United States News Digest
Ensign to Hold Hearings on Halliburton
Senator John Ensign (R-Nev), chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on the floor of the Senate on Nov. 10, that he would hold a hearing sometime in December on allegations of misconduct by Vice President Dick Cheney's former company Halliburton. The announcement followed the defeat by 53-44 of an amendment to the Defense bill, offered by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)for the third timeto establish a special investigation into war profiteering by Halliburton and others.
Ali Still Floats Like a Butterfly, Stings Like a Bee
His reflexes may be slowed and his speech slurred by Parkinson's disease, but former heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali still knows a damn fool when he sees one. The Washington Post reports that at the Nov. 9 ceremony at the White House for winners of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, President Bush whispered something in Muhammad's ear while fastening the medal to him, and then stepped back and "put up his dukes in a mock challenge." The Post reports that "Ali ... looked the president in the eyeand, finger to head, did the 'crazy' twirl for a couple of seconds." Ali repeated the gesture after he sat down, with the crowd of 200 tittering, and Bush, "visibly taken aback, laughing nervously."
Judith Miller's 'Family' Connections
In the course of a long "human interest" article on New York Times reporter Judith Miller and her recent departure from the Times, the Washington Post on Nov. 10 included an interesting bit of information on Miller's family background. Bill Miller, her Russian-Jewish father, in the 1940s, "owned and operated" a nightclub in Ft. Lee, N.J.; the acts which performed there included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis, Jr. Later, Bill Miller helped build the lounge acts of Las Vegas casinos. Her Irish-Catholic mother, Mary Connolly, was a dancer in a club "owned" by Lou Walters, Barbara Walters' father. (Walters reportedly was in fact a front man for the mob in New York night clubs such as "21," which goes a long way to explain how Barbara Walters became a major TV news anchor and interviewer, despite her Elmer Fudd-like speech impediment.) Lou Walters introduced Mary Connolly to Bill Miller, and they eventually married. "... Judy Miller's childhood took her from Englewood, N.J., to Miami Beach to Vegas to Hollywood, where she studied drama at Hollywood High."
Lyndon LaRouche asked whether her new assignment, after getting canned from the Times, might be to defend the democratic rights of the mob.
Democrats: Question Chalabi, Don't Fete Him
Democrats in Congress are demanding that Ahmed Chalabi come clean on his role in leading the U.S. into the war in Iraq. On Nov. 9, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif) wrote a letter to Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn), the chairman of the House National Security Subcommittee, asking him to cancel a private briefing with Chalabi, scheduled for the next day, and hold a public hearing, instead, where Chalabi can be questioned about his role in misleading the U.S. about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and whether or not he gave classified U.S. intelligence information to Iran. The private briefing went ahead, anyway, and Shays emerged afterwards saying "I wouldn't be surprised if he told Iranians facts, issues, whatever, we did not want them to know in order to develop a relationship."
The day before Waxman's letter, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif) issued a statement calling on the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to subpoena Chalabi to testify "about his role in providing false intelligence about Iraq and leaking U.S. secrets to Iran." Many other Democrats, in both the House and the Senate, issued similar calls, as well.
In a press conference after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on Nov. 8, Chalabi denied that he passed on fabricated "intelligence" and refused to apologize. He also offered himself to be questioned by the U.S. Senate. Later that day, he addressed the American Enterprise Institute, and was also scheduled to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley during the course of his visit.
Lott: Source of Leaks on CIA's Secret Prisons a Republican
The popular blog "Raw Story" reported on Nov. 9, that Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss) told CNN reporter Ed Henry that the leaks on the CIA's secret prisons came from Republicans, and that the issue was widely discussed at the closed-door Senate Republican luncheon with Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday, Nov. 1.
Specter Hosts Saudi-Bashing Session
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa) held a Nov. 8 hearing on the topic of his Saudi Arabia Accountability Act, a virtual copy of the provocative bill just passed on Syria. His Saudi-bashing session didn't come off quite as planned, however, when the seasoned Reagan-era diplomat Anthony Cordesman came to testify. Cordesman made it clear from the start that holding Saudi Arabia, or any single country, accountable for terrorism, was an effort doomed to failure. He stated that, while there was a lot of Saudi money involved in terrorist networks (on which much of the previous testimony had centered), the ideologies came from Egypt (the Muslim Brotherhood was named later), and not from Saudi Arabia. Time and time again, Cordesman forcefully disagreed with the frothing, neo-con witnesses, at one point emphasizing that it was the "extremist environment," and not just the money, that created a terrorist outlook.
Although he specifically stated that legislation alone could not force a change, Specter made it clear that he was determined to stand by his failed axioms, and push the bill through.
The 'Destroy Government' Faction Dealt Blow in Colorado
The 'destroy republican government' faction was dealt another blow, when, on Nov. 1, Colorado voters set aside for five years the nation's most restrictive "Taxpayers' Bill of Rights" (TaBOR) constraints on state revenue, so the state can try to reverse the drastic destruction of state services that has resulted from a dozen years of TaBOR. Neo-cons, who have been trying to use the Colorado measure as a springboard for imposing similar destructive measures in other states, are having hissy-fits.
Guided by the likes of former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey's FreedomWorks and Jack Abramoff buddy Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, neo-cons have initiated TaBOR efforts in about half of the states. The Pennsylvania House approved a version on Nov. 6. Missouri and other states will have votes on TaBOR in their state legislatures next year. In Ohio, Rove vote-rigger, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, had planned on piggybacking his way to the Governor's office on a 2006 TaBOR referendum. The sea-change that the Colorado vote reflects will make that more difficult.
The Colorado vote for sanity was aided by GOP Gov. Bill Owens, a conservative who urged voters to set aside TaBOR. At one point, neo-cons had considered Owens a potential Presidential candidate. But his actions to salvage state government have put a bull's eye on his back. Norquist and others contend that he betrayed his party. "If you're a Republican governor or aspiring governor, what you learned from this [Owens' role in defeating TaBOR] is that opposition to a spending limit destroys a political career," Norquist raved. "This guy stood in front of a train."
Defeating TaBOR in Colorado means that $3.7 billion that would otherwise have been refunded to taxpayers, can be used to rebuild the state's collapsing services. During the years of TaBOR's reign, Colorado plummeted in numerous rankings:
* From 35th to 49th in the nation in spending on K-12 education as a percentage of personal income
* From 30th to 50th in average teacher salary, compared to average pay in other occupations
* From 24th to 43rd in the percentage of children receiving full vaccinations
* To last in the percentage of low-income children covered by health insurance.
In just the past four years, Colorado has raised in-state tuition by 21% at its colleges and universities.
As Armey wrote of Colorado's TaBOR three days before the vote, "It worked."
During the campaign to pass the Colorado Taxpayers' Bill of Rights in 1992, local operatives played on the legendary name of Tabor. In the post-Civil War era, Horace Tabor grubstaked a couple of Leadville silver miners who struck it rich at the Matchless Mine. He and his concubine/wife Baby Doe became fabulously wealthy. But it's the ending of the Tabor story that neo-cons don't want remembered: The Tabors went from riches to rags. Penniless widow Baby Doe froze to death in her only remaining shelterthe mouth of the defunct Matchless Mine.