22 August 2006

Ms. Kathy Lee is Almost Here!

My little sister, Kath, will be here with me in London for 8 days... so I probably won't be posting much because I'll be running around with her.... it's all very exciting - I can't wait to see her and show her around!

PS - I have lots more party pics plus more to put up but for some reason Matt's computer is freaking out everytime I try to put them up - argh! Anyway - I'll try to get back to it....

Jazz Cafe Festival in Richmond

Goodbye-Flat Party Pics

17 August 2006

"Bush Is Crap, Says Prescott" - Brilliant!

Deputy PM criticises US handling of Middle East, condemning 'cowboy' President at private meeting
By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Published: 17 August 2006

John Prescott has given vent to his private feelings about the Bush presidency, summing up George Bush's administration in a single word: crap.

The Deputy Prime Minister's condemnation of President Bush and his approach to the Middle East could cause a diplomatic row but it will please Labour MPs who are furious about Tony Blair's backing of the United States over the bombing of Lebanon.

The remark is said to have been made at a private meeting in Mr Prescott's Whitehall office on Tuesday with Muslim MPs and other Labour MPs with constituencies representing large Muslim communities. Muslim MPs wanted to press home their objections to British foreign policy and discuss ways of improving relations with the Muslim communities.

Some of the MPs present said yesterday they could not remember Mr Prescott making the remark. He has been at pains to avoid breaking ranks with Mr Blair in public although he is believed to have raised concern about the bombing of Lebanon at a private meeting of the Cabinet. But Harry Cohen, the MP whose constituency includes Walthamstow, scene of some of the police raids in the alleged "terror plot" investigation, said Mr Prescott had definitely used the word "crap" about the Bush administration.

"He was talking in the context of the 'road map' in the Middle East. He said he only gave support to the war on Iraq because they were promised the road map. But he said the Bush administration had been crap on that. We all laughed and he said to an official, 'Don't minute that'." Mr Cohen added: "We also had a laugh when he said old Bush is just a cowboy with his Stetson on. But then he said, 'I can hardly talk about that can I?'

Last night, an official from the Deputy Prime Minister's office said: " These discussions are intended to be private and remain within the four walls. They are private so that there may be frank discussions."

And today Mr Prescott issued a statement in which he said: "This is an inaccurate report of a private conversation and it is not my view. "

Told that others at the meeting could not recall the words, Mr Cohen said: " He did. I stand by that."

Many Labour MPs have been infuriated by the spectacle of Mr Bush and Mr Blair jointly supporting the Israeli action. The Labour MPs went to see Mr Prescott to lodge their criticism of the Government's foreign policy and some said last night that they would be delighted if he did break ranks over the Bush administration following the outcry at the bombing of the Lebanon.

In the private discussions with Mr Prescott, the Labour MPs representing large Muslim communities pulled no punches in their criticism of Mr Blair for giving his backing to Mr Bush.

Another of those who was contacted about the conversations did not deny Mr Prescott's words, but laughed and said: " I can't discuss that." When asked whether he had heard Mr Prescott use the "C-word", he said: "I don't remember that."

The Deputy Prime Minister is said to have made it clear he strongly backed the efforts by Mr Blair to persuade the Bush administration to revive the road map for Palestine and Israel. Mr Blair has given a commitment that he will give the peace process his priority when he returns from his holiday in the Caribbean.

"There was a very robust exchange of views," said the MP. " We had a row about community relations. The Deputy Prime Minister was told in no uncertain terms that the Government was relying too much on the elders in the Muslim community who didn't have the credibility that was needed."

Muslim Labour MPs also told Mr Prescott that they needed to retain their own credibility in their communities, which was one of the reasons why they had signed a controversial letter calling for a change in British foreign policy. They said it was not helpful for the Government to have attacked their letter.

Mr Prescott has been accused in the past of making his feelings known about the Republican administration in the White House. He became friendly with Al Gore, the unsuccessful Democrat presidential candidate in 2000, during the negotiations on the Kyoto treaty and allegedly told Mr Gore after his defeat that he was sorry he lost the race to Mr Bush.

Mr Prescott is also known to have used the word "crap" in relation to political events before.

Earlier this month, he angrily rejected claims that he could resign over the row about his links to the bid by the tycoon Philip Anschutz for a super-casino at the Millennium Dome as "a load of crap".

Mr Prescott was left in charge by Mr Blair when the Prime Minister went on his delayed holiday but has largely taken a back seat while John Reid, the Home Secretary, has led for the Government on security and the alleged terror plot to blow up planes across the Atlantic.

Behind the scenes, Mr Prescott had to contend with growing backbench demands for Parliament to be recalled to debate the crisis in the Middle East. It remains an option, in spite of the ceasefire in the Lebanon. Campaigners claimed they had the signatures of more than 150 MPs from all parties for a recall. Significantly, they included Ann Keen, the parliamentary private secretary to Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, who is on paternity leave following the birth of his second child. Jim Sheridan, the Labour MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire North, resigned as the parliamentary private secretary to the defence ministers over the bombing of Lebanon.

Mr Prescott has been keen to show Labour MPs that he is prepared to listen to their grievances but has insisted on party discipline to avoid splits. He will be furious at his alleged remarks being repeated, but the signs of dissent within the Cabinet are becoming greater.

Straight-talker's way with words:

* Posing with a crab in a jar at the Millennium Dome, while Peter Mandelson was standing for election to Labour's ruling national executive committee, he said to cameramen: "You know what his name is? He's called Peter. Do you think you will get on the executive, Peter?"

* When asked why a car was transporting him and his wife 200 yards to the Labour Party Conference in 1999:
"Because of the security reasons for one thing and second, my wife doesn't like to have her hair blown about. Have you got another silly question?"

* On the Millennium Dome: "If we can't make this work, we're not much of a government."
* "The green belt is a Labour achievement, and we mean to build on it." (Radio interview, January 1998)

* On the Tories at the 1996 Labour conference: "They are up to their necks in sleaze. The best slogan for their conference next week is " Life's better under the Tories" - sounds like one of Steven Norris's chat-up lines."

* When asked by a journalist about Peter Law's decision to quit the Labour Party after 35 years: "Why are you asking me about this? I don't care, it's a Welsh situation, I'm a national politician."

11 August 2006

I'm Sorry - 'Retroactively'?

Bush Officials Draft Law to Protect Administration from War Crimes
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush's administration drafted amendments to the War Crimes Act that would retroactively protect policymakers from criminal charges for authorizing any humiliating or degrading treatment of prisoners, lawyers who have seen the proposal said.

The move by the administration is the latest effort to deal with treatment of those taken into custody in the war on terror.

At issue are interrogations carried out by the CIA and the degree to which harsh tactics such as water-boarding were authorized by administration officials. A separate law, the Uniform Code of Military Justice, applies to the military.

The Washington Post newspaper first reported on the War Crimes Act amendments Wednesday.

One section of the draft would outlaw torture and inhuman or cruel treatment but it does not contain prohibitions from Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions against “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.”

A copy of the section of the draft was obtained by The Associated Press.

Another section would apply the legislation retroactively, said two lawyers who have seen the contents of the section and who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The White House, without elaboration, said in a statement the bill “will apply to any conduct by any U.S. personnel, whether committed before or after the law is enacted.”

One of the two lawyers said the draft is in the revision stage but the administration seems intent on pushing forward the draft's major points in Congress after Labour Day.

“I think what this bill can do is in effect immunize past crimes. That's why it's so dangerous,” said a third lawyer, Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice.

Mr. Fidell said the initiative is “not just protection of political appointees but also CIA personnel who led interrogations.”

Interrogation practices “follow from policies that were formed at the highest levels of the administration,” said a fourth lawyer, Scott Horton, who has followed detainee issues closely.

“The administration is trying to insulate policymakers under the War Crimes Act.”

A White House spokesman said Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions includes a number of “vague terms” that are susceptible to different interpretations.

The administration believes it is very important to bring clarity to the War Crimes Act so those on the frontlines in the war on terror “have clear rules that are defined in law,” said the White House spokesman.

Extreme interrogation practices have been a flash-point for criticism of the administration.

When interrogators engage in waterboarding, prisoners are strapped to a plank and dunked in water until nearly drowning.

Miss Kath Comes to London!

Not sure when she will be here - but it should be great! I am a bit worried about getting my dissertation all wrapped up - but I am already thinking of all the fun things we can do when she gets here...

Yeah little sister :)

10 August 2006

I'm Into It.... (The Letter - NOT the Vote!)

Congressmen vote against stem cell research
Tuesday, August 8, 2006 3:21 PM PDT
El Dorado Hills Telegraph - Folsom,CA,USA

Two of our representatives to Congress from Northern California voted against government funding of stem cell research. They are Rep. John Doolittle (R, District 4) and Rep. Dan Lundgren (R, District 3).

This research with blastocysts, undifferentiated one-hundred-cell organisms which are not going to live, promises to help with diseases of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy. President Bush vetoed this bill, which had majority support in the House and the Senate. He had never vetoed any bill during his entire presidency.

Stephen Hawking, the world's leading physicist, who has a chronic disabling disease, wrote a public letter asking the other freedom-loving governments of the world to disregard President Bush's example. In order to override this veto, vote for Bill Durston, M.D., an emergency room physician, campaigning for the Congressional seat in District 3 and for Lt. Colonel Charlie Brown, a retired U.S. Air Force rescue pilot, running for the Congressional seat in District 4.

Scientific research, conducted with ethical controls and peer-review, is far preferable to doing nothing while pandering to know-nothing fanatics of the left or right.

John C. Chendo

09 August 2006

Ugh.... Republicans Trying to Use Lieberman Defeat to Their Advantage

RJC Launches Ad Campaign on Lieberman Loss
Contact: Executive Director
Wednesday, August 9, 2006

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today announced it will begin a national advertising campaign to challenge the Jewish community to consider the nature of today’s Democratic Party given the defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman.

“Joe Lieberman was a voice of support for Israel. That voice has been silenced by the Democratic Party. America and Israel are worse off for it.” the RJC ad says.

“The Democratic Party is being taken over by the Cindy Sheehan, Howard Dean, Al Sharpton wing which represents weakness on foreign policy and neutrality toward Israel,” said RJC Executive Director Matt Brooks. “The left-wing defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman is a troubling development for all Jewish Americans who care about a strong national defense and support for Israel. Now that the Democrats have voted Joe Lieberman out of the party, Jewish Democrats should ask themselves, ‘Is this the political party I want to be part of?’”

The RJC advertisement will run in Jewish newspapers across the country. A PDF file is attached and it can be viewed on the RJC web site at www.RJCHQ.org.

According to a Los Angeles Times poll released last week, when asked between aligning with Israel or adopting a more neutral posture, “Democrats supported neutrality over alignment, 54% to 39%, while Republicans supported alignment with the Jewish state 64% to 29%.”

According to exit polls, Republicans have been making steady inroads into the traditionally Democratic Jewish voting block. The Republican share of the Jewish vote has risen in recent elections, from 11% in 1992, to 16% in 1996, to 19% in 2000, and 25% in 2004.

Pro-war Lieberman Loses Senate Primary

David Fickling and agencies
Wednesday August 09 2006
The Guardian
Joe Lieberman, the former US vice-presidential candidate and Democrat senator, was knocked out of the race to stand as his party's candidate for re-election to the Senate last night in a coup for America's anti-war left.
Mr Lieberman, who was Al Gore's running mate in the 2000 presidential campaign, gained 48% of the vote in the Connecticut primary election against 52% for millionaire Ned Lamont, an anti-war challenger who had received strong support from left-wing bloggers and the Democrat grassroots.But last night he refused to withdraw his candidacy, fulfilling threats to stand as an independent if he was knocked out.
"Of course I am disappointed by the results, but I am not discouraged," he told supporters. "For the sake of our state, our country and my party, I cannot and will not let that result stand."
"As I see it, in this campaign, we've just finished the first half and the Lamont team is ahead. But in the second half, our team, Team Connecticut, is going to surge forward to victory in November."
Mr Lieberman has been a strong supporter of the Iraq war and is perceived as being close to the president, George Bush, which makes him unpopular with grassroots Democrat supporters.Despite his 18 years of Senate experience, he lost to a relatively untested politician whose campaign grew from nowhere earlier this year on the back of strong internet support.
The Connecticut fight has been seen as a litmus test for the mood and strength of anti-war activists within the Democrat party. Turnout at the election was 50%, double the usual figure.During the run-up to the 2004 presidential primaries, Vermont governor Howard Dean became a runaway success as his strong anti-war stance motivated legions of Democrat activists via the internet. He later fell by the wayside as Democrat voters switched to the more centrist figure of John Kerry.
Some party strategists believe a Democrat can only win the presidency by demonstrating their pro-war credentials to America's political centre. Mr Lieberman's stance reflects that of Hillary Clinton, who is widely expected to run for the 2008 presidency, although last night she came out in support of Mr Lamont's nomination.
Jubilant Lamont supporters predicted victory in November. "People are going to look back and say the Bush years started to end in Connecticut," said Avi Green, a volunteer from Boston. "The Republicans are going to look at tonight and realise there's blood in the water."
Film-maker Michael Moore, a leading figure in the anti-war movement, sent out a message to supporters soon after the vote warning that the result would "send a cold shiver down the spine of every Democrat who supported the invasion of Iraq".The two sides in the contest have traded bitter words, with the Lieberman camp accusing Mr Lamont's supporters of making personal attacks on him and even suggesting that they were responsible for the failure of his campaign website this week.
Mr Lieberman's insistence on standing as an independent makes life difficult for Democrat strategists. They are keen to present a united front ahead of Congressional elections in November where they expect to pick up seats from Republicans suffering from Mr Bush's low approval ratings.
The New York Times, which backed Mr Lamont, reported that Democrat leaders in Congress were planning to publicly support him - a move that would make it harder for Mr Lieberman to go on with his challenge.However, they were hoping he would drop his independent candidacy first to avoid a conflict within the party, the paper reported.
Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

This Is Crazy...

"For the past 24 hours the Friends for Joe Lieberman's website and email has been totally disrupted and disabled, we believe that this is the result of a coordinated attack by our political opponents. The campaign has notified the US Attorney and the Connecticut Chief State's Attorney and the campaign will be filing a formal complaint reflecting our concerns. The campaign has also notified the State Attorney General Dick Blumenthal for his review."
"We call on Ned Lamont to make an unqualified statement denouncing this kind of dirty campaign trick and to demand whoever is responsible to cease and desist immediately. Any attempt to suppress voter participation and undermine the voting process on Election Day is deplorable and has no place in our democracy."
*This is what you see if you go to www.joe2006.com. Sean Smith is the campaign manager for Lieberman and I agree with him whole-heartedly. Dirty tricks are uncalled for and unjust - especially in Democratic primaries! I am all about having D's challenge each other and I think competition is good... but it comes to a point where the means may not justify the ends... Good luck to my friend, and former colleague and lecturer, Sean!

Doolittle is Bullocks!

Brown on campaign trail in Grass Valley
Democrat criticizes Doolittle's link to Abramoff, pushes for debates
By Josh Singer

Democratic Congressional challenger Charles Brown paid a visit to the area Monday, discussing campaign issues in his race against eight-term Republican incumbent John Doolittle.

"Doolittle's the main player left who claims he did nothing wrong," Brown said, pointing to congressional scandals involving Jack Abramoff that caused representatives Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and, most recently, Bob Ney (R-Ohio) to announce their retirements.Doolittle spokesperson Richard Robinson said Monday that when the District 4 congressman accepted contributions from Abramoff, Doolittle was not aware the lobbyist was going to be a felon.

***Wait... so had he known he was going to get in trouble he wouldn't have done it... regardless of his ethics and the fact he was bought- out... awesome...

Abramoff was convicted earlier this year of tax evasion, fraud and conspiracy to bribe public officials.

Tying contributions of $14,000 that Doolittle accepted directly from Abramoff to the congressman's opposition to labor reforms on the Mariana Islands in the West Pacific, where sweatshop conditions and other human rights violations have been reported, is "nothing new," Robinson said of recent media reports.Doolittle traveled to the Northern Mariana Islands following several government hearings about the area and did not personally witness inhumane working conditions, Robinson said.

He did not offer other examples of Doolittle's efforts to investigate working conditions in the U.S. commonwealth when asked to provide them.Doolittle has not yet responded to Brown's second challenge to schedule a series of districtwide debates, one of which the Democrat requested be set in Grass Valley in mid-September.

The Republican incumbent remains committed to debating the challenger, Robinson said. Holding the event closer to the election would benefit many of the potential voters who aren't yet following the race, he added.

In his challenge to the congressman, Brown stated that Doolittle has time to hold the debates, given the current congressional schedule. "All told, the House is only scheduled to be in session a total of 97 days in 2006 - the least in more than 60 years, and even less than what President Harry Truman dubbed the 'do nothing Congress' of 1948," Brown wrote in a statement regarding the debates.

***And this is the best part....

"The fewer days Congress is meeting, the better," Robinson said. The more frequently government leaders meet, the greater the number of laws and regulations imposed, he added.

***What?! Bullocks...

08 August 2006

Vote from Abroad this November!

A Message from President Jimmy Carter

On November 7, Americans throughout our land will vote in mid-term elections for the House and Senate. I am speaking to you today, as the Honorary Chairman of Democrats Abroad, to urge you to join them - wherever you may be in the world.

Voting from beyond our borders is easier than ever before. Democrats Abroad has developed a website that allows you to register to vote and create an absentee ballot request instantly online. Just type in www.VoteFromAbroad.org and you’re on your way to making a real difference.

Since leaving the White House, Rosalynn and I have visited more than 120 foreign nations in our work at The Carter Center. In many cases, we’ve become deeply involved with them in resolving some of their political, health, and agricultural challenges. During the earlier years, their admiration and friendship toward our country was almost universal, and truly heart-warming - in Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and throughout the Islamic world.

Lately, there has been a drastic and disturbing shift toward distrust, alienation, and outright hatred. The dramatic deterioration in America’s reputation was not caused by a conflict between liberals and conservatives or even between Democrats and Republicans. The unprecedented new American policies are a radical departure from those of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon, Dwight Eisenhower, and also, of course, from those of Democratic presidents. At home, the result has been an unprecedented division among our citizens - exemplified by a sharp delineation between red and blue states.

Many Americans are deeply disturbed, and some are willing to stake their careers on making a change. Our son Jack, for instance, has left the world of agricultural commodities and investment finance to run for the U.S. Senate from Nevada - against a first term incumbent who has voted with the White House 96% of the time during the past five years (compared to Tom Delay’s 90%).

We are faced in 2006 with congressional elections of momentous historical importance - more so than at any time in my memory. The outcome will be either an endorsement of Washington’s current policies or a great political brake on these ill-advised and destructive trends. There can be no better qualified or objective analysts than Americans, like you, who live overseas and are not unduly swayed by the constant stream of biased news media, like Fox News and the all-pervasive right-wing radio talk shows.

It is imperative that every American citizen living abroad join us in this crusade to change the course of our government by becoming registered to vote and participating fully in the electoral process. Democrats Abroad has made registering to vote and requesting an absentee ballot quick and simple at VoteFromAbroad.org. I invite you to use that website, request your absentee ballot, vote, and make a difference.

Thank you for doing your part to ensure a brighter future for America in the world.

President Jimmy Carter

07 August 2006

California Congressman Helped Abramoff Win Contract

By David Whitney
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - Rep. John Doolittle helped Jack Abramoff secure a lucrative lobbying contract with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1999 and then assisted the now-disgraced lobbyist's efforts to route federal money to the islands and defend its garment industry, newly obtained documents show.

The California Republican accepted $14,000 in contributions from Abramoff - $4,000 to his congressional re-election committee and $10,000 to the congressman's California political action committee.

The first contribution came just a few weeks before Doolittle endorsed the election of a key commonwealth politician crucial to Abramoff winning the contract. The last Abramoff contribution came as the Northern Marianas lobbying contract was expiring in December 2001.

While Abramoff's associates and clients, particularly Indian tribes, have been large contributors to Doolittle for at least six years, the $14,000 is the only money directly from Abramoff.

Doolittle's involvement with the islands provides another link between him and Abramoff, who pleaded guilty in January to three felony charges in connection with his lobbying. Doolittle also took action on behalf of Indian tribes that Abramoff represented, and the lobbyist once hired the firm owned by Doolittle's wife.

Doolittle has defended his relationship with Abramoff, calling him a close friend but denying any involvement in the lobbyist's improper activities. And Doolittle consistently has declined to return any Abramoff-related campaign money, saying he did nothing wrong in accepting it.

In an interview Friday, Doolittle said all of his efforts were to aid the struggling Mariana Islands and had nothing to do with Abramoff.

"It had to do with the (commonwealth)," Doolittle said.

The commonwealth is a U.S. territory east of the Philippines whose garment industry has been widely criticized as a collection of sweatshops employing Chinese, Filipino and other immigrant workers at sub-minimum wages.

Clothing from these plants is sold tariff-free in the United States under a "Made in the USA" label.

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

Doolittle's press aide, Laura Blackann, said in a statement Friday that the congressman had traveled to the Northern Marianas in 1999 on a congressional trip and saw none of the abuses or "reported inhumane working conditions."

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

Abramoff lobbied to stop congressional bills that would impose U.S. immigration and wage laws on the commonwealth. Efforts to enact those laws have been bipartisan and continue today.

Doolittle has been a leading opponent of the bills, saying the reported abuses could be halted with aggressive enforcement of existing U.S. law enforcement tools. He stood in lockstep on the issue with his mentor, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, then the Republican whip and later the majority leader of the House of Representatives, who called the Northern Mariana Islands a "petri dish for capitalism."

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

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

"I know that you are a legislator and businessman who cares deeply about the people of your community," Doolittle wrote. "Your hard work in previous legislatures has succeeded in improved relations with the U.S. government, and we need you in the House again to ensure continued success."

Doolittle's letter, complete with the disclaimer that it was paid for by the John T. Doolittle for Congress committee in Roseville, Calif., was published in the Saipan Tribune on Nov. 2, four days before Fitial was elected.

On Friday, Doolittle said he backed Fitial, now the commonwealth's governor, because "he was a pro-free-enterprise guy who was advocating for the best interests of the territory."

After Fitial's election, Abramoff turned his attention to getting Fitial elected speaker of the commonwealth House. He was considered the underdog in the race, trailing the front-runner by two votes, according to published reports.

According to the Los Angeles Times, two of Abramoff's associates, former DeLay aides Ed Buckham and Michael Scanlon, were dispatched to the Northern Marianas in December 1999 to persuade two legislators from Tinian and Rota islands to switch their votes and support Fitial, offering promises of federal money for their island communities.

A follow-up trip in January, when Fitial was elected speaker, was cited in Abramoff's agreement when he pleaded guilty to political corruption charges.

In July, Fitial pushed through the Marianas House legislation directing the government to hire Abramoff's firm, Preston Gates, as its lobbying firm, and the deal was accepted July 27.

By then, Abramoff had made a second $1,000 contribution to Doolittle. It was followed on Oct. 30 with his biggest contribution to Doolittle - $10,000 to the congressman's Superior California State Leadership Fund.

After the 2000 U.S. elections, an opening occurred on the House Appropriations Committee. The seat was regarded as a California slot on the powerful spending panel. The California Republican congressional delegation backed Rep. Howard McKeon, but the spot went to Doolittle, who credited his association with DeLay for the victory. '

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

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

One reference was to a phone conversation Ring had with a Doolittle aide regarding "funding for port studies." Port money was among the inducements offered to one of the commonwealth legislators to encourage a vote for Fitial for speaker, according to published reports.

Another entry lists Ring working with Doolittle's office on March 12, 2001, "regarding letter on OSHA report." Ten days later, the Saipan Tribune published a story headlined "U.S. lawmaker hails CNMI (Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) transformation." The story reported on a letter from Doolittle to his House of Representatives colleagues on a new Occupational Health and Safety Administration report that led Doolittle to conclude that there'd been significant improvements in the garment industry on the islands.

According to the Saipan Tribune story, "Mr. Doolittle's letter is like a whiff of fresh air for CNMI lobbyists in Washington, D.C., local government officials and businessmen."

Another Saipan Tribune story, in May 2001, quoted Fitial as turning to "U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle and other members of the U.S. Congress and the Bush administration to release funds for the island's transport facilities." The article quoted Fitial as saying Doolittle had been presented with a "recent study on the needed rehabilitation work at the Tinian and Rota seaports." Five days later, on May 22, 2001, in another Saipan Tribune story headlined "CNMI receives support of US Congress ally," Fitial hailed federal help coming for the Rota and Tinian port projects through a spending bill for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers detailed in a letter he received from Doolittle.

"Mr. Doolittle's letter lays out clearly what has been done and what work lies ahead for Northern Marianas port facilities," according to the article.

Doolittle did more than just angle for federal money and write letters to the speaker. On May 17, 2001, according to Federal Election Commission reports, Doolittle's re-election committee contributed $1,000 to Fitial. Six days later, the Doolittle campaign recorded a $1,000 contribution from Abramoff.

Doolittle was in the Saipan Tribune again May 25 when the newspaper reprinted his letter telling Fitial how DeLay had helped Tinian and Rota ports in 2000 with a $150,000 earmark for studies. Doolittle said he would pick up the torch by seeking funding for feasibility studies for the two projects "so that the corps would have the resources necessary to begin the next stage of work."

It is unclear how much money was funneled to the Northern Marianas by Congress in 2001, or how much of that Doolittle was responsible for delivering.
Abramoff's last contribution, for $1,000, to Doolittle's campaign was dated Dec. 28, 2001, three days before the lobbying contract terminated.

Doolittle said Friday that his support for the Northern Marianas hasn't waned.
"They are the territory that is actually self-sufficient and hard working," he said. "Some of the others are just welfare states. ... Big labor should lay off them and the Democrats should quit trying to kill them off because they don't fit their particular agenda."

Peter Hecht of The Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

04 August 2006

Raise the Minimum Wage!

*Taken from a www.democrats.org email - hell yeah! I completely support raising it for the following reasons:

Democrats have been fighting for a minimum wage increase, but Republicans won't allow a straight up-or-down vote on it.

Now Frist and his right-wing allies say they will allow a vote on the minimum wage -- but only in the form of a bill that includes a huge giveaway to ultra-wealthy Republican donors.

We want folks to do well, but America shouldn't have to sacrifice billions of dollars to give only a small group of millionaires a tax break while millions of hard working Americans - some with two or more jobs - are barely able to make ends meet.

What's more, the Republicans' so-called minimum wage increase contains provisions that would actually strip wages from over a million people in seven states where they earn that state's minimum wage in addition to their tips.

This isn't responsible government -- and we're not going to take it.

Let your Senators know that they should reject it:


Someone working full-time for the $5.15 federal minimum wage makes just $10,700 a year. A single mom with two kids who works full-time for the minimum wage is about $6,000 below the poverty line.

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at the same rate since 1997. Since then, Republican leaders have raised the salaries of Senators seven times. Salaries of lawmakers have gone up by $35,000 -- almost three times the entire yearly income of someone on minimum wage.

The real value of the minimum wage is more than $3.00 below what it was a generation ago, and right now has its lowest buying power in over 50 years.
The minimum wage is the lowest it has been in over 50 years relative to the average wage.

Raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour adds up to more than one year of groceries, over 9 months of rent, a year and a half of heat and electricity, or full tuition for a community college degree.

Please do what you can to help call attention to this vitally important issue.

The world's richest and most powerful country must do better.

Brown asks Doolittle for Debate Dates

By: Gus Thomson
Auburn Journal Staff Writer

Challenger Charlie Brown wants U.S. Rep. John Doolittle to commit to dates and locations to promised debates -- a task a spokesman for the congressman said Wednesday will be completed in due time.Doolittle, R-Rocklin, agreed last month to square off with Democrat Brown in at least one debate. Brown sent a letter this week saying it's time to schedule a series of them.

Brown's suggestions, made available this week, are for a town hall meeting in Auburn on Aug. 15 to start the series. Others would follow in Grass Valley, El Dorado County, Quincy, Roseville and South Lake Tahoe.Brown, a retired Air Force colonel who lives in Roseville, said in his letter to Doolittle that because the House is out of session for district work and campaigning between now and Sept 1, and Oct. 6 is listed as the targeted adjournment date for Congress, potential scheduling opportunities are now open.

Brown added that he hasn't heard from the congressman since Doolittle responded July 11 that his office would contact the Democrat challenger once the congressional schedule has been set.Doolittle campaign spokesman Richard Robinson said Wednesday that the congressman stands by his commitment to debate Brown before the election."

He looks forward to hear Charlie Brown's explanation on how a card-carrying American Civil Liberties Union member, who supports higher taxes, gay marriage and amnesty for illegal immigrants plans to gain voters' support," Robinson said.Brown said he's looking forward to highlighting differences between the two candidates."Every day, I speak with constituents of all political stripes who are frustrated that they never see their congressman," Brown said.

"Worst of all, when they do see him, it's either because of a corruption story that runs in the newspaper, or a private gathering at which he tells them to go hire a lobbyist."Robinson said Brown's campaign isn't resonating with voters in the district, and the challenger has resorted to posturing for media attention on issues that have already been well-covered in the past.

"If anything they should have learned from the last election is that these types of smear tactics don't work," Robinson said. "John Doolittle has represented the area for a total of 26 years and voters know him as hard-working and honest."The two sides have also fired salvos over a fundraising ad by the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee that shows flag-draped coffins of American troops.

Doolittle has called on Brown to refuse any funding from the committee. A Brown spokesman said Doolittle needs to examine his own funding sources first."This despicable ad is designed to raise funds for candidates across the country including my opponent," Doolittle stated. "Exploiting our soldiers to capitalize financially is unconscionable."

Doolittle said the only honorable thing for Brown to do is to denounce the ads and "pledge he won't take a dime" from the committee.Brown's campaign replied that the images are inappropriate in partisan political advertising -- but in a direct attack on Doolittle, added that he also believes "it is inappropriate for federal lawmakers to take hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from indicted congressional bribers, while funneling 15 percent of the proceeds into their personal household coffers."

The Brown statement refers to fundraising commissions Doolittle's wife has received and which he has defended as legal and ethical. Doolittle and a political action committee he controls have received funding from sources that include Jack Abramoff and San Diego business owners linked to a congressional bribery case the congressman has not been directly linked to.

Doolittle has said the donations were lawful and he has declined to return the money or give it to charity, as some other congressmen have done with similar donations.Brown spokesman Todd Stenhouse said the challenger's campaign has received no funding from the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee."Charlie Brown will give back funding from the DCCC if Doolittle will give back the money he's received from indicted congressional bribers," Stenhouse said.

The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.

03 August 2006

638 Ways to Kill Castro

The CIA's outlandish plots to bump off the Cuban dictator would put 007 to shame ... poison pills, toxic cigars and exploding molluscs. Once he even offered to shoot himself...

Reports Duncan Campbell
Thursday August 3, 2006
The Guardian

For nearly half a century, the CIA and Cuban exiles have been trying to devise ways to assassinate Fidel Castro, who is currently laid low in Cuba following an operation for intestinal bleeding. None of the plots, of course, succeeded, but, then, many of them would probably be rejected as too fanciful for a James Bond novel.

Fabian Escalante, who, for a time, had the job of keeping El Commandante alive, has calculated that there have been a total of 638 attempts on Castro's life. That may sound like a staggeringly high figure, but then the CIA were pretty keen on killing him. As Wayne Smith, former head of the US interests section in Havana, pointed out recently, Cuba had the effect on the US that a full moon has on a werewolf. It seems highly likely that if the CIA had had access to a werewolf, it would have tried smuggling it into the Sierra Maestra at some point over the past 40-odd years.

The most spectacular of the plots against Castro will be examined in a Channel 4 documentary entitled 638 Ways to Kill Castro, as well as in a companion book of the same name written by the now-retired Escalante - a man who, while in his post as head of the Cuban secret service, played a personal part in heading off a number of the plots. While the exploding cigar that was intended to blow up in Castro's face is perhaps the best-known of the attempts on his life, others have been equally bizarre.

Knowing his fascination for scuba-diving off the coast of Cuba, the CIA at one time invested in a large volume of Caribbean molluscs. The idea was to find a shell big enough to contain a lethal quantity of explosives, which would then be painted in colours lurid and bright enough to attract Castro's attention when he was underwater. Documents released under the Clinton administration confirm that this plan was considered but, like many others, did not make it far from the drawing-board. Another aborted plot related to Castro's underwater activities was for a diving-suit to be prepared for him that would be infected with a fungus that would cause a chronic and debilitating skin disease.

One of the reasons there have been so many attempts on his life is that he has been in power for so long. Attempts to kill Castro began almost immediately after the 1959 revolution, which brought him to power. In 1961, when Cuban exiles with the backing of the US government tried to overthrow him in the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the aim was to assassinate Fidel and Raul Castro and Che Guevara. Two years later, on the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, an agent who had been given a pen-syringe in Paris was sent to kill Castro, but failed.

On one occasion, a former lover was recruited to kill him, according to Peter Moore, producer of the new film. The woman was given poison pills by the CIA, and she hid them in her cold cream jar. But the pills melted and she decided that, all things considered, putting cold cream in Castro's mouth while he slept was a bad idea. According to this woman, Castro had already guessed that she was aiming to kill him and he duly offered her his own pistol. "I can't do it, Fidel," she told him.

No one apparently could. This former lover is far from the only person to have failed to poison Castro: at one point the CIA prepared bacterial poisons to be placed in Castro's hand-kerchief or in his tea and coffee, but nothing came of it. A CIA poison pill had to be abandoned when it failed to disintegrate in water during tests.

The most recent serious assassination attempt that we know of came in 2000 when Castro was due to visit Panama. A plot was hatched to put 200lb (90kg) of high explosives under the podium where he was due to speak. That time, Castro's personal security team carried out their own checks on the scene, and helped to abort the plot. Four men, including Luis Posada, a veteran Cuban exile and former CIA operative, were jailed as a result, but they were later given a pardon and released from jail.

As it happens, Posada is the most dedicated of those who have tried and failed to get rid of the Cuban president. He is currently in jail in El Paso, Texas, in connection with extradition attempts by Venezuela and Cuba to get him to stand trial for allegedly blowing up a Cuban airliner in 1976.

His case is due to come back before the courts later this month but few imagine that he will be sent to stand trial, and he appears confident that he will be allowed to resume his retirement in Florida, a place where many of the unsuccessful would-be assassins have made their homes.

Not all the attempts on Castro's life have been fancifully complicated: many have been far simpler and owe more to the methods of the mafia who used to hang out in the casinos and hotels of Havana in the 40s and 50s, than they do to James Bond. At one time the CIA even approached underworld figures to try to carry out the killing. One of Castro's old classmates planned to shoot him dead in the street in broad daylight much in the manner of a mafia hit. One would-be sniper at the University of Havana was caught by security men. But the shooters were no more successful than the poisoners and bombers.

Officially, the US has abandoned its attempt to kill its arch-enemy, but Cuban security are not taking any chances. Any gifts sent to the ailing leader as he lies ill this week will be carefully scrutinised, just as they were when those famous exploding cigars were being constructed by the CIA's technical services department in the early 60s. (They never got to him, by the way, those cigars contaminated with botulinum toxin, but they are understood to have been made using his favourite brand. Castro gave up smoking in 1985.)

All these plots inevitably changed the way Castro lived his life. While in his early years in office, he often walked alone in the street, but that practice had to change. Since then doubles have been used, and over the decades Castro has moved between around 20 different addresses in Cuba to make it harder for any potential hitmen to reach him.

Meanwhile, jokes about Castro's apparent indestructibility have become commonplace in Cuba. One, recounted in the New Yorker this week, tells of him being given a present of a Galapagos turtle. Castro declines it after he learns that it is likely to live only 100 years. "That's the problem with pets," he says. "You get attached to them and then they die on you".

'What Tony said to Snoop' - Hilarious!

Tim Dowling
Thursday August 3, 2006
The Guardian

The scene: the Sky bar at the Mondrian Hotel, Hollywood, on Monday night where Adidas is hosting a party. Among the guests are several Premiership footballers, Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and Tony Blair. The prime minister sips a cocktail while admiring the view. Snoop Dogg approaches.

Snoop Dogg: Yo, Blair.

Tony Blair: You know, I really wish people would stop saying that, it's just ... oh, hello. Puff Daddy, is it?

SD: Call me Snoop.

TB: Always changing your names, you lot. Can't keep up.

SD: Fo' shizzle ma nizzle.

TB: Hmm.

SD: Dat middle east bizzle is out of control.

TB: Well, it not quite as simple as that, you see.

SD: Need a immediate ceasefire, multinational security force in South Lebanon, political framework for a lasting settlement.

TB: Yes, of course. I'm down with that, obviously [attempts a complicated handshake with Snoop. Snoop declines].

SD: You need to get Bush to move on this, him and Condolizzle, got to do the bizzle.

TB: Well I am hoping to persuade them to take a more ...

SD: Can't be the president's bitch all the time.

TB: Look, I don't think it's fair to say I'm his bitch. I find the insinuation, frankly, rather whack.

SD: Time to rethink the whole strategizzle, put together a new agenda on poverty, trade, climate, whatever. All that shit.

TB: Which is, I think you'll find, more or less what I told the World Affairs Council just ...

SD: The World Affairs Council is WAC. Marinate on that, prime mizzle.

TB: Obviously I'll be marinating on a lot of things between now and ... perhaps you'd like to come to Britain in the near future to discuss these ideas further, perhaps speak at the party conference like my close personal friend Bono.

SD: No can do. My boyz got into it at Heathrow duty-free and I been banned.

TB: That was you? You're Ice T?

SD: I'm a Diet Sprite actually, but if you're goin to the bar ...

[The prime minister leaves to talk to Vidal Sassoon]

House GOP Incumbents Try New Stride to Beat Midterm Challenges

Challenges have several incumbents running hard, and sometimes stumbling

By Janet Hook
Times Staff Writer
LA Times
August 2, 2006

WASHINGTON — Election day was five long months away, but Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) decided to air her first television campaign ad early to set the tone for what promised to be a tough reelection fight.

But when the ad was broadcast in June, it contained an embarrassing error. Pryce's first name was spelled "Deboarah." The blunder was especially surprising coming from the camp of a seasoned, seven-term incumbent and senior member of the House Republican leadership.

When it comes to hardball campaigning, however, Pryce is something of a rookie. She has not faced a serious challenge since she was first elected to Congress in 1992. But that has abruptly changed this year — for her and for some other House Republicans accustomed to coasting to reelection.With the political winds blowing squarely against the GOP, several senior lawmakers are facing unusually serious challenges that have forced them to dust off campaign tools that, in some cases, are a bit rusty.

In California, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Roseville) has agreed to debate a Democratic opponent for the first time in more than a decade. Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) has expanded his campaign staff beyond what had been a tight inner circle — and spent more money in the process.

In Connecticut, GOP Rep. Nancy L. Johnson, in her 24th year in Congress, has already aired five expensive television ads. In New York, supporters of Republican Rep. James T. Walsh of Syracuse goofed at one event by distributing 4-year-old campaign literature.

With Democrats needing a 15-seat gain to win control of the House, most of their top targets are junior GOP lawmakers or perennially vulnerable incumbents in swing districts. But they almost assuredly will have to beat more-entrenched Republicans like Pryce to win a majority.

Amy Walter, an analyst at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, sees such incumbents as "canaries in the mineshaft" whose fate will determine whether the GOP loses control of the House.When Republicans won the chamber in 1994, their victory was built in part on the surprise defeat of several senior Democratic incumbents, such as then-House Speaker Tom Foley of Washington.

Republicans have one advantage that Democrats did not have in 1994. Then, many of the party's incumbents did not realize they were in trouble until it was too late to do much about it.

This year, GOP leaders already have sensed political danger and urged lawmakers to gear up."We are encouraging every incumbent to take their challenger seriously," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "We have been telling them to be active, raise money now, get a team in place. Don't wait until Labor Day to decide 'I need a campaign.'

"Doolittle and Pombo, who normally would be shoo-ins for reelection, are facing tougher challenges mostly because of questions raised about their relationship with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and other ethics issues. Both survived primary challenges in June, but they remain on the Cook Report's list of the 42 most vulnerable GOP incumbents.

Pombo has already spent more money — $1.6 million — than during the entirety of any campaign since he first won his seat in 1992. For the first time in years, he has amassed a campaign staff that extends beyond the family members and two close advisors who in the past have handled his political affairs. Campaign manager Carl Fogliani, one of the newcomers, said the new resources were needed to respond to a deluge of attack ads from liberal political groups.

Doolittle, who has won more than 60% of the vote in every election for more than a decade, has ramped up his fundraising, collecting more than $1 million before the primary in early June. His agreement to debate Democratic candidate Charlie Brown is the first time since the mid-1990s that he has taken an opponent seriously enough to do so.

Other entrenched Republicans are running harder than ever because of voter hostility toward President Bush and Congress.Walsh, a nine-term incumbent who had no Democratic opponent in 2004 and whose father once served in Congress, has dominated the politics of his district for years. But his pollster, Jeff Stonecash, said surveys indicated that Bush's unpopularity could pose a risk to Walsh and other Republicans."Thank you, George Bush," Stonecash said. "People have become willing to consider a challenger."

Walsh is still favored to defeat his Democratic opponent — former congressional aide Dan Maffei — but he is not taking the election for granted. Walsh spent more than $100,000 on television ads in June, emphasizing his political "independence" and clout."

All Republicans need to be aggressive in this environment," Walsh said. Some of his supporters created a problem for him recently when, at a local summer festival, they distributed a leaflet listing union endorsements he had not secured.

Joe Rossi, political director for a local of the Service Employees International Union, complained. Walsh campaign spokesman Daniel Gage said he did not know who distributed the leaflets, which were 2002 campaign leftovers. "Maybe they are out of practice," said Rossi, whose union will probably endorse Maffei.

The political arm of the online liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org this spring tried to whip up opposition to selected GOP incumbents with a series of TV ads accusing them of shilling for special interests that helped finance their campaigns. One target was Johnson, a moderate Republican who has had an iron grip on her district in Connecticut despite its Democratic leanings. This year, however, she faces her toughest challenge in years.

Her response to the MoveOn attacks was a tribute to the financial clout of longtime incumbents: She immediately dipped into her vast campaign treasury to air two rebuttal ads in April. She followed that up with three spots with positive messages. And she still ended up with $2.6 million in cash on hand at the end of June.

Pryce, who also was attacked by MoveOn ads, has won every election since her first with more than 60% of the vote. Her district, which includes a swath of Columbus — including Ohio State University — and its affluent western suburbs, has been trending Democratic.

In the 2004 presidential election, Bush carried it over Democrat John F. Kerry by fewer than 2,400 votes. Pryce's relatively moderate stance on social issues has served her well in the district in the past. But she is the fourth-ranking member of the conservative-dominated House GOP leadership and has, like most Republicans, supported Bush's major initiatives. And she, like other Ohio Republicans, bears an added burden this year because the GOP-controlled state government has been wracked by scandals.

"The mood is not conducive to Republicans" in the state, said Herb Asher, a political scientist at Ohio State University. Sensing vulnerability, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recruited a strong challenger — County Commissioner Mary Jo Kilroy — and encouraged donors around the country to contribute to her campaign. Emphasizing Pryce's party leadership role, Democrats are portraying her as a "rubber stamp" for Bush.

Pryce quickly realized that 2006 would be a hard-fought campaign for her, in part because of the involvement of the DCCC and MoveOn."It used to be one candidate against the next," Pryce said in an interview. "As I see it now, I have three opponents" — Kilroy, the national Democratic Party and outside political groups, she said.

In mid-May, she replaced her campaign manager with a more-experienced longtime Washington aide. She is spending more time in the district and less time fundraising for fellow Republicans. Her first television ad aired in June — the one that drew hoots of derision for the misspelling of her name.But the spot, which touted her success in bringing a new veterans clinic to Columbus, telegraphed the broader strategy that she and other endangered GOP incumbents hope will help them weather a political storm: focusing on local issues and emphasizing their work for constituents.

Meanwhile, in this race and others, Democrats' prospects hinge largely on their ability to redirect voters' attention to the national political landscape and the links between their local GOP House members and Bush's unpopular policies. In Pryce's case, said Lucie Pollard, a local member of MoveOn, she "comes across locally as the nice lady down the street. But there's increasing awareness now that how she's voting is far from that."

Brown Comes Out Fighting - Yee hah!

Op-ed Brown Tells Doolittle, "It's Time to Schedule Debates"
By: Brown4congress.org
Published: Aug 2, 2006 at 09:54
CA 04 Democratic Nominee Lt. Col. Charlie Brown today renewed his request for a series of debates with incumbent Rep. John Doolittle, suggesting 6 dates, and including a series of town hall formats.
Tuesday, August 15th: Auburn, CA, Town Hall Format
Saturday, Sept. 16th: Grass Valley, CA, Town Hall Format
Friday, Sept. 29th: El Dorado County, LOWV Forum
Friday, Oct. 13th: Quincy, CA, Town Hall Format
Friday, Oct. 27th: Roseville, CA, Moderated Q & A
Friday, Nov. 3rd: South Lake Tahoe, CA, Town Hall Format
Due to the geographic size of the 4th CD, Brown has also offered to participate in a series of talk radio call-in forums with Doolittle - in order to ensure that all voters have the opportunity to hear each candidates "unfiltered response" to the broad range of local, regional, and national policy questions at stake in this election.
Doolittle, who agreed to debate Brown following an exchange of letters between the two candidates back on July 11th, has said that he would contact Brown "as the Congressional Schedule for the rest of the year becomes clear."According to the House of Representatives website, that schedule is already clear. July 31st-September 1st is currently slated as a "House District work period." Many Representatives utilize this time to come home and campaign for re-election in their districts. October 6th has been listed as the target date for adjournment of the 109th Congress.
All told, the House is only scheduled to be in session a total of 97 days in 2006 - the least in more than 60 years, and even less than what President Harry Truman dubbed the "do nothing Congress" of 1948. Despite growing policy challenges like the War on Terror, Border and Port Security, widening corruption scandals, and massive deficits, the Tuesday thru Thursday meeting schedule of House members has been justified by its leadership as a way to enable members to frequently travel back to their districts and be with their families on weekends.
"Every day, I speak with constituents of all political stripes who are frustrated that they never see their Congressman," Brown said. "Worst of all, when they do see him, it's either because of a corruption story that runs in the newspaper, or a private gathering at which he tells them to go hire a lobbyist."Since the July 11th correspondence, The Auburn Journal, League of Women Voters of El Dorado County, KFBK Newstalk 1530 AM's Bruce Maiman, and Mike Taborski, who publishes newspapers in Plumas and Lassen Counties, are just a few of the individuals and organizations who have publicly offered to host or sponsor a debate between Doolittle and Brown.
"The voters of the 4th CD deserve the opportunity to contrast the values and vision of the two candidates vying to represent them," Brown noted. "I'll debate any time, any place, on one condition: John Doolittle has to show up too."
Exerpt from Charlie Brown's open letter to Doolittle:
"You are correct that there are stark differences between our candidacies. And, having fought to defend America in the military, I take issue with your claim that you've ever fought for anything besides the spoils of elected office.When you serve in battle, you learn that the true measure of leadership is performance, not empty rhetoric. And, on issues like national security, ethics in government, and fiscal responsibility (to name just a few), it's clear that there are massive differences between us. In fact, your July 10th letter indicates that I'm the only one who thinks they are priority. Fortunately, our debates will offer a forum for you to defend your record, and state your position on these issues more clearly."

02 August 2006

Now That It Is August...

I AM going to have start REALLY focusing on my dissertation... full-time instead of part-time.

So what does that mean for you loyal readers?

That when I post - admittedly - it will be more politically based than personal ones and probably with less fun pictures.... much to Mark's dismay and Jack's pleasure.

BUT - I will try and post when I can and anyone else is welcome to in the meantime... just send me an email or go crazy in the comments!

Hope all of you are well and the plan is that if I can get the bulk of this done in the first 3 weeks of August then I can enjoy the end of the summer with Notting Hill Carnival, my friends, Jack and give this amazing city all the love and attention it deserves...

Besos til then!



01 August 2006

Doolittle Proposes Option to Opt-out of Political Calls

Will DNC Expand to Political Calls?
By Melissa Campanelli
July 31st, 2006

U.S. Rep. John T. Doolittle, R-CA, introduced legislation to let citizens apply the national do-not-call registry to political calls.

H.R. 5325 would create a separate category in the registry for a person to choose whether to opt out of political calls in addition to the business-related calls already covered.

Since Congress established the DNC registry in 2003, the number of unsolicited calls has dropped significantly. However, unsolicited calls from political organizations were exempted by Congress and are not defined as "telemarketing." The Federal Communications Commission has reported that political calls produce the highest number of complaints.

Rep. Doolittle said in a statement that he was fed up with how frequent and intrusive these political calls have become. The bill treats all political calls the same regardless of whether they originate from members of Congress, candidates for local office or 527 political organizations like MoveOn.org, he said. Calls and an e-mail sent to his office were not returned.

While bills to add political calls to the DNC rules at the state level have been introduced in Connecticut, Indiana and New York in the past year, this is the first such federal bill, said Joseph Sanscrainte, an associate with Bryan Cave LLC, New York.

"A lot of today's election campaigns rely upon the delivery of political messages via the telephone, and this would hamper the effectiveness of those campaigns," he said. "The reason he is introducing this bill, and that others have introduced them at the state level, is that they are hearing from consumers that they don't want to receive these phone calls. The consumers don't care if the calls are commercial calls, from nonprofits or calls for political purposes."

Mr. Sanscrainte said he thinks the federal bill has little chance to pass, "for the simple fact that this means of delivering political speech is too important to politicians, and arguably to the political process in the United States."


Tom Davis: Cozy With Contractors

The Washington Post ran a lengthy piece today on the relationship between Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and ICG Government, a consulting firm founded by a longtime associate of Davis’ (pdf) from the Northern Virginia information technology (IT) industry. Adding to a list of government officials or members of Congress and their spouses who have engaged in questionable activity (e.g., Rep. John Doolittle and David Safavian and their wives), the article reported that the firm employs Davis’ wife, Jeannemarie Devolites, whose clients include IT companies hoping to secure federal contracts.

Two months after the founding of ICG Government, Davis secured the chairmanship of the House Government Reform Committee. During this time, he introduced the Services Acquisition Reform Act (SARA), a bill ostensibly intended to streamline federal contracting, but which ended up
removing longstanding safeguards (pdf) meant to protect the federal government and taxpayers from contractor fraud and mismanagement. Today’s article calls into question whether Davis’ reforms are pro-taxpayer or pro-contractor.

Davis asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to consider whether any of the following was in fact a violation of House rules: his wife’s consulting work with companies seeking federal contracts, his speaking engagements at ICG conferences, and the appearance of ICG clients at witnesses before his own committee. The Committee responded that, on the surface,
Davis and his wife had not violated any House rules (pdf). Nonetheless, the article highlights a number of troubling issues which need to be addressed.

First, contracting consultants like ICG are not obliged to disclose their clients, while registered lobbyists must adhere to public reporting requirements. It seems clear that the firm serves as a critical link between contractors and politicians. The article quotes Paul Smith, a sales executive for a North Carolina software company, who called ICG’s employees “door-openers.”
POGO has previously recommended that Congress require contracting consultants such as ICG to register with the Office of Government Ethics. So long as ICG continues to “open the door” to the offices of politicians like Davis, the need for transparency remains urgent.

Second, the Post article details ICG’s disturbing role in convincing the Pentagon to continue its contract with Artel, a satellite service company from Reston, VA. After learning that the Pentagon was planning to scrap the contract, Artel’s CEO worked with Senator-turned-lobbyist Tim Hutchinson and ICG’s Donald Upson to draft a memo to the contracting officials on Davis’ official letterhead. The letter, which included Davis’ signature at the bottom, prompted a meeting between Davis and Pentagon officials in the Congressman’s office. A few months later, the Defense Department changed its course and concluded that the contract with Artel was a success. Although Artel’s CEO claims that “none of the companies needed ICG or Upson to get to anyone in Congress,” the decidedly intimate relationship between the contracting consultant and Davis is highly suspect.

Third, despite Davis’ insistence that he and his wife have committed no wrongdoing, one cannot help but be reminded of a previous incident in which
lobbyists and defense contractors threw a holiday party for the House Government Reform Committee. Sponsors of the party included Innovative Defense Strategies (IDS), which has had several suspicious connections to Davis. Last year, for instance, IDS contributed to his wife’s campaign while she was running for a seat on the Virginia State Senate. The firm also employed Peter Sirh, a former Staff Director of Davis’ Government Reform Committee who has spoken numerous times at ICG events about the intricacies of federal contracting. Incidentally, the head of IDS, Richard Carroll, serves on the board of the Small Business Technology Coalition along with Nicholas Karangelen, president of Trident Systems Inc. In addition to Karangelen’s role in a recent controversy involving Rep. Lewis (R-CA) and his stepdaughter, both have made contributions to Davis and his Future Leaders Leadership PAC (you can check out the FEC filings here and here). As a whole, the IT and telecommunications industries have been undeniably kind to Rep. Davis over the years.

With all the recent news about cozy dealings between contractors, consultants and elected officials like Davis, taxpayers have every right to demand greater oversight for federal acquisition and contracting.
--Michael Smallberg

Letters from Sac Bee

Doolittle and morality
Rick Morgan's letter ("Doolittle foes' short memories," July 24) amazed me with its warped logic. Morgan attempted to justify Congressman John Doolittle's immorality by pointing to previous practitioners of sleazy behavior. Yes, politicians of both parties bend rules to their personal benefit, and they should be slammed for it.
Did Doolittle use his wife to skim off a percentage of his political money and put it in his bank account? That was immoral.
Did Doolittle vote for Bush's imperialistic war in Iraq? That was immoral.
Did Doolittle vote for tax cuts for the wealthy while supporting benefit cuts for the poor? That was immoral.
Did Doolittle grease the skids for Indian casinos while supposedly being opposed to gambling? That was immoral.
Did Doolittle vote to give huge cash benefits to Big Oil and Big Drug companies? That was immoral.
Did Doolittle take money from a defense contractor and push through acquisition of a weapon the Pentagon did not want? That was immoral.
Beneficiaries of Doolittle's immorality are glad to cross his palm with handsome checks. That is immoral.
There is a vast difference between illegal and immoral. It's time to put morality back into the public sphere.
- Darrell Walker, Lincoln

Doolittle delivers for Abramoff
Robert Nielsen's letter ("In defense of Doolittle," July 24) says that Rep. John Doolittle's actions are "aboveboard, legal and straightforward. He hides nothing." If he hides nothing, why don't I recall him explaining to his constituents why he thought it to be in their interest to intervene with the Department of Interior in the Iowan Indian gaming issue? I agree with Nielsen, though, on one point: It was straightforward. Jack Abramoff paid him (or his wife, through her customary 15 percent), and he delivered.
- Thomas Cluster, Lincoln

The tax fix is in for the super rich
Re "IRS to nearly halve the number of lawyers who audit the richest," July 23: David Cay Johnston, who wrote the article and also wrote the book, "Perfectly Legal, the Covert Campaign To Rig Our Tax System To Benefit the Super Rich -- and Cheat Everybody Else," unmasks
another GOP technique for transferring wealth from the middle class to the wealthy: Don't audit their returns. Nearly half of the lawyers who audit the richest Americans are being fired. Obviously, halving the audits will halve the number of wealthy tax cheats who are caught. While working- and middle-class wages cannot keep up with inflation, the wealthy are pocketing more and more of the money generated by the economy. The $296 billion tax deficit that the president proclaimed was an improvement over the inflated projection of six months ago fails to take into account the $170 billion generated by Social Security and Medicare taxes. That means an actual deficit of $466 billion.
If this Republican Congress refuses to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share, the burden falls on the middle class and our children and grandchildren. The choice the GOP is forcing on the middle class is higher taxes or cuts in social programs (Social Security and Medicare). Meanwhile, the wealthy laugh all the way to the bank.
- Linda C. Hall, Rocklin

What? NYT Endorses Lamont?

Very interesting...

July 30, 2006
A Senate Race in Connecticut

July 30, 2006
A Senate Race in Connecticut

Earlier this year, Senator Joseph Lieberman’s seat seemed so secure that — legend has it — some people at the Republican nominating convention in Connecticut started making bleating noises when the party picked a presumed sacrificial lamb to run against the three-term senator, who has been a fixture in Connecticut politics for more than 35 years.
But Mr. Lieberman is now in a tough Democratic primary against a little-known challenger, Ned Lamont. The race has taken on a national character. Mr. Lieberman’s friends see it as an attempt by hysterical antiwar bloggers to oust a giant of the Senate for the crime of bipartisanship. Lamont backers — most of whom seem more passionate about being Lieberman opponents — say that as one of the staunchest supporters of the Iraq war, Mr. Lieberman has betrayed his party by cozying up to President Bush.
This primary would never have happened absent Iraq. It’s true that Mr. Lieberman has fallen in love with his image as the nation’s moral compass. But if pomposity were a disqualification, the Senate would never be able to call a quorum. He has voted with his party in opposing the destructive Bush tax cuts, and despite some unappealing rhetoric in the Terri Schiavo case, he has strongly supported a woman’s right to choose. He has been one of the Senate’s most creative thinkers about the environment and energy conservation.

But this race is not about résumés. The United States is at a critical point in its history, and Mr. Lieberman has chosen a controversial role to play. The voters in Connecticut will have to judge whether it is the right one.
As Mr. Lieberman sees it, this is a fight for the soul of the Democratic Party — his moderate fair-mindedness against a partisan radicalism that alienates most Americans. “What kind of Democratic Party are we going to have?” he asked in an interview with New York magazine. “You’ve got to agree 100 percent, or you’re not a good Democrat?”
That’s far from the issue. Mr. Lieberman is not just a senator who works well with members of the other party. And there is a reason that while other Democrats supported the war, he has become the only target. In his effort to appear above the partisan fray, he has become one of the Bush administration’s most useful allies as the president tries to turn the war on terror into an excuse for radical changes in how this country operates.
Citing national security, Mr. Bush continually tries to undermine restraints on the executive branch: the system of checks and balances, international accords on the treatment of prisoners, the nation’s longtime principles of justice. His administration has depicted any questions or criticism of his policies as giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. And Mr. Lieberman has helped that effort. He once denounced Democrats who were “more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq” than on supporting the war’s progress.
At this moment, with a Republican president intent on drastically expanding his powers with the support of the Republican House and Senate, it is critical that the minority party serve as a responsible, but vigorous, watchdog. That does not require shrillness or absolutism. But this is no time for a man with Mr. Lieberman’s ability to command Republicans’ attention to become their enabler, and embrace a role as the president’s defender.

On the Armed Services Committee, Mr. Lieberman has left it to Republicans like Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to investigate the administration’s actions. In 2004, Mr. Lieberman praised Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for expressing regret about Abu Ghraib, then added: “I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized.” To suggest even rhetorically that the American military could be held to the same standard of behavior as terrorists is outrageous, and a good example of how avidly the senator has adopted the Bush spin and helped the administration avoid accounting for Abu Ghraib.
Mr. Lieberman prides himself on being a legal thinker and a champion of civil liberties. But he appointed himself defender of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the administration’s policy of holding hundreds of foreign citizens in prison without any due process. He seconded Mr. Gonzales’s sneering reference to the “quaint” provisions of the Geneva Conventions. He has shown no interest in prodding his Republican friends into investigating how the administration misled the nation about Iraq’s weapons. There is no use having a senator famous for getting along with Republicans if he never challenges them on issues of profound importance.
If Mr. Lieberman had once stood up and taken the lead in saying that there were some places a president had no right to take his country even during a time of war, neither he nor this page would be where we are today. But by suggesting that there is no principled space for that kind of opposition, he has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party, and has forfeited our support.
Mr. Lamont, a wealthy businessman from Greenwich, seems smart and moderate, and he showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately. He does not have his opponent’s grasp of policy yet. But this primary is not about Mr. Lieberman’s legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction. We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut.

Bush's 'Regular Guy' Mode Can Backfire

By David Jackson, USA TODAY

(July 28) -- Amid tensions in Iraq and the Middle East, President Bush meets Friday with a special delegation: Taylor Hicks and the American Idol finalists.
Visiting with the most recent stars of the Fox TV show is the latest example of Bush being a regular guy, exuding a down-home style that has been both a blessing and curse to the president.

His aides say Bush likes to show a lighter side, taking the edge off weighty matters that come with his job. Some critics, though, say some of these moments demonstrate a lack of seriousness.

For example: Bush's recent trip to Europe to visit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and meet with world leaders in Russia at the annual Group of Eight summit of industrialized nations caused a stir.

He could be heard cursing over a live microphone, talked longingly about "slicing the pig" at a barbecue in his honor, and gave an impromptu neck massage to a startled Merkel that was seen around the world via the Internet.
White House spokesman Tony Snow said the president believes in "putting people at ease, so that you can have a candid conversation."

Dialog International, a blog about German-American relations, said that "while seemingly insignificant," the neck rub and other incidents underscore that "Bush is incapable of leading during a crisis."

The president himself chuckled when Snow told him an open mike caught his remark that someone should tell Syria to tell Hezbollah to "stop doing this s--" against Israel.

Snow says Bush is "not stilted and overly formal" but is also "the head of the most powerful nation on Earth, and he's aware of that."

Bush's regular-guy approach can take many forms. Last month, he took Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to tour Elvis Presley's Graceland home in Memphis. The president snuck out of the White House, with the Secret Service and reporters in tow, to attend a Washington Nationals baseball game three weeks ago. On Wednesday, he stopped the presidential motorcade to invest $4 in young entrepreneurs selling lemonade in West Virginia.

The president is also fast with a wisecrack. At Thursday's ceremony to sign into law an extension of the Voting Rights Act, Bush acknowledged civil rights leader Joseph Lowery in the audience. During Coretta Scott King's funeral in February, Lowery blasted Bush over the Iraq war. "Reverend Lowery, it's good to see you again, sir," Bush said on this occasion. "Fortunately, I got the mike this time."

The Idol photo session occurs as the group is in town for a concert. Administration officials likened the appearance to White House events honoring sports champions. "It's going to be a very, very quick event," Snow said.

Wayne Fields, director of American culture studies at Washington University in St. Louis, said these moments help Bush relate to average Americans.

"The problem," he added, "is that in times of real crisis, people begin to think maybe you need somebody who is extraordinary."

Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said the nature of the
presidency precludes the idea that any occupant can be an average Joe.

"The office transforms you into a rarefied creature," she said.
07/28/2006 07:15

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