Saturday, April 30, 2005
Statistic of the Day
Amount to which he calculated they would have grown if he had invested in a Dow Jones index fund instead: $248,166
—Harper's Index, March 2005
Friday, April 29, 2005
Party boy no more
"It seems to me to be odd to exclude the one person who has brought more attention to the White House press corps than anyone else in years," Gannon tells PAGE SIX's Jared Paul Stern. "Probably many who would want to extend such an invitation already assume I will be in attendance.
Guckert/Gannon attended the dinner the past two years and had every intention of going this year. Joe Strupp of E&P quoted Guckert/Gannon in February—
"I'm sure someone is going to ask me or offer me the opportunity to go. It is a great publicity event."
Maybe for him, but not for his date. I fear that Guckert/Gannon's understanding of Washington is only skin deep.
More Guckert/Gannon questions (2/23/05)
A bracelet for the princess
According to J.M. Lawrence of the Boston Herald,
Federal prosecutors rushed into court with a secret motion after a slew of packing boxes and the giant crate appeared in Hana Al Jader's yard on Cambridge Street in Winchester last week....
An agent claimed one of Al Jader's five sons told a delivery man the family was moving, according to a source.
But Al Jader's attorney James Michael Merberg convinced federal magistrate Joyce London Alexander that the boxes and crate are part of the princess' import-export business known as H & A International Inc. of Medford.
So the judge declined to revoke her bail but ordered her to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet instead. Nice try, Hana.
Saudi princess misbehaving (updated) (4/1/05)
The only Saudi who couldn't get away (5/19/05)
—Molly Ivins, in her latest column
Not off to a good start
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Definition of a state judge
—Open letter to Jeb Bush by the St. Augustine Record, beseeching him to select the most qualified candidate for a circuit judge vacancy
Can't get the word out? Right-wing radio beats Left to the punch
You see, American liberals, being the good law-abiding citizens that they are (they resemble nothing so much as Canadians), decide for themselves—i.e., outside a courtroom—what is legal and what is not, always erring on the side of goodness and light. If you suggest to them that they might adopt the methods of the Right, which is to take advantage of every loophole, every nook and cranny in the law, you will evince a perfect little shudder before they explain to you that they don't want to be like them. Hence they always operate with one hand tied behind their back.
The Right has a different understanding of the Rule of Law. The Right understands that an act is not actually illegal until (a) you are successfully sued and have lost all your appeals, or (b) you have been successfully prosecuted and have lost all your appeals. And even then, there is always the possibility, while your appeals are pending, that you can get the appropriate legislative body or rule-setting authority to change the law to your convenience. This is known as "retrofitting."
When you view it in that light you will realize that there is very little you can't get away with—if you only had the chutzpah and the cash. The risk-to-reward ratio is very low, and the bigger the swindle, the less likely you'll ever do time.
This came to mind as I was reading Paul Davidson's "Christian radio plan doubted after permits sold for over $800,000" in USA Today. According to Davidson,
Clark Parrish says he's trying to spread the gospel. His critics say he's breaking the law to turn a quick buck.
The conflict has become one of the oddest imbroglios the Federal Communications Commission has faced in recent years.
Since 2003, Parrish, a radio engineer, and two partners have received FCC permits to build an eye-popping 1,026 “translator” radio stations nationwide. A translator rebroadcasts the signal of a full-power station to reach communities outside the station's normal service area.
But a coalition of religious and public-interest groups contends that Parrish's companies are illegally exploiting licenses by selling them almost as quickly as they acquire them. Though Parrish's companies got the permits free, they've sold or given away about 85 of them to other broadcasters, both religious and secular, for more than $800,000. And they've signaled plans to unload hundreds of other stations.
Notice that $800,000 is a drop in the bucket. But aside from assuring a comfortable lifestyle for the principals, it leaves just enough for some significant political donations and at least an initial representation before the FCC while you're acquiring more cash.
Critics are crying foul, and the FCC is investigating the claims against Parrish.
“This was nothing but a scheme to traffic in commission licenses,” says Harold Feld of the Media Access Project, which is representing the coalition before the FCC. “To let people come in under false cover, get a valuable federal asset and resell it for a tidy profit is just wrong.”
Wrong! I tell you. Well, to paraphrase an old Tina Turner song—"What's wrong got to do with it?" The question is—Is it legal? And it's likely to be years before we ever find out.
In the meanwhile, right-wing Christian radio will be spreading like pink eye, and Clark Parrish and associates will have plenty of time and money to reconcile with the FCC. Who knows? They may even have to pay a fine somewhere down the road, but that's by no means guaranteed. More likely the FCC will accept the argument that Parrish was simply making sound business decisions and admonish him not to overdo it.
The saga began in March 2003. That's when the FCC opened a one-week window for companies to apply for translator licenses. Parrish and his two partners, operating three companies in Twin Falls, Idaho, sought about 4,000 translators — 30% of the total applications.
They ended up withdrawing applications that would have forced them to bid against other broadcasters. But Parrish and his partners wound up with 1,026 permits that no one else wanted and that they could get for free. Then they started peddling some of them. One church, Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale, paid the Idaho group $314,000 for 22 translator licenses to extend its Christian station in Okeechobee around the state. Carl Mims, who runs that station, says the purchase saved him the trouble of applying for licenses he might not have gotten.
The rules on translator stations are unclear. An FCC requirement that a broadcaster must operate a station for some period before selling it was lifted in the early 1980s. But Feld says the law still bars “trafficking” in permits. Applicants must “genuinely intend to provide service,” Feld contends.
So it all comes down to intention, doesn't it? If Parrish et al. haven't been too loose with their tongues and with their memos, that's a hard nut to crack.
The FCC's investigation may look into whether Parrish's group was selling many of his station permits just for profit. Parrish argues that the 85 sales make up “just a little tiny fraction” of his companies' total permits. “You kind of adjust your plans as you go along,” he says. He adds that his companies also gave away permits, traded some and acquired others.
Feld says that argument is belied by the group's aggressive sales tactics. At a religious broadcasters' convention in February, a newsletter said Parrish's companies were “making available for acquisition hundreds of these FM translator station construction permits” to Christian broadcasters.
There's also debate about how much, if any, profit Parrish earned. He says the companies spent “millions” in legal and engineering fees to file the 4,000 applications, though he wouldn't be specific. Feld contends the figure is likely far lower.
And while they're holding all those free public licenses that they don't know what to do with, they've made at least one good cover-your-ass move—
Parrish insists his group plans to launch most of the stations itself. One broadcaster, the American Family Association, confirmed that it has agreed to let Parrish's companies retransmit all 180 of its Christian stations. “I'm confident he has intentions to build a network,” says AFA general counsel Patrick Vaughn.
Gee. If anyone from the Left had gone for those licenses, Parrish might not even have acquired them in the first place. After all, he only went after the licenses where he didn't have to bid.
Those very licenses could have been used to extend the range of Pacifica radio, small local lefty broadcasters and maybe even give the mainstream Christian churches a voice on the air—oh, and make some money besides. But that would have been illegal, wouldn't it?
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
From a pinnacle of near-perfect ignorance: Dummies at war
Rumsfeld was there to urge the Senators to hurry up and give him more money before they go into recess on Friday. Otherwise he'll have to invoke the Feed and Forage Act, which is sort of a Defense Department charge card.
But the Senators couldn't resist asking a few questions (pretty uppity, I thought), so Rumsfeld put them in their place. According to Paul Courson of CNN,
Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii, said, "For the first time in many years the Army and Marine Corps are not meeting their recruiting targets. There are some who are already discussing the draft."
Rumsfeld leaned closer to the microphone and said, "I think the only people who could conceivably be talking about a draft are people who are speaking from pinnacles of near-perfect ignorance."
This suggests that Bush is thinking about a draft, since he is the only person in high government who can speak from a pinnacle of "near-perfect ignorance."
He added, "The last thing we need is a draft. We just don't."
You bet. Those docile college campuses could be transformed overnight into hotbeds of rad-lib orneriness.
He explained that recruitment and retention in the part-time forces have been affected by active duty troops who are staying longer in the regular military.
This is a fresh explanation. Many military personnel enlist in the reserves when they leave regular service. So Rumsfeld is saying that since they haven't been leaving the regular military (or more precisely, since he won't let them leave the regular military), they can't possibly join the reserves and that is why recruitment is down. I get it.
When is enough enough?
Then the Senators returned to an old theme. Had Rumsfeld sent enough troops to Iraq in the first place? To which he gave his stock answer—
"The fact of the matter is that the military experts on the ground from the beginning have said what they thought the number ought to be," Rumsfeld said.
"The more troops you have, the more targets you have, and the more people you might get killed. The more troops you have, the more of an occupying power you are, the heavier footprint, the more force protection you need, the more logistics you need and the more intrusive you are on the people of that country."
Rumsfeld was using the "footprint" metaphor back in 2003. For the 9/11 commemorations in 2003 Rumsfeld spoke at the National Press Club. Eric Schmitt of the NY Times, in an article with the comic title "More Troops Will Destabilize Iraq, Says Rumsfeld," quoted him as saying,
"Our goal is not to create a dependency in Iraq by flooding the zone with Americans. To the extent there's too heavy a footprint, you hurt them, not help them."
He should have let it go at that. But to the Senators he had to bring up the Soviets—
Rumsfeld noted the Soviet Union had 300,000 troops in Afghanistan during the war there in the 1980s and that "they lost." He said the United States used a fraction of that force and quickly toppled the Taliban in a matter of months following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Rumsfeld, of course, does not rely upon facts; he relies upon befuddlement. First, the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan easily enough and set up a puppet government. Here's one description of the 1979 Soviet invasion—
The Soviets brought in over one hundred thousand soldiers, secured Kabul quickly and installed Babrak Karmal as their puppet leader. However, they were met with fierce resistance when they ventured out of their strongholds into the countryside.
Does this have a familiar ring to it?
But I digress. Rumsfeld has always insisted that adequate numbers of troops were sent to Iraq and that if the generals wanted more, all they had to do is ask.
I was nodding in agreement when an article by Oliver Poole out of Baghdad caught my eye—
US marines who suffered the highest casualty rate of any unit in Iraq have revealed that they were so short of soldiers that they used cardboard dummies to fool insurgents into believing that they faced more men.
Company E of the First Marine Division dressed the cutouts in camouflage shirts and placed them in observation posts to trick Iraqi rebels into thinking that they were manned.
More than one third of the unit's 185 troops were killed or wounded during its six-month tour last year in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold west of Fallujah, during which it was targeted by 26 firefights, 90 mortar attacks and nearly 100 home-made bombs.
The deception was revealed yesterday when the marines broke the corp's code of silence to detail the shortages of equipment and manpower that they blame for many of their comrades' deaths.
The marines highlighted in particular the lack of armoured Humvees, the four-wheeled-drive vehicles favoured by the US military, which the company says meant they had little protection against roadside bombs.
When the unit arrived, none was fully armoured and the unit's commanders had to find scrap metal to line the sides and bottom of their vehicles.
It was also issued with maps that were several years out of date and showed urbanised areas still to be farmland.
Do you get the feeling that this is one hurting, pissed-off unit of Marines?
Knights of olde
Well, never mind about more men and armored trucks. Rumsfeld prefers high-tech—and the more expensive the better—
Rumsfeld also discussed a prototype version of fortified leggings the Army wants to try. At $9,400 a pair, they use air conditioning technology and weigh 38 pounds, according to one lawmaker, who asked whether they could protect a soldier from roadside bombs.
Rumsfeld did not address the cost or the effectiveness of the prototype, saying instead that the idea is to avoid having "vehicles operating without appropriate armor in areas outside of protected compounds."
So instead of armoring the vehicles, Rumsfeld proposes to armor the soldiers. It seems just a tad medieval, don't you think? Except for the air conditioning, of course.
Quote of the Day (6/26/04)
Quote of the Day (7/4/04)
U.S. assumptions continue to be dashed on the I-rock of reality (12/23/04)
"It ought to be impossible": A monstrous injustice
It ought to be impossible to imagine an American government that deliberately leaves innocent people in prison. But in Florida, present reality is precisely that savage scenario.
In 157 cases across the nation, it has been established to a moral certainty that innocent prisoners can be exonerated by the recent science of DNA testing. Wilton Dedge, the Floridian who lost 22 years of his life for a rape he did not commit, is one of them. Without doubt, there are more prisoners whose innocence cries to Florida's collective conscience.
Yet with less than two weeks left in this year's session, the Florida Legislature is not only apparently unwilling to compensate Dedge, but it is also failing to extend an Oct. 1 deadline to file testing petitions on behalf of at least 700 other people still in prison. Their cases have languished because only a handful of volunteers, unpaid by the state, are available to help them or to lobby for extension of the deadline. On that date, clerks of court and other keepers of DNA evidence in closed cases will be technically at liberty to destroy it.
The reason appears primarily a matter of indifference on the part of committees that should have undertaken to extend the deadline, complicated by turf-guarding, finger-pointing and ego among some members who could not be bothered to listen. "It just fell through the woodwork," claims House Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville. None of that resembles a pardonable excuse.
Were Florida legislators not listening, or did they choose not to hear, when President Bush spoke to the subject in his State of the Union address? This is what the president said:
"Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice ... we need to make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit - so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction."
The president also asked Congress for money to finance DNA testing grants for state prisoners under a law he signed last year. To qualify, Florida needs the legislation that the House and Senate will not hear.
Many technicalities stand in the way of pending attempts to pass the extension as amendments to other legislation. There is almost nothing the Legislature cannot do, however, when its leaders set their minds to it.1 It is now the inescapable moral duty of House Speaker Allan Bense and Senate President Tom Lee to get the extension enacted.
It bears remembering that everything that Florida legislators do, or do not do, is in the name and by the authority of the people. In our names and by our authority, they are on the verge of perpetrating a monstrous injustice.
The very worst of this is the possibility that evidence will be destroyed if no action is taken.
Please send the Florida legislature a message. It is helpful even if you are not a Floridian. Legislators don't like negative attention no matter where it comes from—
The Hon. Allan G. Bense, Speaker
Florida House of Representatives
420 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Phone: (850) 488-1450
The Hon. Dick Kravitz, Chairman
House Criminal Justice Committee
1302 The Capitol
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Phone: (850) 488-1304
Senator Tom Lee, President
The Florida Senate
Room 312, Senate Office Building
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Phone: (850) 487-5072
Letters to the Florida legislature
I read the following article and I just could not believe that you are going to collect pay from TAXPAYERS and not try to help people who may be innocent. Shame on you. Shame on Florida. I don't think I will EVER spend my money on vacation in your State again and will be sure to share what you are NOT doing with everyone I talk to.
The Honorable Allan G. Bense, Speaker
Senator Tom Lee, President of the Florida Senate
Senator Victor D. Crist
I believe there is a strong connection to the treatment of our own prisoners here in America and those in Iraq and elsewhere. I don't want to be a part of it, and I don't want to have it remain a matter of indifference by others if possible.
To the Honorable Ed Homan:If you would like to have your letters posted, email them to me, indicating whether or not you would like your name withheld. Or you may post them in the Comments here.
I read with sadness the editorial in the St. Petersburg Times today (4-26-05) titled "A Monstrous Injustice". I do not want this kind of activity (i.e., failing to extend an Oct. 1 deadline to file testing petitions on behalf of at least 700 other people still in prison, due to indifference by committee members), to be done in my name. I am only one person, but I, for one, think this is wrong. I would appreciate it if you would give this some thought and if you can do something to encourage those members to reconsider and attend to this matter, I would appreciate it.
... the Legislature rushed through a bill designed to save Schiavo's life, and Bush quickly invoked the law and ordered the feeding tube reinserted. A hospital then began giving the woman fluids intravenously to prepare her body for the resumption of feeding. ....
Bush and lawmakers who supported the legislation said they had a legitimate reason to intervene in the case to save Schiavo's life.
The governor and legislature have "a legitimate reason" to intervene to save an unknown number of lives of sentient, as opposed to vegetative, humans. It appears that it is the Florida legislature that is now in a vegetative state. It is time to pull the feeding tube.[back]
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Navajos adopt ways of the White Man
Historians says Native Americans once tolerated gays in their community but turned against them after the European arrival to North America changed social attitudes.
Vermont has survived: The fifth anniversary of civil unions
Today is the fifth anniversary of former Gov. Howard Dean signing Vermont's civil union law providing gay men and lesbians with the same legal benefits and protections as married couples. Last year, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, and last week, Connecticut became the second state to recognize civil unions.
Perhaps the strongest measure of how far the issue has come is that civil unions, considered so radical in 2000, are now the "conservative" compromise -- providing benefits but still not "real" marriage -- offered by politicians grappling with similar proposals elsewhere.
"What the real story is, five years out, is that it's not a story," said Vermont Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, adding, "It was passed, it was implemented and the story was over. There's not a debate in the Statehouse, not a debate in neighborhoods, not a debate in families anymore. It has become routine."
In addition, Markowitz noted that Vermont became a gay tourist destination, benefiting inns, caterers, florists and others who provide services for civil unions, though some of the business may be lost to neighboring Massachusetts, where couples can marry.
Money will win 'em over every time.
Microsoft fears a boycott; may get one anyway
Today John Aravosis of AmericaBlog reveals that Microsoft has Ralph Reed on a $20,000 a month retainer. What could they have been thinking? Are they planning to expand into gambling and shut down some Native American casinos?
I have never been a fan of Microsoft, but I promise you this—my next computer will be running Linux.
And by the way, if you're still using Internet Explorer, please try FireFox. You won't be sorry you did. You can get it here.
Tom Flocco: The whistleblower and the kangaroo court
The Bush administration is desperate. It is not simply that they have botched every project, every program, every initiative that they have conceived (with the exception of superb control over the media); it is that they have engaged in a great deal of criminality along the way. Valerie Plame and Guckert/Gannon are the least of their worries. The most explosive possibilities inhere in the events surrounding 9/11, and Edmonds appears to have some things she would like to say on the matter.
Details of the court proceedings are mind-boggling. Tom Flocco writes,
During Thursday’s arguments, the volatility of Edmonds’ charges and the high officials it may criminally implicate prompted what looked to be a one-sided hearing, reminiscent of a medieval kangaroo court where rights and precepts of justice are ignored and the outcome is usually known beforehand.
All three judges who removed Edmonds and her attorneys are Republicans: Douglas Ginsburg and David Sentelle, having been appointed by Ronald Reagan, and Karen LeCraft Henderson who was tapped in 1990 by President George W. Bush’s father, former President George H. W. Bush.
"Judge Ginsberg said ‘I am asking the plaintiff and her attorneys to stand outside;’ then they had government officers standing at the door to prevent anyone from listening. And after about 25 minutes, they came out and said ‘we have finished questioning the government attorneys and we don’t need you anymore, so you are free to leave,’ " said the crestfallen former translator.
"I cannot be present at my own hearing; and not a single paper was there Thursday to cover the story--even though all of my allegations were supported by the FBI Inspector General’s report and my case involves 911 and national security," said Edmonds.
Flocco has posted his interview with Edmonds and draws some conclusions of his own—
In an exclusive interview on Saturday, we asked Edmonds if she would deny that laundered drug money linked to the 911 attacks found its way into recent House, Senate and Presidential campaign war-chests, according to what she heard in intelligence intercepts she was asked to translate.
"I will not deny that statement; but I cannot comment further on it," she told TomFlocco.com, in a non-denial denial.
Criminal evidence in Edmonds’ explosive case is apparently getting too close to Washington officials, since the former contract linguist also told us she would not deny that "once this issue gets to be...investigated, you will be seeing certain [American] people that we know from this country standing trial; and they will be prosecuted criminally," revealing the content of the FBI intercepts she heard indicates that recognizable, very high-profile American citizens are linked to the 911 attacks.
Edmonds implied that legislators and even lobbyists were benefiting from laundered narcotics proceeds in an earlier interview with the Baltimore Sun, "...this money travels. And you start trying to go to the root of it and it’s getting into somebody’s political campaign, and somebody’s lobbying. And people don’t want to be traced back to this money."
When we asked how many Americans were named in the intercepts, Edmonds said "There is direct evidence involving no more than ten American names that I recognized," further revealing that "some are heads of government agencies or politicians--but I don’t want to go any further than that," as we listened in stunned silence.
I am doubtful, to say the least, that the appellate court will reinstate her case. Her options after that are limited. Should her appeal be denied, she might request a hearing by the entire court or take it to the Supreme Court. My guess is that she would be denied another hearing in either instance.
If Edmonds can remain alive, it may be time for her to recollect the Pentagon Papers. She is already at great risk. I hope she has taken certain steps to protect the information that she has.
White House planning a pardon-fest (3/19/05)
DC Appellate Court plays "I've Got a Secret" (updated) (4/21/05)
Monday, April 25, 2005
What are the odds on this one?
The arrests began Monday after a sweeping set of federal indictments was unsealed at the Dirksen Federal Building. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said the indictments represented the largest number of organized crime figures brought down in a single indictment in Chicago history.
The arrests were described as "long-expected," though "long-delayed" seems just as apt—
The charges in the indictment stem from 17 Chicago-area murders and one in Arizona that occurred between 1970 and 1986, including the 1974 murder of Daniel Seifert, who was scheduled to testify against Lombardo and other Outfit members in a Teamsters pension fraud case.
Along with the mob they picked up two former law-enforcement officials—one with the Chicago police and another with the Cook County Sheriff's Department.
Some of the defendants are of an age that their trials may have to be treated as "near-death" experiences. But one defendant couldn't wait—
One man named in the indictment was found dead in a hotel in Highland, Ill. FBI agent Robert Grant said there was no indication of foul play, and he did not believe the man had killed himself. Grant said $25,000 in cash and $70,000 in checks were recovered at the scene.
Mike Robinson of the AP identifies the man as Frank Saladino, only 59.
Let's see. There were 14 defendants named in the indictment. What are the chances that the FBI/police might select 14 people for arrest and arrive to find one of them dead? Of "natural causes" no less. And with all that money to pay for his defense!
Quote of the Day
—Jeb Bush on why he left the Episcopal Church
You heard it here first
More Rummy Rumors To KillIf we now apply John Pilger's "Law of Opposites" to that last sentence, it should read
It's gossip city at the Pentagon again, and the latest buzz is that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will quit in late summer. His rumored replacement: former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage . Insiders, however, say nothing's up. "I can't imagine he's leaving," said one Rumsfeld pal.
Wolfie to World Bank; Rummy to oblivion? (3/16/05)
U.S. ambassador to Turkey resigns, contemplates more mischief (3/22/05)
The smell of fear (3/25/05)
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Quote of the Day II
He's only taken a stand on one thing in the last eight years - taking Britain to war. And he couldn't even tell the truth about that.
—British Conservative leader Michael Howard, accusing Blair of having lied in order to go to war
Quote of the Day
—Larry Dale Keeling, writing in his editorial "Injustice Sunday"