Also sometimes referred to as secular, modern, or humanistic. This is an umbrella term for Protestant denominations, or churches within denominations, that view the Bible as the witness of God rather than the word of God, to be interpreted in its historical context through critical analysis. Examples include some churches within Anglican/Episcopalian, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ. There are more than 2,000 Protestant denominations offering a wide range of beliefs from extremely liberal to mainline to ultra-conservative and those that include characteristics on both ends.
|•||Belief in Deity |
Trinity of the Father (God), the Son (Christ), and the Holy Spirit that comprises one God Almighty. Many believe God is incorporeal.
Beliefs vary from the literal to the symbolic belief in Jesus Christ as God's incarnation. Some believe we are all sons and daughters of God and that Christ was exemplary, but not God.
|•||Origin of Universe and Life |
The Bible's account is symbolic. God created and controls the processes that account for the universe and life (e.g. evolution), as continually revealed by modern science.
|•||After Death |
Goodness will somehow be rewarded and evil punished after death, but what is most important is how you show your faith and conduct your life on earth.
|•||Why Evil? |
Most do not believe that humanity inherited original sin from Adam and Eve or that Satan actually exists. Most believe that God is good and made people inherently good, but also with free will and imperfect nature, which leads some to immoral behavior.
Various beliefs: Some believe all will go to heaven, as God is loving and forgiving. Others believe salvation lies in doing good works and no harm to others, regardless of faith. Some believe baptism is important. Some believe the concept of salvation after death is symbolic or nonexistent.
|•||Undeserved Suffering |
Most Liberal Christians do not believe that Satan causes suffering. Some believe suffering is part of God's plan, will, or design, even if we don't immediately understand it. Some don't believe in any spiritual reasons for suffering, and most take a humanistic approach to helping those in need.
|•||Contemporary Issues |
Most churches teach that abortion is morally wrong, but many ultimately support a woman's right to choose, usually accompanied by policies to provide counseling on alternatives. Many are accepting of homosexuality and gay rights.
Friday, September 30, 2005
What took you so long?
While it's obviously critically important that reporters honor their commitments to confidential sources, reporters also have a duty to do whatever they can, consistent with those promises, to report the news they know to be true. As Michael Wolff has argued in Vanity Fair and Newsweek's Michael Isikoff suggested this week, both Miller and the Times and Matthew Cooper and Time let down their readers by failing to work harder to report the truth about Plame's outing sooner.
"Our primary obligation is not to protect our sources," Media Nation quotes Isikoff as saying during a talk this week at Harvard. "Our primary obligation is to inform our readers. And I think in the Plame matter there has been a bit of blurring of that fundamental point. Once you make a promise of confidentiality, you've got to keep it. But that doesn't end the conversation. That doesn't end the reporting. You're still a reporter. You can't use that conversation, because it was conducted off the record and you're honor-bound to that. But don't stop your reporting."
While he proclaimed Miller's role in the Plame case a "huge mystery" -- it's less of one now -- Isikoff said that Cooper should have hounded his confidential source, Karl Rove, to go on the record about Plame's identity. Instead, Isikoff said, "it seems like Time stopped reporting." As we've noted before, Time's failure to pursue the story further allowed the White House to have the last word on the subject -- there is "simply no truth" to the suggestion that Rove was involved -- right through the 2004 presidential election. The Los Angeles Times has said that Cooper didn't go back to Rove sooner in part because his lawyers advised against it -- but also because Time's "editors were concerned about becoming part of such an explosive story in an election year."
One might argue that an election year is the most important time for breaking explosive stories. But that's clearly not the mindset that was at work here; indeed, the new revelations about Miller's road to the grand jury room suggest that she did everything but plug her ears and shout "I can't hear you" when confronted with the word that she was free to tell what she knew about Plame's outing.
According to the Washington Post's account, Scooter Libby's lawyer, Joseph Tate, says that he told Miller's lawyer, Floyd Abrams, a year ago that Libby had voluntarily freed Miller to testify about their conversations. When Judge Thomas Hogan sentenced Miller to jail in July, he made the same point: He told the reporter that she was wrong in thinking that her source was still holding her to her confidentiality pledge. In light of Tate's discussion with Abrams and Hogan's words for Miller, Tate told the Post that he was surprised to learn a few weeks ago that it was the long-waived confidentiality pledge to Libby that was keeping Miller in jail and out of the grand jury room.
"We told her lawyers it was not coerced," Tate said. "We are surprised to learn we had anything to do with her incarceration."
Now, there's certainly a self-serving aspect to Tate's account: It's in Libby's interest to make it look like he wanted to cooperate with the investigation all along. But if Tate's story isn't true, you'd think that the Times might counter it. It hasn't. Instead, it provides an account that's substantially similar to the Post's, and it doesn't offer anything to suggest that Tate didn't have the conversation with Abrams that he said he had. What does Abrams says about that conversation? The Times doesn't say. But it does quote sources who say that Miller "did not understand" that Libby's waiver had been "freely given" and that she "did not accept it until she heard it from him directly."
Why didn't she try to "hear it from him directly" a year ago? It's likely that she and her lawyers were concerned that Fitzgerald might view direct communication between Miller and Libby as inappropriate -- a furtherance of a conspiracy, an attempt at witness tampering or the like. But the Post says that Miller's lawyers ultimately asked Fitzgerald if it would be OK if Miller and Libby talked, and he consented.
Why didn't Miller ask for that permission sooner? Why did she go to jail to protect a source whose lawyer claims that he said he didn't need to be protected? Why did Miller and her lawyers decide to reach out to Libby's lawyers a few weeks ago after the Times insisted in its editorials that she wouldn't be changing her mind about testifying? Was Miller concerned that she might face additional charges or more jail time if she continued to refuse to testify? And who are the "other sources" Miller says she won't be discussing during her grand jury appearance today? And why were readers denied the opportunity to know what reporters knew until after George W. Bush was safely back in the White House for a second term? These are the sorts of questions that journalists might want to ask, and it's long past time that they started.
-- Tim Grieve
Relying on the word of sources who are familiar with Libby's side of the story, the Washington Post says the subject of Joseph Wilson's wife came up twice in conversations between Libby and Miller shortly after Wilson's New York Times Op-Ed appeared on July 6, 2003. As we've noted before, the first conversation took place on July 8, 2003. In that conversation, the Post says, Miller asked Libby why Wilson had been chosen to investigate claims that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. The Post says that Libby told Miller that the White House was working with the CIA to learn more about why Wilson was sent to Niger and that he had heard that his wife had something to do with it -- but that he didn't know who Wilson's wife was or where she worked.
That conversation occurred on the same day that Karl Rove confirmed for Robert Novak that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA.
The second Miller-Libby conversation took place on July 12 or July 13. In that conversation, the Post says, Libby told Miller that he had learned that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA and played a role in sending him on the Niger trip -- the same story Novak would lay out in his column on July 14, 2003.
Even at the time of that second conversation, the Post's sources say that Libby didn't know Plame's name or that she was a covert operative. Maybe that's right, but maybe this is a good time to remember what White House press secretary Scott McClellan once said about Libby's role in outing Plame. In a White House press briefing on Oct. 10, 2003, McClellan said he'd spoken with Libby, Karl Rove and Elliott Abrams, and that he'd been assured by each of them that they weren't involved in outing Plame. "Those individuals -- I talked -- I spoke with those individuals, as I pointed out, and those individuals assured me they were not involved in this. And that's where it stands."
Well, that's where it stood. Since that time, we've learned that Rove leaked to both Novak and Cooper. We've learned that Libby leaked to Cooper, and now we're getting confirmation that Libby leaked to Miller, too. But here's a question for which we don't have an answer yet: Who leaked to Novak in the first place? Rove provided Novak confirmation of Plame's identity, but Novak has said that some other "senior administration official" tipped him off to the story first. The Post's sources say it wasn't Libby. If that's true, there's still at least one more shoe still to drop, and it belongs to someone who works -- or worked -- for the president of the United States.
-- Tim Grieve
US administration lectures about God delivered to Muslims are a dangerous follySidney Blumenthal
Friday September 30, 2005
GuardianPresident Bush has no adviser more loyal and less self-serving than Karen Hughes. As governor of Texas, he trusted the former Dallas television reporter-turned-press secretary with the tending of his image and words. She was mother hen of his persona. In the White House, Hughes devoted heart and soul to Bush as his communications director until, suddenly, she returned home to Texas in 2002, citing her son's homesickness. There were reports that Karl Rove, jealous of power, had been sniping at her.
From her exile, Hughes produced Ten Minutes from Normal, a deeply uninteresting and unrevealing memoir. Long stretches of uninformative banality are broken by unselfconscious expressions of religiosity - accounts of how she inserted Psalms 23 and 27 into Bush's speeches after 9/11, the entire sermon she delivered aboard Air Force One on Palm Sunday. Hughes quotes the then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice: "I think Karen missed her calling. She can preach."
When two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned this year in frustration, in the face of the precipitous loss of US prestige around the globe, Bush found Hughes a new slot. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior state department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the US.
This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is, of course, the most populous Arab country... Saudi Arabia is our second stop; it's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, and yet is proud of the saying that 'All are Turks'."
Hughes appeared as one of the pilgrims satirised by Mark Twain in his 1869 book Innocents Abroad, on his trip on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans - Americans!"
Hughes's simple, sincere and unadorned language reveals the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." That is: somehow, magically, these evil-doers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve.
"Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why Mr Bush mentions God in his speeches, Hughes asked him whether he was aware that "previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our constitution cites 'one nation under God'."
"Well, never mind," he said.
With these well-meaning arguments, Hughes has provided the exact proofs for Bin Laden's claims about American motives. "It is stunning to the extent Hughes is helping bin Laden," says Robert Pape, a University of Chicago political scientist who has conducted extensive research into the motives of suicide terrorists and is the author of Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. "If you set out to help bin Laden," he says, "you could not have done it better than Hughes."
Pape's research debunks the view that suicide terrorism is the natural byproduct of Islamic fundamentalism or some "Islamo-fascist" ideological strain, independent of certain highly specific circumstances.
"Of the key conditions that lead to suicide terrorism in particular, there first must be the presence of foreign combat forces on the territory that the terrorists prize. The second condition is a religious difference between the combat forces and the local community. The religious difference matters in that it enables terrorist leaders to paint foreign forces as being driven by religious goals.
"If you read Osama's speeches, they begin with descriptions of the US occupation of the Arabian peninsula driven by our religious goals and that it is our religious purpose that must be confronted. That argument is incredibly powerful, not only to religious Muslims but also secular Muslims. Everything Hughes says makes their case."
The undersecretary's blundering tour of the Middle East might be the latest incarnation of Innocents Abroad. "The people stared at us everywhere, and we stared at them," Twain wrote. "We bore down on them with America's greatness until we crushed them."
But the stakes are rather different from those on the Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion. "It would be a folly," says Pape, "were it not so dangerous."
· Sidney Blumenthal, a former senior adviser to President Clinton, is the author of The Clinton Wars
WASHINGTON (Sept. 29) - The American public has doubts about whether the Bush administration policy of promoting democracy internationally will make the world a safer place.
A poll done at the University of Maryland found that just over a fourth, 28 percent, say they think the world is safer when there are more democracies, while more than twice as many, 68 percent, say democracy may make life better within a country but does not make the world safer.
The poll, released Thursday, was conducted by the university's Program on International Policy Attitudes in association with the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
PIPA director Steven Kull said the poll indicates most people have not bought into President Bush's contention that "promoting democracy is a critical means for fighting terrorism and making the world safer."
Bush has made promoting democracy around the world a centerpiece of the war on terrorism.
"When freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful," Bush said in March, a theme he has voiced frequently throughout the last year.
Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes has been traveling around the Middle East promoting democracy and trying to improve the image of the U.S. overseas.
Republicans had about as many doubts as the public at large regarding Bush's theory that increasing democracy makes the world safer. Only a third of Republicans, 34 percent, said they agree with that idea.
The administration is counting on democracy in Iraq to eventually bring an end to that war after Iraqis have voted on a constitution and held new elections.
Three-fourths of those surveyed, including a majority of Republicans, said overthrowing Iraq's authoritarian government and establishing a democracy there was not a sufficient reason to go to war in Iraq. The Bush administration originally said the war in Iraq was needed to disarm weapons of mass destruction in that country, but such weapons were never found.
Only four in 10 said countries that become more democratic are more likely to agree with the United States. One quarter of those polled said they thought Saudi Arabia would become more friendly to the U.S. if it holds free elections.
People were more likely to back the United States promoting democracy in other countries when it serves U.S. interests, rather than simply encouraging nations to be democratic as a rule.
"While Americans generally support the goal of promoting democracy, they take the pragmatic approach of not making it a top priority in all cases," said Christopher Whitney of the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.
The poll of 808 adults was conducted Sept. 15-21 by Knowledge Networks and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
|Arianna Huffington Bio|| |
It’s time for Judy Miller and Arthur Sulzberger to change their talking points.
The claim that Miller “has finally received a direct and uncoerced waiver” is laughable… and, indeed, has already been laughed at by 1) my increasingly frustrated sources within the Times 2) a chorus of voices in the blogosphere (see here, here, and here) and 3) (and much more significantly) Joseph Tate, Scooter Libby’s lawyer, who told the Washington Post yesterday that he informed Miller’s attorney, Floyd Abrams, a year ago that Libby’s waiver “was voluntary and that Miller was free to testify”.
So it defies credulity for Miller, Sulzberger, and Bill Keller to keep insisting that Libby’s earlier waiver was coerced when Libby says that it wasn’t. I don’t have much good to say about the vice president’s chief of staff, but I don’t doubt that he knows the difference between being coerced and acting on his own free will. How deep is the Times’ contempt for its readers that they really think they’ll buy the “Oh, Judy finally has the right waiver” line?
The truth of the matter is there is no way that the New York Times editorial claiming “it should be clear…that Ms. Miller is not going to change her mind” can be squared with Ms. Miller changing her mind. And there is no way to accept at face value Miller’s grandstanding about “fighting for the cause of the free flow of information.” Who is she still trying to convince? Herself?
After she answers Patrick Fitzgerald’s questions today, Judy Miller needs to start answering some of the obvious questions raised by her head-scratching stance:
What made her refuse Libby’s waiver when it was first offered but accept it now? (Especially since Judge Hogan had told Miller that “she was mistaken in her belief that she was defending a free press, stressing that the government source she ‘alleges she is protecting’ had already released her from her promise of confidentiality.”)
Was Miller’s sudden eagerness to find a get-out-of-jail excuse prompted by Fitzgerald’s planning to ask for an extension of the grand jury?
Or was it prompted by Fitzgerald’s gearing up to charge her with criminal contempt?
If all it took for Miller to feel properly released was a phone call, why did she wait 85 days to make it?
And so we don’t forget what this story is really about, and given that the aluminum tubes crap that Miller put on the front page of the New York Times was being heavily promoted by Cheney, how much of that bogus information came to Miller via Libby?
And here are a few questions for the Times:
Had a Plame/Wilson story been assigned to Miller or not?
What, if anything, did she say about the story to anyone at the paper at the time… and what did they say back?
Why did the Times hold back the story about Miller’s release and let multiple other news sources scoop them? Were they trying to miss the evening news cycle and avoid the overnight thrashing their spin has rightly received?
So, as the image of Judy as a principled, conscience-driven defender of the First Amendment gives way to the image of Judy wearing her "new" waiver as a fig leaf allowing her to get out and sing, the big question remains: What is she hiding?
Thursday, September 29, 2005
|Chelsea Peretti Bio|| |
James W. Ellis
John D. Colyandro
George W. Bush
Bill Frist - Can't: have to attend SEC par-tay...sorry.
Judy Miller - Regrets. Can't.
Scott McClellan - I'd rather not comment at this time. Like I said, I'm just not going to engage in the e-dite commenting you want me to engage in at this time.
|Arianna Huffington Bio|| |
If This Is Integrity...: Delay, Frist, Abramoff, Safavian... Wasn't this the crowd that was going to "restore honor and integrity" to Washington? If this is what integrity looks like, let's bring back Oval Office blow jobs.
Take the Scotty Quiz!: C-SPAN left me in suspense this morning.
It was a couple of hours before I could finally track down a transcript of the press briefing -- hours spent speculating on what Scotty's answer might have been. I thought you might enjoy playing along. So, what was Scotty's reply?
A) "The president said what???"
B) "Why would we want to change our strategy, when things are going so well?"
C) "We have a strategy in Iraq?"
D) "Actually, when the president said 'changing our strategy,' he actually meant 'changing our talking points.'"
E) "We're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here at home."
(correct answer below)
# 2 at Al Qaeda...with a Bullet!: After reading that U.S. forces had killed Abu Azzam, identified by the LA Times as the "No. 2 Al Qaeda Leader in Iraq," I couldn't help but wonder: Where do they get these rankings? Are they based on raw stats like the Billboard 100 (ie most beheadings or suicide bombers recruited)? Some kind of playoff system? Or is there a ridiculously complicated poll like the BCS? And do they factor in intangibles like the blackness of your heart?
And what about Al Qaeda's #3? Does he automatically move up to #2 now that Azzam is dead, or can someone leapfrog the order of succession? For instance, can #5 suddenly become #2 if he has an IED hot streak?
And will the new #2, whoever he is, be happy for the promotion? Will he get a congratulatory e-mail from Osama bin Laden? A catchy job title like Azzam, who was known as the emir of Baghdad? Will it mean a big end-of-year bonus and a corner office down the hall from Abu al-Zarqawi or a million-dollar bounty on his head? Inquiring minds want to know.
Answer to the Scotty Quiz: E) "We're fighting them there so that we don't have to fight them here at home." I'm not kidding. He really said that -- as well as, "This is a strategy that was developed by our military commanders, because they're the ones who are on the ground, the ones on the ground who are in the best position to understand how to defeat the enemy. And it's a strategy that will succeed." In other words: Meet the new strategy; same as the old strategy.
US House of Representatives
Dear Rep. David Dreier,
My friends at church always snicker a little whenever I bring your name up in a conversation about politics. You don't fit their image of what a good, god-fearing conservative should be. They say your clothes are too fancy; your bearing's too "coastal;" and that there's just something funny about you.
I always respond by pointing to your record. You supported the Defense of Marriage and Marriage Protection Acts and opposed the Hate Crimes Prevention and Employment Non-Discrimination Acts. That's about as good a record of homosexual hating as you'll find anywhere in Congress. You should be proud of that.
That said, voting to deny basic human rights to homosexuals isn't the same thing as personally denying them, and the lack of evidence for the latter in your record has always made me wonder if you were truly committed to the cause of heterosexual supremacy. Fortunately, any reservations I had about you ended yesterday when you rejected your own request to be promoted to the position of Majority Leader on the basis of your sexual orientation. Anyone can discriminate against others, but it takes a special kind of man to discriminate against himself. I salute you for that.
I imagine it wasn't an easy thing for you to do. You probably went straight to a bar afterward and drank yourself into a stupor. Hopefully, you also beat the shit out of yourself when you noticed that you were leaving a homosexual bar. After all, you may have voted against the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but have you ever committed a hate crime?
Gen. JC Christian, patriot
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
George Bush in Hell
by David Michael Green
You would not want to be George W. Bush right now.
Not that you ever would anyhow, but especially not now. Indeed, there are indications that not even George W. Bush wants to be George W. Bush right now.
That second term in office, the one that just a year or two ago seemed so precious that he was willing to launch a war just to obtain it, now feels like a life sentence. Plans for four years spending political capital now look a lot more like endless months of capital punishment.
The Bush Administration has nowhere to go but down, and that is precisely where it is headed. Poll data show that even members of his solid-to-the-point-of-twelve-step-eligibility base are now deserting him as his job approval ratings plunge like so much Enron stock, lately crashing southward through the forty percent threshold. With almost his entire second term still in front of him, Bush is poised to set new records for presidential unpopularity. That scraping noise you hear? It's the sound of sheepish voters creeping out to the garage late at night, furtively removing "Bush-Cheney 2004" bumperstickers from the back of their SUVs when no one is looking.
Meanwhile, as the scales fall from the eyes of the hoi polloi, even the one constituency which could plausibly make the claim that Bush has been good for America (read: their wallets), is speaking the unspeakable as well. Robert Novak, of all people, wrote a column last week chronicling his experience watching rich Republicans at an Aspen retreat bash the idiocy of Bush administration policies on Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, stem-cell research and more. Perhaps these folks realized when they saw Trent Lott's house go under that Mother Nature doesn't care whether you're rich and well-connected any more than does al Qaeda. You may be on Karl Rove's Rolodex, but now Bush is taking you down and your yacht too, not just forgotten kids from the ghetto who enlisted in the Army as the only alternative to a life of poverty.
Even conservative columnists like David Brooks (though not Novak) are writing articles nowadays accurately describing the changed mood of the American public. Where those powerful currents are heading is unclear, but given the radical right experiment of the present as their point of departure, there would seem to be only two choices. We can either go completely off the deep-end and finally constitute the Fascist Republic of Cheney, or we can turn to the left, toward some semblance of rational policymaking. The latter seems far more likely, especially as America increasingly regains its senses after a long bout of temporary insanity. These are bad bits of news for poor George, but worse yet is that they are only the first signs of the coming apocalypse. The real fun stuff is just around the corner. I'll confess to more than a little schadenfreude as I contemplate the ugly situation staring Republicans officeholders in the face right now. They are tethered to a sinking ship, and have only two lousy options to choose from as November 2006 approaches. One is to stay the course and drown. The other is to start renouncing Bush and his policies, appear to voters as the complete hypocrites and political whores many will prove to be, and then still drown anyhow. Nobody could be more deserving of such a fate, with the possible exception of Democrats like Hillary Clinton and John Kerry who have been even more hypocritical yet in facilitating many of the president's disastrous policies.
Watching these GOP opportunists jump ship will certainly be fun, but the greatest fun awaits the president himself. Bush has now lost everything that once sustained him. That includes 9/11, now safely in the rearview mirror for most Americans. That includes his wartime rally-around-the-flag free pass, as he has failed to capture America's real enemy, while lying about bogus ones to justify an invasion pinning our defense forces down in an endless quagmire. That includes, post-Katrina, the ridiculous frame of Bush as competent leader, and the former reality of the press as frightened presidential waterboys.
And that's the good news for W. The bad news is all the chickens coming home to roost. The economy is anemic and fragile, and yet Bush has played the one card in his deck ostensibly (but never really) intended to remedy the country's economic woes. (Remember during the 2000 campaign when times were flush and tax cuts were the prescription? Remember in 2001 when the economy was in a recession and tax cuts were still the prescription?). In any case, Bush's one-note economic symphony has succeeded in producing precisely the cacophony of disaster that progressive commentators have predicted all along: massive deficits, little or no economic boost, a hemorrhaging of jobs overseas, and a vastly more polarized America of rich, poor and a disappearing middle class.
Another angry chicken, of course, is coming home in the form of devastating storms and a grossly incompetent administration to deal with them. Bush is not entirely responsible for Hurricanes Katrina or Rita, of course, but he is partially responsible for them by his willful ignorance of the global warming issue. And he is more than a little responsible for the carnage and damage done, because of his budget-slashing on preventative structural projects, because of his deployment of needed-at-home Guard forces to Iraq, because of his staffing of the government with completely incompetent crony hacks, and because of his and their astonishingly lame performance in responding to a known crisis. Where I come from, a president who remains on vacation during possibly the worst natural disaster to hit this country, praises his FEMA chief for doing a "heckuva job" when the guy doesn't know what any American with a TV set has known for 24 hours about New Orleans, and then later fires him for poor performance, is a president who should be impeached for those reasons alone.
The other demons awaiting George W. Bush just around the bend are multiple and grim. One of these days (right?), Patrick Fitzgerald is actually going to move on the Treasongate story, and signs suggest that multiple heads will roll within the White House. The political damage will be even worse than the legal, though, as Bush's clean and patriotic image will be smashed beyond repair, as no one will believe that he himself didn't know all along who committed treason by outing an American spy, and as he will likely lose the key magicians who have kept him afloat for five years and more. Oh well. W's loss will be Leavenworth's gain.
And there is more. The Jack Abramoff investigation has now been tied to the White House. There are also presumably an infinite number of other scandals waiting to explode (can you say 'Halliburton'?) should the Democrats capture either branch of Congress next year, not least of which being those concerning the Downing Street Memo revelations. Gas prices are off the charts and home heating bills are supposed to soar this winter. Jobs are disappearing, along with pensions and healthcare coverage, inflation is likely to rise, and voters are surly already.
But, of course, the biggest cross for Bush to bear is the one he built for himself, and thus the most richly deserved. In Iraq, simply put, there are no good options. None for America, that is, but even fewer for George W. Bush.
What can he do?
He can't win. America (or, more accurately, America's oligarchy) is clearly losing the war as it is. It is a fantasy to imagine that, at this late date, more troops could pacify the resistance. But even if that were so the political consequences to Bush, especially given his promise of no draft on his watch, would be devastating and rapid. American public opinion has already turned decisively against the war. Imagine if there were a draft and all the bumper-sticker patriots across the land had to actually make a sacrifice for their president's transparent lies. All hell would break loose, and the Republican Party would be dead for a generation.
He can't lose. The major downside to wrapping yourself in the flag, landing on aircraft carriers, labeling yourself a "war president", and being marketed in an election campaign as the reliable national security choice is that you had better deliver. Egged on by the likes of Cheney, Wolfowitz and Perle, Bush no doubt thought Iraq would be a fine little walk in the park from which he would benefit politically for the rest of his presidency. (Nor, assuming this president possesses anything resembling a conscience, need he have concerned himself with resulting deaths, since he told Pat Robertson "we're not going to have any casualties", and he may have even believed it.) Unfortunately for all concerned - most especially the Iraqis and American soldiers - Bush's presidency would be one very real casualty indeed should he decide to pick up his marbles and leave the arena, and so he will not, no matter the carnage or the futility. Doing so would be effectively admitting that there was no legitimate reason for the war in the first place. Everyone now knows that, of course, but were Bush ever to even hint at it, he would be committing instant political suicide. He can't draw. One option is to find some - any - kind of stability, declare victory and go home, saying we got Saddam, we brought democracy, yada, yada, yada. But how many Americans are now going to be fooled by calling an Iraq ruled by militants of one stripe or another a victory, after all the hooey about fighting for democracy in the Middle East? How many think replacing Saddam with a brutal dictator of another name is worth the price of 2,000 American troops and two or three hundred billion dollars? How many will be convinced that Iraqi women having fewer rights than they did under Saddam Hussein, of all regimes, represents a win for the home team? How many will still be unschooled enough to look at a Iranian-dominated theocracy in Iraq and call that a triumph? Moreover, even these total disasters presume a stability of some sort which may be little short of fantasy at this point. When the Saudi foreign minister goes public with his concerns that Iraq is careening toward civil war, you know you're in deep, and no amount inanities sanctimoniously uttered by Scotty McClellan can keep the truth at bay.
He can't get help. Now there's a good one. Maybe the French have finally seen the light and realized what a mistake they made by not bringing something to the party in 2003, eh? No doubt there's a long queue of countries behind them wanting to commit forces to the farces that are decomposing in the Cradle of Civilization. Luckily for George Bush you can still thumb your nose at the rest of the world and have them come to your rescue afterwards. Just think of what a pickle he would be in if that weren't the case...
He can't divert attention. Time was, a government in trouble at home could throw a little war in some hell-hole abroad and divert public attention away from their domestic or other foreign failures. Kinda like Reagan in Grenada, or the Argentinians in the Malvinas, or Thatcher in the Falklands. Yet, while the American public has managed to massively and repeatedly disappoint still sane observers in recent years, it doesn't appear to be in any mood for more of Mr. Bush's Fun With Foreign Policy antics. Not that the country any longer has the available military force to pull it off anyhow, but it hardly seems that an invasion of Iran right now would have much effect diverting attention from Iraq, even if it could somehow successfully be done, another fantasy in its own right.
In short, George W. Bush is toast, as is the whole regressive conservative movement of which he is but the most egregious exemplar. Not even another 9/11 would be likely to help him, as the security president who fails to provide security is the nothing (but simply failed) president. The demise of the right is now likely be true even if Democrats continue hurtling down their current path toward breaking all world records for political cowardice by a major party. Indeed, the worst of the Democrats may now also be in trouble amongst the base - as well they should be - for their cozy associations with the right, enabling its destructive march to the sea these last years.
It is thus too bad, as we emerge from the nightmare of the last quarter-century, that so many of us lefties are atheists, agnostics or otherwise debauched secular humanists. Not only have we had to suffer the reign of Bad King George here on Earth, we can't even have the satisfaction of knowing that he'll be spending the rest of eternity rotting in Hell.
The good news, though, is that he's already there, and the flames are only beginning to warm him up. Perhaps that is why Time describes the dry heaves of a young staffer who had to breach the fantasy bubble and tell this "cold and snappish" president the unhappy truth about an issue, or the National Enquirer's report that Bush, who according to a family member is "falling apart", is back to drinking.
Thus does a new possible ending to the Bush administration suddenly emerge as a real possibility. Previously, I had assumed that our long national nightmare would be over in one of three ways, either with Bush somehow managing to finish his term, with him being impeached, convicted and run out of Washington, or with him being impeached, convicted and then refusing to leave, precipitating a constitutional crisis and even, possibly, a civil war. Now I see a fourth very real possibility.
It was all fun and games when everybody loved him. When the guy who had failed at everything in life except having the right last name all of a sudden was showing those elitist snobs who was tops after all. When the man with a Texas size inferiority complex got to be adored by millions as if he were some kind of religious icon.
But what if that all changes? What if Diminutive George, just like LBJ before him, can't leave the completely scripted bubble his staff manufactures, just as such set-pieces become increasingly difficult to sustain? What if the Peevish President can't escape - even by going to Crawford or Camp David - the mothers of dead children, the baby-killer taunts, the stinging-because-they're-so-accurate chickenhawk accusations, the calls for his own daughters to go to Iraq, the possibility that everyone was right about him all along when they dismissed him as the family clown? What if all of a sudden, it sucks being president? Why bother, then?
It is clear now that one way the Bush administration might end would be with the president's resignation, in order for him to duck into more tranquil quarters. Who knows, maybe he could spend his days getting tanked in Crawford, not writing another book, or going into exile, perhaps in the south of France.
Of course, a pardon deal would have to be prearranged with Cheney, if they haven't convicted him yet, or with Hastert if they have. And, equally certainly, the resignation would be put down to "the president wanting to spend more time with his family", or some such ludicrous McClellanism, no more or less plausible than the rest of his daily fare. But the truth would be plain for all to see. The frat-boy party-time president who condemns kids less than half his age to the hell of futile battle in support of his lies would himself be deserting as commander-in-chief when the fun part ended. Kinda like he did last time he wore a uniform.
History, it would seem, all too rarely delivers justice. The privileged few go out of this life richer than they came into it, while the poor often leave even poorer, not to mention sooner. Those who commit unspeakable crimes sometimes become presidents or prime ministers, while those who dare speak truthfully of those deeds are crushed owing to the threat posed by their honesty.
Even more rare yet are the cases in which history delivers justice with a deliciously deserved irony. But George Bush has provided us with just such a case. And the very delicious irony is that he is now being undone by a cynical choice he himself made to go to war in Iraq with other people's blood and other people's treasure, for the purpose of enhancing his tenuous self-esteem and the power of his presidency.
Goodbye, George. May you know precisely the rest and precisely the peace someone who would do such a thing deserves.
ISTANBUL, Sept. 28 - Under Secretary of State Karen P. Hughes, seeking common ground with leading women's rights advocates in Turkey, was confronted instead today with anguished denunciations of the war in Iraq and what the women said were American efforts to export democracy by force.
It was the second straight day that Ms. Hughes found herself at odds with groups of women on her "public diplomacy" tour, aimed at improving the American image in the Middle East. On Tuesday, she told Saudi Arabian women she would support efforts to raise their status, but she was taken aback when some of them responded that Americans misunderstand their embrace of traditions.
Ms. Hughes met today with about 20 Turkish feminist leaders at a local museum in Ankara, the capital. She introduced herself, as she has been doing on this trip, as "a working mom" and said she was there to emphasize the many things Turkey and the United States had in common. The women welcomed her but had a different emphasis.
"You are very angry with Turkey, I know," said Hidayet Tuskal, a director of the Capital City Women's Platform, referring to opposition in Turkey to the Iraq war, which she said was a feminist issue because women and children were dying daily. "I'm feeling myself wounded," Ms. Tuskal added. "I'm feeling myself insulted here."
Fatma Nevin Vargun, identifying herself as a Kurdish rights advocate, said she was "ashamed" of the war and added that the United States bore responsibility. Referring to the arrest of a war protester at the White House earlier this week, she added, "This was a pity for us as well."
With her brow furrowed, Ms. Hughes replied: "I can appreciate your concern about war. No one likes war." She went on to say that "my friend President Bush" did all he could to avoid a war in Iraq, but she then asserted about Iraq: "It is impossible to say that the rights of women were better under Saddam Hussein than they are today."
She said women had been tortured, raped and killed under the Hussein government before it was ousted by American-led troops.
The comments about Iraq underscored the uneasiness Turkey has had since planning for the invasion began in 2002, when Turkish leaders equivocated and then declined to let American troops enter Iraq from the Turkish border. Turks are now worried about the spillover that a federalized Iraq, with a semi-autonomous Kurdish region in its north, would have in encouraging Kurdish separatists in eastern Turkey.
Ms. Hughes, approaching the end of her five-day trip, also met today with Turkish foreign ministry officials and flew from Ankara to Istanbul later in the day for more sessions with citizen groups and people who the State Department says are "opinion leaders" picked by the consulate.
She also got a tour of the historic Topkapi Palace, the seat of power and luxury in the old Ottoman Empire, where she held an "interfaith dialogue" with Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic and Jewish leaders. It was another staple of this trip, which is intended to emphasize that Muslim countries with large devout populations should understand that Americans are also guided by religious convictions.
She called on the leaders one by one to discuss the principle of tolerance and said afterward: "They assured me that as faith leaders they are prepared to do their part. I hope this is the beginning of many such conversations."
The women in Ankara were notable because their meeting with Ms. Hughes began congenially, with her host describing the importance of her support for their causes. But it quickly spilled into tough talk, delivered politely but firmly.
Feray Salman, a human rights campaigner, said that while she believed in democracy, the Bush administration was trying to export it by force. "States cannot interfere through wars," she said. "I don't believe in this."
In recent months, Turkey has charged that the Bush administration has failed to denounce violent actions of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party, known as the P.K.K. Asked by one speaker why the United States refused to label the group a terrorist organization, Ms. Hughes said the administration had done just that.
"We condemn P.K.K. terrorism," said Ms. Hughes. But then she noted what she said was an irony, that the women were expecting American support for the sometimes violent Turkish crackdown on Kurdish separatists while also denouncing the American battles with insurgents in Iraq.
"Sometimes you have to engage in combat in order to confront terrorism," Ms. Hughes said.
After a quarter century gliding through the raindrops, it’s time for the influential Republican lawmaker to come clean about his homosexuality and the lethal hypocrisy he’s employed in pursuit of power. MICHAEL COLLINS and MARK CROMER hold up the mirror to Dreier’s face.
Nineteen-eighty, the year Ronald Reagan’s long road to the White House ended in triumph, marked the cordite-fumed return of the Radical Right—and dovetailed nicely in every reactionary’s mind with the murder of John Lennon. That same year the press began covering an ominous outbreak: Gay men were being stricken with rare cancers as the first wave of what would later be dubbed AIDS hit the nation.
While hardly a headline-grabber, the opening of the decade also saw the election of a fresh-faced, smooth-talking 28-year-old Republican legislator named David Timothy Dreier.
Like his beloved Gipper, Dreier called Southern California home, and he too exuded his party’s new suntanned image. Indeed, Dreier’s was the cherubic, gum-chewing face the GOP put on to tell the Great Society: “Hi, we’re here to kill you.”
As the cultural war the conservatives were so eager to wage came into full bloom during the ’80s, the moral flotsam of libertines, pinkos, women’s-libbers and other undesirables (read faggots) were to be tied to the philosophical stake and ritually burned by the Reaganites. Dreier didn’t seem to mind holding the matches.
Yet while the flames from the Republicans’ Holy War danced in the night sky, few seemed to notice that Dreier often appeared one-dimensional, polished but going through the motions. Something was missing. One photographer invited into the congressman’s home described the pad as “sterile, more Levitz showroom than a young bachelor’s place.”
Where were the wife and kids that were so central to the Judeo-Christian utopia that Reagan swore was shining on the hill?
Republican Wayne Grisham, an early Dreier rival, caught on and quietly encouraged local newspapers to explore the politician’s sexuality, according to editors who recall the campaign. Asked recently about Dreier’s homosexuality, Grisham said, “I never used it.”
During a 1996 interview with Low Magazine (the first publication to explore Dreier’s sexuality as it related to GOP public-policy positions), Whittier Daily News editor Val Marrs remembered Grisham’s efforts against Dreier in the early 1980s differently. Grisham had been agitating for Dreier to be confronted, Marrs said, so she asked Dreier point-blank if he was gay when the candidate sought the paper’s endorsement. Ready for her, the young congressman answered no, retorting with stories about his girlfriend.
Marrs sensed something amiss in Dreier’s reaction. “He was a little too glib,” she said. “There should have been a blink, indignation, some emotion. A laugh. Something.”
Speculation began to spread, the sort that even a steady stream of party-arranged, photo-op female arm candy couldn’t deflect. Dreier never grew a beard, but word was he often had a pretty one on his arm. In 1988, Nelson Gentry—an ultraconservative who ran as a Democrat—blasted away at Dreier by repeatedly noting the congressman wasn’t married and claiming he couldn’t “represent families.” The Betty Bluehair crowd in Dreier’s district didn’t seem to make the connection.
The Bush clan got its own taste of Dreier’s game during Bush Sr.’s administration, according to Kitty Kelley’s book The Family. The tome describes Barbara Bush lamenting about her daughter Doro’s inability to get any play from David after a solid year of dating. “[Dreier] never laid a hand on her,” the matriarch reportedly complained to a friend at Camp David.
By 1998, Dreier’s homosexuality was at least tacitly acknowledged and accepted by high-level Republicans. Former California Senator John Seymour and an entourage of GOP golfers were enjoying the links during a fund-raiser at the Red Hill Country Club in Upland, California, when he was asked if Dreier would have to get married “in a hurry” if the congressman hoped to run against Senator Barbara Boxer that year. As his golfing buddies fell about the green laughing, Seymour broke into a big grin—but no one asked why.
“Well, no, I don’t think David would have to get married,” the venerable politico mused with a wink. “He might down in Mississippi, but this is California. We’re a little more open-minded out here.”
Perhaps, but it is clear that Dreier—Chairman of the House Rules Committee since 1999 and head of Governor Arnold Schwarzenneger’s transition team in late 2003—doesn’t want to test John Seymour’s theory. Until last fall, he didn’t have to.
Aside from an isolated question by a curious Val Marrs two decades ago, Dreier has enjoyed a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell pass from the newspapers in his district. Indeed, editors at the Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin have gleefully bent over for the lawmaker, pimping out their reporters to dutifully play along with Dreier’s charade.
Under the umbrella of Texan Dean Singleton’s Media News Group, the publications have always been staunchly conservative outlets, with past executive editors like George Collier hanging framed photos of Dreier on their office walls. The irony could get thick, of course, especially considering that editors like Stephen Trosley have penned columns essentially arguing that gays who had more than one partner were deserving of AIDS.
Assured that local reporters would guard his secret, Dreier has amassed an antigay voting record so egregious that it has helped him garner a 92% approval rating from the Christian Coalition. Apparently the evangelical group failed to notice that Dreier’s roommate and constant companion is none other than Brad W. Smith, his appropriately entitled chief of staff.
Smith must be worth his weight in gold, as Dreier is paying his major domo the highest salary he legally can: $156,600 a year. That’s just $400 less than White House heavyweights Karl Rove and Andy Card.
This rankles John Byrne, editor of RawStory.com, who recently began to investigate Dreier’s secret life after learning that gay activist Michael Rogers was already hammering the issue of the congressman’s sexuality on BlogActive.com. “Brad Smith is paid both from the Rules Committee and from Dreier’s office, which is not unheard of,” Byrne points out. “It’s allowed, but the [staff for] Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, the Appropriations Committee—those people are only paid from the congressmen’s office.”
Brad Smith currently collects $106,000 from the Rules Committee on top of his $50,600 office earnings. “His salary from Dreier’s office went down when he joined the Rules Committee,” Byrne continues, but remained locked in at $156,600. “There’s a rule that says that if you’re going to pay people from the committee, it shouldn’t be as an expense of your own office—like you shouldn’t be using committee funds to pay for someone who you’re paying for basically anyway.”
Dreier and Smith have shown a taste for jet-setting together as well. During the past three years they have traveled to at least 25 countries together on the taxpayers’ dime, spending 45 days abroad in locales that traditionally attract frolicking lovers: Italy and Spain, as well as a few destinations off the beaten path, including Sri Lanka, Micronesia and Iceland.
“It’s common knowledge up on the Hill that David Dreier is just a big, huge fag,” said Randy Economy, campaign manager for Dr. Janice Nelson-Hayes, the congressman’s Democratic opponent in 1998 and 2000. Economy (who is openly gay) indicated that, despite compelling evidence of Dreier’s carefully guarded sexual orientation, candidate Nelson-Hayes passed on making it an issue in her last campaign.
“There were issues out there and evidence that this living situation occurred and the payment that he was making to his chief of staff,” Nelson-Hayes declared. “We just decided that we weren’t going to go into that because we didn’t know how many other members of Congress had loved ones, family members, spouses, significant others working in their offices.”
A longtime Democratic adviser with numerous campaigns under his belt, Economy said Dreier’s gay life is valid for discussion, since public policy that affects millions of people is at stake. “I know the pain that people go through in this process here,” Economy said. “But [Dreier] has got to deal with this stuff because now he is [advocating] positions against the community and against himself, and it’s not right. His lover is benefiting from it; therefore he’s benefiting from it, and that’s just not fair and possibly not legal.”
Although the story exploded on the Internet and was picked up by the LA Weekly, it is uncertain if Dreier will in fact have to deal with it. As this issue of HUSTLER went to press, the congressman continued to enjoy the same veil of protection from the newspapers in his home district, with not a single word published covering his gay life versus his voting record, and his personal relationship with Brad Smith or their expenses.
Editors, notably Steve Scauzillo, have nervously refused to comment. Meanwhile Val Marrs has abruptly changed her story, claiming she was “misquoted and quoted out of context” during her 1996 interview with Low Magazine. Asked to clarify that, Marrs screamed, “I can’t talk about it!” and hung up.
Now 52, David Timothy Dreier himself has remained hunkered down, floating vague nondenial denials through unnamed surrogates on various Web sites. Attending the Republican National Convention in New York City, Dreier was confronted on satellite radio and asked if he was heterosexual. Apparently flustered, the legislator said he wasn’t there to “talk about that.”
Dreier never has been “there” to talk about it, even as homosexuals have been fired, smeared and even murdered for simply being gay.
And that’s the shame of it all.
SCREWIN’ ’EM: DAVID DREIER’S IN-CLOSET VOTING RECORD
2004: Voted for the Marriage Protection Act. 2001: Supported legislation allowing federally funded charities to discriminate against gays and lesbians, despite local laws. 1999: Opposed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (as he had in 1996 and ’97). 1998: Voted to prohibit gays and lesbians in the District of Columbia from adopting children (D.C. is 3,000 miles from Dreier’s own district); opposed restoration of funding to the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program. 1997: Opposed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act; opposed increases in state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. 1996: Voted for the Defense of Marriage Act; opposed the Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program.
Award-winning journalist Michael Collins contributes frequently to Los Angeles City Beat, LA Weekly and HUSTLER.
Features Editor Mark Cromer first interviewed David Dreier in 1988, when the congressman told him that magazines which featured “pregnant lesbians” were not protected by the First Amendment. As an admirer of pregnant lesbians, Cromer is just glad the courts feel differently.
by John in DC - 9/28/2005 01:26:00 PM
Ok, this is sweet. The Speaker is reportedly going to pick Congressman David Dreier (R-CA), an avowed, well, an avowed nothing, as the next Majority Leader of the House. This is pretty historic since Dreier refuses to respond to ongoing rumors that he's gay, but even more importantly, I was sitting next to Dreier last summer at the GOP Convention when Mike Signorile was interviewing him, and Dreier refused to answer a direct question from Signorile about whether Dreier was heterosexual.
Here's what Dreier said:
SIGNORILE: There have been a lot of rumors that you yourself are gay. People feel it’s hypocritical of you not to speak on the subject of same-sex marriage.Other than Ken Mehlman, Dreier is the only "closet heterosexual" I've ever met in my life.
DREIER: I have spoken out very, very vigorously in opposition to amending the U.S. Constitution, which is really the key question and the key issue here.
SIGNORILE: Any comment on the rumors about your own sexual orientation?
DREIER: No. You know, there are an awful lot of people out there who try to do harm to a lot of individuals, and I believe it is absolutely wrong. And so I’m not going to get into anything like that.
SIGNORILE: So you are, are you saying you’re heterosexual?
DREIER: No, I’m not going to talk about this issue.
This is a great day for ambiguously gay heroes. Ken must be so proud.
I wonder how the religious right is feeling just about now? They can kiss their anti-gay constitutional amendment goodbye, and much more. If the religious right doesn't think we can pressure Dreier to stop their anti-gay crap, then they really haven't been reading up on their gay agenda. :-)
House Majority Leader Says He Will Temporarily Step Down
By William Branigin and Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 28, 2005; 2:51 PM
A Texas grand jury today indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on a criminal count of conspiring with two political associates to violate state campaign finance law, and DeLay announced he would temporarily step down as House majority leader.
The indictment was disclosed in Travis County, Tex., on the last day of a grand jury investigating a campaign financing scheme involving allegedly illegal use of corporate funds.
DeLay, 58, attended a meeting in the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert shortly after receiving word of the indictment and said afterward he notified Hastert that he would "temporarily step aside" as majority leader. GOP House rules require that any member of Congress who is indicted must step down from a leadership position. However, there is no requirement that DeLay leave his congressional seat.
In the indictment, DeLay is accused of conspiring with two associates: John D. Colyandro, the former executive director of a political action committee in Texas that was formed by DeLay, and James W. Ellis, the head of DeLay's national political committee. Colyandro and Ellis had previously been charged in an indictment that did not name DeLay.
At the heart of the case are corporate contributions of about $190,000 that prosecutors allege were essentially laundered by DeLay and his associates through transfers from a federal fund into a state fund.
DeLay has denounced the investigation as politically motivated, noting that the Travis County district attorney, Ronnie Earle, is a Democrat.
Kevin Madden, a spokesman for DeLay, said the congressman would speak to reporters later today and offer a "full-throated defense" against the charge.
"This is a political vendetta," Madden said. "They could not get Tom DeLay at the polls," he said, apparently referring to the powerful Republican leader's political enemies. "Now they're trying to get him in court."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said today that President Bush still views DeLay as a "good ally" and "a leader we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people." McClellan added, "The president's view is that we need to let the legal process work."
In the House, Rep. Kenny Marchant, a freshman Republican from Dallas, said, "I'm very disappointed in the indictments," Washington Post staff writer Charles Babington reported. Marchant told reporters the charges were partisan and expressed confidence that DeLay would be fully cleared.
Asked what steps the party would take, he said, "We're all waiting for something from the speaker." He said he had no comment on whether the indictment would harm the Republican Party.
A lawyer for DeLay, Bill White, denounced the charge against his client as a "skunky indictment" that "stinks to high heaven."
DeLay, an 11-term congressman from the Houston area, was elected majority whip in 1994 and became House majority leader in November 2002. His tough tactics in keeping his party in line and opponents at bay have earned him the nickname, "The Hammer."
With DeLay under fire for three admonishments by the House ethics committee on separate issues, and amid concerns about the grand jury investigation in Texas, House Republicans changed a rule in November 2004 so that DeLay could keep his leadership post in the event he were indicted. But intense criticism forced House Republicans to scuttle the change two months later.
Ellis, Colyandro and another DeLay associate and fundraiser, Warren RoBold, were originally indicted in September 2004 on charges involving the alleged illegal use of corporate funds to aid GOP candidates for the Texas state legislature in the 2002 elections.
Two weeks ago, the grand jury in Travis County issued an expanded indictment against Colyandro and Ellis, that included new charges of criminal conspiracy, as well as felony charges of violating Texas election law.
Under Texas law, corporate contributions cannot legally be used to campaign politically for the election or defeat of state legislative candidates.
According to the indictment issued today, DeLay, Colyandro and Ellis conspired to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas Election Code for the benefit of candidates for the Texas House of Representatives. Colyandro formerly directed the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, known as TRMPAC.
In the original indictment last year, Ellis, 47, of Arlington, Va., and Colyandro, 40, of Austin, Tex., were charged with one count each of money laundering, Washington Post staff writer Sylvia Moreno reported. Specifically, the men were accused of taking $190,000 in corporate money raised by TRMPAC and giving it to the Republican National Committee, which, in turn, had the Republican National State Elections Committee contribute to seven Texas House candidates. In all, about 20 Republican candidates were helped by TRMPAC activities to win Texas House seats.
Colyandro was also indicted on 13 counts of unlawfully accepting $425,000 in corporate political contributions. RoBold, 48, was indicted on nine counts of unlawfully soliciting and accepting $250,000 in corporate political contributions.
The fundraising activities were aimed at achieving the key DeLay goal of assuring Republican control of the Texas legislature, enabling the body to redraw the state's 32 U.S. House districts in a way likely to secure more victories by GOP congressional candidates and an expanded House majority for the party.
That goal was achieved after the Texas legislature redrew the boundaries in a controversial redistricting in 2003, leading to the defeat of several Democratic House incumbents in the November 2004 elections.
Bush's Depression: Been There, Reported That
By DOUG THOMPSON
Sep 28, 2005, 06:38
Depressed and demoralized White House staffers say working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is “life in a hellhole” as they try to deal with a sullen, moody President whose temper tantrums drive staffers crying from the room and bring the business of running the country to a halt.
“It’s like working in an insane asylum,” says one White House aide. “People walk around like they’re in a trance. We’re the dance band on the Titanic, playing out our last songs to people who know the ship is sinking and none of us are going to make it.”
Increasing reports from the usually tight-lipped staff of the Bush Administration talk of a West Wing dominated by gallows humor, long faces and a depression that has all but paralyzed daily routines.
“If POTUS (President of the United States) is on the road you can breathe a little easier for the day, knowing that those with him are catching hell and the mood will be a little easier in the Wing (West Wing) until he returns,” says another aide.
Capitol Hill Blue began reporting on Bush’s mood swings and erratic behavior in June 2004 but the stories of an erratic, moody President circulating within the White House were ignored by the “mainstream media” until recently. Now more and more outlets have begun to report on what many administration staffers say is a President out of control.
“A president who normally thrives on tough talk and self-assurance finds himself at what aides privately describe as a low point in office, one that is changing the psychic and political aura of the White House, as well as its distinctive political approach,” Jim VandeHei and Peter Baker wrote in The Washington Post over the weekend. “Aides who never betrayed self-doubt now talk in private of failures selling the American people on the Iraq war, the president's Social Security plan and his response to Hurricane Katrina.”
That sentiment is echoed by former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.
“I think the Administration realizes the larger system has failed,” Gingrich says. “They are not where they want to be on Iraq. Katrina was an absolute failure."
“It's a standing joke among the president's top aides: who gets to deliver the bad news? Warm and hearty in public, Bush can be cold and snappish in private, and aides sometimes cringe before the displeasure of the president of the United States, or, as he is known in West Wing jargon, POTUS,” Evan Thomas wrote in Newsweek on September 19. Thomas talked to “several aides who did not wish to be quoted because it might displease the president.”
Thomas went on to report “Bush can be petulant about dissent; he equates disagreement with disloyalty. After five years in office, he is surrounded largely by people who agree with him…Late last week, Bush was, by some accounts, down and angry. But another Bush aide described the atmosphere inside the White House as "strangely surreal and almost detached." At one meeting described by this insider, officials were oddly self-congratulatory, perhaps in an effort to buck each other up. Life inside a bunker can be strange, especially in defeat.”
To regular readers of this web site, this should sound all too familiar. Here is what we reported on June 4, 2004:
“Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home. ‘It reminds me of the Nixon days,’ says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. ‘Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.’”
Last year, the naysayers said we got it wrong.
But they got it wrong.
And we got it right and ahead of everyone else.
Yes, we're gloating. We all too often read reports in the big boys and have a feeling of deja vu because we're already been there and reported that.© Copyright 2005 Capitol Hill Blue
Travis County grand jury to weigh indicting House leader, lawyers say
Tom DeLay If indicted, Republican would have to give up leadership post in U.S. House.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's leadership post is on the line today as a Travis County grand jury is expected to consider indicting DeLay on conspiracy charges, several lawyers familiar with the investigation said.
The charges would stem from the DeLay's role in using corporate money in the 2002 elections. State law generally bans corporate money from campaign activities.
"I wouldn't have expected this a year ago," one Austin criminal defense lawyer said. "It's quite a turnaround if it happens."
Those same lawyers, though, expect the grand jury to take no action against Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond or state Reps. Diane Delisi and Beverly Woolley for their roles in the election. The lawyers requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the grand jury's discussions.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, and jurors took no action Tuesday. Even as DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land, continued to insist that he did nothing wrong, his defense team has been bracing for the worst.
An indictment would not force DeLay to resign as a member of Congress, but the GOP's rules would demand that he resign his post as majority leader.
Wednesday's secret vote by the grand jury could mark the end of a three-year investigation into whether DeLay and his Republican and business allies illegally spent corporate money to help elect a Republican majority to the Legislature in 2002. In turn, state lawmakers drew congressional districts urged by DeLay that gave Texas Republicans more clout in Washington. The lawmakers also elected Craddick, a Republican from Midland and a DeLay ally, as their speaker.
DeLay had appeared to escape criminal scrutiny as early as last year when Travis County prosecutors concluded that they did not have the jurisdiction to pursue election code violations against him. Under the law, only DeLay's local district attorney, a Republican, had jurisdiction, and he expressed no interest in trying to topple the second most powerful Texan in Washington.
But a conspiracy charge would fall under the criminal code, not the election statute that bans corporate money from being spent on a campaign.
That tactic is what defense lawyers fear — and would give Travis County prosecutors jurisdiction over DeLay.
A conspiracy charge would likely allege that DeLay worked with others to circumvent state law.
But DeLay's political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, as well as the Texas Association of Business, used corporate money on what GOP officials claimed was committee overhead or issue advertising and not campaign-related activity.
Prosecutors have investigated whether the money actually was spent in connection with a campaign.
Over the past year, Travis County grand jurors have indicted three DeLay associates — John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren Robold — as well as eight corporate donors, the Texas Association of Business and DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority.
In recent days, the broad-based investigation has focused on one particular transaction that could tie back to DeLay.
In late September 2002, Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a blank check to Ellis, who is DeLay's primary fundraiser in Washington.
According to the money-laundering indictment returned against those two, Ellis was accused of having the Republican National Committee launder $190,000 of corporate donations into noncorporate money to seven Texas House candidates, including Austinites Jack Stick and Todd Baxter.
If the grand jury takes action against DeLay, several lawyers expect it be related to that transaction.
As late as Tuesday, Travis County prosecutors were interviewing Republican National Committee staffers about their roles in the transaction.
Even if DeLay is indicted, many Republicans will breathe a sigh of relief that Craddick and others won't be indicted.
Theoretically, prosecutors could ask another grand jury to consider charges between now and the Nov. 2 anniversary of the 2002 election, when a three-year statute of limitations expires. But the defense lawyers expect today to be the last chance for 2002 allegations.
"What will you know in October," one defense lawyer said, "that you didn't know the past six months?"
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
by Rob Boston
Pulpit-based politicking is nothing new in the United States and neither is controversy over it.
Thomas Jefferson commented on the phenomenon 189 years ago. Not surprisingly, Jefferson, always a strong advocate of church-state separation, didn’t think much of pastors who delivered politically charged sermons. In fact, he believed they were guilty of breach of contract.
Jefferson had been asked to comment on a series of sermons published by a pastor named Alexander McLeod about the recently concluded War of 1812. Jefferson agreed with McLeod’s support for the war but took issue with the religious leader’s decision to base so many sermons on it.
In a letter dated March 13, 1815, to Peter H. Wendover, a member of the House of Representatives, Jefferson observed, “On one question only I differ from him, and it is that which constitutes the subject of his first discourse, the right of discussing public affairs in the pulpit.”
Jefferson went on to argue that the scope of human knowledge is so vast that scholars often confine themselves to specific areas of study. Preachers, he opined, should likewise stick to what they know best religion.
“Collections of men associate together, under the name of congregations, and employ a religious teacher of the particular sect of opinions of which they happen to be, and contribute to make up a stipend as a compensation for the trouble of delivering them, at such periods as they agree on, lessons in the religion they profess,” wrote Jefferson. “If they want instruction in other sciences or arts, they apply to other instructors; and this is generally the business of early life.”
Jefferson continued, “But I suppose there is not an instance of a single congregation which has employed their preacher for the mixed purposes of lecturing them from the pulpit in chemistry, in medicine, in law, in the science and principles of government, or in anything but religion exclusively. Whenever, therefore, preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put them off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead of it, what they did not want, or, if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art or science. In choosing our pastor we look to his religious qualifications, without inquiring into his physical or political dogmas, with which we mean to have nothing to do.”
Later in the letter, Jefferson defended the right of pastors to speak out on political issues in their personal writings. He just didn’t like to hear it emanating from the pulpit.
Jefferson feared that his views on this issue might rub some people the wrong way if the letter became public. In the letter, he refers to three New England Federalist clergy by name, writing, “I do not wish to be cast forth” to them.
After drafting the letter, Jefferson decided not to send it. At the bottom he wrote, “On further consideration, this letter was not sent” and observed that he took that course because Wendover’s character was “entirely unknown” to him. In its place, Jefferson sent Wendover a much more restrained one-paragraph note thanking him for sending the McLeod sermons.
Jefferson’s dislike for politics in the pulpit probably arose from personal experience. During the 1800 presidential election, several clergymen in New England viciously attacked him during church services, branding Jefferson an infidel and an atheist who would, if elected, order all Bibles gathered up and burned.
Such baseless charges were highly ironic, given Jefferson’s lifelong advocacy of religious freedom for all. Jefferson was a strong proponent of the view that the fruits of religious freedom were for all to enjoy not just certain types of Christians. He once wrote of the importance of extending his Virginia religious freedom bill to “the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, the infidel of every denomination.”)
If Jefferson were alive today, it’s clear he would be no fan of Religious Right-style pulpit politicking.
THE NEW President of the European Commission says: “We have Christians and Roman Catholics working for Europe. We have agnostics and atheists and all levels of different religions, Christian and non-Christian. This tolerance is a wonderful thing and we should show the same level of tolerance for people’s opinions.” José Manuel Durão Barroso was arguing for the forgiveness of Justice Commissioner-designate, Rocco Buttiglione.
I say otherwise. I say: enough of tolerance. I do not tolerate religious superstition, not when it refuses to tolerate me. Sweep it from the corridors of power. I do not pay my taxes for a Europe which can “tolerate” a hardline Italian mate of Silvio Berlusconi and the Pope who takes to his job as Justice Commissioner the belief that tens of millions of Europeans such as me are sinners because we are gay, or that single mothers are “not very good” — or who adds that women should spend less time working and more time having babies.
Kick him out. This the European Parliament can do by rejecting the proposed new Commission in its entirety — the only power available to it.
Senhor Barroso said: “Is it reasonable to make a commission fall because two or three commissioners aren’t satisfactory? No. One must keep a sense of balance.”
I say: yes, entirely reasonable. If one of your candidate commissioners had declared publicly that he despised Jews or thought blacks inferior, then would you honestly think that a commission — any commission — which included such a man as “Justice and Freedom” Commissioner, was acceptable? Of course not.
It is time for the European Parliament to call the bluff of the Commission and the member states. If the Parliament had the power to veto individual candidates, Signor Buttiglione would be out already. But instead the European Parliament is permitted only the nuclear option — the whole proposed Commission, or nothing. All member states are complicit in this arrangement, and from the point of view of those who want to sideline the Parliament, it is shrewd: like telling the restaurant diner who complains of a fly in his soup that he is welcome to send the dish back, but in that case the whole order — entrée, pudding, cheese, coffee and both the wines — must be cancelled, and the table rebooked for later. Any arrangement which denies the complainant the right to distinguish between what is and what is not acceptable to him and offers him only one option — to call the whole thing off — is a recipe for climbdown. That is the intention: to embarrass the Parliament into nodding every new commission through, for fear of plunging the EU into crisis.
The Parliament should decline to be embarrassed. It should plunge the EU into crisis.
Senhor Barroso’s suggested compromise is not enough. The new President has proposed that civil liberties and human rights would no longer be left to Signor Buttiglione alone, but would be overseen by a panel including the errant Buttiglione, and chaired by Senhor Barroso himself.
This is ludicrous. “Civil liberties, human rights and immigration” is the broadest of territories. Signor Buttiglione’s failure to separate his private from his public attitudes poisons his competence as an adjudicator within the whole field. If in his declared judgment as a devout Roman Catholic gays are sinners and single mothers are not very good, and women should be breeding, what does he say about abortion? Divorce? Contraception? The immigration rights of same-sex partners? The status for immigration purposes of second marriages? How does he view his own fellow commissioner, Peter Mandelson? The human rights of the abortion-seeker versus those of the unborn child? The rights of women in the workplace? This man will be popping in and out of meetings like a yo-yo, to drag in the President and his supervisory panel.
How can Signor Buttiglione command respect as Justice Commissioner if he has been offered his responsibilities on the understanding that he is not fit to exercise many of them cannot be left alone with them, and needs some sort of chaperone every time he deals with them? It would be like allowing a wife-beating judge to sit in judgment on domestic violence cases, but only as part of a panel. Bad apples such as Signor Buttiglione are not to be dealt with by “balancing” them with better apples or by making sure somebody supervises the barrel. There are times when a little intransigence is called for; and this is one of them.
It does appear that the Parliament may this time — and at last — be prepared to stand its ground. The Socialist grouping sounds adamant. So are the Greens. Chris Davies, the leader of the British Liberal Democrats, says: “Our position has hardened — it’s one of those occasions that the Parliament has to use the powers at its disposal as a point of principle, and to set a precedent for the future.”
Those unskilled in the ways of the EU institutions who, like me, blunder into this debate as though it were all about ethics, are no doubt missing several points. The row should be understood (a friendly MEP tells me) “as a classic EU inter-institutional wrangle”. He adds that there’s a good deal of unsavoury party-political jockeying going on too, plus a simmering vendetta between Martin Schulz, the German Socialist Group leader in the Parliament, and Silvio Berlusconi, who last year compared Herr Schulz with a Nazi concentration camp guard. Stir in with that the Vatican’s continuing pique that it failed to get God imported into the draft European constitution, and you have the makings (my MEP friend suggests) of a bar-room scrap as well as a pitched ethical and constitutional battle.
But the ethical and constitutional battles matter. We really must decide what role we want the Parliament to have in the choice of a commission. The nuclear option is a cop-out and MEPs are right to want to bring this to a head by calling the bluff. Perhaps we do not think the Parliament should have any oversight over a commission effectively nominated by the governments of member states; then we should take away the bizarre power the Parliament now has. Perhaps we do want to give it oversight; then we should make that power more realistically exercisable.
Whatever view one takes, there is unlikely to be a better test case than this. Signor Buttiglione is plainly unfit for the post for which he is candidate. It is arguable that a candidate sufficiently self-aware, intelligently conscious of the difference between private opinion and public duty, and painstaking enough to guard his tongue, should not be discriminated against on the ground of his presumed personal beliefs. I know the retiring commissioner, Chris Patten, quite well. I have never detected that he bears the least personal animus against gays. But Chris is a serious Catholic and I have often wondered . . . He leaves us to wonder; that is his strength. Signor Buttiglione did not; that is his weakness.
It was more than a failure of discretion; it was an unwillingness to respect a distinction. That unwillingness disqualified him absolutely. His subsequent apology — “words so emotionally charged as ‘sin’ should perhaps not be introduced in the political debate” — compounded the impression of a tangled mind. It was not the word, it was the idea; it was not its inclusion in “the debate”, it was its presence in a would-be commissioner’ s thinking. It was not “perhaps”; it was obviously.
Signor Buttiglione claims that he has been the victim of anti-Christian discrimination. This brings us to the ethical battle. I shall take sides, no doubt demonstrating my own unfitness for the role of Justice Commissioner. I think Signor Buttiglione has indeed been the the victim of anti-Christian discrimination, and that such discrimination is now in order. By “discrimination” I do not mean “disqualification”, I mean “subject to special scrutiny”.
There are Christians and Christians, as there are Muslims and Muslims, Jews and Jews, Hindus and Hindus. But well within the mainstreams of all four faiths are to be found core beliefs which now lie right outside the mainstream of modern European thought. Let me mention a few. Catholic, evangelical Christian, Orthodox Judaic and Muslim teaching on homosexuality and divorce; much Muslim practice as to the status of women; some Hindu teaching on caste; and Catholic teaching on contraception and abortion are unacceptable and insulting, not only to me but also to the majority of Europeans, and the overwhelming majority of educated Europeans. I do not shrink from according special status to the educated, for they lead thought.
That such faith-based beliefs run counter to modern European notions of justice and equality should not disqualify their followers from jobs such as those of Justice (and anti-discrimination) Commissioner, any more than a committed vegetarian should be disqualified from a job in a slaughterhouse. But we would want to be convinced that the vegetarian could keep his private beliefs and his professional duties apart; and we must likewise demand that followers of anti-modern faiths do not let their beliefs affect the discharge of their duties. That these faiths demand of their followers the opposite is a matter for their followers.