Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life: November 2005 .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Sharpening our wits on the grindstone of Life

Friday, November 18, 2005

Texas GOP promises to be good next time, avoids prosecution

State GOP agrees to corporate money limits

See, I always thought that punishment was supposed to be a deterrent to crime. You do the crime, you do the time. But I guess that's only in the movies. In real life it's about deals. But usually it's about deals where you give up the bigger fish in exchange for a smaller sentence.

With the Texas GOP, however, it's about do-overs. No zero tolerance here. Okay, they screwed up, and got caught. But they promise not to do it again. Honest! And so they go scot-free.

If Texas Democrats got caught breaking campaign laws, they'd be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail. But Republicans have "values", so they're exempt.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of Texas Democrats. There are very few I'd trust with my tax money. Nick Lampson, Richard Morrison, ..... ah, I guess that's about it. My opinion is that anyone who seeks public office disqualifies them automatically.

But to have evidence that the Texas Republicans so blatantly violated election laws, and because of this managed to rewrite the political landscape (including district boundaries) in the 2002 elections, and then walk away with a slap on the wrist, smacks of a double standard of the grandest degree.

The Texas GOP gets a do-over. They have a majority in both the House and the Senate. They've rewritten Congressional Districts that favor Republican candidates by mixing a majority of higher demographic neighborhoods with a minority of lower demographic neighborhoods in each district through strategically drawn boundaries, even thoough overall the poor voters outnumber the rich voters.

And still they get a do-over. No take-backs. Basically, they're agreeing to not break the law anymore, but they're not sorry they did it in the past. They call it a "gray area", and want to save the taxpayers from an expensive trial. How noble of them. After all, they're complicated laws. With all the high-powered lawyers on their payroll, they couldn't figure these high-falutin' laws out.

Just like Arthur Anderson didn't know that Enron was cooking it's books to build up stock value.

So what if the Texas GOP collected over $2 million from corporations to run their campaigns, and spent a good portion of that on activities that they're not allowed to spend corporate money on? It's still a grass-roots campaign, because people work for these corporations, and people buy things from these corporations, and the corporations have to have tax shelters anyway, so why not right-wing political campaigns, right?

The ends justifies the means. Big business got what they wanted. The GOP good ol' boys in Austin got what they wanted. Tom DeLay and his religious right got what they wanted.

So sure, they promise they'll play by the rules next time. Unless they don't get what they want next time. Then, if they can't win by playing by the rules, they'll just break 'em, and change 'em again.

New Plame grand jury sparks hope of Bush brain indictment

New grand jury possible in CIA leak case

In court filings obtained today, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said that the ongoing CIA leak investigation will involve proceedings before a new grand jury, giving us hope that Karl Rove will not escape unscathed for leaking the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press in retaliation for criticism of the Bush Aministration's manipulation of data in the push to war with Iraq.

Although the previous grand jury expired after the indictment of Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, insiders maintained that the investigation of Karl Rove would continue and he could possibly be charged. Unbelievably, Rove continues to maintain the highest level of security clearance in the federal government, despite the suspicion that he committed acts of treason.

Now, the documents show that there may be another grand jury, which means they may have enough information to charge Rove. If this happens, Bush may not be able to protect his friend and mentor from justice.

It's well known that Rove is the brain behind dubya's goofy grin. He took a spoiled rich kid with a history of failed businesses and turned him into a mediocre governor, and then into a completely incompetent president. Without Rove at his side, dubya's legacy will surely unravel and eventually lead to impeachment.

As I've said previously, the dominoes are beginning to topple. Once they get to the end of the line - at the president and VP - then finally we'll be able to take back our government from the theocrats and big business, and restore America to greatness.

Will the real Lobbyist A and Representative 1 please stand up?

Lobbyist charged with defrauding Indian tribes

Michael Scanlon, partner of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, was charged today with conspiring to defraud Indian tribe clients of millions of dollars in a scheme that lavished golf trips, meals and campaign donations on a member of Congress.

Scanlon was charged with conspiring with an accomplice - identified only as "Lobbyist A" - to lavish expensive perks on a lawmaker - identified as "Representative 1" - in order to pass legislation that would benefit the tribes.

As we all know, Scanlon and Abramoff were partners in several scams that convinced these tribes to hire their company, Capital Campaign Strategies, for more than $80 million, to pursue legislation that would give them exclusive rights to gambling activities in their prospective states, while at the same time lobbying lawmakers not to grant these rights.

The fact that this is a criminal information filing instead of an indictment points to a plea deal, which means names, and possibly indictments, will be forthcoming.

So let's play a little legislative bingo, shall we? A-1... bingo! Got it on the first try. Abramoff is obviously Lobbyist A, and Tom DeLay (whom Scanlon once worked for) is obviously Representative 1, as it fits his M.O. and he spearheaded the gambling legislation in question.

Don't take my word for it, however. Watch to see how this drama plays out. There are two possible outcome. One, that Scanlon will become the target of a smear campaign, as happened to Richard Clarke and Joseph Wilson, which is the most likely scenario. Two, that the investigation goes forward, and two of Washington's most powerful movers and shakers will be blown down in the house of cards they've built.

My guess is that Scanlon's skeletons will be broadcast relentlessly in the media in order to discredit him. But let us not forget how closely the ligaments in these skeletons attached him to Lobbyist A and Rep 1 through these dark years of his indiscretions. And how they all contributed to the bodily waste they so freely dumped on the American people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Texan of the Year

Texan of the Year. Such a tough decision. Richard Morrisson, who shows such promise, yet won''t run for office. Tom DeLay, who exemplifies Texas politics, yet is under investigation for illegal campaign contributions and money laundering.

No, I think I'll cast my vote for Kinky Freidman. Kinky has been shaking up Texas politics for years, and now he's making a serious run for Governor of the State of Texas.

His platform?

  • Texas has the 8th largest economy in the world, but we're 1st in drop-out rates and 49th in education spending in the country.
  • Texas ranks rock-bottom in providing for the basic needs of its youngest and poorest residents. More than one fifth of Texas children have no health insurance at all.
  • We're a state that prides itself on friendliness and responsibility, but the message we're sending our kids is that if you're going to be born poor, you'd better not be born in Texas.
That's good enough for me. Although he's controversial and occasionally off-the-wall, he makes a lot of sense, and he's not beholding to any special interests.

And so he gets my vote as Texan of the Year, and as future Governor.

Why the hell not?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

And I thought dubya's presidency was torture

Apparently there are worse things. Reports are coming in of detainees suffering more than just insults. Now there are reports that people suspected of insurgency suffering skin removal and other implements of torture in order to gain knowledge of enemy activities.

I'm all against those who seek to do our country harm, but feel that there's a line that needs to be drawn that seperates them from us, and this line has apparently been crossed.

There are those that say that this is pre-9/11 thinking. I say that if we stoop to their level, we're no worse than they are. If we condone torture of those who may or may not have had anything to do with insurgent activity, then we might as well give up all of our rights as American citizens right here and now.

As it is, the Patriot Act takes away all civil liberites of Americans if the administration suspects that that American's views are contrary to national security. It's only a matter of time until more dissenting Americans are locked up for nothing more than disagreeing with the current administration.

It's not suprising that this attitude is reflected by the Iraqi forces that we're supposed to be training. Rights are something that only the good guys deserve.

I hope there are enough Americans out there who can see that what is happening to these detainees can easily happen to average Americans - detainage without charges or due process of law, and even torture - and they will speak out against the outrage. Let your elected officials know. Show up in force at media events. Anything that will let people know that we in are in dire straiits if things continue the way they are.

This administration is leading us down a path of destruction. More and more people are realizing that. Let's fix that while we still can.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

The land of the free ... unless you're gay

It's official - Texas is homophobic.

Seventy-six percent of the fourteen percent of Texans who voted yesterday said the state shouldm't allow members of the same gender to marry each other. I'm sure they'll sleep better tonight knowing that they're forcing gays and lesbians to live in sin. They're all going to hell anyway, so what's the difference, right?

So as we slide further down the slippery slope toward a theocracy, the political party that used to stand for individual rights and less government intrusion in our lives is now deciding for us how we're to live those lives.

I don't see what they're so afraid of. Maybe they think gaity is contagious. I mean, it's not like the gays are going to reproduce, and lesbians are far less likely to have an aborrtion than the 50% of all straight women who've had at least one.

With all the issues facing us in these troubling and dangerous times, it's sad that the best we can do is to limit the rights of minorities and call it a victory.

I know I'm not as pretty as Tori Amos or as famous as Don Henley, but everyday people have a voice in this government, or at least on the internets, so I'll keep on trying to make my voice heard - at least to the dozen or so of you who read this site. And that voice is saying this: don't give up the good fight. Speak up for what you believe in, even if it's not the most popular opinion. Apparently the majority of Texans believe that granting marriage rights to gays is dangerous enough to ammend the state Constitution to prevent it, but I don't think so. And there are many who share my opinion.

Keep speaking out against injustice, and don't give up. Constitutional ammendments can be repealed - just look what happened to prohibition.

Talk hard. And talk long. Eventually people will listen.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Brazil? I thought you said "brassiere."
I'm outa here!

Bush seeks to improve ties in Brazil meeting

The clueless one once again attempted to impose his will on others in the world, not seeming to realize that he doesn't have the hypnotic powers outside our borders that he seems to wield here at home, and once again is met with hesitation, protesters and violence.

Still trying to revive the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas after being shot down in Argentina last week (figuratively, of course, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation), dubya met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and again came away empty handed.

He doesn't seem to get that they don't want his form of economy, where the power and money is hoarded by those at the top, while everyday citizens get very little of the prosperity.

The memory of what happened to Argentina back in 2001 - total collapse of the country's economy and massive poverty, starvation and the social breakdown that followed - still burns in their collective conciousness. They're not about to embrace dubya's vision of what an economically united continent should look like.

And so they continue to hedge against a U.S. dominated economic ideal, mainly because it's American corporations who will reap the benefits of any trade deals.

More power to 'em.

The Republican economic model continues to fatten corporate profits in America while we still have millions living in poverty, and the middle class continues to sink towards that poverty level. The top ten percent of America continues to get richer, while the majority of Americans struggles to make ends meet while striving towards that top ten percent, and the bottom thirty percent just struggles to survive.

This is not a plan to better the quality of life for all of our citizens. This is a model for increasing the class distinction in our country, where a small percentage of the middle class (based on their ruthlessness) breaks through to the upper class, while the majority sinks into the lower class.

This cements the hold that the upper class has on the economy and social structure that leads to such initiatives as Proposition 2 in Texas, where homophobic pasty old white guys want to deny basic benefits to the chosen beneficiaries of citizens who chose partners of the same genders as their designated loved ones.

As you can see, there are many issues and rights involved here. It's a much bigger picture than just the free trade agreemant. Because of this we must look at all the issues before we pass judgement on the latest of president Bush's forays into Central America. But by all accounts, he's still clueless, and will still be met with resistance, in which his response is typical.

"I expect there to be dissent," he said. "That's what freedom is all about."

When is this guy going to get a clue?

Should Karl Rove keep top security clearance?

Should Rove keep top security clearance?

The short answer is, "no". The long answer is "NOOOOOOOOOO!"

We're talking about the guy who knows all the secrets. He's at the president's side constantly, he's in on all important national security meetings. And he allegedly committed treason by leaking an undercover CIA agent's identity to the press. Not for national security reasons, but in retaliation for her husband's criticism of the administration and for his telling the truth when official policy was to lie to the American people in order to start an illegal war.

Standard procedure on a security clearance is to revoke it on first suspicion of breach of national security (of which outing an active undercover federal agent certainly applies), and then reinstate the clearance if the charges prove to be groundless.

For example:

An intelligence analyst temporarily lost his top-secret security clearance because he faxed his résumé using a commercial machine.

An employee of the U.S. Defense Department had her clearance suspended for months because a jilted boyfriend called to say she might not be reliable.

A U.S. Army officer who spoke publicly about intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks had his clearance revoked over questions about $67 in personal charges to a military cell phone.

For Karl Rove to maintain his security clearance, and subsequently his power, while he's under investigation for criminally using top secret information for political gain is a clear example of how this administration puts it's self-preservation over national security and the good of the American people.

Even Senator Trent Lott, one of the GOP's staunchest supporters of this administration, is questioning why Rove still has his security clearance. So what does dubya do in response? He directs his staff to take refresher training in ethics. Whaaa?

I'd like to be the instructor in that class.

Ethics 101, Lesson One - "Don't do anything illegal or immoral, even if you want to or stand to gain from it." "Now class, stop laughing! We've got to protect our phoney baloney jobs here!" "Okay then, just don't get caught." "Class dismissed."

Rove, like all White House employees granted security clearance, was required to sign a "Classified Information Nondisclosure Agreement" acknowledging that "unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information by me could cause damage or irreparable injury to the United States or could be used to advantage by a foreign nation," according to a blank form posted on a federal government Web site.

The form also notes, "I have been advised that any breach of this Agreement may result in the termination of any security clearances I hold; removal from any position of special confidence and trust requiring such clearances; or the termination of my employment or other relationships with the Departments or Agencies that granted my security clearance or clearances."

Everyone who's ever held a job is familiar with the "up to and including termination" portion of a work rules document. Most of us are in danger of violating this by leaving a fingertip in the chili or falling asleep on the job. Rove, however, is eligible by putting undercover agents, and entire undercover operations at risk of their lives by his disclosure, not to mention the thousands of American lives already lost because of the war started over the lies he was trying to protect. That sounds like grounds for immediate termination to me.

And his boss is falling asleep on the job, but that's no big deal. He can do less damage that way.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Burning issues, burning buildings

Not quite a news flash - the other Americas don't like Bush either. At the fourth Summit of the Americas, he tried to push for inclusion of a plug for the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas in the official communique of the Summit, while his opposition used the opportunity to bash him and his policies.

His most outspoken opponent, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, spoke to the thousands of protesters down the street from the Summit, vowing to bury the FTAA, which he says is good for big business but does little for the millions of poor and unemployed in the region.

Also at odds with Bush is Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, the host of the event. Kirchner hoped to get Bush's support for more flexible terms with the International Monetary Fund for his impoverished country, to no avail. 43% of Argentina's 36 million people live at or below poverty levels, while these guys posed for photo ops at a seaside resort.

Meanwhile, outside the Summit, what began as thousands of peaceful protesters, turned into a handful of violent demonstrators, who broke windows and threw molotov coctails at businesses. Protest organizers complained that this violence drew legitimacy away from their cause, which was to use the Summit to bring attention to the plight of their people and stop the FTAA.

All in all it was an anti-Bush day, kinda like it is around here every day. Not only has dubya alienated most of the rest of the world, but our own neighbors as well. And it's all because he wants the biggest slice of the pie to go to his cronies. And he wants all the oil. Oh, yeah, democracy too. But the 34 nations involved in the Summit are already democracies, so he doesn't care what happens to them, as long as they sell us their oil. And stay on their side of the border.

He doesn't seem to see that the best way to keep illegal immigration down is to help improve conditions in the immigrants' home countries. And free trade agreements won't do that. They'll just help the rich get richer, and widen the gap between the haves and the have nots, which will increase the tide of economic refugees into our country.

So instead of spending billions on propping up pseudo-democracies and building a really, really long fence, we should be using that money to help build social and economic systems that will actually help the millions of people in the region.

Only then can we truly be called the leaders of the free world.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Breaking through the smoke and mirrors

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid invoked rule 21, demanding a closed session of the Senate to discuss why the investigation into whether or not the administration manipulated or exagerated intelligence information in order to further their case for the invasion of Iraq was not moving forward.

It's been a year and a half since the Senate Intelligence Committee committed in writing to continue the investigation, yet phase II has failed to materialize. Emboldened by the indictment of Cheney's former Chief of Staff, Scooter Libby, Democrats have taken the intitiative and invoked what some call guerilla tactics. You know, similar to what Newt Gignrich and his cronies relied on when the Republicans were in the minority.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist expressed his rightous indignation, saying it's a slap to the face to invoke this rule without advance warning. And we all know how Frist relies on advance warning, given the insider trading allegations he's currently facing.

At issue particularly are the intelligence reports used to tie Iraq to Al-Qeada and Iraq's ability to manufacture weapons of mass destruction and their nuclear capabilities.

This may have been a "stunt" as so many republicans are claiming, but it was effective and needed. Ever since Libby's indictment was announced, the Bush administration has been trying to divert attention away from the issue to avoid falling further into disfavor with the American public - first with the Alido shuffle, then with his bird flu proposal. I guess they're worried about the avian flu mutating with the avarice and apathy flu strains now so prevalent among republicans.

So now the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman, Pat Roberts, has agreed to take the issue off the back burner and begin work next Tuesday to light a fire under phase II. Not sure whether it'll do any good, as he's been accused of dragging his feet to help the administration, but at least this "stunt" helped bring the issue back to the attention of the media and the general public, and nullified the smoke and mirror attempt to divert attention to other matters.