Saturday, May 19
Wolfowitz Out,, May 17, 2007

In its story announcing that World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz is resigning, The New York Tmes notes:

In a carefully negotiated statement, the board praised Mr. Wolfowitz for his two years of service at the bank, and especially for his work in arranging for debt relief and pressing for more assistance to poor countries, especially in Africa, and also combating corruption, which was Mr. Wolfowitz's signature issue.

Mr. Wolfowitz said he was grateful for the directors' decision and, referring to the bank's mission of helping the world's poor, added: "Now it is necessary to find a way to move forward. To do that I have concluded that it is in the best interests of those whom this institution serves for that mission to be carried forward under new leadership."

Words don't matter at this stage. Neither the Bank nor Wolfowitz can spin the scent of scandal from the finale of the Wolfowitz affair. The Bank's board may have accepted his claim that his actions were honorable in order to ease him out--ignoring that a special panel had concluded he broke the rules in arranging for a hefty salary boost for his girlfriend. But Wolfowitz's (forced) departure says more than any explanatory statement from the Bank or from him. Wolfowitz had to leave because of what he did. Still, under his contract, he's entitled to a year's salary of $375,000 and other benefits. If he wants to help the world's poor, perhaps he ought to donate that money to Oxfam.

Wolfowitz (Ieft) and Riza have been dating for years. According to Wolfowitz's lawyer, it was Riza who 'worked up the numbers' at the heart of the conflict-of-interest probe that threatens to topple the World Bank president.

By Michael Hirsh, Newsweek, May 3, 2007 (Web-exclusive commentary)

Only a few years ago, Shaha Riza was what is known in journalistic parlance as a flack.
She was a media relations person, in other words—and a fairly junior one—whose job it was to reach out to reporters like me so that we would write about various World Bank activities. As recently as mid-2004, Riza was faxing and e-mailing PR releases to reporters around town, requesting that we contact her about exciting new Bank initiatives like a “$38 million investment loan to help the Government of Jordan develop efficient transport and logistics services,” or the “$359 million in loans for two projects aimed at helping the government of Iran improve housing conditions for poor and middle-income urban neighborhoods as well as expand access to clean water and coverage of sanitation services.”

At the bottom of each missive she listed her number (202 458 1592) and her e-mail ( Guess what? Many of us never called.

Now we’re calling and calling, and Shaha Riza just won’t pick up. The Libyan native has been quietly dating Paul Wolfowitz since at least 2000, says a longtime friend of the couple who would only speak about them anonymously.

The two shared not just a mutual attraction but also a passionate cause: transforming the Arab world, ousting Saddam, and promoting democracy and rights for women. In recent weeks, this little-known relationship has exploded into public view. It is at the center of a titanic scandal that has pitted Wolfowitz, Riza and their high-powered Washington lawyers, Bob Bennett (for him) and Victoria Toensing (for her) against many European governments who serve on the Bank’s board.

The Europeans have made their distaste for Wolfowitz—and their eagerness to see him go—very well known, and what began as minor brush fire that Wolfowitz tried to sweep aside is now engulfing him.

The immediate issue is whether Wolfowitz committed an ethical breach by setting Riza up in a high-paying job outside the bank—as he admits he did—when he took over the presidency in 2005.

But what’s really going on, says Bennett, is a power play by Europeans to take control of the bank, and to rid themselves once and for all of a top Bush administration hawk whom they hold responsible for the Iraq War.
Saturday, May 12

Like OmG Paris Hilton in Jail !!?

Just for you to know Paris Hilton might be sentenced for 45 days in jail for her drunk driving incidents.

Tell me what you think about this !!

Thursday, May 10

A Fate Worse Than Debt
The Jailing of Indian Farmers
By P. SAINATH, Counterpunch, May 5/6, 2007

"The tea in Kadapa jail was better than the chai we get here in Garladinne mandal. But the rest of the food was awful," says M. Nallappa Reddy. His brief sojourn behind bars has made this man in his Sixties a minor celebrity in this State. Not so much because he liked the tea in Kadapa jail. But because many see his experience as the revival of an ominous trend: the jailing of bankrupt farmers for debt in Andhra Pradesh.

"It happened before during the time of Chandrababu Naidu's government, it is happening again now. More aggressively," says Malla Reddy, general secretary of the Andhra Pradesh Ryuthu Sangham (APRS). "Banks are turning the screws on hard-up farmers, sending them to jail. Mind you, these are farmers in drought-hit regions with no crop and no capacity to pay. The same banks won't touch big industrialist defaulters who owe them crores. But farmers owing a few thousand rupees go to jail." Till recently, the website of the A.P. Debt Recovery Tribunal listed some 200 names of VIPs, industrialists, contractors, and politicians owing over Rs.1,000 crore to the banks. The money was not recovered but the site seems to have vanished. [...more]

... Media coverage following his arrest ensured Mr. Nallappa Reddy's early release. He was out in a week. Others were not so lucky. "I spent a full month inside," says Gengi Reddy in Kadiri mandal. He too went to Kadapa central jail. "That was in the time of Chandrababu Naidu's government. I too, tried for a settlement whereby I paid back both principal and more. I even offered them some of my six acres to sell and recover the money. But they [the Kadiri branch of the same bank] told me flatly: `we don't want your land. Only cash. You should go to jail.'" He did. And has since sold off irrigated land to clear his debts.

"This practice has now revived," says Mr. Malla Reddy. "In Mahbunagar district, just two months ago, a Dalit farmer and an OBC farmer spent two weeks in jail. This time, the State Bank of India was involved. Again, drought-hit farmers with no ability to repay."

They were only released when their families borrowed more money from usurers to pay off their bank debts. All those who have been to jail speak of meeting others in there for the same reasons.

Mr. Nallappa Reddy was more fortunate. "His neighbours love him," says one of them. "The publicity he got stopped a lot of us from also going inside." The question is: for how long? "The banks are getting more forceful now, as you can see from the Telangana cases," says Mr. Malla Reddy. "This matter can explode one day."

"The government is not interested in us," says Sainath Reddy, a nephew of the man who sank borewells in the graveyard. "They want corporate agriculture. We are a nuisance in the way. I tell you, those you wish well, ask them to stay away from agriculture. Don't even wish it on your enemies."

Adieu, Blair, Adieu
By TARIQ ALI, Counterpunch, May 10, 2007
Bush's Zombie Shuffles Off Stage

Tony Blair's success was limited to winning three general elections in a row. A second-rate actor, he turned out to be a crafty and avaricious politician, but without much substance; bereft of ideas he eagerly grasped and tried to improve upon the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. But though in many ways Blair's programme has been a euphemistic, if bloodier, version of Thatcher's, the style of their departures is very different. Thatcher's overthrow by her fellow-Conservatives was a matter of high drama: an announcement outside the Louvre's glass pyramid during the Paris Congress brokering the end of the Cold War; tears; a crowded House of Commons.

Blair makes his unwilling exit against a backdrop of car-bombs and mass carnage in Iraq, with hundreds of thousands left dead or maimed from his policies, and London a prime target for terrorist attack. Thatcher's supporters described themselves afterwards as horror-struck by what they had done. Even Blair's greatest sycophants in the British media: Martin Kettle and Michael White (The Guardian), Andrew Rawnsley (Observer), Philip Stephens (FT) confess to a sense of relief as he finally quits.

A true creature of the Washington Consensus, Blair was always loyal to the various occupants of the White House. In Europe, he preferred Aznar to Zapatero, Merckel to Schroeder, was seriously impressed by to Berlusconi and, most recently, made no secret of his desire that Sarkozy was his candidate in France. He understood that privatisation/deregulation at home were part of the same mechanism as the wars abroad. If this judgement seems unduly harsh let me quote Sir Rodric Braithwaite, a former senior adviser to Blair, writing in the Financial Times on 2, August, 2006:

"A spectre is stalking British television, a frayed and waxy zombie straight from Madame Tussaud's. This one, unusually, seems to live and breathe. Perhaps it comes from the Central Intelligence Agency's box of technical tricks, programmed to spout the language of the White House in an artificial English accent...

Mr Blair has done more damage to British interests in the Middle East than Anthony Eden, who led the UK to disaster in Suez 50 years ago.

In the past 100 years--to take the highlights--we have bombed and occupied Egypt and Iraq, put down an Arab uprising in Palestine and overthrown governments in Iran, Iraq and the Gulf.
We can no longer do these things on our own, so we do them with the Americans.

Mr Blair's total identification with the White House has destroyed his influence in Washington, Europe and the Middle East itself: who bothers with the monkey if he can go straight to the organ-grinder?...

This, too, is mild compared to what is said about Blair in the British Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

Senior diplomats have told me on more than one occasion that it would not upset them too much if Blair were to be tried as a war criminal. [...more]
Tuesday, May 8

Impeach Cheney First?
by John Nichols, The Nation, April 19, 2007

It is no secret that Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has been toying with the idea of moving articles of impeachment against a member of the Bush administration. And he appears to be focusing more and more of his attention on the man that many activists around the country see as the ripest target for sanctioning: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s efforts to convince Democrats to keep presidential accountability “off the table,” Kucinich is just one of many House Democrats who have acknowledged in recent days that they are hearing the call for action loud and clear from their constituents and from grassroots activists across the country.

“I get one call after another saying, ‘Impeach the president,’” says Congressman John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania. Congresswoman Diane Watson, D-California, says constituents in Los Angeles “are saying impeachment. I am hearing that more and more and more.”

Kucinich, for his part, has sent more signals than anyone else in the caucus about his interest in raising accountability issues. The congressman, who has broken with Pelosi on issues relating to the funding of the war in Iraq, has been blunt about his frustration with the caution of Congress when it comes to addressing executive excess.

“This House cannot avoid its constitutionally authorized responsibility to restrain the abuse of Executive power,” he told the House last month, adding that “impeachment may well be the only remedy which remains to stop a war of aggression against Iran.”

Around the same time, in a letter to supporters of his anti-war bid for the 2OO8 Democratic presidential nomination, Kucinich asked it it was time to put impeachment on the table. The response was an overwhelming “yes.”

Earlier this week, according to media reports Kucinich emailed House colleagues with a note that began, “I intend to introduce Articles of Impeachment with respect to the conduct of Vice President Cheney.”

Kucinich put the plan on hold after the Virginia Tech shooting massacre. But the general expectation is that he will raise the issue anew after a decent interval.

Cheney’s office sees no grounds for impeachment. “The vice president has had nearly 40 years of government service and has done so in an honorable fashion,” says Megan McGinn, Cheney’s deputy press secretary.

McGinn got that line out with a straight face.

Americans of who are not on the vice president’s payroll are inclined to recognize Cheney’s manipulation of intelligence prior to the Iraq War, his active role in going after administration critic Joe Wilson and Wilson’s wife Valarie Plame, and his ongoing links to the Halliburton war-profiteering cartel as arguments against giving the vice president any prizes for “honorable” government service.

Impeachment activists have in recent months pushed an “Impeach Cheney First” message, in part to counter the complaint that impeaching Bush would put an even darker figure in charge.

Of course, going after the most powerful vice president in history has consequences, as well. In the unlikely event that Cheney were removed from office, one line of reasoning goes, Bush would for the first time find himself in charge.


Is Condi Hiding the Smoking Gun?
Frank Rich, New York Times, May 6, 2007

IF, as J.F.K. had it, victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan, the defeat in Iraq is the most pitiful orphan imaginable. Its parents have not only tossed it to the wolves but are also trying to pin its mutant DNA on any patsy they can find.

George Tenet is just the latest to join this blame game, which began more than three years ago when his fellow Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Tommy Franks told Bob Woodward that Douglas Feith, the Pentagon’s intelligence bozo, was the “stupidest guy on the face of the earth” (that’s the expurgated version).

Last fall, Kenneth Adelman, the neocon cheerleader who foresaw a “cakewalk” in Iraq, told Vanity Fair that Mr. Tenet, General Franks and Paul Bremer were “three of the most incompetent people who’ve ever served in such key spots.” Richard Perle chimed in that the “huge mistakes” were “not made by neoconservatives” and instead took a shot at President Bush. Ahmad Chalabi, the neocons’ former darling, told Dexter Filkins of The Times “the real culprit in all this is Wolfowitz.”

And of course nearly everyone blames Rumsfeld.

This would be a Three Stooges routine were there only three stooges. The good news is that Mr. Tenet’s book rollout may be the last gasp of this farcical round robin of recrimination. Republicans and Democrats have at last found some common ground by condemning his effort to position himself as the war’s innocent scapegoat.

Some former C.I.A. colleagues are rougher still. Michael Scheuer, who ran the agency’s bin Laden unit, has accused Mr. Tenet of lacking “the moral courage to resign and speak out publicly to try to stop our country from striding into what he knew would be an abyss.” Even after Mr. Tenet did leave office, he maintained a Robert McNamara silence until he cashed in.

Satisfying though it is to watch a circular firing squad of the war’s enablers, unfinished business awaits. Unlike Vietnam, Iraq is not in the past: the war escalates even as all this finger-pointing continues.

The only White House figure to take any responsibility for the fiasco is the former Bush-Cheney pollster Matthew Dowd, who in March expressed remorse for furthering a war he now deems a mistake. For his belated act of conscience, he was promptly patronized as an incipient basket case by an administration flack, who attributed Mr. Dowd’s defection to “personal turmoil.” If that is what this vicious gang would do to a pollster, imagine what would befall Colin Powell if he spoke out. Nonetheless, Mr. Powell should summon the guts to do so. Until there is accountability for the major architects and perpetrators of the Iraq war, the quagmire will deepen. A tragedy of this scale demands a full accounting, not to mention a catharsis.

That accounting might well begin with Mr. Powell’s successor, Condoleezza Rice. Of all the top-tier policy players who were beside the president and vice president at the war’s creation, she is the highest still in power and still on the taxpayers’ payroll. She is also the only one who can still get a free pass from the press. The current groupthink Beltway narrative has it that the secretary of state’s recidivist foreign-policy realism and latent shuttle diplomacy have happily banished the Cheney-Rumsfeld cowboy arrogance that rode America into a ditch.

Thus Ms. Rice was dispatched to three Sunday shows last weekend to bat away Mr. Tenet’s book before “60 Minutes” broadcast its interview with him that night.

But in each appearance her statements raised more questions than they answered. She was persistently at odds with the record, not just the record as spun by Mr. Tenet but also the public record. She must be held to a higher standard — a k a the truth — before she too jumps ship.

It’s now been nearly five years since Ms. Rice did her part to sell the Iraq war on a Sept. 8, 2002, Sunday show with her rendition of “we don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.”

Yet there she was last Sunday on ABC, claiming that she never meant to imply then that Saddam was an imminent threat."The question of imminence isn’t whether or not somebody is going to strike tomorrow” is how she put it. In other words, she is still covering up the war’s origins. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” she claimed that intelligence errors before the war were “worldwide” even though the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Mohamed ElBaradei publicly stated there was “no evidence” of an Iraqi nuclear program and even though Germany’s intelligence service sent strenuous prewar warnings that the C.I.A.’s principal informant on Saddam’s supposed biological weapons was a fraud. [...more]

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