Monday, January 30, 2006

Fallen Comrad

Yesterday in Iraq, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt were seriously injured by an improvised roadside explosive. Both men were flown to a U.S. military hospital in Germany. They are in serious but stable condition.

The thoughts and prayers of this nation's journalists are with both men. Their courage has exposed the American people to the true nature of our involvement in Iraq. In a time so fogged by lies and misinformation, they have paid a weighty price for an oh-so painful truth.

How many more must be maimed and killed before we wake up to what is really going on? How many more lies are we willing to swallow before we throw off this mantle of deception?

We honor you, Bob. We honor you, Doug. We honor those who have given and lost their lives in the service of our great military. But we condemn with fury and rancor those who would grasp the great paragon of our might and use it as a shield to deflect the truth and perpetuate their deceptions.

Damn you, Bush, for starting this unnecessary war!

Damn you!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

New faceplate!

I like the new faceplate of The News Connection. Don't you?

Democrats have the votes to support a filibuster of Sam Alito!

Fresh off the truck, straight from ...


Harry Reid met with progressive lobbyists on Tuesday and told them he has nearly 44 votes against Alito, but there are 8 Democratic Senators who will not support a filibuster.

Only 41 votes are needed for a filibuster. If Reid has nearly 44 votes against Alito, every one of those Senators should support a filibuster or their vote against Alito is meaningless.

So call the Democrats who are leading this battle and demand a united Democratic filibuster:
Harry Reid (NV)
Dick Durbin (IL)
Chuch Schumer (NY)
Debbie Stabenow (MI)
Pat Leahy (VT)

Use these toll free numbers to call the Capitol: 888-355-3588 or 888-818-6641. If you can't get through, look up the Senator's District Office number in your phone book or here:

Reid would not name the "Alito 8" who are blocking a Democratic filibuster - so we need to identify them and tell them not to betray the Democrats who funded them and voted for them.

The most likely suspects are the "Red State" Democrats:
Tom Carper (DE)
Kent Conrad (ND)
Byron Dorgan (ND)
Tim Johnson (SD)
Mary Landrieu (LA)
Blanche Lincoln (AR)
Mark Pryor (AR)

Also call these "Blue State" and pro-choice Republicans:
Lincoln Chafee (RI)
Susan Collins (ME)
Lisa Murkowsky (AK)
Bob Smith (OR)
Olympia Snowe (ME)
Ted Stevens (AK)

For extra credit, call all the 2008 Presidential candidates who are sitting Senators - Evan Bayh, Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Russ Feingold, and John Kerry - and tell them to either LEAD THE FILIBUSTER or FORGET ABOUT YOUR SUPPORT.

You can also send that message to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (202-224-2447) and the Democratic National Committee (202-863-8000).

Share what you learn with members here:
That's the FIGHTING DEMS I know! Filibuster this nominee. No president should be allowed the powers of a "Unitary Executive." This is a democracy, not a monarchy!

Call your Senators! Call your Congressperson! Let them know what you expect.

The Vigil: 26 Days in Crawford, Texas

Know the truth of what happened in Crawford, Texas during the scorching Summer of 2005.

This volume's very existence honors my affilliation with one of the finest weekly newspapers in Texas, The Lone Star Iconoclast.

To read my report of the sweat-drenched days at the height of Sheehan's protest and the rise of Camp Casey I & II, visit "Fear and Loathing in Crawford, Texas."

Just what is "The Unitary Executive"?

The Webster Retort, Jan. 27, 2006
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter

Just what is "The Unitary Executive"?

Pronunciation: "yü-ni-'la-t&-r&l, -'la-tr&l
Function: adjective

1 a : done or undertaken by one person or party b : of, relating to, or affecting one side of a subject : ONE-SIDED c : constituting or relating to a contract or engagement by which an express obligation to do or forbear is imposed on only one party.

2 a: having parts arranged on one side B : occurring on, performed on, or affecting one side of the body or one of its parts.

Source: Merriam-Webster Online

While our windbag Senators wasted their time wringing their hands over Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito’s college club affiliations, a much deeper, darker side of his judicial views came to surface. On Feb. 5, 1986, Alito, as then deputy assistant attorney general in the office of Legal Counsel, drafted a memo outlining a legal strategy that would allow the president to bypass Congress and "help shape the law." This loophole was dubbed a "signing statement."

The signing statement was most recently employed by Bush Jr. when he signed the McCain anti-torture bill into law. "The executive branch shall construe [the law] in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President as Commander in Chief," wrote Bush, adding that the signing statement "will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President of protecting the American people from further attacks."

In short, Congress passed a law with near unanimous support in the Senate (only nine out of 100 voted against it), and Bush affixed a sticky note to the law that makes it null and void at the time and date of his choosing. Citing the Unitary Executive doctrine of Samuel Alito, President Bush has overruled Congress and put his foot squarely in the face of our system of justice. This is, by very definition, the primary intent of the Unitary Executive.

Speaking to the Federalist Society in 2001, Alito said, "When I was in OLC [...], we were strong proponents of the theory of the unitary executive, that all federal executive power is vested by the Constitution in the President. And I thought then, and I still think, that this theory best captures the meaning of the Constitution's text and structure . [...] [T]he case for a unitary executive seems, if anything, stronger today than it was in the 18th Century."

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote that "The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

If you are not connecting the dots by now, let me make the point of this perfectly clear. The Unitary Executive is code-speak for a president with powers so inflated, it trumps Congress and the Judiciary in all respects. By way of the Alito doctrine, Bush's desire for unilateral power is quickly and quietly becoming a reality. This usurper seeks to unhinge our system of checks and balances and cross this longstanding legal boundary that is the very foundation of our democratic society. Now you know why Bush nominated Samuel Alito.

Silly me. Here I was thinking Republicans supported limited government. If you still adamantly back this man's actions and the nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, I would say that you should assume a new title: "Nationalist." Perhaps the anti-Republican Republicans (I.E.: Neo Cons) should break away from the party who's platform is all but irrelevant to this president. You could be the United Nationalist Party. Your slogan could be something like, "My country, good or bad." I’ve been hearing that one a lot lately.

The title of this new party would be fitting; far more telling than the deceptive Republican tag. Coming from an independent Liberal point of view, I would love to see some true conservatism in the halls of power. But instead we get unrestrained spending, neglect of our national security, infringements upon our constitution, and a new political atmosphere where colleagues from across the isle no longer walk together through the storied halls of the Rayburn building, hammering out compromises in the interest of all. Today, this anti-conservative Republican amalgam movement seeks "to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs," in the immoral words of Republican Senator Phil Gramm.

The funny thing about Nationalists is their propensity to ignore reality. "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them," wrote George Orwell. Lately, it seems the words of the 1984 author offer the most telling truths of our time.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with North Texas weekly The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit The Gonzo Muckraker.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


I received this letter just a few moments ago. While I generally do not respond to emails and comments, I must say, this was a nice way to start off a Tuesday.

Or any day for that matter.

Thanks Lynda.

Good morning Mr. Weir,

You publish Stephen Webster's column, hence, you are a good man.

He might be 'emotional', but without passion, life is gray.

Thank you and Mr Webster, as he does speak (for some of us) to our
conscience. A singular voice these days.

My respects,
Lynda DuMont

Conservative media: Bush bracing for impeachment hearings

This morning on little-read right wing rag Insight, the White House is expecting Impeachment Hearings.

The Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress.

"A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said.

Sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Administration sources said the charges are expected to include false reports to Congress as well as Mr. Bush's authorization of the National Security Agency to engage in electronic surveillance inside the United States without a court warrant. This included the monitoring of overseas telephone calls and e-mail traffic to and from people living in the United States without requisite permission from a secret court.

Sources said the probe to determine whether the president violated the law will include Republicans, but that they may not be aware they could be helping to lay the groundwork for a Democratic impeachment campaign against Mr. Bush.

Doesn't that last bit simply not give our ever-so nationalist Congress the credit they deserve? They do not walk blindly into these hearings. They know the president has been breaking the law. However, they seek to rubber-stamp the spying programs of the Pentagon, NSA and FBI. The ambush will come when they discover that, *shock!*, Mr. Bush, just like Mr. Nixon, has been spying on political enemies. I.E. public dissenters, journalists, the Kerry campaign, ETC.

Funny thing about the Nationalist archetype ... I think Orwell said it best when he wrote, "The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them." Its too bad I do not have Democratic Senators, because if I did I would ask them to get the FBI out of my trash.

Seriously. Someone has been stealing all of my garbage. They did it again yesterday.

Monday, January 23, 2006


I got a letter this morning, asking for an exposition of my journalistic principals. I thought the exchange may shine some light on your faithful muckraker, submitted here for the prying minds of the readers.

The message and my response follow.
Don Anthony wrote:

Curious how you and Bob Weir co-exist ;-)

Can you give me more information on your views, i.e.:

Gonzo journalism is a journalistic style, most famously used by Hunter S. Thompson. The term gonzo was first applied to Thompson's writing in 1970 by Bill Cardoso, a Boston Globe reporter who claimed the word had originated with the Irish in South Boston to describe the last man standing at the end of an all-night drinking marathon. Central to gonzo journalism is the notion that journalism can be more truthful without strict observance of traditional rules of factual reportage. The best work in the genre is characterized by a novelistic twist added to reportage, with usual standards of accuracy subordinated to catching the mood of a place or event. The reporter and the quest for information are central, with other considerations taking a back seat.

Gonzo journalism is an extension of the New Journalism championed by Tom Wolfe, Lester Bangs, and George Plimpton. "I don't get any satisfaction out of the old traditional journalist's view—'I just covered the story. I just gave it a balanced view,'" Thompson said in an interview for the online edition of The Atlantic. "Objective journalism is one of the main reasons American politics has been allowed to be so corrupt for so long. You can't be objective about Nixon."

In Thompson's work, the author's viewpoint is frequently distorted by consumption of drugs and alcohol (often noted in the article), but gonzo journalism is not about using drugs and alcohol. It has been said that it can and may have been used to support drug and alcohol usage with the premise of writing about an experience.

In literary terms, "gonzo" has been described by Douglas Brinkley as requiring virtually no re-writing, frequently employing scribbled notes, transcribed interviews, and verbatim telephone conversations. Other writers who have worked in "gonzo" mode include P. J. O'Rourke, and James Corkern.


We are both boned-up on our facts and have a solid agreement of disagreement. I think there is a certain level of mutual respect between us. I respect his authority as my boss and editor and local champion of a particular school of thought. I feel that he respects me because I represent another prevalent ideology in this country and I represent it with an informed honesty. I also believe that, as a published novelist, he recognizes my virtues as something of a scribe, my ability to communicate through AP style (harder than you would think), and knowledge of the journalistic method. I'll say this much - we make for a hell of an interview team. Those politicos never know which way the questions are coming from!

As for the Gonzo tip, I'll say this: Dr. Thompson was journalism's wild man. A true outlaw who rejected objectivity because he believed the human experience is inherently tied to perspective. His work reflected that. As a feature writer, columnist and editorialist, he was free of any ethics scrapes and able to fully express his vantage point and opinions. His work has been called some of the most significant of the 20th century. I view his style as irreplaceable and without peer. I could never hope to mimic his immortal method, or walk the path of insanity as he did. Instead, I study his work and try to carry on his ideals of upsetting the status quo and fighting for the causes I believe in. And just to be clear, I do not do drugs. Too many people associate him with his characters Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, the drug-addled creatures of the night who put a savage burn on Vegas and barely lived to tell the tale.

The "Gonzo logo" that adorns my web log and fedora is nothing more than a talisman. As a young man I was inspired to become a journalist by Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, and I carry the insignia as a reminder of why I am where I am. That is as far as I take Gonzo. I reject objectivity in my column, simply because it is an "OP-ED" piece and requires my true opinion. However, Bob would be all over me if I were to inject opinion into any form of news copy. When I investigate or report, it is nothing but "who, what, when, where, why and how."

I do not allow my opinions or political views to hinder my objectivity as a reporter of the facts, or interfere in any way with the stories that I cover. There is plenty of room for commentary on the web and in my column. I would not be a reporter if I were unable to keep my opinion to myself when writing news. Thankfully, I had a very competent teacher who made sure I know the importance of objectivity in that category of writing. But as I've said to others before, turn to page six and I'll tell you what I really think.

Does that help?

Stephen Webster

Friday, January 20, 2006

Its a Bush world, Baby!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Cornyn responds

I just got a response from Texas Senator John Cornyn regarding the letter I sent about Bush's domestic wiretaps. Clearly, I am opposed to the president's lawlessness. But, it appears that Cornyn is not. Indeed, he would kill the messenger before facing the criminal. Here's the text ...

Dear Mr. Webster:

Thank you for contacting me about the National Security Agency (NSA) program to intercept international communications of suspected individuals linked to Al Qaeda or related terrorist organizations. I appreciate having the benefit of your comments.

As you know, on January 16, 2005, The New York Times reported on a classified NSA program to intercept communications between suspected terrorists overseas and potential operatives within the United States without a court warrant. The purpose of this program is to serve as an early warning system and prevent another terrorist attack such as the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001. Some critics maintain that President George W. Bush did not have authority to conduct warrant-less electronic foreign intelligence surveillance. In fact, both the Constitution and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force—which was overwhelmingly passed by Congress on September 18, 2001—grant the President broad authorities to protect and defend the nation. Based on our current knowledge of the NSA program, the President was acting within his legal authorities and obligations as Commander-in-Chief.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary Committees, I am committed to ensuring that we appropriately balance our national security needs and the protection of our civil liberties. I support congressional oversight hearings that will provide a better understanding of this important program and determine whether any legislative action is required. However, I remain concerned that the unauthorized release of classified information, such as occurred in The New York Times story, could damage national security. Individuals who divulge classified information without proper authorization—especially when such information can undermine ongoing intelligence operations—should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent the interests of Texans in the United States Senate. Thank you for taking the time to contact me.


United States Senator
No response from Hutchenson's office, however. I wonder if she has opinions about anything anymore. When was the last time she made headlines? I do not recall hearing much from her recently on the "grapevine," so to speak.

Tip 'o the Hat to D Magazine ... again!

Big thumbs up to D Magazine publisher Wick Allison, who plugged a recent post by this 'ere Muckraker. I did not appreciate Dr. Burgess' belittlement of my title during out interview yesterday, and I was not afraid to tell the world. Well, a lot more people know about it now, thanks to D's blog, FrontBurner ...

And it doesn't like he's figured out how to do it. The News Connection's Stephen Webster--whose website moniker, gonzomuckraker, gives you an idea where he's coming from--calls the Lewisville Congressman to account on his rubber-stamp voting record in defense of Tom DeLay and, I have to admit, scores some solid hits. Burgess had better polish up either his defenses or his voting record. He's not going to coast on this one.

Wick Allison · 08:19 AM

Sorry Congressman Burgess. I'm the kind of journalist who speaks his mind on the Op-Ed page (and this web-log). You are a public official. Maybe thicker skin would suit you.

Are we still a country of laws?

Be careful what you say on the phone and internet, my friends. Big Brother is listening, and the law is obviously of no concern to Bush. I do not know how much more notice our people and our leaders need on this matter, but now a bi-partisan Congressional research agency is saying that the warrant-less domestic spying program is illegal and the fact that the Bush administration failed to brief Congress just adds another charge on the pile.

Now, when was Congress planning on holding these people accountable for their lawlessness? Soon, I hope. I do not want the "rule of law" to be utterly discredited.

From the Washington Post ...

Congressional Agency Questions Legality of Wiretaps
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 19, 2006; A05

The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday.

The Congressional Research Service opinion said that the amended 1947 law requires President Bush to keep all members of the House and Senate intelligence committees "fully and currently informed" of such intelligence activities as the domestic surveillance effort.

The memo from national security specialist Alfred Cumming is the second report this month from CRS to question the legality of aspects of Bush's domestic spying program. A Jan. 6 report concluded that the administration's justifications for the program conflicted with current law.
Read More ...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Democrat Barnwell to challenge Burgess for Congress

Democrat Barnwell to challenge Burgess for Congress
By Stephen Webster
Investigative Reporter
Publication date: Jan. 20, 2006

To listen to a podcast of the candidate's platform, click here.

Tim Barnwell is fed up. After attending the Denton County 2005 Donkey Fest and discovering how few candidates the party had put forward, he decided to run. “When I went to see who was running for Congress in District 63, I found out it was me,” he says. “Even though I have never run for public office before, I know I can do a better job than the person we’ve got. It is time for some change, and I think the voters will agree with me on that.”

Barnwell, an independent-minded Democrat and resident of Aubrey, has over 20 years of history with the party, previously serving as a precinct chairman. “I’m not really attached to the party line,” he admits. “If gun control worked, I’d support it. But it doesn’t, so I’m not for it. […] But I’ve always been on the liberal side of things. Have I always been a Democrat? No. I became a registered Democrat about 20 years ago. Before that, I prided myself, like so many do, on being fiercely independent.”

The holder of a Masters of Business Administration from the University of Dallas, Barnwell claims his love of civic participation and working for the betterment of his community is what drove him to run. “I get great enjoyment out of helping others and serving in the community,” he said. “I wanted to find a position where I could do that for a living. I believe that position lies at the end of this campaign.”

However, Barnwell faces what many would see as an uphill battle, running against a multi-term Republican incumbent in a district dominated by the Right. “I recognize that this district has voted Republican for the last 20 or so years. Prior to that it was a Democratic stronghold,” he said. “Today, I believe we stand a chance of getting our message across. Air America radio has helped us reach out and get a voice of our own in the area. […] When you take my message one item at a time, you’ll see that by and large I fit within the mainstream of our community.”

“I noticed that about 65 percent of [Dr. Burgess’] money comes from political action committees,” said Barnwell. “He also received money from Tom DeLay. Am I saying Burgess is corrupt? No. What I am saying is that he lacks judgment for the position. You just can’t take money from anyone and everyone. I will run on small donations from individuals, not PAC’s or corporations. I will reach out to the voters through the internet. I think that method has been shown to work, and work well. I’ll probably only have half the money as Burgess, but that is something, and the contributions will be from concerned citizens, not faceless entities.”

Barnwell’s views of the recent Abramoff influence-buying scandal will be a primary issue to his campaign. “Know this: Abramoff did not contribute a single dollar to any Democrat, despite what Fox News may tell you,” he claims. “This culture of corruption is a serious problem, and it has exclusively infected the Republican Party. Corruption is brought about by absolute power, which the Republicans currently hold. We must maintain a balance of power in Washington. The Republicans that are in office, by and large, with notable exceptions, are not doing the job of investigating, policing or maintaining checks and balances.”

Also close to the core of Barnwell’s campaign is the ongoing education debacle. “My number one issue is the federal involvement in our public education system. It is ill-conceived; it is not working,” he claims. “When I was in school, the report card was the be-all and end-all. That is no longer the case. […] If you open a teacher’s file cabinet and you will find 15 or 20 confidential files that dealt with students’ specific needs that must be met. Entire classrooms would stop for almost six week so that students could be taught the test they will be taking. Every day you are taught a test is a day that you are not learning the subject matter. […] We have to return authority to the classroom by getting rid of this bureaucracy that is so counter-productive to the school system. We pay more money to administrators than teachers. That is wrong. In Michigan, public school teachers get over $60,000 a year. Here, they get about $30,000, if they’re lucky.”

“I am committed to representing the people, not corporate interests,” says Barnwell. “I aim to help restore our system of checks and balances. How will I help accomplish this? To start, I will support an independent investigation into whether President Bush broke the law by ordering domestic wiretaps without warrants, without court oversight. If he did, it is absolutely reprehensible, and I will support the remedy to an executive who has crossed the line one too many times. […] If I am elected, I will work to return creditability to our government and balance to its powers.”

Woah! Kinky is on a roll!

In yesterday's Dallas Morning News, a story appeared trumpeting the initial success of the Kinky Friedman for Governor campaign. Readers of The News Connection and this blog may remember that I interviewed The Kinkster Himself a few months ago at a rally in Ft. Worth. After that day, my support of Kinky was cemented. I'm looking forward to seeing him debate Perry and Strayhorn and Bell. But I was a little concerned about his campaign's finances. You can't beat the slum kings on a soup-bowl budget.

I was wrong to have worried.

From the DMN ...
Former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell raised $355,000 in the last six months, and one-time state Supreme Court Justice Bob Gammage collected $67,000, according to campaign finance reports filed Tuesday with the state.

By comparison, Mr. Friedman, the mystery novelist and singer-songwriter who's running his first race for statewide office, reported raising $1.5 million between July and December.

"It speaks volumes how lost the Democratic Party has become in this state and how dispirited Democrats have become," said Mr. Friedman's campaign manager, Dean Barkley.
That is just freaking amazing, if you ask me. I'm with Kinky, all the way! I hope you will support him as well. Check out his campaign website. Ever see anything like this before?

Congressman Burgess INSULTED me!

I just got out of a two-hour interview with my Congressman, Republican Michael Burgess. Readers of this blog and The News Connection may remember that I criticized him in my column last week. I told his constituents that he had accepted a large sum of money from indicted Houston Congressman Tom DeLay, and that Dr. Burgess had donated to Mr. DeLay's legal defense fund. I also commented on his voting record, saying that he has voted lock-step with the Neo-Con agenda, and has been nothing but another Zombie Republican, blindly following the Bush agenda of death, destruction, and unprecedented spending.

When Burgess arrived, I walked into my editor's office and said, "Congressman, it is a pleasure to meet you." I shook his hand, trying to be cordial and polite as I am with all of my interview subjects. Bob introduced me to him, saying "this is Stephen Webster, our Investigative Reporter."

Burgess paused and shook his head then quipped, "to use the term lightly."

My smile dropped in a half-second. How very unbecoming of a public official! I've had nothing but positive feedback from this community on my investigation of the Denton Central Appraisal District and the Flower Mound High School hazing incident. And this guy ... this Congressman, of all things ... comes right out of the gate and insults me? I do not think the readers of this newspaper would appreciate that. I still get letters thanking me for my efforts to expose the corruption in our appraisal system, and I don't even own a house!

I should note that, during our interview, Dr. Burgess lied several times. He stated that Congressional Republicans have been "very successful" in "restraining federal spending." But the Bush administration has borrowed more money than every previous administration in American history, combined. He calls that "restrained"? The only restraining I've seen is the nasty cuts to food stamps, college aid, medicare and planned parenthood. Social programs. Necessary spending. That's restraint? That's nasty. That's flat-out wrong.

He also claimed that he voted against changing the house ethics rules in support of his friend, Mr. DeLay. Well ... that too is an "untruth," to use nice terminology. He voted to change it early in 2005. Then, when the new rules came under so much fire (they would have allowed indicted representatives to remain in leadership positions), nearly all house Republicans voted to change them back to the previous rule-set that kept shady figures like DeLay out of such powerful seats. Only 20 Republican representatives voted against this measure. Burgess was one of those 20 - and only one of seven from Texas.

I suppose he thought I wasn't boned up on my "facts." On the topic of ethics rules and Burgess' painful support of corruption, the Ft. Worth Star Telegram had this to say ...
"Sadly, this Congress is so infected with the disease of partisanship that even the actions of the only totally bipartisan House committee -- with its equal number of Republicans and Democrats -- will be viewed through a lens of cynicism.

And by the way: It is disheartening to note that local Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess did not join the overwhelming majority of their Republican colleagues in voting to re-adopt the former rules -- a move that broke the logjam that barred the Ethics Committee from convening to discuss any issue, not just that of DeLay."

I could go on and on. There were so many statements that Burgess made in my presence that contained holes so big I could have driven a Hummer through them without even clipping the mirrors. But I digress. I'm just exceedingly pleased that I got to him. He was annoyed, and he insulted me.

I think I'll wear it like a badge of honor. Today, I won a freakin' medal - a congressional insult.



I just remembered the details of another of Burgess' comments. He said that Congressman Murtha was an "unindicted co-conspirator" in an ethics scrape years ago, and that he had taken a bribe. I assume he was talking about this story from Republican propaganda outlet CyberCast News Service. But even in the story, Murtha is exonnerated of all illegal dealings.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Murtha was one of eight members of Congress lured to a Washington, D.C., townhouse by a team of FBI agents posing as representatives of a fictitious Arab sheik. They handed out briefcases filled with $50,000 in return for helping the sheik gain residency in the United States."

Noting that Murtha "is not squeaky clean," the Brattleboro, Vt., Reformer reported that the congressman "did not take the cash" offered by the agents. Instead, "he asked the fake sheik to consider investing some money in his struggling home town, Johnstown."
His longings for times past when Democrats were more corrupt than Republicans are clear. Burgess, Burgess, Burgess ... The times, they have a-changed. Your peers are the ones with blood on their hands. No distortion you could possibly present will change that.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

America's Collective, Selective Memory

The Webster Retort
By Stephen Webster
Publication date: Jan. 20, 2006

“I am convinced that it is one of the most unjust wars that has ever been fought in the history of the world. Our involvement in the war in Vietnam has torn up the Geneva Accord. It has strengthened the military-industrial complex; it has strengthened the forces of reaction in our nation. It has put us against the self-determination of a vast majority of the Vietnamese people, and put us in the position of protecting a corrupt regime that is stacked against the poor. […] We have alienated ourselves from other nations so we end up morally and politically isolated in the world. There is not a single major ally of the United States of America that would dare send a troop to Vietnam, and so the only friends that we have now are a few client-nations like Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and a few others.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution

This column would have been more appropriate last week. January 16, 2006 - the day when our nation honors a great orator, advocate of equality, activist for peace. Martin Luther King Jr. A day which many Americans, young and old, imbue with a sense of remembrance and gratitude. We honor a tower of a man, his struggle, and the victory of an oppressed people over the forces of Old and Evil.

But what of this nation’s further plight? Why do so few recall Dr. King’s activism for peace? His calls to end the unjust, illegal war in Vietnam? He stood and fought against a war started on the basis of a lie, perpetuated by criminals and thieves and liars. A war which swallowed over 50,000 members of an American generation. A war which scarred our country’s consciousness forever.

I cannot lay claim to having been present on this earth during those tumultuous years. Yet as a child, my father would regal me with stories of the peace movement; tales of upheaval, sit-ins and protest. From a young age I could recite lines from Dr. King’s most famous of speeches. His message, my father’s message, was one of justice and equality. It was, and is, very dear to me. Their words, the foundation of my core beliefs upon which I stand each week in the pages of this publication.

You may call me a hypocrite; a hippie; a peace-nic; a “pinko,” to quote one recently received missive. But I say to you, do not celebrate the life and accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King without considering the breadth of his message. His words are as powerful and meaningful and important today as they were when he first ascribed them to paper and shook the institutions of power to their very core.

On Jan. 16, 2006, our president stood before the nation and violated the memory of King, calling him simply “an American who called Americans to account when we didn’t live up to our ideals.” I would remind those few who still fanatically embrace the broken, destructive policies of President Bush to read between those lines. Deep within our nation’s collective, selective memory lies a hero of not just a proud people united for racial equality, but a hero to all who seek peace and justice in America and the world.

Remember Martin Luther King Jr. for who he really was and what he did; not this idealized, non-threatening, fake, irrelevant mockery propped up by a corporate media sham and its Neo-Con masters.

Do not segregate the remembrance of a great man from his beliefs. How many more must die before we throw off the reigns of oppression once again, stand up and speak with one unified voice against the war-mongers, the fascists, and those who propagate hate? Dr. King had a dream, where all men were equal. Where all nations worked for the betterment of each other. Where the measure of a society is the well-being of least of its members.

“Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it
must be ours.”

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Beyond Vietnam

I too have a dream.

End the war in Iraq and prevent the invasion of Iran. Restore America’s honor in the world community. Hold this government responsible for its wide-reaching abuses. And for the sake of the very basis of our nation – the American Constitution - vote against this evil in November. Your nation and world depend upon it.

Wake up, my countrymen. Remember.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit


"Fear drives out reason. Fear suppresses the politics of discourse and opens the door to the politics of destruction. Justice Brandeis once wrote: "Men feared witches and burnt women."

The founders of our country faced dire threats. If they failed in their endeavors, they would have been hung as traitors. The very existence of our country was at risk.

Yet, in the teeth of those dangers, they insisted on establishing the Bill of Rights.

Is our Congress today in more danger than were their predecessors when the British army was marching on the Capitol? Is the world more dangerous than when we faced an ideological enemy with tens of thousands of missiles poised to be launched against us and annihilate our country at a moment's notice? Is America in more danger now than when we faced worldwide fascism on the march-when our fathers fought and won two World Wars?

It is simply an insult to those who came before us and sacrificed so much on our behalf to imply that we have more to be fearful of than they. Yet they faithfully protected our freedoms and now it is up to us to do the same."

-- Al Gore, 1/17/2006

Barnwell for Congress

Yesterday afternoon, I interviewed my district's Democratic congressional candidate. His name is Tim Barnwell, and he is running against Republican incumbent Michael Burgess. Readers of this blog may recall my recent recollection of Dr. Burgess' efforts to bolster Tom DeLay's legal defense fund, as well as his imprudent acceptance of a large donation from one of DeLay's dirty charities.

I am not a fan of Burgess, as you can probably tell. He is nothing more than a Bushman; a big fan of war, poverty, domestic spying ... all that. He's "a worthless, no-good line-tugger who can't think for himself," according to one of his Republican constituents who spoke to me on the phone yesterday.

So, this Barnwell guy is about my only option for District 63's U.S. Representative office. I really wasn't impressed with his style. He seemed slightly awkward, lingering on a few points here and there, and taking the long (and I mean long) route to his points. But, he basically falls in line with my political views. He supports an investigation into the president's domestic spying, and he is a proponent of national health care. So, good and good. He's got my vote by default, but I am sure this county's Democratic party could have put forward a more enigmatic candidate, but that is picking nits.

We've suffered under 20+ years of Republican rule in this part of North Texas. A terrible president and loads of discontent over corruption, war, and the current office holder's horrendous misrepresentations of true conservative values may have stirred the people up enough to displace the GOP in Denton County. Barnwell thinks so, anyway.

Oh yeah, I made a digital recording of the interview. See below.

Tim Barnwell in the offices of The News Connection on Jan. 16, 2006.

Podcast of the interview
(about 50 minutes - gets interesting 15 minutes in)

Podcast of his 5-minute stump speech
(actually 4 minutes, 25 seconds)

Monday, January 16, 2006

If you've lost Cronkite, you've lost Middle America

Walter Cronkite on Iraq: "It's my belief that we should get out now."

President Lyndon Johnson on the Vietnam War, 1968: "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America."

Introducing, Andrew!

Over the weekend, my sister Ellen gave birth to her third boy! She was kind enough to blog the experience. My new nephew is named Andrew Josiah Baumann. He was born January 13, 2006 at 8:50 p.m. CST. He weighed 8 lbs. 10 oz.

And I've got pictures!


My other awesome nephews - Timothy (Left) and Christopher (Right) - with their new brother.

I'm so excited!

Friday, January 13, 2006

O'Reilly's appology?

Bill O'Reilly - Good Morning America - Mar 13, 2003:

"And I said on my program, if -- if -- the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean, he has nothing, I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again."

We're waiting, Bill.

Medicare bottoms out

Remember the Bush Medicare plan? The one that was supposed to make life so much easier for seniors? Pfff. It went into effect on January 1, 2006. Here we are, less than two weeks since it started, and the whole thing is bottoming out.

From the AP ...

California, Arkansas and Illinois have joined about half a dozen other states taking emergency measures to help residents struggling to get prescriptions filled under the new Medicare drug program.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
ordered an emergency plan Thursday allowing the state to pay for the drugs for the next two weeks.

The state will temporarily supply seniors and the disabled with "lifesaving medications they are in danger of losing because of significant problems with the new federal Medicare prescription drug program," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Gov. Mike Huckabee declared a public health emergency in Arkansas on Wednesday and announced the state would provide short-term aid to pharmacies to help get medicines filled.

"It's become apparent that there are a number of people in our state, particularly the elderly and the most frail, who are in a life-or-death risk over getting medication," Huckabee said.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Impeachment of George W. Bush

From the latest issue of The Nation magazine ...

The Impeachment of George W. Bush
By Ex-Representative Elizabeth Holtzman
Principal author of Congressional Resolutions to Impeach Richard Nixon

Finally, it has started. People have begun to speak of impeaching President George W. Bush--not in hushed whispers but openly, in newspapers, on the Internet, in ordinary conversations and even in Congress. As a former member of Congress who sat on the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon, I believe they are right to do so.

I can still remember the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach during those proceedings, when it became clear that the President had so systematically abused the powers of the presidency and so threatened the rule of law that he had to be removed from office. As a Democrat who opposed many of President Nixon's policies, I still found voting for his impeachment to be one of the most sobering and unpleasant tasks I ever had to undertake. None of the members of the committee took pleasure in voting for impeachment; after all, Democrat or Republican, Nixon was still our President.

At the time, I hoped that our committee's work would send a strong signal to future Presidents that they had to obey the rule of law. I was wrong.

Like many others, I have been deeply troubled by Bush's breathtaking scorn for our international treaty obligations under the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions. I have also been disturbed by the torture scandals and the violations of US criminal laws at the highest levels of our government they may entail, something I have written about in these pages [see Holtzman, "Torture and Accountability," July 18/25, 2005]. These concerns have been compounded by growing evidence that the President deliberately misled the country into the war in Iraq. But it wasn't until the most recent revelations that President Bush directed the wiretapping of hundreds, possibly thousands, of Americans, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)--and argued that, as Commander in Chief, he had the right in the interests of national security to override our country's laws--that I felt the same sinking feeling in my stomach as I did during Watergate.

As a matter of constitutional law, these and other misdeeds constitute grounds for the impeachment of President Bush. A President, any President, who maintains that he is above the law--and repeatedly violates the law--thereby commits high crimes and misdemeanors, the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal from office. A high crime or misdemeanor is an archaic term that means a serious abuse of power, whether or not it is also a crime, that endangers our constitutional system of government.

The framers of our Constitution feared executive power run amok and provided the remedy of impeachment to protect against it. While impeachment is a last resort, and must never be lightly undertaken (a principle ignored during the proceedings against President Bill Clinton), neither can Congress shirk its responsibility to use that tool to safeguard our democracy. No President can be permitted to commit high crimes and misdemeanors with impunity.

But impeachment and removal from office will not happen unless the American people are convinced of its necessity after a full and fair inquiry into the facts and law is conducted. That inquiry must commence now.

Warrantless Wiretaps

On December 17 President Bush acknowledged that he repeatedly authorized wiretaps, without obtaining a warrant, of American citizens engaged in international calls. On the face of it, these warrantless wiretaps violate FISA, which requires court approval for national security wiretaps and sets up a special procedure for obtaining it. Violation of the law is a felony.

While many facts about these wiretaps are unknown, it now appears that thousands of calls were monitored and that the information obtained may have been widely circulated among federal agencies. It also appears that a number of government officials considered the warrantless wiretaps of dubious legality. Reportedly, several people in the National Security Agency refused to participate in them, and a deputy attorney general even declined to sign off on some aspects of these wiretaps. The special FISA court has raised concerns as well, and a judge on that court has resigned, apparently in protest.

FISA was enacted in 1978, against the backdrop of Watergate, to prevent the widespread abuses in domestic surveillance that were disclosed in Congressional hearings. Among his other abuses of power, President Nixon ordered the FBI to conduct warrantless wiretaps of seventeen journalists and White House staffers. Although Nixon claimed the wiretaps were done for national security purposes, they were undertaken for political purposes and were illegal. Just as Bush's warrantless wiretaps grew out of the 9/11 attacks, Nixon's illegal wiretaps grew out of the Vietnam War and the opposition to it. In fact, the first illegal Nixon wiretap was of a reporter who, in 1969, revealed the secret bombing of Cambodia, a program that President Nixon wanted to hide from the American people and Congress. Nixon's illegal wiretaps formed one of the many grounds for the articles of impeachment voted against him by a bipartisan majority of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congress explicitly intended FISA to strike a balance between the legitimate requirements of national security on the one hand and the need both to protect against presidential abuses and to safeguard personal privacy on the other. From Watergate, Congress knew that a President was fully capable of wiretapping under a false claim of national security. That is why the law requires court review of national security wiretaps. Congress understood that because of the huge invasion of privacy involved in wiretaps, there should be checks in place on the executive branch to protect against overzealous and unnecessary wiretapping. At the same time, Congress created special procedures to facilitate obtaining these warrants when justified. Congress also recognized the need for emergency action: The President was given the power to start a wiretap without a warrant as long as court permission was obtained within three days.

FISA can scarcely be claimed to create any obstacle to justified national security wiretaps. Since 1978, when the law was enacted, more than 10,000 national security warrants have been approved by the FISA court; only four have been turned down.

Two legal arguments have been offered for the President's right to violate the law, both of which have been seriously questioned by members of Congress of both parties and by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service in a recent analysis. The first--highly dangerous in its sweep and implications--is that the President has the constitutional right as Commander in Chief to break any US law on the grounds of national security. As the CRS analysis points out, the Supreme Court has never upheld the President's right to do this in the area of wiretapping, nor has it ever granted the President a "monopoly over war-powers" or recognized him as "Commander in Chief of the country" as opposed to Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. If the President is permitted to break the law on wiretapping on his own say-so, then a President can break any other law on his own say-so--a formula for dictatorship. This is not a theoretical danger: President Bush has recently claimed the right as Commander in Chief to violate the McCain amendment banning torture and degrading treatment of detainees. Nor is the requirement that national security be at stake any safeguard. We saw in Watergate how President Nixon falsely and cynically used that argument to cover up ordinary crimes and political misdeeds.

Ours is a government of limited power. We learn in elementary school the concept of checks and balances. Those checks do not vanish in wartime; the President's role as Commander in Chief does not swallow up Congress's powers or the Bill of Rights. Given the framers' skepticism about executive power and warmaking--there was no functional standing army at the beginning of the nation, so the President's powers as Commander in Chief depended on Congress's willingness to create and expand an army--it is impossible to find in the Constitution unilateral presidential authority to act against US citizens in a way that violates US laws, even in wartime. As Justice Sandra Day O'Connor recently wrote, "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens."

The second legal argument in defense of Bush's warrantless wiretaps rests on an erroneous statutory interpretation. According to this argument, Congress authorized the Administration to place wiretaps without court approval when it adopted the 2001 resolution authorizing military force against the Taliban and Al Qaeda for the 9/11 attacks. In the first place, the force resolution doesn't mention wiretaps. And given that Congress has traditionally placed so many restrictions on wiretapping because of its extremely intrusive qualities, there would undoubtedly have been vigorous debate if anyone thought the force resolution would roll back FISA. In fact, the legislative history of the force resolution shows that Congress had no intention of broadening the scope of presidential warmaking powers to cover activity in the United States. According to Senator Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader who negotiated the resolution with the White House, the Administration wanted to include language explicitly enlarging the President's warmaking powers to include domestic activity. That language was rejected. Obviously, if the Administration felt it already had the power, it would not have tried to insert the language into the resolution.

What then was the reason for avoiding the FISA court? President Bush suggested that there was no time to get the warrants. But this cannot be true, because FISA permits wiretaps without warrants in emergencies as long as court approval is obtained within three days. Moreover, there is evidence that the President knew the warrantless wiretapping was illegal. In 2004, when the violations had been going on for some time, President Bush told a Buffalo, New York, audience that "a wiretap requires a court order." He went on to say that "when we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."

Indeed, the claim that to protect Americans the President needs to be able to avoid court review of his wiretap applications rings hollow. It is unclear why or in what way the existing law, requiring court approval, is not satisfactory. And, if the law is too cumbersome or inapplicable to modern technology, then it is unclear why the President did not seek to revise it instead of disregarding it and thus jeopardizing many otherwise legitimate anti-terrorism prosecutions. His defenders' claim that changing the law would have given away secrets is unacceptable. There are procedures for considering classified information in Congress. Since no good reason has been given for avoiding the FISA court, it is reasonable to suspect that the real reason may have been that the wiretaps, like those President Nixon ordered in Watergate, involved journalists or anti-Bush activists or were improper in other ways and would not have been approved.

It is also curious that President Bush seems so concerned with the imaginary dangers to Americans posed by US courts but remains so apparently unconcerned about fixing some of the real holes in our security. For example, FBI computers--which were unable to search two words at once, like "flight schools," a defect that impaired the Bureau's ability to identify the 9/11 attackers beforehand--still haven't been brought into the twenty-first century. Given Vice President Cheney's longstanding ambition to throw off the constraints on executive power imposed in response to Watergate and the Vietnam War, it may well be that the warrantless wiretap program has had much more to do with restoring the trappings of the Nixon imperial presidency than it ever had to do with protecting national security.

Subverting Our Democracy

A President can commit no more serious crime against our democracy than lying to Congress and the American people to get them to support a military action or war. It is not just that it is cowardly and abhorrent to trick others into giving their lives for a nonexistent threat, or even that making false statements might in some circumstances be a crime. It is that the decision to go to war is the gravest decision a nation can make, and in a democracy the people and their elected representatives, when there is no imminent attack on the United States to repel, have the right to make it. Given that the consequences can be death for hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of people--as well as the diversion of vast sums of money to the war effort--the fraud cannot be tolerated. That both Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were guilty of misleading the nation into military action and neither was impeached for it makes it more, not less, important to hold Bush accountable.

Once it was clear that no weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq, President Bush tried to blame "bad intelligence" for the decision to go to war, apparently to show that the WMD claim was not a deliberate deception. But bad intelligence had little or nothing to do with the main arguments used to win popular support for the invasion of Iraq.

First, there was no serious intelligence--good or bad--to support the Administration's suggestion that Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda were in cahoots. Nonetheless, the Administration repeatedly tried to claim the connection to show that the invasion was a justified response to 9/11 (like the declaration of war against Japan for Pearl Harbor). The claim was a sheer fabrication.

Second, there was no reliable intelligence to support the Administration's claim that Saddam was about to acquire nuclear weapons capability. The specter of the "mushroom cloud," which frightened many Americans into believing that the invasion of Iraq was necessary for our self-defense, was made up out of whole cloth. As for the biological and chemical weapons, even if, as reported, the CIA director told the President that these existed in Iraq, the Administration still had plenty of information suggesting the contrary.

The deliberateness of the deception has also been confirmed by a British source: the Downing Street memo, the official record of Prime Minister Tony Blair's July 2002 meeting with his top Cabinet officials. At the meeting the chief of British intelligence, who had just returned from the United States, reported that "Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." In other words, the Bush Administration was reported to be in the process of cooking up fake intelligence and facts to justify going to war in Iraq.

During the Nixon impeachment proceedings, I drafted the resolution of impeachment to hold President Nixon accountable for concealing from Congress the bombing of Cambodia he initiated. But the committee did not approve it, probably because it might appear political--in other words, stemming from opposition to the war instead of to the President's abuse of his warmaking powers.

With respect to President Bush and the Iraq War, there is not likely to be any such confusion. Most Americans know that his rationale for the war turned out to be untrue; for them the question is whether the President lied, and if so, what the remedies are for his misconduct.

Next Steps

Mobilizing the nation and Congress in support of investigations and the impeachment of President Bush is a critical task that has already begun, but it must intensify and grow. The American people stopped the Vietnam War--against the wishes of the President--and forced a reluctant Congress to act on the impeachment of President Nixon. And they can do the same with President Bush. The task has three elements: building public and Congressional support, getting Congress to undertake investigations into various aspects of presidential misconduct and changing the party makeup of Congress in the 2006 elections.

Drumming up public support means organizing rallies, spearheading letter-writing campaigns to newspapers, organizing petition drives, door-knocking in neighborhoods, handing out leaflets and deploying the full range of mobilizing tactics. Organizations like and, actively working on a campaign for impeachment, are able to draw on a remarkably solid base of public support. A Zogby poll taken in November--before the wiretap scandal--showed more than 50 percent of those questioned favored impeachment of President Bush if he lied about the war in Iraq.

An energized public must in turn bear down on Congress. Constituents should request meetings with their Senators and Representatives to educate them on impeachment. They can also make their case through e-mail, letters and phone calls. Representatives and Senators should be asked specifically to support hearings on and investigations into the deceptions that led to the Iraq War and President Bush's role in the torture scandals. Senators should also be asked to insure that the hearings already planned by the Senate Judiciary Committee into warrantless wiretaps are comprehensive. The hearings should evaluate whether the wiretaps were genuinely used for national security purposes and why the President chose to violate the law when it was so easy to comply with it. Representatives should specifically be asked to co-sponsor Congressman John Conyers's resolution calling for a full inquiry into presidential abuses.

Finally, if this pressure fails to produce results, attention must be focused on changing the political composition of the House and Senate in the upcoming 2006 elections. If a Republican Congress is unwilling to investigate and take appropriate action against a Republican President, then a Democratic Congress should replace it.

As awful as Watergate was, after the vote on impeachment and the resignation of President Nixon, the nation felt a huge sense of relief. Impeachment is a tortuous process, but now that President Bush has thrown down the gauntlet and virtually dared Congress to stop him from violating the law, nothing less is necessary to protect our constitutional system and preserve our democracy.

Dr. Seuss - author, master of linguistics, futurist?

When famous childrens author Dr. Seuss wrote about the deplorable "Green eggs and ham," I would assume he wrote it with whimsey, intending it, much like almost all of his other volumes, for children of all ages. At the time, the idea of green ham was just absurd. I mean, green eggs can be produced with a couple drops of food coloring. You probably couldn't make green eggs, say, sunny-side up. But scrambled, for sure.

Well, here' s an oddity on the Reuters wire this morning ...

Taiwan breeds transgenic, fluorescent, green pig

By injecting fluorescent green protein into embryonic pigs, a research team at the island's leading National Taiwan University managed to breed three male transgenic pigs, said professor Wu Shinn-Chih of the university's Institute and Department of Animal Science and Technology.

"There are partially fluorescent green pigs elsewhere, but ours are the only ones in the world that are green from inside out. Even their hearts and internal organs are green," Wu said on Thursday.

The transgenic pigs, commonly used to study human diseases, would help researchers monitor and trace changes of the tissues during the physical development, Wu said.

I do not like them, Sam I Am. I do not like Green Eggs and Ham!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Abramoff Family Values, part two

**The Webster Retort**
Publication date: Jan. 13, 2006

Last week I wrote about the illegal dealings between indicted Houston Congressman Tom DeLay and indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff’s ties to other Texas Republicans are, so far, some of the least explored back-slappings in this whole torrid affair. Rest assured, Lone Star State officials have plenty of green blood on their hands.

John Cornyn, former Texas Attorney General turned Republican Senator, has some good friends in the Christian Coalition. Ralph Reed, director of the religious group, is a longtime Abramoff associate. Their relationship stretches back to Abramoff’s time as president of the College Republicans, where Reed served as his lieutenant.

Between 2001 and 2004, Abramoff worked as a lobbyist for the Louisiana Coushatta tribe in a concerted effort to stop rival casinos from cutting into the Coushatta’s Texas customers. Along with ex-DeLay associate Michael Scanlon, Abramoff paid Reed “consulting” fees to lobby Cornyn, urging him to shut down Tigua and Alabama-Coushatta casinos in Texas. Emails linking Cornyn, Reed and Abramoff were released in November of 2005 as part of the Department of Justice investigation into Abramoff’s dealings.

In a 2001 email to Abramoff, Reed claimed "We have also choreographed Cornyn's response.” Once the Texas casinos were closed and boarded-up, Abramoff and Scanlon convinced the bilked tribes to pay nearly $4.2 million for lobbying to get their gaming centers re-opened. Sen. Cornyn played a valuable role in Abramoff’s scheme to play both sides of the issue and rob millions from these tribes. “I think we should budget an ataboy for cornyn [sic],” wrote Reed in a Jan. 7, 2002 follow-up email to Abramoff. The lobbyist then contributed $1,000 to Cornyn’s campaign, the maximum allowed by law.

While all of this horse-trading was afoot, Abramoff’s associates were busy convincing his beneficiaries that their bids were safe and sound. Scanlon, the first of Abramoff’s partners to plead guilty, appeased the Louisiana tribe by invoking his influence on the Religious Right via Reed. Scanlon’s most famous quote in the matter comes from an email which was introduced into evidence during Senate hearings. According to official records, Scanlon told the Louisiana tribes “[We will] see that the Christian WACKOS [sic] would vote it down.”

This, ladies and gentlemen, from a self-proclaimed, born again Christian and longtime servant of the Republican Party who was instrumental in DeLay’s efforts to illegally redistrict the Texas voting map. That particular scheme sliced several Texas Democrats out of Congress and lumped small groups of minorities into districts with predominantly white Republican voters. Scanlon’s remarks are nothing more than a glimpse into the murky courtship between the Republican Party and the Christian Right. Dirty politicians love single-issue voters, and the DeLay/Scanlon/Abramoff cabal is a perfect example of their religious heresy.

Interestingly enough, in the first months of the DeLay investigation, Congressional Republicans changed ethics rules in order to stifle further probes into his illegal practices. Several months later, the bi-partisan panel decided to reinstate the original ethics rules, and the house supported the move in a vote of 406 to 20.

Of the 20 representatives that voted to keep the weakened rules – which may have saved DeLay from his recent removal as House Majority Leader – seven were from Texas. District 26 representative Michael Burgess was one of the few who pushed to keep the ethics rules restrained and broken, thereby keeping the Houston Congressman in power. Democrats twice put forward plans to strengthen House ethics rules, but on both occasions Burgess voted to ensure the measures never came to an up or down vote.

After DeLay was admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee, Burgess donated $5,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund. It should not come as a surprise that Burgess previously accepted $15,000 from DeLay’s ARMPAC (Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee), a group that became little more than a front and Laundromat for Abramoff/Scanlon dollars. From Jan. 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005, Burgess voted in lock-step with DeLay 95 percent of the time. During his tenure in congress, Rep. Burgess has been little more than a rubber-stamp for the Neo-Con agenda; a tried-and-true apologist for the Bush administration and supporter of restrained ethics rules.

So “Attaboy,” Texas Republicans. Keep on drinking from the faucet of Abramoff’s dirty money and Bush’s destructive politics. Your so-called “Wacko” vote is sure to wake up to the fragrant aroma of truth sooner or later. Feeling the Republican love, my Christian brothers and sisters? Culture of Corruption indeed.

Stephen Webster is an Investigative Reporter and Syndicated Columnist with The News Connection, a Staff Columnist with George W. Bush’s hometown weekly The Lone Star Iconoclast, and a former Contributor to The Dallas Morning News’ Science & Technology section. For more of Webster’s musings, visit

Yesterday, the father of the drug LSD turned 100. I've never taken acid, and the many horror stories that indoctrinated me as a youth have pretty well solidified my resistance to the substance. But it strikes me as a keenly ambigious twist of fate that the creator of a chemical compound that profoundly affected our society has lived longer than most of us ever will.

From AP reporter Sam Cage ...

Father of LSD celebrating 100th birthday

GENEVA - LSD is an unlikely subject for a 100th birthday party. Yet the Swiss chemist who discovered the mind-altering drug and was its first human guinea pig is celebrating his centenary Wednesday — in good health and with plans to attend an international seminar on the hallucinogenic.

"I had wonderful visions," Albert Hofmann said, recalling his first accidental consumption of the drug.

"I sat down at home on the divan and started to dream," he told the Swiss television network SF DRS. "What I was thinking appeared in colors and in pictures. It lasted for a couple of hours and then it disappeared."

More ...

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

He said WHAT?

Okay, so I watched the Alito hearings yesterday. It was interesting, but I found myself wondering how much of it was utter bullshit. I've been pretty sick today, and I spent most of it in bed, coughing my lungs out. Needless to say, I did not watch the hearings. But Think Progress has a great post on the "quote of the day."
"It’s what we call in law school the slippery slope and if you start answering the easy questions you are going to be sliding down the ski run into the hard questions, and that’s what I’m not so happy to do."

So, he doesn't want to answer the easy questions because he would have to answer the hard questions later? Man, talk about a slippery slope. Didn't this guy go to law school? Before I heard this, I was among those who simply did not know enough about the man. Granted, he was tainted by the Shadow of The Bush, but I was still willing to hear him out. Now ... ergh ... I'm leaning towards writing a letter asking for a filibuster.

See the video here.

Friday, January 06, 2006

AP Poll: Congressional Democrats favored

Thanks to reporter Will Lester, this story is making its rounds on the AP wire ...

WASHINGTON - In an ominous election-year sign for Republicans, Americans are leaning sharply toward giving Democrats control of Congress, an AP-Ipsos poll finds. Democrats are favored 49 percent to 36 percent.
The poll was taken this week as Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to tax evasion, fraud and corruption charges and agreed to aid a federal investigation of members of Congress and other government officials.

I think I'll send this to my Democratic Congressional candidate, Mr. Tim Barnwell. He is running against the sitting Republican, Michael Burgess, who is nothing more than a Bush appologist and party-line tugger. Not my kinda guy, one might say.

In Ohio's second district during a special election last year, Democrat Paul Hackett's campaign came within about 2,000 votes of winning a seat in the house of representatives against Republican Jean Schmidt. He ran his campaign entirely on criticism of the president, and got a better showing than any Democrat in that district in the last 30 years. In fact, Ohio's 2nd was, up until that point, ranked as one of the top 10 most Republican-dominated districts in the country. Schmidt was considered a lock. She won, but it came down to the wire.

Comparatively, my district - number 26, currently represented by Republican Michael Burgess - is ranked "solid Republican" by a margin of 64% to 35%. It clocks in as one of the top 100 most Republican dominated districts in the country, but it is no lower than #80, I believe. Schmidt's 2nd district in Ohio was ranked "solid Republican" by a margin of 74% to 25%. No Democrat had come within 40 points of any Republican there for over 30 years.

Today, Hackett is running for Ohio Senate against Ted DeWine, and he's winning in the polls. All this, in what has been considered to be one of the most unbreakable Republican strongholds.

Given these numbers, and this latest AP poll, how many Texans still think Burgess is on "solid" ground? I want a Democrat, and I make no secret of it. I'll always keep bias off of the news pages, but OP-ED is another matter. Barnwell will be in my column come election time. He is a supporter of John Conyers, and a really sharp guy, if I do say so myself. He's my man, and I'm interviewing him on Monday. I'll have it posted up here asap, along with a podcast. Should be interesting.

Sad but true

I found this comic on Slate. Sadly appropriate.

A costly endeavor

Found this on TPMCafe earlier. Being a fiscal conservative/social liberal (i.e.: political moderate), I was particularly offended.


A new study by two leading academic experts suggests that the costs of the Iraq war will be substantially higher than previously reckoned. In a paper presented to this week’s Allied Social Sciences Association annual meeting in Boston MA., Harvard budget expert Linda Bilmes and Columbia University Professor and Nobel Laureate Joseph E. Stiglitz calculate that the war is likely to cost the United States a minimum of nearly one trillion dollars and potentially over $2 trillion.

The study expands on traditional budgetary estimates by including costs such as lifetime disability and health care for the over16,000 injured, one fifth of whom have serious brain or spinal injuries. It then goes on to analyze the costs to the economy, including the economic value of lives lost and the impact of factors such as higher oil prices that can be partly attributed to the conflict in Iraq. The paper also calculates the impact on the economy if a proportion of the money spent on the Iraq war were spent in other ways, including on investments in the United States

“Shortly before the war, when Administration economist Larry Lindsey suggested that the costs might range between $100 and $200 billion, Administration spokesmen quickly distanced themselves from those numbers,” points out Professor Stiglitz. “But in retrospect, it appears that Lindsey’s numbers represented a gross underestimate of the actual costs.”

The Allied Social Sciences Association meeting is attended by the nation’s leading economists and social scientists. It is sponsored jointly by the American Economic Association and the Economists for Peace and Security.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Rocking Saints

Two items of interest this afternoon, and both highly comical if I do say so myself ...

First comes to us by way of a cheerleading squad. Story reported by Preston Rudie of the Tampa Bay's 10 o'clock News

Tampa, Florida - Like most Bucs fans, Bob Corry says he enjoyed Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints at Raymond James Stadium. Everything, except a song played over the stadium's loudspeakers at halftime.

Bob Corry, Offended By Song:
"The first song that I hear is 'Rock You Like a Hurricane' by The Scorpions and I thought to myself, 'Is it me, or is this just totally out of place and inappropriate?'"

The Bucs cheerleaders began their halftime show dancing to the song and Corry says he thought it showed a lack of sensitivity, considering what New Orleans residents went through last year following Hurricane Katrina.

Bob Corry, Offended By Song:
"There's thousands still living in trailer parks up there and 'Rock You Like a Hurricane?' I wouldn't wish that upon anybody."

Corry wrote the Bucs asking for the team to apologize, saying he was offended and doesn't feel the song represents the feelings of everyone at the game.

Bob Corry, Offended By Song:
"There are definitely people out here willing to give up their time, give up their cash, give up their own homes to help those people from that region. And to be insensitive, [it] doesn't represent Tampa Bay or the fans of the Bucs."

On Wednesday afternoon, a Buccaneers' spokesperson apologized for the song, calling it an oversight and saying it was not their "intent to offend anyone."

The team officials noted the song was part of a dance routine the cheerleaders have performed to all season. He says the song, "Rock You Like a Hurricane" will no longer be played at games against the Saints.

Earlier this year, the Buccaneers joined other NFL teams and the Red Cross in raising thousands of dollars for the victims of Katrina.
Silly, stupid bimbos ... Kinda feel bad for those Saints though. Speaking of saints, this guy won't be one any time soon. I just love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning. Smells like ... stinky balls. Story by an uncredited writer with the AP, found on Oklahoma City Channel 5 news.

An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, police said. Lonnie Latham, senior pastor at South Tulsa Baptist Church, was booked into Oklahoma County Jail Tuesday night on a misdemeanor charge of offering to engage in an act of lewdness, police Capt. Jeffrey Becker said. Latham was released on $500 bail Wednesday afternoon. Latham, who has spoken out against homosexuality, asked the officer to join him in his hotel room for oral sex. Latham was arrested and his 2005 Mercedes automobile was impounded, Becker said. Calls to Latham at his church were not immediately returned Wednesday.

When he left jail, he said: "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police."

The arrest took place in the parking lot of the Habana Inn, which is in an area where the public has complained about male prostitutes flagging down cars, Becker said. The plainclothes officers was investigating these complaints. The lewdness charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Latham is one of four Southern Baptist Convention executive committee members from Oklahoma. He spoke out last year against a measure, ultimately approved by voters, to expand tribal gaming. He has also spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle."'

The Southern Baptist Convention is the nation's largest Protestant denomination.

Same as it ever was

Another Ode to The Good Doctor (thank DailyKos) ....

Hunter S. Thompson, in the October 10, 1974 Rolling Stone:

"But the climate of those years was so grim that half the Washington press corps spent more time worrying about having their telephones tapped than they did about riskign the wrath of Haldeman, Ehrlichman, and Colson by poking at the weak semas of a Mafia-style administration that began cannibalizing the whole government just as soon as it came into power. Nixon's capos were never subtle; they swaggered into Washington like a conquering army, and the climate of fear they engendered apparently neutralized The New York Times along with all the other pockets of potential resistance. Nixon had to do everything but fall on his own sword before anybody in the Washingotn socio-political establishment was willing to take him on."

Bush spying on reporters?

A new development in the Snoopgate scandal! There is talk about the 'net that the NSA has been spying on reporters with direct connections to the Kerry campaign.

From my new friends at America Blog ...
New York Times reporter James Risen first broke the story two weeks ago that the National Security Agency began spying on domestic communications soon after 9/11. In a new book out Tuesday, "State of War," he says it was a lot bigger than that. Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell sat down with Risen to talk about the NSA, and the run-up to the war in Iraq....

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Then, America Blog starts connecting the dots ...
NBC's Andrea Mitchell - based on some information she clearly hasn't yet made public - is asking if Bush specifically wiretapped CNN's Christiane Amanpour. The fact that the question was asked so publicly and so specifically means that Mitchell knows something.

Why would Bush do this? Because, as I reported a few weeks ago, journalists have some of the best contacts out there and it's not unusual for journalists to talk to both sides of the story, or in this case, the good guys and the "evil doers." What a better, if not illegal, way to find the terrorists and their associates?

But before you say "yeah, go for it," consider the implications of tapping Christiane Amanpour's phones:

1. Such a wiretap would likely include her home, office, and cell phones, and email correspondence, at the very least.

2. That means anyone Christiane has conversed with in the past four years, at least by phone or email, could have had their conversation taped by the US government.

3. That also means that anyone who uses any of Christiane's telephones or computers (work or home) could also have had their conversation bugged.

4. This includes Christiane's husband, former Clinton administration senior official Jamie Rubin, who was spokesman for the State Department.

5. Jamie Rubin was also chief foreign policy adviser to General Wesley Clark's presidential campaign, and then worked as a senior national security adviser to John Kerry's presidential campaign.

6. Did Jamie Rubin ever use his home phone, his wife's work phone, his wife's cell phone, her home computer or her work computer to communicate with John Kerry or Wesley Clark? If so, those conversations would have been bugged if Bush was tapping Amanpour.

7. Did Jamie Rubin ever in the past four years communicate with any elected officials in Washington, DC - any Senators or members of the US House? Any senior members of the Democratic party?

8. Has Rubin spoken with Bill Clinton, his former boss, in the past 4 years?

Now you understand how potentially broad a violation of privacy the Bush doctrine on illegal domestic spying really is. Everyone who's anyone is a degree or two of separation away from a terrorist.

Then the rabbit hole goes deeper ...
Well this is getting interesting. NBC just delete two paragraphs from its Andrea Mitchell interview, the paragraphs that talked about whether Bush was wiretapping ace CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour (kudos to Atrios for spotting this).

Here's what the NBC "official" transcript used to say (I copied this text from NBC's own page only 2 hours ago):

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You don't have any information, for instance, that a very prominent journalist, Christiane Amanpour, might have been eavesdropped upon?

Risen: No, no I hadn't heard that.

Here's what it says now:

Mitchell: Do you have any information about reporters being swept up in this net?

Risen: No, I don't. It's not clear to me. That's one of the questions we'll have to look into the future. Were there abuses of this program or not? I don't know the answer to that

Mitchell: You are very, very tough on the CIA and the administration in general in both the war on terror and the run up to the war and the war itself Â? the post-war operation. Let's talk about the war on terror. Why do you think they missed so many signals and what do you think caused the CIA to have this sort of break down as you describe it?

Risen: I think that, you know, to me, the greater break down was really on Iraq. It's very difficult to have known ahead of time about these 19 hijackers. They were, you know, probably lucky that they got through and they did something that no one really assumed anybody would ever do. And I think that made 9/11 a lot like Pearl Harbor. That even when you see all the clues in front of you that it's very difficult to put it together.

Since when is NBC in the business of deleting entire paragraphs from their official transcripts? What's going on here?

And finally, NBC speaketh ...

"Unfortunately this transcript was released prematurely. It was a topic on which we had not completed our reporting, and it was not broadcast on 'NBC Nightly News' nor on any other NBC News program. We removed that section of the transcript so that we may further continue our inquiry."

This is quite big. Note exactly what NBC said.

- NBC did not say it pulled the references to Bush spying on Amanpour because it was inappropriate conjecture about something which Andrea Mitchell had no evidence.

- No, NBC said it pulled the references because it was still investigating the accusation and didn't want to scoop itself before it was finished investigating. And make no mistake, NBC is "continuing their inquiry."

- UPDATE: One more point. NBC did NOT delete the part of the interview preceding the Amanpour question - where Mitchell asks if any reporters are being spied on. They only deleted the follow-up question about whether Amanpour was being spied on. Thus, their premature release of info regarding an "ongoing inquiry" wasn't about reporters generally - or they'd have deleted that part of the interview as well - they only deleted the Amanpour follow-up, suggesting that it's the question of whether Bush spied on Amanpour that they have been, and are still, investigating.

That's incredibly big news.

NBC has acknowledged that they have information to suggest that Bush may have spied (be spying) on CNN's Christiane Amanpour and that NBC is currently investigating that very possibility. This isn't just conjecture anymore, NBC has confirmed it.

The Weird, Turned Pro.

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