Thursday, August 25, 2005

Busy Two Weeks For Me

I know I haven't been posting much on this blog lately. It has been a busy two weeks for me and the blogging has dropped down a bit. My apologies for that.

Much of my time has been spent getting ready for graduate classes at San Jose State. Last night was the first night of classes as a full time graduate student going for a masters in economics. I'm taking a full load of 13 semester units now. I've had two night classes last night--a seminar in economic decision making, and a class on mathematical methods of economics. This morning's class was on urban economics. I still have a Monday night seminar on microeconomic analysis to go to--and already I have two term papers to write about. Of course, the week before is an insane time to get last minute stuff done, such as making sure the financial aid paperwork has been sent in, purchasing books (which set me back $397.00), purchasing a parking permit to park on campus (which also set me back $384.00), and replacing my old dial-up modem with a new DSL line--have you ever tried downloading a 50-page pdf file off the SJSU library website using a 56K dial-up? It takes forever to open a file. Then again, it also takes forever to upload a blog entry using dial-up.

So I'm back now. I won't be able to post four or five articles a day, but I should be able to put one article up a day. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sheehan Leaving Camp Because of Mother's Strok

From the Washington Post:

CRAWFORD, Texas -- The grieving mother who started an anti-war demonstration near President Bush's ranch nearly two weeks ago said Thursday she was leaving because her mother had a stroke.

Cindy Sheehan told reporters she had just received the phone call and would rush to her 74-year-old mother's side. Her mother lives in the Los Angeles area.

"I'll be back as soon as possible if it's possible," Sheehan said. After hugging some of her supporters, she got in a van and left.

Sheehan, of Vacaville, Calif., said the makeshift campsite off the road leading to Bush's ranch would continue. The camp has grown to more than 100 people, including many relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq.

Sheehan had vowed to remain until Bush met with her or until his month-long vacation was over.

Okay Georgie--you can come out from hiding now. She's gone. You don't have to speak with her--go back to your coloring books.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

U.S. Lowers Expectations for Iraq

I found this off of KGO Newstalk Radio's Bernie Ward's program last night. It is a Washington Post article published on August 13.

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society where the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

Do you understand what this article is saying? The Bush White House is finally admitting that every reason they gave for the U.S. invading Iraq is a lie. They said that the U.S. will be welcomed with flowers and rosewater--at first they were, but now the soldiers are welcomed with roadside bombs. The Bush administration said that Iraq would become a secular democracy and a beacon for the Middle East. Now the administration is admitting that:

"We set out to establish a democracy, but we're slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic," said another U.S. official familiar with policymaking from the beginning, who like some others interviewed would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity. "That process is being repeated all over."

So instead of a democracy, we are turning Iraq into another Islamic republic--and Iraq is already a beacon to the Middle East, only this time one of beckoning terrorists to fight against the U.S. occupation rather than inviting democracy. And as for Iraq's reconstruction being paid for by Iraqi oil money?

Pressed by the cost of fighting an escalating insurgency, U.S. expectations for rebuilding Iraq — and its $20 billion investment — have fallen the farthest, current and former officials say.

Pentagon officials originally envisioned Iraq's oil revenue paying many post-invasion expenses. But Iraq, ranked among world leaders behind Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves, is incapable of producing enough refined fuel amid a car-buying boom that has put an estimated 1 million more vehicles on the road in the postwar period. Lines for subsidized cheap gas stretch for miles every day in Baghdad.

Oil production is estimated at 2.22 million barrels a day, short of the goal of 2.5 million. Iraq's pre-war high was 2.67 million barrels a day.

In short, the American taxpayer with this boondoggle of a reconstruction bill.

What does President Bush have to say?

Administration officials still emphasize how much they have achieved despite the postwar chaos and escalating insurgency. "Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we're helping Iraqis succeed," President Bush said yesterday in his radio address.

Frank Rich wrote a powerful New York Times editorial saying that President Bush may not realize that the Iraq war is now over for the United States and that the U.S. has lost. Rich says that:

But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.

What Bush, Cheney and the rest of the PNAC officials that reside in the White House is that you cannot cherry-pick intelligence and analysis for running both the war and the post-war occupation. President Bush and he PNAC people had very specific reasons for getting into Iraq with the Project for a New American Century. They wanted to develop Iraq as an American protectorate to be used to project American military power throughout the Middle East. The PNAC plan was certainly thought out and detailed. The problem was that the Bush White House never took into account any analysis that contradicted their rosy war plans--they marginalized the dissent and naysayers regarding the Iraq invasion. And now as each of these contradictions are revealed as becoming true, the Bush White House is slowly realizing they have stepped into another Vietnam. Frank Rich continues with his editorial saying:

The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

We are now viewing the "Vietnamization" of Iraq. With President Bush's poll numbers steadily dropping over this past year, the Republicans are scared that the American public will blame them for this debacle called Iraq in the 2006 midterm and possibly the 2008 presidential elections. So we are starting to see the beginnings of an exit strategy being played out. First, the administration lowers their expectations for Iraq again--as noted with the Washington Post article. Then the Bush White House will declare that Iraqi security forces will be sufficiently prepared to defend their country against the terrorist elements--possibly by the end of this year, or the beginning of 2006. Finally, Bush will declare victory in Iraq, and start a timetable of pulling the troops out before November 2006, hoping that the American public will rally around their victorious president and keep the Republicans in control of all three branches of government. Frank Rich concludes saying:

WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

What a disaster.

Fuel Rule Change for Big SUV's Seen as Unlikely

I found this off the New York Times:

DETROIT, Aug. 15 - The Bush administration is expected to abandon a proposal to extend fuel economy regulations to include Hummer H2's and other huge sport utility vehicles, auto industry and other officials say.

The proposal was among a number of potential strategies outlined by the administration in 2003 to overhaul mileage requirements for light trucks - sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and minivans. It had been seen by industry officials as likely to be adopted.

But the impact of the tougher requirements would have been borne almost solely by the increasingly troubled domestic auto industry, a concern for the administration.

Its broad plan to overhaul the light-truck mileage rules would change the regulatory system from one using averaged mileage for an automaker's entire annual light-truck output to one that sets up five or six classes, determined by a vehicle's size.

The rules, the first major rewriting of fuel economy standards since they were created in the 1970's, will be released late this month. They are sure to renew vigorous debate about the nation's dependence on foreign oil, a matter underlined by rapidly rising oil and gas prices.

I am still so amazed at how Detroit's Big Three auto makers and the Bush administration still do not get it. When gas prices were cheap, the American public didn't care about fuel economy mileage and Detroit could get away with selling big SUVs with poor gas mileage and high profit margins. The Japanese auto industry certainly jumped on the big SUV bandwagon because of profit-rich market, but the Japanese also had to develop greater fuel efficiency cars to sell in their home market, and possibly the European market, where gas prices are almost twice that of the American market. Gas prices in Europe and Japan act as a C.A.F.E for the Japanese auto-makers. So now this last week, we've seen oil prices shoot up to $67 a barrel and the cheapest gas prices here in San Jose are around $2.67 a gallon (with $3.00 a gallon for the premium stuff). Guess what? Those big, gas-guzzling SUV owners are putting over $50 to fill up their tanks. Consider this in the Times:

Gasoline prices have become a powerful counterweight to regulatory benefits given the biggest gas guzzlers. Many automakers, seeing the weakness in sales of large S.U.V.'s this year - they have recovered only after heavy discounting - are re-emphasizing plans for smaller, lighter S.U.V.'s in the future.

And how is the Bush administration countering this issue? Continuing on:

Under the Bush administration plan, about half a dozen size classes will be determined by the vehicle's length and width. Instead of an overall mileage requirement for the total fleet of light trucks a manufacturer sells in a model year, makers will have to meet some kind of target or average within each size class. As a result of the proliferating categories, it will probably become more difficult to predict fuel economy trends.

The administration has taken some steps to increase fuel regulations for light trucks, raising the mileage standard for trucks to 22.2 miles a gallon for 2007 models, from 20.7 miles a gallon in 2004 models. Environmentalists have argued that gains from that move were offset by credits given to automakers for making vehicles that can use ethanol, even though there are few gas stations that carry the required blend.

Under the administration's plan, for 2008 to 2010 models automakers will have a choice of complying with the new size-based system or the current system, though a further increase beyond 22.2 miles a gallon is expected in the current system. After 2010, the current system will be eliminated.

So instead of C.A.F.E, we get this complicated, multiple vehicle-class system that will be voluntary to the auto industry. Meanwhile, the Japanese are already incorporating hybrid technology into their line of SUVs. Considering the American public's love for the SUVs and the success of the new Toyota Prius hybrid cars, guess what the American public's going to buy?

And Detroit will be left behind.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

G.I.'s Deployed In Iraq Desert With Lots Of American Stuff

I found this story off the New York Times. In a sense, I'm somewhat amazed by the amount of stuff accumulated by the G.I.'s to make their desert life more comfortable. And what is even more interesting is when the individual soldiers are shipped back to the states, the stuff gets handed down to the new people there.

I know this tradition has been going on throughout history. No soldier wants to suffer the lousy conditions of the battlefield--poor food, no heat, no comforts, and away from families. So they will certainly try to make their stay in the field as comfortable as possible. But here we have the most modern of any army, from the most technologically modern nation in the world, and look at what these soldiers are bringing in for the creature comforts of home. It is incredible.

Here's the first couple paragraphs of the New York Times story:

CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq - First Lt. Taysha Deaton of the Louisiana National Guard went to war expecting a gritty yearlong deployment of sand, heat and duress, but ended up spending her nights in a king-size bed beneath imported sheets and a fluffy down comforter.

She bought the bed from a departing soldier to replace the twin-size metal frame that came with her air-conditioned trailer on this base in western Baghdad. She also acquired a refrigerator, television, cellphone, microwave oven, boom box and DVD player, and signed up for a high-speed Internet connection.

"We had no idea conditions were going to be this great!" said Lieutenant Deaton, 25, the public affairs officer of the 256th Brigade Combat Team and an ambassador of the exclamation mark. "My first thought was, oh my God! This is good!"

As much as modern warfare has changed in recent decades, so has the lifestyle of the modern warrior - at least the modern American warrior on base.

Camp Liberty, one of the best-appointed compounds in the constellation of American military bases in Iraq, has the vague feel of a college campus, albeit with sand underfoot, Black Hawks overhead and the occasional random mortar attack.

The soldiers live in trailers on a grid of neat gravel pathways, and the chow hall offers a vast selection of food and beverages, ethnic cuisine nights, an ice cream parlor and, occasionally, a live jazz combo. Camp Liberty, like many other bases, also has Internet cafes, an impressively stocked store, gymnasiums with modern equipment, air-conditioning everywhere and extracurricular activities like language and martial arts lessons.


Thursday, August 11, 2005

Officials Warn of Possibility of Attack Around Sept. 11

This was also on the the New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 - A group of F.B.I. counterterrorism analysts warned this week of possible terrorist attacks in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago around Sept. 11, but officials cautioned on Thursday that they were skeptical about the seriousness of the threat.

The warning grew out of intelligence developed from an overseas source indicating that terrorists might seek to steal fuel tanker trucks in order to inflict "mass casualties" by staging an anniversary attack, officials said.

The information led F.B.I. joint terrorism task forces in Los Angeles and Newark to alert other government and law enforcement officials privately this week about the threat, law enforcement officials said. Several government officials in Washington who were briefed on the threat said it was described as credible and specific enough to warrant attention.

Talk about the Bush Propaganda Machine giving us another terrorist warning to scare us into toeing their political line. It is interesting that the Times story continues saying:

The Federal Bureau of Investigation was planning to send out another confidential law enforcement bulletin on Thursday to qualify the earlier one and emphasize that the threat of a possible tanker attack had not been verified.

"The information is uncorroborated, and the source is of questionable reliability," said Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security. "This information continues to be evaluated by the intelligence community."

Domestic security officials have long thought that tanker trucks could be used in terrorist attacks. New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are considered at the top of potential targets, along with Washington and Las Vegas, because of their size, high profiles, symbolic value and past plots by Al Qaeda.

New York City's police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, said in a statement that the department was aware of the threat.

"The New York City Police Department already has measures in place to protect against truck bombs and other threats," Mr. Kelly said. "We are expanding those measures, not in response to this latest information, but as part of ongoing refinements to our overall counter terrorism posture."

Let's face it. If there are going to be any terrorist attacks against the U.S., they will probably occur against U.S. troops in Iraq, where the terrorists have the advantage of striking when and where they please, close to home and where they can easily disappear. Any attack against the continental U.S. by al Qaeda or any other terrorist group will require an enormous amount of time and resources to pull such an attack off, against a heightened level of U.S. security. I'm not saying such an attack is not possible, but rather such an attack is not probable. This is just another example of a make-news story which benefits the Bush White House in their reiteration of the party line talking points on the linking of the war in Iraq to September 11th. It is just another scare tactic to force the American public away from questioning the Bush war in Iraq.

Officials See Risk in the Release of Images of Iraq Prisoner Abuse

I found this off the New York Times:

Senior Pentagon officials have opposed the release of photographs and videotapes of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, arguing that they would incite public opinion in the Muslim world and put the lives of American soldiers and officials at risk, according to documents unsealed in federal court in New York.

Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a statement put forth to support the Pentagon's case that he believed that "riots, violence and attacks by insurgents will result" if the images were released.

The papers were filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan in an ongoing lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union to obtain under the Freedom of Information Act the release of 87 photos and four videotapes taken at Abu Ghraib. The photos were among those turned over to Army investigators last year by Specialist Joseph M. Darby, a reservist who was posted at Abu Ghraib.

The documents reveal both the high level and the determination of the Pentagon officials engaged in the effort to block disclosure of the images, and their alarm at the prospect that the photos might become public.

Talk about hypocrisy and a double standard. The Pentagon will not release photos or videos of the abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison because it will incite public opposition to the U.S. in the Muslim world. Did it ever occur to anyone at the Pentagon that any abuse of Iraqi prisoners would incite opposition to the U.S. in the Muslim world? Of course, it gets better. In the Times Story:

In his statement, dated July 21, General Myers said he became aware on June 17 that a release might be imminent. He said he consulted with Gen. John P. Abizaid, head of the United States Central Command, and Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the commander of the American forces in Iraq. Both officers also opposed the release, General Myers said.

His statement makes it clear that he has examined the images and finds them disturbing.

"I condemn in the strongest terms the misconduct and abuse depicted in these images," General Myers said in the statement. "It was illegal, immoral and contrary to American values and character."

So General Myers has seen the photos and he finds them so disturbing that they certainly can't be released to the American public. He cannot release the photos because they are "immoral and contrary to the American values and character." The American public cannot make the decision as to the morality of those photos--we have to take Myers' word for it. And of course, Myers' boss is sitting in the White House. This means that any release of such disturbing photos would certainly cause an increasing outburst of anger from the American public against the Bush war in Iraq--especially now since the public opinion polls on American support for the Iraq war have been dropping. Can't have that taking place close to the 2006 midterm elections.

Myers doesn't get it. The reason the Muslim world is angry at these photos is because of the double standard we present ourselves to the world. President Bush talks about freedom and democracy on the march in the world--with the United States leading the way--and yet at the same time we are found torturing Iraqi prisoners (A torture scandal that while the Pentagon says was initiated by a few lone American guards, has the smell of a deeper system of intelligence gathering). Myers talks about the strength of American moral character, and yet the American government imprisons Muslims at Gitmo without charges, or any legal recourse. Our government acts like a Third World banana-republic dictatorship and those in the Muslim world know it--they live in countries where the governments are Third World banana-republic dictatorships. This is not the way to win over the minds of the Muslim population, nor is it to win the war on terrorism.

FEC Finds Misreporting by DeLay Committee

It seems today is nothing but scandals. Here's one from the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON (Aug. 11) - A federal audit of a political fundraising committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay found that it failed to report more than $300,000 in debts owed to vendors and incorrectly paid for some committee activities with money from another DeLay-connected political committee.

The Federal Election Commission's report didn't indicate whether it would pursue enforcement action against Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee.

ARMPAC's executive director, Jim Ellis, was indicted in Texas in connection with a separate DeLay-connected committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. In that case, Ellis is charged with money laundering and accepting illegal political contributions for state legislative campaigns. DeLay has not been accused of any wrongdoing in the case.

Tom DeLay has a ethics problem. He seems to end up hiring crooks to control his political action committees. Ellis has been indicted for money laundering while directing DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority, and now DeLay's ARMPAC's committee is being investigated for its failure to correctly report its debts--with Ellis being in charge of ARMPAC. Of course, DeLay is close friends with Jack Abramoff, who has also been indicted in the SunCruz wire fraud, and is also involved in federal investigations of his providing monetary favors for political connections with DeLay. What other crooked relationships is DeLay involved with?

Power corrupts.

Abramoff Indicted in Fraud Case Part Deux

The indictment against Abramoff is out. This is from the Washington Post:

MIAMI, Aug. 11 -- Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday and federal agents were searching for him as part of a wide-ranging wire fraud case stemming from the purchase of a Florida casino cruise line from a businessman later murdered in Fort Lauderdale, sources close to the case said.

Abramoff, a key figure in ethics investigations into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), was expected to be arrested and taken to a U.S. magistrate. He was indicted along with Adam Kidan, the former owner of the Dial-A-Mattress franchise in Washington. Kidan, 41, of New York City, will surrender to the FBI here by Friday morning, his attorney, Martin I. Jaffe, said in a written statement.

Abramoff and two business and political friends, Kidan and Ben Waldman of Springfield, Va., purchased SunCruz Casinos in September 2000 for $147.5 million from Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. Records and interviews show that Abramoff used his connections to members of Congress to help seal the purchase of the company. Waldman was not indicted in the case.

In my previous post on this Abramoff indictment, the story did not identify who Abramoff's business partners were in the SunCruz purchase. Abramoff, Adam Kidan and Ben Waldman were involved with the purchase of the SunCruz Casinos from Boulis. However, the Post story raises a new question where Abramoff used his Congressional connections seal this particular deal. So who did Abramoff talk to in Congress regarding SunCruz? What Congressional legislation was needed for this deal?Continuing with the Post story:

A federal grand jury in Fort Lauderdale has been investigating allegations of bank fraud, the details of which are outlined in papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

The heart of the alleged SunCruz fraud was a record of a $23 million payment to a Boulis holding company intended to persuade lenders to provide $60 million in financing to Abramoff's group toward the $147.5 million purchase of the fleet of floating gambling parlors. The record of the investment was a wire transfer, faxed by Kidan and Waldman to the partners' key lender -- Foothill Capital, a specialty lender now a division of Wells Fargo Bank, according to records reviewed by The Post in federal bankruptcy court in Fort Lauderdale.

Here's some of the details of the scandal. So Abramoff's group wanted to buy SunCruz Casinos for $147 million. They needed some $60 million in financing. So "someone" creates a phony $23 million wire transfer to be sent to a Boulis holding company as proof of Abramoff and his partners' intent of purchasing SunCruz. This wire transfer is then faxed by Kidan and Waldman to Foothill Capital in order to persuade the lender to provide $60 million in financing. Continuing on with the story:

The money was never really sent. The account on the wire transfer had long been closed. Other papers in bankruptcy court suggest that Boulis knew the $23 million wasn't sent because he instead accepted $20 million in notes.

So Boulis knew the account was closed, and possibly that the wire transfer was bogus since he accepted $20 million in notes. Did he specifically accept these promissary notes from Abramoff and his partners--were these notes signed by Abramoff? And if Boulis accepted these notes from Abramoff and partners, there is a good chance that Boulis may have been strapped for cash in operating his floating casinos, or he may have gotten into money trouble with the mob. Continuing on:

Almost immediately after the purchase, management of the gambling company fell into chaos amid allegations of fraud, accusations of mob influence, lawsuits, a fistfight and warring between the Abramoff group and Boulis, who had remained a minority partner.

In an e-mail to a SunCruz attorney sent in late 2001, Abramoff sided with his old friend, Kidan, saying, "It is my belief that Gus [Boulis] and Adam [Kidan] need to resolve the issue of what Gus is owed and Gus needs to move on out of the company."

In February 2001, Boulis was shot to death while driving home from work and no one has been arrested in the murder. In June 2001, SunCruz filed for bankruptcy protection.
I'm starting to wonder who was conning who in this scam. A phony $23 million wire transfer was created to provide $60 million in financing for Abramoff and his partners in their purchase of SunCruz. Boulis is probably willing to go along with Abramoff's purchase since information about Boulis' holding company and account number were provided to Abramoff so this phony wire transfer could be created. In addition Boulis is given $20 million in notes for this deal--by Abramoff?. So far in this story, no real money has changed hands in this purchase. The only real money involved here is the $60 million financing from Foothill Capital. Did Foothill Capital give this $60 million to Abramoff? To Boulis? No wonder that right after this deal closed, there's a fight going on between Abramoff and partners against Boulis.

Then there is this email Abramoff sent to a SunCruz attorney saying that Boulis and Kidan need to resolve the issue of what Boulis is owed and Boulis must leave the company. With all the worthless paper changing hands, Boulis is not going to turn over a $147 million asset such as SunCruz to Abramoff--not until he got paid the full amount. And yet the worthless paper changing hands makes it hard for either side to determine what real money was involved in the sale. There's a lot of questions still unanswered regarding this case. And it doesn't help that Boulis was murdered in a hit.

But the scandal goes beyond towards Congress. The Post story continues:

During this period, Abramoff had mixed his lobbying practice with his gambling company. Even as he closed a deal to purchase SunCruz, he flew his specialty lender to Washington to meet then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay in his FedEx Field sky box during a Redskins-Cowboys game.

Just days before Boulis' murder, Abramoff had flown congressional staffers from Washington to Tampa on a jet leased by SunCruz for a night of gambling on SunCruz boats and a trip to the Super Bowl. Along on the trip was Tim Berry, now DeLay's chief-of-staff. Berry did not report the gift on his House disclosure forms at the time and people close to him said he thought it was paid for out of political donations.

The Florida investigation has been under way for at least three years. In Washington, a task force of the FBI, IRS and other agencies is exploring how Abramoff and another business associate, Michael Scanlon, collected $80 million in fees for lobbying and public affairs work from Indian tribes around the country.

So Abramoff had provided congressional staffers a flight from Washington to Tampa, a night of gambling on a SunCruz boat, and a trip to the Super Bowl. Who specifically were those congressional staffers, and which congressmen do they work for? It is especially interesting that on of those staffers was Tim Berry, now DeLay's chief-of-staff. What did Abramoff and Berry talk about on these trips?

This Abramoff wire fraud story is never-ending. I found this latest piece of info from a story on the New York Times

Abramoff and Kidan are charged with five counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Each count carries a penalty of up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

And here's an even greater shocker from the Times:

The indictment against Abramoff charges that he used income from SunCruz to finance political fund-raising activities, including events at private boxes at Washington-area sports venues such as the MCI Center and Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

How much do you want to bet that some of that income was used to finance the favors to the congressional staffers, Tim Berry, and Tom DeLay? I wonder if there's a link between the SunCruz income and Abramoff's contributions to finance some of DeLay's own fact-finding trips?

Finally, I found this story referenced off of Shakespeares Sister blogsite. It is a Yahoo News story that provides another little twist in the scandal regarding Boulis murder.

Months after the contentious {SunCruz) sale was finalized, Gus Boulis was killed, gunned down gang-land style in his car. No arrest was ever made but investigators believe that a series of Suncruz checks to a Miami Beach man named Tony Ferarri financed the hit, Local 10 News reporter Rad Berky said.

So Boulis's hit was possibly financed by a Tony Ferarri with a series of SunCruz checks? Someone in SunCruz ordered, or paid for the hit on Boulis. The question here is who signed the checks? Who ordered that SunCruz pay Ferarri for what services? Abramoff, Kidan and Waldman would have certainly benefited through Boulis demise since that would resolve the dispute they had over the final sale of SunCruz. It would probably also give final control of SunCruz to Abramoff and his partners, since they could settle the SunCruz disput quickly, easily and cheaply with Boulis's estate. I'm not saying Abramoff ordered the hit on Boulis, but I do want to know who ordered this payment of SunCruz monies to Ferarri and what services was Ferarri suppose to provide SunCruz for these payments?.

Prosecutors Seek Fraud Indictment Against Abramoff

I found this on AOL News:

MIAMI (Aug. 11) -- Federal prosecutors are seeking bank fraud charges against lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a key figure in investigations involving House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, The Associated Press learned Thursday.

The charges stem from the 2000 purchase by Abramoff and his partners of SunCruz Casinos and the alleged use of a fake wire transfer of $23 million aimed at influencing lenders to provide millions of dollars for the deal. Exact details of the charges were not immediately available.

A grand jury, meeting in Miami, could hand up indictments against Abramoff as early as Thursday, federal law enforcement sources said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the grand jury indictment had not been finalized.

Abramoff's Miami attorney, Neal Sonnett, said he had not been informed of any charges but said that Abramoff was not involved in any fraud. Abramoff had previously been notified that he was a target of the investigation.

The partners bought SunCruz, which runs a fleet of gambling boats, from entrepreneur Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis for $147 million in September 2000, but the deal soon fell apart. Amid bitter legal fighting over the sale, Boulis was shot to death in February 2001 what police called a hit. The Fort Lauderdale killing has never been solved.

Abramoff is also under federal investigation in Washington by a grand jury investigating whether he and a lobbying partner overcharged Indian tribes by millions of dollars for their work.

DeLay, R-Texas, was not mentioned in any lawsuits involved in the SunCruz deal.

DeLay has asked the House Ethics Committee to review allegations that Abramoff or his clients paid some of DeLay's overseas travel expenses. DeLay has denied knowing that the expenses were paid by Abramoff, whom he once described as "one of my closest and dearest friends."

The SunCruz fleet of 11 ships had 2,300 slot machines and 175 gaming tables and sailed from nine Florida ports and Myrtle Beach, S.C., to international waters. The company continues to operate gambling cruises under new ownership after emerging from bankruptcy.

Boulis also founded the Miami Subs restaurant chain.

So Abramoff and his partners wanted to purchase this SunCruz Casinos for $147 million from this entrepreneur Boulis in September of 2000. But Abramoff needed cash and financing for the purchase of SunCruz Casinos. In order to get the financing, Abramoff used this fake wire transfer of $23 million to defraud the lenders into providing money for this deal. But the deal fell apart over the legal wranglings of the terms of the sale, and Boulis was murdered in a hit. SunCruz Casinos went bankrupt and has emerged under a new ownership. One question I do have about this story is who were the lenders that Abramoff tried to push this wire fraud on? Boulis created this business of gambling casino cruise ships, but was then killed in a hit after the sale of SunCruz fell apart? This hit on Boulis has organized crime behind it--either Boulis had financed building SunCruz with mob money, or Abramoff was selling the financing of SunCruz to someone, or some company with mob connections Someone was angry because they lost money on this deal, and Boulis was blamed for it. Of course, this brings up the legal fighting over the terms of the sale--what was that fight over? What was that dispute? Was Boulis stalling for more money? What did Abramoff and his partners want regarding the terms of the sale?

Of course this fight over the sale of SunCruz Casinos brings up even bigger questions regarding Abramoff. Who were Abramoff's partners in this purchase of SunCruz? What did they know about this fraudulent wire transfer? Since Abramoff worked as a lobbyist for Indian gaming casinos, you have to wonder what links there are between Abramoff, his SunCruz partners, and possible members of Congress. Abramoff and DeLay have already been linked to House ethics investigations. This SunCruz indictments certainly doesn't help Abramoff regarding his relationship with Tom DeLay.

So many questions here.

GOP Paying Legal Bills of Bush Official

Found this on AOL News:

WASHINGTON (Aug. 11) - Despite a zero-tolerance policy on tampering with voters, the Republican Party has quietly paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide private defense lawyers for a former Bush campaign official charged with conspiring to keep Democrats from voting in New Hampshire.

James Tobin, the president's 2004 campaign chairman for New England, is charged in New Hampshire federal court with four felonies accusing him of conspiring with a state GOP official and a GOP consultant in Virginia to jam Democratic and labor union get-out-the-vote phone banks in November 2002.

A telephone firm was paid to make repeated hang-up phone calls to overwhelm the phone banks in New Hampshire and prevent them from getting Democratic voters to the polls on Election Day 2002, prosecutors allege. Republican John Sununu won a close race that day to be New Hampshire's newest senator.

At the time, Tobin was the RNC's New England regional director, before moving to President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

A top New Hampshire Party official and a GOP consultant already have pleaded guilty and cooperated with prosecutors. Tobin's indictment accuses him of specifically calling the GOP consultant to get a telephone firm to help in the scheme.

"The object of the conspiracy was to deprive inhabitants of New Hampshire and more particularly qualified voters ... of their federally secured right to vote," states the latest indictment issued by a federal grand jury on May 18.

Since charges were first filed in December, the RNC has spent more than $722,000 to provide Tobin, who has pleaded innocent, a team of lawyers from the high-powered Washington law firm of Williams & Connolly. The firm's other clients include Bill and Hillary Clinton and former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros.

The GOP's filings with the FEC list the payments to Williams & Connolly without specifying they were for Tobin's defense. Political parties have wide latitude on how they spend their money, including on lawyers.

Republican Party officials said they don't ordinarily discuss specifics of their legal work, but confirmed to The Associated Press they had agreed to underwrite Tobin's defense because he was a longtime supporter and that he assured them he had committed no crimes.

"Jim is a longtime friend who has served as both an employee and an independent contractor for the RNC," a spokeswoman for the RNC, Tracey Schmitt, said Wednesday. "This support is based on his assurance and our belief that Jim has not engaged in any wrongdoing."

Talk about hypocrisy here. Torbin creates this scheme to overwhelm the Democratic phone bank system so that those phone bank systems cannot be used to solicit votes. He gets caught, indicted, and now the Republican Party is paying for Torbin's defense even though the Republican Party stresses a zero-tolerance policy on tampering with voters. Here is what RNC chairman Ken Mehlman had to say about the story:

"The position of the Republican National Committee is simple: We will not tolerate fraud; we will not tolerate intimidation; we will not tolerate suppression. No employee, associate or any person representing the Republican Party who engages in these kinds of acts will remain in that position," Mehlman wrote Monday to a group that studied voter suppression tactics.

If this scheme is true, then you've got to wonder what other Republican Party schemes took place in the 2004 elections--especially the rumors of voter suppression in Florida. It is also interesting to note that Torbin "stepped down from his Bush-Cheney post a couple of weeks before the November 2004 election after Democrats suggested he was involved in the phone bank scheme. He was charged a month after the election." He left the position before the election, before the scheme surfaced, and before the Republican Party would have endured the embarrassment of firing him. The story goes on to say that federal prosecutors have secured testimony from convicted conspirators in the scheme directly implicating Torbin.

Charles McGee, the New Hampshire GOP official who pleaded guilty, told prosecutors he informed Tobin of the plan and asked for Tobin's help in finding a vendor who could make the calls that would flood the phone banks.

Allen Raymond, a former colleague of Tobin who operated a Virginia-based telephone services firm, told prosecutors Tobin called him in October 2002, explained the telephone plan and asked Raymond's company to help McGee implement it.

Raymond's lawyer told the court that Tobin made the request for help in his official capacity as the top RNC official for New England and his client believed the RNC had sanctioned the activity.

McGee and Raymond had probably plea-bargained their testimony and cooperation with the feds in exchange for a lesser charges and sentencing. If what they say is credible, then Torbin knew of this scheme and participated in setting it up. And if Raymond is correct in that Torbin made his request as an RNC official, then who else in the Republican Party--besides Torbin--knew or sanctioned this activity? The feds are certainly putting the heat on to Torbin. The next question is, who did Torbin talk to about this scheme? Someone in the Republican Party has to be worried if Torbin talks, otherwise why spend $722,000 of RNC money to defend him?

How high will this scandal go?

Early Pullout Unlikely in Iraq

Found this article in the Washington Post:

BAGHDAD, Aug. 10 -- Iraq's leaders and military will be unable to lead the fight against insurgents until next summer at the earliest, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday, trying to temper any hopes that a full-scale American troop withdrawal was imminent as Iraq moves toward elections scheduled for December.

Both Americans and Iraqis need "to start thinking about and talking about what it's really going to be like in Iraq after elections," said the military official, who spoke in an interview on the condition he not be named. "I think the important point is there's not going to be a fundamental change."

U.S. military officials in Iraq said last month that it might be possible to withdraw 20,000 to 30,000 of the 138,000 American troops by next spring if Iraqi civilian leaders managed to meet deadlines for drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

On Wednesday, the military official said a significant spring withdrawal was "still possible." But while primary military responsibility for some parts of Iraq could likely be handed over even before the elections, the official said, U.S. forces would have to play a lead role in fighting the insurgency for at least a year. Even if a new government is elected on time in December, "the earliest they're going to be capable of running a counterinsurgency campaign is . . . next summer," the official said.

So first the Bush White House floats the idea that some U.S. troops may be pulled out next spring, and now they're saying that such a pullout is not going to happen? President Bush is now sinking in this morass called Iraq. This last week has seen an increase in terrorist attacks against U.S. troops--especially with a bombing that killed 14 Marines and their interpreter last week. Bush's poll numbers have been dropping with the August 1-3 poll showing only a 38 percent approval in his handling of Iraq, and now the press has latched onto Cindy Sheehan's protest stay outside of Bush's ranch.

I wonder if the American public is now starting to wake up on this issue.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Why No Tea And Sympathy

This is Maureen Dowd's column from the New York Times. I think Dowd pretty much expresses the way the Bush White House believes its moral absoloution regarding the war in Iraq. I'm going to post this column in its entirety.

W. can't get no satisfaction on Iraq.

There's an angry mother of a dead soldier camping outside his Crawford ranch, demanding to see a president who prefers his sympathy to be carefully choreographed.

A new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that a majority of Americans now think that going to war was a mistake and that the war has made the U.S. more vulnerable to terrorism. So fighting them there means it's more likely we'll have to fight them here?

Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged yesterday that sophisticated bombs were streaming over the border from Iran to Iraq.

And the Rolling Stones have taken a rare break from sex odes to record an antiwar song called "Sweet Neo Con," chiding Condi Rice and Mr. Bush. "You call yourself a Christian; I call you a hypocrite," Mick Jagger sings.

The N.F.L. put out a press release on Monday announcing that it's teaming up with the Stones and ABC to promote "Monday Night Football." The flag-waving N.F.L. could still back out if there's pressure, but the mood seems to have shifted since Madonna chickened out of showing an antiwar music video in 2003. The White House used to be able to tamp down criticism by saying it hurt our troops, but more people are asking the White House to explain how it plans to stop our troops from getting hurt.

Cindy Sheehan, a 48-year-old Californian with a knack for P.R., says she will camp out in the dusty heat near the ranch until she gets to tell Mr. Bush face to face that he must pull all U.S. troops out of Iraq. Her son, Casey, a 24-year-old Army specialist, was killed in a Sadr City ambush last year.

The president met with her family two months after Casey's death. Capturing W.'s awkwardness in traversing the line between somber and joking, and his love of generic labels, Ms. Sheehan said that W. had referred to her as "Mom" throughout the meeting, and given her the sense that he did not know who her son was.

The Bush team tried to discredit "Mom" by pointing reporters to an old article in which she sounded kinder to W. If only her husband were an undercover C.I.A. operative, the Bushies could out him. But even if they send out a squad of Swift Boat Moms for Truth, there will be a countering Falluja Moms for Truth.

It's amazing that the White House does not have the elementary shrewdness to have Mr. Bush simply walk down the driveway and hear the woman out, or invite her in for a cup of tea. But W., who has spent nearly 20 percent of his presidency at his ranch, is burrowed into his five-week vacation and two-hour daily workouts. He may be in great shape, but Iraq sure isn't.

It's hard to think of another president who lived in such meta-insulation. His rigidly controlled environment allows no chance encounters with anyone who disagrees. He never has to defend himself to anyone, and that is cognitively injurious. He's a populist who never meets people - an ordinary guy who clears brush, and brush is the only thing he talks to. Mr. Bush hails Texas as a place where he can return to his roots. But is he mixing it up there with anyone besides Vulcans, Pioneers and Rangers?

W.'s idea of consolation was to dispatch Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, to talk to Ms. Sheehan, underscoring the inhumane humanitarianism of his foreign policy. Mr. Hadley is just a suit, one of the hard-line Unsweet Neo Cons who helped hype America into this war.

It's getting harder for the president to hide from the human consequences of his actions and to control human sentiment about the war by pulling a curtain over the 1,835 troops killed in Iraq; the more than 13,000 wounded, many shorn of limbs; and the number of slain Iraqi civilians - perhaps 25,000, or perhaps double or triple that. More people with impeccable credentials are coming forward to serve as a countervailing moral authority to challenge Mr. Bush.

Paul Hackett, a Marine major who served in Iraq and criticized the president on his conduct of the war, narrowly lost last week when he ran for Congress as a Democrat in a Republican stronghold in Cincinnati. Newt Gingrich warned that the race should "serve as a wake-up call to Republicans" about 2006.

Selectively humane, Mr. Bush justified his Iraq war by stressing the 9/11 losses. He emphasized the humanity of the Iraqis who desire freedom when his W.M.D. rationale vaporized.

But his humanitarianism will remain inhumane as long as he fails to understand that the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.

Rumsfeld: Iraq Bombs "Clearly From Iran."

I found this off CNN.Com

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that weapons recently confiscated in Iraq were "clearly, unambiguously from Iran" and admonished Tehran for allowing the explosives to cross the border.

Iran's defense minister denied the claims in a report carried by the state-run news agency IRNA.

According to Ali Shamkhani, Iran is playing no role in Iraqi affairs, including "its alleged involvement in bomb explosions."

The shipment of sophisticated bombs was confiscated in the past two weeks by U.S. and Iraqi troops in southern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday.

Although he would not comment on whether the Iranian government was directly involved, Rumsfeld said, "it's notably unhelpful for the Iranians to be allowing weapons of those types to be crossing the border."

"What you do know of certain knowledge is the Iranians did not stop it from coming in," he said.

Rumsfeld said the weapons create problems for the Iraqi government, coalition forces and the international community.

"And ultimately, it's a problem for Iran," he added.

When asked if that was a threat of possible retaliation, Rumsfeld replied, "I don't imply threats. You know that."

"They (the Iranians) live in the neighborhood. The people in that region want this situation stabilized with the exception of Iran and Syria," he said.

Here we go again. The Bush White House is making noises again about how Iran and Syria is supporting the terrorists on the war in Iraq. It is another scare tactic to frighten Americans into toeing the Bush propaganda line. And of course they'll certainly reiterate the non-existent link between Iraq and September 11th, only now we'll have some corollary links between Sept. 11th, Iraq, Syria, and Iran (Especially with Iran starting their nuclear weapons program, and the White House talk about how Iraq's WMDs were sent across the border to Syria before the U.S. invasion). You have to wonder how long this will last--especially since Bush's poll numbers have been dropping regarding the American public's support for the war.

Monday, August 08, 2005

How Bush Thinks: Intuition Over Intellect

I found this editorial on the Los Angeles Times:

AS SOMEBODY WHO doesn't have the slightest feeling one way or another about baseball star Rafael Palmeiro, I have to say that it seems pretty clear Palmeiro has used steroids. Palmeiro recently tested positive for steroid use. And then there's former teammate Jose Canseco's allegation that he and Palmeiro both used steroids, which is impossible to verify but would seem to explain why Palmeiro's annual home run total nearly doubled after Canseco joined him on the Texas Rangers. None of this is ironclad proof, but it seems the simplest way to reconcile the available data.

President Bush, though, doesn't see it this way at all. When asked about Palmeiro's positive steroid test, Bush — who knew Palmeiro when the president owned the Rangers — replied, "Rafael Palmeiro is a friend. He testified in public and I believe him. He's the kind of person that's going to stand up in front of the Klieg lights and say he didn't use steroids, and I believe him."

This statement perfectly crystallizes Bush's thinking. Facts don't matter to him. What matters is how he feels about the person in question.

In other words, Bush bases his decisions on how he feels about an individual or about an issue. Facts become secondary in supporting his intuitive decision of an individual or an issue, or the facts that may contradict his reasoning are discarded, ignored, or the messenger is discredited. Bush does not arrive at a decision of an issue through a careful analysis and reasoning using facts. You can see this type oreasoningng in almost every decision of his presidency. In the Iraq war, Bush's argument for going to war was that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction (remember the mushroom clouds over New York?). When facts started surfacing that Iraq did not have WMDs, Bush changed the argument that Iraq was harboring terrorists, or Saddam was killing his own people, or that Saddam was just a bad guy. The facts of an issue meant nothing to the Bush White House. Instead it is to show the intuitive, emotional side of the argument--we are sending the fight against the terrorists to Iraq, so that the terrorists will not take the fight here in the U.S. And since Bush is using his intuition--coupled with a strong religious belief system--Bush will always be right and correct in his decisions, based on his intuition and moral convictions. He will be right, regardless of any facts and information contradicting his decisions.

You can not win a debate with this type of individual.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I'm On Vacation For This Week

I shall be on vacation for this week, starting today. I'll be back to blogging on Sunday, August 7. It is probably a good thing for bloggers to take a week off from their computers, and away from the constant chatter of Valerie Plamegate, Governator, Bush impeachment rantings, and who-knows-what. Start fresh with a new perspective and new ideas.

I shall see you all next week.