Thursday, October 06, 2005
Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Michael Alton Gottlieb
Thu Oct 6th, 2005 at 15:11:25 PDT
I've been doing some thinking. A dangerous thing on a good day; an embarrassing thing on a bad day. But, I've been thinking. Connecting the dots of snippets, sound bites and neo-con love letters. Reading between the lines of malapropism, insinuation and `in plain sight' subterfuge. I've been anxiously analyzing the pressure on my frontal lobe; the tin-foil lobe that lobotomists are always so eager to excise.
And through the thinking; a dangerous liaison of cynicism, paranoia and epiphany; I have reached a conclusion; inescapable, indivisible and intuitively certain.
Something wicked this way comes.
Three things have jumped out at me lately:
1. Tularemia at the DC March
2. Bush's Emergency Quarantine Plans
3. Libby's Love Letter to Miller
These are not the only things that course through my veins of suspicion and circuits of Cassandrian synapse. But they are the ones that speak to me in tongues of fire, fury and fear.
The something wicked galloping our way like a horseman of the apocalypse is a symptom or tactic, if you will, of a greater disease or strategy. Yes, I am talking in shadows, but the reason will become clear. Because, the greater accusation is so large and sinister even a bare whisper sounds hysterical. It's better to talk in signs, secret handshakes and smoke signals rather than loose lips. But in the end, my conclusion will be laid on the table for contemplation and perhaps ridicule. Call it cathartic rumination or crazy talk. But there is an incessant cranial itching; an exploding brain precursor and I must give vent to my premonition or blame myself later, after it is too late, for my reticent silence.
Let's begin with Libby's Ode to the Aspens.
Libby wants Miller to come back to life; to cover other stories for greater glories. And what are those stories?
You went to jail in the summer. It is fall now. You will have stories to cover -- Iraqi elections and suicide bombers, biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program.
This jumped out at me the first time I read Scooter's Ode to fearless reporting and selfless sacrifice.
Iraqi elections and suicide bombers go hand in hand. They are past, present and future. These stories are real and ongoing.
But how about biological threats and the Iranian nuclear program? They're linked in the same way grammatically, as elections and jihadists, but really what is he talking about? What biological threats? It's no secret Libby and his ilk want to use force, if necessary, to halt Iran's nuclear program for fear, real or imagined, of atomic weaponry. But he speaks with certainty about biological threats in the same literary breath as the Iranian nuclear program. Is he talking warfare, terrorism, bird flu?
Don't know. But it stands out. Libby speaks explicitly of a biological threat this fall.
At the press conference the other day Bush talked with glee of using the military to quarantine cities in the face of biological threat. He has no plan, as usual, but force of arms.
Yes. Thank you for the question. I am concerned about avian flu. I am concerned about what an avian flu outbreak could mean for the United States and the world. I am -- I have thought through the scenarios of what an avian flu outbreak could mean. I tried to get a better handle on what the decision-making process would be by reading Mr. Barry's book on the influenza outbreak in 1918. I would recommend it.Today
The policy decisions for a President in dealing with an avian flu outbreak are difficult. One example: If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country, and how do you then enforce a quarantine? When -- it's one thing to shut down airplanes; it's another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine? One option is the use of a military that's able to plan and move.
Condi's State Dept. is holding an international avian flu preparedness conference.
The US Army is buying bulk Anthrax.
We all know about the strange case of Tularemia discovered during the big DC anti-war rally September 24th. What was the source of that biological threat significant enough for the government to warn doctors to be on the lookout for pneumonia like symptoms?
The "chatter" of biological threat has increased exponentially of late.
I just listened to the President's "major" speech about the `enemy.' Bush's Orwellian demagoguery and war mongering melodramatics only serve to fuel the hatred of the Islamists and further ignite the fire in the belly of those who can't see straight for their blind rage at the crusading infidel. The President in his incendiary irresponsibility taunts and dares the "enemy" to give us his best shot. The President, with his chicken-hawk heart, continues his "bring `em on" exercise of blood-letting bravado. And when the next attack comes, as it must, the President in his hermetically sealed bunker will smirk and say, "I told you so."
Whenever I hear our President talk of freedom I think of one thing: Freedom is Slavery.
And here we get to the crux of the matter; the point of the dangerous Bush strategery.
The men and token women in charge of the so-called Neo-con agenda have worked for more than a generation to achieve power.
The `crazies' in the basement of the Reagan White House have taken over the insane asylum. Their dominionist, Pax Americana vision of global conquest is as alive, vibrant and achievable as it ever was. We think we have them on the ropes as their failures mount and their embarrassments pile up.
But Bush's `major' speech today should dispel any notions of the crumbling Neo-con. It was a re-declaration of war. It was about `staying the course' through hell and high water. Bush's speech was a dismissal of dissent and a refusal to listen to the will of the people.
The Neo-cons are zealots. They are true believers. After a generation of slaving away to get what they want; in spite of the shaking heads and rolling eyes of Colin Powell pragmatic conservatives, the power is theirs and they will not give it up lightly.
They stole the election of 2000. They rigged the election in 2004. There will be no election in 2008.
Like it or not; believe it or not, the stage is set for a State of National Emergency and the suspension of the constitution; martial law.
They have been planning for more than 20 years, beginning with Ollie North's infamous REX-84. The extraordinary Executive power provided by the PATRIOT Act is another brick in the wall. The post-Katrina discussion of posse comitatus; the deployment of Federal force on local streets is another brick. The use of Blackwater USA mercenaries in post-Katrina New Orleans security operations is another. The Avian flu military quarantine plan is one more.
All they need is something wicked.
I have never been able to get the vision of the falling twin towers out of my mind. It is an apocalyptic vision of smoke, fire, blood, bones and rubble. Our collective conscience and unconscious were forever changed that day. It was a huge brick in the wall of accepting that "things are different now." It was All-of-Us through the looking glass.
Neo-cons talk about freedom and democracy but they do not believe a word of what they say. Neo-cons are not conservatives or religious fundamentalists. They are fascists.
They lie to get what they want and stop at nothing to achieve their goals. They are masters of propaganda and mass programming. They want us to believe in external enemies; barbarians at the gate. Meanwhile, the enemy within raids the treasury, disembowels the Constitution, weakens the nation and marginalizes the people.
When you look at a program like REX-84 you realize quickly what the elites are afraid to death of: Freedom and Democracy. It's a free people that scare the Neo-cons to death.
And that's why America is in such danger. That is why they will do anything to stay in power, even destroy the very thing they claim sacrosanct: the United States of America.
I am always amused when the 911 conspiracy buffs make their claims of "inside job." I am not amused by the conspiratorialists; but by those who dismiss them on the grounds that no matter how corrupt, deceitful and evil `they' may be; it is inconceivable that Americans would do harm to Americans.
I agree. But Neo-cons are not American. They are dangerous ideologues out to conquer the world. They have no loyalty to God or Country; but only their self-deluded dreams of power, control and wealth.
And so, in the ether there is lots of chatter right now. A chattering of threats; whispers of attack and rumors of war. Maybe I hear voices who speak in tongues. Maybe I see dead people. Some folks predict the weather through sore joints and swollen knees. Dogs bark and cats hide before an earthquake. And my frontal lobe bangs against my skull when I sense America is in mortal danger.
Call me crazy, but I say it again: something wicked this way comes.
Democracy? Or Organized Crime? The Republican Party is beginning to look more like the latter.
How Rotten Are These Guys?
by Robert Parry
The separation of the Bush political machine from organized crime is often like the thin layer of rock between a seemingly ordinary surface and volcanic activity rumbling below. Sometimes, the lava spews forth and the illusion of normalcy is shattered.
In the weeks ahead, a dangerous eruption is again threatening to shake the Bush family’s image of legitimacy, as the pressure from intersecting scandals builds.
So far, the mainstream news media has focused mostly on the white-collar abuses of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for allegedly laundering corporate donations to help Republicans gain control of the Texas legislature, or on deputy White House chief of staff Karl Rove for disclosing the identity of a covert CIA officer to undercut her husband’s criticism of George W. Bush’s case for war in Iraq.
Both offenses represent potential felonies, but they pale beside new allegations linking business associates of star GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff – an ally of both DeLay and Rove – to the gangland-style murder of casino owner Konstantinos “Gus” Boulis in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 2001.
These criminal cases also are reminders of George H.W. Bush’s long record of unsavory associations, including with a Nicaraguan contra network permeated by cocaine traffickers, Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s multi-million-dollar money-laundering operations, and anti-communist Cuban extremists tied to acts of international terrorism. [For details on these cases, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq.]
Now, George W. Bush is faced with his own challenge of containing a rupture of scandals – involving prominent conservatives Abramoff, DeLay and potentially Rove – that have bubbled to the surface and are beginning to flow toward the White House.Mobbed Up
On Sept. 27, 2005 – in possibly the most troubling of these cases – Fort Lauderdale police charged three men, including reputed Gambino crime family bookkeeper Anthony Moscatiello, with Boulis’s murder. Boulis was gunned down in his car on Feb. 6, 2001, amid a feud with an Abramoff business group that had purchased Boulis’s SunCruz casino cruise line in 2000.
As part of the murder probe, police are investigating payments that SunCruz made to Moscatiello, his daughter and Anthony Ferrari, another defendant in the Boulis murder case. Moscatiello and Ferrari allegedly collaborated with a third man, James Fiorillo, in the slaying. [For more on the case, see Sun-Sentinel, Sept. 28, 2005.]
The SunCruz deal also led to the August 2005 indictment of Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, on charges of conspiracy and wire fraud over a $60 million loan for buying the casino company in 2000. Prosecutors allege that Abramoff and Kidan made a phony $23 million wire transfer as a fake down payment.
In pursuing the casino deal, the Abramoff-Kidan group got help, too, from DeLay and Rep. Robert W. Ney, R-Ohio, the Washington Post reported. Abramoff impressed one lender by putting him together with DeLay in Abramoff’s skybox at FedEx Field during a football game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys.
Ney placed comments in the Congressional Record criticizing Boulis and later praising the new Abramoff-Kidan ownership team. [Washington Post, Sept. 28, 2005]
After the SunCruz sale, tensions boiled over, as Boulis and Kidan got into a fistfight. Kidan claimed that Boulis threatened his life. Two months later, however, Boulis was the one who was shot to death when a car pulled up next to him and a gunman opened fire. Lawyers for Abramoff and Kidan say their clients know nothing about the murder.
Police, however, are investigating financial ties between the Abramoff-Kidan group and Moscatiello and Ferrari.
In a 2001 civil case, Kidan testified that he had paid $145,000 to Moscatiello and his daughter, Jennifer, for catering and other services, although court records show no evidence that quantities of food or drink were provided. SunCruz also paid Ferrari’s company, Moon Over Miami, $95,000 for surveillance services.
Kidan told the Miami Herald that the payments had no connection to the Boulis murder. “If I’m going to pay to have Gus killed, am I going to be writing checks to the killers?” Kidan asked. “I don’t think so. Why would I leave a paper trail?”
Kidan also said he was ignorant of Moscatiello’s past. In 1983, Moscatiello was indicted on heroin-trafficking charges along with Gene Gotti, brother of Gambino crime boss John Gotti. Though Gene Gotti and others were convicted, the charges against Moscatiello – identified by federal authorities as a former Gambino bookkeeper – were dropped.White House Ties
Abramoff’s influence has reached into Bush’s White House, too, where chief procurement officer David H. Safavian resigned last month and then was arrested on charges of lying to authorities and obstructing a criminal investigation into Abramoff’s lobbying activities.
Rep. Ney and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed were among influential Republicans who joined Safavian and Abramoff on an infamous golf trip to Scotland in 2002. Safavian is a former lobbying partner of anti-tax activist Grover Norquist, another pillar of right-wing politics in Washington and another longtime Abramoff friend. [Washington Post, Sept. 20, 2005]
Abramoff also has boasted of his influence with Bush’s top political adviser Karl Rove.
While helping the scandal-plagued conglomerate Tyco International Ltd. fend off new taxes and insure continued federal contracts, Abramoff cited his influence with Rove as well as powerful congressmen, including DeLay, according to a written statement by Tyco general counsel Timothy E. Flanigan.
Abramoff told Tyco officials that “he had contact with Mr. Karl Rove” about Tyco’s concerns, said Flanigan, who made the disclosures to the Senate during his confirmation hearing as Bush’s nominee to be deputy attorney general.
A White House spokesman said Rove had no recollection of a discussion with Abramoff about Tyco, but Rove’s personal assistant Susan Ralston had previously worked as Abramoff’s secretary. [Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2005]College Republicans
The roots of these latest scandals reach back a quarter century to the early days of the Reagan Revolution. During that heady period for young conservatives, Abramoff and Norquist won control of the College Republicans organization in Washington, with Abramoff as chairman and Norquist as executive director.
In the book, Gang of Five, author Nina Easton wrote that the Abramoff-Norquist leadership transformed the College Republicans into a “right-wing version of a communist cell – complete with purges of in-house dissenters and covert missions to destroy the enemy left.”
Under Abramoff and Norquist, the College Republicans also allegedly began tapping into Rev. Moon’s mysterious well of nearly unlimited cash. In 1983, Rep. Jim Leach of Iowa, then chairman of the GOP’s moderate Ripon Society, released a study saying the College Republican National Committee “solicited and received” money from Moon’s Unification Church in 1981.
Leach said the Korean-based Unification Church has “infiltrated the New Right and the party it wants to control, the Republican Party, and infiltrated the media as well.”
Before Leach could finish the press conference, Norquist disrupted the meeting with accusations that Leach was lying. For its part, Moon’s Washington Times dismissed Leach’s charges as “flummeries” and mocked the Ripon Society as a “discredited and insignificant left-wing offshoot of the Republican Party.”
To this day, largely through lavish spending on right-wing causes, Moon has made his cult-like movement a political powerhouse within conservative circles. However, evidence has continued to mount that Moon’s operation is a complex web of secretive businesses and groups that launder millions of dollars from suspicious sources in Asia and South America into the U.S. political system.
Moon has subsidized not only media outlets, such as the pro-Republican Washington Times, but conservative infrastructure, including direct-mail operations, think tanks and political conferences. Moon’s organization also has funneled money directly into the pockets of former President Bush and other leading politicians. [For details, see Secrecy & Privilege.]
Abramoff and Kidan, the co-defendants in the SunCruz fraud case, also became friends from their time with the College Republicans.
After leaving the College Republicans, Abramoff and Norquist moved over to a Reagan-support organization called Citizens for America, which sponsored a 1985 “summit meeting” of anti-communist “freedom fighters” from around the world.
The Nicaraguan contras – who were gaining a reputation for brutality, corruption and drug trafficking – were represented at the summit, as was Angolan rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, who was condemned by human rights groups for gross abuses, including widespread murders, rapes and mutilations.
As the Cold War was ending in 1989, Abramoff tried his hand at movie producing, churning out an anti-communist action thriller called “Red Scorpion,” which was subsidized by South Africa’s white-supremacist regime. [For details, see Salon.com’s “The Tale of Red Scorpion.”]
The Republican conquest of the U.S. Congress in 1994 gave Abramoff’s career another twist as he found himself in position to exploit his close ties to hard-line conservatives, such as DeLay and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Abramoff signed up with the lobbying firm of Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds before moving to Greenberg Traurig.
Last year, on the tenth anniversary of the Republican takeover, conservative writer Andrew Ferguson lamented Abramoff’s key role in getting Republicans to forsake their rhetorical war on big government and corruption, in favor of dividing up the spoils.
“For 25 years Abramoff has been a key figure in the conservative movement that led to the 1994 Republican Revolution, which once promised ‘to drain the swamp’ in Washington, D.C.,” Ferguson wrote.
But instead, Abramoff became “the first Republican to discover that pretending to advance the interests of conservative small-government could, for a lobbyist, be as insanely lucrative as pretending to advance the interests of liberal big-government,” Ferguson wrote. “The way a winner knows he’s won is by cashing in his chips.”
Abramoff scored big by representing Indian tribes that needed political clout for their gambling operations.
Ferguson wrote, “Abramoff's ingenuity quickly earned him a reputation as the premier lobbyist for Indians in Washington – though he only worked for casino-owning tribes, who were, after all, the only ‘free market laboratories’ that could afford Washington lobbyists. He regularly arranged fact-finding trips for congressmen and their staffs to the casinos, especially those with golf courses.”
Branching out, Abramoff represented the textile industry in the Marianas islands, a U.S. protectorate that could stick “Made in the USA” labels on clothing produced in sweatshops free from U.S. labor regulations. Abramoff flew in congressmen for tours and a chance to play golf at a scenic course. DeLay was so impressed that he hailed the islands as “a perfect Petri dish of capitalism.” [Weekly Standard, Dec. 20, 2004]
Abramoff had learned the flexible ethics of Washington politics during the final days of the Cold War when ideology justified rubbing shoulders with corrupt “freedom fighters.” But he and his legion of protégés managed to adapt those dubious lessons to the “free market” era of Republican rule.
The end result has been a noxious “crony capitalism” that has seeped into nearly all U.S. government policies, from the War on Terror to the Iraq War to the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort.
Now the ground under George W. Bush and the Republican congressional majority is beginning to shake as fissures crack the surface, warning of a volcanic eruption that could transform the political landscape of Washington.Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'
Meet the New Boss....Same as the Old Boss
DeLay Funneled Money To New Majority Leader Roy Blunt…DeLay, Blunt Traded Secret Donations
By JOHN SOLOMON and SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writers
Washington - Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess funds to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men's causes.
When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay's private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt's son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.
The complicated transactions are drawing scrutiny in legal and political circles after a grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of violating Texas law with a scheme to launder illegal corporate donations to state candidates.
Blunt last week temporarily replaced DeLay as House majority leader, and Blunt's son, Matt, has now risen to Missouri's governor.
The government's former chief election enforcement lawyer said the Blunt and DeLay transactions are similar to the Texas case and raise questions that should be investigated regarding whether donors were deceived or the true destination of their money was concealed. "These people clearly like using middlemen for their transactions," said Lawrence Noble. "It seems to be a pattern with DeLay funneling money to different groups, at least to obscure, if not cover, the original source," said Noble, who was the Federal Elections Commission's chief lawyer for 13 years, including in 2000 when the transactions occurred.
None of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations DeLay collected for the 2000 convention were ever disclosed to federal regulators because the type of group DeLay used wasn't governed by federal law at the time.
DeLay has temporarily stepped aside as majority leader after being indicted by a Texas prosecutor.
Spokesmen for the two Republican leaders say they disclosed what was required by law at the time and believe all their transactions were legal, though donors might not always have know where their money was headed.
"It illustrates what others have said, that money gets transferred all the time. This was disclosed to the extent required to be disclosed by applicable law," said Don McGahn, a lawyer for DeLay. "It just shows that donors don't control funds once they're given."
Blunt and DeLay planned all along to raise more money than was needed for the convention parties and then route some of that to other causes, such as supporting state candidates, said longtime Blunt aide Gregg Hartley.
"We put together a budget for what we thought we would raise and spend on the convention and whatever was left over we were going to use to support candidates," said Hartley, Blunt's former chief of staff who answered AP's questions on behalf of Blunt.
Hartley said he saw no similarity to the Texas case. The fact that DeLay's charity, Christine DeLay's consulting firm and Blunt's son were beneficiaries was a coincidence, Hartley said.
Much of the money — including one donation to Blunt from an Abramoff client accused of running a "sweatshop" garment factory in the Northern Mariana Islands — changed hands in the spring of 2000, a period of keen interest to federal prosecutors.
During that same time, Abramoff arranged for DeLay to use a concert skybox for donors and to take a golfing trip to Scotland and England that was partly underwritten by some of the lobbyist's clients. Prosecutors are investigating whether the source of some of the money was disguised, and whether some of DeLay's expenses were originally put on the lobbyist's credit card in violation of House rules.
Both DeLay and Blunt and their aides also met with Abramoff's lobbying team several times in 2000 and 2001 on the Marianas issues, according to law firm billing records obtained by AP under an open records request. DeLay was instrumental in blocking legislation opposed by some of Abramoff's clients.
Noble said investigators should examine whether the pattern of disguising the original source of money might have been an effort to hide the leaders' simultaneous financial and legislative dealings with Abramoff and his clients.
"You see Abramoff involved and see the meetings that were held and one gets the sense Abramoff is helping this along in order to get access and push his clients' interest," he said. "And at the same time, you see Delay and Blunt trying to hide the root of their funding.
"All of these transactions may have strings attached to them. ... I think you would want to look, if you aren't already looking, at the question of a quid pro quo," Noble said. Blunt and DeLay have long been political allies. The 2000 transactions occurred as President Bush was marching toward his first election to the White House, DeLay was positioning himself to be House majority leader and Blunt was lining up to succeed DeLay as majority whip, the third-ranking position in the House.
The entities Blunt and DeLay formed allowed them to collect donations of any size and any U.S. source with little chance of federal scrutiny.
DeLay's convention fundraising arm, part of his Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (ARMPAC), collected large corporate donations to help wine and dine Republican VIPs during the presidential nominating convention in Philadelphia in late summer 2000. DeLay's group has declined to identify any of the donors.
Blunt's group, a nonfederal wing of his Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, eventually registered its activities in Missouri but paid a $3,000 fine for improperly concealing its fundraising in 1999 and spring 2000, according to Missouri Ethics Commission records.
Both groups — DeLay's and Blunt's — were simultaneously paying Ellis, the longtime DeLay fundraiser who was indicted along with his boss in Texas in the alleged money laundering scheme.
The DeLay group began transferring money to Blunt's group in two checks totaling $150,000 in the spring of 2000, well before Republicans actually met in Philadelphia for the convention. The transfers accounted for most of money Blunt's group received during that period.
DeLay's convention arm sent $50,000 on March 31, 2000. Eight days later, the Blunt group made a $10,000 donation to DeLay's private charity for children on April 7, 2000, and began the first of several payments totaling $40,000 to a northern Virginia-based political consulting firm formed by DeLay's former chief of staff, Ed Buckham.
That consulting firm at the time also employed DeLay's wife, Christine, according to DeLay's ethics disclosure report to Congress.
Hartley said Blunt was unaware that Mrs. DeLay worked at the firm when he made the payments, and that she had nothing to do with Blunt's group.
On April 14, 2000, Concorde Garment Manufacturing, based in the Northern Marianas Islands that was part of Abramoff's lobbying coalition, contributed $3,000 to Blunt's group.
Hartley said the donation was delivered during a weekend of fundraising activities by Blunt and DeLay but his boss did not know who solicited it.
Concorde, derided for years in lawsuits as a Pacific island sweatshop, paid a $9 million penalty to the U.S. government in the 1990s for failing to pay workers' overtime. The company was visited by DeLay.
The company was a key member of the Marianas garment industry that the islands' government was trying to protect when it hired Abramoff to lobby DeLay, Blunt and others to keep Congress from imposing tougher wage and tax standards on the islands.
After the November 2000 election, Abramoff's firm billed its Mariana Islands clients for at least one meeting with Blunt and three meetings with Blunt's staff, billing records show. Abramoff's team also reported several meetings with DeLay and his staff on the issue, including one during the presidential convention.
On May 24, 2000 — just before DeLay left with Abramoff for the Scottish golfing trip — DeLay's convention fundraising group transferred $100,000 more to Blunt's group. Within three weeks, Blunt turned around and donated the same amount to the Missouri Republican Party.
The next month, the state GOP began spending large amounts of money to help Blunt's son, Matt, in his successful campaign to become Missouri secretary of state. On July 25, 2000, the state GOP made its first expenditure for the younger Blunt, totaling just over $11,000. By election day, that figure had grown to more than $160,000.
Hartley said Blunt always liked to help the state party and the fact that his son got party help after his donation was a coincidence. "They are unrelated activities," he said.
Exchanges of donations occurred again in the fall. Just a few days before the November election, DeLay's ARMPAC gave $50,000 to the Missouri GOP. A month later, the Missouri GOP sent $50,000 to DeLay's group.
Al Gore Warns American Democracy in Danger
Remarks by Al Gore as prepared
Associated Press / The Media Center
October 5, 2005
I came here today because I believe that American democracy is in grave danger. It is no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse . I know that I am not the only one who feels that something has gone basically and badly wrong in the way America's fabled "marketplace of ideas" now functions.
How many of you, I wonder, have heard a friend or a family member in the last few years remark that it's almost as if America has entered "an alternate universe"?
I thought maybe it was an aberration when three-quarters of Americans said they believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for attacking us on September 11, 2001. But more than four years later, between a third and a half still believe Saddam was personally responsible for planning and supporting the attack.
At first I thought the exhaustive, non-stop coverage of the O.J. trial was just an unfortunate excess that marked an unwelcome departure from the normal good sense and judgment of our television news media. But now we know that it was merely an early example of a new pattern of serial obsessions that periodically take over the airwaves for weeks at a time.
Are we still routinely torturing helpless prisoners, and if so, does it feel right that we as American citizens are not outraged by the practice? And does it feel right to have no ongoing discussion of whether or not this abhorrent, medieval behavior is being carried out in the name of the American people? If the gap between rich and poor is widening steadily and economic stress is mounting for low-income families, why do we seem increasingly apathetic and lethargic in our role as citizens?
On the eve of the nation's decision to invade Iraq, our longest serving senator, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, stood on the Senate floor asked: "Why is this chamber empty? Why are these halls silent?"
The decision that was then being considered by the Senate with virtually no meaningful debate turned out to be a fateful one. A few days ago, the former head of the National Security Agency, Retired Lt. General William Odom, said, "The invasion of Iraq, I believe, will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S. history."
But whether you agree with his assessment or not, Senator Byrd's question is like the others that I have just posed here: he was saying, in effect, this is strange, isn't it? Aren't we supposed to have full and vigorous debates about questions as important as the choice between war and peace?
Those of us who have served in the Senate and watched it change over time, could volunteer an answer to Senator Byrd's two questions: the Senate was silent on the eve of war because Senators don't feel that what they say on the floor of the Senate really matters that much any more. And the chamber was empty because the Senators were somewhere else: they were in fundraisers collecting money from special interests in order to buy 30-second TVcommercials for their next re-election campaign.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there was - at least for a short time - a quality of vividness and clarity of focus in our public discourse that reminded some Americans - including some journalists - that vividness and clarity used to be more common in the way we talk with one another about the problems and choices that we face. But then, like a passing summer storm, the moment faded.
In fact there was a time when America's public discourse was consistently much more vivid, focused and clear. Our Founders, probably the most literate generation in all of history, used words with astonishing precision and believed in the Rule of Reason.
Their faith in the viability of Representative Democracy rested on their trust in the wisdom of a well-informed citizenry. But they placed particular emphasis on insuring that the public could be well-informed. And they took great care to protect the openness of the marketplace of ideas in order to ensure the free-flow of knowledge.
The values that Americans had brought from Europe to the New World had grown out of the sudden explosion of literacy and knowledge after Gutenberg's disruptive invention broke up the stagnant medieval information monopoly and triggered the Reformation, Humanism, and the Enlightenment and enshrined a new sovereign: the "Rule of Reason."
Indeed, the self-governing republic they had the audacity to establish was later named by the historian Henry Steele Commager as "the Empire of Reason."
Our founders knew all about the Roman Forum and the Agora in ancient Athens. They also understood quite well that in America, our public forum would be an ongoing conversation about democracy in which individual citizens would participate not only by speaking directly in the presence of others -- but more commonly by communicating with their fellow citizens over great distances by means of the printed word. Thus they not only protected Freedom of Assembly as a basic right, they made a special point - in the First Amendment - of protecting the freedom of the printing press.
Their world was dominated by the printed word. Just as the proverbial fish doesn't know it lives in water, the United States in its first half century knew nothing but the world of print: the Bible, Thomas Paine's fiery call to revolution, the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution , our laws, the Congressional Record, newspapers and books.
Though they feared that a government might try to censor the printing press - as King George had done - they could not imagine that America's public discourse would ever consist mainly of something other than words in print.
And yet, as we meet here this morning, more than 40 years have passed since the majority of Americans received their news and information from the printed word. Newspapers are hemorrhaging readers and, for the most part, resisting the temptation to inflate their circulation numbers. Reading itself is in sharp decline, not only in our country but in most of the world. The Republic of Letters has been invaded and occupied by television.
Radio, the internet, movies, telephones, and other media all now vie for our attention - but it is television that still completely dominates the flow of information in modern America. In fact, according to an authoritative global study, Americans now watch television an average of four hours and 28 minutes every day -- 90 minutes more than the world average.
When you assume eight hours of work a day, six to eight hours of sleep and a couple of hours to bathe, dress, eat and commute, that is almost three-quarters of all the discretionary time that the average American has. And for younger Americans, the average is even higher.
The internet is a formidable new medium of communication, but it is important to note that it still doesn't hold a candle to television. Indeed, studies show that the majority of Internet users are actually simultaneously watching television while they are online. There is an important reason why television maintains such a hold on its viewers in a way that the internet does not, but I'll get to that in a few minutes.
Television first overtook newsprint to become the dominant source of information in America in 1963. But for the next two decades, the television networks mimicked the nation's leading newspapers by faithfully following the standards of the journalism profession. Indeed, men like Edward R. Murrow led the profession in raising the bar.
But all the while, television's share of the total audience for news and information continued to grow -- and its lead over newsprint continued to expand. And then one day, a smart young political consultant turned to an older elected official and succinctly described a new reality in America's public discourse: "If it's not on television, it doesn't exist."
But some extremely important elements of American Democracy have been pushed to the sidelines . And the most prominent casualty has been the "marketplace of ideas" that was so beloved and so carefully protected by our Founders. It effectively no longer exists.
It is not that we no longer share ideas with one another about public matters; of course we do. But the "Public Forum" in which our Founders searched for general agreement and applied the Rule of Reason has been grossly distorted and "restructured" beyond all recognition.
And here is my point: it is the destruction of that marketplace of ideas that accounts for the "strangeness" that now continually haunts our efforts to reason together about the choices we must make as a nation.
Whether it is called a Public Forum, or a "Public Sphere" , or a marketplace of ideas, the reality of open and free public discussion and debate was considered central to the operation of our democracy in America's earliest decades.
In fact, our first self-expression as a nation - "We the People" - made it clear where the ultimate source of authority lay. It was universally understood that the ultimate check and balance for American government was its accountability to the people. And the public forum was the place where the people held the government accountable. That is why it was so important that the marketplace of ideas operated independent from and beyond the authority of government.
The three most important characteristics of this marketplace of ideas were:
1) It was open to every individual, with no barriers to entry, save the necessity of literacy. This access, it is crucial to add, applied not only to the receipt of information but also to the ability to contribute information directly into the flow of ideas that was available to all;
2) The fate of ideas contributed by individuals depended, for the most part, on an emergent Meritocracy of Ideas. Those judged by the market to be good rose to the top, regardless of the wealth or class of the individual responsible for them;
3) The accepted rules of discourse presumed that the participants were all governed by an unspoken duty to search for general agreement. That is what a "Conversation of Democracy" is all about.
What resulted from this shared democratic enterprise was a startling new development in human history: for the first time, knowledge regularly mediated between wealth and power.
The liberating force of this new American reality was thrilling to all humankind. Thomas Jefferson declared, "I have sworn upon the alter of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man."
It ennobled the individual and unleashed the creativity of the human spirit. It inspired people everywhere to dream of what they could yet become. And it emboldened Americans to bravely explore the farther frontiers of freedom - for African Americans, for women, and eventually, we still dream, for all.
And just as knowledge now mediated between wealth and power, self-government was understood to be the instrument with which the people embodied their reasoned judgments into law. The Rule of Reason under-girded and strengthened the rule of law.
But to an extent seldom appreciated, all of this - including especially the ability of the American people to exercise the reasoned collective judgments presumed in our Founders' design -- depended on the particular characteristics of the marketplace of ideas as it operated during the Age of Print.
Consider the rules by which our present "public forum" now operates, and how different they are from the forum our Founders knew. Instead of the easy and free access
individuals had to participate in the national conversation by means of the printed word, the world of television makes it virtually impossible for individuals to take part in what passes for a national conversation today.
Inexpensive metal printing presses were almost everywhere in America. They were easily accessible and operated by printers eager to typeset essays, pamphlets, books or flyers.
Television stations and networks, by contrast, are almost completely inaccessible to individual citizens and almost always uninterested in ideas contributed by individual citizens.
Ironically, television programming is actually more accessible to more people than any source of information has ever been in all of history. But here is the crucial distinction: it is accessible in only one direction; there is no true interactivity, and certainly no conversation.
The number of cables connecting to homes is limited in each community and usually forms a natural monopoly. The broadcast and satellite spectrum is likewise a scarce and limited resource controlled by a few. The production of programming has been centralized and has usually required a massive capital investment. So for these and other reasons, an ever-smaller number of large corporations control virtually all of the television programming in America.
Soon after television established its dominance over print, young people who realized they were being shut out of the dialogue of democracy came up with a new form of expression in an effort to join the national conversation: the "demonstration." This new form of expression, which began in the 1960s, was essentially a poor quality theatrical production designed to capture the attention of the television cameras long enough to hold up a sign with a few printed words to convey, however plaintively, a message to the American people. Even this outlet is now rarely an avenue for expression on national television.
So, unlike the marketplace of ideas that emerged in the wake of the printing press, there is virtually no exchange of ideas at all in television's domain. My partner Joel Hyatt and I are trying to change that - at least where Current TV is concerned. Perhaps not coincidentally, we are the only independently owned news and information network in all of American television.
It is important to note that the absence of a two-way conversation in American television also means that there is no "meritocracy of ideas" on television. To the extent that there is a "marketplace" of any kind for ideas on television, it is a rigged market, an oligopoly, with imposing barriers to entry that exclude the average citizen.
The German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, describes what has happened as "the refeudalization of the public sphere." That may sound like gobbledygook, but it's a phrase that packs a lot of meaning. The feudal system which thrived before the printing press democratized knowledge and made the idea of America thinkable, was a system in which wealth and power were intimately intertwined, and where knowledge played no mediating role whatsoever. The great mass of the people were ignorant. And their powerlessness was born of their ignorance.
It did not come as a surprise that the concentration of control over this powerful one-way medium carries with it the potential for damaging the operations of our democracy. As early as the 1920s, when the predecessor of television, radio, first debuted in the United States, there was immediate apprehension about its potential impact on democracy. One early American student of the medium wrote that if control of radio were concentrated in the hands of a few, "no nation can be free."
As a result of these fears, safeguards were enacted in the U.S. -- including the Public Interest Standard, the Equal Time Provision, and the Fairness Doctrine - though a half century later, in 1987, they were effectively repealed. And then immediately afterwards, Rush Limbaugh and other hate-mongers began to fill the airwaves.
And radio is not the only place where big changes have taken place. Television news has undergone a series of dramatic changes. The movie "Network," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, was presented as a farce but was actually a prophecy. The journalism profession morphed into the news business, which became the media industry and is now completely owned by conglomerates.
The news divisions - which used to be seen as serving a public interest and were subsidized by the rest of the network - are now seen as profit centers designed to generate revenue and, more importantly, to advance the larger agenda of the corporation of which they are a small part. They have fewer reporters, fewer stories, smaller budgets, less travel, fewer bureaus, less independent judgment, more vulnerability to influence by management, and more dependence on government sources and canned public relations hand-outs. This tragedy is compounded by the ironic fact that this generation of journalists is the best trained and most highly skilled in the history of their profession. But they are usually not allowed to do the job they have been trained to do.
The present executive branch has made it a practice to try and control and intimidate news organizations: from PBS to CBS to Newsweek. They placed a former male escort in the White House press pool to pose as a reporter - and then called upon him to give the president a hand at crucial moments. They paid actors to make make phony video press releases and paid cash to some reporters who were willing to take it in return for positive stories. And every day they unleash squadrons of digital brownshirts to harass and hector any journalist who is critical of the President.
For these and other reasons, The US Press was recently found in a comprehensive international study to be only the 27th freest press in the world. And that too seems strange to me.
Among the other factors damaging our public discourse in the media, the imposition by management of entertainment values on the journalism profession has resulted in scandals, fabricated sources, fictional events and the tabloidization of mainstream news. As recently stated by Dan Rather - who was, of course, forced out of his anchor job after angering the White House - television news has been "dumbed down and tarted up."
The coverage of political campaigns focuses on the "horse race" and little else. And the well-known axiom that guides most local television news is "if it bleeds, it leads." (To which some disheartened journalists add, "If it thinks, it stinks.")
In fact, one of the few things that Red state and Blue state America agree on is that they don't trust the news media anymore.
Clearly, the purpose of television news is no longer to inform the American people or serve the public interest. It is to "glue eyeballs to the screen" in order to build ratings and sell advertising. If you have any doubt, just look at what's on: The Robert Blake trial. The Laci Peterson tragedy. The Michael Jackson trial. The Runaway Bride. The search in Aruba. The latest twist in various celebrity couplings, and on and on and on.
And more importantly, notice what is not on: the global climate crisis, the nation's fiscal catastrophe, the hollowing out of America's industrial base, and a long list of other serious public questions that need to be addressed by the American people.
One morning not long ago, I flipped on one of the news programs in hopes of seeing information about an important world event that had happened earlier that day. But the lead story was about a young man who had been hiccupping for three years. And I must say, it was interesting; he had trouble getting dates. But what I didn't see was news.
This was the point made by Jon Stewart, the brilliant host of "The Daily Show," when he visited CNN's "Crossfire": there should be a distinction between news and entertainment.
And it really matters because the subjugation of news by entertainment seriously harms our democracy: it leads to dysfunctional journalism that fails to inform the people. And when the people are not informed, they cannot hold government accountable when it is incompetent, corrupt, or both.
One of the only avenues left for the expression of public or political ideas on television is through the purchase of advertising, usually in 30-second chunks. These short commercials are now the principal form of communication between candidates and voters. As a result, our elected officials now spend all of their time raising money to purchase these ads.
That is why the House and Senate campaign committees now search for candidates who are multi-millionaires and can buy the ads with their own personal resources. As one consequence, the halls of Congress are now filling up with the wealthy.
Campaign finance reform, however well it is drafted, often misses the main point: so long as the only means of engaging in political dialogue is through purchasing expensive television advertising, money will continue by one means or another to dominate American politic s. And ideas will no longer mediate between wealth and power.
And what if an individual citizen, or a group of citizens wants to enter the public debate by expressing their views on television? Since they cannot simply join the conversation, some of them have resorted to raising money in order to buy 30 seconds in which to express their opinion. But they are not even allowed to do that.
Moveon.org tried to buy ads last year to express opposition to Bush's Medicare proposal which was then being debated by Congress. They were told "issue advocacy" was not permissible. Then, one of the networks that had refused the Moveon ad began running advertisements by the White House in favor of the President's Medicare proposal. So Moveon complained and the White House ad was temporarily removed. By temporary, I mean it was removed until the White House complained and the network immediately put the ad back on, yet still refused to present the Moveon ad.
The advertising of products, of course, is the real purpose of television. And it is difficult to overstate the extent to which modern pervasive electronic advertising has reshaped our society. In the 1950s, John Kenneth Galbraith first described the way in which advertising has altered the classical relationship by which supply and demand are balanced over time by the invisible hand of the marketplace. According to Galbraith, modern advertising campaigns were beginning to create high levels of demand for products that consumers never knew they wanted, much less needed.
The same phenomenon Galbraith noticed in the commercial marketplace is now the dominant fact of life in what used to be America's marketplace for ideas. The inherent value or validity of political propositions put forward by candidates for office is now largely irrelevant compared to the advertising campaigns that shape the perceptions of voters.
Our democracy has been hallowed out. The opinions of the voters are, in effect, purchased, just as demand for new products is artificially created. Decades ago Walter Lippman wrote, "the manufacture of consent...was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy...but it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technique...under the impact of propaganda, it is no longer plausible to believe in the original dogma of democracy."
Like you, I recoil at Lippman's cynical dismissal of America's gift to human history. But in order to reclaim our birthright, we Americans must resolve to repair the systemic decay of the public forum and create new ways to engage in a genuine and not manipulative conversation about our future. Americans in both parties should insist on the re-establishment of respect for the Rule of Reason. We must, for example, stop tolerating the rejection and distortion of science. We must insist on an end to the cynical use of pseudo studies known to be false for the purpose of intentionally clouding the public's ability to discern the truth.
I don't know all the answers, but along with my partner, Joel Hyatt, I am trying to work within the medium of television to recreate a multi-way conversation that includes individuals and operates according to a meritocracy of ideas. If you would like to know more, we are having a press conference on Friday morning at the Regency Hotel.
We are learning some fascinating lessons about the way decisions are made in the television industry, and it may well be that the public would be well served by some changes in law and policy to stimulate more diversity of viewpoints and a higher regard for the public interest. But we are succeeding within the marketplace by reaching out to individuals and asking them to co-create our network.
The greatest source of hope for reestablishing a vigorous and accessible marketplace for ideas is the Internet. Indeed, Current TV relies on video streaming over the Internet as the means by which individuals send us what we call viewer-created content or VC squared. We also rely on the Internet for the two-way conversation that we have every day with our viewers enabling them to participate in the decisions on programming our network.
I know that many of you attending this conference are also working on creative ways to use the Internet as a means for bringing more voices into America's ongoing conversation. I salute you as kindred spirits and wish you every success.
I want to close with the two things I've learned about the Internet that are most directly relevant to the conference that you are having here today.
First, as exciting as the Internet is, it still lacks the single most powerful characteristic of the television medium; because of its packet-switching architecture, and its continued reliance on a wide variety of bandwidth connections (including the so-called "last mile" to the home), it does not support the real-time mass distribution of full-motion video.
Make no mistake, full-motion video is what makes television such a powerful medium. Our brains - like the brains of all vertebrates - are hard-wired to immediately notice sudden movement in our field of vision. We not only notice, we are compelled to look. When our evolutionary predecessors gathered on the African savanna a million years ago and the leaves next to them moved, the ones who didn't look are not our ancestors. The ones who did look passed on to us the genetic trait that neuroscientists call "the establishing reflex." And that is the brain syndrome activated by television continuously - sometimes as frequently as once per second. That is the reason why the industry phrase, "glue eyeballs to the screen," is actually more than a glib and idle boast. It is also a major part of the reason why Americans watch the TV screen an average of four and a half hours a day.
It is true that video streaming is becoming more common over the Internet, and true as well that cheap storage of streamed video is making it possible for many young television viewers to engage in what the industry calls "time shifting" and personalize their television watching habits. Moreover, as higher bandwidth connections continue to replace smaller information pipelines, the Internet's capacity for carrying television will continue to dramatically improve. But in spite of these developments, it is television delivered over cable and satellite that will continue for the remainder of this decade and probably the next to be the dominant medium of communication in America's democracy. And so long as that is the case, I truly believe that America's democracy is at grave risk.
The final point I want to make is this: We must ensure that the Internet remains open and accessible to all citizens without any limitation on the ability of individuals to choose the content they wish regardless of the Internet service provider they use to connect to the Worldwide Web. We cannot take this future for granted. We must be prepared to fight for it because some of the same forces of corporate consolidation and control that have distorted the television marketplace have an interest in controlling the Internet marketplace as well. Far too much is at stake to ever allow that to happen.
We must ensure by all means possible that this medium of democracy's future develops in the mold of the open and free marketplace of ideas that our Founders knew was essential to the health and survival of freedom.
from The Huffington Post
by David Fiderer
To put it charitably, Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson didn't read the court decision he sought to overturn. Still, 30 other state attorneys general co-signed Edmondson's amicus brief before the U.S. Supreme Court. All endorsed Edmondson's claim that the D.C. Circuit Court ruling against Judith Miller "bucks the clear policy of virtually all the states".
"State policy" in this context meant recognizing of a "reporter's privilege" that, according to Edmondson, would exempt Miller from testifying before the Plame grand jury. Edmondson wrote: "In applying the privilege, most states employ a balancing test that weighs the public interest in protecting a reporter's newsgathering and the free flow of information against the relevance of the information, the availability of alternative sources and the public interest in compelling disclosure."
But the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Miller by employing the exact same balancing test. The Federal judges ruled unanimously that the clear-cut balance was against Miller.
So why would 30 attorneys general embarrass themselves before the Supreme Court? Answer: Because their publicity stunt never would never get any real scrutiny. Miller's flimsy legal arguments always got a free pass from the media.
Miller's latest assertion - she waited a year to hear Scooter Libby's waiver was sincere - is the latest in her litany of headscratchers. It's not too late to subject the New York Times reporter's statements to a reality check. This would be a first.
1. "Forty-nine states, all but one state, in our country have now given journalists' sources protection under the state law or by judicial action.. So the federal standard is really out of whack with what the will of the states is at this point." News Forum with Gabe Pressman (WNBC New York) June 19, 2005
But 49 states would never excuse Miller from testifying. Under the qualified privilege extended by most states, Miller would still go to jail. Only 14 states offer an absolute privilege that exempting Miller from testifying under any circumstances. But state laws do not protect national security; that's the exclusive domain of the Federal government. So any argument about "bucking state policy" in Miller's case is fatally flawed.
2."If psychotherapists do not have to tell grand juries about what their patients tell them, surely the public's right to know is just as important in terms of protecting individuals who come forth and talk about wrongdoing to the press." Pressman, June 19, 2005
A reporter's privilege is not the same as a doctor or lawyer's privilege. Nor should it ever be.
First, doctors and lawyers have no privilege protecting client statements made in pursuit of a crime. If you ask your lawyer, "What's the best Panamanian bank for money laundering?" Or tell your doctor, "Double my oxycontin prescription; I'm trying it on my 12-year-old," your words have no protection from the law. Ever wonder why Tony Soprano never talks shop with his psychiatrist?
Conversely, a reporter's privilege is designed to protect illegal statements, because the confidential source often violates his legal duty of non-disclosure.
Second, doctors and lawyers are licensed and duty-bound to enforce legal behavior. Priests are regulated by the Catholic Church. Journalism is open to anyone with access to the internet, where ethical lapses are irrelevant. Which is why 35 states and all federal circuits recognize the need for a reporter's privilege, but also deem judges - not journalists - as final arbiters deciding what stays out of the court. Again, nobody believes that Scooter Libby came forth to "talk about wrongdoing."
3. "I didn't write a word. So I'm doubly adamant that I'm not going to talk about individuals who may have come to me with information that I didn't even write." The Charlie Rose Show February 22, 2005
On planet earth, witnesses are called to testify about what they observed, not only about what they did. Jay Leno testified in the Michael Jackson case even though he did nothing. Here, Miller panders to the dumb and dumber set.
4. "[T]here are many ways in which the government can get this information before [special counsel] Fitzgerald subpoenas journalists." -- Pressman
A flat out lie. Writing for the entire three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge David Tatel wrote, "we must take care to ensure that the special counsel has met his burden of demonstrating that the information is both critical and unobtainable from any other source. Having carefully scrutinized his voluminous classified filings, I believe that he has."
5. "And I think part of the problem here is we are dealing with a special prosecutor. And you don't have kind of the normal political balancing tests. .we've seen this again and again with special prosecutors, where they really do carry on with an extraordinary zeal, without any checks and balances of politics or anything else." The Charlie Rose Show February 22, 2005
Again, the D.C. Circuit decision discredits Miller's claim. Judge Tatel scrutinized the case for any specter of prosecutorial abuse. "The dynamics of leak inquiries afford a particularly compelling reason for judicial inquiry of prosecutorial judgments" he wrote, because the prosecutor "may pursue the source with excessive zeal." So the Court itself should consider whether Miller's "sources released information more harmful than newsworthy."
"Were the leak at issue in this case less harmful to national security or more vital to the public debate, or had special counsel failed to demonstrate the grand jury's need for the evidence," he wrote, "I might have supported the motion to quash [the subpoena to testify]."
6. "Victoria Toensing.. helped write the law that protects the identity of CIA agents. And her view is that no crime was committed here because Ms. Plame may not meet the standard of what constitutes a covert agent; that is, she may not have been operating undercover. The person or people who leaked her name may not have intended to harm her or damage national security." -- Pressman
As Miller's cheerleader, attorney Victoria Toensing spearheaded a media campaign to misrepresent the law. Toensing's talking points are recounted in her amicus brief, submitted with Bruce Sanford of Baker & Hostetler, to request a rehearing of Miller's case before a full panel on the D.C. Circuit. The brief argued that Miller and Matt Cooper should not be compelled to testify before the grand jury because of "ample evidence on the public record to cast considerable doubt that a crime has been committed."
Toensing put the cart before the horse. Grand juries are gathered to determine if a crime has been committed. Since grand jury proceedings are secret, Toensing didn't know what she was talking about. She presumes the only possible crime under investigation is the Intelligence Identities Protection Act of 1982. But any prosecutor would also investigate for perjury, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or other crimes against national security.
In the quote above, Miller paraphrased Toensing's deceptive spin on the Identities Protection Act. Toensing claimed, on WashingtonPost.com, "Just giving someone a false identity and a front does not meet the legal standard of affirmative measures [to protect Plame's cover] especially when she has a desk job at Langley and is driving in and out every day." But no court ruling or legislative history supports Toensing's interpretation.
The "ample evidence" used in Toensing's brief is a joke. To prove that "the CIA was cavalier about, if not complicit in, the publishing of Plame's name" Toensing cites: (a) the esteemed Washington Times, using anonymous sources to claim Plame's covert identity was first disclosed in the mid-1990's, (b) Robert Novak's claim that the CIA "failed to give him a serious request not to publish her name," and most ridiculously, (c) the fact that Joseph Wilson publicly spoke about his travels to Niger on behalf of the CIA - as if somehow that made Plame's CIA-status an open secret and somehow newsworthy. Toensing embellishes her arguments with bitchy suggestions about the Joseph Wilson and the CIA. But judges aren't stupid. They know the difference between fanciful speculation and real evidence.
Nor do stupid lawyers work for Baker & Hostetler, Reuters, ABC News or any of the 36 major news organizations signing on this embarrassing work product. But, to paraphrase Tina turner - what's law got to do with it? The Washington Post reported "The 40-page brief [only 15 pages of substantive text], . argues that there is 'ample evidence . . . to doubt that a crime has been committed' in the case." And, "Attorneys for the news organizations said yesterday that their decision to submit the brief underscores deep concern in the journalism community over special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's tactics." In the interest of brevity, the Post offered no specifics regarding the "ample evidence" or the prosecutor's "tactics."
7. MILLER: "[S]omething that is even more astonishing to some of us, that the reasons that one of the justices gave for deciding against us are redacted. That is, they're censored from the ruling. So, we don't even know a lot about the thinking of one of the three judges. And I just find this an astonishing turn of events."
BLITZER: "Redacted, presumably for security classified purposes."
CNN: Wolf Blitzer Reports February 15, 2005
Miller knew perfectly well the reason why Judge David Tatel ruled against her and Cooper. What she didn't see was four pages of redacted evidence used in support of that reason. All this conforms to longstanding law. For over 200 years, grand jury proceedings have been secret. Well-established precedent says that a judge, based on his ex parte review of evidence, may impose exceptions to a professional privilege against testifying before the grand jury. Judge Tatel wrote: "Just as due process poses no barrier to forcing an attorney to testify based on the court's examination of the evidence, unseen by the lawyer, that the client sought legal advice in pursuit of a crime, neither does it preclude compulsion of a reporter's testimony based on a comparable review of evidence, likewise unseen by the reporter, that a source engaged in a harmful leak."
8. "What's at stake here is the public's right to know, because we depend for our business on confidential sources, as you've seen with Watergate, as you've seen with the Pentagon papers, as you've seen with Abu Ghraib, as you've seen with the Enron abuses. All of that, all of those stories depended on an individual coming forth and speaking to the press often at the risk of their jobs, their careers, and they ask us in exchange, when their jobs are in jeopardy or their lives are in jeopardy, to protect their identity but use the information. And we must really carry through with our pledges when we promise to keep somebody's identity confidential, or people won't come forth. So this is not about me. It's not about The New York Times or Time or Matt Cooper. It's about the public's right to know." -- Pressman
Watergate and Enron? What about "the public's right to know" if White House officials committed crimes and compromised national security? Or is that the sacred and private domain of a few in the Washington press corps?
When she spoke with Scooter Libby on July 8, 2003, Miller knew that her source had credibility problems over uranium sales from Niger. One day earlier, the National Security Agency had conceded "the reference to Iraq's attempt to acquire uranium from Africa should not have been included in the State of the Union speech" rendering Joe Wilson's motivations all but irrelevant. But Libby's boss, Dick Cheney, was known for trashing those who questioned his WMD intelligence.
Fourth months prior, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, announced that that the CIA's "documents" used as proof of a Niger uranium sale were "not authentic." Sources cited "crude errors," like a "childlike signature" and stationary from a military government that had been out of power for over a decade.
Cheney's response: "Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq's concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don't have any reason to believe they're any more valid this time than they've been in the past." Prophetic words indeed.
So why did Miller believe Libby deserved a pledge of confidentiality? Let's get real. Miller isn't protecting anyone's "right to know". She's protecting the dirty little secrets of Washington insiders like herself.
from The Huffington Post
by Cenk Uygur
You know which countries have their political leaders make secret decisions with their religious leaders? If you answered the Islamic Republic of Iran, you'd be right. But apparently you would also be right if you answered the United States of America.
When asked why he is supporting President Bush's new nominee to the Supreme Court, Reverend Dobson, founder of the Focus on the Family, said, "I can't reveal it all, because I do know things that I'm privy to that I can't describe, because of confidentiality."
This is after he admitted, "It was leaked to the media that I've had conversations with Karl Rove and the White House, which is true."
What is the White House keeping secret from the rest of the country but sharing with Reverend Dobson?
This is what religious republics do. They take counsel with their imams, ayatollahs, shamans or reverends. They share secret information, close out the public and make decisions based on strange interpretations of their religion. This isn't the America I signed up for. I signed up for a secular democracy where politicians were held to account and citizens made law, not cloaked religious figures. If that's what I wanted I could have stayed in a Muslim country.
And to be fair, at this point Turkey, where I am originally from, appears to be significantly more secular than the United States. I wonder if they'd let the US into the EU with our death penalty, fundamentalist leadership and our clerics intertwined with our government.
You think I'm exaggerating? Then answer why Reverend Dobson seems to know more about the Supreme Court nominee than our Senators.
"When you put all the other information that I have been able to gather -- and you'll have to trust me on this one -- when you know some of the things that I know, that I probably shouldn't know, that take me in this direction, you will understand why I have said, with fear and trepidation, why I have said why I believe that Harriet Miers will be a good justice." -- Reverend James Dobson
At least, he's got one thing right -- he shouldn't know whatever the rest of us don't know, and apparently the White House is keeping secret from us. I wonder how Senator Biden is going to feel about being left out of the real decision making process. The White House has already talked to its reverends, the die is cast.
At the very least, the Senators should get Dobson in front of their committee and under oath ask him what secrets he's keeping from the American people. Likewise, for the unctuous Karl Rove, who is never far from a dark secret.
If you're afraid for our republic, don't worry, Reverend Dobson says he is open to changing his mind depending on what Zeus ... I mean God whispers in his ear. He implored God on his radio show, "If this is not the person you want on that Supreme Court, all you have to do is tell me so, and do it through any means you want to."
Presumably, the good reverend has now put on his tin-foil hat and is ready to receive Jupiter's ... I mean Jesus' message. Are these people serious? Is Reverend Dobson so arrogant as to believe that God will communicate with him directly? And to give him a message so specific as to tell him whether he should support Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court or not? I hope to God, God is busier than that.
We keep accommodating insane people. God doesn't talk to these snake oil salesmen disguised as reverends anymore than he talks to the mullahs in the Middle East or the voodoo priestesses in the Caribbean.
The Lord Shiva, the Prophet Muhammad, Apollo and Jesus do not have running commentary on our Supreme Court nominees.
It has been quite a two year run for Harriet Miers. In 2003, she was the President's staff secretary. She corrected grammar, she filed paperwork and she ran a tight office. Now, Reverend Dobson is awaiting word from God Himself about Harriet Frickin' Miers.
The lunatics have taken over the asylum. And we march on as if everything is normal. This is not what America is supposed to be about. We'll find out if our Senators agree soon enough. Let's see what kind of America they believe in.
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Former Bush Official Indicted in Probe
By MICHAEL J. SNIFFENThe Associated Press
Wednesday, October 5, 2005; 6:52 PM
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration's former chief procurement official was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of making false statements and obstructing investigations into high-powered Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The five felony counts in the indictment charge David H. Safavian with obstructing Senate and executive branch investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire property controlled by the General Services Administration around the nation's capital.
Both probes looked into an August 2002 golf outing that Safavian took to Scotland with Abramoff, former Christian Coalition executive Ralph Reed, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and others.
Safavian, a former lobbying associate of Abramoff, is the first person beyond Abramoff himself to face charges arising out of the probe of the lobbyist, who is a major Republican fundraiser with close ties to GOP leaders in Congress.
The indictment covers May 16, 2002, until January 2004, when Safavian was chief of staff at the General Services Administration, the government housekeeping agency. From November 2004 until late last month when he resigned three days before his arrest, he was the government's top procurement officer, in the Office of Management and Budget.
The indictment said Safavian falsely told a GSA ethics officer, a GSA inspector general's agent and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee that Abramoff had no business with GSA at the time the Scotland trip was being planned. It said Safavian concealed that Abramoff did have business with GSA before the trip and that Safavian was aiding him in dealing with GSA.
Barbara Van Gelder, Safavian's lawyer, said Safavian would plead not guilty. "If this case did not involve Mr. Abramoff, the government would never have indicted Mr. Safavian on these charges," she added. "We believe ... Mr. Safavian will be acquitted of all charges."
Each count carries a potential top penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Steve Clemons at The Huffington Post
Judy Miller seems to be engaged either in some kind of perverse self-deception, or she is simply brilliant at manipulating the rest of us. As has been widely reported, she seems to have unnecessarily gone off to jail as she was protecting a source who never wanted protection. . .or she strong-armed a deal with Prosecutor Fitzgerald in which she didn't have to tell anything beyond her interactions with Vice President Cheney's Chief-of-Staff Scooter Libby.
Nonetheless, we have all been duped. It felt like moments after Matt Cooper was ordered by the courts to testify, he not only suspended his resistance, he immediately told his story in Time
But in Judith Miller's case, NOTHING has appeared under her by-line in the New York Times
explaining this case or her behavior. She's no reporter. She's a huckster, and we are all being duped.Arianna Huffington
seems to have insider knowledge that Miller is securing a $1.2 million book deal from her public swindle:
P.S. Oh, she also told the Times that "she was uncertain whether she would write her own account, either in the newspaper or in a book." Two questions: (1) Does she really, really, think anybody will believe that? (2) If she intended to maintain her completely selfless pose a little longer, she simply should have refrained from talking to her friends about her $1.2 million book deal because, as she herself proved last week, people talk.
The New York Times should immediately fire her and discredit her immediately. This whole episode has been as fake and contrived -- and corrupt -- as Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Armstrong Williams.
She is planning to get rich off her shenanigans, which included misreporting about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and helping to set up an environment conducive to America's invasion of Iraq.
An apologist for Judith Miller -- and someone very close to her legal team -- told me recently that "George Bush did not go to war because of or inspite of Judy Miller's reporting. These soldiers didn't die because of her."
Well, I disagree. Judith Miller helped tip the balance. She carries a significant portion of the blame and bears a burden of responsibility for the deaths of American service men and women as well as tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis.
But what is more disgusting is that she is planning to CASH IN on this war and on her contrived battle that had nothing to do with freedom of the press and the protection of sources.
Judith Miller is a war-profiteer of the grossest kind.
from the dear Arianna
At his first press conference in four months, President Bush claimed, “We’re making good progress in Iraq.” What exactly does that mean? How do we define progress? Well, when it comes to understanding how the war is going, it’s all about the numbers. According to the president, we have a “dual track strategy” for success -- one track being the military progress, one track being political progress.
Let’s crunch the numbers on each.
On the military track, the president declared during his Saturday radio address that Iraqi security forces had “more than 100 battalions operating throughout the country”. Sounds impressive. On Tuesday, he told reporters “there are over 80 army battalions fighting alongside coalition troops… There are over 30 Iraqi battalions in the lead”. Okay, less impressive, but still notable.
This morning, after a meeting with Rummy and Generals Pace and Petraeus, he busted out some more numbers, saying “I was also pleased to hear there are 3,000 Iraqi forces” taking part in an offensive in western Iraq, adding “Over 30 percent of the Iraqi troops are in the lead on these offensive operations”. Let’s see, 30 percent of 3,000… Let me get my calculator…
The problem is, just last week, two other Generals, Abizaid and Casey, had told Congress that there was actually just 1 Iraqi battalion able to take on the insurgents on its own. 1. That’s down from the 3 that supposedly had been ready to solo back in July. So, let’s review: when it comes to Iraqi troops standing up so we can stand down, the key number is 100, check that…80, uh, actually 30… I mean, 3. Hold it, no… 1. Apparently, that adds up to “good progress” for President Bush. Do you get the same answer?
A similar new math is being used on the political side of the equation. With the constitutional referendum less than two weeks away, on Sunday the Iraqi National Assembly decided to have some fun with fractions. Since the constitution will be rejected if 2/3 of voters in at least 3 of the country’s 18 provinces vote against it on October 15, the members of the Assembly decided to change the definition of “voter” from, you know, someone who has actually cast a ballot to someone who might possibly, if he -- or she -- wanted to, and could find the time (and the polling place, since those have still not been announced in the volatile Sunni-dominated Anbar province) cast a ballot. This was a change that virtually ensured the constitution would pass. After the Shiite hit the fan and the UN (called in to confer legitimacy on the vote) objected, the Assembly reversed its Sunday skullduggery and today voted 119 to 28 to go back to the boring old definition of “voter”. So now the Sunnis, who make up only 20 percent of the nation’s 27 million people, will gear up to try to defeat the constitution at the polls. “I am sure if there is honesty,” a top Sunni politician said, “95 percent of Sunni Arabs will vote no.” Is this an example of addition by subtraction… or unity through division? Perhaps the White House could use a tutorial.
Of course, the numbers that matter most in Iraq are these: 149,000 U.S. troops still in country at a cost of $5.6 billion a month. 1942 dead Americans. X number of Iraqi dead (the administration has decided to leave that word problem blank). And these numbers: 59% of Americans now think it was a mistake to have sent our troops to Iraq; 63% believe the troops should be partially or completely withdrawn; just 21% believe we will win the war; and just 32% approve of Bush’s handling of Iraq.
Does this mean we can now blame him for natural disasters?
Bush Gag Orders National Weather Service
Tue Oct 4th, 2005 at 22:02:17 PDT
Employees of the National Weather Service, in the process of accurately warning the public about recent hurricanes, have apparently stepped on some toes. Recent weather facts have exposed both Bush's incompetence and Santorum's corruption. As reported by Larisa Alexandrovna of Raw Story NWS employees who wish to talk to the press must now obtain authorization from the Department of Commerce.
Reality has been hard on the Bush administration lately. Part of the slow response from the federal government to Katrina resulted from the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA using different weather services. DHS used a weather service which has made large contributions to Santorum, who in turn introduced a bill to prohibit the National Weather Service from releasing information that is available from private weather companies - which is to say, anything. NWS will still have the privilege of providing these companies with information for free, paid for by taxpayers.
Now the Bush administration has taken a new tactic to reduce the effectiveness of the National Weather Service and reduce the chance that weather facts will refute administration spin or show up private companies (which cannot currently match the NWS' hurricane forecast accuracy)
NWS must obtain approval before they talk to the media. Employees must obtain the following:
-The name of the reporter and their affiliation
-Their deadline and contact phone number
-The name of the individual being requested to give the interview
-The purpose of the interview
-The expertise of the requested interviewee on this subject.
send it to the Department of Commerce, and get approval.
Obviously, this is ludicrous for an agency with such desperately time-sensitive information. The next major weather event - hurricane, blizzard, tornado, you name it - will be a much greater hazard to the public, which will be restricted to the narrow straw of regularly scheduled bulletins. Call CNN to announce a shift in forecast track? Ix-nay! Good luck, suckers.
I guess Bush figures more Democrats live in areas at risk for weather disasters.
Prosecute White House Propaganda Crimes
Last week, an official government investigation determined that the Bush Administration broke the law when it used taxpayer dollars to hire fake journalists like Armstrong Williams to promote its political agenda.
It’s not only unethical, it’s also illegal. The only way for justice to be served is for you and 50,000 others to add your name to a letter I am sending to Congress and the Justice Department demanding prosecution. A copy of your letter will be sent to all the leaders of the Judiciary and Appropriations Committees.
Please put your name next to mine in demanding a full prosecution.
This White House has a knack for evading prosecution. Our strength is in our numbers -- I need you to stand by me and make the charges stick against an administration that has set aside more than a quarter billion dollars to push covert propaganda on the public. No other administration has spent so much to deceive so many.
In a report released on Sept. 30, the Government Accountability Office found that the Department of Education illegally used taxpayer dollars to fund a covert propaganda campaign, funneling money to Williams to tout Bush's education policies in advance of the 2004 elections. The investigation also dug up other instances of abuse, including a previously undisclosed case in which the Bush administration commissioned a newspaper article that praised the White House's role in promoting science education. But these abuses may just be the tip of the iceberg.
We need the White House to provide a full accounting of the more than $250 million in taxpayer funds spent to promote its political agenda.
Tell Congress and Justice to prosecute these crimes to the full extent of the law.
The administration's silence on propaganda speaks volumes. Without popular dissent, an emboldened White House will continue to throw up obstacles to full disclosure. It is now up to the public to pressure our government to enforce the law and stop propaganda crimes.
Take action today -- and don't forget to tell your friends.