The Great Union

The little brother of the Big Brass Alliance.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ex-White House Aide Charged in Corruption Case

A senior White House budget official who resigned abruptly last week was arrested Monday on charges of lying to investigators and obstructing a federal inquiry involving Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist who has been under scrutiny by the Justice Department for more than a year.

The arrest of the official, David H. Safavian, head of procurement policy at the Office of Management and Budget, was the first to result from the wide-ranging corruption investigation of Mr. Abramoff, once among the most powerful and best-paid lobbyists in Washington and a close friend of Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader.

According to court papers, Mr. Safavian, 38, is accused of lying about assistance that he gave Mr. Abramoff in his earlier work at the General Services Administration, where he was chief of staff from 2002 to 2004, and about an expensive golf trip he took with the lobbyist to Scotland in August 2002.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

On Katrina, and the Aftermath

I always thought that our government, especially in the post-9/11 world, would be ready to deal with epic disasters in an expedient and appropriate manner... but New Orleans has proved me wrong.

I always thought that, at the least, the Bush administration would be capable of handling another crisis like 9/11... but New Orleans has proved me wrong.

Our federal government is responsible for stepping in to situations like this immediately. Bush declared disaster areas before the storm hit and then went back to vacationing for TWO WHOLE DAYS, while the Mississippi and Alabama gulf coasts were leveled. While Slidell was blown off the map. While New Orleans was levelled. While the looting began. What was that man doing? Reading "My Pet Goat"?

Whither the Homeland Security funding? Wasn't much of the money we POURED into homeland security supposed to go to shoring up our ability to respond and provide relief in the wake of such disasters? It seems to me that most of the aid currently pouring in is coming from private companies, state governments, and municipal governments.

Whither the National Guard? Aren't they our primary force of disaster response? Why can we more easily respond to IRAQ's needs than New Orleans'?

Whither the levies? Weren't there strong resolutions proposed for the current fiscal year to shore up and restructure the levy system in the New Orleans area to prevent a crisis like this? Who made the decision to re-route that funding into Iraq?

Whither the President? Does he have a plan? Or, as it appears, are Mayor Nagin, Senator Landrieu, and Governor Blanco the only people with power and influence that have an actual grasp on the ground situation in New Orleans?

One thing is perfectly clear. The crisis in New Orleans shows plainly the sociological problems within the United States. The hurricane effected everyone in the area regardless of race and class, however, the people stuck in the anarchy of New Orleans are largely black and below middle class status. They are the true victims. They did not have access to the infrastructure needed to evacuate or prepare themselves for this storm, and they are having to bear the brunt of the majority of the suffering.

Another thing that this disaster shows is that the money we haved poured into Homeland Security is for naught. What if someone set off a nuclear device in Chicago, or perpetrated a chemical attack in Los Angeles, or a biological attack in Atlanta today, as I am typing this? Would our government be able to respond in any capacity? This scares the living shiat out of me, and it should you too.

I am angered at the Bush administration for dragging its heels. I am angered at relief agencies for their unequitable proportions of efforts. I am angered at the party currently in power for scrapping efforts that could have prevented much of the suffering and death continuing today, and for wasting our resources on a pointless quagmire in Iraq. It appears that the federal government currently is incompetent to provide the leadership needed to coordinate the relief efforts.

I pray for the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and all the others who are currently living in suffering because of this crisis. Now we all understand just how naked and vulnerable we are, and how the war on terror is not a solution to that essential problem.

Now that I have seen and heard Scott McClellan's answers to some of these questions, I am even more angry. It is clear that he wasn't giving a news conference to reassure us that the situation in New Orleans is being dealt with competently and with the proper amount of immediacy and accountablity. He was doing damage control for the image of his President.

He also tried to quell any and all questions and critiques of how our government has prepared and responded to this problem by pleading for us not to turn this into a political issue. He is too late. Any time a government, through its incompetence, sentences that many innocent people to die in squallid, violent, and PREVENTABLE conditions within their own borders, who are we supposed to turn to? Where are our fingers supposed to point?

I agree that everyone in the US should be united in efforts to help the people of the Gulf coast. I disagree that those who are accountable for these issues should be held blameless. These are discussions that we must have NOW, before something like this happens again, because as the White House tries to cover their own asses, more people die and more people are put at risk. New Orleans looks like a dramatization of "Lord of the Flies" done by the joint theatre departments of the Crips and the Bloods.

The complete lack of leadership and control in this situation is at the root of the problems in the New Orleans area. The White House had 20-50 hours to mobilize APPROPRIATE support, response, and relief personnel to the Gulf coast area. Why didn't they? The White House is supposed to fill that void in leadership. Why haven't they?


Panic and fingerpointing seem to be going on most in the gulf coast region. The government's incompetence to deal with this situation is alarming, at the least. I am surprised that you aren't outraged.

Where is the national guard? What happened to all that Homeland Security funding that was supposed to assist us in mass-disaster and mass-casualty relief? What would happen if a major terrorist attack happened right now?

Some answers are clear: we need to bring the national guard troops back to domestic soil, they are not meant to be an expeditionary force or a foreign peacekeeping force. We need competent leadership in the White House and in Congress. We need BETTER funding for infrastructure, instead of slashing needed budgetary measures in lieu of pork-barrel projects and superfluous military operations in the Middle East.

Someone dropped the ball here, and this discussion needs to happen NOW, in the midst of this chaos, rather than later, otherwise our questions and concerns will never be addressed by those currently in power. "Now isn't the time" is a wussified, inappropriate response. I want answers, and the President and his party don't seem to have any to offer.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Leading Christian right political groups "too busy to comment" on Robertson's assassination remarks

Pat Robertson's August 22 call for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez generated demands for an apology from members of Congress and religious groups spanning the ideological spectrum, including the National Council of Churches, the National Association of Evangelicals, and the National Clergy Council. Yet several leading Christian right political groups -- such as the Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, Focus on the Family, Concerned Women for America, the Christian Coalition of America, and the American Center for Law and Justice -- have maintained silence on the matter. Another major Christian right political outfit, the American Family Association, excused Robertson's comments as having been made in "frustration" during an August 25 radio broadcast and quoted the conservative Media Research Center offering a lukewarm endorsement of Robertson's comments.

When contacted by The New York Times on August 24 to discuss Robertson's remarks, the Family Research Council, the Traditional Values Coalition, and the Christian Coalition each declined to comment, claiming they were "too busy."

The Family Research Council (FRC) has remained mum on Robertson since rebuffing the Times. FRC president Tony Perkins devoted his weekly radio program, Washington Watch Weekly, to his organization's campaign against the proposed .xxx Internet domain for pornography websites, ignoring the Robertson controversy. Perkins has yet to discuss Robertson's remarks in his daily "Washington Update" email newsletters. Following Robertson's call for assassination, on August 26, FRC issued a newsletter denouncing People for the American Way as "People for Getting in the Way."

Silence on the issue has prevailed at James Dobson's Focus on the Family, which sells an audio cassette featuring a discussion among Dobson, Robertson, and attorney Jay Sekulow, titled The Supreme Court Speaks Out. As the controversy over Robertson's remarks exploded in the media on August 25 and 26, Dobson devoted two consecutive radio programs to discussing "the causes and signs of stress in children and how parents can help alleviate that stress"; he has yet to acknowledge the controversy on the air. There has been no mention of the controversy on Focus on the Family's website or in its related publications. Instead, the site features articles such as "Five Aspects of a Godly Man." An excerpt: "God HAS created men with a desire to fight for truth and stand against evil and injustice. We see this in little boys who like play guns, as well as in the longing for significant purpose that a man experiences when watching a movie like Braveheart."

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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Concerned Women for America commends a Flagrant Abuse of Power

Concerned Women for America applauded the President’s willingness to use his “constitutional authority” to recess appoint John Bolton as Ambassador to the United Nations.

But, of course, back in 2000, CWA printed a piece by Tom Jipping (who went on to become Senior Fellow in Legal Studies at CWA) calling President Clinton’s recess appointment of Bill Lann Lee to be Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the Department of Justice a “flagrant abuse of power” and a “direct assault on America’s constitutional foundation and, therefore, a direct attack on the freedom of all Americans. It is a flagrant abuse of power, and Congress must do something about it.”

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Saturday, August 06, 2005

Halliburton Sold Iran Key Nuclear Parts, Sources Say

Halliburton -- the oil services company once headed by Vice President Cheney -- sold an Iranian oil development company key components for a nuclear reactor, say Halliburton sources with intimate knowledge into both companies’ business dealings.

Halliburton was secretly working at the time with one of Iran’s top nuclear program officials on natural gas related projects and sold the components in April to the official's oil development company, the sources said.

Just last week, a National Security Council report said Iran was a decade away from acquiring a nuclear bomb. That time frame could arguably have been significantly longer if Halliburton, whose miltary unit just reported a 284 percent increase in its second quarter profits due to its Iraq reconstruction contracts, was not actively providing the Iranian government with the means to build a nuclear weapon.

With Iran's new hardline government now firmly in place, Iranian officials have rounded up relatives and close business associates of Iran's former President and defeated mullah presidential candidate Hashemi Rafsanjani, alleging the men were involved in widespread corruption of Iran's oil industry, specifically tied to the country's business dealings with Halliburton.

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Saturday, July 23, 2005

Christian Right labeled as Hate Group

The civil rights movement in the United States took a big step this past few months with the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) listing the Christian Right as an extremist group. The SPLC is known for their work in keeping people informed and educated on the activities of the Ku Klux Clan and white supremacist groups.

"Our bailiwick is extremism. We've avoided the Christian Right in the past, and we don't feel we've expanded to include the Christian Right, we feel very strongly they have entered our world . They have gone absolutely wild. The level of personal demonization was really quite remarkable. We felt we had to say, 'Thus far, no further,'" ~ Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center speaking to the New York