Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Saturday, September 09, 2006
John Doolittle has been entangled in the scandal involving Jack Abramoff. Doolittle has denied any wrongdoing, and on April 18, 2006 he hired a former prosecutor from Ken Starr's office as his media adviser on the matter.
Campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients
Doolittle estimated that he received about $50,000 from clients of Abramoff, mostly Indian tribes. Abramoff also personally donated $14,000 over the period 1999-2004 to Doolittle's congressional campaigns. According to the Washington Post, Doolittle "was particularly close to Abramoff." Doolittle said he always thought of Abramoff as "a friend" for a single reason: "I liked him, frankly, because he was a partisan, conservative Republican activist.". Unlike many lawmakers, Doolittle has refused to give away any of the Abramoff money.
Fund raising by Abramoff for Doolittle
An "ardent opponent of casino gambling," Doolittle held a fundraiser at Jack Abramoff's skybox at the MCI Center in February, 1999. Abramoff, who rented the boxes himself, billed Indian tribes lobbying fees to cover his cost. These tribes had hired Abramoff to represent their casino interests.
Under federal campaign finance law, Doolittle was required to pay Abramoff for use of the box, or to report the use as an "in-kind" contribution from Abramoff to his campaign. Doolittle initially failed to report the use of the sky-boxes in his Federal Election Committee filings. In late 2004, his spokesperson, Laura Blackman, said "It was an in-kind contribution, and it was an oversight that it wasn't reported, but we are taking steps to correct that."
In January 2005, Doolittle reported that his campaign fund had sent a check for $1,040 to one of Abramoff's former employers, the Preston Gates lobbying firm, to pay for the skybox. The lobbying firm returned the check because it had never owned the skybox. In May 2005, Doolittle campaign-fund spokesman Richard Robinson acknowledged that the rejection of the check should have been reported to the FEC and said a corrected accounting would be filed. Robinson said Doolittle's fund is determined to rectify the six-year lapse in paying for the box. "If we find out that Jack Abramoff paid for the suite, then we'll reimburse Jack Abramoff, because we want to reimburse the person or entity who paid for the box," Robinson said. "We thought we were doing that in January."
Payments to Doolittle's wife by Abramoff
From August 2002 through February 2004, Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig paid Julie Doolittle $66,000. Initially her work to help plan a fundraiser for Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation, called the Spy Game Gala, that was to be MC'ed by Tony Snow. The event never happened because it coincided with the beginning of the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003. According to the initial statement by her attorney, the $66,000 in payments from Abramoff were because she "primarily performed public relations and other event planning services for the Spy Museum event."
She was paid a total of $27,000 through February of 2003, when payments stopped. In July 2003, Abramoff (via Greenberg Traurig) began paying her again, $5,000 per month; this continued through mid-February 2004, when the first story on what would become the Abramoff scandal was published.
In a statement in June 2006, her attorney, William Stauffer, said that "Sierra Dominion, a small business owned by Julie Doolittle, provided marketing, event planning, and related services to the Greenberg Traurig law firm, and its partner, Jack Abramoff, from August 2002 through March 2004." "Sierra Dominion had a retainer arrangement with Greenberg Traurig under which it provided services concerning the Spy Museum event and also the Signatures and Stacks restaurants". (The two restaurants were owned by Abramoff.)
Julie Doolittle's records in connection with her work for Abramoff have been subpoenaed by the United States Department of Justice. The DOJ has not filed any charges in neither case.
No explanation has been given as to why Greenberg Taurig made the payments to Julie Doolittle, rather than the foundation (for whom the charity event was planned) or the restaurants or Abramoff personally (as restaurant owner).
Doolittle's actions on behalf of Indian tribes
In a February, 2002, Doolittle was among more than two dozen lawmakers who signed a letter to Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton urging her to reject an Indian casino opposed by Abramoff's tribal clients. 
In early June 2003, Kevin Ring, a former staffer to Doolittle and a lobbyist at Greenberg Taurig, brought members the Iowan Sac & Fox tribe to meet with Doolittle in his office. In mid-June, Doolittle wrote a letter to Norton complaining that the tribe's casino was wrongly shut down because the Bureau of Indian Affairs had refused to recognize a newly elected tribal council. Another lobbyist involved in the matter was Michael D. Smith, formerly Al Gore's Midwest political director, and a member of Team Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig. Doolittle's action helped the Tribe to reopen the casino, a major enterprise for the tribe and its reservation. Eventually, the faction supported by Doolittle won control of the Tribal government in a government supervised election, by a 4-1 margin. Others involved in the effort included Senator Byron Dorgan (D- N.D).
In October, 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to Norton for quicker action for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts, which was seeking federal recognition; the tribe was also a client of Greenberg Traurig, and Kevin Ring was a lobbyist on the account.
Doolittle's actions on behalf of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)
One of Abramoff's major clients was the government (Commonwealth) of the Northern Mariana Islands. Doolittle visited the islands in February of 1999 as part of a congressional delegation. In April of 2000 and April of 2001, he met with CNMI House Speaker Benigno R. Fitial in Washington D.C. On May 25, 2001, the Saipan Tribune printed a letter from Doolittle to Fitial, which noted a recent $150,000 earmark, mentioned two possible Army Corps of Engineers projects on the islands, and said "I will urge the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee to include funding for the feasibility study for both projects in the FY 2002 appropriations bill." In August 2001, he backed Fitial's candidacy for governor. Doolittle was successful in securing $400,000 in Corps study funds in 2001, his first year on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.
Doolittle accepted $14,000 in contributions from Jack Abramoff just weeks before Doolittle endorsed the election of Fitial, a CNMI politician who had been crucial to Abramoff getting a lobbying contract from that government. The final Abramoff donation to Doolittle came as the last CNMI lobbying contract was expiring in December 2001. In the governor's election in early 2002, Fitial lost. The new governor, Juan N. Babauta, cancelled the contract with Greenberg Traurig.
BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure the results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, aren't counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of the country's sectarian violence.
In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.
That has allowed U.S. officials to boast that the number of deaths from sectarian violence in Baghdad declined by more than 52 percent in August over July.
But it eliminates from tabulation huge numbers of people whose deaths are certainly part of the ongoing conflict between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Not included, for example, are scores of people who died in a highly coordinated bombing that leveled an entire apartment building in eastern Baghdad, a stronghold of rebel Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Johnson declined to provide an actual number for the U.S. tally of August deaths or for July, when the Baghdad city morgue counted a record 1,855 violent deaths.
Violent deaths for August, a morgue official told McClatchy Newspapers on Friday, totaled 1,526, a 17.7 percent decline from July and about the same as died violently in June.
The dispute is an important one. With Baghdad violence reaching record levels in July, U.S. commanders warned that the country was tipping toward civil war. They then ordered 8,000 U.S. troops and 3,000 Iraqis to conduct house-by-house searches of Baghdad's neighborhoods in an effort to root out insurgent gunmen and militia death squads in Operation Together Forward.
The program, which began in earnest Aug. 7, included bringing in thousands of American troops from other parts of Iraq in what was seen by many as a last-ditch effort to head off a civil war that many Iraqis say has already begun.
Within weeks of the kickoff of the Baghdad security plan, the U.S. military's top spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell, boasted that the murder rate in Baghdad had fallen by 46 percent and attributed most of the fall to the new security sweeps.
On Thursday, Caldwell revised the figures, posting a statement on the website of the Multi-National Force-Iraq that the murder rate had dropped even more - by 52 percent from July.
That claim was immediately contradicted by the morgue figures, which trickled out in accounts by various news organizations citing unnamed officials.
Johnson said he couldn't comment on morgue figures and declined to release the raw numbers on which Caldwell's claim was based. He said the numbers were classified and that releasing them might help "our enemy" adjust their tactics.
"We attempt to strike the right balance, being as open and transparent as possible without providing information that places our troops or Iraqi civilians at undo risk by the enemy adjusting their tactics for greater impact," he said, in explaining the decision not to release the figures.
Johnson said the numbers more accurately reflect the impact of Operation Together Forward's mission: targeting operations of shadowy sectarian death squads, who often use drive-by shootings, torture and executions as tactics for terror, rather than suicide bombings or rocket or mortar attacks.
He said the figures quoted by Caldwell reflect a "cautious optimism" that the situation is improving in Iraq.
But whether the violence is truly improving is far from clear. The morgue numbers made public this week reflect only deaths in Baghdad and figures compiled by the Ministry of Health for August violent deaths throughout Iraq won't be released until later this month.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
After a thorough review of the original guide that we offered online to about 25,000 high school teachers, we determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues,” said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO of Scholastic, in a press release.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
A Little Recap of Incompetence
Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, a new book arriving in stores today by veteran Newsweek investigative reporter Michael Isikoff and Nation Washington editor David Corn reveals a flurry of new details on the inner workings on the Administration in the lead-up to the Iraq war -- many of which cast unflattering light on the aggressive nature of the Bush-Cheney team that discounted facts from the intelligence community in favor of a policy that involved attacking Iraq, RAW STORY has learned. Among the book's myriad disclosures will include:
President Bush was driven by a visceral hatred of Saddam Hussein, which he privately demonstrated in expletive-laden tirades against the Iraqi dictator. In May 2002--months before he asked Congress for authority to attack Saddam-Bush bluntly revealed his ultimate game plan in a candid moment with two aides. When told that reporter Helen Thomas was questioning the need to oust Saddam by force, Bush snapped: "Did you tell her I intend to kick his sorry mother fucking ass all over the Mideast?" In a meeting with congressional leaders, the President angrily thrust his middle finger inches in front of the face of Senator Tom Daschle to illustrate Saddam's attitude toward the United States.
As part of an aggressive prewar covert action program--codenamed Anabasis (after an ancient text about a botched invasion of Babylon)--the CIA was authorized by the White House in the winter of 2002 to blow up targets in Iraq and engage in "direct action" (an agency euphemism for assassination) to weaken Saddam's regime and to prepare for his ouster by the U.S. military. For Anabasis, the agency smuggled Iraqi exiles to a top-secret site in the Nevada desert and trained them in sabotage and explosives. The Iraqi force, known as the Scorpions, was being trained to seize an isolated Iraqi military post-in order to create a provocation that could trigger a war with Iraq.
When Bush was first briefed that no WMDs had been found in Iraq, he was totally unfazed and asked few questions. "I'm not sure I've spoken to anyone at that level who seemed less inquisitive," the briefer told the authors.
Colin Powell remains intensely bitter and angry about his UN Security Council Speech, during which he presented the case for war. After it became clear that much of his speech was wrong, he refused to have anything to do with CIA director George Tenet.
Monday, September 04, 2006
July 30, 1996
Web posted at: 8:40 p.m. EDT
GOP Congress blocked Clinton push for anti-terror legislation
by John in DC - 9/04/2006 11:10:00 AM
CNN, July 30, 1996
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, emerged from the meeting and said, "These are very controversial provisions that the [Clinton] White House wants. Some they're not going to get." ....[Hatch] also said he had some problems with the president's proposals to expand wiretapping.So Bill Clinton, rather than just breaking the law as Bush did (then again, perhaps this is why Bush broke the law - he knew from history that the Republicans controlling the congress would oppose his efforts to expand wiretapping), decided to go to the Republican congress in 1996 and ask them for increased authority to do more eavesdropping in order to stop the terrorists - stop September 11. Senior Republican Senator Orrin Hatch, one of the GOP's top picks for the Supreme Court and a GOP committee chair, objected.
The Republicans stopped President Clinton from getting all the tools he needed to stop the next September 11 - well, no, actually they opposed giving President Clinton all the tools he needed to stop the actual September 11. Could September 11 have been stopped if the GOP had given President Clinton the tools he requested to stop Osama and Mohammad Atta from killing 3,000 people in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington?
Maybe we need to ask the Republicans up for re-election why they wanted to appease the terrorists?
President Clinton urged Congress Tuesday to act swiftly in developing anti-terrorism legislation before its August recess.There's even an audio clip of President Clinton practically begging the Republicans to give him the tools he needed to stop Osama and the terrorists. Trent Lott said no. Orrin Hatch said no. Do these men really deserve to run the Congress during a time of war?
"We need to keep this country together right now. We need to focus on this terrorism issue," Clinton said during a White House news conference.
But while the president pushed for quick legislation, Republican lawmakers hardened their stance against some of the proposed anti-terrorism measures.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
"Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror," Vice President Cheney had said. "I believe the opposite is true."
"Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region," Cheney had contended. "When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace."
In the same speech, the vice president had also predicted that Iraqis would "erupt in joy" after Saddam's regime was overthrown.
"As for the reaction of the Arab 'street,' the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 'sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans," Cheney had said.
"Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad," added Cheney. "Moderates throughout the region would take heart."
"And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991," claimed Cheney back in August of 2002.