Saturday, September 30, 2006
ETHICS -- REPORT REVEALS HUNDREDS OF WHITE OUSE/ABRAMOFF CONTACTS, LEGAL QUESTIONS RAISED:
The House Government Reform Committee has released a 95-page report documenting 485 contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, "as well as tens of thousands of dollars worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts." The contacts "raise serious questions about the legality and actions" of those officials, Roll Call reports. During a three-year period beginning in early 2001, "Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff's clients"; 82 of the 485 documented contacts were between chief White House strategist Karl Rove and Abramoff's lobbying team. After attending a NCAA basketball game with Rove in 2002, Abramoff described Rove in an e-mail: “He’s a great guy. Told me anytime we need something just let him know through [his secretary].” Other e-mails cited in the report add evidence that former White House political director Ken Mehlman "was Jack Abramoff's prime favor man in the White House." The most damaging e-mails reveal that Mehlman pressured Justice Department appointees "to release millions of dollars in congressionally earmarked funds for a new jail for the Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client." Check out this comprehensive
database on the Abramoff investigation.
Friday, September 29, 2006
When Congress adjourns for the November elections later this week, "it appears that just 2 of the 11 required spending bills will pass." The budget will not have been enacted, forcing Congress to pass a stopgap measure to keep the federal government open. The legislative branch as also stumbled in its efforts to pass much-debated bills on lobbying reform, immigration, offshore oil drilling, minimum wage, and the estate tax. "A popular package of business and education tax credits is teetering." Long-time congressional analysts Thomas Mann of Brookings and Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute wrote recently, "[E]ven those of us with strong stomachs are getting indigestion from the farcical end of the 109th Congress. ... With few accomplishments and an overloaded agenda, it is set to finish its tenure with the fewest number of days in session in our lifetimes, falling well below 100 days this year." Indeed, this Congress will recess having been in session fewer days than the "Do-Nothing Congress" of 1948. A CBS News/New York Times poll finds 75 percent of voters can't name one thing Congress has accomplished. Only 25 percent said they approved of Congress's job performance. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) -- a member of the House leadership -- acknowledged, “We have not accomplished that we need to accomplish.” At the start of this month -- dubbed "Security September" -- the congressional leadership promised to deliver accomplishments that would be focused on national security. Instead, as a new Center for American Progress analysis underscores, Congress will depart Washington, D.C. leaving many critical national security matters unresolved:
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Still, we're not far from seeing some sort of national health care plan. Note the following article from The Progress Report published by The Center For American Progress.
HEALTH CARE--CITIZEN'S WORKING GROUP CALLS FOR UNIVERSAL
A report released by the Citizens Healthcare Working Group on Monday finds "overwhelming support for a [health care] plan that covers all Americans." The report is based on a series of 84 meetings, organized in conjunction with community organizations across the country, where the committee heard from over 6,500 people. The committee also received 14,000 responses to an Internet poll solicited for the study. Citing spiraling costs, decreasing efficiency, and rising numbers of uninsured, the Working Group asserts that "Americans should have a health care system in which everyone participates, regardless of their financial resources or health status, with...access to appropriate high-quality care without endangering individual or family financial security." The group demands this policy be "established immediately and implemented by 2012." The group also calls for financial protection against high health care costs, fostering of integrated community health care networks, and a "non-partisan public/private group, staffed by experts, to define America's core benefits and services and update them on an ongoing basis." The Working Group was established as a part of the 2003 Prescription Drug Bill. Its membership includes Health
and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and 14 other representatives from consumer and disabilities groups, business leaders, organized labor, and health care providers.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
AFGHANISTAN -- EDUCATION UNDER ATTACK: Progress in education "has slowed dramatically" as the Taliban increasingly target schools in Afghanistan, "especially those teaching girls." Afghan President Hamid Karzai told the United Nations that "about 200,000 Afghan children had been forced out of school this year by threats and physical attacks." Human Rights Watch has found "found entire districts where attacks had closed all schools." In the southern province of Kandahar, attackers threw hand grenades through windows and "threatened to throw acid on girls who attend school." In a neighboring province, "a high school principal was beheaded" and half a dozen schools were burned. Since Jan. 2005, there have been "204 documented incidents" against teachers and students. More attacks have occurred in the "first six months of 2006 than in all of the previous year." Women's education took another step backwards recently when a leading Afghan official, Safia Ahmed-jan, was slain outside her home "in apparent retribution for her efforts to help educate women."
The following appeared in the newsletter dated 0/25/2006...
TERRORISM -- CLINTON SETS THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON HIS RECORD ON AL QAEDA, SMACKS DOWN FOX NEWS:
Yesterday on Fox News Sunday, former President Bill Clinton "vigorously defended his efforts to capture and kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden." Host Chris Wallace attempted to falsely accuse Clinton of having given aid and comfort to bin Laden by withdrawing from Somalia six months after the downing of a Black Hawk in 1993, an incident which -- as Clinton noted -- had no connection to bin Laden. Clinton set the record straight on the numerous times his administration tried to kill bin Laden. "That’s the difference in me and some, including all the right wingers who are attacking me now. They ridiculed me for trying. They had eight months to try and they didn’t...I tried. So I tried and failed. When I failed, I left a comprehensive anti-terror strategy and the best guy in the country, Dick Clarke." Clinton pressed Wallace on why he had never asked the Bush administration why it demoted Clarke. Wallace claimed “we asked” and shot back, “Do you ever watch Fox News Sunday, sir?" In fact, a Progress Report analysis found that, since 2001, Wallace has interviewed the top national security officials from the Bush administration — Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Hadley — 42 times. According to a Lexis-Nexis database search, he never asked any of them why Clarke was demoted, nor did he ask why they failed to respond to the USS Cole attack. Days after it was revealed that President Bush had received a President's Daily Brief that said "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S.," Wallace did not even bring it up in an interview with former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. (Watch the video of the Clinton nterview HERE.)
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Do you remember when Governor George W. Bush was running for president? Do you also recall his promises to "be a uniter, not a divider?" Well, you'd think that we would know by now just how much this man can lie. Do you suppose that ANYTHING he says is true?
The following comes from The Center For American Progress (The Progress Report)
Bush Critics Need Not Apply
A new inspector general's report, portions of which were obtained by the Progress Report, document how the top U.S. housing official, Alphonso Jackson, "urged staff members to favor friends of President Bush when awarding Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) contracts." Jackson is a "longtime Bush friend" and former neighbor in Dallas, Texas, who "has led the $32 billion agency since March 2004." Three top HUD officials testified that Jackson told them that "it was important to consider presidential supporters when candidates for HUD discretionary contracts were being considered, the report states. Jackson's chief of staff told investigators that Jackson "personally intervened with contractors whom he did not like ... these contractors had Democratic political affiliations." Awarding contracts on the basis of party affiliation "violates federal law." Yesterday, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), ranking member on the Government Reform Committee, called for Jackson to resign immediately. The White House gave him "a tepid vote of confidence."
Friday, September 22, 2006
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Bush Accuses Saddam of Poisoning America's Spinach
Calls Vegetables the New Front in War on Terror
In a nationally televised address last night, President George W. Bush accused former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein of poisoning America's spinach supply and called vegetables the new front in the war on terror.
While offering no direct evidence linking Saddam to the recent tainting of American spinach with E coli, Mr. Bush said that intelligence sources indicated that "trying to destroy America by poisoning its spinach is just the kind of thing that Saddam Hussein would try to do, if given half a chance."
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
The following comes from Think Progress's daily newsletter, Progress Report...
NATIONAL SECURITY -- NEW PASSPORT ID CHIPS NOT SECURE: The State Department is moving forward with a plan to embed new U.S. passports with "radio-frequency identification" chips, despite warnings that the chips "give hackers access to personal information." The chips operate "via proximity," so personal information can be read without the holder's knowledge or consent. Hand-held readers, "available for $500 to several thousand dollars," make it possible for terrorists and thieves to potentially clone chips; after just two weeks of research, a German computer security consultant easily cloned the chips and demonstrated his "cloning technique" in Las Vegas last month. The State Department added a "shielded cover" that should decrease the risk of identity theft, but it "does no good when the passport is open" and "several security researchers have already discovered flaws."
Could it be happening again? Is it possible that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are buying into faulty information on Iraq, listening to would-be-powerful exiles who really don't know their ass from a hole in the ground? Looks like it might be possible. Thank God we don't really have the resources (see a couple of posts below this one) to start a whole new war in Iran or we probably would have started bombing some time ago.
Are you familiar with the expression, "If all you have is a hammer, every problem begins to look like a nail?" One might extrapolate from this, in the Bush/Cheney mindset, if all you've got is a bomb, every problem begins to look like a target.
The Center for American Progress reports on the situation in their daily newsletter, The Progress Report, as follows...
INTELLIGENCE -- MCCLATCHY REPORTERS WARN OF FAULTY IRAN INTELLIGENCE: McClatchy reporters Warren P. Strobel and John Walcott wrote Saturday about "an echo of the intelligence wars that preceded the U.S. invasion of Iraq," as administration hard-liners "have tried recently to portray Iran's nuclear program as more advanced than it is." Editor & Publisher noted that "reports from Strobel, Walcott and others in the former [Knight-Ridder] Washington office, proved more
skeptical and accurate than those from other leading news organizations in the pre-Iraq invasion push." The reporters wrote that officials from the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the State Department suspect Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld "may be receiving a stream of questionable information" from a discredited Iranian exile. The "dubious information may include claims that Iran directed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group, to kidnap two Israeli soldiers in July; that Iran's nuclear program is moving faster than generally believed; and that the Iranian people are eager to join foreign efforts to overthrow their theocratic rulers. ... The officials said there is no reliable intelligence to support any of those assertions and some that contradicts all three." Several former defense officials have also said "they've they've been told that plans for airstrikes -- if Bush deems them necessary -- are being updated." According to one U.S. counterterrorism official, "It seems like Iran is becoming the new Iraq."