Sunday, January 29, 2006

Louisiana in Limbo - New York Times

The New York Times' Monday editorial joins the chorus of outrage over the Bush administration's failure to provide a genuine response to the devastation of Katrina and Rita.

The paper then concisely summarizes the way the President, his administration and his man on the ground in New Orleans are failing the region and our state:
But the Bush administration refuses to support the plan of Representative Richard Baker, Republican of Louisiana, which would give everyone the capacity to rebuild and which had the backing of the mayor, the governor and the state's Congressional delegation. (To add insult to injury, two days after the White House shot down Mr. Baker's proposal, President Bush suggested at a news conference that Louisiana's problem was the lack of a plan.)

Instead of an alternate solution, the president's Katrina czar, Donald Powell, has offered sleight of hand, touting $6.2 billion in development money for Louisiana passed last year by Congress as if it were somehow a substitute. And in an attempt to narrow the scope of the problem, Mr. Powell says the government first needs to care for the roughly 20,000 homeowners without flood insurance who lived outside the federally designated flood plain. The real tally of destroyed or damaged homes in the region is well over 200,000. And the real need is housing for residents, whether they were renters or owners, insured or uninsured, living above the flood plain or trusting the federal government's levees to protect them from storms.

Perhaps too much emphasis has been placed on the wreckage of poor, low-lying New Orleans neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth Ward. That has sparked the unproductive, blame-the-victim debate revolving around whether people should have lived there in the first place. The Ninth Ward provides a misleading picture of the city, as do the relatively unscathed tourist areas like the French Quarter and the Garden District. Huge swaths of the city have the empty quality of a ghost town. Stores wait for residents to reopen; residents wait to see if neighbors will return. The city and surrounding parishes will not meet Mr. Powell's neat categories, when renters lived beside owners, insured next to uninsured. He is talking like an actuary when a leader is needed to rescue this region.

Now, Congress has a responsibility to follow its own lead rather than the president's. We were outraged once, shocked at the images on our television sets, at the poverty in our collective backyard, and the devastation of a great city. As the disaster threatens to become permanent, we have every reason to remain so.
It's only in this last paragraph that the Times lapses into true fantasy: when it calls on the Republican-controlled Congress to lead where their President won't. Those folks swore off responsibility right about the time Bush/Cheney rolled into Washington.

Times Picayune: "Don't Leave Us to Foreclosure"

The editorial in Sunday's Times Picayune calmly and clearly explains what awaits coastal Louisiana residents if the Bush administration refuses to endorse or create a program to come to the aid of homeowners whose homes were wrecked by Katrina and Rita: foreclosure.

The flawed Baker Plan was better than nothing and nothing is exactly what Bush is offering homeowners in New Orleans and other affected areas now.

Providing this assistance isn't optional. It is a moral obligation and duty that the national government has to American citizens whose lives and property were ruined by failures of levees that were the responsibility of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Bush's promises to rebuild New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were lies. Action speak louder than his words.

Caveat Auditor!

New Orleans Betrayed

The Washington Post editorial writers are a lot more polite than bloggers, but the headline writer nailed the situation: "New Orleans Betrayed."


But, all of Louisiana has been betrayed by the Bush administration's feckless response to Katrina and Rita.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

"Lies, Damned Lies and Bush Katrina-Rita Rhetoric"

Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli, or Leonard Henry Courtney originated the maxim about there being three kinds of lies: "Lies, damned lies and statistics."

A hundred years later, George W. Bush is forcing a revision of that maxim based on his uninterrupted string of lies about what the federal government would do in response to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The Washington Post reports to the world what we've all seen unfolding before our eyes over the past five months. That is, Bush has used the disasters the Gulf Coast primarily as backdrops for photo ops in attempts to bolster his poll numbers, which sank through the floor in the wake of the federal government's initial non-response to the flooding of New Orleans.

The first two paragraphs of the story sum the situation up well:
Nearly five months after Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, President Bush's lofty promises to rebuild the Gulf Coast have been frustrated by bureaucratic failures and competing priorities, a review of events since the hurricane shows.

While the administration can claim some clear progress, Bush's ringing call from New Orleans's Jackson Square on Sept. 15 to "do what it takes" to make the city rise from the waters has not been matched by action, critics at multiple levels of government say, resulting in a record that is largely incomplete as Bush heads into next week's State of the Union address.
The administration's response is so pathetic that our very own congressional cipher Charles Boustany was nearly moved to criticize Bush's rejection of the recovery plan authored by fellow Louisiana Republican Richard Baker.

No doubt Bush's speech writers will roll out the lofty rhetoric for his State of the Union address, but reality has eaten away Bush's credibility to the point that nearly two-thirds of the country think he's taken us down the wrong track.

It's actually worse than that. On the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans we have been treated to the most deeply cynical manipulation of rhetoric and image making in the history of the Republic. The disaster that was Katrina became a man-made catastrophe that rests at Bush's doorstep due to his cuts in flood protection work in Southeast Louisiana and his appointment of incompetent political hacks to positions like the head of FEMA.

In a desperate scramble to save his presidency in the wake of the revealed incompetence, Bush promised to atone for those errors by providing the funding to rebuild the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. He was lying then and he knew it. He'll be lying in his State of the Union address on Tuesday and now we know it.

Currently in America, there are just three kinds of lies: "Lies, damned lies and Bush rhetoric."

Caveat auditor! "Listener beware," should be the mindset of every citizen when this President speaks.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Bush to Storm-Damaged Homeowners: 'Drop Dead!'; Bush to Congressional Katrina Investigators: 'Fuhgettahboutit!'

With prime photo opportunities now taken, King George has finally made his intentions clear regarding the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

They're criminal.

The Times-Picayune reports that Bush has hung out Louisiana Republican Congressman Richard Baker and his refinancing plan that would have been at least an attempt at providing some kind of real recovery plan for Katrina- and Rita-affected homeowners in Orleans, Cameron St. Bernard, Plaquemines parishes.

The T-P said the Bush administration's insistence that money already allocated through community development block grants would suffice to fund the recovery effort was derided by Baker as ludicrous:
“Clearly the $6 billion isn’t enough,” Baker said. “It ignores the vital recovery in the parishes of Orleans, St. Bernard, Cameron and parts of Plaquemines. That is unacceptable.”

The Louisiana Recovery Authority, the panel established by Gov. Kathleen Blanco to oversee the state’s recovery plans, estimated that 217,245 homes were destroyed in Katrina and Rita. Baker’s bill would have drawn on federal financing to pay owners of flood-damage property at least 60 percent of the equity in their homes and paid off their mortgages as well.

New Orleans recovery officials had planned to use the Baker plan, or something like it, as a way to help homeowners who wanted to move out of more flood-prone areas into a smaller “city footprint” on higher ground that did not flood during Katrina.

But Powell said the administration is encouraging the state to focus on a much smaller subset of flood-damaged homes: An estimated 20,000 outside the flood plain whose owners lacked flood insurance. The administration believes they are the hardest-luck cases because they had no expectation of flooding and now find themselves without insurance money to pay for repairs.

The Louisiana Recovery Authority has said that 77,340 homes would fall into that category, more than three times the administration’s estimate. But, significantly, Powell’s figures do not include rental property, only owner-occupied dwellings. He said those homeowners are the most deserving of financial assistance and could be covered by Louisiana’s share of $11.5 billion in Community Development Block Grants that Congress appropriated late last year. Louisiana’s share is expected to be announced today.
Looks like another faith-based initiative; that is, facts are irrelevant, we're going on the President's gut instinct. Why not? It's sure working wonders in Iraq, right?

This will have catastrophic financial impact on families and affected communties:
But to accomplish the dual goals of creating population density and safer redevelopment of some low-lying parts of the city, a buyout of some property owners is seen as inevitable. A voluntary buyout program is viewed as needed to help homeowners who are willing to move to higher ground but otherwise will be forced to renovate their flooded properties where they sit, or walk away and face foreclosure, due to the limits of their flood insurance payouts.

While much attention has been focused on homeowners who did not have flood insurance because FEMA maps classified their neighborhoods as above the flood plain, even homeowners with flood insurance may not be much better off without a buyout option, particularly if their neighborhoods do not demonstrate a high rate of returning residents.

Federally backed flood insurance policies are intended to replace structures, but they do not compensate homeowners for the land. Therefore, the lack of a voluntary buyout option would encourage homeowners wishing to remain in New Orleans to renovate or rebuild where they are, regardless of the elevation of the property, essentially creating the potential for a cityscape that federal officials, members of the state’s Louisiana Recovery Authority and planners have warned against.

Moreover, mortgage holders have first claim on insurance payouts which, depending on length of ownership, could leave some homeowners still owing a balance. Or, if the insurance pays off the mortgage, an owner could be left owning a destroyed home and a piece of land in a largely abandoned block.
This marks the second time Bush has sold out New Orleans to Katrina and its aftermath in less than six months. You're doin' a heck of a job, Bushie!

Meanwhile, as if sticking a fork in coastal Louisiana wasn't enough work for one day, the New York Times reports this:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 24 - The Bush administration, citing the confidentiality of executive branch communications, said Tuesday that it did not plan to turn over certain documents about Hurricane Katrina or make senior White House officials available for sworn testimony before two Congressional committees investigating the storm response.
If Bobby Jindal, David Vitter or any other Republican in the 2007 campaign for Governor that they're salivating over dares use information contained in the thousands of documents that the Blanco administration turned over to Congress, they must be made to answer and defend every single action that the Bush administration has refused to take to help restore this state and its people!

The Bush administration has been criminally negligent in the handling of its flood control responsibilities in southeast Louisiana, in the appointment of a failed manager of a horse association as the director of FEMA, and in its refusal to come to the aid of middle and working class Louisiana homeowners who have been victims of the greatest natural disaster in our nation's history.

Add to that his imperial refusal to cooperate with Congress's constitutional obligation to provide oversight of executive branch performance, particularly in the wake of the above mentioned failures in relation to Katrina and Rita, and there exists a prima facie case for impeachment of this president based on his actions preceding and following these storms alone!

Go ahead, Louisiana Republicans! Defend the actions of your president! Which side are you on — Louisiana's or this incompetent, callous president? Consider yourself dared!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Bush/Cheney Invite Energy Companies to Steal; Don't Want to Know About It!

Natural gas prices are skyrocketing and so, too, are the profits of natural gas companies.

The Bush/Cheney administration is 'taking care of business' by lowering royalty fees on energy extracted from public lands, by easing the rules governing these company operations on public lands, AND by cutting back on audits intended to find energy company cheating on royalty payments! The New York Times has the story in Monday's paper.

Here's how the story begins:
WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 - At a time when energy prices and industry profits are soaring, the federal government collected little more money last year than it did five years ago from the companies that extracted more than $60 billion in oil and gas from publicly owned lands and coastal waters.

If royalty payments in fiscal 2005 for natural gas had risen in step with market prices, the government would have received about $700 million more than it actually did, a three-month investigation by The New York Times has found.
Who loses? Why taxpayers, that's who:
As a result, the nation's taxpayers, collectively, the biggest owner of American oil and gas reserves, have missed much of the recent energy bonanza.
This is no accident. This is, in fact, the example of the only policy of the Bush/Cheney administration that is working as designed — energy policy (PDF):
The disparities in gas prices parallel those uncovered just five years ago in a wave of scandals involving royalty payments for oil. From 1998 to 2001, a dozen major companies, while admitting no wrongdoing, paid a total of $438 million to settle charges that they had fraudulently understated their sale prices for oil.

Since then, the government has tightened its rules for oil payments. But with natural gas, the Bush administration recently loosened the rules and eased its audits intended to uncover cheating.
It's open feeding at public trough courtesy of the Bush/Cheney administration. 'Leave your campaign contributions in the box at the doors, boys!' Here's more:
The possible losses to taxpayers in gas could be even higher than the losses tied to the scandals over oil royalties. For one thing, natural gas production on federal land is worth twice as much as oil.

Moreover, the Interior Department has scaled back on full audits, pushed out a couple of its more aggressive auditors and been criticized by its own inspector general for the audits that it did pursue.

"We are talking about the same issues and in many cases the same players as before," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit watchdog group that exposed many of the oil royalty scandals.

"These companies had knowingly been cheating on oil for years, if not decades," Ms. Brian continued. "To ignore the likelihood that the same thing is happening on the gas side is absurd."
Oh, and the Department of the Interior is totally confounded by the vast complexity of it all:
Johnnie M. Burton, director of the Interior Department's Minerals Management Service, said the disparities were mostly the result of deductions that the regulations let companies take, reducing the sale prices they report to the government.

But Ms. Burton said she had not known and could not explain why companies were reporting higher sale prices to their shareholders and to the Securities and Exchange Commission than to her office.
Hey, wasn't Jack Abramoff on the Bush/Cheney transition team for the Department of the Interior? Yep. Think he was the only person bribing people there for clients? Nope.

Turns out that there was a royalty payment scandal involving energy from public lands in the 1990s and the Clinton administration (Remember them? The folks who actually made government work?) imposed some tough accounting rules. Well, the energy companies (like Enron) who met with Dick Cheney's still secret energy task force back in 2001 said these rules imposed a fearsome burden on these poor little energy companies and could Big Dick and King George do something to help 'em?

The New York Times explains:
In the wake of the scandals, the outgoing Clinton administration pushed through tough new rules for valuing crude oil, which relied on comparing company reports with an index of spot market prices.

A Pro-Industry Approach

But the Bush administration did not close any loopholes for valuing natural gas. Indeed, in March 2005 it expanded the list of deductions and decided against valuing sales at spot-market prices when companies were selling to their own affiliates.

The industry-friendly stance was intentional. Mr. Bush and top White House officials also placed a top priority on promoting domestic energy production. Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force called for giving lucrative new incentives to companies that drill in the Gulf of Mexico and other high-risk areas.

The Bush administration also took a much more relaxed approach to auditing and fraud prevention. In 2003, the Interior Department's inspector general declared that the auditing process was "ineffective" and "lacked accountability" and that many of the auditors were unqualified.

In one instance, inspectors discovered that auditors had lost the working papers for an important audit and tried to cover up their blunder by creating and back-dating false documents. Rather than punish anybody, the inspector general recounted, the minerals service gave the employee who produced the new documents a financial bonus for "creativity."

Administration officials said last week that they had addressed most of the criticisms and that the inspector general had since said its corrective actions were "sufficient."
There's much more to the story; you really should read it. But, let's summarize the irresponsible fiscal and energy policies Bush/Cheney and their rubber-stamp Republican Congressional pals have put in place:
  1. They began by giving away to the most wealthy Americans the surplus that the Clinton administration left in 2000.
  2. They created an energy policy designed to pump up the profits of oil and gas companies, thereby gouging middle class and working Americans.
  3. As a phony effort to show concern about the deficits their tax cuts and their war in Iraq have created, Bush/Cheney et al are cutting programs for the middle and working classes.
  4. They engineered an Energy bill that gives more tax breaks to energy companies that are already awash in profits partly, it seems, due to the fact that these companies have been invited to rob the U.S. Treasury through schemes to under-report royalties owed on energy extracted from public lands.
If their energy policy called to gouge the public and raid the Treasury, call in another aircraft carrier! We've go another Mission Accomplished moment!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Chuck's Dirty Bucks: Jerry Lewis Category

The ever-expanding corruption revelations about Republicans in Washington could turn into a nice windfall for Acadiana charities if Congressman Charles Boustany keeps giving away tainted campaign contributions.

The latest exposé appears on the front page of USAToday. It's about the absolutely amazing coincidence of a large campaign contribution to a Republican Congressman (and Boustany campaign contributor!) and congressional approval of funding for a Navy project important to the firm making the contribution.

The Congressman is Jerry Lewis. He's chairman of the House Appropriations Committee now and admits that he used the money raised for him by Cerberus Capital Management to win that post by, among other things, making contributions to 2004 Republican congressional campaigns like Charles Boustany's.

Here are the lead paragraphs:
One day after a New York investment group raised $110,000 for Republican Rep. Jerry Lewis, the House passed a defense spending bill that preserved $160 million for a Navy project critical to the firm. The man who protected the Navy money? Lewis.

The fundraiser, which took place July 7, 2003, and the subsequent vote illustrate the kind of relationship between congressman and contributor that's under increased scrutiny in the nation's capital.
Lewis insists that he did nothing illegal. At least one watch dog disagrees:
In the opinion of Larry Noble, executive director of the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, the timing of the fundraiser within days of a favorable vote "looks like influence buying." Noble is a former chief lawyer for the Federal Election Commission.

None of the people connected to Cerberus had ever given money to either Lewis or his political action committee before the fundraiser or the vote on the bill Lewis sponsored, a USA TODAY analysis of their political contributions shows.
It also appears the money might have changed the Congressman's thinking about the project, which involved MCI, the communications company that was in the midst of an accounting and fraud scandal.
Lewis himself had criticized the Navy-Marine computer project in October 2002, telling The Washington Post he was not satisfied with its progress. He also said he was concerned about MCI's involvement. "When you have a big piece of the pie in trouble, it just gums up a process that already has great difficulty," he said.

Other members of Congress were pushing the federal government to ban MCI from any future contracts because of the $11 billion accounting scandal, which eventually landed former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers a 25-year prison term. MCI now has about $2 billion in annual revenue from government contracts, and the Navy project remains one of its biggest.
Read the entire story. It's illuminating. The short version of it is this: Money was raised, changed hands, changed minds, changed votes.

Here are the paragraphs that tie this money to Boustany:
Meanwhile, Lewis was gearing up for the race to become chairman of the House Appropriations Committee — one of the most powerful jobs in Congress, with the clout to push pet projects or cut funding for programs that fall out of favor.

To win, Lewis had to impress House Republican leaders with his ability to raise money for other GOP candidates. Lewis said he lost his chairmanship of the Republican Conference, then the No. 3 post in the House Republican hierarchy, in January 1993 partially because of weak fundraising.

After that loss, Lewis focused on working his way up in the Appropriations Committee hierarchy. He helped produce budgets with millions of dollars earmarked for his district and pet projects of Cunningham and other Republicans.

Lewis' Future Leaders PAC gave $407,000 to 69 House candidates in the 2004 election. The Cerberus-related money was equal to nearly a third of that amount. In 2003, the PAC collected $522,725 — a quarter of it connected to Cerberus.
Boustany's 2004 campaign got $15,000 in contributions from Lewis' Future Leaders PAC in three separate $5,000 contributions, according to Federal Election Commission records. Lewis also kicked in another $2,000 from his own campaign in two separate contributions to Boustany's 2004 campaign. Boustany picked up another $5,000 from Future Leaders PAC in the current election cycle.

But, Boustany also benefited from the Lewis/Cerberus relationship in another way:
Lewis also got Cerberus to help with his fundraising for the National Republican Congressional Committee, the arm of the GOP that gives money to House candidates. Lewis said he invited Cerberus executives to an April 2004 NRCC fundraiser he chaired that included a speech by President Bush.

The NRCC got $70,000 in Cerberus-related donations during the first two weeks of April 2004, including $25,000 from Cerberus founder Stephen Feinberg, records show. "I had been doing this for over a dozen years, helping to raise money for our members," Lewis said. "Others (candidates for Appropriations chairman) began to be helpful with fundraising, but that had been a recent and newfound interest of theirs."
Federal Election Commission records show that the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $72,620 in coordinated spending on Boustany's 2004 campaign and another $96,593 on independent expenditures on behalf of Boustany's campaign. Now, of course, the national parties raised millions of dollars for congressional races, so Boustany's share of that Cerberus/Lewis effort might well have been small through this particular channel. In any event, it was no where near as large as Cerberus's impact on Future Leaders PAC dollars.

Awash in money from questionable relationships resulting from helping companies protect their interests (AKA, 'The K Street Project'), Republicans are reduced to hair splitting about what is ethical and what is legal. So much for the end of moral relativism these zealots were supposed to bring to government.

As for Congressman Boustany, this stuff goes right to the heart of the campaign he ran in 2004. Remember the commercial where he stands in a field and a voice-over said that he was not part of the old corrupt politics of the past? Got that right! He was smack dab in the middle of a way of politics that owed its very soul to the kind of corruption that Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay have come to personify.

Even if he is personally not corrupt, Charles Boustany is precisely the kind of congressman a large-scale corrupt enterprise operated by Abramoff, DeLay, Roy Blunt and others needed in order to maintain their control: Charles Boustany is a reliable party vote! And campaign contributions from the Republican House leadership bought that reliability!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

More of Chuck's Ties to Dirty Bucks

Congressman Charles Boustany joined a lot of other desperate members of Congress last week in giving away to charity dollars that came from the tainted accounts of Jack Abramoff, his clients and political action committees of indicted or otherwise tainted Republican Congressmen Tom DeLay, Randy 'Duke' Cunningham and Bob Ney.

Like his other colleagues with deep ties to the corrupt Republican money machine, Boustany made a big show of saying that the money was contributed legally, but that he was giving it away in order to close the book on attempts to link him to the corruption scandals that are engulfing his party' and the leadership to which he has been such a reliable vote.

If Boustany is being honest about his desire to separate himself from his party's ethical scandals, he's got more giving to do!

For starters, there is the matter of the $1,000 contribution to Boustany's campaign in October of 2004 from the wife of one of the men implicated in the bribery of admitted bribe recipient and now resigned member of Congress Duke Cunningham. That would be Georgia Kontogiannis, wife of Long Island, New York, developer Thomas T. Kontogiannis. Reporter and blogger Laura Rozen has covered the Cunningham scandal in great detail, raising the possibility that U.S. national security might well have been compromised by the scandal. Rozen has this information about Kontogiannis's role in the scandal and the contributions of Mrs. Kontogiannis to 19 Republican congressional candidates, including our man Chuck.

Certainly this money raises questions of propriety. In order to eliminate those questions, Boustany should give this money to charity.

Boustany also received significant contributions from Roy Blunt, the Republican House Whip who is now seeking to become the elected replacement of DeLay as House Majority Leader. In 2004, Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs PAC (ROYPAC) gave Boustany's campaign $15,000. In the current election cycle, ROYPAC has given Boustany's campaign $9,672. Blunt has his own ethical problems, including deep ties to DeLay and Abramoff and, as it turns out, ties to the bribers of Duke Cunningham, too.

If Boustany is serious about cutting all ties to Republican corruption, then the $24,672 his campaign got from ROYPAC needs to go to charity, too.

Then, there's the money Boustany got from California Republican Congressman Jerry Lewis's Lewis for Congress PAC. Lewis has been linked to a lobbying group headed by a former congressman who has made very generous contributions to Lewis' PAC over the years and, coincidentally, his clients have been beneficiaries of Lewis' position on the House Appropriations Committee. Boustany got $3,000 from Lewis in the 2004 cycle.

Again, if Boustany's serious about cutting his ties to corrupt Republican leaders, the money from Lewis will be charity-bound, too.

The fact is that these dollars from Republican congressional leaders who are deeply implicated in the scandals now rumbling through Washington bought Boustany's allegiance on votes – as the money from DeLay certainly did on Boustany's vote on changing the House Rules governing the operations of the Ethics Committee that had the effect of protecting DeLay from further ethics charges.

As the dimensions of the culture of corruption that has developed during the decade of Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives becomes known, Boustany's claims that the money did not influence him become more difficult to believe.

So far, Boustany is using the Jessica Rabbit defense: he's not corrupt, he's just drawn that way. The movie was funny; Boustany's deep ties to the corrupt leadership of his party are not.

Get ready, African-America, for a Neo-Con attack on the memory of Dr. King….

Tomorrow, America honors Dr. Martin Luther King. And, African-Americans should get ready for the perennial Neo-Con assault on Dr. King’s legacy.

In 1971,
Lewis F. Powell, who would later server on U.S. Supreme Court, wrote a memo to Eugene Sydnor, Chairman, Education Committee, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, outlining a strategy for a conservative cultural counter-revolution. The Powell Manifesto, as it’s now called, has become the archetype for attacks on trial lawyers, academics, journalist, and religious leaders who criticize conservative greed, racism, sexism, war and political simony.

A strategy of the
Powell Manifesto is simple but effective: Relentlessly and repetitively attack the character of traditional progressive heroes like Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Dr. King and, in time, the degradation becomes axiomatic.

Taylor Branch’s “
At Canaan’s Edge” does just that. At Canaan’s Edge is the latest attempt to destroy Dr. King’s memory and deprive America of another hero who spoke against conservative greed, racism, sexism, war and political simony. Believing all readers are dumb, Branch offers interviews with FBI agents as proof of the things he writes.

To the jejune reader, inclined to believe Branch’s exaggerations, remember: Branch was the ghostwriter of John Dean’s memoir, “Blind Ambition.” Dean would later denounce
Branch as a liar who fabricated many of the salacious episodes in the book.

Spread the word about Branch’s hatchet job on Dr. King. But also, take time to read the
Powell Manifesto to fully understand the strategy of the Neo-Con autocrats.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Boustany Impugns His Own Integrity!

Congressman Charles Boustany's desperate attempt to separate his campaign from the corruption that permeates the Republican Majority in the House crashed into a point made by none other than Ronald Reagan, The Great Communicator himself, at the 1988 Republican Convention in New Orleans.

In his gambit to sever his ties from corrupt Republicans and their associates, The Daily Advertiser reported the following:
"These contributions were lawfully made, properly donated and reported, and have in no way influenced my decision making," Boustany, R-Lafayette, said in a press release. "My decisions have been and will continue to be made in the best interest of the 7th Congressional District. However, some are attempting to use the issue of these funds to question my integrity."
In fact, on the day he was sworn in as a member of Congress, Boustany cast a vote that had the effect of shutting down the House Ethics Committee. The change in the rules Boustany supported, would have required that a member of, say, the Republican Party break party ranks in order for an ethics complaint against, say, Tom DeLay to be pursued.

So, one of Boustany's first votes on his first day as a congressman was a vote to shield DeLay from further Ethics probes — after DeLay's ARMPAC had given Boustany's campaign significant and early contributions (and, no doubt, helped Boustany by encouraging other Republicans like Duke Cunningham, Bob Ney, Roy Blunt, Jerry Lewis and others to follow suit) that gave his campaign credibility within the party. That loyalty was rewarded with still more money during the current (2006) election cycle.

But, the now-defensive Congressman asks his constituents to believe that there was no connection between DeLay's largesse and the first-day-Congressman's vote to shield his embattled contributor and Majority Leader from further ethics probes.

Was that vote "made in the best interest of the 7th Congressional District," Congressman?

Is the Congressman trying to tell us, then, that there was no connection between that vote and the money DeLay raised for his campaign?

Boustany's vote for the change in the ethics rules protected his leader and his patron. Clearly, DeLay's contributions to Boustany's campaign affected that vote.

In 1988, Ronald Reagan addressed the Republican National Convention and declared that "facts are stubborn things."

Congressman Boustany, Tom DeLay's contributions to your campaign clearly influenced your vote on changing the Ethics Rules.

Your 7th District constituents' stake in that issue was the expectation that the Congress would operate under the rule of law, without special treatment or protection for any member. Your vote betrayed that expectation.

And you voted that way because Tom DeLay's PAC gave you money!

Facts are stubborn things.

Congressman Boustany tries to have it both ways...

In Breaking news, Congressman Boustany is trying to calm the flames beneath his feet with regards to the tainted money he has accepted from Ney, Cunningham and Delay. In a press release today the Congressman states:

"These contributions were lawfully made, properly donated and reported, and have
in no way influenced my decision making," Boustany, R-Lafayette, said in a press
release. "My decisions have been and will continue to be made in the best
interest of the 7th Congressional District. However, some are attempting to use
the issue of these funds to question my integrity."

I could have respected him if he would have kept with his statement he made on Wednesday night, basically that these people have only been indicted and that doesn't mean there was a crime and besides that money was accurately reported.

OR I could have respected him even MORE if he would have said - "To assure my constituents and to avoid any appearance of impropriety I am donating this money."

Instead the congressman seems to want to have it both ways. In a classic Karl Rove move he blames all of this on "some are attempting to use the issue..." rather than placing blame those who are currently being investigated. Ofcourse he nor his party could do ANYTHING wrong, ever. (One is reminded of the now famous question of the President when asked what he would do differently - and he claimed nothing.)

We had hoped that during the Congressman's campaign that his words were true - infact that is why many democrats voted for him... that he was an independent thinker and that he would always do what is right for Louisiana's 7th no matter what his party says. Well one year down in the Congressman's term and 99% of the time he has voted with Delay - so here is yet another person who has sold his soul to the highest bidder.

I think it is time for a change... we can't take another year like this one, Mr. Boustany.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Well, At Least We're Protecting the Brave Members of Operation Essential Photo-Op!

While Congressmen in search of stirring photos for their re-election campaigns got to wear "full-body armor" during their swings through the war zone, according to Charles Boustany, apparently soldiers actually engaged in the fighting are getting short shrift when it comes to the armor they wear.

Here's the lead paragraph of the New York Times article on the subject:
A secret Pentagon study has found that as many as 80 percent of the marines who have been killed in Iraq from wounds to the upper body could have survived if they had had extra body armor. Such armor has been available since 2003, but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials.
Apparently, the Army has a similar problem:
The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase, according to Army procurement officials. They said the Army was deciding among various sizes of plates to give its 130,000 soldiers, adding that they hoped to issue contracts this month.
The lack of responsiveness has resulted in a significant number of deaths:
Additional forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit that were obtained by The Times indicate that about 340 American troops have died solely from torso wounds.
The data is not new and has been known inside the Pentagon for quite some time:
The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in March 2003 in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor. The military's medical examiner, Dr. Craig T. Mallak, told a military panel in 2003 that the information "screams to be published." But it would take nearly two years.
The Marine Corps said it asked for the data in August 2004; but it needed to pay the medical examiner $107,000 to have the data analyzed. Marine officials said financing and other delays had resulted in the study's not starting until December 2004. It finally began receiving the information by June 2005. The shortfalls in bulletproof vests are just one of the armor problems the Pentagon continues to struggle with as the war in Iraq approaches the three-year mark, The Times has found in a continuing examination of the military procurement system.

The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military officials said had so far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been beset by a host of production and legal problems.
And the Humvees still aren't safe:
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still relying on another small factory in Ohio to armor all of the military's principal transport trucks, the Humvee, and it remains backlogged with orders. The factory, owned by Armor Holdings, increased production in December after reports in The Times about delays drew criticism from Congress. But the Marine Corps said it was still waiting for about 2,000 of these vehicles to replace other Humvees in Iraq that are more lightly armored, and did not expect final delivery until June.
This might help explain why support for the Bush administration's war of choice in Iraq has lost support within the military.

Bushie, you're doing a heck of a job! You, too, Rummy!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Boustany: "I would vote to repeal Minimum Wage..."

Greetings All,

Last night Anthony Fazzio, Frank Flynn, Gobb Williams, Richard Warren and I attended a town hall meeting hosted by Congressman Charles Boustany. To say the meeting was heated would be an understatement in my view. The most upset and angry I have seen a politician for some time was the congressman when pressed on Minimum Wage and a "livable wage".

The entire exchange started when a very concerned citizen spoke up and shared her problems with the current state of affairs for the working poor and middle class, stating that it was getting harder and harder to get by and asked what the congressman was doing to help. The congressman then went on to describe the help in ways of Mortgage help for Hurricane victims and the like. Portia Evans, local talk show host, asked him about "regular people" who do not have a mortgage they rented and there is little or no help for them after January 15th.

Anthony Fazzio peppered the congressman with questions regarding minimum wage and kept pressing the congressman on his stance on the minimum wage as it currently stands, and in between his answers Richard Warren stood up and made the point that the congressman just received a "cost of living" increase to his salary, but Anthony Fazzio would not let it go here. He pressed the congressman and first the congressman stated to us that he didn't know what the right "number" for minimum wage should be even pushing the question on to the Audience asking all of us - what should it be? But Fazzio shot back with "We know that $5.15 is not enough" - Noticeably angry the congressman tried yet again to change the subject and Fazzio was not having that. Finally backed into a wall, his face noticeably red the congressman stated he didn't support a minimum wage, that he believed in a free market and if given the chance he would vote to repeal the minimum wage statute. Well you could have heard a feather drop in the room.

It is worth noting that all during this exchange the majority of the room was clapping to Fazzio and Warren's points and there was only a small handful of folks who seemed to support the congressman's position on this.

Here is the exchange as reported by Jan Risher in The Daily Advertiser:
Anthony Fazzio and at least three other participants asked Boustany about the possibility of his supporting an increase in minimum wage, but Boustany avoided a commitment either way on the issue until Fazzio pressed the issue.
"Minimum wage is really a bad term. We need to call it a living wage," Fazzio said. "Would you vote to support an $8 minimum wage?"
"Will that be enough next week?" Boustany said.
"We know that $5.15 is not enough," Fazzio said.
Fazzio said that the working poor do not have a lobbyist in Washington looking out for their needs and asked again if Boustany would support an increase in minimum wage.
"I'm going to tell you right now, I won't support an increase in minimum wage," Boustany said. "If you want higher wages, you get rid of minimum wage. I'll vote to get rid of it if it comes up. I believe in the free market."
"What the free market has gotten us is CAFTA and NAFTA," Fazzio said.
"And shafta," someone exclaimed in the row behind Fazzio.
Boustany said companies go overseas because of corporate taxes.
"They're going over there for cheap wages," Fazzio said.
The small crowd broke into spontaneous applause several times during the exchange.

Lastly - we also pushed the congressman on Ethics. Frank Flynn pressed the Congressman with a direct question of "Will you return the money from Abramoff" and the congressman gleefully announced that he hasn't accepted any money from him and that he has a full time accountant trying to make sure he stays completely clean. (it is worth mentioning at this point that over half of the congressman's campaign war chest is made up of donations from "Special interest" PAC's). However, not wanting to let this go I stood up as Boustany seemed to be trying to tell the crowd that his campaign money was completely clean, I stood and specifically asked him of the $25,000 donation he received from ARMPAC (Americans for a Republican Majority lead by indicted Tom Delay). The congressman's answer was quite shocking, at least to me. He stated that "an indictment did not mean the person was guilty" and that that money was clearly in the last election process. I pointed out to him that the Bush Administration just yesterday announced that they have returned their money by ways of a donation to the American Heart Association. He claimed to know nothing about this, but held on to the "there has been no conviction, so there is no reason why he would return any moneys.

The above link is the article that appeared in today's Newspaper. It is my intention to not let these topics die, we must stand up and get answers and let the congressman know he is not above reproach and that his constituents are NOT happy with his voting record. We must also keep exposing these issues. The Minimum Wage issue is huge here, and this hits everyone's pocket book. Given that, we are going to insure that this message gets trumpeted.

The ground is right for a candidate now in the 7th... Who is going to step up? Either way we are going to insure the congressman does not have it easy. It is clear the crowd turned on him, as are the people of the 7th.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Lobbying Plan Was Central to GOP's Political Strategy - Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Times places admitted felon Jack Abramoff's corrupt operation squarely at the center of Republican plans to cement their hold on the legislative process in Washington.

Here are the first three paragraphs:
WASHINGTON — The corruption investigation surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff shows the significant political risk that Republican leaders took when they adopted what had once seemed a brilliant strategy for dominating Washington: turning the K Street lobbying corridor into a cog of the GOP political machine.

Abramoff thrived in the political climate fostered by GOP leaders, including Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who have methodically tried to tighten the links between the party in Congress and business lobbyists, through what has become known as the "K Street Project."

GOP leaders, seeking to harness the financial and political support of K Street, urged lobbyists to support their conservative agenda, give heavily to Republican politicians and hire Republicans for top trade association jobs. Abramoff obliged on every front, and his tentacles of influence reached deep into the upper echelons of Congress and the Bush administration.
The article goes on to report that some Republicans are proposing making a push for ethics reform in the hopes of repairing the damage done to their party by this scandal! The phrase "re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic" comes to mind for some reason.

Abramoff was a Republican operative before he became a corrupt lobbyist and one need do no more than follow the money to see where his allegiance was:
According to a study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, 296 members of Congress since 1999 have received contributions from Abramoff, his Indian tribe clients or SunCruz Casinos. Abramoff and his wife contributed $204,253 — all of it to Republicans.

In addition, Abramoff also leaned on his Indian clients to give to key lawmakers. The center found that Abramoff's clients gave almost $4.2 million, more than half to Republicans.
Republicans who took money from Abramoff and his clients are now scrambling to give it back or away. They can run but they can't hide.

This scandal is about money and power. The Republicans have had power and accumulated a lot of money. Abramoff was their key player who epitomized what the K Street Project was all about.

It's too late to run and it's too late to hide. It's all falling apart now. Abramoff knows his operation and he's been talking to prosecutors for 18 months.


Save Social Security by Raising the Minimum Wage to $8 per hour
By G Edward Cook
Created 2006-01-03 02:58
Save Social Security by Raising the MinimumWage!!
Raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $8.00 could notonly help millions of Americans but could save our Social Security.
I feel the minimum wage of $5.15 per hour is immoral. A personworking forty hours per week, 52 weeks a year clears almost enough topay for medical insurance for his family. This is a disgrace! Theminimum wage hasn't gone up in years. We need to raise the minimumwage to $8.00 per hour over three years then raise it another 25 centsper hour each year thereafter.
Raising the minimum wage to $8.00 would sure up social securitybecause of the added taxes paid to the Social Security Fund. Thisamount would be more than you would think.
A worker earning the minimum wage of $8.00 would contribute anextra $712.28 per year to the Social Security fund. The worker wouldpay $364.14 and his employer would pay the same. The worker wouldstill clear an increase of over $100 per week in his paycheck.
The government is saying our Social Security Trust Fund will run outin about forty years. I have estimated the extra money collected by allthe people working for minimum wage and the extra earned by thoseearning less than $8.00 per hour over the next 40 years along with a verymodest interest would equal trillions of dollars.
Thanks for your support,G Edward Cook

Panic on the Potomac as Vitter Patron Abramoff Cops a Plea!

"That giant sucking sound," as Ross Perot used to say, was the collective gasp emanating from congressional districts across the country today as Indian Scammer extraordinaire and now admitted felon Jack Abramoff copped a plea in federal court.

Abramoff and the scandal that emerged from his dealings with Indian tribes owning casinos, has deep roots in Louisiana. And, while Slate lists a number of prominent Republicans (and one Democrat) who have a lot to be worried about, Louisiana Senator David Vitter will no doubt have to pony up with more detailed and more believable explanations of how it came to be that Abramoff hosted a fund-raiser for the then-Congressman in appreciation for Vitter's helping one of Abramoff's clients. After all, before today, Abramoff was just alleged to be dirty. Now, he's confessed that his operation was corrupt and that it had very long tentacles.

Vitter's defense, thus far, is that he was a rube. That is, Abramoff and Ralph Reed 'played' him by using his strong anti-gambling sentiments to oppose an Indian casino license in Louisiana in a way that benefited their clients.

The fund-raiser that Abramoff hosted at his restaurant in 'appreciation' for Vitter's loyalty was legitimate, Vitter claims — except that Abramoff's restaurant never billed the Vitter campaign for the food, beverages and service. It wasn't until the scandal took on serious implications last year that Vitter got around to insisting that the bill be paid.

Turns out that hosting fund-raisers at his restaurant and not making the politician pay the bill was part of Abramoff's modus operandi.

What's that old rule? 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Well, Senator, what is it?

Charlie Boustany's recent partner in Operation Essential Campaign Photo-Op, Ohio Republican Bob Ney, is in water so hot that all its missing is the salt, pepper, potatoes and corn to be officially declared a "boil."

Boustany's own patron
, Congressman Tom DeLay, figures to be next in line behind Ney in terms of being a target. The mess DeLay is in with Abramoff in Washington makes his troubles in Texas seem trifling. The Texas indictment only cost DeLay his majority leadership. Abramoff may have the information that puts DeLay in prison.

Bobby Jindal's ideological patron, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform is also in trouble, thanks to his years of close dealings with Abramoff. If Norquist goes to jail, Jindal will have to come up with another grandstand type ploy to win attention when he runs for governor next time — unless Norquist will run his no-tax pledge operation from prison. Maybe a green palm for having been so close to so corrupt a figure?

Louisiana Republican Fourth District Congressman Jim McCrery was the 11th largest congressional beneficiary of campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients. No word tonight on whether McCrery is going to try to give the money back or not.

The facts will show that the vast majority of Abramoff's money went to Republican members of congress and their campaigns, and to causes tied to Republicans. Some Republicans are trying to distance themselves from Abramoff now, but it appears to be several years too late. I forget: does the white smoke mean a congressman is burning the money or does it signal he/she is giving it to charity?

For full reports on Abramoff's plea and its implications, look here, here, here, and here.

This scandal is about greed, sure. But it is also about the corruption that dominant power brings with it. Republicans, remember, won control of the House of Representatives running against the corruption of the Democratic majority in that chamber. That corruption of a couple of leaders of that body looks pretty venal when compared to this. Their corruption today is as complete as their hold on the levers of power in the federal government: the House, Senate and White House all under the control of a party that committed itself to trying to change the game so that they would retain power for decades to come.

The corruption that will be uncovered in the Abramoff operation is systemic. It is the logical result to a system where big money dominated everything: the election process (it costs at least a million dollars to run for — and win — a seat in Congress these days); the legislative process (lobbyists have been writing laws in Congressional committees since 1995 when Newt Gingrich became Speaker), and the traditional media (Peter Jennings left a $50 million estate to his family when he died; wonder what circles he ran in?).

All of which is to say that if there is any doubt as to why government does not work for the people who work in this country, grab a newspaper account of this scandal and read it. Politicians of all stripes want your vote, but they don't want — and can't hear — your voice because money doesn't talk, it screams. And it's been absolutely wailing in Washington.

Jesus threw the money changers out of the temple. If we want our government to work for us again, we — your and I — must throw out of the Capital the lobbyists and the politicians who are in their pockets!


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Boustany Puts Party Before Principle With Iraq Spin

Congressman Charles Boustany just returned from Operation Essential Campaign Photo Op in Iraq and, on cue, gave The Daily Advertiser a breathless "everything's coming up roses" perspective on the war we're waging there.

Seems the fact that he and his fellow Congressmen had to wear full body armor the entire time there and the fact that it was not safe enough for him to travel between cities by land didn't strike him as running counter to his own assessment!

Hey, why are Congressmen getting the full body armor and not the soldiers?

While Charlie was busy drinking the Defense Department Kool Aid and declaring that he wasn't scared to be there, Military Times was reporting that the war is not wearing well within the U.S. Military itself. Only 54 percent of active duty military give President Bush favorable ratings for his leadership in the Iraq war.

As for Boustany's touting of U.S. successes in Iraq, we can prepare to freeze the list. Apparently, the Bush administration is declaring rebuilding Iraq another "mission accomplished." The Washington Post reports that the administration is not going to request any additional dollars to rebuild the country we broke, in Colin Powell's famous (but inaccurate) Pottery Barn anology. No, not going to rebuild it. Not going to even leave a reasonable facsimile in our wake. This does not bode well for the 'other' major reconstruction process — the U.S. Northern Gulf Coast. The Bush administration apparently suffers from attention deficit disorder.

And, sticking to his party line script, Boustany tries to make the carnage all seem worth, well, the carnage. Perhaps the Congressman should consider the views of this father of a Marine killed in Iraq.

And while Boustany is all for wars in support of the myth of building democracy elsewhere, he does not particularly upset with President Bush's decision to shred the actual Constitution here in a sustained, illegal, and unconstitutional campaign of eavesdropping on communications of U.S. citizens conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). Oh, and those eavesdropped conversations were shared with other agencies.

One wishes that Congressman Boustany would take his oath to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States almost as seriously as he takes his blood oath to follow his party's political lie.

That's not a typo.