Surprise Surprise, Halliburton Used Shell Companies To Get Contracts


by James Risen and Mark Mazzetti

WASHINGTON — Blackwater Worldwide created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq, according to Congressional investigators and former Blackwater officials.

While it is not clear how many of those businesses won contracts, at least three had deals with the United States military or the Central Intelligence Agency, according to former government and company officials. Since 2001, the intelligence agency has awarded up to $600 million in classified contracts to Blackwater and its affiliates, according to a United States government official.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week released a chart that identified 31 affiliates of Blackwater, now known as Xe Services. The network was disclosed as part of a committee’s investigation into government contracting. The investigation revealed the lengths to which Blackwater went to continue winning contracts after Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad in September 2007. That episode and other reports of abuses led to criminal and Congressional investigations, and cost the company its lucrative security contract with the State Department in Iraq.

The network of companies — which includes several businesses located in offshore tax havens — allowed Blackwater to obscure its involvement in government work from contracting officials or the public, and to assure a low profile for any of its classified activities, said former Blackwater officials, who, like the government officials, spoke only on condition of anonymity.

Reckless Administration May Reap Disastrous Consequences

Robert Byrd

by US Senator Robert Byrd
Senate Floor Speech – Wednesday, February 12, 2003

To contemplate war is to think about the most horrible of human experiences. On this February day, as this nation stands at the brink of battle, every American on some level must be contemplating the horrors of war.

Yet, this Chamber is, for the most part, silent — ominously, dreadfully silent. There is no debate, no discussion, no attempt to lay out for the nation the pros and cons of this particular war. There is nothing.

We stand passively mute in the United States Senate, paralyzed by our own uncertainty, seemingly stunned by the sheer turmoil of events. Only on the editorial pages of our newspapers is there much substantive discussion of the prudence or imprudence of engaging in this particular war.

And this is no small conflagration we contemplate. This is no simple attempt to defang a villain. No. This coming battle, if it materializes, represents a turning point in U.S. foreign policy and possibly a turning point in the recent history of the world.

This nation is about to embark upon the first test of a revolutionary doctrine applied in an extraordinary way at an unfortunate time.

Thomas Ricks Plays Propaganda Point-Man on Pentagon Plan for Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq

Admiral Fallon, AEI, Bechtel. Halliburton, Blackwater, Carlyle Group, Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Erik Prince, General Keane, General Odierno, General Patraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, KBR, Military Industrial Complex, Neocons, Oil, Paul Wolfowitz, PNAC, Propaganda, Raytheon, Richard Perle, Steven Hadley, Think-Tanks

Another Record Profit For Exxon


Who Would Have Thunk It?

Exxon Mobil made a profit of $14.83bn (£8.97bn) between July and September, smashing its own record for the highest quarterly profit by a US company.

In the second quarter this year, when oil prices were still rising, the oil giant made a profit of $11.68bn.

The new record represents a 58% rise on profits compared with the same period last year.

Profit for the first nine months of this year was $37.4bn, up 29% on the same period last year.

The $1.6bn sale of a natural gas transportation business in Germany helped boost profits.

Rex W Tillerson, chief executive of the company, said: “Exxon Mobil’s strong results demonstrate the continued success of our disciplined business approach.”

Stormy conditions

The profits could have been even higher, had it not been for falling oil prices and extreme weather.

Hurricanes Gustav and Ike affected the company’s Gulf Coast operations and resulted in an increase of $50m in pre-tax costs. Exxon estimates that the impact of both hurricanes will reduce fourth-quarter earnings by about $500m.

Massive profits have allowed Exxon to invest heavily in exploration. In the third quarter, capital and exploration project spending increased to $6.9bn, up 26% on the same period last year.

They have also allowed Exxon to distribute significant cash to shareholders – it paid out $2.1bn in dividends over the quarter.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/10/30 13:20:39 GMT

The First Podcar City: Any Coincidence That It's PartyTown USA : Ithaca, New York?

computer-guided car, driverless, ITHACA, Oil, podcar

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Planning America’s First Podcar City

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 13, 2008

(AP) The thought of a driverless, , transporting people where they want to go on demand is a futuristic notion to some.

To Jacob Roberts, podcars – or PRTs, for personal rapid transit – represent an important component in the here-and-now of transportation.
“It’s time we design cities for the human, not for the automobile,” said Roberts, president of Connect Ithaca, a group of planning and building professionals, activists and students committed to making this upstate New York college town the first podcar community in the United States.

“In the podcar … it creates the perfect blend between the privacy and autonomy of the automobile with the public transportation aspect and, of course, it uses clean energy,” Roberts said.

With the oil crisis reaching a zenith and federal lawmakers ready to begin fashioning a new national transportation bill for 2010, Roberts and his colleagues think the future is now for podcars – electric, automated, lightweight vehicles that ride on their own network separate from other traffic.

Unlike mass transit, podcars carry two to 10 passengers, giving travelers the freedom and privacy of their own car while reducing the use of fossil fuels, reducing traffic congestion and freeing up space now monopolized by parking.

At stations located every block or every half-mile, depending on the need, a rider enters a destination on a computerized pad, and a car would take the person nonstop to the location. Stations would have slanted pull-in bays so that some cars could stop for passengers, while others could continue unimpeded on the main course.

“It works almost like an elevator, but horizontally,” said Roberts, adding podcar travel would be safer than automobile travel.

The podcar is not entirely new. A limited version with larger cars carrying up to 15 passengers was built in 1975 in Morgantown, W.Va., and still transports West Virginia University students.

Next year, Heathrow Airport outside London will unveil a pilot podcar system to ferry air travelers on the ground. Companies in Sweden, Poland and Korea are already operating full-scale test tracks to demonstrate the feasibility. Designers are planning a podcar network for Masdar City, outside Abu Dhabi, which is being built as the world’s first zero-carbon, zero-waste city.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen cities in Sweden are planning podcar systems as part of the country’s commitment to be fossil-fuel-free by 2020, said Hans Lindqvist, a councilman from Varmdo, Sweden, and chairman of Kompass, an association of groups and municipalities behind the Swedish initiative.

“Today’s transportation system is reaching a dead end,” said Lindqvist, a former member of the European parliament.

Cars have dominated the cityscape for nearly a century, taking up valuable space while polluting the air, said Magnus Hunhammar, chief executive officer of the Stockholm-based Institute for Sustainable Transportation, the world’s leading center on podcar technology.

“Something has to change,” he said. “We aren’t talking about replacing the automobile entirely. We are adding something else into the transportation strategy.”

(Advanced Transport Systems Ltd.)

(Left: A computer model of a PRT system being built at London’s Heathrow Airport, scheduled to open next year.)

Skeptics, however, question whether podcars can ever be more than a novelty mode of transportation, suitable only for limited-area operations, such as airports, colleges and corporate campuses. Detractors, mainly light-rail advocates, say a podcar system would be too complex and expensive.

“It is operationally and economically unfeasible,” said Vukan Vuchic, a professor of transportation and engineering at the University of Pennsylvania who has written several books on urban transportation.

“In the city, if you have that much demand, you could build these guideways and afford the millions it would take, but you wouldn’t have capacity. In the suburbs, you would have capacity, but the demand would be so thin you couldn’t possibly pay for those guideways, elevated stations, control systems and everything else,” Vuchic said.

Podcars typically run on an elevated guideway or rails, but they also can run at street level. As a starting point, pilot podcar networks can be built along existing infrastructure, supporters say.

Ithaca Mayor Carol Peterson said a podcar network could be part of her upstate city’s long-range transportation plans and its mission of developing urban neighborhoods that are environmentally sustainable and pedestrian-friendly. Ithaca has a long history of progressive achievements – this summer, it began the first community-wide car sharing program in upstate New York.

In Ithaca, a network could connect the downtown business district and main business boulevard with the campuses of Cornell University and Ithaca College, which sit on hillsides flanking the city. When the two colleges are in session, Ithaca’s population balloons from about 30,000 to about 80,000, causing big-city congestion on the city’s roads.

Santa Cruz, Calif., recently hired a contractor to design a small solar-powered podcar system that would loop through the city’s downtown and along its beach front.

The Institute for Sustainable Transportation predicts a podcar system will be installed in an American city within the next five years, although it is likely to cost tens of millions of dollars. Because of the huge initial investment, funding would have to come from both public and private sectors, IST officials said.

The capital cost is about $25 million to $40 million per mile, which includes guideways, vehicles and stations, compared with $100 million to $300 million a mile for light-rail or subway systems, according to the IST.

Although the plan for Ithaca is only in the conceptual stages, Roberts sees the city as a logical place for the country’s first community-wide podcar network, noting that construction of the Erie Canal across upstate New York in the early 1800s revolutionized commercial transportation in a young America.

“Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany are connected along a single line, the Erie Canal. Now, they are connected by the (New York State) Thruway. It would be easy to adapt. You could have a high-speed rail line, or even buses, deliver travelers to the podcar stations, and the podcars take them wherever they want to go in the city,” he said.

But podcar developers say they have overcome most technological obstacles and now must overcome the political and cultural barriers that lie ahead, equating it to the mind-set revolution that occurred when Americans hitched up their horses for good to become a nation of motorists.

“We are introducing an alternative to the automobile for the first time in 100 years,” said Christopher Perkins, chief executive officer of Unimodal Transport Solutions, a California company that builds podcars that operate on magnetic levitation instead of wheels.

“But if you look back 100 years, you saw that we made the transition from the horse to the car. I think we are ready to make another transition,” he said.

For more information on Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems, visit the following Web sites:

“Podcar City: Ithaca” Sustainable Transportation Conference

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McCain Tries To Blame Financial Crisis On Democratic Takeover Of Congress In 2007

Wall Street


In April, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that “you could make an argument that there’s been great progress economically” since President Bush took office. He then revised that argument in August, releasing an ad that declared “we’re worse off than we were four years ago.”

Now McCain is revising his timeline again. In an interview with right-wing radio host Michael Medved this past Friday, McCain agreed with Medved’s assertion that “the economy was really progressing pretty well under most of President Bush’s term” before Democrats took control of Congress in January 2007:

MEDVED: Let me ask you one other thing senator, which again, I think is on the minds of lots and lots of our listeners. The economy was really progressing pretty well under most of President Bush’s term. Then the Democrats took over in Congress in 2007 and now we’re in this horrible crisis. Coincidence?

MCCAIN: No, it isn’t.

McCain went on to place the blame for the financial crisis on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claiming that Democrats “were willing co-conspirators with this game of three-card monty that went on and then it collapsed.” Listen to it here:

Medved and McCain’s claim that “the economy was progressing really well” before Democrats took control of Congress is laughable. As Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Christian Weller’s economic snapshot from December 2006 shows, the economy was already in rough shape:

Famly Debt Was Rising: By September 2006, household debt rose to an unprecedented 130.9% of disposable income. From March 2001 to September 2006, personal debt relative to disposable income grew each quarter by 1.6 percentage points—almost five times faster than in the 1990s. In the second quarter of 2006, families had to spend 14.4% of their disposable income to service their debt—the largest share since 1980.

The Housing Market Had Slowed: The supply of homes for sale each month averaged 6.9 months of supply for the six months ending in October 2006—the largest supply since 1991.

Savings Had Plummeted: The personal saving rate of -1.3% in the third quarter of 2006 marked the sixth quarter in a row with a negative personal saving rate.

As for McCain’s claim that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the central cause of the current economic crisis, McClatchy thoroughly debunked it over the weekend, writing that “private sector loans, not Fannie or Freddie, triggered crisis.” McClatchy notes that the “weakening of underwriting standards for U.S. subprime mortgages” began in late 2004 while Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate.


MEDVED: Let me ask you one other thing senator, which again, I think is on the minds of lots and lots of our listeners. The economy was really progressing pretty well under most of President Bush’s term. Then the Democrats took over in Congress in 2007 and now we’re in this horrible crisis. Coincidence?

MCCAIN: No, it isn’t. Although, as you know, and you and I have had this discussion in the past, the Bush administration let these spending bills be signed and him not doing what Ronald Reagan used to do and that is veto them, make them famous, and fight against it. But also, more interestingly, 2006, there was a group of us, as a result of an investigation, and I think it was the Inspector General, that said, look, this Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are completely out of control, if we don’t do something about it, we’re going to have an incredible financial crisis. And we sent a letter about it. We introduced legislation to rein them in and Senator Obama at the time said that these subprime loans were, quote, “a good idea.” And the Democrats in Congress were specifically talking about, the ones who got all the money, were defending, defending, and saying we can’t re-regulations on Fannie and Freddie and were actually encouraging, as you know, people to borrow money that they couldn’t pay back. A fundamental of economics, so they were willing co-conspirators with this game of three-card monty that went on and then it collapsed, you know.

Dennis Kucinich Rocks The House; Pleads With Americans to "Wake Up"


From John Amato’s Singular Crooks and Liars

video_wmv DownloadPlay video_mov DownloadPlay

Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich spoke at the Democratic National Convention today and there is little doubt his was the most enthusiastic and hard hitting speech thus far. Dennis always comes armed with truth and facts, and today was no exception.

From illegal wiretapping, Iraq and high gas prices to playing the fear card, he blazed through the laundry list of Bush hackery and crimes and pounded the message home — Americans to wake up and vote for Barack Obama.

“…Wake up America! The insurance companies took over health care. Wake up America! The pharmaceutical companies took over drug pricing. Wake up America! The speculators took over Wall Street. Wake up America, they want your Social Security. Wake up America, multi-national corporations took over our trade policies, factories are closing, good paying jobs are being lost, wake up America!”

Now that’s the spirit! We need to hear more of this during the convention. The American electorate needs a good dose of reality. If this speech doesn’t get you fired up, nothing will.

From Secret Deals With Big Oil in The White House to Permanent Bases in Iraq


Think Progress

Engel: Permanent Bases Would Technically Be Iraqi With U.S.
‘Tenants’ As ‘A Face Saving Device

On Thursday, the UK Independent’s Patrick Cockburn reported on “a secret deal being
negotiated in Baghdad” that “would perpetuate the American
military occupation of Iraq indefinitely.” According to Cockburn,
the deal result in American soldiers being stationed on permanent bases in Iraq:

Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US
troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations,
arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise
Iraq’s position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending
conflict in their country.

On the same day, NPR’s Diane Rehm asked
NBC News Middle East correspondent Richard Engel about the report.
Engel said that as part of “a face saving device,” the
bases would technically be Iraqi and “U.S. troops would reside on
them as tenants”:

ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it not, and the details of this have not been published. The
U.S. and Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be
U.S. permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S.
troops would reside on them as tenants and may even have to pay some
sort of nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device.

What’s also trying to be worked out is what’s the exact
U.S. mission. Would they be able to conduct independent operations
without the advice and consultation of the Iraqi government and that
has been a point of contention.

After Cockburn’s report was released, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq,
Ryan Crocker, tried to quash talk of permanent U.S. bases, telling
reporters that “it is not going to be forever.”
But Crocker also spoke of a situation that could comport with
Engel’s “face saving” description, claiming that
“there isn’t going to be an agreement that infringes on
Iraqi sovereignty.”


REHM: Here’s an email from James asking about an
article published today in the Independent in UK by Patrick Coburn and
it’s entitled, Revealed: Secret Plan To Keep Iraq Under U.S.
Control. Do you know about this?

ENGEL: I don’t know the article, but I know Patrick Cockburn,
he’s a friend and a fine reporter. Is this, I’ll take a
look at the article.

REHM: Just published today and our communicator in Raleigh says, “why has this not received more attention?”

ENGEL: I know what he’s talking about. This is the strategic
long term agreement that is being negotiated between Iraq and the
United States. This is a deal that is supposed to be, and we have
reported it, I think NBC News was the first to report this, it was, it
is a long term strategic alliance that is being hammered out, mostly in
secret in Baghdad. And that has many, many Iraqis concerned, it has
some U.S. officials concerned as well. The U.S. negotiators that
I’ve spoken to who are involved in this insist that it is not a
treaty, that it will not commit large numbers of U.S. forces to Iraq
for a long time, but it does clarify what the role of U.S. forces will
be for a long period going forward.


ENGEL: That’s the question, is it permanent bases or is it
not, and the details of this have not been published. The U.S. and
Iraqi officials I’ve spoken to say they would not be U.S.
permanent bases in Iraq, they would be Iraqi bases and that U.S. troops
would reside on them as tenets and may even have to pay some sort of
nominal rent, so there would be a face saving device. What’s also
trying to be worked out is what’s the exact U.S. mission. Would
they be able to conduct independent operations without the advice and
consultation of the Iraqi government and that has been a point of

DOZIER: I know a member of Crocker’s team has been working on
this for about a year behind the scenes. And one of the major sticking
points is what law will apply to U.S. troops, how much will they be
able to do on their own, how much will they have to…they want of
course the rights that they have right now, to stage their own
missions, their own raids, without getting anybody’s say so, just
informing, “We’re headed off, we’re going to do
this.” The Iraqis are pushing for approval of everything and also
that Iraqi law would apply to soldiers, Marines who conduct violent