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K Marx The Spot

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29 September 2003

Just Tell Them the Truth, Dubya

The exposure of the Bush White House's dirty trick of outing a CIA operative, literally putting lives at risk, must have the former President and CIA Director Bush in a state of shock. I imagine the dialogue between father and son and see in my mind's eye a scene from the movie Quiz Show.

The film is a morality play based on the game-show scandals of the 1950s. Twenty-One, a popular TV quiz show, was rigged to attract higher ratings and higher-paying sponsorships. Ralph Fiennes plays the show's most popular contestant, Charles Van Doren. Van Doren is equal parts charm, good-looks, and erudition. He is an assistant professor at Columbia University and was reared in an intellectual family. Despite his pedigree, he is seduced by money, fame, and the show's producers into cheating his way to victory over a record number of weeks. As the web of lies and deceit closes in on Van Doren, he must decide between protecting himself by denying his involvement or admitting his personal weakness and facing the consequences. Torn by guilt, Van Doren reveals himself to his father, played by the actor Paul Scofield. The father's pride in his son leads him to initially misread his son's painful private confession. "Just tell the truth, Charlie, so you can get back to your teaching, that's all that really matters," the older Van Doren tells his son, believing that the other contestants had faked erudition they did not possess while his son won on merit. The truth slowly washes over the father and his face bears the pain and humiliation of his son. Despite the pain the father stands by his son who goes on to publicly admit he "flew too high on borrowed wings."

I imagine George W. Bush telling his father the truth about what he and his administration did to out a CIA agent in an act of retribution against her husband. I imagine the father's pain. I imagine the son finally telling the American people the truth with his father by his side: "I flew too high on borrowed wings."

Will Bush tell the truth or will he deny involvement?

Posted by PAUL at 9/29/2003 11:58:00 PM

Don't Ask, Don't Tell

According to published reports, President Bush will not ask his staff members whether they played a role in revealing the name of an undercover officer who is married to former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, one of the most visible critics of Bush's handling of intelligence about Iraq. The Washington Post claims that two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists, including Robert Novak, to discredit Wilson. The leak could constitute a federal crime. Intelligence officials also believe the leak may endanger confidential sources. CIA Director George J. Tenet has asked the Justice Department to investigate the source of the leak. Alas, in the Bush White House, politics tops national security.

Posted by PAUL at 9/29/2003 10:28:00 AM

Good Riddance

The mainstream media are finally taking note that someone (or someones) in the Bush White House tried to expose a CIA operative solely because her husband had the temerity to expose the administration's falsehoods about Iraq and the uranium it supposedly sought from Niger. Josh Marshall and Atrios, among others, have pursued this doggedly and well.

In working democracies, this is the sort of action that topples a government. If Bush or Cheney knew about this, then it meets the definition of High Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Also, if recent reports are correct, at least five journalists received the leak besides Robert Novak, who used it. I hope that those reports are false: otherwise, we have at least five journalists who don't care a wht about foul play.

Posted by Tim W at 9/29/2003 03:24:00 AM

Terminator 1040

Some six weeks ago, Arnold Schwarzenegger's gubernatorial campaign allowed reporters to examine, but neither take nor copy, his individual tax returns for 2000 and 2001. Lo, there then appeared a multitude of articles about his income and charitable donations, but not much else.

Fortunately, Lee Shepherd has an in-depth article in a recent Tax Notes on the subject. (Tax Notes is available only by expensive subscription, but anyone can sign up for a 15-day free trial.) Shepherd unearthed quite a bit of how Schwarzenegger organizes his finances:

Reporters were not permitted to copy or remove documents. The Wall Street Journal got its own separate viewing. Tax Notes, which was not invited to any viewing, had requests to view the returns refused. So we have to rely on articles published in the newspapers that viewed the returns. Schwarzenegger has not filed his 2002 return yet, and he has promised to show it when he does. His campaign stopped returning our phone calls.

The newspaper articles were not the caliber of article that we would like to write, not because the reporters weren't trying, but also because Schwarzenegger's individual Form 1040 tells only half the story. Like other prominent movie actors, he works through a loan-out corporation, Oak Productions, which receives all of his income from acting and movie residuals. Our request to view the other pertinent returns, the corporate returns of Oak Productions, was also refused.

Most of the press made no mention of Oak Productions, or of Legend International Airways, another corporation owned entirely by Schwarzenegger. But an exception was an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last month that featured some analysis by San Francisco accountant Sandy Murray.

In public records, Schwarzenegger has said he is "sole member" of [Legend], which according to the Singapore Business Times paid $133 million in 1997 to buy a Boeing 747 jumbo jet from Singapore Airlines and then leased the plane back for an undisclosed amount.

Schwarzenegger is "taking a bath every year" on the venture, said Murray: $2 million in losses in 2001, $8 million in carry-over losses from the years before that. Without a look at Legend's tax returns, Murray said, it wasn't possible to know whether the losses are for tax purposes—to be recouped by gains when Schwarzenegger finally sells the aircraft—or whether it is just a bad investment.

The myth of Arnold the Business Genius

Usually, the term "offshore lease" piques my interest, because it often means that a taxable American entity has conspired to shift income to a foreign tax-exempt entity and claim losses for itself. But Legend doesn't have any income to use the depreciation losses from the aircraft lease: it is carrying unused losses forward. Schwarzenegger may have thought that leasing an airplane was a great tax shelter. Indeed, corporations are the usual providers of this sort of leases: they take depreciation deductions on aircraft and other things when the companies that (normally) would have bought them lack the taxable income to make use of them. Schwarzenegger miscalculated somewhere. Either he thought that the airplane lease was somehow going to make him tons of actual cash, or he thought that leasing meant significant tax advantages. He was dead wrong either way.

The Myth of Arnold the Straight Dealer

Shepherd notes that Schwarzenegger doesn't get hired to do films like "Terminator 3." Instead, his "loan-out" corporation, Oak Productions, gets hired. Shepherd speculates that the incentive to use Oak Productions is that Schwarzenegger can deduct more expenses through Oak Productions than he could without the company. Normally, medical or job-related expenses are subject to thresholds that increase with one income and are subject to phase-outs that start well below Schwarzenegger's annual income. The Internal Revenue Service has been slow to crack down on loan-out corporations, and Congress hasn't been much help, either. However, the very training materials that the IRS publishes for its auditors on the entertainment industry single out loan-out corporations for special opprobrium:

Personal Service ("Loan Out") Corporations (PSC)—There has been a growing trend among entertainers and others in the industry in recent years toward unjustified use of the corporate device to obtain the benefits of deductions and shelters that would otherwise not be available.

Background—There is a large body of case law on this subject, motivated by evolving tax principles over the years. Borge v. Commissioner, 405 F. 2d 673 (2d Cir. 1963) cert denied 395 U.S. 933 (1969); Keller v. United States, 723 F. 2d 58 (10th Cir. 1983); Foglesong v. United States, 691 F. 2d 848 (7th Cir. 1982).

Current applicable law—At the present time, some of the controlling law toconsider in this area may be found in the following authorities.

1. IRC section 482—This statute authorizes the Government to re-allocate gross income in order to clearly reflect income among commonly-controlled taxpayers.

2. IRC section 269A —If a PSC was formed principally to avoid or evade tax, and if the corporation performed services for only one other entity, the IRS is authorized to reallocate income to the artist/shareholder.

3. Rev. Rul. 74-330, 1974-2 C.B. 278, Rev. Rul. 74-331, 1974-2 C.B. 281—The "lend-a-star" rulings deal with off shore personal service corporations owned by non-U.S. performers.

4. Common law factors—The employee versus independent contractor factual analysis is appropriate for personal service corporations in order to determine whether the performer was an employee of his or her corporation or of the producer directly.

5. Sargent v. Commissioner, 929 F. 2d 1252 (8th Cir. 1991); Nonacq., A.O.D., CC-1991-022 (October 22, 1991) —The Tax Court had held (93 T.C. 572 (1989)) that the hockey teams had paid the players directly and the players' PSCs thus should be ignored, based on assignment of income doctrine and IRC section 482. The eighth circuit reversed, holding the players were employees of their PSCs. IRS has announced non-acquiescence in the appellate decision; we will follow the Tax Court (outside the eighth circuit).

6. Statutory requirements—Where the performer has a PSC, the producer must file a Form 1099 for compensation paid to the PSC for the performer's services; the PSC must comply with all withholding, reporting, and payment rules with respect to the wages it pays the performer.

The case law on this issue has often, but not always, favored the taxpayers. Shepherd notes, correctly, that entities like Oak Productions illustrate the problem of the tax shelters employed by the most affluent taxpayers. When judges pay heed to the corporations and not to the actual income changing hands, they do the public no favors. "If he can do it, why can't I? If doctors can do it, why can't athletes? This is a slippery slope that undue judicial respect for piles of paper sitting in business managers' desk drawers has sent the law down." Indeed.

Posted by Tim W at 9/29/2003 01:50:00 AM

Quem di diligunt adolescens moritur

Despair comes easy when Strom Thurmond lives to see his hundreth birthday, but Edward Said and Hugo Young die in the prime of their lives. Young was a brilliant, humane columnist for the Sunday Times and then The Guardian. Said was truly a Renaissance man, a gifted musician and a sharp political critic and a brilliant scholar. Good obituaries for Young appeared in the pages of the New York Times, and most of the British papers, including of course his latest paper, The Guardian. The New York Times was far less kind to Said, even though he worked in New York City at Columbia for many years. I found better obituaries in the Washington Post, in Ha'aretz, in the Boston Globe, and in the Sydney Morning Herald. (Said was long an advocate for a one-state solution for Palestine and Israel. In Jersualem, that makes you a secular soul, probably a leftist one. In New York, that makes you anathema. Go figure.)

Posted by Tim W at 9/29/2003 01:15:00 AM

26 September 2003

Let's Go To The Videotape, Part II

Joe Lieberman has the political ear of a right-wing Republican. Earlier today, Lieberman jumped on the Republican smear-campaign bandwagon and accused Gen. Wesley Clark of joining the Democratic Party for "political convenience, not conviction." Lieberman, who obviously thought he had carved out for himself the center-right pole-position in the Democratic primaries is as nervous an unelected Republican at the prospect of facing Clark in a democratic election. I wonder, does Joe have the same rightwing source feeding him stories that Drudge does?

Posted by PAUL at 9/26/2003 03:51:00 PM

25 September 2003

Let's Go To The Videotape

The right wing of the Republican Party is hoping to make Gen. Wesley Clark an unacceptable choice to Democratic primary voters. Their fear of Clark is so great that they are willing to paint a picture of Clark that will endear him to independents and independent-minded Republicans in a general election. The Drudge Report's campaign to smear Clark has run the gamut from calling the man a liar to charging him with praising Colin Powell, Don Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, and, God forbid, George W. Bush. To borrow a Texas phrase: that dog won't hunt.

Drudge and his fellow smear artists don't understand that such statements will broaden Clark's appeal and make his current assessment of the Bush administration even more credible, not less. Matt Drudge "reveals" in a "world exclusive" that "a video of Clark making the comments has surfaced." That video will have the same effect on Clark's popularity with American voters that the video of Clinton's deposition had on his standing with the American people. His popularity will go up, not down. The right wing in this country is tone-deaf to the pulse of the American people. Let's hope they keep playing that videotape.

Posted by PAUL at 9/25/2003 10:58:00 PM

23 September 2003

Another Glimpse at Our Liberal Media

Any American leftist knows that any plausible Democratic presidential nominee is bound to be both a relief and a disappointment. On one hand, even the most conservative Democrats nowadays have to take progressive stances on a host of issues, from the environment to labor rules to tax policy. On the other hand, even the most liberal Democrats will side with big and small business on anothe rhost of issues, from the environment tp labor rules to tax policy. As Doug Henwood keeps pointing out, the reason for leftist to vote Democratic is that once the Democrats win, their inherent flaws make more obvious the need for real and metaphorical revolution.

Wesley Clark has, like all of the competitors for the nomination, some real strengths and some real weaknesses. In a good world, never mind an ideal one, the mass media would try to illuminate both, so that citizens could be better informed. In the world we have, the mass media have a narrow and cynical sense of what their role should be. In his "Editor's Desk" column in the current Newsweek, Mark Whitaker shows, perhaps unwittingly, just how narrow and cynical his colleagues can be. Here, he has just come from a reception for Wesley Clark at which Clark spoke smartly about the weaknesses of the current administration and the strengths of some administrations of yore.

From there, I went to dinner with a veteran Newsweek correspondent who covered Clark when he was commander of NATO. When I asked what he thought of the general, my colleague made an "L" with his thumb and forefinger. "Loser!" he said. Sure, Clark was very smart, he conceded, but he was also brittle and egotistical. He just couldn't compete with what our man thinks is George W. Bush's greatest political strength: the impression he gives of being a "regular guy" you can trust.

One would hope that even a Newsweek correspondent would realize that the election next year is not one for high school class president. The cool kids in the media are treating serious candidates like quixotic members of the math team or the audio-visual club who thought that running for office with good ideas and good policies would benefit the school. In high school, it's not irreparable if someone loses because he or she can't offer an "impression" of "being a regular guy" to sway the vote. In a presidential election, the country loses when image trumps substance.

(Edited slightly for grammar and clarity on 24 September.)

Posted by Tim W at 9/23/2003 11:23:00 PM

Friendly Fire

Gen. Wesley Clark has the Republican Party and rightwing yahoos across the country shaking in their army-navy store issued boots. Here are just a few of the hits Clark took over the last couple of days from "media whores" including William Safire, Howard Kurtz, Dick Morris and the Christian News Service. In an organized effort to define Clark before he can define himself, the general is being labeled a liar, a stalking horse for Hillary Clinton, and the man behind the tragedy at Waco. His immediate popularity is being dismissed as media-driven. The rightwing nuts' most absurd canard is that Clark really wanted to be a Republican and only became a Democrat because Karl Rove spurned his advances. This bizarre line of attack went through so many iterations that one would think the two new HBO series, "Carnivale" and "K Street," were merged into one new reality show.

Years ago, Col. David H. Hackworth, the retired military man turned political pundit, called Clark the "Perfumed Prince" because he was convinced Clark screwed up in Kosovo. When Clark joined the Democratic presidential candidates, Hackworth's quote got more play than a Beach Boys single in the 1970s. Then Hackworth gave his real assessment of Clark after interviewing the general for three hours.

He is insightful, he has his act together, he understands what makes national security tick—and he thinks on his feet somewhere around Mach 3. No big surprise, since he graduated first in his class from West Point, which puts him in the supersmart set with Robert E. Lee, Douglas MacArthur and Maxwell Taylor.

Clark was so brilliant, he was whisked off to Oxford as a Rhodes scholar and didn't get his boots into the Vietnam mud until well after his 1966 West Point class came close to achieving the academy record for the most Purple Hearts in any one war. When he finally got there, he took over a 1st Infantry Division rifle company and was badly wounded.

Lt. Gen. James Hollingsworth, one of our Army's most distinguished war heroes, says: "Clark took a burst of AK fire, but didn't stop fighting. He stayed on the field 'til his mission was accomplished and his boys were safe. He was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. And he earned 'em."

It took months for Clark to get back in shape. He had the perfect excuse, but he didn't quit the Army to scale the corporate peaks as so many of our best and brightest did back then. Instead, he took a demoralized company of short-timers at Fort Knox who were suffering from a Vietnam hangover and made them the best on post—a major challenge in 1970 when our Army was teetering on the edge of anarchy. Then he stuck around to become one of the young Turks who forged the Green Machine into the magnificent sword Norman Schwarzkopf swung so skillfully during Round One of the Gulf War.

I asked Clark why he didn't turn in his bloody soldier suit for Armani and the big civvy dough that was definitely his for the asking. His response: "I wanted to serve my country."

He says he now wants to lead America out of the darkness, shorten what promises to be the longest and nastiest war in our history and restore our eroding prestige around the world. For sure, he'll be strong on defense. But with his high moral standards and because he knows where and how the game's played, there will probably be zero tolerance for either Pentagon porking or two-bit shenanigans.

No doubt he's made his share of enemies. He doesn't suffer fools easily and wouldn't have allowed the dilettantes who convinced Dubya to do Iraq to even cut the White House lawn. So he should prepare for a fair amount of dart-throwing from detractors he's ripped into during the past three decades.

Hey, I am one of those: I took a swing at Clark during the Kosovo campaign when I thought he screwed up the operation, and I called him a "Perfumed Prince." Only years later did I discover from his book and other research that I was wrong—the blame should have been worn by British timidity and William Cohen, U.S. SecDef at the time.

At the interview, Clark came along without the standard platoon of handlers and treated the little folks who poured the coffee and served the bacon and eggs with exactly the same respect and consideration he gave the biggies in the dining room like my colleague Larry King and Bob Tisch, the Regency Hotel's owner. An appealing common touch.

But if he wins the election, don't expect an Andrew Jackson field-soldier type. Clark's an intellectual, and his military career is more like Ike's— that of a staff guy and a brilliant high-level commander. Can he make tough decisions? Bet on it. Just like Ike did during his eight hard but prosperous years as president.

Clark may fail in his bid to win the Democratic nomination and to defeat Bush in the general election but it is unlikely that he will be taken down by the Republican hit squad that smeared Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Clark's Democratic rivals should welcome him to the race. He brings energy to their campaign and makes any Democratic nominee a stronger candidate against the unelected president who only plays soldier.

Posted by PAUL at 9/23/2003 08:21:00 PM

22 September 2003

Just Say Yes!

A wise man once wrote that "[r]eligion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

It is therefore somewhat disheartening to find that our head of state calls for more opium:

[B]oth Houses should reach agreement on the faith-based initiative, to support the armies of compassion that are mentoring our children and caring for the homeless and offering hope for the addicted. It's in our churches and synagogues and mosques. It's where we find Hindus and Jews and Christians and Muslims that we find decency and compassion.

Where is Nancy Reagan when America really needs her?

Posted by Tim W at 9/22/2003 10:02:00 PM

21 September 2003

Bush's Achilles Heal: Military Spouses

I was in Washington, D.C. on business last week. In private conversations Bush supporters admitted their fears that Iraq would be the president's political downfall. It is not the lies about WMD and links to al-Qaeda that concern these Republicans. Individuals with close ties to the military report a groundswell of grassroots opposition to Bush. The source of that opposition highlights a new gender gap—military spouses. Bush's plans to cut veterans' benefits and scale back combat pay while extending deployments are fanning the flames of the discontent. Military spouses are hearing the truth first-hand that the administration was ill-prepared for an occupation.

Posted by PAUL at 9/21/2003 05:25:00 PM

Tracking War-Supporter Volunteerism

At a time when the wealthiest Americans are seeing their net worth increase 10%, servicemen maimed in Iraq are being billed for their per diem food allowance to ensure they do not double-dip (i.e., the hospitals serve meals). Embarrassed Republicans are left to point the finger at clerks and accountants when such juxtapositions highlight the hypocrisy of their patriotic rhetoric with the real-life implications of their public policy. The supporters of the war I know all support an all-volunteer military. A volunteer military is better-trained and more effective, they tell me. Given that our servicemen and women are seeing their deployments in Iraq extended isn't it time more of the war's supporters volunteered? Let's start with the politicians and political pundits that support the war. If they can't volunteer, certainly they have children and grandchildren who can serve. Tracking war-supporter volunteerism would make a great website. Are there any readers out there up to this task?

Posted by PAUL at 9/21/2003 01:00:00 PM

19 September 2003

Pox Romana

Silvio Berlusconi just doesn't know when to quit. A few days ago, we noted that Berlusconi went out of his way to praise Benito Mussolini and to deem his dictatorship to be a benign one.

Peter Popham reports in today's Independent that Burlusconi has a perfectly inane explanation for what he said.

The Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has apologised to the Jewish community for claiming in an interview with the British press that the dictator Benito Mussolini was "benign" and "killed nobody".

Mr Berlusconi tried to blame his remarks on the two British journalists who interviewed him for deliberately getting him drunk....

Mr Johnson retorted: "Il Presidente's memory must be playing him tricks ... Alas, no champagne at all. We were plied with about a gallon of iced tea ... It was always clear that it was an interview."

Mr Farrell, who has recently published a revisionist biography of Mussolini and who describes himself as "a great fan of Berlusconi", also flatly denied Mr Berlusconi's account. "We were drinking iced lemon tea, pints of it, served by him," he told The Independent. "It was informal but it was official. It took months to arrange the interview and there were two tape recorders on the table between us. It was obvious that it was an official interview." Mr Farrell added: "It's such a shame he has told this lie. He's gone down in my estimation."

If Berlusconi cannot find allies in a journal as conservative as The Spectator, then he is quite isolated indeed.

I must confess a horrible oversight on my part when I reported on this story on Sunday. As Andrea Pollett writes in a letter to the editor of The Spectator this week, it is patent nonsense to claim that Mussolini "sent [enemies] on holiday to confine them" rather than murder them.

Giovanni Amendola (liberal deputy and former minister, d.1926);
Pietro Gobetti (intellectual and founder of a liberal review, d.1926);
Antonio Gramsci (founder of the Italian Communist Party, d.1937);
Giacomo Matteotti (socialist deputy, d.1924);
Carlo and Nello Rosselli (intellectuals and founders of an anti-fascist review, d.1937);
Father Giovanni Minzoni (active supporter of the peasant's rights, against the landowners backed by the fascists, d.1923).

These are the most well known victims of the fascist regime that Berlusconi ignores, or pretends to ignore. But they are only a minimal part of the thousands of people who lost their lives under Mussolini's dictatorship, either shot after being sentenced for political reasons, or beaten to death by the fascist squads, or questioned in torture chambers, or detained in prison for years, in inhuman conditions, until they died.

Many roman Jews, taken by the Nazis to concentration camps—despite some say "on holiday"—with Mussolini's connivance, never returned. Others were slaughtered in Italy. The ones who were not deported had to face the shameful racial laws issued by the dictator, a real apartheid, for adults and children alike.

The words spoken by Berlusconi are not the sloppy attempt of a revisionist to deny what is undeniable: they reveal this man's deep ignorance about the recent history of the country whose premiership he disgracefully holds, hopefully not for long.

Never mind that this letter is much more detailed than any I could have written: at the very least I could have mentioned Gramsci. One might think that I do not have a copy of The Prison Notebooks on a bookshelf at home!

Posted by Tim W at 9/19/2003 05:25:00 PM

15 September 2003

The Q Word

It's true: Iraq is not a quagmire. It can't be; there's not enough water.

Posted by Tim W at 9/15/2003 12:10:00 PM

14 September 2003

Krugman vs. Ventura: The Economist vs. The Wrestler

Last Friday night's installment of Real Time with Bill Maher was an eye-opener. The roundtable guests included Paul Krugman and Jesse Ventura. At one point, Krugman put his head in his hands, amazed at the statements coming out of the mouth of the former Minnesota Governor. The clincher for Krugman was Ventura's dissertation on farm subsidies. Clearly, Ventura did not understand that the subsidies work to establish a floor price, not a ceiling.

Posted by PAUL at 9/14/2003 08:48:00 AM

Our Man in Rome

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is one of the few European leaders sure to agree with President Bush on almost anything. Let's hope that agreement isn't always reciprocal. Nicholas Farrell wrote the following in the current edition of the conservative English magazine The Spectator about a recent interview with Berlusconi:

In my biography of Mussolini, published in July, I argue among other things that Il Duce was hugely popular with Italians. Rather mischievously, I had wanted to ask Berlusconi, "Why was Mussolini more popular than you?" The right moment failed to pop up. But Mussolini did: while discussing Iraq, Berlusconi said, "I understand the difficulties in teaching democracy to a people who for nearly 40 years have known only dictatorship." To which I said, in a jocular way, "Like Italy at the fall of fascism." He replied, "That was a much more benign dictatorship—Mussolini did not murder anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday to confine them [banishment to small islands such as Ponza and Maddalena which are now exclusive resorts]." This, though extraordinary, is more or less true. Unlike the Russian communists, the Italian fascists did not use mass murder to retain power. There was no need. You see, Mussolini—until he started losing battles—was very popular.

Yes, the text in quotes are the benighted musings of the most powerful man in Italy, a man that President Bush counts as an ally. And, yes, he priased Mussolini essentially unprompted. (I suppose that we'll hear next that Mussolini was only a social friend of Hitler.)

Posted by Tim W at 9/14/2003 01:12:00 AM

The Friend of Our Enemy is... Our Friend?

The ever-invaluable researchers at the National Security Archive—not to be confused with the National Security Agency— have just released a slew of declassified documents from United States government files about the Taliban.

There's nothing earth shattering here—no secret pipeline deals or the like—but it is clear from a bunch of these documents that Pakistan was instrumental in the rise of the Taliban. It's a good thing that Pakistan wasn't doing anything really bad, say, testing weapons of mass destruction or helping the North Korean nuclear program.

Posted by Tim W at 9/14/2003 12:54:00 AM

13 September 2003

Back to the Future

For many of us, this week gave pause for remembrance of man's inhumanity to man. It was also a reminder of the great courage individual men and women have exhibited in the face of that inhumanity. On September 11, 1973 a right-wing coup backed by the United States overthrew democracy in Chile, murdering President Salvador Allende. Ten years ago today, a handshake between two men on the White House lawn gave hope to peace in the Middle East and the self determination of a people made pawns in an international power struggle. Yitshak Rabin would later be assassinated for that gesture, and with him died much of the hope for peace in the Middle East. On September 11, 2001 over 3,000 people were murdered in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania in a despicable act of terror. All of these murders were committed in the name of a greater good by men that feared change. As the death toll from the United States' invasion and occupation of Iraq continues our president tells us the killing is for a greater good. Please don't believe him.

Posted by PAUL at 9/13/2003 10:07:00 AM

10 September 2003

Reckless Dishonesty

In today's editorial, the Financial Times derided President Bush for his "reckless dishonesty." Has any major U.S. publication put the truth so succinctly? Here are a few truths I did not hear George W. Bush speak Sunday night.

  • We invaded Iraq to protect our access to oil.
  • The War on Terror provided the administration an opportunity to implement policies that were formulated well prior to 9/11.
  • The War on Terror is unlikely to be any more effective than the War on Drugs but it is an effective way to garner domestic support for policies that would otherwise lack broad-based support.
  • There is no known connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.
  • Prior to the Invasion, the administration was told that an occupation by the United States would be met with prolonged resistance.
  • The Invasion and occupation increases the threat of terrorism around the world and has resulted in a migration of potential terrorists to Iraq.
  • The administration was told in advance that accurate projections of the cost of the Invasion and Post-Invasion Reconstruction, in lives, human destruction, and dollars, but used lower estimates to ensure domestic support of the Invasion.
  • President Bush plans to have the American middle class and poor bear the burden of the debt that will be incurred to cover the costs.
  • President Bush has chosen not to ask wealthy Americans to forgo tax cuts to help cover the cost of the Invasion.
  • By refusing to reverse the tax cuts to pay currently the costs of the Invasion and Post-War reconstruction, the domestic fallout on education, healthcare, infrastructure, and other social spending will be even greater.
  • The United States is dependent on the United Nations, an organization that Bush has a history of deriding and which he circumvented by invading Iraq, to create a viable exit strategy.
  • Our actions since 9/11 have destroyed the enormous goodwill the United States had within the world community and it is unlikely that goodwill will be restored in the foreseeable future.

Posted by PAUL at 9/10/2003 09:43:00 AM

Good News and Bad News

The bad news is that 69% of Americans polled recently by the Washington Post believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 11 September attacks, even though not an iota of tangible evidence supports the assertion. The good news, I suppose, is that fewer Americans believe in that bit of hokum than the 73% of Americans who believe in the existence of angels who visit Earth.

Posted by Tim W at 9/10/2003 07:39:00 AM

08 September 2003

Trickle Down Deception

Thanks to Eric Alterman for turning us on to Joshua Micah Marshall's piece in the Washington Monthly exposing how the Bush administration uses plain-speaking style to mask radical politics. Marshall does an excellent job of illustrating how problems exacerbated by Bush administration policies, policies that purposely ignored facts and expertise suggesting further dislocation was the likely consequence, feed into radical solutions. Now that Bush has messed up our country and the world, could it be that the electoral strategy of Karl Rove is to offer Bush and the neoconservatives as America's best choice for dealing with the Bush Baby of domestic and international threats? Listening to President Bush last night (in a speech only Joe Lieberman could love) it appears that is just what the Republicans will do. My bet is that the American people will see through the deception.

Posted by PAUL at 9/08/2003 09:12:00 AM

05 September 2003

An Offer Mitt Needed to Refuse...

When Mitt Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts last year, he promised to change the way that the state government did business. Begone with the patronage hires! And begone with any taint of corruption! That sort of talk genrally resonates with voters, and it did particularly well in 2002. After all, Mitt was the fellow who cleaned up the Augean mess at the United States Olympic Committee.

In July, Romney picked William Monahan to chair the state's Civil Service Commission. Romney had been trying, without much success, to disband the state's Civil Service Commission, and Monahan was just the sort fo conservative Republican to help him try again.

But Monahan didn't last long in his new post. First came news that Monahan was just another patronage appointment. He had helped Romney with his unsuccessful 1994 Senate race. For 24 years, Monahan had served on the Board of Selectmen in Romney's hometown of Belmont. But once he spent some town funds for a rally for Romney, his own re-election campaign proved unfruitful:

Monahan, a Republican, lost his bid for another selectman's term in April 2002, days after he organized a rally to welcome Romney back to Belmont after three years in Salt Lake City, running the Winter Olympics. Monahan later became involved in the Romney campaign as a volunteer.

What probably enticed Monahan about the Civil Service Commission was the lucrative effect that it would have on his state pension: instead of a pension of $4,800 per year, he would receive some $64,000 per year if his new position lasted for three years.

Then came news that Monahan was not just another patronage appointment. The Boston Globe reported last week that Monahan resigned because the Globe started asking questions about some of his business dealings. In 1980, Monahan and a partner purchased a bar in Boston from a company controlled by Boston Mafia boss Gennaro Angiulo. As part of the transaction, they received a $180,000 mortgage from Angiulo.

Romney's press secretary, Shawn Feddeman, said the governor did not know of Monahan's past business relationship with Angiulo when he appointed him to the post in July.

"Monahan has submitted his resignation and the governor has accepted it," Feddeman said. She would not comment further.

She said a background check had not uncovered Monahan's dealings with the Mafia leader, although a Belmont newspaper reported them in 1992.

Monahan, in an interview yesterday, said his decade-long business relationship with Angiulo and his brothers was "arm's length," but one which he regretted. He said he was well-aware of Angiulo's position as a top Boston gangster at the time.

"It was bad judgment. No serious harm came of it, but I never should have gotten involved in the thing," Monahan told the Globe.

Perhaps it's time for Mitt Romney to starting reading his hometown paper. And perhaps it's time for William Monahan to start vetting his business partners a little more carefully.

Posted by Tim W at 9/05/2003 03:26:00 AM

01 September 2003

Knee-Jerk Revisionist History

Acts of terror committed on September 11th remain fresh in our minds and in the collective memories of the American people. Sadly, immediately after those terrorist acts and continuing through today the Bush Administration and the Republican Party have used the American people's anger and anguish for partisan political purposes. Now, in an effort to protect President Bush and the Republican Party in the 2004 election from criticism for not bringing bin Laden to justice, the Republican right will ratchet up the rhetoric in their campaign to blame Bill Clinton for September 11th. A new book set for release this week, Losing bin Laden, written by former Wall Street Journal editorial writer Richard Miniter and published by rightwing publisher Regnery, is the vehicle for the attack on Clinton. The Drudge Report, the Washington Times, and Robert Novak are all playing familiar roles.

Ironically, the players in the latest attack are many of the same characters that promoted the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky witch-hunts while then President Clinton attended to the business of the American people, including a number of attempts to stop bin Laden, attempts that Republicans openly ridiculed. I can recall Clinton with tears in his eyes as he extended the nation's condolences to the families of the ten Americans killed in the attacks on our embassies in East Africa. I also recall that these attacks, and Clinton's empathy, was lost in the fervor of domestic partisan politics and media personalities chasing a witch-hunt instead of terrorists.

For the record, Republicans also openly attacked Clinton for Operation Desert Fox. Desert Fox was a joint bombing campaign of the United Stares and Great Britain in response to Saddam Hussein's announcement six weeks earlier that he would no longer cooperate with the UNSCOM weapons inspectors. Trent Lott took the extraordinary position of publicly rebuking Clinton, claiming the military action was designed to impede impeachment proceedings. The record is clear that the Republican Party, led by hardliners on the rightwing, wanted Clinton's head more than they wanted bin Laden's or Hussein's.

Posted by PAUL at 9/01/2003 05:41:00 PM

Private and Confidential

Public pension funds can ask venture capital funds that invest their capital to "show them the money" but they can't ask to have the details of how that money was made publicly disclosed. Attempts by unions and the media to require such disclosure has found support in the courts but indignation in the suites of the venture capitalists. Sequoia Capital, responding to a judge's ruling that the University of California must disclose such information under the state's public records act, chose to eject the University as a client rather than give in to disclosure. A partner with Sequoia portrayed the venture capitalist as a victim, using the terms "hounded," "badgered," and "stalked" to describe the campaign to require disclosure. What is it really about disclosure that would make Sequoia terminate long-term relationships with both the University of California and the University of Michigan?

Posted by PAUL at 9/01/2003 10:35:00 AM

Grasso Compensation Greener

Richard Grasso's recently announced $139 million compensation package as chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange may not be gargantuan by Wall Street standards until we remind ourselves that Grasso is a regulator and not an entrepreneur. No doubt, Mr. Grasso was prompted to recognize the deferred income portion of his compensation by President Bush's tax policy.

Posted by PAUL at 9/01/2003 10:35:00 AM

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