Tuesday, September 4, 2007

No War on Corruption

I received many responses to my article (posted below) on the secret Baghdad embassy report detailing rampant corruption within the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki. One veteran Middle East analyst for the U.S. government (no longer in public service) huffed, Corruption in the Middle East--big deal. A former high-ranking State Department official wondered if the leak was part of a Dick Cheney campaign to blame the Iraqis, as a prelude to withdrawing troops. (It was not.) Wayne White, a former Iraq analyst at the State Department's intelligence office, sent the following note:

This is an extremely important story. Rampant corruption at all levels of governance is yet another reason why most Iraqis have little reason to feel a sense of loyalty toward it--especially Iraq's Sunni Arabs, who, with little access to government positions or contracts since 2003, have had little access to this sort of loot.

In any situation in which so much money is available (and vulnerable)--relating both to U.S. assistance and oil-generated revenues--there will be large numbers of people helping themselves liberally. And as long as an extremely low level of enforcement exists, a sort of damaging and progressive group psychology gets set in motion: why should I refrain from this when I can see Ahmad & Jamil getting away with stealing so much money? My family needs money, too.

Another psychological factor might relate to the iffy nature of the entire situation in Iraq. In other words, there have been situations in the past during which government officials with the ability to steal feared that their tenure might not be as long as they would like, and they resorted to unusually high levels of theft in order to get what they could while they could. Even if it turns out later that they were wrong about the tenuousness of their tenure, the habit has become established and the corruption tends to continue at high rates without the sense of urgency.

Finally, for those who have gained positions of power that were previously denied them (such as Iraqi Shi'a, for example), there is a sort of self-justifying revenge syndrome, for lack of a better description: I have every right to take as much as I want because I was entitled to far more during the many years when I was downtrodden.

I expect no miracles on the enforcement front with respect to this mess for many of the same reasons dogging other aspects of Iraqi governance, so this will remain a significant drag on government revenue as well as the translation of such revenue into results on the ground.

If the Maliki government is a cesspool of corruption, as the U.S. embassy report indicates, and little is being done about this, as the report also indicates, it seems the Bush administration will have a hard time turning anything around. Why should U.S. soldiers die (and kill) to help a government ripping off the Iraqis? Sure, one can come up with various "strategic" reasons. (We can't let Iran take full control of Iraq, etc.) But the ground truth is that Americans are dying in part to help a government of crooks and schemers. Given the difficult circumstances of Iraq, it's tough to see how the United States can succeed in Iraq when the government it supports is rotten.

A CRASH, A FLIGHT DELAY, IT'S ALL THE SAME. I've never heard of Eric Kleiman, the director of product marketing for Continental Airlines. And I don't follow the aviation industry too closely. But I'd be willing to bet that Kleiman is one of the worst flacks in the business. Over the weekend, The New York Times ran a front-page story noting that parents are peeved that because airlines are showing PG and R films with graphic violence on flights young kids can be confronted by such scenes as Anthony Hopkins shooting his wife in the face (from Fracture). This is a legitimate concern. You can keep headsets from children, but you can't force them not to look at screens hanging from the top of the airplane. And blindfolds don't work too well.

Kleiman pooh-poohed: "Parents have to be responsible for the actions of their kids--whether they shouldn't look at the screen or look away." That's only true to a point, because on some flights (as I noted above) the screens hang right in front of children. Then Kleiman went on to say: "People love Pepsi, and we don't serve that, so there you go, we just ruined their flight. That's an accurate analogy." Not serving a passenger's preferred cola is the same as showing bloody gun violence to six-year-olds? That's asinine. The man is an embarrassment for all the spinners out there in Corporate America. He deserves to be tossed--with no parachute.

Posted by David Corn at September 4, 2007 11:07 AM


capt said...

Mr. David Corn,

"That's asinine. The man is an embarrassment for all the spinners out there in Corporate America. He deserves to be tossed--with no parachute."

Okay, but how do you really feel?



capt said...

On How al-Anbar isn't that Safe
and on How its "Calm" is Artificially Produced

Al-Anbar residents killed 20 US troops in July. The total US fatalities in July were 79 according to icasualties.org, and some of those were presumably from accidents, etc. So al-Anbar, despite being reduced to the stone age, managed to kill a fourth or more of all US troops killed in combat in July. Al-Anbar is roughly 1/24 of Iraq by population. So it killed six times more US troops than we would have expected based on its proportion of the Iraqi population.

That's what the Bushies are celebrating, that the deadly al-Anbar has been wrestled down to only killing a fourth of the US troops killed in a month. It used to be more.

In mid-July, There were about 100 violent attacks in a single week in al-Anbar. That's a bright spot. That's progress. Since the year before, there were 400 violent attacks in that same period.

Well, yes, that's a relative improvement. But a hundred violent attacks in a week? That's being touted as good news to be ecstatic over? There were probably on the order of 1100 attacks that week in all of Iraq. So al-Anbar generated nearly one-tenth of all attacks. But it is only 1/24 of Iraq by population, so it is more than twice as dangerous with regard to the number of attacks than you would expect from its small population.

Fallujah, of course, was a trouble spot for the US military. I entertain dark suspicions that Bush had it destroyed for reasons of revenge. The November 2004 US assault damaged 2/3s of the buildings. Tens of thousands of former residents are still refugees.


*****end of clip*****

Juan Cole is fired up and the BS being push on us about calm is another lie.


capt said...

White House: Why Gonzales Bailed

Sept. 10, 2007 issue - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales told friends he resigned last week at the urging of his wife following a summer vacation. But he had plenty of reasons to leave the capital. Just days earlier, congressional leaders had signaled they intended to keep the attorney general in their crosshairs this fall, forcing him to testify at length about the administration's warrantless surveillance efforts before they would consider passing new legislation on the subject.

That prospect, combined with hints that an internal Justice Department probe was expanding to include allegations that Gonzales had lied to Congress, created mounting anxiety at the White House, according to officials who asked not to be identified talking about internal deliberations. A former colleague urged Gonzales to step down months ago, but the A.G. hung on—believing the president wanted him to stay, the official said. By last week, that no longer seemed to be the case. One big reason: an internal review by chief of staff Josh Bolten concluded that Gonzales was so politically weak he had become an obstacle to Bush's agenda, especially on the passage of an updated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance law.

The White House is looking for a new A.G. who can work with Congress. Aides called around, asking about four candidates: former deputy attorney general Larry Thompson (who would be the first African-American A.G.), former solicitor general Ted Olson, former deputy A.G. George Terwilliger, and current Solicitor General Paul Clement (the acting A.G. once Gonzales leaves). Aides say the final selection likely won't come until Bush returns from this week's trip to Australia for an economic summit.

—Michael Isikoff and Richard Wolffe


capt said...

Carts Before Horses

Impeachment inquiry first, ask questions later.

Detractors of an impeachment inquiry by the House judiciary committee into whether President George W. Bush has committed impeachable offenses contend that no questions should be asked until conclusive incriminating evidence is either volunteered up by the suspects themselves or appears before them by spontaneous combustion. In other words, they say, no inquiry should commence until proof of the president's guilt has been unearthed—proof which would, of course, make the inquiry superfluous! The Watergate investigation that dethroned President Richard M. Nixon would never have been launched under such an Alice in Wonderland standard of proof, because it began with nothing more than two obscure figures, E. Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy, known to have both White House connections and associations with the Watergate burglars.

Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution stipulates: "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." Article I, Section 2 endows the House of Representatives with "the sole Power of impeachment." And Article I, Section 3 entrusts the trial of impeachments to the Senate and requires a two-thirds vote for conviction.

The impeachment process thus envisions the House as operating like a sort of grand jury and the Senate like a trial jury. The House investigates to determine whether evidence can be marshaled to prove impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors. And if the answer to that question is affirmative, the House then decides whether to vote articles of impeachment. That judgment represents a collection of prudence, politics, and law akin to prosecutorial discretion. If articles are approved, a trial is held before the Senate with the chief justice of the United States presiding if the president is the accused.

The House does not require, nor should it await, proof beyond a reasonable doubt of misconduct. To wait for such proof subverts the whole purpose of an impeachment inquiry.

According to the Founding Fathers, impeachable offenses are crimes against the Constitution, which may or may not include violations of the federal criminal code. As Alexander Hamilton elaborated in Federalist 65, impeachment cannot be "tied down" by "strict rules, either in the delineation of the offense" by the House, or "in the construction of it" by the Senate. James Iredell sermonized to North Carolina's ratification convention that "giving false information to the Senate" was characteristic "of great injury to the community" that would warrant impeachment. False information distorts legislative judgments and makes a farce of congressional oversight to detect lawlessness or maladministration by the executive branch.

Articles of impeachment were voted against President Nixon by the House judiciary committee for flouting his constitutional obligation to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" and for refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas issued in conjunction with the impeachment inquiry. The twin articles of impeachment against President William Jefferson Clinton accused the chief executive of perjury and obstruction of justice in violation of his duty to enforce, not sabotage, the law.

Impeachment precedents fortified by the original intent of the Constitution's makers provide ample justification for a House judiciary committee impeachment inquiry targeting President Bush for—among other things—multiple criminal violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and frustration of legitimate congressional oversight with preposterous claims of executive privilege.


*****end of clip*****

Should be required reading.


capt said...

Sub-Prime Mortgage Woes are No Accident

In 1995, a senior Clinton Administration official shared with me the Administration's targets for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage volumes in low- and moderate-income communities. We had recently reviewed the Administration’s plans to increase government mortgage guarantees — most of these mortgages would also be pooled and sold as securities to investors. Even in 1995, I could see that these plans would create unserviceable debt loads in communities struggling with the falling incomes expected from globalization. Homeowners would default on mortgages while losses on mortgage-backed securities would drain retirement savings from 401(k)s and pension plans. Taxpayers would ultimately be hit with a large bill . . . but insiders would make a bundle.

I looked at the official and said that the Administration was planning on issuing more mortgages than there were houses or residents. “Shut up, this is none of your business,” the official snapped back.

Recently, we have seen numerous press accounts of bank and hedge fund losses from sub-prime mortgages. Remarkably, these reports imply that the losses are the result of a market downturn or contracting credit cycle. But there has been no mention of the extraordinary profits that were generated or who reaped them. There is no mention of who is poised to make a fortune on the bubble collapse. Even the most sophisticated commentators of our day are describing this financial coup d'etat as the unintentional consequence of "market forces."

To help the Solari network survive and thrive, I have written and spoken about the intentional engineering of the U.S. housing bubble and its ramifications for Americans and global investors. "Do not attempt to cure what you do not understand" is our motto for navigating the gathering storm. As we work to mitigate investment losses in the mortgage market and the harm done to communities through the fraudulent inducement of debt, we are well served to understand what has happened, who is benefiting, and why. The following resources will help.

— Catherine Austin Fitts

*****end of clip*****

Should check this out - some other neat stuff at the link.


capt said...

"The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do." -Samuel Huntington, Harvard Professor, "The Clash of Civilizations"

"I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side." US General Curtis LeMay, commander of the 1945 Tokyo fire bombing operation.

"It's not a matter of what is true that counts but a matter of what is perceived to be true." --Henry Kissinger


Thanks ICH Newsletter!

capt said...

Naomi Klein’s New Book a Lightning Rod

Her new book, The Shock Doctrine, details the rise of disaster capitalism with painstaking care, showing how big business often steps in after global misery


The Shock Doctrine, published worldwide today in seven languages, will be an even tougher pill for Klein’s detractors to choke down. In it, Klein assails the legacy of Milton Friedman, the late, Nobel Prize-winning Chicago economist beloved by conservatives for his unequivocal belief in the supremacy of the private sector, even as a means of delivering traditionally public services such as health care, education and drinking water. The book argues that since the public doesn’t necessarily share the Friedmanite faith, corporations seize on the disorientation caused by situations of turmoil and upheaval to inflict their privatizing agendas.

Examples range from the way in which the Friedman doctrine was implemented in Chile after the 1973 coup that brought dictator Augusto Pinochet to power, to the more recent displacement of Sri Lankan fishers who were prevented by resort developers from returning to their villages in the aftermath of the 2003 tsunami.

Klein began connecting the dots in her own mind at the start of the Iraq War in 2003. At the time she and her husband, filmmaker and former TV host Avi Lewis, were living in Argentina, a country then emerging from its own period of economic shock therapy. She was struck by how closely the original reconstruction plans for Iraq conformed to the shock formula.

The 560-page argument, which also deals with the privatization of post-communist economies in Poland, Russia and China, the reliance of the Israeli private sector on security-related entrepreneurship and other subjects, is bolstered by nearly 70 pages of footnotes, citing more than 1,000 sources.

“I expect the release of the book to be a battle. And the endnotes are my body armor,” says Klein, who will further defend her thesis during a public interview Thursday at the UofT’s MacMillan Theater.

“When you are introducing ideas that are new and in some cases quite radical, you need major backup if you want to reach beyond a small section of the population. Hopefully, the people who don’t need as much convincing will bear with me because if the book were more anecdotal and less carefully sourced it would make it that much easier for the people who want to get me.”


capt said...

Is the USA a Giant Enron?

Considering the fraud, mismanagement and lies propping up our entire economy and financial system, I wonder if the U.S.A. is more or less a giant Enron, clinging desperately to a precipice of deception which is rapidly crumbling.

The standard media line is that "we've learned from Enron, Worldcom, et. al." I would submit that is true, but not in the way the mainstream media suggests: the financial Powers That Be learned how to lie and deceive from the masters at Enron.

Bottom line: nothing was as it seemed at Enron. How is our entire financial system any different?

There are three trades which assume what is being presented on the surface is either deceptive or distorted by half-truths: marriage counselors, reporters and intelligence officers ( i.e. spies). Perhaps we should take a professional skeptics' view of the "facts" reported by our financial system's handlers.

How is our financial system based on cooked books, lies and deceptions? Let me count the ways:


*****end of clip*****

The only thing that comes to mind is DUH!

If Enron’s cooked books were kept secret for a few more months Ken Lay would have been our Secretary of Energy. If that happened we could have had Jack Abramoff in charge of WH PR.


David B. Benson said...

Yes, the USA is similar to a giant Enron.


capt said...

New Thread