Friday, April 27, 2007

The Media's Perfect Crime Spree

Once again, Glenn Grenwald has excellent advice:
If you didn't watch Bill Moyers' documentary [Wednesday] night regarding the joint, coordinated behavior of our government and its media in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I can't recommend it highly enough. You can watch it here.
[Incidentally, you can also read the full transcript here.]

Glenn continues:
For those who have been following these issues, there was no single, specific blockbuster revelation that was not previously known, although Moyers' focus on the superb (and largely ignored) pre-war work of Real Journalists at Knight-Ridder (now at McClatchy) does cast a new light on the profound malfeasance of our most influential media outlets. Most of all, the documentary very powerfully compiles some of the most incriminating facts, and it unapologetically identifies many of the guiltiest and most destructive wrongdoers in our government and in the press.

For that reason, the documentary is -- in one sense -- a very valuable historical account of the corrupt behavior by our dominant political and media institutions which deceived the country into the invasion of Iraq. But on another, more significant level, it illustrates the corruption that continues to propel our political and media culture.

One of the most important points came at the end. The institutional decay which Moyers chronicles is not merely a matter of historical interest. Instead, it continues to shape our mainstream political dialogue every bit as much as it did back in 2002 and 2003. The people who committed the journalistic crimes Moyers so potently documents do not think they are guilty of anything -- ask them and they will tell you -- and as a result, they have not changed their behavior in the slightest.
* * *
The fraud that was manufactured by our government officials and endorsed by our media establishment is one of the great political crimes of the last many decades. Yet those who are responsible for it have not been held accountable in the slightest. Quite the contrary, their media prominence -- as Moyers demonstrates -- has only increased, as culpable propagandists and warmongers such as Charles Krauthammer (now of Time and The Washington Post), Bill Kristol (now of Time), Jonah Goldberg (now of The Los Angeles Times), Peter Beinert (now of Time and The Washington Post), and Tom Friedman (revered by media stars everywhere) have all seen their profiles enhanced greatly in our national media.

And while Judy Miller became the scapegoat for the media's failures, most of the media stars responsible for the worst journalistic abuses -- from Michael Gordon to Tim Russert to Fred Hiatt to most of The Washington Post, to say nothing of the Fox stars and cogs of the right-wing noise machine -- continue merrily along as before, with virtually no recognition of fault and no reduction in their platforms.
What Greenwald is saying is that bad journalism has been on a multi-year crime spree and it's still going on. Since you can't catch the crooks unless you know who they are, and they won't blow the whistle on themselves, all of them are still getting away with murder of the truth.

There's more...

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Iraq War Bill: Text, Lies, and Accountability


Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the final conference committee-approved bill appropriating $124 billion for the Iraq war through FY 2007. News reports invariably portray the bill as requiring that "American troops to begin withdrawing from Iraq by Oct. 1. "

While true as far as it goes, that media rendition of the bill is one-dimensional; certainly better than the mendacious "cut and run" characterization by Bush and Cheney but it's not the whole truth, either.

The actual language of the appropriation legislation is far subtler and more intelligent than the standard media narrative would lead you to suppose. Essentially, what Congress is doing is trying to hold George W. Bush accountable in a meaningful way for seeing that the Iraq government does what it's been promising for more than three years. Bush wants to escalate a war that virtually everyone on the planet knows is "grave and deteriorating", as James Baker's Iraq Study Group concluded. What the Iraq war funding bill does is require him to vindicate his position with facts, not mere wishful perseverating.

H.R. 1591 explicitly establishes certain specific "performance benchmarks" measuring "whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitments" in specified list of national war policy goals. It then requires the executive branch to report back to Congress with specific 'determinations' detailing whether "substantial progress" toward each of those policy goals is being achieved.

You can read the entire bill by wading through the Congressional Record here or focus on just the core Iraq War language of the final conference committee bill language here. This is the essence:
SEC. ___. (a) The President shall make and transmit to Congress the following determinations, along with reports in classified and unclassified form detailing the basis for each determination, on or before July 1, 2007:

(1) whether the Government of Iraq has given United States Armed Forces and Iraqi Security Forces the authority to pursue all extremists, including Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias, and is making substantial progress in delivering necessary Iraqi Security Forces for Baghdad and protecting such Forces from political interference; intensifying efforts to build balanced security forces throughout Iraq that provide even-handed security for all Iraqis; ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations against members of the Iraqi Security Forces; eliminating militia control of local security; establishing a strong militia disarmament program; ensuring fair and just enforcement of laws; establishing political, media, economic, and service committees in support of the Baghdad Security Plan; and eradicating safe havens;

(2) whether the Government of Iraq is making substantial progress in meeting its commitment to pursue reconciliation initiatives, including enactment of a hydro-carbon law; adoption of legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections; reform of current laws governing the de-Baathification process; amendment of the Constitution of Iraq; and allocation of Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects;

(3) whether the Government of Iraq and United States Armed Forces are making substantial progress in reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq; and

(4) whether the Government of Iraq is ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi Parliament are protected.
Iraqi Parliament are protected.

(b) If the President fails to make any of the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq no later than July 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(c) If the President fails to make any of the determinations specified in subsection
(a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq no later than July 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(d) If the President makes the determinations specified in subsection (a), the Secretary of Defense shall commence the redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq not later than October 1, 2007, with a goal of completing such redeployment within 180 days.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, funds appropriated or otherwise made available in this or any other Act are immediately available for obligation and expenditure to plan and execute a safe and orderly redeployment of the Armed Forces from Iraq, as specified in subsections (c) and (d).

(f) After the conclusion of the redeployment specified in subsections (c) and (d), the Secretary of Defense may not deploy or maintain members of the Armed Forces in Iraq for any purpose other than the following:

(1) Protecting American diplomatic facilities and American citizens, including members of the U.S. armed forces;

(2) Serving in roles consistent with customary diplomatic positions;

(3) Engaging in targeted special actions limited in duration and scope to killing or capturing members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations with global reach; and

(4) Training and equipping members of the Iraqi Security Forces.

(f) Notwithstanding any other provision oflaw, 50 percent of the funds appropriated by title I of this Act for assistance to Iraq under each of the headings ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’ and ‘‘International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement’’ shall be withheld from obligation
until the President has made a certification to Congress that the Government of Iraq has enacted
a broadly accepted hydro-carbon law that equitably shares oil revenues among all Iraqis;
adopted legislation necessary for the conduct of provincial and local elections, taken steps to implement such legislation, and set a schedule to conduct provincial and local elections; reformed current laws governing the de-Baathification process to allow for more equitable treatment of individuals affected by such laws; amended the Constitution of Iraq consistent with the principles contained in Article 137 of such constitution; and allocated and begun expenditure of $10,000,000,000 in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.

(g) The requirement to withhold funds from obligation pursuant to subsection (f) shall not
apply with respect to funds made available under the heading ‘‘Economic Support Fund’’
for continued support for the Community Action Program and Community Stabilization Program
in Iraq administered by the United States Agency for International Development or for programs and activities to promote democracy in Iraq.

(h) Beginning on September 1, 2007, and every 60 days thereafter, the Commander, Multi-National Forces—Iraq and the United States Ambassador to Iraq shall jointly submit to Congress a report describing and assessing in detail the current progress being made by the Government of Iraq regarding the criteria set forth in subsection (a).
Other provisions in the bill seek to enforce long-standing Defense Department policies that only "mission capable" Reserve and National guard forces be deployed to Iraq and that none "be deployed for combat beyond 365 days" (or 210 days for Marine Corps units).

As to all such conditions, of course, Congress possesses reserved powers of the purse to alter, amend, extend, or even eliminate conditions of war funding, just as Bush himself has chosen to seek funding for his Iraq War adventure through a series of "supplemental" budget requests rather than by the usual annual appropriation process.

As Rep. John Murtha says --
This bill is called the Iraq Accountability Act for a good reason. It requires accountability on the part of the Iraqi Government to solve its own civil war. It calls for the President to be accountable for our military readiness and the welfare of our troops and to begin a responsible redeployment of our forces from Iraq.
Murtha goes on to say that if Bush vetoes the act, as expected, "he is denying our troops the resources that they need; he is denying our veterans the medical care they deserve; and he is denying the American People a new direction for Iraq."

Actually, what Bush would be denying is that he is accountable to anyone, ever -- much less to Congress. A veto would signal that Bush thinks he can continue bumbling along wasting American lives and treasure in Iraq without answering to anyone. Even as the facts on the ground continue to deteriorate, as Sudarsan Raghavan reports from Baghdad:
Ten weeks into the security plan, even as U.S. lawmakers propose timelines for a U.S. troop withdrawal, there has been little or no progress in achieving three key political benchmarks set by the Bush administration: new laws governing the sharing of Iraq's oil resources and allowing many former members of the banned Baath Party to return to their jobs, and amendments to Iraq's constitution.
You see? Those are the Bush administration's own benchmarks embedded in H.R. 1591. How can the White House reasonably object to them, unless it really wants to let Iraq get away with ignoring them?

Army General David H. Patreas knows better. While briefing Congress yesterday he declined to do anything to influence the vote on the Iraq War Accountability bill. Instead, he acknowledged that by September it will be possible "to judge whether the troop increase was meeting its goals in quelling the sectarian and terrorism-related violence in Iraq."

In other words, both Congress and Gen. Patraeus think only eighty percent of one more Friedman unit is needed. Then it will be clear whether Bush's escalation has succeeded or failed, whether he can be vindicated or should be vilified.

That's why Bush will veto the bill. He refuses to be held accountable to anyone.

Thurs., Apr. 26 pm

The U.S. Senate today passed the same bill, H.R. 1591, by a vote of 51-46. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) is quoted today as saying, “I believe that this legislation, if people were to just take their time and read it, is the exit strategy that the president ought to be pleased to receive.”

The actual text is right here, above. Take the time. Read it, please.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"Buying the War"

What Digby says:
A whole bunch of America sat there watching these sycophantic performances with our jaws agape, wondering if we had lost our minds. Bush was barely articulate, as usual, mouthing the worst kind of puerile platitudes (when he was coherent at all) while the press corps slavered over him as if he were Cicero. Bush, the clearly in-over-his-head man-child was molded into a hero and cheered by the media as he led this country into the dark, morass of an illegal war in the middle east. It was the most disorienting thing I've ever experienced in my life.
And Matt Taibbi, too:
The Bush press conference to me was like a mini-Alamo for American journalism, a final announcement that the press no longer performs anything akin to a real function. Particularly revolting was the spectacle of the cream of the national press corps submitting politely to the indignity of obviously pre-approved questions, with Bush not even bothering to conceal that the affair was scripted.

Abandoning the time-honored pretense of spontaneity, Bush chose the order of questioners not by scanning the room and picking out raised hands, but by looking down and reading from a predetermined list. Reporters, nonetheless, raised their hands in between questions–as though hoping to suddenly catch the president’s attention.

In other words, not only were reporters going out of their way to make sure their softballs were pre-approved, but they even went so far as to act on Bush’s behalf, raising their hands and jockeying in their seats in order to better give the appearance of a spontaneous news conference.

Fraudulent American Journalists


Glenn Greenwald:
Over and over and over, our most influential American media outlets publish false stories based on government "sources" who purposely lie to them, and they never report on the real story -- who are the government sources lying to the American public while hiding behind shields of anonymity granted to them, and maintained by, our nation's "journalists"?
What's more, if you really want to know what's going on you have to read the foreign press.
[T]he only real reason that we learned of the pervasive deceit in the Jessica Lynch case is because the foreign press -- principally the BBC and The Guardian -- aggressively investigated the U.S. government's claims. And they did so because officials in the British Government were appalled at how deceitful were the claims being made by the Pentagon, and how passive and uncritical our press was in passing it along.
Odd, that. They don't have a First Amendment in Great Britain. We do. Do you suppose such constitutional freedoms are wasted on American journalists?

To find out, tune in tonight to "Buying the War" on Bill Moyers Journal, broadcast by most PBS stations. Here's a teaser:

Apr. 25 AM

Thomas Langley over at Light and Life points out the humiliating mention of the Northwest Florida press in tonight's documentary:
Moyers also asserts that editors at the Panama City (Fla.) News-Herald received an order from above, "Do not use photos on Page 1A showing civilian casualties. Our sister paper has done so and received hundreds and hundreds of threatening emails."

Not a Wall

LA Times:
U.S. and Iraqi military officials scrambling to deflect criticism of a wall being erected to separate a volatile Sunni Muslim neighborhood from surrounding Shiite areas insisted Monday that the structure is not a wall at all.

It's a barrier.
Clear, now? No? Pay attention:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Blue Angels Update: Schedule, Memorial, Video

The airshow schedule for the Blue Angels' 2006 season is on hold, owing to the death of Lt. Comdr. Kevin Davis. For the moment, only next week's planned show in Vidalia, Georgia, has been canceled.

WEAR-TV is reporting that a memorial service for Davis will be held beginning at 7 pm Thursday at the Church of the Holy Spirit, 10650 Gulf Beach Highway, Pensacola. The public is invited.

Meanwhile, CNN News somehow has acquired an amateur video that shows from a distance Lt. Cmdr. Davis' plane lagging behind and then plunging into the trees:

Lost on Earth

There is much bitter irony embedded in the quotation, "War is god's way of teaching Americans geography." It's a quotation usually ascribed to Ambrose Bierce.

It does sound a lot like something Bierce would have said or written. In fact, however, it's far from clear he actually did. At least, we haven't been able to verify the source despite countless repetitions on the internet without attribution.

No matter. It turns out the joke is flat wrong: Americans aren't learning geography no matter how many wars we start.

Pierre Tristam's always-educational Candide's Notebook out of Daytona Beach today laments the geographical ignorance of most Americans. It is shocking how dumb we are:
[D]espite four years of war, 63 percent of Americans can’t find Iraq or Saudi Arabia on a map, 75 percent can’t find Israel or Iran, and 88 percent can’t find Afghanistan, graveyard to 381 American soldiers since 2001.
According to the 2006 Roper/National Geographic poll of 18- to 24-year olds on geographic literacy --
70 percent don’t know where North Korea is, 33 percent don’t know their north from their south, and 34 percent would go in the wrong direction in the event of an evacuation... .

* * * 21 percent of these adults say it’s “not important” to know where countries in the news happen to be on the map (what difference if it’s Canada or Rwanda?) and, not surprisingly, 38 percent consider speaking another language “not important.”

Concludes Pierre--
[T]he most powerful nation on earth, the richest, the most environmentally and politically destructive at the moment, is geographically and historically illiterate.

The world’s leadership is flying blind, and is proud of it: Americans are self-satisfied, feeling no urgency to know any different, let alone to know more. Empires have lost their way on much less.
18- to 24-year olds. That's just about the center target for military recruiters. Which makes us wonder, sadly, how many of our 3,334 dead (and counting) even knew where in the world it was that they lost their lives, much less why -- "to buy time for Bush’s legacy, to palm off inevitable defeat on his successor even at the cost of many more American and Iraqi lives."

The Good News from Iraq

At last! Progress in Iraq! Sunni and Shia are uniting around a common goal: Stopping the U.S. from building the "Baghdad Wall. "
Mr. Maliki’s decision to speak out against the wall was read on the streets as a moment of defiant Iraqi sovereignty in the face of the Americans, whom the vast majority of Iraqis view as an occupying force. Despite his government’s backing of the overall security plan, Mr. Maliki has managed to appear to be a defender of the interests of the common citizen.

Sameer al-Obeidi, the imam of the Abu Khanifa mosque, one of the most influential Sunni Arab mosques in the city, applauded Mr. Maliki. “We shake hands with the government in such stands,” he said.

The American involvement in the wall’s construction has united Iraqis of different sects. Sunni political parties, as well as some Shiite groups, strongly oppose the wall. Shiite groups fear that though Sunni Arab neighborhoods are the ones being cordoned off this week, next month it could be Shiite areas as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Dead Yeltsin Pool

In 1995 Boris Yeltsin fell ill and underwent a second heart operation. For weeks and weeks he hovered on the brink of death, his every (not very sober) breath the subject of breathless worldwide news bulletins.

A cynical cadre of Pensacola trivia buffs tired of the constant media attention. They started among themselves a "Dead Yeltsin Pool." For one dollar you could buy a number from 1 to 31. Winner take all -- the proceeds went to the one who bought the exact day of the month Yeltsin finally died.

Sick? Undoubtedly. Iconoclastic? Yes. Disrespectful of human life? Perhaps, but unintentionally so.

The Dead Yeltsin Pool calendar was circulated among patrons of Damon's, then a local sports bar and one of the first venues where NTN Trivia could be played. The restaurant manager held the calendar of bets and the money. Relying on media reports, everyone assumed Yeltsin would die soon.

But he didn't. Instead, he lived on and on and on and on.

In the intervening years, one president was impeached. Another should have been. The U.S. started an imperialist war and can't figure out how to end it. Damons' Pensacola manager quit once, was rehired, and quit again. Damon's itself eventually closed. A new and fancier restaurant, without the distraction of electronic trivia games, took its place. NTN Trivia changed its name to the awful-sounding, cacophonous "Buzztime." The gambling trivia buffs scattered to new restaurant venues from Pensacola to Destin. The 1995 U.S. dollar fell to about 67 cents.

And now, sad to say, Yeltsin has died. On April 23.

We want our money.

Why Gonzales Must Go - For the Nations Sake

Some folk we know, and even an Anonymous commentator or two on this blog, have trouble understanding why there is such a fuss over Albert Gonzales' politicizing the Justice Department. Bush is a Republican. Gonzales is a Republican. Most U.S. Attorneys are replaced with every change in administration and usually (though not always) with lawyers of the same president's party.

So, what's the fuss? they ask. The reasons are out there for anyone who wants to know.

Historically both major parties have treated the Justice Department as independent. It has been one of the least politicized branches of the executive. The reason for this special treatment isn't much different than the reason we also want the Internal Revenue Service to be independent of partisan politics and not staffed by partisan hacks: Both the IRS and the Justice Department have the awesome power to enforce existing law against ordinary citizens on a day to day basis.

We're not just talking only about the power to prosecute suspected criminals (or for the IRS to run down tax cheats), or the power to imprison citizens, or even the power to rain ruinous fines on the lives of any person or business it may take a mind to crush. In countless ways we may not even be aware of, the Constitution permits the Justice Department in certain circumstances (and the IRS in other circumstances) to insinuate itself into our daily lives, invade our privacy, and interfere with our most intimate friendships and business associations as part of its investigative function.

In that regard, too, the 93 U.S. attorneys scattered around the nation are the local embodiment of the federal government's most imposing governmental power.

To give you just one example: a former U.S. attorney we know in another state once told us that she was shocked when she took office to discover that every secret federal wiretap request had to have her approval. Thousands of them were submitted to her office in her first year in office; and the number escalated exponentially with every new year.

This was before 9-11 and the Patriot Act that greatly expanded federal investigative powers. And it happened in a federal district which is predominantly white, elderly, rural, and notoriously law abiding. We can only imagine what the volume of secret wiretap requests may have been in more culturally diverse and densely populated urban settings.

"You wouldn't believe how bad so many of those wiretap requests were," she told us. "A very high percentage were based on nothing more than personal curiosity about something a sloppy agent had seen on TV, or a ridiculous misunderstanding about the facts of an incident, mistaken identity, a law enforcement agent's ignorance about the law, or even personal vendettas. "

She told us she felt compelled to turn down the majority of secret wiretap requests simply because on the face of it they couldn't pass the laugh test.

Although newly-nominated U.S. attorneys traditionally are selected by criteria that include some measure of past party affiliation, their retention in office -- until Nixon, of course, and now the Bush administration -- always has been guided by objective assessments of professional skill and actual performance. Were it otherwise, the flood gates would be open to misusing the power of the Justice Department to launch partisan criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions of members of one political party against the other. That would be death knell for equal justice in America.

We thought of this last week while reading John Dean's regular weekly (and always excellent) column on the attorney web site There, Dean essentially made four points :
  • Alberto Gonzales has a "stunning lack of Republican support" among Republican members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
    There are nineteen members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, ten Democrats and nine Republicans. Based on the conduct displayed during the Gonzales hearing it appears that the Attorney General has the support of only two Republicans.
  • The reason is that the senators realize the Department of Justice has become "a mere political appendage of the White House."
    In a premise to a question for Gonzales, Senator Whitehouse said he had found correspondence in the files of the Senate Judiciary Committee from the days when Orrin Hatch was chairman relating to... the relationship between the Clinton White House and the Justice Department (under Attorney General Janet Reno). The correspondence showed that four people in the White House (the President, Vice President, chief of staff, and White House counsel) could speak with three people in the Justice Department (the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney and the Associate Attorney General) - period.

    Senator Whitehouse discovered - and created a chart to make the point - that in the Bush White House, a shocking 417 people could speak with 30 different people in the Justice Department. It was a jaw-dropper. As Chairman Leahy said, when he asked Senator Whitehouse to continue when his time expired, in his thirty years on the Judiciary Committee, he had never seen anything like the open contacts from the White House to the Justice Department that had occurred in the Bush Administration.

  • Alberto Gonzales "is simply not up to the job."
    While Gonzales all but concedes the incompetence with which the removal of the U.S. Attorneys occurred, he somehow seems to think he has all else under control. Yet he could not even competently explain what had happened to these federal prosecutors he fired, or why they were fired.
  • Nevertheless, Dean predicts Gonzales "is not going to resign" and Bush won't fire him.
    Bush is openly embracing the "Peter Principle" - the management theory that says that, as people within an organization advance to their highest level of competence, they will then be further promoted to, and remain at, a level at which they are incompetent.
Anti-Bush partisans may be tempted to see this as good news. After all, if John Dean is right and Bush's misplaced loyalties lead him to walk off yet another cliff, it can only mean continued congressional investigations, more intense examination of White House misbehaviors and improprieties, almost certainly more embarrassing rebellions within the ranks of U.S. Attorneys around the nation, and probably the eventual exposure of criminal misdoing by Karl Rove and George W. Bush. As we said before, Watergate - Here We Come Again.

Even so, leaving Gonzales in place would be a terrible, terrible mistake for the nation. If you care, as you should, about the integrity and independence of the U.S. Justice Department then you can see that continued intransigence by Bush would be a disaster for everyone.

No one would find pleasure in the prospect of 21 months of incompetence and partisan corruption running the IRS. There is none we can see in having Gonzales and his puppeteers running the U.S. Justice Department for the next 21 months.

Certainly, Alberto Gonzales is more than a disgrace. He is a real danger to our nation's system of laws. Leading members of his own party know it. Bush must demand his resignation -- or risk impeachment himself.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blue Angels Pilot Killed in Crash


Veteran Pensacola N.A.S. Blue Angels pilot Kevin J. Davis, a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was killed late Saturday afternoon during an air show at the Marine Corps Air Station in Beaufort, South Carolina. Pensacola News Journal reporter Michael Stewart writes that "A friend of the Davis family also confirmed his death, according to the Berkshire (Mass.) Eagle."

The Associated Press reports Davis' F/A-18 Hornet simply "dropped below the trees" in the final minutes of the show and plunged into a neighborhood of small homes and trailers:
Witnesses said metal and plastic wreckage -- some of it on fire -- hit homes in the neighborhood, located about 35 miles northwest of Hilton Head Island. William Winn, the county emergency management director, said several homes were damaged. Eight people on the ground were injured.

* * * The pilots were doing a maneuver which involved all six planes joining from behind the crowd to form a Delta triangle, said Lt. Cmdr. Garrett D. Kasper, spokesman for the Blue Angels. One plane did not rejoin the formation.
An Associated Press podcast available Sunday includes footage of the crash scene and a statement by Lt. Commander Anthony Walley that none of the other five Blue Angel planes was involved in the crash. AOL News also has video of the show and crash site.

Davis had been with the Blue Angels for two years but this was his first as a demonstration team flyer. More about Davis' distinguished career is available on the Blue Angels web site:
Lieutenant Commander Kevin Davis is a native of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and graduated from Reading Memorial High School in 1992 where he played football and was active with the Civil Air Patrol. He attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Science with honors in 1996.

Kevin reported to Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, for Officer Candidate School and aviation indoctrination in September 1996. He completed primary flight training at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, and transferred to NAS Meridian, Mississippi, for intermediate and advanced flight training. While there, he flew the T-2C Buckeye and TA-4J Skyhawk, and received his wings of gold in June 1999.

Kevin reported to Fighter Squadron 101 (VF-101) at NAS Oceana, Virginia, for training in the F-14 Tomcat and was the “Top Stick” in his class. In July 2000 he reported to the VF-11 “Red Rippers” where he completed deployments aboard the aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). While with the “Red Rippers,” Kevin served as the airframes/corrosion branch officer, air-to-ground training officer and head landing signals officer. His deployments included extended operations in the North Arabian Sea and Arabian Gulf in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

In July 2003, Kevin transitioned to the F/A-18 Hornet through Strike Fighter Squadron 125 (VFA-125) at NAS Lemoore, California, and then reported to the Fighter Composite Squadron (VFC-12) “Omars,” stationed at NAS Oceana, Virginia. While at VFC-12, Kevin served as a Navy adversary pilot providing valuable air-to-air training for fleet squadrons. In December of 2004, Kevin graduated from the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) as an adversary pilot. During his tour at VFC-12, Kevin worked as the schedules officer, legal officer, FRS/SFARP officer and assistant operations officer.

Kevin joined the Blue Angels in September 2005. He has accumulated more than 2,500 flight hours and 200 carrier arrested landings. His decorations include the Air Medal, two Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals, and various personal and unit awards.

PNJ reporter Michael Stewart has local background.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Breaking: Blue Angel Plane Crashes


CNN: A jet flying in formation with the U.S. Navy Blue Angels precision flying team crashed into a Beaufort, South Carolina, neighborhood, causing an "enormous fireball" during an air show, authorities said.

The Navy aviator was killed Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland said. The F/A-18's pilot is the only known fatality.

Saturday PM

The Beaufort, S.C. Gazette is on the scene with the latest updates.

Then and Now, Them and Us

U.S. Erects Baghdad Wall to Keep Sects Apart

-- New York Times, April 21, 2007

Apr. 23, 2007

Juan Cole reports that Iraq's "Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki asked Sunday that the US military halt its construction of a security wall around the Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya."
The mainstream US media will sidestep this point, but al-Maliki pretty explicitly said that the reason he called off the wall building is that he doesn't want his government compared to that of Israel.
On the other hand:
Nassar al-Rubaie, a Sadrist member of the Iraqi parliament, did warn that the US is building a series of Berlin Walls in Baghdad.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Jon Swift on Alberto Gonzales

Jon Swift makes us snort when we laugh. How about you? Read "I Don't Recall the Title for This Alberto Gonzales Post"

Watergate, Here We Come Again

Not in more than a generation -- not since Sam Ervin's Senate Select Committee on Campaign Practices held what came to be known as the Watergate hearings -- have we seen U.S. senators display such bipartisan disgust and outrage at a government official as was witnessed yesterday when Attorney General Alfredo Gonzalez testified for over seven hours. After more than two decades of unconstrained partisan rancor in Washington, it was truly an astonishing thing to behold.

Most members of the Senate Judiciary Committee didn't utter the word "liar" outright, but almost every one of them left no doubt that's what they think Alberto Gonzales is. Even Republican conservatives Orrin Hatch and Sam Brownback managed but a few tepid comments more or less for show. Here's the New York Times' description of these two shrinking defenders of Gonzales:
Even the most loyal Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee found it impossible to throw Mr. Gonzales a lifeline. The best Orrin Hatch of Utah could do was to mutter that “I think that you’ll agree that this was poorly handled” and to suggest that Mr. Gonzales should just be forgiven. Senator Sam Brownback led Mr. Gonzales through the names of the fired attorneys, evidently hoping he would offer cogent reasons for their dismissal.

Some of his answers were merely laughable. Mr. Gonzales said one prosecutor deserved to be fired because he wrote a letter that annoyed the deputy attorney general. Another prosecutor had the gall to ask Mr. Gonzales to reconsider a decision to seek the death penalty. (Mr. Gonzales, of course, is famous for never reconsidering a death penalty case, no matter how powerful the arguments are.)

Mr. Gonzales criticized other fired prosecutors for “poor management,” for losing the confidence of career prosecutors and for “not having total control of the office.” With those criticisms, Mr. Gonzales was really describing his own record: he has been a poor manager who has had no control over his department and has lost the confidence of his professional staff and all

As Salon's Michael Sherer describes it, Gonzales --
was criticized by every Democrat on the committee, as well as most of the Republicans, who often delivered the most stinging rebukes.

"Your ability to lead the Department of Justice is in question," said Alabama's Jeff Sessions, who normally toes the White House line.

"You have a tremendous credibility problem," said South Carolina's Lindsey Graham.

"We just don't have a straight story," said Iowa's Chuck Grassley.

By the time the floor was given to Oklahoma's Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the committee, everything seemed to be headed south for Gonzales. "It was handled incompetently," Coburn said about the group firing of the attorneys. "It's generous to say that there were misstatements. That's a generous statement. And I believe you ought to suffer the consequences."

So what's it all mean? Charlie Savage -- who just won a well deserved Pulitzer Prize for an earlier expose of Bush administration criminality-- summed things up in today's Boston Globe:
During a full day of often-heated testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales heard repeated suggestions from lawmakers of both parties that he should consider resigning. But the nation’s top law enforcement official insisted he will not step aside.
* * *
At the White House yesterday, spokeswoman Dana Perino reiterated that Bush had no plans to ask for Gonzales’s resignation. ‘‘I think the president has full confidence in the attorney general and whenever that changes for any public servant we’ll let you know, and I see no indication of that,’’ Perino said.

So, is that it? Is Bush going to back friend "Fredo" to the hilt? Are we destined to suffer for the next two years with a top law enforcement officer for the nation who is known as a "dull-witted apparatchik," in the words of the Times, and a serial liar, to boot?

Not likely. While the White House and Gonzales may be whistling past yesterday's graveyard, the Senate committee is far from done. Columnists like Joe Conason are now calling for "appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the crimes that may have been committed in the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys and the coverup that followed." There will be more such calls in the days ahead.

To anyone who was politically conscious in 1972-73, this whole business has the look, feel, and smell of the earliest days of Watergate. There was a day when that budding scandal was mistakenly dismissed as just a "third-rate burglary." Similarly, there are some, today, who readily excuse the mess Gonzales has made of the Justice Department as merely the benign consequence of a delegation-style of management.

But if the thoroughly-disgraced Gonzales doesn't resign soon, the Senate Judiciary Committee is certain to continue pursuing answers to all the questions Gonzales couldn't -- or wouldn't -- answer yesterday. Chief among these is, Who really decided to fire eight U.S. attorneys and why? Who was the real Decider? Saying 'I don't know' and 'I don't remember' over 71 times, as Gonzales did according to several news accounts, is an invitation to redouble the investigative effort.

It's a certainty the White House and Karl Rove don't want those answers exposed. But, as long as Gonzales refuses to resign and Bush protects him, what they'll get is a Senate investigation that comes closer and closer to the presidential suite.

As history tells us, once a bipartisan Senate investigation gets inside the White House West Wing there's no telling how many new crimes will be exposed. By then, however, it will too late to fire the underlings, as Nixon tried to do in a last-minute wholesale purge of his Administration," as Kissinger has described it.

Keeping Gonzales could well lead, just as John Dean's new book describes, to the exposure of something --

Secret Strategy Change in Iraq


Nancy A. Youssef, most recently McClatchy Newspapers' Baghdad Bureau chief, yesterday filed a report suggesting the U.S. has changed strategies in Iraq more dramatically than the Bush administration will admit.

Out is the training Iraqis "to stand up for themsleves" strategy:
U.S. officials said they once believed that if they empowered their Iraqi counterparts, they'd take the lead and do a better job of curtailing the violence. But they concede that's no longer their operating principle.
In is ... well, according to one of Youssef's State Department sources, the "strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something." Writes Youssef:
[E]vidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq.
* * *
U.S. officials don't say that the training formula - championed by Gen. John Abizaid when he was the commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East and by Gen. George Casey when he was the top U.S. general in Iraq - was doomed from the start. But they said that rising sectarian violence and the inability of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to unite the country changed the conditions.
As for the new strategy, "Military officials now measure success by whether the troops are curbing violence, not by the number of Iraqi troops trained."

One trouble with this is, "many officials are vague about when the U.S. will know when troops can begin to return home." Another is it that, plainly, this strategy doesn't seem to be working any better than the old one.

Which accounts for the question Bush fielded yesterday in Ohio -- and the deeply embarrassing way he fumbled it. As Digby says, "When a politician appears to be this stupid (and he seems exactly the same as he did when he was running for president in 2000) it's not a good idea to assume that it's just an act. Look at the results."

April 20, pm

So, when Harry Reid candidly tells George W. Bush that the war in Iraq is lost, war whoopers jump all over him for "not supporting the troops" and not being "patriotic." Someone should ask these jingoistic fantacists, are we winning the war in Iraq? Not one credible Army general thinks so.

Reid is not only being realistic; he's taking a moral position informed by the Vietnam analogy. As many as 30,000 American soldiers died in Vietnam long after that war was revealed to be a losing proposition. How can it be "support" for our troops when the only reason they're being 'surged' is to prop up the place until a sitting president runs out the clock and leaves office?

As the New York Times editorialized three months ago:
The disaster is Mr. Bush’s war, and he has already failed.
* * *
[Bush's "surge" speech] was more gauzy talk of victory in the war on terrorism and of creating a “young democracy” in Iraq. In other words, a way for this president to run out the clock and leave his mess for the next one. The nation needs an eyes-wide-open recognition that the only goal left is to get the U.S. military out of this civil war in a way that could minimize the slaughter of Iraqis and reduce the chances that the chaos Mr. Bush unleashed will engulf Iraq’s neighbors.
Senator Reid merely pointed out to the emperor that his war has no clothes. Coincidentally, additional evidence he is right came out hours later when Youssef reported there is no longer a strategy in Iraq except to "hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something."

Reid's critics don't do our troops any favors when they cheer on the "surge." They're effectively urging the sacrifice of our troops for George W. Bush's political gain.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Shorter Gonzales Hearing


Fredo's Failing Memory

“I now understand there was a conversation with myself and the president."

-- U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, testimony before the
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
(AP, April. 19, 2007)
From the reliably very conservative National Review:
It has been a disastrous morning for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. The major problem with his testimony is that Gonzales maintains, in essence, that he doesn’t know why he fired at least some of the eight dismissed U.S. attorneys. When, under questioning by Republican Sen. Sam Brownback, Gonzales listed the reasons for each firing, it was clear that in a number of cases, he had reconstructed the reason for the dismissal after the fact. He didn’t know why he fired them at the time, other than the action was recommended by senior Justice Department staff.

Later, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham returned to the subject. “Mr. Attorney General, most of this is a stretch,” Graham told Gonzales. “I think most of them [the U.S. attorneys] had personality disagreements with the White House, and you made up reasons to fire them.” Gonzales disagreed but had nothing to support his position.

Throughout the morning, Gonzales insisted that he is the man in charge of the Justice Department, and accepted responsibility for the firings, but his testimony suggests he had little idea what was going on.
That's the benign judgment of Gonzales' friends. Imagine what the less forgiving assessments are.

Gonzales; Judgment at Noon

If you were watching the Gonzales hearings on C-SPAN 3, as the noon break started and reporters gathered around Senate Judiciary Committee members, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) was overheard saying: "In fact, Gonzales is less qualified than the U.S. attorneys he fired."

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech and the Immune Response

Cho Seung-Hui walked into a Virginia gun shop five weeks ago, put down a credit card and walked out with a Glock 19 handgun and a box of ammunition. He paid $571.
Greg Palast:
[W]hat we saw at Virginia Tech was just a concentrated node of a larger, nationwide killing spree that goes on day after day in the USA. Eighty-thousand Americans take a bullet from a hand gun in any year. Thirty-thousand die. That’s one thousand shooting deaths off-camera for each victim at Virginia Tech.

* * * The President is, “saddened and angered by these senseless acts of violence.” But will our senseless and violent President do anything about it? He already has: On July 29, 2005, the US Senate passed, then Bush signed, a grant of immunity from lawsuits for Walther, Glock and other gun manufacturers.

Now, corporations that make hand-guns can’t be sued for knowingly selling firearms to killers. Like that? No other industry has such wide lawsuit immunity — not teachers, not doctors, not cops — only gun makers.
* * *
In every state in America, a bar owner is liable to lawsuit if a bartender serves too many drinks and a customer dies in an auto accident. Hand a chainsaw to a child, you’re in legal trouble. Until Bush signed the 2005 protect-the-gun-makers law, the same common law against negligent distribution applied to firearms.
* * *
Do the gun manufacturers know their .22’s are being used for something other than hunting long-horned elk? Every year, the federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agency sends 800,000 requests to the gun companies to trace weapons found at crime scenes. As Fox’s attorney told me, criminals are a much-valued, if unpublicized, market segment sought out and provisioned by these manufacturers.

But they’re safe, the gun-makers, even if we aren’t, because of Bush’s immunity law.
Jane Smiley:
[G]uns have no other purpose than killing someone or something. All the other murder weapons Americans use, from automobiles to blunt objects, exist for another purpose and sometimes are used to kill. But guns are manufactured and bought to kill. They invite their owners to think about killing, to practice killing, and, eventually, to kill, if not other people, then animals. They are objects of temptation, and every so often, someone comes along who cannot resist the temptation -- someone who would not have murdered, or murdered so many, if he did not have a gun, if he were reduced to a knife or a bludgeon or his own strength. I wish that the right wing would admit that, while people kill people and even an "automatic" weapon needs a shooter, people with guns kill more people than people without guns do.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

McCain Tours Pet Food Store

Having just returned from a congressional fantasy-finding trip to Iraq and fresh from what we reported was a meal in the Green Zone cafeteria only slightly marred by a fews bombs, Sen. John McCain (R-Pollyana) toured a New Hampshire pet store yesterday, accompanied by over a hundred heavily armed Reserve officer veterinarians.

At a press conference staged soon afterwards Sen. McCain declared, "The media has not been reporting the good news about America's pet foods. I just finished eating some and I have to say it tastes real good. Take it from me: American pet food is as safe as a Baghdad market."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Shorter Gen. Sheehan

Shorter WaPo op-ed: When asked to be the 'War Czar', much as I would love to serve my country again I said no because the Bush administration has broken our foreign policy and has no idea how to fix it.

-- Gen. John J. Sheehan, USMC (ret.), former Supreme Allied Commander, Atlantic and Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command

Wolfowitz Responds to Bank Board

Sunday's World Bank board meeting ended with a whimper, not a bang. But if you pierce the "bureaucratic language" larding the statement released at the end of the weekend, it's pretty clear a large majority of the World Bank's board wants to be quit of Paul ("Leave the corruption to me") Wolfowitz.

As Steve R. Weiseman reports for the New York Times:

The rebuke of Mr. Wolfowitz came in the form of bureaucratic language in a series of sentences in the board’s communiqué that asserted “the current situation is of great concern to all of us,” an unusually blunt statement for a circumspect institution.

“We have to ensure that the bank can effectively carry out its mandate and maintain its credibility and reputation as well as the motivation of its staff,” the committee said. “We expect the bank to adhere to a high standard of internal governance.”

Though the language was indirect, the message it sent was unmistakable, according to officials who have been meeting in Washington the last few days. “Words like ‘concerned,’ ‘credibility’ and ‘reputation’ are pretty unprecedented for a communiqué from a place like the World Bank,” said an official involved in the drafting of the statement.

Thing is, Wolfowitz has only one master -- Dick Cheney. And he isn't even on the World Bank board.

So, "Wolfowitz, responding at a news conference, vowed to stay on at the bank... ."

Monday am

Shorter NY Times editorial: Paul Wolfowitz is corrupt, so how can he effectively pursue the World Bank's campaign against corruption? He has to go.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

World Bank Staff Discovers Blogger

A new blog popped up overnight. It's called "Wolfowitz Must Resign."

Kind of wimpy, don't you think? "Wolfowitz Should Be Fired" is still available.

There's another interesting Wolfie corner of the internet. You wouldn't know it from the bland title, but Bank Information has been running a "Wolfowitz Watch" for some time. Their archived Wolfowitz articles leave no doubt his tenure as WB president has been a disaster for many more reasons than his indulgence in sex and lies.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

'Concrete Canyons' on the Beach

"The developers are trying to water down the definition of a hotel room to allow them to build and sell condos by calling them hotels."
-- William H. Griffith, April 14, 2007
Bill Griffith, a veteran board member of the agency that governs Pensacola Beach for 14 years, has an op-ed in Saturday's PNJ. Subject: the pending effort to redefine county ordinances to permit beach "hotels" to start cross-dressing as condos.

Griffith's article is a call to action, written in a noble attempt to get the public involved. "
The voice of the beach-going public needs to be heard," he says.
There is a classic struggle afoot on Pensacola Beach -- the interests of developers against the interests of the community. So far, the developers have caught the ears of the Escambia County commissioners, and they have already won concessions.

Pensacola Beach has enjoyed a very diversified and successful development under the watchful eyes of the Santa Rosa Island Authority. The resulting mix of single-family homes, condos, churches and a school blends well with hotels, restaurants and shops to produce an enviable year-round beach community.

Key to this successful development has been the 1988 Land Use Plan, a residential building cap of 4,128 units (including condos), and a definition of a hotel room to differentiate it from a residential condo unit. William H. Griffith is a 39-year beach resident and served on the Santa Rosa Island Authority for 14 years.

Condos are attractive to developers because they can make more money, more quickly than they can building a hotel. But no more condos can be built on Pensacola Beach because of the residential building cap, which has been met with existing and planned units. So the developers are trying to water down the definition of a hotel room to allow them to build and sell condos by calling them hotels.

I think most Escambia County residents would prefer that we keep Pensacola Beach as an accessible public playground, and not a "concrete canyon" of condominiums.
Griffith undoubtedly is right. Most tourists as well as the overwhelming majority of locals would much "prefer" low-rise beach development with liberal access to the natural splendors of Pensacola Beach. Few want to see us imitate "
Miami where almost every new hotel during the past 5 years have been built in this manner as a condo-hotel," as "Anonymous" commented at the end of a post here last week. (From internal evidence, we'd hazard the guess that Anonymous' real name is "Anonymous Developer.")

But it's also true that few locals in these parts have sufficient courage or commitment to speak out or work against predatory developer plans. We're not sure why. Maybe they've spent too many decades under the yoke of unresponsive county government. Maybe it's a corollary consequence of Florida's notoriously poor educational system.

Tourists are even less likely to object; they rarely learn about rapacious development until the deed is done, and in any event have no vote in the matter -- except with their wallets after the fact.

In the end, probably the only effective way to preserve some semblance of a Pensacola Beach that doesn't look like Miami is if the business community -- restaurateurs shop owners, condo associations, and other tourist-dependent entities -- band together to preserve the best of Pensacola Beach. To do that, they'll have to pay attention to the details, and at the moment the detail that's most important, paradoxically, is deceptively diminutive. As Griffith says:
I believe a definition of a hotel which allows flexibility for developers, but preserves the true nature of a hotel, is needed to keep Pensacola Beach the diverse, healthy beach community that is it.
If you agree, email Grover Robinson, commissioner for District 4 which includes Pensacola Beach. Or visit his web page to telephone or write.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Every Day is Groundhog's Day for Bush

Glenn Greenwald is collecting the repetitive scenes:
I feel -- in this vaguely intuitive sort of way -- as though there is some kind of a pattern buried within this set of facts, but as much as I search, I just can't quite figure out what it might be... ."
Read the rest and see if you can spot the shadow of some underground, dirt-dwelling creature.

Sex, Lies, and Wolfowitz

The London Financial Times broke the story Thursday that there is written proof World Bank president and Iraq war criminal Paul Wolfowitz lied at least twice about who feathered the nest of his paramour with unprecedented job promotions and salary raises to $193,000 per year, tax free. Reported FT:
Paul Wolfowitz personally directed the World Bank’s head of human resources to offer Shaha Riza, a bank official with whom he was romantically involved, a large pay rise and a promotion as part of an external secondment package, according to two sources who saw a memorandum written by the bank president.

The memorandum, which according to two sources was dated August 11 2005, specifies in detail the terms that Xavier Coll, the World Bank’s vice-president for human resources, should offer to Ms Riza, who was subsequently seconded to the US State Department.

The memorandum sets out the salary that Ms Riza is to be paid, the arrangements for her promotion, and the basis on which her subsequent annual pay increases are to be calculated. In addition to the two sources who saw the memorandum, and who recounted its contents in detail, the Financial Times has spoken to three other sources, who also attested to its existence.
In short, Wolfowitz engineered the whole pay package for his mistress. Thus cornered, he responded yesterday with the kind of nonsensical PR cant that's so much in fashion these days: he takes 'responsibility' he says, but he doesn't mention accepting real consequences. In his "public apology" he says only "I made a mistake for which I am sorry."

We've said it before: taking responsibility while evading accountability is meaningless. The moment you hear some pol say he's "sorry" but he doesn't resign, you know someone's throwing sand in your eyes.

Paul Wolfowitz is so brazen he can't even come clean when he's apologizing. It wasn't "a" mistake he made. It was a whole series of deliberate, unlawful, and self-aggrandizing decisions which he's been trying to cover-up ever since he got caught.

First, there was the favoritism. He rejected out-of-hand nine qualified applicants who had been interviewed, reviewed and approved for the job by World Bank authorities. Then he handed the position to his main squeeze, Shaha Riza, who hasn't been vetted by anyone but him -- on a casting couch, no doubt.

That's sex discrimination in any nation's book. You can bet some of those "nine qualified applicants" will soon be bringing suit against the World Bank unless the board of directors takes drastic action at once.

Second, there's the matter of discrimination in wages and benefits. Wolfowitz set things up so that he's Ms. Riza's direct supervisor. That means he retains responsibility for evaluating her performance and awarding her promotions and raises on the basis of job performance. Right? Well, yeah, for everyone except the woman he sleeps with. She plays, the World Bank pays, and Wolfie gets laid.

Finally, there is Wolfowitz' contemptible efforts to blame others. That's always a tricky business when you're near the top of the food chain and the field of candidates above you is so narrow. But Wolfowitz tried anyway.

Late last week, a "spokesman" for Wolfowitz stated that the grossly excessive pay hike for Ms. Riza was granted "by the World Bank Board of Directors." Almost immediately, "inside sources from the Bank ... stated unequivocally that this was not the case, that Board members only learned of the raise from news reports, and that the members are furious."

A few days ago Wolfie switched targets and had "a senior Bank official" claim that it was "the ethics committee of the board" who had approved his mistress' pay package. But the committee chairman fired back:
Members of the Ethics Committee of the Board, the relevant body that would have approved the raise, which has triggered allegations of nepotism at the Bank's highest levels, say that they knew nothing of the salary hike, according to the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower protection organisation.

The new revelation appears to be at odds with the line maintained by officials in Wolfowitz's office... .
What a surprise. Another gonnoff from the Bush administration caught lying.

Most recently, as an op-ed in today's WaPo notes, it's been disclosed that Wolfowitz also gave two other "loyal Bushies" -- both of them political hacks with no particular educational or professional qualifications -- lifetime World Bank employment contracts for about a quarter million dollars each per year:
Kevin Kellems, an unremarkable press-officer-cum-aide who had previously worked for Wolfowitz at the Pentagon, pulls down $240,000 tax-free -- the low end of the salary scale for World Bank vice presidents, who typically have PhDs and 25 years of development experience. Robin Cleveland, who also parachuted in with Wolfowitz, gets $250,000 and a free pass from the IRS, far more than her rank justifies. Kellems and Cleveland have contracts that don't expire when Wolfowitz's term is up. They have been granted quasi-tenure.
Kellems is Dick Cheney's former press flack. Cleveland was staff assistant to Wolfowitz in charge of "post-war Iraq planning" -- so you can figure out how smart she is.

Given Wolfowitz' corrupt management style and the fact that Kellems and Cleveland came as a package, you have to wonder who they're sleeping with. There's no wondering who's getting screwed, though: the World Bank, the nations it's supposed to serve, and U.S. taxpayers.

Friday am

Late Thursday, the World Bank's board of directors released a damning 7-page report and 102 pages of attached documents pertaining to l'affaire Wolfowitz. In a just world, his goose would be rightly cooked. Remember, though: the U.S. government exercises effective control of the World Bank's board of directors.

Friday pm
The non-profit watchdog group, Government Accountability Project, has discovered that Wolfowitz' love interest, Shaha Riza, "was turned down twice" for a promotion "because Riza lacked the professional qualifications necessary for a GH level position as a Communications Adviser... ." That action was taken by "the Communications Network Sector Board (Comnet), the appropriate authorizing body. "

Apparently, they weren't sleeping with her. But once Wolfowitz went to bat for his bedmate, she got the promotion and was given "a title held by only one person in Comnet -- Shaha Riza."

Thursday, April 12, 2007

McCain: "Eat in Baghdad"

Sen. John McCain (R-Dementia) strolled briefly through the Iraq Parliament cafeteria today in an effort to prove that Americans are “not getting the full picture” of what’s going on in Iraq.

"Sure, eight were killed this morning," he told reporters. "But what about the food, huh? You should be writing up how good this falafel is."

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (1922-2007)

"We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard … and too damn cheap."
-- Kurt Vonnegut, suggested carving into a wall of the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

If You Can Find Better Analysis.... Buy It

HT to Kevin Drum and especially Miami native Steven Benen's Carpetbagger Report.

Kevin has fun by asking, Who said this?
"We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car.... I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The President of the United States is given a free pass to ignore the Constitution, tap our phones, and lead us to war on a pack of lies. Congress responds to record deficits by passing a huge tax cut for the wealthy (thanks, but I don't need it). The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq, the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving pom-poms instead of asking hard questions.

That's not the promise of America my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for. I've had enough. How about you?"
If you can find a better analysis ....... aw, forget it. Go ahead and buy this book anyway.

Life Imitates Comedy

Oh my. This is truly a classic moment in the history of American government. A reader of Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo has quite the catch:
JP wrote in, so on the mark, saying this article in the Post reads like a joke piece...
"The White House wants to appoint a high-powered czar to oversee the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies, but it has had trouble finding anyone able and willing to take the job, according to people close to the situation."
"Authority to issue directions to the Pentagon, the State Department and other agencies?" As Josh asks, "Don't we elect that person every four years?"

It has been said that life imitates art. Not with George W. Bush. It imitates The Onion:

Pillage of Paradise Postponed

Escambia County commissioners last night agreed to "wait two months before considering a change to the county's hotel ordinance that would allow a longer length of stay in hotel/condo rooms." Pensacola News Journal's Jamie Page has the details.

That might be just enough time for the Santa Rosa Island Authority to expeditiously launch the "thorough study" of the implications of violating the county Land Use Plan that the News Journal has called for. Unintended consequences
are so much more likely when you haven't looked at any consequences.

Land use and zoning regulations have guided Pensacola Beach house, hotel, and condo development for decades. They shouldn't be impulsively eviscerated by three county politicians on the word of one self-interested developer who claims it would "create a financing mechanism to build better quality hotels... ."

Everybody knows "better quality" hotels is not what this is about. Undermining the legally-mandated residential and density caps on Pensacola Beach is what's really going on.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Directions to Navarre Beach

How do you get to Navarre Beach from Pensacola Beach?

You can't get there from here:
The federal beach road that once serviced more than 800,000 vehicles a year could partially reopen next year, nearly four years after Hurricane Ivan severed it.

But the repairs would not re-establish the long-awaited link between the two beach communities.

Work could start this fall and be complete before next summer.
And, when all of that's done, you still won't be able to get there from here, or vice versa.

Shorter Wolfowitz Profile


John Cassidy has written a profile of neocon Paul ("they will greet us as liberators") Wolfowitz, now appearing in the current issue of The New Yorker. Two years ago, Wolfowitz made his escape from the Iraq debacle he was instrumental in creating when Bush nominated him to fill the hugely important and powerful position as president of the World Bank.

If you're in a rush, here's a summary of Cassidy's 12,000 word profile:
  • Paul Wolfowitz is a lousy administrator, as even his friends admit. He can "barely run his own office" much less a large organization with 13,000 employees like, say, the World Bank.
  • But Wolfowitz is a "thinker," his Bush administration friends say admiringly. He has lots of deep ideas like, "Democracy good; corruption bad."
  • Wolfowitz is disgusted by all those foreign government leaders who engage in nepotism and greedy grabbing for personal wealth. That's why he made sure his mistress, Shaha Ali Riza, was given a promotion and "two pay raises, bringing her salary to a hundred and ninety-three thousand dollars — more than Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice makes."
  • Want to know the punch line? Her $193,000 salary is paid by the U. S. State Department (Hello, American taxpayers) even though she works for Wolfowitz at the World Bank. Directly under him.
  • Personally, Paul Wolfowitz is a really sensitive guy who feels for poor people. That's why it makes him momentarily sad every time he abruptly snatches money away from them whenever their governments refuse to support the Bush administration's military expansionist demands.
  • Wolfowitz also is disgusted by political cronyism in third world countries. That's why he brought into top World Bank positions Republican buddies from the Bush administration like Suzanne Rich Folsom (a staff attorney for the National Republican Party) and "two American political operatives who were closely associated with the war in Iraq." (Among World Bank employees, one of them is known as "the dragon lady" and the other as "keeper of the comb" that Wolfowitz licks.)
All in all, as Carolyn O'Hara concludes as well, Wolfowitz remains just as much a hypocrite as any in the Bush administration. He's using his World Bank post not to better the world but to feather his own love nest and further the imperialist policies of George W. Bush.

It's time someone brought these people to account.


The Government Accountability Project has more:
Paul Wolfowitz, in the middle of a scandal that GAP documents ignited, sent out a statement to Bank staff over email. There are several problems with the statement, as detailed in GAP's response.
Those problems are summarized in a response posed in the past 12 hours:
Mr. Wolfowitz’ ... message is ultimately misleading on two counts. First, he states that his role in structuring Riza’s assignment to the U.S. State Department was based on “the advice of the Board’s Ethics Committee to work out an agreement that balanced the interests of the institution and the rights of the staff member…” Riza’s position at State is not in question, however. The salary increase she received when she moved there, along with a subsequent raise, are the issue. Wolfowitz makes no mention of this, yet these decisions were his. For the record, Riza currently makes $193,590 net of taxes.

The Board did not recommend that Wolfowitz award a salary increase of such dimensions to Riza, and this is why the Board is looking into the issue.

Secondly, while Mr. Wolfowitz indicated to the Board his intention “to cooperate fully in their review of the details of the case,” he also states that he will not give the Board the documents necessary to verify the facts, citing his obligation to maintain Shaha Riza’s confidentiality. But Ms. Riza’s salary has already been published in the Washington Post. Confidential communications received by GAP now show that Mr. Wolfowitz and his senior advisers are actively pursuing the sources of these leaks.
* * *
World Bank employees need protections, especially when reporting misconduct such as cronyism and favoritism at the upper levels of Bank management. A good place to start would be the African Development Bank’s recently approved whistleblower protections.