Thursday, August 31, 2006

Perhaps It's Time For A New Political Party

If Democrats can't seize power in 2006 and retake the White House in 2008, then perhaps it is time to create another political coalition, one made up of labor, progressive, minorities, rural communities and urban populations, church goes, etc.

Of course, the Republicans may have complete destroyed this country by the time such a party springs for the ashes of the directionless, gutless Democrats.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Drop This Dickhead A Note

Government accountability.....A novel concept and one that Alaska Senator Ted Stevens opposes. Drop this clown a note.

What a F**king Surprise.................

California Superior Court Judge Yuri Hoffman did the expected today. He refused to step into the election dispute in CA-50, where the actual vote count and certification by the county's Republican Registrar were essentially fudged to insure that Republican Brian Bilbray was declared the winner over Democrat Francine Busby prior to a complete counting of the votes or a resolution of questions about the security of Diebold voting machines.

The Union Tribune's coverage is here. For a more realistic view of yet another stolen election take a look here.

The bottom line: maybe Bilbray won, maybe he didn't. The county registrar of voters has essentially pulled a Kathrine Harris and insured that the will of the people of the 50th District will never officially be known.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Time to Put Up or Shut Up

I'm a big supporter of Francine Busby in the CA-50 and it is good to she her shaking off the timid advice and strategic planning that came wrapped around the DCCC's financial support of her special election run against entrenched Republicans and, ultimately Brian Bilbray in the district.

Yesterday, Busby attacked Bilbray for his recent declaration that he is fully behind George Bush's "stay the course" strategy in Iraq. Busby came out swinging at Bilbray's assertion that the only way to change the current American strategy regarding Iraq and/or the "war on terror" was to get oneself elected president (or appointed emperor). As Bilbray puts it:
"The executive branch makes those decisions, and if you want to make them, you run for president."
Busby suggested that Bilbray may have missed the congressional orientation class that discusses the separation of powers provisions of the Constitution.

"Mr. Bilbray is wrong,” Busby said at a news conference outside the Veterans Museum and Memorial Chapel in Balboa Park.

“The Constitution says that Congress is responsible for oversight and funding of our armed services,” she said, adding that Congress had “shirked its responsibilities.”

“The time for mindlessly repeating the 'stay the course' mantra is over,” she said, backed by two dozen supporters. “It's time for answers, accountability and for action.”

This is the approach that Busby is going to have to take to break herself free of the inertia that has gripped the district after two years of almost continuous campaigning for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's congressional seat. Busby tried running against Cunningham in the June run-off, but voters in the heavily Republican district were unwilling to see Bilbray as Cunningham Lite.

To engage independents and rally the Democratic base for one more frontal assault, Busby needs to hang George Bush around Bilbray's neck. It's really the only strategy she has left, but she is going to have to be far more assertive than she was on Sunday to make this approach work.
Busby was vague when asked what actions she would push for if she defeats Bilbray, who is seen by analysts as the favorite in November in the heavily Republican 50th Congressional District.

Asked in an interview what Iraq policy she would push for in Congress, Busby said: “The first thing I would do is open the floor of Congress for a debate, so that we can ask these questions: 'Is this still a viable military option? Should this be changing into more of a diplomatic mission?' ”


She did not offer specifics.

“Maybe we leave some (troops) there for stability,” she said. “Maybe we leave some there for training the Iraqi troops.”

Asked about a timetable, she said: “I'm not in a position to give a timetable answer, because (generals) need to tell us what's viable.”

Note to Busby: If you are going to attack your Republican opponent for not having a plan, it would be a good idea to have one of your own.

Busby failed in June by being too cautious, she can't afford to make that mistake again. Take the battle to Bilbray!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Here Today, Gone To Maui.............

You might have heard that phrase. Look for us with this tool. See you in a week or so..........unless something better comes along.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Nothing to Sell But Fear Itself..................

A couple of days ago I was reading up on the binary liquid explosive that the British bombers were going to mix up after they boarded flights to the United States. The explosive, TATP (triacetone triperoxide) is melodramatically called "the mother of Satan" by at least some explosive experts. Here's the problem I had with TATP: It is at it's most explosive in crystal form, not liquid. So, after mixing the liquid precursors, the TATP would have to be allowed to dry before detonation.
TCAP generally burns when ignited, unconfined, in quantities less than about 2 grams. More than 2 grams will usually detonate when ignited; smaller quantities might detonate when even slightly confined. Completely dry TCAP is much more prone to detonation than the fresh product still wetted with water or acetone.
So, the proper chemicals need to be mixed with reasonable care and the resulting liquid, although dangerous, needs to be reduced through drying to its highly unstable crystalline form to be an effective explosive. Imagine this process being accomplished in the spacious confines of an aircraft lavatory as the plane bounces along on a transoceanic flight. That's why this analysis of the liquid bomb plot suggests that the British Bombers were somewhat wishful in their thinking regarding actually running their chemical labs in the coach class toilets on full trans-Atlantic flights.

So the fabled binary liquid explosive - that is, the sudden mixing of hydrogen peroxide and acetone with sulfuric acid to create a plane-killing explosion, is out of the question. Meanwhile, making TATP ahead of time carries a risk that the mission will fail due to premature detonation, although it is the only plausible approach.

Certainly, if we can imagine a group of jihadists smuggling the necessary chemicals and equipment on board, and cooking up TATP in the lavatory, then we've passed from the realm of action blockbusters to that of situation comedy.

It should be small comfort that the security establishments of the UK and the USA - and the "terrorism experts" who inform them and wheedle billions of dollars out of them for bomb puffers and face recognition gizmos and remote gait analyzers and similar hi-tech phrenology gear - have bought the Hollywood binary liquid explosive myth, and have even acted upon it.

We've given extraordinary credit to a collection of jihadist wannabes with an exceptionally poor grasp of the mechanics of attacking a plane, whose only hope of success would have been a pure accident. They would have had to succeed in spite of their own ignorance and incompetence, and in spite of being under police surveillance for a year.

We may have a dangerous group rounded up in Britian, or we may have a slightly more sophisticated than the Florida group that spent its time conspiring with undercover federal agents, who had to suggest virtually every move to the group in order to get them to even consider hatching an "aspirational" terror plot.

Remember the 2006 Republican campaign motto: "We have nothing to sell but fear itself."

"Sometimes I take his calls out of pity."

Convicted Republican felon Randy "Duke" Cunningham's wife, Nancy, tells her story to presidential biographer (sort of) Kitty Kelly in The National Review (registration required).

Throughout our interview, Nancy referred to her husband as "Mr. Cunningham." "It's a mental distancing," she explained. "As far as I'm concerned, he no longer really exists." But, in this frosty dismissal and her constant Victorian references to "Mr. Cunningham," there was a sense of disappointment. "I have to tell you, I once idolized him," she later confessed. "He was the most charismatic person I ever met." In her recollections of their early days together, Duke mesmerized men as well as women. Despite his later lies and betrayals, she can still see him as the dashing young Navy ace. In weak moments when she isn't wishing him dead, she wonders why someone with "all the promise he once had" ever married someone like herself. "I identify with women like Jacqueline Kennedy and Princess Diana," Nancy said. "They, too, had husbands like that."


But, while she acknowledges her husband's volcanic temper and relentless need for ego-gratification, she also criticizes the Republican Party for exploiting him for fund-raising without reward. She deftly wields a shiv as she discusses traveling with the speaker of the House and his wife on a private plane paid for by Wilkes, one of Duke's unindicted co-conspirators. "I usually told my husband to check everything with Ethics, but it never occurred to me there might be something wrong about flying with Speaker Hastert and his wife. How can it be illegal or unethical if the most important man in Congress does it?" Nancy claimed she went on only one congressional junket--to the Paris Air Show in 2001, an experience she was quick to dismiss. "They are nothing more than fancy vacations for congressional representatives, their families, and staffers to fly in luxury and shop at PX's on military bases and see castles and museums," she said.


But the real tragedy for Duke Cunningham is that, by the time he arrived in Washington, the prestige and glamour that he imagined he would find there were long gone. The people who had the lifestyle he fantasized about weren't politicians; they were lobbyists. And Duke, the war-hero who felt he had earned a place in the pantheon of Kennedys and Bushes, felt cheated.

Imagine that, you're a member of the United States Congress. People do your bidding, women throw themselves at you, lobbyists hand you envelopes stuffed with cash. Oh, and you take an oath to do your job and swear it before God.

For Randy "Duke" Cunningham neither the respect and adulation nor the oath were enough to overcome his greed and selfishness.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One Word Sums Up the Bush Administration

See if you can guess the word as you watch this illuminating film strip.

Here is the question:

To be a member of the Bush Administration or one of its Republican supporters you must be an _______________ ?

Hat tip to
Down With Tyranny.

They Did Have The Bomb

OK, so the Islamofascists plot to blow up airplanes turns out to have not been as far advanced as the worldwide panic appears to suggest.

No, the would be bombers didn't have plane tickets. No, most of the would be bombers didn't have passports. But, here is some exclusive footage of potential liquid bombs being tested.

Snapple my ass, these crazies were going nuclear.

Sometimes the Voices In Your Head Aren't God

Note to Representative Katherine Harris (FL-13): The voice you hear inside your head isn't God talking. Undaunted by polls that show her trailing, once vunerable Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, by something like 50 percentage points, Harris says that God told her the He wants her to be a senator.

Former top political adviser Ed Rollins said Harris told him, "God wants me to be a senator."

Rollins, a nationally known veteran GOP operative who left the campaign in March, said he responded, "Maybe God wants you to run because he wants Bill Nelson to be senator."

If God wants Harris in the Unites States Senate, it must be for comic relief.

But, this isn't the first political office to which Harris ascribes a divine motivation. When, as Florida's Secretary of State she insured George Bush's electoral victory in Florida, she compared herself to Biblical ruler, Queen Esther.

As overseer of state elections, Harris was set up to become the central figure in the frenzied 2000 Florida presidential election recount, which made George Bush president by 537 votes.

Harris, one of several Florida Bush campaign co-chairs, made several crucial decisions that tended to impede manual county recounts Democrats thought could boost Al Gore's vote total.

She maintains steadfastly that she simply followed the law throughout.

Harris wrote that she was inspired during the recount by the Queen Esther story, and quotes scripture suggesting that God put Esther in power so she could prevent a massacre of her people:

"And who knows," Esther's father says, "but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"

Lots of times, when people hear voices in their heads telling them to do bad things, they blame God for the results. Harris clearly falls into that population of nut cases and Republican politicians.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Imagine The Late Charges

Apparently somebody over at NASA checked out with the original video tapes of the Apollo's 11 moon landing. The images of the landing broadcast live to the world back in 1969 were essentially the stripped down version of the original tapes. There are lots of stories on this, but I had to go with this version from Britian's Daily Telegraph, " One giant cock-up for mankind."

"What was broadcast to the world was nowhere near as good as what was received," said John Sarkissian, of the CSIRO Parkes Observatory in New South Wales, one of the three tracking stations that taped the original footage before sending it on to Houston in converted form.

Those tapes, although nowhere near the standard of normal television transmissions, would still be of far better quality than the video we have today, especially if processed using modern digital techniques.

But rather than being prized as vital recordings, Nasa simply filed them away. And as personnel retired or died, the location of the tapes was forgotten.

No wonder they can't keep ice chunks from raining down on the space shuttle.

Duke Cunningham's Shady Connections

Say it isn't so! Duke Cunningham and famous Sesame Street muppet, Elmo. Please don't let it be about hookers.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Adopt A Pig....It Sure Would Help BP

Funny how the oild companies always seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to squeezing a profit out of what to anyone else would be disaster. According to this Florida columnist, BP has started an "adopt a pig program." In fact, for a small monthly contribution you can adopt a BP oil line inspection deviced (called a pig) named "Pombo" in honor of one of BP's most stalwart supporters.
"At the moment, I have several pigs available for you to adopt. Let's see now: I have 'Hummer' -- he's a utility pig. Big, hulking fellow. And I have a precocious little smart pig named 'Pombo.' "

"As in -- "

"Yes, sir. He's named in honor of Sen. Richard Pombo, the California Republican who's been a major supporter of our industry."

"And your industry has been most generous to him."

"He's a visionary, sir. I don't know if you've heard, but he says this little Prudhoe leak demonstrates the need for us to diversify our domestic oil supply and begin drilling elsewhere."
No question Dicky Pombo (CA-11) is a visionary. Fortunately, he's not a senator quite yet.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

When Republicans Run The Place....

The city of San Diego has become the poster child for the effects of Republican municipal leadership. Once hailed as "America's Finest City," San Diego is now being called "America's Cheapest City" or "Enron by the Sea."

Simply put, San Diego is the victim of the Republican approach to civic governance that is the outcome of two decades of drinking the Ronald Reagan/Grover Norquist cool-aide. Averse to pay as you go government and incapable of taxing anyone but tourists through hotel and car rental fees, the city of San Diego managed to drive itself to technical bankruptcy in ten years thanks to the Republican dominance of its public administration.

San Diego's financial woes date back to 1996, when the city's Republican leaders decided to systematically under fund its city employee's pension fund in order to meet the city's current financial obligations. This was a pattern of behavior that went on for several years, as successive Republican administrations failed to balance the city's books. Exacerbating the problem, pension fund managers routinely took actions, some potentially criminal, to increase the city's pension obligations to future retirees.

The city's finances began to unravel in 1996, when the City Council voted to increase pension benefits while underfunding the retirement plan. A vote in 2002 continued the practice. The benefit increases, along with the underfunding, stock-market losses and settlements with retirees, have contributed to a pension system shortfall of $1.4 billion.


The fiscal meltdown that resulted sparked investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the SEC in early 2004. Five former city and pension fund officials were charged with federal fraud and conspiracy in January.

And, to make matters worse, while the city's Republican leaders were stealing money from the city workers pension plan they were illegally shifting the cost of the managing the city's sewer system from corporate users to the city's households.

In a $20 million report presented to the city last week, risk management company, Kroll Incorporated lays out the city's malfeasance and names names. The report stops short of alleging criminal misconduct by city leaders, but it comes very close.

San Diego city leaders “fell prey” to the same type of “corruption of financial management” that afflicted Orange County before it sought bankruptcy and corporations like Enron before it collapsed, the 266-page report issued by Kroll Inc. stated.

The report, which cost the city more than $20 million and took 18 months to produce, outlined numerous cases of wrongdoing by San Diego's city officials related to the city's fiscal crisis and offered recommendations to improve fiscal management and accountability.

“We didn't pull any punches,” Arthur Levitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the head of the Kroll team, told the council and audience.

Two sections of the report concern violations of law concerning the wastewater system and the pension system.

The report names dozens of current and former city officials, both elected and administrative. It doesn't paint a flattering picture.

Levitt said his group found the past city leadership committed violations of the California Constitution, the city's charter and municipal code, and federal securities laws.

He decried a culture in which the city's budget decisions had a lack of transparency and were marked by “artful manipulation.”

“In my judgment San Diego's problems are not economic, they are political,” Levitt said.

Saying there was a “prevailing culture of political expedience,” Levitt said city officials made a concerted effort to water down a Blue Ribbon committee report that evaluated the city's financial problems.

“Concern was expressed that disclosure of the truth would derail the city's effort to issue bonds to build a new baseball stadium,” he said.

Levitt also said the city overcharged homeowners on their sewer bills to subsidize large industrial users. Those actions, according to the report, left the city liable for the return of $265 million in state funds.

According to the report, the city's pension system was thrown into crisis “by years of reckless and wrongful mismanagement involving any number of city and pension board officials.”

The report said that the renewal of the city's pension under funding plan in 2002 was “unlawful for a number of reasons,” a contention that City Attorney Michael Aguirre has made repeatedly since he took office in 2004.

This is not a single instance of mismanagement of misconduct. What the Kroll report clearly defines is a ten year history of willful illegal conduct. Conduct that resulted in amended city financial reports that have devastated San Diego's credit rating.

In Sunday's San Diego Union Tribune, one of the factors that started the city down the road to financial ruin is identified. According to the UT, the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego forced the city to dig deep to come up with sufficient funds to pay for all the frills the national party demand of the convention's host city.

The convention is now seen by some auditors and investigators as among a string of events that strained San Diego's tight city finances, leading policy-makers in 1996 to balance the books by paying less into the city pension system than was needed to meet its future obligations to thousands of retirees.


Kroll connected the dots in a 266-page report delivered Tuesday. It cited the convention among a few key things that “put a particularly severe strain” on the city's ability to meet its annual pension-payment obligation. The other strains were benefit increases and a new method of calculating the city's retirement costs.
It is indeed ironic that in a community where elected and appointed Republicans have for years proclaimed their belief in law and order and conservative fiscal policy, that financial disaster has been inflicted by these same politicians decisions to steal money from homeowners and retirees. Adding more bitterness to the irony is the fact that the Republican National Convention that the city's Republican leaders so assiduously courted was one of the unpaid bills that forced those fiscal conservatives to begin their financial ponzi scheme.

Be Afraid...Ned Lamont Wants The Terrorist to Win

So, the dramatic arrests, the disruption in international air travel, the negative impact on airline stocks, the drastic increase in check in times at US airports, all of that and more happened because the Bush Administration wanted to get Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman off of the top of the news.

Certainly, that's the implication in this NBC report.
A senior British official knowledgeable about the case said British police were planning to continue to run surveillance for at least another week to try to obtain more evidence, while American officials pressured them to arrest the suspects sooner. The official spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the case.

In contrast to previous reports, the official suggested an attack was not imminent, saying the suspects had not yet purchased any airline tickets. In fact, some did not even have passports.

"Some did not even have passports." Let's assume that British bureaucracy is as efficient as its American counterpart. From the time of application, figure a couple of weeks until a passport is delivered. So, this "imminent" attack was dependent, in part, on the efficiency of the British passport office and mail system. Talk about split second timing.

The Tattered Coat has a great summary of the Bush Adminstration's intervention into an active terror investigation for political purposes.
For the GOP, the short term political importance of getting the Lamont victory, and the developing sense that America had fully turned against the Iraq War, off the news was reason enough to disrupt an active terror investigation. The disruption hurt the legal case against the terrorists — it will be much harder to convict them without passports or airline tickets. The GOP was so insistent on the timing that they threatened to “render” the lead suspect if the British did not comply with their wishes.
The war on terror is all that Bush and his neocon allies have left. Of course, before 9/11 they didn't even have that. You might say that 9/11 was the best day in the history of both the Bush Administration and the neocon movement.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's Saturday Night!

Real rock and roll.

Video from TheByrds1990.

You Mean There Is An Alternative to Blind Panic?

Uhhh....Yes. At least according to Kung Fu Monkey, we have options other than to "be very afraid" every time something terrible might have happened, if the police hadn't already known about the plot and been actively watching the perpetrators.
To be honest, it's not like I'm a brave man. I'm not. At all. It just, well, it doesn't take that much strength of will not to be scared. Who the hell am I supposed to be scared of? Joseph Padilla, dirty bomber who didn't actually know how to build a bomb, had no allies or supplies, and against whom the government case is so weak they're now shuffling him from court to court to avoid the public embarassment of a trial? The fuckwits who were going to take down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches? Richard Reid, the Zeppo of suicide bombers? The great Canadian plot that had organized over the internet, was penetrated by the Mounties on day one, and we were told had a TRUCK FULL OF EXPLOSIVES ... which they had bought from the Mounties in a sting operation but hey let's skip right over that. Or how about the "compound" of Christian cultists in Florida who were planning on blowing up the Sears Tower with ... kung fu?

And now these guys. As the initial "OH SWEET MOTHER OF GOD THEY CAN BLOW US UP WITH SNAPPLE BOTTLES!!" hysteria subsides, we discover that these guys had been under surveillance, completely penetrated, by no less than three major intelligence agencies. That they were planning on cell phones, and some of them openly travelled to Pakistan (way to keep the cover, Reilly, Ace of Spies).
Can they really blow up airplanes with Snapple? Holy crap, I'll never fly or go to 7/11 again.

Hat tip to firedoglake.

Did I Miss Something?

The Ned Lamont thing has been filling up all the tubes on the lefty internets lately. Apparently, when one Democrat defeats another Democrat in a primary, that is the cue for great rejoicing in the lefty blogsphere.

When I look around, I see our country be run by a cabal of right wing extremists, who are a terrorist attack away from turning the United States into a one party dictatorship.

The joy shown across the so called "progressive" spectrum at the defeat of Joe Lieberman has to be tempered with the understanding that the defeat of Lieberman was the equivalent of say the defeat of Henri Pétain as the leader of the Vichy government.

Two facts that people I respect greatly in the progressive grass roots seem to be overlooking:

1. Republicans are still winning re-election (examples CA-50, CA-48 or OH-2) and men like Jerry Lewis (CA-41), John Doolittle (CA-4) and Dick Pombo (CA-11) are all looking at being re-elected in November, even if they are indicted before then.

2. Joe Lieberman is very likely to be re-elected to the Senate for six more years, free of any contraints to support any aspect of the Democratic or progressive agenda in congress.

Before we open the champagne perhaps we should find a way to get the Democratic Party back in power.

Homeland Security Mean Foreign Wars to Bush

The Department of Homeland Security continues to fail in its named function, "homeland security." When it comes to developing and deploying technologies that would be able to detect potential dangerous substances in airline baggage, Bush's homeland security crew is years behind the curve.

Lawmakers and recently retired Homeland Security officials say they are concerned the department's research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely.

The department failed to spend $200 million in research and development money from past years, forcing lawmakers to rescind the money this summer.

The administration also was slow to start testing a new liquid explosives detector that the Japanese government provided to the United States earlier this year.

While finding the time to determine that an Ohio petting zoo might be a terrorist target, the Department of Homeland security hasn't been able to figure out how to spend funds allocated to defend aircraft from potential terrorist bombs.

For more than four years, officials inside Homeland Security also have debated whether to deploy smaller trace explosive detectors — already in most American airports — to foreign airports to help stop any bomb chemicals or devices from making it onto U.S.-destined flights.

A 2002 Homeland Security report recommended "immediate deployment" of the trace units to key European airports, highlighting their low cost, $40,000 per unit, and their detection capabilities. The report said one such unit was able, 25 days later, to detect explosives residue inside the airplane where convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid was foiled in December 2001.


Tony Fainberg, who formerly oversaw Homeland Security's explosive and radiation detection research with the national labs, said he strongly urged deployment of the detectors overseas but was rebuffed.

"It is not that expensive," said Fainberg, who recently retired. "There was no resistance from any country that I was aware of, and yet we didn't deploy it."

Fainberg said research efforts were often frustrated inside Homeland Security by "bureaucratic games," a lack of strategic goals and months-long delays in distributing money Congress had already approved.

"There has not been a focused and coherent strategic plan for defining what we need ... and then matching the research and development plans to that overall strategy," he said.

Doesn't this sound like standard operating procedure at DHS and, for the matter, the Pentagon and the White House?

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Saturday Night YouTube

If you have ever been to the Costa Brava, you know this little ditty.

Thank you perfectus.

Brent Wilkes Speaks

The New York Times was able to do something that federal investigators have been having trouble doing - get key Republican Congress of Corruption money man, Brent Wilkes to speak on the record. In an exclusive interview published today Wilkes tells the story of his life in the world of “transactional lobbying.”

Wilkes instructor in the ways of the Republican congress was former San Diego congressman Bill Lowery. According to Wilkes, Lowery taught him how to "grease palms" in congress. His first class with Lowery was in 1992, when Wilkes was just starting and Lowery was still a member of congress. Wilkes had a business pitch and ten envelopes each containing a check for $10,000.

Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.

Wilkes was a quick study and learned quickly that prominent Republican congressman were easily swayed by envelopes filled with money.

Mr. Wilkes described the appropriations process as little more than a shakedown. He said that lobbyists close to the committee members unceasingly demanded campaign contributions from entrepreneurs like him. Mr. Wilkes and his associates have given more than $706,000 to federal campaigns since 1997, according to public records, and he said he had brought in more as a fund-raiser. Since 2000, Mr. Wilkes’s principal company has received about $100 million in federal contracts.
Wilkes most publicized congressional connection was convicted Republican felon Randy "Duke" Cunningham, to whom Wilkes provided over $500,000 in bribes (not to be confused with the $706,000 noted above), but the member of congress with the most to lose in the on-going Wilkes' investigation is Jerry Lewis (CA-41). Lewis' relationship with Wilkes was facilitated by Bill Lowery, whose lobbying firm is virtually based on its relationship to the powerful Lewis and the earmarks he controls.

Here's how Wilkes describes that relationship:
“Lowery would always say, ‘It is a two-part deal,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘Jerry will make the request. Jerry will carry the vote. Jerry will have plenty of time for this. If you don’t want to make the contributions, chair the fund-raising event, you will get left behind.’ ”
Lewis continues to try and distance himself from Wilkes, but Wilkes has the goods on both Lewis and Lowery.

In recent months, Mr. Lewis has said that he barely knew Mr. Wilkes and that he did not remember seeing him in nearly a decade. But Mr. Wilkes says their relationship was closer than that.

Ever since they went on a scuba-diving trip together in 1993, he said, Mr. Lewis had referred to him as his “diving buddy.” They occasionally dined together or met at political functions, Mr. Wilkes said. At a Las Vegas fund-raiser in April 2005, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lewis greeted him as “Brento” and hugged him as Mr. Wilkes surprised the lawmaker with $25,000 in campaign contributions.


As he grew more confident, Mr. Wilkes said, he often considered dropping Mr. Lowery, whose fees had escalated to $25,000 a month by 2005, from $2,500. But Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery threatened to block future projects if their relationship ended. Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery had warned several times that doing so could prompt Mr. Lewis to cut off earmarks, saying, “You don’t want me telling those guys on the committee that you are moving on without me.” That meant, Mr. Wilkes said, “I’d be out of business.”

Brent Wilkes bought lots of members of congress. Jerry Lewis is the one with the highest profile, but Wilkes is also closely associated with John Doolittle (CA-4) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52). If Wilkes decides to break his silence with the feds, Duke Cunningham is going to have some company in jail.

Doolittle and Abramoff - It's Official

Today's Sacramento Bee front pages Representative John Doolittle's (CA-4) connection with Jack Abramoff. David Whitney of the Bee's Washington bureau details the close relationship between Abramoff contributions and Doolittle's intervention in the internal politics of the Northern Mariana Islands.
John Doolittle helped Jack Abramoff secure a lucrative lobbying contract with the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1999 and then assisted the now-disgraced lobbyist's efforts to route federal money to the islands and defend its garment industry, newly obtained documents show.
Abramoff's primary mission as a lobbyist was the protection of the Mariana's garment industry from government regulation.

The commonwealth is a U.S. territory east of the Philippines whose garment industry has been widely criticized as a collection of sweatshops employing Chinese, Filipino and other immigrant workers at subminimum wages. Clothing from these plants is sold tariff-free in the United States under a "Made in the USA" label.

Workers there have complained of living in prison-like conditions. Women have said they were shunted into the bustling sex industry. Chinese women told U.S. investigators that they were forced to have abortions after becoming pregnant.


At the time Doolittle was a member of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the commonwealth.

Abramoff lobbied to stop reforms from passing in the U.S. Congress that would impose U.S. immigration and wage laws. Efforts to enact those laws have been bipartisan and continue today.

Doolittle has been a leading opponent of the reforms, saying the reported abuses could be halted with aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws already on the books. He stood in lock step on the issue with his mentor, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, then the Republican whip and later the House majority leader, who called the Mariana Islands a "Petri dish for capitalism."

Doolittle's relationship with Abramoff extends far beyond the work he did for his "friend" in the Marianas, but this is the only case where Abramoff's financial support to Doolittle was direct, not through others.

Whitney lays out the timeline of Abramoff contributions and ties them directly to Doolittle actions. It is classic pay to play politics, facilitated by Doolittle's former chief of staff, Kevin Ring, who had direct responsibility for the Marianas account when he join Abramoff's lobbying firm.

After he moved his operation to the Greenberg Traurig law firm and had the commonwealth contract extended for 2001, Abramoff appointed former Doolittle aide Kevin Ring to manage the account.

Over the next 10 months, according to billing records, Ring met or contacted Doolittle or his staffers 19 times to talk about Mariana Islands issues, including appropriations for the islands.

From the beginning when Abramoff needed leverage in internal Marianas politics, he turned to Doolittle. After loosing his lobbying contract in 1998, Abramoff used Doolittle to help get a his candidate, Benigne Fitial, elected to the commonwealth's legislature.

After losing the commonwealth contract in 1998, Abramoff campaigned in 1999 to get it renewed. Key to his strategy was Benigne Fitial, a supporter and former legislator who for the last decade had been vice president of Tan Holdings Group, operator of garment plants and publisher of the Saipan Tribune, according to published reports.

On Oct. 3, 1999, Doolittle received a $1,000 contribution from Abramoff, the first from the star lobbyist. Three weeks later, Doolittle wrote a letter to Fitial praising his entry into the race and endorsing his election to the commonwealth's Legislature.

Among Benigne's first acts after his election was to push "through the commonwealth's house legislation directing the government to hire Abramoff's firm, Preston Gates."

Doolittle was in Abramoff's pocket and from 1999 on could be counted upon to provide support to Abramoff's interests in the Marianas.

This is the issue that is going to begin to dismantle Doolittle's house of corruption.

For more background check with Dump Doolittle and this story over at TPM Muckraker.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Stop Me Before I YouTube Again

Motown. Yeah!

Thanks irishpastry.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Moving and Painful

Michael Bronner's 9/11chronicle of NORAD's futile efforts to protect the nation is a painful and moving piece of journalism. Based on access to 6.5 hours of detailed tape recordings and interviews with key players this is the definitive history of the military response to the 9/11 attack on our homeland.

It is hard to read about then Major Kevin Nasypany and his staff at the upstate New York NEADS (Northeast Air Defense Sector) without wondering what might have happened if warnings about possible airborne attacks had been taken seriously and heightened security and interagency coordination had been ordered by the Bush Administration (something history suggests the Clinton Administration would have done faced with similar input).
For the NEADS crew, 9/11 was not a story of four hijacked airplanes, but one of a heated chase after more than a dozen potential hijackings—some real, some phantom—that emerged from the turbulence of misinformation that spiked in the first 100 minutes of the attack and continued well into the afternoon and evening. At one point, in the span of a single mad minute, one hears Nasypany struggling to parse reports of four separate hijackings at once. What emerges from the barrage of what Nasypany dubs "bad poop" flying at his troops from all directions is a picture of remarkable composure. Snap decisions more often than not turn out to be the right ones as commanders kick-start the dormant military machine. It is the fog and friction of war live—the authentic military history of 9/11.
The sense of failure and frustration that permeates NEADS as the duty crew watches aircraft they can't find on their radar screens crash into buildings on CNN is so tangible that it is gut wrenching.

Almost simultaneously, United 175 slams into the south tower of the World Trade Center, something several NEADS personnel witness live on CNN, including Colonel Marr, the commanding officer.

On the ops floor, there is considerable confusion as to whether the second hijacking New York Center just called in is the same plane that hit the second tower, or whether there are now three missing planes.

Read it. And weep.