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The Numbers Add Up on U.S. Attorneys Firing Scandal

| Fri May. 18, 2007 8:56 AM PDT

Let's review the numbers on the U.S. Attorneys scandal.

26 - The number of U.S. Attorneys that the DOJ targeted for dismissal, according to yesterday's reports. (That's roughly one in every four USA nationwide.)

9 - The number of U.S. Attorneys we previously knew had been targeted, and were either fired or resigned under pressure.

8 - The number of USAs Alberto Gonzales claimed in testimony to Congress composed the whole of the scandal.

6 - The number of Senate Republicans who have called for Gonzo's resignation.

And today you can add a new number to the list:

4 - The number of additional USAs the Washington Post reports this morning were also on the DOJ's hit list, bringing the total number of USAs targeted for firing to 30, roughly one-third of the entire U.S. Attorney team across the country.

Oh, and might as well add these, too:

1 - The number of no-confidence votes Senate Democrats will offer against Gonzales as early as next week.

0 - The amount of shame/credibility/integrity/respectability Alberto Gonzales has left.

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Bay Buchanan: The Doctor Is In

| Thu May. 17, 2007 7:58 PM PDT

A few years ago, when Bush on the Couch was published by psychiatrist Justin A. Frank, his publicist invited me to review it. I declined on ethical grounds. Frank, having never met George W. Bush, is not qualified to diagnose him, despite his using the technique of "applied psychoanalysis" which permits the psychological analysis of a public figure, but which--in my opinion--shoud be limited to analysis of the dead. (I am a psychotherapist, and I know that if I did such a thing, my board would come down hard on me.)

Enter Bay Buchanan, who is most definitely not a mental health practitioner of any kind, but who has provided us with a casual diagnosis of Sen. Clinton. In her book, The Extreme Makeover of Hillary (Rodham) Clinton, Buchanan hints that Clinton may have narcissistic personality disorder. (Buchanan calls it "narcissistic personality style," a term which does not exist in the mental health repretoire.)

In describing how she reached that conclusion, Buchanan refers to an endnote in the book that does not exist. All the same, Buchanan says that "[W]e are talking about a clinical condition that could make her [Clinton] dangerously ill-suited to become President and Commander-in-Chief." She then covers herself by saying "I pass no judgment as to whether this shoe fits the Lady Hillary."

Diagnosing someone from afar, especially if you are not a mental health expert, is wildly irresponsible, even if you say "I don't really mean it, I'm just saying...." There are plenty of former presidents who weren't quite right, like Kennedy (drug addiction and sexual compulsion) and Nixon (alcoholism and violence), and Buchanan's colleagues are ga-ga about at least one of them, and sometimes both of them. It wouldn't be too difficult apply phony mental health language to other candidates, but I could have guessed that an armchair psychotherapist would go after Clinton. She is an "ambitious" woman, and she is married to Bill. Who needs more information than that?

Breaking: Wolfowitz Is Out

| Thu May. 17, 2007 5:35 PM PDT

The World Bank and its president, Paul Wolfowitz, announced today that Mr. Wolfowitz will step down in June. The statement reveals that Bush won the terms he wanted for the neocon's departure. The bank's board suggested that its ethics policies "did not prove robust to the strain under which they were placed." Which is really just fancy language for "Wolfie almost got away with it," but manages to convey that the fault was somehow institutional, as Bush wanted. The board's statement also included this hard-to-swallow gem: Wolfowitz "assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution and we accept that." Obviously, he also acted in the best interests of his girlfriend, whose salary skyrocketed under the arrangement Wolfie brokered, even as he presented himself as a veritable crusader (there's that word again) against government corruption. But there you have it: Bush and Wolfie took a parting shot at the institution that fights world hunger. You gotta love these guys.

Bush Opposes Pay Raises for Troops and Survivors

| Thu May. 17, 2007 4:57 PM PDT

Last month, President Bush attacked congressional Democrats for depriving troops on the ground of funding by insisting on passing conditional funding bills they knew he would veto. Although Bush's claims were proven to be false—the war had already been funded through June, and even a long delay in reaching an agreement would only have caused the government a minor financial inconvenience—he continued to reiterate them, in the fashion of his Tourettes-inflicted vice president who could not stop saying that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

Now the Democrats have proposed a boost in survivor's benefits and a pay increase for the troops, who are facing increased danger since Bush's congressionally opposed surge began. Bush is threatening to veto the gesture of mercy. The president says military pay and benefits are already adequate. But that's not what Mother Jones found (and documented) in our Iraq 101 package. A widow with 3 children receives just $40,000 a year. And soldier's pay is so low that a quarter of military spouses applied for food stamps in 2004.

MySpace Outrage Was a Bit off Base

| Thu May. 17, 2007 4:14 PM PDT

Mother Jones blogged earlier this week about the Pentagon's decision to prohibit soldiers from using MySpace or YouTube on DOD computers. There was a lot of outrage, but I think a clarification is in order: Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan have never been allowed to use these sites on DOD-issue computers. They have been—and will continue to be—permitted to access them on privately issued computers available in internet "cafés" on base. In fact, soldiers, like the rest of us, are theoretically prohibited from conducting any personal business on company-issue computers. But up until now, troops deployed outside of war theatres have not been specifically blocked from using the bandwidth-consuming social networking sites. They and their families are the ones the ban will affect (although they, too, usually have some access to non-governmental computers).

Obama Won't Demote Oprah to VP

| Thu May. 17, 2007 3:02 PM PDT

Via Taegan Goodard:

"I think Oprah is far more powerful than a vice president. I think that would be a demotion for her."

-- Sen. Barack Obama, interviewed on MSNBC this morning, on whether he would consider Oprah Winfrey as his running mate.

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Afghanistan's "Staggering" Economic Growth Doesn't Stem Poverty

| Thu May. 17, 2007 2:30 PM PDT

Recently, Alastair McKechnie, the World Bank director for Afghanistan, called the changes in Afghanistan "staggering." According to McKechnie, the Afghan economy has grown at a 10% rate, and though he concedes that there is no available data on unemployment, "people even in rural areas look more prosperous," and are "generally much better off."

Now the Bush administration has requested an additional $11.8 billion from Congress "to accelerate Afghan reconstruction projects and security forces training in 2007-2008," and to "help President Karzai defeat our common enemies." This, they claim, is to demonstrate a "commitment to the Afghan people."

Hopefully, the average Afghan, including the Afghan government, will reap some benefits, but so far it's not looking good. IRIN reports that since the 2001, about 60 donors have spent $13 billion in reconstruction and development activities; yet "out of every US dollar spent by donors in Afghanistan's reconstruction 80 cents finds its way out of the country." The "rest has been spent by donors themselves," with some Afghan officials stating that the money has been allocated through foreign subcontractors, leaving little accountability of where all the aid money is going.

In February, 64 countries and 11 international organizations met in London, pledging $10.5 billion to Afghanistan by 2010 for "security, governance and economic development." Not for the basic needs of the citizens, 6.5 million of whom are starving, most having no access to potable water, sanitation, and heath and social services, and more than half of Afghans living below the poverty line.

Further, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that perhaps 40% of promised aid is actually delivered, and,

"70% of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments. The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid."

Why has pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan been important? It's for "reconstruction," but reconstructing Afghanistan for the purposes of the "Great Game"-- a game that's about energy exports and ensuring US hegemony in South Asia.

—Neha Inamdar

DOJ Considered Firing 1 in 4 U.S. Attorneys

| Thu May. 17, 2007 1:47 PM PDT

The Washington Post is reporting today, based on "sources familiar with documents withheld from the public," that Justice had considered firing as many as 26 U.S. Attorneys. That's more than 1 in 4. Contrast that to Alberto Gonzales's sworn testimony last week that the spate of firings was limited to the 8 USAs the public already knows about. The news reveals not just more potential creepiness on the part of the DOJ, given that the 8 firings have been pretty compellingly shown to be a strong-arming attempt to force USAs to prosecute "voter fraud," which doesn't really exist. It also reveals a greater degree of incompetence in the department. Some of the most frequently listed attorneys were not among those ultimately fired, suggesting that the process wasn't especially systematic. The purge was "handled badly" not just because it was ultimately discovered, but in pretty much every way imaginable.

In one especially bizarre development, prosecutor Christopher J. Christie in New Jersey appeared on one list of names. Christie is a major GOP donor, who conducted a corruption probe into Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez's real estate dealings (D-N.J.) and is among that elite and teensy-tiny class of prosecutors who have gotten indictments in terrorism cases.

Saddam's Scientists Helping Build Iran's Nuclear Program?

| Thu May. 17, 2007 1:37 PM PDT

A couple days ago, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog IAEA issued a report saying it had made a "short-notice inspection" of Iran's main nuclear facility and found a more advanced program than anyone had previously thought. The IAEA noted that all 1,300 of Iran's centrifuges were running smoothly and producing nuclear fuel. While Iran insists the nuclear program is for civilian power, everyone believes they have their eye on building the bomb.

But the centrifuges are interesting. They're necessary for the production of low enriched uranium for civil purposes or highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. A country needs 3,000 properly functioning centrifuges to develop a nuclear warhead in one year, according to experts, but Iran is going big time -- it plans on installing 54,000 in the near future.

But as recently as February of this year, Iran was thought to have just slightly over 300 centrifuges. Where did they get the technical know-how and personnel for the expansion?

Maybe Iraq. Post-invasion Iraq, that is.

In late 2005, Mother Jones wrote about Iraqi nuclear scientists, including Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, the head of Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program, who were trying desperately to give themselves up to American forces. Yet, because of suspicion and disorganization on the part of the Americans they approached (and the threat of mistreatment in holding centers and prisons), many scientists simply slipped into the underground. Kurt Pitzer wrote:

I met [Dr. Faris Abdul Aziz] in Obeidi's garden, and he told me that in the days after the invasion, he had gone to Saddam's former Republican Palace to offer cooperation to the U.S. military on behalf of himself and other top nuclear scientists. But U.S. officials only wanted to know if he knew where Saddam was hiding and where they might find WMD stockpiles. They never asked him back for another interview. Today, no one seems to know where he is. "We've been trying to get in touch with these guys for months," [David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector] says. "But by now they're probably so jaded and suspicious that they want nothing to do with the U.S."
As it happens, Saddam's nuclear centrifuge program during the late 1980s was one of the most efficient covert nuclear efforts the world has ever seen. The scientists who pulled it off are very gifted men and women, many of whom are now out of work. Their names are still being kept secret by the international agencies familiar with their work. But a source close to one of those agencies recently said that of the 200-some scientists at the top of its nuclear list, all but three remain unaccounted for.

It's not hard to imagine that some of those hundreds of missing nuclear scientists made their way to Tehran, where they would have been welcomed with open arms and fat paychecks. Wouldn't it be ironic and tragic if instead of Iranians sneaking into Iraq to make trouble, as the Bush Administration is claiming, it was the other way around? And simply because the Administration that claimed to care so much about WMDs didn't bother to secure the people who worked on them.

You can read Pitzer's story, "In the Garden of Armageddon," here.

Controlling the Media to Win "Hearts and Minds"

| Thu May. 17, 2007 1:10 PM PDT

Prior to the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon planned to enact the "Rapid Reaction Media Team" (RRMT) complete with hand-picked Iraqi media experts. Two of the contractors involved were the Rendon Group (a shady firm working in Afghanistan) and Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC) where- guess who?- Paul Wolfowitz's lover Shaha Ali Riza worked until 2003.

"Strategic communication" to serve global US interests in countries that are geo-strategically significant is not new. In Afghanistan, for example, the Rendon Group and Lincoln Group work around the clock to construct favorable press about American military interventions in countries that have been invaded by the US.

Indeed, Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, says that because "there are few places more critical to our interests or in greater need of sustained U.S. attention than South Asia," "free and independent information is the number one means to clearly portray U.S. interests in South Asia 's economic growth and democratic reform." And as such, we need to "support journalism training to attract students and journalists from across South Asia region."

So much for the freedom of the press.

—Neha Inamdar