Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another dinosaur roams Texas

THE University of Texas (Austin) has a website titled "Geological Wonders of Texas". It makes the claim that "120 to 100 million years ago, dinosaurs lived in the coastal shallows and offshore islands of Texas and left footprint evidence for geodetectives to investigate".

There's a little natural history museum, the Texas Memorial Museum, on or adjacent to the UT campus. Guambat used to walk past it nearly every day when he attended uni there over 40 years ago. At that time, it was a park-like place, with wide grounds separating it from the UT Law School to the north and the UT Stadium to the south.

Guambat lived in a little house just to the east of the Museum. Then Lyndon Johnson died and they decided to uproot Guambat's abode and a few dozen live oak trees and a few city blocks and build a library to his memory, which Guambat has already forgotten.

Anyway, next to the little natural history museum, there is an even littler building which houses dinosaur tracks. Guambat often felt compelled to stop and have a look at the tracks and was usually awe-struck at the thought of the monstrous track-makers and their time.

Another UT website describes this relic:

In 1939, Roland T. Bird of the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) traveled to the Paluxy River site to collect sections of the trackway as part of a Work Projects Administration (WPA) project jointly supervised by The University of Texas at Austin and AMNH. The Center’s sections were hammered out of the parent trackway, numbered, transported by truck and train, and eventually reassembled at their destination.

Two trackways can be seen. The broad footprints of the first trackway were made by the hind feet of a sauropod dinosaur that may have been 40-50 feet long, weighing 30 tons. The distance between prints indicates a stride of almost 10 feet. The deep, post-hole shaped holes were made by the front feet, which were not as broad as the rear feet. A second trackway of three-toed prints was made by a theropod dinosaur. The theropod, walking on hind legs with a stride of about 9 feet, was perhaps 30 feet in length. The absence of tail-drag marks indicates that both dinosaurs held their tails aloft. Some scientists think that the footprints actually document a battle between the theropod and the sauropod—for this reason, the Texas Natural Science Center’s dinosaur tracks have become internationally famous!

Famous around the world as the first and among the best sauropod tracks ever found, the Glen Rose Dinosaur Tracks at the Texas Memorial Museum are deteriorating.

“Years of constant exposure to moisture have taken their toll,” explained Director Ed Theriot. “The tracks need to be restored and moved.”

Another dinosaur is dragging a tale across Texas now. And he has the power to indeed move those tracks, right out of the textbooks.

According to the WSJ,
Texas school board chairman Don McLeroy, who is a dentist, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago. If the new curriculum passes, he says he will insist that high-school biology textbooks point out specific aspects of the fossil record that, in his view, undermine the theory that all life on Earth is descended from primitive scraps of genetic material that first emerged in the primordial muck about 3.9 billion years ago.

He also wants the texts to make the case that individual cells are far too complex to have evolved by chance mutation and natural selection, an argument popular with those who believe an intelligent designer created the universe.

Says he, "We need to be honest with the kids."
McLeroy seems to have his own website, with the headline "A Little Clear Thinking About Texas Public Schools". This guy is clearly messing with Mother Nature. Says he,
What is our main target?

In the words of Phillip Johnson it is “metaphysical naturalism” or “materialism” or just plain old “naturalism”; it is the idea that nature is all there is. Modern science today is totally based on naturalism. In all of intelligent design's arguments against both Darwinian evolution, and the chemical origin of life, it is their naturalistic base that is the ultimate target. The important aspect of Darwinian evolution is its naturalistic claim that all life is a result of purposeless, unintelligent, material causes.

Darwinian evolution and ID stand in a complete antithesis; ID requires a designing influence to account for all the complexity of life, whereas the Darwinian Theory common descent claims that life spontaneously arose all by itself.

And why is intelligent design considered a “big tent”? It is because anyone opposed to naturalism is welcomed into the movement. All of us, progressive creationists, recent creationists, old earthers, and young earthers are welcomed in this tent.

Intelligent design here at Grace Bible Church is a smaller tent than the intelligent design movement itself. We are all biblical literalists and believe the Bible to be inerrant.

It is good to remember that the intelligent design movement is a bigger tent. There is no reason to attack one another over our disagreements, though we should rigorously examine our Bible, and see how our views fit the Scriptures and how coherent a creation story they tell. Remember, naturalism is the main target.
He adds, in another of many pieces posted there,
Over the last 100 years there has been a dramatic change in educational philosophy; emphasis has slowly drifted away from the primacy of knowledge toward an emphasis on problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Our educator preparation programs and influential high school "redesigners" ... recommend that instead of memorizing facts, students should be taught how to find, use, and apply knowledge. In this popular view, knowledge and facts take a back seat in our schools.

This philosophic emphasis is also reinforced by our state testing system. The TAKS is not an assessment of basic knowledge, as many assume it to be; it is a basic skills test of problem solving and critical thinking.

This overemphasis on problem solving and critical thinking then undermines our educational efforts in four major ways

Knowledge doesn’t build on thinking; but thinking builds on knowledge. The greater one's knowledge, the greater one's ability to problem solve. knowledge is greater. Knowledge is power.

Second, this overemphasis on problem solving and critical thinking undermines the mandate Texans have given their state legislature by our State Constitution. The Constitution calls for "a general diffusion of knowledge".

Third, with the lost emphasis of “the general diffusion of knowledge”, the constitutional purpose for providing education in the first place—“the preservation of liberties”, is undermined. If we renew our commitment to what is mandated in the Constitution, we will give our children a much better reason to be in school.

Fourth, we are losing a vital part of the foundation for hard work. Some say that motivation for learning is not what it was in the good old days: that today’s students are not motivated by fear and respect for authority.... Why the willingness to give up on these values?

Of course we want our students to be able to solve problems and think clearly, therefore, how do we accomplish this? Simple, just fill our children's minds full of knowledge and facts. How did Detective Friday solve the crimes on Dragnet? By repeating: "Just the facts ma'am." Also, the more facts a child’s mind can effortlessly recall, the more the mind will be free to solve problems.

as educational leaders, we need to use our bully pulpits to tout the wisdom and benefits of knowledge.

Don McLeroy, who is a dentist, and chairman of the Texas Board of Education, believes that God created the earth less than 10,000 years ago, according to the WSJ. "We are all biblical literalists and believe the Bible to be inerrant," according to McLeroy's website.

The WSJ story tells us
The Texas Board of Education will vote this week on a new science curriculum designed to challenge the guiding principle of evolution, a step that could influence what is taught in biology classes across the nation.

The proposed curriculum change would prompt teachers to raise doubts that all life on Earth is descended from common ancestry. Texas is such a huge textbook market that many publishers write to the state's standards, then market those books nationwide.

The Texas school board will vote after taking public testimony in a three-day meeting that starts Wednesday. Dr. McLeroy leads a group of seven social conservatives on the 15-member board. They are opposed by a bipartisan group of seven, often joined by an eighth board member considered a swing vote, that support teaching evolution without caveats.

The state Republican Party passed a resolution urging the three [moderate creationists] to back Dr. McLeroy's preferred curriculum.

POSTED SCRIPT 25 March, Guambat Savings Time: Not sure whether it is coinkidink, but Guambat Stew has been pegged as a spam blog or somesuch since about the time this post went up. Blogger now throws up a minor irritating hurdle to posting new posts, and threatens to delete it if a human fails to be convinced this blog is humanoid, which is a bit of a worry. Looking into it, it seems this can be the result of several things, only 2 of which seem pertinent. First, a sudden influx of readers and comments. This post seems to have generated both, at least relative to the cold and lonely part of the cybersphere Guambat usually inhabits. Second, it could result from some concerted effort to "hit" the "flag blog" button at the top, intended to jam or forever dump this blog. Or, possibly, it may just be bored robots at work. Anyway, Guambat is off to Japan to view the cherry blossoms in honor of his and Mrs. Guambat's 60th b/days and the birth of their ichi-ban grandchild named, appropriately, Sakura. If he never comes back, it's more due to the spambot tag than lack of any desire to keep the blogosphere alive. Cheers, Guambat

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Baby fly in the ointment?

Maggots as Good as Gel in Leg Ulcer Treatments
The use of maggots to treat leg ulcers is similar to standard hydrogel therapy in terms of health benefits and costs, according to British researchers.

Debridement (removal of dead tissue from the ulcer surface) helps promote healing and is a common part of treatment for leg ulcers, chronic wounds most often caused by diseased veins. While a hydrogel is commonly used for debridement, it's been suggested the maggots (larval therapy) debride wounds more quickly, stimulate healing and reduce infection.

Compared to hydrogel, larval therapy significantly reduced the time to debridement, but there was little difference in time to ulcer healing, health-related quality of life or levels of bacteria.

Maggots no wonder cure for festering wounds
Putting flesh-eating maggots into open wounds may not be such a great idea after all.

They do clean wounds more quickly than normal treatment but this does not lead to faster healing, results of the world's first controlled clinical trial of maggot medicine showed on Friday.

Some patients also found so-called larval therapy more painful, according to the study in the British Medical Journal.

They found no significant difference in outcomes or cost.

Friday, March 20, 2009

(Another)(legal) high flyer not flying above the law

From the Australian ABC Radio:
He used to preside over one of the highest courts in Australia. Former Queen's Counsel, Australian Federal Court judge and former human rights commissioner Marcus Einfeld lied about a speeding ticket.

On the 8th of January 2006, Marcus Einfeld's silver Lexus tripped a speed camera in the Sydney suburb of Mosman.

Instead of a paying the fine and taking the three demerit points, Einfeld chose to perjure himself. Legal commentator and barrister Greg Barns.

GREG BARNS: He told a magistrate, in fact he testified before a magistrate, he hadn't been driving his car when he was clocked doing over the speed limit in Sydney.

He then provided police with a long statement in which he talked about who might have been driving the car. That turned out to be false.

There were a number of other falsehoods in that particular statement and it was from there that he got himself into big trouble with being charged essentially with the perjury and making a false statement with intent to pervert the course of justice.

KAREN BARLOW: There was just elements of the ridiculousness in all this with the fact that the woman he alleged to be driving turned out to be dead.

GREG BARNS: That's right. Professor Teresa Brennan, I think her name was, who he said was driving the car in fact turned out to be dead. There were then allegations made about other cases where other names of people had been used.

Justice James said that as a top legal practitioner, Einfeld must have fully appreciated the gravity of lying to the justice system.

KAREN BARLOW: The Law Council of New South Wales and the State Attorney-General John Hatzistergos also say the sentence was appropriate.

Detective Superintendent Colin Dyson says he has no sympathy for the former legal high flier.

COLIN DYSON: I don't believe anyone is above the law.

KAREN BARLOW: Do you think Einfeld thought he was above the law?

COLIN DYSON: I don't know what was acting in his mind. I think only one person knows the answer to that. All I know is there's no winners here today, but justice was served.

In the NSW Supreme Court, the 70-year-old was sentenced to three years in jail with a two-year non-parole period on charges of perjury and perverting the course of justice.

And this follow-up by Malcolm Knox in the SMH:

A man without honour
The fall was complete for Einfeld, once a Queen's Counsel, Federal Court judge, National Trust living treasure and president of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

Operatic in scale, that fall was reflected in microcosm yesterday: between Einfeld's robust, cheerful arrival at court and his sombre departure between two Corrective Services officers; between the ebullience of his big entourage of family and supporters at the start of the hearing, and their tearful silence when his sentence was announced; and between the eminence of his achievements and the pointless deviousness of his crimes.

Einfeld had pleaded guilty to two offences relating to his car being clocked 10 kmh over the speed limit at 4.01pm on January 8, 2006. For the first, lying under oath to the Local Court in August 2006 when he said he was not driving the car but had lent it to an American friend, Teresa Brennan, he was sentenced to one year and nine months.

On this excuse he was acquitted in August 2006 but it was later discovered that Professor Brennan had died three years earlier. This gave rise to the second offence, of wilfully trying to pervert the course of justice. It was for this that Einfeld received the heavier sentence of two years and three months. The latter crime "aggravated the seriousness" of the first, Justice James said.

In August 2006, when police investigated the Brennan revelations, Einfeld wrote a 20-page statement that would have done Colleen McCullough proud. It was an elaborate fiction about how Einfeld lent his car to a woman named Brennan whom he had met in Bangladesh. His 82-paragraph description of this Brennan's appearance, the scenes, dialogue and narration were vivid, fluent and totally fictitious.

The intelligence and imagination Einfeld brought to that statement, his history in the law and standing in the community only made things worse for him.

A son of the former Labor minister Syd Einfeld, Einfeld was a pillar of the Jewish and eastern suburbs establishment.

But for Justice James, Einfeld's position aggravated his crimes. "He knew the high importance of telling the truth," Justice James said, and his crimes "strike at the heart of the administration of justice". He had no excuses for attacking the rule of law itself.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stimulating, at least if you're in the paper business

Guambat nicked this idea and imagery from an email that was broadcast around.

Consider the size of the US stimulus package(s). When all forms are considered, it must exceed, but let's just say it is, ONE TRILLION DOLLARS.

What would that look like if it was composed of $100 bills?

Ten Thousand Dollars could easily fit in a coat pocket, and be smuggled out the door of the bailed out banks.

A Million Dollars taped to your body would make you look like a terrorist. What is more terrifying than walking around with $1,000,000 strapped to yourself?

But One Hundred Million Dollars, now that is palatable, or palletable if you will.

And One Billion Dollars would require you all to go out and rent a U-Haul.

But One Trillion Dollars?

Even if you
double-stacked your palatable booty, you'd need a large-ish building, maybe not as large as the Goldman Sachs HQ, but large enough to hold this:

Monday, March 16, 2009

Is there an economist in the house ?

Looking for an export expert.

Is there any linkage between falling exports and rising protectionism, or mere coincidence? John Mauldin implies there may be in his latest Thoughts From the Frontline (may need to register your email address, but it's worth the effort for his thoughts).

Says he,
For over six years I have been writing that the one thing that could truly derail the world economy is protectionism. Nothing would be more deleterious in today's global economy.

And that brings us to this stark note I read today on Bloomberg. It sent chills down my spine: "American exports have slumped at a 44% annual pace in the most recent six months of data, with imports shrinking 51%, probably the most since the Great Depression, according to Morgan Stanley analysts. The figures may add to pressure on the Obama administration to rework international agreements and include protections for US workers and the environment."

The US steel industry is planning to bring anti-dumping charges against foreign steel. India just raised steel tariffs. It seems like every day I read that someone somewhere is calling for their particular industry to be protected, bailed out, or subsidized. And it is not just the US. It is happening all over the world.
Consider these stories from recent days, beginning with the article Mauldin quoted from:

U.S. Economy: Imports, Exports Drop as Demand Weakens
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in January to $36 billion, the lowest level in six years, on tumbling American demand for everything from OPEC oil to Japanese automobiles....
U.S. imports and exports decline in January
Trade between the United States and the rest of the world slid lower in January.... Although the United States is spending less in goods and services abroad, import levels have fallen far more steeply.... The trade deficit, a measure of the gap between imports and exports, shrank for a record sixth consecutive month in January, narrowing 9.8 percent to $36 billion.

"It will not represent good news to trading partners who have much spare capacity that had been used to produce mountains of products for the U.S. consumer," Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist at the research company MFR, said in a note.
UK trade deficit widens to £7.7bn
Britain's trade deficit with the rest of the world widened by more than expected in January as exports to countries outside the European Union plummeted by 16%. Exports to the US were down 8.5% in January alone.
Exports Down Sharply for 2nd Month in China
China’s exports plunged by a record 25.7 percent last month.... China’s exports slowed abruptly for everything from toys and fashion accessories to steel and grain...
Japan's exports halved in January
Japan's current account recorded its largest deficit on record in January, reaching 172.8bn yen ($1.8bn; £1.2bn). It was its first deficit in 13 years.

Exports in January dropped a record 46.3% from a year earlier to 3.28 trillion yen, the fourth consecutive month of year-on-year declines, with exports to the US hardest hit, registering a 52.9% drop.

Car exports alone dropped 66.1%, with semiconductor and electronic parts exports down 52.8%.
Canada Lost Trade
Canada’s recession is deepening, with reports today showing a record trade deficit amid vanishing automobile trade.... The trade gap grew to C$993 million ($786 million), the largest since the agency began keeping records in 1971.

The world’s eighth-largest economy is shrinking faster than policy makers predicted just a few weeks ago, as a global credit crisis and a drop in commodity prices saps orders for Canada’s lumber, automobiles and metals.
The item that precipitated the protectionist plot in this context was Switzerland's sudden and monumental currency intervention. Mauldin called the Swiss move a "game changer" and said,
If the Swiss can move to take their currency lower, then there will be a score of countries that will ask why they shouldn't be allowed to do the same.

Whatever their reasons, the Swiss have opened Pandora's box. Do Senators Schumer and Graham now start talking about that major currency manipulator, Switzerland, and start to introduce bills to punish them? Will Secretary Geithner come before a Congressional committee and call the Swiss currency manipulators? If not, then how do we deal with China?

So, the shrinking US trade deficit, brought on by falling exports around the world, and the propensity of export experts to pummel their own currency, is perhaps presaging the protection that protracted the Great Depression, right?

Well, let's harken back a few years to this post and the article written by Professor Peter Morici, Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland:
Since December 2001, the U.S. monthly trade deficit has increased $37.7 billion [September deficit on trade in goods and services was $64.3 billion]. Petroleum, automotive products, and goods from China account for 86 percent of the trade deficit....

This has saddled the economy with a huge foreign debt and taxed growth, and Bush Administration policies have exacerbated these problems.

Many U.S. multinationals, like GE, Caterpillar and GM, have earned huge profits investing in protected Chinese markets, and have lobbied the Congress and Administration not to take action against Chinese mercantilism.

Rather than recognizing Chinese currency manipulation as protectionism, President Bush and his Treasury Secretaries have sided with the large multinationals profiting from Chinese mercantilism, and labeled as protectionist Americans advocating measures to offset Chinese subsidies—something the U.S. regularly does when subsidized imports from the EU or Japan harm U.S. industries.

So, perhaps, before we come to any conclusive economic judgment about any linkage between the relative measure of exports and so-called protectionism, we might look first at, and discount, the partisan agendas of those claiming politically protectionist policies are to blame. Guambat observes that economists, at least to the extent they carry on in the mainline press and commentary, on the whole are a pimpish bunch who tend to follow their political bent or own self-interest first and foremost. Not that there's anything wrong with that, so long as clearly disclosed and admitted so that we all know a paid political advertisement when we read or hear it.

See these posts and this article, Intervention, Manipulation, And Currency Wars.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The looong arm of the law comes up shooort against large government contractors

Solicitor held on US charge of involvement in Nigeria bribery
A British solicitor was arrested yesterday over allegations that he broke US anti-corruption laws by channelling millions of pounds in bribes to Nigerian officials to win construction contracts.

[He was arrested in near London.] The US has issued a second warrant for the arrest of another Briton in England.

They are alleged to have helped steer bribe money from former Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) to officials of the Nigerian government to win contracts valued at more than $6bn.

KBR pleads guilty in Nigerian bribery case
Appearing in U.S. District Court in Houston, KBR General Counsel Andrew Farley admitted that the company paid bribes to high-ranking Nigerian officials between 1994 and 2004 to secure four contracts for a KBR joint venture to build and expand Nigeria's Bonny Island liquefied natural gas terminal.

Under a deal reached with the U.S. Justice Department, Houston-based KBR and Halliburton will pay a $402 million fine, of which Halliburton has agreed to pay $382 million.

In a separate settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Halliburton will disgorge $177 million in profits to settle parallel criminal charges that its former subsidiary violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

Together, the $579 million in sanctions is the highest combined settlement ever paid by U.S. companies under the act, the SEC said.

SEC Charges KBR and Halliburton for FCPA Violations
"FCPA violations have been and will continue to be dealt with severely by the SEC and other law enforcement agencies," said SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro. "Any company that seeks to put greed ahead of the law by making illegal payments to win business should beware that we are working vigorously across borders to detect and punish such illicit conduct."

Antonia Chion, Associate Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, added, "The SEC will not tolerate violations of the FCPA, regardless of the lengths to which public companies will go to structure their corrupt transactions to avoid detection. Multi-national companies should take heed that attempting to conceal bribes by funneling them through intermediaries or offshore entities will not be successful."

The SEC alleges that beginning as early as 1994, members of the joint venture determined that it was necessary to pay bribes to officials within the Nigerian government in order to obtain the construction contracts. The former CEO of the predecessor entities, Albert "Jack" Stanley, and others involved in the joint venture met with high-ranking Nigerian government officials and their representatives on at least four occasions to arrange the bribe payments. To conceal the illicit payments, the joint venture entered into sham contracts with two agents, one based in the United Kingdom and one based in Japan, to funnel money to Nigerian officials.

The SEC alleges that officials of the joint venture formed a "cultural committee" to decide how to carry out the bribery scheme. The committee decided to use the United Kingdom agent to make payments to high-ranking Nigerian officials and to use the Japanese agent to make payments to lower-ranking Nigerian officials. As the joint venture was paid for work on the construction project, the joint venture in turn made payments to the Japanese agent and to the Swiss and Monaco bank accounts of the United Kingdom agent. The total payments to the two agents exceeded $180 million. After receiving the money, the United Kingdom agent made substantial payments to accounts controlled by Nigerian government officials, and beginning in 2002 paid $5 million in cash to a Nigerian political party.

Most of the information in the prior story comes from the SEC complaint and this press release by the Department of Justice, which added,
Under the terms of the plea agreement, KBR agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for a three-year period to review the design and implementation of KBR’s compliance program and to make reports to KBR and the Department of Justice.

When suspending contractors, size — not action — matters
When a deadly salmonella outbreak was tied to unsanitary conditions at Peanut Corp. of America, the Agriculture Department took strong action. It declared the company as lacking in “business integrity and business honesty” and cut off further business with the government.

Government’s reaction to KBR’s misdeeds was quite different.

The company last month admitted bribing Nigerian officials to obtain contracts, a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and is under investigation for negligent homicide in the deaths of at least two of 24 soldiers, Marines and civilians electrocuted in KBR-maintained facilities as a result of shoddy electrical work.

Bribery and poor performance are grounds for banning a company from federal business, but that did not happen to KBR.

Last year alone, KBR did $5 billion in government business. The Peanut Corp. of America did $5 million in the past nine years.

In deciding whether to suspend or debar a company, officials look at the risk that a contractor will continue to be irresponsible in the future and the extent to which a company’s problem is the fault of an individual, as opposed to the company’s culture or prevailing practice.

For a large contractor, it is easier to fire a bad apple and take remedial actions to correct problems, such as rolling out new, corporate-wide ethics training and internal compliance programs, said Craig King, an attorney with Arent Fox and the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s committee on debarment and suspension.

When companies take these steps, agencies usually stop short of suspending them, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In the case of KBR’s electrical work contracts, the company may not be responsible because the action was performed by individuals. In the KBR bribery case, former CEO Albert “Jack” Stanley, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges last year, was fired.

When the owner or other top executive of a small company does wrong, “it is much more difficult to conceive of those individuals as separate from the culture and business honesty of the company,” King said.

In the case of the Peanut Corp. of America, there is evidence the company’s owner and president, Stewart Parnell, personally ordered positive salmonella tests to be ignored.
KBR CFO: US Defense Dept Won't Suspend Co Over Bribe Case CNNMoney.com - ‎Feb 25, 2009‎
NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- KBR Inc. (KBR) won't be prevented from pursuing new US Defense Department contracts or have existing work suspended over the ...
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Staring down criticism, KBR posts profit increase
[KBR Chief Executive William] Utt said the firm’s backlog of work remains strong and the Pentagon has given no indication that KBR will be suspended from future contracting.

When asked about “all the noise” from Washington lawmakers about KBR contracts, Utt said, “Congress is not our customer on the LOGCAP activity. Our customer is the Army under the Pentagon.”

The Army appears to be happy with KBR’s work, Utt said. The Army Corps of Engineers recently gave two more contracts to KBR for work including electrical service, water purification and wastewater collection.

Income for KBR’s government and infrastructure unit, which includes work in Iraq, was $85 million for the fourth quarter — a 60 percent increase over the $53 million profit recorded for that unit in the same period of 2007.

KBR’s fourth-quarter profit climbed 24 percent to $88 million, or 54 cents per share, up from $71 million, or 42 cents per share.

Results included a charge of 12 cents per share related to the Nigerian bribery investigation. KBR’s fourth-quarter revenue was $3.4 billion, up from $2.4 billion in 2007.

Baker Botts, Paul Hastings on Record $579 Million KBR-Halliburton FCPA Settlement
Sorting out which company did what isn't easy--not surprising given that the case involves briefcases stuffed with $1 million in cash, sham companies in Portugal, and agents in the U.K. and Japan who received about $180 million from KBR and funneled the money to Nigerian officials doling out oil contracts.

The scheme actually started at KBR in the mid-1990s, before Halliburton acquired that company in 1998.

As for Halliburton, the SEC and DOJ both charged the company with conducting lazy due diligence when it took over KBR in 1998. The company, for instance, found out that KBR was paying huge sums to an agent in the U.K. but didn't bother to find out what that person was doing with the money or even to check the individual's references--some which turned out to be bogus, court records show. As a result, Halliburton's internal records are littered with lies and misstatements, the DOJ and SEC say.

The theory - and practice - of Presidential Dictatorship

The GW Bush administration directed a putsch through the Department of Justice, which included a full court press of personnel, policy, practice and Patriot Action.

Sheriff GW's Little Deputy John Howard imitated that leadership and directed a similar putsch with his own Terror Laws down in Australia.

Just some of the secretly held memos prepared by the Bush-led Republican Full Court Press legal team that supported and underwrote the Bush administration actions have recently been released by the Obama administration.

Holder Declassifies Controversial Bush-Era Legal Opinions
Attorney General Eric Holder, in releasing the documents, said, "Americans deserve a government that operates with transparency and openness. It is my goal to make OLC opinions available when possible while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust internal executive branch debate and decision-making."

Bush memos on presidential power shock legal experts
The newly released memos were mostly written between 2001 and 2003, and they gave the government broad legal authorization for fighting a new war in a new way. Their common theme was that no laws can limit the president's power in fighting terrorists.

Yale law professor Jack Balkin called this a "theory of presidential dictatorship. They say the battlefield is everywhere. And the president can do anything he wants, so long as it involves the military and the enemy."

"This was a period of panic, and panic creates an opportunity for patriotic politicians to abuse their power," Balkin said.

The criticism was not limited to liberals. "I agree with the left on this one," said Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University. The approach in the memos "was simply not a plausible reading of the case law. The Bush [Office of Legal Counsel] eventually rejected [the] memos because they were wrong on the law, and they were right to do so."

Defenders of the administration stress that the memos were written during a time of national emergency. Officials feared, and indeed, expected another terrorist attack within the U.S. They were determined to take all possible steps to prevent it. And by the time the Bush administration came to an end, views within the Justice Department had changed dramatically.

"You can never get over how bad these opinions were," said Duke Law School professor Walter Dellinger, who headed the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel in the Clinton administration. "The assertion that Congress has no role to play with respect to the detention of prisoners was contrary to the Constitution's text, to judicial precedent and to historical practice. For people who supposedly follow the text [of the Constitution], what don't they understand about the phrase 'make rules concerning captures on land and water'?"

Most of the memos were written by John Yoo, a deputy director of the Office of Legal Counsel. This small, obscure office writes legal opinions for the attorney general and others in the government. Yoo's memos gave legal guidance to the Defense Department and the White House.

Five days before the Bush administration came to an end, Steven Bradbury, the head of the office, wrote an 11-page memo "for the files" explaining how his office had gone wrong.

Rosa Brooks, in an opinion piece in the LA Times, asks and answers the question, How did they ever get away with it?
One answer is suggested by the so-called Big Lie theory of political propaganda, articulated most infamously by Adolf Hitler. Ordinary people "more readily fall victim to the big lie than the small lie," wrote Hitler, "since they themselves often tell small lies ... but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."

In other words: Paradoxically, the more outrageous the claim, the more apt we are to assume there must be some truth to it. Just as some banks and insurance companies are apparently "too big to fail," some claims from those with political power seem to strike us as "too big to disbelieve." "That seems so outrageous it must be right," we tell ourselves. "The important people keep saying it -- they must know something I don't know."

Big lies prevail because we can't bring ourselves to believe that our leaders could be so dishonest or deluded. And big lies can do terrible damage, of course. The Bush administration's big legal lies paved the way for some of the most shameful episodes in our history, including the official authorization of torture.

Back in 2005, the conservative US political/social scientist Francis Fukuyama wrote an opinion piece published in the SMH, Wasted lives, then wasted opportunity, which prompted a Guambat post, Of hearts, minds and balls.

Like Rosa Brook's piece, Fukuyama began with a question, but phrased more Socratically:
As we mark four years since September 11, 2001, one way to organise a review of what has happened in US foreign policy since that terrible day is with a question: to what extent has that policy flowed from the wellspring of American politics and culture, and to what extent has it flowed from the particularities of this President and this Administration?

The Administration could instead have chosen to create a true alliance of democracies to fight illiberal currents coming out of the Middle East. It could also have tightened economic sanctions and secured the return of arms inspectors to Iraq without going to war. It could have had a go at a new international regime to battle proliferation.

All of these paths would have been in keeping with American foreign policy traditions. But Bush and his Administration chose to do otherwise.

We do not know what outcome we will face in Iraq. We do know that four years after September 11, the whole foreign policy of the United States seems destined to rise or fall on the outcome of a war only marginally related to the source of what befell America on that day. There was nothing inevitable about this. There is everything to be regretted about it.