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While everyone I know waits for Patrick Fitzgerald's next move--will he or won't he indict Karl Rove?-- I eagerly await the verdict in the Enron trial.
Remember that giant corporate house of cards that camecrashing down on the heads of all the little people while the big guys like former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and Chairman Ken Lay cashed out for mega-millions, smirking all the way? Remember theugliest financial scandal in an era of some pretty nasty corporate scandals? After presenting nearly three dozen witnesses and hundreds of documents, lawyers for Skilling and Lay rested their defenseagainst fraud charges earlier this week. Some analysts say that "gut feelings the jurors developed about Skilling and Lay over 14 days of testimony could prove to be the key..."
Gut feelings? If you want to turbo-charge your gut feelings about these corporate gladiators who ravaged 1000s of pensions, check out the documentary, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.
I finally watched it last weekend. It's like a corporate horror story. It's also, as one film reviewer described it,"a primer on corporate malfeasance for dummies."
No matter what your politics, this well told tale about greed, arrogance, ethical malfeasance on an epic scale is bound to make you mad as hell. Watch it now. And be worried, very worried, and angry, very angry if these Enron hucksters get off.
-opinionfront-hed ">Chigago Tribune op-ed, GWU law professor Jonathan Turley makes the striking but often ignored point that the Bush Administration has a penchant for hiring those who break or bend the law. It almost seems like a prerequisite for hire or promotion these days. The nomination of Michael Hayden--Mr. Warrantless Wiretapper--to head the CIA only underscores this fact.
"From his very first appointments," Turley writes, "Bush appeared inclined toward officials who appear willing to treat the law as a mere technicality." As examples he cites appointees from the Reagan-era such as Elliott Abrams, Otto Reich, John Poindexter and John Negroponte.
In the second-term, Alberto Gonzales went from torture memos to Attorney General. George Tenet leaped from a "slam dunk" on Iraqi WMDs to a Presidential Medal of Freedom. And on it goes. Turley continues:
There appears to be more here than simply a tendency of Bush's to hang around with a bad group of kids. Bush himself has long displayed an equally dismissive view of the law, claiming the right to violate federal law when he considers it to be in the nation's interest.
As these shadowy figures multiply, you can understand why civil libertarians increasingly see the White House like a gathering at Tony Soprano's Bada Bing! club In Soprano's world, you cannot become a 'made man' unless you first earn your bones by 'doing' some guy or showing blind loyalty. Only when you have proven unquestioning loyalty does Tony 'open the books' for a new guy.
Hayden earned his bones by implementing the NSA operation despite clear federal law declaring such surveillance to be a criminal act. He can now join the rest of the made men of the Bush administration.
Funny how in last week's Sopranos an angry Tony referred to Paulie Walnuts by the now infamous phrase: "You're Doing a Heckuva job, Brownie."
The election is history, but the war between a Cheney (Mary) and a Kerry (John) lives on.
In her new memoir, Now It's My Turn, Cheney's lesbian daughter calls Kerry a "son of a bitch" and his running mate, John Edwards, "total slime," for mentioning her sexual orientation during the campaign debates.
Watching Edwards during the veep debate, Cheney allegedly mouthed the words "Go F*** Yourself." Months earlier, the Vice President had told Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy to do the same. Like father, like daughter.
Of course, it was no secret Mary was gay--she'd been out of the closet for years, even working as Coors's liaison to the gay community--but that didn't stop Republicans for trying to paint the Democrats as anti-gay. Needless to say, the attack was one of the odder, and more hypocritical, moments of the campaign.
As our own Richard Kim noted at the time, "It's not like Mary Cheney's been quietly pursuing lesbianism by playing softball and raising cats in Northampton. She has devoted her entire career to providing cover for lesbian-hating organizations, corporations and political parties."
Today, Kerry spokesman David Wade fired back and took The Nation's line. Dick's daughter, he said, "flacked for the most anti-gay administration in history."
Added Wade: "She'd be more credible if she pushed dad's administration to support hate crimes legislation and equal rights for gay Americans."
Instead, she gave daddy credibility as his campaign gay-baited a victory in Ohio.
(PS--Be on the lookout for a full-length piece of mine on Kerry tomorrow.)
U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, ardent critic of President Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, outspoken opponent of the administration's domestic-spying program and chief Congressional challenger of White House moves to undermine the system of checks and balances, will on June 12 become the longest serving senator in history.
Of the 1,885 members of the upper chamnber of the Congress who have served since its first sitting in 1789, Byrd will hold the record for the time served.
But at 88, Byrd rests on no laurels.
Despite the regular battering he takes from conservative talk-radio and television hosts -- who delight in dredging up his brief association with the Ku Klux Klan more than six decades ago but conveniently fail to note that the senator has apologized repeatedly for his error and now wins overwhelming support from African-American voters in West Virginia -- and despite the fact that he has been targeted for defeat by White House political czar Karl Rove and the rest of the Republican attack machine, Byrd is seeking a record ninth term in the Senate.
In classic Byrd fashion, he is highlighting his dissents against the administration. The senator's , campaign website features at its top a petition demanding an investigation of the president's authorization of warrantless wiretaps. It reads:
The United States Constitution has served this country for more than 200 years. Our system of checks and balances ensures that our freedoms are protected.
There is evidence that the Bush Administration may have broken the law, and most certainly has violated the spirit of the Constitution, and the public trust by spying on American citizens without a court order.
We, the undersigned, believe that no President is above the law. We demand a Constitutional check on the Administration's illegal wiretapping. We join Senator Byrd in calling for a nonpartisan, independent commission to investigate and determine the legality of the President's actions.
The Constitution is the people's shield -- a shield of liberty -- and we must not let that shield turn to rust.
Next to the petition is an image of the senator holding a copy of the Constitution and a promise from Byrd to uphold it.
Would that other senators -- including Byrd's fellow Democrats -- would choose to seek reelection on a promise to defend basic liberties.
Perhaps they would do as well as Byrd did in Tuesday's Democratic primary in West Virginia.
He won 86 percent of the vote.
The senator will face a tougher race in the fall, against a millionaire Republican opponent. But, as the Charleston Gazette newspaper explained in an editorial endorsing Byrd: "No political challenger can rise as high as his ankles."
Why? In addition to championing his state's interests with an aggressiveness unequaled in the Senate, the Gazette's editors noted:
Here's another reason to hold Byrd in high esteem: He was almost the only member of Congress who had courage enough to oppose President Bush's plunge into the unnecessary Iraq war. While other national Democrats timidly succumbed to the war cry -- fearing they would be labeled unpatriotic if they didn't -- Byrd protested that the invasion was needless.
History proved him wiser than the rest of Congress. All the purported reasons for the war evaporated. Byrd's Senate speeches were distributed literally to millions around the world, and were incorporated in his book, Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency.
Especially, Byrd is a champion of America's system of checks and balances, the separation of powers envisioned by the nation's founders. He fights endlessly to prevent the president from growing so powerful that Congress and the Supreme Court are reduced to puppets.
Democrats are out for the kill. Republicans are on the defensive. Right?
Not exactly. When it comes to national security, many Democrats are still pulling their punches, even with Bush's approval rating at an all-time low. Just take the issue of warrantless wiretapping. When the nomination of the man who masterminded the arguably illegal program, Michael Hayden, for CIA director comes before the Senate next week, Intelligence Committee Democrats plan to promptly change the subject.
According to Bloomberg News, "Democrats say they will focus their fire on Michael Hayden's military background and suitability to head the Central Intelligence Agency...and won't emphasize the nominee's role in running a much-criticized eavesdropping program."
Isn't his role as chief wiretapper central to his suitability? Do we want a CIA chief who believes he's above the rule of law? Is it politically advantageous for Democrats to let Republicans continue to dictate the terms of national security debates?
To reinforce the putrid status quo, Bloomberg quotes a former CIA hand-turned-professor saying: "The public seems to have concluded that the idea of listening in on people who want to blow up things in this country is a pretty good idea."
Of course, if that's how you phrase it. In fact, the public is split on the program. Americans disapprove of the way Bush is fighting the war on terror. And no one knows exactly who the Administration is listening on. They won't tell us. And Congress won't ask.
Hayden's nomination would be the perfect occasion for Democrats to demand answers to some of these questions.
General Michael Hayden is getting a warm reception from the Senate Intelligence Committee, who gets first dibs on his nomination as CIA director. But elsewhere on the Hill prominent Republicans are grumbling, led by House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert--pretty much the last person you'd expect to bash the Bush Administration. "I don't think a military guy should be head of CIA, frankly," Hastert sais yesterday. From sub-only Roll Call:
Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has come out against the nomination of Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden to head the CIA, calling the ousting of former Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) from the agency's top post "a power grab" by John Negroponte, the director of national intelligence.
Hastert's opposition to Hayden is not based on any personal reservations about the nominee. Rather, Hastert is concerned that installing a top-ranking military official at the "CIA would give too much influence over the U.S. intelligence community to the Pentagon."
Hastert's aides later expanded on his comments. "The Speaker does not believe that a military person should be leading the CIA, a civilian agency," said Ron Bonjean, Hastert's spokesman.
Hastert also said Negroponte stopped by his office Wednesday and made no mention of the fact that Goss, who served in the House with Hastert for 16 years, would be stepping down as CIA director two days later.
"It looks like a power grab by Mr. Negroponte," said Hastert.
Of course, the House won't vote on Hayden's nomination, so it's safer for members, including Hastert, to criticize. And the Administration would clearly rather talk about the CIA and warrantless wiretapping than high gas prices, illegal immigration or the war in Iraq. But with his approval rating hovering in the low 30s, is another fight really what Bush needs?
Here's an idea…. instead of appointing the chief architect of the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program, Gen. Michael Hayden, as the new CIA Director--how about the chief architect of the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), 27-year CIA veteran Ray McGovern?
VIPS is a group of around 35 retired or resigned high-level intelligence operatives who exposed the Bush administration's misuse and abuse of pre-war intelligence. Prior to the Iraq invasion, these contemporary Paul Reveres warned the public that the WMD's and links to Al Queda cited by the Bush Administration to justify the war simply didn't exist.
Last week McGovern confronted Rummy during a public Q & A session in Atlanta. "Why did you lie to get us into a war that caused these kind of casualties and was not necessary?" Referring to WMDs he added, "You said you knew where they were." Rumsfeld was caught in his web of lies and, the New York Times noted, his response was to spout more of the same.
The political benefit of a McGovern appointment for a sinking Bush administration that has all but sent its Mayday signal is this: McGovern has a track record as a patriot and a truth-teller--and there is a dearth of both in the Bush-Cheney-Rummy reign of ruin. Additionally, Tony Snow's harsh view of his new boss--"No president has looked this impotent this long"--would suddenly read as McGovern-lite, comparatively speaking.
If you have other thoughts on the pros of a McGovern appointment please post them here.
As far as scandals are concerned, the widening investigation into former Rep. Duke Cunningham has got it all. The drumroll, in no specific order:
Prostitutes. Poker. The Watergate Hotel. Members of Congress. Shady limousine companies. CIA officials with names like Dusty Foggo and Nine Fingers.
What more could reporters want in a story? I seem to recall that the last time there was a sex scandal in DC, back in the late 1990s, reporters paid rapt attention.
As Media Matters astutely noted, these are the "only hookers Fox WON'T cover."
Is it possible that George W. Bush didn't know that there are, um, blacks in Brazil? Some have long thought that such a notion -- first aired a couple of years ago-- was an urban legend.
Well...blogger Randy Paul has come across some corrobating evidence. And his source is pretty good: none other than the autobiography of former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso.
While we're on the subject of Latin America. There's also this depressing news -- that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is talking about staying in power another 25 years. This is totally unacceptable and should not be rationalized by anyone, no matter how sympathetic with his policies.
Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre was just on CNN talking about Porter Goss's suprise resignation as CIA chief. When asked why Goss unexpectedly quit, McIntyre feigned ignorance and couldn't quite find the words.
The story may be right in front of the mainstream media. Could it be encapsulated in one word? Hookers.
Goss may be the first casualty of the expanding investigation into Duke Cunningham, otherwise known as Hookergate. Cunningham's indicted co-conspirators, defense contractors Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, provided suites at the Westin and Watergate (sound familiar?) to entertain Congressman and other DC players. According to Ken Silverstein of Harper's, "party nights began early with poker games and degenerated into what the source described as a "frat party" scene--real bacchanals." The FBI is investigating whether prostitutes were involved. The Watergate has received multiple subpoenas.
Goss's #3 man at the CIA, Dusty Foggo, has already admitted to attending "poker parties." Silverstein, one of the best investigative reporters in Washington, revealed last week that "those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence comittees--including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post."
Goss certainly fits that bill.