Saturday, December 31, 2005

The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail

This article in today's WaPo is all the buzz in the blog world.

It's a blockbuster and details the links between DeLay (and his votes) and the Russian mob and a couple indian tribes.

And the reported links of DeLay with the Russians are not new as Mark Kleiman reminded us a while back.

Abramoff Cops a Deal?

2006 promises to be a very interesting year.

Link,
Federal prosecutors and lawyers for lobbyist Jack Abramoff are putting the finishing touches on a plea deal that could be announced early next week, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The plea agreement would secure the Republican lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients.

As exciting as this is, I still have a hard time imagining this justice department actually prosecuting the GOP Leadership.

Watch this space.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

We Need to Do Much More of This

Daily Kos: Have you seen the Nixon/Bush ad from the ACLU Where is the DNC in this? What is our message?

Liar!

I find this breathtaking. These people are unbelievable liars. How could they even hope to get away with it?

Josh has the story.

The court should punish DeLay by rejecting his habeas appeal.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Taking Down the Clinton / FISA Nonsense

Judd at Think Progress does a great job of down all the recent nonsense about Clinton approving the same warrentless seaches that push has approved.

Misinformation On Spying Doesn’t Take A Holiday

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Played for Fools?

By now you've probably heard about the 4th Circuit's rebuke of the Bushies in the Padilla case.

I wrote about the 4th Circuit's outrageous earlier decision here and here.

Well, now as the SCOTUS appears on the verge of taking the case the Admin has lost their nerve. They've now finally charged Padilla with some crimes none of which appears to have anything to do with a dirty bomb. And they asked the 4th Circuit to withdraw their September decision. In case you didn't know, requesting the US Circuit Court of Appeals to withdraw a decision in your favor is extraordinary.

The 4th Circuit, including the conservative darling Judge Luttig really stuck their neck out for the Admin in the Sept decision taking them at their word that Padilla was a dirty bombing terrorist. It now appears clear that the admin can't prove that and Luttig and his colleagues are pissed. Who can blame them, they've been played for fools.

I've not yet read the decision, but from what I have read, it appears that Kevin at the The Washington Monthly has got it figured out.

The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

This story is starting to take on a life of it's own, which is probably good given the lack of D message discipline.

The WaPo reports today that the FISA judges will meet for a classified briefing on the extra-legal activities of the Bush Administration. The FISA court is very rightly concerned that many warrants were tainted with illegally obtained information. Those warrants and all the evidence flowing from them would be the 'fruit of the poisonous tree' and inadmissible in any trials.

This is a big deal. Terrorist could be set free because of this illegal activity.

Here is the crux,
Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.

"The questions are obvious," said U.S. District Judge Dee Benson of Utah. "What have you been doing, and how might it affect the reliability and credibility of the information we're getting in our court?"

Such comments underscored the continuing questions among judges about the program, which most of them learned about when it was disclosed last week by the New York Times. On Monday, one of 10 FISA judges, federal Judge James Robertson, submitted his resignation -- in protest of the president's action, according to two sources familiar with his decision. He will maintain his position on the U.S. District Court here.
It is complete and utter incompetence that brings us to this point, and what really pisses me off is that the incompetents will claim that it is liberty that is the enemy if any terrorist walk.

Never mind that the Clinton Administration had no problem convicting the 1993 WTC bombers playing within the rules.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Abramoff Cutting a Deal?

From Josh. Tomorrow's NYTs reports that Abramoff may be cutting a deal with the feds. If that's true, it would be huge, and really bad news for a lot of Rs.

I can't help but think that this is too good to be true. I can't believe Gdub's Justice is going after DeLay and his crew.

This could be a very Merry Christmas!

UPDATE: Here is the open link to the New York Times article.

An Impeachable Offense

I haven't blogged on the recent revelation that Bush authorized warrentless domestic spying, because I wanted to see the general reaction.

Frankly, Bush has exploited 9/11 to seize dictatorial powers ever since that dreadful day, so this really didn't come as a surprise.

I assume that anyone that reads this blog has been following this story so let me add just one nugget that is key to understanding the implications of what Bush's actions.

It is not any Federal statute, such as FISA, that prevents the Government from spying on US citizens, but the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Without question, Bush's order is an impeachable offense. And it is not just the left that thinks so.

Think Progress: Conservative Scholars Argue Bush'’s Wiretapping Is An Impeachable Offense

QUESTION: Is spying on the American people as impeachable an offense as lying about having sex with an intern?

BRUCE FEIN, constitutional scholar and former deputy attorney general in the Reagan Administration: I think the answer requires at least in part considering what the occupant of the presidency says in the aftermath of wrongdoing or rectification. On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant.

NORM ORNSTEIN, AEI scholar: I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.


Norm got that right.

Flashback to 1974: The Senate Judiciary Committee at the time of Watergate prepared this report on the history, grounds and proper uses of impeachment. Constitutional Grounds for Presidential Impeachment

Sadly, They Just Can't Be Trusted

Abuse of power is always the result of a loosening of restrictions on Government. They just can't help themselves. They couldn't during Hoover's tenure and they can't now. The ACLU always suspecting abuse of power has been making FOIA requests and getting some interesting responses.

From today's New York Times,
....F.B.I. Officials said Monday that their investigators had no interest in monitoring political or social activities and that any investigations that touched on advocacy groups were driven by evidence of criminal or violent activity at public protests and in other settings.
_____

But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Thank God the FBI doesn't let any Constitutional nonsense keep them from protecting all of us from vegans and PETA!

ID Struck Down in PA

Clearly, so called "intelligent design" is a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

But what I like most about US District Judge Jone's ruling is that he is so frank,
"The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy," Jones wrote, calling the board's decision "breathtaking inanity."

"The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources," he wrote.
You may recall that the school board who pursued this fiasco was resoundingly voted out of office. The new school board is not expected to appeal the ruling.

A victory for the good guys!

UPDATE: You can read the opinion of Judge Jones here.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush's Speech

Kevin at the Washington Note points to this Carpetbagger post that deals pefectly with Gdub's speech,
The media reports on the president's speech last night seems to have a common thread.....

First, it's giving enormous credit to the president for a minimal degree of appreciating reality. Talk about your soft bigotry of low expectations, Bush won praise for acknowledging that the "work has been especially difficult in Iraq," and for recognizing that there are a more than a few Americans who disapprove of his handling of the war. It's as if there was an expectation that the president would, once again, tell us how great everything in Iraq is, facts be damned. It's frustrating; we seem to have reached a point in which the president's willingness to concede a few obvious facts is so unusual, it's literally front-page news.


The Carpetbagger in turns points to this excellent analysis from Ryan Lizza writing at TNR,
Still, Bush and his political strategists can't help themselves....[Bush]delivered a familiar rhetorical punch, attributing to opponents a preposterous argument. Addressing what he called the "important" question of whether "we are creating more problems than we're solving" in Iraq, Bush said that "the answer depends on your view of the war on terror." How did the president describe his opponents' views of that war? Well, according to Bush, the debate over how to deal with terrorists is between his steely resolve to crush them everywhere and those who "think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them."

This is an absurd characterization. Nobody argues that leaving Iraq will make "terrorists" more "peaceful."....

Friday, December 16, 2005

Merry Freakin Christmas,...

And burn in hell.

The STL archbishop has lost his mind.

From today's Post,
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke has notified the six lay members of the board of directors of St. Stanislaus Kostka parish and a priest from the diocese of Springfield Cape-Girardeau who they had hired to be their pastor that they have been excommunicated.
If you are member of the Saint Louis Archdiocese and you continue to make contributions to the Archdiocese (not your parish) you are a part of this.

Because of the hierarchtical nature of the church, the only way you can really make your displeasure felt is to 'starve the beast'. The only way Burke's superiors will be convinced he is a problem is when the money dries up.

If you give this kook money, than you are a part of what he is doing to those poor people.

This is what Christianity is all about?

UPDATE: Go here if you want the background on this fight, and / or you want to help St Stans.

How The Liberals Stole Christmas

Kevin Horrigan, writing in yesterday's St Louis Post-Dispatch has a nice poem.

Twas the month before Christmas
And as I lit candles,
Conservatives stirred -
They were onto a scandal.

"They want to kill Christmas!"
Came the cry from the right:
"They want to axe Bethlehem
And O! Holy Night!

"They're after the Christ child
And Joseph and Mary
And shepherds and wise men;
These liberals are scary."

Who? I said. Who
Is behind these cruel plots?
"Well, we're not really sure,
But we heard it on Fox.

"Fox fair and balanced;
Esteemed, and most highly.
We're not really sure -
It was prob'ly O'Reilly."

So I grabbed the remote
And clicked over to Fox
And there snarled O'Reilly.
(Imagine my shock):

"The liberals, the commies,
The A.C.L.U.
They want to steal Christmas
From me and from you.

They say 'Happy Holidays'
And acknowledge the Jews
By throwing in Hannukah."
I was really confused.

"And what's this with Kwanzaa?"
The O'Reilly elf said.
"Some guy made it up,
Made it up from whole cloth.

And somewhere the pagans
Are worshipping trees
And Muslims turn eastward
On rugs on their knees."

"The Democrats did it,"
He said with a roar.
"It was Kerry and Biden
And Clinton and Gore."

And then with a smirk
He fired heavy artillery:
"If you want my opinion,
I bet it was Hillary."

I sat there in silence,
Stunned in my jammies.
My pulse was just racing
My hands were all clammy.

Who can save Christmas
From plots so barbaric
That turn Jesus' birthday
To a season generic?

What will happen to Christmas?
Should I recycle my creche?
And toss out John's gospel
'Bout Word become flesh?

Should I toss out the angels?
They could get me arrested.
I was, lo, sore afraid
And my soul greatly tested.

Who will save Christmas?
George W. Bush?
Who will save Christmas
When shove comes to push?

We could call the Marines
But they've all been assigned.
This disaster needs FEMA.
Oh . . . never mind.

Then I heard a weird jingling
From somewhere in back
And grabbed for the pistol
I'm licensed to pack.

I pulled back the slide
And quick chambered a round
And yelled out "Freeze dirtbag!
Don't dare make a sound!"

The guy, he was balding
And wore a blue suit.
He was driving a pickup
That said "Brown & Root."

His eyes they were squinting,
His voice, slightly nervous
Said, "Richard B. Cheney.
I'm here, at your service."

I was stunned at the sight
Of the man who's the veep.
And I thought I was dreaming,
In some weird right-wing sleep.

I heard him cough softly
Then say, "It's not fiction.
"First Comet is venison.
"And next I'll shoot Vixen."

"I killed off the reindeer,"
He softly exhaled.
"And I sent Santa off
To a black CIA jail.

This secular nonsense,
We'll end it, right quick.
I've got other priorities
Or my name's not St. Dick."

He said, "Christmas's really
Just all about loot
You can stuff in your bag
And then dis-t'-ri-bute

To friends and to donors
And pals who are cronies,
It's not about children
Or Democrat phonies.

"The trick that I've learned,"
St. Dick said like a Scrooge,
"Is avoiding the blame.

Instead, get you a stooge,
So the stooge takes the heat
As you make dead certain
That the goodies pile up
Inside Halliburton."

"So we'll blame it on liberals,
And commies and gays.
We'll blame it on Democrats
And folks who don't pray."

We've got Bill O'Reilly
To stir up the base
While we haul all our loot
To an undisclosed place."

Then he turned with a wink,
Jumped back into his pickup.
He nodded his head
And then said with a hiccup:

"I'll tell you one thing
Gives me great satisfaction:
'The liberals stole Christmas'
Is a dandy distraction."

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Earle Looking At Matt Blunt?

Josh points to this: Exclusive: Texas Prosecutor Seeks Governor Blunt's Campaign Finance Records

What a Crook!

Josh points to this piece today in the Austin American-Statesman.
Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity run by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff now at the center of an influence-peddling investigation on Capitol Hill, told the IRS it gave away more than $330,000 in grants in 2002 to four other charities that say they never received the money.

The largest grant the foundation listed in its 2002 tax filing was for $300,000 to P'TACH of New York, a nonprofit that helps Jewish children with learning disabilities.

"We've never received a $300,000 gift, not in our 28 years," a surprised Rabbi Burton Jaffa, P'TACH's national director, told the Austin American-Statesman. "It would have been gone by now. I guess I would have been able to pay some teachers on time."
But here I think is the money quote,
...around the time Capital Athletic's tax form was filed in fall 2003, listing the $300,000 donation P'TACH says it didn't get, a DeLay-created charity called Celebrations for Children was begun with $300,000 in seed money.

Celebrations for Children was a short-lived effort to raise money for children's charities by providing donors with special access to DeLay, plus yacht trips and other enticements, during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York. Watchdog groups protested, claiming the fundraiser violated a new ban on accumulating unlimited "soft" money, and DeLay dropped it in May 2004.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

38%

Percentage of Americans in the New Zogby Poll who think Gdub is doing a good job. Sadly, for Gdub, this figure is down 3 points from the poll last month.

To be fair, the latest Gallup Poll show Bush getting a bump from his recent push-back. The Gallup poll seems to always be Bush's high water mark. Interestingly, this Gallup number actually appears down 1 point from the week before with his approval minus disapproval number taking a 4 point hit to -13 from a -9 from just the week before. Confused? Go here to see what I'm talking about.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

'How Abramoff Spread the Wealth'

Via TPM, we have this excellent graphic from the WaPo.

Print it and save it for future reference as the Abramoff scandal unfolds and you endlessly hear everyone tell you about "everyone doing it."

How Abramoff Spread the Wealth

Josh provides great Abramoff context here.

Hullabaloo

Sorry for the lack of posts. Been busy,...and a little bored with the headlines.

You need to go read Digby. He does a very good job discussing the Viveca Novak story as it has come out the last 10 days or so.

The post is long with several updates. Here is a taste,
I haven't seen anyone accusing [Viveca] of being a right wing operative. It's not her politics that are at issue. It's her ethics. "Pushing back" shouldn't include exposing her colleague Matt Cooper's source to a third party. She ended up becoming part of the story and the investigation because of that. It's a major screw up that shines yet another bright light on the curious ethical habits of the DC establishment.

Apparently others at TIME magazine, not just Cooper and his editors, knew that Karl Rove was personally blabbing to the press that Plame was CIA. (Half of Washington seems to have known it.) Viveca Novak knew and blabbed it to Karl Rove's lawyer over drinks at Cafe Deluxe, Lawrence O'Donnell knew and kept it secret for months because he didn't want to be subpoenaed and God knows how many other people knew it and passed it on to other privileged insiders or kept it to themselves for selfish reasons. Can't reporters like Corn understand why we poor hapless rubes out here in the hinterlands (not to mention the Justice department) find their shrieking for the last year and half about the sanctity of the confidential source just a little bit self-serving?

....I understand that reporters need to keep their sources identities secret at times. What I don't understand is the practice of going back to powerful sources who lie to you again and again and granting them anonymity so that they can spread scurrilous stories without having to take responsibility for them. I don't understand why it's ok for a reporter to spill the name of a colleague's confidential source over drinks at Cafe Deluxe or why the public should accept that a newsroom and friends and cocktail party guests should know the names of these confidential sources, but the people (even "the people" as represented by the government) should not.
I don't understand either. And the public needs to hold the collective media's feet to the fire on this. It's out of control.

As for Viveca, I think the truth is, she knew she screwed up, got scared when she realized what she had done and decided to keep her mouth shut hoping nothing would come of it. If something like this hasn't happened to you, it's because you're too young. Just wait.

I can understand her response to Luskin who she believed was bullshiting her. I could see myself responding the same way. Her mistake (she has now left Time) was the cover-up. She should have told her editors. And Digby is right about all this, starting with his 'spare me the it's okay to spill another's source'.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fitz Spends 3 Hours with New Grand Jury

There would be no reason to spend any time with a new grand jury if he wasn't going to indict someone else.

Maintaining status quo doesn't require a grand jury.

ABC12.com: Fitzgerald Appears As CIA Leak Probe Continues

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Friday, December 02, 2005

Speaking of Abramoff,....

The Raw Story explains how a $1 billion contract becomes $3 billion.
The Transportation Security Administration awarded a $1 billion contract to Unisys to devise a cutting-edge computer network linking hundreds of airports to the TSA’s state-of-the-art security centers. The contract was ideal, they argued, because if the company failed to meet its goals, Unisys would pay money back to the agency.

It didn’t turn out that way. In October, the Washington Post revealed the Pennsylvania-based information services company had overcharged the government for a whopping 117,000 hours -- billing $131 an hour for employees who were paid less than half that amount. Officials now see the project costing taxpayers as much as $3 billion.

Unisys’ prime lobbyists? A team from the Greenberg Traurig lawfirm led by Neil Volz, former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) -- which included indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff Scandal

Josh points to this from today's NYTs updating the latest on Abramoff's woes and the pressure he is under to crack.

...Mr. Abramoff is under mounting pressure to cooperate with prosecutors as they consider a case against lawmakers. Participants in the case, who insisted on anonymity because the investigation is secret, said he could try to reach a deal in the next six weeks.

Many forces are bearing down on Mr. Abramoff. Last week, his closest business partner, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty to conspiracy in exchange for cooperating in the inquiry, being run by an interagency group, into whether money and gifts were used in an influence-peddling scandal that involved lawmakers.

It is difficult to exaggerate just how big the Abramoff scandals will be as they unfold. The corruption involved in Congress and the Administration is staggering and will eventually blow, with or without Jack's help.

The remainder of Gdub's term is going to be the ugliest anyone has seen since Watergate, and the corruption is likely much more extensive and pervasive.

This is a Big Story

DeLay's redistricting of TX was a key to the GOP takeover of the house. There were other factors, but no doubt this redistricting was the biggest.

Well, turns out the career lawyers at Justice (unanimously!) thought it was illegal.

From Today's WaPo,
Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.