Sunday, April 30, 2006

Had Enough? Vote Democratic

Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman, had a wonderful piece on the op-ed page of The New York Times in which he calls for Democrats to unite around a simple slogan for the November elections: "Had Enough? Vote Democratic." Repeat it a couple of times. I'll bet it grows on you.

Tell all your friends. Tell your Democratic office-holders and candidates. Tell other bloggers. That's the message for 2006: "Had Enough? Vote Democratic."

Law 'n Order

Remember when Republicans were the party of "law and order?"

Charlie Savage in The Boston Globe reports that George W. Bush has claimed authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, including statutes about military rules and regulations, affirmative-action, whistleblower protection for nuclear-regulatory officials and safeguards against political interference in federally-funded research.

The imperial presidency reaches Nero-like proportions. Can Caligula be far behind?

Friday, April 28, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up, cont'd

A spokesman for Porter Goss, Director of the CIA, angrily denies that he was a guest of Duke Cuningham's "poker" parties. Let's hope that his spokeswoman is telling the truth.

Land of the Free

The Associated Press reports that the FBI secretly sought information on 3500 people last year, through the use of "national security letters," otherwise known as warrentless searches. The letters, a form of subpoena issued without resort to court or notice to those whose secrets were being plumbed were served on banks, credit card issuers and telephone and internet service providers. The information did not include subscriber information, which the agency was not required to report.

In 1761, a Boston lawyer named James Otis gave up a secure position as the king's advocate general to go into the Admiralty Court and argue that writs of assistance--warrants that did not describe the places to be searched or the materials sought--violated the "rights of Englishmen." John Adams, who was in the court that day, called Otis' speech the first shot of the American Revolution.

Time to repeat history?

(Too much) Truth in Advertising?

Fortune in a cookie received at Chef Chang's, Brookline, Massachusetts:

"You will be hungry again in one hour."

Thursday, April 27, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

If you tried to, no one would by it, even for a movie-of-the-week.

Seems the Dukester (former-congressman-turned-jailbird Duke Cunningham) was not only the recipient of handsome bribes, but of sexual favors procured (pun intended) for him by his literal partner-in-crime, Mitchell Wade, of MZM, Inc., a defense contractor. OK, no big surprise there; Cunningham seems like the sort of guy for whom high-priced hookers were created.

Here's where it gets bizarre: According to Ken Silverstein, Washington Editor of Harpers, among those enjoying the services of the ladies-of-the- evening were several present and former lawmakers, "including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post." That description fits none other than Porter Goss, Director of the CIA.

You can't keep track of the scandals without a scorecard.

(Thanks to for putting us on to this one.)

You go granny!

Thanks to reader AO for this one:

"Imagine having grandmotherhood on trial in your courtroom. This is the awkward situation in which Judge Neil Ross finds himself in Manhattan Criminal Court," writes Anemona Hartcollis in The New York Times.

Eighteen women calling themselves grannies (all old enough to have grandchildren, although apparently a few of them don't actually have urchins of their own) have been on trial in Manhattan Criminal Court for an anti-war demonstration in front of the military recruiting station in Times Square last year. In a scene that (as Hartcollis recognizes) mirrors Miracle on 34th Street, the grannies made the trial a referendum on grandmotherhood itself. Poor Judge Ross; he must have had visions of political boss William Frawley lecturing judge Gene Lockhart on what would happen if he were to rule that there is no Santa Claus.

The grannies not only had a clever legal strategy--their protest last October was clever too. They claimed that they went to the recruiting station to volunteer to give their lives in place of younger people. The police said they were blocking the station's entrance.

I love this description of the defendants: " These are not resort grannies, with dyed hair and manicures. For the most part, they have let their hair go gracefully, defiantly gray. Some carry canes; others use walkers. Ms. Runyon [a spry youngster of 91], whom the judge allows to sit next to the witness box so she can hear, wields the white cane of the blind."

It's a wonderful story. Follow the link above and read it.

LATE NEWS: The grannies won! Judge Ross, a jurist with a clear eye for truth, justice and the American Way (and maybe his political future as well) found them innocent, declaring that they had left room for anyone who might actually have wanted to be recruited that day.

Sometimes, the good guys (or good grannies) win.

Policy and Posturing

The old saying has it that the two things you don't want to watch being made are laws and sausages. Republicans in Washington are demonstrating, again, the truth of that statement.

Scared of what will happen in November, with their constituents suffering under the weight of high gasoline costs and their old pals in the oil industry report record profits, Senate Republicans have proposed a $100 rebate for millions of taxpayers to reduce the effect of those prices. They've cleverly packaged this proposal with a provision opening up drilling ANWAR, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, insuring much Democratic opposition. The idea, of course, is to paint Democrats as being in favor of high taxes and painful prices at the pump and against increasing the supply of fuel.

This is yet-another example of the unarticulated major premise of the Republican Party: that the American people are stupid. Beyond that, however, it is an example of really dumb and short-sighted (no further than November 7) public policy. At a time when the almost everyone accepts the dire consequences that accompany the burning of fossil fuels, when the effect of purchasing foreign fuels is to subsidize people who dislike or even hate us (the Iranian mullahs, the Sudanese murders, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, etc.), and when it's clear that even most vigorous efforts to increase domestic supplies will not bridge the shortfall created by demand, national policy should concentrate single-mindedly on conservation. Sure, we should ease the short-term burden of spiked costs on those who have trouble making ends meet, but a one-time payment such as Republicans propose will have little or no effect. The Republican measure is simply an attempt to buy votes, and to do so cheaply.

Sadly, Democrats are preparing their own measure to pander to voters: Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey proposes to suspend collection of the federal gasoline and diesel taxes for 60 days. This might actually be worse than the Republican measure, unless marketers are prevented from raising prices and so diverting the uncollected pockets into their coffers.

You can bet that no one is going to mention the effect that these proposals will have on the immense budget deficit.

When will someone have the courage to stand up and tell the American people that they are going to have to undergo pain while we change our ways, but that the hard times are the price to a better life for our children and our nation? I think such honesty could inspire voters, but don't hang by your thumbs til you hear such truth-telling.

More on Rove

Apparently, Karl Rove's testimony before the grand jury yesterday lasted several hours. According to NPR, his attorney reported that Rove was questioned about evidence that has emerged since his last appearance, in October. Now let's see, who's rolled over since then?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Put Your Money Up

Karl Rove testifies before the grand jury for the fifth time. Want to enter the pool on when the indictment comes down?

(Does anyone know the record for appearances before a federal grand jury? I'm sure that some informants in major cases have appeared time after time as they spilled their guts, but Rove is in a different position--he's a subject--not yet a "target" of the grand jury investigation.)

(Yet Another) Call to Arms

Congress is close to selling the Internet to the highest bidders, who happen to be the telecom companies. The House Commerce committee defeated an amendment by Ed Markey and others that would have prevented the companies that own the wires over which the 'net is transmitted from charging fees for use. If the bill, sponsored by Rep. Barton, becomes law, the telecom giants will have the power to regulate the 'net by selling AOL, for instance, the right to priority transmission. In other words, the big users will get the fast lane, and the rest of us--this blog included--will be relegated to the byways.

What will this mean? The end of the 'net, at least as we have known it--the end of the incredible (sorry but I'm forced to employ that overused word) diversity that we have come to expect. In its place will be the equivalent of cable TV--150 channels with nothing on. It will be like exchanging the biodiversity of the Amazon basin for the monoculture of a Nebraska wheat field. Now, I like Nebraskans, and I eat a lot of bread, but that's not all I want on my plate.

Want to stop this? Write or call your congressman and senators and tell them to fight for net neutrality, specifically by supporting the amendment sponsored by Cong. Ed Markey and Cong. Rick Boucher, both Democrats (naturally, although a number of Dems have sold out to the big money interests).

For details on this vital issue, check here, and here.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What They Knew--And When They Knew It

When I heard that former CIA officer Tyler Drumheller--the top covert executive for Europe before his retirement last year--was telling 60 Minutes that the Agency knew the Niger uranium tale to be a myth long before the President stuffed it into the 2003 State of the Union, I wondered what that story was doing on a news program. After all, this was something we knew two and-a-half years ago, right? Well, it turns out there was BIG news in the Drumheller interview.

You may have heard the the CIA had recruited Saddam's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, as an American agent. Getting a someone at that level of a foreign government to spy for another country is generally the stuff of bad novels and high-concept movies, but we really did it. (The prospect of being strung from a lamppost, as those of Saddam's henchmen who could see beyond their propaganda fog must have envisioned their near futures, probably did a lot to help the recruitment drive.)

If Sabri's identity as an American agent was known before, this was not: Drumheller recounts that the Iraqi foreign minister told his American handlers that Saddam had no WMDs.

That's a real breakthrough. We now know that the administration is lying--for the thousandth time, true, but this is one of those lies that cost, and is still costing, countless lives--when it tries to make us think that top American officials were as hoodwinked about Saddam's much ballyhooed weapons programs just like the rest of the world. W and Deadeye Dick and Rummy and the rest of the gang not only knew that the Niger yellowcake was fiction, but that the whole idea that Saddam was stockpiling nerve gas and biological agents was also a myth. So when they tell us, "Hey, everyone thought the guy had weapons of mass destruction; how were we to know any different?" they are playing us again. They did know.

Hard to believe after all this time, but we can now see that the fraud that got us into Iraq was even worse than it has seemed to be.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Time Come Again?

Your editor is the last one to comment on popular music. He does, however, remember the last time when songs of protest reflected the national mood. Has that time come again? Check out Dear Mr. President, by Pink, of whom the editor had, just barely, heard before.

"I'm the decider"

We are pleased to present our first guest blog, from Publius II:

The republic is not a family. The President is neither king nor father and can be and should criticized for not giving reasons -- truthful reasons -- for his actions and decisions. "I'm the decider" begs the questions of "Even if you are the unilateral decider, how did you decide, why did you decide the way you did, what is the basis of your decision?"

The president's remarks this week amounted to. "You know why? Because I'm the daddy."

Well, you know what? He's not the daddy. He's not the decider. He's the executive. The other two branches are supposed to decide (respectively, what's policy and what's legal). He's supposed to execute the decisions, making only those decisions necessary to interpret the larger decisions made by Congress.

George W. Bush's assertion that he can search without warrants (and his doing so) usurp the judicial branch. His "signing statements" on acts of Congress similarly usurp the legislative branch, trying to enact the law he wants instead of the law Congress sent him to either sign or veto. "Presidential intent" has no foundation in the Constitution.

This man wants to be like the Roman dictators, overriding all the safeguards of the faltering Republic, and leading it toward empire in political form at home to match its economic and military sway abroad.
Perhaps worse than Roman:

Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Decider!

If you want to save the Republic, it is time to start the process to impeach the vice president and president, and complete it in the Congress elected this November.

(If you, dear reader, would like to contribute a guess blog, email

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Further Thoughts on the Visit of President Hu

From Beijing:

President Hu is in Washington.
Oh, is he going to see Mr. Bush?
No, but he saw Bill Gates.
Impressive, but he's in Washington and he's not seeing President Bush?
No, Bush isn't there.
The President is in Washington but Bush isn't there? Isn't that a snub?
Oh, President Hu will see Mr. Bush when he visits Washington later in the week.
Bush visits Washington? I heard he took a lot of vacations, but I didn't think he only visited Washington.
No, when President Hu visits Washington later in the week.
But I thought you said he's already in Washington.
He is.
Then how can he go to Washington later in the week?
He'll fly, of course. Probably on a plane made by Boeing, which will make the Americans proud.
But if he's in Washington, how can he go to Washington?
I just told you.
I give up.

(It may lose something in the translation from Chinese.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On the Visit of President Hu Jiantao

Hu is coming to the United States
Who is?
Yes, on a state visit.
Who did you say is coming?
I told you. Hu is.
That’s what I asked you
And I told you
You did? Who?
What’s right?
Hu is
How would I know?
Hao? Who’s he?
How should I know?
Well, you brought him up.
I did? I don’t even know who you’re talking about
What is?
Not what. Hu
Who’s right? You or me?
Hu. Hu’s right
I give up

(I know, it's almost too easy, but I couldn't resist.)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

A New Approach to Mid-East Peace

Passover is the time when Jews are not supposed to eat anything with leavening, which means that they omit bread, cake, pastry and a lot of other stuff that we normally enjoy without a second thought. Instead, Jews eat matzoh, the flat unleavened cake that, according to the Passover story, was all that they could carry when they were suddenly released from slavery and ordered to leave Egypt. (It's interesting that Jews have always viewed the Passover story as one of deliverance, not deportation.) Being resourceful, Jews have found ways to leaven (you should excuse the pun) the austerity of the holiday, and not just by downing four cups of wine at the seder table. In fact, if one a good cook--or close enough to benefit from one--he or she can eat better at Passover than the rest of the year.

One of the best Passover treats, no, THE best Passover treat, is chocolate caramel matzoh crunch. I used to say that it's so good that it justifies buying matzoh even when it ISN'T Passover, but that's a gross understatement. Let me put it this way: If Hitler had tasted chocolate caramel matzoh crunch, he would have felt differently about the Jews.

That heretical thought led me to another: Here's a new approach to mid-east peace: The Israelis should offer the Palestinians, yes, even the Hamas-nicks--chocolate caramel matzoh crunch. (They could offer other things as well, like may great-aunt Goldie's chicken soup with the knad'lach [matzoh balls] so light that they floated above the surface of the soup.) The Palestinians, in the Arab tradition of hospitality, would offer some treats of their own. A dialogue would begin and, fueled by the good feelings that good food engenders, maybe peace would break out between two peoples whose problem often seems to be not that they are different, but that they are so much alike.

A New Version of An Old Story

Reader EE has pointed me to an updated version of the Passover story in The Huffington Post. It's a good read in these perilous times.


Tom Coburn, the sometimes-maverick, sometimes just nutty Republican senator from Oklahoma, tells his constituents that he expects six congressmen and a senator to be wearing orange jumpsuits as a result of the Abramoff scandal. I wonder if that includes the Duke Cunningham (already serving time for his own bribery capers) and Tom DeLay, who's under indictment under Texas law. Over on the Senate side, the odds-on favorite to hear the cell door slam behind him is Conrad Burns, Republican of Montana, already in trouble in his re-election bid.

Now remember, this prediction comes from a Republican.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Next One?

Federal prosecutors have revealed 278 emails between accused former Bush administration official David Safavian and admitted fixer Jack Abramoff, according to AP. The messages show a close and cozy relationship between the now-fallen uber-lobbyist and the former director of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, a position to which Safavian was appointed by President Bush. Before going to the White House, Safavian was chief of staff in the General Services Administration, source of a huge number of government contracts that could have been--and, we may expect prosecutors to argue, were--valuable to Abramoff's clients.

Safavian's trial is scheduled to begin May 22nd. Want to place a bet on when a deal is struck and Safavian becomes the next former insider to roll over and tell all he knows? And if--or when--he does what will he say about people in and around the White House?

The tide laps still higher.

(A word should be said about the prosecutors who have been dismantling the network of corruption in the Republican establishment in Washington. Given GOP control of Congress and the White House--not to mention the number of Republican judges before whom they have to appear--these lawyers show that professionalism still exists in the Justice Department. One good thing for the public interest: the multiple pleas and continuing investigations are making it harder and harder for political pressure to block or divert the widening circle of investigations; the threat of open resistance and a Watergate-style calamity is getting to be just too high. That may not stop an attempt, however; we've already seen how ham-fisted the people in the administration can be. Keep your eyes and ears open.)

Friday, April 14, 2006


These days it's heartening when we learn that the federal government really is being vigilant to protect the nation from grievous threats. So we were comforted to learn that the Department of Homeland Security has issued a warning about the threat posed by animal-rights activists and eco-terrorists. (The department has not issued any warning about white-supremacist groups or violent anti-abortion groups.) Among the insidious tactics used by eco-terrorists is "sending continuous faxes in order to drain the ink supply in [target] company fax machines." Oh, the horror!

You can't make this stuff up.

(Thanks to TPM Muckraker for revealing this.)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

It's the Cover-Up

As we've observed before, it's the cover-up that will get you. (Richard Nixon, who knew about these things, appears to have originated that idea.) And as we noted earlier in the week, the administration is feeling the heat over political skullduggery in 2002. Now, new attention is being paid to the biggest cover-up of all, one that makes Iran-Contra and even Watergate pale by comparison: the fraudulent campaign to justify war in Iraq. ]

You may recall that the administration claimed that a couple of trailers found after the invasion were mobile bioweapons labs. The discovery prompted Mr. Bush to proclaim, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." Well, no. As The Washington Post reports, a secret fact-finding mission had already declared that the trailers were nothing of the kind--they were used to produce hydrogen for weather balloons. Never ones to let the facts get in the way of the story, however, administration officials and flacks continued to spread the lie for months--Deadeye Dick Cheney was flogging it in January 2004. The truth has never been officially admitted; the story was just allowed to die a quiet death. Except that it's not quite dead, as the Post's story shows.

So far we don't have a smoking gun like the 18-minute gap that did in Tricky Dick, but the erosive effect of repeated disclosures can be seen in W's cellar-dweller poll numbers.

More to come? I wouldn't bet against it.

(Editor's note: Regular readers may note that there's been a hiatus of several days since the last post. Unfortunately, the demands of another life have taken up all of the editor's time, and things may continue to be ragged over the next couple of weeks. Nonetheless, we'll attempt to post as often as time permits. Thanks for your patience.)

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Gored Ox

"A lawyer for U.S. Sen. Trent Lott said Monday that State Farm Insurance Co. is destroying documents that could show the insurer has fraudulently denied thousands of claims by Lott and other policyholders whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina."


Who's for doing away with frivolous lawsuits now?

Spinning Like a Top

So, I guess it all depends on how you look at it.

From The New York Times, April 10, 2006:

Young Officers Leaving Army at a High Rate

Meanwhile, in USA Today:

Army surpassing year's retention goal by 15%

Now some of this is apples and oranges. The Times is referring to the loss of valuable junior officers, especially captains, who form the backbone of the combat officer corps. USA Today's story, on the other hand, deals with the retention of all ranks. Still, there are apparent inconsistencies. USA Today quotes an army spokesman as saying that "the war is not causing people to leave." The Times at least implies that younger officers are leaving because of the war (or wars--Afghanistan and Iraq, which look very different to this observer).

The Tide Laps Higher

And it this time it's not global warming. This tide is getting right up to the highest ground of all--the White House. The AP is reporting that the people who ran a call-jamming scheme against New Hampshire Democrats on Election Day 2002 were in regular contact with the White House in the days leading up to the operation, which saw Republican operatives placing a blizzard of bogus calls to the Democrats' get-out-the-vote operation. (Alert Democrats managed to get the telephone company to shut down the attacks within a couple of hours.)

According to AP, James Tobin, a former Bush operative who was recently convicted in the phone-jamming plot, placed two-dozen calls to the White House during a three-day period around Election Day. The GOP, which paid millions in legal fees for Tobin's defense, claims that the calls were routine political business. Presumably, then, the Republicans will not object when Democrats go into court tomorrow to ask a federal judge to order party and White House officials to answer questions as part of a civil suit arising out of the phone jamming.

I have a feeling that this is just the beginning of evidence of White House involvement in all kinds of nefarious political doings. Remember: it's the cover-up that does them in. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The Truth Comes Out

On top of the revelation that the President may have authorized the disclosure of sensitive national security information to trash a critic of the drive to war in Iraq comes the Attorney-General's admission that the Administration thinks it has the right to engage in domestic, as well as international, wiretapping without the bother of seeking a warrant.

Is more evidence needed that the President needs to be brought to heel?

This bumper sticker is more and more appropriate.

A New American Hero

"While I listen to you talk about freedom, I see you assert your right to tap my telephone, to arrest me and hold me without charges. What I wanted to say to you is that I — in my lifetime, I have never felt more ashamed of, nor more frightened by my leadership in Washington, including the presidency, by the Senate. I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and the grace to be ashamed of yourself." Harry Taylor, 61, a commercial real estate broker, speaking to President Bush in Charlotte, NC yesterday, as quoted in The New York Times.

Truth, now: Would you really have the guts to face the President of the United States and talk like that? I like to think I would, but I wonder.

Dog Bites Man!!!

"Let me just say something about leaks in Washington. There are too many leaks of classified information in Washington. There's leaks at the executive branch; there's leaks in the legislative branch. There's just too many leaks. And if there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is. And if the person has violated law, the person will be taken care of. "

George W. Bush, 09/30/03

"Defendant further testified that he advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate]. Defendant testified that the Vice President later advised him that the President had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions of the NIE."

Government's Response to
Defendant's Third Motion to
Compel Discovery, US v. Libby

So the liar-in-chief has been revealed to be the leaker-in-chief (if you believe Scooter Libby who, after all, has been charged with perjury). Are you surprised? Perhaps only by the fact that the President seems to have involved himself with such a trivial matter as trashing Joe Wilson. Reminds me of Dick Nixon, who was forced from the Oval Office, because he allowed himself to be drawn into the cover-up of a "third-rate burglary" at the Watergate office building.

The kicker in Bush's remarks quoted above is, of course, the part about violating the law. Even those of us who abhor the authoritarian presidency have to agree that--absent some statute, of which there seems to be none--the President may de-classify. (He's delegated some or all of that power to the VP, which may be questionable, but that's for another day.) So Bush wasn't breaking the law, just lying--again--to the American people.

Which, I guess, makes this just a dog-bites-man story.

An Apology

Sorry for the paucity of postings the past few days. It's tax time. I'll try to be more prompt, although I've got a major project in my other life coming up.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Basis of Liberty

In the midst of World War II, Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote that the history of liberty has largely been the history of procedural safeguards. The wisdom of that comment--and the parlous nature of our legal system, at least insofar as it deals with the threat of terrorism--is being demonstrated right now at Guantanamo Bay. There, a small group of courageous attorneys (mainly members of the armed services) are defending detainees scheduled to be tried before military commissions. As reported by the Associated Press, twice in the past few days, a military judge has refused to say whether he will apply the Uniform Code of Military Justice, federal law or international law to the cases. In a declaration that would have made Kafka proud, the prosecutor, an Air Force colonel, said that the judge could use several standards of law to provide a fair trial. Maybe, but the first requisite of a fair trial is for everyone--especially the accused, whose life or freedom is at stake--to know what the law is.

This is hardly the first example of the legal nightmare that is Guantanamo, a stain on American jurisprudence at least as deep as the internment of the Japanese during the Second World War. The injustice that America is perpetrating against the detainees and others in our custody and control, demonstrates that while the terrorists can never defeat us, it is all too easy for us to defeat ourselves.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Hammer Goes Down

As you've undoubtedly heard, Tom DeLay has told friends and political associates that he's resigning from Congress and will abandon his run for re-election in November. The story his people are putting out is that he made the decision because his race against former congressman Nick Lampson would be tough (one report I heard said unwinnable). That is, of course, balderdash (to use a word acceptable in this family-friendly blog). Prosecutors have been working their way up the food chain toward DeLay: First his former press secretary, Michael Scanlon, then last week, Tony Rudy, former deputy chief-of-staff. They're getting close to the man himself, and that's why he's bugging out. You heard it here first: in a month, maybe two, DeLay will be indicted by the Justice Department.

I don't know Texas law, but I'll bet that by timing is resignation in late May or June, DeLay will avoid having a special election (which Lampson would be likely to win, given that the Hammer nailed three opponents with 62 percent of the vote in a primary last month) and go right to November. Presumably, by then Republicans hope to have a candidate strong enough to hold on to the seat.

There have now been two Republicans forced to leave office by scandal (DeLay and "Duke" Cunningham), and one more, Bob Ney, is on the way out (he's implicated by Rudy, among others) as the Ohio Republican Party implodes. Rep. Jim Ryun, of Kansas, is faced with questions about the sweetheart deal that got him a DC townhouse from a foundation controlled by former DeLay major domo Ed Buckham (who turns out to have been profiting mightily from the ostensibly non-profit organization). How many more are going to fall? (Don't forget Sen. Conrad Burns, rumored to be under criminal investigation for his ties to Jack Abramoff.) The Democrats' chances of taking back the House--a longer shot than the Senate--are looking up. Those chances will improve still if you'd give some money to Democrats in key races, or even to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee or Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Tone Deaf

Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visited his home town, Blackburn, near Liverpool, last week. Dogged by protesters at every step, they ultimately decamped for a location where they wouldn't be bothered by demonstrators: Baghdad. There they have been, depending on to whom you are listening, (a) encouraging the Iraqis to form a government and make democracy real for the Iraqi people or (b) meddling in Iraq's internal affairs.

I liked Secretary Rice's comment about the protests in England: "People have the right to protest - that's what democracy is all about. I have no problem with people exercising their democratic rights." Do you think she recognizes the irony, working as she does for a man who keeps himself far away from anyone who disagrees with him?

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Looking Familiar

For those of us old enough to recall Watergate, the current, widening scandal in Washington is beginning to look familiar. Now, as then, events established a pattern in which it seemed that some new revelation surfaced almost every day. There are differences, of course. For one thing, this scandal is based primarily at the congressional level. For another, there are parallel revelations about the executive branch (domestic spying, declarations that the President doesn't have to abide by laws passed by Congress, etc., etc.).

The latest, as you've probably heard, is that another former aide to Tom DeLay has pleaded guilty. Tony Rudy, who was DeLay's deputy chief of staff (who knew a congressman needed a chief of staff and a deputy chief of staff?) before crossing the street to work for Jack Abramoff, admitted to conspiring with Abramoff. Actually, it sounds worse than that. According to press reports, Rudy admitted taking money from Abramoff while working for DeLay, then using his influence to help stop a bill that Abramoff's clients opposed. That sounds like bribery, although Rudy's lawyers say that he's admitted only to soliciting a "gift."

The charges to which Rudy pleaded do not involve DeLay directly, but they represent more bad news for embattled Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio. The indictment charges that Rudy provided "things of value" to a congressman identified as "Congressman No. 1," but widely thought to be Ney, in return for agreement to assist Abramoff and his clients. Ney has been previously implicated in the fraud to which Abramoff pleaded guilty in Florida, and has been named in other scandals.

And there's more. It seems that DeLay's former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, looted the so-called non-profit he created to advocate for a pro-family political agenda. According to the Washington Post, Buckham and his wife got a third of what the U.S. Family Network collected over five years--more than a cool million. In Buckham's defense, I suppose you could say that the organization did follow it's pro-family agenda--for his own family.

You may recall, too, that it was the U.S. Family Network that sold a Washington townhouse to Republican Rep. Jim Ryun in a sweetheart deal.

I have a feeling that we've only begun to hear about what's been going on in Washington.