Friday, September 30, 2005


Torture is Patriotic

All-American Torture—in the name of freedom.

This week, PBS ran several documentaries about the 1960s. I remember a grave wave of hope back then.

Seems like it’s been downhill ever since.

Our government has moved farther and farther toward totalitarianism. Rights we once assumed were assured have been nibbled away to where their very existence is threatened. The church and state are merging. Corporations really own our politicians. Roe v. Wade is in danger; so is Brown v. Board of Education. Reporters are thrown in jail; others, over in Iraq, are murdered—OK, accidentally killed, uh-huh—by US troops. The administration is rolling back the Endangered Species Act, environmental laws of all kinds, has increased the amount of domestic spying by a quantum leap, eroded First Amendment rights, and so on and so forth. It’s depressing.

Now, the US is regular torturing prisoners of war:

Ted Rall: 'Who did you torture during the war, daddy?'
Date: Friday, September 30 @ 10:04:30 EDT
Topic: War & Terrorism

Or, We Are All Torturers Now

By Ted Rall, Yahoo

NEW YORK--Never miss the Saturday paper. Because it's the skimpiest and least-circulated edition of the week, it's the venue of choice for lowballing the stories the government can't completely cover up. September 24's New York Times, for example, contained the bombshell revelation that the U.S. government continues to torture innocent men, women and children in Iraq.

An army captain and two sergeants from the elite 82nd Airborne Division confirm previous reports that Bagram and other concentration camps in U.S.-occupied Afghanistan are a kind of Torture University where American troops are taught how to abuse prisoners who have neither been charged with nor found guilty of any crime. "The soldiers told Human Rights Watch that while they were serving in Afghanistan," reports The Times, "they learned the stress techniques [sic] from watching Central Intelligence Agency operatives interrogating prisoners." Veterans who served as prison guards in Afghanistan went on to apply their newfound knowledge at Abu Ghraib and other facilities in U.S.-occupied Iraq.

One of the sergeants, his name withheld to protect him from Pentagon reprisals, confirms that torture continued even after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. "We still did it, but we were careful," he told HRW.

The latest sordid revelations concern Tiger Base on the border with Syria, and Camp Mercury, near Fallujah, the Iraqi city leveled by U.S. bombs in a campaign that officials claimed would finish off the insurgent movement. After the army told him to shut up over the course of 17 months--tacit proof that the top brass condones torture--a frustrated Captain Ian Fishback wrote to two conservative Republican senators to tell them about the "death threats, beatings, broken bones, murder, exposure to elements, extreme forced physical exertion, hostage-taking, stripping, sleep deprivation and degrading treatment" carried out against Afghans and Iraqis unlucky enough to fall into American hands.

"We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them," one sergeant said. "This happened every day...We did it for amusement." Another soldier says detainees were beaten with a broken chemical light stick: "That made them glow in the dark, which was real funny, but it burned their eyes, and their skin was irritated real bad." An off-duty cook told an Iraqi prisoner "to bend over and broke the guy's leg with a...metal bat." The sergeant continues: "I know that now. It was wrong. There are a set of standards. But you gotta understand, this was the norm."

Torture, condemned by civilized nations and their citizens since the Renaissance, has continued to be carried out in prisons and internment camps in every nation. But save for a few exceptions, such as France's overt torture of Algerian independence fighters during the late 1950s, it has been hidden away, lied about and condemned when exposed. Torture is shameful. It is never official policy.

That changed in the United States after 9/11. Current attorney general Alberto Gonzales authored a convoluted legal memo to George W. Bush justifying torture. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld joked about forcing prisoners to stand all day and officially sanctioned keeping them naked and threatening them with vicious dogs. Ultimately Bush declared that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would ignore the Geneva Conventions. By 2004 a third of Americans told pollsters that they didn't have a problem with torture.

Torture has been normalized.

By Monday, September 26, the story of torture at Camps Tiger and Mercury to which New York Times editors had granted page one treatment two days earlier had vanished entirely. Only a few papers, such as the Seattle Times and Los Angeles Times, ran follow-ups.

In his 2000 book "Unspeakable Acts, Ordinary People: The Dynamics of Torture" John Conroy presciently describes the surprising means by which democracies are actually more susceptible to becoming "torture societies" than dictatorships: Where "notorious regimes have fallen, there has been a public acknowledgement that people were tortured. In democracies of long standing in which torture has taken place, however, denial takes hold and official acknowledgement is extremely slow in coming, if it appears at all." Conroy goes on to describe the "fairly predictable" stages of governmental response:

First, writes Conroy, comes "absolute and complete denial." Rumsfeld told Congress in 2004 that the U.S. had followed Geneva "to the letter" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The second stage," he says, is "to minimize the abuse." Republican mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh compared the murder and mayhem at Abu Ghraib to fraternity hazing rituals.

Next is "to disparage the victims." Bush Administration officials and right-wing pundits call the victims of torture in U.S. custody "terrorists," implying that detainees--who are not charged because there is no evidence against them--deserve whatever they get.

Dick Cheney called victims of torture at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (who, under U.S. law, are presumed innocent) "the worst of a very bad lot." Rumsfeld called them "the worst of the worst."

Other government tactics include charging "that those who take up the cause of those tortured are aiding the enemies of the state" (Right-wing bloggers have smeared me as a "terrorist sympathizer" because I argue against torture); denying that torture is still occurring (numerous Bush Administration officials claimed that Abu Ghraib marked the end of the practice); placing "the blame on a few bad apples" (the classic Fox News-Bush trope); and pointing out that "someone else does or has done much worse things" (the beheadings of Western hostages by Iraqi jihadi organizations was used to justify torturing Iraqis who didn't belong to those groups).

Bear in mind: Conroy wrote his book in 2000, before Bush seized power and more than a year before 9/11 was given as a pretext for legalizing torture.

Citing the case of widespread and proven torture of arrestees by Chicago cops, Conroy noted: "It wasn't a case of five people...doing nothing or acting slowly, it was a case of millions of people knowing of an emergency and doing nothing. People looked about, saw no great crusade forming, saw protests only from the usual agitators, and assumed there was no cause for alarm. Responsibility was diffused. Citizens offended by torture could easily retreat into the notion that they lived in a just world, that the experts would sort things out."

Reprinted from Yahoo:

The URL for this story is:


Police State Noose Tightens, Gradually

The March of the Police State

The National Security State was put into place back about 1950, when government officials decided Communism was such a major threat to this country that we had to not just maintain a wartime economy and society, but also to treat all Americans as potential spies.

It was Eisenhower who recognized the Military Industrial Complex as the threat it was, but didn’t see any way to avoid it. We know now that the Russian bogeyman was essentially a fabrication. But it served it’s purpose: the military budget has clasped to the American economy like mistletoe to an oak. Mistletoe will eventually kill the oak. The power of the military is killing us.

John Negroponte’s reputation was built in Central America. His legacy is the death squads that still haunt those nations. We can assume they’ll be here, sooner or later. Or maybe they already are, driving around New Orleans in black SUVs with the Blackwater logo on the sides.

Republicans See Signs That Pentagon Is Evading Oversight
By Douglas Jehl
The New York Times

Thursday 29 September 2005

Washington - Republican members of Congress say there are signs that the Defense Department may be carrying out new intelligence activities through programs intended to escape oversight from Congress and the new director of national intelligence.

The warnings are an unusually public signal of some Republican lawmakers' concern about overreaching by the Pentagon, where top officials have been jockeying with the new intelligence chief, John D. Negroponte, for primacy in intelligence operations. The lawmakers said they believed that some intelligence activities, involving possible propaganda efforts and highly technological initiatives, might be masked as so-called special access programs, the details of which are highly classified.

"We see indications that the D.O.D. is trying to create parallel functions to what is going on in intelligence, but is calling it something else," Representative Peter Hoekstra, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in an interview.

Mr. Hoekstra said he believed that the purpose might be to obscure the extent of Pentagon intelligence activities and to keep them outside Mr. Negroponte's designated orbit.

Even under the new structure headed by Mr. Negroponte, the Pentagon's activities are widely understood to make up about 80 percent of an annual intelligence budget whose details remain classified but that is widely understood to total about $80 billion a year. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon is understood to have carried out a major expansion of its intelligence programs, including human spying efforts by Special Operations Forces and an arm of the Defense Intelligence Agency, whose missions have expanded into areas traditionally the purview of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The House and Senate Intelligence Committees have been pressing Stephen Cambone, the under secretary of defense for intelligence, for more information about the Pentagon's human spying. But the concerns now being voiced by Mr. Hoekstra and others appear to extend more broadly.

In the interview, Mr. Hoekstra declined to be specific, citing concerns about classification and the general sensitivity of the issue. But as an indication of the committee's sentiments, another Republican lawmaker cited an unclassified report issued by the committee in June, which said the panel believed that "it does not have full visibility over some defense intelligence programs" that do not clearly fall under particular budget categories.

The report said the committee believed that "individual services may have intelligence or intelligence-related programs such as science and technology projects or information operations programs related to defense intelligence that are embedded in other service budget line items, precluding sufficient visibility for program oversight."

"Information operations" is a military term used to describe activities including electronic warfare, psychological operations and counter-propaganda initiatives.

A version of the intelligence authorization bill that was passed by the House this summer calls on Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, in consultation with Mr. Negroponte, to provide Congress with "a comprehensive inventory of Department of Defense intelligence and intelligence-related programs and projects." Those who would receive such a report would include the House Intelligence Committee, its Senate counterpart and the armed services committees in both chambers of Congress.

As part of the intelligence overhaul that Congress ordered last year, Mr. Negroponte, as director of national intelligence, is supposed to oversee 15 intelligence agencies whose activities fall under a budget category known as the National Intelligence Program. Mr. Negroponte has less authority over programs that fall under another category, the Military Intelligence Program, which are intended to provide tactical and strategic support to military commanders.

But the concern expressed by Mr. Hoekstra and others is focused on a third category of programs involving intelligence activity but not labeled as such, and included within the budgets of the individual military services.

"Greater transparency into these programs and projects will enhance Congressional oversight and permit identification of potentially duplicative programs in other services," the committee said in its recent report, issued in June to accompany the intelligence authorization act for the fiscal year 2006.

In the interview, Mr. Hoekstra said the committee had been told that the Pentagon was creating parallel structures "so they don't have to deal with the D.N.I.," the abbreviation for the new intelligence chief.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Col. Christopher Conway, declined to comment on the issue, referring questions to Mr. Negroponte's office. A spokesman for Mr. Negroponte, Carl Kropf, described coordination between Mr. Negroponte's office and the Pentagon as "excellent" on budget issues.

"Successfully integrating D.O.D.-unique intelligence programs and missions into the National Intelligence Program requires full transparency," Mr. Kropf said. "Such transparency exists today."

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Taking a trip, not taking a trip

Bend, Busses and Bureaucracy

Bend, Oregon, is a lovely place: the Cascades are on the west, craggy dormant volcanos; to the east is high desert country: volcanic, too, sagebrush and juniper—go a ways east of town and there are antelope and wild horses. The Deschutes River divides the two ecological zones. In the summer time, the river is filled with kayakers (in its rougher spots) and rafters (in the slumbering water through town). It's beautiful here.

But we wanted a trip. We took the Alaska State Ferries up the Inside Passage and back down, stopping and looking at the little towns along the way.

Most all of those towns, even historic Skagway (year around population between 800 and 900 people), have bus service. Northwest Washington, the southern terminous of the ferry has bus services all over the place, even into communities of less than a thousand people. One could take public transportation from Bellingham to Seattle to Tacoma to Olympia...not around here, though.

Bend, population 65,000+, doesn't have fixed route busses. We have something called Dial-A-Ride, where you call a minimum of a day in advance, to have a bus come to where you live and take you to where you want to go. It's very popular—so popular that even 48 hours isn't enough time to arrange a ride, in many cases. Sometimes you just can't get a ride.

A taxi ride across town pretty well shreds a $20 bill.

Bend is the largest city in Oregon without a fixed-route bus. The federal and state government have been hammering on the city for years about its lack of busses. Today, with even the Prez telling us to consider conserving petroleum (while he was blowing a cool $100K in fuel flying back and forth to Texas for photo-ops), Bend's lack of a bus line is shameful.

There are lots and lots of wealthy people in Bend: trophy houses, trophy cars, trophy wives, children, girl friends; they have SUVs and Beemers up the wazoo. They employ poor people to mop their floors, mow their lawns, serve their meals, clean up after them—but they don't want them riding busses, it would seem. Might be embarrasing or something. After all, a lot of the poor are brown-skinned and Bend is, well, white bread delux.

Bend does a lot of tourist business: destination resorts are where it's at, these days. Skiers and snowboarders in the winter, mountain bikers and white-water freaks in the summer. Tourists don't need busses...and Bend doesn't want the kind of tourists that ride busses, I think.

Anyhow, it's a dumb classist and somewhat racist situation. If you don't have a car or a mountain bike, you aren't worth considering—except for mowing lawns and bussing tables, of course...


Media Matters busts Bill Bennett

Former Sec. of Education Bill Bennett a racist?

Media Matters busts Bill Bennett
Bill Bennett, Mr Morality, suggests crime would go down if no African-American babies were born. What a big-hearted man!

Bill Bennett, once America’s almost-czar of national morality, came up with a good one on his radio program:
Bennett: I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Bill Bennett's Morning in America airs on approximately 115 radio stations with an estimated weekly audience of 1.25 million listeners.


Empire begins to crumble?

Blount, new majority leader, has ties to Phillip Morris $$$

Not only this, but Blount, the new majority leader, has some problems of his own regarding donations from Phillip Morris and his attempt to put a tobacco-friendly rider on the Homeland Security Bill (a what? where?). And the FDA head appears to have resigned because some of his ties to a major drug wholesaler...

Hey, Hey, Woody Guthrie, I Wrote You a Song
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 28 September 2005

I'm out here a thousand miles from my home,
Walkin' a road other men have gone down.
I'm seein' your world of people and things,
Your paupers and peasants and princes and kings.

Hey, hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song
'Bout a funny old world that's a-comin' along.
Seems sick and it's hungry, it's tired and it's torn,
It looks like it's a-dyin' an' it's hardly been born.

-- Bob Dylan, "Song for Woody"

The unbelievably arrogant and power-mad GOP Representative from Texas, Tom DeLay, got a taste of the whip hand on Wednesday. Indicted on a charge of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, DeLay has been forced to step down as Majority Leader in the House. There is no telling how long it will take for the case to wend its way through the courts, but informed opinion puts the time frame at about a year or so. If Tom gets convicted, however, we will never again see his political face. One hopes he saved his bug exterminator equipment. Perhaps, in his new career, he can disprove that old chestnut about not being able to go home again.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is staring down the barrel of an SEC charge that he dumped stock based on insider information. The stock he owned was from HCA, Inc., a company his family founded. Almost immediately after Frist dumped his stock, the value of those holdings dropped nine percent. "If there is really any evidence of insider trading, then he's in very serious trouble, and so is his party,'' said Gary Jacobson, professor of political science at the University of California in San Diego. "It adds another brick to Democrats' argument that Republicans are corrupt.'' Is it possible that Frist could have been given insider information on a company his own family started? Do the math, and then subtract from Frist's chances of being President in 2008.

A little more than a week ago, the White House's top federal procurement officer, David Safavian, was arrested - not accused, not indicted, but actually slapped with the bracelets - for lying and obstructing a criminal probe against super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Safavian is part of a larger investigation surrounding Abramoff's indictment on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. The names flying around these charges include GOP Rep. Robert Ney of Ohio, former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed, and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist. Had Safavian not resigned his White House post on the day he was arrested, they would have clapped him in irons right there inside 1600 Pennsylvania. Sic semper moral majority.

Oh yeah, and there's still that pesky matter of the investigation into an outed CIA agent floating around. According to a variety of reputable and rock-solid sources, folks in the White House are decidedly unhappy and nervous about this one. What on earth is the world coming to? These guys control the government, right? They control all the agencies responsible for these kinds of investigations. Despite that, DeLay and Frist and Safavian and Abramoff and Lord only knows who else are getting a crash course in the Justice system.

And how is Mr. Bush coping through all this? One answer can be found in this week's Newsweek, which describes George watching Hurricane Rita like a hawk after the Katrina debacle. "His eyes," reads the Newsweek piece, "were puffy from lack of sleep (he had been awakened all through the night with bulletins), and he seemed cranky and fidgety. A group of reporters and photographers had been summoned by White House handlers to capture a photo op of the commander in chief at his post. Bush stared at them balefully. He rocked back and forth in his chair, furiously at times, asked no questions and took no notes. It almost seemed as though he resented having to strike a pose for the press."

Rocked back and forth? Furiously at times? Sounds like a pathological response. I guess 40% approval ratings across the board will do that. These guys are sharp, though. They'll dig their way out. Or will they? On Monday, just before the DeLay indictment came out, the White House released a statement of support. "Majority Leader DeLay is someone the president considers a friend," read the statement. "The president looks forward to continuing to work closely with the majority leader to get things done on behalf of the American people."

The Washington Post's Terry Neal published an article titled "Echoes of 1994 with Current Scandals?" on Tuesday. "Is it 1994 all over again?" asked Neal. "Dark and ominous clouds are gathering over the Republican Party these days, with a series of ethical and legal scandals that threaten to further damage a White House and Congress already reeling from a sharp drop in public approval ratings. On top of all of that, a special prosecutor and grand jury continue to investigate what, if any, role White House officials may have played in the leaking of the name of a covert operative to reporters. And the White House has come under increasing scrutiny, in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina fiasco, for rampant cronyism in its appointments to top level jobs, including director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and nominees for head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and deputy attorney general, among others."

Somewhere close to a half million people showed up in Washington last weekend to shout the White House down. A variety of organizations, such as Progressive Democrats of America, held conventions to plan their electoral strategies for 2006. On Monday, hundreds of activists swarmed House offices on Capitol Hill to demand an exit from Iraq. The anti-war movement, dismissed as non-existent by the GOP, has gained strength and speed with the actions of heroes like Cindy Sheehan, who got herself arrested on Monday for praying in front of the White House.

Woody Guthrie used to paint "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his guitars. I think he'd be pleased to see how fast the rock has started rolling down the hill.


Booze causes death; meth causes theft

Meth, meth, meth: still, it’s booze than kills!

The “Meth Epidemic” gets central Oregon’s attention, but the nitty-gritty is that the legal drug alcohol kills more people than any of the illicit drugs the taxpayers spend millions of dollars fighting.

Meth, like heroin, is tied to property crimes; alcohol to crimes against persons. Property, it’s been noted, is more important and valuable than people. Drunks kill themselves or family members, while dopers steal things so they can get cash to buy drugs. It’s crazy.

There was a mention in the current Harpers’ magazine that the US spent over 750 million dollars fighting last year’s production of opium poppies in Afghanistan. The entire crop could have been bought for millions less. It costs more money to fight drugs than alcohol abuse, so more people make money off of fighting drugs—and besides, the distillers make big-time campaign contributions to our politicians.

Here in Bend, alcohol is the big killer.

Charge planned in player drowning
9/28/2005, 1:06 a.m. PT
The Associated Press

BEND, Ore. (AP) — A prosecutor plans to file charges against the person who provided alcohol to an amateur baseball player who drowned in the Deschutes River this summer.

Michael Wilhite, 20, of Franklin, Ky., had a blood alcohol level of .20 when he drowned, according to a toxicology report. The legal limit for driving under the influence of intoxicants is .08 in Oregon.

Deschutes County District Attorney Mike Dugan said Tuesday that his office will file charges of furnishing alcohol to a minor against an unidentified 21-year-old.

Dugan, however, said his office will not file charges for Wilhite's death.

Gordon Welborn, a Redmond attorney, said Tuesday that Scott Reese, a starting pitcher for the Bend Elks and Wilhite's former teammate, has retained Welborn regarding the matter.

Wilhite played second base for the Elks, a member of the West Coast Collegiate Baseball League. He was floating the river with friends and teammates on July 28. Witnesses said he fell in the water while attempting to get off an air mattress.

Search and rescue crews recovered the body more than two hours later.

Wilhite would have turned 21 the day after the accident.

Welborn said the incident involved six or seven baseball players who were 20 and 21 years old. He said Reese will cooperate with authorities, if charged.

Reese, 21, is a junior at Creighton University in Nebraska.

Jim Richards, owner and general manager of the Bend Elks, said Tuesday that Reese, a graduate of Jesuit High School in Portland, would be welcomed back next summer.

"If laws are broken, people have to be held accountable, and I understand that," Richards said. "But recognizing that this was a tragic accident, we would welcome Scott back with open arms to come back and pitch for the Bend Elks."


Information from: The Bulletin,


DeLay Indicted: millions grateful!

Once each day, if we're lucky, a truly good piece of news comes along.

DeLay busted

The Washington Post has just announced that Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, has just been indicted for, who would'a thought it, corruption. There was some hanky-panky about funneling campaign money.

DeLay, of course, denies all charges and blames it on the Democrats.


Corruption in Fema Cruise Ship Contract?


Multi-million dollar contract to Carnival Cruise Lines has a suspicious odor, you might say.

Since “our” government has such good friends in private industry, and believes that corporate capitalism is the way to go, this deal smells, at least to some of us.

“Bribery” was a word used not too many years ago to describe such things as government officials getting favors from people in return for legislative efforts, either before or after the facts. “Sweetheart deals” is a polite way to phrase it, nowadays.

Originally, in this country, corporations could not spend money to influence politicians or politics. Things have changed. Lobbying is now a big business: many many lobbyists give presents like trips, free hotel rooms, big dinner parties, campaign contributions, and just plain money to politicians. I don’t know if that’s what happened in this case. There will be sweet returns from the cruise line to the various officials who signed off on a contract this dumb. Bet on it.

Think of the defense industry: a procurement officer in the Pentagon OK’s some nice deal with an arms contractor—a cost plus ten per cent contract, say—and then the procurement officer retires out of the DOD, and takes a swell job with that contractor. That’s perfectly legal, we’re told, not bribery or anything like that. Bullshit: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.

The Administration has done so many no-bid contracts that my inner cynic says, this is the most corrupt regime since U.S. Grant’s presidency. But will anything really be done about this corrupt system? I’m not holding my breath. Neither are the hundreds and hundreds of lobbyists in Washington.
$236 Million Cruise Ship Deal Criticized

By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 28, 2005; A01

On Sept. 1, as tens of thousands of desperate Louisianans packed the New Orleans Superdome and convention center, the Federal Emergency Management Agency pleaded with the U.S. Military Sealift Command: The government needed 10,000 berths on full-service cruise ships, FEMA said, and it needed the deal done by noon the next day.

The hasty appeal yielded one of the most controversial contracts of the Hurricane Katrina relief operation, a $236 million agreement with Carnival Cruise Lines for three ships that now bob more than half empty in the Mississippi River and Mobile Bay. The six-month contract -- staunchly defended by Carnival but castigated by politicians from both parties -- has come to exemplify the cost of haste that followed Katrina's strike and FEMA's lack of preparation.

To critics, the price is exorbitant. If the ships were at capacity, with 7,116 evacuees, for six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week, according to calculations by aides to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). A seven-day western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston can be had for $599 a person -- and that would include entertainment and the cost of actually making the ship move.

"When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight. A short-term temporary solution has turned into a long-term, grossly overpriced sweetheart deal for a cruise line," said Coburn and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a joint statement yesterday calling for a chief financial officer to oversee Katrina spending.

Carnival's bid totaled $192 million over six months, plus $44 million in reimbursable expenses, such as port charges, fuel, food and docking costs. To Carnival executives, the contract will ensure only that the company breaks even when it pulls three ships from holiday operations. About 100,000 passengers had their vacations canceled to accommodate the government's needs, said J. Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines, who has been answering questions about the deal for Carnival.

"In the end, we will make no additional money on this deal versus what we would have made by keeping these ships in service," said Jennifer de la Cruz, a Carnival spokeswoman. "That has been our position from the outset, and it has not changed."

Government contracting officials defended the deal. "They were the market," Capt. Joe Manna, director of contracts at the Sealift Command, said of Carnival. "Under the circumstances, I'd say we're getting a pretty good value."

Coburn and Obama disagreed. "Finding out after the fact that we're spending taxpayer money on no-bid contracts and sweetheart deals for cruise lines is no way to run a recovery effort," they said in the statement.

The Carnival deal is only one of several instances in which a lack of FEMA preparation may have left federal taxpayers with an outsized bill. Despite its experiences with last year's busy hurricane season, FEMA found itself without standing contracts for standard relief items such as blue tarps to cover damaged roofs, according to Thomas A. Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

"It is ridiculous that they can't have the supply on hand for these basics that you know you'll need in every instance," Schatz said.

But the Carnival deal has come under particular scrutiny. Not only are questions being raised over the contract's cost, but congressional investigators are examining the company's tax status. Carnival, which is headquartered in Miami but incorporated for tax purposes in Panama, paid just $3 million in income tax benefits on $1.9 billion in pretax income last year, according to company documents. "That's not even a tip," said Robert S. McIntyre of Citizens for Tax Justice. U.S. companies in general pay an effective income tax rate of about 25 percent, analysts say. That would have left Carnival with a $475 million tax bill.

Carnival's public records boast "that substantially all of our income in fiscal 2004, 2003 and 2002 . . . is exempt from U.S. federal income taxes," largely because it maintains that its operations are not in the United States but on the high seas.

Carnival does not want to see that tax status jeopardized just because three major ships are clearly operating in the United States. After it won the FEMA bid, Carnival appealed to Treasury Secretary John W. Snow for a waiver of U.S. taxes. "We do not want to jeopardize our tax exemption, nor do we want to interrupt our relief efforts for failure to secure this assurance from the Treasury Department," wrote Howard Frank, Carnival's chief operating officer.

Cruise line council President Crye said the company will reduce its billings under the contract by the amount of income taxes forgiven. The waiver would spare Carnival and its employees the paperwork of filing tax returns.

But critics say Carnival deserves to be treated no differently than a hotel housing relief workers under a FEMA contract. "Carnival should be contributing to the relief effort just like all other taxpayers are," McIntyre said. "Why should they be singled out for special treatment, just because they've been so good at tax avoidance in the past?"

Treasury spokesman Taylor Griffin said the matter is under review.

Monday, September 26, 2005


"Give those men a little taste of the lash, Captain!"

What it is is this: these guys are such authoritarians that they believe in some sort of “benevolent force,” whatever that is. It’s the idea that if things aren’t working right, you just apply force—like if you have a bad spark plug you just wrench it down a little, right? Nothing else is working for them, so a touch of the goad, a little switch with the cat-o-nine tails and everything would be fine. Or so they think. We've all heard it: "Hell, my daddy used to take the belt to me all the time! Didn't hurt me none!"

The military: be everything you’re told to be.

More militarization of US domestic scene

Bush mulls lead role for military in disasters

By Caren BohanSun Sep 25, 6:12 PM ET

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Sunday that Congress ought to consider giving the U.S. military the lead role in responding to natural disasters, as he heard one general describe the Hurricane Katrina rescue effort as a "train wreck."

Bush spent the last three days monitoring Hurricane Rita's high winds and flooding from military bases and emergency centers in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana. The president, whose poll numbers have slumped to new lows, was widely criticized over the slow federal response to Katrina.

His meetings with military brass and disaster coordinators were aimed at showing a hands-on approach to Rita -- in contrast to when Katrina struck on August 29 and he was in Arizona and California pitching his Medicare prescription drug benefit.

But in his sixth Gulf Coast tour, Bush steered clear of visiting devastated areas or meeting with displaced victims, saying he did not want to disrupt the relief effort.

"The last thing we want to do is get in the way of the ongoing immediate response efforts. That's something we have never done before and we had no intention of doing on this initial trip to the region," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Maj. Gen. John White, who briefed Bush at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio, urged him to create a national plan for large-scale disasters like Katrina.

Illustrating the disorganization in Katrina's wake, White recounted an incident in New Orleans in which five helicopters showed up at the same time to rescue one person.

"That's the sort of simplistic thing we'd like to avoid," White told Bush. "That was a train wreck that we saw in New Orleans."


Bush said Congress would have to consider under what circumstance the Department of Defense should become the lead agency in coordinating and responding to a disaster.

"Clearly, in the case of a terrorist attack, that would be the case. But is there a natural disaster ... of a certain size that would then enable the Defense Department to become the lead agency in coordinating and leading the response effort? That's going to be a very important consideration for Congress to think about," Bush said.

McClellan said Bush's goal was to make sure "there's a very clear line of authority" in the event of another major catastrophe, whether it is another storm like Katrina or an avian flu outbreak.

"You need to mobilize assets and resources and logistics and communications very quickly to help stabilize or contain the situation," McClellan said. "The organization, in the president's mind, that has the capability to do that is the Department of Defense."

McClellan said Bush has already discussed some of these issues with the secretary of Homeland Security and some top military leaders, and that the next step was to hold talks with congressional leaders.

McClellan acknowledged the proposal faced legal hurdles, and that a major issue would be determining what type of disaster would "trigger" a shift in authority to the Pentagon.

Putting the military in the lead role would sideline the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA, which now works with local and state officials to coordinate disaster response.

Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (news, bio, voting record), a Democrat, expressed reticence about that approach on CNN's "Late Edition."

Landrieu said the military has a strong role to play "but so do our governors and our local elected officials."

"I mean we do have a democracy and a citizenship that has elected mayors, county commissioners and governors particularly. I'm not sure the governors association or all the mayors in America would be willing to step aside," she said.


In Baton Rouge, Bush said at a Federal Emergency Management Agency hub that he had had an upbeat report from the Army Corps of Engineers on work to contain the latest flooding in New Orleans.

"I would say it's an optimistic appraisal in the sense that work has started now and they can start draining that part of the city again," Bush said.

Rita, while dealing a punishing blow to an already stricken region, appears to have been far less destructive than Katrina, which killed more than 1,000 people and left New Orleans in ruins. Bush has praised the federal response to Rita and taken responsibility for flaws in the Katrina recovery.

Bush headed back to Washington after the Baton Rouge stop but may return to the Gulf Coast as early as Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Adam Entous)

Copyright © 2005 Reuters Limited.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


Why gas is so expensive

THIS really shouldn't surprise anyone. Cheney, our veep, is part of the oil industry; he'll be involved in it until he dies. Bush would be more involved if he wasn't so dumb. The oil companies call the shots; we bite the bullets.

Sunday, September 25, 2005 - 12:00 AM

Who profits the most when gas prices rise
By Justin Blum
The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — When the average price of a gallon of regular gasoline peaked at $3.07 recently, it was partly because the nation's refineries were receiving an estimated 99 cents on each gallon sold. That was more than three times the amount they earned a year ago when regular unleaded was selling for $1.87.

Companies that pump oil from the ground swept in an additional 47 cents on each gallon, a 46 percent jump over the same period.

If motorists are the big losers in the spectacular run-up in gas prices, the companies that produce the oil and turn it into gasoline are the clear winners. By contrast, truckers who transport gasoline, companies that operate pipelines and gas-station owners have profited far less.

The spikes caused by Hurricane Katrina — which heavily damaged oil production and refining in the Gulf region — accentuated gains the refiners and producers already were enjoying over the past year.

Exxon Mobil, the Irving, Texas, behemoth that produces and refines oil, reported in July that its second-quarter profit was up 32 percent, to $7.64 billion. Analysts expect Exxon's profit to soar again this quarter.

The rapid run-up in prices at the pump when Katrina hit — and their slow decline — has infuriated drivers, many of whom complain that oil companies used the storm as a pretext for boosting prices and profits.

Politicians, including Washington state Gov. Christine Gregoire, echoed that sentiment and are calling for investigations of the oil industry.

But interviews with analysts, consumer advocates and participants in the oil markets indicate that typical market forces were at work in the price run-up.

Commodities markets that determine prices for gasoline moved dramatically higher after Katrina struck the Gulf region and damaged refineries and oil production. (The effect of Hurricane Rita on refiners' profits remains to be seen.)

Rising pump prices and company profits have caused lawmakers on Capitol Hill to seek legislative changes. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has introduced a measure that would tax some oil-company profits that are not devoted to exploration and development of new production.

"They obviously are experiencing windfall or excess profits," Dorgan said of the big oil companies. "They are ... profiting in an extraordinary way at the expense of the American consumer."

Some environmental and consumer advocates are urging the government to lower oil-company profits in another way. They want to reduce demand for gasoline, which has been growing in recent years, by requiring vehicles to get better mileage.

Others have called on the government to set gasoline prices, as it did several decades ago.

Officials representing some oil-importing countries complain that oil companies, including those controlled by foreign governments, have not spent enough money on new exploration and development, leading to tight supplies of oil.

Consumer advocates say mergers in the refining business have diminished competition and made it easier for the companies to limit supplies of gasoline and extract higher prices.

Refiners say they are spending heavily to expand and that their industry should not face new taxes or other penalties. "Refinery capacity is being added, but the problem is that demand has outpaced capacity," said Mary Rose Brown, a spokeswoman for Valero Energy, a San Antonio-based refining company.

Hurricane Katrina shocked already-tight markets for crude oil and gasoline. It reduced oil production in the Gulf of Mexico and caused the shutdown of nearby refineries, crimping supplies of crude oil and gasoline. Traders on the New York Mercantile Exchange responded by bidding up prices for both commodities.

That influenced oil sellers and buyers who negotiate prices in an informal spot market conducted by phone and instant computer messaging. Producers cut deals with refiners to sell oil at a higher cost, pegged to the rising prices on the exchange.

For a company such as Exxon, producing a barrel of oil from an existing well costs about $20, according to analysts. When the selling price exceeds that, the increase is almost all profit, they said. After Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast, the price of oil set a record, approaching $70.

Refiners processing the oil into gasoline faced lucrative market conditions. They may have had to pay producers more for the oil, but they were able to sell gasoline for higher prices as a result of the short supply and the spike on the mercantile exchange.

In their view, the increases were justified because the market dictated that their final product — gasoline — had risen in value.

Refiners, particularly those with most of their facilities outside the path of Katrina, cashed in. Analysts predicted a windfall for companies such as Philadelphia-based Sunoco, which continued operating normally during the hurricane.

After gasoline leaves refineries, the profit margin becomes narrower, even when prices are high. Many motorists direct their anger at gas-station owners when the higher market prices for oil and gasoline show up at the pump. But the bulk of the increases at the pump typically is not making station owners rich, analysts said.

Who sets the price at the pump depends on who owns the station. At stations owned by big oil companies, prices are based on local supply and demand and what the companies think customers will be willing to pay.

Other stations may bear the name of a big oil company but be owned locally, in which case the owner often pays a non-negotiable price for gasoline and then determines how much to charge customers.

Some of these owners say they typically charge 10 cents to 20 cents more than the price they pay for gasoline, although the amount can vary depending on competition. They say they generally do not make more money with high prices.

Station owners complain that credit-card companies are benefiting from higher pump prices. Many of those companies charge a percentage fee to the stations based on the customer's total charge. So as customers' bills rise, so do the credit-card companies' fees.

As prices have risen, station owners say, more people are using credit cards.

"It's a huge amount of money to process a transaction," said Eric Schmitz, an Exxon station owner in Fairfax, Va.

In all, companies that distribute, market and sell gasoline to the public took about 18 cents on each gallon of gas when the average price hit a peak of $3.07 a gallon on Sept. 5 in an Energy Department survey, analysts estimated. A year ago, they took 17 cents of each gallon, according to Energy Department data.

When prices rise quickly, as they did after Katrina, refineries make a larger share of the profit because they immediately pass along price increases to buyers. But gasoline suppliers and station owners typically move more slowly in passing along price increases, limiting their profit.

Conversely, as more gasoline supplies came on the market after Katrina, prices charged by refiners for their gasoline dropped rapidly. But gas suppliers and station owners did not pass those reduced prices along as quickly, a typical pricing pattern that allows them to make up for reduced profit margins when prices were rising, analysts said.

"On the way up, one guy is making money," said Michael Burdette, an analyst with the Energy Department's Energy Information Administration. "On the way down, the other guy is."

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


Its an ill wind that the neo-cons don't try to surf with

It’s an ill wind...

While the inept and chaotic (if not corrupt) government response to the Katrina disaster has exposed the administration as being inept and corrupt, there’s no faulting their ability to bounce back. Rove is a brilliant man—as brilliant as Bush is...well, shallow.

The conservatives have never forgiven FDR for pulling the nation out of the Depression. The simple fact that he also saved the capitalist system doesn’t count, because he led the nation away from laissez fare capitalism—the Holy Grail of the neo-cons—and into what has become the corporate security state. Since the neo-cons are authoritarians, the “security” part of the corporate state appeals to them. As does the power of huge international corporations. It’s their jonesing for the days when a coal shoveler could become a Rockefeller that hangs them up.

Underneath everything, they really do believe the Horatio Alger b.s..

The second article below is more ominous, because it deals with armed force and suppression of whatever the government believes should be suppressed. Blackwater is becoming the modern-day equivalent of the old Pinkerton vigilantes. Privatization of domestic law enforcement. Not good.

Julian Borger
The Guardian

President Bush's multi-billion dollar reconstruction plans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina are being used as "a vast laboratory" for conservative social polices, administration critics claim.

The White House strategy involves the suspension of a series of regulations guaranteeing the going local wage and affirmative action for minorities, while offering tax incentives for businesses in the affected region.

Education aid for displaced children will include $500m (£276m) in vouchers for private schools, while a senior Republican has also proposed a new law permitting a wide-ranging waiver of environmental regulations.

The White House has argued that the deregulation measures are designed to disentangle the relief effort from federal red tape. But Democrats are furious at the proposals. They view them as an attempt to slip through unpopular policies under cover of the wave of sympathy for Katrina's victims. "The plan they're designing for the Gulf coast turns the region into a vast laboratory for rightwing ideological experiments," said John Kerry, the party's defeated 2004 presidential candidate.

Conservative commentators see the measures as an opportunity to reverse federal entitlement programmes dating back to Franklin Roosevelt's that they argue ingrain poverty by encouraging dependency on the government. "The objection to these Bush proposals isn't fiscal, but philosophical," Rich Lowry, an editor on the National Review magazine, wrote. "They serve to undermine the principle of government dependency that underpins the contemporary welfare state, and to which liberals are utterly devoted."

The focus of Democratic opposition is the White House decision to suspend the 1931 Davis-Bacon act, which requires firms working under government contract to pay locally "prevailing wages" to workers.

Critics argue that the law's suspension will mostly benefit big corporations such as Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton, at the expense of the local poor who need a decent wage more than ever.

Claude Allen, the president's domestic policy adviser, argued that the deregulation measures would help local people by making it easier for small businesses to compete for contracts.

"The purpose of the waiver of Davis-Bacon and other regulations was to remove red tape so that we could get at more small businesses, medium-size businesses that do not currently contract with the federal government, to get them involved in this activity," Mr Allen told journalists.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Reprinted from The Guardian (UK):,16441,1575392,00.html


This article can be found on the web at

Blackwater Down

[from the October 10, 2005 issue]
The men from Blackwater USA arrived in New Orleans right after Katrina hit. The company known for its private security work guarding senior US diplomats in Iraq beat the federal government and most aid organizations to the scene in another devastated Gulf. About 150 heavily armed Blackwater troops dressed in full battle gear spread out into the chaos of New Orleans. Officially, the company boasted of its forces "join[ing] the hurricane relief effort." But its men on the ground told a different story.

Some patrolled the streets in SUVs with tinted windows and the Blackwater logo splashed on the back; others sped around the French Quarter in an unmarked car with no license plates. They congregated on the corner of St. James and Bourbon in front of a bar called 711, where Blackwater was establishing a makeshift headquarters. From the balcony above the bar, several Blackwater guys cleared out what had apparently been someone's apartment. They threw mattresses, clothes, shoes and other household items from the balcony to the street below. They draped an American flag from the balcony's railing. More than a dozen troops from the 82nd Airborne Division stood in formation on the street watching the action.

Armed men shuffled in and out of the building as a handful told stories of their past experiences in Iraq. "I worked the security detail of both Bremer and Negroponte," said one of the Blackwater guys, referring to the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and former US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte. Another complained, while talking on his cell phone, that he was getting only $350 a day plus his per diem. "When they told me New Orleans, I said, 'What country is that in?'" he said. He wore his company ID around his neck in a case with the phrase Operation Iraqi Freedom printed on it.

In an hourlong conversation I had with four Blackwater men, they characterized their work in New Orleans as "securing neighborhoods" and "confronting criminals." They all carried automatic assault weapons and had guns strapped to their legs. Their flak jackets were covered with pouches for extra ammunition.

When asked what authority they were operating under, one guy said, "We're on contract with the Department of Homeland Security." Then, pointing to one of his comrades, he said, "He was even deputized by the governor of the state of Louisiana. We can make arrests and use lethal force if we deem it necessary." The man then held up the gold Louisiana law enforcement badge he wore around his neck. Blackwater spokesperson Anne Duke also said the company has a letter from Louisiana officials authorizing its forces to carry loaded weapons.

"This vigilantism demonstrates the utter breakdown of the government," says Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. "These private security forces have behaved brutally, with impunity, in Iraq. To have them now on the streets of New Orleans is frightening and possibly illegal."

Blackwater is not alone. As business leaders and government officials talk openly of changing the demographics of what was one of the most culturally vibrant of America's cities, mercenaries from companies like DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International (ISI) are fanning out to guard private businesses and homes, as well as government projects and institutions. Within two weeks of the hurricane, the number of private security companies registered in Louisiana jumped from 185 to 235. Some, like Blackwater, are under federal contract. Others have been hired by the wealthy elite, like F. Patrick Quinn III, who brought in private security to guard his $3 million private estate and his luxury hotels, which are under consideration for a lucrative federal contract to house FEMA workers.

A possibly deadly incident involving Quinn's hired guns underscores the dangers of private forces policing American streets. On his second night in New Orleans, Quinn's security chief, Michael Montgomery, who said he worked for an Alabama company called Bodyguard and Tactical Security (BATS), was with a heavily armed security detail en route to pick up one of Quinn's associates and escort him through the chaotic city. Montgomery told me they came under fire from "black gangbangers" on an overpass near the poor Ninth Ward neighborhood. "At the time, I was on the phone with my business partner," he recalls. "I dropped the phone and returned fire."

Montgomery says he and his men were armed with AR-15s and Glocks and that they unleashed a barrage of bullets in the general direction of the alleged shooters on the overpass. "After that, all I heard was moaning and screaming, and the shooting stopped. That was it. Enough said."

Then, Montgomery says, "the Army showed up, yelling at us and thinking we were the enemy. We explained to them that we were security. I told them what had happened and they didn't even care. They just left." Five minutes later, Montgomery says, Louisiana state troopers arrived on the scene, inquired about the incident and then asked him for directions on "how they could get out of the city." Montgomery says that no one ever asked him for any details of the incident and no report was ever made. "One thing about security," Montgomery says, "is that we all coordinate with each other--one family." That co-ordination doesn't include the offices of the Secretaries of State in Louisiana and Alabama, which have no record of a BATS company.

A few miles away from the French Quarter, another wealthy New Orleans businessman, James Reiss, who serves in Mayor Ray Nagin's administration as chairman of the city's Regional Transit Authority, brought in some heavy guns to guard the elite gated community of Audubon Place: Israeli mercenaries dressed in black and armed with M-16s. Two Israelis patrolling the gates outside Audubon told me they had served as professional soldiers in the Israeli military, and one boasted of having participated in the invasion of Lebanon. "We have been fighting the Palestinians all day, every day, our whole lives," one of them tells me. "Here in New Orleans, we are not guarding from terrorists." Then, tapping on his machine gun, he says, "Most Americans, when they see these things, that's enough to scare them."

The men work for ISI, which describes its employees as "veterans of the Israeli special task forces from the following Israeli government bodies: Israel Defense Force (IDF), Israel National Police Counter Terrorism units, Instructors of Israel National Police Counter Terrorism units, General Security Service (GSS or 'Shin Beit'), Other restricted intelligence agencies." The company was formed in 1993. Its website profile says: "Our up-to-date services meet the challenging needs for Homeland Security preparedness and overseas combat procedures and readiness. ISI is currently an approved vendor by the US Government to supply Homeland Security services."

Unlike ISI or BATS, Blackwater is operating under a federal contract to provide 164 armed guards for FEMA reconstruction projects in Louisiana. That contract was announced just days after Homeland Security Department spokesperson Russ Knocke told the Washington Post he knew of no federal plans to hire Blackwater or other private security firms. "We believe we've got the right mix of personnel in law enforcement for the federal government to meet the demands of public safety," he said. Before the contract was announced, the Blackwater men told me, they were already on contract with DHS and that they were sleeping in camps organized by the federal agency.
One might ask, given the enormous presence in New Orleans of National Guard, US Army, US Border Patrol, local police from around the country and practically every other government agency with badges, why private security companies are needed, particularly to guard federal projects. "It strikes me...that that may not be the best use of money," said Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

Blackwater's success in procuring federal contracts could well be explained by major-league contributions and family connections to the GOP. According to election records, Blackwater's CEO and co-founder, billionaire Erik Prince, has given tens of thousands to Republicans, including more than $80,000 to the Republican National Committee the month before Bush's victory in 2000. This past June, he gave $2,100 to Senator Rick Santorum's re-election campaign. He has also given to House majority leader Tom DeLay and a slew of other Republican candidates, including Bush/Cheney in 2004. As a young man, Prince interned with President George H.W. Bush, though he complained at the time that he "saw a lot of things I didn't agree with--homosexual groups being invited in, the budget agreement, the Clean Air Act, those kind of bills. I think the Administration has been indifferent to a lot of conservative concerns."

Prince, a staunch right-wing Christian, comes from a powerful Michigan Republican family, and his father, Edgar, was a close friend of former Republican presidential candidate and antichoice leader Gary Bauer. In 1988 the elder Prince helped Bauer start the Family Research Council. Erik Prince's sister, Betsy, once chaired the Michigan Republican Party and is married to Dick DeVos, whose father, billionaire Richard DeVos, is co-founder of the major Republican benefactor Amway. Dick DeVos is also a big-time contributor to the Republican Party and will likely be the GOP candidate for Michigan governor in 2006. Another Blackwater founder, president Gary Jackson, is also a major contributor to Republican campaigns.

After the killing of four Blackwater mercenaries in Falluja in March 2004, Erik Prince hired the Alexander Strategy Group, a PR firm with close ties to GOPers like DeLay. By mid-November the company was reporting 600 percent growth. In February 2005 the company hired Ambassador Cofer Black, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the State Department and former director of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, as vice chairman. Just as the hurricane was hitting, Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, named Joseph Schmitz, who had just resigned as the Pentagon's Inspector General, as the group's chief operating officer and general counsel.

While juicing up the firm's political connections, Prince has been advocating greater use of private security in international operations, arguing at a symposium at the National Defense Industrial Association earlier this year that firms like his are more efficient than the military. In May Blackwater's Jackson testified before Congress in an effort to gain lucrative Homeland Security contracts to train 2,000 new Border Patrol agents, saying Blackwater understands "the value to the government of one-stop shopping." With President Bush using the Katrina disaster to try to repeal Posse Comitatus (the ban on using US troops in domestic law enforcement) and Blackwater and other security firms clearly initiating a push to install their paramilitaries on US soil, the war is coming home in yet another ominous way. As one Blackwater mercenary said, "This is a trend. You're going to see a lot more guys like us in these situations."


allow me to introduce myself...

I just opened this because I began having trouble posting at another blog site ( I'm no techno-whiz. I use a Mac because I don't want to be a techno-whiz.

So this is the new locale....

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