Grease Monkeys: The Speaker, The Spigot and the Slitherer-in-Chief

13 August 2005 4157 Hits

This is a slightly expanded version of the column published Aug. 12 in The Moscow Times.

One of the grubby little secrets of the Great Potomac Grease Pit – otherwise known as the government of the United States – is that the massive amount of bribes given and taken there often has little effect on the final outcome of policy decisions and legislation.

Cynics – and you know you who are – tend to believe that Washington is overrun with sleazy bagmen prowling the halls of Congress and slithering down White House corridors, proffering baubles, trinkets, sweetmeats and other enticements to plucky public servants, drawing them away from the straight and narrow to do the bidding of rapacious elites. But like so many of the hateful canards issuing from the foul stithy of the liberal imagination these days, this fantasy contains scarcely a shred of truth.

The plain fact is, most politicians take bribes to push policies they already support. With very few exceptions, you are just not going to achieve a place of prominence in national politics unless you are already the kind of person happy to do the bidding of rapacious elites, whatever the cut of your rhetorical jib ("progressive," "moderate," "conservative," etc.). Like Macbeth's spectral dagger, bribery merely marshall'st the politician in the way he was going.

Add a comment
Read more: Grease Monkeys: The Speaker, The Spigot and the Slitherer-in-Chief

"Keep Your Nose Out" of the Boss's Business: Thug Law in Bushistan

12 August 2005 6369 Hits
 There's no such thing as the constitutional republic known as the United States of America  anymore. It doesn't exist, it's long gone; you look all you want, but it's just not there. All we have now is a "Commander-in-Chief state" -- call it Bushistan for lack of a better name -- where there is no law, just the arbitrary will of the military leader and his minions. Check out the latest outrage surrounding the Maher Arar case; read the assertions of the Bushistan apparatchiks, then try to tell yourself the American republic still exists.
Add a comment
Read more: "Keep Your Nose Out" of the Boss's Business: Thug Law in Bushistan

The Big Heat: Global Warming Hits "Tipping Point"

11 August 2005 3317 Hits

But all American SUVs have air conditioning! So what's the big deal?

From the Guardian (excerpt):

A vast expanse of western Sibera is undergoing an unprecedented thaw that could dramatically increase the rate of global warming, climate scientists warn today. Researchers who have recently returned from the region found that an area of permafrost spanning a million square kilometres - the size of France and Germany combined - has started to melt for the first time since it formed 11,000 years ago at the end of the last ice age.

 The area, which covers the entire sub-Arctic region of western Siberia, is the world's largest frozen peat bog and scientists fear that as it thaws, it will release billions of tonnes of methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, into the atmosphere. It is a scenario climate scientists have feared since first identifying "tipping points" - delicate thresholds where a slight rise in the Earth's temperature can cause a dramatic change in the environment that itself triggers a far greater increase in global temperatures. The discovery was made by Sergei Kirpotin at Tomsk State University in western Siberia and Judith Marquand at Oxford University and is reported in New Scientist today.

Add a comment
Read more: The Big Heat: Global Warming Hits "Tipping Point"

Text-Heavy: The Modern Misuse of Scripture

11 August 2005 3867 Hits
 Wise woman Karen Armstrong -- one of the best writers on religion today -- delivers some home truths and vital history on the uses and misuses of scripture: a topic more pertinent than ever with fundamentalist frenzy on the rise around the world. Some excerpts:

....Protestant fundamentalists, for example, claim that they read the Bible in the same way as the early Christians, but their belief that it is literally true in every detail is a recent innovation, formulated for the first time in the late 19th century. Before the modern period, Jews, Christians and Muslims all relished highly allegorical interpretations of scripture. The word of God was infinite and could not be tied down to a single interpretation. Preoccupation with literal truth is a product of the scientific revolution, when reason achieved such spectacular results that mythology was no longer regarded as a valid path to knowledge.

We tend now to read our scriptures for accurate information, so that the Bible, for example, becomes a holy encyclopaedia, in which the faithful look up facts about God. Many assume that if the scriptures are not historically and scientifically correct, they cannot be true at all. But this was not how scripture was originally conceived. All the verses of the Qur'an, for example, are called "parables" (ayat); its images of paradise, hell and the last judgment are also ayat, pointers to transcendent realities that we can only glimpse through signs and symbols....

Part of the problem is that we are now reading our scriptures instead of listening to them. When, for example, Christian fundamentalists argue about the Bible, they hurl texts back and forth competitively, citing chapter and verse in a kind of spiritual tennis match. But this detailed familiarity with the Bible was impossible before the modern invention of printing made it feasible for everybody to own a copy and before widespread literacy - an essentially modern phenomenon - enabled them to read it for themselves.
Add a comment
Read more: Text-Heavy: The Modern Misuse of Scripture

What the Men Who Have Been There Say About the Horror They Have Seen and Done

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2005 3194 Hits

The invaluable Dahr Jamail reports from the Veterans for Peace National Convention in Dallas, where Iraqi vets laid it on the line about the unjust, ungodly war they were dragooned into fighting by the lies of the little gutless bag of wind "clearing brush" on his little faux ranch down the road.

Their eloquent anger and dedication to halting Bush's criminal insanity is reason enough for reading the piece, but there are also telling bits of information as well, such as confirmation of the widespread use of depleted uranium and its devastating effects on the civilian population. An excerpt:

Add a comment
Read more: What the Men Who Have Been There Say About the Horror They Have Seen and Done

School for Scandal: The "Torture Manual" Defense

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2005 3334 Hits

Wise man William Blum takes on the Bush gang's all-purpose excuse when confronted with charges of torture in the Pentagon Archipelago. From Blum's latest Anti-Empire Report (not yet on line, but check out his website, Killing Hope):

"It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations."

This is now the official and frequent response of White House, Pentagon, and State Department spokespersons when confronted with charges of American "abuse" (read: torture) of prisoners, and is being repeated by many supporters of the war scattered around the Internet.

It can thus be noted that White House, Pentagon, and State Department training manuals emphasize the tactic of saying "It is important to note that al Qaeda training manuals emphasize the tactic of making false abuse allegations," when confronted with charges of American torture of prisoners for which the spokespersons have no other defense.

It is equally important to note that these sundry spokespersons never actually offer a precise quotation from any terrorist training manuals, of al Qaeda or not. The one instance I've been able to find of US government officials referring to a specific terrorist training manual in the context of torture, is a referral to the so-called "Manchester Manual", a manual found on the computer of a suspected terrorist in Manchester, England in 2000. In the references to torture, in the portions of the manual that have been made public, there is certainly no clear, unambiguous directive for making false allegations of abuse, much less an emphasis on such.

Add a comment
Read more: School for Scandal: The "Torture Manual" Defense

FLASH: Saddam's WMD Uncovered! With New Added Update.

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2005 3539 Hits

OXFORD, England -- It's not often that we get the chance to break historic news on this site, but we are proud to announce that our Dear Leader has been vindicated at last: the source of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction has been revealed! Let's now see all the scoffers and doubters salt the earth with their tears of contrition!

Appropriately enough, the historic news was announced in the world's most historic newspaper: The Times of London. Writing today in those stories pages, reporter Dominic Kennedy that the source of Saddam's deadly anthrax WMD has been traced to....a cow right here in Oxford.

A dead cow in Oxford, to be exact. A cow that died 68 years ago in Oxford, to be even more exact. Yes, the anthrax culture that Saddam used to foment biological weapons came from a British Bessie who died of anthrax in 1937. The deadly spores were isolated by an Oxford professor of bacteriology, and the strain was later used by none other than the sainted Winston Churchill in one of his many dalliances with WMD. In fact, Winnie blasted a Scottish island with so much anthrax during WMD tests in 1942 that the place was uninhabitable for the next 48 years.

The deadly strain was then seized upon by the good old US of A in its vast and varied WMD programs. It was this strain that the Americans eventually shipped to Saddam Hussein in the 1980s. Saddam had already been gassing the Iranians -- with the aid of U.S. military intelligence -- and was looking for more potent poisons to brew up in a missile pot. The sainted Ronald Reagan obliged his little buddy, and for three years, the US approved shipments of the deadly Oxford cow poison to Saddam.

The Iraqi WMD program was dismantled after the first Gulf War, of course -- which didn't stop the sainted George W. Bush from invading Iraq 12 years later to, er, dismantle the, er, Iraqi WMD which, er, no longer existed. As U.S intelligence learned back in 1995 -- from none other than the man in charge of the Iraqi WMD program, Saddam's defecting son-in-law, Hussein Kamel. Kamel's wealth of information on the destruction of Iraq's WMD "was so extensive it was almost embarassing," said UN interrogators -- who nonetheless hushed up the revelations. Kamel, who had hoped for Western backing to help him overthrow Saddam, grew disenchanted when he saw his disclosures were being buried, and went back to Iraq -- where Saddam promptly executed him for treason.

Add a comment
Read more: FLASH: Saddam's WMD Uncovered! With New Added Update.

Bush, Hitchens and Democracy in Iraq

Written by Chris Floyd 10 August 2005 3466 Hits

This is the democracy that Bush has bestowed upon Iraq: Armed thugs from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq -- a fundamentalist group nurtured and suckled in Iran by the Ayatollah Khomeini -- entered the office of Baghdad's mayor, Alaa al-Tamimi, yesterday and summarily removed him, at gunpoint, from his post. Then they replaced them with their own man. Now the Iraqi capital can look forward to the same kind of harsh, fundamentalist rule now gracing the streets of Basra, where death squads and religious enforcers prowl the streets, enforcing Taliban-like repression.

The new "democratic" government has acquiesced in the armed removal of Baghdad's mayor -- and why not? The government is largely controlled by fundamentalists of the same kidney. This is the government that has the full backing of George W. Bush. This is what tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians -- and more than 1,800 American soldiers -- have died for: the installation of Khomeini's disciples as the overlords of Iran.

Of course, the removed mayor was himself installed at the point of gun: appointed by American viceroy Jerry Bremer in the aftermath of the illegal invasion. Thus the SCIRI gunmen were merely emulating the Dear Leader's own unique understanding of the democratic process.

Add a comment
Read more: Bush, Hitchens and Democracy in Iraq

Blood and Gravy: Dick Cheney at the Jackal's Feast

Written by Chris Floyd 05 August 2005 3891 Hits

It's easy to forget sometimes – amidst all the lofty talk of geopolitics, of apocalyptic clashes between good and evil, of terror, liberty, security and God – that the war on is "largely a matter of loot," as Kasper Gutman so aptly described the Crusades in that seminal treatise on human nature, The Maltese Falcon. And nowhere is this more evident than in the festering, oozing imposthume of corruption centered around the Gutman-like figure of Dick Cheney.

Yes, it's once more into the breach with Halliburton, the gargantuan government contractor that still pays Cheney, its former CEO, enormous annual sums in "deferred compensation" and stock options – even while, as "the most powerful vice president in American history," he presides over a White House war council that has steered more than $10 billion in no-bid Iraqi war contracts back to his corporate paymaster. This is rainmaking of monsoon proportions. Indeed, the company's military servicing wing, KBR, announced a second-quarter profit spike of 284 percent last week – a feast of blood and gravy that will send Cheney's stock options soaring into the stratosphere.

But although Halliburton has already entered the American lexicon as a by-word for rampant cronyism – the butt of a thousand late-night TV jokes and water-cooler witticisms – the true extent of its dense and deadly web of graft is only now emerging, most recently in a remarkable public hearing that revealed some of the corporation's standard business practices in Iraq: fraud, extortion, brutality, pilferage, theft – even serving rotten food to American soldiers in the battle zone.

By piecing together bits from the fiercely-suppressed and censored reports of a few honest Pen tagon auditors and investigators, a joint House-Senate minority committee (the Bushist majority refused to take part) has unearthed at least $1.4 billion in fraudulent overcharges and unsourced billing by Cheney's company in . Testimony from Pen tagon whistleblowers, former Halliburton officials and fellow contractors revealed the grim picture of a rogue operation, power-drunk and arrogant, beyond the reach of law, secure in the protection of its White House sugar daddy.

One tale is particularly instructive: Halliburton's strenuous efforts to prevent a company hired by the Iraqis, Lloyd-Owen International, from delivering gasoline into the conquered land from for 18 cents a gallon. Why? Because LOI's cost-efficient operation undercuts Halliburton's highway-robbery price of $1.30 a gallon for the exact same service.

Add a comment
Read more: Blood and Gravy: Dick Cheney at the Jackal's Feast