Saturday, May 06, 2006
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Prosecutors have e-mails showing Rep. Tom DeLay's office knew lobbyist Jack Abramoff had arranged the financing for the GOP leader's controversial European golfing trip in 2000 and was concerned ''if someone starts asking questions.''
House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting free trips from lobbyists. DeLay, R-Texas, left, reported to Congress that a Republican advocacy group had paid for the spring 2000 trip that DeLay, his wife and top aides took to Scotland and England.
The e-mails obtained by The Associated Press show DeLay's staff asked Abramoff -- not the advocacy group -- to account for the costs that had to be legally disclosed on congressional travel forms. DeLay's office was worried the group being cited as paying the costs might not even know about them, the e-mails state.
Abramoff's team sought to low-ball the cost estimates and DeLay's office ultimately reported to Congress a total that was a few thousand dollars lower than the one the lobbyist provided, the documents show.
''We should give them the most minimal numbers for cost of the hotel (do not include golf), food and plays,'' Abramoff wrote two assistants at his Preston Gates lobbying firm in an e-mail from June 29, 2000. One of those assistants, Susan Ralston, now works for top White House adviser Karl Rove.
In a follow-up e-mail to Abramoff, Ralston reported she talked to DeLay's then-deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, who suggested numbers that could be used as cost figures on the congressional travel report. Rudy had gone on the trip with his boss.
''Tony said: $6,800 for flights per person. $300 per night for hotel, $120 per day per person for meals, $500 per day for transportation,'' Ralston wrote Abramoff. Abramoff's credit card bill shows some costs were higher.
Federal prosecutors have secured the cooperation of Abramoff and Rudy, and are investigating whether DeLay filed false public reports to disguise the source and size of political donations, travel and other gifts he received from special interests. Several witnesses have been questioned in recent months about the Scotland trip e-mails.
DeLay's lawyer said Friday he believes the congressman's office asked Abramoff, instead of the GOP group, for the trip costs because the group's top executive was on maternity leave. He noted Abramoff served as director for the group listed as paying for the trip.
''The way I read this was that staff was trying to get it right,'' lawyer Richard Cullen said of the e-mails. ''His (DeLay's) goal and his marching orders to his staff was to do it correctly. And I think staff tried to do it correctly.''
An expert on federal disclosure reports said the e-mails raise serious questions about whether DeLay's office filed a false report. ''It clearly shows some members live in a dream world of high-class living and fictional accounting. DeLay's office was part of the public deception. It makes you wonder if there are more filings as fictional as this one is turning out to be,'' said Kent Cooper, the former chief of public disclosure for the Federal Election Commission.
Abramoff's lawyers declined comment.
DeLay's lawyer said despite the discrepancy in cost figures and the evidence Abramoff initially paid for the airfare on his credit card, DeLay has no plans to change his travel report to Congress. ''I think the report was made in good faith,'' the lawyer said.
Full NY Times story.
BY RICHARD SISK and JAMES GORDON MEEK, DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - CIA Director Porter Goss abruptly resigned yesterday amid allegations that he and a top aide may have attended Watergate poker parties where bribes and prostitutes were provided to a corrupt congressman.
Kyle (Dusty) Foggo, the No. 3 official at the CIA, could soon be indicted in a widening FBI investigation of the parties thrown by defense contractor Brent Wilkes, named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery conviction of former Rep. Randall (Duke) Cunningham, law enforcement sources said.
A CIA spokeswoman said Foggo went to the lavish weekly hospitality-suite parties at the Watergate and Westin Grand hotels but "just for poker."
Intelligence and law enforcement sources said solid evidence had yet to emerge that Goss also went to the parties, but Goss and Foggo share a fondness for poker and expensive cigars, and the FBI investigation was continuing.
Larry Johnson, a former CIA operative and a Bush administration critic, said Goss "had a relationship with Dusty and with Brent Wilkes that's now coming under greater scrutiny." Johnson vouched for the integrity of Foggo and Goss but said, "Dusty was a big poker player, and it's my understanding that Porter Goss was also there [at Wilkes' parties] for poker. It's going to be guilt by association."
"It's all about the Duke Cunningham scandal," a senior law enforcement official told the Daily News in reference to Goss' resignation. Duke, a California Republican, was sentenced to more than eight years in prison after pleading guilty in November to taking $2.4 million in homes, yachts and other bribes in exchange for steering government contracts.
Goss' inability to handle the allegations swirling around Foggo prompted John Negroponte, the director of National Intelligence, who oversees all of the nation's spy agencies, to press for the CIA chief's ouster, the senior official said. The official said Goss is not an FBI target but "there is an impending indictment" of Foggo for steering defense contracts to his poker buddies.
One subject of the FBI investigation is a $3 million CIA contract that went to Wilkes to supply bottled water and other goods to CIA operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan, sources said.
In a hastily arranged Oval Office announcement that stunned official Washington, neither President Bush, right, nor Goss offered a substantive reason for why the head of the spy agency was leaving after only a year on the job.
"He has led ably" in an era of CIA transition, Bush said with Goss seated at his side. "He has a five-year plan to increase the analysts and operatives."
Goss said the trust Bush placed in him "is something I could never have imagined." "I believe the agency is on a very even keel, sailing well," he said.
The official Bush administration spin that emerged later was that Goss lost out in a turf battle with Negroponte, but Goss' tenure was marked by the resignations of several veteran operatives who viewed him as an amateur out of his depth.
White House officials said Bush would announce early next week his choice to succeed Goss. Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, Negroponte's top deputy, heads the list of potential replacements, with White House counterterror chief Fran Townsend also on the short list.
Negroponte "apparently had no confidence" in Goss, and Bush's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board was also "very alarmed by problems at the CIA," said a congressional source involved in oversight of U.S. spy agencies. "Supposedly the [Cunningham] scandal was the last straw," the source said. "This administration may be on the verge of a major scandal."
Full NY Daily News story. Bill Spier blogged hints of this story yesterday on DemLog.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Dallas Business Journal - May 5, 2006, by Christine Perez Staff Writer
Once the color barrier has been broken, minority contractors seeking government work may need to overcome the Bush barrier.
That’s the message U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson seemed to send during an April 28 talk in Dallas.
Jackson, a former president and CEO of the Dallas Housing Authority, was among the featured speakers at a forum sponsored by the Real Estate Executive Council, a national minority real estate consortium.
After discussing the huge strides the agency has made in doing business with minority-owned companies, Jackson closed with a cautionary tale, relaying a conversation he had with a prospective advertising contractor.
“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’
“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’ I thought to myself, ‘Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn’t be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don’t tell the secretary.’
“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don’t get the contract. That’s the way I believe.”
Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said canceling a government contract due to political views “is not a door you want to open.”
“Whether or not it’s legal, it certainly draws your judgment and the judgment of your office into question,” Jillson said. “It’s just not the tone you want to set.”
Told of Jackson’s comments, Mary Scott Nabers, a government-contracting consultant in Austin, had a briefer initial reaction. “Oh, my goodness gracious,” she said.
Jillson called the exchange between Jackson and the prospective contractor “idiocy” on both sides.
Dustee Tucker, a spokeswoman for Jackson’s office, said the value of the advertising contract, which was to be placed with a minority publication, could not be provided.
“Because it was not awarded per what the Secretary said, we don’t have any record of it,” she said. “It was probably all verbal at that point.”
“Jackson is right; what possessed the contractor to criticize the president in a business setting? But what possessed Jackson to say he’s not going to complete the business transaction?” Jillson said. “You’d just like to take both of these guys and shake them by their collars. There’s no reason to have high expectations of the contractor, but you do hope senior public officials are grounded, thoughtful people, and Jackson didn’t give good evidence of that.”
Rod Bailey with The Staubach Co., who put the REEC event together, said Jackson was simply telling it like it is.
“It’s politics at its finest,” he said. “If you talk to other government officials, they would have similar stories. The same thing holds true in business. If you don’t like Roger Staubach, you’re not going to work at The Staubach Co. Leaders are the roots of their organizations. If you want to be a part of them and profit from them, you have to be on the same mission.”
Merit vs. Politics
Most of the time, politics don’t come into play with government contracts, said Nabers, who heads Strategic Partnership Inc., an Austin-based consulting group that advises companies on doing business with public agencies.
“Politics should never be involved in the procurement process,” she said. “That’s not to say that sometimes they don’t, but, especially at the federal and state level, the procedures are so scrutinized. Politicians run from things like that -- it’s too dangerous.”
Nabers said government contracts are awarded based on merit -- which vendor can provide the best value at the best price. Contractors who think decisions weren’t based on merit can file a protest and ask for evaluations to see why they didn’t win.
REEC attendee Junior Glymph, a defensive end for the Dallas Cowboys, said he could see Jackson’s point.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” he said. “But in politics, you have to watch what you say.”
HUD made strides
Opportunities for minority commercial real estate executives are plentiful within the U.S. government, Jackson told the April 28 gathering.
“Whether it’s HUD or another agency, the opportunities are there,” he said. “The most amazing thing I’ve ever seen is the amount of contracts we hand out every day. Just one contract can make you wealthy.”
Under Jackson’s leadership, HUD has gone from close to the bottom to first among the larger agencies doing business with minority-owned companies.
In 2005, 16% of HUD contracts, or about $167 million worth of work, went to black-owned businesses. Hispanic-owned businesses received 7%, or $71 million. That combined 23% is up from 6% in 2000, the year before Jackson was named deputy secretary of the agency.
Despite getting just 8% and 11% of the African-American vote nationally in his two presidential wins, Jackson said President Bush is committed to creating prosperity for minority business owners.
“President Bush and I will work with you to move you toward more prosperity,” he said. “He wants this agency and other agencies to reflect this country.”
During the exchange -- which was part of the question-and-answer session of a speech given by Rumsfeld in Atlanta -- Rumsfeld stated: "It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. McGovern responded: "You said you knew where they were" -- a charge that Rumsfeld falsely denied.
Full Media Matters for America story.
Why did Goss Resign?
Stephen Colbert stuck the sword in the Decider last weekend, and Ray McGovern gave it to Rumsfeld yesterday. But as long as Bush and Rumsfeld are the borderline psychopaths in the line of sight, the real evil doers in the corporate boardrooms breath a sigh of relief -- as do the Likudniks who are helping plan the attack on Iran. This administration uses scandal to cover plannned violence on the world.
What next? Porter Goss abruptly resigned as CIA chief today. Never mind that corporate media has hinted that this was coming for weeks; the reality may be that Goss, former head the House Intelligence Committee, could have been covorting with Mitchell Wade's real military procurement: hookers -- or something close to that. The Duke (Cunningham) may be another of those bunnies who keeps on giving because the FBI (those zealots) keeps digging into that new fangled Watergate thing.
So here we have half of the Republican leadership chasing female prostitutes in the Watergate Hotel, and half chasing Jeff Gannon -- a flaming male prostitute -- through the halls of the White House.
I already have an altered state of awareness; but how is James Dobson taking in all this sexy stuff?
I think I'll e-mail him.
Editor's note: Focus on the Family's email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read it HERE.
J.P. comments: WTF? I am flabbergasted by this. Incomprehensible.
AFP: Outgoing press secretary lies one more time for Bush
WASHINGTON (AFP) - US's knowledge of Spanish is insufficient to sing "Nuestro Himno," the new Spanish-language version of the US national anthem, the departing White House spokesman said.
"The President can speak Spanish, but not that well," spokesman Scott McClellan (right, with Bush and Tony Snow, McClellan's successor) told reporters at the White House.
However, press reports have suggested, and videos circulating around the internet have shown conclusively, that the US president on occasion has sung the anthem in Spanish, in the approving presence of Hispanic constituents.
McClellan insisted Thursday, however, that that was not the case.
"I'm saying that not only was that suggestion absurd, but that he couldn't possibly sing the national anthem in Spanish. He's not that good with his Spanish," the outgoing spokesman said.
AP: Conservatives abandoning Bush in polls
By RON FOURNIER, AP Political Writer -- Friday, 27 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of , left, and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre.
Six months out, the intensity of opposition to Bush and Congress has risen sharply, along with the percentage of Americans who believe the nation is on the wrong track.
The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in the middle of a president's term traditionally favor the party whose core supporters are the most energized.
This week's survey of 1,000 adults, including 865 registered voters, found:
Just 33 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, the lowest of his presidency. That compares with 36 percent approval in early April. Forty-five percent of self-described conservatives now disapprove of the president.
Just one-fourth of the public approves of the job Congress is doing, a new low in AP-Ipsos polling and down 5 percentage points since last month. A whopping 65 percent of conservatives disapprove of Congress.
A majority of Americans say they want Democrats rather than Republicans to control Congress (51 percent to 34 percent). That's the largest gap recorded by AP-Ipsos since Bush took office. Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power.
The souring of the nation's mood has accelerated the past three months, with the percentage of people describing the nation on the wrong track rising 12 points to a new high of 73 percent. Six of 10 conservatives say America is headed in the wrong direction.
Republican strategists said the party stands to lose control of Congress unless the environment changes unexpectedly.
"It's going to take some events of significance to turn this around," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "I don't think at this point you can talk your way back from those sorts of ratings."
Full AP-Yahoo News story. M.C.: "Events of significance?" Hopefully, some "emergency" in Iran or North Korea will not do it for them.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
On the May 3 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Sean Hannity compared our invasion of Iraq with Reagan's stand against communism and justified it as a fight for liberty in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks.
CALLER: The [Iraq] war was the greatest mistake in my lifetime.
HANNITY: It was not. You know what? It may be the greatest success in our lifetime, if, in fact -- if Reagan was betting on the fact that it is inherent in the human spirit to be free, that we are endowed by our creator that all men are created equal, and that given an opportunity the people in the Eastern Bloc would ultimately rise up and help in the beginnings of freedom. So, too, can it happen in this part of the world.
CALLER: Well, so, too, can it happen that they vote for Hamas, like they just did.
HANNITY: Well, the Palestinians -- this could be the beginning of democratization, and liberty and freedom in that part of the world. Do you deny that's a possibility?
CALLER: No, I don't deny it, but they can also vote for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas on the West Bank --
HANNITY: Well, you could vote for Hillary Clinton tomorrow, too, for crying out loud, [caller], but, I mean, does that mean that we sit back and do nothing?
CALLER: Well, don't send American kids to die for democracy in some damn place -- god-forsaken place on the other side of the world. I'm not for filling up Walter Reed hospital with a bunch of Americans because Sean Hannity is frightened.
HANNITY: Nobody is for that. Well, with all due respect, [caller], it's not a matter of Sean Hannity being frightened, but maybe you forgot -- I haven't forgot that 3,000 people died. We were attacked. It was the worst attack in history. They were at war with us for 10 years, and we didn't do a darn thing, [caller], and 3,000 people perhaps died unnecessarily.
Source: Media Matters for America.
By SHANNON McCAFFREY, Associated Press Writer -- Thursday, 19 minutes ago
ATLANTA - Anti-war protesters repeatedly interrupted Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld during a speech Thursday and one man, a former analyst, accused him in a question-and-answer session of lying about prewar intelligence.
"Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" asked Ray McGovern, right, the former analyst.
"I did not lie," shot back Rumsfeld, who waved off security guards ready to remove McGovern from the hall at the Southern Center for International Studies.
Three protesters were escorted away by security as each interrupted Rumsfeld's speech by jumping up and shouting anti-war messages. Throughout the speech, a fourth protester stood up in the middle of the room with his back to Rumsfeld in silent protest.
Rumsfeld also faced tough questions from a woman identifying herself as Patricia Robertson, who said she had lost her son in Iraq. Robertson said she is now raising her grandson and asked whether the government could provide any help.
Rumsfeld referred her to a Web site listing aid organizations.
When security guards tried removing McGovern, the analyst, during his persistent questions of Rumsfeld, the defense secretary told them to let him stay. The two continued to spar.
"You're getting plenty of play," Rumsfeld told McGovern, who is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq.
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent -- Thursday, May 4
VILNIUS, Lithuania - Vice President , left, in remarks that caused a stir in neighboring Russia, accused President Thursday of restricting the rights of citizens and said that "no legitimate interest is served" by turning energy resources into implements of blackmail.
Cheney is seen as Estonian President Arnold Ruutel, to his left, looks on, prior to Cheney's speech during the Vilnius Conference 2006 in Vilnius, Lithuania Thursday. Cheney accused Russia on Thursday of restricting the rights of its citizens. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis)
"In Russia today, opponents of reform are seeking to reverse the gains of the last decade," Cheney told a conference of Eastern European leaders whose countries once lived under Soviet oppression, and now in Russia's shadow.
Cheney's speech blended praise for the progress Eastern European countries have made toward democracy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with an exhortation to continue on the same path.
"The democratic unity of Europe ensures the peace of Europe," he said.
He said Russia has a choice to make when it comes to reform, and said that in many areas, "from religion and the news media to advocacy groups and political parties, the government has unfairly and improperly restricted the rights of the people."
AP: Britain & France face-off against Russia & China at UN over Iran sanctions
By NICK WADHAMS, Associated Press Writer -- Thursday, May 4, 3:41 AM ET
UNITED NATIONS - Over Chinese and Russian opposition, Western nations circulated aresolution that would demand abandon uranium enrichment or face the threat of unspecified further measures, a possible reference to sanctions.
Jean Marc de La Sabliere, French Ambassador to the United Nations, standing beside Emyr Jones Parry, right, British Ambassador to the U.N., as they address the media after a closed doors Security Council consultations on the nuclear program of Iran at U.N. headquarters in New York Wednesday. (AP Photo/David Karp)
Britain and France, backed by the United States, hope to wrap up negotiations on the legally binding resolution before a meeting of foreign ministers in New York on Monday. However, diplomats acknowledged that resistance from China and Russia may prolong talks well beyond that.
The resolution, presented Wednesday, is the latest in weeks of negotiations over how to confront suspicions about Iran's nuclear program, which Tehran insists is for peaceful purposes. The United States and France accuse the country of secretly trying to build nuclear weapons.
Other Recent DemLog Items:
- UKG: Bush threatens prosecution against publishers of unfavorable leaked information
- MMfA: O'Reilly lies about NYT tipping off terrorists on illegal wiretapping
- AP: Mexico's Fox caves to US pressure to veto drug decriminalization bill
- BG: Specter zaps Bush for defying congress
- NYDN: W. flip-flops on singing national anthem in Spanish
UKG: Bush threatens prosecution against publishers of unfavorable leaked information
By Sidney Blumenthal, left -- Thursday May 4, 2006 -- The UK Guardian
Stephen Colbert performed within 10 yards of Bush's hostile stare and before 2,600 members of the press and their guests. After his mock praise of Bush as a rock against reality, Colbert censured the press by flattering its misfeasance. "Over the last five years you people were so good - over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out ... Here's how it works: the president makes decisions ... The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Just put 'em through a spellcheck and go home ... Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know - fiction!".
"Has the New York Times violated the Espionage Act?" asks an article in the neoconservative journal Commentary by Gabriel Schoenfeld, a senior editor, that lays out the case for prosecution. When the Post and Times won Pulitzer prizes for their stories, William Bennett, a former Republican cabinet secretary and now a commentator on CNN, said: "What they did is worthy of jail."
At Bush's orders dragnets are being conducted throughout the national security bureaucracy in search of press sources. And the FBI subpoenaed four decades of files accumulated by recently deceased investigative journalist Jack Anderson in an attempt to exhume old classified material.
Bush takes a different attitude on his own leaking of secrets. Dozens of National Security Council documents were leaked to journalist Bob Woodward for his 2002 encomium, Bush At War. Vice-President Cheney and his staff leaked disinformation to reporters to make the case that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD. And Bush and Cheney authorised Cheney's then chief of staff Lewis Libby to leak portions of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq's WMD to sympathetic reporters in an effort to discredit a critic, former ambassador Joseph Wilson.
In January, two officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (the so-called Israel Lobby) were indicted for receiving classified material from a Pentagon official who was imprisoned. The Aipac officials are being prosecuted as if they were reporters receiving leaks; if convicted under the 1917 Espionage Act, the precedent would be ominous.
Some in the press understand the peril posed to the first amendment by an imperial president trying to smother the system of checks and balances. For those of the Washington press corps who shunned a court jester for his irreverence, status is more urgent than the danger to liberty. But it's no laughing matter.
Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars. email@example.com.
Source: UK Guardian.
MMfA: O'Reilly lies about NYT tipping off terrorists on illegal wiretapping
Responding to Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's suggestion that "the American press" might be "helping terrorists," New York Post columnist and retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, right, claimed that the December 2005 Pulitzer Prize-winning report by The New York Times exposing the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless domestic spying program did just that. Peters, the author of New Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy (Sentinel, August 2005), asserted that the report "told them, the terrorists, 'Get off your cell phones, get off the Net. Find other ways to communicate.' " Peters added that the warrantless eavesdropping program wasn't "wiretapping you or me or your viewers" but was instead "tapping suspected terrorists and their connections." Peters's comments came during the May 1 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor.
In fact, contrary to Peters's suggestion that the Times story tipped off terrorists that their communications were being monitored, as Media Matters has noted, Al Qaeda has reportedly been taking precautions for years to avoid surveillance of its cell-phone conversations, notably through the use of untraceable disposable cell phones. For example, on January 12, in a story about bulk purchases of disposable cell phones in the United States, ABC News reported that Al Qaeda used disposable cell phones in its March 2004 bombings in Spain. Additionally, an October 17, 2002, USA Today article indicated Al Qaeda's awareness of the issue and its use of countermeasures against NSA eavesdropping. USA Today stated: "The NSA faces new obstacles in penetrating al-Qaeda because the terror group has learned how to evade U.S. interception technology -- chiefly by using disposable cell phones or by avoiding phones altogether and substituting human messengers and face-to-face meetings to convey orders." Media Matters has also noted that Osama bin Laden reportedly stopped using his satellite phone within days of the August 20, 1998, U.S. attack on Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan.
Moreover, as Media Matters has noted, contrary to Peters's suggestion that the eavesdropping program has not involved average Americans, The Washington Post reported on February 5 that, according to "current and former government officials and private-sector sources," intelligence officers used the program to eavesdrop "on thousands of Americans in overseas calls" but "dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat." Similarly, The New York Times reported on January 17 that, according to "current and former officials," "virtually all" of the tips provided by the NSA to the FBI under the warrantless spying program "led to dead ends or innocent Americans."
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
MEXICO CITY - Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to sign a drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, hours after U.S. officials warned the plan could encourage "drug tourism."
Fox sent the measure back to Congress for changes, but his office did not mention the U.S. criticism.
Fox will ask "Congress to make the needed corrections to make it absolutely clear in our country, the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, a criminal offense," according to a statement from the president's office.
On Tuesday, Fox's spokesman had called the bill "an advance" and pledged the president would sign it. But the measure, passed Friday by Congress, drew a storm of criticism because it eliminates criminal penalties possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamines and PCP, as well as marijuana and cocaine.
Earlier in the day, the U.S. government expressed a rare public objection to an internal Mexican political development, saying anyone caught with illegal drugs in Mexico should be prosecuted or given mandatory drug treatment.
"U.S. officials ... urged Mexican representatives to review the legislation urgently, to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico, and to prevent drug tourism," U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Judith Bryan said.
There are concerns the measure could increase drug use by border visitors and U.S. students who flock to Mexico on vacation.
Full AP-Yahoo News story.
BG: Specter zaps Bush for defying congress
WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, accusing the White House of a ''very blatant encroachment" on congressional authority, said yesterday he will hold an oversight hearing into President Bush's assertion that he has the power to bypass more than 750 laws enacted over the past five years.
''There is some need for some oversight by Congress to assert its authority here," Arlen Specter, left, Republican of Pennsylvania, said in an interview. ''What's the point of having a statute if . . . the president can cherry-pick what he likes and what he doesn't like?"
Specter said he plans to hold the hearing in June. He said he intends to call administration officials to explain and defend the president's claims of authority, as well to invite constitutional scholars to testify on whether Bush has overstepped the boundaries of his power.
BY KENNETH R. BAZINET -- NEW YORK DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU
WASHINGTON - President Bush says the national anthem should only be sung in English, but he was apparently singing a different tune during his first run for President and at his inaugural festivities.
On the campaign trail in 1999, Bush would often sing along as the national anthem was sung in Spanish during stops in Hispanic communities, GOP scholar Kevin Phillips wrote in his book "American Dynasty."
After Bush was elected, Cuban exile and pop vocalist Jon Secada also sang the "The Star-Spangled Banner" in both English and Spanish at the 2001 opening ceremony of the presidential inaugural, according to media reports at the time.
The White House had no immediate comment, claiming it was unaware of the reports of those instances, which Democrats and their allies eagerly shared with reporters.
Bush and Secada sang the actual national anthem in Spanish, and not the new song with different lyrics and music that has angered many English-speaking Americans.
Nonetheless, Bush still appeared to have amnesia when he suggested last week that the "The Star-Spangled Banner" is an English-only tune.
"I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English," Bush said.
AP: Iran enriches uranium for electricity, not bombs
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer -- Wednesday, 2 hours, 11 minutes ago
TEHRAN, Iran -'s nuclear chief said Wednesday that Iran has enriched uranium up to 4.8 percent the upper end of the range needed to make fuel for reactors as it continues to defy U.S. and European demands to stop enrichment.
Iranian technicians explain a piece of equipment to a clergyman, right, during an exhibition of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization at the Qom University in the city of Qom 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran, Iran, Tuesday. Iran has discovered new deposits of uranium and is continuing its nuclear enrichment program despite international protests, a top nuclear official said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
The announcement by nuclear chief Gholamreza Aghazadeh tops Iran's declaration last month that it had surpassed the 3.6 percent purity level. Uranium enriched to between 3.5 and 5 percent is used to make fuel for reactors to generate electricity.
Enriched to more than 90 percent, it becomes suitable for use in nuclear weapons. Aghazadeh added that Iran has no intention of enriching uranium beyond 5 percent.
officials in Vienna, Austria, said they had no information about the claim. The agency whose inspection powers have been curtailed in recent months by Iran said in a report sent to the on Friday that Iran's claim to have enriched small amounts to a level of 3.6 percent appeared to be true according to initial analysis of samples it took.
Wednesday's announcement, if true, is significant because it shows that Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of the Security Council, which asked Tehran last month to cease all such activity because of fears it could be misused to make nuclear arms.
European nations, backed by the United States, outlined a planned Security Council resolution in Paris on Tuesday to give "mandatory force" to the atomic watchdog agency's demands that Iran halt uranium enrichment.
Other Recent DemLog Items:
- BG: 3 Democrats slam president over defying statutes
- UKG: Acquitted Palestinian computer engineer cops terrorism plea to get out of jail in Florida
- MMfA: National Review editor says Limbaugh smeared over arrest
- AP: U.S. Prepares for Day Without Immigrants
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
By Charlie Savage, Globe Staff May 2, 2006
WASHINGTON -- Three leading Democratic senators blasted President Bush yesterday for having claimed he has the authority to defy more than 750 statutes enacted since he took office, saying that the president's legal theories are wrong and that he must obey the law.
''We're a government of laws, not men," Senate minority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada (seen with Sen. Patrick Leahy, left) said in a statement. ''It is not for George W. Bush to disregard the Constitution and decide that he is above the law."
Senator Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, accused Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney of attempting to concentrate ever more government power in their own hands.
''The Bush-Cheney administration has cultivated an insidious brand of unilateralism that regularly crosses into an arrogance of power," Leahy said in a statement. ''The scope of the administration's assertions of power is stunning, and it is chilling."
Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, also said that the Bush administration, abetted by ''a compliant Republican Congress," was undermining the checks and balances that ''guard against abuses of power by any single branch of government."
The opposition lawmakers were reacting to a report in Sunday's Boston Globe detailing the scope of Bush's assertions that he can ignore laws that conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Bush is the first president since Thomas Jefferson to stay so long in office without vetoing a bill -- an act that gives the public notice that he has rejected a provision and gives Congress a chance to override his judgment. Instead, Bush has signed into law every bill that reached his desk, often in public ceremonies in which he praises the legislation and its sponsors.
Then, after the ceremony, Bush has quietly appended ''signing statements" to more than one out of every 10 bills he has signed, laying out his legal interpretation for government officials to follow when implementing the new laws. The statements, which until recently attracted little attention in Congress or in the media, are filed without fanfare in the federal record.
In many cases, Bush has said he can ignore acts of Congress that seek to regulate the military and spy agencies, asserting the Constitution grants him that power as commander in chief. For example, he has claimed the power to waive a torture ban, provisions for oversight in the Patriot Act, limits on domestic wiretapping, and numerous regulations for the military.
Other statutes Bush has asserted that he can ignore have little to do with national security. They include some types of affirmative-action provisions, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
The White House has declined to answer questions about Bush's legal claims in his signing statements. ''We follow the practice that has been followed by previous administrations," spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday.
But legal scholars say Bush's assertions have gone far beyond that of any previous president in US history. Bush has applied his signing statements to more than 750 new statutes. His numbers are by far a record for any US president, scholars say.
Many scholars also contend that Bush is usurping some of the lawmaking powers of the Congress and Constitution-interpreting powers of the courts.
But, Leahy said, because Bush's fellow Republicans control Congress, Democrats have no power to call hearings on Bush's attempt to ''pick and choose which laws he deems appropriate to follow."
''Just as disturbing as the president's use of press releases to announce which laws he will follow is the abject failure of the Republican-controlled Congress to act as a check against this executive power grab," Leahy said. ''Until Republican leaders let Congress fulfill its oversight role, this White House will have no incentive to stop this abuse of power."
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company. Editor's note: This is a follow-up to a Boston Globe story published April 30, which DemLog blogged here, discussing the hundreds of congressional laws Bush has defied.
UKG: Acquitted Palestinian computer engineer cops terrorism plea to get out of jail in Florida
Sami al-Arian, right, a former professor at the University of South Florida, has been jailed since February 2003, meaning he has 18 months to serve in the four year and nine month term he received yesterday. In sentencing, U.S. District Judge James Moody called him an "active leader" in Islamic Jihad.
In the past, Arian, a Kuwaiti-born Palestinian who has lived in the US for nearly 30 years, has said he was singled out for prosecution because of his support for Palestinian rights. He denies advocating violence. His family said that the professor agreed last month to plead guilty to lesser charges of providing support to the Islamic Jihad in order to get out of prison.
Arian became the target of an FBI investigation as one of the founders of a campus thinktank and a charity formed in the 1980s to support a Palestinian state. Although the defence contends that Arian's involvement was restricted to charitable activities, the judge said yesterday: "Your only connection to widows and orphans was that you create them."
The proceedings in Tampa bring to a close one of the most high-profile terror cases brought in the wake of September 11. In 2003, his prosecution was hailed by the then attorney general, John Ashcroft, as a prime example of the importance of sweeping powers of surveillance and intrusion enshrined in the patriot act.
The prosecution claimed the verdict as a victory yesterday, saying the authorities had managed to break up a resident terror cell. "There's no doubt in my mind he was a member of the PIJ [Palestinian Islamic Jihad]," said US attorney Paul Perez.
After the sentencing, Arian's lawyer, Linda Moreno, said the government had failed to directly link Arian and his co-defendants to any acts of violence. "[Federal prosecutors] essentially pulled the trigger and shot every bullet - and they missed Dr al-Arian," she said.
"The judge made a political statement," said Arian's wife, Nahla.
Source: Guardian Unlimited Online.
MMfA: National Review editor says Limbaugh smeared over arrest
Similarly, a Newsweek article by Arian Campo-Flores and Evan Thomas asserted that the use of the word "arrest" in initial news stories was "misleading." Without explaining what they meant by "misleading," Campo-Flores and Thomas reasoned: "In fact, Limbaugh had pleaded not guilty, and his lawyer had worked out a deal that would cause the single charge to be dropped after 18 months as long as Limbaugh stayed out of trouble and continued to see a doctor who has helped him with an addiction to painkillers." On his May 1 radio show, Limbaugh praised the Newsweek article as "amazing," "straightforward," and "fair" and informed readers that "we've linked to it at RushLimbaugh.com." (Nevertheless, the caption under a photo of Limbaugh accompanying the article on Newsweek's website read: "Limbaugh was arrested Friday on prescription drug charges.")
Full Media Matters for America story. The article goes on to explain that the big fat blowhard (BFB) was indeed arrested, as a DemLog reprint of a Reuters story also reported here Friday evening, along with the above mugshot. The exhaustive MMfA story also quotes the BFB saying he spent "millions" fighting this criminal charge and spinning it down to a non-story.
Monday, May 01, 2006
By JON SARCHE, Associated Press Writer -- 14 minutes ago
DENVER - Thousands of illegal immigrants and their allies across the country plan a show of force Monday to illustrate how much immigrants matter in the U.S. economy.
Uly Linares passes out a publication, right, supporting the upcoming pro-immigration boycott during Fiesta Broadway, an annual Hispanic celebration which closes off several blocks of the downtown area, Sunday in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Phil McCarten)
Some will skip work, others will protest at lunch breaks, school walkouts or at rallies after work. There are planned church services, candlelight vigils, picnics and human chains.
Hector Castillo, a Denver baker usually keeps his doors open 360 days a year. But anybody looking for his Mexican pastries or cookies will be out of luck Monday when Castillo plans to close his doors in sympathy with immigrants. For Castillo, 45, it's a protest against legislation in the U.S. House that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant.
"About 80 percent of our customers are Latin people, most of them Mexican, and the proposed law will affect all of us," he said.
Thanks to the success of previous rallies plus media attention, planning for Monday's events, collectively called Un Dia Sin Inmigrantes -- A Day Without Immigrants -- is widespread, though fragmented.
AP: Iraqi president meets with armed insurgents - May 1
By ROBERT H. REID, Associated Press Writer -- Monday, 1 hour, 43 minutes ago
BAGHDAD, Iraq - President Jalal Talabani, left, met with representatives of seven armed groups and is optimistic they may agree to lay down their weapons, his office said Sunday. It was the first time a senior Iraqi official has acknowledged talks with insurgents.
However, Talabani did not identify the groups or specify when and where the meeting took place. The spokesman of one major insurgent group, the Islamic Army in, said his organization had not taken part in such a meeting.
Last year Talabani offered to talk with insurgents but it was unclear if any took up the offer. U.S. officials have acknowledged meeting Iraqis who had ties to Sunni Arab insurgents but not with representatives of those groups.
Other Recent DemLog Items:
- ATA: US allowed Zarqawi to escape
- BG: Bush challenges hundreds of laws
- YNet: Turkey won't let U.S. attack Iran from its land
The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, shown in the file photo below right, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.
The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV's Four Corners tonight.
Zarqawi is often described as a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, whose supporters masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years - six of them as head of the agency's Osama bin Laden unit - until he resigned in 2004.
He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi's training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mr Scheuer claims that a July 2002 plan to destroy the camp lapsed because "it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers".
"Mr Bush had Zarqawi in his sights almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn't shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq," he told Four Corners.
"Almost every day we sent a package to the White House that had overhead imagery of the house he was staying in. It was a terrorist training camp . . . experimenting with ricin and anthrax . . . any collateral damage there would have been terrorists."
During the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, Zarqawi's presence in the north of the country was used by US officials to link Saddam Hussein to terrorism.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.” He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,” he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.”
Colbert told Bush he could end the problem of protests by retired generals by refusing to let them retire. He compared Bush to Rocky Balboa in the “Rocky” movies, always getting punched in the face -- “and Apollo Creed is everything else in the world.” Turning to the war, he declared, "I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."
He noted former Ambassador Joseph Wilson in the crowd, just three tables away from Karl Rove, and that he had brought "Valerie Plame." Then, feigning worry that he had named her, he corrected himself, as Bush aides might do, "Uh, I mean ... he brought Joseph Wilson's wife." He might have "dodged the bullet," he said, as prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wasn't there.
Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, “photo ops” on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail."
Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday." Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story -- the president’s side and the vice president’s side." In another slap at the news channel, he said: "I give people the truth, unfiltered by rational argument. I call it the No Fact Zone. Fox News, I own the copyright on that term."
He also reflected on the alleged good old days for the president, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story. Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know--fiction."
He claimed that the Secret Service name for Bush's new press secretary is "Snow Job." Colbert closed his routine with a video fantasy where he gets to be White House Press Secretary, complete with a special “Gannon” button on his podium. By the end, he had to run from Helen Thomas and her questions about why the U.S. really invaded Iraq and killed all those people. As Colbert walked from the podium, when it was over, the president and First Lady gave him quick nods, unsmiling. The president shook his hand and tapped his elbow, and left immediately.
Those seated near Bush told E&P's Joe Strupp, who was elsewhere in the room, that Bush had quickly turned from an amused guest to an obviously offended target as Colbert’s comments brought up his low approval ratings and problems in Iraq.
Several veterans of past dinners, who requested anonymity, said the presentation was more directed at attacking the president than in the past. Several said previous hosts, like Jay Leno, equally slammed both the White House and the press corps.
“This was anti-Bush,” said one attendee. “Usually they go back and forth between us and him.”
Another noted that Bush quickly turned unhappy. “You could see he stopped smiling about halfway through Colbert,” he reported.
After the gathering, Snow, while nursing a Heineken outside the Chicago Tribune reception, declined to comment on Colbert. “I’m not doing entertainment reviews,” he said. “I thought the president was great, though.”
Strupp, in the crowd during the Colbert routine, had observed that quite a few sitting near him looked a little uncomfortable at times, perhaps feeling the material was a little too biting--or too much speaking "truthiness" (Colbert's made-up word) to power.
Asked by E&P after it was over if he thought he'd been too harsh, Colbert said, "Not at all." Was he trying to make a point politically or just get laughs? "Just for laughs," he said. He said he did not pull any material for being too strong, just for time reasons. (He later said the president told him "good job" when he walked off.) Helen Thomas told Strupp her segment with Colbert was "just for fun."
In its report on the affair, USA Today asserted that some in the crowd cracked up over Colbert but others were "bewildered." Wolf Blitzer of CNN said he thought Colbert was funny and "a little on the edge."
Earlier, the president had addressed the crowd with a Bush impersonator alongside, with the faux-Bush speaking precisely and the real Bush deliberately mispronouncing words, such as the inevitable "nuclear." At the close, Bush called the imposter "a fine talent. In fact, he did all my debates with Senator Kerry." The routine went over well with the crowd -- better than did Colbert's, in fact.
Among attendees at the black tie event: Morgan Fairchild, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Justice Antonin Scalia, George Clooney, and Jeff "Skunk" Baxter of the Doobie Brothers--in a kilt.
Full article, Editor & Publisher Magazine. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Charlie Savage, Boston Globe Staff -- April 30, 2006
WASHINGTON -- President Bush (shown at left surrounded by supportive members of congress as he signed the extension of the Patriot Act) has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.
Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.
Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.
Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.
But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.
YNet: Turkey won't let U.S. attack Iran from its land
Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, shown at right in a recent meeting with Secretary of State Rice, said Sunday that his country refused a request from the United States to attack Iran from its Air Force base in Incirlik, despite the U.S. offer of a nuclear reactor, according to a report in Al Biyan.
In an interview for the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Gul noted that America's efforts to attack Iran are "imaginary" and that Turkey's stance is "strategic" and refuses the use of its land for any belligerent activity against neighboring countries. (YNet - Roee Nahmias)
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