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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Restoring the Public Trust

By Bill Moyers
February 24, 2006

Bill Moyers is President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy. This is the prepared text of his remarks on an eight-day speaking trip in California on the issue of money and politics.

I will leave to Jon Stewart the rich threads of humor to pluck from the hunting incident in Texas. All of us are relieved that the Vice President's friend has survived. I can accept Dick Cheney's word that the accident was one of the worst moments of his life. What intrigues me as a journalist now is the rare glimpse we have serendipitously been offered into the tightly knit world of the elites who govern today.

The Vice President was hunting on a 50-thousand acre ranch owned by a lobbyist friend who is the heiress to a family fortune of land, cattle, banking and oil (ah, yes, the quickest and surest way to the American dream remains to choose your parents well.)

The circumstances of the hunt and the identity of the hunters provoked a lament from The Economist. The most influential pro-business magazine in the world is concerned that hunting in America is becoming a matter of class: the rich are doing more, the working stiffs, less. The annual loss of 1.5 millions of acres of wildlife habitat and 1 million acres of farm and ranchland to development and sprawl has come "at the expense of 'The Deer Hunter' crowd in the small towns of the north-east, the rednecks of the south and the cowboys of the west." Their places, says The Economist, are being taken by the affluent who pay plenty for such conveniences as being driven to where the covey cooperatively awaits. The magazine (hardly a Marxist rag, remember) describes Mr. Cheney's own expedition as "a lot closer to 'Gosford Park' than 'The Deer Hunter' - a group of fat old toffs waiting for wildlife to be flushed towards them at huge expense."

At the heart of this story is a metaphor of power. The Vice President turned his host, the lobbyist who is also the ranch owner, into his de facto news manager. She would disclose the shooting only when Cheney was ready and only on his terms. Sure enough, nothing was made public for almost 20 hours until she finally leaked the Authorized Version to the local newspaper. Ms. Armstrong suggested the blame lay with the victim, who, she indicated, had failed to inform the Vice President of his whereabouts and walked into a hail of friendly fire. Three days later Cheney revised the story and apologized. Don't you wonder what went back and forth with the White House that long night of trying to agree on the official line?

We do know someone from the hunting party was in touch with Karl Rove at the White House. For certain Rove's the kind of fellow you want on the other end of the line when great concoctions are being hatched, especially if you wish the victim to hang for the crime committed against him.

Watching these people work is a study of the inner circle at the top of American politics. The journalist Sidney Blumenthal, writing on, reminds us of the relationship between the Armstrong dynasty and the Bush family and its retainers. Armstrong's father invested in Rove's political consulting firm that managed George W. Bush's election as governor of Texas and as president. Her mother, Anne Armstrong, is a longtime Republican activist and donor. Ronald Reagan appointed her to the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board after her tenure as Ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Ford, whose chief of staff was a young Dick Cheney. Anne Armstrong served on the board of directors of Halliburton that hired Cheney to run the company. Her daughter, Katherine Armstrong, host of the hunting party, was once a lobbyist for the powerful Houston law firm founded by the family of James A. Baker III, who was chief of staff to Reagan, Secretary of State under the first George Bush, and the man designated by the Bush family to make sure the younger Bush was named President in 2000 despite having lost the popular vote. According to Blumenthal, one of her more recent lobbying jobs was with a large construction firm with contracts in Iraq.

It is a Dick Cheney world out there - a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests.


Two years ago, in a report entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality, the American Political Science Association concluded that progress toward realizing American deals of democracy "may have stalled, and even, in some areas, reversed." Privileged Americans "roar with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow" while citizens "with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper."

The following year, on the eve of President George W. Bush's second inauguration, the editors of The Economist, reporting on inequality in America, concluded that the United States "risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society."

As great wealth has accumulated at the top, the rest of society has not been benefiting proportionally. In 1960 the gap between the top 20% and the bottom 20% was thirty fold. Now it is seventy-five fold. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives in the country was 30 times the pay of the average worker. Today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker. A recent article in The Financial Times reports on a study by the American economist Robert J. Gordon, who finds "little long-term change in workers' share of US income over the past half century." Middle-ranking Americans are being squeezed, he says, because the top ten percent of earners have captured almost half the total income gains in the past four decades and the top one percent have gained the most of all - "more in fact, than all the bottom 50 percent."

No wonder working men and women and their families are strained to cope with the rising cost of health care, pharmaceutical drugs, housing, higher education, and public transportation - all of which have risen faster in price than typical family incomes. The recent book, Economic Apartheid in America: A Primer on Economic Inequality and Insecurity, describes how "thirty zip codes in America have become fabulously wealthy" while "whole urban and rural communities are languishing in unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, growing insecurity, and fear."

This is a profound transformation in a country whose DNA contains the inherent promise of an equal opportunity at "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness" and whose collective memory resonates with the hallowed idea - hallowed by blood - of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people." The great progressive struggles in our history have been waged to make sure ordinary citizens, and not just the rich, share in the benefits of a free society. Yet today the public may support such broad social goals as affordable medical coverage for all, decent wages for working people, safe working conditions, a secure retirement, and clean air and water, but there is no government "of, by, and for the people" to deliver on those aspirations. Instead, our elections are bought out from under us and our public officials do the bidding of mercenaries. Money is choking democracy to death. So powerfully has wealth shaped our political agenda that we cannot say America is working for all of America.

In the words of Louis Brandeis, one of the greatest of our Supreme Court justices: "You can have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, or democracy, but you cannot have both."


Some simple facts:

The cost of running for public office is skyrocketing. In 1996, $1.6 billion was spent on the Congressional and Presidential elections. Eight years later, that total had more than doubled, to $3.9 billion.

Thanks to our system of privately financed campaigns, millions of regular Americans are being priced out of any meaningful participation in democracy. Less than one half of one percent of all Americans made a political contribution of $200 or more to a federal candidate in 2004. When the average cost of running and winning a seat in the House of Representatives has topped one million dollars, we can no longer refer to that August chamber as "The People's House." If you were thinking of running for Congress, do you have any idea where you would get the money to be a viable candidate?

At the same time that the cost of getting elected is exploding beyond the reach of ordinary people, the business of gaining access to and influence with our elected Representatives has become a growth industry. Six years ago, in his first campaign for President, George W. Bush promised he would "restore honor and integrity" to the government. Repeatedly, during his first campaign for President, he would raise his right hand and, as if taking an oath, tell voters that he would change how things were done in the nation's capitol. "It's time to clean up the toxic environment in Washington, DC," he would say. His administration would ask "not only what is legal but what is right, not what the lawyers allow but what the public deserves."


Since Bush was elected the number of lobbyists registered to do business in Washington has more than doubled. That's 16,342 lobbyists in 2000 to 34,785 last year. Sixty-five lobbyists for every member of Congress.

The amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by nearly one hundred percent in that same period, according to The Washington Post, going up to anything from $20,000 to $40,000 a month. Starting salaries have risen to nearly $300,000 a year for the best-connected people, those leaving Congress or the administration.

The total spent per month by special interests wining, dining, and seducing federal officials is now nearly $200 million. Per month

But numbers don't tell the whole story. There has been a qualitative change as well. With pro-corporate business officials running both the executive and legislative branches, lobbying that was once reactive has gone on the offense, seeking huge windfalls from public policy and public monies.

One example cited by The Washington Post: Hewlett-Packard, the California computer maker. The company nearly doubled its budget for contract lobbyists in 2004 and took on an elite lobbying firm as its Washington arm. Its goal was to pass Republican-backed legislation that would enable the company to bring back to the United States, at a dramatically lowered tax rate, as much as $14.5 billion in profit from foreign subsidiaries. The extra lobbying paid off. The legislation passed and Hewlett Packard can now reduce its share of the social contract. The company's director of government affairs was quite candid: "We're trying to take advantage of the fact that Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the White House." Whatever the company paid for the lobbying, the investment returned enormous dividends.

I want to point out here that I believe in equal opportunity muckraking. When I left Washington for journalism I did not leave behind my conviction that government should see to it that we have a more level playing field with one set of rules for everyone, but I did leave behind my partisan affections. Anyone who saw the documentary my team and I produced a few years ago on the illegal fund raising for Bill Clinton's re-election, knows I am no fan of the democratic money machine that helped tear the party away from whatever roots it once had in the daily lives and struggles of working people, turning it into a junior partner of the Chamber of Commerce. I mean people like California's Congressman Tony Coelho, who in the 1980s realized that Congressional Democrats could milk the business community for money if they promised to "pay for play." I mean people like Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee Chairman who gave Bill Clinton the idea of renting the Lincoln bedroom out to donors, and who did such a good job raising big money for the Democrats that by the end of his reign, Democrats had fewer small donors than the Republicans and more fat cats writing them million-dollar checks.

But let's be realistic here. When the notorious Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks, he answered, "Because there is where the money is." If I seem to be singling out the Republicans, it's for one reason: that's where the power is. They own the government lock, stock, and barrel. Once they gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, their self-proclaimed revolution has gone into overdrive with their taking of the White House in 2000 and the Senate in 2002. Their revolution soon became a cash cow and Washington a one party state ruled by money.

Look back at the bulk of legislation passed by Congress in the past decade: an energy bill which gave oil companies huge tax breaks at the same time that Exxon Mobil just posted $36.13 billion in profits in 2005 and our gasoline and home heating bills are at an all-time high; a bankruptcy "reform" bill written by credit card companies to make it harder for poor debtors to escape the burdens of divorce or medical catastrophe; the deregulation of the banking, securities and insurance sectors which led to rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors; the deregulation of the telecommunications sector which led to cable industry price gouging and an undermining of news coverage; protection for rampant overpricing of pharmaceutical drugs; and the blocking of even the mildest attempt to prevent American corporations from dodging an estimated $50 billion in annual taxes by opening a PO Box in an off-shore tax haven like Bermuda or the Cayman islands.

In every case the pursuit of this legislation was driven by big money. Our public representatives, the holders of our trust, need huge sums to finance their campaigns, especially to pay for television advertising, and men and women who have mastered the money game have taken advantage of that weakness in our democracy to systematically sell it off to the highest bidders.

Let's start with the "K Street Project." K Street is the Wall Street of lobbying, the address of many of Washington's biggest lobbying firms. The K Street Project was the brainchild of Tom DeLay and Grover Norquist, the right wing strategist who famously said that his goal is to shrink government so that it can be "drowned in a bathtub." This, of course, would render it impotent to defend ordinary people against the large economic forces - the so-called free market - that Norquist and his pals believe should be running America.

Tom DeLay, meanwhile, was a small businessman from Sugar Land, Texas, who ran a pest extermination business before he entered politics. He hated the government regulators who dared to tell him that some of the pesticides he used were dangerous - as, in fact, they were. He got himself elected to the Texas legislature at a time the Republicans were becoming the majority in the once-solid Democratic south, and his reputation for joining in the wild parties around the state capital in Austin earned him the nickname "Hot Tub Tom." But early in his political career, and with exquisite timing and the help of some videos from the right wing political evangelist, James Dobson, Tom DeLay found Jesus and became a full-fledged born again Christian. He would later humbly acknowledge that God had chosen him to restore America to its biblical worldview. "God," said Tom DeLay, "has been walking me through an incredible journey...God is using me, all the time, everywhere...God is training me. God is working with me...."

Yes, indeed: God does work in mysterious ways.

In addition to finding Jesus, Tom DeLay also discovered a secular ally to serve his ambitions. He found out the power of money to power his career. "Money is not the root of all evil in politics," DeLay once said. "In fact, money is the lifeblood of politics." By raising more than two million dollars from lobbyists and business groups and distributing the money to dozens of Republican candidates in 1994, the year of the Republican breakthrough in the House, DeLay bought the loyalty of many freshmen legislators and got himself elected Majority Whip, the number three man in Newt Gingrich's "Gang of Seven" who ran the House.

Here's how they ran it: On the day before the Republicans formally took control of Congress on January 3, 1995, DeLay met in his office with a coterie of lobbyists from some of the biggest companies in America. The journalists Michael Weisskopf and David Maraniss report that "the session inaugurated an unambiguous collaboration of political and commercial interests, certainly not uncommon in Washington but remarkable this time for the ease and eagerness with which these allies combined."

DeLay virtually invited them to write the Republican agenda. What they wanted first was "Project Relief" - a wide-ranging moratorium on regulations that had originally been put into place for the health and safety of the public. For starters, they wanted "relief" from labor standards that protected workers from the physical injuries of repetitive work. They wanted "relief' from tougher rules on meat inspection. And they wanted "relief" from effective monitoring of hazardous air pollutants. Scores of companies were soon gorging on Tom DeLay's generosity, adding one juicy and expensive tid-bit after another to the bill. According to Weisskopf and Maraniss, on the eve of the debate 20 major corporate groups advised lawmakers that "this was a key vote, one that would be considered in future campaign contributions." On the day of the vote lobbyists on Capitol Hill were still writing amendments on their laptops and forwarding them to House leaders.

The Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, famously told the lobbyists: "If you are going to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules." Tom DeLay became his enforcer.

The rules were simple and blunt. Contribute to Republicans only. Hire Republicans only. When the electronics industry ignored the warning and chose a Democratic Member of Congress to run its trade association, DeLay played so rough - pulling from the calendar a bill that the industry had worked on two years, aimed at bringing most of the world in alignment with US copyright law - that even the House Ethics Committee, the watchdog that seldom barks and rarely bites, stirred itself to rebuke him - privately, of course.

DeLay wasn't fazed. Not only did he continue to make sure the lobbying jobs went to Republicans, he also saw to it that his own people got a lion's share of the best jobs. At least 29 of his former employees landed major lobbying positions - the most of any Congressional office. The journalist John Judis found that together ex-DeLay people represent around 350 firms, including thirteen of the biggest trade associations, most of the energy companies, the giants in finance and technology, the airlines, auto makers, tobacco companies, and the largest health care and pharmaceutical companies. When tobacco companies wanted to block the FDA from regulating cigarettes, they hired DeLay's man. When the pharmaceutical companies - Big Pharma - wanted to make sure companies wouldn't be forced to negotiate cheaper prices for drugs, they hired six of Tom DeLay's team, including his former chief of staff. The machine became a blitzkrieg, oiled by campaign contributions that poured in like a gusher.

Watching as DeLay, with the approval of the House leadership, become the virtual dictator of Capitol Hill, , I was reminded of the card shark in Texas who said to his prey, "Now play the cards fair, Reuben, I know what I dealt you." Tom DeLay and his cronies were stacking the deck.

They centralized in their own hands the power to write legislation. Drastic revisions to major bills were often written at night, with lobbyists hovering over them, then rushed through as "emergency' measures," giving members as little as half an hour to consider what they may be voting on.

The Democratic minority was locked out of conference committees where the House and Senate are supposed to iron out their differences with both parties in the loop. The Republican bosses even took upon themselves the power to rewrite a bill in secrecy and move it directly to a vote without any other hearings or public review.

Sometimes this meant overruling what the majority of House members really wanted. Consider what happened with the bill to provide Medicare prescription drug coverage, as analyzed by Robert Kuttner in The American Prospect. As the measure was coming to a vote, a majority of the full House was sympathetic to allowing cheaper imports from Canada and to giving the government the power to negotiate wholesale drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries. But DeLay and his cronies were working in behalf of the big pharmaceutical companies and would have none of it. So they made sure there would be no amendments on the floor. They held off the final roll call a full three hours - well after midnight - in order to strong-arm members who wanted to vote against the bill.

It was not a pretty sight out there on the floor of the House. At one point DeLay marched over to one reluctant Republican - Representative Nick Smith - who opposed the Medicare bill - and attempted to change his mind. Smith, who was serving his final term in office, later alleged that he was offered a bribe - $100,000 for his son's campaign to succeed him. When he subsequently retracted his accusation, the House Ethics Committee looked into the charges and countercharges and wound up admonishing both Smith and DeLay, who admitted that he had offered to endorse Smith's son in exchange for Smith's support but that no money or bribe were involved. Timothy Noah of has mused about what DeLay's endorsement would nonetheless have meant in later campaign contributions if Smith had gone along. While the report of the ethics committee never did find out the true story, Noah asks: "Who did whisper '$100,000' in Smith's ear? The report is full of plausible suspects, including DeLay himself, but it lacks any evidence on this crucial finding. You get the feeling the authors would prefer to forget this mystery ever existed."

There are no victimless crimes in politics. The price of corruption is passed on to you. What came of all these shenanigans was a bill that gave industry what it wanted and gave taxpayers the shaft. The bill covers only a small share of drug expenses. It has a major gap in coverage - the so-called 'donut hole.' It explicitly forbids beneficiaries from purchasing private coverage to fill in the gap and explicitly forbids the federal government from bargaining for lower drug prices. More than one consumer organization has estimated that most seniors could end up paying even more for prescription drugs than before the bill passed.

Furthermore, despite these large flaws the cost of the bill is horrendous - between five hundred billion and one trillion dollars in its first ten years. The chief actuary for Medicare calculated a realistic estimate of what the bill would cost, but he later testified before Congress that he was forbidden from releasing the information by his boss, Thomas Scully, the head of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who was then negotiating for a lucrative job with the health care industry. Sure enough, hardly had the prescription drug bill become law than Scully went to work for the largest private equity investor in health care and at a powerful law firm focusing on health care and regulatory matters.

One is reminded of Senator Boies Penrose. Back in the first Gilded Age Penrose was a United States senator from Pennsylvania who had been put and kept in office by the railroad tycoons and oil barons. He assured the moguls: "I believe in the division of labor. You send us to Congress; we pass laws under which you make money...and out of your profits you further contribute to our campaign funds to send us back again to pass more laws to enable you to make more money."

Gilded Ages - then and now - have one thing in common: Audacious and shameless people for whom the very idea of the public trust is a cynical joke.

Tom DeLay was elected to Congress by the ordinary people of Sugar Land, Texas. They had the right to expect him to represent them. This expectation is the very soul of democracy. We can't all govern - not even tiny, homogenous Switzerland practices pure democracy. So we Americans came to believe our best chance of responsible government lies in obtaining the considered judgments of those we elect to represent us. Having cast our ballots in the sanctity of the voting booth with its assurance of political equality, we go about our daily lives expecting the people we put in office to weigh the competing interests and decide to the best of their ability what is right.

Instead, they have given the American people reason to believe the conservative journalist P.J. O'Rourke was right when he described Congress as "a parliament of whores."

A recent CBS news/New York Times poll found that 70% of Americans believe lobbyists bribing members of Congress is the way things work. Fifty seven percent thinks at least half of the members of Congress accept bribes or gifts that affect their votes. A Fox News poll reported that sixty five percent believe most elected officials in Washington make policy decisions or take actions on the basis of campaign contributions. Findings like these underscore the fact that ordinary people believe their bonds with democracy are not only stretched but sundered.

You see the breach clearly with Tom DeLay. As he became the king of campaign fundraising, the Associated Press writes, "He began to live a lifestyle his constituents back in Sugar Land would have a hard time ever imagining." Big corporation such as R.J. Reynolds, Phillip Morris, Reliant, El Paso and Dynegy provided private jets to take him to places of luxury most Americans have never seen - places with "dazzling views, warm golden sunsets, golf, goose-down comforters, marble bathrooms and balconies overlooking the ocean." The AP reports that various organizations - campaign committees, political action committees, even a children's charity established by DeLay - paid over $1 million on hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jets in DeLay's behalf: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts (the Ritz Carlton in Jamaica, the Prince Hotel in Hawaii, the Michelangelo in new York, the Phoenician in Scottsdale, the El Conquistador in Puerto Rico, where villas average $1,300 a night); 100 flights aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists; and 500 meals at fancy restaurants, some averaging $200 for a dinner for two. There was even a $2,896 shopping spree at a boutique on Florida's Amelia Island offering "gourmet cookware, sabbatier cutlery and gadgets for your every need."

DeLay was a man on the move and on the take. But he needed help to sustain the cash flow. He found it in a fellow right wing ideologue named Jack Abramoff. Abramoff personifies the Republican money machine of which DeLay with the blessing of the House leadership was the major domo. It was Abramoff who helped DeLay raise those millions of dollars from campaign donors that bought the support of other politicians and became the base for an empire of corruption. DeLay praised Abramoff as "one of my closest friends." Abramoff, in turn, told a convention of college Republicans, "Thank God Tom DeLay is majority leader of the house. Tom DeLay is who all of us want to be when we grow up."

Just last month Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy to bribe public officials, a spectacular fall for a man whose rise to power began 25 years ago with his election as Chairman of the College Republicans. Despite its innocuous name, the organization became a political attack machine for the Far Right and a launching pad for younger conservatives on the make. "Our job," Abramoff, then 22 years old, wrote after his first visit to the Reagan White House, "is to remove liberals from power permanently [from] student newspaper and radio stations, student governments, and academia." Karl Rove had once held the same job as chairman. So did Grover Norquist, who ran Abramoff's campaign. A youthful $200-a-month intern named Ralph Reed was at their side. These were the rising young stars of the conservative movement who came to town to lead a revolution and stayed to run a racket.

They reeked piety. Like DeLay, who had proclaimed himself God's messenger, Ralph Reed found Jesus, was born again, and wound up running Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, landing on the cover of Time as "the Right Hand of God." Reportedly after seeing "Fiddler on the Roof" Abramoff became an Orthodox religious Jew who finagled fake awards as "Scholar of Biblical and American History," "Distinguished Bible Scholar" (from an apparently non-existent organization), the "Biblical Mercantile Award" allegedly from the Cascadian Business Institute through which money was funded for DeLay's famous visit to a plush Scottish golf club, and the national order of merit from the USA Foundation, whose chairman was...Jack Abramoff.

It is impossible to treat all the schemes and scams this crowd concocted to subvert democracy in the name of God and greed. But thanks to some superb reporting from, The Associated Press, and Knight-Ridder, among others, we can touch on a few.

Abramoff made his name, so to speak, representing Indian tribes with gambling interests. As his partner he hired a DeLay crony named Michael Scanlon. Together they would bilk half a dozen Indian tribes who hired them to protect their tribal gambling interests from competition. What they had to offer, of course, was their well-known connections to the Republican power structure, including members of Congress, friends at the White House (Abramoff's personal assistant became Karl Rove's personal assistant), Christian Right activists like Ralph Reed, and right wing ideologues like Grover Norquist (according to The Texas Observer, two lobbying clients of Abramoff paid $25,000 to Norquist's organization - Americans for Tax Reform - for a lunch date and meeting with President Bush in May 2001.)

Abramoff and Scanlon came up with one scheme they called "Gimme Five," Abramoff would refer tribes to Scanlon for grassroots public relations work, and Scanlon would then kick back about 50 percent to Abramoff, all without the tribes' knowledge. Before it was over the tribes had paid them $82 million dollars, much of it going directly into Abramoff's and Scanlon's pockets. And that doesn't count the thousands more that Abramoff directed the tribes to pay out in campaign contributions.

Some of the money found its way into an outfit called the Council of Republicans for Environment Advocacy (CREA), founded by Gale Norton before she became Interior Secretary, the cabinet position most responsible for Indian gaming rights (as well as oil and gas issues, public lands and parks, and something else we'll get to in a moment) .

Some of the money went to so-called charities set up by Abramoff and DeLay that filtered money for lavish trips for members of Congress and their staff, as well as salaries for Congressional family members and DeLay's pet projects.

And some of the money found its way to the righteous folks of the Christian Right. One who had his hand out was Ralph Reed, the religious right's poster boy against gambling. "We believe gambling is a cancer on the American body politic," Reed had said. "It is stealing food from the mouths of children... (and) turning wives into widows." When he resigned from the Christian Coalition (just as it was coming under federal investigation and slipping into financial arrears), Reed sought a cut of the lucre flowing to Abramoff and Scanlon. He sent Abramoff an email: "Now that I am leaving electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts... I'm counting of you to help me with some contacts."

Abramoff came through. According to Susan Schmidt and R. Jeffrey Smith, he and Scanlon paid Reed some $4 million to whip up Christian opposition to gambling initiatives that could cut into the profits of Jack Abramoff's clients. Reed called in some of the brightest stars in the Christian firmament - Pat Robertson, Jerry Fawell, James Dobson, Phyllis Schlafly - to participate in what became a ruse in Abramoff's behalf: They would oppose gambling on religious and moral grounds in strategic places (Texas, Louisiana, Alabama) at decisive moments when competitive challenges threatened Abramoff's . Bogus Christian fronts were part of the strategy. Baptist preachers in Texas rallied to Reed's appeals. Unsuspecting folks in Louisiana heard the voice of God on radio - with Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson doing the honors - thundering against a riverboat gambling scheme, which one of Abramoff's clients feared would undermine its advantage. Reed even got James Dobson, whose nationwide radio "ministry" reaches millions of people, to deluge phone lines at the Interior Department and White House with calls from indignant Christians.

In 1999 Abramoff arranged for the Mississippi Choctaws, who were trying to stave off competition from other tribes, to contribute over $1 million to Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, which then passed the money along to the Alabama Christian Coalition and to another anti-gambling group Reed had duped into aiding the cause. It is unclear how much these Christian soldiers, "marching as to war," knew about the true purpose of their crusade, but Ralph Reed knew all along that his money was coming from Abramoff. The emails between the two men read like Elmer Gantry.

It gets worse.

Some of Abramoff's money from lobbying went to start a non-profit organization called the US Family Network. Nice name, yes? An uplifting all-American name, like so many others that fly the conservative banner in Washington. Tom DeLay wrote a fundraising letter in which he described the US Family Network as "a powerful nationwide organization dedicated to restoring our government to citizen control." Fund raising appeals warned that the American family "is being attacked from all sides: crime, drugs, pornography...and gambling." So help me, I'm not making this up. You can read R. Jeffrey's Smith mind-boggling account of it on the Washington Post website, where he writes that the organization did no discernable grassroots organizing and its money came from business groups with no demonstrated interest in the "moral fitness" agenda that was the network's professed aim.

Let's call it what it was: a scam - one more cog in the money-laundering machine controlled by DeLay and Abramoff. A former top assistant founded the organization. It bought a townhouse just three blocks from DeLay's Congressional quarters and provided him with fancy free office space where he would go to raise money. DeLay's wife also got a sizeable salary. But that's the least of it.

Working with Abramoff through a now defunct law firm in London and an obscure off-shore company in the Bahamas, Russian oil and gas executives were using the US Family Network to funnel money to influence the majority leader of the House of Representatives - yes, that chamber of American government once known as "The People's House."

Our witness for this is the Christian pastor who served as the titular president of the US Family Network, the Reverend Christopher Geeslin. He told The Washington Post that the founder of the organization, the former DeLay aide, told him that a million dollars was passed through from sources in Russia who wanted DeLay's support for legislation enabling the International Monetary fund to bail out the faltering Russian economy without demanding the country raise taxes on its energy industry. As Molly Ivins pointed out in a recent column, right on cue DeLay found his way onto Fox News Sunday to argue the Russian position. That same titular head of the US Family Network, the Christian pastor, said DeLay's former chief of staff also told him, "This is the way things work in Washington."

This is the way things work in Washington.

Twenty five years ago Grover Norquist had said that "What Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs in Washington. Then this will be a different town."

Well, they got what they needed, and the arc of the conservative takeover of government has now been completed. As Abramoff had once said his goal was to banish liberals from college campuses, and later that "All of my political work is driven by philosophical interests, not by the desire to gain wealth," now his intentions, as he admitted to Michael Crowley of The New York Times, were "to push the Republicans on K Street to be more helpful to the conservative movement." Money, politics, and ideology became one and the same in a juggernaut of power that crushed everything in sight, including core conservative principles.

Here we come to the heart of darkness.

One of Abramoff's first big lobbying clients was the Northern Marianas Islands in the Pacific. After World War II the Marianas became a trusteeship of the United Nations, administered by the US Government under the stewardship of the Interior Department. We should all remember that thousands of Marines died there, fighting for our way of life and our freedoms. Today, these islands are a haven for tourists - first-class hotels, beautiful beaches, championship golf course. But there is a dark side. The islands were exempted from US labor and immigration laws, and over the years tens of thousands of people, primarily Chinese, mostly women, were brought there as garment workers. These so-called "guest workers" found themselves living in crowded barracks in miserable conditions. The main island, Saipan, became known as America's biggest sweatshop.

In 1998 a government report found workers there living in substandard conditions, suffering severe malnutrition and health problems and subjected to unprovoked acts of violence. Many had signed "shadow contracts" which required them to pay up to $7000 just to get the job. They also had to renounce their claim to basic human rights, including political and religious activities, socializing and marrying. If they protested, they could be summarily deported. As Greg McDonald wrote in The Houston Chronicle, the garments produced on Saipan were manufactured for American companies from tariff-free Asian cloth and shipped duty- and quota-free - to the United States. Some of the biggest names in the retail clothing industry - Levi Strauss, The Gap, J. Crew, Eddie Bauer, Reebok, Polo, Tommy Helfiger, Nordstrom's, Lord and Taylor, Jones New York, and Liz Claiborne - had been able to slap a "made in the USA" label on the clothes and import them to America, while paying the workers practically nothing.

When these scandalous conditions began to attract attention, the sweatshop moguls fought all efforts at reform. Knowing that Jack Abramoff was close to Tom DeLay, they hired him to lobby for the islands. Conservative members of Congress lined up as Abramoff's team arranged for them to visit the islands on carefully guided junkets. Conservative intellectuals and journalists, for hire at rates considerably above what the women on the islands were making, also signed up for expense-free trips to the Marianas. They flew first-class, dined at posh restaurants, slept in comfort at the beachfront hotel, and returned to write and speak of the islands as "a true free market success story" and "a laboratory of liberty."

Abramoff took Tom DeLay and his wife there, too. DeLay practically swooned. He said the Marianas "represented what is best about America." He called them "my Galapagos" - "a perfect petri dish of capitalism."

These fellow travelers - conservative members of Congress, their staffs and their lapdogs in the rightwing press and think tanks - became a solid phalanx against any and all attempts to provide the workers on the islands with a living wage and decent living conditions. For instance, when a liberal California Democrat, George Miller, and a conservative Alaskan Senator, Frank Murkowski, indignant at the "appalling conditions," wanted to enact a bill to raise minimum wages on the islands and at least prevent summary deportation of the workers, DeLay and Abramoff stopped them cold. As Representative Miller told it, "They killed my reform bill year after year. And even when an immigration reform bill by Senator Frank Murkowski, a Republican, was approved by the full Senate, they blocked it repeatedly in the House."

After the 2000 election, when the spoils of victory were being divided up, Abramoff got himself named to the Bush transition team for the Interior Department. He wanted to make sure the right people wound up overseeing his clients, the Marianas. He enlisted Reed, who said he would raise the matter with Rove, to stop at least one appointment to Interior that might prove troublesome. Small wonder that about this time Reed wrote an email to Enron's top lobbyist touting his pal Abramoff as "arguably the most influential and effective GOP lobbyist in congress. I share several clients with him and have yet to see him lose a battle. He also is very close to DeLay and could help enormously on that front. Raised $ for bush...he [sic] assistant is Susan Ralston [who would become Rove's assistant.]"

For his services to the Marianas Jack Abramoff was paid nearly $10 million dollars, including the fees he charged for booking his guests on the golf courses and providing them copies of Newt Gingrich's book. One of the sweatshop moguls with whom Abramoff was particularly close contributed half a million dollars to - you guessed it - the US Family Network that laundered money from Russian oligarchs to Tom DeLay.

To this day, workers on the Marianas are still denied the federal minimum wage while working long hours for subsistence income in their little "petri dish of capitalism" - "America at its best."

Both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue were now in sync. George W. Bush had created his own version of the K Street Project. Remember how he emerged from the crowded field of Republican candidates in early 1999 and literally blew several of them out of the water? He did so by drowning his opponents with money. In just his first six months of fundraising, Bush collected some $36 million - nine times more than his nearest opponent, John McCain. The money came from the titans of America business and lobbying who understood their contributions would be rewarded. You've heard of the Pioneers and Rangers - people who raised at least $100,000 and $200,000 for Bush. Among them were people like Tom DeLay's brother, also a lobbyist; the CEO of Enron, Kenneth ("Kenny Boy") Lay; and hundreds of executives from the country's banks, investment houses, oil and gas companies, electric utilities, and other companies.

While Tom DeLay kept a ledger on K Street, ranking lobbyists as friendly and unfriendly, the Bush campaign gave every one of his Pioneers and Rangers a tracking number, making sure to know who was bringing in the bucks and where they were coming from. In May of 1999 the trade association for the electric utility industry sent a letter to potential contributors on Bush campaign stationery. He told his colleagues that Bush's campaign managers "have stressed the importance of having our industry incorporate the tracking number in your fundraising does ensure that our industry is credited and that your progress is listed..."

The bounty was waiting. A score of Pioneers and Rangers were paid off with ambassadorships. At least 37 were named to post-election transition teams, where they had a major say in selecting political appointees at key regulatory positions across the government. Remember the California energy crisis, when Enron traders boasted of gouging grandmothers to drive up the prices for energy? Well, Enron's Kenneth Lay had been Bush's biggest campaign funder over the years and what he asked now as a pay-off was appointment to the Energy Department transition team. This is how Enron's boss got to name two of the five members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, who looked the other way while Enron rigged California's energy prices and looted billions right out from the pockets and pocketbooks of California's citizens.

There are, as I said, no victimless crimes in politics. The cost of corruption is passed on to you. When the government of the United States falls under the thumb of the powerful and privileged, regular folks get squashed.

This week I visited for the first time the Museum of the Presidio in San Francisco. From there American troops shipped out to combat in the Pacific. Many never came back. On the walls of one corridor are photographs of some of those troops, a long way from home. Looking at them, I wondered: Is this what those Marines died for on the Marianas - for sweatshops, the plunder of our public trust, the corruption of democracy? Government of the Abramoffs, by the DeLays, and for the people who bribe them?

I don't think so.

But this crowd in charge has a vision sharply at odds with the American people. They would arrange Washington and the world for the convenience of themselves and the transnational corporations that pay for their elections. In the words of Al Meyeroff, the Los Angeles attorney who led a successful class action suit for the workers on Saipan, the people who now control the US Government today want "a society run by the powerful, oblivious to the weak, free of any oversight, enjoying a cozy relationship with government, and thriving on crony capitalism."

America as their petri dish - the Marianas, many times over.

This is an old story and a continuing struggle. A century ago Theodore Roosevelt said the central fact of his time was that corporations had become so dominant they would chew up democracy and spit it out. His cousin Franklin Roosevelt warned that a government of money was as much to be feared as a government by mob. One was a progressive Republican, the other a liberal Democrat. Their sentiments were echoed by an icon of the conservative movement, Barry Goldwater, in 1987:

The fact that liberty depended on honest elections was of the utmost importance to the patriots who founded our nation and wrote the Constitution. They knew that corruption destroyed the prime requisite of Constitutional liberty, an independent legislature free from any influence other than that of the people...representative government assumes that elections will be controlled by the citizenry at large, not by those who give the most money. Electors must believe their vote counts. Elected officials must owe their allegiance to the people, not to their own wealth or to the wealth of interest groups who speak only for the selfish fringes of the whole community.


I have painted a bleak picture of democracy today. I believe it is a true picture. But it is not a hopeless picture. Something can be done about it. Organized people have always had to take on organized money. If they had not, blacks would still be three-fifths of a person, women wouldn't have the vote, workers couldn't organize, and children would still be working in the mines. Our democracy today is more real and more inclusive than existed in the days of the Founders because time and again, the people have organized themselves to insist that America become "a more perfect union."

It is time to fight again. These people in Washington have no right to be doing what they are doing. It's not their government, it's your government. They work for you. They're public employees - and if they let us down and sell us out, they should be fired. That goes for the lowliest bureaucrat in town to the senior leaders of Congress on up to the President of the United States.

They would have you believe this is just "a lobbying scandal." They would have you think that if they pass a few nominal reforms, put a little more distance between the politician and the lobbyist, you will think everything is okay and they can go back to business as usual.

They're trying it now. Just look at Congressman John Boehner, elected to replace Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. Today he speaks the language of reform, but ten years ago Boehner was handing out checks from the tobacco executives on the floor of the House. He's been a full player in the K Street Project and DeLay's money machine, holding weekly meetings with some of the most powerful lobbyists in the Speaker's suite at the Capitol. He has thought nothing of hopping on corporate jets or cruising Caribbean during winter breaks with high-powered lobbyists. Moreover, the man Boehner beat to succeed DeLay - Congressman Roy Blunt - has been elected to DeLay's first job as Majority Whip despite being deeply compromised by millions upon millions of dollars raised from the same interests that bought off DeLay.

And what now of DeLay? He's under indictment for money laundering inTexas and had to resign as Majority Leader. But the other day the party bosses in Congress gave him a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee where big contributors get their rewards. And - are you ready for this? - they put him on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department which is investigating the Abramoff scandal, including Abramoff's connections to DeLay.

Business as usual. The usual rot. The power of arrogance.

You may say, see? These forces can't be defeated. They're too rich, they're too powerful, and they’re too entrenched.

But look at what has happened in Connecticut, one of the most corrupt states in the union. Rocked by multiple scandals that brought down a state treasurer, a state senator, and the governor himself with convictions of bribery, tax evasion, and worse, the people finally had enough. Although many of the parties had to be forced, kicking and screaming to do it, last December the legislature passed clean money reform and the new governor signed it into law. The bill bans campaign contributions from lobbyists and state contractors and makes Connecticut the very first state in the nation where the legislature and governor approved full public funding for their own races.

Connecticut isn't the only place where the link between public officials and private campaign contributions has been broken. Both Arizona and Maine offer full public financing of statewide and legislative races. New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Vermont have clean money systems for some races. The cities of Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico recently approved full public financing for citywide races.

In these places, candidates for public office - executive, legislative, and in some cases judicial - have the option of running on a limited and equal grant of full public funding, provided they take little or no private contributions. To qualify they have to pass a threshold by raising a large number of small contributions from voters in their district. The system allows candidates to run competitive campaigns for office even if they do not have ties to well-heeled donors or big money lobbyists, a near impossibility when public elections are privately funded.

In places where clean elections are law, we see more competition for legislative seats and a more diverse group of people running for office. In David Sirota's words, they "are encouraged to run on their ideas, their convictions and their integrity instead of on how effectively they can shake down the big money." And there are policy results as well. In Arizona, one of the first acts of Governor Janet Napolitano, elected under the state's public financing program, was to institute reforms establishing low-cost prescription drug subsidies for seniors. Compare that to the Medicare debacle going on at the national level. In Maine, where clean elections has been in place since 2000, there have also been advances in providing low cost pharmaceutical drugs for residents, and in making sure that every state resident has medical coverage.

Why? Because the politicians can do what's right, not what they're paid to do by big donors. They, not the lobbyists, write the legislation. As one blogger put it this past weekend, instead of dialing for dollars, they might have time even to read bills like 'The Patriot Act' and find the small print establishing a secret police.

California may soon follow Connecticut. Calling for the political equivalent of electroshock therapy, the Los Angeles Times recently urged Californians: "Forget half-measures. The cure is voluntary public financing of election campaigns." Already the Clean Money and Fair Elections Bill has passed the state assembly and is headed for the senate. Check it out at

Think about this: Californians could buy back their elected representatives at a cost of about $5 or $6 per California resident. Nationally we could buy back our Congress and the White House with full public financing for about $10 per taxpayer per year. You can check this out on the website Public Campaign. []

Public funding won't solve all the problems. There's no way to legislate truly immoral people from abusing our trust. But it would go a long way to breaking the link between big donors and public officials and to restoring democracy to the people. Until we offer qualified candidates a different source of funding for their campaigns - "clean," disinterested, accountable public money - the selling of America will go on. From scandal to scandal.

The people out across the country on the front lines of this fight have brought the message down to earth, in plain language and clear metaphors. If a player sliding into home plate reached into his pocket and handed the umpire $1000 before he made the call, what would we call that? A bribe. And if a lawyer handed a judge $1000 before he issued a ruling, what do we call that? A bribe. But when a lobbyist or CEO sidles up to a member of Congress at a fundraiser or in a skybox and hands him a check for $1000, what do we call that? A campaign contribution.

Representative Barney Frank likes to say of Congress: "We are the only people in the world required by law to take large amounts of money from strangers and then act as if it has no effect on our behavior."

What law is he talking about? The unwritten law that says your Congressman has to raise $2000 per day from the day he or she is sworn in to the next election days - weekdays, Saturdays, Sundays, Christmas Eve and the Fourth of July. As long as elected officials need that constant stream of cash, someone will run our country but it won't be you.

Even some business lobbyists are having second thoughts. One of them, Stanton Anderson, was recently quoted in Business Week: "As a conservative, I've always opposed government involvement. But it seems to me the real answer is federal financing of Congressional elections."

Mr. Anderson understand this isn't about a "few bad apples." This is about the system. We can change the system. But we have to believe democracy is worth fighting for.

Listen to what Theodore Roosevelt said one hundred years ago when he took on the political bosses and big money of his time for committing "treason to the people."

We are standing for the great fundamental rights upon which all successful free government must be based. We are standing for elementary decency in politics. We are fighting for honesty against naked robbery. It is not a partisan issue; it is more than a political issue; it is a great moral issue. If we condone political theft, if we do not resent the kinds of wrong and injustice that injuriously affect the whole nation, not merely our democratic form of government but our civilization itself cannot endure.

We need that fighting spirit today - the tough, outraged and resilient spirit that knows we have been delivered a great and precious legacy, you and I - "government of, by and for the people" - and, by God we're going to pass it on.

Bill Moyers' long-time editorial colleague, Rebecca Wharton; assistant, Karen Kimball; and Public Campaign's Micah Sifry and Nancy Waltzman for their contributions to this speech. Bill Moyers is the president of The Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.


Saturday, February 25, 2006


How George W. Bush Bankrupted America and Betrayed the Reagan Legacy

Excerpt from Book
by Bruce Bartlett

Chapter 1

I Know Conservatives, and George W. Bush Is No Conservative

George W. Bush is widely considered to be one of the most politically conservative presidents in history. His invasion of Iraq, his huge tax cuts, and his intervention in the Terri Schiavo case are among the issues where those on the left view him as being to the right of Attila the Hun. But those on the right have a different perspective -- mostly discussed among themselves or in forums that fly below the major media's radar. They know that Bush has never really been one of them the way Ronald Reagan was. Bush is more like Richard Nixon -- a man who used the right to pursue his agenda, but was never really part of it. In short, he is an impostor, a pretend conservative.

I write as a Reaganite, by which I mean someone who believes in the historical conservative philosophy of small government, federalism, free trade, and the Constitution as originally understood by the Founding Fathers. On that basis, Bush clearly is not a Reaganite or "small c" conservative. Philosophically, he has more in common with liberals, who see no limits to state power as long as it is used to advance what they think is right. In the same way, Bush has used government to pursue a "conservative" agenda as he sees it. But that is something that runs totally contrary to the restraints and limits to power inherent in the very nature of traditional conservatism. It is inconceivable to traditional conservatives that there could ever be such a thing as "big government conservatism," a term often used to describe Bush's philosophy.

Perhaps the greatest sin of liberals is their belief that it is possible for them to know everything necessary to manage the economy and society. To conservatives, such conceit leads directly to socialism and totalitarianism. At a minimum, it makes for errors that are hard to correct. By contrast, conservatives like Ronald Reagan understand that the collective knowledge of people as expressed in the free market is far greater than any individual, government bureau, or even the most powerful computer can possibly have. And in politics, they believe that the will of the people as expressed through democratic institutions is more likely to result in correct policies than those devised by Platonic philosopher kings. Liberals, on the other hand, are fundamentally distrustful of the wisdom and judgment of the people, preferring instead the absolutism of the courts to the chaos and uncertainty of democracy.

Traditional conservatives view the federal government as being untrustworthy and undependable. They utilize it only for those necessary functions like national defense that by their nature cannot be provided at the state and local level or privately. The idea that government could ever be used actively to promote their goals in some positive sense is a contradiction in terms to them. It smacks too much of saying that the ends justify the means, which conservatives have condemned since at least the French Revolution.

George W. Bush, by contrast, often looks first to government to solve societal problems without even considering other options. Said Bush in 2003, "We have a responsibility that when somebody hurts, government has got to move." A more succinct description of liberalism would be hard to find.

My main concern is with Bush's economic policy because that is my field of expertise. But it doesn't mean that I am content with the rest of his program. I am deeply concerned about the Iraq operation, which has more in common with Woodrow Wilson's policy of making the world safe for democracy than with traditional conservative foreign policy, which is based on defending the American homeland and avoiding unnecessary political and military entanglements with other countries -- a view best expressed in George Washington's Farewell Address.

I am also concerned with Bush's cavalier attitude toward federalism and his insistence on absolute, unquestioning loyalty, which stifles honest criticism and creates a cult of personality around him that I find disturbing. As former Reagan speechwriter John Podhoretz, author of a sympathetic book about Bush, has observed, "One of the remarkable aspects of this White House has been the fanatical loyalty its people have displayed toward Bush -- even talking to friendly journalists like me, it's been nearly impossible to get past the feel-good spin."

For example, in 2002, the White House directly ordered the firing of former Republican congressman Mike Parker of Mississippi as head of the Army Corps of Engineers because he publicly disagreed with the administration's budget request for his agency. In 2005, it ordered the demotion of a Justice Department statistician who merely put out some data that the White House found inconvenient. This micromanagement of such low-level personnel is extraordinary in my experience. Columnist Robert Novak referred to this sort of thing as the Bush White House's "authoritarian aura."

In White Houses filled with high-caliber people, dissent invariably arises and becomes known. The apparent lack of dissent in this White House, therefore, is an indication to me of something troubling -- an unwillingness to question policies even behind closed doors, an anti-intellectual distrust of facts and analysis, and blind acceptance of whatever decisions have been made by the boss.

The only alternative is something equally bad -- fear of telling Bush something he doesn't want to hear. When asked whether he ever disagreed with him, Mark McKinnon, Bush's chief campaign media adviser in 2004, said, "I prefer for others to go into the propeller first." This is the sort of thing that has gotten many big corporations like Enron in trouble in recent years, and I fear similar results from some of Bush's ill-considered policies, especially the disastrous unfunded expansion of Medicare.

In thinking about Bush, I keep coming back to Ronald Reagan. Although derided as an amiable dunce by his enemies, it is clear from recent research that his knowledge and intellect were far deeper than they imagined. Articles and speeches drafted in his own hand leave no doubt that Reagan was exceptionally well read and had an excellent grasp of both history and current issues, including highly technical matters and complex statistics. This knowledge was honed by decades of reading the classics of conservative thought and having spent much of his life publicly debating those whose views were diametrically opposed to his.

By contrast, George W. Bush brags about never even reading a daily newspaper. Having worked in the White House, I know how cloistered the environment can be and how limited its information resources are -- much of what White House staffers know about what is going on in the White House actually comes from reporters and news reports rather than inside knowledge, which is frequently much less than reporters imagine. It's distressing to contemplate the possibility that the president's opinion about the worthlessness of outside information sources is widely held within the White House. Unfortunately, I know from experience that the president sets the tone and style for everyone in the White House, suggesting that it is more likely than not that this view does indeed permeate the West Wing -- a suspicion confirmed by the memoirs of those who have worked in this White House.

Reagan, on the other hand, had a conservative distrust of his own ability to know all the facts and arguments before making important decisions. That is one reason why he was so tolerant of leaks from the White House during his administration. Reagan knew that this was an important safety valve that allowed dissenting viewpoints to reach him without being blocked by those with their own agendas. Deputy Chief of Staff Dick Darman, who controlled the paper flow in and out of the Oval Office, for example, was often accused of preventing Reagan from seeing memos that argued against positions Darman favored.

I was involved in one very small effort to get around Darman myself. One day early in the Reagan Administration, while I was still working on Capitol Hill, a midlevel White House staffer whom I knew called me. He had written a memo to the president that he couldn't get through the bureaucracy. Knowing that Reagan was an avid reader of Human Events, the conservative weekly newspaper, my friend suggested that I take his memo, put my name on it, and publish it as an article in Human Events. I did, thereby getting the information and analysis to the president that my friend thought he needed. Others in the White House frequently did the same thing by leaking memos to the Washington Post or the New York Times that appeared as news stories.

By contrast, the Bush White House is obsessive about secrecy, viewing leaks of even the most mundane information as the equivalent of high treason. Ironically, this attitude can be self-defeating, since "leaks" are a very effective way of getting one's message out -- as the Clinton White House often demonstrated. Think of it as giving an exclusive story to a reporter who has no choice but to accept the leaker's "spin." In this way, a leak can garner more and better press for a White House initiative than more conventional means like press releases. Leaking, in short, is not a moral issue, but can be a useful public relations technique.

Conservative Doubts

Traditional conservatives had grave doubts about George W. Bush since day one. First, he was his father's son. George H. W. Bush ran as Reagan's heir, but did not govern like him. Indeed, the elder Bush signaled that there would be a sharp break with Reagan-style conservatism in his inaugural address, when he spoke of being "kinder" and "gentler." Conservatives immediately asked themselves, "Kinder and gentler than whom?" To them, the answer was obvious: Ronald Reagan. In effect, Bush was accusing his predecessor and the philosophy he stood for as being the opposite of kind and gentle -- nasty and brutish, perhaps. As columnist George Will later put it, Bush was determined "to distinguish himself from Reagan by disparaging Reagan."

George H. W. Bush's break with Reagan quickly became apparent in other ways as well. For instance, he fired virtually every Reagan political appointee in the federal government just as thoroughly as if he had been a Democrat. Of course, the Reagan appointees all knew that they were liable to be replaced at some point, but the suddenness and thoroughness of the purge caught them all by surprise -- there had been no forewarning before Inauguration Day. It created a lot of ill will that came back to haunt the elder Bush when he got into political trouble later on. Most of the Reagan people sat on their hands rather than come to his aid.

I was spared the purge only because Reagan had appointed Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady in the last days of his administration, knowing that he was a close friend of then–Vice President Bush. Since Brady stayed on, that spared Treasury the "transition" that other departments underwent and thus avoided a purge. Within a year or so, most of the senior political appointees moved on anyway and Bush had his chance to appoint their successors. The same thing would have happened in all the other departments, too, thereby saving Bush a lot of unnecessary antagonism from the Reagan crowd. It would have helped Bush govern as well, since many of the purged positions remained vacant for some time for various reasons and were often filled with less competent and experienced replacements. Moreover, many of the so-called Bush people turned out to have no meaningful connection to him and were nothing more than friends of friends, serving in government just to get a line on their résumés and not because they had anything to accomplish in terms of policy.

One of the first things I noticed when the new crowd came in in 1989 was that they would very seldom mention Ronald Reagan's name. When necessary, they always referred to the "previous administration." And it was quite clear that they viewed Reagan's "hard-line" conservatism as passé and counterproductive to governing. They, on the other hand, thought themselves to be much more politically astute and believed that they would be far more effective by jettisoning Reagan's ideological baggage.

The problem was that having abandoned Reagan's principles, they had nothing to replace them with except political expediency. This culminated in the infamous abandonment of the no-new-taxes pledge in 1990. The Bush people thought they were being so clever by simply posting a notice in the White House pressroom on June 26, 1990, which said that budget negotiations with congressional Democrats would take place and include discussion of "tax revenue increases." They seem to have thought that no one would notice this fundamental reversal of Bush's position on taxes. Needless to say, it was noticed instantaneously, causing an almost immediate decline in Bush's poll ratings.

I was told by one of the key participants in this decision that they never intended it as a repudiation of the pledge, but merely as an acknowledgment that in a growing economy taxes automatically rise. If this is true, it certainly is not evidence of political sophistication, but rather its opposite. Being the only Reaganite left in the Treasury Department, apparently I was the only one who knew how negatively Bush's concession would be perceived by the Republican rank and file. Unfortunately, no one asked my opinion before the decision was made.

I bring all this up because when George W. Bush first came on the radar screen as a potential presidential candidate, all that most conservatives knew about him was that he was the son of a president who had abandoned a successful conservative governing philosophy in favor of what they saw as squishy moderation, and was appropriately punished by voters for his sins. So when the younger Bush started talking about "compassionate conservatism," therefore, traditional conservatives immediately were suspicious of another Bush betrayal. As Richard Miniter wrote in the conservative Manchester Union Leader, "Bush's 'compassionate conservatism' strikes some as insulting and signals a return to his father's 'kinder and gentler' conservatism, which led to tax hikes and the loss of the White House."

As National Review's Andrew Stuttaford later put it, compassionate conservatism is an idea that should have been "strangled in the cradle." To even call it an idea is "flattery," he said. For the most part, it is little more than "pork wrapped up in schmaltz."

Right from the beginning, George W. Bush made it clear that he was not a conservative in the Reagan mold. In a speech in Indianapolis on July 22, 1999, he called the idea that our problems would be better solved if government would just get out of the way a "destructive mind-set." Government is "wasteful and grasping," Bush said, but "we must correct it, not disdain it." Commenting on this speech, Cato Institute president Ed Crane said it could have come straight out of the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank allied with the Democratic Party.

Even in front of explicitly conservative audiences, Bush continued his theme that government was not the enemy, but just wasn't being used for the proper ends. In a speech to the Manhattan Institute on October 5, 1999, Bush put it this way: "Too often, my party has confused the need for limited government with disdain for government itself." He went on to complain that the government was too weak to do what was needed. It was "grasping" and "impotent," he said.

Excerpted from Impostor by Bruce Bartlett Copyright (c)2006 by Bruce Bartlett. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

Feb 22, 2006
Associated Press Writer

The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

As part of the $6.8 billion purchase, state-owned Dubai Ports World agreed to reveal records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at U.S. ports, the documents said. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment.

The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If officials had predicted the firestorm of criticism over the deal, Lewis said, "they might have made them sound harder."

The conditions involving the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. were detailed in U.S. documents marked "confidential." Such records are regularly guarded as trade secrets, and it is highly unusual for them to be made public.

The concessions _ described previously by the Homeland Security Department as unprecedented among maritime companies _ reflect the close relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The revelations about the negotiated conditions came as the White House acknowledged President Bush was unaware of the pending sale until the deal had already been approved by his administration.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement, but some lawmakers said they still were determined to capsize it.

Dubai Port's top American executive, chief operating officer Edward H. Bilkey, said the company will do whatever the Bush administration asks to enhance shipping security and ensure the sale goes through. Bilkey said Wednesday he will work in Washington to persuade skeptical lawmakers they should endorse the deal; Senate oversight hearings already are scheduled.

"We're disappointed," Bilkey told the AP in an interview. "We're going to do our best to persuade them that they jumped the gun. The UAE is a very solid friend, as President Bush has said."

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

The administration required Dubai Ports to designate an executive to handle requests from the U.S. government, but it did not specify this person's citizenship.

It said Dubai Ports must retain paperwork "in the normal course of business" but did not specify a time period or require corporate records to be housed in the United States. Outside experts familiar with such agreements said such provisions are routine in other cases.

Bush faces a potential rebellion from leaders of his own party, as well as a fight from Democrats, over the sale. It puts Dubai Ports in charge of major terminal operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Senate and House leaders urged the president to delay the takeover, which is set to be finalized in early March. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee said the deal raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland." House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further.

In Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the agreement was thoroughly vetted. "We have to maintain a principle that it doesn't matter where in the world one of these purchases is coming from," Rice said Wednesday. She described the United Arab Emirates as "a good partner in the war on terrorism."

Bush personally defended the agreement on Tuesday, but the White House said he did not know about it until recently. The AP first reported the U.S. approval of the sale to Dubai Ports on Feb. 11, and many members of Congress have said they learned about it from the AP.

"I think somebody dropped the ball," said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. "Information should have flowed more freely and more quickly up into the White House. I think it has been mishandled in terms of coming forward with adequate information."

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush learned about the deal "over the last several days," as congressional criticism escalated. McClellan said it did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a government review and was determined not to pose a threat.

McClellan said Bush afterward asked the head of every U.S. department involved in approving the sale whether there were security concerns. "Each and every one expressed that they were comfortable with this transaction going forward," he said.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez told the AP the administration was being thoughtful and deliberate approving the sale.

"We are not reacting emotionally," Guiterrez said in an interview Wednesday. "That's what I believe our partners from around the world would like to see from us is that we be thoughtful. That we be deliberate. That we understand issues before we make a decision."

Associated Press writers Jeanine Aversa in Washington, Anne Gearan in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and John Christoffersen in Danbury, Conn., contributed to this report.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Masters of Deception

And now for the real news…

by Justin Raimondo
February 15, 2006

While the country – or, rather, the American media – is fixated on an accidental shooting by the vice president, and the airwaves are filled with the natterings of the chattering classes over this inconsequential albeit unfortunate matter, the real shooting is being largely ignored: the slaughter continues in Iraq. While reporters and pundits rush to track down every niggling detail of Quailgate, the story of how we were lied into war – and set up for a sequel – is largely untold.

Such is life in the post-9/11 Bizarro World we've all been consigned to: the trivial is spotlighted, while the real news occurs under cover of darkness. Scattered fragments of the story come out, however, and it is left for the inquiring reader – that's you and me, my friend – to fit together such pieces of the puzzle as we have and try to discern some consistent pattern.

The big news is that the Justice Department probe into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by Scooter Libby and his cohorts has taken a new and very interesting turn, one that perhaps sheds new light on a key aspect of the case: the motivation of Libby and his co-conspirators. As Raw Story reporter Larisa Alexandrovna reveals in the first really substantive addition to the story since Libby's indictment, Plame's highly sensitive work for the CIA – involving nuclear proliferation issues – had a very specific focus at the time of her outing:

"According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

"Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program

The exposure of Plame and her entire operation – Brewster Jennings & Associates, the CIA front company that cloaked this super-secret tracking program – effectively blinded the U.S. to the evolution of Iran's nuclear program. Not long after the outing of Plame – and just after a grand jury began hearing testimony in the Fitzgerald investigation – another security breach involving Iran made headlines: the Iranians had been alerted to the fact that the U.S. had broken the code governing their internal government communications, with the chief suspects being the neoconservative version of Che Guevara, Ahmed Chalabi, and his Iraqi National Congress, the source of much of the phony pre-invasion "intelligence" about Iraq. The truth about Iran's WMD (or lack of same) was rendered inaccessible, leaving the field open for the neocons and their foreign operatives to move into the vacuum and keep their very effective lie factory working overtime.

At the same time, the chief analyst at the Pentagon's Iran desk, Larry Franklin, a committed neoconservative, was making contact with two officials of the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the heavy-hitting Washington lobby, feeding them information that they subsequently passed on to Israeli embassy officials, including Naor Gilon, the embassy's chief of political affairs, and another yet-to-be-named official (who some speculate may be Danny Ayalon, Israel's ambassador to the U.S.). The focus of the Franklin-AIPAC spy cabal: U.S. intelligence on Iran.

And that's not all. More interesting reportage by Alexandrovna points to a third prong of this disabling operation aimed at U.S. surveillance of Iran:

"Several U.S. and foreign intelligence sources, along with investigators, say an Iranian exile with ties to Iran-Contra peddled a bizarre tale of stolen uranium to governments on both sides of the Atlantic in the spring and summer of 2003.

"The story that was peddled – which detailed how an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq prior to the start of the war in March of 2003, and stole enriched uranium to use in their own nuclear weapons program – was part of an attempt to implicate both countries in a WMD plot

A familiar cast of characters stars in this tale of intrigue and disinformation: Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian arms merchant and master of deception, who, along with neoconservative guru Michael Ledeen – another player in this drama – was entangled in the Iran-Contra affair. Larry Franklin makes a guest appearance at a meeting in Rome where the plot was reportedly hatched. Oh, and a mysterious Iranian named "Ali," who, it turns out, is the pseudonym for Fereidoun Mahdavi, a former minister under the Shah, now a secretary to Ghorbanifar.

It would have been Plame's job to debunk Ali's tall tales. Knocking her and Brewster Jennings out of the running was necessarily a top priority for those with an interest in targeting Iran. There is a lot more here than has come to the attention of the "mainstream" media, and, again, Alexandrovna is digging where others fear to tread.

All indications are that an active campaign to set up Iran for attack was going full gear even as George W. Bush was declaring "mission accomplished" in Iraq. As we look at the different pieces of the puzzle, a definite picture begins to emerge: what we are seeing are the outlines of a coordinated covert action, engineered by neoconservative ideologues in and around the Pentagon and Dick Cheney's office, and carried out in cooperation with the Israelis. Their objective: gin up a war with Iran, even as we marched into Iraq. A one-two punch that will speed the forces of "democratization" and visit upon the region what Ledeen lauds as "creative destruction."

It is commonly assumed that the outing of Plame was retaliation for her husband's vocal opposition to the war and his debunking of the myth that Saddam sought uranium in the African nation of Niger with which to make a nuclear bomb. Yet this explanation was never really very satisfactory: it assumed an extraordinary amount of self-indulgent pettiness on the part of the leakers in the White House, and a level of vindictiveness bordering on stupidity.

As we begin to understand the nature of Plame's work, her exposure takes on new significance: the War Party was intent on blindfolding U.S. policymakers by ensuring that no one with any expertise or interest in debunking their lies would remain standing. Spared the sight of reality – which is that Iran is at least 10 years away from building a viable nuclear weapon – U.S. officials would then be free to do what they did in the case of Iraq: make it up as they go along.

Libby has already been indicted, but others, as we have seen, are knee-deep in this quagmire. As the investigation deepens and broadens, and the trial date (a year from now) approaches, the twists and turns of the scandal – which ought to go down in history as Neocongate – will be mapped by the meticulous Fitzgerald, as the story of how we were lied into war is laid bare.

Source: ____________________________

Monday, February 20, 2006


Is much of the world, certainly the occident, suffering from a serious form of cognitive dissonance?

"Cognitive dissonance is a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation. It therefore occurs when there is a need to accommodate new ideas, and it may be necessary for it to develop so that we become 'open' to them."

By Donnie Rumsfeld
Feb. 16, 2006

Five years since the stealing of the 2000 US presidential election and nearly two years since a repeated computerized electoral theft in 2004, the vast majority of the US electorate have not yet woken up to the reality that their country has been hijacked by a small cabal of militarists who make Dr Strangelove look a cuddly moderate.

Certainly, the overall responsibility for the concealment of this frightening state-of-affairs must be laid at the door of the international mainstream media (MSM) which since the end of the ideological Cold War of the 'eighties found itself lacking a serious contender for replacing the old Soviet Union as the scapegoat for all the evils of western capitalism. The 'Red Menace' was a convenient bogeyman for western governments and provided a rationale for the otherwise unjustifiable spending of colossal amounts of public monies on a parasitical Military-Industrial complex.

Once the 'Red Menace' disappeared over the horizon it had to be replaced with another propaganda big lie: 'Terrorism' which quickly morphed into 'the Threat from Islamic Terrorism' and which, thanks to utterly cynical political con-men such as Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair and Howard, has now become 'the threat from Islam' in a so called 'clash of civilizations.'

Journalists, too, can be war criminals and many of them, in the US, UK and elsewhere became de facto war criminals by supporting an illegal war against Irak. Having once decided to take that course it was natural that journalists should embrace the 'war of civilizations' as a rationale for what would otherwise only be described as psychopathic behaviour.

The behaviour of both politicians and journalists are essentially tribal. And when tribes go to war their leaders need to embellish their belligerence with rationales and big lies in order to mentally bamboozle and bully everyone into going along with them. Hence the use of emotionally coercive words like 'threat' and 'clash' where, in reality, both the threat and the clash are nothing more than of an artificially manufactured nature. Manufactured to manipulate the lumpen public into doing whatever their 'leaders' might wish. Manufacture which leads to the artificial creation of a consensus reality which has no basis of truth outside its own bubble.

In a rapidly-changing world of increasing competition for a finite amount of natural 'resources' we find ourselves in a time of Resource Wars with Oil being presently at the very top of the list. Now, there are very few folk around who are dumb enough to believe that the invasion of Irak and the impending attack on Iran are nothing more than a continuation of the current Resource Wars, wars being re-packaged and sold us as a 'Perpetual War against Terrorism'. So how is it that so many of them appear to have bought the WMD story, in the case of Irak, and the 'Nuclear Threat' story in the case of Iran?

Far from being a nuclear threat, Iran is today in danger of nuclear extinction from the very regimes that project their own belligerence on this non-nuclear country. The US and Israeli regimes, so far, have taken the leading part in threatening Iran. And, as usual, Washington's quisling, Tony Blair and his cohort Jack Straw, have done so much of the diplomatic machinations required to get others to toe the line in order to use the United Nations as a pretence for what is a fait accompli.

That fait accompli was decided upon by a semi-secret cabal of warmongers described as 'neo-conservatives' when they prepared their blueprint for total world domination, the Project for a New American Century The neocon's mentor and guru, Leo Strauss, based his machiavellian ideology on the belief that humans are basically evil and need to be governed. In order to govern effectively one has to create an enemy and then focus public attention on that enemy. Through doing so a state of perpetual war can be justified and this, in turn, would ensure that the public remain manipulable and under total control.

When the neocons' puppet, George Bush, Jr describes Americans as "a warlike nation" what he is really saying is that his country has been taken over in a coup d'etat by a cabal of warmongers. Warmongers who despise everything that the US Constitution and Bill of Rights stands for and who have every intention of turning the USA into a totalitarian state. And in five years they have already done most of the work necessary to dismantle the legal structures of checks and balances which were deliberately created by the founding fathers of the USA precisely in order to protect it from becoming a dictatorship.

All this has been performed in a lightning blitzkrieg which has left the public stunned into shock and awe, unable to believe that good old Uncle Sam could have so rapidly become a serial-killer gangster out to control and destroy everyone and everything he cannot control. How to concile this terrible nightmare with all the assuring fantasies of the American Dream so effectively sold to its own public and the rest of the world over so many decades? Surely we went to Irak to topple an evil dictator. And we might have to use force to stop the Mad Mullahs from developing an evil Islamic bomb.

Cognitive dissonance: "a psychological phenomenon which refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe, and new information or interpretation."

Is mass cognitive dissonance leading to the creation of a prison planet ruled by barbarians the kind of which this world has never known before? The mass trance under which so many have been put will not only lead to the creation of a perpetual war culture but to a way of life devoid of humane feelings towards all the other countless human beings who will be cruelly and inevitably sacrificed in order that we might survive.

This is the reality to which we must all wake up and 'smell the coffee' now. For if we do not it is only just a very short time before we, too, become the new nazis' blood-sacrifice.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Able Danger danger

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The danger of Able Danger - at least for those who enjoy believing everything they are told - is that it completely undermines the whole basis for the Official Story of what happened on September 11, 2001. It's a timing thing. The FBI has been very careful to have Atta arriving for the first time in the United States in June 2000. Their simple reason for the certainty of arrival time is that he is documented to have been attending school in Hamburg up to May 2000. Able Danger puts Atta in the United States, as head of a Brooklyn cell of terrorists, at least as early as January or February 2000, and probably back into 1999. There have been more recent attempts to obfuscate the issue by claiming that the information, including the picture of Atta, came from surveillance overseas, or claiming that Atta's participation in the Brooklyn cell was in September 2000 (impossible, as Atta was otherwise engaged by that time; also note this 'usually reliable source' making a fool of himself carrying the water for the Pentagon spinners), but the original information is clear that the data mining with respect to Atta was with respect to his American activities at least as early as early 2000.

Therefore, the terrorist Atta can't be the same guy as the student in Hamburg. However, the entire story of September 11 is constructed on that identity. The biography of the Egyptian Atta, how he became radicalized attending a mosque in Hamburg, formed part of the al Qaeda terrorist cell in Hamburg, and then came to America to lead a terrorist attack, depends on the American 'Atta' being the same guy as the Egyptian/Hamburg Atta (by 'Atta', I mean the guy who assumed the Atta identity for his operations in the United States). Able Danger confirms that they are not the same guy, and that we really know nothing about the background of the American 'Atta'. Since we can now see that the FBI story with respect to Atta is a lie, and we have no way of knowing anything about who he really was or what motivated him, we can see that the stories about every other one of the nineteen is similarly flawed. If the FBI can lie about Atta, they can lie about all of them. Suddenly, the connection between al Qaeda and September 11, which depended entirely on the connections to the Hamburg radical Muslim cell, disappears.

Most of the hijackers are just ciphers, a name and a face and a date of arrival. We seem to know a lot about Ziad Jarrah, but his FBI story has the same flaw as the Atta story, in that we rely entirely on the FBI to prove that the American Jarrah was a radical Islamist terrorist. All the independent evidence - from family and friends and Hamburg acquaintances - is that it was impossible for Jarrah to have had anything to do with 9-11. He liked fast cars - he was caught for speeding in the United States - and parties, and was described by the Imam in Hamburg as a 'weak' Muslim who had to be practically dragged to the mosque. The most plausible story about Jarrah is the one believed by his family, that he was tricked into being on the plane, and was not a terrorist but just another victim of the plot.

Jarrah as a patsy would be very easy to set up, especially if the Hamburg cell was really just a 'honey pot' created by intelligence agents to provide the evidential background to 9-11. They would have been looking for a collection of patsies, including a young, devout, Muslim male from the Middle East, who had professed a desire to learn flying in the United States. Jarrah wasn't devout, but he fit the rest of the pattern perfectly, so he would have to do. They would give him some plausible story - say, that they were going into business to sell crop dusters in the Middle East - and offer to partly pay for Jarrah's American adventure if he would assist them in their business operations in the U. S. Jarrah didn't need the money - his father's wedding present to him was to be a Mercedes - but a guy like Jarrah could always use a few extra bucks. Jarrah attended a flying school just down the road from the school that 'Atta' attended, lived in an apartment around the corner from where 'Atta' lived, started his role in the 9-11 plot by moving to a hotel near the hotel used by 'Atta', and bought a ticket to fly on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. All of this could easily have been set up by 'Atta', all as part of the assistance Jarrah was supposedly giving 'Atta' in his American business. After 'Atta' thus implicated Jarrah in the plot, the Americans shot down the plane, and you have an instant patsy. The only thing really tying Jarrah to the terrorist plot are the voice recording of the terrorist pilot on the plane - which could have been anybody or even an FBI fake - and his connections to 'Atta', which we know from Able Danger doesn't prove anything.

Of all the nineteen, there are only a few for whom we seem to have some independent information, and all of the information, again, comes through the FBI. Since we are certain the FBI is lying about Atta, how can we rely on their information on any of the nineteen? Hani Hanjour had a life in the United States prior to the hijackings, obtained a pilot's license (almost certainly fraudulently, as he never learned how to fly a plane), and was known to at least one independent person, Aukai Collins, who wrote that he thought that Hanjour was not a committed Muslim, and was not the kind of guy to give up his life for this cause. Coupled with the fact that the people who were teaching him to fly felt he couldn't fly a Cessna, we have another example of someone who doesn't fit the profile as the pilot of Flight 77, and whose ties to the plot depend entirely on connections with the group associated with the American 'Atta'.

The entire operation was a combination of intelligence officers, including the American 'Atta', and hired-help patsies tricked into implicating themselves in the plot. The patsies, or their identities, were chosen based on being Middle Eastern Muslim males who vaguely fit the profiles of potential terrorists. Some of them, but not the main ones, may actually have had real connections to Islamist radical groups, but it is just as likely that their identities were stolen identities which were chosen based on the fact that they could be traced back to people who could be connected to terrorism (some families of identified terrorists claim that they haven't seen their relatives since they went off to places like Kashmir or Bosnia, places where they might have died and their identities been harvested as potential terrorist identities). Everything - and I mean the entire 9-11 fantasy story - depends on their connections to Atta, or at least the cell in Hamburg that Atta is supposed to have joined. Since the revelations on Able Danger prove that the story of Atta must be a fraud, the Official Story must be a fraud. The 9-11 Commission knew about the Able Danger story, but omitted it from their report, obviously because it didn't match the Official Story.

In conclusion, I should briefly comment on the issue of 'Atta' and identification. The only guy who seems to be alive to the deep dangers in the Able Danger revelations is Mark Zaid, the attorney for Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, one of the Pentagon whistleblowers. Zaid's name comes up often in these matters of Washington skullduggery, and his awareness of the problem indicated that he is probably worth whatever his clients are paying him. He has been trying to make the point that the identification of Atta is just based on the name and not any photo obtained in the United States, and could thus be entirely irrelevant to the issue of whether the Pentagon could have stopped the plot at an early date. The 'Mohamed Atta' name could have been the name of a completely innocent guy caught by Pentagon data sweeping. This won't do. The Pentagon not only had Atta's name, but his picture at the top of their giant - and notably still missing - chart ("a color mug shot of Mohammad Atta, circled in black marker"), and had gone to the trouble of putting a yellow sticky note over the face of 'Atta'. This is supposed to mean that 'Atta' was off limits due to legal restrictions, but if that was the case, they should have had a sticky note over every entry in the chart. The note had the paradoxical effect of indicating that the face of 'Atta' was particularly important, and allowed Pentagon officials to identify him as the guy on their chart (based in one case on the look of his cheekbones), even though they hadn't seen the chart for a number of years. The identification of 'Atta' by recent Pentagon whistleblowers was based on the fact that the FBI pictures circulated of the infamous terrorist looked like the guy with the yellow flag on the chart. They remembered him, not because they remembered one name on a chart with hundreds, or thousands of names, but because of his picture, and the prominence of that picture on the chart. 'Atta' was Terrorist No. 1.

Weldon and the Pentagon, who for various reasons are trying to eliminate American constitutional and legal restrictions against Pentagon spying on Americans (that spying is already going on, and they just want American elected officials to cry 'uncle' and retroactively legalize and constitutionalize what the Pentagon is doing anyway), both claim that the sticky note indicated that Pentagon lawyers had stifled investigation of terrorism by the Pentagon, restrictions which should now be eliminated (the idea that the investigation of Atta was somehow illegal has been thoroughly debunked, and is just part of the Weldon/Pentagon trick to allow the Pentagon more snooping powers). Actually, the sticky note indicates that 'Atta' was off limits, that he was somehow protected against arrest by the authorities as he worked on his plot. We have seen numerous instances where this 'license to kill' worked, cases where 'Atta' had run-ins with American authority figures and was always allowed to walk.

We have also seen other notable instances where 'Atta' was recognized in the United States prior to June 2000, despite the fact that the Official Story is that he had never been in the United States prior to that time. One woman recognized him - and her recognition must have been based on a similarity to the published picture and not on his name - as attending an American officers' school in Alabama. Johnell Bryant, an official with the Department of Agriculture, had a particularly memorable encounter with him in the spring of 2000 in Florida, when he seemed to be ensuring that he not only would be remembered, but remembered as a potential terrorist. 'Atta' was in the United States at a time when the Egyptian/Hamburg Atta couldn't have been, the Pentagon was aware of him being in the United States from the beginning of his activities, he was under official American government protection, and he wasn't a Muslim terrorist. My best guess is that he was a highly trained intelligence agent, a guy who on at least one account spoke fluent Hebrew, hired to fake an Islamic extremist terrorist attack against the United States. Weldon and the Pentagon should have let sleeping dogs lie.