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The Republicans are morally and intellectually bankrupt.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 1:19 pm    Post subject: The Republicans are morally and intellectually bankrupt. Reply with quote






James Vesely / Times editorial page editor

A man of his times speaks of this time


Do we live in a time of the coarsest public discussion?

"It's hard to make that case," replied Bill Moyers.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2002242745_vesely17.html
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desultude



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Location: Dangling my toes in the Persian Gulf

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 3:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wish I could be there to hear the intelligent, kind, gentle man speak.

He's one of my favorites for his sharp yet mellow incisiveness.
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The Bobster



Joined: 15 Jan 2003

PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

desultude wrote:
Wish I could be there to hear the intelligent, kind, gentle man speak.

He's one of my favorites for his sharp yet mellow incisiveness.

He's the sole reason that gives me hope for Texas ...
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R. S. Refugee



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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Bobster wrote:
desultude wrote:
Wish I could be there to hear the intelligent, kind, gentle man speak.

He's one of my favorites for his sharp yet mellow incisiveness.

He's the sole reason that gives me hope for Texas ...


Jim Hightower lives in Austin.


http://www.jimhightower.com/


Molly Ivins lives in Texas.


http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/national/ivins/

Shame on you, Bob. There are some great progressives who live in Texas. Besides I'm not sure Bill Moyers even lives there anymore. You keep talkin' like that and you won't git no pecan pie. Very Happy Laughing Wink
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The Bobster



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

R. S. Refugee wrote:
The Bobster wrote:
desultude wrote:
Wish I could be there to hear the intelligent, kind, gentle man speak.

He's one of my favorites for his sharp yet mellow incisiveness.

He's the sole reason that gives me hope for Texas ...


Jim Hightower lives in Austin.


http://www.jimhightower.com/


Molly Ivins lives in Texas.


http://www.sacbee.com/content/opinion/national/ivins/

Shame on you, Bob. There are some great progressives who live in Texas. Besides I'm not sure Bill Moyers even lives there anymore. You keep talkin' like that and you won't git no pecan pie. Very Happy Laughing Wink


In fact, all three of these people live in Austin, Bill Moyers included. I rest my case. Austin is not really part of Texas, you see.

Well, geographically it is, but cultutally and intellectually it ain't even a part of the midwest ... just take a drive west from New Orleans to Phoenix like I did once and make a stop for gas and burritos in Austin (gas and burritos, um, not necessarily in that order, sorry,dumb adolescent joke) and you'll see what I mean. Like a different country soon as you enter the city limits ... you get the impression that coffee shops might exist there, and that people sitting in them might say things worth listening to.

Austin City Limits, by the way, is one of the longest-running, and best, venues for excellent music in live performance on the airwaves ...

We liberals actually watch public television. That's one reason we are so smart, you know.

Cool

Smart as I am - I harbored a sad prejudice against people with southern-ish accents for a good many of my formative years, possibly because my (dumber) brothers insisted on watching Hee Haw, even in syndicated reruns, and my folks could not get enough of Beverly Hillbillies - Bill Moyers cured me of this, and I still can't forget the first time I watched him do an interview : "Even though he talks THAT WAY, the stuff he is saying is really very intelligent - how can this be?"

(Despite Bill's fine example, there have been a few times in my life when I sort wished the Civil War had gone the other way. There just seemed to be way too many who hailed from the other side of the Mason-Dixon who make one recall jokes about what happens to bloodlines when cousins marry a little too often ...)

I'm kidding. Texans like to speak of the Lne Star Republic and set themselves apart from the rest of the country - Austin is simply part of America, and that's why you notice a change in the weather when you motor in there.
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canuckistan
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a big long article from this month's Vanity Fair but I think it's important. The whole thing reminds me of Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent.

The Disinformation Society, by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Vanity Fair, May 2005

Many Democratic voters marveled at the election results. George W. Bush, they argued, has transformed a projected $5.6 trillion, 10-year Bill Clinton surplus into a projected $1.4 trillion deficit-a $7 trillion shift in wealth from our national treasury into the pockets of the wealthiest Americans, particularly the president's corporate paymasters. Any discerning observer, they argued, must acknowledge that the White House has repeatedly lied to the American people about critical policy issues--Medicare, education, the environment, the budget implications of its tax breaks, and the war in Iraq--with catastrophic results.

President Bush has opened our national lands and sacred places to the lowest bidder and launched a jihad against the American environment and public health to enrich his corporate sponsors. He has mired us in a costly, humiliating war that has killed more than 1,520 American soldiers and maimed 11,300. He has made America the target of Islamic hatred, caused thousands of new terrorists to be recruited to al-Qaeda, isolated us in the world, and drained our treasury of the funds necessary to rebuild Afghanistan and to finance our own vital homeland-security needs. He has shattered our traditional alliances and failed to protect vulnerable terrorist targets at home--chemical plants, nuclear facilities, air cargo carriers, and ports. He has disgraced our nation and empowered tyrants with the unpunished excesses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. These baffled Democrats were hard pressed to believe that their fellow Americans would give a man like this a second term. (see vote-rigging stories)
To explain the president's victory, political pundits posited a vast "values gap" between red states and blue states. They attributed the president's success in the polls, despite his tragic job failures, to the rise of religious fundamentalism. Heartland Americans, they suggested, are the soldiers in a new American Taliban, willing to vote against their own economic interests to promote "morality" issues that they see as the critical high ground in a life-or-death culture war.

I believe, however, that the Democrats lost the presidency contest not because of a philosophical chasm between red and blue states but due to an information deficit caused by a breakdown in our national media. Traditional broadcast networks have abandoned their former obligation to advance democracy and promote the public interest by informing the public about both sides of issues relevant to those goals. To attract viewers and advertising revenues, they entertain rather then inform. This threat to the flow of information, vital to democracy's survival, has been compounded in recent years by the growing power of right-wing media that twist the news and deliberately deceive the public to advance their radical agenda.
According to an October 2004 survey by the Program On International Policy Attitudes (PIPA), a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes, in Washington D.C., and the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland:

~Seventy-two percent of Bush supporters believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or a major program for developing them), versus 26 percent of Kerry voters. A seven-month search by 1,500 investigators led by David Kay, working for the CIA, found no such weapons.

~Seventy-five percent of Bush supporters believed that Iraq was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda, a view held by 30 percent of Kerry supporters. The 9-11 Commission Report concluded that there was no terrorist alliance between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

~ Eighty-two percent of Bush supporters erroneously believed either that the rest of the world felt better about the U.S. thanks to its invasion of Iraq or that views were evenly divided. Eighty-six percent of Kerry supporters accurately understood that a majority of the world felt worse about our country.

~ Most Bush supporters believed the Iraq war had strong support in the Islamic world. Kerry's supporters accurately estimated the low level of support in Islamic countries. Even Turkey, the most Westernized Islamic country, was 87 percent against the invasion.

~ Most significant, the majority of Bush voters agreed with Kerry supporters that if Iraq did not have WMD and was not providing assistance to al-Qaeda the US should not have gone to war. Furthermore, most Bush supporters, according to PIPA, favored the Kyoto Protocol to fight global warming, the Mine Ban Treaty to ban land mines, and strong labor and environmental standards in trade agreements, and wrongly believed that their candidate favored these things. In other words, the values and principles were the same. Bush voters made their choice on bad information.

It's no mystery where the false beliefs are coming from. Both Bush and Kerry supporters overwhelmingly believe that the Bush administration at the time of the 2004 US election was telling the American people that Iraq had WMD and that Saddam Hussein had strong links to al-Qaeda. The White House's false message was carried by right-wing media in bed with the administration. Prior to election, Fox News reporters, for example, regulalry made unsubstantiated claims about Iraq's WMD. Fox anchor Brit Hume, on his newscast in July 2004, announced that WMD had actually been found. Sean Hannity repeatedly suggested without factual support that the phantom weapons had been moved to Syria and would soon be found. An October 2003 survey by PIPA showed that people who watch Fox News are disproportionately afflicted with the same misinformation evidenced by 2004 PIPA report. The earlier study probed for the source of public misinformation about the Iraq war that might account for the common misperceptions that Saddam Hussein had been involved in the 9/11 attacks, that he supported al-Qaeda, that WMD had been found, and that world opinion favored the US invasion. The study discovered that "the extent of Americans' misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions."

Ultimately for John Kerry, many Americans now do get their information from Fox--according to Nielson Media Research, in February, Fox was cable news leader, with an average of 1.57 million prime-time viewers, nearly 2.5 times CNN's average viewership in the same time slot--and from Fox's similarly biased cable colleagues, CNBC and MSNBC. Millions more tune to the Sinclair Broadcast Group--one of the nation's largest TV franchises. After 9/11, Sinclair forced its stations to broadcast spots pledging support for President Bush, and actively censored unfavorable coverage of the Iraq war--blacking out Ted Koppel's Nightline when it ran the names of the US war dead. It retreated from its pre-election proposal to strong-arm its 62 TV stations into pre-empting their prime-time programming to air an erroneous and blatantly biased documentary about John Kerry's war record only when its stock dropped 17 percent due to Wall Street fears of sponsor boycotts and investor worries that Sinclair was putting its right-wing ideology ahead of shareholder profits.

Americans are also getting huge amounts of misinformation from talk radio, which is thoroughly dominated by the extreme right. A Gallup Poll conducted in December 2002 discovered that 22 percent of Americans receive their daily news from talk radio programs. An estimated 15 million people listen to Rush Limbaugh alone, and on top of the 45 AM radio stations in the country, listeners encounter 310 hours of conservative talk for every 5 hours of liberal talk. According to the nonprofit Democracy Radio Inc., 90 percent of all political talk-radio programming is conservative, while only 10 percent is progressive. All the leading talk-show hosts are right-wing radicals--Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Oliver North, G.Gordon Liddy, Bill O'Reilly, and Michael Reagan--and the same applies to local talk radio.

Alas, while the right-wing media are deliberately misleading the American people, the traditional corporately-owned media, CBS, NBC, ABC, and CNN--are doing little to remedy those wrong impressions. They are, instead, focusing on expanding viewership by hawking irrelevant stories that appeal to our prurient interest in sex and celebrity gossip. None of the three major networks gave gavel-to-gavel coverage of the party conventions or more than an hour in prime-time, opting instead to entertain the public with semi-pornographic reality shows. "We're about to elect a president of the United States at a time when we have young people dying in our name overseas, we just had a report from the 9/11 commission which says we are not safe as a nation, and one of these two groups of people is going to run our country," commented PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, in disgust at the lack of convention coverage. CBS anchor Dan Rather said that "I argued the conventions were part of the dance of democracy. I found myself increasingly like the Mohicans, forced farther and farther back into the wilderness and eventually eliminated."

The broadcast reporters participating in the presidential debates were apparently so uninterested in real issues that they neglected to ask the candidates a single question about the president's environmental record. CBS anchor Bob Shieffer, who M.C'd the final debate, asked no questions about the environment , focusing instead on abortion, gay marriage, and the personal faith of the candidates, an agenda that could have been dictated by Karl Rove. Where is that dreaded but impossible-to-find "liberal bias" that supposedly infects the American press? The erroneous impression that the American media have a liberal bias is itself a mark of triumph of the right-wing propaganda machine.

The Republican Noise Machine: Right-Wing Media and How It Corrupts Democracy, by David Brock--the president and CEO of Media Matters For America, a watchdog group that documents misinformation in the right-wing media--traces the history of the "liberal bias" notion back to the Barry Goldwater presidential campaign, in 1964, in which aggrieved conservatives railed against Waletr Cronkite and the "Eastern Liberal Press" at the Republican National Convention. In response to Spiro Agnew's 1969 attack on the networks as insufficiently supportive of Nixon's policies in Vietnam, conservatives formed an organization called Accuracy in Media, whose purpose was to discredit the media by tagging it as "liberal", and to market that idea with clever catchphrases. Polluter-funded foundations, including the Adolph Coors Foundation and the so-called four sisters--the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M Olin Foundation, Richard Mellon Scaife's Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation--all of which funded the anti-environmental movement, spent hundreds of millions of dollars to perpetuate the big lie of liberal bias, to convince the conservative base that it should not believe the mainstream, to create a market for right-wing media, and to intimidate and discipline the mainstream press into being more accommodating to conservatism.

According to Brock, right-wing groups such as the Heritage Foundation and Scaife's Landmark Legal Foundation helped persuade Ronald Reagan and his Federal Communications Commission, in 1987, to eliminate the Fairness Doctrine--the FCC's 1949 rule which dictated that broadcasters provide equal time to both sides of controversial public questions. It was a "godsend for conservatives," according to religious-right pioneer and Moral Majority co-founder Richard Viguerie, opening up talk radio to one-sided, right-wing broadcasters. (Rush Limbaugh nationally launched his talk show the following year.) Radical ideologues, faced with Niagara-sized flows of money from the Adolph Coors Foundation, the four sisters, and others, set up magazines and newspapers and cultivated a generation of young pundits, writers, and propogandists, giving them lucrative sinecures inside right-wing think tanks, now numbering more than 500, from which they bombarded the media with carefully-honed messages justifying corporate profit taking.

Brock himself was one of the young stars recruited to this movement, working in turn for the Heritage Foundation, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, and Scaife's American Spectator. "If you look at this history," Brock told me recently, "You will find the conservative movement has in many ways purchased the debate. You have conservative media outlets day after day that are intentionally misinforming the public." Brock, who admits to participating in the deliberate deception while he was a so-called journalist on the right-wing payroll, worries that the right-wing media are systematically feeding the public "false and wrong information". "It's a really significant problem for democracy. We're in a situation," continues Brock, "where you have 'red facts' and 'blue facts'. And I think the conservatives intentionally have done that to try to confuse and neutralize accurate information that may not serve the conservative agenda."

The consolidation of media ownership and its conservative drift are growing ever more severe. Following the election, Clear Channel, the biggest owner of radio stations in the country, announced that Fox News will now supply its news feed to many of the company's 1,240 stations, further amplifying the distorted drumbeat of right-wing propoganda that most Americans now take for news.

Sadly enough, right wing radio and cable are increasingly driving the the discussion in mainstream broadcasting as well. At a Harvard University symposium the day before the Democratic convention, three network anchors and a CNN anchor straightforwardly discussed the effects that right-wing broadcasters, conservative money, and organized pressure have on the networks. And in February 2005, Pat Mitchell announced her resignation as president of PBS, hounded from office by right-wing critics who felt conciliatory efforts to conservatize the network--canceling a cartoon episode with a lesbian couple and adding talk shows by such right-wingers as Tucker Carlson and Paul Gigot--did not go far enough fast enough.

Furthermore, Fox's rating success has exerted irresistable gravities that have pulled its competitors' programming to starboard. In the days leading up to the Iraq war, MSNBC fired one of television's last liberal voices, Phil Donahue, who hosted its highest-rated show; an internal memo revealed that Donahue presented "a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war." CBS's post-election decision to retire Dan Rather, a lightning rod for right-wing wrath, coincided with Tom Brokaw's retirement from NBC. He was replaced by Brian Williams, who has said, "I think Rush (Limbaugh) has actually yet to get the credit he is due." According to NBC president Jeff Zucker, "No one understands this NASCAR nation more than Brian."

Conservative noise on cable and talk radio also has an echo effect on the rest of the media. One of the conservative talking points in the last election was that terrorists supported the candidacy of John Kerry. According to Media Matters, this pearl originated on Limbaugh's radio show in March 2004 and repeatedly surfaced in mainstream news. In May, CNN's Kelli Arena reported "speculation that al-Qaeda believes it has a better chance of winning in Iraq if John Kerry is in the White House"; in June it migrated to Dick Morris's New York Post column. Chris Matthews mentioned it in a July edition of Hardball. In September, Bill Schneider, CNN's senior political analyst, declared that al-Qaeda "would very much like to defeat President Bush," signaling that Limbaugh's contrivance was now embedded firmly in the national consciousness.

That "echo effect" is not random. Brock shows in his book how the cues by which mainstream news directors decide what is important to cover are no longer being suggested by The New York Times and other repsonsible media outlets, but rather by the "shadowy" participants of a Washington DC meeting convened by Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, an anti-government organization that seeks to prevent federal regulation of business. Every Wednesday morning the leaders of 80 conservative organizations meet in Washington in Norquist's boardroom. This radical cabal formulates policy with the Republican National Committee and the White House, developing talking points that go out to the conservative media via a sophisticated fax tree. Soon, millions of Americans are hearing the same message from cable news commentators and thousands of talk jocks across America. Their precisely crafted message and language then percolate through the mainstream media to form the underlying assumptions of our national debate.

This meeting has grown to include more than 120 participants, including industry lobbyists and representatives of conservative media outlets such as The Washington Times and the National Review. According to Brock, columnist Bob Novak sends a researcher. The Wall Street Journal's Peggy Noonan may attend in person. The lockstep coordination among right-wing political operatives and the press is new in American politics.

A typical meeting might focus on a new tax proposal released by President Bush. Following conference calls throughout the week, the decision will be made to call the plan "bold." Over the next 10 days, radio and cable will reiterate that it's "bold, bold, bold." The result, according to Brock, is that "people come to think that there must be something 'bold' about this plan."

This highly integrated network has given the right frightening power to disseminate its propaganda and has dramatically changed the way Americans get their information and formulate policy. In The Republican Noise Machine, Brock alleges routine fraud and systematically dishonest practices by his former employer the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Washington Times, which is the primary propaganda organ for Moon's agenda to establish America as a Facist theocracy. The paper doesn't reach more than a hundred thousand subscribers, but its articles are read on air by Rush Limbaugh, reaching 15 million people, and are posted on Matt Drudge's Web site, to reach another 7 million people, and its writers regularly appear on The O'Reilly Factor, before another 2 million. Network TV talk-shows producers and bookers use those appearances as a tip sheet for picking the subject matter and guests for their own shows. And so the capacity of the conservative movement to disseminate propaganda has increased exponentially.

This right-wing propaganda machine can quickly and indelibly brand Democartic candidates unfavorably--John Kerry as a flip-flopper, Al Gore as a liar. The machine is so powerful that it was able to to orchestrate Clinton's impeachment despite the private and trivial nature of his "crime"--a lie about an extramarital tryst--when compared with President bush's calamitous lies about Iraq, the budget, Medicare, education, and the environment. During the 200 campaign, Al Gore was smeared as a liar--a charge that was completely false--by right-wing pundits such as gambling addict Bill Bennet amd prescription-painkiller abuser Rush Limbaugh, both of whom the right sold as moral paradigms. Meanwhile, George Bush's chronic problems with the truth during three presidential debates that year were barely mentioned in the media, as Brock has noted. Americans accepted this negative characterizatiuon of Gore, and when they emerged from the voting booths in 2000, they told pollsters that Bush won their vote on "trust."

In the 2004 campaign, the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth launched dishonest attacks which, amplified and repeated by the right-wing media, helped torpedo John Kerry's presidential ambitions. No matter who the Democratic nominee was, this machinery had the capacity to discredit and destroy him.

Meanwhile, there is a palpable absence of of strong progressive voices on TV, unless one counts HBO's Bill Maher and Comedy Central's Jon Stewart--both comedians--or Fox's meek foil, Alan Colmes, who plays the ever losing Washington Generals to Sean Hannity's Harlem Globetrotters.
There are no liberal equivalents to counterbalance Joe Scarborough, John Stossel, Bill O'Reilly, and Lawrence Kudlow. Brock points out to the systematic structural imbalance in the panels that are featured across all of cable and on the networks' Sunday shows. Programs like Meet The Press and Chris Mathhews's Hardball invariably pit conservative ideologues such as William Safire, Robert Novak, and Pat Buchanan against neutral, nonaligned reporters such as Andrea Mitchell, the diplomatic correspondent for NBC News, or Los Angeles Times reporter Ronald Brownstein in a rigged fight that leaves an empty chair for a strong progressive point of view.

There is still relevant information in the print media. But even that has been shamelessly twisted by the pressures of the right. Both The New York Times and The Washington Post, which jumped on Scaife's bandwagon to lead the mainstream press in the Clinton-impeachment frenzy, have been forced to issue mea culpas for failing to ask the tough questions during the run-up to Bush's Iraq war.

Furthermore, America's newspapers like most other media outlets, are owned predominantly by Republican conservatives. Newspapers endorsed Bush two to one in the 2000 election. According to a recent survey, the op-ed columnists who appear in the most newspapers are conservatives Cal Thomas and George Will. Republican-owned newspapers often reprint misinformation from the right. And red-state journalists, whatever their personal political sympathies, are unlikely to offend their editors by spending inordinate energy exposing right-wing lies.

Print journalism is a victim of the same consolidation by a few large, profit-driven corporations that has affected the broadcasters. Today, a shrinking pool of owners--guided by big business rather than journalistic values--forces news executives to cut costs and seek the largest audience. The consolidation has led to demands on news organizations to return profits at rates never before expected of them. Last summer, just a few months after winning five Pulitzer Prizes, the Los Angleles Times was asked by its parent company to drop 60 newsroom positions.

The pressure for bottom-line news leaves little incentive for investment in investigative reporting. Cost-cutting has liquidated news staffs, leaving reporters little time to research stories. According to an Ohio University study, the number of investigative reporters was cut almost in half between 1980 and 1995.

During the debate over the Radio Act of 1927, an early forerunner of the Fairness Doctrine, Texas congressman Luther Johnson warned Americans against the corporate and ideological consolidation of the national press that has now come to pass. "American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations," he said. "For publicity is the most powerful weapon that can be wielded in a republic....and when a single selfish group is permitted to either tacitly or otherwise acquire ownership and dominate these broadcasting stations throughout the country, then woe be to those who dare to differ with them. It will impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people."

The news isn't entirely bleak. Progressive voices are prevalent on the Internet, which is disproportionately utilized by the younger age groups that will exercise increasing influence in public affairs each year. The success of Air America Radio, the progressive network whose best-known host is Al Franken, offers great cause for optimism. Despite a shoestring budget and financial chaos at its inception, Air America has grown in one year to include 50 stations, from which it is accessible to half the American people. Most encouraging, a recent study shows that Air America personalities as a group rank second in popularity to Rush Limbaugh. Last fall in San Diego, a traditional Republican bastion, Air America was reported to be the No. 1 radio station among listeners 18 to 49 years old. But progressive activists need also to find a voice on televison, and there the outlook is dark.

If there is a market for progressive voices, as the Air America experience suggests, why don't the big corporate owners leap in? A top industry executive recently told me that he was dead certain that there would be a large audience for a progressive TV news network to counterbalance the right-wing cable shows. "But," he said, "The corporate owners will never touch it. Multi-nationals, like Viacom, Disney, and General Electric, that rely on government business, contracts, and goodwill are not going to risk offending the Republicans who now control every branch of government."

This executive had recently spoken to Vicom chairman Sumner Redstone (a lifelong Democrat) about the corporation's open support of the Bush administration. "I said, "Sumner, what about our children and what about our country?' He replied, "Viacom is my life. I've got to do what's best for the company. I need to buy more stations, and the Republicans are going to let me do it. It's in the company's interest to support the Republicans.'"

When veteran television journalist and former CBS news analyst Bill Moyers resigned as host of PBS's Now in December, he observed, "I think my peers in commercial television are talented and devoted journalists, but they've chosen to work in a corporate mainstream that trims their talent to fit the corporate nature of American life. And you do not get rewarded for telling the hard truths about America in a profit-seeking environment." Moyers called the decline in American journalism "The biggest story of our time." He added, "We have an ideological press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

Moyers has elsewhere commented that "the quality of journalism and the quality of of democracy are inextricably joined." By diminishing the capacity for voters to make rational choices, the breakdown of the American press is threatening not just our environment but our democracy.


Last edited by canuckistan on Tue Apr 19, 2005 6:01 am; edited 2 times in total
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R. S. Refugee



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PostPosted: Mon Apr 18, 2005 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you, Canuckistan.
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canuckistan
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 12:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This thread title is simply too hard to ignore Cool I have 2 other articles to post, the following one by Christopher Hitchens (no liberal himself), and coming soon, another about everyone's favorite company, Haliburton and their business involvement in Iraq--that one will make your toes curl.
................................................

No conspiracy theorist, and no fan of John Kerry's, the author nevertheless found the Ohio polling results impossible to swallow: Given what happened in that key state on Election Day 2004, both democracy and common sense cry out for a court-ordered inspection of its new voting machines.

Ohio's Odd Numbers by Christopher Hitchens, Vanity Fair, March 2005

If it were not for Kenyon College, I might have missed, or skipped, the whole controversy. The place is a visiting lecturer's dream, or the ideal of a campus-movie director in search of a setting. It is situated in wooded Ohio hills, in the small town of Gambier, about an hour's drive from Columbus. Its literary magazine, The Kenyan Review, was founded by John Crowe Ransom in 1939. It's alumni include Paul Newman, E.L. Doctorow, Jonathan Winters, Robert Lowell, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and President Rutherford B. Hayes. The college's origins are Episcopalian, its students well-mannered and well off and predominantly white, but it is by no means Bush-Cheney territory. Arriving to speak there a few days after the presidential election, I found the place was still buzzing. Here's what happened in Gambier, Ohio, on decision day 2004.

The polls opened at 6:30 A.M. There were only two voting machines (push-button direct-recording electronic systems) for the entire town of 2,200 (with students). The mayor, Kirk Emmert, had called the Board of Elections 10 days earlier, saying that the number of registered voters would require more than that. (He knew, as did many others, that hundreds of students had asked to register in Ohio because it was a critical "swing" state.) The mayor's request was denied. Indeed, instead of there being extra capacity on Election Day, one of only two machines chose to break down before lunchtime.

By the time the polls officially closed, at 7:30 that evening, the line of those waiting to vote was still way outside the Community Center and well into the parking lot. A federal judge thereupon ordered Knox County, in which Gambier is located, to comply with Ohio law, which grants the right to vote to those who have shown up in time. "Authority to Vote" cards were kindly distributed to those on line (voting is a right, not a privilege), but those on line needed more than that. By the time the 1,175 voters in the precinct had all cast their ballots, it was almost four in the morning, and many had had to wait for up to 11 hours. In the spirit of democratic carnival, pizzas and canned drinks and guitarists were on hand to improve the shining moment. TV crews showed up, and the young Americans all acted as if they had been cast by Frank Capra: cheerful and good-humored, letting older voters get to the front, catching up on laptop essays, many voting for the first time and all convinced that a long and cold wait was a small price to pay. Typical was Pippa White, who said that "even after eight hours and 15 minutes I still had energy. It lets you know how worth it this is." Heartwarming, until you think about it.

The students had one advantage, and they made one mistake. Their advantage was that their president, S. Georgia Nugent, told them that they could be excused from class for voting. Their mistake was to reject the paper ballots that were offered to them late in the evening, after attorneys from the Ohio Democratic Party had filed suit to speed up the voting process in this way. The ballots were being handed out (later to be counted by machine under the supervision of Knox County's Democratic and Republican chairs) when someone yelled through the window of the Community Center, "Don't use the paper ballots! The Republicans are going to appeal it and it won't count!" After that, the majority chose to stick with the machines.

Across the rest of Ohio, the Capra theme was not so noticeable. Reporters and eyewitnesses told of voters who had given up after humiliating or frustrating waits, and who often cited the unwillingness of their employers to accept voting as an excuse for lateness or absence. In some way or another, these bottlenecks had a tendency to occur in working-class and, shall we say, nonwhite precincts. So did many disputes about "provisional" ballots, the sort that are handed out when a voter can prove his or her identity but not his or her registration at that polling place.
These glitches might all be attributable to inefficiency or incompetence (though Gambier had higher turnouts and much shorter lines in 1992 and 1996). Inefficiency and incompetence could also explain the other oddities of the Ohio process--from machines and redirected votes from one column to the other to machines that recorded amazing tallies for unknown fringe candidates, to machines that apparently showed that voters who waited for a long time still somehow failed to register a vote at the top of the ticket for any candidate for the presidency of the United States.

However, for any of that last category of anomaly to be explained, one would need either a voter-verified paper trail of ballots that could be tested against the performance of the machines or a court order that would allow inspection of the machines themselves. The first of these does not exist, and the second has not yet been granted.

I don't know who it was who shouted idiotically to voters not to trust the paper ballots in Gambier, but I do know a lot of people who are convinced that there was dirty work at the crossroads in the Ohio vote. Some of these people are known to me as nutbags and paranoids of the first water, people whose grassy-knoll minds can simply cancel or deny any objective reasons for a high Republican turnout. (Here's how I know some of these people: In November 1999, I wrote a column calling for international observers to monitor the then upcoming presidential election. I was concerned about restrictive ballot-access laws, illegal slush funds, denial of access to media for independents, and abuse of the state laws that banned "felons" from voting. At the end, I managed to mention the official disenfranchisement of voters in my hometown of Washington D.C, and the questionable "reliability or integrity" of the new voting- machine technology. I've had all these wacko friends ever since.) But here are some of the non-whacko reasons to revisit the Ohio election.

First, the county-by-county and precinct-by-precinct discrepancies. In Butler County, for example, a Democrat running for the State Supreme Court chief justice received 61,559 votes. The Kerry-Edwards ticket drew about 5000 fewer votes, at 54,243. This contrasts rather markedly with the behaviour of the Republican electorate in that county, who cast about 40,000 fewer votes for their judicial nominee than they did for Bush and Cheney. (The latter pattern, with vote totals tapering down from the top of the ticket, is by far the more general--and probable--one nationwide and statewide.)

In 11 other counties, the same Democratic judicial nominee, C. Ellen Conally, managed to outpoll the Democratic presidential and vice-presidential nominees by hundreds and sometimes thousands of votes. So maybe we have a barn-burning, charismatic future candidate on our hands, and Ms Connally is a force to be reckoned with on a national scale.
Or is it perhaps a trick of Ohio atmosphere? There do seem to be a lot of eccentrics in the state. In Cuyahoga County, which includes the city of Cleveland, two largely black precincts on the East Side voted like this. In Precinct 4F: Kerry, 290; Bush, 21; Peroutka, 215. In precinct 4N: Kerry, 318; Bush, 11; Badnarik, 163. Mr Peroutka and Mr Badnarik are, respectively, the presidential candidates of the Constitution and Libertarian Parties. In addition to this eminence, they also possess distinctive (but not particularly African-American-sounding) names.
In 2000, Ralph Nader's best year, the total vote received in Precinct 4F by all third-party candidates combined was eight.

In Montgomery County, two precincts recorded a combined undervote of almost 6,000. This is to say that that many people waited to vote but, when their turn came, had no opinion on who should be the president, voting only for lesser offices. In these two precincts alone, that number represents an undervote of 25 percent, in a county where undervoting averages out at just 2 percent. Democratic precincts had 75 percent more undervotes than Republican ones.

In Precinct 1B of Gahanna, in Franklin County, a computerized voting machine recorded a total of 4,258 votes for Bush and 260 votes for Kerry. In that precinct, however, there are only 800 registered voters, of whom 638 showed up. Once the "glitch" had been identified, the president had to be content with 3,893 fewer votes than the computer had awarded him.

In Miami County, a Saddam-Hussein-type turnout was recorded in the Concord Southwest and Concord South precincts, which boasted 98.5 percent and 94.27 percent turnouts, respectively, both of them registering overwhelming majorities for Bush. Miami County also managed to report 19,000 additional votes for Bush after 100 percent of the precincts had reported on Election Day.

In Mahoning County, Washington Post reporters found that many people had been victims of "vote hopping," which is to say that voting machines highlighted a choice of one candidate after the voter had recorded a preference for another. Some specialists in election software diagnose this as a "calibration issue."

Machines are fallible and so are humans, and shyte happens, to be sure, and no doubt many Ohio voters were able to record their choices promptly and without grotesque anomalies. But what strikes my eye is this: in practically every case where lines were too long or machines too few the foul-up was in a Democratice county or precinct, and in practically every case where machines produced impossible or improbable outcomes it was the challenger who suffered and the actual or potential Democratic voters who were shortchanged, discouraged, or held up to ridicule as chronic undervoters or as sudden converts to fringe-party losers.

This might argue in itself against any conspiracy or organized rigging, since surely anyone clever enough to pre-fix a vote would make sure, just for the look of the thing, that the discrepancies and obstructions were more evenly distributed. I called all my smartest conservative friends to ask them about this. Back came their answer: Look at what happened in Warren County.

On Election Night, citing unspecified concerns about terrorism and homeland security, officials "locked down" the Warren County administration building and prevented any reporters from monitoring the vote count. It was announced, using who knows what "scale," that on a scale of 1 to 10 the terrorist threat was a 10. It was also claimed that the information came from an FBI agent, even though the FBI denies that.

Warren County is certainly part of Republican territory in Ohio: it went only 28 percent for Gore last time and 28 percent for Kerry this time. On the face of it, therefore, not a county where the G.O.P. would have felt the need to engage in any voter "supression." A point for the anti-conspiracy side, then. Yet even those exact same voting totals have their odd aspect. In 2000, Gore stopped running television commercials in Ohio some weeks before the election. He also faced a Nader challenge. Kerry put huge resources into Ohio, did not face any Nader competition, and yet got exactly the proportion of the Warren County votes.

Whichever way you shake it, or hold it to the light, there is something about the Ohio election that refuses to add up. The sheer number of irregularities compelled a formal recount, which was completed in late December and which came out much the same as the original one, with 176 fewer votes for George Bush. But this was a meaningless exercise in reassurance, since there is simply no means of checking, for example, how many "vote hops" the computerized machines might have performed unnoticed.

There are some other, more random factors to be noted. The Ohio Secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, was a state co-chair of the Bush-Cheney campaign at the same time as he was discharging his responsibilities for an aboveboard election in his home state. Diebold, which manufactures paper-free, touch-screen voting machines, likewise has its corporate headquarters in Ohio. Its chairman, president, and CEO Walden O'Dell, is a prominent Bush supporter and fund-raiser who proclaimed in 2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the president next year." (See "Hack the Vote," by Michael Shnayerson, Vanity Fair, April 2004.) Diebold, together with its competitor, E.S.& S., counts more than half the votes cast in the United States. This not very acute competition is perhaps made still less acute by the fact that a vice president of E.S. & S. and a Diebold director of strategic services are brothers.

I would myself tend to discount most of the above, since an oligarchy bent on stealing an election would probably not announce itself so brashly as to fit into a Michael Moore script. Then, all state secretaries of state are partisan, after all, while in Ohio each of the 88 county election boards contains two Demcrats and two Republicans. The chairman of Diebold is entitled to his political opinion just as much as any other citizen.

However, there is one soothing explanation that I don't trust anymore. It was often said, in reply to charges of vote tampering, that it would had to have be "a conspiracy so immense" as to involve a dangerously large number of people. Indeed, some Ohio Democrats themselves laughed off some of the charges, saying that they too would have had to have been part of the plan. The stakes here are very high: one defector or turncoat with hard evidence could send the principals to jail forever and permanently discredit the party that had engaged in fraud.

I had the chance to spend quality time with someone who came to me well recommended, who did not believe that fraud had actually been demonstrated, whose background was in the manufacture of the machines, and who wanted to be anonymous. It certainly could be done, she said, and only very, very, few people would have to be "in on it." This is because of the small number of firms engaged in the manufacturing and the even smaller number of people, subject as they are to the hiring practices of these firms, who understand the technology. "Machines were put in place with no sampling to make sure they were 'in control' and no comparison studies," she explained. "The code of the machines is not public knowledge, and none of these machines has since been impounded." In these circumstances, she continued, it's possible to manipulate both the count and the proportionss of votes.

In the bad old days of Tammany Hall, she pointed out, you had to break the counter pins on the lever machines, and if there was any vigilance in an investigation, the broken pins would automatically incriminate the machine. With touch-screen technology, the crudeness and predictability of the old ward-heeler racketeers isn't the question anymore. But had there been biased "setting" on the new machines it could be uncovered--if a few of them could be impounded. The Ohio courts are currently refusing all motions to put the state's voting machines, punch-card or touch-screen, in the public domain. It's not clear to me, or to anyone else, who is tending the machines in the meanwhile...

I asked her, finally, what would be the logical grounds for deducing that any tampering had in fact occurred. "Well, I understand from what I have read," she said, "that early exit polls on the day were believed by both parties." That, I was able to tell her from direct experience, was indeed true. But it wasn't quite enough, either. So I asked, "What if all the anomalies and malfunctions, to give them a neutral name, were distributed along one axis of consistency: in other words, that they kept on disadvantaging only one candidate?" My question was hypothetical as she made no particular study of Ohio, but she replied at once: "Then that would be quite serious."

I am not any sort of statistician or technologist, and (like many Democrats in private) I did not think that John Kerry should have been president of any country at any time. But I have been reviewing books on history and politics all my life, making notes in the margin when I come across a wrong date, or any other factual blunder, or a missing point in the evidence. No book is ever free from this. But if all the mistakes and omissions occur in such a way as to be consistent, to support or attack only one position, then you give the author a lousy review. The Federal Election Commission, which has been a risible body for far too long, ought to make Ohio its business. The Diebold company, which also manufactures ATM's should not receive another dime until it can produce a voting system that is similarly reliable. And Americans should cease to be treated like serfs or extras when they present themselves to exercise their franchise.


Last edited by canuckistan on Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's good to see you contributing to this forum, Canukistan.

One request. Just as a matter of form, it would be most appreciated if you would include a link to the article you're presenting even if you're posting the entire article.

Cheers.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 5:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

R. S. Refugee wrote:
It's good to see you contributing to this forum, Canukistan.

One request. Just as a matter of form, it would be most appreciated if you would include a link to the article you're presenting even if you're posting the entire article.

Cheers.


I wish I could tell you these articles are available on-line. They're not. I take the time to transcribe them from Vanity Fair magazine because A) they're important in showing what's going on with this administration and Lord knows (pun intended) the right-wing media aren't going to tell you. B) the articles should be read by other westerners abroad who don't have the time to hunt down the mag, or pay the $12 to buy it. Their investigative pieces are well-written and well-researched. Those alone are worth the $12 IMHO.
I will include more details as to which month(s) the article(s) appeared.

By the weekend, I look forward to laying the Haliburton article on you folks. It's written from interviews with whistle-blowers inside the government who award/approve contracts and which shows the breadth and scope of the blatant organized fraud to taxpayers that involves the Republicans and all their friends at Haliburton enriching themselves in every conceivable manner in Iraq. Not millions, but billions.
Stay tuned.
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 19, 2005 6:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

canuckistan wrote:
R. S. Refugee wrote:
It's good to see you contributing to this forum, Canukistan.

One request. Just as a matter of form, it would be most appreciated if you would include a link to the article you're presenting even if you're posting the entire article.

Cheers.


I wish I could tell you these articles are available on-line. They're not. I take the time to transcribe them from Vanity Fair magazine because A) they're important in showing what's going on with this administration and Lord knows (pun intended) the right-wing media aren't going to tell you. B) the articles should be read by other westerners abroad who don't have the time to hunt down the mag, or pay the $12 to buy it.
I will include more details as to which month(s) the article(s) appeared....


Well, I guess I should change my original comment, "Thank you, Canuckistan" to
"We who care about the truth can't thank you
enough for your dedicated efforts on our behalf, Canuckistan. "


Of course, there will be many subjects of an imperial power on this board who won't appreciate your efforts. They are folks who have generally been force-feed this putrid propaganda c-ocktail since they were in diapers by the highly successful rightwing propaganda machine described in the article you posted -- Limbaugh diaper babies, I've heard them called. They label any human rights abuses their govenment perpetrates as noble, or at least, completely justifiable and necessary, while they rail against the hypocracy and abuses of anyone they hate (which is most anyone or any country that doesn't stand at attention and click its heels when the Bush-monster cackles some orders to them). They cheer for guns, violence, executions, and death while proclaiming their love of a "culture of life." They applaud the mass murder of others as a noble thing that serves the greater good. They are the diseased fruit that is produced in that orchard of evil, and if they were ever able to see clearly, they would probably be overcome with self-loathing for having participated in, excused, justified, and supported a hate-filled anti-life philosophy.

So, it is somewhat understandable for them to project that vileness onto those who would have them see the truth and change their destructive ways.

Of course, I might be exagerating a little. Very Happy Laughing Wink You decide.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 25, 2005 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Know where your tax dollars are going:

Oh! What A Lucrative War By Michael Shnayerson, Vanity Fair, April 2005

Unexpectedly demoted from her job as the highest-ranking civilian at the US Army Coprs of Engineers, Bunnatine Greenhouse is blowing the whistle on how Halliburton subsidiary KBR got $12 billion worth of exclusive contracts for work in Iraq. How KBR spent some of the money is even more shocking.
--------------
This time, she was sure, they were going to get her.

Bunnatine Greenhouse had been a huge nuisance since the buildup to the war in Iraq--questioning contracts, writing caveats on them in her spidery script, wanting to know why Halliburton and its subsidiary KBR (formerly known as Kellog, Brown and Root) should be thrown billions of dollars in government business while other companies, big and small, were shut out.

And Bunny Greenhouse wasn't that easy to ignore: she was the highest-ranking civilian at the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Specifically, she was the officer in charge of ensuring that any work contracted out by the Army Corps to private industry--from help in building bridges and dams to support for wartime troops--was granted in a fair and above-board way. For two years, Greenhouse had asked hard questions about why the head of the Corps, to whom she reported directly, kept giving exclusive, non-compete contracts to KBR that now amounted to roughly $10.8 billion. Greenhouse was fearless, and she was blunt. In the Corps male hierarchy, it probably didn't help that she was a woman--or that she was black.

On October 6, 2004, Greenhouse was summoned by the Corp's deputy commander, Major General Robert Griffin. She knew that the top brass was eager to finalize the Corp's latest contract for KBR, a $75 million extension for troop support in the Balkans. Already it had gone through several drafts, mostly because Greenhouse kept questioning the rationale for giving it to KBR without competitive bidding. What she didn't know was that her superiors had closed ranks against her.

When Greenhouse entered the general's office, he handed her a letter that explained she was being demoted for poor performance--a curious indictment, given that she'd received high performance ratings before the war. The demotion would knock her down to the government rank of GS-15. That was like going from senior vice president in a Fortune 500 company to middle management. She could retire instead with full benefits if she liked, the letter went on to say. She was, after all, 60.

Greenhouse chose a third alternative: she hired a lawyer and began to fight.

All through last year's searing presidential campaign, the mere mention of Halliburton stirred fury and bitterness in the blue states. How, Democrats asked, had the Houston-based oil-and-gas conglomerate won all those deals to provide services to troops in Iraq? What role had D*ick Cheney played behind the scenes, given that the vice president had been Halliburton's CEO from 1995 to 2000, walked away from the job with an estimated $35 million, and continues to get six-figure deferred-salary compensation from the company, despite his denials that he does? True, Halliburton's $12.5 billion division KBR had expanded over the years from oil and gas to do lots of government work: about half of its 60,000 employees in 43 countries handle military needs, from building bases to serving food. But other companies--Fluor for one, Parsons for another--service the military, too. Why hadn't they been considered?

Worse, KBR appeared to have mismanaged the work it got. At various hearings of the House Committee on Government Reform last year, ranking minority member Henry Waxman (a Democrat from California) turned livid as he detailed charges of reckless spending, chaos in the distribution of supplies, and profiteering by KBR executives--charges less often refuted than shrugged off.

Waxman had gotten many of his talking points from a plucky group of whistle-blowers: contract staffers and truckdrivers who'd worked for KBR in Iraq. Their view was from the ground, with startling allegations of how KBR operated--and operates still--on a day-to-day basis in the war zone.

Greenhouse, though, is the first to offer that view from a top-down perspective. The picture that emerges when her account is added to the others is of a company much like the law practice in John Grisham's novel The Firm: a rogue operation, with corrupt management, cynically conning federal government as it rakes in billions of ill-earned taxpayer dollars.

Greenhouse knows how KBR got those contracts in the first place. She also thinks she knows why.

Not surprisingly, Greenhouse is a bit late one evening in Washington when she bustles into the offices of her lawyer, Michael Kohn, with an armload of documents. She's still at her job, having invoked protection under the whistle-blower law of 1989, which keeps federal employees from being fired or demoted until an investigation is concluded. Between doing her job and preparing her case, she's got a lot to juggle.

Broad-shouldered and ebullient, Greenhouse radiates the conviction of her faith as a charismatic Catholic. She's sung in a Sunday church choir her whole adult life, and it's easy to imagine her there: she's the one in the back row with the booming voice. "Back in 1970, God impressed upon me that I was to be a fisher of men," she declares. "I didn't know what that meant. But now it's all falling together. Something good is going to come out of this. And more people who are lost right now are going to come into His fold."

Greenhouse has an up-by-the-bootstraps, all-American story. She was raised in the segregated cotton town of Rayville, Louisiana. Her father never made it to third grade. But he operated the steam compress in the middle of town that turned picked cotton bolls into bales, so he was, as his daughter recalls, an important figure in the community. He and his wife, a fervent Bible reader, urged their six children to strive for excellence, and that they did. Most earned advanced degrees. Bunny was valedictorian at Baton Rouge's Southern University and went on to acquire three master's degrees, all related to her work at the Corps. One of her brothers chose to excel in basketball. No one who follows the game has forgotten the Washignton Bullets' and Housten Rockets' Hall of Famer, Elvin Hayes.

In 1965, Bunny married her college sweetheart, and when Aloysius Greenhouse became an Army procurement officer--overseeing the purchase of supplies and services--she followed him on postings around the country and in Europe, teaching high-school and college math as she went. The only time they were apart was when her husband went to Vietnam, serving in the infantry--two tours, Silver Star. Eventually Bunny went into procurement herself, for both government and industry. In 1997, General Joe Ballard, the Army Corp's first black chief engineer, brought Greenhouse in as the Corps's top procurement officer. He wanted her to shatter the cronyism that had led to bad contracts, and so she did.

At the Corps, as at the other government agencies, senior officers often leave for cushy jobs with the very companies they negotiated with on the government's behalf. Especially the big ones, such as Halliburton and Parsons. Greenhouse's mission was to to be sure some of the pie was saved for small and minority-owned businesses. That wasn't just policy--it was the law. Greenhouse had to sign off on every contract valued at more than $10 million. On no less than 50 of the documents she signed, she added clauses and conditions to make sure the law was upheld. There was grumbling from the start, and after Ballard, her mentor, left in 2000, she says, underlings started chopping big contracts into parts worth less than $10 million to try to evade scrutiny. She could deal with that. But then came the war in Iraq, with its promise of glittering profits. And suddenly everything changed.

"The meeting was in the Pentagon--one of thgose really secure rooms," Greenhouse recalls. The date was February 26, 2003, three weeks before the Iraq invasion. The Army Corp's Lieutenant General Carl A. Strock was there; Greenhouse says he was the one who would lead the campaign to ax her 20 months later. There, too, were representatives from Defense, State, USAID, and others, several dozen in all. A major item on the agenda was deciding which outside contractor would get the multi-billion-dollar job of putting out the oil-well fires that Saddam Hussein's troops would presumably set once the invasion began, and then getting the wells operating again. The project was to be known as RIO, for Restore Iraqi Oil.

Several US companies had the know-how. Texas-based GSM Consulting, for one, had done such work in the wake of the Gulf War. Yet the assumption in the room was that KBR had the job--an assumption underscored by the extraordinary presence of KBR representatives at the high-level government meeting. "They came in late--it was a snow day," Greenhouse recalls. "I was just flabbergasted."

Greenhouse knew that the previous fall KBR had been paid $1.9 million to draft a contingency plan for how RIO should unfold. But that was reason enough not to let KBR do RIO. It was strict protocol in the procurement business that the contractor who drew up the contingency plan for a job should not be allowed to bid on the job itself: he'd know the exact budget and other details that would give him an unfair advantage. Yet here was KBR sliding into the job without an eyebrow raised--precisely because, as the participants at the meeting agreed, it was the only company that met the criteria outlined in its own contingency plan! To Greenhouse's greater shock, the senior officers and KBR representatives around the table spoke of a sole-source, non-compete contract that could last five years. In the first of many detailed responses to Vanity Fair, KBR notes that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded that the RIO contract was "properly awarded." But the GAO also concluded that the $1.9 contingency plan on which RIO was based was improperly awarded.

Worst of all, the contract would be "cost-plus": KBR would just submit bills for whatever it spent, and the government would reimburse it, adding fees of between 2 and 7 percent as KBR's profit. It didn't take a genius to see that the more money KBR spent, the more profit it would make. KBR says that its award fee of up to 5 percent on RIO is based in large part on its ability to control costs. But the GAO has concluded that KBR let costs spiral out of control.

Incensed, Greenhouse went over to whisper in Lieutenant General Strock's ear that the KBR people had to leave the room. The general complied with her request, but seemed adamant that KBR get the job on the grounds of "compelling emergency." All Greenhouse could do was insist that the contract be limited to a year.

The next day, the final contract was submitted to Greenhouse for her approval. The basic terms--five years, non-compete, cost-plus--remained. Greenhouse signed--the country was, after all, on the eve of war--but only after writing, "I caution that extending this sole source effort beyond a one year period could convey an invalid perception that there is not strong intent for a limited competition." (In light of the pending investigation into Greenhouse's charges, the Army Corps declined to comment on any details of her case.)

To KBR, the contract was potentially worth $7 billion--just the start of its business from the war in Iraq.

There were signs, though no proof, that Vice President Cheney, or someone in his office, had played a part in tipping RIO to KBR. Certainly, his office had been informed of the decision to award the RIO contingency plan to KBR. Michael Mobbs, a political appointee who reported to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith, acknowledged to Congressman Waxman's staff that he had relayed the news that KBR would prepare the RIO plan to various White House officials in an October 2002 meeting. One of those officials was I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's chief of staff. (A Cheney spokesman, Kevin Kellems, subsequently told The Washington Post that Libby had kept Cheney out of the loop about the decision to use KBR for the plan.) And Time would unearth an Army Corps email stating that the contingency plan had been "coordinated" with the vice president's office. As The Wall Street Journal reported, Halliburton executives then met directly with Cheney's staff. KBR, for its part, says the vice president had nothing to do with any of its Iraq contracts.

Greenhouse herself saw another dynamic was at work. "I think what this was all about was that Rumsfeld had made very negative statements about the Corps," she says. Rumsfeld saw the Corps as a bunch of geeky engineers, mostly tinkering with with public works in the US. He'd actually raised the idea of sliding the Corps over to the Interior Department, which oversees all federally-owned lands. That was anathema to the Corps, in name and tradition an integral part of the US Army. So Lieutenant General Robert B. Flowers, at that time the Corp's chief engineer, made it his goal to show Rumsfeld what the Corps could do. "He was pushing everything that he could to get the Corps in the limelight," Greenhouse says. So eager was he, Greenhouse believes, that Rumsfeld saw Flowers could be used.

Ordinarily, the Department of Defense would have coordinated the RIO contract. But Rumsfeld, Greenhouse theorizes, wanted to put some political distance between Defense and a sole-source contract for KBR that could prove embarassing, even as it pleased the White House. So the Corps was willing to be used as the vehicle to push this through and have Halliburton get the $7 billion contract.

The Corps, Greenhouse thought, would take the heat for giving RIO to KBR, and in the process play a larger role in Iraq. With any luck, it would show Rumsfeld it was worthy of remaining in the US Army. A Defense spokesman calls the theory far-fetched. "The Secretary of Defense can't do that on his own. Congress would have to be involved, the president would be involved, it would be a decision by the administration."

To everyone's surprise, the Iraqi oil fields sustained hardly any damage, from wither US bombs or Saddam's troops, in the "shock and awe" invasion of March 2003. So there wasn't much RIO for KBR to do. Gamely, the company suggested it change its job to handling Iraq's immediate fuel needs: bringing in truckloads of gasoline from Kuwait for military and civilians alike. That was fine with the Corps.

The other surprise was was that US troops couldn't just leave the country they'd conquered. They had to stay, and be housed and fed. That meant a lot more work for KBR, which already had a lucrative contract for troop support in the Balkans--a type of contract known by the awkward acronym of LOGCAP--and had persuaded the Corps to draw up a similar one for Iraq. Marie deYoung, one of the whistle-blowers who would later cooperate with Congressman Waxman, came to believe soon after her arrival in Kuwait as a logistics specialist for KBR, in December 2003, that LOGCAP had an almost built-in potential for chaos, abuse, and graft.

Dark-haired and lively, deYoung seems far younger than her 50 years, talking a blue streak as she sketches a life that's taken her from orchestral conducting to social work for the US Army to the seminary and back to the army again, with time out to write or co-write two books (This Woman's Army and Women in Combat and be a television and radio commentator on social issues in the military. Thorough and seemingly tireless, she promises to follow up on a first interview by sending documents by email. By day's end, she's sent 24 e-mails, with documents attached to each one.

De Young hadn't intended to go to Kuwait at all. She had signed on for Kosovo, where KBR needed lots of procurement help, too. There for three months, she got an up-close look at KBR's model in action. This was the way the new, outsourced army was supposed to work. In the aftermath of ethnic cleansing, when order had been restored to the Balkans, KBR had won its first LOGCAP contract: it would supply everything that occupying US forces needed, from tents and mess halls to swimming pools and generators. The federal government would be trimmed, private industry would profit, soldiers would be snappily serviced. The original architect of this plan was Dick Cheney, then assistant secretary of of defense under President George H.W. Bush. LOGCAP was a huge boon to KBR and its parent, Halliburton. Just four years later, Cheney was Halliburton's CEO.

In Kosovo, deYoung saw, the plan had worked--up to a point. KBR had fixed war-torn cities in record time. It had employed local vendors, who acquired new expertise. To newcomers, KBR liked to show a documentary of the work it had done in the Balkans. It made for stirring footage, especially with the theme song of its booming soundtrack, "We Built This City (On Rock and Roll)," by the 80's schlock-rock group Starship.

DeYoung did notice something curious about this Utopian model. Army commanders came and went every six months or so. What they wanted was some project they could point to as the pride of their time: a new swimming pool for the troops, or heated tents. KBR could do that for them. So most commanders happily signed off on the sort of expensive projects that Bunny Greenhouse would come to call "gold-plated"--projects that KBR could cost-plus-bill to the US government. In any event commanders would be gone soon enough; KBR's employees were the ones who remained. So, as deYoung observes, "who's in control?"

This was the model that got KBR the big contracts in Iraq. But hiring a bunch of local Arab vendors in the midst of a war that kept metastasizing wasn't easy as building a city on rock 'n' roll.

DeYoung, who earned $8,800 a month "for a 90-hour work week," flew to Kuwait on December 14, 2003--the day that Saddam Hussein's capture was announced. She was sent immdiately to Camp Udairi, a US military base near the Iraq border, to update 27 KBR subcontracts for work being done at the camp. Her first surprise was that most of the contracts had nothing to do with servicing US troops. They were all about servicing KBR. "Building houses for itself, building separate gyms and rec centers from what the army had...." (KBR says that all its work in Kuwait and Iraq is done at the direction of the US Army.) DeYoung found the 27 subcontracts in chaos--goods unaccounted for, invoices paid without documentation--because the KBR staffers who'd drawn them up incompetent, she felt. Most had no bookkeeping skills and were there because of family connections.

By late February, deYoung had begun working in KBR's LOGCAP office at the elegant Persian Gulf-front Khalifa resort, just outside Kuwait City. There she oversaw a much larger pile of 519 KBR subcontracts that appeared to her to be in no better shape than the ones for Camp Udairi. (A company spokesperson observes that KBR had gone from supporting 25,000 troops at 7 base camps to 211,000 US and coalition troops at more than 60 camps on very little notice, an extraordinary challenge.)

It was at the LOGCAP office that deYoung saw how well KBR managers in Kuwait were living. They stayed in expensive waterfront hotels in Kuwait City and its environs at more than $100 a night per room. They availed themselves of hotel laundry service, even while KBR was paying outrageous prices to a subcontractor for laundry. And when they left their hotels, they didn't carpool or take buses. They'd requisitioned expensive-brand SUV's for themselves. DeYoung did some number crunching and came up with the figure of $73 million a year. That, she concluded, was what KBR was spending for its top managers in Kuwait City to live so well. More accurately, that was what US taxpayers were paying--not including the extra 2-to-3 percent profit that came with the cost-plus system. (KBR says only a few managers are in off-base housing and that those in hotel rooms are routinely doubled-up. De Young says the only people who stayed two to a room were men with grilfreinds, "often the lesser paid Balkan girls.")

What were the KBR managers actually doing there? Not overseeing construction projects, or kicking the tires of convoy trucks they'd brought in to supply the troops, or looking at blueprints for new army bases in Iraq. According to deYoung, they weren't doing any of that. They were sitting in their hotel rooms, or out on their waterfront balconies, giving the nod to subcontractors to do all the work. (KBR says it "self performs" some jobs and subcontracts others.) Once a subcontractor was hired, the KBR team had no idea whether goods or services were delivered, deYoung asserts. The team just paid whatever invoices the subcontractors submitted, and hoped for the best. (KBR calls this a "ridiculous claim" and says that all goods and services must be verified before invoices are paid. DeYoung says that's simply not true, and emails a blizzard of documents from her time in Kuwait to support her case.)

Back in Washington, Congressman Waxman had been raising a stir about KBR's runaway costs in Iraq, so by the time deYoung reached the LOGCAP office, a "tiger team" of senior KBR managers had flown over from Houston to Kuwait City for an intense examination of how the company was managing the job. The tiger team, deYoung recalls, had an odd way of pursuing the problems.

Instead of demanding accountability from all the local vendors to whom KBR had doled out contracts, the "old men," as deYoung puts it, sat by the pool, not at their desks. "Their objective was not to set up clean accounts or justify costs," deYoung explains. "Their No. 1 objective was to close the books because they were operating under the assumption that if the books were closed they wouldn't be subject to auditing." In that, they may have been right: when teams of Defense auditors finally reached Kuwait, in the winter of 2004, to start questioning contracts, they focused only on the open, ongoing ones. DeYoung says the closed ones were ignored. KBR says that government auditors audit contracts whether they're open or not.

The tiger team was a "social gang," deYoung says, and "insiders were rewarded with fancy digs....and promises of promotion." To stay in the gang, you had to play the game--seeing that contracts were awarded to the favored contractors. Proper contracting called for competitive bidding. But according to deYoung that's not the way the gang did it. "Typically, the highranking guy would go to a young, inexperienced person and use him to award this contract to the subcontractor of choice," deYoung explains. "If the young person refused, he'd be threatened: 'You have 24 hours to make a decision.' If he was adamant, he'd either be sent home or to Iraq. Which was to say they'd put his life in danger." In the subcontracts department, deYoung adds, KBR went through 12 managers in one year. "When you got too close to what was going on, you got moved." KBR denies this, saying turnover was likely due to the demands associated with working long hours in a war zone. What was going on? "The subcontractor would come in with bills for four or five times the expected cost," deYoung explains, "which had to do with under-the-table payments."

In November 2004 the Pentagon would launch an investigation into allegations that two Halliburton employees in Kuwait had accepted bribes from third-party contractors, and the company would announce it had terminated its relationship with the subcontractors in question. A company spokewoman, Wendy Hall, would say, "We are doing everything we can to make sure this particular scenario doesn't happen again." But deYoung says that might be hard, given that a tone was set from the top. KBR chairman Jack Stanley was forced to leave the company in June 2004 for what Halliburton vaguley termed violations of business conduct. He is said to have received "improper personal benefits" involving a Swiss bank account which French investigators say contained $5 million in bribes for KBR contracts in Nigeria. Both the US Justice Deaprtment and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched formal investigations.

To deYoung these incidents seemed all too typical. She never saw money change hands. But her bosses' reaction to questions she brought up about the 519 subcontracts she was assigned left her deeply suspicious. "When I said this work was not done or there's missing equipment, I was told that was too much information," deYoung says. "They really just wanted enough information so they could bill the US government." She adds, "It makes no sense that people who were presiding over this....were not willing to fix the problems. And these inflated costs! Any normal manager would want to keep costs down, not inflate them." KBR says deYoung was a clerical assistant with no oversight responsibility, but deYoung has scores of emails proving she did in fact vet subcontractors to confrim that work had been properly billed.

One of the most blatant examples os misspending deYoung says she found involved a Kuwaiti company called La Nouvelle.

The 519 subcontracts dumped in deYoung's lap added up to $1.8 billion. La Nouvelle's contracts accounted for $400 million of that and dealt with everything from construction equipment to transportation to dining facilities. But what was La Nouvelle?

Its two principal managers, Ali Hijazi and Ahmed Al Homoud, describe it as a Kuwaiti-registered company, started in 1997, that provided supplies to US armed forces and oil-field operations. But to deYoung it seemed defined much more by its third focus, interior design, and by Al Homoud's American-born wife, Wendy Stafford, who often represented it.

La Nouvelle had no trucks of its own, or wharehouses, or dining facilities. It merely hired local subcontractors and took a middleman fee. But it did know how to do that, and goods did get delivered--at prices that seemed to yield very healthy profits. DeYoung recalls Stafford in elegant, tight clothes, with expensively-teased hair and "lots of jewelry--diamonds, diamonds, diamonds."

One of La Nouvelle's contracts that caught deYoung's eye was for laundry--laundry, that is, for all contractors and military at a nearby base. The bill, she says, "went from $62,000 a month to $1,2 million a month a month--over about 60 days!" Given the number of people whose laundry was being done, deYoung figured that on average a 15-pond bag was costing $108. At the same time, KBR was paying $28 a bag under a different contract at another site--to La Nouvelle!

"When they chose to cut a clean contract. they were quite capable of doing that," deYoung says. "And when they chose to make a contract messy, they could do that too." (La Nouvelle spokewoman Jennifer Thomas replies that deYoung's $108 estimate is incorrect, and that La Nouvelle is unaware of the other contract to which deYoung refers.)

On March 16, 2004, deYoung met La Nouvelle's troika of top personnel for the first time--Stafford, Al Homoud, and Hijazi--and asked the group for documentation on the expensive laundry contract. Stafford and the others said there wasn't any. (In retrospect, La Nouvelle says, they don't know what documentation deYoung was referring to, nor does their subcontractor.) DeYoung says she'd already found the paperwork herself, and it had taken her about a minute on a calculator to conclude that KBR and La Nouvelle together were overcharging the military by about $1 million a month. By her estimate, the monthly bill should have been $200,000, not $1.2 million. When deYoung showed her documents to Hijazi, he emailed a powerful ally for help: a KBR vice president who wasn't in procurement, deYoung says, and should have had no say over the contract. But the VP was a top KBR manager in Kuwait. "Within 24 hours, I was told I was off the La Nouvelle account."

Last June, Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall declared to the Houston Chronicle that the company's own auditing system had raised concerns about La Nouvelle, and that La Nouvelle as a result had been "removed from consideration for future work." La Nouvelle, on the other hand, claimed it was owed hundreds of millions of dollars by KBR. On October 15, 2004, La Nouvelle filed suit in Virginia federal court, seeking at least $224 million in compensation and other damages.

In May 2004, deYoung came home. She'd seen a lot, and felt she'd had enough. Her one regret was that she hadn't gotten into Iraq; as a former soldier, she'd desperately wanted to do that. And so she didn't see what it was like to work for KBR on the ground in Iraq, day after day. But James Warren and David Wilson did.

Warren and Wilson were two of the hundreds of truckers who signed on for Iraq duty with KBR in the fall of 2003. Patriotism was one draw, adventure another. And the money wasn't bad: with premiums for working in Iraq, combat duty in a convoy, and overtime, a driver could easily earn about $8000 a month. Like their fellow civilian recruits, they started in Houston with a three week orientation. For Warren, 48, a Nebraska-born ex-navy man who drives his own rig, the doubts began there.

"Things didn't seem right to me from the first day in Houston," Warren recalls, speaking to Vanity Fair by cell phone from his truck on an all-night drive through half a dozen southwestern states. "The amount of money being spent on these drivers, recruiting them! Every job I've ever had, I stayed at a Motel 6 or Days Inn. These were $200 a night hotels. And they didn't even put two people in a room with two beds." His KBR recruiter kept saying, "We're spending about $10,000 on each of you in orientation." Warren says, "So taxpayers were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars before KBR even found out if I was a felon or not."

The honeymoon ended in Iraq, when Warren and some of the other recruits were shuttled to the US military base known as Camp Cedar, south of Baghdad. Now they were put in big tents, with 50 or 60 people to a tent. And yet, for KBR's managers, Warren noted, the perks kept on coming.

"My first day at Camp Cedar, I noticed flatbed trucks were bringing brand-new SUV's, like Toyota Land Cruisers, Hummers, 4Runners--some of the most expensive SUV's money can buy. I saw hundreds of them going to Iraq." The SUV's weren't hauling anything, Warren says. They were just for KBR personnel to ride in from base to base. They had power windows and CD players. "You don't have CD players in a car in wartime," Warren says wonderingly. On such delicate vehicles, desert conditions were brutal. "Within 90 days," he says, "they were completely trashed."

Warren's job was to haul supplies on an alomost daily basis from Camp Cedar north to Baghdad to Camp Anaconda--a distance of about 300 very dangerous miles. He realized pretty quickly that the KBR people in charge of loading up the convoys had no experience in trucking.

"A majority of the goods we transported were transported the wrong way," Warren explains. "You can't haul paper towels and napkins on a flatbed when it's raining and there's no tarp. We lost millions of dollars of goods that scattered on the roads. Pants, boots, shirts, water....And we couldn't stop to pick that up. We told KBR time and again, you can't haul this stuff on a flatbad--you need it in a container. But they never did change.; And what happens is, when you start losing things that way, you attract Iraqis. We had people following convoys so they could pick up stuff that fell off the truck."

A lot of Iraqis, unfortunately, were more aggresive than that.

David Wilson, 50, a Florida-based trucker who'd served in the US Coast Guard, became head of the convoy in which Warren was driving. Wilson was a natural leader the others came to trust. But he could hardly control what the Iraqis felt--or did. "The Iraqis love to throw rocks--stoning is still a big thing over there," Wilson says wryly. They'd try to slow the trucks down, then jump on the trailers.

Wilson expected "the danger part," as he puts it. But from the start, he says, KBR made a bad situation much, much worse by doing nothing to maintain the trucks. "These trucks were going through severe duty," Wilson says. "When we started requesting maintenance and couldn't get it, I knew that would be a problem." One day, Wilson's truck simply shut down and stopped on the road. Its fuel filter, a $7 part, was clogged. Fortunately, Wilson was just outside the gates of a military camp when it happened. "If that had happened a mile from where it did, there's a very good chance you and I wouldn't be having this conversation," Wilson says. "Over a $7 fuel filter." (KBR says its truck maintenance from the start was "adequate," and that it has since improved.)

By late December 2003, trucks in the convoy began breaking down. There were a few extra trucks, but those began breaking down, too.
The KBR managers told Wilson and his posse to fix the ones they had as best they could and keep on driving them. Wilson and Warren did that until one day in March 2004, when, to their astonishment, both were fired.

That July, at the congressional hearing where both Wilson and Warren testified, a KBR supervisor said the truckers were fired for running Iraqi-driven cars off the road with their trucks. "I did do this," Warren says. "But Halliburton management had told us to do it!" Wilson agrees. "We were told when we went to Kuwait that we were to do whatever we could to protect the integrity of the convoy. Even if it meant running people off the road." A KBR project manager for transportation later testified that the army, which made all the decisions about KBR convoy security, "does not direct KBR drivers to run civilian vehicles off the road."

Both Warren and Wilson had become whistel-blowers after a staffer for Congressman waxman saw them quoted in an Associated Press story about convoys in Iraq and got in touch with them. Warren says he came forward without hesitation. "I just felt the taxpayers should be aware of the money being spent on this operation, and how much was being wasted."

Wilson says he testified for the same reason, though at the House Government Reform Committee hearings Chairman Tom Davis, of Virginia, and other Republicans regarded the truckers with withering skepticism. They showed no more respect for Marie deYoung, who had come home with stacks of incriminating emails and decided to contact Waxman's office on her own. "The accusations leveled by whistle-blowers against KBR," declared Chairman Davis in his opening statement, "both in their written testimony and through personal interviews, are either in some cases flat-out wrong or minor or a naive or myopic view of contracting in a wartime environment."

Yet, as Waxman observed in his own opening statement, the whistle-blowers' testimony squared with reports from three government organizations: the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA), the Iraq Coalition Provisional Authority's Office of the Inspector General, and the US GAO. "All three audit agencies," Waxman declared, "have told us Halliburton is wasting our money."

After the whistle-blowers testified, Alfred Neffgen, KBR's chief operating officer for government operations for the Americas, appeared before the committee to answer charges. He acknowledged mistakes had been made. But, he said, the war made everything difficult. "Under these conditions, no one should expect the assembling and complicated logistics would be the epitome of pristine precision."

Bunny Greenhouse did not testify that day before Congress: she hadn't yet become a whistle-blower yet. Instead, she was still trying to make KBR accountable from the inside, by doing her job and questioning contracts. But she says she was encountering more and more resistance from her colleagues at the US Corps of Engineers. Since December 19, 2003, in fact, the climate in the office had turned arctic. That was the day the battle over KBR's fuel-price gouging in Iraq came to a head.

In the invasion's aftermath, KBR had begun importing fuel into Iraq from Kuwait as part of its revised charter for the $7 billion RIO contract. To do so, it had hired an obscure Kuwaiti subcontractor called Altanmia Commercial Marketing Company, which had no experience in fuel procurement or transportation. An email that turned up later from the US Embassy in Kuawait would refer to the Altanmia arrangement as a "sop" to the US government.

Altanmia had delivered the gasoline--but at an average price of $2.65 per gallon. That was well over twice the rate that Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) was paying--an average of 97 cents a gallon--for gasoline imported from the same Middle eastern countries that Altanmia had tapped. (KBR's Neffgen would testify that only northern Iraq could get cheaper fuel, from Turkey, but Waxman's investigators would determine that SOMO supplied southern Iraq as well, at less than $1 a gallon) KBR was paying Altanmia's invoices without complaint, while it was getting reimbursed by the US government--at cost-plus. By the end of September 2003, the DCAA (the Defense Department's own auditing office) would conclude, KBR had paid as much as $61 million more than it should have--and passed those costs on to US taxpayers. (KBR says the army ordered it to buy gas from Kuwait, and that Altanmia had the lowest price. But Waxman's investigators say the bidding was done by phone, in a single day, and that industry leaders were not invited to participate.)

Why had KBR paid so much for gasoline? An email located by Waxman's office reported an August 2003 meeting between Altanmia and US Embassy officials in which an Altanmia official complained bitterly that was "common knowledge" that KBR managers solicited bribes, "that anyone visiting their seaside villas at the Kuwaiti sic Hilton who offers to provide services will be asked for a bribe." According to this version, Altanmia officials would pay generous bribes to KBR to keep the gas contract going, then get their money back by jacking up the price per gallon. KBR could then just invoice the US government at $2.65 a gallon and get reimbursed at cost-plus. (KBR says any implication that its managers were extorting kickbacks from Altanmia is "an absolutely unfounded lie.")


Yet other emails suggested that the US Embassy, not KBR had played a leading role. On December 2, 2003, after Halliburton and the Army Corps actually proposed usuing other, less expensive suppliers for fuel in view of the pressure that the Pentagon and various lawmakers were bringing to bear, then US ambassador to Kuwait Richard Jones sent an email to an unidentified US official saying, "Tell KBR to get off their butts and conclude deals with Kuwait NOW! Tell them we want a deal done with al-Tanmia sic within 24 hours and don't take excuses. If Amb. Bremer hears that KBR is still dragging its feet, he will be livid." Jones was also Bremer's right-hand man at the Coalition Provisional Authority, the US interim government of Iraq. An embassy spokesman released a statement at the time saying the embassy had played no part in the selection of Altanmia and had not pressured the Army Corps in any way.

By mid-December 2003, KBR was under intense pressure from the DCAA to document how and why it had signed with Altanmia for fuel at $2.65 a gallon. That's when it turned to the Army Corps of Engineers for help.

As the contracting agency, the Corps had the unique power to decide it didn't want to see KBR's paperwork, and to waive KBR's obligation to show that paperwork to anyone else. Why would the Corps want to do that? To this day, Bunny Greenhouse isn't sure. All she knows is that on December 19, 2003 her colleagues approved the waiver behind her back.

By then, the Corps has assigned her a new deputy. Not a civilian deputy; a military one. "Because they can control the military," Greenhouse explains, referring to her superiors. "They can't control civilians like that, because civilians are going to say, 'I can go to jail.'"

Greenhouse says that her new deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Albert A J Costaldo, was "promised....all sorts of things if he would come in and disrupt my office and get Bunny Greenhouse out of this job." In this, she says, he was encouraged by the chief of engineers at that time, Lieutenant General Robert B Flowers, who had advised his staff to take decisions into their own hands when necessary. Flowers went so far as to have a "Just Do It" card printed up and handed out. In an internal memo that Costaldo later sent to one of his superiors, he acknowledged what his command group had said "Just Do It" meant. "It was discussed, well known, and even expected by the USACE Command Group that I would have to take adverse positions against Ms. Greenhouse's desires in order to protect the command and accomplish certain actions for the best of the command mission. It was fully understood that I would have to exercise the "Just Do It" card to accomplish my mission for the command."

For weeks, Greenhouse says, Castaldo hung around her administrative assistant's desk, craning for glimpses of Greenhouse's appointment book so he could tip his superiors to any time she'd be away from the office. On December 18, 2003, Greenhouse sent a slip saying she was sick with bronchitis and would be home the next day.

On the 19th, the KBR waiver was drawn up in the Corps's Dallas office--a necessary first step because that office was assigned to oversee the RIO contract. Contracting officer Gordon A Sumner signed it. (Sumner declined to speak with Vanity Fair in view of Greenhouse's legal dispute with the Corps, and a Corps spokesman made clear that no other Corps officers could cooperate either.) It was then flown up--that day--to Washington to be signed by Lieutenant General Flowers. Ordinarily, the waiver would have been logged into the Corps's computer system and given a tracking number. But it wasn't. That way, Greenhouse's assistant couldn't detect its lightning passage through government channels and notify Greenhouse at home. Greenhouse says that no mention of the waiver was made to her by Flowers or anyone else upon her return to the office, so she didn't find out that it had been granted until early January, when it made the news.

As a result of of the Corps's secretly granted waiver, the Pentagon investigation into KBR's fuel surcharges ground to a halt.

The Corps couldn't fire Greenhouse directly; senior Corps officials are unfireable. But she could be demoted, if her colleagues laid the groundwork carefully enough. By the fall of 2004 they'd done just that. And when Greenhouse ignored warnings not to block the next no-bid KBR contract with her spidery script, they got her at last.

Since 1999, KBR had earned nearly $2 billion in the Balkans as the sole-source supplier of housing, food and other needs for US troops stationed there. As the contract's term had wound down, the Corps had made a half-hearted attempt to let other companies bid on the job. Greenhouse was all for that: in a candid report, she'd concluded the contractor was "out of control," manipulating military command changes to push through ever more expensive items. But in July the bidding process was inexplicably curtailed; to this day, Greenhouse says, she has no idea why that was done. Instead, Lieutenant General Strock, the new chief of engineers, decreed that KBR should be granted a $75 million extension of the job until April 2005.

Greenhouse objected. She pointed out that the rationale for granting the extension--compelling urgency--would never hold up to scutiny when the army had had five years to bring in other bidders. Apparently Strock realized she was right. On the contract's final version, in early October, KBR was deemed the "one and only one source" that could do the job even though the Corps had just spent months entertaining other bids.
Once again, Greenhouse objected, in a strongly worded email to Strock.

Apparently, that email was the last straw. The next day, she was demoted.

In the letter explaining the action, Strock informed Greenhouse her two most recent performance ratings had been "less than fully successful." Greenhouse believes this was the groundwork the Corps had to establish in order to get her out of the way. Performance ratings are issued annually, and two negative ones are necessary for punitive action to be taken. Greenhouse's colleagues had waited two years for that, and acted upon it as soon as it happened.

The two recent annual reviews dramatically contradicted Greenhouse's earlier ones, copies of which her lawyer, Michael Kohn, showed to Vanity Fair. For her first year--October 1997 until October 1998--Greenhouse was described as "absolutely committed....totally loyal." She "has no equal when it comes to technical issues," the report said. On a rating basis from one to five, with one being the highest grade, Greenhouse was given a two that first year. On each of her next two annual reviews, she earned a one, with many more glowing remarks. Yet on the review signed by Lieutenant General Flowers on July 15, 2003, Greenhouse was accorded a four. And on the one that ended September 30, 2004, she got a five.

Kohn is hoping to be heard by the Corps's Equal Employment Opportunity Office (EEO), on the grounds that Greenhouse has a "mixed case" involving not only bureaucratic inequity but racial and gender prejudice. "The fact is that a black female had so much power in the institution, more than the Corps's good old boys' network ever envisioned, because the Corps is essentially a contracting organization, so the commanders should really be taking a backseat to professional contractors. But they had found a way around that, and Bunny was standing in their way." The EEO review could lead to a jury trial, which is what Greenhouse wants. Who will pay her legal bills is another question. "We hope to start a defense fund," Kohn says. "And some of this may have to be pro bono and contingency."

To the Corps's top brass and their cronies at KBR, Greenhouse may not be the irritant she was, but other government bureaucrats are asking them pointed questions, too. Last year, a Pentagon audit found that KBR could not document more than $1 billion worth of work done under its LOGCAP contract with Iraq. At first, the army considered witholding payments, but the prospect of bitter court battles led it try to negotiate a settlement. Ordinarily, a contractor would be asked to come up with documentation for its claim--to date, Halliburton has charged the govenrment $9.5 billion for LOGCAP work in Iraq. The government would then respond with its own documentation, and the two parties would reach a compromise figure. Not here: strangely, an outside auditor was hired to help decide what Halliburton would be owed if it could come up with the paperwork--and the government would then pay that amount. Whatever the final number, hundreds of millions of dollars will simply go unaccounted for--the waste of war, or the spoils of war, depending on how one looks at it. An army spokesman says the settlement will be reached this month. Meanwhile, in early February, the Army announced that it would not withold any percentage of future payments to Halliburton--a precedent-setting waiver.

After all this, the lucrative LOGCAP contract for troop support in Iraq may be put out for competitive bid at last. But that's not to say that if that happens KBR won't win it back. Last year, when the RIO contract was finally put out for a bid--as Greenhouse had called for it to be from the start--six companies vied for the new prize of $2 billion to repair Iraqi oil fields. KBR bid to fix the the fields in the south--the larger chunk of the contract, valued at up to $1.2 billion--and won. Parsons won the the balance, $800,000, to fix those up North. This new work is in addition to KBR's first RIO contract, under which $2.51 billion of its potential $7 billion was actaully spent before the contract was yanked. It is also not included in the current overall figure of $12 billion for Halliburton in Iraq. (That total consists of the $2.51 billion plus $9.5 billion in LOGCAP troop-support work.) So, adding the new $1.2 billion RIO contract along with future spending under LOGCAP will push the total billions higher.

Just how much Halliburton has profited from these huge Iraq contracts is a matter of some debate. David Lesar, Halliburton's CEO, told analysts last fall that Halliburton's Iraq contracts have yielded $1.4 billion, with a profit of merely $4 million after taxes and expenses. KBR, which handled most of those, actually incurred an operating loss in 2003 of $36 million on revenues of $9.3 billion, even as the rest of Halliburton increased operating profits by about $200 million to $826 million. If the company bids for more Iraq contracts, Lesar groused, it will probably "jack the margins up significantly."

But there's another way to look at KBR's work in Iraq. Without it, the company would truly be in bad shape. In fact, the Iraq work accounts for nearly all of KBR's growth at a time when it has staggered under $4.2 billion in asbestos claims--thanks in large part to Halliburton's former CEO D*ick Cheney.

Back in 1998, Cheney decided to merge Halliburton with Dresser Industries, a Texas-based energy company. Unfortunately, he failed to do his homework on Dresser: a mountain of lawsuits over asbestos-contamination claims were filed against it. KBR, formed from the merger, bore the brunt of those. By late 2003, Dresser was forced into bankruptcy and began organizing a court-ordered settlement plan. KBR incurred huge liabilities--handily offset by those contracts in Iraq.

Now that painful ordeal is over: in December a federal judge approved Dresser's $4.2 billion asbestos settlement. That means the company can come out of bankruptcy, and analysts seem to agree on what will happen, as a result, in the next months. Halliburton will sell KBR.

As for learning the real extent of malfeasance in Iraq, that may never happen. The Republican majority in both houses of Congress seems disinclined to hold more hearings--or to exercise the subpoena power that only the majority wields. All the Democrats can do is shake their fists.

"If the adminsitration shares our concern about not wasting tax payers' money, you would think that they would want to learn from the auditors and whistle-blowers what has gone wrong," Congressman Waxman says. Instead, the government has ignored its own auditors--both at the Pentagon and at the GAO--who found glaring irregularities in KBR's books on Iraq. "Why has the administration turned away?" Waxman says. "I don't know as I have an answer to that question."
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for typing in these long articles that are unavailable online, Canuckistan. I haven't read this most recent one yet, but I will.

With that last one from Christopher Hitchens, I finally found something in recent times that I can agree with him about -- the banana republic quality of our presidential elections. They, of course, would prefer that we "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," and will even impede international observers from getting too close a look. And, of course, they will ridicule anyone that points out the obvious -- that we currently have a presidential election system that is riddled with the potential for fraud to such a degree that a large percentage of the electorate doesn't trust the likelihood of a fair election.

Many in the religious right have seen the hand of God in all this fraud. They like to gloat about how God can make sure "his candidate" can take office whether he wins in any democratic sense of not.
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wannago



Joined: 16 Apr 2004

PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

R. S. Refugee wrote:

With that last one from Christopher Hitchens, I finally found something in recent times that I can agree with him about -- the banana republic quality of our presidential elections. They, of course, would prefer that we "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," and will even impede international observers from getting too close a look. And, of course, they will ridicule anyone that points out the obvious -- that we currently have a presidential election system that is riddled with the potential for fraud to such a degree that a large percentage of the electorate doesn't trust the likelihood of a fair election.


Imagine that. But I bet you thought this same election process was just peachy eight short years ago when Slick Willie was forced upon the nation...didn't you? More hypocrisy from the libs. Now, that's a shocker.

R. S. Refugee wrote:
Many in the religious right have seen the hand of God in all this fraud. They like to gloat about how God can make sure "his candidate" can take office whether he wins in any democratic sense of not.


It's so cute when anti-religious, venom-filled liberals try to tell stories about people they hate. We all know that liberals are sore losers. They lose two presidential elections in a row, lose control (other than by pulling smoke and mirrors tricks like filibustering) of the House and Senate and they still refuse to look at themselves as the problem but rather tell lies, spew hate and mock good people's beliefs. If our nation has anything to be ashamed about, it's the whacked liberals and their idiocy.

On second thought, keep it up. Obscurity sounds good for you people.
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R. S. Refugee



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Location: Shangra La, ROK

PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 3:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

wannago wrote:



R. S. Refugee wrote:
Many in the religious right have seen the hand of God in all this fraud. They like to gloat about how God can make sure "his candidate" can take office whether he wins in any democratic sense of not.


It's so cute when anti-religious, venom-filled liberals try to tell stories about people they hate. . .. .


I don't know about the "anti-religious" descriptor, wannago. The minister at the church I attend tells a very similar tale and I never think of him as anti-religious or venom-filled.
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