Kentucky governor in pardon gambit
Kentucky Gov. Ernie appears to be unwilling to let Ohio take the lead as most corrupt state government in the USA. BluegrassReport.org reports that Fletcher (R), "in one of the more audacious displays of political grandstanding, in a setting full of cheering and clapping political supporters, announced that he was thumbing his nose at the Kentucky criminal justice system, announced he was issuing 'blanket' pardons (calling it amnesty, but Section 77 of the state constitution does not contain the term 'amnesty', only 'pardon') to anyone who 'might have violated' state's Merit System laws. Yes, he left it that open and vague.
"Sadly, Fletcher referred to the acts which have resulted in more than a dozen indictments as nothing more than 'noodling' which is the term for catching fish without bait, which according to him calls for a punishment equal to what these crimes would result in if convicted."
Fletcher, who also is under investigation for alleged corrupt hiring practices, said he will not pardon himself and will appear before the grand jury Tuesday, but he stated that he would not speak to the jury. "One can only conclude he is intending to invoke the 5th Amendment," BluegrassReport.org suggested.
The alleged violations of the state personnel law are misdemeanors, but the attorney general also is probing allegations of witness tampering and evidence tampering, which are felonies.
Ironically, the blogger noted, Fletcher and other Republicans in 2003 criticized then-Gov. Paul Patton (D) for pardoning four campaign workers and a condemned murderer.
BluegrassReport.org noted that Fletcher's pardoning everyone in this scandal but himself might backfire on him, because targeted officials who had previously invoked 5th Amendment will now be compelled to testify before the grand jury and will not be allowed to plead the 5th since they cannot face criminal charges. "They would then be compelled to tell the whole truth and should they lie, [Attorney General] Stumbo would go after them for perjury and if they refuse to testify, he'll get them on contempt and possibly obstruction of justice."
The Democrat-majority House reportedly is preparing for possible impeachment of the governor.
Army demotes Halliburton whistleblower
The New York Times reports that a top Army contracting official who criticized a large, noncompetitive contract with the Halliburton Company for work in Iraq was demoted Saturday for what the Army called poor job performance. The official, Bunnatine H. Greenhouse, has worked in military procurement for 20 years and for the past several years had been the chief overseer of contracts at the Army Corps of Engineers, the agency that has managed much of the reconstruction work in Iraq. Ms. Greenhouse's lawyer, Michael Kohn, called the action an "obvious reprisal" for the strong objections she raised in 2003 to a series of corps decisions involving the Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root, which has garnered more than $10 billion for work in Iraq. Known as a stickler for the rules on competition, Ms. Greenhouse initially received stellar performance ratings, Mr. Kohn said. But her reviews became negative at roughly the time she began objecting to decisions she saw as improperly favoring Kellogg Brown & Root, he said.
Dick Cheney led Halliburton, which is based in Texas, before he became vice president.
See the rest.
Capitol Hill Blue reports:
While President George W. Bush travels around the country in a last-ditch effort to sell his Iraq war, White House aides scramble frantically behind the scenes to hide the dark mood of an increasingly angry leader who unleashes obscenity-filled outbursts at anyone who dares disagree with him.
“I’m not meeting again with that g*dd**ned bitch,” Bush screamed at aides who suggested he meet again with Cindy Sheehan, the war-protesting mother whose son died in Iraq. “She can go to hell as far as I’m concerned!”
Bush flashes the bird, something aides say he does often and has been doing since his days as governor of Texas. Bush, administration aides confide, frequently explodes into tirades over those who protest the war, calling them “motherf***ing traitors.” He reportedly was so upset over Veterans of Foreign Wars members who wore “bulls**t protectors” over their ears during his speech to their annual convention that he told aides to “tell those VFW assholes that I’ll never speak to them again is they can’t keep their members under control.”
White House insiders say Bush is growing increasingly bitter over mounting opposition to his war in Iraq. Polls show a vast majority of Americans now believe the war was a mistake and most doubt the President’s honesty.
“Who gives a flying f**k what the polls say,” he screamed at a recent strategy meeting. “I’m the President and I’ll do whatever I g*dd**ned please. They don’t know s**t.
"I almost feel sorry for [President Bush] because he can't come out of his ranch without going over us in his helicopter," Cindy Sheehan said at her last big rally Saturday at Camp Casey 2 near Bush's house outside Crawford, Texas. "He doesn't want to come down the road because he knows if he does he'll have to see thousands of us who disagree with him," she said.
In remarks to a crowd estimated at 2,000 that broiled despite a tent on the errant acre adjoining Bush's estate on Prairie Chapel Road, Sheehan said she came to Crawford to ask Bush "what noble cause" her son, Casey died for in Iraq in 2004, but she stayed "for every child in this world." She noted that Bush famously told the rest of the world, "If you're not with us, you're against us." She got a standing ovation when she replied, "We'll, Mr. President, we're against you.
While Bush supporters drove past on the road outside, taunting Sheehan and her supporters with vile epithets, the devout Roman Catholic mother from Vacaville, Calif., said, "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more. And I want to tell the pro-war people and the pro-killing people that have smeared me and have smeared my family, these alleged Christians, that we know our Lord doesn't stand for killing. I know my Lord doesn't. And yet they want to say we're not moral enough...."
See the rest of our report from Crawford.
James Wolcott explores what the Iraq War cheerleaders have wrought.
Innocent men still held at Gitmo
Five Muslim men from China who have been held by the US at Guantánamo Bay for three years are still there, despite the fact that a US Combatant Status Review Tribunal has concluded that they're not enemy combatants and were seized by Pakistani forces -- and then turned over to the United States -- in error, Salon reported.
Government lawyers said that the United States has moved the men to a less restrictive part of Guantánamo, but that it still isn't setting them free. The US won't send them back to China for fear that they'd face religious persecution there, and it says it hasn't been able to find anyone else to take them in. As the Washington Post reports, attorneys for the men argued that the United States must set them free now, and that putting them into a less restrictive area at Guantánamo simply amounts to "fluffing the pillows" when they're still locked up behind a fence. The men could be released into the United States population as seekers of political asylum, attorneys said.
The government isn't interested. Although U.S. District Judge James Robertson expressed some discomfort with the "big picture" -- that is, that innocent men are being held for no reason -- he said he wants to think further before making any decision. The government? Having exposed the men to more dangerous elements within Guantánamo, it wants to keep them locked up there until it can find some other country to take them. "We can continue to hold them ... for as long as it takes," the Justice Department's Terry Henry told the court Thursday.
Abu Ghraib general lambastes Bush administration
Marjorie Cohn writes at Truthout:
Former Army Reserve Brigadier General Janis Karpinski was in charge of the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq when the now famous torture photographs were taken in fall of 2003. She was reprimanded and demoted to Colonel for her failure to properly supervise the prison guards. Karpinski is the highest ranking officer to be sanctioned for the mistreatment of prisoners. On August 3, 2005, I interviewed Janis Karpinski. In the most comprehensive public statement she has made to date, Karpinski deconstructs the entire United States military operation in Iraq with some astonishing revelations.
See the report and the text of the interview with Karpinski, where Karpinski, who was busted to colonel as the highest-ranking scapegoat for the abuses, tells how Abu Ghraib went wrong.
They hate us for our freedoms ...
Who knew "they" were the American Legion? (From DailyKos.)
Billmon notes the discrepancy in the Legion's current position that "Public protests against the war here at home while our young men and women are in harm's way on the other side of the globe only provide aid and comfort to our enemies."
Lord's High Executioner Robertson has second, third thoughts on Chavez 'hit'
On the morning of August 24, Pat Robertson falsely claimed that he never called for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, saying that his August 22 remarks were "misinterpreted."
On the afternoon of August 24, Robertson issued a press release in which he claimed that his assassination comments were "adlibbed" out of frustration, suggesting they were not representative of his true thinking.
So, which is it? Did Robertson "adlib" the assassination line, or did he never say it? What will his next explanation be? And is Robertson now admitting he lied earlier in the day in his statement on The 700 Club ? Will he apologize to the news organizations he falsely accused of misinterpreting his unambiguous call for Chavez's assassination?
Who served in the military and who didn't?
AwolBush.com's guide to chickenhawks.
Hypocrites and Liars
By Cindy Sheehan
The media are wrong. The people who have come out to Camp Casey to help coordinate the press and events with me are not putting words in my mouth, they are taking words out of my mouth. I have been known for sometime as a person who speaks the truth and speaks it strongly. I have always called a liar a liar and a hypocrite a hypocrite. Now I am urged to use softer language to appeal to a wider audience. Why do my friends at Camp Casey think they are there? Why did such a big movement occur from such a small action on August 6, 2005?
I haven't had much time to analyze the Camp Casey phenomena. I just read that I gave 250 interviews in less than a weeks time. I believe it. I would go to bed with a raw throat every night. I got pretty tired of answering some questions, like: 'What do you want to say to the President?' and 'Do you really think he will meet with you?' However, since my mom has been sick I have had a chance to step back and ponder the flood gates that I opened in Crawford, TX.
See the rest
NYT boots Clinton blame
The New York Times is supposed to be one of the most carefully reported and edited newspapers in the world. So what are we supposed to think when the Times's Eric Lichtblau, in "State Dept. Says It Warned About bin Laden in 1996," ends his report:
"The thinking was that [bin Laden] was in Afghanistan, and he was dangerous, but because he was there, we had a better chance to kill him," Mr. Scheuer [who from 1996 to 1999 led the CIA's unit that tracked bin Laden] said. "But at the end of the day, we settled for the worst possibility - he was there and we didn't do anything."
Seeing the Forest notes that the Times (and Scheuer) accidently forgot about this from August 1998:
Clinton strikes terrorist bases
THE United States launched cruise missile strikes in Afghanistan and Sudan yesterday against centres allegedly linked with the terrorist bombings of two American embassies.
It was in all the papers -- even the New York Times. And, Seeing the Forest adds, don't forget that the Republicans reacted to Clinton attacking bin Laden by accusing him of doing it for political "wag the dog" reasons. (Also here.)
GOP foreign policy amnesia
Kos goes into the memory hole:
Quotes from when Clinton committed troops to Bosnia:
"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)
"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99
"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)
"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush
"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)
"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)
"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)
Kos concludes: "Funny thing is, we won that war without a single killed in action."
Tax breaks for rich murderers
In his review of "Death by a Thousand Cuts: The Fight over Taxing Inherited Wealth" by Michael Graetz and Ian Shapiro, David Runciman writes in the London Review of Books:
Death by a Thousand Cuts ... tells the story of the campaign to repeal the estate tax (what we would call inheritance tax) in the United States, which culminated in the inclusion of the measure in George Bush’s massive tax-cutting legislation of 2001. Don’t let that put you off. This is one of the most interesting books about politics, and power, and the way the world is going, that you are ever likely to read.
What makes it so fascinating is that it is a mystery story. The mystery is this: how did the repeal of a tax that applies only to the richest 2 per cent of American families become a cause so popular and so powerful that it steamrollered all the opposition placed in its way? The estate tax was the most progressive part of the American tax system, because it rested on the principle that the wealthy few, if they were not willing to bequeath their money to charity, should not be permitted to pass it all directly to their heirs. It had been on the statute book for nearly a hundred years, and throughout that time it had been generally assumed that there was widespread support for the idea that unearned wealth passed between the generations, creating pockets of aristocratic privilege, was not part of the American dream. Because it was a tax that so obviously took from the relatively few to relieve the burden on the very many, there seemed no possibility that a sufficiently large or durable coalition of interests could ever be formed to get rid of it. Yet during the 1990s just such a coalition came into being, and not only did it hold together, it grew to the point where the clamour for estate tax repeal seemed irresistible. What Graetz and Shapiro want to know is how the architects of repeal got so many different people on board. How they stopped them falling out among themselves, once it became clear that they could not possibly have the same interests in common. And why the hell the Democratic Party didn’t do more to stop them. ...
See the rest. Link
David Morse explores why the US has failed to address the genocide in the Darfur region of western Sudan. Hint: Seismographic studies in April and May doubled Sudan's estimated oil reserves. June saw a flurry of contracts being signed with oil companies from China, France, Britain, India and Japan. US companies can get a piece of the action only if trade sanctions imposed in 1997 are removed. See the whole article.
ThinkProgress.org counts 21 Bush administration officials implicated so far in the leaking of former undercover CIA operative Valerie Plame.
Scott Shields of MyDD.com notes the sampling of bad news for the GOP running on the wires this afternoon.
Nowadays, when you go down to the neighborhood pharmacy for some cold remedy to take care of your sniffles, you'd better be ready to flash a photo ID and sign in so the drug cops can keep track of you, because pseudoephedrine, the decongestant used in many cold remedies such as Sudafed, is now a controlled substance in Texas and more than 30 other states.
Thanks to the people who brought you the PATRIOT Act, you can only buy two packages of cold meds after going through the rigamarole, but go ahead and stock up while you can because the paperwork and legal hazards the authorities are putting in the way of retailers might make it harder to find cold medications when you need it.
According to the Houston Chronicle, convenience stores and other retailers that sell cold medication in Texas must now apply for a certificate of authority from the Texas Department of State Health Services to sell pseudoephedrine-based pills. Karen Tannert, the agency's chief pharmacist, told the newspaper the state has left it up to wholesalers to make retailers aware of the new law. Only 300 of the state's 35,000 estimated retailers have applied for the certification as of early August.
"Judging from what we're hearing, many will opt not to carry the medication because they feel the profit from the sale is not worth the hassle," she said.
The state put the limits on pseudoephedrine and ephedrine sales because the decongestant can be used as an ingredient in homemade methamphetamines.
Hurdles such as making it more difficult to buy decongestants might seem like a small price to pay to control the reported meth scourge that is laying waste to the Middle West, if the popular press is to be believed, but experience tells us that if authority can be abused, it will be abused. And sure enough, it is. This past spring, federal agents in Georgia arrested 49 convenience store clerks, most of them Indian immigrants, on felony charges that they sold products that they should have known were used to manufacture methamphetamine.
One of the government's informants reportedly told a clerk of Indian descent that he needed the cold tablets to complete a "cook," a slang term for making methamphetamine. The informant, a convicted thief and forger, mistakenly identified an Indian-American couple as clerks at convenience store in Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., when they actually own a couple stores about 35 miles away in Tennessee.
Malvika Patel was arrested and jailed for four days before posting $10,000 bail. Federal prosecutors dismissed the charges six weeks later, but only after Mrs. Patel's lawyer presented records that proved she was picking up her son at a day-care center 35 miles away at the time the "cookable" cold tablets were being sold.
Many of the clerks have limited command of English, and one of them, when asked how he would translate the phrase "finish my cook up," replied, "I would have thought that meant a barbecue."
(I grew up in Iowa, in the Heartland of Meth Manufacture, and I wouldn't have known what a "cook" was, either.)
Among the products that clerks are supposed to watch out for nowadays because they are used to prepare meth are: lye, matches, lantern fuel, household ammonia, baking soda, table and rock salt, iodine, antifreeze, brake fluid, engine starter, gun scrubber, MSM (an ingredient often combined with glucosamine and chondroitin in over-the-counter, nonprescription healthy joint tablets), kitty litter, coffee filters, aluminum foil, udder cream, propane tanks, funnels and rubber tubing.
The Patels are still in the convenience-store business, but they have become more cautious in what they sell.
"We are losing business, losing so much business," Malvika Patel told the Fulton County Daily Report. "I can say that we are afraid to sell anything.
"If somebody is planning for a barbecue, they are taking all these things together," she said. In forcing store owners, through investigations such as Operation Meth Merchant, to police legal sales, she said, "we have to make customers mad at us. We are afraid how to do business."
ABC News Anchor Peter Jennings died Sunday at his home in New York City. He was 67. On April 5, he took his leave from the anchor's desk, announcing he had been diagnosed with lung cancer. (See ABC report.)
See tributes by Dean Baker at MaxSpeak, Dennis Perrin and Al Tompkins.