Friday, December 02, 2005

That Culture of Corruption Thing, Again

My Way News:
WASHINGTON (AP) - Justice Department lawyers objected to a Texas redistricting plan orchestrated by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, but top agency officials brushed aside concerns about diluting minority voting strength and approved the plan anyway, according to an agency memo released Friday.


Because of historic discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required under provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to get Justice Department approval for any voting changes it makes to ensure the changes don't undercut minority voting.

'The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect,' Justice Department officials said in the memo made public by the Lone Star Project, a Democratic group.

Eight department staffers, including the heads of the Voting Rights Division, objected to the redistricting map, according to the memo which was first reported in Friday editions of The Washington Post.

'The fact that the White House has covered up this document for so long provides a smoking gun pointing out efforts, led by Bush political appointees and Tom DeLay, to systematically cripple the voting rights of minorities,' said Texas Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, one of the Democratic lawmakers who fled to New Mexico to thwart passage of the redistricting plan.

Pumping Up The Volume

Lobbyist's Role in Hiring Aides Is Investigated - New York Times:
Investigators are said to be especially interested in how Tony C. Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Neil G. Volz, a former chief of staff to Representative BobNey of Ohio, obtained lobbying positions with big firms on K Street.

The hiring pattern is 'very much a part of' what prosecutors are focusing on, a person involved in the case said. Another participant confirmed that investigators were trying to determine whether aides conducted 'job negotiations with Jack Abramoff' while they were in a position to help him on Capitol Hill.

Prosecutors are trying to establish that 'it's not just a ticket to a ballgame, it's major jobs' that exchanged hands, the participant in the case said. Also under examination are payments to lobbyists and lawmakers' wives, including Mr. Rudy's wife, Lisa Rudy, whose firm, Liberty Consulting, worked in consultation with Mr. Abramoff, people involved in case said.
I'm really looking forward to seeing that slimy smile on Tom Delay's face turned upside down. In fact, I'd like to see that happen to quite a few of the faces in Congress.

At least we can agree on some things

My Way News:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Arab nations are acutely suspicious of the Bush administration's 'democracy' agenda in the Middle East and believe the U.S. invasion of Iraq has made the region less secure, said a poll released on Friday.

The poll, conducted in six Arab countries in October, found 78 percent of respondents thought there was more terrorism because of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, with four out of five saying the war had brought less peace to the region.

Asked which countries posed the biggest threat to their nations, a majority chose Israel and the United States.


Rather than being a model to inspire Arab nations to adopt democratic goals, Telhami said respondents felt the opposite was true of the United States, whose image has been tarnished by scandals involving abuse by U.S. forces of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and at a U.S. base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.


In the new poll, 69 percent of those surveyed doubted that spreading democracy was the real U.S. objective. Oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region and weakening the Muslim world were seen as U.S. goals.

"America's presence in Iraq is seen as a negative. It is scaring people about American intentions and having the opposite intended impact on Arab public opinion," Telhami said in an interview.


More than half -- 58 percent -- said Iraq was less democratic than before the war and three of four said Iraqis were worse off.

Asked from a list of countries which they would like to be the superpower, the first choice was France with 21 percent, followed by China with 13 percent, Pakistan and Germany tied with 10 percent, Britain with 7 percent, the United States with 6 percent and finally Russia with 5 percent.
Hey! We beat the Russians (I'm trying to see the glass as half-full here, but it's really only about an eighth full.

Hurricane Epsilon establishes new record as 14th hurricane of season

My Way News:
MIAMI (AP) - Epsilon strengthened into a record 14th hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday - two days after the 2005 season officially ended. Forecasters said it posed no threat to land. Epsilon had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph at 10 a.m. EST, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Its top sustained winds had been near 65 mph earlier in the day.


The latest that a hurricane formed in the Caribbean was Dec. 30, which happened in 1954, he said.

No other major storms have appeared on the horizon, he said.

Forecasters say 2006 could be another brutal hurricane year because the Atlantic is in a period of frenzied activity that began in 1995 and could last at least another decade.

Government hurricane experts blame the increase on a natural cycle of higher sea temperatures, lower wind shear and other factors, though some scientists cite global warming.
I didn't know this government/administration had any experts; just spin doctors.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Studies Confirm New Orleans Levees' Flaws

My Way News:
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Government engineers performing sonar tests at the site of a major levee failure confirmed that steel reinforcements barely went more than half as deep as they were supposed to, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official said Wednesday.

'We've come up with similar results' to those from earlier tests performed by Louisiana State University engineers, said Walter Baumy, the Corps' chief engineer for the New Orleans District.

Alito File Shows Strategy to Curb Abortion Ruling - New York Times

Alito File Shows Strategy to Curb Abortion Ruling - New York Times:
(H)e recommended advancing the administration's ultimate case against Roe by defending state regulations requiring doctors to provide women seeking abortions with information about fetal development, the risks and 'unforeseeable detrimental effects' of the procedure and the availability of adoption services or paternal child support.

Although the information might cause 'emotional distress, anxiety, guilt and in some cases physical pain' to the women, Judge Alito wrote, such results 'are part of the responsibility of moral choice,' comparable to the feelings of 'a legislator voting on abortion legislation, a judge or juror pronouncing a sentence of death or imprisonment,' or 'a military officer commanding a mission he knows will cost lives.'
Sorry, Ladies, as far as Alito is concerned, your just collateral damage statistics in the war for uterine supremacy. Think that's why he was selected?

Louisiana's Levee Inquiry Faults Army Corps - New York Times

Louisiana's Levee Inquiry Faults Army Corps - New York Times:
"The devastation of New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen because of a significant flaw in levee design by the Army Corps of Engineers, according to preliminary findings from the official Louisiana team investigating the Hurricane Katrina flooding.

Fly CIA And Hope For A Round Trip

Reports of Secret U.S. Prisons in Europe Draw Ire and Otherwise Red Faces - New York Times:
'If we are allowing facilities for aircraft carrying out these actions,' he added, 'we are at the very least facilitating, and we may even be complicit in it.'

A report on Nov. 2 in The Washington Post about a covert prison system did not identify the European countries, but Human Rights Watch has said such facilities were in Poland and Romania.

Poland and Romania have strongly denied the accusations, and American officials have declined comment.

On the issue of extraordinary renditions, more than 100 prisoners are suspected of being transferred in this way since September 2001. The case with the highest profile occurred here in Italy. On Feb. 17, 2003, an Islamic militant, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, disappeared in Milan and appeared later in Egypt, where he said he had been tortured.

Connecticutt First State To Get Real On Campaign Finance

My Way News:
The bill passed after separate seven-hour debates in the House and Senate. The Senate voted 27-8 in favor of the legislation Wednesday; the House followed with a 82-65 vote Thursday morning.

It comes in the wake of a corruption scandal last year that sent former Gov. John G. Rowland to prison and led his former co-chief of staff and a major state contractor to plead guilty in federal court. Rell, who pushed lawmakers for months to pass reforms, was lieutenant governor during Rowland's tenure.

The bill, which would take effect on Dec. 31, 2006, allots about $17 million each year in public funds for political campaigns. To reduce the influence of special interests, it bans political contributions from lobbyists and state contractors.
If only Congress would do the same!

The "Duke's" Legacy Gathers Weight

My Way News:
WASHINGTON (AP) - The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has asked committee attorneys to review former Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham's work on the panel to ensure he didn't improperly influence committee actions or decisions.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., ordered the review after learning of Cunningham's guilty plea Monday to charges of corruption and tax evasion for taking $2.4 million in bribes, mostly from two defense contractors, in exchange for steering government business their way, said committee spokesman Jamal Ware.

Hoekstra also ordered Cunningham's access to classified information terminated immediately, Ware said Wednesday.
Wish the White House would move as quickly to clean up after some of the messes, but then, how can they?

Ahhnold Shows Some Brains And Balls In Chief Of Staff Pick

My Way News:
SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California's Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named a Democrat in a same-sex marriage as his chief of staff on Wednesday in an apparent political shift on the heels of a major electoral defeat.

Susan Kennedy, 45, was the confidant and number two to ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis, whom Schwarzenegger beat in a bitter recall election in 2003. She married her lesbian partner in 1999.
This must be the first time I've agreed with and actually congratulate the Govenator for one of his decisions. Maybe Maria's influence is finally showing through. He definitely needs help if he plans to stay. Good for you, Gov!

Note the mention of Ms. Kennedy's sexuality in the article. I hope someday these specifics will not require mention because they will not be news, but for now, I'm glad Arnold isn't following his party's line of bigotry and hate.

Pelosi Steps Up To The Plate

My Way News:
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday backed a call by Democratic Rep. John Murtha to quickly start the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, and said she believed a majority of her caucus supported it as well."

Saw her on The Daily Show last night and thought she did okay. She seems to be getting feistier with time. Good! She'll have to be in the coming months and years.

Propaganda Machine At Work In Iraq

CBS News | U.S. Pressed On Iraq Propaganda | November 30, 2005 21:30:07:
Two other federal agencies have been investigated in the past year for similar activities, leading Congress' Government Accountability Office to condemn one, the Education Department, for engaging in illegal covert propaganda.

The Los Angeles Times quoted unidentified officials as saying that some of the stories in Iraqi newspapers were written by U.S. troops and while basically factual, they sometimes give readers a slanted view of what is happening in Iraq. Some of those officials expressed fear that use of such stories could hurt the U.S. military's credibility, the newspaper said.
I guess they felt it was working so well here, they should use the same techniques in Iraq.
In the last year, the Bush administration has been called to task for paying journalists to promote its programs. GAO slammed the Education Department for illegal propaganda when the agency paid columnist Armstrong Williams to publicize the "No Child Left Behind" education law.

And the GAO is looking into the Heath and Human Services Department's contract with syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher to help promote a marriage initiative.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon's inspector general's office said it was investigating a program that paid journalists to write articles and commentary for a Web site called Southeast European Times that was aimed at influencing opinion in the Balkans.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Enron Scandle Still Reverberating Through Industry

My Way Finance:
"NEW YORK (Reuters) - Calpine Corp. (CPN) on Tuesday replaced its chief executive and chief financial officer as the power producer struggles with a $17 billion debt load and a recent court ruling that restricts its ability to buy fuel for its plants."

And So It Begins

Case Reopens Abortion Issue for Justices - New York Times

Another Opportunity For Brownie?

U.S. Lacks Plan to Curb Terror Funds, Agency Says - New York Times:
WASHINGTON, Nov. 28 - The government's efforts to help foreign nations cut off the supply of money to terrorists, a critical goal for the Bush administration, have been stymied by infighting among American agencies, leadership problems and insufficient financing, a new Congressional report says.


Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican who leads the Senate Finance Committee and was one of the lawmakers who requested the study, said he was disappointed to learn that in an area as critical as countering terrorist financing, "they haven't gotten very far yet."

In an interview, Mr. Grassley said: "It's as simple as learning to stop the infighting and turf protection and get on with the job. What's happening is just inexplicable in light of the war on terrorism."
There's a war on terrorism?! Good God, men, get crackin'!

The Canadian Solution

My Way News:
TORONTO (AP) - Canadian politicians will hit the campaign trail this holiday season after opposition parties seized upon a corruption scandal to bring down the minority government of Prime Minister Paul Martin in a vote of no confidence.

Monday's loss means an election for all 308 seats in the lower House of Commons, likely on Jan. 23. Martin and his Cabinet will continue to govern until then.
Along with a national health care program, our neighbors to the north show the wisdom of a parliamentary system. Too bad we don't have a similar option here. It would be so nice to be able to make a clean sweep of the executive and legislative branches in one move. Sigh. The elections seem so far away...

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ex-Powell Aide Criticizes Detainee Effort

Ex-Powell Aide Criticizes Detainee Effort:
WASHINGTON -- A top aide to former Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday that wrongheaded ideas for the handling of foreign detainees arose from White House and Pentagon officials who argued that 'the president of the United States is all-powerful' and the Geneva Conventions irrelevant.

In an Associated Press interview, former Powell chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson also said President Bush was 'too aloof, too distant from the details' of postwar planning. Underlings exploited Bush's detachment and made poor decisions, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson blamed Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and like-minded aides. He said Cheney must have sincerely believed that Iraq could be a spawning ground for new terror assaults, because 'otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard.'
Oh, c'mon, Larry! Why not all three?

Rove's Secretary Comes Cleaner

The attorneys say that Rove’s former personal assistant, Susan B. Ralston -- who was also a special assistant to President Bush -- testified in August about why Cooper’s call to Rove was not logged. Ralston said it occurred because Cooper had phoned in through the White House switchboard and was then transferred to Rove’s office as opposed to calling Rove’s office directly. As Rove’s assistant, Ralston screened Rove’s calls.

But those close to the probe tell RAW STORY that Fitzgerald obtained documentary evidence showing that other unrelated calls transferred to Rove’s office by the switchboard were logged. He then called Ralston back to testify.

Earlier this month, attorneys say Fitzgerald received additional testimony from Ralston -- who said that Rove instructed her not to log a phone call Rove had with Cooper about Plame in July 2003.


Ralston previously worked as a personal secretary to Jack Abramoff, the Republican power lobbyist now under investigation for allegedly defrauding Indian tribes who was recently indicted on conspiracy and wire fraud charges. While working with Abramoff, Ralston arranged fundraisers and events at Washington MCI Center skyboxes for members of Congress and their staff. Ralston communicated with Rove on Abramoff’s behalf on tribal affairs, though she does not stand accused of any wrongdoing.
Sounds like Ralston can provide a lot of evidence in several investigations. Popular girl!

Europe May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons - New York Times

Europe May Suspend Nations With Secret Prisons - New York Times:
BERLIN (AP) -- The United States has told the European Union it needs more time to respond to media reports that the CIA set up secret jails in some European nations and transported terror suspects by covert flights, the top EU justice official said Monday.

Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini also warned that any of the 25 bloc nations found to have operated secret CIA prisons could have their EU voting rights suspended.

The Council of Europe -- the continent's main human rights watchdog -- is investigating the allegations, and EU justice official Jonathan Faul last week formally raised the issue with White House and U.S. State Department representatives, Frattini said.

''They told him: 'Give us the appropriate time to evaluate the situation.' Right now, there is no response,'' he said.
Yeah. It's gonna take us some time to come up with the right story for this one. Rove is busy with other things right now, and Rummy has dyspepsia.

Another One Bites The Dust

CBS News | Lawmaker Quits After Guilty Plea | November 28, 2005 19:57:41:
"(CBS/AP) Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham resigned from Congress on Monday after admitting he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to co-conspirators. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax charges in a case that grew from an investigation into the sale of his home to a wide-ranging conspiracy involving payments in cash, vacations and antiques. "

Mapping Approval

The Washington Note Archives

Meanwhile, Back In Afghanistan

Afghans Confront Surge in Violence:
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 27 -- An onslaught of grisly and sophisticated attacks since parliamentary elections in September has left Afghan and international officials concerned that Taliban guerrillas are obtaining support from abroad to carry out strikes that increasingly mimic insurgent tactics in Iraq.

The recent attacks -- including at least nine suicide bombings -- have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials. Although military forces and facilities have been the most common targets, religious leaders, judges, police officers and foreign reconstruction workers have also fallen prey to the violence.
Remember this place? And somebody named Osama? And the Taliban? Well, they are still around and kicking in a war we haven't won.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Meet The Next Leader Of Iraq

Shiite Cleric Increases His Power in Iraq - New York Times:
When the smoke cleared after the fight, at least 21 bodies lay scattered among the weeds, making it the deadliest militia battle in months. The black-clad Shiites swaggered away, boasting about the carnage.

Even as that battle raged on Oct. 27, Mr. Sadr's aides in Baghdad were quietly closing a deal that would signal his official debut as a kingmaker in Iraqi politics, placing his handpicked candidates on the same slate - and on equal footing - with the Shiite governing parties in the December parliamentary elections. The country's rulers had come courting him, and he had forced them to meet his terms.

Wielding violence and political popularity as tools of his authority, Mr. Sadr, the Shiite cleric who has defied the American authorities here since the fall of Saddam Hussein, is cementing his role as one of Iraq's most powerful figures.
Is this supposed to make us proud of what we've done in Iraq? Did we depose a secular tyrant so he could be replaced by a clerical tyrant? At least women had rights under Saddam, and he apparently had no plans to rebuild his destroyed arsenal of WMD. Saddr is young and ambitious. What do you think he'll be up to in a few years?


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