BRANDOLAND: Talking to God...For You!

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

SOTU

At 6:29 PST, Our Kid said:
"Let us never forget the sacrifices of America's military families."
Cindy Sheehan was arrested by Capitol Hill cops...right before the speech.
Sheehan, who had been invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, a misdemeanor, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

Sheehan was taken in handcuffs to police headquarters a few blocks away and her case was processed as Bush spoke.

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat.

Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.

Police handcuffed Sheehan and removed her from the gallery before Bush arrived. Sheehan was to be released on her own recognizance, Schneider said.
Good move, geniuses.

Way to honor the "families of America's military."

UPDATE: Americablog has a great update...and Cindy's side of the story.

A MUST READ.
My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat.

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled; "Protester."

He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

The officer ran with me to the elevators yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car.

On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said: "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting."

Wow, I get hauled out of the People's House because I was, "Protesting."

*

I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether he/she has paid the ulitmate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That's why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back.

That's why I am not going to let Bushco take anything else away from me...or you.
I'll have my SOTU notes later this morning.

Right now...I'm braindead: Too much Bush.

And I say that...despite the double entendre.

More later.

Galloway Vs O'Brien

The UK's George Galloway really womped CNN's Miles O'Brien during their interview this morning.

O'Brien did his best to embarass the eccentric, anti-war British MP, but Galloway did not, uh, co-operate.

The context? Galloway was just eliminated from the UK version of "Big Brother."

Dude went on the show to raise money for charity:
GALLOWAY: I raised a very large sum of money for Palestinian refugees, for whom there's not much other fundraising going on.

M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about that Palestinian group that you're giving money to.

How much money is going, first of all? How much money...

GALLOWAY: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: And...

GALLOWAY: I don't know yet. It's the TV company. The TV company gives 16 pence out of every phone call revenue, which is 56 pence.

M. O'BRIEN: I see.

GALLOWAY: So it depends on how many million people called in. They're still calculating that.

M. O'BRIEN: This group you're providing money to has been, in some quarters, linked to terrorist organizations. What do you say about that?

GALLOWAY: Well, it's only linked with terrorist organizations by George W. Bush and the Zionist lobby on Capitol Hill, and nobody takes either of those very seriously over here, I can tell you.

M. O'BRIEN: So you don't feel as this group has goals linked to suicide bombings, for example?

GALLOWAY: Well that would be highly defamatory were you to broadcast that in Britain, because this is a registered charity in good standing with the British authorities and the British Charity Commission.

So you really ought to be more carefully without tossing allegations like that around.

M. O'BRIEN: OK.
Ouch.

(Trust me: O'Brien was not happy about this exchange.)

It gets better.

Galloway began to criticize the war in Iraq. O'Brien, doing his duty as an "objective CNN reporter," tried to put Galloway in his place:
M. O'BRIEN: Tell me, though, as you talk about this, how much credibility you think you have right now.

Let me share with our viewers a picture of you shaking Uday Hussein's hand, one of Saddam Hussein's sons --
CNN would NEVER do this to Rumsfeld, by the way --
...who had his own private torture chamber, and there are allegations which sort of cropped up, as a matter of fact, while you were inside the "Big Brother" program location there, that you somehow profited from that infamous Oil-for-Food program marshaled through by the United Nations.

What do you say to all of that?

GALLOWAY: Well, I mean, I'd even shake hands with George W. Bush, and he has his own private torture chambers, too, in Guantanamo Bay and in the third countries to whom he is shipping price whom he has illegal captured so that they can be tortured in other countries.
Hey now.
GALLOWAY: He had one or two torture chambers in Abu Ghraib Prison, and the whole world saw the result, the evil, wicked result of that.

But I'd still shake hands with him, because I believe it's better to talk to people than to go to war with them, and that wars are easier to start than they are to finish.

And your viewers will be well familiar --

M. O'BRIEN: Do you think Iraq would be better off --

GALLOWAY: I was going to deal with the -- I was going to deal with the other point that you made first, if I may.

M. O'BRIEN: OK, go ahead.

GALLOWAY: Your viewers are well familiar with the false allegations against me about the Oil-for-Food program.

The newspapers which carried those claims have now paid out millions, almost three million pounds -- that's almost $6 million to me -- in damages and costs for the false allegations that they made against me.

So Saddam Hussein never gave me any money.

But the newspaper, including American newspapers which claimed he did, have given me plenty.
Needless to say, O'Brien eased off at this point.

Solid TV.

Here's another classic rant from Galloway. This...from his appearance in front of the Senate...back in May of '05:
I have had two meetings with Saddam Hussein, once in 1994 and once in August of 2002. By no stretch of the English language can that be described as "many meetings" with Saddam Hussein.

As a matter of fact, I have met Saddam Hussein exactly the same number of times as Donald Rumsfeld met him.

The difference is Donald Rumsfeld met him to sell him guns and to give him maps the better to target those guns.

I met him to try and bring about an end to sanctions, suffering and war, and on the second of the two occasions, I met him to try and persuade him to let Dr Hans Blix and the United Nations weapons inspectors back into the country - a rather better use of two meetings with Saddam Hussein than your own Secretary of State for Defense made of his.

I was an opponent of Saddam Hussein when British and Americans governments and businessmen were selling him guns and gas. I used to demonstrate outside the Iraqi embassy when British and American officials were going in and doing commerce.
You can read the rest of this transcript at Common Dreams.

More later...

Throw me a bone here

Happy Tuesday.

The Alito vote is in: Let's focus on removing the crossover Dems from power.

Now...

Yesterday, I metnioned that the CNN/Fox types were freaking out over the new Al-Zawahiri tape. In that tape, Al-Qaeda's #2 boogeyman said:
Butcher of Washington --
He's talking about Our Kid --
...you are not only defeated and a liar, but also a failure.

You are a curse on your own nation and you have brought and will bring them only catastrophes and tragedies.

Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses.
Okay.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: What kind of bad b-movie are we living in?!

Huh?!

Who talks like this? Is this a joke? Am I crazy for even considering the fact that...the damn tape might be a fraud?!

That the writers in the writer's room just got lazy?!

"Butcher of Washington...do you know where I am?!"

Come on, people.
Gentlemen, my name is Dr. Evil.

In a little while, you'll find out that the Kreplachistani warhead has gone missing.

Well, it's in safe hands.

If you want it back, you'll have to pay me...ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Sorry.

ONE-HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS!
Call me crazy...but I'm really skeptical about this whole deal.

"Because you're a stupid libtard."

Because of the timing of the tape's release; Dude's SOTU address and the expiration (and subsequent renewal) of the Patriot Act.

Speaking of the Patriot Act:

New Patriot Act Provision Creates Tighter Barrier to Officials at Public Events

Excerpts:
WASHINGTON — A new provision tucked into the Patriot Act bill now before Congress would allow authorities to haul demonstrators at any "special event of national significance" away to jail on felony charges if they are caught breaching a security perimeter.

Sen. Arlen Specter , R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored the measure, which would extend the authority of the Secret Service to allow agents to arrest people who willingly or knowingly enter a restricted area at an event, even if the president or other official normally protected by the Secret Service isn't in attendance at the time.
If you've been paying attention for the last few years, you know that those "restricted areas" have been areas that most folk would define as "public."

Like streets and sidewalks.

"This is an effective tool in the 'war on terror!'"

Bite me.
I have one simple request - sharks with friggin' laser beams attached to their heads - and it can't be done?

Remind me again why I pay you people?
More later...

Monday, January 30, 2006

Calling My Shot

I'm calling my shots right now, people.

Our Kid will mention 9/11 - oh, I don't know - 14 times tomorrow night.

He'll mention Al-Qaeda...maybe...17 times. (If it's over 20, we're hosed.)

And he'll tell us that he's "doing everything he can to protect us"...about 9 times: Red meat for the conservatives who still do not understand why us "libtards" have a problem with the whole "domestic surveillance" thing.

"If you're not talking to a terrorist...what are you bitching about?!"

Their definition of "terrorist": It'll include PETA, Greenpeace and the fans at Ozzfest before all is said and done.

TTFN,
Brando

Breaking News!

The talking heads on CNN are freaking out over the "new" Al-Qaeda tape...featuring AQ's #1 "number two" bad guy...Al Zawahiri.

The tape just aired on Al-Jazeera.

"THAT'S A LOT OF ALs."

Yes, Lord.

Funny timing...don't you think? Right before Our Kid addresses the nation - and defends the way that he's been "fighting the war on terror?"

Write that part of speech, kiddos:
"This latest tape proves that...the war on terror is not over. And that those who wish to destroy our freedom...will stop at nothing...to destroy our freedom.

But we're making good progress.

Patriot Act. Surveillance. Al-Qaeda. NSA. Freedom. Terrorists. Court order. 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.

Al-Qaeda.

And if someone from Al-Qaeda is calling someone in the United States? We wanna know about it.

Blah blah blah blah."
Can't wait for the SOTU speech.

Think he'll ask congress for more money to fight the "war?"

Gee. I wonder.

BTW, Exxon/Mobil's profits topped $10 billion last quarter, and gas is back up over $2.60 at the Mobil on the corner of Sunset & Fairfax.

The hits just keep on coming!

More later...

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Mandalay Bay...New Orleans!

Happy Saturday.

Study Says 80% of New Orleans Blacks May Not Return

Can you say, "Mandalay Bay - New Orleans?"
WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 — New Orleans could lose as much as 80 percent of its black population if its most damaged neighborhoods are not rebuilt and if there is not significant government assistance to help poor people return, a detailed analysis by Brown University has concluded.

*

Of the 354,000 people who lived in New Orleans neighborhoods where the subsequent damage was moderate to severe, 75 percent were black, 29 percent lived below the poverty line, more than 10 percent were unemployed, and more than half were renters, the study found.
That's the study.

Check out this old Brandoland post (Ray Nagin: Working for...the Developers?") for another angle on the politics.

And the possibilities!

Back to the first article:
For similar reasons, as much as half of the city's white population might not return, Dr. Logan concluded.

"The continuing question about the hurricane is this: Whose city will be rebuilt?" Dr. Logan, a professor of sociology, writes in the report.
Meaning...a "better" New Orleans (wink wink) or "Chocolate City?"

Yes, kiddos, there's some good ol' fashioned American...uh...is there a better word for "racism?"

Yes? No?

There's some good ol' fashioned American...interests at play here.
The study, financed by a grant from the National Science Foundation, was released Thursday, 10 days after the mayor of New Orleans, C. Ray Nagin, who is black, told an audience that "this city will be a majority African-American city; it's the way God wants it to be."

Mr. Nagin's remark was widely viewed as an effort to address criticism of a proposal by his own rebuilding panel, the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, that calls for a four-month building moratorium in heavily damaged areas.

He said later that he had not meant to suggest that white people would not be encouraged to return.

"Certainly Mayor Nagin's comments reflected a concern on the ground about the future of the city," Dr. Logan said. "My report shows that there is a basis for that concern."
Wink wink.

On that front...

Key Katrina recovery Congressman NOT interested in Baker Plan

The Baker plan would help residents who did not have flood insurance.

Like residents of...?

"The 9th ward?"

Ding ding!
Congressman Tom Davis of Virginia --
That's Tom Davis R-Virginia --
...who chairs the committee investigating issues surrounding Hurricane Katrina, is not like most of New Orleans' recent Congressional visitors.

Davis is not a fan of the Baker Plan, which would provide a federal buyout of damaged houses; he says he is not ready to support Category 5 storm protection for New Orleans, and--as the New Orleans Times-Picayune pointed out on Sunday--he does not want to hear about the federal government's role in the failure of the city's levees.

Davis's objection to the Baker Plan is that it places a huge burden on the federal government in order to help people who did not buy insurance.
Right.

This Mother Jones article points out that "a lot of New Orleanians did not buy flood insurance because FEMA told them they were not in a flood zone and therefore did not need insurance."

I'm sure we'll sort through that pile - New Orlenians that did not have insurance - later.
Finally, as the Times-Picayune editorial points out, in 2000, 26,000 New Orleans families were living in poverty and could not afford insurance even if they lived in designated flood zones.

Congressman Davis is not alone. So far, he has the support of George W. "We will do what it takes" Bush, who has dodged every question about the Baker Bill, which will soon be re-introduced in Congress, has made it clear by silence and evasion that he is not going to suppot the proposal the second time around.
Let's hear from "Our Kid."

From last Thursday's press conference:
Q: The administration has rejected a local plan to rebuild New Orleans, and your administrator down there, Don Powell, said that the focus for federal money should be to rebuild for those 20,000 homeowners who were outside the flood plain.

Critics, local officials say that that ignores so many people in New Orleans, the poorest of the poor, the hardest hit areas, people who didn't have flood insurance or didn't expect the levees to break.

And they feel, sir, that this is a certain betrayal of your promise that New Orleans would rise again.

So why did you reject it?

And do you think that the people of New Orleans have to expect that there is a limit for the extent to which the city can be rebuilt?

THE PRESIDENT: The Congress has appropriated $85 billion to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. And that is a good start; it's a strong start; it's a significant commitment to the people whose lives were turned upside down by that -- by those -- by that hurricane.
People like...Trent Lott.
Secondly, we have said that we look forward to the time when each state develops its recovery plan.

I, early on in the process, said it's important for the folks in Mississippi to come forward with a recovery plan. And it's important for New Orleans and the state of Louisiana to work together to develop a state recovery plan. And the reason I said that is because I was aware that folks in Congress will want to spend money based upon a specific strategy. We've got to get comfortable with how to proceed. Those plans haven't -- the plan for Louisiana hasn't come forward yet, and I urge the officials, both state and city, to work together so we can get a sense for how they're going to proceed.

Now, having said that, I recognize there were some early things we needed to do to instill confidence. One of them was to say that we will make the levees stronger and better than before, and study further strengthening of the levees. In other words, I recognize that people needed to be able to say, well, gosh, we can't even get started until we got a commitment from the federal government on the levees.

A lot of the money we're spending is prescribed by law, but we also went a step further and proposed to Congress, and they accepted, the CDGB money so that monies can actually go directly to individual families that need help. We'll continue to work with the folks down there.

But I want to remind the people in that part of the world, $85 billion is a lot, and secondly, we were concerned about creating additional federal bureaucracies, which might make it harder to get money to the people.

Q: But is there a limit, sir?
He did not answer that question.

More later...

Like this stuff:

Hurricane Investigators See 'Fog of War' at White House

Meaning...
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 — The White House was beset by the "fog of war" in the crucial days immediately after Hurricane Katrina, leaving it unable to respond properly to the unfolding catastrophe, House investigators said Friday after getting the most detailed briefing yet on how President Bush's staff had handled the events.
However...
If the investigators cannot determine, through either testimony or written correspondence, what various presidential aides knew, and when, it will be hard to pinpoint where failures occurred within the White House, said Mr. Marin, the staff director for the House committee.

"There is a difference between having enough information to find institutional fault, which we have," he said, "and having information to assign individual blame, which in large part we don't."
I'll fill in the gaps tomorrow.

Conservative Politics 101, first day: Institution always bad, individual always good.

Peace out.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Where's the Money, Lebowski?! Part 3

Daily Brandoland readers!

I know: Blogger has been acting up lately.

My brother Ryan tore through the html stuff, so...hopefully...Brandoland is loading properly. If it isn't, shoot me a mesage and I'll beg him for more help.

On that front, yesterday's post ("Where's the Money, Lebowski?") was a wash.

I'm re-posting for that very reason.

Maybe I'm being obsessive about the "fables of Iraqi reconstruction," but I swear to God, the amount of fraud that's taking place in Iraq is a huge story.

"IT IS."

Thank you, Lord.

But first, an exceptional thought from Josh Marshall:
Pictures in themselves don't mean much.

There are pictures of the president with people he knew far less well than Jack Abramoff, people he really never knew at all. But when those pictures of Abramoff and the president slip into public view, the lie will simply become unsustainable.

They know that.

And that's why the White House is turning the city upside down doing everything in its power to insure they never see the light of day.
Also, a phenomenal piece on "cash & carry" politics from the WaPo:

K Street's New Ways Spawn More Pork

When we were kids, our teachers led us to believe that "laws, policies and programs" were borne from "ideas or public needs" that were then advanced through a legislative process by our elected representatives.

Not anymore:
The link between special interests and members of Congress has grown so tight that nearly a dozen House and Senate members who control federal spending have retained lobbying veterans to raise campaign funds for them, and those lobbyists have secured lucrative favors in spending bills.

These relationships have coincided with the rapid growth in the volume of home-state pork-barrel projects, commonly called earmarks, that have swelled appropriations bills in recent years, according to congressional experts and watchdog groups.
Now...

Back to yesterday's post.

Audit Describes Misuse of Funds in Iraq Projects

New fables of the Iraqi reconstruction...tied to some old ones:
A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004.

*

Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker.
I used to keep $ in my record sleeves.

Blues Brothers. Pyromania. Permanent Waves.

Totally crazy.
One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed.
That's such an old contracting trick.
More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office.

The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.

Some of those cases are expected to intersect with the investigations of four Americans who have been arrested on bribery, theft, weapons and conspiracy charges for what federal prosecutors say was a scheme to steer reconstruction projects to an American contractor working out of the southern city of Hilla, which served as a kind of provincial capital for a vast swath of Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Big thanks to the NY Times for NOT inlcuding the name of that American contractor.

Would that have killed you guys?
But much of the material in the latest audit is new, and the portrait it paints of abandoned rebuilding projects, nonexistent paperwork and cash routinely taken from the main vault in Hilla without even a log to keep track of the transactions is likely to raise major new questions about how the provisional authority did its business and accounted for huge expenditures of Iraqi and American money.
Uh, this story doesn't raise "major new questions."

Some of us have been asking "questions" for the past few years.

"Where's the money, Lebowski?!"

Let's set the Brandoland time machine to "June 23, 2005" for this old post on how the CPA "did its business" and "accounted for expenditures" in the months leading up to the first "transfer of power."

Key excerpts from that blog:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States handed out nearly $20 billion of Iraq's funds, with a rush to spend billions in the final days before transferring power to the Iraqis nearly a year ago, a report said on Tuesday.

A report by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California, said in the week before the hand-over on June 28, 2004, the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority ordered the urgent delivery of more than $4 billion in Iraqi funds from the U.S. Federal Reserve in New York.

One single shipment amounted to $2.4 billion -- the largest movement of cash in the bank's history, said Waxman.
Hello, McFly?
CASH was loaded onto giant pallets for shipment by plane to Iraq, AND PAID OUT TO CONTRACTORS WHO CARRIED IT AWAY IN DUFFEL BAGS.

An audit by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction said U.S. auditors could not account for nearly $8.8 billion in Iraqi funds and the United States had not provided adequate controls for this money.
Are you with me on this?!

$8.8 billion dollars...gone.

This is why some of us "DEMOTARDS" believe that the "war" was just a front for one of the biggest heists in the history of the world.

"Conspiracy theory!"

Bite me.

Please read that old post for more fables of the reconstruction.

Like this one:
WASHINGTON (AP) U.S. officials in postwar Iraq paid a contractor by stuffing $2 MILLION worth of crisp bills into his gunnysack and routinely made cash payments around Baghdad from a PICK-UP TRUCK, a former official with the U.S. occupation government says.

Because the country lacked a functioning banking system, contractors and Iraqi ministry officials were paid with bills taken from a basement vault in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces that served as headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority, former CPA official Frank Willis said.

Officials from the CPA, which ruled Iraq from June 2003 to June 2004, would count the money when it left the vault, but nobody kept track of the cash after that, Willis said.
Which brings us back to the first article.

Some people are beginning to talk.
"What's sad about it is that, considering the destruction in the country, with looting and so on, we needed every dollar for reconstruction," said Wayne White, a former State Department official whose responsibilities included Iraq from 2003 to 2005, and who is now at the Middle East Institute, a research organization.

Instead, Mr. White said, large amounts of that money may have been wasted or stolen, with strong indications that the chaos in Hilla might have been repeated at other provisional authority outposts.

Others had a similar reaction. "It does not surprise me at all," said a Defense Department official who worked in Hilla and other parts of the country, who spoke anonymously because he said he feared retribution from the Bush administration. He predicted that similar problems would turn up in the major southern city of Basra and elsewhere in the dangerous desert wasteland of Anbar province.

"It's a disaster," the official said of problems with contracting in Anbar.
"He's...one of our officials?"

"I...I..."

"Find him."

"Yes, sir."
The money, most from Iraqi oil proceeds and cash seized from Saddam Hussein's government--
And some from the Federal Reserve --
...also easily found its way out of the compound and the country.

In one case, an American soldier assigned as an assistant to the Iraqi Olympic boxing team was given huge amounts of cash for a trip to the Philippines, where the soldier gambled away somewhere between $20,000 and $60,000 of the money.

Exactly how much has not been determined, the report says, because no one kept track of how much money he received in the first place.
Can we assume that some foxy ladies ended up with some of that cash?
Sometimes the consequences of such loose controls were deadly. A contract for $662,800 in civil, electrical, and mechanical work to rehabilitate the Hilla General Hospital was paid in full by an American official in June 2004 even though the work was not finished, the report says. But instead of replacing a central elevator bank, as called for in the scope of work, the contractor tinkered with an unsuccessful rehabilitation.

The report continues, narrating the observation of the inspector general's agents who visited the hospital on Sept. 18, 2004: "The hospital administrator immediately escorted us to the site of the elevators. The administrator said that just a couple days prior to our arrival the elevator crashed and killed three people."
Man.

"Reconstruction: A Good Gig If You Can Get It!"

This is the perfect time to re-read Naomi Klein's Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia.

Connect the dots, people: Yesterday's news is more important than ever.

More later...

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What Have I Been Saying All Along?

Huh?

Audit Describes Misuse of Funds in Iraq Projects

Get ready to live:
A new audit of American financial practices in Iraq has uncovered irregularities including millions of reconstruction dollars stuffed casually into footlockers and filing cabinets, an American soldier in the Philippines who gambled away cash belonging to Iraq, and three Iraqis who plunged to their deaths in a rebuilt hospital elevator that had been improperly certified as safe.

The audit, released yesterday by the office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, expands on its previous findings of fraud, incompetence and confusion as the American occupation poured money into training and rebuilding programs in 2003 and 2004.

*

Agents from the inspector general's office found that the living and working quarters of American occupation officials were awash in shrink-wrapped stacks of $100 bills, colloquially known as bricks.

One official kept $2 million in a bathroom safe, another more than half a million dollars in an unlocked footlocker.

One contractor received more than $100,000 to completely refurbish an Olympic pool but only polished the pumps; even so, local American officials certified the work as completed.
That's an old trick.
More than 2,000 contracts ranging in value from a few thousand dollars to more than half a million, some $88 million in all, were examined by agents from the inspector general's office.

The report says that in some cases the agents found clear indications of potential fraud and that investigations into those cases are continuing.
Looks like Uncle Sam - the good Uncle Sam - is looking for that missing $8-9 billion dollars.

More on this later.

Kinks

Hey, all.

Been getting a number of comments re: page loading time and the blog.

(Page loading time? Sounds like an old REM record.)

I'll try to get to the bottom of it, yo. (I use Firefox - seem to have no problems - but some of you Safari types have said, "Help.")

In the meantime...

White House Declines to Provide Storm Papers

Same old, same old:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.
That's the story.

The rest...is politics, and depends on what your definition of "is" or "meeting" or "know" is.

I will say that "not planning to turn over documents" and "not making senior officials available for SWORN testimony" is Bushevism, 101.

You learn that stuff on the first day.

More later...after I work out the kinks.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

NOLA Fraud

The latest from NoLa:

FBI Uncovers Post-Katrina Fraud

No, really?
JACKSON, Miss. - The FBI has uncovered fraud by public officials in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and has created a task force to investigate corruption as federal money pours into the Gulf Coast region, Mississippi's top agent said Monday.
Uncle Sam is sending about $10 billion to Louisiana for "rebuilding."

"There's gold in them thar' hills!"
"We are seeing public officials facilitating some of the fraud," John G. Raucci, agent in charge in Mississippi, said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's not widespread, I will say that, but we have seen it and we have begun addressing it."

Raucci would not give details.
Can you say...kickbacks for help in landing federal contracts?

$2,000 hammers?

Ghost employees?!
Sheila Thorne, an FBI agent in Louisiana, said the bureau has set up task forces in each of that state's three districts to deal with hurricane-related fraud. "As allegations come in, they will be investigated," Thorne said in a separate interview.

Thorne said agents are looking at all levels of fraud in Louisiana, including public corruption.

Federal money has been pumped at an unprecedented rate into the gulf states since Katrina struck on Aug. 29, and Louisiana and Mississippi are set to receive billions in aid.

"So if a person was predisposed ... to commit an act of public corruption, this will be the time when he or she can dig their hand into the public trough," Raucci said.
Imagine that.

He's suggesting...that there are people...working in our government...who are PREDISPOSED...to corruption.

"Yeah. Stupid filthy libtards."

Thank you, Mr. Yahoo Message Board.

On a related note:

White House Was Told Hurricane Posed Danger

"But...they said they weren't."

Ha.
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - The White House was told in the hours before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans that the city would probably soon be inundated with floodwater, forcing the long-term relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, documents to be released Tuesday by Senate investigators show.
"But, but -- "
A Homeland Security Department report submitted to the White House at 1:47 a.m. on Aug. 29, hours before the storm hit, said, "Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching."
Oops.
The internal department documents, which were forwarded to the White House, contradict statements by President Bush and the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, that no one expected the storm protection system in New Orleans to be breached.

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees," Mr. Bush said in a television interview on Sept. 1. "Now we're having to deal with it, and will."
(Deal with it? Like this? FBI Uncovers Post-Katrina Fraud)
A White House spokesman, asked about the seeming contradiction between Mr. Bush's statement on Sept. 1 and the warning as the storm approached, said the president meant to say that once the storm passed and it initially looked as if New Orleans had gotten through the hurricane without catastrophic damage, no one anticipated at that point that the levees would be breached.
Rrriiiggghhhttt.
The Senate investigators have also found evidence that at least some federal and state officials were aware last summer that the hurricane evacuation planning in the New Orleans area was incomplete.

"We're at less than 10 percent done with this trans planning when you consider the buses and the people," said a summary of a July briefing held with local, state and federal officials regarding a possible hurricane in Louisiana and referring to transportation planning.

"If you think soup lines in the Depression were long, wait til you see the lines at these collection points," the summary said, referring to buses that were supposed to help pick up people to evacuate New Orleans.
This story sounds like...?

Think, think, think:
Q: Why shouldn't this be seen as an intelligence failure, that you were unable to predict something happening here?

DR. RICE: Steve, I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon; that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile. All of this reporting about hijacking was about traditional hijacking." May 16, 2002
Report Warned Of Suicide Hijackings

Yeah, I remember.

More later...

More Folksy Comedy

More folksy comedy from Our Kid: Dude had those Kansans rolling!
In order to make good decisions, you've got to rely upon the judgment of people you trust.

I'll never forget the first decision I had to make as the President. I wasn't even sworn in yet, and a fellow called me on the phone and he said, what color rug do you want to have in the Oval Office? (Laughter.)

You've got to be kidding me, man. (Laughter.)

He said, no, what color rug would you like to have in the Oval Office? I said, I don't know. He said, well, it turns out that Presidents -- you've just got to know Presidents design their rugs. I said, well, to be honest with you, I don't know much about designing rugs.

So I called, I delegated -- that's one of the things you do in decision-making. (Laughter.) I said, LAURA, how about helping design the rug? (Laughter.)
Ha ha! Get it? He asked his wife to deal with the rug! I mean, women usually do stuff like that, but it's "funnier" because he "delegated" the decision to her! 'Coz he's the president and that's what presidents do: They "delegate" decisions! Ha ha! Like cooking and cleaning and making babies! (Kansan laughter.)

(Would've been funnier if he'd delegated the decision to the VP.)
Part of being a decision-maker, though, is you've got to help -- you've got to think strategically.

And so I said to her -- she said, what color do you want?
Ho ho! The hits just keep on coming.
I said, make it say this: "Optimistic person comes here to work every single day."

You can't lead the nation, you can't make good decisions unless you're optimistic about the future.
Ha ha.

(Pause.)

Uh...

He thinks he's optimistic?

God help us.

More later today...

Monday, January 23, 2006

Our Kid in Kansas

"Our Kid" was in Kansas today: Dude "took some questions" from the audience.

Like this one:
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, a couple more and then I've got to head back home. Yes, ma'am.

Q: Hi. First I'd like to say that when I was first able to cast my vote for President, it was my honor to vote for you -- (inaudible). Can you hear me?

THE PRESIDENT: I like that part. (Laughter.)

Q: My question is about Social Security.

THE PRESIDENT: Social Security?

Q: Yes. (Inaudible).

THE PRESIDENT: I couldn't hear the question, so I'll put the words in your mouth. (Laughter.)

I guess you asked is the system going to be viable when you get -- yes?

No. (Laughter and applause.)

If I were you, I'd pay attention to the issue.
I agree: Pay attention to the issue.

It's seems to be...funny. To some people.

More later...

Tales of Big Babies

Yo.

Time for another installment of...

"Tales of Big Babies!"

Bush touts his record, but just to his party

Jeb, that is.

"GOP leaders say a state function is private, so reporters are ejected during the speech."

Big babies:
LAKE BUENA VISTA - The Florida Republican Party on Saturday called security to eject reporters listening to Gov. Jeb Bush tout his party's accomplishments in Tallahassee.

The unusual scene - five hotel security staffers and a sheriff's deputy escorting reporters away from where they could hear the governor - occurred in the middle of a speech in which Bush exhorted party activists to spread the word of Republican successes in Florida.

"I apologize for that if I'm indirectly responsible, which I'm not," Bush said after addressing Republican activists gathered at Disney for a party meeting. "I would have loved to have you in there. . . . I wouldn't have said anything different if you were there."

State Republican chairwoman Carole Jean Jordan declined to comment, and the party's executive director explained that party leaders merely wanted to keep their party functions private.

"We wanted to be able to have a private meeting where folks were not worried about being on the record," said executive director Andy Palmer.

The party barred reporters from the ballroom where Bush addressed a luncheon crowd of several hundred, and party staffers then summoned security when they saw reporters listening to the governor through an open door on the side of the room.

"I wanted to give you a little bit of a sense of what's happened over the past seven years, and even prior to that with Republican leadership because we don't read about it much in the paper," the governor said at the start of his remarks. "If you don't toot your own horn, no one else will."

Before they were removed, reporters heard the governor say that Republicans halted early release of dangerous prisoners and helped produce a strong economy through billions of dollars in tax cuts.
Man.

You wanna live in a country that tolerates this?

More later...

THE MAN STRIKES AGAIN

"The Man" strikes again:

TSA: Program may use fliers' financial data

He's gonna charge you $80-$100 a year to bypass those pesky lines at LAX.

Bastard:
A new program to speed travelers through airport security may require passengers to agree to a check of their personal and financial records, the Transportation Security Administration said.
You shop, therefore you are.
The TSA said it will require "in-depth security background checks" that may involve "using commercial data" for people applying to the Registered Traveler program that starts in June.
"Registered Traveler program."

That's the best they could do?

Freedom Traveler!
The checks will help verify people's identities to prove they have no ties to terrorism.

Commercial databases hold personal information from credit reports, property records, shopping histories and other records. TSA chief Kip Hawley said such data can be useful in flagging terrorists, who often won't appear in most U.S. commercial lists.
Unbelievable.
The program will create reserved lanes for people who pass the background check and pay an annual fee, expected to be $80 to $100.
There it is: Another "annual" fee.

Bet they move that to a monthly fee in the future.
Security requirements such as removing jackets and shoes will be lifted as approved passengers go through metal detectors.
A hundred bucks a year to keep your shoes on?

What a bargain.

("Daddy, why can't we go in the short line?" "All I've got is a 'ghetto Visa,' son. Maybe someday.")
Congress barred the TSA from using commercial data on airline passengers after a government probe criticized the agency last year for improperly storing 100 million records on travelers when it said no data storage would occur.

The TSA says the ban does not apply to Registered Traveler because the program is voluntary and the background checks would be done by companies at an airport.

It would be the company that determines whether applicants pose a terrorist threat, TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter said.
"Sir, could you step aside?"

"What?"

"You've never shopped at Abercrombie...never eaten at an Outback Steakhouse. Step aside."
The TSA would approve background-check programs. Hawley, the TSA chief, said a background check must give "a high degree of confidence that an individual is not a terrorist."

"Using commercial data is one avenue," Hawley added.
"You've never even been in a Best Buy. Are you a member of...the American Al-Qaeda?"

Aaaggghhh!!!

More later...this morning.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Oops!

Fun stuff...via Josh Marshall:
White House press secretary Scott McClellan admits that the White House has been on a search mission for any photos showing President Bush with toxic lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is cooperating with the Justice Department on its investigation of a wide-ranging lobbying scandal.

At a press conference, McClellan said if there were pictures, which officials hadn’t found, they might have been taken at a Christmas-party line, where the President poses with hundreds of people.

The President does not know him, nor does the President recall ever meeting him,” McClellan said.
Sounds good to me.

Hold on a sec...
The comment about searching raised images in the press room of a “White House plumbers” operation looking for incriminating photos.

If the White House can’t find the photos, prosecutors already know where to look. The Washingtonian has seen five photos of the President with Abramoff or his family.
Oops!
One photo shows the President and Abramoff shaking hands at a meeting in the Old Executive Office Building, where a bearded-Abramoff introduced Bush to several of the lobbyist’s native-American clients.

Abramoff was named a “pioneer” in the Bush presidential campaign, collecting more than $100,000, in $2,000 maximum increments, for his campaign in 2004. Bush has returned $6,000 of Abramoff’s contributions, the part that would represent the legal limit for Abramoff; his wife, Pam; and a client.

Sources say the photographs are being kept safe.

Abramoff would tell prosecutors, if asked, that not only did he know the President, but the President knew the names of Abramoff’s children and asked about them during their meetings.

At one such photo session, Bush discussed the fact that both he and Abramoff were fathers of twins.
Outstanding.

Well, I guess this whole story depends on what your definition of "know" or "meeting" is.

"AND HOW!"

Going away for the weekend: Back on Sunday night, so check back then.

Go Steelers (24-13).

Peace out, bitches.

A Time Out From Politics

Crazy day this.

The hits just keep on coming.

Bush Rules Out Senate Run for First Lady

This is NOT an Onion piece:
STERLING, Va. - The Senate may be the place for some former first ladies, but President Bush on Thursday categorically ruled out a run for office by his wife, Laura Bush.

"She's not interested in running for office. She's interested in literacy," Bush said during an appearance at JK Moving & Storage.
He's got an interesting point there.

"She's not interested in (politics). She's interested in literacy."

Wink wink.
The topic came up as the president took questions from his audience after a speech on the economy.

*

"She's a great lady," the president said.

"She's not interested in running for office."

"I'm pretty certain, when I married her she didn't like politics or politicians," Bush said.
That still true, sir?

(Look how cute they were!)

Now...

I rarely jump into the Hollywood pool on this blog (I live here - hard to go to Ralph's without getting wet), but there are two stories worth mentioning today...courtesy of the Huffington Post.

First up, Paris Hilton:

Legal Papers Prove She's No Einstein - Heiress is geographically and verbally challenged

You're kidding:
(Jan. 19) -- TMZ has obtained a Paris Hilton deposition in which the heiress makes it painfully clear -- Greeks and geography are not her strong suits.

The deposition was taken last November, in connection with a defamation lawsuit filed by Zeta Graff against Ms. Hilton. Graff claims Hilton planted lies about her in the New York Post gossip column, Page Six.
Here we go:
In her deposition, Hilton is asked about a companion that night whose first name was Terry.

When asked if she knew his last name, Hilton replied: "It is like a weird Greek name. Like Douglas."
Classic Paris.
Hilton was also asked if she was aware that the article had been republished in various newspapers. Graff's lawyer, Paul Berra, asked, "Were there U.K. publications?" Hilton responded: "No... there is stuff in London."

Hilton's lawyer, Larry Stein, jumped in: "London is a U.K. publication." Her retort: "Right. U.K. Whatever."
Vintage Hilton.

(Right, U.K., Whatever. That was a Squeeze record, yeah?)
Hilton swore she never saw a republication of the article: "I was in Europe the whole summer, and all there is is like French -- I didn't see anything because I wasn't in America."
Uh...

Does she even "see stuff" when she's here?
Hilton testified on the night in question she did have a minor run-in with Graff, the former girlfriend of Hilton's then-boyfriend Paris Latsis.

Hilton stated, "I just said to her... she is old and should stay at home with her child instead of being at nightclubs with young people.

And just that -- I just - what else did I say? Just that she is not cute at all
."
You go girl!
She added that Graff had threatened Latsis:

"He said that she threatened to send Mexican people to come and beat the s..t out of him."
Like...the day-labor dudes who hang out in front of the Home Depot at Sunset & Western?!

Awesome:
Hilton testified that she too was scared: "He said that she was going to do voodoo on me. And I kind of do believe in that stuff a little bit, so I was a little bit scared about that..."
Enough.

This crap makes me crave real info.

"SO READ THE LATEST PIECE FROM PAUL KRUGMAN."

Thank you, Lord.

"DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT."

Speaking of voodoo...

Arianna has the latest on Tom Cruise and his efforts to get "his" episode of South Park off the air in the UK (which is near London, Paris):
The show, in which Nicole Kidman and Cruise's fellow Scientologist John Travolta are depicted attempting to coax an animated version of the actor out of a closet, caused controversy when broadcast in the U.S.

The cartoon Kidman tells Cruise, "Don't you think this has gone on long enough? It's time for you to come out of the closet. You're not fooling anyone"—referring to allegations about Cruise's sexuality.

According to The Register.co.uk, Paramount has agreed not to show the episode again, after Cruise complained.

A source tells the site, "Tom is famously very litigious and will go to great lengths to protect his reputation. Tom was said not to like the episode and Paramount just didn't dare risk showing it again. It's a shame that UK audiences will never see it because it's very funny."
On that note, check out this ol' Brandoland post for an old school Cruise emergency:
Maureen Bolstad, who was at the base for 17 years and left after a falling-out with the church, recalled a rainy night 15 years ago when a couple of dozen Scientologists scrambled to deal with "an all-hands situation" that kept them working through dawn.

The emergency, she said: planting a meadow of wildflowers for Cruise to romp through with his new love, Kidman.

"We were told that we needed to plant a field and that it was to help Tom impress Nicole," said Bolstad, who said she spent the night pulling up sod so the ground could be seeded in the morning.

The flowers eventually bloomed, Bolstad said, "but for some mysterious reason it wasn't considered acceptable by (Church prez) Mr. Miscavige.

So the project was rejected and they redid it."
I have no problem with that.

At all.

In fact...I wish I had a bunch of people who'd plant a field of flowers for me.

"YOU HAVE OPTIONS."

Right.

More later...

By-tor and the Snowdog

(Welcome new Brandoland readers: Pass the blog on...if ya dig it.)

Lotta stuff today, friends.

But first, me and th' Lord are in the middle of a Rush renaissance.

"BY-TOR AND THE SNOWDOG!"
The tobes of Hades lit by flickering torchlight
The netherworld is gathered in the glare
Prince By-Tor takes the cavern to the north-light
The sign of Eth is rising in the air
By-Tor, knight of darkness
Centurion of evil, devil's prince!
Rad.

"THEIR NEW DVD, 'R30?' KILLER."

A must own.

"I'M COMMANDING EVERYONE TO GET IT. OTHERWISE...I WILL SMOTE THEE!"

Hey, speaking of smoting:

Conservatives Say They've "Just Had It" With Schwarzenegger

Jesus: He got rid of the Enron lawsuit for you people.

(Schwarzenegger Accused of Involvement in $9B California Swindle with Enron’s Ken Lay)

What more do you want?!
Republican activists disenchanted with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday that they will try to strip the governor of the party's endorsement unless he fires his new chief of staff, Democrat Susan P. Kennedy.

Restive Republicans said they would rally conservatives behind a resolution, to be offered at the state GOP convention in San Jose next month, that may give Schwarzenegger an ultimatum:

Dump Kennedy by March 15 or the party will withdraw its backing of his reelection bid.
Snore.

It's time for Arnold to make "T4," anyway.

"THIS ONE BETTER BE SET IN THE FUTURE."

Agreed.

We gotta see the rebellion, John Connor and the girl from "My So Called Life" kickin' ass, and the first Terminator heading back to the 80's.

"WANT ME TO SET UP A PITCH MEETING?"

Ha.

Check back in a bit; I'll have new stuff after 11am PST.

(FYI: The Snowdog defeats By-tor. In case you were wondering.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Big Baby

Yo.

Frist Not Allowing Senators To Speak On The Senate Floor About Alito

What are you afraid of, Dr. Bill?
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) tried to secure time this week to speak on the Senate floor about Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito.

But Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist would not allow any time for speeches until January 25, a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee votes on Alito's nomination.

The normal practice of the majority leader is to give senators time to make floor speeches about the nominee.
Not anymore.

Big baby.

More later, people.

Yahoo Message Board Users...Unite and Take Over!

Major thanks to Crooks & Liars for the nod today: New visitors? Plenty of old junk to dig through.

Now...

Bin Laden warns of US attacks

Who he?
DUBAI (Reuters) - Osama bin Laden warned that al Qaeda was preparing new attacks inside the United States, but said the group was open to a conditional truce with Americans, according to an audio tape attributed to him on Thursday.

It was the first purported tape by bin Laden since 2004. Al Jazeera television, which aired the tape, said it was recorded in December.

"The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your houses as soon as they are complete, God willing," said the speaker on the audio tape, who sounded like bin Laden.
"HE'S TALKING ABOUT 'EMILY'S REASONS WHY NOT.'"

Already been canceled.

"D'OH!"
In the tape, bin Laden said al Qaeda was willing to "respond" to U.S. public opinion in favor of withdrawing troops from Iraq. He did not specify conditions for the truce, but indicated that it was linked to U.S. troops quitting Iraq.

*

"There is nothing wrong with this solution except that it deprives the influential people and warlords in America from hundreds of billions of dollars, -- those who supported Bush's election campaign with billions of dollars."
Uh...

Um...

Uh...

I agree with the person who made that last statement.

(Pause.)

And now I'll wait for the MiB's to come to my door.

Until then...the "Yahoo Message Board" users react to this story!

"Y2kokok" writes:
"RIGHT FROM THE LIB 'TALKING POINTS' - It's as if AL GORE has been communicating with Osama bin Laden, the way he speaks...the words he uses."
Solid reporting!

"Yoyoofloco" says:
"WE SHOULD ALLOW THESE ATTACKS TO HAPPEN - We need to sit back an allow these attacks on American cities. Time has come to share the pain of the terrorist. We are a large country with a large population and we won't miss a few 100,000 people. This would make the terrorist feel good about themselves if we just give in."
Okay then.

"Onwingsofeagles23" says:
"Bite me binny laden - come out of your scorpion infested cave and fight like a man."
Sounds like "binny" has accepted your challenge!

"The anti yak" cries:
"NOTE TO AL QAEDA: PLEASE ATTACK FRANCE - Oh, please, pretty please."
France jokes? Always funny!

And finally, "Mustafa bin gooda" screams:
"F**K THAT RAGHEAD BASSTARD!! I think he's DEAD anyway!!!"
That's the spirit.

This here "DEMOTARD" will have more later...

Trent Lott: Not Lovin' It

Yo.

Democrats Claim a Better Idea on Controlling Lobbying

Trent Lott: Not lovin' it.
"Now we're going to say you can't have a meal for more than 20 bucks," said Senator Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi.

"Where are you going, to McDonald's?"
Big baby.

You have other choices...within walking distance of your office:

Au Bon Pain, Subway, Quizno's, Burger King, Popeye's,
Wendy's, Blimpie, Chipotle, Fuddrucker's, Pizza Hut, Baja Fresh, Jerry's Subs, KFC, Taco Bell, Arby's, Hardee's, Panera...

And even the damn TGIFriday's at 2101 Pennsylavania Ave.

I'm sure they have lunch specials.

Coming up? "Yahoo Message Board" users react to Osama's latest statement.

In a bit...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

TODAY'S McClellan

Today's McClellan:
Q: There are allegations that we send people to Syria to be tortured.

MR. McCLELLAN: To Syria?

Q: Yes. You've never heard of any allegation like that?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I've never heard that one. That's a new one.

Q: To Syria? You haven't heard that?

MR. McCLELLAN: That's a new one.

Q: Well, I can assure you it's been well-publicized.

MR. McCLELLAN: By BLOGGERS?
Wow.

Big Baby.
Q: Scott, are you saying that talk in negative terms about the administration is inherently political? Anybody who says negative things about the administration --

MR. McCLELLAN: NO, I DIDN'T SAY THAT; YOU SAID THAT.
Yes! NATHAN THURM, ESQ. fans unite!!!
Q: No, you just said --

MR. McCLELLAN: I described it the way -- what I said is based on the news accounts -- because the focus ought to be on those regimes that are engaged in torture and that are violating people's human rights. This administration speaks out all across the world for human dignity and human rights, and advancing human rights.

Q: You said you knew it was political because it spoke in negative terms about the administration.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think the characterizations I saw in the news reports clearly reflect what I said.
AAAGGGHHH!!!

More later...

Yesterday's McClellan

The White House Press Corps has asked Scott "My Scottie" McClellan to look into any/all Jack Abramoff visits to 1600.

Good luck!
Q: Can you say who Mr. Abramoff was representing when he came in here?

MR. McCLELLAN: No.

Again, we don't get into discussing staff-level meetings. If you have something specific to bring to my attention, I'll be glad to try to look into that. But I'm not aware of anything specific that you have.

Q: What got him in the door here? How did he qualify for meetings here?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I checked on this. What I was asked is to go and check on this, and I did. And there were only a couple of holiday receptions that he attended, and then a few staff-level meetings on top of that. And that's the way I would describe it.

Now, what I can't do is go and say with absolute certainty that he did not have any other visits. We did a check at your request and what I have learned from that request is exactly what I am telling you.

Q: Was it senior staff, at that level?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm sorry?

Q: Would you qualify it as senior staff that he met with here?

MR. McCLELLAN: I'm just saying staff-level meetings is the way I would describe it. And if you have anything specific, I'll be glad to take a look into it.

Q: Well, we're counting on you for the specifics --

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if there's any reason for me to check into it, please bring it to my attention.

Q: He's pled guilty to some serious charges.

MR. McCLELLAN: And so are you insinuating something?

Q: We're just trying to find out the facts.

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, if you've got something to bring to my attention, do so, and then I'll be glad to look into it.

Q: Scott, that's not a fair burden to place on us. This is a guy who is a tainted lobbyist, and he has connections -- we want to know -- with whom in the White House. You shouldn't demand that we give you something specific to go check it out. I mean, this guy is radioactive in Washington. And he knows guys like Karl Rove. So did he meet with him or not?

MR. McCLELLAN: I know of nothing that --

Q: Don't put it on us to bring something specific. It's a specific question about a specific individual.

Q: Can you tell us if he met with Karl Rove?

MR. McCLELLAN: Because we don't discuss staff-level meetings --

Q: Of course you do, whenever you want to discuss staff-level meetings.
Comedy.

(Keep pushing on...for Ray Nagin's "Chocolate City" apology.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ray Nagin: Working for...Developers?

Yo.

Someone else - besides me - has been talking to God:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin: God mad at America, but also at blacks

"AND GAYS. HE FORGOT TO MENTION 'THE GAYS.'"

What?

"AND THE ACLU."

Right.
NEW ORLEANS – Mayor Ray Nagin suggested Monday that Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other storms were a sign that "God is mad at America" and at black communities, too, for tearing themselves apart with violence and political infighting.

"Surely God is mad at America. He sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country," Nagin, who is black, said as he and other city leaders marked Martin Luther King Day.

"Surely he doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses.

But surely he is upset at black America also.

We're not taking care of ourselves."
That true?

"THAT AND...I'M NOT HAPPY ABOUT THE BULLS CURRENT RECORD. 15-22. THEY CAN DO BETTER."

Agreed.

"YOU KNOW WHAT? 'F' THIS. YOU KNOW WHAT CAUSES A HURRICANE?!"
The factors to form a (hurricane) include a pre-existing weather disturbance, warm tropical oceans, moisture, and relatively light winds aloft. If the right conditions persist and allow it to create a feedback loop by maximizing the energy intake possible, for example, such as high winds to increase the rate of evaporation, they can combine to produce the violent winds, incredible waves, torrential rains, and floods associated with this phenomenon.
"COGITO ERGO SUM...NOT ME!"
Nagin also promised that New Orleans will be a "chocolate" city again.

Many of the city's black neighborhoods were heavily damaged by Katrina.
"'CHOCOLATE CITY.' THAT'S A PARLIAMENT RECORD, RIGHT?"

I think so.
"It's time for us to come together. It's time for us to rebuild New Orleans – the one that should be a chocolate New Orleans," the mayor said. "This city will be a majority African American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans."

Nagin described an imaginary conversation with King, the late civil rights leader.
"TALKIN' TO ME AND MLK?! THAT'S A BIG DAY."
"I said, 'What is it going to take for us to move on and live your dream and make it a reality?' He said, 'I don't think that we need to pay attention any more as much about other folks and racists on the other side.'
And by "other folks" he means...

"DEVELOPERS AND PEOPLE WHO WANT TO LEVEL THE 9TH WARD."

Copy that.
He said, 'The thing we need to focus on as a community – black folks I'm talking about – is ourselves.'"

Nagin said he also asked: "Why is black-on-black crime such an issue? Why do our young men hate each other so much that they look their brother in the face and they will take a gun and kill him in cold blood?"

The reply, Nagin said, was: "We as a people need to fix ourselves first."
Whoa.

"DUDE IS TRIPPING ON HIS BLACK COMMUNITY."

And why do you think that is?

"BECAUSE THEY ARE TRIPPING ON HIM."

And why is that?

A Will-to-Rebuild Deadline Proposed for New Orleans

Well, well, well.

"A $12-billion buyout is planned if residents don't stake a convincing claim in four months."

Excerpts from the LA Times:
NEW ORLEANS — Mayor C. Ray Nagin's commission to revive this city on Wednesday proposed that residents of the districts most heavily damaged by Hurricane Katrina get FOUR MONTHS to demonstrate strong support for rebuilding their neighborhoods or face the possibility of having to sell to the government.
And the districts most heavily damged were in...

"CHOCOLATE CITY."

That's right:
The proposal, a centerpiece of the mayor's "Bring New Orleans Back" recovery effort, drew outrage from residents and community activists, who argued that many citizens — especially the African Americans who predominated the flood-struck areas — might be forced out of the city for good.
"CAN YOU SAY, 'HARD ROCK HOTEL & CASINO - NEW ORLEANS?"
By allowing residents to help determine their neighborhood's fate, the Nagin commission hoped to defuse a flashpoint in the debate over how to restore the ravaged city: Should all of New Orleans be rebuilt, or should low-lying neighborhoods be returned to wetlands and green space that would serve as a natural barrier against floods?

The vast swath of the city in question — which includes parts of the Gentilly, Mid-City, Lakeview and Lower 9th Ward neighborhoods — represents about half of New Orleans.

If residents could not reach a consensus to rebuild, city planners would shrink the footprint of New Orleans.
"THAT OR...THEY'D BUILD A BUNCH OF HOTELS AND CASINOS."
"None of us want to be in this particular place, but Katrina has forced us to take a good, hard look at what we need to do to rebuild our city," Nagin said. "The realities are that we will have limited resources to redevelop our city…. The other reality is this report is controversial. It pushes the edge of the envelope.

It probably says some things to some people they are probably misinterpreting."
Yeah: Like, "Sorry, bud, you're probably gonna lose your home."

"AND IF YOU BELIEVE THE MAYOR WHEN HE SAYS THAT I'M REALLY 'MAD' AT YOU -- "

You might just throw in the towel.

Capice?
Despite Nagin's effort to ease tensions, residents across racial and class lines lashed out Wednesday at what they considered a land grab engineered by the city's elite.

Much of their ire was heaped on New Orleans developer Joseph C. Canizaro, a key architect of the plan, whose name elicited boos from the standing-room-only auditorium crowd.
Google-monkeys, you have your assignment: Joseph C. Canizaro.
"How many people from my backyard are up there?" Harvey Bender, a laid-off city maintenance worker from eastern New Orleans, yelled at the officials. "I'm ready to rebuild and I'm not letting you take mine," he said. "I'm going to fight, whatever it takes, to rebuild my property. It's going to be baby Iraq for Joe Canizaro."
"THAT'S THE SPIRIT."
Under the plan — which can go forward with Nagin's approval — New Orleans would impose a moratorium Jan. 20 on building permits in the areas hardest hit by Katrina's floodwaters.

Residents then would have to demonstrate there was sufficient critical mass in their area to rebuild to warrant public investment in schools and city facilities, possibly by showing that half of the population planned to come back.
Here's the key info:
To accelerate the process, Nagin's commission is asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency to release updated flood plain maps, which could effectively make the decision for many homeowners by raising home insurance rates and setting other new financial barriers to redevelopment.

Neighborhoods that failed to meet the critical-mass test would be shrunk or eliminated altogether; a new city agency called the Crescent City Redevelopment Corp. then would buy out residents OR SEIZE THEIR PROPERTIES THROUGH EMINENT DOMAIN.
Hey, hey, hey.

One more time:
A new city agency...then would buy out residents or seize their properties through eminent domain.

The estimated cost of the buyouts: $12 billion.

Federal legislation introduced by Rep. Richard H. Baker (R-La.) proposes to reimburse homeowners 60% of their pre-Katrina equity.
Wow.

Ask yourself one question: How would you feel...if someone offered you 60% of the "pre-disaster" value of your home...without letting you rebuild...or deal...in the first place.

"CAN YOU SAY, 'MANDALAY BAY - NEW ORLEANS?"
The Nagin commission plan would go further, compensating displaced homeowners the remaining 40% with federal community development block grant money and FEMA funding.

But that federal funding, like many other elements of the ambitious plan, ultimately would need the support of Congress and President Bush -
"GOOD LUCK!"
— who is scheduled to make a public appearance in New Orleans today and meet with the co-chairman of Nagin's commission, healthcare executive Maurice L. Lagarde III.

*

Some critics, who had complained all along that Nagin's commission was stacked with developers and other business leaders --
You're kidding?
Some critics...said the proposal was proof that the mayor was allowing moneyed interests to draw up the reconstruction, to the detriment of the city's working poor.

"To us, that's Katrina cleansing — the removal of blacks from the city," said Mtangulizi Sanyika of the African American Leadership Project, a group that organized a summit of black community leaders today to discuss alternative plans to revive all of New Orleans.
Now...

Go back and read the mayor's comments re: God, Katrina and the black community.
""Surely (God) doesn't approve of us being in Iraq under false pretenses. But surely he is upset at black America also.

We're not taking care of ourselves.

We as a people need to fix ourselves first."
"METHINKS HE'S 'SUGGESTING' THAT 'THEY' TAKE CARE OF THEMSELVES...BY TAKING 'THE DEAL.'"

Gee...ya think?

We'll see how this shakes out: Pay close attention, kiddos.

"I'M NOT MAD, YOU KNOW. I WAS PISSED OFF ABOUT THE REFS IN THE STEELER GAME, BUT, HEY, EVERYTHING WORKED OUT THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO."

More later...

Monday, January 16, 2006

Citizen Gore

(Please read the Yesterday's post on "Adam Gadahn" if ya haven't already. Thanks.)

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

"WE'RE FROM THE TOWN WITH THE GREAT FOOTBALL TEAM -- "

Lord --

"WE CHEER THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS -- "

God --

"LA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA DA -- "

There's some important stuff going on -- "

"GO OUT AND GET THEM STEELERS!"

Lord!

"DID YOU SEE THAT KICK? NO DIVINE INTERVENTION NEEDED! TOTAL CHOKE JOB, NEXT STOP...COL-O-RA-DEE! WAHOOO!!!"

Moving on...to Citizen Gore...and excerpts from today's speech re: MLK and the Bushies' assault on the Constitution.
"It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored.

So, many of us have come here to Constitution Hall to sound an alarm and call upon our fellow citizens to put aside partisan differences and join with us in demanding that our Constitution be defended and preserved.

It is appropriate that we make this appeal on the day our nation has set aside to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who challenged America to breathe new life into our oldest values by extending its promise to all our people.

On this particular Martin Luther King Day, it is especially important to recall that for the last several years of his life, Dr. King was illegally wiretapped-one of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose private communications were intercepted by the U.S. government during this period.

The FBI privately called King the "most dangerous and effective negro leader in the country" and vowed to "take him off his pedestal."

The government even attempted to destroy his marriage and blackmail him into committing suicide.

This campaign continued until Dr. King's murder.

The discovery that the FBI conducted a long-running and extensive campaign of secret electronic surveillance designed to infiltrate the inner workings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and to learn the most intimate details of Dr. King's life, helped to convince Congress to enact restrictions on wiretapping.

The result was the Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act (FISA), which was enacted expressly to ensure that foreign intelligence surveillance would be presented to an impartial judge to verify that there is a sufficient cause for the surveillance.

I voted for that law during my first term in Congress and for almost thirty years the system has proven a workable and valued means of according a level of protection for private citizens, while permitting foreign surveillance to continue.

Yet, just one month ago, Americans awoke to the shocking news that in spite of this long settled law, the Executive Branch has been secretly spying on large numbers of Americans for the last four years and eavesdropping on "large volumes of telephone calls, e-mail messages, and other Internet traffic inside the United States."

The New York Times reported that the President decided to launch this massive eavesdropping program "without search warrants or any new laws that would permit such domestic intelligence collection."

During the period when this eavesdropping was still secret, the President went out of his way to reassure the American people on more than one occasion that, of course, judicial permission is required for any government spying on American citizens and that, of course, these constitutional safeguards were still in place.

But surprisingly, the President's soothing statements turned out to be false.
"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator." - Our Kid, December 18, 2000
A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law.

As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."
"A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, there's no question about it." - July 31, 2001
An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free.

In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier." - 7/1998 re: his gig as Texas Gov.
A commitment to openness, truthfulness and accountability also helps our country avoid many serious mistakes.

Recently, for example, we learned from recently classified declassified documents that the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized the tragic Vietnam war, was actually based on false information. We now know that the decision by Congress to authorize the Iraq War, 38 years later, was also based on false information.

America would have been better off knowing the truth and avoiding both of these colossal mistakes in our history. Following the rule of law makes us safer, not more vulnerable.
Wink wink, nudge nuge, eh eh eh?
Once violated, the rule of law is in danger.

Unless stopped, lawlessness grows. The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it.

Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.
Final words:
I mentioned that along with cause for concern, there is reason for hope. As I stand here today, I am filled with optimism that America is on the eve of a golden age in which the vitality of our democracy will be re-established and will flourish more vibrantly than ever. Indeed I can feel it in this hall.

As Dr. King once said, "Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movements and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us."
'Nuff said.

Now...

Here comes Pickles to the rescue:

Laura Bush Backs Domestic Spying Program

Cute!
ACCRA, Ghana - First lady Laura Bush said Sunday that the U.S. government is right to eavesdrop on Americans with suspected ties to terrorists, but a top Senate Republican joined a chorus of lawmakers who think domestic spying is on shaky legal ground.

"I think the American people expect the United States government and the president to do what they can to make sure there's not an attack by foreign terrorists," Mrs. Bush said just before landing here to begin a four-day stay in West Africa.

President Bush is concerned that media disclosure of the program will cripple work to foil terrorists, she said.

"I think he was worried that it would undermine our efforts by alerting terrorists to what our efforts are," Mrs. Bush said.
Hold on a second. Wait...

What terrorist doesn't know what our efforts are?!

I think they (whoever "they" are) have always known that they're being...freakin' monitored: That's like...day one, "Terrorism 101" shit.

"Rule #1: Assume you're being monitored and spied on, and speak in Navajo or Gaelic or pig-latin or something."

Right?

"All I know is...you're looking in the one place where my boy AIN'T!"
In a 12-minute exchange with reporters on the plane --
Twelve grueling minutes --
Mrs. Bush rebuffed criticism that too much of U.S. assistance for battling AIDS in Africa is focused on abstinence programs.

She said abstinence, the use of condoms and being faithful to one's sexual partner are all important in curbing the spread of disease.
One out of three ain't bad.
"I'm always a little bit irritated when I hear the criticism of abstinence, because abstinence is absolutely 100 percent effective in eradicating a sexually transmitted disease," she said.

In countries where girls feel obligated to comply with the wishes of men, girls need to know that abstinence is a choice.

"When girls are not empowered, when girls are vulnerable ... their chances of being able to negotiate their sexual life with their partners and to encourage or make their partners use a condom are very low," she said. "So it's really important for all three to be part of a successful eradication of AIDS, and that is ... abstinence, be faithful to your partner, and then use condoms, correctly and consistently."
Well, at least she's throwing a pack of condoms in the mix.

US teens aren't always so lucky.

(Some Abstinence Programs Mislead Teens, Report Says)

Big thanks to "Headfirst" at Herfers Pardise for giving Brandoland a plug in the HP polical chat forum.

"STEELERS 24, BRONCOS 13!"

The Lord has called his shot.

"DITKA CALLED 'EM 'A TEAM OF DESTINY.' ME LIKEY!"

More later...