Friday, September 30, 2005

The Blowhards just keep on blathering....

AlterNet
Right-Wing Media Gets Desperate
By Danny Goldberg, HuffingtonPost.com
Posted on September 30, 2005, Printed on September 30, 2005
http://www.alternet.org/story/26178/

Recently, Air America Radio came under attack from the same cast of right-wing media characters who have attacked the network for ideological reasons from day one.

A recent piece in the New York Post by John Mainelli states that, "Air America is in ... bad financial shape." On Sept. 20, Bill O'Reilly on Fox News which, like the New York Post is owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation said that Air America "could be on its last legs."

This is untrue. Air America is in strong financial shape. Last week we started broadcasting from our new multi-million dollar studios.

Several weeks earlier the Board of Directors of Air America's parent company accelerated re-payment of a loan from the Gloria Wise Boys and Girls Club of $875,000 two years in advance of a previously agreed upon repayment plan. In the last several months, Air America has expanded its executive team to augment our efforts on the internet and in affiliate relations.

The pretext for the latest smears is an initiative I launched last week called Air America Associates, in which I asked our listeners to support our programming financially and at various levels offer bumper stickers, tote bags, etc. as a way of thanking them. (We received thousands of responses, far beyond what we projected for the first few days).

Many of our listeners also listen to NPR stations and Pacifica and are used to supporting radio programming they like. I got the idea from the Nation Magazine's program, "The Nation Associates," which helps them fund investigative journalism. Like Air America Radio, The Nation is a for-profit company.

But the conservative propagandists have tried to make it seem like there is something unseemly because Air America Radio is both commercial-and a radio network, as O'Reilly said last night, "I have never seen a commercial enterprise ask their listeners for money-ever." This is also false. The modern model of the broadcasting business involves numerous revenue streams. If anything, Air America has been late in fully building such an infrastructure which the "Associates" is a part of.

For example, Rush Limbaugh's website offers his fans the "Limbaugh Letter" for $34.95 a year and a totally separate service called Rush 24/7 which includes access to archived programs at the cost of $49.95 a year. The Limbaugh site also features the "EIB Store" which sells such items as $19.95 polo shirt which amusingly says, "My Mullah went to G'itmo and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

The Sean Hannity Web-site features a "subscription" to something called, "The Hannity Insider" for $5.95 a month.

But no one tops the self proclaimed non-spinner Bill O'Reilly. Bill O'Reilly.com offers a "premium membership" for either $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year. He also offers a "Gift certificate" for $14.95. Products for sale on the Web site include:

* Radio Factor diner coffee mug available in white or navy blue for $14.95

* O'Reilly Factor keychain for $7.95 "while supplies last."

* Three different "No Spin" tote bags at $14.95 apiece

* Ten different hats at a cost of $16.95 each

* The "no spin" jacket for $79.95

* The " Unisex Black Fleece" embroidered with "The Spin Stops Here" for $39.95

* Several bumper stickers including one that reads "Boycott France" for $2.50

* License plate frame for $18.95
* Three different "No Spin" tote bags at $14.95 each

* An O'Reilly Factor Gear Bag at $64.95

* "Mens Garment Bag" for $64.95 (sorry ladies!)

* A "Spin Stops Here" organizer briefcase

* A "Spin Stops Here" pen and pad bundle for $19.95

* Two different designs of "Spin Stops Here" doormats for $49.95 and

* Two different "Rain Stops Here" umbrellas at $24.95("Show everyone who protects you from the rain")

Mainelli's article also repeated another falsehood about Air America saying "More recently the 70 station left network has been suffering lower ratings." His corporate cousin O'Reilly wishfully stated on August 17 said "Air America-nobody is listening to it," On Aug 3rd O'Reilly claimed that "Air America cannot support itself because of low ratings," and on July 26 O'Reilly said "The Air America radio network continues to fail with catastrophic ratings here in New York City. "

In fact, the ratings for the Bill O'Reilly radio show in New York were worse than those on Air America that he described as "catastrophic" In the key 25 to 54 year demographic which talk radio offers to advertisers, the Spring, 2005 Arbitron ratings showed that Monday to Friday from 2 to 4 PM when O'Reilly is on WOR-AM and which at Air America's 1190 WLIB-AM contains the last hour of "The Al Franken Show" and the first hour of "The Randi Rhodes Show," that O'Reilly had a .3 share and Air America a .4 share. O'Reilly had a cumulative audience of 75,400 and Air America had a cumulative audience of 89,300.

Inevitably ratings go up and down and vary from time slot to time slot and from market to market. Right wing bloggers have had fun cherry picking isolated pieces of ratings reports to distort the enormous enthusiasm Air America's growing audience has demonstrated. At the vast majority of our affiliates Air America ratings are up. On a nation-wide basis the most recent Arbitron ratings Spring 2005 book showed that our affiliates reach over three million people per week each of whom listens for an average of several hours a week. This is more than triple the amount of people who were listening when measured one year earlier in the Spring, 2004 book.

I do not intend to write something every time something like this happens. In the almost six months during which I have been CEO of Air America Radio, I have refrained, for the most part, from responding to the litany of attacks, lies, half-truths and smears from various members of the right-wing media. In general, it seems to me that paying too much attention to these people only encourages them and that we, at Air America, need to get used to the fact that the spirited progressive opinions of our on-air talent and of our audience will attract the kind of mean-spirited smears that are endemic to contemporary political conversation.

After having a near monopoly on talk radio for so many years, some conservative media types are literally freaked out at confronting robust, persistent and passionate opposition. On Sept. 26, O'Reilly desperately claimed that "Air America's basic flaw is that "Americans do not want to hear that their country sucks 24 hours a day." Of course the talent and management of Air America have a love of our country which is what animates all passionate debate on political issues form the left, right and center.

It is an obsession with stifling debate --even at the cost of using lies and distortions, which is un-American.

Danny Goldberg is the CEO of Air America Radio.

© 2005 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/26178/

Incompetent and Corrupt

Administration Nominee to Relief Agency Draws Criticism
By Ken Silverstein
Times Staff Writer

5:36 PM PDT, September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON — Less than a month after the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency stepped down amid accusations of cronyism and incompetence, the Bush administration is being assailed for nominating another political ally to head a key agency for responding to foreign disasters.

One leading international relief group publicly is opposing the appointment of Ellen Sauerbrey to the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, and others have expressed private concerns over her lack of experience in emergency response work.

Sauerbrey, a former member of the Republican National Committee who was Bush's Maryland state campaign chairwoman in 2000, is serving as the U.S. representative to the U.N. commission on the status of women.

If confirmed by the Senate, which has not set a date for a hearing, Sauerbrey would head an agency with a $700 million annual budget that has responsibility for coordinating the U.S. government's response to refugee crises during natural disasters and wars.

The bureau coordinates with private and international organizations, such as the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to help set up refugee camps for victims of war and natural disasters and to ensure that they receive sufficient food and other aid. It has helped confront refugee crises around the globe, including in war-torn regions such as Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in Southeast Asia following the tsunami earlier this year.

While appointing political allies to government jobs is a time-honored tradition in Washington, the refugee bureau is a complex agency with a broad portfolio. Past administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have generally turned to someone with technical expertise to head it.

Sauerbrey was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 1978 and has been a conservative political activist for decades, but she has no direct experience mobilizing responses to humanitarian emergencies.

"This is a job that deals with one of the great moral issues of our time," said Joel R. Charny of Washington-based Refugees International, which is opposing Sauerbrey's nomination. "This is not a position where you drop in a political hack."

He and critics from other relief organizations -- who declined to be identified because they work closely with or receive funding from the bureau -- have pointed to the controversy over former FEMA director Michael D. Brown, who resigned Sept. 12 after his lack of disaster experience became an issue in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. His agency's disorganized response to a major catastrophe widely was disparaged.

Sauerbrey's nomination came Aug. 31, two days after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast.

"I don't want to say this is Michael Brown redux," Charny said, "but what qualifications does she have to deal with the core issue of refugees? The answer is none."

Erin Healy, a White House spokeswoman, defended Sauerbrey's qualifications.

"An important focus of the position is not only dealing with the aftermath of conflict and displacement of persons, but the prevention of refugee situations," she said. "Ambassador Sauerbrey understands the importance of stability and democracy, and how they prevent the displacement of persons."

Healy said that Sauerbrey has addressed issues related to refugees in her current U.N. position, because a majority of refugees worldwide are women and children, and that she has gained relevant diplomatic experience and contacts there as well.

"She will be able to build bridges and coalitions to achieve success," Healy said.

Sauerbrey did not respond to requests for comment.

A former schoolteacher and county census director, Sauerbrey, 68, served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1978 to 1994 and unsuccessfully ran for governor in 1994 and 1998. She then became a talk-show host and TV commentator. In 2000, the Bush campaign tapped her to lead the GOP's presidential effort in Maryland.

After the election, Bush named Sauerbrey to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. In 2003, the president appointed her to her current position.

While even critics say she has done a good job as an advocate for women's rights to education and economic opportunities, Sauerbrey has generated controversy with her opposition to abortion.

Earlier this year, she pressed other countries to include language in a U.N. declaration that specifically would have excluded abortion as a component of equal rights for women.

The move drew widespread opposition, and the language was dropped.

Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times

DeLay's serious legal problem

September 30, 2005

The defense for Tom DeLay's TRMPAC (Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee) relies heavily on the notion of "coincidence." Without it, everyone involved is in for a very rough trial.

DeLay set up his Texas operation, but couldn't use corporate contributions at the state level. It was in this context that DeLay's TRMPAC sent $190,000 to the RNC's State Elections Committee. Exactly two weeks later, the RNC's State Elections Committee sent exactly $190,000 to TRMPAC's favorite candidates back in Texas.

Obvious money laundering? It was, to hear DeLay & Co. tell it, just a coincidence. Unfortunately for TRMPAC, some are straying from the party line.

Prosecutors are expected to seize upon the testimony of one defense witness in the civil case, Charlie Spies, a former attorney for the Republican National Committee.

In one exchange during that trial, Spies was asked to add up a series of contributions that were made to TRMPAC and a series of contributions that the Republican National Committee made to legislative candidates in Texas. Both lists added up to $190,000.

"That was pure coincidence?" asked the lawyer for the Democrats, Cris Feldman.

"I don't think I'd use the word 'coincidence,' " Spies replied.

Spies, who could not be reached, acknowledged during his testimony that the donations from the Republican National Committee to the legislative candidates were unusually large. He said that happened when "people we care about" made the request — and DeLay, he testified, would qualify. (emphasis added)

And as if that weren't bad enough, DeLay can't seem to keep basic facts straight when it comes to the grand jury proceedings that led to his indictment.

read more »

The day after U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's grand jury indictment, his lawyer and the jury foreman on Thursday appeared to contradict the Texas politician's assertions that he was not given a chance to speak before the jury.

The foreman, William M. Gibson Jr., a retired state insurance investigator, said the Travis County grand jury waited until Wednesday, the final day of its term, to indict him because it was hoping he would accept jurors' invitation to testify.

DeLay said in interviews that the grand jury never asked him to testify.

In a Wednesday night appearance on MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, he said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle never talked to him or asked him to testify.

"Never asking me to testify, never doing anything for two years," DeLay said in the interview. "And then, on the last day of his fourth or sixth grand jury, he indicts me. Why? Because his goal was to make me step down as majority leader."

On Thursday, DeLay said in another broadcast interview that he was under the impression that he wasn't going to be indicted because he hadn't been called to testify before the grand jury.

"I have not testified before the grand jury to present my side of the case, and they indicted me," said DeLay, according to the Associated Press.

This is just sad. DeLay was running all over town this week, using this as proof that Earle was running an improper investigation. And it was all a lie — even according to his own lawyer. One can't help but wonder what else he's been lying about.

And speaking of the grand jury, jury foreman William Gibson, a former sheriff's deputy who has publicly praised Tom DeLay, isn't fond of the criticism that Republicans have made against him and his colleagues.

The grand jury foreman also takes great exception to accusations that he and 11 other grand jury members followed the lead of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle instead of following the evidence.

"It was not a rubber stamp deal. It was not an overnight deal. If we needed extra information, it was provided to us," Gibson said. […]

Gibson thinks there is enough evidence to convict Delay. "We would not have handed down an indictment. We would have no-billed the man, if we didn't feel there was sufficient evidence," said Gibson.

DeLay better have an awfully good legal team. With all the high-profile Republicans under criminal investigation (DeLay, Frist, Rove, Libby, Cunningham, Safavian), is there a concern that DC might run out of conservative criminal defense attorneys?


September 30, 2005

The Way It Is
By
PAUL KRUGMAN

Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader, is under investigation by the
Securities and Exchange Commission. He sold all his stock in HCA, which his
father
helped found, just days before the stock plunged. Two years ago, Mr. Frist
claimed that he did not even know if he owned HCA stock.

According to a new U.S. government index, the effect of greenhouse gases is
up 20 percent since 1990.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a 33-year-old Wall Street insider with little experience
in regulation but close ties to drug firms, was made a deputy commissioner
at the F.D.A. in July. (This story, picked up by Time magazine, was
originally reported by Alicia Mundy of The Seattle Times.)

The Arctic ice cap is shrinking at an alarming rate.

Two of the three senior positions at the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration are vacant. The third is held by Jonathan Snare, a former
lobbyist.
Texans for Public Justice, a watchdog group, reports that he worked on
efforts to keep ephedra, a dietary supplement that was banned by the F.D.A.,
legal.

According to France's finance minister, Alan Greenspan told him that the
United States had "lost control" of its budget deficit.

David Safavian is a former associate of Jack Abramoff, the recently indicted
lobbyist. Mr. Safavian oversaw U.S. government procurement policy at the
White
House Office of Management and Budget until his recent arrest.

When Senator James Inhofe, who has called scientific research on global
warming "a gigantic hoax," called a hearing to attack that research, his
star witness
was Michael Crichton, the novelist.

Mr. Safavian is charged with misrepresenting his connections with
lobbyists - specifically, Mr. Abramoff - while working at the General
Services Administration.
A key event was a lavish golfing trip to Scotland in 2002, mostly paid for
by a charity Mr. Abramoff controlled. Among those who went on the trip was
Representative
Bob Ney of Ohio.

It's not possible to attribute any one weather event to global warming. But
climate models show that global warming will lead to increased hurricane
intensity,
and some research indicates that this is already occurring.

Tyco paid $2 million, most going to firms controlled by Mr. Abramoff, as
part of its successful effort to preserve tax advantages it got from
shifting its
legal home to Bermuda. Timothy Flanigan, a general counsel at Tyco, has been
nominated for the second-ranking Justice Department post.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is awash in soldiers and
police. Nonetheless, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has hired
Blackwater
USA, a private security firm with strong political connections, to provide
armed guards.

Mr. Abramoff was indicted last month on charges of fraud relating to his
purchase of SunCruz, a casino boat operation. Mr. Ney inserted comments in
the
Congressional Record attacking SunCruz's original owner, Konstantinos "Gus"
Boulis, placing pressure on him to sell to Mr. Abramoff and his partner,
Adam
Kidan, and praised Mr. Kidan's character.

James Schmitz, who resigned as the Pentagon's inspector general amid
questions about his performance, has been hired as Blackwater's chief
operating officer.

Last week three men were arrested in connection with the gangland-style
murder of Mr. Boulis. SunCruz, after it was controlled by Mr. Kidan and Mr.
Abramoff,
paid a company controlled by one of the men arrested, Anthony "Big Tony"
Moscatiello, and his daughter $145,000 for catering and other work. In court
documents,
questions are raised about whether food and drink were ever provided.
SunCruz paid $95,000 to a company in which one of the other men arrested,
Anthony
"Little Tony" Ferrari, is a principal.

Iraq's oil production remains below prewar levels. The Los Angeles Times
reports that mistakes by U.S. officials and a Halliburton subsidiary, which
was
given large no-bid reconstruction contracts, may have permanently damaged
Iraq's oilfields.

Tom DeLay, who stepped down as House majority leader after his indictment,
once called Mr. Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." Mr.
Abramoff
funneled funds from clients to conservative institutions and causes. The
Washington Post reported that associates of Mr. DeLay claim that he severed
the
relationship after Mr. Boulis's murder.

Public health experts warn that the U.S. would be dangerously unprepared for
an avian flu pandemic.

Possted by Miriam V.
As Walter Cronkite used to say, That's the way it is.

Hammer Slammer Ding-Dong

Merry Christmas! There is a G-D! And other reactions to the Tom DeLay criminal indictment

by Laura Rozen
September 30th, 2005 10:43 AM

Recently indicted House majority leader Tom DeLay isn't slated to go on trial in Texas until October 21, and who knows what a jury will decide. No matter. DeLay's being charged on one count of criminal conspiracy to violate state fundraising laws—along with lots of other recent troubles for the GOP—has lifted Democrats, and Republican critics of the Bush administration, out of the political depression that has befallen them since the 2004 presidential elections. "The Delay indictment leads me to believe that the goddess justice may still be alive," e-mails one veteran Hill staffer, a Democrat.
Here's a roundup of reactions:

"MEGA CHEERS to the fall of Tom Delay. I will never, EVER, get a buzz like the one I got when I read the news of his indictment," blogged Daily Kos contributor Bill in Portland, Maine. "I tasted colors. I heard flavors. I saw sounds. I floated. And I don't remember this part, but there's a $500 fine on my dining room table for "...riding a burro naked down Forest Avenue while yelling `Take that, beeotch!' It's weird because normally I don't say anything during my commute."

"The Bug Man Gets Indicted," screams the blog headline by Democratic Leadership Council strategist Ed Kilgore:


The really big picture is that all sort of chickens are now coming home to roost for the GOP. You can hear them clucking all over Washington: in the White House, where the FBI investigation of Jack Abramoff is now penetrating the previously impermeable heart of Bush Era politics and policy; in the conservative commentariat, which is now torn between defending the Republican establishment and accusing it of betraying its principles; and in Congress, where DeLay's troubles are creating a power vaccum among GOPers for whom power has been the only unifying principle.
More and more, the Bush Era is beginning to resemble the Harding Era, without the humanizing features of sex and liquor.

"Has Bush Lost Congress?" asked Washington Post White House briefing blogger Dan Froomkin. "His second-term agenda is in shambles. His spending plan for Hurricane Katrina has torn his party apart. Support for his increasingly unpopular war is eroding. His political capital is spent. And now he's lost his Hammer."

"The Republicans are crumbling," the top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi at a news conference Thursday. "They are corrupt. They act in a corrupt way. They have a culture of corruption here. It is about cronyism. It is about favoritism to their friends in contracting, cronyism in hiring, it is about incompetence. "And that," Pelosi said, "is from here to the White House."

"The DeLay court date set," New Republic writer Michael Crowley blogged Thursday. "Can't imagine there'll be much press coverage. . . "

Marshall Wittmann, a former Christian Coalition strategist and John McCain advisor now a fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council, blogged under his handle Bull Moose writes of "the Gathering Storm":


Although he is not predicting it, the Moose suggests that the Democrats could possibly win back control over the House of Representatives and maybe even the Senate in the 2006 elections. Each day, as yesterday revealed, the Congressional Republicans more and more resemble the House Democrats of a decade ago—an entrenched crony establishment out of touch with the country and even their own principles. The popularity numbers of the Congressional GOP are in the tank. Democrats have a significant lead in most generic Congressional match-ups with the Republicans."
"There's no way God likes me this much," gushed liberal blogger Atrios.




..

Republicans block flu shots

Pandemic fears escalate
Gerard Aziakou in New York
01oct05

THE United Nations yesterday announced plans to ratchet up its battle plan for an expected human bird flu pandemic that could kill up to 150 million people, naming a special co-ordinator to lead a global strategy to contain it.

UN chief Kofi Annan appointed David Nabarro, a Briton who is one of the leading World Health Organisation's public health experts, as senior UN co-ordinator for avian and human influenza.

"We expect the next (human) influenza pandemic to come at any time. It is likely to be caused by a mutant of the virus that is currently causing bird flu in Asia," Mr Nabarro told reporters. "The avian flu epidemic has to be controlled if we are to prevent a human influenza pandemic."

His statement and the UN's announcement coincided with the US Senate passing legislation to add $US4 billion ($5.3 billion) to the US fight against deadly bird flu by stocking up on anti-viral drugs and increasing global surveillance of the disease.

The provision, which was attached to an unrelated fiscal 2006 spending Bill for the military, faces an uncertain future in the House of Representatives.

The Senate vote came as international organisations urged the US and other nations to be more wary of a bird flu outbreak.

Senator Ted Stevens – an Alaskan Republican shepherding the defence spending Bill through the Senate – said he would try to block the bird flu provision. His next opportunity will be when Senate and House negotiators meet to work out a compromise on the defence spending Bill. That meeting has not been set.

Bird flu among flocks in Asia has been growing for several years and outbreaks have been spotted in parts of Russia. So far, 65 people in Asia who are thought to have had close contact with infected birds have died since 2003.

Scientists fear a mutation of its H5N1 virus could make it transmissible among humans, sparking a worldwide epidemic that could kill millions of people.

"It's the midnight hour. We have to get moving on it now, not next year, not after some study group in the White House bangs this thing around for another three months," said Senator Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat.

Senator Harkin – with the backing of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat – wants the Government to spend nearly $US3.1 billion to stockpile enough doses for half the US population. He said there were only two million doses on hand now, enough for 1 per cent of the population.

Two anti-viral drugs have been shown to ease bird-flu symptoms and possibly prevent it. Switzerland's Roche Holding AG makes Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, and GlaxoSmithKline makes Relenza, or zanamivir.

It is unclear how quickly pharmaceutical firms could fill a US order for about 150 million doses.

Under the Senate plan, other funds would be used to increase global surveillance of the disease, increase spending on a vaccine and help states and cities prepare for a large outbreak.

Senator Stevens argued that bird flu "has not yet become a threat to human beings", adding: "We ought to wait for the scientists to tell us what needs to be done."

A UN official said a worldwide drive would be launched to combat a pandemic that could kill half of those infected.

Reuters

Republicans Tell America What They Think Is "Necessary" and "Unnecessary

Despite thousands in Louisiana having lost their homes, jobs, and life's posessions, the Wall Street Journal reports today that HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said that extending health care benefits to hurricane victims is "unnecessary." The public is expected to accept this rationale as an explanation for why, as CBS News reports, the White House is "blocking a bipartisan $9 billion health care package for hundreds of thousands of evacuees" from the hurricanes.

Shocked at the Bush administration's indifference? Don't be - over the last few weeks, the Republican Party has made clear what its priorities really are
in these very terms. Just take a look at what we now know the GOP thinks is "necessary" and "unnecessary" in the wake of the worst natural disaster in American history:

"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - NEW TAX CUTS FOR THE WEALTHY: The Financial Times reports that the White House is still saying that President Bush's "tax cuts still need to be made permanent" even with skyrocketing costs for Gulf Coast reconstruction and the Iraq War. Similarly, the Associated Press reports that "Hurricane Katrina means long-planned Republican tax cuts will be delayed but not abandoned." Then-House Majrority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) said, "We found that there's plenty of time to do everything that we want to do."

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - STOPPING $336 BILLION IN NEW TAX CUTS FOR MILLIONAIRES: In his first nationally-televised interview after Hurricane Katrina - with Americans literally still drowning, starving and fighting for their lives in New Orleans - President Bush reiterated to ABC's Diane Sawyer that he would refuse to rescind his previous tax cuts. Over the next five years, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans - those who make an average of $1 million a year - are slated to receive $336 billion in new Bush tax cuts.

"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CUTTING PROGRAMS THAT SERVE MILITARY FAMILIES: The Navy Times reports that congressional Republicans are pushing a post-Katrina proposal that would force troops to "accept reduced health care benefits for their families" and closures of elementary and secondary schools that serve children of soldiers.

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - STOPPING $200 BILLION IN NEW TAX CUTS FOR MILLIONAIRES: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that even after Hurricane Katrina, the GOP is poised to permit two new tax provisions to pass that would cost roughly $200 billion. These provisions primarily benefit the wealthy. As CBPP notes, "The highly respected Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center reports that households with incomes of more than $1 million a year — the richest 0.2 percent of the U.S. population — already are receiving tax cuts averaging $103,000 this year, before these two new tax cuts take effect. The Tax Policy Center finds that the two tax-cut measures in question will give these millionaires nearly another $20,000 a year in tax cuts, when the measures are phased in fully."

"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - INCREASING AUDITS OF THE WORKING POOR: The Washington Post reports that congressional Republicans are pushing a post-Katrina proposal to increase audits of those working poor who receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. EITC tax fraud is estimated to account for just just 3 percent of the billions in missing tax revenue each year.

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CRACKING DOWN ON WEALTHY AND CORPORATE TAX CHEATS: Even as they push to increase audits of the poor, the Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum notes the GOP "doesn't seem to think that increasing the IRS budget to go after that other $250 billion is worth thinking about." That's right - none of the Republicans' proposals include any discussion of recovering revenue for Gulf Coast reconstruction by cracking down on corporate and wealthy tax cheats.

"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - SKEWING TAX RELIEF FOR VICTIMS TO THE WEALTHY: The Associated Press reported that when Congress recently passed a package of tax breaks for hurricane victims, many provisions "would do more for wealthier taxpayers." For instance, the Washington Post reported that "national gambling companies would be granted access to millions of dollars in tax breaks" under President Bush's proposal.

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - INDEPENDENT COMMISSION TO FIND OUT WHAT WENT WRONG: AP reported two weeks ago that Senate Republicans scuttled Democratic efforts "to establish an independent, bipartisan panel patterned after the 9/11 Commission to investigate what went wrong with federal, state and local governments' response to Hurricane Katrina."

"NECESSSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - MORE OIL INDUSTRY TAX BREAKS: The Hill Newspaper reports that congressional Republicans are planning to use the Gulf Coast disaster as an excuse to push another energy bill, chock full of tax breaks and regulatory waivers for the oil industry.

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - CRACKING DOWN ON OIL INDUSTRY PROFITEERING: So far, congressional Republicans and the White House have rejected Democratic calls to institute a windfall profits tax on the oil industry profiteers who are using Katrina to bilk consumers. Polls show the public strongly supports a windfall profits tax.

"NECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - LOWERING WORKERS' WAGES: Immediately after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush signed an executive order suspending the Davis-Bacon law in the Gulf Coast. The law forces federal contractors to pay their workers the prevailing wages in a given area. Now, contractors, who are once again receiving no-bid contracts from the Bush administration, can take billions in taxpayer cash while lowering workers' wages.

"UNNECESSARY" FOR THE GOP AFTER KATRINA - TAKING FEMA DIRECTOR OFF THE FEDERAL PAYROLL: CNN this week reported that FEMA official Mike Brown, who supposedly left the government after his mishandling of the Katrina aftermath, is still "being paid as a consultant to help FEMA assess what went wrong in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina."

What more can you really say? The GOP has made clear where it stands on most of the major issues facing this country. It is up to us to simply let Americans know how far out of the mainstream these right-wing zealots have gone. That shouldn't be too hard - as you can see here, the story really tells itself.

New York Times Reporter Miller to Testify in CIA Leak Probe


Sept. 30 (Bloomberg) -- New York Times reporter Judith Miller was freed from jail after 85 days yesterday and agreed to testify in a CIA leak investigation after her confidential source, Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide, released her from a secrecy agreement, her newspaper said.

Miller, 57, said in a written statement that she will testify today before a grand jury ``because my source has now voluntarily and personally released me from my promise of confidentiality regarding our conversations.''

Her statement didn't reveal the name of her source. The Times reported on its Web site last night that people officially briefed on the case identified him as Lewis Libby, Cheney's chief of staff.

Miller's agreement to testify suggests that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is winding up his investigation into whether someone in President George W. Bush's administration revealed the name of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame to reporters in July 2003. The probe also has ensnared Karl Rove, Bush's deputy chief of staff and longtime political adviser. He was named by a Time magazine reporter as a confidential source, though not as one who disclosed Plame's identity.

Fitzgerald said in court papers in June that the probe is mostly complete except for an interview of Miller and Time's Matthew Cooper. Cooper testified in July, and the grand jury's term ends in October.

In addition to the probe into who revealed Plame's name, Fitzgerald is investigating whether administration officials made false statements during the course of the investigation.

`Honored Principle'

Miller said that she ``went to jail to preserve the time- honored principle that a journalist must respect a promise not to reveal the identity of a confidential source.''

``It's good to be free,'' she said in her statement.

Miller's lawyers reached agreement with Fitzgerald ``regarding the nature and scope of my testimony, which satisfies my obligation as a reporter to keep faith with my sources,'' she said.

New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said that initially Miller ``had only a generic waiver'' of her vow not to reveal her source, ``and she believed she had ample reason to doubt it had been freely given. In recent days, several important things have changed that convinced Judy that she was released from her obligation.''

The newspaper said on its Web site that Miller's lawyers had ``intense negotiations'' with Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, that were ``sometimes strained.''

Negotiations

Miller and Libby talked by phone this month and Libby released her from the confidentiality promise regarding their 2003 conversation, the paper said. Libby asserted he gave his waiver more than a year ago, the Times said.

Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the newspaper, said in a statement last night that, ``We are very pleased that she has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver, both by phone and in writing, releasing her from any claim of confidentiality and enabling her to testify.''

White House spokesman Ken Lesaius declined to comment, citing the continuing investigation.

Genesis

The case was sparked by a July 14, 2003, syndicated newspaper column by Robert Novak which revealed Plame's name and CIA association. He cited ``two senior administration officials'' as saying Plame was responsible for sending her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, on a mission to Niger to look into claims Iraq was trying to obtain uranium yellowcake for nuclear weapons.

Plame also was named in a Time.com report written by Cooper and published July 17, 2003.

A week before, Wilson wrote an opinion article published in the New York Times criticizing the administration's decision to go to war with Iraq and saying some of the intelligence used to justify the March 2003 invasion had been ``twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat.'' He has accused the Bush administration of leaking his wife's name to intimidate him and other critics.

It is a federal crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert agent, and the CIA asked for an investigation. After the Justice Department formally opened a probe, Bush said he ordered his staff to cooperate with investigators and vowed to fire anyone who committed a crime by leaking the agent's name.

According to the Washington Post, Libby in 2004 offered waivers of confidentiality to four reporters: Cooper, of Time, Tim Russert of NBC, and Walter Pincus and Glenn Kessler of the Post. All four have either testified or given depositions.

After appearing before the grand jury, Cooper wrote in Time that while he learned from Rove that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA, the Bush adviser never mentioned her name. Novak has not said whether he has testified or been questioned under oath.

Miller continued to refuse to testify and was jailed. Though she never wrote about Plame, according to the New York Times she met with Libby July 8, 2003, and talked with him by telephone later that week.



Thursday, September 29, 2005

After the Love Is Gone - New York Times
The New York Times

September 29, 2005
After the Love Is Gone
By NORA EPHRON

I broke up with Bill a long time ago. It's always hard to remember love -
years pass and you say to yourself, was I really in love or was I just
kidding
myself? Was I really in love or was I just pretending he was the man of my
dreams? Was I really in love or was I just desperate? But when it came to
Bill,
I'm pretty sure it was the real deal. I loved the guy.

As for Bill, I have to be honest: he did not love me. In fact, I never even
crossed his mind. Not once. But in the beginning that didn't stop me. I
loved
him, I believed in him, and I didn't even think he was a liar. Of course, I
knew he'd lied about his thing with Gennifer, but at the time I believed
that
lies of that sort didn't count. How stupid was that?

Anyway, I fell out of love with Bill early in the game - over gays in the
military. That was in 1993, after he was inaugurated, and at that moment my
heart
turned to stone. People use that expression and mean it metaphorically, but
if your heart can turn to stone and not have it be metaphorical, that's how
stony my heart was where Bill was concerned. I'd had faith in him. I'd been
positive he'd never back down. How could he? But then he did, he backed down
just like that. He turned out to be just like the others. So that was it.
Goodbye, big guy. I'm out of here. Don't even think about calling. And by
the
way, if your phone rings and your wife answers and the caller hangs up,
don't think it's me because it's not.

By the time Bill got involved with Monica, you'd have thought I was past
being hurt by him. You'd have thought I'd have shrugged and said, I told you
so,
you can't trust the guy as far as you can spit. But much to my surprise,
Bill broke my heart all over again. I couldn't believe how betrayed I felt.
He'd
had it all, he'd had everything, and he'd thrown it away, and here's the
thing: it wasn't his to throw away. It was ours. We'd given it to him, and h
e'd
squandered it.

Years passed. I'd sit around with friends at dinner talking about How We Got
Here and Whose Fault Was It? Was it Nader's fault? Or Gore's? Or Scalia's?
Even Monica got onto the list, because after all, she delivered the pizza,
and that pizza was truly the beginning of the end. Most of my friends had a
hard time narrowing it down to a choice, but not me: only one person was at
fault, and it was Bill. I drew a straight line from that pizza to the war.
The way I saw it, if Bill had behaved, Al would have been elected, and
thousands and thousands of people would be alive today who are instead dead.

I bring all this up because I bumped into Bill the other day. I was watching
the Sunday news programs, and there he was. I have to say, he looked good.
And he was succinct, none of that wordy blah-blah thing that used to drive
me nuts. He'd invited a whole bunch of people to a conference in New York
and
they'd spent the week talking about global warming, and poverty, and all
sorts of obscure places he knows a huge amount about.

When Bill described the conference, it was riveting. I could see how much he
cared; and of course, I could see how smart he was. It was so refreshing. It
was practically moving. To my amazement, I could even see why I'd loved the
guy in the first place. It made me sadder than I can say. It's much easier
to get over someone if you can delude yourself into thinking you never
really cared that much.

Then, later in the week, I was reading about Bill's conference, and I came
upon something that made me think, for just a moment, that Bill might even
want
me back. "I've reached an age now where it doesn't matter whatever happens
to me," he said. "I just don't want anyone to die before their time any
more."
It almost really got to me. But then I came to my senses. And instead I just
wanted to pick up the phone and call him and say, if you genuinely believe
that, you hypocrite, why don't you stand up and take a position against this
war?

But I'm not calling. I haven't called in years and I'm not starting now.

Posted by Miriam V.
Nora Ephron is a writer and director.

White Lawmaker Likens Black Colleagues To KKK

By MATT GOURAS, Associated Press Writer
Wed Sep 28,12:25 AM ET

A white Tennessee lawmaker lamenting his exclusion from the state's Black Legislative Caucus claimed Tuesday the group was less accommodating that even the Ku Klux Klan.

"My understanding is that the KKK doesn't even ban members by race," said Rep. Stacey Campfield, adding that the KKK "has less racist bylaws" than the black lawmakers' group.

The freshman Republican from Knoxville was rebuffed earlier this year when he asked for the Black Caucus' bylaws and inquired about joining. There are 18 black state lawmakers in Tennessee.

Caucus chairman Rep. Johnny Shaw, a Democrat, dismissed Campfield's request and called him a "strange guy" who was simply interested in stirring up trouble.

"He is using this as a joke. This is an insult coming from him," said caucus member Rep. Larry Miller, also a Democrat. "Why he chose to focus on the Black Caucus, I have no idea other than he is crazy and a racist."

The 37-year-old Campfield defended himself Saturday in a message on his Web journal, or blog, under the heading "I too dream."

The long excerpts from the Rev. Martin Luther King's famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech infuriated some readers. It prompted Campfield to ban reader comments after some of the angry postings included death threats.

Experts on race and hate groups said Campfield hit a nerve when he used King's words to take on a black institution. It's the same tactic white separatists often use, said Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

"Very typically these days we see white supremacists, hate groups, trying to use the words of King and other civil rights leaders to try to advance their agendas," Potok said.

Nightmare for African Women: Birthing Injury and Little Help



September 28, 2005
Nightmare for African Women: Birthing Injury and Little Help
By SHARON LaFRANIERE
KATSINA, Nigeria - Dr. Kees Waaldijk began surgery shortly before 10 a.m. one recent Saturday in a cement-walled operating room in this city near Nigeria's northern border. More than five hours later, orderlies carried the last of four girls to the recovery ward. In the near-90 degree heat, Dr. Waaldijk's light blue surgical garb had turned dark with sweat.

"We are finished for the day," he barked.

It was the last thing the dozen girls who squatted in the open-air corridor outside wanted to hear. Leaping up, tracking wet footprints and soaked skirts across the floor, they besieged the towering, white-haired surgeon, holding out orange case files, their names scrawled on them in black marker.

"Big eyes, with a question mark: 'When is it my turn?' " he said later in his office, filled with medical books, suture-filled suitcases and damp socks and T-shirts hung on chairs to dry. He held up his hands. "The eyes are following you everywhere you go. I tell them it is one man, two hands and many women."

What brings the girls to Dr. Waaldijk - and him to Nigeria - is the obstetric nightmare of fistulas, unknown in the West for nearly a century. Mostly teenagers who tried to deliver their first child at home, the girls failed at labor. Their babies were lodged in their narrow birth canals, and the resulting pressure cut off blood to vital tissues and ripped holes in their bowels or urethras, or both.

Now their babies were dead. And the would-be mothers, their insides wrecked, were utterly incontinent. Many had become outcasts in their own communities - rejected by their husbands, shunned by neighbors, too ashamed even to step out of their huts.

Until this decade, outside nations that might be able to help effectively ignored the problem. The last global study, in which the World Health Organization estimated that more than two million women were living with obstetric fistulas, was conducted 16 years ago.

Nor has a recent spate of international attention set off an outpouring of aid. Two years of global fundraising by the United Nations Population Fund, an agency devoted in part to improving women's health, has netted only $11 million for the problem.

The number of new cases is far outpacing repairs - not just here, but in other sub-Saharan nations like Kenya, Malawi and Uganda. Despite recent strides, said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the Population Fund's executive director, "at the current rate of action it will take decades to end fistula."

Few doubt that the problem is most concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, where poverty and rudimentary health care combine with traditions of home birth and early pregnancy to make women especially vulnerable. In Nigeria alone, perhaps 400,000 to 800,000 women suffer untreated fistulas, says the United Nations.

Dr. Waaldijk , a 6-foot-4, 64-year-old Dutchman who rides a circuit nine months each year from his home in the Netherlands to Babbar Ruga Hospital here and others in rural Nigeria, says he has operated on 15,000 fistulas in 22 years here, repairing nearly all of them.

Obstetric fistulas are easily prevented by Caesarean sections. But in sub-Saharan Africa - excluding the region's richest nation, South Africa - the average doctor serves 6,666 patients and villages are often linked by little more than dirt paths. Many rural women labor fruitlessly for days before being taken, sometimes in a cow-pulled cart, to a road leading to a hospital.

Dr. Waaldijk remembers one patient well. She managed to push out only her baby's head before collapsing from exhaustion in her hut, he said. Her brother carried her, balanced on a donkey, to a road, where a bus driver demanded 10 times the usual fare to take her to a hospital. She half-stood, half-sat for the trip, her dead baby's head between her legs, her urethra ripped open.

"This is what is happening," the doctor said. "Nobody will believe it." The fistulas point to the broader plight of millions of African women: poverty; early marriage; maternal deaths; a lack of rights, independence and education; a generally low standing. One in 18 Nigerian women dies during childbirth, compared with one in 2,400 in Europe, the Population Fund says. A larger share of African women die in childbirth than anywhere else in the world.

Were it widely available, the United Nations agency states, a $300 operation could repair most fistulas. But Mozambique, with 17 million people, has just three surgeons who consistently perform those operations. Niger, population 11 million, has but six, the organization reported in 2002.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country with 137 million people, has eight fistula repair centers, and Dr. Waaldijk, a Health Ministry employee, said he had trained 300 doctors in fistula surgery. Once trained, though, many leave for better paid jobs in wealthier nations.

Nearly 600 women showed up, some arriving in busloads, when international and Nigerian officials staged a 14-day treatment campaign at Babbar Ruga and three other hospitals in February. Three hospitals ran out of beds. The youngest patient was 12.

The oldest, more than 70, had been incontinent for a half-century.

"The health care system is not coping with it," Dr. Waaldijk said. "You go to a hospital and they have no working facilities. You say, 'You need this, this, this and this.' You go back. No water! No water in the whole hospital! You go back again, no lights!

"So where do you start?"

Dr. Waaldijk started here at Babbar Ruga Hospital 22 years ago, after a misspent youth followed by a lucrative surgical practice in Europe mixed with public health stints. Only when he came to this dusty town of open sewers and fickle electricity did he find his life's calling, he said.

With help from government and private donors, he slowly built Babbar Ruga into one of Africa's two biggest fistula centers, a small city of yellow concrete wards and hostels that typically houses 200 patients.

Those recovering from his surgery walk awkwardly about the grounds, catheters emptying between their legs into plastic buckets in girlish colors of pink and purple. Relatives camp by the dozens under the trees amid cooking pots, straw mats and tea kettles.

Dr. Waaldijk still hauls sutures, needles and anesthetics in big black suitcases from Holland to be certain of a reliable supply. He operates partly by the sun, wheeling his surgery table across the room to catch the best light, and personally logs his results on a laptop protected by a backup generator.

More than a third of his patients are 15 or younger; another 30 percent are between 15 and 20. His records indicate that most were married at 11 or 12, before menstruation. Nearly all bring with them tales of hardship, suffering and rejection.

Safiya, 23, was in the post-op ward after living for a year in the hut of a traditional healer who tried to cure her by stuffing potions into her vagina. Daso, 23, said she had leaked urine and feces for five years. Her husband divorced her.

Rumasau, 16, unluckily began labor on a Saturday, when her local hospital had no physician for her. She had to wait until the following Tuesday for an emergency Caesarean section - not an uncommon delay here, Dr. Waaldijk said.

For the few who get help, fistula surgery is life-changing. Zainabu Ado, 19, said she had leaked urine and feces for a year before coming to Babbar Ruga.

"People ran from me, even members of my own family," she said during an interview in Sululu, a tiny village hidden on a barely passable dirt road across the border in Niger. "My husband abandoned me. Nobody talked to me. Nobody visited me. For that whole year I stayed indoors."

At an impromptu gathering this month, Ms. Ado arrived resplendent with beaded jewelry, and her neighbors made room for her on straw mats in the sand.

Problems linger, she said. Her husband never bothered to divorce her, leaving her unable to remarry. She suffers a slight limp from lingering nerve damage. But compared with a fistula, such troubles are nits. "I am completely healed," she said, flashing a smile.

Her village is too small to appear on any map. Yet she is neither Sululu's first nor last fistula patient. She heard of Babbar Ruga Hospital from a neighbor who had undergone fistula surgery there. Ms. Ado, in turn, told Gide Gero.

Four feet 10 and nut-brown, Gide arrived at the hospital in September and spread her mat in the corridor outside the operating room. Her eyes were lively, her smile gap-toothed. She looked perhaps 12, but said she was 16.

Isolation and the traditions of her Fulani tribe governed her upbringing. She never went to school. Once she reached puberty, each suitor was allowed to specify that a decorative design be carved in her face as a sign of his interest.

She said she had fallen in love with one, but her grandfather had insisted that she marry her much older cousin, whom she did not meet till her wedding day. At 13, her grandparents decided, it was high time that she settle down. "Two reasons," her grandmother said in an interview. "She had started menstruating. And she had developed breasts."

Early this July, she started labor on a bed of bound sticks covered with a straw mat. For two days she struggled. Finally it took five hours for two cows to pull her family's wooden cart to the nearest hospital, 10 miles away.

There Gide labored for two more days before managing to expel a dead baby boy. When she discovered the next day that she could not control her urine, she said, she was dumbfounded. As a solution, she learned to wait as long as eight hours before allowing herself a sip of water.

Her fistula, it turned out, was a small one. Twenty minutes after she climbed atop Dr. Waaldijk's operating table, she was stretched out in the first bed in the recovery room, her grandmother by her side.

"She will be fine," Dr. Waaldijk predicted. Fine, that is, unless her next labor begins in the same village, far from medical treatment, as is all too likely. In which case, he said, her affliction will simply repeat itself.

"To be a woman in Africa," Dr. Waaldijk said as he stitched her last sutures, "is truly a terrible thing."



Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Bill Bennett: "[Y]ou could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down"

Addressing a caller's suggestion that the "lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30 years" would be enough to preserve Social Security's solvency, radio host and former Reagan administration Secretary of Education Bill Bennett dismissed such "far-reaching, extensive extrapolations" by declaring that if "you wanted to reduce crime ... if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." Bennett conceded that aborting all African-American babies "would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do," then added again, "but the crime rate would go down."

Bennett's remark was apparently inspired by the claim that legalized abortion has reduced crime rates, which was posited in the book Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. But Levitt and Dubner argued that aborted fetuses would have been more likely to grow up poor and in single-parent or teenage-parent households and therefore more likely to commit crimes; they did not put forth Bennett's race-based argument.

From the September 28 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:

CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.

BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?

CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.

BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.

CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.

BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --

CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.

BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.

Bill Bennett's Morning in America airs on approximately 115 radio stations with an estimated weekly audience of 1.25 million listeners.

The Hammer falls

It isn't just Tom DeLay. The vast corrupt money machine that funded the Republican Revolution is exploding before our eyes.

By Michael Scherer

Sept. 29, 2005 | At its height, the first great political machine of the 21st century worked like this: In Congress, Texas Rep. Tom DeLay controlled the votes like a modern-day Boss Tweed. He called himself "the Hammer." His domain included a vast network of former aides and foot soldiers he installed in key positions at law firms and trade groups, a network that came to be called the "K Street Project." He gathered tithes in the form of campaign cash, hard and soft, and spread it out among the loyal. He legislated for favored donors. He punished those who disobeyed, and bought off those who could be paid.

Conservative activists, who had grown up in the heady days of Reagan's America, patrolled the badlands of American politics for new opportunities. None did it better than Jack Abramoff, a former president of the College Republicans, who had a taste for expensive suits. Abramoff opened a restaurant, Signatures, where the powerful came to be seen and, in many cases, treated to free meals from a menu that included $74 steaks. He pulled in tens of millions of dollars from Indian tribes and the Northern Marianas Islands to help fund other operations -- skyboxes at the MCI Center where DeLay could hold his fundraisers and all-expense trips to Scotland where DeLay and friends could play golf.

Others were drawn into the web as well. Abramoff kicked down money to his old college buddy Grover Norquist, an anti-tax crusader whose role was to keep the right-wing ideologues in line. He hired Ralph Reed, a former advisor to the Christian Coalition, who helped keep the religious right on good terms with the Republican leadership. He hired Michael Scanlon, a former aide to DeLay, as his assistant. He leaned on former lobbying colleagues, like David Safavian, who was working in the Bush administration and could do favors for his clients. Susan Ralston, Abramoff's former gatekeeper and executive assistant, went to work for Karl Rove in the White House.

For a while, the whole operation seemed unstoppable. DeLay, Abramoff, Norquist, Reed and Rove vanquished their Democratic opponents, winning election after election. The loyalty that ensued allowed for a historic cohesion in Congress. Tax breaks passed like clockwork, as did subsidies for favored industries and cuts to long-standing Democratic initiatives. The Democratic Party, which had ruled Capitol Hill for half a century, imploded in confusion.

But the machine may now be coming to an end. The prosecutors have arrived, and they are handing out indictments at a blistering rate. "It's a house of cards," says Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Jack Abramoff has been the ace of spades, but Tom DeLay has been linked arm in arm with him." Now the house is on the brink of collapse, he added. "Everything that surrounded the K Street Project and what flowed from it ... all of that is under intense pressure."

On Wednesday, DeLay was indicted with two aides by a Texas grand jury, accused of flouting campaign finance laws by illegally sending corporate funds to GOP candidates in the state. Two months ago, Abramoff was arrested and charged with fraud in connection with a casino deal in Florida. On Tuesday, two employees of a company owned by Abramoff were charged with murdering the casino's former owner. Last week, the feds arrested David Safavian, who has been working in the White House, on charges of lying to investigators about a trip to Scotland with DeLay and Abramoff. Scanlon, the former DeLay aide who worked with Abramoff, is said to be cooperating with investigators, who are likely to file even more charges.

For those who have followed the machine from its inception, these developments are striking. "It represents the beginning of the end of an era," said Vic Fazio, a Democratic lobbyist at the law firm Akin, Gump and a former California congressman. "A powerful group of people who had consolidated their power in the mid- to late 1990s is now vulnerable to legal attack."

Even some conservatives have begun to distance themselves. "The Tom DeLay machine that he built, there were corruptive elements to it," said Stephen Moore, a longtime conservative activist who sat at the head table at a recent dinner celebrating DeLay's career. Moore, who founded the Free Enterprise Fund, still describes himself as a "Tom DeLay fan," who considers the congressman a "conservative hero." But he has misgivings as well. "All of these guys getting rich off this process rubs some conservatives the wrong way," Moore said. "It's going to be difficult for Tom to recover from this no matter what happens."

Though DeLay may not recover, his machine has not yet collapsed entirely. Late Wednesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert appointed Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republican whip from Missouri and a disciple of DeLay, as the new majority leader. Republicans, meanwhile, began working to portray the torrent of indictments as politically motivated charges against one individual. "Tom DeLay is a tremendous public servant," said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, in a statement. "It is our sincere hope that justice will remain blind to politics." DeLay also lashed out, as is his fashion, saying he was a victim of "one of the most baseless indictments in American history."

Perhaps the best news for Republicans is the relative disorganization of the Democratic Party, which remains weakened after the 2004 elections and lacking a unified message. Democratic politicians, like Rep. William Jefferson, of Louisiana, and Rep. Maxine Waters, of California, also face their own ethical scandals. As one congressional Republican, Arizona's Rep. Jeff Flake, boasted in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, "endemic Democratic ineptitude makes Republicans more attractive when graded on a curve."

But even if the collapse of Abramoff and the weakening of DeLay does not end the Republican reign, it will at least expose its workings. For years now, Republicans across Washington have been scratching each other's backs as they march in lockstep with a unified message. With each release of a subpoenaed e-mail, and every new indictment, more information about the workings of the machine -- and the money that was its lifeblood -- comes to light.

In recent weeks, for instance, Timothy Flanigan, a former attorney in the Bush White House, has been answering questions from Congress about his relationship to Abramoff. Flanigan, who has been nominated as deputy attorney general, went to work for the Bermuda-based corporation Tyco after he left the White House. Once there, he hired Abramoff as a lobbyist to reach out to Karl Rove on a tax issue. According to a report in the Washington Post, Abramoff boasted to Flanigan that "he had contact with Mr. Karl Rove" and that Rove could help fight a legislative proposal that would penalize U.S. companies that had moved offshore. Flanigan oversaw a $2 million payment to Abramoff for a related letter-writing campaign that never materialized. Flanigan says the money was diverted into other "entities controlled by Mr. Abramoff."

The charges surrounding DeLay also concern the misuse of money. The former majority leader is charged with raising $190,000 in 2002 from several major corporations, including Sears Roebuck, the Williams Companies and Bacardi USA. The indictment alleges that DeLay conspired to funnel that money through the Republican National Committee into seven Texas state campaign accounts, where he was helping Republican candidates as part of his effort to redraw Texas voting districts. If the charge is proven, DeLay and his associates would have violated a Texas campaign finance law that prohibits corporate donations to local races.

The ability of DeLay and Abramoff to collect and distribute enormous sums of money was always a key to their success. They used the money to buy friends and crush enemies. They used the money to fund the Republican revolution. As Abramoff told the New York Times in March, "Eventually, money wins in politics."

Those words form a perfect epitaph for a political machine gone awry.


Constance Baker Motley, Civil Rights Trailblazer, Dies at 84


September 29, 2005
By DOUGLAS MARTIN

Constance Baker Motley, a civil rights lawyer who fought nearly every important civil rights case for two decades and then became the first black woman to serve as a federal judge, died yesterday at NYU Downtown Hospital in Manhattan. She was 84.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said Isolde Motley, her daughter-in-law.

Judge Motley was the first black woman to serve in the New York State Senate, as well as the first woman to be Manhattan borough president, a position that guaranteed her a voice in running the entire city under an earlier system of local government called the Board of Estimate.

Judge Motley was at the center of the firestorm that raged through the South in the two decades after World War II, as blacks and their white allies pressed to end the segregation that had gripped the region since Reconstruction. She visited the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in jail, sang freedom songs in churches that had been bombed, and spent a night under armed guard with Medgar Evers, the civil rights leader who was later murdered.

But her métier was in the quieter, painstaking preparation and presentation of lawsuits that paved the way to fuller societal participation by blacks. She dressed elegantly, spoke in a low, lilting voice and, in case after case, earned a reputation as the chief courtroom tactician of the civil rights movement.

Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama and other staunch segregationists yielded, kicking and screaming, to the verdicts of courts ruling against racial segregation. These huge victories were led by the N.A.A.C.P.'s Legal Defense and Education Fund, led by Thurgood Marshall, for which Judge Motley, Jack Greenberg, Robert Carter and a handful of other underpaid, overworked lawyers labored.

In particular, she directed the legal campaign that resulted in the admission of James H. Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962. She argued 10 cases before the United States Supreme Court and won nine of them.

Judge Motley won cases that ended segregation in Memphis restaurants and at whites-only lunch counters in Birmingham, Ala. She fought for King's right to march in Albany, Ga. She played an important role in representing blacks seeking admission to the Universities of Florida, Georgia Alabama and Mississippi and Clemson College in South Carolina.

She helped write briefs in the landmark school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and in later elementary-school integration cases.

Judge Motley was a tall, gracious and stately woman whose oft-stated goal was as simple as it was sometimes elusive: dignity for all people. Her personal approach was also dignified. When a reporter wrote that she had demanded some action by the court, she soon corrected him:

"What do you mean 'I demanded the court'? You don't demand, you pray for relief or move for some action."

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, whose admission to the University of Georgia was engineered by Mrs. Motley's legal finesse, described her courtroom cunning.

"Mrs. Motley's style could be deceptive, often challenging a witness to get away with one lie after another without challenging them," she wrote in her book "In My Place," published in 1992. "It was as if she would lull them into an affirmation of their own arrogance, causing them to relax as she appeared to wander aimlessly off into and around left field, until she suddenly threw a curveball with so much skill and power it would knock them off their chair."

As a black woman practicing law in the South, she endured gawking and more than a few physical threats. A local paper in Jackson, Miss., derided her as "the Motley woman."

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed her as a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York at the urging of Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, a Democrat, and with the support of Senator Jacob K. Javits, a Republican. The opposition of Southern senators like James O. Eastland, a Mississippi Democrat, was beaten back, and her appointment was confirmed. She became chief judge of the district in 1982 and senior judge in 1986.

Constance Baker was born on Sept. 14, 1921, in New Haven, the ninth of 12 children. Her parents came from the tiny Caribbean island Nevis at the beginning of the 20th century.

Her father worked as a chef for various Yale University student organizations, including Skull and Bones. She attended local schools in what was then an overwhelmingly white community.

One of her first experiences with discrimination came at 15, when she was turned away from a public beach because she was black.

She read books dealing with black history and became president of the local N.A.A.C.P. youth council. She decided that she wanted to be a lawyer, but her family lacked money to send their many children to college. After high school, she struggled to earn a living as a domestic worker.

When she was 18, she made a speech at local African-American social center that was heard by Clarence W. Blakeslee, a white businessman and philanthropist who sponsored the center. He was impressed and offered to finance her education.

She decided to attend Fisk University, a black college in Nashville, partly because she had never been to the South. In Nashville, she encountered a rigidly segregated society, and brought her parents a poignant souvenir: a sign that read "Colored Only."

After a year and a half at Fisk, she transferred to New York University. After graduation in 1943, she entered Columbia Law School, where she began to work as a volunteer at the N.A.A.C.P.'s Legal Defense and Education Fund, an affiliate of the National Organization for the Advancement of Colored People that Mr. Marshall and his mentor, Charles Houston, had created in 1939.

After she graduated in 1946, she began to work full time for the civil rights group at a salary of $50 a week. She worked first on housing cases, fighting to break the restrictive covenants that barred blacks from white neighborhoods.

Also in 1946, she married Joel Wilson Motley Jr., a New York real estate broker. He survives her, as does their son, Joel III, who lives in Scarborough, N.Y.; three grandchildren; her brother Edmund Baker of Florida; and her sisters Edna Carnegie, Eunice Royster and Marian Green, all of New Haven.

Mr. Marshall had no qualms about sending her into the tensest racial terrain, precisely because she was a woman. She said she believed that was why she was assigned to the Meredith case in 1961.

"Thurgood says that the only people who are safe in the South are the women - white and Negro," she said in an interview with Pictorial Living, the magazine of The New York Journal-American, in 1965. "I don't know how he's got that figured. But, so far, I've never been subjected to any violence."

Mr. Meredith's admission to the University of Mississippi in September 1962 was a major victory for the civil rights movement. Mrs. Motley worked on the case for 18 months before Mr. Meredith's name was even seen in the papers.

She made 22 trips to Mississippi as the case dragged on. Judge Motley once called the day Mr. Meredith accepted his diploma in 1963 the most thrilling in her life.

She said her greatest professional satisfaction came with the reinstatement of 1,100 black children in Birmingham who had been expelled for taking part in street demonstrations in the spring of 1963.

In February 1964, Mrs. Motley's high-level civil rights profile drew her into politics. A Democratic State Senate candidate from the Upper West Side was ruled off the ballot because of an election-law technicality. She accepted the nomination on the condition that it would not interfere with her N.A.A.C.P. work and handily defeated a Republican to become the first black woman elected to the State Senate. She was re-elected that November.

She remained in the job until February 1965, when she was chosen by unanimous vote of the City Council to fill a one-year vacancy as Manhattan borough president. In citywide elections nine months later, she was re-elected to a full four-year term with the endorsement of the Democratic, Republican and Liberal Parties.

As borough president, she drew up a seven-point program for the revitalization of Harlem and East Harlem, securing $700,000 to plan for those and other underprivileged areas of the city.

After becoming a federal judge in 1966, Judge Motley ruled in many cases, but her decisions often reflected her past. She decided on behalf of welfare recipients, low-income Medicaid patients and a prisoner who claimed to have been unconstitutionally punished by 372 days of solitary confinement, whom she awarded damages.

She continued to try cases after she took senior status. Her hope as a judge was that she would change the world for the better, she said.

"The work I'm doing now will affect people's lives intimately," she said in an interview with The New York Times in 1977, "it may even change them."



Wednesday, September 28, 2005

How To Run For Office

From dKosopedia, the free political encyclopedia.
Information on running for office: state, county, local, what have you...

Table of contents
1 Candidate
2 The Campaign
3 Strategy
4 Campaign Plan
5 Tips & Ideas
6 Local Elections
7 Federal Elections
8 State Specific Elections

Candidate

Running for office is something everyone can do; yet unexplored by many. The breakdown of Candidate requirements is usually Age and nationality. The Constitution, Article I specifically sets precedence for federal elections as follows:

President: Natural-born U.S. citizen, age 35 or older, and you must have lived in the country for at least 14 years.

Senate: Must be at least 30, have at least nine years of U.S. citizenship and be an inhabitant of the state they represent at the time of the election.

Congress: No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen.

The Campaign

The Basic elements of a campaign are:

* Candidate: Person running for Office/Position.
* Treasurer: Manager of Campaign finances and responsible for FEC reporting.
* Campaign Manager: Overall management of campaign, candidate and activities.
* Campaign Plan: Your "Plan of Attack" that defines your message, your campaign and your goals.

It isn't uncommon to have a core campaign manager and a committee of people who help manage activities and ideas.

Netroots: Using the internet networking and community building to build an online presence of campaign supporters. No geographical importance necessary.

Grassroots: A focus on person to person networking focused on efforts based around individuals and participation of constituents in campaign. Usually geographically local to candidate or election. During large elections it isn’t uncommon for supporters & volunteers of grassroots organizations to be bussed around to the areas in need of support.

“Roots” based campaigning is truly gathering of the community spirit and support to help your efforts.

Strategy

Key elements to any campaign are to develop a strategy that connects you with the voters on what is important to you and your bid for office. Many times candidates focus entirely on the issues as they think others view them and are such labeled as "flip floppers" or "opportunists".

Campaign Plan

Writing a plan is one of the most important parts of a successful campaign. "Unless it is in your plan, it doesn't exist". Campaign plans are a living document, but do be concerned with a solid document that is the foundation of your campaign.

The core elements of a Campaign plan are:

* Budget
* Fundraising
* Message Development
* Research
* Targeting
* Paid Media
* Earned Media
* Scheduling
* Direct contact with public
* Volunteer Organization
* Visibility
* GOTV
* Structure & Responsibilities
* Timeline

Don't over-stretch yourself or your plan. Be sure to focus on your audience, focus on your message and be consistent.

Speeches:

Let's face it, you are putting yourself into the limelight as a candidate and will undoubtedly need to make speeches. Often times this can create a sense of anxiety or fear for many but with a little help, practice and experiences you can give speeches that will win people over.

A good speech and way to speak you message will contain the following elements:

Characters & Conflict - Describe characters, the conflict(s) they must deal with and triumph as related to your message.
Obstacle - Show how the characters approached whatever obstacle they were facing in an effort to overcome it.
Resolution - Tell your listeners how it turns out.
Ending - Tie the resolution back to the main point, idea of objective of your message.

Remember these elements as "CORE".

This concept translates well from Business to Pleasure and all the way through politics and stump speeches. You get your message across by being sincere, telling the story,the WHOLE story and how everything turns out. You give your speeches with the idea you represent something that has a relationship to those you speak to. Win people over with some sincerity and relevance to the office you are running for by telling stories and speeches with these CORE elements.

Other Speech Tips:

* Relate personal stories to your message.
* Learn to flow with the listeners. Be creative, funny and witty within constraints of being yourself.
* Be yourself!

Fundraising

The hardest thing for any candidate to do is to ask for money. Don't let this scare you away from running for office. In all honesty there are a lot of people who are more than willing to contribute, even money they don't have, to your campaign if they believe in the message that you are sending.

Campaign fundraising limits:

contriblimits.jpg

Tips & Ideas

While there are as many methods and strategies for running as there are candidates, here are some external sources that can help.

Wellstone Action (http://wellstone.org), and Camp Wellstone. Named after the late Senator Paul Wellstone (D-MN).

The Center for American Progress (http://www.americanprogress.org)

Move On (http://www.moveon.org/front/); their book 50 Ways to Love Your Country is a must anyways, whether you're running for office or not.

Progressive Majority (http://progressivemajority.org/)

The Creative America Project (http://creativeamerica.us) is about inspiring and training artists and creative professionals to assume leadership positions in civic life, including running for local office.

How to Win a Local Election (http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0871317664/104-3199721-5596700?v=glance), a book by Lawrence Grey. A step-by-step guide, with checklists, calendars, and plenty of good information.

Local Elections

Local Elections can be anything from municipal, school board, county and state elections. These are considered the grass roots campaigns that set precedence for the groundwork of the Democratic platform.

Registration for local elections varies greatly upon your district, municipality and state laws.

Federal Elections

Federal elections are held on even number years during the first thursday of november.

How do I register as a candidate?

If you are running for the U.S. House, Senate or the Presidency, you must register with the FEC once you (or persons acting on your behalf) receive contributions or make expenditures in excess of $5,000. Within 15 days of reaching that $5,000 threshold, you must file a Statement of Candidacy FEC Form 2 (http://www.fec.gov/pdf/forms/fecfrm2.pdf) authorizing a principal campaign committee to raise and spend funds on your behalf. Within 10 days of that filing, your principal campaign committee must submit a Statement of Organization FEC Form 1 (http://www.fec.gov/pdf/forms/fecfrm1.pdf). Your campaign will thereafter report its receipts and disbursements on a regular basis. Campaigns should download the Campaign Guide for Congressional Candidates (http://www.fec.gov/pdf/candgui.pdf) for more information on the laws that apply to them.

FEC (http://www.fec.gov) : Federel Election Commission - Campaign finance laws.

State Specific Elections

These guides are geared towards state issues and specific election laws. These will be moved to the individual state pages unless there is something that sets precedence across the board.

California Offices

Illinois Offices

Pennsylvania: Running for Office

South Carolina Offices

Florida Offices

Retrieved from "http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/How_To_Run_For_Office"
This page was last modified 10:30, 31 Aug 2005. All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

Iraqis blast Lynndie England sentence

Iraqis have expressed fury over the three-year jail sentence handed down to Lynndie England, the US soldier notorious for holding a naked inmate by a leash in Abu Ghraib prison.

They said Wednesday's sentence would have been harsher had she been convicted of abusing Americans and added that it exposed US hypocrisy.



"America should be ashamed of this sentence. This is the best evidence that Americans have double standards," said Akram Abdel Amir, a retired bus driver in Baghdad.

"There are Iraqis in jail without any charge, just based on suspicion. But when it comes to Americans, the matter is totally different."

England, 22, was sentenced on Tuesday by a US military court after being convicted of abuse, including being photographed pointing to the genitals of a naked Iraqi prisoner.

Chicken factory worker

The former West Virginia chicken factory worker, who had faced a maximum sentence of nine years, was given a dishonourable discharge from the military.

She is the last of a group of US soldiers to be convicted of abuse at Abu Ghraib, which included her former boyfriend and father of her child, Charles Graner, who is serving 10 years.

"If the abuse was committed against Americans I am sure the sentence would be much harsher. The sentence is nothing compared to what she has done," said labourer Muntasser Abdel Moneim, 30.

The prosecution asked the jury for a sentence of four to six years. England was found guilty on six counts on Monday.

Global outrage

The prisoner abuse scandal provoked global outrage and deepened Iraqi resentment against US troops in the country.

In pre-sentencing testimony, England said she was sorry for her actions but remained an American patriot.

But she is remembered as the US soldier who held an Iraqi inmate by a leash like an animal.


The images of a smiling England abusing naked inmates were especially humiliating in Iraq, a male-dominated society.

"The whole thing is theatre. The Americans want to pretend they defend human rights and are a civilised nation," said Munir Abdel Sahib, a university lecturer.

"I believe that England would not have committed these crimes without orders from above."

Ringleader

In court testimony, England blamed her involvement on Graner, the abuse ringleader, who was convicted of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib.



Graner has since married another former Abu Ghraib guard, Megan Ambuhl, who was charged but received no jail time and stayed in the military.

"There is no justice in this sentence because the pictures were very shameful. She has to get more years in jail and she has to be imprisoned in Iraq," said Najaat al-Azawi, 55, a retired engineer.

Grocery store owner Hussein Ali said the fact that England faced trial was positive but stressed justice was not served.

"It means the Americans can get away with everything in Iraq. Three years is not enough for what she has done."

US forces are holding about 11,800 prisoners at several detention centres in Iraq, including 4000 at Abu Ghraib.

Iraqi families, human rights groups and some Iraqi government ministers, including the justice minister, say too many Iraqis are being wrongfully detained for too long without due process.

Agencies
By

You can find this article at:
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9DF7068A-04EF-4882-98D0-391F05FB0D0B.htm

GOP Ignores Lessons of Democrats' Past Mistakes

washingtonpost.com


By Terry M. Neal
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 28, 2005; 6:27 PM

In response to the criminal charges he now faces, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has offered up the time-honored defense of Washington politicians: My enemies are out to get me.

In a Capitol Hill news conference, DeLay lashed out, calling the Texas prosecutor who brought the felony charge against him an "unabashed partisan zealot" and a "fanatic." DeLay's supporters echoed the theme. House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) -- the man who will fill in for DeLay -- said: "Unfortunately, Tom DeLay's effectiveness as Majority Leader is the best explanation for what happened in Texas today."

It didn't take long for DeLay's supporters to get the talking points. In a statement e-mailed to reporters hours after news of the indictment broke, the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon, leader of the Traditional Values Coalition, said DeLay was "a Christian man" and accused prosecutor Ronnie Earle of exacting "political retribution."

Yet, The Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith reported last year that "Earle, an elected Democrat who oversees the state's Public Integrity Unit, previously prosecuted four elected Republicans and 12 Democrats for corruption or election law violations."

And the Associated Press reported last December that Earle had prosecuted some of the biggest Democratic names in the state, including, "former Texas House Speaker Gib Lewis, former Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, former State Treasurer Warren Harding and former Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Yarbrough."

Buried under a sea of political scandal in the late 1980s and early 1990s, congressional Democrats often evoked the same defense. And it didn't work .

"Common Cause has made itself the handmaiden of a partisan political initiative," Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright (Tex.) complained in a May 18, 1988, press release --the day the nonpartisan watchdog group filed an ethics complaint against him in the House.

Wright resigned the next year in disgrace. Republicans exploited Wright's troubles and a series of other Democratic foibles to put an end to the Democrats' four-decade reign in Washington in 1994.

The reason was simple: It is entirely possible both that your enemies are out to get you and that you did exactly what you are being accused of doing. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.

Ask Bill Clinton.

DeLay is innocent until proven guilty. Yet whatever his intentions, the timing of Earle's indictment couldn't have been worse for the Republican Party. Going into next year's midterm elections, the second most powerful person in the House is under indictment, and the most powerful person in the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist (Tenn.), is being investigated by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and federal prosecutors. In addition, a special prosecutor is investigating whether top White House officials may have leaked the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame to reporters.

On top of that, the White House's top procurement officer, David Safavian, was arrested last week on charges of lying and obstructing a criminal investigation into Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's dealings with the federal government. And Abramoff, once one of Washington's top lobbyists, is being investigated for his lobbying activities on behalf of Indian tribes and his role in paying for overseas trips for DeLay. DeLay has said he didn't know Abramoff paid the expenses.

But with the voting public so inured to political scandal in Washington, all of those things together might not mean much for the party were it not already in deep water with the voters over the war in Iraq, its response to Hurricane Katrina and the summer's spike in gas prices. Bush's approval rating in some polls hovers around 40 percent, and Congress's is even lower.

Amy Walter, who analyzes House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said, "If people were confident about the direction of the country, happy with performance of the White House and Congress, it's not as big of an issue. But when you put it in this in the current political environment, Democrats don't have to work very hard" to damage Republicans.

Walter's comments raise the question about whether Democrats will make ethics and scandal front-burner issues next year. Walter makes another salient point when she points out that approval ratings for Democrats aren't much higher right now than they are for Republicans.

Can Democrats coalesce around scandal and ethics as a unifying theme, after largely failing to do so with Iraq, Katrina, tax cuts and other major issues? Difficult to say.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) fired a shot yesterday, saying in a statement: "The criminal indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people."

But when I called a top Democratic congressional staffer to discuss the broader political implications, the person was skittish and wanted go "on background."

Contrast the Democrats' tepid approach to that of the Republicans of the late 1980s and early 1990s. You could hardly turn on C-Span back then without seeing a pudgy, white-haired back-bencher from Georgia by the name of Newt Gingrich inveighing against the rampant corruption and arrogance of the Democratic party.

True enough, there are Democrats in Congress today with their own ethics problems , complicating efforts to tag the GOP as the party of low standards. But the same was true of the Republicans when they were in the minority party, and that didn't stop them from pressing their case against the Democrats. The bottom line is leaders are always held to a higher standard than back-benchers.

For a long time, Democrats acted like no one was listening or cared. Then came November 1994.

Will Republicans repeat that mistake?
© 2005 Washingtonpost.

Indictment of Republican Tom DeLay a serious blow for Bush agenda



BETH GORHAM

WASHINGTON (CP) - In a serious blow for President George W. Bush, powerful Republican Tom DeLay was forced to step down Wednesday as House majority leader to face a conspiracy charge in a Texas campaign finance scheme.

Bush, who relied on DeLay's tough style to push policy, is already having a tough time dealing with a party beleaguered by the weak response to hurricane Katrina and divided over how to pay for a massive rebuilding project.

Now DeLay's indictment after years of pushing ethical boundaries provides an opportunity for Democrats to pound Republicans on corruption issues in the run-up to next year's congressional elections.

DeLay, know as "the Hammer" on Capitol Hill, came out swinging and proclaimed his innocence after word broke that a Texas grand jury charged him and two associates with violating a law banning corporate contributions to state candidates.

The charge came after a long investigation by Democratic district attorney Ronald Earle that DeLay has always portrayed as a political witch hunt.

"I have done nothing wrong," said DeLay, calling Earle a "rogue prosecutor" and a "partisan fanatic."

"I am innocent," he said. "This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history. It's a sham."

Said Earle: "My job is to prosecute felonies. I'm doing my job."

Republicans expressed support for DeLay as they selected Roy Blunt from Missouri, the current party whip in the House, to fill in temporarily.

The White House also stuck by DeLay, calling him "a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people."

"I think the president's view is that we need to let the legal process work," said press secretary Scott McClellan.

DeLay, who will keep his seat representing Houston suburbs, vowed he'll be back, saying Democrats won't be able to disrupt the party's agenda.

But some analysts don't see it that way, especially since Republicans have other high-profile ethical concerns.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is facing questions about the timing of a stock sale in a family-owned business.

Karl Rove, White House chief of staff, has been embroiled in controversy over the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

And a top federal procurement officer appointed by Bush was arrested this month on charges that he made false statements and obstructed a federal investigation into a golfing junket arranged by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

DeLay, 58, has long been at the centre of controversy. He was admonished three times last year by the House ethics committee for his conduct on three separate issues.

Now a Senate panel is pursuing his ties to Abramoff and questions about who paid the bills for DeLay's expensive overseas travel.

"The Republicans can't focus right now," said Charles Cushman, a politics professor at George Washington University.

"You've got this swirling set of accusations about greed, corruption and graft. This is going to follow them right up to the 2008 election. It's going to hurt a lot."

Democrat Nancy Pelosi, House minority leader, was quick off the mark Wednesday.

"The criminal indictment . . . is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people," she said in a statement.

The indictment accuses DeLay of accepting $155,000 US from companies and funnelling it through the Republican National Committee back to Texas state candidates, violating laws outlawing corporate donations.

It's a state felony punishable by up to two years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

The charge came three weeks after a state political action committee DeLay created, Texans for a Republican Majority, was also indicted on accepting corporate contributions for use in 2002 state legislative races.

John Colyandro, former executive director of the Texas committee, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee, were also charged.

After Republicans gained control of the Texas legislature, DeLay created a federal redistricting plan that resulted in an increase of the Republican majority in the U.S. Congress.

© The Canadian Press, 2005

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