Tuesday, May 30, 2006

David Rose (1937-2006)

On Friday, May 26th, David Rose passed away. He will be remembered as a great man, and a founding father of Anchorage, Alaska. Rest in peace, Dave.

Here’s a story about the history of our country, and the role a Jewish guy from Queens, New York played while here, on the Last Frontier.

On September 15, 1975, the City and Borough of Anchorage, Alaska joined to form a unified government, which included several surrounding communities. David Rose served as the first chairman of the Anchorage Assembly.

The Anchorage Daily News recalls it this way:
Meshing the two governments and their laws was a tedious job, one made tougher for Rose after he supported an equal rights ordinance on sexual preference.

The ordinance touched off an intense public debate, and Rose was soundly defeated in the 1978 race for mayor against incumbent George Sullivan.
I once spoke to Dave about it, and he told me that in the course of a political career, a politician has to do a lot of going along to get along. Then, there comes a time when he has to call in all those chits, and cash in all the good will he has earned by years of working with others. This was just such a moment for David Rose.

It may be hard to recall the political atmosphere 30 years ago. An evangelical Southern Baptist, Jimmy Carter was elected president and suddenly, the Old South was a hot property. A TV sit-com situated in rural Georgia was named “Carter Country.”

Carter’s election victory was a rejection of the Republican Southern Strategy, a crass appeal to the baser instincts of the Republican base. More importantly, Carter, whose sister was an evangelist, awakened the dormant power of Southern Baptists, whose religion had, at least until then, espoused the idea that adherents should not get involved in “worldly” matters, such as politics. They were fed up with Tricky Dick and the man who pardoned him.

Meanwhile, here in Alaska, an unprecedented economic boom was in full swing. The largest private construction project in history – The Trans Alaska Pipeline – was winding up, and oil was beginning to flow. The people who built the pipeline were mostly from Texas and Oklahoma. The culture of these folks clashed with the laissez-faire social atmosphere that had prevailed in Alaska before pipeline days. Two popular bumper stickers of the time summed up the feelings of old-time sourdoughs. One used the old-timer’s term for the lower 48: “We don’t give a damn how they do it Outside.” The other said, “Happiness is 1,000 Texans headed south with an Okie under each arm.”

Returning to the election of 1978, Rose was a candidate for mayor and he found himself in a runoff with George Sullivan. A group of fundamentalist religious leaders, most notably Rev. Jerry Prevo, of the Anchorage Baptist Temple, were still angry at Dave for supporting fair treatment of gays. They formed a group to oppose Dave Rose’s candidacy. That group, named Concerned Citizens Against Dave Rose, spent $5,000 advertising in opposition to mayoral candidate Rose. (Some recall the group being named, “Christians Against Dave Rose.” Either way, the name of the group invited suspicion that it was anti-Semitic.)

George Sullivan easily won the mayoral election, and it was one of the first, if not the first electoral victory for a candidate that could be attributed to the organized effort of Christian evangelicals. But it was not to be the last.

Jerry Prevo had a seminary friend, Jerry Falwell. I can only speculate what the two of them talk about when they are alone together. I imagine that sometime between 1976 and 1980, Jerry of Alaska told Jerry of Virginia about the success he had enjoyed in influencing Anchorage Municipal elections. Somewhere along the line, I expect that Rev. Falwell mentioned that the name of Rev. Prevo’s group was not very euphonious.

Nixon had spoken of the Silent Majority, oblivious to the fact that, at least since the time of Homer, the term referred to dead people. Only two people on earth know which, if either, of the two Jerrys thought up the name, “Moral Majority.”

Be that as it may, by 1980 the principals of Concerned Citizens Against David Rose had reformed as Moral Majority of Alaska. Together, they packed the Republican caucus in Alaska and won all nineteen delegates to the national convention for Ronald Reagan. If you look at the tapes of the 1980 and 1984 Republican National Convention, you can see the two Jerrys sitting in the front row. It is more than a little ironic that these two pastors would lead the fight against a true Christian evangelical President, in favor of a divorced, Hollywood actor who rarely attended church.

The right-wing theocratic stranglehold on Republican politics begins with gay bashing. Two days after Dave Rose shuffled off this mortal coil, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) appeared on Fox News Sunday, and argued that banning flag-burning and same-sex marriage are two of the nation’s most pressing priorities, which is why he put them on the Senate agenda for June.

Good-bye, Dave.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Another guest editorial by my pride and joy.

This just in from my son, Ike, now living and teaching in New York City.

The wide world of sports was all abuzz this week, as one of its most controversial figures, a member of the legendary 700 Club, passed what had once stood as one of the greatest milestones in human athletic achievement.

I refer, of course, to Pat Robertson, who claims that an “age-defying protein shake” has allowed him to leg press 2000 pounds.

Now, this is a guy who thinks Ariel Sharon's stroke was caused by the wrath of God, so I am already suspicious of his understanding of human physiology. And I'm not the first to weigh in, online or otherwise, on the hilarity of his claim. It should suffice to say that I used to do my leg presses in a Harlem bodybuilding studio, and I never saw any of the mesomorphs there put up anything resembling a ton.

I first heard about Robertson's buns of steel on my way back from hiking the section of the Appalachian Trail that winds through the White Mountains of New Hampshire. At the top of Mt. Lafayette, you can see mountain lakes and waterfalls, vast forests and rocky outcroppings. It gives me a sense of communion with the Divine that is rarely to be found in a house of worship. So when I heard the wags on NPR's “Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me” having a laugh at Robertson’s expense, I was already reflecting on how the path to self-improvement might be natural rather than clerical.

It's bad enough, then, that we have televangelists telling us how to vote. Now they have to tell us how to work out?

Of course, the real news in sports this weekend is the fact that Barry Bonds hit his 715th home run, passing Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list. (Back in New England, where much emotional capital has been invested in undoing Ruth's impact on baseball, the response was subdued.) Allegations of steroid use will forever cast an asterisk-shaped cloud over Bonds's feat, leading many to reflect on how illegal supplements have tarnished the American sport.

If you were to rank the things I like about America, you would find baseball near the top, right up there with the Constitution. So there’s something about juiced-up sluggers—and for that matter, theocon faith healers—that makes me wonder where America is headed.

One of the great ideas of America is that it is a place where everyone has a chance to work hard and live well. It’s never been such a place, but the idea remains. These days, we have a government dedicated to undoing that idea, not just by helping the rich get richer, but by crushing the domestic freedoms that the Founding Fathers considered essential to individual achievement. And the worst of it all is that Americans are letting it happen.

Big Mitch and I sit around and wonder when the tipping point will come, when people will realize that the current administration’s crimes must be punished. The sad fact is that we’ll never reach that point, as long as Americans value ease and glamour over effort and dignity. The American who drives a gas guzzler and eats processed foods has grown self-destructively complacent in his own life. The American who places hero worship before knowledge of self allows himself to honor men who earn respect through lies. Is it any wonder he doesn’t raise his voice against political corruption?

Big Mitch has much to say about the hypocrites running our country. He calls them parasites, which I do not think is too strong a term. I have this to add: getting rid of parasites starts with a personal act. Americans need to clean themselves up. We need to hold ourselves accountable for our own health and safety, and for the health and safety of our communities.

The folks on the pedestals--be they political, theological, or athletic—are setting a rotten example. We can’t depend on them anymore. So it has to start with the individual. Once we take responsibility for the things that go into our bodies, once we become mindful of the footprints we leave upon the land, and once we see that our fellow humans share our bodily needs and our land, we can start to resist a government that tramples people and nature alike.

If I can’t convince you, go hike the White Mountains.

... and tell 'em Young Ike sent you!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Denny Hastert: Man of Principles

Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert represents the 14th District of Illinois in Congress, and as I noted here, he got his knickers in a knot when the F.B.I. obtained a warrant, and pursuant to that court order, searched the Congressional offices of a crooked congressman. He issued a joint press release with Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader, criticizing the search.

That same day, someone in the Justice Department leaked the fact that Speaker Hastert may be the target of an investigation. The speaker took umbrage with the suggestion that he might be a target of the FBI, and, the official spokesperson of the Justice Department denied that he was a target. Thereafter, Rep. Hastert seemed to modulate his response to the original leak.

Why, oh why, would anyone suggest that Dennis Hastert would be the subject of an investigation? Funny, you should ask.

Between 2001 and 2004, Coach Hastert received $100,000 from Jack Abramoff and his tribal clients. When Abramoff pled guilty, there was a rush to unload ill-gotten money from the high-flying lobbyist. Speaker Hastert pledged to give $70,000 to charity, all the while maintaining that the contributions were strictly legal.

What does a hundred grand buy these days?

Jack Abrahoff represented the Coushattas, an Indian tribe who owned a gambling casino near Shreveport, LA. The Jena Band of Choctaw Indians wanted to open a casino nearby. The Coushattas recognized that this could be bad for business, and so Jack Abramoff enlisted the assistance of Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Deputy Whip Eric I. Cantor of Virginia.

These influential Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton, informing her that the House leaders opposed the plan of the Jena Band. The intent of the letter was to protect the income from the Coushattas’ casino -- about $300 million a year.

V. Heather Sibbison, a lobbyist at the time for the Jena Band, said: “I do this for a living, and I have never seen a letter like that before. It was incredibly unusual for that group of people, who do not normally weigh in on Indian issues, to express such a strong opinion about a particular project not in any of their home states.”

Timing is everything. On June 3, 2003, Denny Hastert held a fundraiser at Jack Abramoff’s Signatures restaurant in our nation’s capital. He collected $21,500 for his Keep Our Majority PAC. On June 10, 2003, he signed the letter to Gale Norton, urging her to reject the Choctaw Indians’ request.

When Abramoff’s world crumbled, Hastert had an occasion to look at his own conduct with a critical eye. It was then that he discovered that he had failed for two years to disclose his use of Abramoff's restaurant the week before his letter or to reimburse for it as legally required. Being a manly man, Denny Hastert blamed others for a paperwork oversight and belatedly corrected it.

And that’s what federal prosecutors are investigating. The word “target” has legal significance, and, the Justice Department may be technically correct in saying that Hastert is not a target. Hastert's denials were intended to make you think he is out of the woods on this, but, to borrow phrase from Richard Nixon, “It would be wrong.”

“…and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Saturday, May 27, 2006


“You say, ‘I don’t remember.’ You can say, ‘I can’t recall. I can’t give an answer to that, that I can recall.’” – Richard M. Nixon, brainstorming with aides on how to tailor grand jury testimony
Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald indicated last week he may call Vice President Dick Cheney to testify about his “state of mind” when he gave instructions to his former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who has been indicted for perjury.

It is of course, Scooter’s state of mind that is an element of the offenses with which he is charged. He claims that his misstatements regarding conversations he had with Judy Miller, Joe Cooper and Tim Russert are the products of a faulty memory.

A key element of Libby's defense is that he was too preoccupied with heady, national security issues to leak Plame's CIA affiliation to reporters as a way to strike back at her husband, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for his criticism of the administration's push to invade Iraq.

When Presidential buddy, and convicted criminal Kenneth “Kenny-boy” Lay testified in his own trial, he said he didn't remember being told about any rules governing the use of loan money by banks to buy stock.

“I don't recall them ever coming to my attention we were not in compliance with any of those loan agreements,” Lay said. “I can't categorically say somebody didn't, but I sure can't recall.”

Lay said even though he received periodic reports about the loans, he didn't really read the entire documents and focused primarily on the remaining balances “to have something in my head.”

He denied trying to be deceptive. “It was not part of my consciousness at that time,” he said.

The jury didn’t believe that the guy who was some kind of business genius could be so ignorant of banking regulations and laws.

You may wonder how people so willingly unknowing could achieve any kind of success in the world. This might be a good time to review the life and times of King George W.

Bush was a principal in Arbusto Energy, Inc., and it was going bust-o in 1984, when a “white knight” stepped in to save it. That was Spectrum 7 oil company, and two years later, it was going down under Bush’s stewardship. That company was saved by Harken Energy Corporation, and Prince George ended up as a director on the audit committee.

People ridicule Bush for never changing his mind, but there is a certain consistency to the man – everything he touches turns to shit. And so it was in June 1990 when Bush learned that Harken Energy Corporation was about to hit the skids. With this information in hand, he sold is shares at $4 bucks a pop, which netted him a cool $835,000, according to the Washington Post.

When Harken announced the unexpected second-quarter losses, and the stock price tumbled. This left Bush, a Harken director and member of the firm's audit committee, exposed to accusations of insider trading: dumping stock before the company's troubles became public knowledge. Bush also failed to report the sale to the Securities and Exchange Commission until eight months after the required deadline. The SEC launched an investigation.

Bush claimed he did not know of Harken’s impending financial disaster. He forgot to file the SEC reports, and because he sounds so goofy one might be tempted to believe this of the Harvard Business School graduate. But it is not true, and neither is the claim that he was exonerated by the SEC investigation.

So what did Prince George do with the $835,000 of ill-gotten gains from the illegal sale of stock? He paid off a small loan that he took out to purchase in to the Texas Rangers.

Back on November 10, 2005, in Condemning Bush, I wrote about how Prince George used his political connection to make the owners of the Texas Rangers, including himself, fabulously rich. The trick was to get the City of Arlington to take land by means of imminent domain and give it to the baseball team to build “The Ballpark at Arlington.”

The bottom line is that there is not a dime’s worth of difference between Ken Lay and George W. Bush, except for the fact that the latter was only slightly better connected.

By the way, after 7 years of investigations, there was no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing connected with President and Mrs. Clinton in the Whitewater matter.

In case your forgot.

“… and tell ‘em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Who says Republicans don't care when civil rights are trampled on?

Here in Anchorage, the sun has been setting past my bedtime, and is up again before I open my eyes. And so it was that I was put in mind of a poem by the poet laureate for Alaska, Robert Service.
There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold.
The arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold.
The northern lights have seen queer sights
But the queerest they ever did see,
Was that night on the marge of Lake LeBarge
When I cremated Sam McGee.

-- from The Cremation of Sam McGee.
Service tells a strange tale, to be sure, but it can’t hold a candle to what is happening in the Congress lately.

Our story starts with William Jefferson, a Democratic Representative from Louisiana. Turns out he is a crook. I mean, presumption of innocence, he’s been advised by attorneys not to discuss the case, two sides to every story, yadda-yadda.

On the other hand, last week it was revealed that he was videotaped taking a $100,000 bribe by FBI agents conducting a sting operation. The money was found in a food freezer in his house, and you can insert your own “cold cash” or “frozen assets” joke here.

The Democrats, for good and sufficient reasons, are looking forward to running against the culture of corruption in the next election, and the next after that. The sad part is that the case of William Jefferson takes some of the blush off that blossom. But it needn’t be so.

Here’s Nancy Pelosi last March, talking about L'Affaire Jefferson:
In the case of Mr. Jefferson, I think the Ethics Committee should investigate him. It is his private matter, and he should be investigated because of the stories that have been in the press and the guilty plea that you mentioned yesterday. That is his business; that's not ours.

Check out the video here. On the May 7th edition of Meet the Press, Rep. Pelosi confirmed that she had, indeed, asked the House ethics committee to investigate Jefferson.

For reasons that remain unknown, the Justice Department decided to serve a search warrant on the Congressional office of Rep. Jefferson. The search occurred over the weekend. That’s when the excrement hit the ventilator.

Here’s how the New York Times reported it:
After years of quietly acceding to the Bush administration's assertions of executive power, the Republican-led Congress hit a limit this weekend.

Resentment boiled among senior Republicans for a second day on Tuesday after a team of warrant-bearing agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation turned up at a closed House office building on Saturday evening, demanded entry to the office of a lawmaker and spent the night going through his files.

The episode prompted cries of constitutional foul from Republicans — even though the lawmaker in question, Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana, is a Democrat whose involvement in a bribery case has made him an obvious partisan political target.

Speaker J. Dennis Hastert raised the issue personally with President Bush on Tuesday. The Senate Rules Committee is examining the episode.
Dennis Hastert? Wasn’t his name in the news for something else, today? Oh yeah. Could that be the same J. Dennis Hastert mentioned in this story on Reuters?
The Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, is under investigation by the FBI, which is probing corruption in Congress, ABC News reported on Wednesday.
ABC, citing high level Justice Department sources, said information implicating Hastert was developed from convicted lobbyists who are now cooperating with the government.

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with those of other tribes.
Coincidence? Perhaps not.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Congratulations to the Class of 2006

I hope you were inspired by the speeches you heard at your graduation ceremonies. Will Farrell wowed 'em at Harvard. He said that he graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, and that their colors were black and blue. He slays me.

But he wasn't even the funniest comic genius to give a graduation address in New England. Over at Boston College, they featured the comic stylings of Condoleeza Rice. Talk about funny!

Condeleeza Rice has been wowing them in the White House and breaking them up in Congress. She is the master of the slyly straight face, making you wonder if it is possible that she actually said that.

Consider this little shtick, delivered by the woman who broke through the glass ceiling to become a yes-man in the administration that brooks no dissent:
There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion. And holding it passionately. But at those times when you are absolutely sure you are right, go find somebody who disagrees.
Close your eyes, and imagine Condi trying that one out on W, and him laughing his ass off.

Now, that's funny. That shit on Meet the Press was just a warm-up!

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Stop! You're making me crazy!

In the movie 1944 classic movie, Gaslight, Charles Boyer plays an evil, Victorian criminal husband. He systematically and methodically attempts to torment his poor, fragile wife, played by the incomparable Ingrid Bergman. He attempts to drive her insane by frequently dimming and flickering the gaslights.

The phrase "to gaslight" someone (viz., to deliberately drive someone insane by psychologically manipulating their environment and tricking someone into believing that they are insane) was derived from the title of this film.

Many of us have been going slightly mad because of what I describe in my bio (right) as “what is being done to the country I love … by the current crop of crooks.” Now, I have come to believe that this is a deliberate policy of the Bush administration – they’re making us nuts on purpose!

How else can you explain this snippit of dialogue from Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: Would it be easier to deal with Iran and this issue if, in fact, we did not have the complication of Iraq? And the reason I’m asking that is, you went before the world and said, “Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. Our very best intelligence says that and that’s the rationale to go in.” And now the world and many in this country are saying, “What evidence do you have about Iran? And is—are you being distracted by Iraq? And are your options being limited in dealing with Iran because of the difficulties we have in Iraq?”

DR. RICE: Well, let’s remember, first of all, that the United States didn’t go and say Iraq is a, is a problem on the WMD side. …
If that doesn’t put you in the madhouse, I don’t know what will.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

A fable

Suppose you think your teen-age son is drinking too many sodas and eating too much junk food. One thing you could do is take away his allowance. That might work, but you want to teach your kid how to live within his budget. So here’s what you do: you go to the city counsel meeting and you get your city to impose a 20% tax on these items. Good work!

Your kid will not be able to afford so much junk food, and, all other things being equal, your kid will have a better chance of not growing up obese. This illustrates a simple principle: placing a tax on an economic activity tends to decrease the amount of that particular activity.

Now let’s look at a different situation. Your kid is still scarfing up too much junk food, but now his indulgent grandmother gives him a Christmas present of a discount card for use at any convenience store. Bad news: the same economic forces that dictated his or her junk food consumption decreasing in the first scenario, now says that Frito-consumption is on the rise. What to do?

You could go talk to the kid’s grandmother and say, hey, take away that discount card. Nanna takes away the discount card but since she can’t stand the thought of Junior going hungry, she replaces it with a credit card. You say that’s a reasonable compromise, because at least Junior will learn some fiscal discipline. After all, there’s a credit limit on the credit card, no?

As you may have guessed, Junior may have poor nutritional habits, but he has a keen appreciation of how to get whatever he wants from Grandma. And so, he works his magic on her. When he maxes out his card, he prevails upon her to have his credit limit raised. This goes on a number of times. In fact, it goes on so often that there's no way that
Junior is ever going to be able to pay back the debt he has run up. (The Bank doesn’t mind because Grandma co-signed.)

What do you think is happening to Junior’s consumption of Twinkies? Of course, it is going through the roof.

Now get out your decoder ring. This little allegory is about Bush tax cuts.

The junk food is all government programs. It’s not that I think that all government programs are bad, but simply that as a conservative, Dubya espouses a disdain for government programs which he would like to starve to death with tax cuts, and then drown in a bathtub.

The tax cuts already enacted have created the largest deficits in history, and the Republican congress has once again raised the debt ceiling. When it becomes obvious that the consumer of government programs is not going to be the one paying off the budget deficits, government is like a kid at a candy store --with Granny's credit-card.

What is that going to do for the growth of government? About the same thing it did for Junior’s Twinkie intake.

One more thing: who do you think is the real co-signer on the credit card? It’s Junior. Not the Junior in our allegory, but rather the future generations of Americans who will inherit the monstrous national debt.

To pay it off, they will have to raise taxes on themselves, and reduce government spending. I wonder what economic activity they will discourage with taxes, and what government programs will be cut.

Or will future generations try to go into the credit market to finance government? Who is going to want to lend, because Grandma ain’t co-signing anymore. Maybe our children will remember that friendly loan shark we went to. You know, the one with a two billion mouths of its own to feed.

“…and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bush is a genius? Maybe.

The common consensus is that George W. Bush is dumb, and for all I know the common consensus is correct. I doubt it, but frankly, I don’t have enough evidence. What I do believe is that W is not a curious person.

If you are not curious, it really doesn’t much matter if you’re quick on the up-take. You won’t be exposed to things that will expand your fund of knowledge, so you might as well be a dolt.

On the other hand, there are different types of intelligence. One type of intelligence is called “interpersonal” intelligence. I have heard it said that W is an off-the-charts genius in this area, but it’s hard for me to pick it up. I see his joshing with the press corps as just plain mean-spirited, and not the least bit endearing. He looked into Putin’s soul and saw that he was a good man, who he could call, Putey-poo. If this is interpersonal intelligence, then it is a confusing concept, to say the least.

But Bush has Karl Rove, and there’s a good reason that he is called “Bush’s Brain.” With Rove, Bush is a genius in controlling and manipulating the public.

You may be surprised to hear me say this, given that his approval rating is in the low 30’s (or worse). But think about it: he retains the support of 30% of the people, in spite of the fact that everything he has touched has turned to poop. He fouled up the intelligence, leading to the most disastrous attack on America since Pearl Harbor. He chose to lead us into a war for no good reason, and then, if I may employ a term I learned while serving in the US Army, he turned it into a $281,750,000 cluster-fuck with 20,000 American casualties. The deficit (f/k/a the surplus) is out of control, people are earning less, and the country is more divided than at any time in the last 30 years (at least). Corruption is rampant from top to bottom of the Republican Party, but it is not as egregious as the cronyism and incompetence most conspicuously on display during last year’s hurricane season. Hey, don’t get me started.

The effect was not what one would expect, namely, that people would storm the White House with pitchforks and torches, demanding W’s head on a pike. Instead, the Congress, which is controlled by his party, continued to go along with harebrained schemes, the most recent of which is a new tax cut for the wealthiest among us. Why? Because, they are the wealthiest among us. Bush may be a disaster for the country, but he is a godsend for people like him, born with a silver teat in his mouth.

Notwithstanding all of the above, Congress came to understand that there might be a revolt among the voters, and it might cost them their jobs. (Read: license to steal.) It became obvious that Congress had to distance itself from the president, as his polling was running neck-and-neck with stomach flu. They tried the usual stuff, such as reporting a “Defense of Marriage” Constitutional Amendment out of committee but they were still sweating. Gay bashing is getting old, and besides, the majority of American’s do not believe that gays should be prohibited from entering into civil unions.

Here’s where Bush’s incredible intelligence for preserving power comes into play. He decided to address the nation with a bold, comprehensive program to confront the problem of illegal immigration.

Personally, I didn’t much care for the program he announced, but Ted Kennedy and others spoke highly of it. Meanwhile, House Republicans ran from the President’s program like it was a new variant of the Black Plague, namely, the Brown Plague.

Here’s an AP story, that is typical:
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who has pushed a tough border security bill through the House, accused President Bush on Wednesday of abandoning the legislation after asking for many of its provisions.

“He basically turned his back on provisions of the House-passed bill, a lot of which we were requested to put in the bill by the White House,” Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., angrily told reporters in a conference call. “That was last fall when we were drafting the bill, and now the president appears not to be interested in it at all.”
So what’s up with that?

Sensenbreener is wrong to say that W is not interested. After all, it was the first time in five years that he went on TV when he didn’t have to explain some national embarrassment. And King George is not a guy who changes his positions on important matters very quickly, even when it is obvious that they are wrong. So, what made him change up on what looks to be the biggest emerging issue of the next election?

If you give Bush and Turd-blossom credit for being the evil geniuses that I half-way suspect that they are, I have a theory for you.

Rove and Bush figured out that immigrants are the new gays. By this, I mean, that bashing immigrants will do for the Republicans exactly what gay-bashing has done for them in the past. Largely meaningless gestures, designed to drive wedges between Americans, will energize the Republican base, and maybe even get them to forget how totally screwed up everything else is going.

Here’s the beauty part: Republicans in Congress can run against Ted Kennedy and the President on this issue. What does Bush care? He's the guy who put new levels of lame into lame duck.

Is it too Machiavellian for the guys in the White House? Probably. More likely, Turd-blossom is distracted because his baby-face is going to the Big House, and he's going to find out why they call it "the pokey."

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Today's Outrage

When USA Today reported that the NSA was compiling a database of every call made in America, the President was quick to address the nation in an effort to allay fears that this was yet another example of the government invading the privacy of millions of Americans and breaking the law to do so. It didn’t work. Tony Snow, the new Press Secretary, took pains to say that neither the President nor he were confirming or denying the report. Well, is it true?

Qwest Communications confirmed that it had been approached by the NSA, but asserted that it had refused to comply with the request in the absence of court authorization. It’s hard to imagine why Qwest would issue such a statement if it were not true. Nevertheless, on Monday, BellSouth Communications Inc. denied that it had been asked by the NSA for customer information. The next day Verizon said the same thing. Could they be lying?

Telephone stocks are considered blue chips. They are well capitalized and they pay steady dividends. For these reasons and others they are the mainstay of many a retirement account. The value of these stocks are likely to be effected by the lawsuits which have been filed for violation of The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, 18 USC 3122-23, and other relevant statutes. Potential liability is in the billions of dollars.

How will these lawsuits affect the millions of shareholders, many of whom are retirees who rely on their expectation of dividends to enjoy their golden years? Well, luckily for them, there are laws that are designed to protect the shareholders from being misled by management of publicly traded companies. These laws require that companies file financial reports, but there is a catch:
15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A): With respect to matters concerning the national security of the United States, no duty or liability under paragraph (2) of this subsection [relating to filing accurate statements] shall be imposed upon any person acting in cooperation with the head of any Federal department or agency responsible for such matters if such act in cooperation with such head of a department or agency was done upon the specific, written directive of the head of such department or agency pursuant to Presidential authority to issue such directives. Each directive issued under this paragraph shall set forth the specific facts and circumstances with respect to which the provisions of this paragraph are to be invoked. Each such directive shall, unless renewed in writing, expire one year after the date of issuance.
Tom Hartman and Think Progress uncovered this little gem hidden in the Federal Register:
Memorandum of May 5, 2006
Assignment of Function Relating to Granting of Authority for Issuance of Certain Directives

Memorandum for the Director of National Intelligence

By virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, including section 301 of title 3, United States Code, I hereby assign to you the function of the President under section 13(b)(3)(A) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended (15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(3)(A)). In performing such function, you should consult the heads of departments and agencies, as appropriate.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

George W. Bush


I know this is a little heavy on the legalese, but the long and short of it is that the President is trampling on the civil rights of every American and then enlisting corporate America in its war on truth.

Had enough?

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lawrence Tribe explains it all

In today’s Boston Globe, Lawrence Tribe, the pre-eminent scholar of Constitutional law, writes,
The escalating controversy over the National Security Agency’s data mining program illustrates yet again how the Bush administration's intrusions on personal privacy based on a post-9/11 mantra of “national security” directly threaten one of the enduring sources of that security: the Fourth Amendment “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.”
You can read the entire article, which ran under the heading, Bush stomps on Fourth Amendment, here.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Monday, May 15, 2006

Give the huddled masses yearning to breathe free some hi-tech I.D. cards.

In this country, we have criminalized the use of drugs and declared war on drugs. Why? One reason is that drugs cause human misery by ruining lives. Of course, if that were our real concern, we would take the money spent on criminalization and spend it on rehabilitation and prevention.

Another reason for our war on drugs is that the money spent on drugs leaves the country and nothing productive is imported in return. Accordingly, we spend huge sums on interdiction. Furthermore, we justify punitive laws by saying it will reduce demand.

In Responsibility for the immigration problem, I argued that we need to address the immigration problem by reducing demand. The way to do that is to provide serious disincentives for hiring illegal immigrants. I argued that we need to impose real jail time for the predators who take advantage of undocumented workers. “While we are at it, let’s make any CEO whose company hires undocumented workers forfeit any deferred compensation,” I said.

Tonight, King George W addressed the nation on the subject of illegal immigration. It was the longest speech he gave in the last five years, without mentioning September 11th.

Here is the entirety of what he said on the subject of employer sanctions.
[W]e need to hold employers to account for the workers they hire. It is against the law to hire someone who is in this country illegally. Yet businesses often cannot verify the legal status of their employees, because of the widespread problem of document fraud. Therefore, comprehensive immigration reform must include a better system for verifying documents and work eligibility. A key part of that system should be a new identification card for every legal foreign worker. This card should use biometric technology, such as digital fingerprints, to make it tamper-proof. A tamper-proof card would help us enforce the law and leave employers with no excuse for violating it. And by making it harder for illegal immigrants to find work in our country, we would discourage people from crossing the border illegally in the first place.
This is astounding!

The President talked about several different border-interception programs that will cost billions of dollars. National Guardsmen will be asked to spend more time away from the families and jobs, as if serving in Iraq were not sacrifice enough. But what new programs do we have to prosecute the parasites who take advantage of people yearning to breath free? Hint: the parasites are also known as Bush’s base.

The technology does not really exist for the hi-tech ID’s, but let us imagine that it did. Can anybody think about it for more than 20 seconds and not conclude that it is the immigrants who will be scooped up for not having ID cards. Or are we expecting employers to have digital fingerprint and retinal scan machines?

The President’s first approach to the problem of immigration was to beef up border guards, using National Guardsmen. But as reported on Feb. 9 2005, in the S.F. Chronicle: Bush budget scraps 9,790 border patrol agents 
President uses law's escape clause to drop funding for new homeland security force:
The law signed by President Bush less than two months ago to add thousands of border patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border has crashed into the reality of Bush's austere federal budget proposal, officials said Tuesday. Officially approved by Bush on Dec. 17 after extensive bickering in Congress, the National Intelligence Reform Act included the requirement to add 10,000 border patrol agents in the five years beginning with 2006. Roughly 80 percent of the agents were to patrol the southern U.S. border from Texas to California, along which thousands of people cross into the United States illegally every year. But Bush's proposed 2006 budget, revealed Monday, funds only 210 new border agents.
Maybe I should have led with Bush’s hypocrisy, but is it really news?

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

(picture credit: HuffPo)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Stop the presses: Bush tells the truth!

USA Today published a story revealing that the NSA had enlisted the cooperation of AT&T, Verizon, and Bell South to compile a database of every phone call made in the United States.

King George W, clearly worried, went into full damage control mode, with an intensity not seen since Bill Clinton took to the air, and emphatically said, “I did not have sex with that woman.”

Here’s what Bush said:
We are not trolling through the personal lives of millions of innocent Americans.
Of course, he was referring to the millions of innocent Americans who subscribe to Qwest Communications.

In the same vein, Director of Central Intelligence nominee, General Mike Hayden said that the program of spying on Americans was completely within the law. What he meant is that the President said it is legal, and that's good enough for him. It depends on what the meaning of “is” is.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Responsibility for the immigration problem

Immigration as it is presented is a complex issue. Here's my take on the current controversy.

First, there are two separate problems. One is a homeland security problem. We have to make sure that people can’t sneak into our country, because there are people who want to do just that, not to take part in the American dream, but explicitly to destroy it. A wall won’t make a dime’s worth of difference to them. After all, the vast majority of people who are in our country illegally came legally and overstayed their visas.

We can’t guard our borders, including our internal borders (i.e., airports) because the numbers of people coming in overwhelms our capacity to monitor them. How can we reduce the number of people coming into our country illegally? It is a matter of priorities, and there are economic interests opposed to making the elimination of undocumented workers a priority.

Who opposes keeping our borders secure? They are the people who hire undocumented workers. Why would they do that? Because they can pay sub-standard wages, not give benefits, not keep the workplace safe, etc. Not only do these people oppose keeping out illegal aliens, they oppose making them legal. Legal workers can organize. Legal workers can demand a fair, or at least a legal, wage. Legal workers have recourse if they are hurt on the job. Legal workers can refuse to work excessive hours.

People who exploit undocumented workers are parasites. These vermin create enduring cycles of poverty that they can exploit. They want to shrink government to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub because they know that if government uses its powers to improve the plight or the prospects of the underclass, the parasites will lose their prey, the source of their wealth.

These parasites think that they are improving worker productivity whenever they force workers to take lesser wages. Then they reward themselves with obscene bonuses, and so it is that they are filthy rich.

As a result of the vast accumulations of wealth, they have also managed to acquire control of the mass media, and the combination of wealth and media control made it a forgone conclusion that they would eventually gain control of the government. Like so many parasites, they are patient, and their patience paid off.

Really, the only thing that stood between them and gaining control of government sooner was the fact that the prevailing form of government was a democracy, in which a poor man’s vote counts as much as a rich parasite’s. However, once they obtained control of the media, which, as always was for sale to the highest bidder, they were able to convince many that their own economic interests were not so important to them as were the economic interests of the parasites.

How did they do this? The evoked a religious creed that was actually quite foreign to American tradition. This new religious creed rejected the traditional beliefs of the American South, which held that it was wrong for religious institutions to involve itself in “worldly” politics. It rejected the mainline Protestant tradition, the spiritual heirs to Calvin, which held that man’s reward will be in the world to come. In its place, the teaching was that God’s favor is evidenced by an abundance of worldly goods. One religious leader, Jim Bakker, was applauded when he and his wife announced that for his birthday she had given him a pair of matched giraffes.

The power of the Catholic Church might have been enlisted to help the victims of parasitic capitalism, and in many individual instances it was. However, the Catholics had one big agenda item – abortion – and this superseded all other concerns. Worse, the parasite class was able to co-opt the Catholic church, which had once been a stronghold of the party of the people.

The power over the souls of men, and its consequential political power were intoxicating. Billy Graham, one of the foremost of the Charismatic Christians, was burned by his association with the disgraced Republican Nixon, and he bowed out of an active role in politics. But in all of nature, it is power that most abhors a vacuum.

And so it became de rigueur that the parasites would nominate and elect men with great public religiosity. The founder of the Republican party had said that “It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged.” But the current Republican party had nothing in common with Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln had waged war against the American South. For a century thereafter, the Solid South was solidly democratic. Now, it is the base of the Republican Party because in another break with its founder, the Republicans embraced “State’s Rights,” a code word for racism.

The Democrats embraced the Civil Rights movement and a lot of de jure racism was eliminated. The Republicans introduced new forms of hatred: homophobia, and xenophobia. These new hatreds were wrapped up in religious terms such as Defense of Marriage and a crusade against illegal immigrants. And over the course of time, there were nearly as many people who identified themselves as Republicans, the party of parasites, as there were people who identified themselves as Democrats, the party of the people.

It turns out that “nearly as many,” was enough, because of the vagaries of the Electoral College. And it further turned out the Republicans didn’t even need to have that many votes because the Supreme Court said that it was not necessary in a democracy to actually count the votes.

As the foregoing recap of history makes clear, it is the parasite class that has control of the legal system, including the making and enforcing of laws, and is also capable of controlling the terms of the debate. Were it otherwise, the way to immediately eliminate people coming over the boarder seeking an opportunity to work for the parasite class would be obvious.

It is to make mandatory jail terms for parasites who exploit undocumented workers. While we are at it, let’s make any CEO whose company hires undocumented workers forfeit any deferred compensation.

Who will do the jobs the undocumented workers had been doing? That would be Americans. But haven’t we heard that Americans are unwilling to do these jobs? I guess we will just have to pay them enough to make them willing to do the jobs. Sure, it will cut into profits, but consider this: you can throttle back on the executive compensation and make it more in line with a historical multiple of worker compensation, and still continue to pay dividends to the shareholders.

There is going to be a lot of jobs that need filling, and maybe this will drive up the wages of workers. That doesn’t sound like a problem, because with higher wages, Americans will buy more goods and services, and we’re onto a positive cycle of economic growth, and prosperity.

Notice that there is a substantial reduction in the incentive to cross the Rio Grande into Texas to take a job, and therefore, we expect that the number of people doing so will decrease accordingly. With fewer people entering our country illegally, it should be that much easier to find them, and especially to identify those who come to do us harm.

There is some number of undocumented workers in the United States, estimated to be around 11 or 12 million. What to do about them? We do want to discourage future illegal border crossers, and so, I am not sure that amnesty is the best way to go. On the other hand, we are talking about people who crossed into our country, to join us, be productive and provide for their families. Frankly, it is hard to get ginned up about this “offense.” Therefore, I propose that all 11 or 12 million of them be required to document that they have lived here for a period of time, had no infractions, pay a nominal fine, and be put on a path to citizenship.

Think about 11 or 12 million more citizens. Who knows whether they will become Republicans and identify with the parasite class, the party of racism, privilege, and corruption? If I had to bet, I would say they will remember that the Democrats are the party of the people, and vote their interests.

Hmmm. Eight or 10 million net Democratic voters. That’s a lot of votes not to count. No wonder the Republicans are so concerned about not doing anything about this issue.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The coming Constitutional crisis

America is about to face a huge constitutional crisis. Though nobody can say for sure how it is going to come down, it is inevitable. Here’s why: The NSA operation to create a database of every telephone call made in America is a huge intrusion on the right of privacy of millions of Americans. As stated in This is serious, the program is illegal.

Sure, Big Mitch was first to publish that opinion, but others are joining in. “This may well be another example where the Bush administration, in secret, decided to bypass the courts and contravene federal law,” said Georgetown University law professor David Cole. Republicans who have a libertarian streak, or who consider themselves pro-law and order, must be concerned.

Then there are those who made rather harsh statements about perjury when they were speaking of Bill Clinton. They cannot let the perjury of Alberto Gonzales go without notice, assuming there is some limit to people’s tolerance for hypocrisy.

The President’s approval rating is at 29%, and he maintains that he can break any law he wants. There is no political reason to not impeach him, and it is perfectly clear that the grounds for impeachment are not only present, but also admitted to by the President. In fact, he defiantly proclaims that he will not quit violating the law.

You may say, “So, the president will be impeached. Why is this a constitutional crisis?”

First of all, in this case, unlike the Clinton case, it is not just one person who must be removed from office. The Vice-president is equally culpable, and equally dangerous. He, too, must go. Meanwhile, numerous members of congress are under investigation, and they may be forced to resign.

Second, Clinton was a person with a personal weakness, which others exploited for political purposes. Nixon, was more avaricious of power, and more corrupt, but he believed in the American system of democracy. In his mind, he was like a pitcher, who generally supported the rules of baseball, but threw spitballs.

I don’t believe that Bush has any respect for the law, and I put nothing past him. He is capable, as far as I can tell, of suspending elections, dissolving congress, declaring martial law, suspending habeas corpus and engaging in political assassinations. Legal scholars have opined that one of the problems with his defense of domestic spying by the NSA is that there is no logical limitation on the power he asserts.

I have written about how Bush has employed terrorists to secure the 2000 election, and that at least one is now working in the White House.

I say this with full awareness that it makes me sound like an extremist nut case, like one of those guys who thinks they are spying on us from outer space. Anyway, Think Progress is reporting that NSA whistleblower, Russell Tice, is going to expose more unlawful activities against the American people. He predicts, “People are going to be shocked.”

Third, there is a fair chance that Congress will be intimidated into not doing anything about the NSA wiretapping, the data-mining, the lies that led us into the war in Iraq, the incompetence with which it was prosecuted, the corruption scandals (too numerous to name), the propaganda/manipulation of the news, the treasonous outing of Valerie Plame, etc., ad nauseum.

If the Congress doesn’t put a stop to the usurpation of power by George Bush the American experiment in government by the people will be a failure. If the American people do not demand it of Congress, what use have we for a constitution? What hope is there for democracy?

“and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!"

Thursday, May 11, 2006

This is serious.

Today, USA TODAY had a front page article, under the headline, “NSA has massive database of American’s phone calls.”
The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth, people with direct knowledge of the arrangement told USA TODAY.

The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans — most of whom aren't suspected of any crime. This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations. But the spy agency is using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity, sources said in separate interviews.

“It's the largest database ever assembled in the world,” said one person, who, like the others who agreed to talk about the NSA's activities, declined to be identified by name or affiliation. The agency's goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within the nation's borders, this person added.
Is this legal?

It is a good time to review the law regarding this matter.

Pen registers are surveillance devices that capture the phone numbers dialed on outgoing telephone calls. Trap and trace devices capture the numbers identifying incoming calls.

In an increasingly connected world, a recording of every telephone number dialed and the source of every call received can provide a very complete picture - a profile - of a person's associations, habits, contacts, interests and activities. For that reason, pen registers and trap and trace devices pose significant privacy concerns.

The government is attempting to create a database of every call dialed or received in the United States. Though the data will not automatically identify the maker or recipient of any phone call, such data is easily obtained by other means.

The pen register and trap and trace statute, was enacted as part of The Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (“ECPA”), 18 USC 3121 et seq. It governs real-time interception of “the numbers dialed or otherwise transmitted on the telephone line to which such device is attached.”

To get a court order permitting this, a Government Attorney needs only to certify under oath that “the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.” 18 USC 3122-23. The judge is required to issue the authorization. (There is no constitutional or statutory threshold for opening a criminal investigation.)

The court order must be limited in duration to 60 days, and can only be renewed upon a new certification from the Government Attorney for a period of 60 days.

The order shall specify--

(A) the identity, if known, of the person to whom is leased or in whose name is listed the telephone line or other facility to which the pen register or trap and trace device is to be attached or applied;

(B) the identity, if known, of the person who is the subject of the criminal investigation;

(C) the attributes of the communications to which the order applies, including the number or other identifier and, if known, the location of the telephone line or other facility to which the pen register or trap and trace device is to be attached or applied, and, in the case of an order authorizing installation and use of a trap and trace device under subsection (a)(2), [providing for applications by State law enforcement personel] the geographic limits of the order; and,

(D) a statement of the offense to which the information likely to be obtained by the pen register or trap and trace device relates; and

Whoever uses a pen register or a trap and trace device without an order is subject to being fined and imprisoned up to one year.

Section 2702 of Title 18, part of the ECPA, provides that “a provider of ... electronic communication service [including telephone service] to the public shall not knowingly divulge a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber to or customer of such service ... to any governmental entity” without the customer's consent or a subpoena or court order. Under section 2707, carriers face civil liability, including minimum damages of $1,000 per violation, punitive damages, and attorneys fees. Government employees who participated in a violation also may face administrative discipline.

The bottom line is this: If the report in USA TODAY is true, there can be no doubt that the administration has engaged in a huge criminal enterprise, in which nearly every American’s rights have been violated.

President Bush has abused his power and for that, Congress has the duty to impeach.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

From the LA Times: Lewis Surfaces in Probe of Cunningham

Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said.

Read the entire story here.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

What Big Mitch learned from Karl Rove

When John Kerry, a true war hero, who took a principled position in opposition to the war, decided to make that the cornerstone of his campaign, Karl Rove knew what to do. Attack him on his war record, call him a flip-flopper, and accuse him of being un-American. It was sleazy beyond belief, and it worked.

Today’s NY Times poll shows that in only two categories do Republicans poll better than Democrats. Republicans are more likely to “make sure military defenses are strong” (55% v. 29%) and “make the right decisions when it comes to dealing with terrorism.” (40% v. 35%).

What to do, what to do? Go after their strength, not in the sleazy manner of Karl Rove, but rather with indisputable facts.

Here’s some dialogue for three generic Democratic commercials:
We’re the Democrats and we believe in competency, not cronyism. The culture of corruption has made our country less safe than ever. Why? Because Republicans don’t know how to make the right decisions when it comes to dealing with terrorism.

America was attacked by Osama Bin Ladin’s gang of terrorists. Here’s why he hasn’t been brought to justice. [Tape of President Bush saying, “I really don’t think about it that much.”] We need new leadership that thinks hard about the threat that terrorists pose.

We’re the Democrats and we’ll make the right decisions when it comes to dealing with terrorism.
Here’s another:
We’re the Democrats and we believe in keeping our military strong. The men and women in our Armed Forces shouldn’t have to scrounge around in junkyards for armor for their Humvees, while corrupt Republican congressmen take bribes from defense contractors.

Fighting an unnecessary war in Iraq doesn’t make us strong. Doing it on the cheap doesn’t make us strong. And 20,000 American casualties in Iraq don’t make our military strong, either.

Republicans cut veteran benefits, so they can give tax breaks to the super-wealthy. If we are to keep our military strong, we can’t go back on the promises we made to the men and women serving our country, just so the ultra-rich can get richer. Not now. Not ever.

We need you to help us keep our military strong. We need you to vote Democratic.
Here’s another:
We’re the Democrats, and we believe in keeping our military strong. The American armed forces are the mightiest in the world because our soldiers have always been the best trained, and best equipped. And that’s not the only reason. We also have the best intelligence, the best planners and the best generals in the world.

Donald Rumsfeld chose to take the military into Iraq based on lies. He ignored the intelligence that said that Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. He chose to ignore the advice of his generals. When General Sinseki told him we would need more troops to win the peace, he was forced out of the military. The result: we are bogged down in Iraq, and 20,000 American casualties have not kept the military strong.

We’re the Democrats and we need your vote to keep our military strong.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Republican Family Values on Display

Consider this, from yesterday’s NY Times:
Several recent studies, including one by Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health and the Children's Health Fund, reveal that unmet health care needs among [families displaced by Hurricane Katrina] are far worse than any of us imagined.

One in three children in FEMA-subsidized shelters has at least one chronic illness like asthma requiring medical care. Half of the children who had access to medical care before the storm no longer do. And although nearly half the parents in the shelters report that their children exhibit symptoms of emotional or behavioral disorders, the evaluation and treatment they urgently need is almost impossible to secure.

Health isn't the only problem for those languishing in FEMA shelters. Nearly one in four school-age children is either not enrolled in school or misses 10 days of class every month. Many who do attend school in their temporary host communities find the classrooms overcrowded, the staff exhausted and stress levels unbearably high.
And this from CBS/AP:
America may be the world's superpower, but its survival rate for newborn babies ranks near the bottom among developed nations.

Among 33 industrialized nations examined in a new report, the United States tied with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with a death rate of nearly 5 per 1,000 babies. Only Latvia had higher mortality figures, with 6 per 1,000, according to the report by the U.S.-based Save the Children.
Perhaps this explains why, in a NY Times poll, 50% of respondents said that the Democratic party comes closer to sharing their moral values, compared to 37% who selected the Republican party.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Check out Jon Stewart's hilarious coverage of the announcement of Porter Goss's replacement, Gen. Mike Hayden.

Video-WMP --or-- Video - QT

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Don't shoot me: I'm only the Director of Central Intelligence.

Pictured above is Porter Goss and King George W announcing Goss's resignation as Director of Central Intelligence, while National Intelligence Director John Negroponte looks on. Why did Porter Goss resign?

The prevailing attitude seems to be that Porter Goss was a victim of a bureaucratic turf war. The minority view is that he wanted to get out on a Friday, because Monday was reserved for the exit of Dusty Foggo.

Who is Dusty Foggo? Let’s back up a little. Duke Cunningham is the disgraced Republican congressman who is now doing time for bribery. On April 27, 2006, Ken Silverstein of Harper’s Magazine reported:
It turns out the FBI is currently investigating two defense contractors who allegedly provided Cunningham with free limousine service, free stays at hotel suites at the Watergate and the Westin Grand, and free prostitutes.

The two defense contractors who allegedly bribed Cunningham, said the [The Wall Street] Journal, were Brent Wilkes, the founder of ADCS Inc., and Mitchell Wade, the founder of MZM Inc.; both firms profited greatly from their connections with Cunningham. The Journal also suggested that other lawmakers might be implicated.

I've learned from a well-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees—including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post. [Note: Porter Goss was the head of the House Intelligence Committee, before Dubya appointed him to be Director of Central Intelligence.] I've also been able to learn the name of the limousine service that was used to ferry the guests and other attendees to the parties: Shirlington Limousine and Transportation of Arlington, Virginia. Wilkes, I've learned, even hired Shirlington as his personal limousine service.
Wilkes is a long time friend of Dusty Foggo, who, for no apparent reason, was elevated to the #3 spot at the CIA when Porter Goss seized the reins.

Shirlington Limousine Co. was then awarded a $21.2 million contract from Department Homeland Security for “shuttle services and executive transportation support," notwithstanding the fact that the owner of Shirlington, Chris Baker has a lengthy criminal record -- a 62 page rap sheet -- and the fact that when the contract was awarded, the company had lost its DOT authority and its busses had been repossessed.

Now people who know, and especially people who know Porter Goss, say he may have been at the poker parties, but he is not the kind of guy to get down with hookers. So, Big Mitch says, give the guy the benefit of the doubt: he wasn’t involved with the hookers.

Here’s the problem. It’s okay to plead ignorance if you are merely the piano player in a whore house, but it is the job of the Director of Central Intelligence to know what’s going on.

Big Mitch says, if he didn’t know about the hookers, that should be a firing offense.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Friday, May 05, 2006

Pharmacology and Anatomy

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) suffers from gastroenteritis, a disease that causes extreme pain. He sometimes suffers from insomnia, which is much more debilitating than most people imagine. For both of these conditions, he was prescribed medications by the same physician, to wit., the Attending Physician to the United States Congress. At his own home, he took the medication according to the prescriptions, and went to bed.

Ambian, the sleep medication, comes with a warning to patients that it can cause confusion, strange behavior and hallucinations. It sometimes induces somnambulating, and this appears to be what happened to Mr. Kennedy. He drove to the Capitol, thinking that he had to vote on a bill, and was involved in an accident. As one would expect of a sleep-walker, he appeared to be impaired.

Mr. Kennedy immediately made a statement. Here is the entire statement.
Last Tuesday, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress treated me for Gastroenteritis. The Attending Physician prescribed Phenergan, an anti-nausea medication, which in addition to treating Gastroenteritis, I now know can cause drowsiness and sedation.

Following the last series of votes on Wednesday evening, I returned to my home on Capitol Hill and took the prescribed amount of Phenergan and Ambien, which was also prescribed by the Attending Physician some time ago and I occasionally take to fall asleep.

Some time around 2:45am, I drove the few blocks to the Capitol Complex believing I needed to vote. Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication. At that time, I was involved in a one-car incident in which my car hit the security barrier at the corner of 1st and C St., SE. At no time before the incident did I consume any alcohol.

At the time of the accident, I was instructed to park my car and was driven home by the United States Capitol Police. At no time did I ask for any special consideration, I simply complied with what the officers asked me to do.

I have the utmost respect for the United States Capitol Police and the job they do to keep Members of Congress and the Capitol Complex safe. I have contacted the Chief of Capitol Police and offered to meet with police representatives at their earliest convenience as I intend to cooperate fully with any investigation they choose to undertake.
Mr. Kennedy announced the next day that he has battled depression for many years, and that he had recently completed rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic.

“The incident on Wednesday evening concerns me greatly. I simply do not remember getting out of bed, being pulled over by the police, or being cited for three driving infractions,” Mr. Kennedy said. “That's not how I want to live my life. And that's not how I want to represent the people of Rhode Island.” Accordingly, he is voluntarily returning to the Mayo Clinic for more treatment.

He has said he wants to end the stigma of mental health problems, and he has been praised by mental health professionals for being open about his struggles with depression, alcoholism and substance abuse.

“I hope that my openness today and in the past, and my acknowledgment that I need help, will give others the courage to get help if they need it,” he said today.

The reason this note is called “Pharmacology and Anatomy” is because young people who have only known Republican politicians and right-wing talk show hosts need to know: That’s what a pair of balls looks like.

His uncles would have recognized a Profile in Courage, and I hope his dad is very proud of him, as well ought he to be.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Republicans oppose tax cuts!

I am not saying this would have been a good idea, but I found the following paragraph in the New York Times of more than passing interest:
The date was Wednesday, April 26. Inside the Capitol complex, Senator John Thune, a first-term Republican from South Dakota, pressed his idea for a gas-tax holiday before a handful of colleagues who called themselves the Energy Working Group. But the group rejected the idea, leaving aides to the Republican leader, Senator Bill Frist, groping for another way to address the issue.
What so captured my attention was that the Republicans have finally, at long last, found a tax cut they don’t like.

High gas prices are hurting everyone in America, beyond doubt. The summer driving season is sure to create demand that raises prices, and people will have to adjust. Some will stay home, and this will hurt the mom-and-pop businesses and the state treasuries dependent on the tourist trade.

I find it absolutely amazing that the only tax relief that I have ever heard a Republican oppose is one that would effect nearly every single American. Even if you don’t own a car, the food you eat gets to the store where you buy it by truck.

It seems to me that there can be no clearer proof that Republicans are about one thing, and one thing only. And that one thing is transferring wealth from the majority of Americans to the wealthiest few.

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Rush to judgment.

Based upon my 30 years experience as a criminal defense attorney, I thought I might be able to shed some light on what happened to Rush Limbaugh. Of course, my experience has been exclusively in Alaska, and so it may or may not be the same as Florida. It would be great if someone who has Florida experience could weigh in.

First, there are (in Alaska) suspended sentences, suspended imposition of sentences, (SIS) and deferred prosecutions. They refer to three different outcomes.

A suspended sentence is easiest to understand. The defendant is convicted and sentenced to jail. Then the judge says, I will suspend the sentence, or part of it, on the following conditions: submit to urinalysis, commit no crimes, take a course in anger management, or some other conditions. Usually, the conditions include reporting to a probation officer, and in Alaska, they are the same people who supervise parole. (Parole has to do with release after serving a portion of a jail or prison sentence.) A judge can suspend all or a part of a sentence. The judge can also impose a fine and suspend none, all, or a portion of it.

A suspended imposition of sentence is a more favorable outcome for the defendant. When the judge suspends imposition of sentence, the defendant is convicted, but the judge postpones sentencing, which is the entry of the judgment. Again, the defendant is on probation, but no specific sentence is hanging over him or her. The judge says, at the end of the year (or whatever period she imposes) “instead of sentencing you, I will set aside the conviction, and dismiss the case.” At that point, (like Rush if he is successful) the defendant can say, “there has never been a criminal judgment against me; I have no convictions.” If he fails probation, the judge can impose any legal sentence.

Rush got an even better deal. He got a deferred prosecution. In this case the prosecutor says, I will make a deal: I will hold off prosecution, and if you are good for a year (defined as clean UAs, etc.) I will just let the case go, i.e., I will dismiss it. This is a great deal, because the defendant is never even convicted unless he fouls out of the program. Conditions that are regularly imposed include doing community service such as picking up litter on the highway.

Now if you think about it, Rush was arrested. It is likely that his speedy trial rights are implicated. Obviously, he doesn’t want a speedy trial — he doesn’t want any trial at all. So, if Florida is like Alaska, he would have to give an explicit waiver of his speedy trial rights. This might be in a written agreement in the prosecutor’s office.

Most defendants would do anything to get this deal, including but not limited to signing away their speedy trial rights. There are also due process rights connected with speedy prosecution, and these must be waived, too.

Since there is no conviction, there can be no fine, and so, the defendant sometimes agrees to pay “court costs,” which are the same in all but name. If the prosecution is reinstated, and it results in a conviction, the defendant can be fined up to the maximum amount provided by law. (No automatic credit for the “court costs.”)

In Alaska, the fact that there is no conviction means that there is no probation officer. Sometimes this is called “informal probation.” By way of analogy, the defendant’s situation is like a defendant out on bail, in our state system. (Contra: the federal system where the P.O.s also supervise pre-trial release.) Who might Rush be submitting pee to? In Alaska, he would have a private lab fax the test results to the prosecutor. He can afford it.

Now here’s the really interesting part. In the document in which the defendant waives his speedy trial rights, etc., it is normal for the defendant to also waive the privilege against self-incrimination, and admit that the facts alleged are true. He may also admit that the facts contained in the police report are true, stipulate to their admissibility, and that they are sufficient to sustain a conviction. The defendant also waives the right to a jury. The idea here is that if the prosecutor has to re-instate the prosecution, the trial can be completed in less than 5 minutes.

Therefore, if Florida follows the pattern of Alaska, there is probably a document out there, where Rush Limbaugh admits to a very serious crime. Since this stuff is a tad arcane, I don’t know if any investigative reporters are investigating or reporting.

Get on it, please …

“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

Here's a story that has it all

I love everything about this story from Josh Marshal on Talking Points Memo. It has Republicans being corrupt, hypocritical, incompetent, misogynistic, with their strange ideas of family values on display. Plus, it is presented with just the right tone. Here's the kicker: my bet is that Mr. Marshall is spot on in his prediction that there's more to come.
Here at TPM and TPMmuckraker we're trying to keep close tabs on the still bubbling congressional bribery and prostitution scandal involving Duke Cunningham, his briber Brent Wilkes and assorted others. But while we're looking at that, as Justin Rood notes today, Shirlington Limousine company, the outfit that allegedly ferried sundry hookers for liaisons with various political bigwigs, looks to be a bigger and bigger part of the story.

Let's review some of what we know.

Shirlington limo is owned by Chris Baker who has a lengthy criminal record -- a 62 page rap sheet, which we're going to try to post tomorrow. The company has also had something of a spotty record.

According to an October 3rd, 2002 article in the Washington Post, the Bowie State Bulldogs were unfortunate enough to have their team buses provided by Shirlington. And for their trouble, while the team was eating dinner in Atlanta on a trip to play Morehouse, the team's buses were repossessed by ABC Financial Services as they sat in the parking lot.

As the Post put it, ABC called Bowie State Coach Henry Frazier III "on his cell phone while the team was eating to tell him the buses had been repossessed. Frazier said he thought it was a crank call, possibly by one of his players. But, when everyone went outside, the buses were nowhere to be found."

That must have been a fun moment. Would have been fun to hang with Coach Frazier that evening.

Anyway, ABC and Morehouse officials helped the stranded footballers find alternative transportation home.

But apparently Howard University didn't have a great experience either.

They hired Shirlington to provide shuttle services back in 1999. But they canned Shirlington a few months before the incident with the Bowie players down in Atlanta. The problems cited by Howard included "failure to provide copies of maintenance records, failure to provide evidence of workman's compensation insurance, cited on numerous occasions for poor bus cleanliness, poor implementation of two-way communication system, and subcontracted to Thomas Tours without written authorization from the University."

Suffice it to say that Shirlington was doing was our president would call a heckuva job.

And if things weren't looking up for the Shirlington limousine family, they only got worse.

As the Washington Post reported a couple days ago, in 2003 and 2004 Shirlington got eviction notices for an office it mantained in a fancy DC apartment building. Then, as the Post reports, "in September 2004, the company was sued in D.C. Superior Court for $1.8 million, for failing to make payments on buses it bought for the Howard contract. The case was settled last month, with Shirlington Limousine agreeing to pay $300,000."

You might have thought that at this point Shirlington limo was about to give up the ghost. But no. Someone at the Department of Homeland Security could see potential in Shirlington that the folks at Howard and the company's creditors apparently didn't. Because in April 2004, Shirlington bagged a $3.8 million contract with DHS.

Not that everything was perfect yet, mind you. In June 2005, according to Department of Transportation records consulted today by TPM, Shirlington had its Motor Passenger Common Carrier authority 'involuntarily revoked.' They didn't get it reinstated until October 31st of 2005. And just in time. Because according to the Post it was in October 2005 when DHS awarded Shirlington another contract worth $21.2 million for "shuttle services and executive transportation support."

So let's put this all together. Shirlington limo's owner Chris Baker has a long criminal record. He's tight with Cunningham briber Brent Wilkes and reportedly provided the transportation services for the parties Wilkes used to sauce up members of Congress and various intel folks as well as get them set up with hookers. Only, aside from squiring Duke Cunningham around with his daily prostitutes, Shirlington seemed like a really screwed up company. They're getting their buses repossessed, their DOT authority to take people across state lines yanked, and pretty much sued right and left. If Shirlington had taxis and you flagged one down to drive you a few blocks, you might tell them you weren't willing to take the risk. But the Department of Homeland Security, which has various law enforcement and intelligence responsibilities (and if you remember some general thing with protecting the homeland) decides Shirlington is the company it wants providing transportation for its senior-most appointees, the folks who run the place.

Anything sound fishy to you?

-- Josh Marshal