Homeland Security For Sale

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Crime, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Not surprisingly (to most of us), it is now becoming apparent that 9/11 was viewed by many Republicans as simply a way to make money for those with connections.

No, I’m not talking about Halliburton (although they certainly fit the bill).  I’m talking about this:

WASHINGTON – As the Homeland Security Department was starting up, Secretary Tom Ridge twice stayed overnight at the Arizona home of a wealthy friend who ran a lobbying firm that was aggressively expanding its homeland security business.

The Blank Rome firm, whose chairman is former Ridge fund-raiser David Girard-diCarlo, later hired two of Ridge’s aides to lobby the new department, and some of the firm’s clients eventually landed lucrative contracts, according to documents and interviews.

Ridge and Girard-diCarlo worked together in Pennsylvania, raising over $400,000 for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 1999 and 2000. Before that, Girard-diCarlo had helped Ridge raise money as Pennsylvania governor.

Ridge left his job as Pennsylvania governor to serve Bush in coordinating a homeland security strategy inside the White House in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A year later, he was named the first secretary of the new Homeland Security Department.

The day after the department’s creation on Nov. 25, 2002, Ridge flew to Arizona with his wife and stayed overnight for two or three days in Girard-diCarlo’s gated-community home, officials say. Six days before Ridge’s visit, Girard-diCarlo had taken out a $3 million loan on the newly built home.

The month after the trip, the first of two Ridge White House aides left the government and went to work for Girard-diCarlo’s firm focusing on homeland security issues.

That aide, Mark Holman, has been "the closest governmental and political adviser to Secretary Tom Ridge for over 18 years," a federal contractor proclaimed in promotional material for a seminar series for which Holman was a featured speaker. Holman, Ridge’s chief of staff during his years as Pennsylvania governor, had worked briefly for Girard-diCarlo’s firm before Ridge brought him to the White House.

Ridge’s office says the secretary and Girard-diCarlo did not discuss Holman’s departure during the Arizona visit.

A federal conflict-of-interest law barred Holman from lobbying the White House for a year after his departure. The restriction, however, didn’t extend to Ridge’s new agency.

New York University law professor Stephen Gillers called it "intolerable" that Ridge’s White House aides were free to lobby the Homeland Security Department.

It "mocks the ethics rules. If it’s allowed, it reveals a gaping hole in the law," Gillers said.

Steven L. Schooner, co-director of the Government Procurement Law Program at George Washington University, says the Bush administration is sending a message by standing by Ridge’s trips.

"When Ridge makes clear that he is not worried about appearances, we should not be surprised when the public concludes that government cannot be trusted," Schooner said.

Read the whole ugly thing.

Judson Cox — Clown Prince of Conservatives, Edition #3

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

Judson is upset this week about not being able advertisers for his new newspaper, The North Carolina Conservative.  It’s not due to the fact that the newspaper is poorly written; it is due to the fact that he is, once again (*sigh*) a victim of Democrats.  Just like when they "forced" him to leave his college because it was allowing Fahrenheit 9/11 to be shown on campus.

Poor Jud.  If it weren’t for lefties always victimizing him, he would have very little to write about.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>A couple of years ago I lost my job at a small Virginia newspaper when liberal Democrats threatened a boycott unless my column was pulled. I learned then, that the Left — supposed advocates of free speech, democracy and diversity — are a well organized and wide spread collection of fascists determined to outlaw ideas that offend them, personally attack those who oppose them, and destroy the livelihoods of those who disagree with them.

It seems that Poor Jud re-lives his horrible Virginia newspaper experience every January.  Here‘s what he wrote last January on the so-called "Goon Squads" that got him fired. But I digress.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>I grew up in an area where the Democratic Party power brokers openly refer to themselves as the "Clarkton Mafia," so I’m used to hard nosed politics. I wasn’t surprised to learn of a national effort dubbed, "Buy Blue." Buy Blue, along with the "Conservative Boycott List" and "Don’t Feed the Beast" are part of a national effort by liberals to punish those who oppose them politically, and to starve the conservative movement of its funding by cutting off the revenue of its donors.

It was like that time in November last year when liberals all voted for Kerry, just to punish conservatives like Jud.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Last week I began touring the state of North Carolina, promoting The North Carolina Conservative. The North Carolina Conservative is a boldly conservative newspaper, so we knew there was no point in courting liberals either as advertisers or subscribers — they don’t support us, and we don’t want them (although, a little fertilizer does aid growth, so maybe we should allow one or two).

Yes, Jud.  It’s bold to put out a conservative newspaper in a red state.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>However, many companies only purchase ads through agencies, so this necessitated pitching our publication to advertising firms. Immediately, the liberal contempt surfaced, when the president of an Asheville, NC based advertising firm responded to our introductory letter, "I would not recommend to any of my clients that they advertise in your newspaper, because I have committed my life to fighting the evil and destructive lies of conservatives that are ruining our nation."

Fair enough; we don’t want her business anyway.

"C’mon, Dorothy.  We don’t want any of those apples!"

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>We’d love the money, but this newspaper is by and for conservatives.

Right.  Jud doesn’t want the business of liberals, just the money of liberals.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>If liberals want to vote with their pocketbooks, then more power to them. However, as we toured the state and spoke to conservative business people, it became clear that their businesses were being hurt by the liberal boycotts.

You see, it’s okay to "vote with your pocketbooks", as long as you don’t show favoritism.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>For instance, a restaurant owner in Chapel Hill, NC had the temerity to place a Bush/Cheney sign in his business. For this, the local Democrats launched a public campaign to drive him out of business. His lunch clientele has nearly disappeared.

Those damn liberals tried to pull that same shit in Greensboro, NC, too!

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Decades ago, liberals began networking to support each other and further their leftist goals. This is why college faculties and government bureaucracies are almost uniformly comprised of Democrats (and unaffiliated liberal nutballs). In the private sector, green, feminist and gay groups recommend liberal friendly businesses for their members to invest in. Gays, especially, network effectively by placing rainbow flags and stickers on their businesses as identifiers.

It was Levar Burton’s idea!  Honestly!

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>I propose that conservatives engage in a reverse boycott. In North Carolina, I hope The North Carolina Conservative will become an effective vehicle to know what businesses support conservatism. Nationally, conservatives can identify and support each other by organizing. In each state, and nationally, there should be a registry of conservative owned businesses. Conservative owned businesses should also begin identifying themselves publicly with symbols. For instance, if I drove into an unfamiliar town, looking for a place to get lunch, fill up my car with gas or stay the night, if I saw a business with a conservative slogan in the window (or any conservative message), I would patronize that business.

Christ1_1 Good idea, Jud.  I wonder what symbol conservatives could use.  Mmmmmm.  I can’t imagine what.  Damn, those gays already took the rainbow!  What can conservatives possibly use?  Mmmmmmmm.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>If we do this nationwide, it may do more to promote conservative values, conservative politics and a sense of unity and community than anything else we can do. Imagine stepping into an unfamiliar restaurant that had a conservative identifier out front and a conservative talk radio station playing in the background — it would be a sign that here, you are among friends.

We could even put a sign on the outside saying "No Girls and Liberals Allowed".  And, and, and . . . we could have a secret entrance and a handshake, too!  And make special cards an’ stuff.

<span style="color: #0066ff;”>Conversation would flow more easily, business deals would happen spontaneously, political clubs and church groups would know where to meet on friendly ground, etc. If conservatives can network well, we may all become rich and ready to take over arty little resort towns one day… just like gays!

I wonder what a conservative "arty little resort town" would actually look like.  Sounds like a Tim Burton movie though.

TV in the 1930’s

Ken AshfordRandom Musings1 Comment

This (RealMedia file) is a fragment of a very early television broadcast from the early 1930s which had been recorded off the air waves by amateur enthusiast using a home gramophone recording system.  It is popular British singer Betty Bolton.  What’s she singing?  Who knows — the sound has been lost.

The Heat Rises On News-For-SaleGate

Ken AshfordBush & Co., CrimeLeave a Comment

Senators Lautenberg, Kennedy, and Reid write to President Bush about the $240,000 in tax dollars given to a right wing journalist to write news stories in favor of Bush’s No Child Left Behind policy.

Excerpt:

In addition to the illegality of these actions taken by your Administration, we believe that the act of bribing journalists to bias their news in favor of government policies undermines the integrity of our democracy. Actions like this were common in the Soviet Union, but until now, thought to be long extinguished in our country.

These revelations regarding Mr. Williams are the latest – and most disturbing – in a series of actions by your Administration to manipulate public opinion through covert propaganda. On May 19, 2004, the GAO found that your Administration illegally spent taxpayer funds on covert propaganda by paying Ketchum Incorporated to produce fake news stories promoting the image of the new Medicare law.

Read full letter here.

This Girl Is Sad

Ken AshfordRandom Musings3 Comments

The picture doesn’t do her justice. And what’s worse, she’s having a hard 2005 so far. So . . . everyone who is reading this . . . please give a nanosecond of good vibes out to her, and maybe — collectively — the thoughts of everyone will manifest themselves into a ray of sunshine that will turn her 2005 around.

She’s one of those rare good ones; she deserves it — trust me on this.

The Torture General and the Commander-in-Chief Override

Ken AshfordBush & Co., Crime, War on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

To me, the most troubling thing about Gonzales is not his understanding (or lack thereof) on the "legal" use of torture, but his apparent lack of understanding on the powers of the Presidency. 

One thing is for sure: what ever "torture" is — and I am willing to concede that we can have open debates about that — the President cannot and should not have the unilateral power to disobey or circumvent any law or treaty on any topic.

It is odd how Gonzales cannot simply say this.  Read how Slate describes yesterday’s cat-and-mouse game:

Then comes the question of the day: "Now, as attorney general, would you believe the president has the authority to exercise a commander-in-chief override and immunize acts of torture?" Leahy asks. That’s "a hypothetical that’s never going to occur," Gonzales says, because we don’t torture people. He continues, "This president has said we’re not going to engage in torture under any circumstances, and therefore that portion of the opinion was unnecessary and was the reason that we asked that that portion be withdrawn." Translation: Yes, I think the president has the legal authority to immunize acts of torture, but he doesn’t want to, so I’m not going to bother with defending the idea.

Pressed for an answer, Gonzales concedes, "I do believe there may come an occasion when the Congress might pass a statute that the president may view as unconstitutional," and therefore the president may ignore it. That’s a general statement of principle, Leahy says, but I’m asking a specific question. Can the president immunize torture? Gonzales retreats to the that’s-hypothetical-and-it’s-not-gonna-happen defense. OK, Leahy says. What about leaders of other countries? Can they immunize torture? I’m not familiar with their laws, Gonzales replies.

The law should be above politics, and this guy has demonstrated that he cannot act as the chief law enforcement officer and be above his loyalties to Bush.  Bad nominee.  He’ll be confirmed, but he shouldn’t be.

Desparate Yet?

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

Matt Yglesius is right to point this out:

The recent acts of terrorism, such as the bombing of the U.N. headquarters and the mosque in Najaf, show a couple of things. First, that Iraq is still a dangerous place. They also show, I think, the desperation — the desperation of the adversaries that we face. We’re actively engaged in rooting out this threat with more and more Iraqis coming forward with information and a willingness to help us.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, September 9, 2003.

You’ll see the threat go to, again, more suicide attacks, vehicle- borne IEDs, which I think shows desperation for both so they can get themselves in the news so people around the world can see them, and to show that they are in fact frustrated that they can’t really make an impact any other way.

Major General Raymond T. Odierno, January 22, 2004 .

We have said for quite a while that one of the signs not only of desperation on the part of the terrorists and the former regime elements but also, quite frankly, the cowardice of these forces is that, in opposition to six months ago, when many of the attacks — most of the attacks were against the coalition forces, we have seen over the past few months that they are starting to go after softer targets.  That is a concern of ours, but it also ought to demonstrate the desperation of these people because they decide, rather than attack coalition forces and Iraqi security forces, they’ll attack women that are working for the coalition, washing clothes to make their lives better.

Coalition Provisional Authority senior adviser Dan Senor, March 31, 2004

[General Thomas Metz] said that the recent run of gruesome suicide bombings, which have killed dozens of civilians, was a measure of desperation among the insurgents, who have put forward no political vision beyond expelling the Americans.

The New York Times., January 6, 2005

(Source)

Your Tax Dollars Pay for Illegal Propaganda

Ken AshfordRight Wing Punditry/IdiocyLeave a Comment

The rightwing douchebag pundit of the day award goes to Armstrong Williams:

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it’s something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers’ money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

By the way, what "liberal media"?

It’s a story similar to this, a few months ago:

Conyers also disclosed yesterday that Ashcroft spent more than $200,000 in taxpayer money on trips to 32 cities in August and September 2003 to drum up support for the Patriot Act.

A new Government Accountability Office study of the trips found that Ashcroft and his staff spent more than $77,000 for air transportation, according to congressional staffers who have been briefed on the findings. Nearly $40,000 was spent on hotels and other travel expenses, and U.S. attorney’s offices spent more than $80,000 for conference room rentals and other costs, the staff members said.

Justice officials told the GAO they did not keep track of some costs, including meetings between federal prosecutors and lawmakers about Patriot Act legislation. The report is scheduled to be released this week.

(Source)

What’s the point?   

The point is that this type of stuff is ILLEGAL.  Here’s the Treasury and Governmental Appropriations Act:

SEC. 623. No part of any funds appropriated in this or any other Act shall be used by an agency of the executive branch, other than for normal and recognized executive-legislative relationships, for publicity or propaganda purposes, and for the preparation, distribution or use of any kit, pamphlet, booklet, publication, radio, television or film presentation designed to support or defeat legislation pending before the Congress, except in presentation to the Congress itself. …

SEC. 626. No part of any appropriation contained in this or any other Act shall be used for publicity or propaganda purposes within the United States not heretofore authorized by the Congress.

Eight Questions (Plus One)

Ken AshfordIraqLeave a Comment

In an attempt to foster "brutally honest conversation" among hawks, Kevin Drum has 8 questions for Iraq war supporters (and in reality, it is more than eight. I suspect many hawks will dismiss these questions as "rhetorical", but I don’t think they are. Any takers? I would also appreciate links if you know of blogs who take on Kevin’s questions.

1. Considering how Iraq has gone so far, do you still think that American military power is a good way to promote tolerance and democracy in the Middle East? Has your position on this changed in any way over the past two years?

2. Shortly after 9/11, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson said publicly that they thought the attacks were well-deserved retribution from God in response to moral decay — as personified by gays, feminists, the ACLU, and NOW. Do you worry that Falwell and Robertson are identified by many as the face of the Republican party? Do you think President Bush has sufficiently distanced himself from them and their followers?

3. Is democracy promotion really one of your core concerns? Just how far are you willing to go to demonstrate your credibility on this subject? Note: President Bush’s policy toward either Pakistan or Saudi Arabia would be excellent case studies to bring this question to life.

4. On a related note, which do you think is more important to the Bush administration in the short term: preservation of a stable oil supply from the Middle East or spreading freedom and liberty throughout the region? Would you be interested in seeing the records of Dick Cheney’s 2001 energy task force to verify this? Please be extra honest with this question.

5. A substantial part of the Christian right opposes any compromise with Palestinians because they believe that Jewish domination of the region west of the Jordan River is a precondition for the Second Coming. Is this a reasonable belief? Or do you think these people qualify as loons who should be purged from the Republican party?

6. Yes or no: do you think we should invade Iran if it becomes clear — despite our best efforts — that they are continuing to build nuclear weapons? If this requires a military draft, would you be in favor?

7. If President Bush decides to substantially draw down our troop presence in Iraq after the January 30 elections, will you support that decision? Please answer this question prior to January 30.

8. Would you agree that people who accept Laurie Mylroie’s crackpot theories about Saddam Hussein’s involvement in 9/11 might be taking the threat of terrorism a little too seriously? What do you think should be done with them?

And I have one of my own:

9. If we are fighting a war against terrorism, do you think the United States should have direct involvement against ETA (the Basque terrorists in Spain)? Why or why not?

White House Distances Itself From Realities of War

Ken AshfordBush & Co., IraqLeave a Comment

I can only imagine what it must be like to receive a letter from the government stating that your son/daughter has been killed in combat.

But . . . it’s a necessary aspect of war.

Still . . . is it too much to ask of the President that he NOT sign these letter with a green felt-tip marker? Is it too much to ask that Rumsfeld personally sign these letters instead of using an automated machine?

A retired colonel weighs in.