Saturday, August 19, 2006


Verdict Against Iraq Contractor Overturned

A federal judge threw out a $10 million jury verdict against an American company accused of overcharging on an Iraq reconstruction contract after concluding that the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority was not a U.S. government entity.

The civil fraud suit against Custer Battles LLC, which has offices in Northern Virginia, arose out of the chaotic 14-month period during which the authority governed Iraq after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.

Using federal whistle-blower laws, a former employee and a subcontractor claimed Custer Battles created phony Cayman Islands companies to overcharge the authority on a contract to furnish Iraq with a new currency. The firm denied the claim.

Although a jury found the company guilty, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III ruled on review that the firm could not be sued under the federal False Claims Act because of the ambiguous structure of the authority, which issued the contract. The judge also concluded that the way in which the company had been paid distanced it from the U.S. government.

He said there was ample evidence that the company had submitted "false and fraudulently inflated invoices" but found that the nature of the Coalition Provisional Authority precluded a fraud claim. Ellis signed his ruling Wednesday; it was made public yesterday.


The company's owners are "bloody mother fucking assholes" "ecstatic," said their attorney, Robert Rhoad.

(via CorrenteWire)

What Right-Wingers See When They Read

The New York Times

Major arms soar to twice pre-9/11 cost

Boston Globe

The estimated costs for the development of major weapons systems for the US military have doubled since September 11, 2001, with a trillion-dollar price tag for new planes, ships, and missiles that would have little direct role in the fight against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The soaring cost estimates -- disclosed in a report for the Republican-led Senate Budget Committee -- have led to concerns that supporters of multibillion-dollar weapons programs in Congress, the Pentagon , and the defense industry are using the conflicts and the war on terrorism to fulfill a wish-list of defense expenditures, whether they are needed or not for the war on terrorism.

Friday, August 18, 2006

friday random ten

Photo by Ryan McManus
Randy J. "Biscuit" Turner Memorial Edition

"Detectives" - The Big Boys
"Automaattiaikuinen" - Stalin
"I've Been Lonely for So Long" - Frederick Knight
"Take 'Em All" - Cock Sparrer
"Because the Night" - Patti Smith
"William Wilson" - The Smithereens
"Kill Time" - The Clash
"Take Ecstasy With Me" - !!!
"Dig It [short edit]" - Skinny Puppy
"My Long Winter" - Christine Number One

Video Bonus: Silversun Pickups - "Kissing Families"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Team Fab

Team Fabrication

Judge Orders Halt to Warrantless Surveillance

DETROIT (Aug. 17) - A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government's warrantless surveillance program is unconstitutional and ordered an immediate halt to it.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in Detroit became the first judge to strike down the National Security Agency's program, which she says violates the rights to free speech and privacy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

UPDATE: Read Glenn Greenwald's analysis of the opinion.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

Craig Murray

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being "interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 volcano

Take a tour of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

(via PZ Myers)


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Greg Palast

So, Osama Walks into This Bar, See? and Bush says, “Whad’l'ya have, pardner?” and Osama says…

But wait a minute. I’d better shut my mouth. The sign here in the airport says, “Security is no joking matter.” But if security’s no joking matter, why does this guy dressed in a high-school marching band outfit tell me to dump my Frappuccino and take off my shoes? All I can say is, Thank the Lord the “shoe bomber” didn’t carry Semtex in his underpants.

Today’s a RED and ORANGE ALERT day. How odd. They just caught the British guys with the chemistry sets. But when these guys were about to blow up airliners, the USA was on YELLOW alert. That’s a “lowered” threat notice.

According to the press office from the Department of Homeland Security, lowered-threat Yellow means that there were no special inspections of passengers or cargo. Isn’t it nice of Mr. Bush to alert Osama when half our security forces are given the day off? Hmm. I asked an Israeli security expert why his nation doesn’t use these pretty color codes.

He asked me if, when I woke up, I checked the day’s terror color.

“I can’t say I ever have. I mean, who would?”

He smiled. “The terrorists.”

America is the only nation on the planet that kindly informs bombers, hijackers and berserkers the days on which they won’t be monitored. You’ve got to get up pretty early in the morning to get a jump on George Bush’s team.

There are three possible explanations for the Administration’s publishing a good-day-for-bombing color guidebook.

1. God is on Osama’s side.

2. George is on Osama’s side.

3. Fear sells better than sex.

A gold star if you picked #3.

Terror Alert Level

Monday, August 14, 2006

where's the beef?

Bev Conover Online Journal E&P

Clair Pellar may have gone to that big Wendy's hamburger joint in the sky, but the question that brought her 15 minutes of fame is more relevant today with each "terror" scare: Where's the beef?

The latest "terror plot" is the most preposterous of all. Yet, the corporate media have taken to it like flies to honey while the sheeple are dumping all their liquids and gels into airport trash bins for the "privilege" of boarding an airliner, after waiting in interminable queues to be grotesquely searched and groped by perverse airport security personnel.

Imagine, we're being told that "terrorists" were plotting to blow up airliners by mixing liquid chemicals in the planes' bathroom cubicles, then detonating them, therefore, travelers will not be allowed to bring any liquids -- with a few exceptions and at the discretion of the perverse security personnel -- gels or toothpaste aboard the planes.

Instead, the potentially explosive stuff must be dumped in trash bins right in the airport terminals. Got it? You are to dump and pour your liquids and gels into trash bins, allowing the possibly deadly stuff to mix and go BOOM right in the terminal. It's for your own safety. Right? Perhaps you should consider that in the Bush-Blair-neocons' bizarro world it is less messy to blow you and the terminal up, rather than have all this debris raining down from the sky. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, however, plans to give 11 boxes of unopened, potentially explosive, items to the city's homeless shelters. Homeless population control?

You would think this would have raised some suspicions among passengers-in-waiting and the corporate media. But no. Not a peep. Certainly not by the media and the passengers they chose to quote or put on the air.


But does any of this bother the corporate media that regurgitates ad nauseum whatever "officials" (unnamed, of course) tell them? Have they all been lobotomized so that they are incapable of asking, "Where's the beef?"

Of course, it wouldn't occur to them that these "terror" alerts are trotted out whenever Bush and Blair need to divert attention from their current evil or their evil yet to come. Skepticism requires critical thinking and the ability to connect the dots -- none of which the corporate media mavens, most of whom also have erased the word alleged from their vocabularies, are capable of doing.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Washington’s interests in Israel’s war

Seymour Hersh

In the days after Hezbollah crossed from Lebanon into Israel, on July 12th, to kidnap two soldiers, triggering an Israeli air attack on Lebanon and a full-scale war, the Bush Administration seemed strangely passive. “It’s a moment of clarification,” President George W. Bush said at the G-8 summit, in St. Petersburg, on July 16th. “It’s now become clear why we don’t have peace in the Middle East.” He described the relationship between Hezbollah and its supporters in Iran and Syria as one of the “root causes of instability,” and subsequently said that it was up to those countries to end the crisis. Two days later, despite calls from several governments for the United States to take the lead in negotiations to end the fighting, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that a ceasefire should be put off until “the conditions are conducive.”

The Bush Administration, however, was closely involved in the planning of Israel’s retaliatory attacks. President Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney were convinced, current and former intelligence and diplomatic officials told me, that a successful Israeli Air Force bombing campaign against Hezbollah’s heavily fortified underground-missile and command-and-control complexes in Lebanon could ease Israel’s security concerns and also serve as a prelude to a potential American preĆ«mptive attack to destroy Iran’s nuclear installations, some of which are also buried deep underground.


According to a Middle East expert with knowledge of the current thinking of both the Israeli and the U.S. governments, Israel had devised a plan for attacking Hezbollah—and shared it with Bush Administration officials—well before the July 12th kidnappings. “It’s not that the Israelis had a trap that Hezbollah walked into,” he said, “but there was a strong feeling in the White House that sooner or later the Israelis were going to do it.”


The United States and Israel have shared intelligence and enjoyed close military coƶperation for decades, but early this spring, according to a former senior intelligence official, high-level planners from the U.S. Air Force—under pressure from the White House to develop a war plan for a decisive strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities—began consulting with their counterparts in the Israeli Air Force.

“The big question for our Air Force was how to hit a series of hard targets in Iran successfully,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Who is the closest ally of the U.S. Air Force in its planning? It’s not Congo—it’s Israel. Everybody knows that Iranian engineers have been advising Hezbollah on tunnels and underground gun emplacements. And so the Air Force went to the Israelis with some new tactics and said to them, ‘Let’s concentrate on the bombing and share what we have on Iran and what you have on Lebanon.’ ” The discussions reached the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, he said.

“The Israelis told us it would be a cheap war with many benefits,” a U.S. government consultant with close ties to Israel said. “Why oppose it? We’ll be able to hunt down and bomb missiles, tunnels, and bunkers from the air. It would be a demo for Iran.”

The land of the free -

but free speech is a rare commodity.
Henry Porter in The Observer

It used to be said that academic rows were vicious because the stakes were so small. That's no longer true in America, where a battle is underway on campuses over what can be said about the Middle East and US foreign policy.

Douglas Giles is a recent casualty. He used to teach a class on world religions at Roosevelt University, Chicago, founded in memory of FDR and his liberal-inclined wife, Eleanor. Last year, Giles was ordered by his head of department, art historian Susan Weininger, not to allow students to ask questions about Palestine and Israel; in fact, nothing was to be mentioned in class, textbooks and examinations that could possibly open Judaism to criticism.

Students, being what they are, did not go along with the ban. A young woman, originally from Pakistan, asked a question about Palestinian rights. Someone complained and Professor Giles was promptly fired.


Joel Beinin of Stanford University is regularly attacked by both. Beinin is a Jew who speaks both Hebrew and Arabic. He worked in Israel and on an assembly line in the US, where he helped Arab workers understand their rights. Now, he holds seminars at Stanford in which all views are expressed. For this reason, no doubt, his photograph recently appeared on the front of a booklet entitled 'Campus Support for Terrorism'.

It was published by David Horovitz, the founder of who has both composed a bill of rights for universities, designed to take politics (for which read liberal influence and plurality) out of the curriculum and a list of the 100 most dangerous academics in America, which includes Noam Chomsky and many other distinguished thinkers and teachers.

The demented, bullying tone of the websites is another symptom of the descent of public discourse in America and, frankly, one can easily see the attractions of self-censorship on the question of Middle East and Israel. Read David Horovitz for longer than five minutes and you begin to hear Senator Joseph McCarthy accusing someone of un-American activities.

cheesy goodness

Batman, Robin and Batgirl

"Siamese Human Knot".

"Holy Giveaway!"

Listen to the "Batman Theme" by Link Wray and "Robin's Theme" by Sun Ra & the Blues Project here. Listen to the "Batgirl Theme" here.