The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Friday, September 30, 2005

And this is when they control every branch....

That's the amazing thing about all these corruption stories breaking. There are so many skeletons in the closet that the even the control of all three branches of government isn't enough to keep them from pouring out.

The indictment sent a shock wave through the GOP establishment, which is already reeling from a swath of criminal and ethics investigations. Three individuals, eight corporations and two political action committees connected to DeLay have been indicted as a result of the probe. In addition, the government's top procurement official, David Safavian, was arrested in September for obstructing a criminal investigation into über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close DeLay ally. Abramoff himself is under criminal investigation for defrauding Indian tribes and was indicted for wire fraud in Florida in a separate case. Top White House aides, including Karl Rove and Scooter Libby, have been targeted by a special prosecutor investigating the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Representative Duke Cunningham announced he would not run for re-election after overselling his house for $700,000 to a military industry lobbyist; he too has been indicted. FDA chief Lester Crawford resigned unexpectedly after just two months on the job, possibly because of failure to report his wife's sizable pharmaceutical-industry holdings. And DeLay's Senate counterpart, Bill Frist, is battling possible insider-trading charges for dumping millions in HCA stock, a company founded by his father and run by his brother, weeks before it plunged in value. The U.S. Attorney in Manhattan and the Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into Frist and HCA in September.

"The fact that Tom DeLay is under criminal indictment and Senate majority leader Bill Frist is under criminal investigation is a historic first," says Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). "This demonstrates the culture of corruption among the Congressional leadership that has become a cancer on our country."

Did Miller just tell half the story?

I haven't written about this yet because everyone knows she testified today, but we didn't know much about it. Now we know that Cheney's lieutenant 'Scooter' Libby leaked Valerie Plame's name to her. But apparently she's got another name that's staying secret. Or to put it in Rumsfeldese, their are a few known unknowns involved:

If anything substantive came out of Miller's brief appearance before the press, it was this: She emphasized, at least twice, that there had been not one but two prerequisites to her testifying before the grand jury. First, Miller said, she needed a personal and voluntary waiver from the source she was protecting -- a source the New York Times and the Washington Post have both identified as Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Second, Miller said, she needed an assurance from Fitzgerald that her testimony to the grand jury would be limited to her conversations with Libby -- which is to say that it would not require her to give up the identity of any other sources she might be protecting.

Miller said Fitzgerald's agreement to limit her testimony was "very important to me," and that she would have stayed in jail "even longer" if she hadn't gotten both her source's waiver and Fitzgerald's agreement not ask about other sources. "I could not have testified without both of them," she said.

So one question has been answered today: Libby, it seems clear, was the source Miller was protecting. But who is the source she's protecting now?

Why she'd be so committed to protecting someone who played her for a sucker (a la her gullibility on WMDs prior to the invastion) is beyond me.

Son of Science Friday: Odysseus' home found?

Man, I love this stuff.

FOR almost 3,000 years, its location has been a mystery, but classical scholars around the world are now convinced that a British businessman and amateur archaeologist with a passion for Homer has found the island of Ithaca, home of the Greek hero Odysseus and the site of his palace.

Many thought that the island existed only in the imagination of the Greek poet Homer and in his epic, the Odyssey. Certainly his description of it did not match the Ionian island now called Ithaca, but, after following a detective trail of literary, geological and archaeological clues, scholars led by Robert Bittlestone, a management consultant, have identified Paliki, an area of Cephalonia, as the site.

Calssicists [sic] have been overwhelmed by the compelling evidence.

James Diggle, Professor of Greek and Latin at Cambridge University and co-author of a book on the discovery, said that almost all of the 26 locations that Homer described in detail can be identified today in northern Paliki and its neighbourhood.

Science Friday: 20 million year-old spider discovered

20,000,000 years. Fascinating stuff. (Note to creationists: that's only 20 million for those highly-educated research scientist types. The spider can't be any older than 6,000 years and we all know it.)

Palaeontologist Dr David Penney, of the University of Manchester, found the 4cm long by 2cm wide fossil during a visit to a museum in the Dominican Republic.

Since the discovery two years ago, he has used droplets of blood in the amber to reveal the age of the specimen.

It is thought to be the first time spider blood has been found in amber and scientists hope to extract its DNA.

Dr Penney, of the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Sciences, said he had used the blood droplets to trace how, when and where the spider died.

Dr Penney believes it was climbing up a tree 20 million years ago when it was hit on the head by fast flowing resin, became engulfed in the resin and died.

Number of battle-ready Iraqi battalions dropping

Maybe it's time for Fearless Leader to do another fall-down funny skit for the Press Club. You know, he can be shown looking under his La-Z-Boy muttering "Gotta have some battalions here somewhere. Hee hee hee."

The number of Iraqi army battalions that can fight insurgents without U.S. and coalition help has dropped from three to one, top U.S. generals told Congress yesterday, adding that the security situation in Iraq is too uncertain to predict large-scale American troop withdrawals anytime soon.

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who oversees U.S. forces in Iraq, said there are fewer Iraqi battalions at "Level 1" readiness than there were a few months ago. Although Casey said the number of troops and overall readiness of Iraqi security forces have steadily increased in recent months, and that there has not been a "step backwards," both Republican and Democratic senators expressed deep concern that the United States is not making enough progress against a resilient insurgency.

Just so you know, a US Army battalion varies between 500 and 1,200 soldiers. That's how many Iraqis we've trained since the fall of Hussein's regime in April, 2003. At that rate, we'll have trained 150,000 by the year 2,317. Hooray!

Blunt is the new DeLay

It might not be such a good idea for the oh-so corrupt and power-hungry Blunt to have taken over DeLay's spot. Now the spotlight is on him.

David Sirota has another nice rap sheet for Blunt misdeeds in the House. One example:

"Only hours after Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the House's third-highest leadership job" he tried "to quietly insert a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA into the 475-page bill creating a Department of Homeland Security...The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company... Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm." Blunt later married Philip Morris's lobbyist. – Washington Post, 6/11/03

Thursday, September 29, 2005

DOJ releases Bush pardon list

And it's a stumper, let me tell you. Here's a typical example of the drug offenders:

Adam Wade Graham, Salt Lake City, Utah

Offense: Conspiracy to deliver 10 or more grams of LSD; 21 U.S.C. 841(a)(1), 841(b)(1)(A)(v), and 846.

Sentence: Nov. 23, 1992; District of Wyoming; 30 months imprisonment, later reduced to 11 months and 21 days of imprisonment, and five years supervised release conditioned upon performance of 250 hours community service.

And of the white collar crooks:

Denise Bitters Mendelkow, Salt Lake City, Utah

Offense: Embezzlement by a bank employee; 18 U.S.C. 656.

Sentence: May 21, 1981; District of Utah; two years probation conditioned upon payment of restitution.

(Don't get the wrong idea-- they're pretty geographically spread out, but almost entirely in 'red states,')

Atrocity Exhibition

This is disturbing. I can't say I look forward to seeing the new images, but it certainly isn't going to boost the administration's standing in the public eye.

A federal judge Thursday ordered the release of dozens more pictures of prisoners being abused at Abu Ghraib, rejecting government arguments that the images would provoke terrorists and incite violence against U.S. troops in Iraq.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein said that terrorists "do not need pretexts for their barbarism" and that suppressing the pictures would amount to submitting to blackmail.

"Our nation does not surrender to blackmail, and fear of blackmail is not a legally sufficient argument to prevent us from performing a statutory command. Indeed, the freedoms that we champion are as important to our success in Iraq and Afghanistan as the guns and missiles with which our troops are armed," he said.

Hellerstein ordered the release of 74 pictures and three videotapes from the Abu Ghraib prison, potentially opening the military up to more embarrassment from a scandal that stirred outrage around the world last year when photos of 2003 abuse became public.

An appeal is a given, so it'll be a while either way.

The real Roberts question

It looks like Roberts will be confirmed in a quick vote today. What I'm eager to know is whether or not he'll carry Rehnquist's torch and put gold stripes on his robe.

You might recall that Rehnquist was the first Chief Justice in history to differentiate himself from his colleagues by adding some pizzazz to his somber black robe. I always thought that was pretty obnoxious, in a petty sort of "nanny-nanny-boo-boo,' 'as a matter of fact I DO own the road' sort of way.

If anyone would like to make a donation to my 'Buy Roberts a Bedazzler' fund, drop me a line.

Freedom. Marching. Progress. Stay the course.

The problem: The administration has come under growing pressure at home and abroad over the past two weeks, with dire warnings from Arab allies and a prominent international group about the looming disintegration of Iraq. In an unusual public rebuke of U.S. policy, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister called a news conference in Washington last week to predict Iraq's dissolution. He said there is no leadership or momentum to pull Iraq's Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds back together and prevent a civil war. Other countries have expressed similar concerns in private, according to U.S. and Arab diplomats.

The party line: "We can expect they'll do everything in their power to try to stop the march of freedom," Bush warned during comments in the Rose Garden about terrorism.

The solution: In a push to boost public support for his Iraq policy, Bush will give a speech on Oct. 6. Vice President Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also will give major foreign policy addresses over the next week.

Problem solved!

Who does number two work for?

I held off posting about the death of al Qaeda #2 man Abu Azzam for the simple reason that we've already heard the story a couple of times. Right-wing bloggers were all over this story as the latest massive success in the Iraq war. Now I've run across a story that I'd call a bit more objective than a speech by a president desperate to improve his poll numbers.

“This guy was a brutal killer,” Bush told reporters in remarks that were also carried live on cable TV. “He was one of [Abu Mussab al-]Zarqawi’s top lieutenants. He was reported to be the top operational commander of Al Qaeda in Baghdad.”

Bush’s comments came one day after Gen. Richard Myers, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. military considered Abu Azzam the “No. 2 Al Qaeda operative in Iraq, next to Zarqawi.”

But veteran counterterrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said today there are ample reasons to question whether Abu Azzam was really the No. 2 figure in the Iraqi insurgency. He noted that U.S. officials have made similar claims about a string of purportedly high-ranking terrorist operatives who had been captured or killed in the past, even though these alleged successes made no discernible dent in the intensity of the insurgency.

“If I had a nickel for every No. 2 and No. 3 they’ve arrested or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’d be a millionaire,” says Kohlmann, a New York-based analyst who tracks the Iraq insurgency and who first expressed skepticism about the Azzam claims in a posting on The Counterterrorism Blog ( While agreeing that Azzam—also known as Abdullah Najim Abdullah Mohamed al-Jawari—may have been an important figure, “this guy was not the deputy commander of Al Qaeda,” says Kohlmann.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Press Release: for immediate distribution


It has deeply pained me to witness the conservative assault on sandwiches in the wake of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's indictment.

Popularized by novelist Tom Wolfe in his book 'Bonfire of the Vanities,' the claim that a good prosecutor could convince a jury to "indict a ham sandwich" is both hurtful and demeaning to this country's sandwich community.

In spite of a long and contentious history, sandwiches have earned a proud place in American society, and a rich cultural history that has often been marginalized with lamentable stereotypes: sandwiches are 'easy,' or 'cheap.' There are those who have long claimed that sandwiches are responsible for some abstract decay of Western civilization-- these individuals would suggest that sandwiches' longstanding identification with the working class and modernization are responsible for the breakdown of the so-called "traditional" American family.

In fact, sandwiches have made countless contributions to society. We've all seen photos of working men in the early 20th century with their sandwich companions as they entered factories for a hard day's work. Sandwiches are all but synonymous with the expanding middle class of 1950's America. It's only in recent years that some elements of society have begun to demonize sandwiches as synonymous with sloth, laziness, and poverty. While there will always be sandwiches that cater to the lowest common denominator in American society, it's important to remember that most sandwiches are honest, wholesome figures typically found in family kitchens and school cafeterias across the nation.

While the far-right elements of the Republican party find it convenient to villify sandwiches as a scapegoat to deflect unwanted attention from the questionable actions of a party leader, history will demonstrate that it wasn't a humble sandwich who betrayed the trust of the American people. Sandwiches are with us every day, in our homes and workplaces. They are models of diversity and acceptance. Within sandwiches are the elements of all cultures, and they deserve better than to be treated like kykes, niggers, or redskins.

-Matt Sandwich

The new Majority Leader(s). Sort of.

Ick. Replacing Tom DeLay with Roy Blunt is like replacing Richard Ramirez with Ted Bundy. The only difference is the body count.

They're also putting up Californian David Dreier, aka 'good cop,' aka Mr. Inclusionary.

Pure politics-- they want to look like nice guys by making Dreier the poster boy, but have the reactionary Blunt at the controls.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert planned to recommend that California Rep. David Dreier and Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, the GOP whip, temporarily split DeLay's duties without getting his official title, a senior GOP leadership aide told CNN. Republicans could vote Wednesday on the recommendation.

The rules of the GOP conference call for members to give up their leadership posts if they are indicted, but Republican members must vote on the matter.

Friendly reminder: earlier this year, the GOP planned to do away with that rule-- largely because of DeLay's looming problems. They backed off under massive public pressure.

UPDATE: AmericaBlog points out that there's an unsurprising reason Dreier wasn't given the post-- there are long-standing rumors that he's gay, which wouldn't wash with "the base." (say, isn't that what al Qaeda means in Arabic?) Or as the poster refers to Dreier, he's a "closeted heterosexual."


Four heart attacks, five operations from top to bottom, and still-- it's alive.

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney walked with a cane Wednesday as he returned to work at the White House after weekend surgery to repair aneurysms behind both knees.

Cheney appeared to move gingerly in the Rose Garden when he appeared with President Bush and military leaders. Bush glanced behind him to see the vice president's progress down several steps.

"He's feeling good, getting along great," said Cheney's spokeswoman, Lea Anne McBride. She said his recovery was exceeding doctors' expectations. (. . .)

The 64-year-old vice president has a lengthy history of heart problems. He has had four heart attacks _ the first when he was only 37 _ quadruple bypass surgery, two artery-clearing angioplasties and an operation to implant a special pacemaker in his chest.

Double take

Two headlines from today.

This one is all-too-familiar:

Bush Claims Progress in War in Iraq

That can only mean one thing:

Bush Warns Iraq Violence May Grow

It's the same twisted reasoning we've been hearing since 'Mission Accomplished.' The attacks increase as a result of our continued success.

DeLay indicted

At last. It's been a tough week for crooked Republicans-- and they've had it coming for a long, long time.

A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on one count of criminal conspiracy, jeopardizing the Sugar Land Republican's leadership role as the second most powerful Texan in Washington, D.C.

The charge, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years incarceration, stems from his role with his political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, a now-defunct organization that already had been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money during the 2002 legislative elections.

One thing this means is that he has to step down from his position as Majority Leader. Which could mean that another crooked Republican, Roy Blunt, could take over. But it still feels like Christmas.

UPDATE: It sounds like the new Majority Leader will be a Californian named Dreier. I can't say I'm very familiar with him. DeLay's response has been to refer to Texas prosecutorRonnie Earle as a "partisan fanatic." While he is a Democrat, his record of convictions (12 Democrats and 3 Republicans, I believe) says that he's anything but partisan.

Also, I accidentally referred to DeLay as House Speaker when I first posted this. I consider it a valuable lesson in allowing enthusiasm to result in carelessness.

UPDATE: The Smoking Gun has the official documentation of DeLay's indictment. It's good to see this happen to a politician so crooked he eats soup with a corkscrew.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Great slogans I have known

Heard on yesterday's Morning Sedition, a fine sentence to emblazon on a t-shirt:

"The Rapture is not an exit strategy."

And in case I've never mentioned it, a bumper sticker I done heard tell of:

"Who do I have to blow to get a guy impeached around here?"

Brown: "Your fault."

I've been looking for a good take on Michael Brown's testimony today, and the intrepid OD1 comes to the rescue. The ex-FEMA head, who resigned after the disastrously slow response to Katrina, is still pulling in his pre-resignation salary of some $115,000. Only now his job title is consultant.

Amazingly, his erstwhile time off appears to have led him to the stupefying conclusion that he's a highly-qualified and eminently competent kinda guy.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Former FEMA director Michael Brown blamed others for most government failures in responding to Hurricane Katrina on Tuesday, especially Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. He aggressively defended his own role.

Brown also said that in the days before the storm, he expressed his concerns that "this is going to be a bad one" in phone conversations and e-mails with President Bush, White House chief of staff Andy Card and deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin.

And he blamed the Department of Homeland Security - the parent agency for the Federal Emergency Management Agency - for not acquiring better equipment ahead of the storm.

His efforts to shift blame drew sharp criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike.

"I'm happy you left," said Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn. "That kind of look in the lights like a deer tells me you weren't capable of doing that job."

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., told Brown: "The disconnect was, people thought there was some federal expertise out there. There wasn't. Not from you."

We've now seen Condi Rice, John Roberts and Michael Brown testify before the Senate and pretty much lie through their teeth. Then there's official spokesmonkeys Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan. I'm not really sure when the public decided that lying to the public-- even under oath-- is just something that politicians do. It reminds me of the justifications that battered wives come up with.

Make like it's Last House on the Left, and just keep repeating to yourself: "State and local officials... state and local officials...." 'Last White House on the Left,' you might say. (Not bad. I'm going to have to remember that one.)

The Governator goes on the block

Funny, but you'd better act quick. This eBay auction won't last long.

I don't think I'd be able to afford him, sales of my nutritional supplement "Matt Sandwich's X-treme Celebrity Kabbalah Juice" notwithstanding.

UPDATE: As of 7 p.m. EST the auction has been cancelled. You've gotta wonder how many people eBay has on staff just to comb through the auctions and eighty-six the satire.

Consumer confidence "plummets"

Yikes. We haven't seen numbers this bad since the first Bush was in office.

The Conference Board said its Consumer Confidence Index, compiled from a survey of U.S. households, dropped 18.9 points to 86.6, from a revised reading of 105.5.

That marked the biggest fall since October 1990 when the index fell 23 points to 62.6 in the wake of the recession. The September reading was also the lowest level since October 2003, when it registered 81.7.

Analysts had expected the September reading to be 98.

A chip off the ol' corrupt block

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington is on the ball pointing out the most corrupt members of Congress. And their sons, where applicable. I was pleased to see my home state's own corrupt dynasty included on the list. On the other hand, I guess it's comforting to know that I could be the current Missouri governor if pop just had the money to buy it for me.

Family connections have also helped Rep. Blunt’s son, Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, who received campaign contributions from nearly three dozen influential Missouri lobbyists and lawyers when he ran for governor of Missouri in 2004, half of whom had provided financial support to his father.

In 2000, when Matt Blunt was running for Secretary of State, Rep. Blunt was involved in an apparent scheme to funnel money through a local party committee into Matt Blunt’s campaign committee. Committees tied to Rep. Blunt contributed $90,000 to the 7th District Congressional Republican Committee which, in turn, contributed $76,000 to Matt Blunt’s campaign committee. In addition, Altria – the company for which Blunt’s wife is the top lobbyist – made a $24,000 contribution to Matt Blunt’s campaign, and a $100,000 contribution to the 7th District Congressional Republican Committee.

They should probably use some of those moneyed connections to start buying indulgences. I can't express the contempt I have for this bunch. I grew up quite literally down the street from them (no, not in a posh neighborhood but out in the boonies), and son Matt is just a year older than me. Watching his rapid ascent of the political ladder all the way to the governor's mansion-- with no relevant experience-- has been an unwelcome lesson in the power of money to influence politics. At least he's one of the nation's least popular governors. And his wife is fat, too. Ha.

Why we fight. Or at least SHOULD fight....

Just another chapter in the ongoing saga of why the DLC has it all wrong and Democrats need to fight the neo-fascists tooth and nail.

But as with those planes that were flown into buildings and the levees that didn't hold, someone could have predicted that the bankruptcy bill would have an unhappy effect on victims of natural disasters like Katrina -- and someone, in fact, did. As the bill headed toward passage, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee noted that "natural disasters" are often a cause of bankruptcy filings. And as the committee deliberated, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee specifically warned her colleagues about the need to protect storm victims from the bill's strict new requirements.

"Families that are affected by natural disasters such as a hurricane in Florida or the mudslides in California should not have to apply their scarce relief effort monies to bankruptcy debt," Jackson Lee said then. "The intent in providing federal and state monies to families who are victims of such natural disasters is to relieve the burden that the disaster has caused, not to increase their net worth. Bankruptcy reform should address many specific issues, such as the negligent mismanagement of money, but [to] hurt those who are already suffering from flooding or [a] collapsed roof or house that has gone out to sea is absolutely ridiculous."

The amendment Jackson Lee was proposing then went down on a voice vote in the Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee, and -- with the help of lots of Democrats in the House and in the Senate -- the bankruptcy bill went on to become law.

"Well, I work too hard."

Talk about a cushy job. It's sort of the diametric opposite of the Soviet practice of eradicating any record that a purged party member ever existed. In this administration, they get to write their own evaluations.

CBS News' Bob Schieffer just announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has rehired ex-FEMA chief Michael Brown-- as a consultant to evaluate the agency's response to the disaster!

From CBS's Katrina blog: "Sept. 26, 2005 /6:44 p.m. (CBS) — CBS News correspondent Gloria Borger reports that Michael Brown, who recently resigned as the head of the FEMA, has been rehired by the agency as a consultant to evaluate it's [sic] response following Hurricane Katrina."

Come to think of it, that was pretty standard Soviet practice, too. "After creating a polio vaccine, I became an astronaut."

Monday, September 26, 2005

Action Alert: Derail Operation Offset

The GOP plan to pay for Katrina calls for sacrifice by Americans, but only the poorest and neediest of Americans. Refusing to consider even a temporary suspension of tax cuts for the richest citizens, they have instead opted for cutting Medicaid, students loans, and the Center for Disease Control. The least wealthy get to continue paying their taxes, and lose benefits that help them get by. Two words: regressive taxation.

Take a minute and sign up, patriots. This administration wants to drag our Enlightenment- inspired government back into the Middle Ages.

$225 billion cut from Medicaid
$200 billion cut from Medicare
$25 billion cut from the Centers for Disease Control
$6.7 billion cut from school lunches for poor children
$8.5 billion cut to eliminate all subsidized loans to graduate students
$4.8 billion cut to eliminate all funding for the Safe and Drug-Free schools program

Protest photos and right-wing denial

I pointed out earlier that several reactionary bloggers are pushing the meme that no-one went to the DC anti-war rally this weekend. Think Progress noticed, too, and posted some aerial photos of the protest. I think it's pretty obvious that there's at least a turnout of 100,000. Will this stop the spread of the bogus stories about low attendance? Of course not. Also keep in mind that the pro-Bush turnout was about 400 people.


Abramoff/Tyco scheme linked to Maryland governor

It hasn't been a good year for Republican governors. Ohio has Coingate, Kentucky it's strange pardon and subsequent firing of nine of the governor's appointees, California has Ahnold.

A top adviser to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has become ensnared in the widening investigation of indicted Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee raising fresh questions this week about a company formed by the aide that stands accused of laundering money for the lobbyist.

Edward B. Miller, 34, a deputy chief of staff to the governor, founded Grassroots Interactive in spring 2003 with a $10,000 investment, weeks after he began working for the Ehrlich administration, according to financial records he filed with the state and other documents. He sold the firm four months later. The company is now the subject of an investigation by federal authorities for being a front for alleged money-laundering efforts by Abramoff, according to congressional testimony made available this week.

Grassroots Interactive received $2 million from Tyco International, a company at the center of a corporate accounting scandal, after Tyco hired Abramoff as a lobbyist in 2003, a Tyco official testified to the Senate committee in remarks made public this week.

According to his official bio, he's the first Republican to hold the office in 36 years. I guess that explains why he didn't waste any time being corrupted.

GOP votes to give tax dollars to religious schools

At least it won't wash with the Supreme Court. Or is that a moot point now? Hopefully it isn't curtains for the Establishment Clause just yet.

WASHINGTON (AP) - The House voted Thursday to let Head Start centers consider religion when hiring workers, overshadowing its moves to strengthen the preschool program's academics and finances.

The Republican-led House approved a bill to renew the Head Start program through 2011. The bill includes a provision that would let churches and other faith-based preschool centers hire only people who share their religion yet still receive federal tax dollars.

Democrats blasted that idea as discriminatory.

Launched in the 1960s, the nearly $7 billion Head Start program provides comprehensive education to more than 900,000 poor children. Though credited with getting children ready for school, Head Start has drawn scrutiny as cases of financial waste and questions about academic quality have surfaced nationwide.

Overall, the House bill would insert more competition into Head Start grants, require greater disclosure of how money is spent and try to improve collaboration among educators in different grades. Yet on Thursday, the dispute over religion eroded the bipartisan support for Head Start's renewal.

The House passed the bill 231-184; only 23 Democrats voted for it.

DC anti-war protests draw at least 100,000

Crowd estimates always vary pretty widely, but that seems to be the agreed-upon low estimate. Others put the crowd at 150,000 to 300,000 to 500,000. But let's accept the low number.

The organizers of a pro-war demonstration hoped for 10,000. In a much simpler estimate, the official number was 400.

That's a ratio of 25 to 1.

Nevertheless, dutiful reactionary bloggers are sticking to their guns. One wrote "the inability of the anti-war movement to draw a large crowd for their rally yesterday shows that the situation back in the U.S. is nothing like it was in the Vietnam era."

The casualties are nothing like Vietnam, either. But apparently protests have to be as large as they were then or they 'don't count.'

Another, rather well-known reactionary writes that the protests drew "perhaps tens of thousands of people." Sheesh, even the Moonie-owned Washington Times puts it at 100,000.

Beware of Dropping Jaws

This could be the height of Bizarroworld politics under this administration. Keep in mind that of the $30+ billion earmarked for reconstruction in Iraq, ab0ut $12-13 billion has simply vanished. The Bush solution? More, please.

An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Administration accidentally admits truth

Never a good idea for a bunch of Big Brother types. The gist is this: they cancelled Bush's visit to San Antonio because it was too sunny for a good photo-op.

President Bush was supposed to land here on Friday afternoon on the first stop of a tour intended to make clear that he was personally overseeing the federal government's preparations for Hurricane Rita's landfall. But the weather did not cooperate.

It was too sunny.

Just minutes before Mr. Bush was scheduled to leave the White House, his aides in Washington scrubbed the stop in San Antonio. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, explained that the search-and-rescue team that Mr. Bush had planned to meet and thank here in San Antonio was actually packing up to move closer to where the hurricane would strike.

So instead, Mr. Bush flew straight to Colorado Springs, where he plans to monitor the response to the hurricane from the headquarters of the Northern Command, responsible for the military defense of the United States.

In a White House that likes to choreograph the president's appearances days or weeks ahead, it was a reminder that the newest strategy - to put Mr. Bush close to the center of the action - had its risks.

Really, could the prez be any more of a total pussy?

Scratch one evangelical White House hopeful

Bill Frist has pretty much been "gonged" over his too-good-to-be-true sale of stock in the family business. Turns out that Jesus wasn't guiding a favorite son on this one-- Frist was just lying about it the whole time.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., was updated several times about his investments in blind trusts during 2002, the last time two weeks before he publicly denied any knowledge of what was in the accounts, documents show.

The updates included stock transactions involving HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by Frist's family.

Frist's sale of HCA stock is under scrutiny by the federal government. Nashville, Tenn.-based HCA said Friday it had received a subpoena from prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, asking for documents the company believes are related to Frist's sale of company stock this past summer.

Prosecutors also have contacted the senator's office, Frist spokesman Bob Stevenson said Friday. He said neither the senator nor his office had received a subpoena.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The den of vipers

Remember Jesus throwing the moneylenders out the temple? Well, check-cashing services are the modern equivalent of those enterprising free-marketeers. You're in a pinch to pay off a creditor, and your only hope is to get some cash quick. But no one wants to help you for anything less than a usurious interest rate. And trying to pay that creditor off makes you even poorer. But the creditors are doing all right. 'Till Jesus comes along. Again. Apparently it didn't take the first time. End of editorial.

"I done called for a shelter, I done called for help. There ain't none. No one answers," she said, standing in blistering heat outside a check-cashing store that had just run out of its main commodity. "Everyone just says, 'Get out, get out.' I've got no way of getting out. And now I've got no money."

With Hurricane Rita breathing down Houston's neck, those with cars were stuck in gridlock trying to get out. Those like Skinner -- poor, and with a broken-down car -- were simply stuck and fuming at being abandoned, they say.

"All the banks are closed, and I just got off work," said Thomas Visor, holding his sweaty paycheck as he, too, tried to get inside the store, where more than 100 people, all of them black or Hispanic, fretted in line. "This is crazy. How are you supposed to evacuate a hurricane if you don't have money? Answer me that?"

The press has gone from outraged and honest to weak-kneed and complicit over the course of the Katrina disaster. It really shouldn't take another impending disaster to get them back on track.

Well, he'd better explain that name pretty damn quick!

From the This-Can't-Possibly-Be-Happening-To-American-Citizens Department:

The disturbing case of Abdul Amir Younes Hussein, the CBS cameraman who has been detained by U.S. forces in Iraq for over five months without a shred of evidence being publicly presented against him, has taken yet another bizarre turn.

As reported by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal last week, Hussein is a 25-year-old freelancer who has found himself trapped in a nightmare of secrecy, suspicion, and legal uncertainty since being wounded by U.S. forces while filming the aftermath of a car bombing in Mosul on April 5th.

Or should I just say that he should've known better than to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. With the wrong suntan.

You just met Chang!

This is beyond strange, but it was reported on Sunday, spoken of on Morning Sedition yesterday, and I just read about it. It fits in nicely with the whole GOP connection to the Moonies and their willingness to step up to the plate on behalf of dictators of all ethnic backgrounds. It's really quite a multi-cultural group, in its own special way.

But as a guy who has more than a passing acquaintance with classical Asian history, I'm more than a little suspicious of Jebbie's proclamations on "a legendary warrior named Chang who was called upon to settle political disputes in Chinese dynasties of yore." If I'm not too lazy about it, I'll look over my own books and check it out with a former professor.

As it stands, I'd say that Jeb's familiarity with Chinese history is on a par with that of coffee shop workers who get Chinese ideograms tattooed on themselves. Moving on:

After more than an hour of solemn ceremony naming Rep. Marco Rubio, R-West Miami, as the 2007-08 House speaker, Gov. Jeb Bush stepped to the podium in the House chamber last week and told a short story about "unleashing Chang," his "mystical warrior" friend.

Here are Bush's words, spoken before hundreds of lawmakers and politicians:
''Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society.

''I rely on Chang with great regularity in my public life. He has been by my side and sometimes I let him down. But Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down.''

Bush then unsheathed a golden sword and gave it to Rubio as a gift.

''I'm going to bestow to you the sword of a great conservative warrior,'' he said, as the crowd roared.

Seriously. Is this whole family suffering from mental retardation? Maybe some lead in the Texas aquifers? And how does the Christian right feel about the president's brother's forays into half-baked Chinese mysticism? Something tells me that if Howard Dean mentioned his membership in an Orphic Society, we'd be hearing a lot more about it....

Welcome to the Clarence Thomas School of Law

Whew. Seriously funny stuff from the Official Reality Check.

[Oklahoma judge] Donald D. Thompson was charged in January with three felony counts of indecent exposure after a court reporter complained to authorities that he was using the pump in her full view. At the time, Thompson was presiding over a murder trial.

Thompson had a reputation for handing out stiff sentences. He once tried to send a man to prison for life for spitting on a police officer.

Prior to becoming a judge he served six years in the state House of Representatives starting in 1975 where he frequently spoke out against gays. (. . .)

The complaint also said that Thompson, 57, masturbated on a number of occasions in full view of Lisa K. Foster, Thompson's court reporter for 15 years.

Foster said she first started hearing a noise that “sounded like a blood pressure cuff being pumped up.” Foster told investigators she witnessed the judge’s sexual behavior “fifteen to twenty times.”

Thompson fired her after hearing she had cooperated with the investigation into his misconduct.

His attorney filed a motion to have the penis pump excluded from evidence.

"It's so fantastic and so unconnected to factual support, and so prejudicial," attorney Clark Brewster argued.

Judge C. Allen McCall rejected the motion, ruling that jurors have a right to see what is being referred to by the prosecution.

They also can hear testimony that a second "penis pump" was seen under Thompson's bench.

Thompson's lawyers are also trying to suppress 180 hours of courtroom tapes they said contained the whooshing sound of the penis pump in use.

Bush promises inaction

Salon points out yet another inadvertant funny by the presimadent.

Bush told reporters that he's going to Texas today to "see the pre-positioned assets, understand the relationship -- or that the federal government's role is to support state and local governments. I want to watch that happen." Then he's off to Colorado Springs, where he'll watch events unfold from the Northern Command's operation center. The president took a couple of questions from the press, and the tenor of them suggested that reporters aren't exactly buying the president's justification for making the trip. "Sir," a reporter asked Bush, "what good can you do going down to the hurricane zone? Might you get in the way, Mr. President?"

It's a fair question. Anyone who has seen a presidential visit up close understands the huge disruption it can cause. Why make one now? We're not sure what insight Bush will gain from examining the "pre-positioned assets" in Texas -- "Hey, Brownie! That's a lot of bottled water!" -- or how he'll be able to observe interactions with state and local officials from the Northern Command's operation center, where they won't be, better than he could from the White House.

But the president said that he really wants to see things up close, and he promised that his "entourage" won't "get in the way." "Rest assured," he said, "I understand that we must not and will not interfere with the important work that will be going forward."

SEC gets on Bill Frist's case

Who does the senator think he is? George W. Bush? Not just anyone can get away with insider trading.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's sale of stock in HCA Inc., the hospital operating company founded by his family.

In a statement released Friday, the Nashville-based company said federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York issued a subpoena for documents HCA believes are related to the sale of its stock by the senator.

Frist's office confirmed the SEC is looking into the sale. (. . .)

Frist asked a trustee to sell all his HCA stock in June, near a 52-week stock price peak of $58.40 and at the same time HCA insiders were selling off shares. Reports to the Securities and Exchange Commission showed insiders sold about 2.3 million shares, worth about $112 million, from January through June, said Mark LoPresti of Thomson Financial.

The sale came about two weeks before the company issued a disappointing earnings forecast that drove its stock price down almost 16 percent by mid-July. They still have not recovered, closing Thursday at $45.90.

The value of Frist's stock at the time of the sale was not disclosed. Earlier this year, he reported holding blind trusts valued at $7 million to $35 million.

Corruption du jour

Let's see here. The Bush administration ignores the brutal Saudi regime and their sponsorship of terrorism. Rumsfeld and Cheney were pals with Saddam Hussein, way back when. Pat Robertson has interests in African diamond mines run by murderous dictators. Tom DeLay lobbied for Saipan in spite of their complicity in the slave trade and forced labor. Reagan's administration sold arms to Iran. Now this:

David H. Safavian, the Bush administration official arrested Monday, initially failed to disclose lobbying work he had done for several controversial foreign clients when he went before a Senate panel last year to be confirmed as chief of the White House's federal procurement office.

The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee held up Safavian's nomination for more than a year, in part because of lawmakers' concerns about lobbying work for two men later accused of links to suspected terrorist organizations, according to committee documents. Safavian did not disclose his firm's representation of the men until questioned in writing by the committee's staff, and initially failed to tell the panel he had registered as a foreign agent for two controversial African regimes.

How these folks keep duping the American public into electing them (well, most of them) is beyond me.

GOP fundraiser sentenced to "uncook" books in cell

This is kinda funny, but it also begs the question-- how in the world did this party get so totally corrupted, top to bottom, in such a relatively short time? Or am I just kidding myself?

Bradley R. Hiller won't be idle while serving his prison term.
In sentencing the former Republican insider, a Marion Superior Court judge ordered Hiller to help clean up the books of the Indiana Senate Republicans' fundraising committee, from which he stole money.

Judge Mark Stoner told Hiller, 33, he would facilitate Hiller's movement to and from prison to the Marion County Jail so he can help the caucus account for $146,775 in spending Hiller oversaw without getting receipts.

Stoner said the caucus must file amended tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.
Hiller pleaded guilty Wednesday to two felonies in connection with spending he could not account for while running the Senate Republicans' fundraising committee. Stoner sentenced him to one year in prison.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dirty deeds, done with relish.

Every time I'm about to write off the New Republic as a decaying, inside-the-Beltway dinosaur, they come up with something like this amazing piece by Franklin Foer. An absolute must-read, and something that should be passed on to fellow progressives. It also suggests that the idea of creating a force of youngsters, be they brownshirts, Red Guard or (if you're familiar with classical Japanese literature) kamuro, is an always-reliable way to have your dirty tricks done for you-- free and extra-brutal.

Many progressive authors have written about the reactionary effort to shape national discourse by spending hundreds of millions over the last few decades on thinktanks, media influence, and the funding of reliable talking heads. But one of the least-acknowledged aspects of that drive has been the College Republicans. Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Jack Abramoff and Karl Rove all started there, and the organization now exists in their image-- that of amoral neo-fascism.

Seriously, you have to read this. It should alert all of us to the importance of the progressive netroots, and our continued participation in politics and efforts to spread the word, fund candidates, sign petitions, write letters, and get out the vote. I could go on endlessly about this issue, because most of my childhood friends were dedicated Republicans by the time they were old enough to drive. But I won't do it. Just read the article.

Write your own caption

Yes, this is a genuine photo (see link above).

[Image of areas affected by tropical storm and hurricane force winds]

It's just begging armchair comedians to have a field day with it. Allow me....

"You see, son, when a storm system loves a continent very much..."

"US Gov't. demands immediate abstinence-only hurricane plan"


"For a good time, call Rita"

UPDATE: 'Cuz I gotta have it....

"Cloudy and rainy today, with an 80% chance of hot, wet action."

"America's Red/Blue polarization hits new high."

"National Weather Service: I like to watch."

UPDATE 2: Because it's just so easy.

"NWS renames Rita-- now Hurricane Monica."

"Lovely Rita, easily laiiiid"

"Intelligent Design proponents: Evidence suggests male designer."

"Jimmy Buffett set to record 'Cheese Buggery in Paradise.'"

Video Bonanza: The Left Strikes Back

Crooks and Liars has posted some fantastic video clips in the last few days. Most of them are right-wing pundits speaking with progressives. So you know half of what you're going to get-- a dog and pony show by righties. The good news is that the progressives acquit themselves admirably.

Especially Bill Maher appearing on Tucker Carlson's latest doomed-to-failure show, whatever it's called. Carlson tries to make Katrina all about (gasp!) Bill Clinton. Maher spanks him as soundly as Jon Stewart did. This is a must-see. Apparently we need more liberal comics on the talking head shows. They have a strong record of trouncing the spin-meisters.

Then there's this (very brief) clip of Jack Cafferty on Wolf Blitzer's idiotic 'Situation Room.' The issue is Tom DeLay, and Blitzer's obviously taken aback by Cafferty's straightforward question. The man is gutless.

Finally, I'll toss in Phil Donahue on O'Reilly's declining show. They're talking Sheehan, and the video plays out as Ye Olde Complete PlayeBooke of O'Reilly-style propagandizing. First the attempt to define the issue in extreme terms. Phil rejects it. Then the attempt to throw out bogus statistics and dubious facts. No dice. Then the blustery tough-guy front. That doesn't work either. O'Reilly comes tantalizingly close to looking like the pathetic bully he is. Highly recommended.

Bush's handlers speak!

The mysterious Cipher provides some welcome comedy with this link to a parody video of just how carefully-crafted Fearless Leader's linguistic bombs might actually be....

Very entertaining. I particularly enjoyed the origin of the notorious "I know how difficult it is to put food on your family" line.

GOP floats "magic money" reconstruction plan

I've already mentioned some proposed budget cuts to fund the rebuilding effort. House Republicans' effort to kill popular and effective programs in the name of generating revenue for hurricane relief is getting more and more sinister. Now on the chopping block are the Center for Disease Control, and-- reportedly-- veterans' benefits. Again.

But beyond that, they seem to just be making shit up. From TPM:

. . .they propose to "eliminate attache positions in the Foreign Agricultural Service." And this they claim they'll get more than $37 billion of savings just next year. More $347 billion over ten years.

Who knew attaches made such high salaries!

If you look down into the explanation section, it notes that the savings are in millions, not billions, on this and the item below on cuts at the Department of Education. Yet, they push this transcription error through the whole document. So about half a trillion dollars worth of savings they claim don't even exist.

Looks like approval ratings in the low 30's aren't doing anything to alter their devotion to ideology.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Action Alert: Independent Katrina Commission

It's been a while since I came across a good one (and I'd encourage any readers to send info my way), but this certainly fits the bill.

Here's how it went down: the first step was for Bush to say he'd head up an investigation. Which is like having your five year-old lead an investigation into who raided the cookie jar. Congressional Republicans then suggested their version of a 'bi-partisan commission,' which would have a hand-picked Republican majority and lack subpeona power. Which is like asking the football team to investigate who felt up a cheerleader-- pin it on a freshman, and circle the wagons around the big guys. To their credit (well, except for frequent appeaser Joe Lieberman), the Dems rejected the idea. Although when the support for the GOP is at about 30% nationwide, only a complete wuss would roll over.

So click on the above link, sign up, and spread the word. It'll take you all of 45 seconds. And don't forget the petition to save Public Broadcasting, which derailed Republican plans to defund it thanks to more than a million signatures. These things can work, and the netroots are where its at these days.

"News Fatigue"

I hate to use such a lame title, but I suspect that's the reason that so many blogs are posting less than usual these days. In the case of DC Media Girl, she's actually come out and said that the aftermath of Katrina was such an emotionally draining time that she needed a break.

My suspicion is that many bloggers find themselves feeling the same way these days. That means fewer posts across the progressive blogosphere, and therefore less news items to comb through each day.

That's why I've been posting a bit less than usual-- it's isn't laziness, or that I'm experiencing a wiped-out feeling after the disastrous hurricane. In fact, in spite of the tragedy, I'm feeling more energized than usual to take the fight to the GOP and start demanding that they acknowledge their remarkable unpopularity and start doing what the country demands, rather than what right-wing extremism dictates.

Rove hunts for reconstruction poster boy

To those of us to whom the appointment of Karl Rove to head up Katrina-related program activities, this will come as no surprise. His primary duty seems to be finding the right photogenic evangelical fruitcake to appear before the cameras in anticipation of a 2008 presidential run. To his credit, he has some experience that seems tangentially relevant. Wouldn't that be a wonderful switch?

“It's an honor to have some people suggest that I should be a possible candidate to lead a reconstruction effort in New Orleans, but I'm happy being governor,” Romney told CBS4 Political Analyst Jon Keller.

For a guy who claims disinterest in the job, Governor Romney seems to have given it a lot of thought.

“You begin by finding out what's really going on. Do a complete audit of the infrastructure, not just a financial audit but an audit of the people, of the capital in place, of the infrastructure, what has to be done, what the options are,” Romney said.

And two top Republican sources tell CBS4 News that GOP officials have made tentative inquiries about Romney's availability to help guide the recovery. Romney aides say they're unaware of any such contact. But our source says while no offer has been made, Romney is “on everyone's short list for the job.”

Paying for Katrina the regressive way

The GOP has unveiled a plan to pay for Katrina, and although there are some good ideas in there, virtually none seem to be actual sources of money-- instead, they're decisions to not spend tens of billions on future projects. Nice sentiment, but it's like me telling my landlord not to worry about my rent, because I'm going to delay that trip to Europe next summer....

At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated on Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in projects from the newly enacted transportation measure.

The list also proposed eliminating the Moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced on Monday, for $44 billion in savings; ending support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $4 billion; cutting taxpayer payments for the national political conventions and the presidential election campaign fund, $600 million; and charging federal employees for parking, $1.54 billion.

I'm all for ditching the notorious pork in the recent transportation bill, and NASA's desire to go back to the moon is utterly pointless. It won't provide any new scientific knowledge, and won't get us any closer to a trip to Mars-- which is also pretty pointless, if not impossible at this point. Besides, the rovers have proven to be an incredible success, and given us as much data as a manned mission could. And at a fraction of the price.

Other than that, we've got the usual GOP desire to leave the working man and the elderly to their own devices. And no, they're not even suggesting that some of the Bush tax cuts be rescinded-- even temporarily.

Katrina becoming the GOP's hot potato

Between Alaska Representative Young calling the idea of abandoning his $235 million pork project to build the infamous "bridge ot nowhere," the continued efforts to repeal the estate tax, the flat-out refusal to rescind any of the Bush tax cuts, Bush's continuing slide in the polls.... and the American public wondering why the hell their government has spent two weeks running around like the 3 (extremely wealthy) stooges while people on the Gulf Coast continue to die from lack of food and water, some prominent Bush Republicans are beginning to do what they can to ensure that they aren't the ones caught on tape still pushing tax cuts or defending FEMA. Check out Oklahoma kook Jim Coburn on Lou Dobbs' CNN show today:

DOBBS: Wait a minute. Senator, you can't say that. Congressman Tom DeLay says that this is the most efficient government he can imagine, that there's no fat in this government.

COBURN: Well, I talked with him today about that quote and that was not his quote. And you know ...

DOBBS: Whose was it? Whose was it, Senator?

COBURN: I'm worried -- I'm very -- well, I think -- it might have been manufactured. I'm not sure. The fact is, is we -- I know of $100 billion in cuts that we could make tomorrow that nobody would feel. Nobody would feel.

Where was that phantom quote printed? The Moonie-controlled Washington Times.

If you'd like your own dose of hurricane relief, check out Jack Cafferty on Wolf "they're so black" Blitzer's show.


Video-QT (rush transcript)

Cafferty: ...The public is not going to buy any of this stuff that comes out of Washington. They're not going to believe anything that comes out of these partisan reports or stuff that was done from within the White House. It just isn't going to wash. The game is up with John Q Public. They're not buying this stuff anymore!"

Cafferty has rapidly become a darling of progressive blogs for his outspokenness on Katrina and the government's miserable response. I also suspect that Crooks and Liars has tweaked their links so that they don't work from external sites. So if those hyperlinks don't work, follow the link in the title.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

FYI: FEMA still getting it all wrong

I'm just going to swipe this nifty roundup of the feds' continued bungling on the Gulf Coast as a whole. Because I'm lazy. The link is above

According to the Mirror, hundreds of tons of food shipped from Great Britain for Hurricane Katrina survivors have been blocked from distribution. The NATO ration packs, which have been declared unfit for human consumption, are in a warehouse in Little Rock, Arkansas, according to the newspaper. The packs, which cost millions of dollars, are the same ones British soldiers eat in Iraq, and they have been approved by NATO for consumption by members of the American military.

Food from Spain and Italy is also being held by the FDA, which is supposedly trying to work out a plan to distribute more of the donated food.

It is unknown what, if any, FEMA's role is in the British rations situation. Ice, however, is another matter. On August 29, Cool Express, a Wisconsin company, was asked by FEMA to haul ice for hurricane relief. Seventy-five trucks were loaded and sent to the Gulf Coast, but their drivers were then sent to places like Idaho and Pennsylvania to await instructions. Late last week, the trucks were still scattered across the country, while FEMA continued to order ice.

On September 9, FEMA also ordered 970 wire crates from PetsMart to help rescue starving animals. Over the next four days, the agency changed the order, cancelled it, reinstated it, put it on hold, and then demanded the shipment. When PetsMart tried to deliver the cages to a New Orleans naval base, it was turned away. Eventually, the driver was admitted, but he drove 152 miles around the base, all day long, trying to find someone who would accept the order.

To this day, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco is wondering what happened to the 500 buses promised by FEMA right after the storm hit New Orleans.

FEMA officials failed to show up last week for a meeting with the citizens of Slidell, Louisiana. The next day, they also failed to show up for a meeting with the citizens of Mandeville. In that case, however, they sent a contractor from Texas. Mandeville citizens stood in line for hours, waiting to fill out applications. Later, they were told that the applications were invalid and that they should go home and apply to FEMA by phone or online.

This morning, a FEMA representative said that the $2,000 grant promised to all hurricane victims may not actually be a grant, but could turn out to be a loan. Hundreds of applicants have already had their requests for the $2,000 turned down because they had returned to their houses and therefore "were not displaced."


Another loyal Bush crony up for promotion

Here wo go again. There's been a lot of concern over US border security and immigration lately, so the administration is rising to the occasion by... appointing someone with no relevant experience.

The Bush administration is seeking to appoint a lawyer with little immigration or customs experience to head the troubled law enforcement agency that handles those issues, prompting sharp criticism from some employee groups, immigration advocates and homeland security experts.

The push to appoint Julie Myers to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, part of the Department of Homeland Security, comes in the midst of intense debate over the qualifications of department political appointees involved in the sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina.

But Myers has vowed to do whatever it takes to succeed. Sort of:

"I realize that I'm not 80 years old," Myers testified. "I have a few gray hairs, more coming, but I will seek to work with those who are knowledgeable in this area, who know more than I do."

Very reassuring. Thank you. So where does the cronyism come in? She's the niece of General Myers, current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And the wife of the chief of staff for Michael Chertoff. So at least she's seen how a lean, efficient operation like the Department of Homeland Security works...

The War on Sweet Thangs

In the face of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, and the worst natural disaster on American soil, the administration has decided the time is ripe to go after the greatest danger to the nation (besides homosexuals, I mean): the dreaded scourge of nudie mags. Actually, I suppose the Internet is making pornography in print a thing of the past. But that's not the point.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

A few of the printable samples:

"Things I Don't Want On My Résumé, Volume Four."

"I already gave at home."

"Honestly, most of the guys would have to recuse themselves."

Dems kill GOP-stacked 'probe'

Well whad'ya know-- the Dems refused to roll over for the Tom DeLay/Bill Frist/Dennis Hastert approved probe into Katrina, which would be dominated by hand-picked Republicans and deny Democrats the power to subpoena documents from the government. Good for them.

Democratic opposition has left Republicans little maneuvering room for mounting a credible probe. With the joint investigation apparently off the table, Republicans can only hope that Democrats will participate in each chamber's separate investigation. It was far from clear today that Democrats would do that.

In a letter sent to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Frist offered that instead of a joint House-Senate probe, the Senate would conduct its own investigation and "coordinate" its efforts with the House "so as to minimize the burdens placed on those who are coming to Washington, D.C. from the gulf coast region."

Frist also said he was willing to name the members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee as members of the Senate's special panel to probe the disaster. But a spokeswoman for Reid said the majority leader had rejected the proposal.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) was having no more luck persuading House Democrats to participate in that chamber's probe.

Monday, September 19, 2005

No-bid Katrina contracts given to no-ethics companies

I try to avoid that old saw "Where's the outrage?" But when this sort of story has become so commonplace that it barely raises eyebrows, something is very, very wrong with this country.

Two of the first companies that got emergency no-bid federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina recovery work have faced questions over past business practices, court and government records show.

A division of Fluor, a California firm awarded a housing contract worth up to $100 million, has paid millions of dollars to settle federal government lawsuits — including one that accused it of overbilling for 1989 hurricane cleanup work.

The Shaw Group, a Louisiana firm that won housing and engineering contracts worth up to $200 million, has disclosed that it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The firm is also a defendant in federal securities class-action cases.

Don't forget Halliburton and their subsidiaries. Not only have they pocketed hundreds of millions in tax dollars In Iraq, but now they've been given a $500 billion contract for Katrina. This is going to be just one more way corporations to enrich themselves at the expense of honest taxpayers in this country.

And yet, the right-wing-- for all their hatred of taxation-- hasn't made one call for in investigation into war profiteering. They seem to have no problem with the most free-spending administration to come down the pike in ages. Of course, FDR spent more on WWII, but he also held hearings into profiteering. You see, when companies pilfer funds meant to provide Iraqis with water and electricity, that makes Iraqis angry. When they get angry, they join the insurgency. When they join the insurgency, they kill Americans. I care. Why don't Republicans? (Just a rhetorical question there.)

Bush Dept. administrator arrested

Josh Marshall points out that he has long-standing ties to notorious (and indicted) lobbyist Jack Abramoff and anti-tax zealot Grover Norquist, who's probably feeling a bit nervous these days. Note the bit about the Scottish golf vacation-- that unnamed lobbyist is Abramoff, no doubt about it.

A former General Services Administration (GSA) official was arrested on charges of making false statements and obstructing an investigation by the GSA's Office of Inspector General (GSA-OIG), Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

David Hossein Safavian was arrested today based on a three- count criminal complaint filed at federal court in Washington, D.C. The complaint charges Safavian with making false statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG, along with obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that from May 16, 2002 until January 10, 2004, Safavian served as Chief of Staff at the GSA. During that time he allegedly aided a Washington D.C. lobbyist in the lobbyist's attempts to acquire GSA-controlled property in and around Washington, D.C. In August 2002, this lobbyist allegedly took Safavian and others on a golf trip to Scotland.

The false statement and obstruction of the investigation charges relate to Safavian's statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG that the lobbyist had no business with GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip. According to the affidavit, Safavian concealed the fact that the lobbyist had business before GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip, and that Safavian was aiding the lobbyist in his attempts to do business with GSA

Since Nov. 29, 2004, Safavian has served as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.

Another billion goes missing in Iraq

Unbelievable. This brings the total to something like $12 billion that's just vanished?

One billion dollars has been plundered from Iraq's defence ministry in one of the largest thefts in history, The Independent can reveal, leaving the country's army to fight a savage insurgency with museum-piece weapons.

The money, intended to train and equip an Iraqi army capable of bringing security to a country shattered by the US-led invasion and prolonged rebellion, was instead siphoned abroad in cash and has disappeared.

"It is possibly one of the largest thefts in history," Ali Allawi, Iraq's Finance Minister, told The Independent.

"Huge amounts of money have disappeared. In return we got nothing but scraps of metal."

The carefully planned theft has so weakened the army that it cannot hold Baghdad against insurgent attack without American military support, Iraqi officials say, making it difficult for the US to withdraw its 135,000- strong army from Iraq, as Washington says it wishes to do.

Ghoul Patrol

The actual headline of this story in TIME is "Looking for a Corpse to Make a Case."

And it begins with this:

Federal troops aren't the only ones looking for bodies on the Gulf Coast. On Sept. 9, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions called his old law professor Harold Apolinsky, co-author of Sessions' legislation repealing the federal estate tax, which was encountering sudden resistance on the Hill. Sessions had an idea to revitalize their cause, which he left on Apolinsky's voice mail: "[Arizona Sen.] Jon Kyl and I were talking about the estate tax. If we knew anybody that owned a business that lost life in the storm, that would be something we could push back with."

That's about as gruesome as it gets.

DOJ seeks to blame conservationists for floods

Just another day in this corrupt administration. Now they're looking to pin the blame on... progressives.

An email message which suggested the Bush Justice Department was looking to blame environmentalists for a break in the New Orleans levee and the ensuing flood has sparked vehement responses among the Democratic caucus in Congress, Raw Story has learned.

One congressman, ranking House Judiciary Democrat John Conyers (D-MI), penned a stiff letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales demanding answers.

In the email, obtained by the Mississippi-based Clarion-Ledger, the Justice Department wrote: "Has your district defended any cases on behalf of the (U.S.) Army Corps of Engineers against claims brought by environmental groups seeking to block or otherwise impede the Corps work on the levees protecting New Orleans? If so, please describe the case and the outcome of the litigation."

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Decline and Fall of The New Republic

I've criticized TNR's newfound DLC-approved appeasement strategy since I started this blog. Although they still print some excellent journalism, political stories are increasingly focused on the idea that Bush just ain't that bad,

How they've reached that conclusion, in the face of war, increasing poverty, an unprecedented federal deficit, the erosion of civil rights, and a governing philosophy of enriching the richest Americans is beyond me. You'd have to ask the increasingly hacky Martin Peretz. But I've had it.

It was two weeks too late for President Bush to rally Americans to respond to the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina; but, with last night's nationally televised address, he began to catch up with events. The speech was Bush's finest half-hour since Katrina struck the Gulf Coast states. It didn't present him as the unifying and decisive leader he appeared to be after September 11--no rhetoric or stagecraft could do that. But, while he'll never be seen as inspiring again, this speech will start a modest comeback, convincing the half of the nation that elected him twice that he at least remains an adequate leader.

Students of speech-craft usually concentrate on the clever phrase, the cogent argument, or the dubious assertion, all of which persuade people--or don't--to follow a president's lead. But, for Bush last night, sequence played a more central role than substance, and the order in which he made his points explains why he was able to sound so plausible.

Appearing alone, wearing an open-collared shirt, Bush began by explaining why he was speaking from so strange and stark a setting, saying simply, "I am speaking to you from the city of New Orleans--nearly empty, still partly under water, and waiting for life and hope to return."

Funny, from what I've seen not even his notoriously loyal followers had much to say about his speech. The rest of the country didn't give a damn. But apparently a 40% approval rating is "adequate." Allow me to point out that during the Clinton impeachment proceedings, his approval rating was in the 70's. Nixon's approval rating was higher than Bush's at the height of Watergate-- and he resigned.

And if you actually saw the speech, it was clearly as elaborately-staged as every Bush appearance. Carefully-lit, completely orchestrated, and entirely pre-fabricated, right down to the "Look, I'm a working man!" unbuttoned collar.

Last I heard, Pat Robertson was still on the air

In a disturbing indication of the paranoia gripping the nation (or am I just being paranoid?), UWGB has decided that art is murder. Or at least encourages murder among 'cheeseheads.

A decision to pull a piece of art from a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay exhibit has spurred activism on the part of students and discussion about First Amendment issues across the campus and in the community.

The art in question is a sheet of mock postage stamps by artist Al Brandtner showing President Bush with a gun pointed at his head, captioned “Patriot Act.”

Some say it advocates assassination. Others say it’s free expression.

I think that's pretty clever. I also think it's a far cry from telling millions of people that the democratically-elected president of a foreign country should be murdered. But then again, I just don't get right-wingers sometimes.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Return to normalcy-- of crappy reporting.

I wrote not too long ago about Joe "Mushmouth" Lieberman's (most recent example of) willingness to let the Democratic party look like Casper Milquetoasts in the face of the merciless and unprincipled GOP attack machine. Specifically, I wrote about his hear-no-evil appearance on the News Hour along with a GOP senator who accused Dems of the usual partisan obstructionism for not supporting a Republican-dominated panel that would only meet behind closed doors.

Media Matters points out that the press has swallowed yet another Republican talking point hook, line, and steaming turd.

In recent reporting on Democratic opposition to the Republican-proposed House-Senate investigation into failures in the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, several media outlets have misleadingly described the proposed committee as "bipartisan." In fact, one of the main reasons given by the Democratic leadership for opposing the Republicans' proposal is that it would not be a true bipartisan panel: Republicans would hold a majority on the committee and would have sole subpoena power.On September 8, congressional Republicans announced a plan to form an investigative commission into the government's response to the recent catastrophe.

The Republican party is opposing an independent investigation into the government's inept response to Katrina in the same way that they opposed a 9/11 commission. And the nation is all the less safe for it. We've spent billions on "homeland security" after 9/11, but the country is none the safer. How could anyone oppose efforts to locate and fix the problem? Easy! All it takes is Bush Republicans. And I'm going to use that phrase as often as I can in the future-- history should acknowledge these darkest days of American history.

By the way, I'd suggest that anyone out there with the means make like me and donate some cash to Media Matters. They're performing an invaluable service, and they're getting results. As many reactionary bloggers like to say, 'nuff said.

What John Roberts and I have in common

I'm something of a movie buff. I'll say this-- the two friends who helped me move in to my Boston apartment three years ago were begging me to make the switch from VHS to DVD. Which I've done. But who would've guessed that one of my ten all-time favorite movies is the favorite (or second favorite) movie of judge John Roberts? Maybe he's keen on the censure and re-dubbing of Eva Marie Saint's saucy line during the "trout" sequence. (Look it up. I must've seen the movie eight times before I even heard the story.)

Oh, and bravo to Chuck Schumer. The confirmation hearings were a joke of McClellanian proportions (I love coining terms) in Roberts' ability to avoid answering any question thrown his way.

Frustrated by Roberts' answers, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested on Wednesday that if he dared to ask the nominee his favorite films, he would get a discussion of cinematography and why "Casablanca" is considered one of the greatest.

Instead, Roberts answered flat out, bringing laughter from the audience and senators alike.

"North by Northwest," Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic, starred Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau, and included a death-defying scramble on the face of Mount Rushmore.

"Doctor Zhivago," the 1965 film directed by David Lean, was described as "a love caught in the fire of revolution" and starred Omar Sharif, Julie Christie and Rod Steiger.

Wow, what a laugh riot. He might've avoided making any statements of substance, but it's good to know that our representatives in DC can enjoy a hearty chuckle now and then.

From zealotry to zealotry in record time

The Republican band plays on. The venue may constantly change, but they insist on playing the one song in their repertoire. From Salon:

Titled "From Tragedy to Triumph: Principled Solutions for Rebuilding Lives and Communities," the Heritage Foundation manifesto is a laundry list that reiterates every fevered hope of a ruling class that has suffered for far too long under the weight of onerous regulations and IRS savagery. New Orleans and the neighboring regions should be declared "Opportunity Zones" where the following recommendations can be followed: Suspend the minimum wage! Suspend environmental regulations! Repeal the death tax! Support school vouchers! "Repeal or waive" any Clean Air Act regulations that might get in the way of refinery building or highway repair. Allow more drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve!

(No joke: The Heritage Foundation believes that necessary steps to rebuilding New Orleans and the Gulf Coast are to allow drilling in Alaska and support school vouchers. If nothing else, you have to give these guys credit for chutzpah.)

Now, there's something to be said for mobilizing all available resources to rebuild a ravaged region, and if that means getting a little casual with bureaucratic red tape, that's probably not too high a price to pay. But the Heritage Foundation's recommendations are so insultingly self-serving that they put the immediate lie to any notion that the actual well-being of the locals is the think tank's real concern. Instead, its interest, which for all intents and purposes is synonymous with the goals of the current administration, is the same as it has always been, to serve the greed of the few at the expense of the many.

Dick meets knife

Not to sound insensitive, but I think we can strike another potential 2008 candidate from the GOP list. And yes, I tried to make the headline as cringe-inducing as I could.

Vice President Dick Cheney is scheduled to undergo surgery next weekend to treat an aneurysm, his spokesman confirmed to the paid-restricted Roll Call this evening, Raw Story has learned.

Quadruple bypass surgery. Four heart attacks. It's a tasteless thing to say, but it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

"Katrina costs will be borrowed, raise deficit"

I recently used an actual news headline as the title of a post, which I think was a first. Now I find myself doing it again. The tragedy is that we've been waiting years for the press to do just this--produce headlines that are based on fact.

WASHINGTON, Sept 16 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush's advisers said on Friday billions of dollars needed to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast will be borrowed and will raise the deficit but Bush still wants to extend tax cuts.

The day after Bush proposed one of the world's largest reconstruction projects for the area, White House officials said they were still assessing how much it will cost.

Thank you, Steve Holland and Reuters editors. You did your job.

To the tabloids, Robin!

Jeb has a daughter who's been trying to kick a drug habit. Now his son John is in the same position. It's no laughing matter, but it is another reminder of the mystifying mindset of so-called "value voters" who continue to support the GOP in spite of rising poverty, unprecendented corruption, graft, etc. Just ask Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham, whose son was convicted for possession of 400 pounds of marijuana.

AUSTIN, Texas - The youngest son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was arrested early Friday and charged with public intoxication and resisting arrest, law enforcement officials said.

John Ellis Bush, 21, was arrested by agents of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission at 2:30 a.m. on a corner of Austin’s Sixth Street bar district, said commission spokesman Roger Wade.

Sure, Austin is a fun city. But I partied there many a time and never found myself in any danger of being arrested. Oh, and I don't think Jeb will be making a play for the White House any time soon.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Clinton: Enough with the tax cuts

Whatever you think of Bill Clinton, you have to admit that he's a gifted orator. And he's fantastic in his appearance on 'Today' spelling out why the GOP's tax cuts are consigning the nation to a fiscal disaster. (You can see the 3-meg video through the link above.) I couldn't find a transcript, so I did this myself. And it's pretty damn accurate.

Interviewer: Real quickly, if you will, with the pricetags we're seeing from Iraq, 200 billion dollars; the rebuilding of the Gulf states, an estimated 200 billion dollars; gas prices so high, huge deficit-- what sacrifi-- if you were president today, what sacrifices would you ask the American people to make to pay those bills?

Clinton: I myself have gotten four tax cuts, while young Americans have gone off to risk their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, while we've had this massive natural disaster. We've run up this huge deficit, and we turn arou-- how are we getting, how are we covering this money? We are borrowing the money from China, Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, to pay for the suffering of our people in the Gulf area, in the Iraq War, and to cover my tax cut. And we're expecting our children to pay the bills. We've made a decision to lower the living standards of our children and grandchildren, and to soak other people around the world, who don't have the money we do, by and large, to cover our self-indulgence. And I think it's crazy. So the first thing I'd do is say we cannot afford to keep giving people in the very high income groups these massive tax cuts, when we've got men and women in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan and a massive rebuilding effort largely concentrated on lower income people in the Gulf Coast area.

Succinct, sensible, and straight off the top of his head. Considering that ol' Dummie there in the White House can't even form a sentence without a transmitter, script, and guaranteed applause, it's enough to make ya cry.

Pssst.... Renee! Call me!

Renee Zellweger (who I've never seen in anything) just had a marriage annulled. Seems she married some cat about four months ago, and the case for annullment was "fraud," whatever that means. It would've been different if she'd married me. 'Cause I'm not like those other guys. I could've made her happy. I just know I could have.