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Saturday, December 31, 2005

The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail

Nonprofit Group Linked to Lawmaker Was Funded Mostly by Clients of Lobbyist
By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 31, 2005; A01

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.
 
During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.
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Newsday.com: Pentagon Shakes Up Emergency Hierarchy

By LOLITA C. BALDOR
Associated Press Writer
December 29, 2005, 10:13 PM EST
 
WASHINGTON -- Heading a military service isn't quite the position of power it used to be. In a Bush administration revision of plans for Pentagon succession in a doomsday scenario, three of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's most loyal advisers moved ahead of the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
 
A little-noticed holiday week executive order from President Bush moved the Pentagon's intelligence chief to the No. 3 spot in the succession hierarchy behind Rumsfeld. The second spot would be the deputy secretary of defense, but that position currently is vacant. The Army secretary, which long held the No. 3 spot, was dropped to sixth.
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Stop The Spirit Of Zossen�-�Techne and the Asian Century

Dear reader, instead, let us travel a bit. And discuss a recent item from The Economist, Japan's Robots: Better Than People. Or as this writer put it, 'Why is Asia so digital, and the West, including the U.S. so analog?'
 
Both pieces ask why the Japanese (and Asia overall) embrace technology and robotics much more enthusiastically than the West and the U.S. in particular. (See ?Inside the Robot Kingdom? for one summary explanation). Why do Aibos, Sony's robot dog, above, join Japanese families as emotional additions, while those few sold in the U.S. serve mostly as technical hacking exercises? (Que link to hacking the staple of late nite tv, the 'Roomba')
 
Is this related to recent criticisms by the father of American robotics that Japanese efforts at domestication are 'frivilous'?
 
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US military finds soldiers' blogs too close for comfort - World - smh.com.au

By Oliver Poole in Baghdad
December 28, 2005

ANYONE wanting to hear daily insights into what it is like to be in a convoy hit by an explosion or ordered to pick up the body parts of comrades dismembered by a suicide bomber does not have to be there in person any more.
 
Instead they just need to log on to the internet from the safety of their home or office.
 
In a development that is worrying US military commanders in Iraq, a growing number of US soldiers - 200 at the last count - have set up their own blogs, or internet diaries, and are updating them from the battlefield.
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Stop The Spirit Of Zossen�-� The Attack of 'Negative Implication'

 
...But the method of the attack is key. A 'negative implication' attack as with ID then claims that if evolution can not explain everything (yet), then it can explain nothing. And from that relativsim of negativity, a void is created wheren 'Creationism' and 'Intelligent Design' are offered as equally plausible 'scientific explanations'.
 
This same bootstrap is used in national political discourse. The 'negative implication' tactic is employed frequently by the Administration and its apologists to try and mainstream radical and fringe ideology and concepts.
 
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Friday, December 30, 2005

My Way News

Dec 29, 7:14 AM (ET)
By LARRY MARGASAK

In a program to help businesses after Sept. 11, a high percentage of government-backed loans went to recipients who appeared to be unqualified - some of them unaware they were receiving terrorism-recovery money, investigators report.
 
The Small Business Administration's inspector general said Wednesday that agency officials were at fault for telling lenders in the program that their determinations would not be questioned.
 
The inspector general concluded that only nine loan recipients in the 59 cases sampled appeared to be qualified for disaster loans.
 
Lenders who handed out billions of dollars in loans failed - 85 percent of the time - to document that recipients were actually hurt by the terrorism attacks and therefore eligible for the aid under the law, the report found.
 
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Journalists Should Expose Secrets, Not Keep Them

Published on Thursday, December 29, 2005 by CommonDreams.org 
by Norman Solomon 
Journalists should be in the business of providing timely information to the public. But some -- notably at the top rungs of the profession -- have become players in the power games of the nation's capital. And more than a few seem glad to imitate the officeholders who want to decide what the public shouldn't know.
 
When the New York Times front page broke the story of the National Security Agency's domestic spying, the newspaper's editors had good reason to feel proud. Or so it seemed. But there was a troubling backstory: The Times had kept the scoop under wraps for a long time.
 
The White House did what it could -- including, as a last-ditch move, an early December presidential meeting that brought Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office -- in its efforts to persuade the Times not to report the story. The good news is that those efforts ultimately failed. The bad news is that they were successful for more than a year.
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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blah3.com - C'mon, America! Israel does it!

CNN has had the annoying Kelli Arena in Israel all week, travelling with a group of law enforcement from Louisiana that is studying how Israel handles the threat of terrorism (I wrote about this briefly the other day). I'm not sure what their point is supposed to be, but the subtext is clear - that Israel is better prepared for terrorism, and we could be too if we put armed guards and surveillance cammeras everywhere, built a concrete wall around the country and subjected ourselves to random searches by 'civil patrol officers.'
 
I'll respond to this foolishness by paraphrasing my mother - 'If Israel jumped off a bridge, would we do it, too?'
 
As tempting as it might be to people like Lou Dobbs and his little 'Broken Borders' cult, a wall around this country would signal the death of the United States as a 'free country.' And I don't think my neighbors here in New York would take too kindly to having machine gun-toting security guards patrolling Macy's or the East Village.
 
But there is a subtle form of conditioning going on here. Arena's reports refer repeatedly to 'the next terror attack in America,' as if it's a foregone conclusion that another 9/11 is right around the corner, and we'd better deploy those cameras and set up those checkpoints now if we want to have the slightest hope of living through it.
 
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d r i f t g l a s s: "Sweet Home Anbar Province."

"In Birmingham they love the governor
(boo-hoo-hoo)
?Cause Allah tells him what to do..."
 

As most of you know, it is a real effort to ?splain to our Red State Republican cousins precisely why and how their Dear Leader has royally dryfucked this country bloody and raw for generations yet unborn. They are so eagerly self-retarding, which would be more harmlessly amusing than scary if they weren't always and uniformly fucktarding all in the same lockstep direction.
 
The same blustering vac-humans who for years hysterically stomped their webbed feet to ribbons over non-crimes and hummers under Clinton (under his desk, to be specific) now blithely jerk themselves blind in brittle delight over their Dear Leader?s Administration lying, looting and espionage.
 
There?s this about the Red State Grunions: at no point do they ever manage to even accidentally crapulurch their way in the direction of liberty. Which is, if nothing else, statistically interesting.
 
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Character Actor Vincent Schiavelli Dies

ROME - - Yahoo! News

Vincent Schiavelli, the droopy-eyed character actor who appeared in scores of movies, including "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Ghost," died Monday at his home in Sicily. He was 57.
 
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The Winning Ticket - Google Video

After a fake craps dice prank on Thad during Haasfest 2004 was so successful, we had to come up with something for Haasfest 2005 that would top it. The idea was to pre-record a Texas Lotto drawing and a save it on the TIVO. We bought a lottery ticket with the numbers to match that pre-recorded lottery drawing. The day of Haasfest, we asked Thad stop on his way over and buy a couple Lotto tickets. At some point in the night, we swapped the tickets he had bought with the fake tickets. If you ever wanted to know what it felt like to win the lottery, just watch Thad check his numbers...
 
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"mission accomplished"

Dvorak Uncensored � Independent Music Thrives Where the Big Labels Fail

While RIAA's dogma would have us believe that the net in general, and P2P in particular, are killing the music industry, not everyone is suffering. Despite the alleged threats independent labels are adapting and thriving with these new means of distribution and marketing
 
New York Times - December 27, 2005:
 
Even as the recording industry staggers through another year of declining sales over all, there are new signs that a democratization of music made possible by the Internet is shifting the industry?s balance of power.
 
Exploiting online message boards, music blogs and social networks, independent music companies are making big advances at the expense of the four global music conglomerates, whose established business model of blockbuster hits promoted through radio airplay now looks increasingly outdated.
 
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Fog Fact of the Year - the Big Lie Goes On

Published on Monday, December 26, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
Fog Fact of the Year - the Big Lie Goes On
by Larry Beinhart 
  
 
President Bush gave a radio address on December 17 in which he explained why he had to use illegal wiretaps.
 
As usual, he returned to the events of 9/11. He said:
"Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al Hamzi and Khalid al Mihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late.
 
"... The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time."
To the contrary. It was secrecy -- and incompetence -- that let al Hazmi board that plane on 9/11:
 
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Fear Destroys What bin Laden Could Not

Published on Monday, December 26, 2005 by the Miami Herald 
by Robert Steinback

  
One wonders if Osama bin Laden didn't win after all. He ruined the America that existed on 9/11. But he had help.
 
If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.
 
Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.
 
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The I-Word is Gaining Ground

Published on Tuesday, December 27, 2005 by The Nation
by Katrina vanden Heuvel
  
In 1998, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, currently under indictment on corruption charges, proclaimed: "This nation sits at a crossroads. One direction points to the higher road of the rule of law...The other road is the path of least resistance" in which "we pitch the law completely overboard when the mood fits us...[and] close our eyes to the potential lawbreaking...and tear an unfixable hole in our legal system." That arbiter of moral politics was incensed about the possibility of Bill Clinton escaping unpunished for his "crimes."
 
Fast forward to December 2005. Not one official in the entire Bush Administration has been fired or indicted, not to mention impeached, for the shedding of American blood in Iraq or for the shredding of our Constitution at home. As Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter put it--hours after the New York Times reported that Bush had authorized NSA wiretapping of US citizens without judicial warrants--this President has committed a real transgression that "goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power."
 
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2005 - That Was the Year That Was

Published on Tuesday, December 27, 2005 by CommonDreams.org
by Bob Burnett
 
  
 
As America staggers out of 2005, it's time to look back at what hit us. There were five major events: Bush deflation, Republican corruption, Iraq quicksand, American shame, and Mother Nature.
 
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AlterNet: 2005 Media Follies!

2005 Media Follies!
By Geov Parrish, AlterNet

Posted on December 27, 2005, Printed on December 28, 2005
 
As one would expect in a year when one of the underreported stories was our government's covert propaganda campaigns, there's plenty to unravel: stories that should never have been stories, stories whose reporting largely missed the point, and stories barely told at all in mainstream US media.
 
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Mike Whitney: Pop Goes the Bubble!

The Fall of the House of Cards
By MIKE WHITNEY
 
Four months ago I wrote an article, "Doomsday; the Final Months of the Housing Bubble" that predicted a dramatic fall in housing prices that would have a catastrophic effect on the American economy.
 
In truth, I'm a lousy forecaster and simply collected the relevant data from a number of sources that convinced me that the end was quickly approaching. Now, it seems that dismal day is upon us and the Grim Reaper has begun churning out the disappointing statistics that we've dreaded from the very beginning.
 
In November the sales of new homes plunged by the largest amount in 12 years. The 11.5% decline from October was 4 points higher than expected by Wall Street analysts, fueling the belief that the red-hot housing market is headed for the dumpster.
 
This sudden downturn is expected to slow the wave of speculation that has kept the market booming for the last few years. According to an Associated Press report, sales dropped by "22% in the West, the biggest decline in the region since February 1995."
 
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Raw Story | Rice authorized National Security Agency to spy on UN Security Council in run-up to war, former officials say

by Jason Leopold
 
President Bush and other top officials in his administration used the National Security Agency to secretly wiretap the home and office telephones and monitor private email accounts of members of the United Nations Security Council in early 2003 to determine how foreign delegates would vote on a U.N. resolution that paved the way for the U.S.-led war in Iraq, NSA documents show.
 
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Dvorak Uncensored � The US will start tracking all drivers

The US will start tracking all drivers
Filed under: General ? Steve Newlin @ 6:00 am
 
The U.S. Department of Transportation has been handing millions of dollars to state governments for GPS-tracking pilot projects designed to track vehicles wherever they go. So far, Washington state and Oregon have received fat federal checks to figure out how to levy these ?mileage-based road user fees.?
 
The problem, though, is that these ?road user fee? systems are being designed and built in a way that strips drivers of their privacy and invites constant surveillance by police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security.
 
And that?s a problem how? Well, it?s because?
 
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Bush's counsel on spying now under close scrutiny - The Boston Globe

Bush's counsel on spying now under close scrutiny
By Peter S. Canellos, Globe Columnist  |  December 27, 2005
 
WASHINGTON -- When President Bush sought to reassure the country that his authorization of spying on Americans without warrants was a reasonable exercise of his power, he emphasized that his orders were always reviewed by the attorney general and the White House counsel.
 
''Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland," Bush said in his Dec. 17 radio address. ''The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the attorney general and the counsel to the president."
 
The current occupants of those jobs are Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House counsel Harriet E. Miers. Prior to 2005, Gonzales was White House counsel and John Ashcroft was attorney general.
 
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Get Smart!

Called on their errors
CIA agents' use of cell phones during mission lets police in Italy identify them, spurring agency review
BY JOHN CREWDSON
THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE
December 27, 2005
 
MILAN -- The trick is known to just about every small-time crook in the cellular age: If you don't want police to know where you are, take the battery out of your cell phone when you're not using it.
 
Had that trick been taught at the CIA's rural Virginia training school for covert operatives, the Bush administration might have avoided much of the crisis in Europe over the practice the CIA calls "rendition."
 
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Monday, December 26, 2005

Go Patriots! -- #40 One game at a Time

King of Zembla brings us: The Simulacram Republic

The hologram ripples with the cry of a thrush
By Joe Bageant
 
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Sadly, No!: Home School Nation

Sadly, No! spanks the smirk off of one little rodent's face.
 
...
At America's founding, the average parent had little choice but to accept the inherent responsibility of every parent to educate his own children.
They also had to walk two miles just to draw water from a well. Plus, they had to shit in holes in the ground. But I don't think that really made them better off.
Generally, I believe, the people accepted this responsibility willingly and whole-heartedly; and their faith, by-and-large, made them more than equal to the task!
Because back in the good ol' days, faith was the only prequisite for teaching your children. You certainly didn't need any of this new-fangled "knowledge" that kids these days seem to be into.
Before long, however, American parents began to cede much of this responsibility to public schools. In the beginning, most public schools were largely faith-based ? relying heavily upon the Word and Will of the God of the Judeo-Christian Bible.
Because really, children were so much better off learning that pi was exactly three, just like it says in the Bible.
 
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Sunday, December 25, 2005

F*&k Christmas

...
Seriously ? are you kidding me with this ?There?s a war on Christmas? bullshit? FOX News wasn?t raking in enough cash already from all the Christmas commercials for Kill ?em All Barbie and Girls Gone Wild Brand Toddler Gear? They had to start publishing books about some bogus attack on Christianity? And who did they pick to lead this particular charge?
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Los Angeles Times: Pricing of Music Downloads Is Probed

Warner Music discloses a subpoena by New York's Spitzer in an industrywide inquiry.
By Charles Duhigg
Times Staff Writer
 
December 24, 2005
 
Eliot Spitzer is taking on the music industry again, this time over the pricing of digital downloads.
 
Warner Music Group disclosed Friday that it had received subpoenas from the New York attorney general as part of an industrywide probe into how much record companies charge for digital music.
 
According to industry sources, who declined to be identified because the probe was continuing, Spitzer is reviewing whether the companies conspired to set wholesale prices.
 
Wholesale digital music prices can range from 60 cents to nearly 90 cents a song, according to industry executives. Operations such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes, the most popular digital music source, then sell songs to users for 99 cents per download.
 
Warner made the disclosure Friday in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that said it had received the subpoena Tuesday.
 
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Media Matters - Top 12 media myths

 Media Matters presents the top 12 myths and falsehoods promoted by the media on President Bush's spying scandal stemming from the recent revelation in The New York Times that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on domestic communications without the required approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.
 
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