for their efforts in providing his great service here.