Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Abramoff makes plea deal, Gitmo, NSA spying and blackheads

Good evening. We've got a lot tonight including an e-mail question. So let's get right to Democracy Now!

Top Republican Lobbyist Pleads Guilty To Fraud, Bribery
In Washington Tuesday, the prominent Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three felony counts. He admitted to defrauding at least four Native Americans tribes of tens of millions of dollars, bribing government officials and evading taxes.
_ Abramoff has reportedly agreed to testify against several members of Congress who received favors or donations from him or his clients.
_ The Wall Street Journal reports his testimony could implicate as many as 60 lawmakers.

I think the best explanation on this is in "The Biggest Congressional Scandal in Over a Century? GOP Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Pleads Guilty to Three Felony Counts:"

PETER STONE: Well, based on what we've learned over the last year in Senate hearings that Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Senator McCain were instrumental in starting that looked into the allegations that they bilked tribes of tens of millions of dollars, and now what's come out in not only Abramoff's plea bargain yesterday, but Scanlon's plea bargain, and what are expected to be more in the near future, the scope of the fraud appears to be enormous. One of Abramoff's former partners apparently referred to it at one point when the scandal was about to break or had just broken as potentially the Enron of lobbying, which is not a bad analogy in some ways.
The scandal has now really shaken up both the lobbying community in Washington and members and congressional staffers who were close to Jack Abramoff or even who knew him very slightly and worked with him. What we've seen really is a pattern of favor giving, a pattern of influence pedaling that, as Alice Fisher said, appears to go well beyond the lawful bounds of lobbying.

Justice Dept. Seeks Dismissal of Gitmo Cases
In other news, the Justice Department has filed a request to dismiss more than 180 cases brought by Guantanamo Bay detainees to challenge their detentions. The detainees lost their right to habeus corpus in a Senate amendment attached to anti-torture legislation passed last month. Detainees are now only able to plead their case before an appeals court once they have gone through a military court process.

"Oh bless John McCain! Oh bless our Congress!" This slipped by at the same time and there was so much back patting that not a lot of people cared. Amy Goodman did and covered it more than once before the Senate amendment went through including when she interviewed Michael Ratner. C.I. covered it too and noted everytime the New York Times did one of their "real deal McCain" stories. But we weren't supposed to peak behind the spin.

Now the "detainees" have been stripped of the only right they had. So they can just stay in Guantanamo forever and most Americans don't even seem to care. It's a shame on our nation.
If you're wondering about "detainees," I put it in quotes because this is an issue Elaine's raised and Ma's been thinking about it too. She loved C.I.'s comment on it this morning and asked me to put it in:

Like Elaine, by the way, I think it's past time for a new term. "Detainee" doesn't really convey several years of imprisonment. I'm not sure that "inmates" is the proper term, and not sure that it isn't, but "detainee" makes it sound as though you've been stopped as you went through customs and forced to declare an item or two.

That's funny but it's true too. "Detainee" and they've been there for how many years? And there's no end in sight. Ma said she thinks Bully Boy was the one using "detainee" first, he and his administration, and that it had a temporary quality to it and made it sound like it was just a stop over while they got a few things straight and sorted out. But that now, she thinks they're political prisoners because they're held with no visits from their family and held for years without ever having been convicted of anything.

Now in the New York Times today there was this article "Agency First Acted on Its Own to Broaden Spying, Files Show" and it's about when the spying began and how Nancy Pelosi objected as early as October, 2001 and we know that now because parts of her letter objecting have been declassified.

Here's C.I.'s commentary from The Common Ills this morning:

How did the NSA have the power to make the changes? According to administration spokespeople an executive order ( Executive Order 12333) Reagan signed allowed for it to happen. I know all presidents rely on those executive orders and think they override the Constitution, but they don't. At best, it's "an order" by its very nature, it's not a law. No president can declare a law. Congress is the law making body.
But that's today's spin from the White House: "Reagan signed an executive order and that gave us permission!" (Did Yoo discover that order at the time or did someone, Yoo?, think of it as the illegal activity continued to hound Bully Boy?)
[. . .]
Again, executive orders (which are utilized far too often) lack Congressional oversight and are not laws. They are orders. And if they conflict with the Constitution, those who take an oath to uphold the Constitution should refuse to follow them (or they're breaking their oath). There's no oath to follow the Bully Boy. At least no public one.But this administration has been filled with people (Colin Powell, for instance) who saw the Bully Boy as the nation. No president is the nation. The people are the nation and when the presidency turns against the people, it has turned against the nation.

So that's the news you should know about today. Be sure to check out Elaine's comments on the same topic at Like Maria Said Paz. (And be sure to check out her entry on Kat from last night.)And Seth posted Sunday and picked his choice for person of the year so check out Seth in the City.

Now let's deal with Sereena's e-mail. She has a problem. And now she has a new boyfriend and she's embarrassed and worried about if things go further. How come?

Way up on her inner thigh she gets these things. We went back and forth with e-mails cause I wasn't sure what she was talking about. I think she's talking about black heads and sometimes they can get so bad that they become these welts so it might be ingrown hairs too except she doesn't have any hair there naturally. She showers every morning and also right after she works out if it's a gym day.

So I talked to my kid sister and she knows a girl at her school who has the same thing happen.
She tried everything. Then finally she got the idea to use pore strips. She goes through them because they are for the nose and not really to slap on your inner thigh. But it has taken care of the problem. She didn't get welts though. My sister called her and asked if she was cool talking to me about it and she was. She said that she only got a "real big pimple" at the worst times. But she's been doing the pore strips now for "about two months" and they've taken care of the problem. She's not sure how big the area Sereena has to cover is but she goes that it will probably require at least one box so to keep that in mind if she buys some.

If Sereena has time, she usually just squees around them and when she told me that, I started thinking blackheads. The way she describes them in her e-mail that may be what they are. But if you know something else e-mail because I'm not a doctor. There may be something else. And it could be something like nutrition. She's too embarrassed to ask at the drug store but she does have a physical coming up near the end of Feb. so if you have another idea on what might be going on, e-mail.

We'll close with "Mediaocracy 2006: Out with the Old, In With the New" by Danny Schechter:

Our media is being confronted by a public that isn’t very happy with its output. We know this from surveys that span the political spectrum that may be reported but are rarely dwelt on. The last thing media outlets want to report is why the public is turning against them. In a media designed for "tune-in," tune-out seems to be the trend. Opinion surveys report widespread dissatisfaction--see recent reports by the Pew Center in American Life--but other statistics are more compelling--the statistics that report fewer viewers watching network news programs and readers buying newspapers.
Match that up with the comparatively low voter turnout in The US and you find that in ours, the most media rich nation on earth, democratic participation is shrinking. Many critics have criticized the media for actually depoliticizing politics and in the process undermining democracy. Media scandals seem to be erupting more frequently than political scandals, and the credibility of major media continues to decline. One Pew Center public opinion poll in one of those rare moments when members of the public were asked for their views -- found that as many as 70% of the people asked expressed dissatisfaction with the media. Nearly 70 percent were angry, but for different reasons. Nearly half think the media is too left wing -- not surprising after years of the Republican Party’s punditocracy trashing the so-called "liberal media." The other half blames the right wing for souring them on media, pointing to Fox News and a tendency for big media to defer to big government.