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Monthly Archives: June 2006

Dirty Don Goes Down

June 29th, 2006 - 1:05 pm

Don Siegleman, the Democratic governor of Alabama from 1998-2002, was just found guilty on multiple corruption charges, including bribery, mail fraud and obstruction of justice. The charges were related to the fraudulent practices of the HealthSouth conglomerate. This was the second trip to Federal criminal court for “Dirty Don.” Back in 2004, a lengthy set of charges was dismissed by a friendly judge (Carter appointee U.W. Clemon). This time around, Siegleman wasn’t so lucky, and unless he can manage to shop himself another partisan judge on appeal, he’s going away for quite a while.

Alabama’s old political machine, which Siegleman has been a member of since his college days, is thorougly and irredemably corrupt. I’d like to think this conviction might mark the beginning of the end of its reign, but frankly, I doubt it. There just isn’t much appetite among either the political class or the public to get serious about cleaning up the rest of the statehouse.

Disgraced former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy was also convicted, in his case for providing a $500,000 campaign contribution to Siegleman in return for a seat on a state hospital regulatory board. I wish I could say that kind of thing is unusual in Alabama, but it’s the way the things have been done since time out of mind.

The Banality Of Evil

June 28th, 2006 - 7:53 am

A poster to the MilitaryPhoto.net message board has put up a long series of pictures surreptitiously taken by a Russian web designer who recently visited North Korea. Rather than trying to recap them or the translations of their captions, I’ll just put up the link here and strongly suggest that you have a look.

Okay, just one recap: I was struck by how nice the beaches look. That is, until you notice the electrified fence that keeps anyone who might thing of swimming away from setting foot on them…

Outrage

June 26th, 2006 - 12:52 pm

Ten years ago, I was working at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Many of the airmen killed at Khobar Towers were deployed out of Eglin; their memorial was eventually built on the base grounds.

I doubt many of their survivors were comforted when they read this startling memoir by Louis Freeh in the WSJ:

It soon became clear that Mr. Clinton and his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, had no interest in confronting the fact that Iran had blown up the towers. This is astounding, considering that the Saudi Security Service had arrested six of the bombers after the attack. As FBI agents sifted through the remains of Building 131 in 115-degree heat, the bombers admitted they had been trained by the Iranian external security service (IRGC) in Lebanon’s Beka Valley and received their passports at the Iranian Embassy in Damascus, Syria, along with $250,000 cash for the operation from IRGC Gen. Ahmad Sharifi.

We later learned that senior members of the Iranian government, including Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the Spiritual Leader’s office had selected Khobar as their target and commissioned the Saudi Hezbollah to carry out the operation. The Saudi police told us that FBI agents had to interview the bombers in custody in order to make our case. To make this happen, however, the U.S. president would need to make a personal request to Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah.

So for 30 months, I wrote and rewrote the same set of simple talking points for the president, Mr. Berger, and others to press the FBI’s request to go inside a Saudi prison and interview the Khobar bombers. And for 30 months nothing happened.

Meanwhile, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Mr. Clinton ordered the FBI to stop photographing and fingerprinting Iranian wrestlers and cultural delegations entering the U.S. because the Iranians were complaining about the identification procedure. Of course they were complaining. It made it more difficult for their intelligence agents and terrorist coordinators to infiltrate into America. I was overruled by an “angry” president and Mr. Berger who said the FBI was interfering with their rapprochement with Iran.

Finally, frustrated in my attempts to execute Mr. Clinton’s “leave no stone unturned” order, I called former president George H.W. Bush. I had learned that he was about to meet Crown Prince Abdullah on another matter. After fully briefing Mr. Bush on the impasse and faxing him the talking points that I had now been working on for over two years, he personally asked the crown prince to allow FBI agents to interview the detained bombers.

Several weeks later, agents interviewed the co-conspirators. For the first time since the 1996 attack, we obtained direct evidence of Iran’s complicity. What Mr. Clinton failed to do for three years was accomplished in minutes by his predecessor. This was the breakthrough we had been waiting for, and the attorney general and I immediately went to Mr. Berger with news of the Saudi prison interviews.

Upon being advised that our investigation now had proof that Iran blew up Khobar Towers, Mr. Berger’s astounding response was: “Who knows about this?” His next, and wrong, comment was: “That’s just hearsay.” When I explained that under the Rules of Federal Evidence the detainees’ comments were indeed more than “hearsay,” for the first time ever he became interested–and alarmed–about the case. But this interest translated into nothing more than Washington “damage control” meetings held out of the fear that Congress, and ordinary Americans, would find out that Iran murdered our soldiers. After those meetings, neither the president, nor anyone else in the administration, was heard from again about Khobar.

That’s the meat, but read the whole thing. And try and tell me again why Berger and his infamous pants shouldn’t be locked up.

ICU

June 26th, 2006 - 7:32 am

Lein Shory’s baby son Logan is having heart surgery today. Best wishes to all the Shorys from everybody here, and hell, everybody everywhere.

UPDATE: Good news:

The surgeon just came in: the surgery was successful.

A huge, incredible relief.

He’s still got a long way to go, but he’s come this far.

Smart

June 26th, 2006 - 4:52 am

From the AP:

The U.S. space agency is sponsoring a competition in which winning companies will get $500 million in seed money to develop space vehicles that NASA will never design, build or own. Like a U-Haul truck rental, NASA instead will merely lease them on a per-trip basis for sending cargo and eventually crew to the international space station.

The arrangement is unprecedented in the nearly 50-year history of the space agency, which traditionally oversees the development and construction of its own space vehicles instead of purchasing trips from private companies. NASA will pay out the money incrementally for each milestone achieved in the vehicles’ development. After that, the company or companies who win the competition will have to finance the vehicles on their own.

“I consider it to be a big gamble,” Griffin told a U.S. Senate committee recently. “It is well past time for NASA to do everything it can to stimulate commercial space transportation … and I’m trying to do that.”

It might be churlish of me to say “about time,” but… it’s about time.

Beauty. Everyone Say, “Beauty.”

June 23rd, 2006 - 5:38 pm

The Blogfaddah makes a “Strange Brew” reference.

That’s beauty, eh. You really can’t get enough Bob & Doug if you ask me. And for more Canadian comedy, click here, you knob.

CAIRless

June 23rd, 2006 - 12:07 pm

From the AP:

Seven young men arrested in an alleged plot against the Sears Tower were part of a group of “homegrown terrorists” who sought to work with al-Qaida but ended up conspiring with an informant, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Friday.

Outlining an alleged plot to bomb the Sears Tower in Chicago and a federal building in Miami, Gonzales told a Justice Department news conference: “They were persons who for whatever reason came to view their home country as the enemy.”

Said Gonzales: “The convergence of globalization and technology has created a new brand of terrorism. Today terrorist threats come from smaller more loosely defined cells not affiliated with al-Qaida but who are inspired by a violent jihadist message, and left unchecked these homegrown terrorists may prove to be as dangerous as groups like al-Qaida.”

Gonzales outlined the contents of an indictment handed up Thursday, which identified Narseal Batiste as having recruited and trained others beginning in November 2005 “for a mission to wage war against the United States government,” including a plot to destroy the Sears Tower.

To obtain money and support for their mission, the conspirators sought help from al-Qaida, pledged an oath to the terrorist organization and supported an al-Qaida plot to destroy FBI buildings, the four-count indictment charged.

Batiste met several times in December 2005 with a person purporting to be an al-Qaida member and asked for boots, uniforms, machine guns, radios, vehicles and $50,000 in cash to help him build an “‘Islamic Army’ to wage jihad’,” the indictment said. It said that Batiste said he would use his “soldiers” to destroy the Sears Tower.

The reaction from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)? Damage control:

An official instructed the media to “stop calling these individuals Muslims.” If I were a CAIR official, I’d be more concerned with why one of the members of the cell indicated

Good Riddance

June 23rd, 2006 - 11:44 am

Underperformin’ Norman Minetta has finally resigned as Secretary of Transportation, and only about five years too late.

Old ladies, toddlers, and various other people highly unlikely to be terrorists but still subject to the tender care of the TSA have called for spontaneous celebrations at airport checkpoints.

State Of The Union

June 22nd, 2006 - 5:02 pm

It’s been like this for weeks now in the comments and occasionally in my email: “Where’s Steve, huh? What’d you do, dump him in the gutter somewhere? Huh? HUH?!? So where is he, dude?”

Okay, okay. Here’s the deal: Steve’s busy. He’s not dead, he’s not divorced, he didn’t defect to North Korea, and he certainly didn’t convert to the Old Amish Order and give up computers or booze. He’s just busy.

So, while he’s busy, you people are just going to have to put up with me. I’ll be stepping up my blogging here as much as I’m able, and when Martini Boy gets the time, like Ahnoldt, he’ll be baaaack. If anybody needs to reach me, just send an email to blog -at- willcollier.com (give it until Friday, the setup hasn’t populated quite yet). I promise to read it, unless you’re a representative of a deposed African dictator looking for an account in which to stow several million American dollars.

That’s it for now, so quit reading and go have a drink. I know I will.

Koverup

June 21st, 2006 - 3:25 pm

I confess I haven’t paid much attention to the “Kosola” controversy that’s been making the rounds this week. Among other things, I just don’t take that pack of nut jobs seriously enough to get worked up over their internal squabblings. That said, there are times when a story just jumps up and makes itself interesting and/or entertaining enough to catch your eye, whether you’re “into” it or not.

This is one of those times.

Check out this post at TNR’s “The Plank” blog, which features an email sent from Markos Moulitsas himself to a group of other leftoid bloggers, imploring them to ignore the story in the hopes that the “traditional media” won’t pick it up:

I haven’t gotten a single serious media call about it yet. Not one. So far, this story isn’t making the jump to the traditional media, and we shouldn’t do anything to help make that happen.

My request to you guys is that you ignore this for now. It would make my life easier if we can confine the story. Then, once Jerome can speak and defend himself, then I’ll go on the offensive (which is when I would file any lawsuits) and anyone can pile on. If any of us blog on this right now, we fuel the story. Let’s starve it of oxygen. And without the “he said, she said” element to the story, you know political journalists are paralyzed into inaction.

Thanks, markos

Yep, this one just crossed the entertainment threshold. Time to make some popcorn.

UPDATE: Hmm. The entire New Republic website is inaccessible this morning. DOS attack? Coincidence? Either way, the timing is certainly… entertaining.

UPDATE UPDATE: Back up now, about 20 minutes later. Most probably coincidence, but a pretty funny one.

Feeling Comcazzzztic

June 21st, 2006 - 12:52 pm

This is why I have a satellite dish.

[Don't you also have a cable modem? --Ed.] Yes, but not from Comcast. And what have I told you about ripping off Kaus?

A Nude Erection For America

June 21st, 2006 - 12:26 pm

Okay, just back off. That’s the only joke about the Democrats’ most recent slogan (“A New Direction For America”) and policy paper that Lileks didn’t manage to work in to his latest Newhouse column. Sure, it’s tasteless, but I don’t get many chances to one-up James, and I’m taking my shot while the target is in sight.

A couple of highlights that did make it in:

The minimum wage was indeed a New Direction — last century, anyway. But when the unofficial GOP slogan is “Fight and win the War on Terror by blowing up more bad guys real good,” a call for a wage boost is like running against FDR with a pledge to reduce postal rates.

“Ensure Dignified Retirement.” Again, sounds great. Mandatory fedoras for men; a 50 percent reduction in Viagra commercials. But no: The Democrats wish to “prevent the privatization of Social Security,” because you cannot be trusted with your own money. It’s an interesting definition of dignity: waiting by the mailbox for your government check.

Suffice to say, you should read the whole thing. Bonus kudos to Lileks for working in an SCTV Farm Film Report reference. We really can’t have enough of those.

Afterimage

June 20th, 2006 - 10:05 am

Chris and Lea Walls and their two young children were all killed in a terrible car crash last Friday. Chris was 36. Lea was 34. I’m ashamed to say that I’m not sure exactly how old their kids were.

I’d known Chris for most of his life. He and I grew up together in Enterprise, Alabama, where he was my neighbor and my classmate and my friend. We’d lost touch over the years, but still swapped emails on too-rare occasions. The last time I saw him and his wife was at our tenth high school reunion in 1997. Their children hadn’t been born yet, and they were living in Nashville at the time.

Chris was a drummer, the simple statement of which does not do him or his talent justice. By his junior year of high school, he’d taken over the lead of the marching band’s drum section (it was a huge band, over 200 strong) and arranged intricate drum features based on the work of his idol, Rush’s Neil Peart. In college, Chris was a talented jazz percussionist who could play virtually anything, up to and including pieces by virtuosos like Dave Weckl.

While in Nashville, he played session work when he could find it, but like many other artists past, present and future, he had to have day jobs to support his family. I hadn’t heard that he’d moved to Phoenix until I got the awful news last Saturday. I was not at all surprised to read Chris’s pastor saying, “I think his heart’s desire more than anything was to work in music. His heartbeat was music.”

The first place I ever picked up a guitar was in Chris’s bedroom. It was December of 1987, and a mutual friend of ours had gotten a Strat knockoff and amp for Christmas. I’d never played before, but I got bored and picked up the guitar, asked its owner to show me a chord (D). Chris jumped behind his kit, and somebody mashed “record” on a boom box. This was the result.

It was so much fun that I bought a guitar for myself a few days later. I didn’t get much better that the vain thrashing on that old tape, but I loved (and still love) to play. I never had more fun playing than with Chris’s drum symphony thundering behind me.

And now that old tape is all I have left.

All That Z Left Behind

June 15th, 2006 - 7:17 am

Shortly after the Z-Man collected his bowl of raisins, I speculated that the intelligence gained from raiding his and other al-Quaeda hideouts in Iraq could well prove more important than the bombing raid itself. Today we’re seeing some evidence of that, notably here and here, but particularly here, in a “state of the insurgency” document captured in the ruins of Zarqawi’s not-so-safe house:

As an overall picture, time has been an element in affecting negatively the forces of the occupying countries, due to the losses they sustain economically in human lives, which are increasing with time. However, here in Iraq, time is now beginning to be of service to the American forces and harmful to the resistance for the following reasons:

1. By allowing the American forces to form the forces of the National Guard, to reinforce them and enable them to undertake military operations against the resistance.

2. By undertaking massive arrest operations, invading regions that have an impact on the resistance, and hence causing the resistance to lose many of its elements.

3. By undertaking a media campaign against the resistance resulting in weakening its influence inside the country and presenting its work as harmful to the population rather than being beneficial to the population.

4. By tightening the resistance’s financial outlets, restricting its moral options and by confiscating its ammunition and weapons.

5. By creating a big division among the ranks of the resistance and jeopardizing its attack operations, it has weakened its influence and internal support of its elements, thus resulting in a decline of the resistance’s assaults.

6. By allowing an increase in the number of countries and elements supporting the occupation or at least allowing to become neutral in their stand toward us in contrast to their previous stand or refusal of the occupation.

7. By taking advantage of the resistance’s mistakes and magnifying them in order to misinform.

Read the whole thing. You’ll have to, since you’re not likely to read or hear much about it in major media reports.

The Dog That Didn’t Bark

June 15th, 2006 - 6:27 am

Here’s an interesting NY Times story about how people in their 20′s and 30′s are abandoning upstate New York for locales South and West:

In almost every place upstate, emigration rates were highest among college graduates, producing a brain drain, according to separate analyses of census results for The New York Times by two demographers, William Frey of the Brookings Institution and Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College of the City University of New York. Among the nation’s large metropolitan areas, Professor Frey said, Buffalo and Rochester had the highest rates of what he called “bright flight.”

Irwin L. Davis, president of the Metropolitan Development Association in Syracuse, which promotes economic growth in central New York, said, “We’re educating them and they’re leaving.”

And Gary D. Keith, vice president and regional economist for M & T Bank, said, “Sluggish job growth is the biggest driver of out-migration among young upstate adults.”

The decline in the 1990′s in the population ages 18 to 44 of the 52-county upstate region was “chilling,” he said.

“When the jobs don’t grow, the people go,” Mr. Keith said.

More interesting, however, is what the Times can’t bring itself to say in the story: there isn’t a single mention of New York’s high taxes and rampant government regulatory regimes, or the relative lack therof in the (er, “red”) Sun Belt states. Was it just too much trouble for the Times to admit that jobs (and thus people) are leaving for places that are more ameniable to, you know, employers?

Apparently so. Like Old Europe, America’s high-tax, high-regulation states are literally pricing themselves out of the job market–and they’re losing population as a result. Pity the “newspaper of record” can’t bring itself to say so.

Breaking

June 13th, 2006 - 7:28 am

Dubya is in Baghdad:

President Bush made a surprise visit to Iraq on Tuesday to meet newly named Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and discuss the next steps in the troubled, three-year-old war.

It was a dramatic move by Bush, traveling to violence-rattled Baghdad less than a week after the death of terror chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a bombing attack. The president was expected to be in Baghdad a little more than five hours.

Is it just me, or is the AP’s Terence Hunt going considerably out of his way to accentuate the negative in his story?

Fitzmas Cancelled

June 13th, 2006 - 4:48 am

From Byron York:

Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has informed Karl Rove that Rove will not face indictment in the CIA leak investigation, National Review Online has learned. Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, released the following statement moments ago:

On June 12, 2006, Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald formally advised us that he does not anticipate seeking charges against Karl Rove.

In deference to the pending case, we will not make any further public statements about the subject matter of the investigation. We believe that the Special Counsel’s decision should put an end to the baseless speculation about Mr. Rove

Z-Man Go Boom

June 8th, 2006 - 4:39 am

As you’ve probably heard already, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been blown up real good by a U.S. air strike. I imagine the murderous son of a bitch was rather surprised when there weren’t any virgins waiting for him at his final destination.

Needless to say, his passing leaves the world no poorer. Rest in pieces.

UPDATE: I’ve been told Maj. Gen. Caldwell just announced that after Zarqawi’s death was confirmed, US and Iraqi forces raided 17 sites which had been under surveilance, resulting in an intelligence ‘treasure trove.’ Smash confirms; I’m assuming he saw the statement on TV. I’ll put up a link when one’s available.

UPDATE UPDATE: Here’s the link. From the story:

Caldwell said they had been focusing on al-Rahman for about a month-and-a-half.

Once they confirmed al-Zarqawi’s death, coalition forces launched 17 simultaneous raids in and around Baghdad.

Caldwell said the coalition identified the targets during the search, but did not raid them sooner because they were focused on al-Zarqawi.

“In those 17 raids last night, a tremendous amount of information and intelligence was collected and is presently being exploited and utilized for further use,” he said. “I mean, it was a treasure trove; no question.”

As far as the situation on the ground is concerned, these raids might be a bigger deal in the long term than planting the Z-Man. The coalition forces should now have a blueprint, complete with names and addresses, of the entire al-Qaeda operation in Iraq and possibly elsewhere.

It’s a good day.

Needed: A New Boogeyman

June 7th, 2006 - 6:11 am

For the last couple of years, leftie editorialists at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and local alt-weekly Creative Loafing have been tossing out dire predictions that Roy Moore, the deposed former Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court, was, ‘the likely next governor’ of the neighboring state. Moore’s supposedly-certain victory was oft-hailed as the harbinger of a coming “theocracy” from sea to shining sea–and of course, proof that anybody employed by even a free newspaper was by definition smarter and more sensible than those redneck boobs over in “Alabamistan.”

I can only guess that they weren’t quite smart enough to read the polling numbers, since Moore never got within even low double-digits of the uninspiring incumbent, Bob Riley. Riley destroyed Moore in yesterday’s Republican primary, winning by a two-to-one margin.

As a native of Alabama living in metro Atlanta, I can’t help but grin at the outcome. Moore’s political career is dead, and the clouds of Smug over the AJC and CL are notably deflated. What’s not to love?