Saturday, August 25, 2007

mission accomplished

How Bush Allowed an Army of For-Profit Contractors to Invade the U.S. Treasury
Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone

Operation Iraqi Freedom, it turns out, was never a war against Saddam ­Hussein's Iraq. It was an invasion of the federal budget, and no occupying force in history has ever been this efficient. George W. Bush's war in the Mesopotamian desert was an experiment of sorts, a crude first take at his vision of a fully privatized American government. In Iraq the lines between essential government services and for-profit enterprises have been blurred to the point of absurdity -- to the point where wounded soldiers have to pay retail prices for fresh underwear, where modern-day chattel are imported from the Third World at slave wages to peel the potatoes we once assigned to grunts in KP, where private companies are guaranteed huge profits no matter how badly they fuck things up.

And just maybe, reviewing this appalling history of invoicing orgies and million-dollar boondoggles, it's not so far-fetched to think that this is the way someone up there would like things run all over -- not just in Iraq but in Iowa, too, with the state police working for Corrections Corporation of America, and DHL with the contract to deliver every Christmas card. And why not? What the Bush administration has created in Iraq is a sort of paradise of perverted capitalism, where revenues are forcibly extracted from the customer by the state, and obscene profits are handed out not by the market but by an unaccountable government bureauc­racy. This is the triumphant culmination of two centuries of flawed white-people thinking, a preposterous mix of authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire profit­eering, with all the worst aspects of both ideologies rolled up into one pointless, supremely idiotic military adventure -- American men and women dying by the thousands, so that Karl Marx and Adam Smith can blow each other in a Middle Eastern glory hole.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the story of the Iraq War in a nutshell. In the history of balls, the world has never seen anything like the private contractors George W. Bush summoned to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Collectively, they are the final, polished result of 231 years of natural selection in the crucible of American capitalism: a bureaucrat class capable of stealing the same dollar twice -- once from the taxpayer and once from a veteran in a wheelchair.


According to the most reliable ­estimates, we have doled out more than $500 billion for the war, as well as $44 billion for the Iraqi reconstruction effort. And what did America's contractors give us for that money? They built big steaming shit piles, set brand-new trucks on fire, drove back and forth across the desert for no reason at all and dumped bags of nails in ditches. For the most part, nobody at home cared, because war on some level is always a waste. But what happened in Iraq went beyond inefficiency, beyond fraud even. This was about the business of government being corrupted by the profit motive to such an extraordinary degree that now we all have to wonder how we will ever be able to depend on the state to do its job in the future. If catastrophic failure is worth billions, where's the incentive to deliver success? There's no profit in patriotism, no cost-plus angle on common decency. Sixty years after America liberated Europe, those are just words, and words don't pay the bills.

UPDATE: Commenter Mathew R. Walker reminds me that Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was saying the same thing about the GOP in 2004. Fear and Loathing, Campaign 2004
Every GOP administration since 1952 has let the Military-Industrial Complex loot the Treasury and plunge the nation into debt on the excuse of a wartime economic emergency. Richard Nixon comes quickly to mind, along with Ronald Reagan and his ridiculous "trickle-down" theory of U.S. economic policy. If the Rich get Richer, the theory goes, before long their pots will overflow and somehow "trickle down" to the poor, who would rather eat scraps off the Bush family plates than eat nothing at all. Republicans have never approved of democracy, and they never will. It goes back to preindustrial America, when only white male property owners could vote.

"I don't see any progress. Just us getting killed"

LA Times

In the dining hall of a U.S. Army post south of Baghdad, President Bush was on the wide-screen TV, giving a speech about the war in Iraq. The soldiers didn't look up from their chicken and mashed potatoes.

As military and political leaders prepare to deliver a progress report on the conflict to Congress next month, many soldiers are increasingly disdainful of the happy talk that they say commanders on the ground and White House officials are using in their discussions about the war.

And they're becoming vocal about their frustration over longer deployments and a taxing mission that keeps many living in dangerous and uncomfortably austere conditions. Some say two wars are being fought here: the one the enlisted men see, and the one that senior officers and politicians want the world to see.

War is a Racket

Whistleblowers on Fraud Facing Penalties

One after another, the men and women who have stepped forward to report corruption in the massive effort to rebuild Iraq have been vilified, fired and demoted.

Or worse.

For daring to report illegal arms sales, Navy veteran Donald Vance says he was imprisoned by the American military in a security compound outside Baghdad and subjected to harsh interrogation methods.

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

-- Major General Smedley D. Butler, USMC [Retired]

Friday, August 24, 2007

friday reads

McClatchy - A new intelligence report paints a bleak picture of Iraq

Ohio's method of conducting elections with electronic voting machines appears to have created a true privacy nightmare for state residents: revealing who voted for which candidates.

Jonas Phillips is the third resident of Asheville, North Carolina to be arrested in recent weeks for displaying a pro-impeachment sign.

University of Minnesota astronomers have found an enormous hole in the Universe, nearly a billion light-years across, empty of both normal matter such as stars, galaxies and gas, as well as the mysterious, unseen "dark matter." While earlier studies have shown holes, or voids, in the large-scale structure of the Universe, this new discovery dwarfs them all.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

thursday reads

Spencer Ackerman - McConnell: FISA Debate Will Kill Americans

Once Upon a Time - You, Too, Can and Should Be an "Intelligence Analyst"

Rick Perlstein - Bright, shining lies

Mark Morford: Notes & Errata: Jenna Bush wedding bells

Texas 30 - Baltimore 3: After looking at the score, it's hard to believe the Orioles led this game 3-0 at one point. The Rangers' 30 runs sets a modern MLB record, surpassing the mark of 29 runs that were scored by the Red Sox (June 8, 1950) and White Sox (April 23, 1955). It's the second-most runs all-time as the Chicago Colts (now the Cubs) scored 36 against the Louisville Colonels on June 29, 1897. Jarrod Saltalamacchia led the Rangers' charge, going 4-for-6 with two homers, five runs and seven RBIs.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Team Roshambo

Flugtag 2007 Texas

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Auditorium Shores
Austin, TX

Fox Attacks: Iran

The latest from Robert Greenwald

The Highjacking of a Nation

Sibel Edmonds

Part 1: The Foreign Agent Factor

Part 2: The Auctioning of Former Statesmen & Dime a Dozen Generals

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

tuesday reads

Digby - Hail Caesar

Sibel Edmonds: Prostitutes, Pimps & Pitchforks

Americans earned a smaller average income in 2005 than in 2000, the fifth consecutive year that they had to make ends meet with less money than at the peak of the last economic expansion, new government data shows.

The Bush administration, continuing its fight to stop states from expanding the popular Children’s Health Insurance Program, has adopted new standards that would make it much more difficult for New York, California and others to extend coverage to children in middle-income families.

Monday, August 20, 2007

thought crime

Jose Padilla and the Unfinished Business of Justice

In the end this concept—of thought crime as a major tool for the enforcement of national security concerns—is the gravest issue to arise from the Padilla case. It needs to be monitored and offset through legislation that will resurrect the legal values and principles that existed before Bush’s wholesale onslaught against the Constitution began.

All of these things lead me to view the jury’s verdict in the Padilla case as an important development, but hardly the end of the case. Much remains to be done. Justice may, fairly meted out, involve punishment for Jose Padilla. But the time must come when his tormentors face justice as well.

Heartland Havoc: Championship Bout

WFTDA Eastern Regional

Championship Bout
Gotham Girls 134 - Windy City 71

3rd Place Bout
Carolina 94 - Detroit 84

2007 WFTDA Championship Tournament
Austin, TX

September 29, 2007
11 am Game 1
#1 East (Gotham Girls Roller Derby) vs. #4 West (Kansas City Roller Warriors)
1:30 pm Game 2
#3 East (Carolina Rollergirls) vs. #2 West (Tucson Roller Derby)
4 pm Game 3
#2 East (Windy City Rollers) vs. #3 West (Texas Rollergirls)
7 pm Game 4
#4 East (Detroit Derby Girls) vs. #1 West (Rat City Rollergirls)

September 30, 2007
11 am Game 5
Winner game 1 vs. Winner game 2
1:30 pm Game 6
Winner game 3 vs. Winner game 4
4 pm Consolation/Third Place Game
Loser game 5 vs. Loser game 6
7 pm Championship Game
Game 8: Winner game 5 vs. Winner game 6

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Heartland Havoc: Day Two Results

WFTDA Eastern Regionals

Windy City 94 - Madison 63

Detroit 99 - Minnesota 77

Gotham 139 - Philly 81

Carolina 98 - Providence 55

Hurt Reynolds:

Yesterday's quarterfinal matchups blew the doors right off Battelle Hall, as the top two seeds were each eliminated in their first bouts. Today, all bets are off. I can't get anybody to make any predictions. The quality of play is very high, and all the teams have *heart* turned up to 11. I'm gonna say something right now to the WFTDA West Region's Texas Shootout qualifiers: don't get too comfortable. If you don't believe me, ask Minnesota and Madison. Western dominance should no longer be assumed... the final four from the East are playing to win.

Heartland Havoc live blogging

Today's schedule (all times Eastern):

11:00am Semifinal 1: (t7) Windy City Rollers vs. (t3) Carolina Rollergirls
UPDATE: Windy City 104 - Carolina 55

1:30pm Semifinal 2: (t9) Detroit Derby Girls vs. (t5) Gotham Girls Roller Derby
UPDATE 2: Gotham 157 - Detroit 56

4:00pm Grudge Match: Semifinal losers compete for 3rd and 4th seeds into nationals

6:30pm Finals: Semifinal winners compete for 1st and 2nd seeds into nationals.