Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Bush League of Extraordinary Gentleman

ABC News:

The US military has awarded an $80 million contract to a prominent Saudi financier who has been indicted by the US Justice Department. The contract to supply jet fuel to American bases in Afghanistan was awarded to the Attock Refinery Ltd, a Pakistani-based refinery owned by Gaith Pharaon. Pharaon is wanted in connection with his alleged role at the failed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), and the CenTrust savings and loan scandal, which cost US tax payers $1.7 billion.

The Saudi businessman was also named in a 2002 French parliamentary report as having links to informal money transfer networks called hawala, known to be used by traders and terrorists, including Al Qaeda.

Interestingly, Pharaon was also an investor in President George W. Bush's first business venture, Arbusto Energy.

Well, I'm sure Gaith Pharaon's connection to Arbusto, BCCI and criminality is just a coincidence. Just an accident of circumstance. What are the chances, really?

BCCI was the biggest bank fraud in history ($10-15 billion stolen). Some history:

In 1979, when [George W.] Bush started up Arbusto Energy in Houston, one of his investors was James Bath, the US business representative of Salem bin Laden-- [half] brother of Osama. Though it has yet to be proven, many suspect Bath's $50,000 investment came directly from Salem. Following bin Laden's death in 1988, his Houston-based interests were absorbed by Khalid bin Mahfouz. As a result, Bush soon found himself in hot water during the BCCI scandal, when investigations into the bank's finances revealed that many of the indicted BCCI executives invested heavily in Harken Energy (a reincarnation of Arbusto). Bush denied any knowledge of the BCCI investment, though this answer appears to be disingenuous at best. Bin Mahfouz, a BCCI principal, was implicated in the collective fraud, though not directly connected to Bush's company.

But

in the years after the collapse of BCCI, Khalid bin Mahfouz was still flush with cash. In 1992, he established the Muwafaq ("blessed relief") Foundation in the offshore Channel Islands. The U.S. Treasury Department called it "an al Qaeda front that receives funding from wealthy Saudi businessmen."

Friday, June 06, 2008

"A terrorist fist jab"

What Roger Ailes catamite wrote this script for the bubble-headed Fox blonde?

Seriously, I want to know.

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Update: Wes Clark did it back in '04.

They got played

Iranian intelligence agents, plus Dick and Rummy's war animus, plus Michael "loopy" Ledeen's top White House access, plus gullible Douggie Feith... what could possibly go wrong?

Whoopsy poopers!

Salon:

[The Friday after Katrina], Gov. Blanco gave Bush a two-page letter detailing everything the state needed to cope with the disaster -- troops, buses, supplies, money, and more. It would not be until several days later, when Blanco's aides released the letter to the press and got frantic phone calls from Rove's aide Maggie Grant, that it became clear that Bush had taken the letter Blanco had personally handed to him -- and lost it.

Ice, Ice and babies

FEMA says ice is "more of a comfort thing", and won't provide it anymore after disasters.

Suspect Device responds.

Just as long as they provide bottled hot water to our dehydrated babies, I guess we'll manage.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

A standing ovation and bouquet goes out

to E, who writes a post about McCain's latest confusion, and makes it exponentially better than the one I had in mind. Well done, sir!

Mark my words, E will be famous one day.

Flaming Liberal's letter published in T-P

Here's the Flaming Liberal's latest email, copied in full:
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“Don't let down your guard” by “yours truly” published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune


{Note: Glenn Benfield is a right-wing “Christian” crazy and is married to an equally “Christian” crazy, Kathleen Benfield who is the New Orleans President of the wacked-out American Family Assn. And Kathleen Benfield is on record favoring “banning” Mardi Gras, closing New Orleans casinos, banning lap dances at strip clubs in the French Quarter, banning Southern Decadence, has stated homosexuality should be “against” the law, and has participated in the “burning” of gay magazines!!!!!!! And the Benfield’s think the planet is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old!!!!!!!! And, as far as I know, Kathleen has yet to condemn the repug “Christian” super-hypocrite whore mongering David Vitter}


Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Re: 'Cut hysteria by a third,' Your Opinions, June 1.


Glenn Benfield suggests that the official hurricane season be shortened to July through September, to spare people two months of fear. May I remind Mr.Benfield that Hurricane Audrey struck in June 1957, and more than 300 lives were lost in Louisiana.


Residents of Louisiana must remain vigilant and not be given any reason to relax hurricane preparation and become complacent due to a shortened officialhurricane season.


I say this as a person whose home and property in eastern New Orleans were devastated by Katrina. Had it not been for adequate preparation, I would likely have lost my life as well.


As history has already proven, a catastrophic, deadly hurricane can hit Louisiana in June, and with the possibility of the severity and frequency of hurricanes increasing, I am appalled by this dangerous recommendation.


David C. Bellinger


Atlanta


http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/letterstoeditor/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1212556946257440.xml&coll=1



“Cut hysteria by a third”


Sunday, June 01, 2008


Half of our lives we are in hurricane season. Yep, for six months, from June through November, the National Hurricane Center, with rabid support from themedia, traumatizes us with the latest tropical data from the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.


I suggest that we cut one third of the hurricane hype and hysteria by removing June and November from the hurricane season. When a tropical disturbance occurs in these months, it would simply be a pre- or post-season occurrence.


Wouldn't it be good for Atlantic and Gulf Coast tourism to shrink the hurricane season from a half-year to a third-year?


Of course, the job security of the hurricane center and the weather media would be shrunk as well. I guess it will never happen.


Glenn Benfield

River Ridge


http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/letterstoeditor/index.ssf?/base/news-11/1212297654113860.xml&coll=1

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(title outsourced to Suspect Device)

Displaying his innate sense of timing, and an uncanny ability to leverage his political position for the good of his party, Louisiana Democratic party chairman Chris Wittington endorsed Hillary Clinton the day before Senator Barack Obama secured enough delegates for the nomination.

Well played! [/sarcasm]

So, instead of being one of the final delegates to put Obama over the top, Whittington waited until the last minute to back Hillary, saying that she's better equipped to beat McCain in the fall.

I don't know what goes into Whittington's political analysis. But I do hear this argument a lot, that Hillary would be harder for McCain to beat than Obama. To support this claim, we're shown current polls that have Hillary ahead of McCain in a hypothetical matchup. There's a lot that could be said about why this is superficial analysis. But I'll just emphasize one possibility:

If Hillary Clinton were the nominee, NYC Mayor Bloomberg would likely be running for president as an Independent. And a Billionaire centrist candidate like Bloomberg would shake things up considerably, and not necessarily to Clinton's electoral benefit. So if we are going to imagine that Clinton was the nominee, we should also consider the serious chance (now forgotten) that Bloomberg might've jumped into the race. He certainly looked as if he were gearing up to run. He switched parties, dropped hints, began creating a national campaign infrastructure, got his web site up... etc. But he decided not to, and I think that has a lot to do with Obama emerging as the Dems' nominee (and, to a lesser extent, McCain being the GOP nominee).

Gina Gershon demands attention a retraction

... from Vanity Fair, for implying that her and the Big Dog were visiting inappropriately with one another. Here's the strongly worded letter her lawyers sent the magazine.

If Hillary were the Dems' nominee instead of Obama, you can rest assured that Chris Matthews and other Clinton-haters in the media would be discussing this "issue" nonstop through election day. Bill Clinton... in the White House again... getting into trouble... with Gina Gershon...

How could they resist?

Hillary would try to talk about her health care plan during interviews, and the media would obsessively speculate about whether she could discipline the Clenis.

On and on and on...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

How do you "liveblog" something which has no life?

Michelle Malkin tackled this conundrum tonight as she provided up-to-the-minute coverage of John McCain's "pedestrian" campaign speech. By the end of it, she writes: "It’s done and [McCain] seems relieved. Join the club."

Josh Marshall describes McCain's performance as "frighteningly sad". Actually, it was just "sad". (Far too boring to be "frightening".)

So, after having a fundraiser at Joe Canizaro's pad in Old Metry, McCain went over to Kenner ("America's City!") and began his remarks by saying:

Good evening from the great city of New Orleans.


My friends, it only went downhill from there.

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More at The G Bitch Spot.
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Update #2: DSB informs us that McCain gave two speeches, because, for some reason, there were hundreds of people outside who weren't accomodated by the small venue. Two lame speeches to perhaps 600 people each... egads.
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Update: Attaturk compares the optics of McCain's event to green jello salad. (Green jello salad is used as an occasional obscure reference here at this blog, to the befuddlement of most of my audience. However, my conservative friend RC-- who reads this blog on a daily basis-- knows what I'm talking about. Also: RIP Bo Diddley.)

The Green Lantern Theory of Politics

Mr. Yglesias defines it as

...the conservative conceit that willpower is the crucial variable in making our national security policy work. Thus, when resistance to national objectives is encountered, instead of dealing with them pragmatically the resistance is seen as a test of will. Since it's a test of will, the most important thing becomes not resolving the issue in a productive way, but demonstrating the implacability of our will. When strategies motivated in this manner fail to achieve their goals, that merely shows the need for more will because to change strategy at all would send the wrong sort of message about our resolve.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Just so we're perfectly clear

During his interview on Meet the Press, former WH Press Secretary Scott McClellan confirms that reality has a liberal blogger bias:

MR. RUSSERT: Why didn't you say to him, "Mr. President, this is the fundamental issue confronting our country." Why didn't you go to your superiors and say, "Guys, ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem here. This is the fundamental issue [about the Iraq War], choice or necessity, and the president seems unaware of it."

MR. McCLELLAN: In retrospect, I probably should have. I probably should have said something more about it. But, again, there's so many issues going on, you get caught up in advocating and defending the president's stance. And he'd already made the decision, and the president's someone that, once he makes a decision, as you know, he expects everyone to march in lockstep. I don't-- you know, it's tough to go there and try to challenge those views inside an administration that is so insular like that, but it also goes to the president's decision, that he had made this decision to confront Saddam Hussein, and it was going to be either he comes clean or we go to war very early on. That's they way the president operates. He makes the decision, and then it's how do you implement that decision? And I think that happened late in 2001, and then his advisers, from my perspective, I don't think challenged him like they should have about the necessity of going to war. And from my standpoint, it's a moral view, we shouldn't be going to war unless it's absolutely necessary. Now there are--there was justification that could be made to remove Saddam Hussein, separate and apart from that, and plenty to argue there, but we overplayed and overstated the case for war.


Scottie is the first person who worked inside the bubble to state that he thinks the decision to go to war with Iraq occurred in "late 2001". I believe he is correct, and would cite four (inexcusable) decisions that would seemingly support his view.

1) During the Spring of 2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces group who were hunting Bin Laden were transferred from Afghanistan to prepare for war with Iraq.

2) In June of 2002, Psy Ops in Iraq began.

3) For over a year before the war started, the Bush administration refused to bomb Abu Zarqawi's terrorist training camps in Kurdistan, because it might have removed one of the pretexts Bush used to make his "case" for war with Iraq.

4) In retaliation for a NYT op-ed they didn't like, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby "outed" a covert CIA agent working on WMD nonproliferation in Iran.

For me, these four points "scream the loudest" because they reveal the supreme dishonesty at the heart of the Bush administration's "Global War on Terror". It was never about moving heaven and earth to liquidate the evil freaks who planned the carnage on 9/11. Bush and Rummy never even cared to properly finish the job in Afghanistan, because it was merely preparation for the larger war in Iraq. And the war in Iraq was never about the "threat" of Saddam's scary WMD's-- it was about neocon pipe-dreams of democratizing the Middle East at gunpoint.

"No one could've predicted" that this panglossian enterprise would balloon into a trillion dollar war with four thousand dead Americans, thirty thousand injured... while Bin Laden and his #2 are keeping tabs on the action from Waziristan, and will soon be fondly recalling the events of seven Septembers ago.

I blame Jeffrey

From We Saw That we learn:

The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled against a high school student who used some interesting language to describe her school officials on her personal blog, saying that the school did not violate her First Amendment rights by punishing her for calling school officials "douchebags."


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Hurricane Season Politics

Presidential candidate John McCain is coming to Louisiana tomorrow. He'll have a rally in Kenner ("America's City!"), and a town hall meeting and fundraiser in Baton Rouge. Governor Jindal, "The New True Champion of the Right", will host the fundraiser. (Update: lj4a has more.)

Recently, the T-P's Stephanie Grace wrote a column titled "Katrina a risk-free issue for McCain". And whenever I see the words "risk free", I immediately run to my battlestations. Here's what Grace had to say:

Sen. John McCain could actually benefit from highlighting the Bush administration's catastrophic failures in Louisiana.
...
the hurricane response is the one aspect of the Bush's record that nobody bothers to defend.
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During his visit to the Lower 9th Ward and Xavier University last month, McCain was utterly unapologetic about the Bush administration's' response. He also promised quick action on Category 5 flood protection and reform of the Stafford Act...

Not so fast, there. Let's take a closer look at McCain's so called "promise for quick action on Category 5 flood protection". Unlike Senator Obama, who has a detailed Gulf Coast Reconstruction plan including Category 5 protection as part of his platform, McCain has no such plan, nor does he have plans to create a plan. So, I guess all we have to go on is what he said last month. Here's how it was reported by CBS News:

[McCain] said that beyond the most immediate needs of people in New Orleans, such as affordable housing, the top priorities now were to achieve the government's goal to fortify the city against 100-year storms by 2011, and to move beyond that [and] find a way to protect the region against Category 5 hurricanes.

On the latter issue, he said, "It's time to end the studies and it's time to act."

Before we credit McCain with "promising" Category 5 protection for the South Louisiana region, let's force him to elaborate on this issue, either when he comes to visit tomorrow, or at the planned YouTube/Google presidential debate in New Orleans. Ask him:

Senator McCain, the last time you were here you said "it's time to end the studies and it's time to act" regarding Category 5 flood protection for South Louisiana. New levees, floodwalls and coastal marshlands are projected to cost $50 billion or perhaps much more. Are you making a commitment to Louisiana that you will fund this vital reconstruction effort with federal dollars, to ensure the protection of America's Energy Coast? If not, how can we act without the federal funding? And how will this affect your promise to balance the budget while 1) extending the Bush tax cuts, 2) indefinitely continuing the occupation of Iraq (whose marshlands have already been restored), and 3) maintaining current spending levels on defense?

That's the sort of question McCain should be asked before he gets credit for supporting a liberal idea like Cat 5 flood protection*. Do you REALLY think that McCain is bragging about how he'll save all this money by eliminating earmarks, just so that he can plow it back into a gargantuan reconstruction program that will benefit South Louisiana? Especially after Donald Powell's infamous levee "promise", do you think journalists should be a tad more skeptical when a so-called conservative flippantly appears to endorse a $50 billion dollar program to protect New Orleans/S. Louisiana?

So Grace basically sees Katrina as a risk-free issue for McCain. I disagree, because "Katrina" is related to things like Gulf Coast reconstruction (which McCain has been vague about), as well as crucial issues like insurance, which could come under sharp focus if and when another hurricane threatens. Consider this WSJ article (pardon the long excerpts):

As hurricane season begins, Democrats in Congress want to nationalize a chunk of the insurance business that covers major storm-damage claims.

The proposal -- backed by giant insurers Allstate Corp. and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., as well as Florida lawmakers -- focuses on "reinsurance," the policies bought by insurers themselves to protect against catastrophic losses. The proposal envisions a taxpayer-financed reinsurance program covering all 50 states, which would essentially backstop the giant insurers in case of disaster.

The program could save homeowners roughly $500 apiece in annual premiums in Florida, according to an advocacy group backed by Allstate and State Farm, the largest writers of property insurance in the U.S.

But environmentalists and other critics -- including the American Insurance Association, a major trade group -- say lower premiums would more likely spur irresponsible coastal development, already a big factor in insurance costs. The program could also shift costs to taxpayers in states with fewer natural-disaster risks.
...
The legislation passed the House with bipartisan support, 258-155, late last year, despite a presidential veto threat. Although a Senate vote is unlikely this year, proponents are trying to make it a litmus-test issue in the presidential race. The two Democratic contenders, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, in their recent visits to Florida -- a key swing state -- have both voiced support for the plan.

Big winners would be coastal states, particularly Florida, where more than half of the nation's hurricane risk is centered.
...
The proposed plan is roughly analogous to the National Flood Insurance Program, which has been criticized for encouraging construction in risky floodplains. Nevertheless, in recent weeks the Senate voted to renew the flood-insurance program, and also to forgive $17 billion in debt incurred after Hurricane Katrina.

Critics cite that debt forgiveness as an example of how states with little or no hurricane risk can end up footing the bill for damage in flood-prone areas.
...
Florida Democrats' effort to make a federal disaster fund a big issue in this year's presidential race was one reason the state moved up its primary election to January from March, defying party rules...

Florida lawmakers and Republican Gov. Charlie Crist are pushing hard for the federal program. Florida is currently the only state with its own reinsurance fund. That fund, created in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew, has lowered insurance costs for state residents, but would be stretched by a big hurricane this year. The federal program would assist the state's fund while also providing political cover for state politicians, some of whom say claims from a major storm this year could trigger the largest tax increase in state history.

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, who badly wants to win Florida, is resisting calls to back the program. "This is a very large federal program," and the only state currently in a position to benefit is Florida, said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Mr. McCain's policy director.
...
The proposal envisions the creation of funds like Florida's in all 50 states. These reinsurance funds would collect premiums from companies like Allstate, who would benefit because they would be paying less than in the private reinsurance market. That savings would get passed on to homeowners. Then, if a state got hit with a particularly severe disaster, whether hurricane, earthquake, tornadoes or other crisis, federal loans and state-backed reinsurance could step in to cover big losses.

When I analyze the political implications of on an issue or event, I first filter out everything I deem politically impossible. So, in this presidential election year, do you really think that McCain flippantly endorsed a $50 billion program to protect S. Louisiana from Cat 5 hurricanes, but is resisting Florida's national re-insurance scheme out of conservative principle?

No way, no how.

After informing him how much it will cost, just try to pin McCain down on Category 5 flood protection. Just try to get an unhedged, unequivocal commitment on that. I believe he was flying by the seat of his pants when he said "it's time to act" regarding Cat 5 protection for S. LA. Or he misspoke. Or he was confused.

Katrina et al. is a "risk-free" issue for McCain? Not this hurricane season.

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Update 1: I forgot to note that Grace thought McCain's "Never again..." comment sounded like a "pretty good campaign slogan". Of course, Obama's plan has a whole section titled "Never Again" (#2), and Obama repeated the "Never again" phrase in his speech at Tulane in February.
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Update 2: post has been edited slightly for clarity.
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* Yes, I know it's not a technically accurate term! We're talking politics here, not science.