Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Other Items

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.
Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."
Other people involved in the case or who have been officially briefed on it said the talks had reached a tense phase, with each side mindful of the date Jan. 9, when Mr. Abramoff is scheduled to stand trial in Miami in a separate prosecution.

The above is from Anne E. Kornblut's "Lobbyist Is Said to Discuss Plea and Testimony" in this morning's New York Times.

Kornblut outlines the details. Abramoff wanted to purchase (with Adam Kidan) "the SunCruz boat fleet in 2000." Konstantinos Boulis also wanted to purchase the fleet. Boulis is now dead (murdered). Bob Ney's comments against Boulis in The Congressional Record at this time are examined as well. Ney claims he was an unwitting patsy (well . . . plausible considering Ney on other issues). Neil Volz, Ney's then chief of staff, would go on to become a lobbyist for Abramoff.

Micah steers us to Juan Gonzalez's "Arrogance of the MTA made strike a certainty" (New York Daily News):

What happened to this sick worker and to so many other employees at the MTA is as much the reason for this strike as a wage increase, pension or health care benefit.
"Ever since I started missing work for chemo treatments, my supervisor's been accusing me of chronic sick-leave abuse," Casiano said.
Nelson Rivera, shop chairman for the 300 mechanics and car cleaners at 207th St., says Casiano is not the only worker penalized for illness. Another mechanic with 30 years on the job recently had a heart operation.
"When the guy came back to work, the MTA demoted him to security guard instead of giving him light duties," Rivera said. "Since then, he's been disciplined twice and is now facing a possible dismissal in 30 days."
Local 100 President Roger Toussaint has repeatedly complained that the MTA issued a phenomenal 15,000 disciplinary actions against his members last year.
When so many workers are being punished and harassed daily by management, something is deeply wrong with the people at the top of that agency.
"We've been fed up with the MTA and wanted a strike for years," Rivera said. "But until Roger got elected, no union leader dared to stand up to management."
All across this city, workers who have no pensions and who must pay huge premiums for health insurance hear about transit workers fighting to preserve pensions at 55 and employer-paid health insurance. They fall prey to the Bloomberg line of "greedy workers."

Candice e-mails to note John Nichols' "Raising the Issue of Impeachment" (The Online Beat, The Nation):

The Conyers resolutions add a significant new twist to the debate about how to hold the administration to account. Members of Congress have become increasingly aggressive in the criticism of the White House, with U.S. Senator Robert Byrd, D-West Virginia, saiying Monday, "Americans have been stunned at the recent news of the abuses of power by an overzealous President. It has become apparent that this Administration has engaged in a consistent and unrelenting pattern of abuse against our Country's law-abiding citizens, and against our Constitution." Even Republicans, including Senate Judiciary Committee chair Arlen Specter, R-Pennsylvania, are talking for the first time about mounting potentially serious investigations into abuses of power by the president.
But Conyers is seeking to do much more than schedule a committee hearing, or even launch a formal inquiry. He is proposing that the Congress use all of the powers that are available to it to hold the president and vice president to account -- up to and including the power to impeach the holders of the nation's most powerful positions and to remove them from office.
The first of the three resolutions introduced by Conyers, H.Res.635, asks that the Congress establish a select committee to investigate whether members of the administration made moves to invade Iraq before receiving congressional authorization, manipulated pre-war intelligence, encouraged the use of torture in Iraq and elsewhere, and used their positions to retaliate against critics of the war.
The select committee would be asked to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment of Bush and Cheney.
The second resolution, H.Res.636, asks that the Congress to censure the president "for failing to respond to requests for information concerning allegations that he and others in his Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq, misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for the war, countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in Iraq, and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of his Administration, for failing to adequately account for specific misstatements he made regarding the war, and for failing to comply with Executive Order 12958." (Executive Order 12958, issued in 1995 by former President Bill Clinton, seeks to promote openness in government by prescribing a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information.)
A third resolution, H.Res.637, would censure Cheney for a similar set of complaints.

Molly asks that we again note Robert Parry's "The New Madness of King George" (Consortium News) and picks this as the excerpt (Parry's commenting on Bully Boy's speech Sunday):

Some of Bush's strange body language may be explained by the fact that even he must realize that his assertions include a number of falsehoods, such as his routine deception that Saddam Hussein defied U.N. demands on destroying his weapons of mass destruction and on letting in U.N. weapons inspectors.
"It is true that [Hussein] systematically concealed those [WMD] programs, and blocked the work of U.N. weapons inspectors,” Bush told the nation. "He was given an ultimatum -- and he made his choice for war."
But it is not true that Hussein blocked the work of U.N. weapons inspectors. In fact, he acquiesced to a U.N. ultimatum and let them back into Iraq in November 2002. Chief inspector Hans Blix said his team was finally given free rein to examine suspected WMD sites, but Bush forced the inspectors to leave so the invasion could proceed.
As it turned out, Hussein was telling the truth when he said there were no WMD caches left. After the invasion, Bush's own team of inspectors concluded that Iraq's WMD stockpiles had been destroyed by earlier U.N. inspections and by U.S. bombing during the Clinton administration.
Yet, beginning a few months after the U.S. invasion -- as it became clear there was no WMD and as U.S. casualties mounted -- Bush began rewriting history, claiming that Hussein had not let the U.N. inspectors in, thus forcing Bush to invade. This lie presumably made Bush appear more reasonable.
On July 14, 2003, Bush
said about Hussein, "we gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power."
In the following months, Bush repeated this claim in slightly varied forms.
On Jan. 27, 2004, Bush said, "We went to the United Nations, of course, and got an overwhelming resolution -- 1441 -- unanimous resolution, that said to Saddam, you must disclose and destroy your weapons programs, which obviously meant the world felt he had such programs. He chose defiance. It was his choice to make, and he did not let us in."
Eventually, this false history became part of Bush's regular litany about the war. Despite the fact that it was an obvious lie -- the U.S. news media had witnessed the work of the U.N. inspectors inside Iraq -- Bush was rarely challenged about his historical revisionism. [For details, see "
President Bush, With the Candlestick…"]

Bonnie asks that it be noted that there was an entry last night due to it going up so late. (It's built around Ruth Rosen's The World Split Open and it focuses on the issue of governmental spying)

Last highlight is Will's pick of David Lindorff's "9/11: Missing Black Boxes in World Trade Center Attacks Found by Firefighters, Analyzed by NTSB, Concealed by FBI" (CounterPunch):

One of the more puzzling mysteries of 9-11 is what ever happened to the flight recorders of the two planes that hit the World Trade Center towers. Now it appears that they may not be missing at all.
Counterpunch has learned that the FBI has them.
Flight recorders (commonly known as black boxes, though these days they are generally bright orange) are required on all passenger planes. There are always two-a flight data recorder that keeps track of a plane's speed, altitude, course and maneuvers, and a cockpit voice recorder which keeps a continuous record of the last 30 minutes of conversation inside a plane's cockpit. These devices are constructed to be extremely durable, and are installed in a plane's tail section, where they are least likely suffer damaged on impact. They are designed to withstand up to 30 minutes of 1800-degree heat (more than they would have faced in the twin towers crashes), and to survive a crash at full speed into the ground.
All four of the devices were recovered from the two planes that hit the Pentagon and that crashed in rural Pennsylvania. In the case of American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon, the FBI reports that the flight data recorder survived and had recoverable information, but the voice recorder was allegedly too damaged to provide any record. In the case of United Airlines Flight 93, which hit the ground at 500 mph in Pennsylvania, the situation was reversed: the voice recorder survived but the flight data box was allegedly damaged beyond recovery.
But the FBI states, and also reported to the 9-11 Commission, that none of the recording devices from the two planes that hit the World Trade Center were ever recovered.
There has always been some skepticism about this assertion, particularly as two N.Y. City firefighters, Mike Bellone and Nicholas De Masi, claimed in 2004 that they had found three of the four boxes, and that Federal agents took them and told the two men not to mention having found them. (The FBI denies the whole story.) Moreover, these devices are almost always located after crashes, even if not in useable condition (and the cleanup of the World Trade Center was meticulous, with even tiny bone fragments and bits of human tissue being discovered so that almost all the victims were ultimately identified). As Ted Lopatkiewicz, director of public affairs at the National Transportation Safety Agency which has the job of analyzing the boxes' data, says, "It's very unusual not to find a recorder after a crash, although it's also very unusual to have jets flying into buildings."
Now there is stronger evidence that something is amiss than simply the alleged non-recovery of all four of those boxes. A source at the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that has the task of deciphering the date from the black boxes retrieved from crash sites-including those that are being handled as crimes and fall under the jurisdiction of the FBI-says the boxes were in fact recovered and were analyzed by the NTSB

Rod e-mails to advise us the scheduled topics for today's Democracy Now!:

* 33,000 New York City transit workers go on strike, shutting down the country's largest public transportation system. We'll take a look at the latest.
* Newly released documents show counterterrorism agents at the FBI have been monitoring domestic activist groups including Greenpeace, Catholic Worker, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and PETA, the People For theEthical Treatment of Animals.

So watch, listen or read Democracy Now! today.

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