oppression on every hand; injustice everywhere; hypocrisy at the altar; venality on the bench, tyranny on the throne

Part of the probably universal appeal of the pulp-fiction of writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain and others, is the almost instant gratification of justice. Often times it is an uneven justice, but in the end the worst of the scoundrels, deadbeats and murderers get their get their dose of righteousness. Unlike in real life where a guy in a ski mask that steals a couple thousand dollars gets a ten year sentence while a guy that wears a crisp white shirt to church every Sunday and sells values like a cheap suit rips off taxpayers for millions and either gets a slap on the waist or gets appointed to to a new high paying job with benefits the average worker could only dream of. Competence works much like justice in crime fiction. Sure the bad guys might be clever, but the detective as a metaphor for the everyman uses hard work and patience. Eventually no matter how clever or how well connected, the miscreant slips up and the gum shoe is there is make sure he takes a fall. It doesn’t work that way in the Rovian world of conservative politics. The reverse is true, the average man pays the price for the greed and machivelian conniving of the the little princes, U.S. Blunders in Reconstructing Iraq Are Staggering

I often recall a meeting in October 2003 in Baghdad with an Iraqi engineer who had a master’s from Ball State University and loved America. He wanted to talk to me about corruption in reconstruction projects in Iraq.

Hamid spoke with anger at seeing U.S. officials on the bases pay cash to fly-by-night Iraqi agents to cart away new vehicles and spare parts – along with generators – that had been left behind by Saddam’s army. The Iraqis then sold the valuable equipment in Syria and Jordan and paid kickbacks to the U.S. officials. “You are helping criminals,” he complained, “and wasting your money and ours.”

I never had the opportunity to investigate Hamid’s accusations. He was murdered by Sunni insurgents for working with Americans. Now the sad tale of corruption and wasted billions in America’s Iraq reconstruction program has been laid bare in a spate of new books, and by the U.S. inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.

Bob Woodward’s State of Denial details the incredible lack of planning for the postwar, in which the Pentagon team tasked with running Iraqi reconstruction met together for the first time only a few weeks before the invasion.

To understand what these Pentagon civilians wrought, read Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City about the Bush team’s decision to send “the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest” to rebuild Iraq.

Chandrasekaran, former Baghdad bureau chief of the Washington Post, describes how Republican connections were the ticket to a job in Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2003-2004, in the occupation era of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). There were some competent folks inside the Green Zone, but they played second fiddle to political appointees.

More typical was James K. Haveman Jr., a 60-year-old Republican social worker and Christian antiabortion activist, who was picked to head the Health Ministry over a physician with degrees in public health and experience in third-world disaster relief.

Haveman treated Baghdad as if it were an extension of his home state of Michigan: He pushed for more maternity hospitals instead of refurbishing Baghdad’s ill-equipped emergency rooms. He pressed for an anti-smoking campaign – and tried to limit the number of drugs distributed to hospitals, ensuring that essential medicines stayed out of stock. He was in over his head.

To get the full flavor of the mismanagement of the postwar, however, you need to go to http://www.sigir.mil, and read the reports of the special inspector general in Iraq (SIGIR), Stuart W. Bowen Jr.

Hats off to Congress for creating this office to check, ex post facto, on the more than $18 billion spent for reconstruction. Too bad no one kept tabs sooner. Bowen’s reports tell of huge cost overruns by American contractors – notably the Halliburton subsidiary known as KBR (formerly Kellogg Brown and Root). Despite repeated criticism, KBR has been paid most of its money by the Army.

Bowen also reports that a huge number of projects awarded to large U.S. firms remain unfinished. A children’s hospital project in Basra, backed by Laura Bush, was supposed to be completed by Bechtel in 2005, but will cost up to $169 million and may never be finished. Thirteen of 14 projects undertaken by the Parsons Corp. engineering firm were found shoddy. A $75 million Parsons project for the largest police academy in Iraq was so bungled it may have to be demolished.

SIGIR’s deputy inspector general, Ginger Cruz, told me that the police academy’s plumbing was so grim that urine and feces dripped onto students, and on the SIGIR inspector who visited the building.

“We’re leaving behind a trail of failure,” Cruz says. “The power and oil situation isn’t better than when we came.” The problem, she says, goes beyond the security issues that have dogged the reconstruction effort.

There is a line in the movie Runaway Jury in which Rankin Fitch(Gene Hackman) says, and I paraphrase, that verdicts are too important to be left up to juries, uttered in contempt of the ability of the common citizen to listen to the evidence and deliver a just verdict. Fitch was giving voice to what the conservatives that rule America today believe. The law cannot to trusted the best jurists it can only be trusted to Republicans that believe much like they believe about Iraq reconstruction and pretty much everything else, that the law is for sale, Money trails lead to Bush judges

At least two dozen federal judges appointed by President Bush since 2001 made political contributions to key Republicans or to the president himself while under consideration for their judgeships, government records show. A four-month investigation of Bush-appointed judges by the Center for Investigative Reporting reveals that six appellate court judges and 18 district court judges contributed a total of more than $44,000 to politicians who were influential in their appointments. Some gave money directly to Bush after he officially nominated them. Other judges contributed to Republican campaign committees while they were under consideration for a judgeship.

Republicans who received money from judges en route to the bench include Sens. Arlen Specter and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Sens. George Voinovich and Mike DeWine of Ohio, and Gov. George Pataki of New York.

“He (Thomas Paine) saw oppression on every hand; injustice everywhere; hypocrisy at the altar; venality on the bench, tyranny on the throne; and with a splendid courage he espoused the cause of the weak against the strong” – Robert Green Ingersoll

“It’s a sad day when you have members of Congress who are literally criminals go undisciplined by their colleagues. No wonder people look at Washington and know this city is broken.” – Senator John Kerry