Monday, March 31, 2008

More AEY Dish

Lindsay Beyerstein follows the paper trail of Efraim Diveroli's AEY VP, David Packouz. Packhouz has had a number of his own companies operating under the same roof including Intelliteran and Dyna Core/Dynacore/Dyncore. I immediately realized as did Ms. Beyerstein that Dyna Core sounds suspiciously like big time established military contractor DynCorp. While Dyncorp features real heavies like retired Generals Barry McCaffrey and Anthony Zinni, Packhouz' Dyna Core appears to be run by a bunch of twenty-somethings.


Lou Dobbs' Cotton' Pickin' Flub

As a former major market broadcaster with over 10 years experience, I'm well aware of the perils of adlibbing. But I also know that in order to advance and then stay at the top of your game, you must learn to edit yourself. You develop an ability to hear most of what you're saying the split-second or two before it leaves your mouth. Otherwise you can only hope to eke out a living in what my old communications prof called the "tall grass."

I'm fascinated how the longer some of these folks stay in the biz, the more atrophied this editing skill can become. It's a combination of hubris and laziness. Hubris comes with the territory and fosters a belief that they are infallible. This leads to laziness as in "I'm so good I don't have to prepare." A lack of show prep inevitably leads to disastrous adlibs. This very bad habit is hard to break.

Show prep isn't just about news, facts and figures. It's also about the presentation of whatever info or opinion you want to get across and how you are going to deliver your message. From what I have seen of Lou Dobbs, he does an adequate job with the former and precious little of the latter.



Top Ten John McCain Myths

Mediamatters rolls 'em out:
#3. John McCain is a straight talker.
Eh, not so much.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Jericho Comes A Tumblin' Down

I hopped on the Jericho bandwagon way late. I had mistaken Jericho for more 24-style terror porn. I caught up during the writers' strike when jack all was on the telly.

I found Jericho to be the anti-24 -- a well written realistic drama featuring fully realized characters and the courage to kill some of them off. Its domestic terrorist-caused post-apocalyptic landscape was peopled with patriots, traitors, prodigal sons, lovers, duty-bound soldiers, Blackwater stand-ins Ravenwood, Halliburton/KBR clone Jennings & Rall, heroes, zeros and those in between, However, CBS deemed Jericho's first season ratings insufficient and canceled it.

An inspired fan campaign rallying around the war cry of the inaugural season's finale (recalling one of US history's great moments: the surrounded Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's response to German demands that he surrender) delivered 20 tons of nuts to CBS Television HQ.

CBS changed course mustering up seven more episodes. But its post-writers' strike viewership didn't come close to matching Season 1 ratings. So CBS scuttled Jericho less than halfay halfway thru Season 2. The Boston Globe has a Jericho appreciation here. The SciFi Channel is in negotiations to pick up the series. **fingers crossed** SciFi already has the rights to rebroadcast previously aired episodes.

Watch Jericho online or on DVD.


Rove Claims Tail & Horns Retractable

Retractable? More like tuck and cover.
Think Progress has the viddy.


Mukasey & Public Integrity

Scott Horton knows the score.


If We Have To Go All The Way To Denver For Her Health Plan...

...I'll be pissed.

Josh Marshall analyzes Hillary Clinton's interview in today's WaPo. Hillary is vowing to stay in the race straight to this August's Democratic National Convention. Mr. Josh sez this is all about Hill's desire to "resolve" Florida & Michigan.

I disagree completely. (Please understand I m not a Clinton hater. I've already laid out where I stand). Hillary's "All The Way To Denver" stance is not at all about Florida and Michigan. It's never been about Florida and Michigan. Obviously, it's not to Clinton's benefit to split the delegates in half. She's confident that the DNC will be unable to put together a re-vote. So what's the deal?

This "resolution" may be Clinton's stated raison d'être but "resolving" Florida and Michigan is only a pretense. (Remember, Hillary's camp raised no objections when the DNC decertified those primaries). While maintaining this pretense, Hill gets the added benefit of portraying herself as a champion of democracy by refusing to allow Michigan and Florida voters to be disenfranchised. This position is really all about extending the race until Hillary and Bill get as close to what she wants as they are going to get.

What does she want? Ideally the Clintons' continued quest for power offers a chance at redemption. This is their last best chance to regain some of the face lost they lost during Bill's last year in office as a well as a huge flip-off to their critics. It's also about the Clintons' inability to accept the fact that they squandered Hillary's "presumptive nominee" status. In short, it's all about their needs not ours.

Perhaps that's what bothers me most about this posture. Not unlike George Bush, the Clintons' have put their ambitions before our needs -- the needs of both party and country. I'd feel the exact same way if Hillary's and Barack's positions were reversed.

I have another bone to pick with Sen. Clinton. Speaking with The NYT on Friday, she finally divulged some deets on the proposed premium cap for her health care plan. (Hillary first mentioned this cap concept six months ago!). Her cap maxes out at a potential 10% of a family's income. These stats courtesy of The Times:

The average cost of a family policy bought by an individual in 2006 and 2007 was $5,799, or 10 percent of the median family income of $58,526, according to America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group. Some policies cost up to $9,201, or 16 percent of median income.

The average out-of-pocket cost for workers who buy family policies through their employers is lower, $3,281, or 6 percent of median income, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a health research group.

Sorry Hillary. Until you lay it out in great detail, I cannot be filled with confidence in your plan. It would be fantastic if this leads to improved health care for the poor and middle class. I cannot yet tell. What concerns me specifically is how this will work for those of us who are ill and/or otherwise disabled. If you take even half as many pills to have some semblance of a "normal" life as I do, you too would feel anxious by the expectation that you'd end up a ten-percenter. The various health-related lobbies aren't going to spend upwards of $1 billion dollars this year, including campaign contributions to candidates of both parties, to allow the common man to catch a break.

My message to Hillary and Barack? Get back to me with your pitch to rid health care of the graft, the waste and excessive big pharma profiteering. Pass laws allowing us to bring prescription drugs in from Canada and demanding the negotiation of drug prices under Medicare. Then we can talk about how much I'll pay for my health insurance.

Then we can talk about my vote.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Will Rove Get Popped For Gov. Siegelman Persecution Prosecution?

TPM has the rundown in Siegelman: Rove's Fingerprints "Are Smeared All over The Case"

A couple of TPM commenters raised the question $64,000 question: Will Bush pardon Rove?

For Rove to get a post-conviction Bush pardon, the current DOJ would have to act with unnatural speed to bring Karl to trial. Remember, it took almost fourteen months from Scooter Libby's indictment to his trial's start. As stupid as he may be, Bush would not dare put Rove on trial before the upcoming election. Even if for some reason Bush wanted to, Cheney wouldn't let him. By now I think both are too concerned for their “legacy” to purposely make any missteps before November.

Bush could pardon Rove before Rove was even charged. But there would be a tremendous outcry. The MSM is just starting to become aware of this story. This awareness is only going grow now that Siegelman is out and free to do interviews. Again this will not be addressed in any way until after the election.

Rove's best bet is for his formerly hated archenemy McCain to get elected. Why do you think the Rovester has been advising the guy he tried to destroy with his infamous SC push polling?


+ For some additional perspective on the Siegelman case consider this: It took the Alabama courts' and DOJ almost 9 months to let Siegelman (D) out pending his appeal. Even though the charges against him were far more serious, Brent Wilkes (R) spent just 5 weeks in jail before being sprung pending appeal.

Lawyers, Guns and Money

That would be a perfect title for The Efraim Diveroli Story...

The exemplary Lindsay Beyerstein has some fine reporting on this saga at Majikthise:

Records from the Florida Secretary of State show that Efraim's father, Michael Diveroli, is the manager and registered agent of Worldwide Tactical, LLC, located at 925 41 St. (Ste. 106), Miami Beach, Florida. Diveroli was also the registered agent and president of the now-defunct Advantage Police Supply, LLC, principal office 925 41st St. (Ste. 306).

Efraim Diveroli's company, AEY, gave the same address to the Miami Dade County procurement office.

AEY also provided that address, down to the 306 suite number, when it was awarded a multi-million dollar contract with the Army in 2007.

Michael Diveroli's Worldwide Tactical, LLC has been awarded over a million dollars in federal contracts since 2000, records show. Worldwide Tactical also got an emergency two-year contract in 2006 to supply cots to the State of Louisiana. Worldwide Tactical recently renewed a contract to provide cold weather search and rescue gear for Lincoln/Lancaster County, Nebraska.
What I find remarkable about this story is that this neophyte kid was able to secure $1 million+ in government contracts seemingly without the now customary pattern of contributions to the Republican Party or right wing causes. I checked both Newsmeat and OpenSecrets (for some reason Opensecrets' website is down this AM). I found nothing for the Diveroli Family or Uncle Bar-Kochba Botach. The only player in this saga with any clear record of political contributions is Efraim Diveroli's lawyer, Hy Shapiro. Over the past 15 years Shapiro has contributed $3250. All of it went to Democrats.

In my prior post I alluded to the many consumer complaints against Botach Tactical ("WE WILL NOT BE UNDERSOLD!") That's the LA co. owned by Diveroli's Uncle Bar-Kochba Botach. Here's a sampling: At Botach Tactical's lifetime rating is 2.04 out of 10. Sample entries on here and here. Pissedoffconsumer has more. There are also entries at RipoffReport and Epinions. Finally, there's this story about how Botach brazenly off a supplier's (!) product design.

+Update: Makithise has more dope on the Diverolis and Botach Tactical plus the news that young Efraim has fled the country rather than face the music here as well as testify before Congress.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Grandpa Sez: Jealous Competitors Dropped A Dime On "Boy Genius" Arms Dealer

By now you've probably heard of AEY and 22 year-old international arms dealer Efraim Diveroli. After an internship at his uncle's shady Botach Tactical (I googled Botach only to find many complaints), the then 18 year-old Diveroli took over his father's business AEY. He submit the low bid and won a $300 million DOD munitions contract to be the main supplier to Afghan forces.

It's a great story of a young buck living the American dream, right? Until an Army field investigation documented an act of fraud by AEY, it was. Diveroli's "Hungarian" ammo was Chinese - a clear violation of his contract. Much of it was useless being 40-50 years-old. TPM has the Army's March 25 audit letter suspending Diveroli's contract and notifying him of their investigation here.

Strangely, there seems to have been no background check of young Efraim. As The Miami Herald reports:

While living on Miami Beach, AEY's youthful president has had several run-ins with the law, Miami-Dade court records show.

Since 2005, Diveroli has physically assaulted and harassed a former girlfriend and beaten up a valet parker at his office building. Then when searched by police, he was found to be carrying a fake Florida driver's license that indicated he was four years older.

All the cases have been dismissed or resolved.

Theses cases may have been "resolved." But his fake ID alone should have precluded Diveroli from doing business with the US Government. Pay it no mind. According to Grandpa, this is not young Efraim's fault. It's "jealously" that has his grandson jammed up. CNN has the poop via affiliate WPLG:

"The kid is dedicated and patriotic," Diveroli's grandfather, Angelo, told Local 10 senior political reporter Michael Putney via telephone. "He's all over the world getting what the military needs. The big corporations are jealous, so they want to destroy him."
Ahh yes, the old "I'm being attacked by jealous big businesses 'cuz I'm making millions selling illegal, useless ammo" defense. Let me know how it works out for young Efraim willya Grandpa? CNN affiliate WFOR had these gems from a not-so-proud Pop:
"I would prefer he became a nice Jewish doctor or lawyer rather than an arms dealer. He's never asked for my approval on the company. He doesn't always take my advice, I don't influence him. As a father of a boy genius he's hard to control."
Perhaps you should have thought of that before you allowed your son to morph your "small printing co." into an shady international arms dealership.

You just can't make this shit up folks.


+Note: What's unusual about Diveroli's ability to secure the contract to supply munitions to Afghan forces is that it appears for once that this is a case of a contractor submitting the lowest bid. I spent part of yesterday checking Open Secrets and Newsmeat for any pattern of contributions to Republican or Far Right causes. I found nothing.

++Raw Story has more (tho' crediting themselves for AEY's website shutdown goes a little too far -- It's as if Raw was the only team calling AEY).

Open Letter To A Warlord...

...or how I got in touch with my inner Olbermann.*

To quote a former co-worker "This really burns my goat..."

President Bush comments on the renewed violence in Iraq:

“This is going to take a while, but it is a necessary part in the development of a free society.”
(emphasis added)
WTF? Necessary, Mr. Bush? How is this necessary? Please explain to the hundred thousand+ dead Iraqis and what's left of their families exactly how this war was necessary. Please explain the necessity of this ongoing bloodshed to the many more Iraqis wounded and maimed. Please explain to the thousands upon thousands who have forever lost their homes and livelihoods how their country's destruction has spurred "the development of a free society."

You can't. You can't not only because you lack the mental capacity to do so but also because it is not true. Optional wars prosecuted on pretense solely for personal gain and glory are never "necessary."

No matter how hard you wish it to be, Mr. Bush, unlike WWII your Iraq War is not a righteous conflict to save the world from vicious empire-building fascists. Except for in your clearly addled mind, there is nothing about this war that is "romantic." Instead, whatever "islamofascists" -- a piece of shit neocon word if there ever was one-- we currently fight, are almost to a man "fascists" created in the wake of and by our Iraq invasion. After five fucking years and with no end in sight, this war has outlasted WWII. But unlike WWII, we have precious little to show for our nation's many sacrifices to this conflict.

Mr. Bush, what we do have to show for your "Iraq Adventure" is all negative. Ours is a country that is much less not much more safe. We have 4000+ KIA citizens and tens of thousands more horribly wounded too. Our economy reels on the verge of collapse. Our treasury is likely bankrupt. Our international reputation is tarnished jet black. Our Armed Services are strained to almost breaking. Our Constitution lies in tatters.

Was this conflict necessary for "the further development of our free society" too, Mr. Bush? Because at no time in our nation's history has our society been less free. In the course of your utterly disgraceful Presidency, you have dialed back our many rights to the time of our last king: King George III. Never before has the distance between our poor and the rich been so great. Not in my lifetime has corporate greed so triumphed over citizens' rights. Nor did I ever thought I'd live to see the day when The Supreme Court sided with a commercial developer's use of eminent domain to force people from their homes. At no other time in our history has our government of our democratic "free society" been so secretive or so actively engaged in subverting the will of its people.

Your Iraq War is not about the "development of free societies," Mr. Bush. Rather it's a pathetic attempt by a small man (i.e. YOU) to make yourself feel like big man. Ironically, your total manipulation at the hands of Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the neocon cabal served only to shrink your stature. Your Iraq War is about big oil (not that you've got your hands on any yet), big corporations, huge spiffs to campaign contributors et al. Your US War on your countrymen's rights continues to be waged to cover up your administration's many crimes, to steal elections, to quash dissent, to spiff campaign contributors and/or big corporations.

Sometime after the end of your disgraceful Presidency, we will begin to learn the true extent of the damage you have caused this country. You will soon rise from the ranks of our most disgraceful Presidents to claim the title of our most disgraced President. In the meantime, Mr. Bush, is it too much to ask that you at least try to maintain the status quo? You know, not fuck up anything else too badly?

I thought not. Well, you can't blame this citizen for asking.


*Thanks for indulging me -- I'm not saying anything new.
Bush's blithe this "is a necessary part..." comment necessitated some blowing off of steam.
I'm not nearly as smart or as eloquent as KO.
Whatever delusions I may have are not of grandeur.

Mess o'potamia*

The Mahdi Army cease-fire is history. Iraq's titular head al Maliki has extended his 72-hour militia surrender offer another 288 hours and kicked in a gun buy-back plan (like that'll work -- not in a culture that so highly values guns when there isn't a war going on). Iraqi police are deserting in droves leaving the Iraqi Army (until they start deserting in droves) to man Baghdad check points.

Now comes the word Coalition Forces Drawn Into Basra Fighting. Yes, as the Iraqi Army stands up, we mount our warplanes and start a shellin'. NY Times:

BAGHDAD — American warplanes shelled targets in the southern port city of Basra late Thursday, joining for the first time an onslaught by Iraqi security forces intended to oust Shiite militias there, according to British and American military officials.

In Baghdad, the capital, American aircraft and Mahdi Army fighters exchanged fire in the Sadr City neighborhood, the capital’s largest Shiite militia stronghold. The Iraqi police said an American helicopter opened fire early Friday in Sadr City, killing five people.

The American military confirmed the strike, saying the helicopter was called in after troops on the ground were shot at and requested air support. The Iraqi police also reported a second, later strike by a fixed-wing American aircraft that they said killed four people.

Amid the violence in Baghdad, rocket or mortar fire struck the office of one of Iraq’s two vice presidents, Tariq al-Hashimi, in the Green Zone, killing a security guard. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Hashimi was in his office at the time, or whether he was hurt in the attack.
As the situation in Baghdad deteriorates, a bad scene in Basra just gets worse. Again The Times:
The strikes by American warplanes in Basra, one on a militia stronghold and a second on a mortar team that was attacking Iraqi forces, were made at the request of the Iraqi Army, said Maj. Tom Holloway, a spokesman for the British Army in Basra.

Major Holloway said that the Americans conducted the air attack because the Iraqi security forces did not have aircraft capable of making such strikes. American and British forces have been flying surveillance runs over Basra since the latest fighting in the city began this week.

“I think the point here is actually that the Iraqis are capable, they are strong and they have been engaging successfully,” Major Holloway said.

But the airstrikes by coalition forces after a four-day stalemate in Basra suggested that the Iraqi military has not, on its own, been able to rout the militias, despite repeated statements by American and Iraqi officials that its fighting capabilities have vastly improved.

The Iraqi prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who on Wednesday set a 72-hour deadline for the militias in Basra to lay down their arms or face harsh consequences, said Friday that cash rewards would be offered to anyone in Basra who turned in heavy weapons or artillery. Mr. Maliki, who has staked his political credibility on the Basra campaign, said the cash offer would last until April 8.
How is Mr. Sunshine, err, I mean Preznit Bush taking these new developments? Everything is going according to plan. Natch. The NYT has the kicker:
In Washington, President Bush reiterated his support for Mr. Maliki, describing the offensive as “a defining moment” in the history of a free Iraq and a test for its government — a test that Mr. Bush said it would pass successfully.

The United States will continue to help the Iraqi forces if asked, the president said, but the Iraqis “are in the lead.”

“This is going to take a while,” the president said at a White House appearance with Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia, “but it is a necessary part in the development of a free society.”
I am so filled with bile and vitriol that I'll have to wait a few minutes to respond to Bush's "necessity of this war in the development of a free society."

*Apologies to Jon Stewart & co. for such a blatant rip-off. I couldn't come up with a snappier title and Iraq seems to be getting messier every minute.

Top Ten John McCain Myths

MediaMatters continues the countdown:
#2. John McCain is a moderate.
No, he isn't.

Free Ride: John McCain and the Media available now.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Iraqis Speak On Our Invasion's Fifth Anniversay

This is powerful stuff. The normally unflappable Charlie Rose gets flapped.

Glenn Greenwald
on What can and cannot be spoken on television:

The significance of the interview lies as much in what it says about the American occupation of Iraq as it what it illustrates about the American media. In the American media's discussions of Iraq, when are the perspectives expressed here about our ongoing occupation -- views extremely common among Iraqis of all types and grounded in clear, indisputable facts -- ever heard by the average American news consumer? The answer is: "virtually never."

Rose was as adversarial and argumentative -- angry, even -- as he ever gets with anyone, because he plainly did not anticipate, and did not like, that he was being exposed to such hostility towards our Freedom-spreading, Liberty-loving Liberation of the grateful, lucky (dead and displaced) Iraqi people.
Crooks And Liars has the Charlie Rose footage here. Note that previously for his Fifth Anniversary "celebration," Rose touted that he would have "conversations to find out how both critics and supporters of the war effort see the current situation." Chuckle's concept of Iraq War "critics" is seriously warped. Earlier this week, Greenwald ripped Rose's "panel of experts":

The two alleged "war critics" were the President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, Lesley Gelb, and The New Yorker's George Packer. As Rose put it: "To get the other side's perspective, I talked to Richard Perle and Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute." And therein one finds a perfect expression of how limited, distorted and propagandistic the debate over Iraq in the establishment press continues to be.

In no meaningful sense are Gelb and Packer on "the other side" from Perle and Kagan. Both Gelb and Packer were, albeit to different degrees, among the most influential enablers of the invasion of Iraq.

In February, 2003, Gelb went on Fox News with Brit Hume and attacked the French for impeding our invasion, telling Hume (via LEXIS): "But frankly, except for The Cuban Missile Crisis, I don't think more has been at stake than today. Our country really is at risk in a way we've never been at risk before." Three days before the invasion, he told The Associated Press: "I'm in favor of this . . . . It's the best medicine for anti-Americanism around the world I can imagine." To this day, Gelb continues to insist that the invasion was the right thing to do, but that we just should have executed it more effectively. So that's one of Rose's "war critics."

While much more nuanced and cautious than Gelb, Packer was one of the intellectual leaders of the so-called "liberal hawk" movement. He wrote a highly influential December, 2002 New York Times article proclaiming "The Liberal Quandry over Iraq," touting the views of so-called "liberal hawks." The next month, he demanded "a clean break" with what he scorned as "doctrinaire leftists, who know what they think about American foreign policy -- they're against it," and rejected "an antiwar movement with little to say to Americans' fears for their own safety."

Packer never endorsed Bush's specific invasion plan, but he certainly never opposed it, and -- like most "liberal hawks" -- endorsed the concept itself ("the wrong people are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons"). Packer perfectly exemplified the Tom-Friedman-esque "liberal hawk" enabling behavior back then of advocating American interventionism of the type contemplated in Iraq (while wishing it would be better executed) and attacking those who were genuinely opposed to the war ("Until liberals show that they will make the world safe for democracy -- for their fellow citizens, and for citizens around the world -- the American people won't give them the chance").

No wonder Rose was completely unprepared for the Iraqi side of the story. The phrase Rose-coloured glasses comes immediately to mind.


Hornswoggles & Dervishes

I cannot recommend Scott Horton's stellar blog enough.

No Comment is topical, poetical, insightful and literate. Today Mr. Horton breaks down Bush's Judicial Bamboozlement. To briefly take your mind off this mess we live in, he also has posted the genius Persian philosopher Rumi's "Dervish At The Door." It's inspired me to dig out my copy of The Illuminated Rumi. Almost ten years ago I was turned on to Rumi by my dear, spiritually minded friend, Abdi Assadi.


A Sort Of Milestone (Or Two)

I've cracked 1000 visits here at ASIAF. Thank you all for stopping by. I've also earned a whopping $.05 from my recent association with GoogleAds. Since the Google only cuts a check once you reach $100, at this rate my descendants should be cashing that first check in about 83 years. Ha!

Seriously though, thanks again. Every day I work hard to make this humble website some better.


C'mon Hillary. Please Give It Up

Lookit. I like Hillary well enough. I was skeptical but voted for her when she first ran for Senator of my state. I enthusiastically cheered her reelection. With a few exceptions she has done an admirable job for NY. Yet with each passing day, my admiration for both Hillary and her hubby declines dramatically.

With or without superdelegates, Hillary's quest for the White House is fraught with obstacles. The Tuzla flap aside, her campaign posture has become a major turnoff. Even worse, it's disrupted Democratic voters' unity and our singular sense of purpose: to take back the White House. The Boston Globe has this:

A Gallup poll released yesterday indicated that 28 percent of Democrats supporting Clinton said they would vote for McCain over Obama in November, while 19 percent of Obama's backers said they would vote for McCain over Clinton.
That's just the acrimony (and mebbe the whisky) talking. I'm confident this is only temporary. No Democrat worth his or her salt would vote for crazy John McCain come November -- He's only gonna get crazier too as we near the election. Though through this infighting we do risk losing the so called "Obamicans" who would never vote for Hillary. Regardless, this poll is indicative of the divisiveness the Obama/Hillary war has caused. The Globe sums it up:
Clinton's campaign has been under pressure from some Obama partisans, citing his lead in delegates, total votes, and fund-raising, to give up because she has almost no chance of overtaking him in the contest for pledged delegates. With 10 contests remaining until June 3, Clinton trails Obama by 122 delegates, according to the Associated Press tally. Clinton holds an edge among the more than half of all superdelegates who have declared their allegiance.

The Clinton campaign, however, continues to send strong signals that it will not fold. Clinton said this week that voters do not want to "shut this race down."

Senator Clinton's chief surrogate, her husband, former president Bill Clinton, told voters in West Virginia yesterday, "My family's not big on quitting." He also downplayed concern over the campaign's tone, saying: "Let's just saddle up and have an argument. What's the matter with that?

Plenty, Bill, plenty. It reflects poorly on you both. Why give the Republicans the blueprint to weakening our nominee's candicacy and doing the early work for them? This is analogous to George Bush's stance i.e. putting yourself above party and party above country.

I disagree too with Hillary's contention that we voters don't wanna "shut this race down." If that were true, it would still be for the betterment of our party for her to step aside. Instead focusing on defeating the Republican nominee, this infighting is not only weakening our nominee(s) but also the party as a whole. More from The Globe:

...Some major Democratic fund-raisers who support Clinton sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chiding her for publicly suggesting that the superdelegates should follow the will of the voters as reflected in pledged delegates and the popular vote - two measures on which Clinton faces long odds to catch up.
Chastising Speaker Pelosi for stating the obvious, right attitude is an unneeded distraction from her pressing business such as, oh I don't know, ensuring that the telecoms do not get the immunity they and the Bush Administration seek. While it may be in just some small way, this "chiding" does diminish Pelosi's standing. This comes at a crucial time in history when our party needs strengthening not weakening.

So c'mon Hillary. Please give it up. If you won't do it for your party, then do it for your country. Go back to where you can do the most good as the junior Senator for the great State of New York. Do it now before any more damage is done. Please.


+Update (3/28): Josh Marshall adds his two cents on Hillary, Bill, calls by Sen. Leahy & Sen. Dodd to step aside, the Clintons' fuzzy delegate math, shark-hopping. etc.

++Update #2 (3/28): TPM has deets on Sen. Leahy's call for Hillary to drop out.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Did Biz Editors Cover Credit Crunch Early On?

Unsurprisingly, business editors say "yes." E&P has analysis.



Neil Aspinall, the 'fifth Beatle', dies aged 66.

While there were almost as many "fifth Beatles" as there are #2 al-Qaeda leaders, Aspinall had a better claim on this moniker than all others.


More background on Aspinall here.

Incidental Introspection*

Woke up depressed** -- More so than usual. Because a great song will never let you down, it's on days like this I turn to music. As music is poetry, a great poem will never let you down either.

Today Scott Horton has posted Pablo Neruda's La Canción desesperada. It fits my mood exactly.


*Title changed: 11/14/08
**Loud Love, track 8.

It Was Only A Matter Of Time

The Mahdi Army cease-fire appears to have ceased. McClatchy has more in Battles wrack Basra, threatening success of U.S. surge:

BAGHDAD — Bloody clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi government forces paralyzed the southern port of Basra Tuesday as the Iraqi government swore that it would cleanse the city of militia influences.

Residents of Basra cowered in their homes as Mahdi Army militiamen and Iraqi security forces battled across the second largest city in Iraq. Some 15,000 Iraqi Army and National Police were brought in to the city to take control. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, as well as the country's defense and interior ministers, were in the city to oversee the effort.

In Baghdad, Mahdi Army-controlled neighborhoods were virtually shut down in an act of protest against the government. Militiamen attacked the headquarters of their Shiite Muslim rivals, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and its military wing, the Badr Organization.

The fighting was the worst combat involving in the Mahdi Army in months and threatened to end a Mahdi Army cease-fire that U.S. officials have credited in part for the relative calm of the last several months. Basra, Iraq' primary port and the home province to 90 percent of Iraq’s oil, has long been disputed by various Shiite militias, including the Mahdi Army and the Badr Organization.

When the British military pulled out late last year it essentially handed the city over to the militias, and the Mahdi Army, which is loyal to radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, took control.

Government officials said they intended to take control of the city in three days.

Three days? Is it possible that things weren't ever going as well as we were lead to believe? You can be it is.


+Update: Tomorrow's Monitor has this chilling quote:

"The cease-fire is over; we have been told to fight the Americans," said one Mahdi Army militiaman, who was reached by telephone in Sadr City. This same man, when interviewed in January, had stated that he was abiding by the cease-fire and that he was keeping busy running his cellular phone store.
(HT: Atrios)

Top Ten John McCain Myths

MediaMatters counts them down:
#1. John McCain is a maverick.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Digby's Right And Wrong

The Amazing Digby has opinions. This time she takes on the whole Obama/Wright/race fracas and, our fave idiot, Andrew Sullivan.


More Racist Right Wing Drivel

I think I'm gonna puke. Glenn Greenwald has the story.

(HT: Atrios)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bush Abstinence-Only Crusade Exported=Death

Previously on ASIAF...

I outlined how Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade=1/4 Of Teenage Girls Get STDs and how Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade=Big Money For Religious Right.

Still, even with the explosion of abstinence-only programs (and the directly related decline of comprehensive sex ed programs), our teenagers are better off than the people of HIV/AIDS-ravaged Africa where George Bush and his evangelical/religious right pals have exported tax payer-financed abstinence-only AIDS programs via Bush's PEPFAR. The President's Emergency Plan For Aids Relief would be almost laughable in an Orwellian way if its results weren't so tragic. In 2005, Rolling Stone called PEPFAR An Epidemic Failure observing that:

Bush has shifted the bulk of U.S. money away from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, an international organization that has funded projects in 128 countries and is widely recognized as the best way to distribute AIDS funds.
Instead of offering an "emergency plan for AIDS relief," George Bush created an AIDS relief plan emergency. PEPFAR's stated goal of AIDS-prevention is seriously compromised by its current requirement that 33% of the funds go to abstinence-only (read: religious right) groups:
Two highly-regarded studies, one by the Institutes of Medicine and another by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), found that the one-third earmark for abstinence programs undermines successful prevention efforts, in part by limiting flexibility on the ground. Both organizations called on Congress to strike the earmark. The House did so in theory, but replaced it with a new requirement that a minimum of 50 percent of funds for prevention of sexual transmission be allocated to "behavior change" as defined by Congress. Observers have called this a breakthrough.
Those "observers" aren't "observing" nearly hard enough. As Congress defines it, this "behavior change" means "abstinence, delay of sexual debut, monogamy and fidelity." So instead of only abstinence-only, Congress adds "wait" and "don't cheat." Congrats to the US Congress for inching their way towards treating Africans as adults.

This new language is unlikely to save any more lives. Feedback from our PEPFAR partners "suggests it is exactly these seemingly innocuous provisions now found in the House bill that cause the most trouble on the ground." Always impervious to anyone's concerns other than his own, Bush was found wandering Tanzania last month intently spinning the "new & improved" PEPFAR's as:
"a balanced program. It is an ABC program abstinence, be faithful and condoms. It is a program that's been proven effective."
Balanced and effective my ass. It's no accident that Bush listed condoms last. The 50% "behavior change" component is tailor-made for evangelical exploitation. It will ensure condoms continue to be a minor part of this effort. As for PEPFAR's overall efficacy, a Feb. 21 LA Times editorial (by a high school science teacher!), Popping The PEPFAR Bubble, has the skinny:
For the first two years of the program, Bush blocked the procurement of most low-cost, generic fixed-dose combinations of antiretrovirals in favor of brand-name, multi-drug regimens that cost twice as muchthus lining the pockets of U.S. pharmaceutical companies instead of saving lives. Even though a generic antiretroviral was approved by the FDA in 2005 and made available for purchase through Pepfar, only 27% of the antiretrovirals purchased by Pepfar in the 2006 fiscal year were generic. In addition, the U.S. has attempted to block access to quality generics on the global market.

Pepfar requires that 33% of all prevention monies (including prevention of nonsexual transmission) and two-thirds of sexual-transmission funds be spent on abstinence and fidelity programs. Many of these programs are administered by "faith-based" organizations, typically evangelical Christian groups that promote "abstinence before marriage" and "being faithful" and downplay the use of condoms. This, combined with the Bush administration's go-it-alone approach and refusal to integrate with national AIDS prevention programs already in place, has essentially destroyed years of AIDS prevention work in several countries. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Uganda, where a highly successful AIDS prevention program that stressed the used of condoms had been in place since 1990. After Uganda accepted Pepfar funding in 2003, faith-based organizations undermined the country's condom program. As a result, millions of condoms sat in warehouses because they were not wanted. According to Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli, the director general of the Uganda AIDS Commission, since it adopted the program, the rate of new HIV infections almost doubled, from 70,000 in 2003 to 130,000 in 2005.

This is only a taste of the many criticisms of Pepfar. Not to mention any of them in the article is negligent. Pepfar has done much good, but it has accomplished only a fraction of its potential. Pepfar should not be used as platform for Christian groups to proselytize and attempt to impose their own view of morality on different cultures. It should not be used to transfer taxpayers' dollars to the pockets of pharmaceutical companies. We must cut the many strings attached to the program that hobble its effectiveness and bring the focus back to saving lives, not playing politics.
(emphasis added)
Yep. George Bush's "go-it-alone" and "refusal to cooperate" approach strikes again. The difference is that PEPFAR profits evangelical, conservative and other big time Republican campaign contributors (i.e. Big Pharma) while killing the very people it purports to help. Among the many ironies (including the all-too-familiar "Christians "acting in a decidedly un-Christian manner theme) is that through his PEPFAR policy, our self-styled "promoter-in-chief of Democracy aboard" has unwittingly contributed to political instability in South Africa's democracies.

Due to its lack of geographical proximity to us and our overwhelming eight years worth of Bush fatigue, it's all too easy to chalk up Bush's abstinence-only African adventure as just another in a long line of colossal GWB fuck-ups. But in countries like Uganda, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe the stakes are so much higher than everywhere else. For hundreds of thousands of Africans, Bush's and his evangelical pals' abstinence-only posture is a death sentence.


Some Africa HIV/AIDS resources:
Global HIV/AIDS pandemic:
Global Health Reporting.
The Elizabeth Glaser Pedriatric Foundation does great work in Africa and elsewhere. Donate here.

Bill Maher On The Bear Stearns Bail-Out

"They believe in the free market but they want to socialize losses."

Bill Maher


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spitzer Narc Was Hard Core GOP Operative

Harper's Scott Horton...

finds More Political Taint in the Spitzer Case:

According to accounts that prosecutors and investigators have leaked to the New York Times and other publications, the Spitzer case was launched by a Suspicious Activity Report submitted by the North Fork Bank. Today, however, the Miami Herald ties the investigation to a tip furnished by the notorious G.O.P. dirty trickster Roger Stone.
Among other partisan feats Roger Stone organized the 2000 Florida demonstrations protesting the recounts. He has a history of bad blood with Spitzer. Last year Stone was fired as consultant to NY Senate Republican majority leader Joseph Bruno for threatening Spitzer's father.


+Update: McClathy has latched onto the story too:
Almost four months before Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a sex scandal, a lawyer for Republican political operative Roger Stone sent a letter to the FBI alleging that Spitzer ''used the services of high-priced call girls'' while in Florida.

The letter, dated Nov. 19, said Miami Beach resident Stone learned the information from ''a social contact in an adult-themed club.'' It offered one potentially identifying detail: The man in question hadn't taken off his calf-length black socks "during the sex act.''

Stone, known for shutting down the 2000 presidential election recount effort in Miami-Dade County, is a longtime Spitzer nemesis whose political experience ranges from the Nixon White House to Al Sharpton's presidential campaign. His lawyer wrote the letter containing the call-girl allegations after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he says the FBI did not specify why he was contacted.

''Mr. Stone respectfully declines to meet with you at this time,'' the letter states, before going on to offer ''certain information'' about Spitzer.

''The governor has paid literally tens of thousands of dollars for these services. It is Mr. Stone's understanding that the governor paid not with credit cards or cash but through some pre-arranged transfer,'' the letter said.

''It is also my client's understanding from the same source that Gov. Spitzer did not remove his mid-calf length black socks during the sex act. Perhaps you can use this detail to corroborate Mr. Stone's information,'' the letter said. It was signed by attorney Paul Rolf Jensen of Costa Mesa, Calif.

The letter also notes that while Stone believes the information is true, he ''cannot swear to its accuracy'' because it is second-hand.

James Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI's New York office, would not say whether the bureau had received the letter. A spokeswoman for Spitzer also had no comment.

The letter was written several months after allegations were leveled at Stone that he had left a threatening phone message at the office of Bernard Spitzer, the ex-governor's father, regarding ''phony'' campaign loans involving his son's unsuccessful 1994 bid for attorney general. Stone denied making the call but resigned as a consultant for state Senate Republicans in Albany.
(emphasis added)

(HT: TPM).


+In my haste to post this, I neglected to call attention to Roger Stone's learning the information from ''a social contact in an adult-themed club. WTF does that mean?

++Update #1 (3/24@4:26PM): The eminently readable Majikthise has more dirt on Stone's history and the lowdown on the Miami adult-themed club he referenced.

++Update #2 (3/24@4:46PM): In light of Roger Stone's "revelation," Marcy Wheeler has questions about the Feds' account of the Spitzer investigation time line and a reminder that Roger Stone is a notorious wife swapper.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sully Deconstructs The Source Of His Early Iraq War Support

This site's namesake, Andrew Sullivan, was an early, passionate Iraq War supporter. He beat the drum early and often. Mr. Sullivan has since recanted somewhat.

For Good Friday and the 5th anniversary of the Iraq War's start, Sully felt compelled to atone for his "sins." (OK, so Slate asked him to comment -- few things motivate Andrew Sullivan like attention to, well, Andrew Sullivan).

Sully "confesses" four sins:

  1. Historical Narcissism (i.e. Andy's own copious narcissism). Actual quote: "I was distracted by the internal American debate to the occlusion of the reality of Iraq..." My translation: "I was a proud Thatcherite and Reaganite blahblahblah. The wall came down blahblahblah. I had a mega man-crush on Junior blahblahblah. Might is right blahblahblah."

  2. Narrow Moralism. More narcissism. Actual quote: "I became enamored of my own morality and this single moral act." My translation: "I know I'm right and therefore fuck it. Let's kick some Iraqi ass."
  3. Unconservatism. Even more narcissism. Actual quote: "I heard and read about ancient Sunni and Shiite divisions, knew of the awful time the British had in running Iraq but had never properly absorbed the lesson." My translation: "Yes, I'm fucking British fer crissakes. I know this goes against all I think I believe in but I'm certain I'm right and so what are we waiting for? I wanna kick some Iraqi ass."
  4. Misreading Bush. Actual quote: "Yes, the incompetence and arrogance were beyond anything I imagined. In 2000, my support for Bush was not deep...It was a fatal misjudgment of Bush's sense of morality." Nicely deceptive, Andrew. He's so narcissistic that he misrepresents his history lest we think less of him. By March 2003 Andy had a full-blown crush on GWB. My translation: "I loved him 'cuz I thought he was just like me only more manly." To paraphrase Otter in "Animal House," it's the "I fucked up - I trusted him" defense.
Where did Andrew Sullivan go wrong on Iraq? He opened his mouth.


(HT Thers@Atrios)

Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade=Big Money For Religious Right

In Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade=1/4 Of Teenage Girls Get STDs, I connected Bush's abstinence-only crusade to the high rate of STDs among America's teenage girls. Today I delve into the real motivation behind yet another harmful Bush policy.

What makes the abstinence-only mob's objection to sex ed truly sickening is that it is not all about "morality." As per usual, it's mostly about M-O-N-E-Y. (Natch).

y programs have become big business. Big Republican campaign contributor business. Under the leadership of a Republican Congress and as escalated by George Bush, abstinence-only has swelled to a $1 billion boondoggle.

Ten months ago The Nation exposed this industry for what it is in The Abstinence Gluttons:

Over the past six years George W. Bush's faith-based Administration and a conservative Republican Congress transformed the small-time abstinence-only business into a billion-dollar industry. These dangerously ineffective sexual health enterprises flourish not because they spread "family values" but because of generous helpings of the same pork-heavy gumbo Bush & Co. brought to war-blighted Iraq and Katrina-hammered New Orleans--a mix of back-scratching cronyism, hefty partisan campaign donations, high-dollar lobbyists, a revolving door for political appointees and a lack of concern for results.

One of the chief cooks is a media-shy 63-year-old Catholic multimillionaire, welfare privatizer and Republican donor named Raymond Ruddy. With close ties to the White House, federal health officials and Republican power brokers that date back to W.'s days as Texas governor, Ruddy has leveraged his generous wallet and insider muscle to push an ultraconservative social agenda, enrich a preferred network of abstinence-only and antiabortion groups, boost profits for his company and line the pockets of his cronies--all with taxpayer dollars.

Following the money swirling around Ruddy offers an eye-opening glimpse into the squalor at the heart of the abstinence-only project. One top Bush adviser left to take a job at Ruddy's charity, Gerard Health Foundation, and a senior officer at Ruddy's for-profit company, Maximus, left to take a top-level position at the Department of Health and Human Services. Leaders of Christian-right organizations that are Gerard grantees have gained advisory HHS positions--and their organizations have in turn received AIDS and abstinence grants to the tune of at least $25 million. Maximus itself has raked in more than $100 million in federal contracts during the Bush era...

"I can't think of another federal program where so much money was spent without any oversight and to such little effect," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, a national organization that promotes comprehensive sexual health policies. "It wasn't that policy-makers didn't know that abstinence-only didn't work. In 2000 the Institute of Medicine issued a scathing report on these programs. But they went full steam ahead despite the warning. It's beyond naïve. It's immoral."
If you haven't already (and even if you have), please read the rest for a stunning tale spanning America, Africa and soon China. The featured cast of unsavory characters includes wingnut heroes James Dobson, Ruddy lobbyist and former RNC Chair Haley Barbour, former HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary/Medicaid fraud/all-around quack Eric Keroack and more.

It details how the the Bush Administration knowingly spends hundreds of millions of our tax dollars on harmful programs to further enrich fat cat Republican donors and their uber-conservative causes i.e. The Federalist Society, Americans for Tax Reform (we knew Grover would get a cut), Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council as well as the anti-Kerry Your Catholic Voice, sleazy 527 Common Sense Ohio and old school anti-choice Life, Liberty and Family. A generous tithe of these funds are plowed back into the Republican Party in campaign contributions and Conservative GOTV resources. Also well documented is the revolving door between these various conservative groups and the Bush Administration especially, and most dangerously, the Department of Health and Human Services.

Because of Bush's aggressive, immoral and unconscionable abstinence-only policy, a decade of teenagers are spectacularly misinformed. Earlier this week the Chicago Tribune's troubling story, Teens have sex but don't have the facts, vividly illustrates the pitfalls of this stick-your-head-in-the-sand mentality:
In a co-ed forum, the teens pondered contraception. One well-meaning young man stood and said aluminum foil could be used in lieu of a condom. Other teens offered up myths such as the efficacy of plastic baggies, having sex while standing and bathing right after sex.
Aluminum foil?!?! WTF? In this age, where using a condom could literally be the difference between life and death, we're all too squeamish and puritanical to tell kids considering sex how to best protect themselves. The message sent to today's youth: Sex is dirty, dangerous and bad. No wonder they are so confused. If these they should make it through adolescence without contracting an STD, our kids have a lifetime of psychoanalysis to look forward to. It will probably take at least that long to pay for and undo the harm caused by abstinence-only "education."


In the finale: Bush's Abstinence-Only Crusade Exported=Death.
(We're lucky our kids aren't African).

Drugs In US Drinking Water

I'm on lots of medications. I mean lots. I need drugs to have some semblance of normal daily function. I'm a tree hugger too. For year this is been a concern of mine. Not only does the US lack any set "acceptable" limit for the amount of pharmaceuticals in our water but also there's no regulations requiring testing of our water for prescription drugs.

The AP has the dope:

A vast array of pharmaceuticals -- including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones -- have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans, an Associated Press investigation shows.

Officials in Philadelphia say testing there discovered 56 pharmaceuticals or byproducts in treated drinking water.

To be sure, the concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose. Also, utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs -- and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen -- in so much of our drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas -- from Southern California to Northern New Jersey, from Detroit, Michigan, to Louisville, Kentucky.
Yes, right now the amounts are tiny. But it's penetrated the watersheds:
The AP's investigation also indicates that watersheds, the natural sources of most of the nation's water supply, also are contaminated. Tests were conducted in the watersheds of 35 of the 62 major providers surveyed by the AP, and pharmaceuticals were detected in 28.
Even at these levels, trace amounts of prescription drugs can be harmful to humans and animals alike:
And while researchers do not yet understand the exact risks from decades of persistent exposure to random combinations of low levels of pharmaceuticals, recent studies -- which have gone virtually unnoticed by the general public -- have found alarming effects on human cells and wildlife.
Here's what happens after we pee:
The wastewater is treated before it is discharged into reservoirs, rivers or lakes. Then, some of the water is cleansed again at drinking water treatment plants and piped to consumers. But most treatments do not remove all drug residue.
In a world where wars are currently being fought over water (i.e. Darfur), the long term implications of prescription drugs in our drinking water are chilling. This isn't just an American problem, prescription drugs have been detected in the drinking water of the UK, Italy and elsewhere.


*FYI: AP Water Probe Prompts Senate Hearings

State Department Employees Peek Into Obama's Passport Files

Reports from The Washington Times, The NY Times and CNN

In some way I think it will turn out to be significant that these snoops were not State Dept. lifers but "contract employees."

Josh Marshall adds this nugget:

According to a new piece out in the Post from Glenn Kessler, the breaches occurred Jan. 9th, Feb. 21st and March 14th.

That would be the day after the New Hampshire primary, the day of the Democratic debate in Texas and the day the Wright story really hit.

+Update: The aforementioned WaPo story.