BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The War on the War on Xmas


Your job is easy today.

1. Get thee to Crooks & Liars to watch Sam Seder's appearance on CNN re: the War on Xmas.

Long story short, Sam wipes the floor (in front of CNN Newsfox Kyra Philips) with Right-wing nutjob Bob Knight (a soldier in Dobson's army) and sets the story straight:
"Listen, as far as the war on Christmas goes, I feel like we should be waging a war on Christmas.

I mean, I believe that Christmas, it's almost proven that Christmas has nuclear weapons, can be an imminent threat to this country, that they have operative ties with terrorists and I believe that we should sacrifice thousands of American lives in pursuit of this war on Christmas.

And hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money."
Don't worry, Hoosier/Red-Raider fans, Bob Knight is not THE Bob Knight.

The real Bob Knight...IS some parts of Indiana.

You know something? I used to be totally attracted to Kyra Philips.

Used to fantasize about the two of us meeting at some cocktail party, dating, having kids, buying a vaction home in northern New Mexico, yada yada.

But that all changed when Nancy Pelosi SMACKED HER DOWN...a few days after FEMA's Katrina debacle.

PHILIPS: And I think it's unfair that FEMA is just singled out. There are so many people responsible for what has happened in the state of Louisiana.

PELOSI: Well, that's true. That is true. And I'm sorry that you think it's unfair. But I don't. I think it's unfair to the people who lost their family members, their lives, their livelihoods, their homes, their opportunity.

And FEMA has done a poor job. It had no chance. It was (INAUDIBLE)...

PHILLIPS: But what about all those warnings...

PELOSI: ... may I please respond?

PHILLIPS: What about all the warnings from the Army Corps of Engineers...

PELOSI: But the Army Corps of Engineers...

PHILLIPS: ... years ago, saying there's a problem with these levees, there's a problem with this city.

PELOSI: Kyra, Kyra, Kyra...

PHILLIPS: It's Kyra. It's Kyra.

PELOSI: ... if you want to make a case for the White House, you should go on their payroll.

Moving on...

2. Please take the time to check out the Washington Post's think-and-do page, I mean, graph re: all things Jack Abramoff from 1999 to 2004.

They've condensed Abramoff's shenanigans ("How Abramoff Spread the Wealth") into a very pretty chart.

With pretty colors.

Unfortunately, some Dems are included in this deal. "Some Dems," but certainly not as many Dems as Repubs. ($3.41 million to $1.88 million.)

(If a few Dems go down with the truckload of Repubs? A small price to pay, I say, to re-set the system.)

On that note, Josh Marshall breaks down this very USA Today-y graph...for you:
First, ask yourself, if there was so much money spread around in both parties, why is it that of all the staffers and members of Congress either under indictment or under investigation, every single one seems to be a Republican?

Liberal bias in the Gonzales Justice Department? Probably not.

Let me suggest two very general answers which should put us back on some surer understanding of what this scandal is about -- both in the sense of big-picture substance and the legal direction it is likely to take.

First, lobbyists and their clients give money all over the place. That may be a problem in itself. But that's not the reason Jack Abramoff and his various cronies are in trouble.

They're in trouble because they broke a lot of laws -- some to do with fraud and kickbacks, others to do with bribery, others to do with giving de facto inducements to congressional staffers, etc.

If a restaurant is run as a cover for a money-laundering operation, a list of everyone who ate there in the last five years doesn't tell you much about how the scheme went down.
The restaurant in question is Abramoff's "Signatures," a spot he often used to wine and dine.

From the NY Times:
Signatures appeared to satisfy several ambitions for Mr. Abramoff, who is at the center of two widening fraud investigations. By most accounts, he reveled in the role of celebrity restaurant owner. His expense account restaurant, which offered a $74 steak and a $140 tasting menu, packed in Capitol Hill staffers and prominent politicians.

Mr. Abramoff could patronize his own business - his meals were sometimes prepared in a special kosher kitchen - while billing clients thousands of dollars.

And he could generate good will by offering FREE food and drink to guests including Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, now the majority leader, and other members of Congress, according to restaurant records and interviews with former employees.

For example, Mr. Abramoff wrote an e-mail message to three restaurant managers in May 2002, instructing them not to charge Mr. DeLay, his wife, Christine, and four others when they came in a week later.

"Table of 6," Mr. Abramoff wrote, "put it where I sit and remove that other table. Their meal is to be comped."

In the restaurant's early months, a customer list noted who could dine for free, according to two former managers.

A copy obtained by The New York Times shows handwritten notes next to 18 names - lawyers, lobbyists and eight current or former lawmakers - designating them as "FOO Comp," for friend of owner, or "A-Comp," for associate of owner.

Often, guests dined with Mr. Abramoff and did not receive a check, employees said, though Congressional rules prohibit lawmakers from receiving expensive gifts, including food.

Good times.

Back to Josh Marshall:
If a restaurant is run as a cover for a money-laundering operation, a list of everyone who ate there in the last five years doesn't tell you much about how the scheme went down.

It may provide some clues, but not much more. You want to know how the money was laundered. A similar logic applies here.

Second, most of what happened in this scandal didn't happen with 'hard money', i.e., regulated contributions to federal campaigns and campaign committees.

Consider one example. The Post's graphic charts political giving from Abramoff, his associates and clients from 1999 through 2004.

The total sum was roughly $5.3 million.

During little more than half that period of time (1999-2002) Abramoff funnelled some $4.2 million to just ONE GUY -- his old buddy Ralph Reed.

Certainly there's more to this scandal than these two numbers juxtaposed. But it gives you a sense of how much of the pie the Post discussion covers.

As I've written before, Jack Abramoff wasn't just a crooked lobbyist, he was running a slush fund. It can't be understood outside of the political machine he was part of. Stay tuned.

More later...

"Hey, mo-ses! Hey, Al-Laree!"

"Whaddaya got there, kid?"

"Look what I found! It's a puppy dog! Rrrowf! Rrrowf!"


"He's got a bone in his mouth!"

"Why you imbecile! (Mo-ses hits Curleel.) That's not a bone! It's a stick of dynamite!"


"You nitwit! Get it back from him!"

"Why me?"

"Why you...!"

Mo-ses pokes Curleel in the eyes.

"Ow, wo wo wo wo! I can't see! I can't see!"

"What'sa matter?"

"I got my eyes closed."

Mo-ses pokes Curleel again.


"Now get to woik!"

(Curleel walks toward the dog.)

"Nice doggy doggy. Nice doggy doggy."

The dog snarls.

"Oh, a wise guy, eh?"

Curleel grabs the dynamite and pulls. Then...



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