Monday :: May 31, 2004

Makes A Man PROUD Ta Be 'Mer'kun!

by pessimist

Lately, there has been a lot of news about Republicans in trouble all over the nation. Before our conservative friends get all incensed that we critique their heroes for bad behavior, allow me to state that Democrats are not immune from this kind of bad behavior - they just seem to be too busy lately for THIS many stories about them to make the 'lie-b'ral' news.

That sort of male bovine excrement aside - as the party (currently) in power, shouldn't the GOP be setting a good example for the country to follow? Isn't that what leaders are supposed to do? Certainly, Bill Clinton's bad behavior with Monica inspired enough people to vote for Bush over Gore that it made the (s)election close enough to steal. Thus, through their leader's bad behavior, the Democrats lost what should have been a slam-dunk victory (Yes, Gore had his role in this loss as well, but not for reasons that apply to this particular post. We can talk about Al another time.)

Wasn't this the party that was going to bring responsibility and integrity back to the White House? From the examples presented here, that claim was about as truthful a statement as "I'm a compassionate conservative" "We know Saddam has WMD" and "I'm a uniter, not a divider."

Technology is certainly a wonderful thing in the right hands. Or is it - the Right's hands? What could we possibly call this one - America's No-So-Funniest Political Videos?

Private GOP video becomes controversial

A seemingly close governor's race takes a controversial turn. There's a growing debate over a video shown Thursday night at a GOP dinner. The Republican Party won't release it, but apparently the video portrays Governor Joe Kernan as a cartoon character. It also makes fun of the governor's eyebrows and shows a caricature of him with a bra on his head. State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Hogsett called it "sophomoric" and a disservice to Hoosier voters. "It ultimately, in the end, serves to degrade the entire process and degrade us all. So, today I am calling on Mitch Daniels to condemn this video and to call on his party to release the video." Daniels campaign spokesman Ellen Whitt says Daniels was unhappy with the tape and pointed out that he had no control over the content. She says Daniels does not plan to pressure the state Republican Party to release it to the public.

Of course not! What's that Eleventh Commandment again? Speak no evil, see no evil, hear no evil only when it involves Republicans? After all, only Republicans are fine, upstanding, morally honest members of the population while the Democrats are the craven criminal set belonging in the Underworld for eternity, right? Especially this Democratic Attorney General who DARED to indict a Republican!

County assessor indicted

A grand jury has indicted Maricopa County Assessor Kevin Ross, accusing him of using confidential taxpayer information for financial gain and then trying to cover it up. "My credibility and my integrity have been challenged. I have nothing to hide," Ross said. "If anyone thinks Iím not going to stand up and fight these charges with everything I have for as long as it takes, then they donít know me at all."

Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat, brought the indictment Thursday. Ross is charged with two counts of conflict of interest of a public officer and obstructing a criminal investigation, offenses that carry penalty ranges of probation to two years in prison and probation to 2 1/2 years in prison, respectively. The indictment alleges that Ross gave Gary Graham of Colonial Mortgage Co., a digital spreadsheet with the names and addresses of 15,000 taxpayers whose property tax rates have been frozen under Proposition 104, a voter-approved measure Ross pushed for in 2000. The county assessorís office compiled the information from taxpayers who applied for the benefit under the promise it would remain confidential, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges that Ross gave Graham the spreadsheet with the understanding that Graham would mail reverse mortgage solicitations to the listed taxpayers and Ross would get a commission for every reverse mortgage Graham got. The indictment alleges that Ross got wind of an investigation of him and told Graham on May 13 that "someone was trying to cause political problems" for him with the Proposition 104 list, "and that it would probably be best if that list did not exist."

"Defendant Kevin M. Ross also asked Gary Graham to act stupid if anyone asked him about the list, and to forget that he and Defendant Kevin M. Ross ever had a conversation," the indictment states.

"I can say without equivocation that I have never done anything Iím ashamed of during my eight years as Maricopa County Assessor," Ross said.

His only announced Republican opponent is property appraiser Keith Russell from Mesa. "Whenever youíre running, you hear rumors probably about your opponent," Russell said. "But I hadnít heard anything about an indictment." Russell said heís challenging Ross because the county assessor should have more knowledge and education about determining property values.

At least one Utah Republican understands. He now has more knowledge and education about values - even if it IS after the fact!

Sorensen plans to plead guilty in gas-theft case

Former Salt Lake County Auditor Craig Sorensen -- accused of stealing more than $10,000 worth of gasoline -- plans to plead guilty to a lesser charge and face the consequences, his attorney said Friday after Sorensen's first court appearance. "We're not putting up any excuses," attorney Wally Bugden said. "There are no excuses. It was wrong." Sorensen, a Republican who resigned this week and publicly admitted stealing gas, was charged Thursday with felony misuse of public money for allegedly filling up a non-county vehicle with his county gas card.

"I'm glad he's doing that and putting it behind him," said GOP County Councilman Marv Hendrickson. "If you do something wrong, you pay the piper and move on. . . . It's very unfortunate. Craig's a great guy. But none of us are without fault."

Sorensen is the only official so far to face a criminal charge in the scandal over misuse of Salt Lake County vehicles and gas cards.

The county's chief financial officer, Randy Allen, stepped down after admitting he twice towed his boat to Lake Powell with his county-owned Ford Explorer. And Greg Curtis, legal counsel to Mayor Nancy Workman and also House majority leader, has repaid nearly $800 in mileage reimbursements he received from the state while driving a county-provided SUV.

Must be a fine community full of moral and honest people! What? Who? Did what? To Whom? A COP???

Lawmaker to resign over sex solicitation

Springville Republican Rep. Calvin Bird says he will resign from his legislative seat after getting caught soliciting sex from a police decoy. On Sept. 30, Bird pulled over his vehicle at 1899 S. State St. and offered a female city police officer posing as a prostitute $40 for sex. He was ticketed and released. On April 12, Bird pleaded guilty and was placed on probation for a year and ordered to go through the city's "Johns Program." Friday, Bird said he would leave his legislative seat as soon as he clears up some health insurance issues. "I'm trying to write something up now," he said. "It's not coming easy. I brought a lot of grief to my wife, my family and the party. I just made a big mistake. I sure feel bad about it."

Yeah - you and Eddie Murphy, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and Hugh Grant!

Speaking of money changing hands, isn't this how they got Capone?

Neenah attorney pleads guilty to filing false tax return

The attorney who federal authorities say paid bribes to a veteran district attorney in return for favors on criminal and traffic cases for his clients pleaded guilty Tuesday to filing a false federal tax return. Neenah attorney Milton Schierland, 47, entered the plea and agreed to surrender his law license during an arraignment in U.S. District Court in Green Bay. Schierland cooperated with federal authorities in the investigation of former Winnebago County District Attorney Joe Paulus. Last month, Paulus, 44, pleaded guilty to taking more than $48,000 in bribes over a two-year period in exchange for reducing or dismissing 22 criminal traffic cases. Paulus was a Republican district attorney in Winnebago County for 14 years until he lost the September 2002 primary.

He wasn't the only one with his hand out!

Rowland must explain himself or resign

The time has come for Rowland to explain to the people of Connecticut the way out of this morass -- or to step aside, either by invoking Article XXII of the state Constitution or resigning. Rowland has received free clothes, free champagne, free cigars, free concert tickets, free flights and free hotel rooms. He's been allowed the use of the Republican Party's credit card. He's had his cottage at Bantam Lake in Litchfield County renovated at no cost, and a free hot tub has been installed there. He charged inflated rents, then an inflated sales price for his modest Washington, D.C., condominium.

Some of this he has denied -- only to admit later that he had lied. None of this reflects favorably on the chief executive officer of this state. It is at best unseemly. It is at worst wanton disregard for the people who voted for him, the people whom he governs, the legislators with whom he serves. Unhappily, anyone who expects Rowland to resign or step aside temporarily has another thing coming.

According to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, 70 percent of Connecticut residents say Rowland should resign; 67 percent disapprove of his handling of the job of governor; 84 percent say he is not honest and trustworthy. That's pretty damning.

The House Select Committee of Inquiry -- five Democrats and five Republicans -- is reviewing evidence for and against the impeachment of Republican Rowland. The committee has scheduled public testimony -- to begin with Rowland -- for June 7.

As governor, John G. Rowland served Connecticut well for three terms. These past months, however, he has been acting in Rowland's best interest, not the state's. It's time for Connecticut to move beyond this scandal. We reach this conclusion reluctantly. So it is with heavy heart that we say: Friend, thank you. But the time has come to put Connecticut's house in order or to close the door on what has been, until the recent revelations, a distinguished career of public service.

Isn't morality intended to include obeying the law? Or is that only for non-Republicans?

Soft-Money Group Promotes Ties to GOP Leaders Despite Warnings

In a bid to overcome GOP donors' reluctance to contribute large amounts of "soft money," the pro-Republican Leadership Forum has begun promoting its ties to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and other prominent party leaders. But Hastert's involvement -- along with that of Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), chairman of the Senate Republican Conference -- appears to run counter to a warning issued two years ago by the Federal Election Commission that the group was too closely linked to GOP lawmakers, according to campaign watchdog groups.

The Leadership Forum, along with Progress for America, the Club for Growth and the Republican Governors Association, is engaged in a hurried drive to try to catch up with the millions of dollars already raised and spent by pro-Democratic groups. Many corporations and wealthy individuals have shied away from contributing to these groups, known as "527s" for the section of the tax code governing their activities -- fearing they might violate campaign finance law. Even after the FEC's May 13 decision to put off adopting tough new regulations on soft-money fundraising and spending, some of these donors have held back.

Under the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law, any group financed, maintained, established or controlled by a national party or by federal elected officials is prohibited from raising and spending unregulated soft money from corporations, unions and wealthy people.

I tell you! It's getting to be so that you can only trust a Boy Scout anymore. What? Who? Did What? to a KID?

Oh! The Humanity!

Scout leader faces removal

A Binghamton [NY] Boy Scout leader has been charged with forcible touching and will be removed from his position. Stephen M. Sedlock, 40, of Clinton Street, the scoutmaster of Troop 30 in Binghamton's First Ward, faces a misdemeanor charge filed Thursday by the Binghamton Police Bureau. In November, Sedlock ran unsuccessfully on the Republican and Conservative tickets for a First District City Council seat, but was defeated by Democrat Anthony Massar.

In a 2002 story in the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Sedlock expressed support for a national Boy Scouts' plan to undertake criminal background checks of new adult volunteers. "I am kind of surprised it hasn't been done before," Sedlock said at the time.

Why didn't somebody warn us? Someone did?

Ashcroft Assailed on Terror Warning

Some allies of the Department of Homeland Security within the Bush administration and members of Congress criticized Attorney General John D. Ashcroft yesterday for issuing terrorist threat warnings at a news conference on Wednesday, contending he failed to coordinate the information with the White House and with Homeland Security, which has the job of releasing threat warnings.

Under the Homeland Security Act of 2002 and Bush administration rules, only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can publicly issue threat warnings, and they must be approved in a complex interagency process involving the White House. Administration officials sympathetic to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said he was not informed Ashcroft was going to characterize the threat in that way -- an assertion that Justice officials deny.

Earlier Wednesday, Ridge appeared on five news shows saying that although the prospect of a terrorist attack is significant, Americans should "go about living their lives and enjoying living in this country," as he said on CBS.

Yesterday, Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and a guardian of Ridge's turf within the administration, released a statement criticizing Ashcroft. "Dissemination by our government of sensitive terrorism warnings must be closely coordinated across our intelligence and law enforcement communities," Cox said. "In the Homeland Security Act, DHS was assigned the central coordinating role in this process. The absence of Secretary Ridge from yesterday's news conference held by the attorney general and the FBI director, and the conflicting public messages their separate public appearances delivered to the nation, suggests that the broad and close interagency consultation we expect, and which the law requires, did not take place in this case.

"The American public, state and local law enforcement, governors and mayors, and private sector officials with responsibility for critical infrastructure all deserve crystal clarity when it comes to terrorism threat advisories," Cox said.

That wasn't the warning I was expecting, but then nobody expects the Ashcroft Imposition! 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way' sure doesn't mean what it used to! But then, things were SO much better back when J. Edgar ran things!

F.B.I. Issues and Retracts Urgent Terrorism Bulletin

The F.B.I. issued an urgent bulletin to several cities on Friday that warned of the prospect of an imminent terrorist attack but retracted the alert hours later, after the intelligence proved unfounded, officials said. The alert went to law enforcement officials in two or three cities to warn of intelligence that indicated the prospect of an attack in the next 24 hours, officials said. Officials would not give the names of the cities.

A federal official in New York City, when asked about the warning, said he was unaware of the city's having received any such notification. A law enforcement official at another city, who insisted that he and the city not be named, said authorities there had received a call late in the day from the Federal Bureau of Investigation alerting them to the possibility of an "imminent" attack there. Later, however, the FBI called to withdraw the warning.

Late Friday, apparently in an effort to counter the perception of a split, Mr. Ashcroft and Mr. Ridge put out a joint statement saying that "we are working together" to deter terrorist attacks.Citing many high-profile events over the summer, the statement said, "Credible intelligence from multiple sources indicates that Al Qaeda plans to attempt an attack on the United States during this period."

The law enforcement official, citing recent questions about the credibility of the terrorist intelligence from the bureau, said, "It's getting harder and harder to defend them."

J. Edgar - call your office! Speaking of indefensible, ...

The Paper Trail - Did Cheney Okay a Deal?

TIME has obtained an internal Pentagon e-mail sent by an Army Corps of Engineers officialówhose name was blacked out by the Pentagonóthat raises questions about Cheney's arm's-length policy toward his old employer. Dated March 5, 2003, the e-mail says "action" on a multibillion-dollar Halliburton contract was "coordinated" with Cheney's office. The e-mail says Douglas Feith, a high-ranking Pentagon hawk, got the "authority to execute RIO," or Restore Iraqi Oil, from his boss, who is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. RIO is one of several large contracts the U.S. awarded to Halliburton last year.The e-mail says Feith approved arrangements for the contract "contingent on informing WH [White House] tomorrow. We anticipate no issues since action has been coordinated w VP's [Vice President's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton the contract, without seeking other bids. TIME located the e-mail among documents provided by Judicial Watch, a conservative watchdog group.

Cheney is linked to his old firm in at least one other way. His recently filed 2003 financial-disclosure form reveals that Halliburton last year invoked an insurance policy to indemnify Cheney for what could be steep legal bills "arising from his service" at the company. Past and present Halliburton execs face an array of potentially costly litigation, including multibillion-dollar asbestos claims.

Instant Karma's gonna get you, Dickie! Better stay on the good side of the Mrs., or else this could happen to you!

Bush dynasty ex-wife set to spill the beans

A new book on the Bush dynasty is set for release just six weeks before November's knife-edge presidential election. The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelley will have an initial print run of 500,000, and the main source is believed to be Sharon Bush, the ex-wife of Neil, President George W Bush's wayward brother. Kelley, whose unauthorised biographies of Frank Sinatra, Jackie Onassis and the British Royal Family have told tales of affairs, electric-shock treatment and more affairs, has turned her attention to America's first family. The book could be the most damaging yet for the President, with the publishers, Random House, promising it will "cause controversy".

There is precedent for controversy caused by the Republican Party, especially when it holds power. Remember these BLASTS from the past?

Haig Said Nixon Joked of Nuking Hill

President Richard M. Nixon jokingly threatened to drop a nuclear bomb on Capitol Hill in March 1974 as Congress was moving to impeach him over the Watergate scandal, according to transcripts of telephone conversations among his closest aides that were released yesterday. "I was told to get the football," White House Chief of Staff Alexander M. Haig Jr. told Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger less than five months before the president's forced resignation, during a conversation in which the two men exchanged stories about Nixon's increasingly erratic behavior. "What do you mean?" asked Kissinger, who had called Haig to express concern that the president might unwittingly unleash a Middle East war with his new, get-tough policy against Israel. "His black nuclear bag," replied Haig. "He is going to drop it on the Hill."

Sounds crazy, doesn't it? Even Henry the K thought so!

As the Watergate crisis deepened, Kissinger began to worry about Nixon's mental state. On October 11, 1973, according to the transcripts, he rejected a British request for a telephone conversation between the president and Prime Minister Edward Heath on the grounds that Nixon was in no condition to take the call. "Can we tell them no?" Kissinger said to his deputy, Brent Scowcroft. "When I talked to the president, he was loaded."

And then there is fine, moral, ubiquitously honest Henry Kissinger himself:

The transcripts include several episodes that appear at odds with Kissinger's version of events, such as his claim that Washington had nothing to do with the September 1973 military coup in Chile that toppled the democratically elected, leftist government of Salvador Allende. "We didn't do it," Kissinger told Nixon, "I mean we helped them. [unintelligible] created the conditions as great as possible." Peter Kornbluh, a Latin America specialist at the National Security Archive, said the passage appeared to mark an acknowledgment by Kissinger that U.S. policy paved the way for the coup that brought Augusto Pinochet to power. "It's diametrically opposed to the account he provides in his memoirs," Kornbluh said.

The transcripts show Nixon and Kissinger congratulating each other on the overthrow of "a pro-Communist . . . anti-American" government in Chile. The president agreed with Kissinger's assessment that the American press was guilty of "unbelievable, filthy hypocrisy" in expressing concern over Allende's overthrow while calling for the outlawing of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

What goes around, comes around, Hank! Heard about what happened to your formerly-unindicted Chilean co-conspirator the other day? Sure - he still has friends, but what has he done for them lately? Would YOUR friends support you like they are supporting Ralph Nader?

Nader draws donations from Bush's supporters

Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is receiving a little help from his friends ó and from George W. Bush's friends. Nearly 10 percent of contributors who have given Nader at least $250 have a history of supporting the Republican president, national GOP candidates or the party, according to computer-assisted review of financial records. Among the new crop of Nader donors: actor and former Nixon speechwriter Ben Stein, Florida frozen-food magnate Jeno Paulucci and Pennsylvania oil-company executive Terrence Jacobs. All have strong ties to the GOP.Democrats have warned that Nader's entry in the race could help Bush by drawing votes from Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. Some analysts say Nader's third-party candidacy four years ago siphoned off Democratic voters and cost Al Gore the White House.

"Republicans are well aware that Ralph Nader played a spoiler role in the 2000 election. And there is no reason why they wouldn't want to encourage and help him do so again in 2004," said Jano Cabrera, a spokesman for the Democrat National Committee.

A spokesman for the Bush campaign declined to comment on Nader. "We're focused on our campaign. We're focused on generating support for Republican candidates," said Danny Diaz, referring inquiries about Nader fund raising to his donors.

In 2000, Nader was on the ballot in 43 states, including Washington and the District of Columbia, and received 2.7 percent of the vote nationwide. Experts say he was a deciding factor in two states, Florida and New Hampshire, both of which Bush won by razor-thin margins.

Republicans who have given to Nader offered a variety of explanations, including a desire to provide voters a choice in November and to highlight the consumer advocate's issues. Some donors said they were miffed by efforts, primarily Democrats, to keep Nader off the ballot.None said their donations were designed to boost Bush's chances in the fall. "Did I give $1,000 to Ralph Nader because I hope and believe he will be president? No," California business executive Charles Ashman said. "I don't believe that any more than Ralph Nader does. But I was offended to see this campaign to squelch him from being a candidate."

Ashman said he remains a staunch Republican. He contributed $2,000 to Bush's campaign, the maximum allowed for the general election, according to records. "I proudly made a contribution to the re-election of President Bush because I support him 100 percent," he said. "I hope and believe he will be re-elected."

As for Ben Stein's money, the television personality and outspoken advocate for the Republican Party has contributed $500 to Nader and $1,000 to Bush this year. Records indicate that Stein over the past decade has given exclusively to the GOP. Stein agreed to make TV ads for Bush during the 2000 presidential race, though they never aired. He did not return calls.

Continues here.

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