Saturday, October 14, 2006

Oh, that crazy Curt Weldon, he's at it again.

The Inquirer reports today that:

"The F.B.I is investigating whether U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R., Pa.) used his influence to help is daughter win consulting contracts, sources say. . . Charles Sexton, a politcal ally of the congressman and a business partner of his daughter. . . Karen Weldon, 32, formed a public relations firm, Solutions North America, in 2002, and won $1 million in contracts from two Russian energy firms and a Serbian family with ties to Slobodan Milosevic."

The Inquirer reports the investigation was started after a 2004 story about the deal in the LA Times. "The Inquirer reported in 2004 that Weldon had lobbied federal officials on behalf of one of those firms, Itera, a huge and controversial Russian natural gas company. Weldon also complained to Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, about Itera's treatment by the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. . . Itera paid $500,000 to Karen Weldon and Sexton's firm. The contract was signed on Sept. 30, 2002, six days after the congressman helped arrange a dinner at the Library of Congress to honor Itera and Igor Makarov. Isn't that intersting, another Republican congressman doing shady deals with Russian mobsters.

According to

"Karen Weldon said she found her second client, Saratov Aviation, a Russian aerospace manufacturer, in December 2002, through a family friend, who had worked with her father to foster U.S.-Russian business ties. In January 2003 Curt and Karen Weldon visited Saratov's plant in Russia. After the trip, Saratov signed a contract to pay SNA for $20,000 per month plus a 10% commission, both dependent on new business generated. After the trip, Weldon contacted the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (Navair) concerning Saratov's products. In September, Navair and Saratov signed a nonbinding letter of intent that called for Navair to seek funding to develop the Saratov's technology. In November the Saratov contract was rewritten to remove the commission (illegal for federal contractors) and to deliver payment to Solutions Worldwide Inc., another Karen Weldon-Charles Sexton venture. Saratov began paying the new firm $20,000 a month in December 2003."

Doesn't sound fishy at all, does it? All precfectly on the up-and-up. You betcha!

The Anals of Bush: 12-gallon hat justice

[Yes, I know. I meant to spell it like that.]

Here are two stories, side by side, in the WaPo today that really show you how out of control our government is. The first one involves a Gitmo detainee who was rescued from a Taliban prison by US troops and then sent to Gitmo based on a video-tape he was tortured into making by the Taliban.

Let me repeat this; 27-year old Abdul Rahim has been at Gitmo for five years based on video-taped evidence, which was tortured out of him by the Taliban. I've heard about the CIA rendering prisoners to other countries for torture, but this is ridiculous.

The WaPo: "Rahim's American lawyers filed the records in federal court in Washington this week, along with the results of their own investigation corroborating Rahim's claims of innocence, adding sworn statements from witnesses. They are asking a judge to order the military to admit that it made a mistake and release Rahim, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. . . Rahim's account of being imprisoned and tortured by the Taliban is supported by newspaper accounts about Rahim and fellow prisoners whom the Taliban abandoned when U.S. forces began bombing Afghanistan in the fall of 2001. It is also supported by documents from impartial agencies that had contact with Rahim, notably the International Committee of the Red Cross." [The Red Cross? Who's going to believe them?]

But, I guess, Rahim shouldn't worry, though, because every detainee gets a military review to make sure he's really guiity, right? Surely he has the legal right to a Habeas Corpus petition? Nope, Congress took care of that little unnecessary hinderance to the WOT.

Just sit tight Rahim, at least you're getting three squares and a beating every night. That's more than can be said for Mohammad Munaf, an American citizen, who has been been left to the gentle mercies of an Iraqi court by his own government.

The WaPo:

"A U.S. citizen who allegedly orchestrated the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists near Baghdad last year was sentenced to death in an Iraqi court Thursday, prompting his lawyers to ask a federal judge in Washington to block the U.S. military from transferring him to the Iraqi government. Mohammad Munaf, 53, has been in U.S. custody since May 23, 2005, when he was arrested during a military raid to rescue the Romanian journalists nearly two months after they were snatched."

It turns out there was little evidence that he was involved in the kidnappings and even the Romanian government wanted his case dropped . . . but not so quick; the Iraqi judge hearing his case in the Central Criminal Court of Iraq was apparently about to set Munaf free when an American genral arrived at the court. The general and the judge went into a room and -- low and behold -- 15 minutes later Munaf was sentenced to death without any evidence being presented against him and witout him being able to defend himself.

Now, that's justice Bush-style! I think this is some sort of dry run for what Rummy & Co. have in mind for dealing with the Gitmo problem. Why gum up the courts with frivious Habeas Corpus petitions and stays of execution, fair trais, evidence, a legal defense, all those pre-911 niceties that the terrorists would never go through for one of our guys. Just stand them up; sentence them; and kill them. No muss, no fuss.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

'coup d'universit e,' my ass. Listen up Gallaudet students!

OK, here we got again with Gallaudet. [I wrote about this back in May, enough already!] The WaPo reports:

"Protests over the next president at Gallaudet University intensified yesterday when the football team decided after midnight to join the demonstrations by blocking the campus gates, shutting down the school for the deaf."

The football team? Boy, you really know you're on the right side when the football team takes your side. According to the Post, Jason Coleman, the team captain, said he was "upset about the school's low graduation rates, which have hovered for years around 40 percent, and asked why Fernandes, who has been provost for the past six years, had not been able to change that."

Maybe if you all spent less time partying all night, keeping your neighbors up until the crack of dawn, and focused more on studying, your grades might go up. And since when does the football team have to get good grades to pass?

Anyway, among the many complains this time around, besides the Fernandez controversy, is that, "Some. . .protesters were consistently denied interpreters, cutting off their means of communication with the hearing world."

Of course, why should the University have to provide translators? If this is really that much of a problem, though, there's always the cochlear implant. Most of you all could actually hear if you really wanted to, and then you could go to any university you wanted. But, for some reason -- which the hearing world can't fathom -- the deaf community totally rejects the device.

A Brown Universty web site on the subject says that the, "implant is seen as a threat to the Deaf way of life and language much in the same way as oralism. People in the Deaf culture 'have declared war on the implant.' Deaf people have the most problems with implanting young children, action they proclaim is tantamount to genocide; 'Like the Nazis, they seem to enjoy experimenting on little children' (Solomon 38)." Mmm...yes, oralism, that's Fernandez' great crime, right? She didn't learn to sign unitl she was an adult? {Nazi!]

Anyway, besides the football team and a few malcontents who don't like Jane Fernandez because she's not deaf enough, everybody else is hurting over this nonsense. I just went to About: Deafness/ Hard of Hearing and the consensus opinion seems to be that you all need to knock it off and grow up.

One poster wrote:

"{A] cyber-friend who talked to 'reliable sources' gave me this unconfirmed information: some parents are reportedly withdrawing their children from the Model Secondary School for the Deaf (MSSD) high school, and also Kendall Demonstration Elementary School. According to the cyber-friend, 'about 70 students left.'"

Another one writes:

"I do not want Jane Fernandes for president any more than you do, but I have a stake in the campus re-opening. I have a child who attends Kendall Demonstration Elementary School! My child had no school today because of you. If you do not reopen the campus by tomorrow morning, my child will miss another day of school AND I will have to take the day off work because my boyfriend has classes in the daytime tomorrow at his college."

And another:

"I know how you feel, and even empathize, and understand the issues, and you have every right to protest! But, you don't have the right to prevent students of all ages from getting an education! ESPECIALLY the ones at pre-college! Deaf children need every day of education that they can get! This is NOT 1988. . . You are preventing elementary school students from getting an education. You are preventing babies and toddlers from getting an education. You are preventing adults from being able to do their jobs. You are preventing Gallaudet alumni from being able to get jobs - today was supposed to be a job fair and I have a deaf alumni friend who was counting on it to help him find a job."

Hey, there's an idea; how about, if you all really have a problem with the school, instead of disrupting your fellow student's lives and making your university a laughingstock, why not drop out and get a real job? How about that? I hear the Army is hiring.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Iraq: 4 more years?

AP reports:

"The U.S. Army has plans to keep the current level of soldiers in Iraq through 2010, the top Army officer said Wednesday, a later date than Bush administration or Pentagon officials have mentioned thus far."

Wow, that's quite a surprise. Maybe, someone ought to tell the good general that you don't come out and say things like that when your commander-in-chief is trying to make sure he keeps his party's majority in Congress. (This might all be acedemic anyway if we go to war with one of the other axis of evil countries W. has his sights on.)

Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker says, "this is not a prediction that things are going poorly. . . It's just that I have to have enough ammo in the magazine that I can continue to shoot as long as they want us to shoot."

I hope this is only a rhetorical magazine he's talking about because, apparently, either Sunni insurgents or Mahdi Army types blew up a US ammo dump in Baghdad last night, which set off a "barrage of explosions that continued to shake the capital on Wednesday morning, according to AP.

I don't know about you, but I'm getting the distinct impression this new "Battle of Baghdad," is going to turn out to be a lot more like Fallujah II, rather than Paris 1944. The Independant reported last week that US casualties are soaring. Last month "776 soldiers were wounded in action in Iraq." And this month alone we've lost 44 US troops killed in action. How long before the US starts resorting to "shake and bake" tactics, is my question.

If we do, the US military ought to pay attention to new Iraqi death squad web sites that are listing the names of people who they want killed. NEWSWEEK reported this week that one web site offers helpful hints to Mahdi Army types on how to avoid getting captured or killed by US troops: "Don't wear black," one advises the blackclad jihadis. "Other tips: 'Hide your weapons,' don't stand in groups, and 'never admit you're a member of the militia.'" So, why are these guys giving us so much trouble again?

But, not to worry, there's signs of political progress in Iraq. The BBC reports:

"The Iraqi parliament has approved a law allowing provinces to merge into regions which would enjoy a measure of autonomy. The vote went through unanimously, but only 138 of the chamber's 275 members were present. Absentees included the two biggest Sunni blocs and two of the factions that make up the big Shia alliance."

Maybe that's the only way to get anything done in the Iraqi government, make sure half of them aren't there. In any case, it looks like some of the Iraqis are taking Joe Biden's ideas for a partition to heart.

Next crisis up is Kurdistan. . .

Read more of this stuff at my foreign policy blog "let's talk about democracy," where I'll be expandnig on all of this tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Basketball diplomacy versus no diplomacy:

John McCain has really gone over the deep end in his quest to wrap up that all important GOP nomination for prez. First, it was showing what a good Republican he was by shredding the consitution for W., and now he's blaming the North Korean bomb on Bubba. That's rich!

The WaPo reports that he went after Hillary in Chi-Town yesterday saying, "I would remind Senator Clinton and other Democrats critical of Bush administration policies that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure."

And what would he call the past six years of W.? It seems to me that I remember North Korea being still crazy but decidedly non-nuclear when Madaline Albright was over there trying to coax Kim Jong Il out of his hermit-hole. Okay, it didn't wind up working (remember, he's crazy), but at least they tried. (And if the Reps want to bring up "basketball diplomacy," we can remind them about "slam dunk" intelligence)

Under Clinton, McCain claims, "we had a carrots-and-no-sticks policy." Now, of course, we've had six years of a no carrots and no sticks policy that has led to Kim Jong Martian with his hands on the button. Much better result.

McCain went on, "Every single time the Clinton administration warned the Koreans not to do something -- not to kick out the IAEA inspectors, not to remove the fuel rods from their reactor -- they did it. And they were rewarded every single time by the Clinton administration with further talks."

But didn't W. just say today that "diplomacy is a difficult process" but that it "hasn’t run its course." Sounds like rewarding North Korea with further talking to me. What would he suggest Bubba had done anyway, gone ahead and attacked Pyongyang? (Naturally, the Republicans would have attcked him for trying divert attention from Monica.)

But you see, W.'s approach is much better; we tell them not to do something -- they do it -- and then we ask the Russians and the Chinese again to handle it, because we're busy in Iraq. And why are we so busy in Iraq? I seem to recall W. telling an audience in Cincinnati back in 2002 that:

"If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today -- and we do -- does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger and develops even more dangerous weapons? Knowing these realities, America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof -- the smoking gun -- that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." [CNSNews]

This would seem to me to be a situation where we pretty much have unambiguous proof that North Korea has the ability to make real mushroom clouds, not the fantasy kind Dick Cheney thought Saddam had. By the way, what ever happened to W. vowing that, "We will not tolerate a nuclear North Korea"?

I guess, that's out the window. Oh, but rest assured, we're really not going to tolerate a nuclear IRan. You can bet the farm on that!

The Philadelphia Aurora: The more things change, they stay the same.

After reading about the case of Steven Howard's in the NYT -- the man who was arrested in Denver for mouthing off to Darth Cheney -- my thoughts strangely went immediately to the case of Luther Baldwin of Newark, New Jersey, who was arrested for making fun of president John Adams in the year of our Lord 1798.

This was the year Congress passed the Alien & Sedition Acts, which read in part:

Sec.2: And be if further enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish . . . any false, scandalous, and malicious writing or writings against the Government of the United States, or either House of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States with intent to defame . . . or bring them or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them the hatred of the good people of the United States . . . or to impede the operation of any law of the United States . . . or to resist, oppose or defeat any such act or law or act. . . then such persons, having thereof convicted, before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by fine not exceeding two thousand dollars and by imprisonment not exceeding two years. . . "

Many anti-Adams partisans were arrested under this act including the editor of the Philadelphia Aurora, William Duane, who was a constant thorn in the side of his highness John Adams.

[This is an excerpt from Richard N. Rosenfeld's excellent book American Aurora.]

The Philadelphia Aurora July 27, 1798:

Today as the President and Mrs. Adams pass through Newark, New Jersey, on their journey home, a local resident violate the Sedition Act. From reports:

"[T] he approach of the President of the United States was announced -- Great preparations were made for his reception by the true Federalists. . . the honorable exclusive friends of their country, with [black] cockades in their hats, paraded . . . The very 'respectable part of the young men,' (who had informed the President that they were surrounded by the enemies of the government who were endeavoring to blast the buds of their patriotism) . . . procured a piece cannon of the Company of Artillery, distinguished themselves in their livery consisting of a blue jacket, not forgetting the emblems of all emblems, the adorable [black] Cockade. . . and displayed flags from three conspicuous places in town.

[A] bout 11 o'clock A.M. the President's carriage was seen at the lower end of town. The discharge of cannon commenced, a general peal from the bells joined . . .when to the astonishment and mortification of the self-constituted federalists, the President pushed his horses into full speed, kept the curtains of his carriages down, and passed this assembled friends to good order in a second, without even deigning to drop a nod of approbation. . .

Luther Baldwin happening to be coming toward John Burner's dram [of liquor] shop, a person who was there says to Luther, 'there goes the President and they are firing at his a [ss]. Luther, a little merry, replies that he did not care if they fired through his a [ss]. Then exclaims the dram seller, 'this is sedition' -- a considerable collection gathered -- and the pretended federalists, being much disappointed that the president had not stopped that they might have the honor of kissing his hand, bent their malice on poor Luther, and the cry was that 'he must be punished. . . '

Luther Baldwin was punished. The U.S. Federal Circuit Court of New Jersey will find Luther Baldwin guilty, under the new federal Sedition Act, of 'seditious words tending to defame the President and Government of the United States' and order him to pay a fine of $400; $250 for speaking those words and $150 for costs and expenses."

On the question of obeying laws that aren't Consitutional:

"Orator M u m takes this very orderly method of announcing that a T H I N K I N G C L U B will be established in a few days at the sign of the MUZZLE in Gag street. The first subject for cogitation will be "Ought a Free People to obey laws which violate the constitution they have sworn to support?"

The Constitution of the United States says that 'Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of the press' but Congress have passed a law abridging the freedom of the press and therefore the Constitution is infracted. Quere, of what efficacy is a law made in direct contravention of the Constitution?"

[Gosh, I wonder if anyone could get away with this sort of thing nowadays?]
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