Day: November 24, 2010

Jon Kyl Reaps $200 MILLION In Pork Just Days After Senate Republicans Voted To Ban Earmarks

Jon Kyl

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So much for Sen. Kyl (R-AZ) “renouncing earmarks”…

Senate Republicans’ ban on earmarks – money included in a bill by a lawmaker to benefit a home-state project or interest – was short-lived.

Only three days after GOP senators and senators-elect renounced earmarks, Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, got himself a whopping $200 million to settle an Arizona Indian tribe’s water rights claim against the government.

Kyl slipped the measure into a larger bill sought by President Barack Obama and passed by the Senate on Friday to settle claims by black farmers and American Indians against the federal government. Kyl’s office insists the measure is not an earmark, and the House didn’t deem it one when it considered a version earlier this year.

But it meets the know-it-when-you-see-it test, critics say. Under Senate rules, an earmark is a spending item inserted “primarily at the request of a senator” that goes “to an entity, or (is) targeted to a specific state.”

Earmarking allows lawmakers to steer federal spending to pet projects in their states and districts. Earmarks take many forms, including road projects, improvements to home district military bases, sewer projects, economic development projects. A key trait is that they are projects that haven’t been sought by the administration in power.

Continue reading here…

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Tom DeLay Guilty of Money Laudering

Tom Delay

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The “Hammer” has been hammered by a jury of his peers in Austin, Texas…

Huffington Post

Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay – once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress – was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

Jurors deliberated for 19 hours before returning guilty verdicts against DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He faces up to life in prison on the money laundering charge.

Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose heavy-handed style earned him the nickname “the Hammer,” used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.

DeLay and his attorneys maintained the former Houston-area congressman did nothing wrong as no corporate funds went to Texas candidates and the money swap was legal.

The verdict came after a three-week trial in which prosecutors presented more than 30 witnesses and volumes of e-mails and other documents. DeLay’s attorneys presented five witnesses.

Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC. The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can’t go directly to political campaigns.

Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 – and strengthened DeLay’s political power.

DeLay’s attorneys argued the money swap resulted in the seven candidates getting donations from individuals, which they could legally use in Texas.

They also said DeLay only lent his name to the PAC and had little involvement in how it was run. Prosecutors, who presented mostly circumstantial evidence, didn’t prove he committed a crime, they said.

Continue reading here…

Quote of The Week

OMG!

In recent days, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has hinted in her clearest language yet that she is seriously considering a run for the presidency in 2012. Many observers have argued that Palin could never win because of her embarrassing lack of expertise, knowledge, or interest in foreign policy. Her appearance on Fox News host Glenn Beck’s radio show today, captured by Oliver Willis, suggests they may be right:

CO-HOST: How would you handle a situation like the one that just developed in North Korea? [...]

PALIN: But obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies. We’re bound to by treaty –

CO-HOST: South Korean.

PALIN: Eh, Yeah. And we’re also bound by prudence to stand with our South Korean allies, yes.

 Palin misspoke, but this was hardly the first time. While malapropisms can and should be forgiven for frequent public speakers, it’s worth remembering what happened the last time America elected a candidate known for gaffes.

Listen:

Wednesday Blog Round Up

Palin Hits Back at Barbara Bush
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Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck are confused by Jimmy Carter’s claims tha..
Click here to view this media Bill O’Reilly really hates it when people call out Fox..

Sarah Palin Speaks on the Korean Crisis
by watertiger Here’s the Quitter, explaining to Glenn Beck precisely what the United..

Palin: ‘Obviously, We’ve Got To Stand With Our North Korean Alli..
In recent days, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has hinted in her clearest language y..

First They Came For My Junk
A moment like this reminds me of the moment in the late 30s when the Nazis started w..

The Morning Plum
* Right’s attack on TSA invasion of privacy going bust? It appears the American peop..

Florida Woman Dies After Medicaid Program Outsourced To Private Insure..
One of the most destructive practices of private health insurance companies is the p..

Fox continues its all-out assault on the Dream Act
Continuing its assault on the Dream Act, Fox News has repeatedly attacked and pushed..

Don Chu Arrested In Massive Hedge Fund Insider Trading Sweep
NEW YORK (By Grant McCool and Emily Chasan): An executive of an “expert networking f..

Fear Pays: Chertoff, Ex-Security Officials Slammed For Cashing In On Government Experience

This comes as no surprise.  Yet, Chertoff claims that he made no profit from advocating for the current scanner systems now used by the TSA.

Huffington Post

After last month’s plot to send bombs from Yemen to the United States aboard a cargo plane, former U.S. Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff’s whiskerless visage was ubiquitous on cable news. Solemnly warning that the nation needed stronger security procedures, Chertoff patiently repeated his talking points on ABC News’s “World News Tonight”, “Fox and Friends”, CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and Bloomberg TV.

Almost unmentioned in these appearances: Chertoff has a lot to gain financially if some of these measures are adopted. Between his private consulting firm, The Chertoff Group, and seats on the boards of giant defense and security firms, he sits at the heart of the giant security nexus created in the wake of 9/11, in effect creating a shadow homeland security agency. Chertoff launched his firm just days after President Barack Obama took office, eventually recruiting at least 11 top officials from the Department of Homeland Security, as well as former CIA director General Michael Hayden and other top military brass and security officials.

(Chertoff’s predecessor at DHS, Tom Ridge, has also parlayed his experience into a lucrative career. Since 2005, he has served on the board of Savi Technology, the primary technology provider for the Pentagon’s wireless cargo-monitoring network, and he has served as a senior advisor to TechRadium, Inc., a Texas-based security technology company.)

Chertoff’s clients have prospered in the last two years, largely through lucrative government contracts, and The Chertoff Group’s assistance in navigating the complex federal procurement bureaucracy is in high demand. One example involves the company at the heart of the recent uproar over intrusive airport security procedures — Rapiscan, which makes the so-called body scanners. Back in 2005, Chertoff was promoting the technology and Homeland Security placed the government’s first order, buying five Rapiscan scanners.

After the arrest of the underwear bomber last Christmas, Chertoff hit the airwaves and wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post advocating the full-body scanning systems without disclosing that Rapiscan Systems was a client of his firm. The aborted terror plot prompted the Transportation Security Agency to order 300 machines from Rapiscan. Yet last spring, the Government Accountability Office reported that, “It remains unclear whether [the scanners] would have been able to detect the weapon” used in the aborted bombing attempt. And according to a recent report by DHS’s Inspector General, the training of airport screeners is rushed and poorly supervised. 

Continue reading here…

Last week, two Republican congressmen took to the floor of the House to blast Chertoff and condemn the TSA’s security procedures. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced legislation against the scanning equipment.

“Michael Chertoff!” Paul exclaimed on the House floor, as shown in the video below. “I mean, here’s the guy who was the head of the TSA, selling the equipment. And the equipment’s questionable. We don’t even know if it works, and it may well be dangerous to our health.”

The pertinent segment starts around 4:30:

Last Wednesday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) claimed that Chertoff gave interviews touting the scanners while “getting paid” to sell them. “There is no evidence these new body scanners make us more secure. But there is evidence that former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff made money hawking these full body scanners.”

President Obama To Barbara Walters: ‘I Don’t Think About Sarah Palin’

Mediaite

President Obama sat down with Barbara Walters for a holiday weekend special set to air next Friday called A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama and it seems that Ms. Walters was able to generate draw out his thoughts on the 2012 campaign. Though he says that he’s not giving much consideration to the coming presidential run, he is instead focusing on being “the best possible president.” And, he said, he certainly isn’t focused on a potential challenge from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

ABC News Political Director Amy Walter reports:

When asked specifically if he thinks he can beat Sarah Palin in 2012, the president told Walters “I don’t think about Sarah Palin.”

“Obviously Sarah Palin has a strong base of support in the Republican Party and I respect those skills,” Obama said. “But I spend most of my time right now on how I can be the best possible president. And my attitude has always been, from the day I started this job that if I do a good job and if I’m delivering for the American people the politics will take care of itself.

“If I falter and the American people are dissatisfied, then I’ll have problems,” he said.

The interview, which also included first lady Michelle Obama, covered a wide range of topics including the recent events in North Korea, the latest controversies over TSA screenings in airports, the “shellacking” his party took in the 2010 midterms, the economy, and, of course, Thanksgiving traditions.

The full interview, “A Barbara Walters Special: A Thanksgiving Visit with President and Mrs. Obama,” will air Friday, Nov. 26 at 10 p.m. ET.

‘America By Heart,’ New Sarah Palin Book: What You Need To Know

Here’s The Huffington Post’s take on Sara Palin’s recently released book: America By Heart:

Huffington Post

Sarah Palin’s new book, “America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag” hits the shelves Tuesday, in an event that is sure to enliven an otherwise slow political week.

The release of her book marks the start of a whirlwind book tour for the former Alaska Governor, a bus trip that will bring Palin to key cities in the South, Southwest and Midwest. Notably absent from that list are key liberal bastions, areas where the former vice presidential candidate and potential 2012 contender would more likely be subjected to protest.

The book is just the latest in an ongoing effort by Palin to take the media by storm, an action that many see as a preparation for an impending run for president. Palin’s reality TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” launched earlier this month on TLC to huge viewership numbers. She’s also a regular face on the Fox News network, though she recently opened up to the New York Times, and has filmed an interview with ABC News that will air next month.

Needless to say, many believe that the release of a new book, particularly at this time, is a clear sign that she is steeling herself for a shot at President Obama in 2012. Advance looks at her book show that the “mama grizzly” devotes portions of her text to criticizing Obama and his agenda.

But that’s not all she writes about. Take a look of some other key excerpts below and vote on the best.

See slide show…

Poll: Republicans Who Want To Repeal Health Care Law Should Opt Out Of Gov’t-Sponsored Health Plans

Well, given that those politicians who oppose or want to repeal the Health-Care Law are so adamant about doing so, it would be a show of good faith for them to opt out of their government sponsored health care plans.  Let’s wait and see how this one pans out…

Think Progress

Last week, responding to Rep.-elect Andy Harris’ (R-MD) hypocritical demand for government-sponsored benefits, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) began circulating a letter among his Democratic colleagues calling on Harris and other members of Congress who want to repeal the new health care law to forgo their own government health care plans. So far just two incoming Republican freshmen — Rep.-elect Mike Kelly (PA) and Rep.-elect Bobby Schilling (IL) — have agreed. But a new Public Policy Polling survey has found that most Americans “think incoming Congressmen who campaigned against the health care bill should put their money where their mouth is and decline government provided health care now that they’re in office”:

Only 33% think they should accept the health care they get for being a member of Congress while 53% think they should decline it and 15% have no opinion.

Democrats are actually the most supportive of anti-health care Congressmen taking their health care, with 40% saying they should accept it to 46% who think they should decline. But Republicans and independents- who put these folks in office in the first place- strongly think they should refuse their government provided health care. GOP voters hold that sentiment by a 58/28 margin and indys do 56/27.

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein estimated that Republicans could save the federal government $2.4 million if they forgo health care for a year. New members have 60 days (after being sworn-in) to select an insurance plan from the federal health insurance exchange, which will become available on the first day of the following month. Returning members can opt-out of the government-sponsored health insurance coverage until the end of the open-enrollment period, December 13th. The Wonk Room has more on why not opting out would be a betrayal of Republican candidates’ pledges to “listen[] to the people who sent us,” and on the scheme of Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), a reform proponent, to make the GOP lawmakers put up or shut up on repeal.

Josh Marshall On Hardball Segment: Lurid and Corrupt

Photos of Obama and Huckabee from Image:ObamaB...

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I saw the hardball segment in question last night and was appalled at the right-wing talking points about the scanner and pat-down issues conducted by the TSA, particularly the Mike Huckabee portion of the segment.

This morning while scanning through my favorite blogs I came across the following by Josh Marshall, editor of Talking Points Memo which really struck a nerve since he seemed to be channeling my thoughts regarding the same Hardball segment:

TPM Editor:

I did a brief segment on Hardball this afternoon. And as I was waiting to go on, I listened through my earpiece to the preceding segment on the on-going TSA/pat-down controversy saga. The key is that I was mic’ed up so could only hear the audio. I wasn’t able to see who Matthews was interviewing. But it was a rank introduction to the level of lurid and vulgar demagoguery a lot of conservatives are resorting to to milk this story for political gain. The guy Matthews was talking to kept referring to people’s right not to be forced to have “nudie” pictures taken of them or their daughters and wives. Always with the menfolk unwilling to let their daughters and wives be ‘scanned’ — but that’s another story.

In any case, it’s worth remembering that the idea that your daughter or whoever strikes you as your most inviolable kin is having a ‘nude’ picture taken of them is just nonsense. Whatever else you can say about the backscatter scans, they usually reveal about as much as you do walking around the pool in a tight bathing suit. (Note: A number of the more revealing ‘backscatter’ pics you find on Google are actually fakes.) Of all the issues I’ve seen raised in this story, the invasiveness of the backscatter imaging strikes me as by far the weakest. And a poll out today shows that the public overwhelming approves of the use of the scanners as a tool to combat airliner terrorism. The pat-downs are another matter. And I’ve heard enough to make me wonder about the longterm risks of repeated exposure to these scans.

Next up was a clip from Mike Huckabee in a really gutter-minded, scurrilous voice daring President Obama to take his wife and two daughters to National Airport and have them get an aggressive pat-down in full view of the public if he wants ‘our’ wives and daughters to submit to the same. The mix of race and sex and populist demagoguery packed into Huckabee’s verbal slash was enough to bring you back to one of a hundred or a thousand rants below the Mason-Dixon line fifty or sixty or seventy years ago.   (Emphasis are mine.)

Continue reading here…          Video of complete Hardball Segment here…