Saturday, December 31, 2005

U.S. Planning Strike on Iran

The Jerusalem Post is picking up the story reported in Germany's Der Spiegal a few days ago.

The United States government reportedly began coordinating with NATO its plans for a possible military attack against Iran.

The German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel collected various reports from the German media indicating that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are examining the prospects of such a strike.

According to the report, CIA Director Porter Goss, in his last visit to Turkey on December 12, requested Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to provide military bases to the United States in 2006 from where they would be able to launch an assault.

The German news agency DDP also noted that countries neighboring Iran, such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Oman, and Pakistan were also updated regarding the supposed plan. American sources sent to those countries apparently mentioned an aerial attack as a possibility, but did not provide a time frame for the operation.

Although Der Spiegel could not say that these plans were concrete, they did note that according to a January 2005 New Yorker report American forces had entered Iran in 2005 in order to mark possible targets for an aerial assault.

The Hollywood Economist's 2006 Forecast

(Photo: "Hollywood You Marry Me" - oil on canvas by Tony Peters)

Ed J. Epstein gives his predictions for The New Year in LaLaLand.

Here is the synopsis:

Before the invasion of television, the big screen provided 100 percent of the studios' revenues. Now it is 14.4%. The small screen (TV's, PC's, DVD's, iPods) provides 85.6%.

Hollywood's celebrity culture remains rooted in nostalgia for the big screen, yet the corporate owners have realized that the business is about creating intellectual properties—a movie, TV series, plug-in toys + games—that can be sold or licensed for personal entertainment in a raft of different forms and markets.

The home entertainment explosion will be aided by the following events:

1. The success of Google's Wi-Fi experiment in San Francisco.

A free Wi-Fi network means the studios no longer need to rely on cable operators, local TV stations, or telcos to have a pipeline into homes. They could directly rent any movie to consumers and bill their credit card without paying a cut to anyone.

2. The further collapse of the video window.

The window between the theatrical release and the DVD release can be expected to further shrink, if not disappear entirely. As a result, more and more people will choose to wait for the DVD instead of going to the theatre. This will surely result in bankruptcy for many theatres.

3. The proliferation of digital video recorders.

A plethora of personal entertainment can be watched whenever the viewer wants to, without commercial interruptions, will take a huge chunk out of the "clock" of potential movie-goers.

4. The Blu-Ray DVD.

5. The mandated digital conversion of television.

100 Things "We" Didn't Know This Time Last Year

A list from the BBC.

A few selections...

6. WD-40 dissolves cocaine - it has been used by a pub landlord to prevent drug-taking in his pub's toilets.

7. Baboons can tell the difference between English and French. Zoo keepers at Port Lympne wild animal park in Kent are having to learn French to communicate with the baboons which had been transferred from Paris zoo.

8. Devout Orthodox Jews
are three times as likely to jaywalk as other people, according to an Israeli survey reported in the New Scientist. The researchers say it's possibly because religious people have less fear of death [or possibly the avoidance of electronic devices on the sabbath].

9. The energy used to build an average Victorian terrace house would be enough to send a car round the Earth five times, says English Heritage.

10. Humans can be born suffering from a rare condition known as "sirenomelia" or "mermaid syndrome", in which the legs are fused together to resemble the tail of a fish.

11. One in 10 Europeans is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.

41. Tactically, the best Monopoly properties to buy are the orange ones: Vine Street, Marlborough Street and Bow Street.

54. Deep Throat is reportedly the most profitable film ever. It was made for $25,000 (£13,700) and has grossed more than $600m.

63. It takes less energy to import a tomato from Spain than to grow them in this country because of the artificial heat needed, according to Defra.

92. You are 176 times more likely to be murdered than to win the National Lottery.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Spying on the US Security State

Countermeasures for US Citizens

"...The first and most important countermeasure is to get off your lazy behind and become a responsible US citizen. Instead of being fed the news, hunt it down yourself..."

List of websites mentioned in the article:

Defense related associations:

Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA)
Association of the United States Army (AUSA)
The Navy League
Old Crows
Association of Former Intelligence Officials (AFIO)

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Association (AUVA)

Press Action Names LRC Website of the Year

The PR Notebook

CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson offers The 2005 Top Ten Tactics to Influence Negative News:

1. "It's old news"

News reporters hate to hear that their story is "old news." It makes them want to drop the subject like a hot potato. So when a news reporter calls you about a potentially negative story — whatever it is — just say "it's old news" even if it's not.

Useful phrases:
"There's nothing new here..."
"We just keep scratchin' our heads tryin' to figure out what's new here..."
"This has all been widely reported before..."

Click here for complete list.

One favourite that is noticeably missing is the ubiquitous "so-and-so did it; therefore, it is okay." The two most common politicians used lately to justify subsequent actions appear to be Clinton and Lincoln. Logical fallacies of the argumentum ad antiquitatem (even of the opposite political party) and the argumentum ad verecundium variety.

The Dismal Economics of a Lower East Side Cafe

Or Bitter Brew: I Opened a Charming Neighbourhood Coffee Shop. Then it Destroyed My Life.

As Anthony Bourdain via Michael Idov reminds us: "The most dangerous species of owner ... is the one who gets into the business for love."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

16 Yr. Old Runs Off to Baghdad

A Fort Lauderdale teen decided to spend Christmas vacation in Iraq to practice "immersion journalism" without a word to his parents.

He spent $900 on a flight, a stop in Lebanon, another in Kuwait, $250 in cab fare, nervous moments on the streets of Baghdad, fumbled for words in Arabic to order a meal, announced himself at the Associated Press office ready for duty, and was delivered to the US embassy by the 101st Airbourne.

More Peace, Less War

Peace on Earth? Increasingly, Yes.

Seen through the eyes of the media, the world appears an evermore dangerous place. Iraq is sliding toward civil war, the slaughter in Darfur appears unending, violent insurgencies are brewing in Thailand and a dozen other countries, and terrorism strikes again in Bali. It is not surprising that most people believe global violence is increasing.

However, most people, including many leading policymakers and scholars, are wrong. The reality is that, since the end of the Cold War, armed conflict and nearly all other forms of political violence have decreased. The world is far more peaceful than it was...

The Hubris of Geostrategy

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Corrupt Lobbyist Ready To Plea

Jack Abramoff, the corrupt lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, according to The New York Times.

Mr. Abramoff is known to have extensive knowledge of widespread corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members from both political parties. One participant described him as a "unique resource."

The talks most probably will conclude before Jan. 9, when Mr. Abramoff is scheduled to stand trial in Miami in a separate prosecution.

The investigation began as a limited inquiry into $82 million of Indian casino lobbying by Mr. Abramoff and his closest partner, Michael Scanlon, but has broadened into a far-reaching corruption investigation of Republican and Democrat lawmakers and aides suspected of accepting favors in exchange for legislative work.

The top recipient of contributions from Abramoff’s tribal clients and lobbying associates was Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), who received $141,590, according to The Washington Post. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) was second with $128,000.

Update: A Washington Post article on The Fast Rise and Steep Fall of Jack Abramoff. One of Abramoff's lawyers is quoted as saying to former Senator Alan Simpson: "There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down."

What did the President know and when did he admit it?

The following is a quote from Remarks by the President in a Conversation on the USA P.A.T.R.I.O.T Act at Kleinshans Music Hall in Buffalo, New York on April 20th, 2004:

"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Please try to reconcile this quote with what the President acknowledged following The New York Times story on the secret eavesdropping program. And the new report that NSA officials say domestic calls were tapped as well.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Reason's Victory

Rodney Stark, University Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, has a new book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. In it, Stark suggests that elements within Christianity actually gave rise not only to visions of reason and progress, but also to the evolution of capitalism.

In a review for the American Enterprise Institute Magazine, Kate Campaigne writes:

"Stark begins by providing the essentials of Christian thought and illustrating its differences from other religions. Thanks to its core tenet of freedom, ingenuity, innovation, and progress were encouraged. Thanks to its reliance on forward thinking, Christians were able to see a brighter future full of possibilities. And thanks to the Christian belief in a just God, mortals understood that their actions had consequences and would be judged. Thus, Christians have a reason to move forward: Having been given the freedom to choose their own paths, they are also given the responsibility to choose well."

Campaigne continues:

"Moreover, Stark explains how capitalism is compatible with Christian doctrine. Capitalism requires secure private property, free, uncoerced labor, and free markets. It also encourages an element of voluntary risk, and such risk is possible only with freedom. Human beings are given the opportunity to make choices, use their reason, and seek solutions. A human being can be a human being under the capitalist system. He can create relationships, test them, stop them when they do not work, generate growth when they do, and receive something from his investment of time and work. A person has intellectual capital to invest and the possibility of return and growth. In contrast, socialism offers no opportunity to give (no one owns anything substantive), receive, or produce. Socialism causes people to hoard goods rather than use them."

For scholars who are familiar with this line of thought, they will also be interested in stark's defense of the "dark" ages as not so dreary and unenlightened after all.

He recently touched on this aspect of the book in an interview from World Magazine:

But a lot of us learned that Europe fell into the "Dark Ages." How did that historical understanding originate, and what's wrong with it?

STARK: The Dark Ages have finally been recognized as a hoax perpetrated by anti-religious and bitterly anti-Catholic, 18th-century intellectuals who were determined to assert their cultural superiority and who boosted their claim by denigrating the Christian past—as Gibbon put it in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, after Rome came the "triumph of barbarism and religion." In the past few years even encyclopedias and dictionaries have begun to acknowledge that it was all a lie, that the Dark Ages never were. This always should have been obvious since by the end of the so-called Dark Ages, European science and technology had far exceeded that of Rome and Greece, and all the rest of the world, for that matter.

WORLD: Could you be specific? What were some of the "Dark Ages" innovations that show the folly of considering Greek and Roman culture the apex of civilization until recent times?

STARK: How about the perfection and widespread use of waterwheels, windmills, and pumps, the invention of the compass, stirrups, the crossbow, canons, effective horse harnesses, eyeglasses, clocks, chimneys, violins, double-entry bookkeeping, and insurance? This list doesn't begin to do justice to this era that historians of science now refer to as an age of remarkable innovation and discovery.

Perhaps the most revealing instance involves the "story" that in order to gain backing for his great voyage west, Columbus had to struggle against ignorant and superstitious churchmen who were certain that the earth was flat. Truth was that all educated Europeans, including bishops and cardinals, knew the earth was round...

See also Thomas E. Woods Jr.'s How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (2005) and The Church and Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy (2005).

The Return of Knut Hamsun

In From The Cold

A chronicle of the life and literary development of Knut Hamsun in The New Yorker by Jeffrey Frank.

An online biography. A collection of photos.

And, if one hasn't read it already, Paul Auster's essay on the Art of Hunger.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Feds Give Arizona Ultimatum: Teach English to Illegal Aliens or Pay $500k a Day

And, if you still don't comply, we'll bump it up to $1 million a day, and then $1.5 million a day (oh, and even if they can't speak english, give them a diploma anyway)...

Deadline Set for English Funding

A federal judge on Friday gave the state 15 days after the legislative session begins in January to finally comply with his order to properly fund English-learner programs or face fines of $500,000 per day.

The judge also ruled that English learners do not have to pass Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards to receive high school diplomas. The class of 2006 includes about 4,000 English learners, and about 1,400 failed at least one portion of AIMS on their first three tries.

U.S. District Judge Raner Collins’ order makes it clear he is running out of patience with lawmakers: The $500,000 daily penalty starts if there is no resolution by Jan. 24. Failure to act by Feb. 23 would boost the penalty to $1 million a day, and the daily penalty would bump to $1.5 million one month after that.

Read about another denial of states rights in The East Valley Tribune.

"We have to Spy on you to protect your civil liberties"

George Bush admitted that he had personally authorized a secret eavesdropping program in the U.S. more than 30 times. "This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security," he said in his weekly radio address delivered live from the White House.

"The American people expect me to do everything in my power, under our laws and constitution, to protect them and their civil liberties and that is exactly what I will continue to do as long as I am president of the US."

Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Friday said the NSA program was inappropriate and he promised hearings soon.

James Bamford, author of two books on the National Security Agency, said the program could be problematic because it bypasses a special court set up by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to authorize eavesdropping on suspected terrorists.

"I didn't hear him specify any legal right, except his right as president, which in a democracy doesn't make much sense," Bamford said in an interview. "Today, what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law - which is illegal."

"I tell you, he's President George Bush, not King George Bush. This is not the system of government we have and that we fought for," Senator Russell Feingold, D-Wis., told The Associated Press.

Susan Low Bloch, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University Law Center, said the president needs authorisation from Congress for this kind of activity.

"He's taking a hugely expansive interpretation of the Constitution and the president's powers under the Constitution," she said.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Agents Visit Student after Library Request for Mao's Red Book

A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."

Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.

Read the whole story at The Standard-Times.

Update: The Standard-Times is now reporting that the story was a hoax. However, now several people are wondering why the newspaper won't name the student leaving everyone with more questions than answers.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Patriot Act Renewal Blocked in Senate

A group of U.S. senators, demanding increased protection of civil liberties, defied President George W. Bush on Friday by blocking renewal of the USA Patriot Act.

List of sixteen provisions set to expire on Dec. 31st if not renewed by Congress.

Bush Authorized NSA to Spy on Americans

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pentagon: We Spied, But Now We'll Delete It

"We held onto things that should have been expunged because they weren't a threat," the official, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.

The Pentagon has built a massive security database to help protect U.S. military bases and troops that includes unwarranted information on Iraq war opponents and peace activists in the United States, a defense official said on Wednesday.

The official said the database included police reports and law enforcement tips in a legitimate domestic security effort, but that it had mistakenly swept up and kept information on people who were not threats to launch terror attacks.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Psychological Warfare Bang For Your Tax Buck

The Pentagon plans to spend $300 million for a global psychological warfare operation placing pro-American messages in foreign media outlets without disclosing the US government as the source.

Three contractors, SYColeman, Lincoln Group, and Science Applications International Corp. will receive $100 million each for "media approach planning, prototype product development, commercial quality product development, product distribution and dissemination, and media effects analysis."

According to the USA Today, the program will operate throughout the world, including in allied nations and in countries where the United States is not involved in armed conflict.

For an historical look at US government interference in the "free press" see Operation Mockingbird or the Church Committee investigation where the Congressional report in 1976 stated:

"The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets."

Church stated it cost American taxpayers, at the time, an estimated $265 million to misinform the world.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

NBC: Pentagon Spying On Anti-War Activists

The Pentagon has a secret database that indicates the US military is collecting information on Americans who oppose the Iraq war and may be also monitoring peace demonstrations, NBC reported Tuesday.

The database, obtained by the network, lists 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the United States over a 10-month period and includes four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, some aimed at military recruiting, NBC's Nightly News said.

The network said the document was the first inside look at how the Pentagon has stepped up intelligence collection in the United States since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

The report quoted what it said was a secret briefing document as concluding: "We have noted increased communication between protest groups using the Internet," but not a "significant connection" between incidents.

You Are Paying A Federal Tax You Dont Have To, The Government Knows It, Has Said So Repeatedly, Yet Still Collects It

You are also entitled to a refund, but you'll probably never get one either.

Cellphone ruling could mean billions in tax refunds

Phone customers are due $9 billion in tax refunds and a 3% cut in wireless phone and long-distance bills, according to a series of federal court decisions.

But the federal government continues to collect the tax and requires so much paperwork for refunds that only big corporations are likely to benefit.

On Friday, a court in Washington, D.C., became the third federal appeals court since May to void the tax. Two other federal appeals courts, covering seven states, have ruled the tax unlawful, and cases are pending elsewhere in the nation's 13 appeals courts. In all, nine federal courts have ruled that a 3% federal tax doesn't apply to phone calls that are priced only by how long a person talks — not by how far the call travels.

That means cellular phones, Internet phone service and about one-third of long distance calls would be exempt from the tax. The wireless industry estimates that consumers would save about $4.5 billion a year. Taxpayers also would be due three years of refunds — about $9 billion.

The cellphone industry wants the tax removed immediately from bills and the money refunded. "Our customers shouldn't be paying a tax that courts have repeatedly found illegal," says Steve Largent, president of CTIA-The Wireless Association and a former Republican congressman...

"It sounds absurd, but the law is written so that the government can keep collecting a tax even though it's been ruled unlawful," says Hank Levine, a lawyer representing businesses that challenged the tax. Federal law makes it nearly impossible to get an injunction to stop the government from collecting a tax, he says.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The End of Free Speech in the UK

Home Front
By Philip Johnston

How free speech was quietly abolished

Sometimes, you wonder whether the police have taken leave of their senses...

Monday, December 12, 2005

Secret Laws in the US

The Bush administration claims that everyone must show ID before boarding a commercial flight, but has refused to identify any actual regulation requiring it.

A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals seemed skeptical of the Bush administration's defense of secret laws and regulations but stopped short of suggesting that such a rule would be necessarily unconstitutional.

"How do we know there's an order?" Judge Thomas Nelson asked. "Because you said there was?"

Replied Joshua Waldman, a staff attorney for the Department of Justice: "We couldn't confirm or deny the existence of an order." Even though government regulations required his silence, Waldman said, the situation did seem a "bit peculiar."

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Putting Things in Perspective

Country size by population.

A map of the earth shows country size relative to their population.

For example, China is huge, so is India, Europe is small, Australia is tiny, and Canada is almost nonexistent.

Shady & Sleazy: No Matter Who Is In Charge

The Times Online reports on corruption come full circle in Washington.

"A decade ago Newt Gingrich’s Republican revolutionaries seized control of Congress after 40 years of Democrat rule by promising to end the culture of graft and corruption on Capitol Hill.

Today, after a string of indictments, scandals and a criminal investigation that threatens to implicate dozens of politicians next year, the tables have turned full circle. It is now President Bush’s Republicans who are seen as the party of sleaze.

Polls suggest that two thirds of Americans believe that corruption is a serious political problem. That, allied with the growing unpopularity of the war in Iraq, is raising fears in the White House of a voter backlash in next year’s mid-term congressional elections.

Since the summer, leading Republicans have been hit by a steady stream of scandals..."

Once, we had Clinton's draft dodging, revolving Attorney Generals, inhale-exhale controversy, Hillary's $90,000 cattle futures profit, travel-gate, FBI file-gate, trigger happy feds at Ruby Ridge, Whitewater, innocent children dead at Waco, China-gate, a cruise missile strike on an aspirin factory in Afghanistan, the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, Mike Espy's illegal gift trial, Buddhist temple fundraising, "no controlling legal authority," Henry Cisneros obstruction of justice, Web Hubbell mail fraud and tax evasion, Mena airport, Jones-Willey-Broaddrick-Lewinsky, pardon-gate etc.

Now, we enjoy GWB's Guard service, Cheney's draft dodging, the DeLay election law fiasco, White House Energy Task Force, Frist's insider trading allegation, AIPAC spy scandal, missing WMD, Abramoff criminal investigation implicating numerous congressmen, Plame affair-Scooter Libby indictment, Niger forgery and the 16 words, FBI investigation into the DOD's Office of Special Plans, Duke Cunningham's $2.4 million in bribes, Rolls-Royce and antique Louis-Phillipe commode, Iraqi prisoner abuse, secret CIA prisons, Iraq propaganda etc.

And thus, we still have to wait for "honor and dignity" to be restored to Washington (something that probably never existed after man set foot in that swamp).

McCarthy: A Lonely Contrarian in the US Senate

Former Minnesota Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy, whose insurgent campaign toppled a sitting president in 1968 and forced the Democratic Party to take seriously his message against the Vietnam War, died Saturday. He was 89.

He was known for his acid tongue and individual style. He once called the Senate "the last primitive society left on Earth". If elected President he once vowed to tear down the White House fence and hold poetry readings out on the lawn.

Highlights from his less publicized later life:

- McCarthy was critical of campaign finance reform, winning him an unlikely award from the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2000.

In an interview when he got the award, McCarthy said that money helped him in the 1968 race. "We had a few big contributors," he said. "And that's true of any liberal movement. In the American Revolution, they didn't get matching funds from George III."

- After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, McCarthy said the United States was partly to blame for ignoring the plight of Palestinians.

"You let a thing like that fester for 45 years, you have to expect something like this to happen," he said in an interview at the time. "No one at the White House has shown any concern for the Palestinians."

- On his 85th birthday in 2001, McCarthy told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that President Bush was an amateur and said he could not even bear to watch his inauguration.

In an interview a month before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, McCarthy compared the Bush administration with the characters in the William Golding novel "Lord of the Flies," in which a group of boys stranded on an island turn to savagery.

"The bullies are running it," McCarthy said. "Bush is bullying everything."

- McCarthy was an advocate for a third-party movement, arguing there was no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.

- He blamed the media for deciding who is and is not a serious candidate and suggested he should have kept his 1992 candidacy a secret, since announcing it publicly did no good.

- Instead of giving people a chance to earn a living, McCarthy said, the Great Society "became affirmative action and more welfare. It was an admission the New Deal had failed or fallen."

His son Michael told CNN on Saturday, "I think he would enjoy being remembered as a contrarian."

: Joe Sobran Remembers Gene McCarthy: I met McCarthy briefly in Minneapolis about that time and told him how much I’d admired him in 1968, something he no doubt heard thousands of times for the rest of his life. When I told him I was now writing for Bill Buckley’s National Review, he smiled: “I’ve always thought Bill was playing poker with Monopoly money.” It was the kind of gently barbed, slightly enigmatic witticism you’d expect from him...

...So in Gene McCarthy’s honor, I think it’s enough to say that he spoke with intelligence and candor, he raised our expectations of politicians, and, once upon a time, he was there when we really needed him. No hyperbole is necessary. He is gone now, and it hurts.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Charges Possible in UK Subway Shooting

Officers involved in the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes on the Tube could face charges, it has emerged.

Mr Menezes, from Brazil, was shot dead in Stockwell in July after officers mistook him for a suicide bomb suspect.

The BBC News website has details on leaked documents from the independent investigation that discuss the discrepancies between the initial police accounts and subsequent reports.

More on US Funded Baghdad Press Club

Probe into Iraq coverage widens

A U.S. investigation into allegations that the American military is buying positive coverage in the Iraqi media has expanded to examine a press club founded and financed by the U.S. Army.

The Baghdad Press Club was created last year by the U.S. military as a way to promote progress amid the violence and chaos of Iraq, said Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a military spokesman.

Al Qaeda-Iraq Link Coerced

Captive made false statements to avoid being treated harshly.

The Bush administration based a crucial prewar assertion about ties between Iraq and al-Qaida on detailed statements made by a prisoner in Egyptian custody who later said he had fabricated them to escape harsh treatment, according to current and former government officials.

The New York Times reports that the "new disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted partly from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of al-Qaida members and others detained as part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts. The Bush administration used Libi's accounts as the basis for its prewar claims, now discredited, that ties between Iraq and al-Qaida included training in explosives and chemical weapons.

"The fact that Libi recanted after the U.S. invasion of Iraq and that intelligence based on his remarks was withdrawn by the CIA in March 2004 has been public for more than a year. But U.S. officials had not previously acknowledged either that Libi made the false statements in foreign custody or that Libi contended that his statements had been coerced."

US Told Saudis of Qaeda Plane Threat Pre-9/11

The United States told Saudi Arabia more than three years before the September 11 attacks that Osama bin Laden might be targeting civilian airplanes, according to a newly declassified State Department cable.

The cable, from the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh to U.S. government officials, said three U.S. officials had met with Saudi officials at Riyadh's King Khaled International Airport on June 16, 1998, "to discuss the Osama bin Laden threat, and press for enhanced vigilance by Saudi security screeners and police patrols around the airport."

...The cable is the latest of several signs made public that U.S. officials had concerns, long before the 2001 hijacked airplane attacks on New York and Washington, that al Qaeda might be targeting aircraft.

Others include a highly classified President's Daily Brief report to former President Bill Clinton dated December 4, 1998, which was titled "Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks."

The CIA has also said it had told the Federal Aviation Administration in 1999 that "Osama bin Laden remains interested in targeting U.S. interests including on U.S. territory. He is well prepared to consider kidnappings and hijackings as well as bombings."

On August 6, 2001, President George W. Bush's daily intelligence brief said the FBI had detected "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York."

Is Santa a Deadweight Loss?

Are all those Christmas gifts a waste of resources?

Between gift-giving and regifting, the value of fruitcake, the utility of egg nog, and gifts from the extended family, an economist tries to figure it all out.

A paper* by Joel Waldfogel asked students two questions at the end of the holiday season: first, estimate the total amount paid (by the givers) for all the holiday gifts you received; second, apart from the sentimental value of the items, if you did not have them, how much would you be willing to pay to get them?

The results were gloomy: on average, a gift was valued by the recipient well below the price paid by the giver.

*“The Deadweight Loss of Christmas”. American Economic Review, December 1993, vol 83, no 5.

Site of the Day

Riot police clash with dump truck drivers during a protest in Seoul, South Korea.

For all your "social unrest" needs:

It looks like South Korea is rising while Egypt is declining.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Eyewitness: I Never Heard the Word "Bomb"

At least one passenger aboard American Airlines Flight 924 maintains the federal air marshals were a little too quick on the draw when they shot and killed Rigoberto Alpizar as he frantically attempted to run off the airplane shortly before take-off.

"I don't think they needed to use deadly force with the guy," says John McAlhany, a 44-year-old construction worker from Sebastian, Fla. "He was getting off the plane."

..."I never heard the word 'bomb' on the plane," McAlhany told TIME in a telephone interview. "I never heard the word bomb until the FBI asked me did you hear the word bomb. That is ridiculous." Even the authorities didn't come out and say bomb, McAlhany says. "They asked, 'Did you hear anything about the b-word?'" he says. "That's what they called it."

When the incident began McAlhany was in seat 24C, in the middle of the plane. "[Alpizar] was in the back," McAlhany says, "a few seats from the back bathroom. He sat down." Then, McAlhany says, "I heard an argument with his wife. He was saying 'I have to get off the plane.' She said, 'Calm down.'"

Alpizar took off running down the aisle, with his wife close behind him. "She was running behind him saying, 'He's sick. He's sick. He's ill. He's got a disorder," McAlhany recalls. "I don't know if she said bipolar disorder [as one witness has alleged]. She was trying to explain to the marshals that he was ill. He just wanted to get off the plane."

McAlhany described Alpizar as carrying a big backpack and wearing a fanny pack in front. He says it would have been impossible for Alpizar to lie flat on the floor of the plane, as marshals ordered him to do, with the fanny pack on. "You can't get on the ground with a fanny pack," he says. "You have to move it to the side."

...McAlhany said he saw Alpizar before the flight and is absolutely stunned by what unfolded on the airplane. He says he saw Alpizar eating a sandwich in the boarding area before getting on the plane. He looked normal at that time, McAlhany says. He thinks the whole thing was a mistake: "I don't believe he should be dead right now."

Update: The Feds are now backing off the 'B' word remark as James E. Bauer, agent in charge of the air marshals' Miami field office, stated that Alpizar "uttered threatening words that included a sentence to the effect that he had a bomb."

Housing Bubble Bursts in US Mortgage Bond Market

Bloomberg reports that in the U.S. bond market, the housing bubble has burst.

Bonds backed by home loans to the riskiest borrowers, the fastest growing part of the $7.6 trillion mortgage market, have lost about 2.5 percent since September on concern an 18-month rise in interest rates may force more than 150,000 consumers to default.

``We've been hearing about risks of a house price bubble, easy credit and loans to borrowers that really don't qualify, and now in the last couple of months we're starting to see things turn for the worse,'' said Joseph Auth, a bond fund manager who helps oversee $135 billion at Standish Mellon Asset Management in Boston. ``We don't know if it's going to be a hard or soft landing.''

4 Years Later: 10 Big Questions on 9/11

The Village Voice discusses 10 unanswered questions.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Condi's Loopholes and Legal Agility

Every discerning ear knew something was amiss with Condoleeza Rice's carefully parsed words on the subject of torture and rendition on the eve of her trip to Europe. ABC News reports that current and former CIA officers speaking on the condition of confidentiality say the U.S. scrambled to get all the suspects off European soil before Secretary of State Rice arrived there today. The officers say 11 top al Qaeda suspects have now been moved to a new CIA facility in the North African desert.

Moreover, they specifically say two secret CIA prisons were operating in Eastern Europe, Poland and Romania to be exact, until last month when they were shut down after reports in the media of their existence.

Rice reaffirmed that the US did not use torture because she excludes six refined methods of interrogation that are not defined by the U.S. as torture. These techniques include sleep deprivation and a practice called "waterboarding" in which the subject feels they are being drowned.

More on Rice's loopholes:

Rendition Rice makes the first formal admission since September 11, 2001, that the US does practise “extraordinary rendition”: seizing suspects and taking them to other countries where they can be “questioned, held or brought to justice”. Destinations are said to include the US allies Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan.

Rice argues that it is a “vital tool” in fighting terrorism, and that Europeans benefit, too. But her assertion that the US has done this for decades, as have “other countries”, will not silence criticism.

The practice began in the mid-1990s under President Clinton, according to Michael Scheuer, a former CIA counter-terrorism analyst, who helped to set up rendition and who has written Imperial Hubris, an attack on President Bush’s War on Terror. He says that Egypt (repeatedly criticised by the State Department for its use of torture) was a favourite destination. Other CIA officials have said that Bush hugely increased the practice after September 11.

[None of this means that this is a legal and acceptable practice.]

Sovereignty Rice says that the US has respected the sovereignty of EU countries. That implies that it would have told them about CIA camps.

Poland and Romania, suggested in reports as possible locations, have denied knowledge. Britain has said: “We are not aware of the use of UK territory or airspace for the purpose of extraordinary rendition, nor have we received any requests”.

The EU Justice Commissioner has said secret prisons and detainee abuse would break European human rights law.

But Rice does not say that governments would have been told about the identity of suspects on board a flight over the country, or stopping there. This is an obvious loophole.

[A discussion is needed of what she means by "respecting sovereignty" and at what price.]

Torture, 1 The US says that it abides by the UN Convention Against Torture. But this may be ambiguous. US government lawyers have argued that the ban on “cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” did not apply to interrogation of foreigners outside the US.

[It depends on what your definition of "is" is.]

Torture, 2 Rice says that the US does not “render” suspects to countries “for the purpose of interrogation using torture”, or where it believes they will be tortured. “Where appropriate”, it “seeks assurances” that they will not be tortured. But former officials say governments may give this “assurance” casually.

["We don't send'em overseas to torture them that is just a bonus like a Happy Meal toy.]

Beyond the law Rice says the US respects its own laws and its treaty obligations. But she also argues that “the captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice”. She maintains that they are often “effectively stateless, owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of international terrorism”.

[Sure we have laws against that, but conveniently you don't fit our definition of the law.]

Perpetual limbo? Rice says that “international law allows a state to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities”. That will provide little comfort for detainees: in the War on Terror there is no clear end. The tactic also brings severe problems for the US. Detainees, once abused, cannot be brought to court, either for trial themselves or as witnesses.

[We can flaunt the law as long as we'd like then once out of office we'll be untouchable.]

Bibi Backs Pre-Emptive Strike on Iran

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in remarks published Monday that he would support a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear program.

Netanyahu's comments, made in the heat of a campaign for leadership of the hardline Likud Party, drew criticism from rivals, who accused him of playing politics with the country's security. Iranian leaders brushed off the threat, warning that an attack "will have a lot of consequences."

In other news, a suicide bomber killed 5 at a mall in Israel. Islamic Jihad took responsibility for the attack and stated it was in retaliation for Israeli targeted killings of the group's leaders. To ensure that the circle will never be unbroken the AP reports that Israeli security commanders have decided to recommend Israel carrying out targeted killings of militant leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Europe Plans to Track All Phone Calls and Emails

European ministers have agreed on plans that will force telecommunications companies to retain phone and email logs for at least six months, to help investigations into terrorism and other serious crimes.

"It is an essential tool for law enforcement," said British Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who chaired the ministers' meeting.

He said the plans allowed governments to decide how long telecoms companies in their nations should retain the data, as long as it was between six and 24 months...

...Mr Clarke said terrorist groups, drug dealers and people-trafficking gangs would be targeted.

"If you can discover what the network is, who they communicate with, how they operate, you can begin to make the connections - and that can make a very big difference," he explained. He said he was optimistic the European Parliament would adopt the bill this month - meaning it could come into force next year...

...Ireland warned it would take the EU to court if it moved ahead with the proposal as it stood.

Civil rights groups and many EU politicians warn the plan could violate personal freedoms and privacy rules under EU law.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Who Is The Enemy? What Are They Fighting For?

US Army admits Iraqis outnumber foreign fighters as its main enemy

Iraqis, rather than foreign fighters, now form the vast majority of the insurgents who are waging a ferocious guerrilla war against United States forces in Sunni western Iraq, American commanders have revealed.

Their conclusion, disclosed to the Sunday Telegraph in interviews over 10 days in battle-torn Anbar province, contradicts the White House message that outsiders are the principal enemy in Iraq.

Of 1,300 suspected insurgents arrested over the past five months in and around Ramadi, none has been a foreigner. Col John Gronski, senior officer in the town, Anbar's provincial capital, said that almost all insurgent fighting there was by Iraqis. Foreigners provided only money and logistical support...

...The insurgents have the support of most locals. "They have the ability to move freely around the city," said Capt Twain Hickman, the commander of India Company of the 3/7 US Marines battalion. "That means they can attack at a time of their choosing."

Col Gronski said the local nature of the insurgency meant that even the few civic leaders prepared to work with the Americans view the fighters as legitimate. "They see them as resistance. They don't view these local guys placing IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and firing mortars at us as insurgents."

...Some Iraqis in Ramadi now adhere to Zarqawi's radical Islamist philosophy, but for most the insurgency is about removing the occupiers, Col Herbert said. "Their family and tribal honour has been impugned if we're on their ground. They're almost duty bound to fight."

Unemployment, which is over 50 per cent, and widespread intimidation are also fuelling the insurgency. "It's economic," said Lt Col Robert Roggeman, who commands the 2/69 US Army battalion. "Two hundred bucks to shoot at an American, 50 bucks to lay down an IED."

Soldiers Fall, Terrorist Captured

The New Fed Chief's Favourite Stock

Ben Bernanke holds stock in one company (plus a few mutual funds). That company is Altria Group, the Big MO, formerly Philip Morris, one the world's largest manufacturers of cigarettes.

Jeremy Siegel has all the gritty details at Yahoo Finance:

From 1957, when the S&P 500 Index was founded, Phillip Morris has yielded nearly 20 percent per year, outclassing the other 499 members of this venerable index by wide margins.

To give you an idea how strong this performance is, if you put $1,000 in an index fund when the S&P 500 Index was founded and reinvested your dividends, you would have about $140,000 today. But if you put $1,000 in Philip Morris stock, you would have over $6 million dollars today -- more than 40 times as much!

Why did it do so well? For a simple reason, there are millions of investors out there who won't touch this stock with a 10-foot pole. And that keeps its price down and its returns high.

Let's hope Bernanke can do as good a job at keeping inflation in check without following the same rationale for the dollar.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

FBI Reopens Niger Forgery Case

The FBI has reopened an inquiry into one of the most intriguing aspects of the pre-Iraq war intelligence fiasco: how the Bush administration came to rely on forged documents linking Iraq to nuclear weapons materials as part of its justification for the invasion...

...The FBI's decision to reopen the investigation reverses the agency's announcement last month that it had finished a two-year inquiry and concluded that the forgeries were part of a moneymaking scheme — and not an effort to manipulate U.S. foreign policy.

US Military Admits Paid Propaganda in Iraq

A statement issued on Friday stated that as "part of our operations, we have offered articles for publication to Iraqi newspapers, and in some cases, articles have been accepted and published as a function of buying advertising and opinion/editorial space, as is customary in Iraq."

The Associated Press reports that The Lincoln Group has at least two contracts with the military to provide media and public relations services.

One contract, for $6 million, is for public relations and advertising work in Iraq and involves planting favorable stories in the Iraqi media.

The other contract is worth $100 million and calls for media operations with video, print and Web-based products for the Special Operations Command.

Ron Paul: Congress Erodes Privacy

The privacy issue has been around for a long time. The brutal abuse of privacy and property of early Americans played a big role in our revolt against the King. The 1st, 4th, and 5th amendments represented attempts to protect private property and privacy from an overzealous federal government. Today those attempts appear to have failed...

...It’s time we reconsider the real purpose of government in a society that professes to be free—protection of liberty, peaceful commerce, and keeping itself out of our lives, our economy, our pocketbooks, and certainly out of the affairs of foreign nations.

Contact Ron Paul at

Mysterious 8 Blank Pages in Leak Ruling

The New York Times reports on eight blank pages in the public version of a decision the federal appeals court in Washington issued in February. The decision ordered two reporters to be jailed unless they agreed to testify before a grand jury investigating the disclosure of the identity of a C.I.A. operative, Valerie Wilson. What is in those pages is one of the "enduring mysteries" in the investigation.

Mr. Abrams, who represented Ms. Miller and Mr. Cooper before the appeals court, said "the revelation that Mr. Fitzgerald advised the court as early as the spring and fall of 2004 that his focus on Mr. Libby related not to potential threats to national security but to possible violations of perjury and related laws raises anew the question of whether the need for the testimony of Judy Miller and Matt Cooper was at all as critical as had been suggested."

The question may rise anew, but his quote seems to illustrate that the shift towards obstruction of justice occurred in the spring of 2004, meaning the administration was throwing sand into the eyes of the umpire from the very beginning.

State Dept. Litmus Test to Screen Speakers

The State Department has been using political litmus tests to screen private American citizens before they can be sent overseas to represent the United States, weeding out critics of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, according to department officials and internal e-mails.

"I was told by a senior U.S. official that the State Department was conducting a screening process on intellectuals, and those who were against the Bush administration's Iraq policy were not welcomed to participate in U.S. government-sponsored programs," David L. Phillips said, who wrote a book, "Losing Iraq," that is critical of President Bush's handling of Iraqi reconstruction.

"The ability of the United States to promote democracy effectively abroad is curtailed when we curtail free speech at home, which is essential to a free society," he said.

In another instance of apparent politicization, a request by the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, to arrange a visit by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who lived in Indonesia when he was young, was delayed for seven months. The visit never occurred.

A prominent translator of Islamic poetry who toured Afghanistan to rave reviews last March fell out of favor when he later criticized the Iraq war in front of a department official, two U.S. officials said.

The practices appear to be the latest examples of the Bush administration's efforts to tightly control information, maintain "message discipline" and promote news about the United States and its policies.

North Carolina Illegally Certifies Diebold Bugware

In the latest news in this saga, the North Carolina Board of Elections ignored the rules to escrow code and identify programmers as it certified Diebold Election Systems to sell electronic voting equipment despite Diebold’s repeated admission that it could not comply with the election law.

"The Board of Elections has simply flouted the law," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "In August, the state passed tough new rules designed to ensure transparency in the election process, and the Board simply decided to take it upon itself to overrule the legislature. The Board’s job is to protect voters, not corporations who want to obtain multi-million dollar contracts with the state."

Ruining the Diebold argument, at least one competitor, Nebraska-based Election Systems & Software has publicly stated that it is capable of meeting the escrow requirement.

It appears as if the parties involved are setting up for a prolonged fight between the company, the board of elections, the legislature, and the judiciary.

CNet discusses North Carolina's response despite glitches in one of the state's counties 2004 Presidential election result that lead to the loss of more than 4,500 votes.

Not surprisingly, the feds have also been making noise about the availability of e-voting machine source code.

GOP Acts On Secret Biotech Agency Exempt From Oversight

GOP Lawmakers Propose Forming Secretive Federal Agency to Spur Vaccine Development

The proposed Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Agency, or BARDA, would be exempt from long-standing open records and meetings laws that apply to most government departments, according to legislation approved Oct. 18 by the Senate health committee.

...The agency would provide the funding for development of treatments and vaccines to protect the United States from natural pandemics as well as chemical, biological and radiological agents.

But it is the secrecy and immunity provisions of the legislation that have alarmed patient rights and open government advocates. The agency would be exempt from the Freedom of Information and Federal Advisory Committee acts, both considered crucial for monitoring government accountability.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Airline Security a Waste of Cash

An insider from the government's Secure Flight Working Group on Privacy and Security details a Transportation Security Administration program that has been "a complete failure, resulting in exactly zero terrorists caught" and wasting millionsof dollars in the process.

Bruce Schneier writes:

"Exactly two things have made airline travel safer since 9/11: reinforcement of cockpit doors, and passengers who now know that they may have to fight back. Everything else -- Secure Flight and Trusted Traveler included -- is security theater."
has an overview of the group's work and a TSA effort to scrub the resulting scathing report from their website without dealing with any of the recommendations.

Mama Bush On The War Path

Steven Clemons from The Washington Note writes that Barbara Bush is cooking up a coup d'etat of her own in order to rid her son's administration of no less than the likes of Dick Cheney, Andy Card, and Karl Rove.

"The matriarch of the Bush clan is colder than North Pole ice right now to those around her son who she thinks have undermined him...Laura Bush's mother-in-law wants to do more than put coal in the stockings of the Vice President and the other top handlers of her son's White House... my source told me that Barbara was about to 'pull a Nancy Reagan' on these attendants" [Nancy having kicked out then Chief-of-Staff Donald Regan in 1987, although he was also implicated in the Iran-Contra affair] .

Road Accident Death Toll 390 Times That From Terrorism

Researchers at Otago University looked at the difference in scale between the two, the AFP reports:

The body count from road accidents in developed economies is 390 times higher than the death toll in these countries from international terrorism, says a study appearing in a specialist journal, Injury Prevention.

In 2001, as many people died every 26 days on American roads as died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"No Attack Happened That Night"

A report from the National Security Agency states that the attack on U.S. ships in the Gulf of Tonkin used as the rationale for escalation of the war in Vietnam never happened.

Analysis Casts Doubts on Vietnam War Claims

"An article written by one of the agency's historians for its classified publication, Cryptologic Quarterly, declaring that his review of the complete intelligence shows beyond doubt 'no attack happened that night.'

Claims that North Vietnamese boats attacked two warships that Aug. 4 - just two days after an initial assault on one of those ships - rallied Congress behind Johnson's buildup of the war. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution passed three days later empowered him to take 'all necessary steps' in the region and opened the way for large-scale commitment of U.S. forces...

The article, by NSA historian Robert J. Hanyok, reviews signals intelligence, or SIGINT, from that time and concludes top administration officials were only given material supporting the claim of an Aug. 4 attack - not the wealth of contradictory intelligence...

'In truth, Hanoi's navy was engaged in nothing that night but the salvage of two of the boats damaged on 2 August,' Hanyok wrote.

He said 'the handful of SIGINT reports which suggested that an attack had occurred contained severe analytical errors, unexplained translation changes, and the conjunction of two unrelated messages into one translation. This latter product would become the Johnson administration's main proof of the Aug. 4 attack.'"

Update: Here is the original 2001 article [pdf]

NSA Release Contents

More on Pentagon Bribery Scandal

Knight Ridder Newspapers reports "U.S. officials in Washington said payments were made through the Baghdad Press Club, an organization they said was created more than a year ago by U.S. Army officers. They are part of an extensive American military-run information campaign -- including psychological warfare experts -- intended to build popular support for U.S.-led stabilization efforts and erode support for Sunni Muslim insurgents.

Members of the Press Club are paid as much as $ 200 a month, depending on how many positive pieces they produce."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"I Don't Think Tony Blair Thought It Was a Joke."

And the beat goes on...

A senior official at 10 Downing Street, Blair’s official residence, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, recently seemed to give credence to the Al-Jazeera threat. The official told NEWSWEEK London Bureau chief Stryker McGuire: "I don't think Tony Blair thought it was a joke."

...the document indicates that Blair took Bush’s threat so seriously he spent part of the meeting trying to dissuade Bush from attacking Al-Jazeera.

The Case of the Secret Memo by Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball

The Friedmanites Have No Realization that the State is a Gang of Thieves and Looters

A rare interview with Murray Rothbard by The New Banner is presented by the Mises Institute.

"These things are quite blatant; there is no secret about it. I think it is pretty clear that Friedman is a statist. I mean, if you are in favor of the state having control of the money supply, control of the education system, and a guaranteed annual income, that's it. There is not much more to be said. The fact that the Friedmanites are against price control is all very well, and I hail that, but the fundamental aspects of the state remain. The state still commands the highposts of the economy."

[They have no realization] "that they are exploiting the public, that they have a whole bureaucratic apparatus of exploitation, and that they are not just going to give it up.

They don't realize that the state is not a social instrument. It is an inimical organization which is hostile to society, plundering it, which has to be confined, whittled away, reduced and hopefully ultimately abolished."

Money is the Mother's Milk of Politics

Doug Thompson from Capitol Hill Blue gives witness to corruption in Congress.

Here is one brief gem:

The competition is intense, with leaders of both sides of the political fence alternately currying favor or issuing threats to continue the flow of PAC money into their coffers.

In 1988, Senate Republican leader Bob Dole discovered I was spending several hundred thousand dollars of Realtor PAC money in Montana in an “independent expenditure” effort to support incumbent Democratic Senator John Melcher. He called me in for a face-to-face.

“What in the hell do you think you’re doing up there? You should be helping our candidate (a former auctioneer named Conrad Burns).” Dole shook with anger.

I explained that Melcher had helped the real estate industry in the last budget bill while many Republicans looked the other way.

“I don’t give a damn about that," Dole said. "You can’t spend that money on Melcher. He’s an asshole.”

“Senator,” I replied, “if we took the assholes out of the Senate we’d have a lot of empty seats on both sides of the aisle.”

Dole yelled at me to get out of his office and, for a while, banned our lobbyists. But we continued to contribute to his campaign and bought back our access to his office.