Friday, March 31, 2006

TOM DELAY'S CULTURE OF CORRUPTION UNRAVELING AS ANOTHER AIDE PLEADS GUILTY. NEXT-- A HOLLYWOOD MOVIE?

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Another day, another Republicrook pleading guilty and turning states evidence. This morning I woke up and saw the news about yet another Jack Abramoff/Tom DeLay crony admitting to his crimes and doin' the ole plea bargain one-two, this time close DeLay aide and confidant Tony Rudy. I had no intention of even mentioning it in the blog and then I thought maybe I should do a brief update on my latest DeLay crime post since I talked about Rudy on that. But I didn't bother. There'll be so many Republicrooks pleading guilty to so many crimes, why not just wait for some of the bigger names like Cheney and DeLay himself? But when I was having lunch with my friend Craig I mentioned the idea behind a graphic Sadie and Sophie are working on that included DeLay, among a gaggle of other soon-to-be-jailed Republican solons and Craig said something to the effect of "What? DeLay? They'll never get DeLay!"

So... here we are. Who's Rudy and why is this important? When DeLay was the Republican House Majority Leader and the Capo di Tutti Capi working out the fine details of the Culture of Corruption that has come to pervade Washington, DC, Rudy was his Deputy Chief of Staff reporting directly to the very crooked Ed Buckham, DeLay's Chief of Staff, the man who knows where every body is buried (mostly because he's the one who buried 'em). Rudy ratted out Buckham to the Federales, specifically in one of the Abramoff casino deals (for which Mrs. Rudy accepted a $50,000 bribe). His testimony can be corroborated by two big-name Republican crooks, Abramoff and DeLay aide Michael Scanlon, each of whom is now a federal witness. It is widely believed that these three guys will be able to help send at least a dozen crooked Republican congressmen to prison, even beyond DeLay, including, but not limited to, the 11 bribe takers who voted yesterday to prohibit a congressional investigation into... themselves (Bob Ney, Roy Blunt, John Doolittle, Richard Pombo, J. D. Hayworth, Pete Sessions, Tom Feeney, Eric Cantor, Don Young, Ernest Istook, and Dennis Hastert).

Buckham is also key to unraveling the fake tax-free "charity" groups DeLay set up to collect and launder money a key part of the operation of his whole crime syndicate. James Vicini, for Reuters, has a widely circulated story about the Rudy's plea and how it might impact DeLay. "Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, entered the guilty plea to one count of conspiracy in federal court as part of a deal with U.S. Justice Department prosecutors in which he has agreed to testify completely and truthfully. Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of a corruption scandal that has rattled top Republicans, has been cooperating in the investigation into whether Washington politicians gave his clients favorable treatment in exchange for campaign contributions, Super Bowl tickets and other illegal gifts. Rudy worked for DeLay from 1995 through 2000, while DeLay was a Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rudy then joined Abramoff as a lobbyist. They conspired together to influence members of Congress, prosecutors said... Rudy accepted $86,000 from Abramoff while working as a staffer for DeLay, according to the court documents. In return, Rudy asked lawmakers to vote against an Internet-gambling bill that would have harmed one of Abramoff's clients." In all likelihood the first congressman who will be indicted is Bob Ney of Ohio whose hands have been in virtually every single illegal influence-peddling scam in Washington in the last few years.

If Hollywood ever decides to make a movie of this sordid episode in our nation's history, an angle that could appeal to the general public can be found in today's WALL STREET JOURNAL, Behind Unraveling of DeLay's Team, A Jilted Fiancée. It's a story meant for the big screen (depending, of course, on who they get to play the principals: Emily Miller, Michael Scanlon, Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and Tony Rudy). It is "the story of the star-crossed Capitol Hill romance -- and its repercussions in national politics -- [that began] in 1997, when Mr. Scanlon arrived in Rep. DeLay's office as press secretary. There he worked closely with Mr. Rudy. Both press aides were veterans of Republican politics and eager sportsmen. Mr. Scanlon, a native of suburban Washington, could run five miles in under 30 minutes, while Mr. Rudy, of Brooklyn, N.Y., played in an amateur ice-hockey league. The two shared a pit-bull political style and pushed Mr. DeLay to lead the charge in 1998 for the impeachment of President Clinton. 'This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is B.S.,' Mr. Scanlon once wrote to Mr. Rudy in an email published in THE BREACH, a book by Peter Baker about the impeachment. 'Not only do you kick him -- you kick him until he passes out -- then beat him over the head with a baseball bat -- then roll him up in an old rug -- and throw him off a cliff into the pound surf below!!!!!' The two staffers often lent a hand to Mr. Abramoff, according to court documents and former colleagues. The lobbyist helped Mr. DeLay raise millions of dollars. Mr. Abramoff frequently treated Mr. DeLay to dinner at his sushi restaurant on Capitol Hill and took the congressman on trips overseas. Mr. Abramoff spoiled Mr. DeLay's aides, too, taking them on trips to casinos and golf courses owned by his clients, according to travel disclosure forms."

And Emily? As vicious, partisan, corrupt and scummy as her fiancée and his pal Rudy. They met when Scanlon was already married but these two black hearts beat as one. The court case will be awesome-- and breath new life into the dismal career of that horrible Nancy Grace-- but the film... I can barely wait!

NY-19: IS JOHN HALL THE ONE WHO CAN GET RID OF TOM DELAY'S UPSTATE CLONE, SUE KELLY?

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Ken and I each lives in a Republican-free district. I don't think one ever runs in mine (although I did see a Vote BushCheney sign once... briefly) and if one runs in Ken's it's just for a lark or an ego-trip. Marlene Rose lives way up in northern California near Oregon in CD-4, John Doolittle's turf and that is a race we will be focusing on more and more. The 4 other DWT team members, Helen and The Art Department, live in exuburban swing districts with weak, endangered Republican congressloons. Helen is misrepresented by crooked DeLay pawn Sue Kelly in NY's 19th CD and The Art Department is misrepresented by a crazy and wild closet queen with a penchant for young men in military uniform, the infamous Mark Foley in Florida's 16th CD.

DWT has done a few pieces on the Democratic primary race to pick someone to challenge Foley in November and we strongly endorsed Dave Lutrin, who has been driven out of the race by Rahm Emanuel, leaving a country club Republican, who recently changed his voter registration for Rahm, to face Foley. Adam, Sophie and Sadie have all decided to give up following the race and to start paying closer attention to FL-13 and FL-05 where Jan Schneider and Rick Penberthy are running strong grassroots campaigns to challenge and displace right-wing dominance.

The primary race in NY's 19th CD-- what we refer to around the DWT election center as "Helen's district"-- is more complicated. The uncomplicated part is that the incumbent needs to be defeated. Sue Kelly DEFINES what it means to be a rubber-stamp Republican. She has been nothing but a mindless drone for the Bush Regime and for Tom DeLay's Culture of Corruption. Although NY-19 is a quintessential moderate district, Kelly always votes with the radical right. Her votes are more appropriate for the Bible Belt than for Westchester County. “The real Sue Kelly is a far-right-wing Republican who can be counted on by Tom DeLay to do what she’s told,” said Michael Morey, a spokesperson for Take 19, a Democratic activist organization that just wants to defeat Kelly and is not identified with any of the 5 Democratic candidates.

Because of my background in the music business, all the push I'm hearing is from John Hall's campaign-- and he looks like a great candidate, one Helen, her husband Mike and I would all be naturally drawn to. My old pal Bruce forwarded me a message from Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne and Graham Nash (3 thoughtful, serious musicians I respect and admire) who are supporting Hall. Here's the text of their letter:

Our longtime friend, fellow No Nukes/MUSE artist, John Hall, whom you may also remember as a leader of Orleans ("Dance With Me," "Still the One") is running for Congress in the 19th District of upstate New York. John's been a lifelong activist and right out of the starting gate, is emerging as a very welcome and successful candidate in debates and testing so far. He's up against a very tough contender, the six-term incumbent Republican (and Tom DeLay crony) Rep. Sue Kelly, and of course needs to raise as much money as possible early in this primary race.

A bunch of us MUSE folks and other music industry friends have already lent our support and I'm writing to ask if you would consider contributing to help get John Hall elected. John is extremely smart, articulate, committed and in our minds, would absolutely bring a much needed fresh and clearheaded voice to our muddled political quagmire. Please spread the word if you agree and thank you so much for your support.

You can check out his positions and background here and contribute on line at here or send your contributions to "John Hall For Congress," PO Box 377, Dover Plains, NY 12522.

As you may know the limit for personal contributions during the primary period is $2100 (MARCH 31st is the end of the 1st Quarter FEC filing period so act quickly please), and an additional $2100
may be sent to his General Election Escrow Account, which will be returned with interest if he does not win the nomination. 

We think it's fantastic that John has decided to set aside his music career for the time being and dedicate himself to politics for the better of us all.

Thank you for your support. We can make a difference,

Bonnie Raitt, Graham Nash and Jackson Browne

P.S. Any amount that you contribute will help. If 2000 people send $50 each, John's campaign will receive a $100,000 boost. This will keep him in the game to carry the message of peace and diplomacy, economic justice, government and corporate accountability, healthcare for all,
environmental protection and alternative energy.


The Kos community also seems appropriately fired up about Hall. The thing is, the other 4 Democrats running sound pretty good too. As a contrary indicator I asked a friend at the DCCC-- to see if there is some garbage corporate shill Emanuel is trying to sneak in-- but he says there is no DCCC fave in this one. The challenger who has raised the most money is Judy Aydelott, who is a former Republican but who sounds genuinely progressive and for real (unlike some of the make-believe converts Emanuel has saddled Democrats with). The 3 other candidates also all seem grassrootsy and progressive: Jim Martorano, Darren Rigger, and Ben Shuldiner. It looks to me that no matter which one wins, we have a good candidate to go up against Kelly. Because of his name recognition (and the kind of support he's getting from celebrities), Hall may have an edge when it comes to taking on an entrenched incumbent. I mean she could bring in the famous, big-name Republicans she's helped like Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney and Roy Blunt and Hall could counter that with Jackson Browne and Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash. Good contrast!


FRIDAY UPDATE: JOHN HALL'S EARTH DAY MESSAGE-- DIFFERENT FROM GEORGE BUSH'S OR SUE KELLY'S-- HAD EITHER OF THEM BOTHERED

This is a letter from Hall:
In celebration of Earth Day, I am asking you to support me as a Congressperson who will be the strongest advocate for environmental protection.

We are at a critical time when our planet is facing irreversible damage because of political decisions by the Bush Administration and Congress. We all need someone in Congress who will make the environment an essential part of national security and who is committed enough to put those issues in the political forefront. I am that person. Support me and I will work to make every day Earth Day.
 
For decades I have been a leader on these issues. I will go to Congress and not back down from enacting stringent regulations on industry and enforcement, and incentives for conservation for all industries and individuals. I will be a strong voice on issues of global warming, renewable energy, clean water, clean air, open space, sustainable agriculture, truthful food labeling, wildlife protection and endangered species, destructive oil drilling, protection of our national parks, and the shameful appointments of industry lobbyists to regulatory agencies. In addition, as an anti-war Congress member, I will work to stop the biggest threat to the Earth and that is war.

The decisions Congress makes affect everyone on this planet, now and for future generations. This is not just about the district I am running in - it is about you and wherever you live. Pollution circles the globe - we all ultimately breathe the same air.  Congress has the power to enact policies that can bring real solutions to our environmental dilemmas, include green policies in international treaties, and oppose the spread of nuclear materials as articles of commerce that will inevitably leak or be diverted for violent purposes.

I have a life-long record as an advocate and leader for our interests. For me to go to Congress and represent our interests, I need your support. Please go to www.johnhallforcongress.com or mail me a contribution now.

As a musician and an activist I have learned that if you want to see change you have to make it happen. You have to take a step or several steps and push your limits. I hope you will meet this challenge with me.

Sincerely,

John Hall

REPUBLICAN CONGRESS VOTES TO NOT ALLOW AN INVESTIGATION OF MEMBERS TIED TO ABRAMOFF

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Yesterday I mentioned how Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has finally gotten around to introducing a resolution requiring an ethics investigation of the members of Congress who have been implicated in the Abramoff bribe scandals. The same congressmen who refused to allow an investigation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham who later admitted taking bribes and kickbacks to the tune of several million dollars in return for sweetheart contracts for Republican defense contractors (and who has been suspected of also selling secret intelligence information) got to vote on Pelosi's resolution. Would you like to take a guess how they voted? The vote was whether of not to table (kill) the resolution, so a "yes" vote means no investigation. Before I tell you the outcome, let me tell you how the Congressmen who have been most involved with Abramoff's illegal wheeling and dealing voted. This is a list of the most likely Republicans to face trials and prison sentences:
Tom DeLay (R-TX) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Bob Ney (R-OH) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
John Doolittle (R-CA) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Don Young (R-AK) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Richard Pombo (R-CA) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Tom Feeney (R-FL) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Roy Blunt (R-MO) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Dennis Hastert (R-IL) voted Yes, to kill the investigation,
Ernest Istook (R-OK) voted Yes, to kill the investigation, and
Pete Sessions (R-TX) voted Yes, to kill the investigation. None of these crooked solons thought that since the resolution was actually about them, they should recuse themselves. They were joined by every Republican member of the House of Representatives except 6 to kill the resolution. It failed 216 to 193. No investigation of the most corrupt Congress in the history of our nation.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

ORDINARY PEOPLE

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My sister in law’s….errr…..errr….. neighbor’s cousin’s mother’s friend (crap, they will still know it is me if they read this) told me yesterday they had quit their church. They have been blissfully saved and are now Christianized some 10 years or so. Now, they are going to another church started by the original pastor of the church they just quit, the pastor who goes around starting churches around the area….like we don’t have enough. I know they like this pastor, what he sees in them besides tithes, I don’t know, but it must be one of those mysterious God things. Anyway, she went on to explain to me that the church they used to attend now just has too many politics going on. “Well, I said, it is typical of institutions of any size….even churches…..” The look she flashed me was untrusting. Seems she still believes churches ought to be above that sort of thing.

The church they are leaving has grown to considerable size. As churches go, they do some good things here in this community. They distribute food one or two Tuesdays a month to anyone willing to get in line. The building is huge, and to their credit is built of fabric and not concrete….the fabric was cheaper. But, I happen to know the pastors there have had serious problems, and of course I know my husband’s family pretty well (Okay, so no one show this to my sister in law, okay?). There are lots of secrets and there is plenty of not so Christ-like behavior. That doesn’t bother me. I know people are just people, but no one has told the fundies yet, even though they claim to know it.

Growing up as a bible thumping holy rolling fundamentalist, myself, I had an interesting childhood. I was always afraid I was going to see Jesus or the Devil appear to me, and the prospect of either frightened me equally. I watched my mother throw away all of her nonconforming clothing….sleeveless blouses, slacks of any kind and jewelry when she joined the Nazarene church. I dug through the trash and pulled out the jewelry from her childhood, the charm bracelet and the Indian beads (at least that is what she told me they were). These items meant something to me because I, just as many a child, loved to muck around in my mothers jewelry box and ask the stories of the pieces there. I might have a couple of things still, but over time, not even I could save our past.

Over the years, until I was around 40ish, I traveled the religious pathway of the right, until I studied my way out of organized religion, any religion. I understand them….those lovable whacky right wingers. I do not claim to understand all the leaders, but some of the lower level ones, I can easily explain. I wanted to be a traveling revivalist for a good deal of my life. I love public speaking and writing and lesson teaching. I am glad I did not become an evangelist. I certainly would have lost my soul.

Christians are only trying to do the two things that Elliot Aronson claims that human beings do. They are trying to believe they are good and that they are smart. It is pretty simple really. You can sound very smart and authoritative when claiming to hear from God. And really how much better does good get than, God is good? I see it all the time. And, let us add one more feature to this “godliness:” it is a team sport. You are to go out there and win converts! Goodie, goodie! Score one for Jesus, as it were.

In order for all of this to work, the hierarchy must limit the contact of the flock with the outside world, and barring that, make sure they discount anything not heard from within the four walls of the church. Most everything must be pastor approved, never mind that pastor has had almost no education that would make him understand more than how to create another church of his denomination or how to manipulate his flock. Maybe he can be of service, but that is conditional in an atmosphere that promotes the unconditional nature of love and acceptance…..don’t you believe it! There are conditions.

You may wonder what today triggered such a musing and what it has to do with the political scene. Fair enough. I read about Scalia and his gestures. Profane gestures from within a church no less. And, from within the Catholic church, who so far seems to be the first, we can only hope of many, to take the heat for the abuses that are occurring there. I would love to see this information spread far and wide along side pictures of George Bush, Jr. using similar gestures. I guess Antonin also told his critics to “go get fucked up the butt.” Nice touch, Tony. But, not surprising, not at all.

You see Christians are in love with irascible characters. They are suckers for a convert. They love the bad gone good. I feel for them. They are unwittingly conned so often. They want so much to be special. I can’t blame them. But, Scalia is just one guy and not that different from any other. Problem is that Christians love that pedestal thing, no matter how small. They have just never gotten the idea that they are just ordinary people. Like so many of starting out, they just want to believe they are special, that they have some divine plan for their lives. They cannot stand the ordinariness of existence, the responsibility of it all. For this reason, they must have leaders of monumental proportions and they must have destinies…large ones, delusions of grandeur type ones. I am sorry for that. It is not easy to come to grips with one’s powerlessness in this great universe.

It is not so much that it cheers me to see people fall from the pedestal, as I want the Christians to awaken from their collective slumber and shake off their childishness, the same childishness that is keeping us from moving on and getting really good work done that would benefit the world. I want them to understand that it is ok to be ordinary as long as you understand that everyone else is too. There is no grand plan, there is no pristine leadership. If they could do that, they might begin to understand their place in Democracy. They might give up their delusions of theocracy. I wish more than anything they could understand that the trust they currently have in their “godly” judges is so misplaced that they might as well embrace Scalias gesture as personal. As much as Scalia is telling the media to fuck off, he and so many others like him are so much more putting the screws to the faithful, they just don’t know it.

I wish someone could figure out how to tell them they are being used. Turns out they are not better than anyone else, and really, they have a long way to travel to smart.


-Mags

OHIO REPUBLICAN PARTY CIRCLES THE DRAIN-- WILL IT TAKE THE WHOLE GOP ALONG FOR THE RIDE?

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I've been writing about the banana republic of Ohio since I started DWT last year. My first two "beats" were Randy "Duke" Cunningham and the colossal scam and rip-off known as Coingate. The latter featured virtually the entire state GOP-- governor, couple of U.S. senators, half a dozen congressmen, Secretary of State, judges, Attorney General, State Auditor, the entire Republican Party hierarchy, state legislators... hmmm... did I leave anyone out?-- conspiring to steal millions of dollars from the state workmen's compensation fund to line their own and their supporters' pockets, fund Republican dirty tricks (like rigging the 2004 presidential election) and perpetuate a virtual one-party government devoid of democracy in the middle of our nation.

I'm not one to bother with reading the proto-fascist propaganda on the editorial page of the WALL STREET JOURNAL but today former Republican congressman John Kasich has a story called "Buckeye GOP Circles The Drain-- A Complacent Party Descends Into Corruption" that I think ever American should read.

Kasich, with extensive experience both in Ohio politics and in the federal government has made a powerful case for why anyone who cares about America should vote for Democrats in November, even for Rahm Emanuel shill candidates. "The biggest scam in town-- but by no means the only-- is the 'pay for play' practices of office-holders at every level. Of course, not all public servants are guilty-- most are not. However, Ohio Republicans have held every statewide office since 1994, and the governorship and secretary of state since 1990. They currently have long-standing, lopsided majorities in both houses of the general assembly. The endemic culture of money-for-influence is a testament to the corrupting consequences that inevitably follow when one party holds power for too long."

Kasich goes on to lay out a convincing case against the Republican Party. "Exhibit A in this mire is Toledo coin dealer and Republican fundraiser Tom Noe. His 'coingate' scandal, as it has been inelegantly termed, demonstrated a total breakdown in ethics and was a direct result of one-party domination of the political process. Mr. Noe obtained several contracts totaling some $50 million to pursue investment opportunities for the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, in this case rare coin speculation. With limited oversight of his operation, Mr. Noe allegedly began laundering campaign contributions to state and federal candidates (including President Bush). In February Mr. Noe was indicted on 53 felony counts and faces a mandatory 10-year prison term if convicted of corruption. At this point $10 million to $12 million remains unaccounted for. Unfortunately, coingate isn't the only prominent Republican scandal."

And unfortunately Ohio, though perhaps the most egregious, is certainly not the only example of a Republican Party out of control and undermining the very democratic nature of our country. And, of course, the most dangerous example is in Washington, DC itself, where Republican pols seem to have made a deal with the Bush Regime-- they rubber-stamp all of his decisions and he more or less allows them to run wild lining their own pockets and feathering their own nests. Here in California we need look no further than our own GOP congressional delegation to find even more corrupt politicians than anything back in Ohio-- well, not counting Bob Ney and Ken Blackwell. Still unindicted master criminals like Jerry Lewis, John Doolittle, Duncan Hunter and Richard Pombo need take no lessons from anyone in the Buckeye State when it comes to scamming the taxpayers and cheating Uncle Sam. Only one is currently in prison, a poor, dumb slob named Randy "Duke" Cunningham, but with on-going investigations chugging forward and with Republican lobbyists/bribers like Jack Abramoff, Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade all cooperating with federal investigators against these outrageous salons, voters all across America are going to wake up very soon to exactly what their complacency has wrought.

BUSHWHACKED

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Tom Chelston is a DWT reader living just north of Houston. Although he's been a session player in L.A., NYC and Nashville, in the 80s Tom did six years as an Infantry Medic (corpsman, one of the most dangerous jobs in the military) with the 1st and 3rd Marines. Like many of us, he was gung-ho to "get the bad guys" after 9-11. "It turns out," he told me, "that most of them are in the White House/current administration... I can barely watch the T.V. without wanting to put my chair through it." I was struck by the honesty and intensity of one of Tom's songs, "Bushwhacked" and I asked him if I could share it with everyone else who reads DWT. It says an awful lot for any American concerned about what our government is doing (in our name).


BushWhacked

I served my time far away from the front lines
But I’ve seen them come and I’ve seen them go
Bullets fly when politicians lie and soldiers die that’s war
Their fathers and mothers wake up crying in the middle of the night
Their hearts jump at every knock upon the door
Young Americans bleeding and dying in the middle of this fight
Still trying to figure out what the hell they’re really dying for
Bushwhacked and another soldier dies
They’ve been Bushwhacked
By a whitehouse war built on whitehouse lies
Bushwhacked
And by the time we realize we’ve all been Bushwhacked
Another roadside bomb another soldier dies

If you close your eyes force yourself to look inside
Read between the whitehouse lies that we’ve all been fed
In the name of humanity they peddled our democracy
Claim they’re trying to set Iraqis free
So far we’ve freed a hundred thousand dead
And their fathers and mothers wake up crying in the middle of the night
Their hearts jump with every knock upon the door
Soldiers and civilians bleeding and dying in the middle of this fight
Still trying to figure out what they’re really dying for

They’ve been Bushwhacked and another soldier dies
They’ve been Bushwhacked
By a whitehouse war built on whitehouse lies
Bushwhacked
And by the time we realize we’ve all been Bushwhacked
Another roadside bomb another soldier dies

Bushwhacked and another soldier dies
They’ve been Bushwhacked
By a whitehouse war built on whitehouse lies
Bushwhacked
And we’re gonna lose a thousand more
Yeah we’ve been Bushwhacked
Maybe George should fight his own bullshit war

GEORGIA UPDATE: RALPH REED THROWING THE GOVERNOR'S RACE TOWARDS THE DEMOCRATS?

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Although he hasn't been indicted yet (at least not at 11:30AM West Coast time, Tuesday, April 28, as I'm typing this report), Georgia Republican candidate for Lieutenant Governor, Ralph Reed, is said to be dragging down the whole GOP ticket in the Peach State. The new Rasmussen poll shows that incumbent Governor Sonny Perdue has lost his commanding lead over his two would-be Democratic challengers, Secretary of State Cathy Cox and Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor. Perdue's 20% lead has been basically cut in half, although in a theoretical match-up he only leads Cox by 8 points.

Many Georgia Republicans-- particularly those seeking re-election-- have been trying, desperately, to get Reed to drop out of the race for the good of the party. The nutty professor, Marvin Olasky, who came up with the blatantly misleading "compassionate conservative" monicker for Bush in 2000 (and should be prosecuted for a truth in advertising scam), says Reed "has damaged Christian political work by confirming for some the stereotype that evangelicals are easily manipulated and that evangelical leaders use moral issues to line their own pockets." This is as good a summary as any of how people-- rightly-- perceive Reed's aggressive collaboration with Republican lobbyist and admitted crook Jack Abramoff (arrested/indicted/confessed/singin' like a jaybird/not yet imprisoned) and his partners in crime.

Republicans up and down the state ticket are nervous that Reed's taint will impact their own races, especially if they are asked by the press whether or not they support their running mate. 21 Republican state senators have already signed a petition asking Reed to get out of the race before it's too late. They are petrified that voters will start paying attention as the date of Abramoff's sentencing approaches. Remember, Abramoff admitted paying Reed at least $4 million in order to get him to bamboozle dumb-as-doornails right-wing evangelicals to help with the fleecing of American Indian tribes in a pointless series of casino turf battles-- pointless except for the huge payments extracted from the Indians for Abramoff, Reed and their Republican cronies. Abramoff and his partner Michael Scanlon (an ex-DeLay aide who has also plead guilty) have no respect for Christianity-- the real thing with Jesus, not the political hate-based crap purported to be Christianity by the likes of Pat Robertson, Ralph Reed, George Bush and Fred Phelps-- and even referred to the suckers who Reed was bringing into their scheme as "the wackos [who] get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them." Even evangelicals in Georgia know that when someone refers to them as a "wacko," it is probably unfriendly.

Only 43% of Georgians now approve of the way Bush is handling his job, and in a theoretical match-up between a Democrat and a Republican most Georgians now would feel better voting for a Democrat than a Republican for Congress. It's unlikely that Ralph Reed's rapidly mounting ethical and legal problems are going to help turn those numbers around.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

JACK ABRAMOFF SENTENCED-- ROUND ONE

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Although neither Abramoff nor any of his partners have as yet been charged with the murder of Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, he has been subpoenaed in the trial of the 3 Mafia hit men he hired. Meanwhile, today in Miami Abramoff and one of his cronies, Adam Kidan was each sentenced to between 5 and 6 years on the first batch of fraud cases against them-- this one just involving the Florida casino cruise line case. Abramoff pleaded guilty and aside from the prison time, he and Kidan have to pay over $20 million in fines and restitution. The much more serious fraud cases in DC are yet to come to trial.

Abramoff and Kidan were key figures in the creation and operation of Tom DeLay's Culture of Corruption which has completely perverted our national government. Many observers think Abramoff was given a light sentence because he is helping Federal law enforcement agents build cases against Bob Ney (R-OH), John Doolittle (R-CA), Conrad Burns (R-MT), Don Young (R-AK), Richard Pombo (R-CA), and, of course, the Republican Capo di Tutti Capi, Tom DeLay.

Other Republican lawmakers who have been involved with Abramoff's shady-- and in many cases illegal-- deals are J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), David Vitter (R-LA), Tom Feeney (R-FL), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Ensign (R-NV), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Dennis Hastert (R-IL), Ernest Istook (R-OK), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Trent Lott (R-MS) and John Cornyn (R-TX). Reads like a rogue's gallery of some of the most corrupt wheeler-dealers ever to stalk the hallways of Congress.

Abramoff has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud charges in Washington. In the infamous Vanity Fair interview, Abramoff said that he worked closely with many top Republicans and pointedly said that any who deny it, are lying-- and that he can prove it! Although Republicans and their media allies like Limbaugh and Hannity and O'Liely try to confuse the matter by claiming Abramoff gave to both political parties, this is a bold-faced lie. Not one dime that Abramoff contributed-- and there was over $100,000 worth of dimes-- went to a Democrat. Every single cent this lifelong Republican gave was to a Republican.


THURSDAY UPDATE: IT'S ABOUT TIME, MS. PELOSI!

Under attack from grassroots Democrats and other concerned citizens, the Inside-the-Beltway House Dems finally got off their duffs. Nancy Pelosi just introduced a Privileged Resolution requiring an ethics investigation of Members of Congress bribed by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Here it is:


WHEREAS, it has been two years since credible reports of misconduct by Mr. Jack Abramoff and Members of Congress began appearing regularly in the public record, including reports closely linking Republican Members of Congress with the documented misconduct of Mr. Abramoff;

WHEREAS, in the first session of the 109th Congress, for the first time in the history of the House of Representatives, the rules of procedure of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct were changed on a partisan basis, the Chairman of the Committee and two of his Republican Colleagues were dismissed from the Committee, the newly appointed Chairman of the Committee improperly and unilaterally fired non-partisan staff, and the Chairman attempted to appoint supervisory staff without a vote of the Committee in direct contravention of the intent of the bi-partisan procedures adopted in 1997;

WHEREAS, because of these actions, the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct conducted no investigative activities in the first session of the 109th Congress and has not yet conducted such activities;

WHEREAS, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and the Senate Committee on Finance have both undertaken investigations of Mr. Jack Abramoff's activities, yet no House Committee has begun any such investigation;

WHEREAS, on March 29th, 2006, Mr. Jack Abramoff was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud;

WHEREAS, a Justice Department press release reported that Mr. Jack Abramoff "corruptly provid[ed] things of value to public officials … including, but not limited to, a lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses, tickets to sporting events and other entertainment, regular meals at Abramoff's upscale restaurant, and campaign contributions for [a] Representative, his political action committee, his campaign committee, and other political committees on behalf of [that] Representative."  (Department of Justice press release, January 3, 2006);

WHEREAS, Mr. Jack Abramoff's plea agreement states that he and his colleagues "provided things of value to public officials in exchange for a series of official acts and influence…including agreements to support and pass legislation (and) agreements to place statements in the Congressional Record."  (Abramoff Plea Agreement);

WHEREAS, on November 5, 2005, in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, a former Congressional staff member and business partner of Mr. Jack Abramoff pled guilty to conspiracy to violate federal laws and admitted that, beginning in January, 2000, he offered and provided things of value to public officials, including Members of Congress and staff, in exchange for a series of official acts;

RESOLVED, That the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct shall immediately initiate an investigation of the misconduct by Members of Congress and their staff implicated in the scandals associated with Mr. Jack Abramoff's criminal activity.

REPUBLICAN HATRED & BIGOTRY IS ALIVE AND WELL IN HENDERSONVILLE, TENNESSEE-- MEET REP. DEBRA MAGGOT

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When I was general manager of Sire Records, we were most famous (at least in my mind) for being a punk/alternative rock label, home of The Ramones, the Dead Boys, Richard Hell, The Saints, Depeche Mode, Ministry, Talking Heads, The Cult, The Cure, Primal Scream, The Smiths... But the reality was more prosaic. Madonna sales paid all the bills. And when Seymour Stein, the genius behind artist acquisition, signed a kind of young male Madonna-ish singer... well, who was I to question?

Tommy's music may not have been my cup of tea genre-wise-- I seem to recall he had an album out at the same time as The Pretenders-- but I certainly knew how to appreciate his single flying up the pop charts and landing at #1. Unless you're a New Kids on The Block fanatic (or from South East Asia, where he was still a beloved superstar long after his U.S. singing career was over) you might not even remember Tommy's music. But there are only 52 number 1 records a year and most of them are "reserved" for superstars like Madonna and Mariah Carey, so to get a new artist a #1 is one of the biggest things you can achieve in the music biz. And in the process of that, Tommy and I became friends. He was just a teenager, all wide-eyed and confused. But he had a solid upbringing from loving-- albeit Republican-- parents and he had his head firmly on his shoulders.

When Tommy's career had played out, he, unlike most new artists, had saved a great deal of money-- despite being the victim of a larcenous manager-- and he made some smart investments and put himself through college. Before college he asked me if I would help him find a job in the music business when he graduated. Why say no when it's 3 or 4 years away and anything could happen between now and then? So I said sure. In the interim Tommy realized he was gay. He settled into a long-term romantic relationship with Charlie, his college's star athlete, who went on to become an incredibly successful teacher of handicapped children. I mean so successful that the parents of these kids pray to God everyday to thank Him that their child is in Charlie's care.

Meanwhile, after graduating, Tommy came to work as an assistant at Reprise, where I had become president while he was in college. He started at the bottom and was an instant star-- a guy who was never afraid of hard work and more hard work and more hard work. He quickly rose through the ranks and became a different kind of star-- obviously using his natural rapport with artists and his ability to understand their points of view. Tommy's been a vice president of Warner Brothers Records for 5 years now and has continued to grow and to shine, one of the company's most valuable employees.

Tommy and Charlie adopted their first son, Owen, two years ago. God must have wanted to do something super special for little Owen. This is one of the happiest and most loved babies I've ever met. The 3 of them live in a suburban neighborhood in New Jersey where they are completely accepted and loved by their neighbors-- breathing, walking advertisements proving that Representative Debra Maggart (R-Hendersonville) needs to seek psychiatric or spiritual counseling to help her get over her hatreds, phobias, ignorance and bigotry. More about the disturbed Debra Maggot below.

Everyone who knows Charlie and Tommy is all excited because they're expecting their second son, Alden, in May. This time they have a surrogate mom carrying their baby. All Tommy's neighbors came to the baby shower, of course. They're very lucky they have no Maggots in the neighborhood. (This is very off-topic but you know who else they're lucky to not have in the neighborhood? Ramesh Ponnuru. Never heard of him? You will.) I was so excited in 2004 when Tommy's dad, a former Fortune 500 CEO and lifelong Republican, confronted the homophobia endemic to his political party and a threat to his son and his son's family. In November he pulled the lever for John Kerry-- and never looked back.

Now why have I asked DWT readers to consider all this? Debra Maggot or Maggart-- people spell it different ways-- is a vicious far right Republican homophobe in Tennessee. She's been on an anti-gay crusade for her whole miserable career and recently she's been on a tear to make it illegal for gay men and women to adopt children. "We also have seen evidence," she lied, "that homosexual couples prey on young males and have, in some instances, adopted them in order to have unfretted (sic) access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse." This is a very, very sick woman and the voters in Tennessee's mostly moderate 45th district should look closely and see if this hate-monger is what they want representing them. I don't know if it's because of her unfortunate physical appearance, because of her shrewish personality, or because she is a crooked and dishonest pol (who was caught breaking campaign finance laws-- I mean how many Republicans ever think the laws are made for them to obey?) but Maggot's husband divorced her and left her a hateful pile of human rubble.

Jerry Jones from the Vanderbilt Medical Center broke the story about this psycho homophobe in OUT & ABOUT a few days ago. Maggot's district is uncomfortably close to Nashville, which prides itself on being the Athens of the New South. Their representative is very, very Old South.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

IS JOE LIEBERMAN THE WORST DEMOCRAT IN THE U.S. SENATE? AND, MORE IMPORTANT, WILL NED LAMONT RETIRE HIM ONCE AND FOR ALL?

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I start blogging for Music for America tomorrow. Here's a preview of the first thing I did for them-- more on why it's so important for Ned Lamont to replace Lieberman in the U.S. Senate.

McCAIN COZIES UP TO THE PSYCHOTIC END OF THE REPUBLICAN BASE

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I still find myself bashing Bush. It's a waste of time. History has already consigned him to its scrap heap. He can still do-- and will do-- lots of damage. But, let's face it, America has far worse enemies to face in the coming days than George W. Bush. At this point, the treacherous coterie that put Bush in office and has propped up his feeble Regime seems to have coalesced around John McCain for 2008. In the past I've tried to point out that McCain is no improvement over Bush and that he's certainly not fit to lead this country. His p.r. is excellent, however, and Democrats haven't gotten the word out about what a partisan right-wing extremist McCain is.

Today Ari Berman in THE NATION, breaks the news that McCain will be the commencement speaker at Jerry Falwell's Liberty "University." In 2000 McCain made a speech in Virginia denouncing Robertson and Falwell and adamantly refusing to "pander... to their failed philosophy." Today Falwell is celebrating the fact that McCain has replaced "straight talk" with an agreement to support the Federal Marriage Amendment in return for evangelical votes.

Oh, and speaking about what McCain had to say in 2000 compared to what he has to say now that his head is up Karl Rove's ass, Mr. "Straight Talk" once made a modicum of sense when he claimed that "Neither party should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance, whether they be Louis Farrakhan or Al Sharpton on the left, or Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell on the right." His comparison between Sharpton and the two religionist psychos may be out of order, but today John McCain lies down with these two dogs-- so expect to see lots and lots of ticks in the run-up to the Republican primary season as he proves that he's every bit the extremist lunatic that Bill Frist, George Allen and even Sam Brownback are.


SUNDAY MORNING UPDATE: STRAIGHT TALK EXPRESS COMPLETELY DE-RAILS

You want to see a lying sack of shit sweat under the hot TV lights and explain why Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell were "agents of intolerance" a few years ago but are now his good buds? Our own good buds at the Center For American Progress were thoughtful enough to tape Tim Russert's show today so everyone could watch John McCain explain why working with dangerous, bigoted fascists may have been a problem in 2000 but is absolutely hunky-dory now that the extreme right has given him the green light to be the next Republican nominee for president. Here's the video (and the transcript).

Here's an amusing little story about ordinary people getting screwed, and having their bank wave bye-bye as they sink

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This is one of those adorably alarming (alarmingly adorable?) "human interest" stories you always find on your local news, or (as in this case) on AOL, only with some paranoid-leftist ranting tacked on:

Burger King Charges $4,334 for Four Burgers

PALMDALE, Calif. (March 29) - Four burgers at his neighborhood Burger King cost George Beane a whopping $4,334.33.

Beane ordered two Whopper Jr.s and two Rodeo cheeseburgers when he pulled up to the drive-through window last Tuesday. The cashier, however, forgot that she'd entered the $4.33 charge on his debit card and punched in the numbers again without erasing the original ones - thus creating a four-figure bill.

The electronic charge went through to George and Pat Beane's Bank of America checking account and left the couple penniless. Their mortgage payment was due and they worried checks they had written would bounce, Pat Beane said.

"We were thinking, 'No, not now!"' she said of the overcharge.

Terri Woody, the restaurant manager, said Burger King officials tried to get the charge refunded. But the bank said the funds were on a three-day hold and could not be released, Pat Beane said.

The hold is designed to prevent customers from spending money that no longer is available in their accounts and to let the bank confirm a transaction is legitimate before transferring funds, said Bank of America supervisor Joel Solorio.

Burger King did not charge the Beanes for their meal, and the couple got their $4,334.33 back on Friday.

"For those three days, those were the most expensive value burgers in history," Pat Beane said.

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Now for a touch of left-wing how-dare-they fist-shaking:

No doubt the reporter hasn't correctly explained the three-day hold on these funds-in-transit. But whatever the actual explanation is, one thing is clear: Whoever is being protected, it doesn't include the bank's own depositor! Seems it's open season on that poor sumbitch. You would think that this is one case where one of those phony-baloney "holds" might actually come in handy—enabling the bank to correct an obvious error, which Burger King seems to have been trying its best to facilitate, in order to spare itself even larger embarrassment. But apparently you would think wrong.

No, it appears that the official bank attitude toward its customer is: F--- you!

UPDATE: ACTION ON THE RUBBER-STAMP REPUBLICAN CONGRESS

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The feisty band of true blue patriots over at firelakedog have put together an awesome citizens' action for the Republican rubber-stamp congress. Phase 2 kicks in today. Let's everyone who reads DWT click over there and lend a hand.

ANOTHER CHANCE TO HELP FRANCINE BUSBY HELP AMERICA

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The countdown is on. Two weeks from today is election day in Northern San Diego's 50th congressional district. As I discussed yesterday, progressive Democrat Francine Busby is leading by impressive-- and still growing-- margins. If momentum continues to build for her reformist campaign-- and after years and years and years of Randy "Duke" Cunningham's right-wing extremism, rubber-stamping, and bribe taking what district better needs a true reformer?-- Francine could take this once bedrock GOP district without a run-off. No one is counting on this though. It's more likely that she will have to face whichever loon or nutcase the Republican die-hards pick to be The Candidate Of More Of The Same.

Although way behind Francine at this point (39%-15%) Bilbray leads the Republican pack. As a former (and very ethically-challenged) Republican congressman from some other district who has spent the last few years getting rich as a lobbyist, Bilbray has all the big money interests which corrupted Cunningham and the whole DC Republican Party (think Tom DeLay, Richard Pombo, Jack Abramoff, Bob Ney, John Boehner, Katherine Harris if you want to know what scum-ponds Bilbray swims in) ready to kick in for him. Busby has... us.

I hope you've already contributed, as I have, and want to give more, as I do. I don't know if this is going to incentivize anyone, but the first 50 people who donate something-- anything-- on the DWT ACT BLUE Page will get a special CD in the mail from me. (If you don't know, before I became a blogger I was president of Reprise Records, so I have lots of cool music I am eager to share with fellow progressives.) Tell your friends.


UPDATE: BUSBY RATING SOARS IN NEW SUSA POLLS RELEASED TODAY

Recent polling has consistently shown Francine Busby leading the pack by a a wide margin. Today SUSA released the freshed polling ad it shows Busby with the biggest lead yet-- 45% (with the combined polling for her 3 closest competitors at 36%). Busby can win this one outright. Be a part of it.


SATURDAY UPDATE: BUSBY MAKING HISTORY

Today's San Diego Union-Tribune has a pretty good piece on Francine Busby's race to replace Randy "Duke" Cunningham in Congress. This will probably be seen by more voters in CA-50 than all the blogs and all the campaign pieces combined. I think if this story helps enough undecided voters make up their minds, Busby will be the next congressperson from the San Diego area. Aside from showing how clearly she differs from the pathetic gaggle of rubber-stamp Republicans vying to actually be the next Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Union-Tribune touches on Francine's magic: "Then, there are occasional flashes of charisma. At a Carlsbad business association forum Thursday night, Busby connected with the crowd of 200 and inspired enthusiastic cheers that Republican candidates at the podium with her couldn't match. The buzz around her is undeniable. Private polls continue to show her leading the pack of 18 candidates in the April 11 special election for the 50th District. In head-to-head competitions, one early poll had her beating some of the leading Republicans. This in a district where 44 percent of registered voters are Republican and 30 percent are Democrats... There's also the Duke factor.'People in that district will be looking for a change and a way to show with their votes they want to move in a new direction after Cunnngham,' said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. It will be a war between the desire for change and someone completely new and different, and the tendency to pick a stable political figure who won't embarrass the district, again.'"

Monday, March 27, 2006

FRANCINE BUSBY INTO THE HOME STRETCH-- IN A DISTRICT WHERE THE IMMIGRATION ISSUE IS PARAMOUNT

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While the gaggle of nutcases and loons who are offering themselves to voters as a replacement for imprisoned Republican bribe-taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham in Northern San Diego County (CA-50) fight amongst themselves about who will be tougher and more draconian on illegal immigration, Democratic nominee Francine Busby is attracting a wide array of voters from across the political spectrum. Having positioned herself as the reform candidate in a district badly in need of reform, Busby has consistently dominated the polls, with a preference rating more than double that of her nearest rivals.

And while the Republican 3-ring circus wanders off the cliff of common sense and even sanity, Busby has come up with workable immigration proposals-- to go along with her well thought out ideas on a wide number of issues that concern people in Southern California. A quick visit to her web site will bring you to a set of easy to understand immigration proposals that go beyond the weak, divisive and pathetic Republican screaming points. Captive to the competing interests of bigotry, xenophobia and racism from their hard-core base on the one hand and to the financial demands from their Big Money backers eager to keep wages low and labor unions weak on the other hand, Republicans are in complete disarray on this. They would rather posture and pander than come up with a comprehensive program.

Busby's plan has 3 main points:
-Tough penalties for businesses that continually hire undocumented workers;
-Create a "smart fence" that utilizes 21st century radar technology to prevent unlawful border crossings;
-Create a demand-based guest worker program that addresses American economic needs

Here's the statement on her website:
Francine believes that the problem with our immigration policy is that we don’t have one. On one hand, we have a "Keep Out" sign and on the other hand we have a "Help Wanted" sign. For years, we've heard heated rhetoric from politicians in Sacramento and Washington without any concrete results. Is it any wonder that citizens are frustrated and demanding action? We need to implement a comprehensive immigration policy that addresses all aspects or our immigration issues. Unfortunately, current leadership in Washington and Sacramento has been unwilling to address the issue. Francine supports John McCain's bipartisan immigration reform plan that will strengthen border security, increase penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants and ensure that no jobs that Americans want are going to immigrant workers first. The legislation would also assist states and localities with the increased costs of education and healthcare that have come as a result of federal inaction on illegal immigration. She also supports the creation of a Smart Fence that uses proven 21st Century radar technology to detect and prevent undocumented border crossings.


It seems like every time you turn on the TV you see George Bush braying like a jackass at the behest of the corporate interests which he represents, that "Americans don't want these jobs." He's said it so many times, that everyone just accepts it as true. Is it? If Bill Clinton's economic policies were based on the premise that a growing economy-- growing from the bottom up-- would lift all boats, Bush's has been based on the premise that the rest of us would survive on the scraps that trickled down from an orgy of unproductive, conspicuous consumption by multimillionaires. Bush's economic agenda has destroyed the economic underpinnings of the working and middle class while creating a tiny minority of super wealthy, self-entitled privileged parasites (in his own image).

Let's look a little closer at "Americans don't want these jobs." Well, at $5.00/hour they don't. But in a capitalist, free market economy-- as opposed to Bush-ist corporate socialism-- market conditions set wages, not schemes for importing cheap foreign labor. Today my neighbor Cynthia and I were walking around Los Feliz. There was no one picking lettuce but on every block we saw painters, construction workers, gardeners, housekeepers, nannies, carpenters. I'd say if they weren't all from south of the border, maybe there was one or two who weren't. Maybe. Americans don't want those jobs? Why not? They don't pay enough. If market conditions determined the wages for the jobs Americans would want them. But that is precisely what Bush and his Big Money backers don't want. Their alternative: serfs... virtual slaves... people struggling to stay alive and make ends meet, shipping jobs overseas and keeping taxes low with still legal offshore schemes.

Bush's plan seeks to create two America's-- a built in "us and them" dynamic that will institutionalize a caustic and stressful faultline based on class and race inside America. It should be firmly rejected while the Republicans tear each other apart over the issue. Today on CBS' Early Show Republican strategist and well-known sociopath, Bay Buchanan, called for the deportation of 11 million undocumented workers living in the U.S.-- 11 million men, women and children. You think I'm making it up? I mean could anyone actually say such a thing? Here, watch it yourself.

In two weeks voters in Southern California start the process of replacing the disgraced Cunningham. In one fell swoop the citizens of CA-50 can go from being represented by a corrupt self-serving slob who was voted "stupidest person in Congress" (tied with recently unhinged and also drowning in corruption Katherine Harris) to being represented by an intelligent and energetic voice for commonsense moderation and reform, Francine Busby. It's not too late to help her win a very winnable district, right here at the DWT ACT BLUE Page.


UPDATE: BRAND NEW POLL NUMBERS SHOW BUSBY LEADING THE FIELD

The Busby campaign just released new polling numbers. At this moment 39% of the voters in the district are supporting her and the 17 others split up the rest with her nearest competitor, a former Republican Congressman from another district who has since become a lobbyist, at 15%. The poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, also showed that President Bush’s approval rating in the district is at 38% and that by a 47-38 margin, voters prefer a candidate who will provide a check on the President’s agenda over a candidate who will blindly support the President’s policies. “Voters have shown that they are not excited by the business as usual candidates: career politicians, lobbyists and millionaires trying to buy votes,” said Busby. “I’m not a career politician and I am running to make Washington work for the people of San Diego, not the special interests.”

TOO BAD THE PHOTOS HAVE BEEN SURPRESSED!

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Antonin Scalia is who the far right "Christian conservatives" (who are led by men who are neither Christian nor conservative, but who are Christ haters and extremists) wanted for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It's bad enough that he has two votes on the Supreme Court, his own and Clarence's. John over at AmericaBlog tipped me off to this UPI report about Scalia flipping off a bunch of reporters at Church yesterday!

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia startled reporters in Boston just minutes after attending a mass, by flipping a middle finger to his critics.

A Boston Herald reporter asked the 70-year-old conservative Roman Catholic if he faces much questioning over impartiality when it comes to issues separating church and state.

"You know what I say to those people?" Scalia replied, making the obscene gesture and explaining "That's Sicilian."

The 20-year veteran of the high court was caught making the gesture by a photographer with The Pilot, the Archdiocese of Boston's newspaper.

"Don't publish that," Scalia told the photographer, the Herald said.

He was attending a special mass for lawyers and politicians at Cathedral of the Holy Cross, and afterward was the keynote speaker at the Catholic Lawyers' Guild luncheon.



THURSDAY UPDATE: SCALIA, AN UNDIGNIFIED PIG, HAS THE PHOTO HE TRIED TO SUPRESS PUBLISHED

If Jack Abramoff invested a million dollars in Edwin Buckham, why shouldn't I entertain offers?

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[Republicrook-in-chief Tom] DeLay's lawyer, Richard Cullen, disputed the accounts of [hopelessly corrupt former DeLay aide Edwin] Buckham's influence. . . .

[Republicrook secretary-treasurer Jack] Abramoff, for his part, once boasted that he had invested a million dollars in Buckham, according to a former Abramoff colleague who said he witnessed the conversation. Abramoff expressed confidence that the funds would bring a good return for his clients, the colleague said.


—from today's Washington Post


Normally I don't take all these Republicrook scandals personally. All that wacky cash, with all those zany zeroes, floating all over the damned place—there's nothing there I can relate to.

When you put it like this, however, how can I not take notice? Abramoff invested a million dollars in Buckham. Zowie!

Why didn't I ever think of this? This is just what I need, to have someone invest a million dollars in me. I've been putting off that haircut a dangerously long time now. (You know what a haircut costs these days, right?) And even at Payless, a new pair of shoes is, well, a capital expense. (Do you have any idea how long it's been since I bought a new pair of shoes?) Yup, a million bucks sounds just about right.

Now the question is, What can I do by way of return on this $1 million investment?

I don't have a whole list ready. After all, I just started thinking about it a few minutes ago. But here's what I've come up with so far:

* If my investor needs any signs hand-lettered, I print pretty neatly—and also do a rather nice outline-shadow effect with the lettering.

* I could program his DVR. (I've finally begun to figure out some of the tricks of scheduling series recording. I still don't know why the thing didn't record last week's new Law & Order, though. It says quite plainly that it's supposed to be recording any new episode, any time or day. For heaven's sake, don't mention this to my potential investors.)

* I can do a decent omelet. It doesn't always look pretty, but it usually tastes pretty good. (Even yesterday, when there was clearly too much filling to keep the thing, you know, tidy. It really didn't even look that bad when it was folded onto the plate, and in my defense, was I really going to skimp on the mushrooms when they were on sale for 99 cents for the 8-oz container? Once I have that million in the bank, I'll be able to afford to buy mushrooms even when they're, you know, $1.79, so I won't be so greedy when they're on sale.)

* I have what I can only describe as an uncanny knack for finding great buys in classical CDs. (C'mon, there's bound to be someone interested in taking advantage of this remarkable skill.)

* I used to know all the state capitals, and could probably still come up with most of them. (And the ones I might be a bit fuzzy on now, really, how important are they?)

* I've seen every episode of The Sopranos at least twice. (Except last night's, which I've still seen only once. But again, by the time the money's in the bank . . . )

That's about it for now, but like I said, I've only started on the list.

Note to interested investors: So maybe we could talk about half a million for starters? You see, I'm not unreasonable. Leave a message, and I'll get back to you.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

SOLID DEMOCRATIC SWEEP IS BUILDING FOR NOVEMBER

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After 5+ years of acting the role of rubber-stamp and going about the non-legislative business of self-enrichment and nest feathering, the Republican congress is starting to wake up to the reality of bad times ahead-- maybe really, really bad times. Maybe some of them will actually be forced to seek honest employment.

This week's TIME Magazine has a story about how the Republican's would lose their majority in the House of Representatives if the election were held today. Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen make is clear that to many (many, many) Republican congressmen, Bush and Cheney have become radioactive and association with them is lethal. "As the campaign season kicks into gear, Republican incumbents are having a hard time figuring out how close they want to be to the White House. Voters have plenty to take out on Republican candidates this year— ethics scandals, the GOP's failure to curb spending, the government's inept response to Hurricane Katrina, a confusing new prescription-drug program for seniors and, more than anything else, an unpopular President who is fighting an unpopular war. Iraq could make a vulnerability of the Republicans' greatest asset, the security issue."

Even "aggressive gerrymandering they believed had turned the vast majority of districts into fortresses for incumbents" looks like it might not protect congressmen who have been rubber-stamping the Bush Regime's destructive, even catastrophic programs. TIME talks about the Republicans losing the 15 seats they need to hold control over the House. Without Diebold-style vote rigging, some question whether the Republicans might not lose as many as 80 seats!

"If the elections were held today, top strategists of both parties say privately, the Republicans would probably lose the 15 seats they need to keep control of the House of Representatives and could come within a seat or two of losing the Senate as well. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who masterminded the 1994 elections that brought Republicans to power on promises of revolutionizing the way Washington is run, told Time that his party has so bungled the job of governing that the best campaign slogan for Democrats today could be boiled down to just two words: 'Had enough?'"

With Bush's approval ratings in freefall-- lately bottoming out at approximately one-third (a number coinciding with the approximate number of Americans who are awaiting the arrival of the End Times)-- TIME is reporting that only 41% of Americans would choose a generic Republican against a generic Democrat running for Congress today. But the build up of anti-Republican sentiment has barely begun and the avalanche of hatred towards Bush, the rubber-stamp congress and their self-serving and corrupt policies is just gathering force. "The signs suggest an anti-Republican wave is building, says nonpartisan electoral handicapper Stuart Rothenberg, whose Rothenberg Political Report is closely followed in Washington. 'The only question is how high, how big, how much force it will have. I think it will be considerable.'"

TIME points to Pennsylvania, where they pronounce Santorum a dead man walking and claim that 5 of the 9 Republican congressmen are in danger of losing their seats. ( Lois Murphy is a good example of a reform-minded PA Democrat who is now favored to beat a Bush/DeLay incumbent, Jim Gerlach, widely perceived as a spineless rubber-stamp Republican.) But here in California severely gerrymandered seats under the anti-democratic incumbent protection scheme (which protects incumbents of both corrupt political parties from the potential wrath of informed voters) may not be enough to save the skins of bribe-taking crooks like Jerry Lewis, Duncan Hunter, John Doolittle, and Richard Pombo and right-wing policy whore (not that the 4 aforementioned crooks aren't also right-wing policy whores) David Dreier.

A couple weeks ago I did a story here about the vulnerability of Republicans based only on having been elected in close calls in 2004. There are 27 GOP-held seats in that category, seats that elected Republicans with very tight margins, from Mike Sodrel (IN), Randy Kuhl (NY), Marilyn Musgrave (CO), Dave Reichert (WA) and the aforementioned Jim "Flip-Floppin'" Gerlach (PA)-- all of whom won with less than a 2% margin-- to GOP leaders who also just squeaked by, like Tom DeLay (TX), Dave Dreier (CA), Chris Shays (CT), Katherine Harris (FL)-- whose friends are currently more concerned that she wind up in a mental health facility than a prison rather than pursue a whacky religionist-tinged race for the U.S. Senate.

But the best news for Democrats is that they have some extremely attractive candidates who have not been destroyed by Rahm Emanuel and his venal DCCC. Some are running in for open seats and some are running against endangered Republican incumbents, true blue Democrats like Francine Busby (CA), for whom there's a special election in 16 days, Jerry McNerney (CA), Charlie Brown (CA), Eric Massa (NY), Gretchen Clearwater (IN), Rick Penberthy (FL), Jan Schneider (FL), Coleen Rowley (MN), to name just a small handful. In fact, if you're feelin' flush today, even $10 and $20 contributions go a mighty long way against Republican big money PAC interests. The DWT ACT BLUE Page is open for business. Take a look.


MONDAY MORNING UPDATE: CALL TO ACTION AT FireLakeDog

And there are more ways to help than just by donating money. Our pals at Firelakedog are planning some direct action to help de-rubberize the Republican rubberstamp Congress. I suggest that you click over there and give them a hand.

"A child has no greater desire than to make sense of the world around him"—but the folks who oversee U.S. education will never let that happen

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Going through pubic schools in Baltimore, Milwaukee and Brooklyn in the late 1950s and early 1960s, I didn't develop much enthusiasm for the educational system. It didn't seem to me to teach a whole lot, and worse still, it seemed to stifle rather than encourage and develop curiosity, imagination and creativity, which still seem to me among the most precious (and distinguishing) human qualities.

I wasn't much impressed either with what I heard about the private schools, or the tidal wave of "reform" programs—scams like the then-big "New Math," which would fail to make a dent in American mathematical illiteracy—proposed for mass education. Sure, smaller classes would be a good idea, but the teachers still have to know what's going on in those classes and have real plans for developing young minds to their maximum potential.

It was a simple quirk of fate that my first job (handed off to me, as it were, by Howie's and my old friend Danny) was with a small mostly textbook publisher that was then enjoying (for it) wild and wildly unexpected success with a trade book by a first-time author named John Holt, called How Children Fail. Based on Holt's own experiences teaching in some pretty good private schools in various parts of the country, it really dealt with the subject of how schools fail children.

Naturally, both Holt and the publisher were eager for a sequel. He obliged by tackling the much harder subject of How Children Learn.

After all, it's easy, relatively speaking, to demonstrate that one thing that doesn't happen a whole lot in our schools is learning. I say "relatively speaking" because there are a whole lot of people who still don't have a clue.

One of Holt's chief beefs with the education establishment was that so many professional educators just didn't know what was actually going on in classrooms. Holt, having taught in relatively prosperous private schools, had had the luxury of spending time as a sort of assistant teacher, meaning that he had the luxury of being in the classroom on a regular basis and seeing what even (or perhaps especially) the official teacher didn't, even with class sizes vastly smaller than the typical 35-40 of New York public schools.

Holt likened the teacher's focus to a beam of light in the forest. Within that narrow band of illumination, the behavior of all living creatures was instantly transformed; outside the beam, life in the forest was unaffected. Meaning that teachers see only what's happening where their attention is focused in that moment, and in that moment the child who's the focus of that attention behaves in a way that's likely to be strikingly different from the way he/she behaves otherwise, and from the way his/her classmates are behaving.

Just as important, Holt also got to spend time with the kids outside class, regularly enough so that his presence didn't distort their behavior as much as it would have on a single-official-visit basis. And he was sobered to discover that the official classroom view of "intelligence" didn't bear much resemblance to how the kids' minds worked in real life.

There were kids who were regarded as problem learners inside the building—and perhaps thought to be just plain stupid—who on the playground displayed command of a staggering range of sports statistics. Not just rote recall, surprising as even that would have been to these kids' teachers, but real command of those facts and how to apply them. No doubt the professional educators would dismiss such knowledge as trivial, maybe even regrettable. But at the very least, as Holt recognized, it demonstrated that when it came to something these kids cared about, their minds were capable of feats of memory and analysis unimagined by their teachers.

Still, as I was saying, it was—relatively speaking—easy for Holt to demonstrate how the schools were failing. It would be a much stiffer challenge to suggest how they could begin to facilitate real learning.

Back then, and I suspect still, the education industry was much concerned with the concept of "motivation," as in: "We need to figure out how to motivate kids" to learn. This drove Holt to eloquent exasperation. The idea that children needed to be motivated to learn drove him bonkers. I'm quoting from memory, but even after 40 years I think I've got this pretty close to word-for-word:

"A child has no greater desire," he wrote, "than to make sense of the world around him."

Wow! I've still never encountered a better definition or description of learning, or education, or teaching. And I'm sure that lots of people go into the teaching profession precisely because they are excited by the possibility of taking part in this process.

Sadly, those people have never gotten a whole lot of official support. Usually, in the end, they're ground down by the system, and either see their ideals wither away or flee the system. And while I don't have much direct access to what goes on in the schools these days, all the information I get suggests that far from doing a better job of developing minds than they did in my school years, they've gotten worse. And then came No Child Left Unscathed.

I always worry when politicians get involved in educational issues. This is a double-edged sword, of course. On the one hand, unless the pols do get involved in these issues, there's no hope of ever having more money available to try to do a better job of educating. On the other hand, experience suggests that the pols will always get the educational issues wrong. Always. And not just wrong, but catastrophically wrong. Naturally, then, the more obstreperously they intervene, the wider-spread the catastrophe is likely to be.

Which brings us to George W. Bush the Education President. Of course you knew that anything he touched had to turn to shit, since all his life, everything he's ever touched has turned to shit. And of all things for such a cosmically, gruesomely uneducated person to involve himself with—education?

This is a man whose entire life, intellectually speaking, has been singlemindedly devoted to stifling every iota of intelligence and curiosity he was endowed with and turning himself into a functional ignoramus. A man who has "taught" himself to value only three classes of people: bullies and con artists and—in the realm of learning—apostles of superstition and ignorance. Of course the categories overlap: The bullies and wacko religionists who back George W. Bush are among the country's more enterprising con artists.

I hope at this late date it isn't necessary for anyone who has found his or her way to DownWithTyranny to hear chapter-and-verse citations of the Bush administration's unprecedented and uncompromising and all-encompassing assault on every form of true learning—in other words, every way society has devised to help make sense of the world around us. As I've said before in this space, even allowing for this administration's unrelenting, across-the-board assault on every manner of decent sensibilities, perhaps nothing has pained me more personally than the assault on knowledge.

Now the other shoe drops.

Of course caring educators of the sort I was speaking of a moment ago have always screamed about the dangers of standardized testing, notably the all-but-certain misuse of the testing process and its results. It's one thing for teachers, and perhaps even schools and school districts, to have ways of monitoring their children's progress in measurable skills like reading and math. After all, even in my idealized view of education, in the Holtian sense of making sense of the world around us, everyone needs a basic set of skills to apply to the task.

But of course that isn't the way standardized tests are used. And as soon as the No Child Left Alone program was put together, sensible educators understood and warned that it was only about power and control and not at all about education. And from the start there have been voices warning us that the inescapable result of this new federal initiative would be to divert all available resources from the job of facilitating learning to "teaching to the tests."

Now we have it. The other shoe is dropping.

No doubt it's a slow news day, not to mention a Sunday. All the usual national and international disasters seem to be unraveling at an unnewsworthy "status quo" pace, perhaps even taking the Sabbath off. But here it is, a two-column lead story on the front page of today's New York Times:

"Schools Cut Back Subjects to Push Reading and Math"

The deck:

"Responding to No Child Left Behind Law, Thousands Narrow the Curriculum"

Of course, what the article never really gets into is that kids aren't really being taught reading and math. They're being taught to take standardized reading and math tests.

The notion, for example, of reading as an indispensable tool for pleasure and discovery, a key to understanding and developing empathy with our fellow humans and to unlocking the secrets of the universe, must be simply laughable in the present educational climate. I gather from the Times article that what kids are actually being taught is to hate reading and math. These subjects have been transformed into punishment, the torment of countless kids' existence.

I imagine that the religionist loons who want nothing more fervently for their (and our) children than to condemn them to the eternal darkness of superstition and mind control—they're probably smiling.

On the bright side . . . let's see, there must be a bright side. Oh yes, got it! Now that the Times has devoted all this attention to the subject, albeit in the form of a weakish lead story in a Sunday paper which is bound to go largely unread, tomorrow we can go back to forgetting all about it.

If you know Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov, his searing look at this crucial episode in the ongoing catastrophe of Russian political reality, now would be an appropriate time to cue the Simpleton wailing his plaintive little ditty to the words with which he brings down the curtain on the revised version of the opera:

Flow, flow, bitter tears.
Weep, weep, true-believing soul!
Soon the enemy will come and dark will fall.
Dark darkness, impenetrable.
Woe, woe unto Russia.
Weep, weep, Russian people.
Hungry people.


Ken


UPDATE: What Do Teachers Make?

It varies state by state but in no state do we honor and respect teachers the way we honor and respect-- and reward-- celebrities or banksters. Here's a state-by-state breakdown of average teacher salaries (as well as per-pupil spending in each state).

TOM DELAY MADE AL CAPONE LOOK LIKE A PISHER

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When Tom DeLay was the Republican Party's Capitol Hill kingpin-- and the Capo di Tutti Capi of the crime ring politely called the House Leadership-- one of his chief henchmen was a creepy-crawly thing and fake evangelical minister named Edwin Buckham. Officially Buckham was DeLay's chief of staff. What Buckham was doing for DeLay "unofficially" is what has caught the attention of several layers of law enforcement and is likely to land Buckham in prison and add a good many years to DeLay's sentence.

Republican rainmaker and DeLay consiglieri Jack Abramoff conspired with Buckham to set up a fraudulent charity-- a tax free charity, mind you-- called the U.S. Family Network. Sounds nice, like fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies with milk and mom with a fresh apron on, doesn't it? It wasn't. Supposedly promoting a "pro-family" agenda, the "charity," aside from spreading hatred for gay people was also spreading around-- quite illegally-- huge amounts of money among DeLay's gang members. In fact Buckham himself-- well actually Buckham and his moll, one Wendy Buckham, one of the financial brains behind the operation-- raked in over a million bucks themselves-- and that's a lot of chocolate chip cookies, a lot of milk and a lot of fresh aprons. Of course direct kickbacks were paid by the Buckhams to DeLay's own moll, one Christine DeLay to the tune of $3,300/month for at least 3 years. It adds up. And it's very illegal.

The scam worked like this: Abramoff strong-armed his lobbyist clients to contribute to this fake charity with the idea that the all powerful DeLay would "notice"-- and take appropriate action. According to today's WASHINGTON POST, the FBI has subpoenaed the fake charity's records and "it can be inferred that the bureau is exploring whether there were links between the payments and favorable legislative treatment of Abramoff's clients by DeLay's office.

In short, the DeLay/Abramoff fake charity operation was a funnel for corporations (like R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) for whom DeLay was giving special legislative consideration-- i.e.- screwing consumers, screwing workers, screwing shareholders, screwing the environment, screwing communities, etc-- to launder money into bribing DeLay and his cronies and into financing attack ads against Democrats. The FBI has also been investigating the coincidence of DeLay accepting money from shady Russian interests and his support for legislation benefiting them. It appears that Russian criminal elements amounted to the single biggest source of funds to DeLay's tax-exempt little "charity."

But the Buckham's weren't the only DeLay gang-members who benefited from this particular little multimillion dollar fraud, a shining example of the Republican Culture of Corruption that has completely subsumed our nation's capital. Tony Rudy, another DeLay henchman ("deputy chief of staff"), and his moll, were also paid large sums of money from the fake charity.

And, not unlike the excesses that marked the recent case of right-wing extremist/DeLay ally and bribe taker Randy "Duke" Cunningham-- currently serving 8 years in prison-- the criminals in the DeLay gang also had tastes for expensive baubles: fancy meals and travel for the fake minister and his moll, $10,000 vases, tens of thousands of dollars worth of art by Peter Max and Dali-- all very weird expenses for a tax-exempt non-profit (although they tried covering up the art as "office fixtures" in their fraudulent accounting statements). And probably all destined for the auction block, just like the luxuries illegally purchased by Cunningham.

One religionist sucker who has since seen the light is a pastor from Frederick, Maryland, Chris Geeslin.
"They were using donor funds for interior decorating," said Geeslin, the group's president. He blamed the fraud on Buckham, who he said "would tell us where you should put things. He orchestrated all this. . . . He used us." And DeLay and the Republican Party used us all. Will November be pay back time?

REAL DEMOCRATS STAND BEHIND FEINGOLD. COLLABORATORS STAND WITH BUSH

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Not many of the craven, Inside-the-Beltway Bush-enablers/collaborators who make up the pathetic elected Democratic Party have endorsed Russ Feingold's extremely moderate-- some would say too moderate; it is, after all, a clearly impeachable offense-- proposal to censure George Bush for his brazen, defiant lawbreaking. However, as weak and pusillanimous as are the bulk of Democratic (and Republican) senators, actual grassroots Democrats-- the real ones, not the co-opted millionaires who make a career of it-- have a different take on Senator Feingold's proposal.





According to today's NEW YORK TIMES, "among Democrats, 60% favored the effort." 42% of all Americans, even before a debate or a legislative hearing (which, obviously can never happen under the circumstances of a no-checks-no-balances-rubberstamp congress) favor censure.

Barbara Boxer (D-CA), the only Senator with the balls to have formally challenged Bush's theft of the 2004 election in Ohio, and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have signed on as co-sponsors and many Democrats, like Ted Kennedy, Carl Levin, and Pat Leahy are taking the safe route by claiming they support hearings into the matter. A number of institutionally cowardly Democrats-- Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi, Sherrod Brown, for example-- are shitting a brick in the fear that standing up to Bush is too negative and that voters won't stand for it. These people are collaborators in the downfall of our democracy (and I'm not talking just about the blatant traitors like Joe Lieberman and Henry Cuellar, but about people we have the right to expect better from).


TUESDAY UPDATE: ANOTHER DEMOCRAT BACKS FEINGOLD ON CENSURE

Matt over at MyDD pointed out a great quote from Ned Lamont today. "I'm sort of sympathetic to the idea of a censure, it seems like an appropriately modest remedy in a short-term way to say nobody's above the law. Senator Lieberman said, 'I don't want to scold the president.' Well, why not? When he's wrong I think he should be scolded, and that's an appropriate way to do it." Unfortunately Ned won't have a vote in the U.S. Senate until he displaces Bush's and the Republican's very favorite Democrat, Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman. Is Lamont the kind of man you want in the U.S. Senate? Know any Democrats in Connecticut? Have any spare change?