Saturday, April 29, 2006

Not Banned by the Post-Dispatch 

I was so excited to see the Republican Senate proposal to give every American $100 dollars to offset the rise in gasoline prices. Three things sprang to mind.

* We are pathetic to be bought offî for a measly $100.

* I am taking my $100 and buying lottery tickets, and all patriotic Americans should do the same (think of the revenue for our schools).

* Why not provide us with an equivalent in oil company stocks? Wouldn't that fit in the capitalistic mode better then a "welfare" give-a-way of tax dollars.

Lastly, I was so pleased to see our Missouri senators' "leadership" qualities highlighted in TheNew York Times. Senator Kit Bond made the paper twice with his misguided denial of pollution control devices on lawnmower engines and Senator Jim Talent was quoted praising the buy-out I refer to above.

John Montre
University City, Mo.

Rove Indictment Imminent 

Truthout, April 28:

by Jason Leopold

Despite vehement denials by his attorney, who said this week that Karl Rove is neither a "target" nor in danger of being indicted in the CIA leak case, the special counsel leading the investigation has already written up charges against Rove, and a grand jury is expected to vote on whether to indict the Deputy White House Chief of Staff sometime next week, sources knowledgeable about the probe said Friday afternoon. ...

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Ward Committees as Cash Cows 

Public Defender (St. Louis), April 29:

by Antonio French

State law places limits on how much an individual can give to a candidate's committee. It is also a crime to attempt to hide the source of a contribution by funneling it through a middle man. But a story published yesterday in the Southeast Missourian highlights the creative ways political campaigns use to raise cash -- expecially when it comes to local party committees like the ward organizations which exist in every St. Louis City ward.

Prior to 1994, local party committees were a backwater of Missouri politics, established by law but with few duties except to pick new candidates when a ballot vacancy occurred as a result of death or withdrawal. But when a law limiting campaign donations took effect, the importance of local party committees was magnified by a provision allowing them to become a source of large contributions. ...

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Friday, April 28, 2006

Living With War 

Listen to Neil Young's new CD, Living With War.

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Thursday, April 27, 2006

More Stinky Than River Des Peres 

The Limited Probe of former Metropolitan Sewer District general counsel Charles E. Polk Jr.'s Dealings Has Allowed His Cronies Off the Hook, says sewer district critic Tom Sullivan

by Tom Sullivan

An editorial in today's Post-Dispatch, "Is that all there is?, concerns the recent guilty plea by former MSD general counsel Charles E. Polk, Jr. to two felony charges. (The text of the editorial follows.) Polk had been indicted on a total of 23 counts. The other charges will be dropped as part of the plea.

The editorial asks a good question. Polk hardly acted alone. But the question could be directed to Post-Dispatch news editors as much as federal prosecutors. Is there anything that prevents them from investigating the matter further?

Questions could also be asked as to why state Auditor Claire McCaskill did not catch any of the crooked activity when she audited the sewer district a few years ago. And why didn't MSD's outside auditors at the time -- the sleazy KPMG accounting firm -- catch any of what was going on?

The probable answer:it was in their best interests not to. McCaskill had visions of higher office and may not have wanted to upset all the politicians that Polk was connected to. KPMG may have figured that digging too deep might have meant no repeat business.

(KPMG has since been hired as MSD's internal auditor, though last year the firm pled guilty to criminally engaging in fraud that cost the U.S. government about $2.5 billion. Numerous KPMG executives have been indicted. This isn't the only trouble the firm has been in.)

The Polk matter is actually pretty small potatos compared to all the other crooked things that were going on at MSD. The $45,000 that Polk pled guilty to defrauding MSD of is almost comical. By MSD standards, it wouldn't qualify as pocket change. After all, he was paid $1.8 million in just 14 months. His predecessor, who was fired to make way for Polk, was paid around $125,000 a year.

As bad as things were at MSD then – with some crooked board members, a crooked executive director and a crooked general counsel, along with many others who went along with the program – they are just about as bad now. In some ways they are worse. There isn't the outright crooked activity but the place is certainly corrupt.

Last summer, nearly $50 million of no-bid consulting contracts were approved by the board at just one meeting. Less than $10 million was approved for sewer improvements. A Post editorial writer was in attendance but no Post reporter. The editorial page scooped the news department.

Last week, there was an article in the Post titled "MSD follows through on vow to customers." After all the outlandish spending on questionable consulting contracts, MSD officials are spending a lot of money with advertisements and letters to customers claiming to have found religion. They are promising to actually start spending more money on sewer improvements! And they approved $4.3 million at last week's meeting for sewer projects! Can ya stand it?

The reporter on the story was Phil Sutin. It can't be remembered the last time he even attended an MSD board meeting. He was the reporter asleep at the switch when all the crooked things were going on at MSD. No matter how many times things were brought to his attention, he did nothing. But when they want a puff piece at MSD, they know who to go to.

The editorial says Willie Horton was fired in 2003. More precisely, his contract was not renewed. The crooks on the board would gladly have extended it. But the three St. Louis County trustees at the time showed some courage and refused to go along.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 27:

Is that all there is?

In September of 2002, an internal auditor for the Metropolitan Sewer District named Terry Follmer made a phone call to the FBI. As a result, on Monday in U.S. District Court here, lawyer Charles E. Polk Jr. pleaded guilty to two felony charges stemming from his work as outside counsel to MSD.

Somewhere a band was playing an old song by Miss Peggy Lee: "Is that all there is?"

Perhaps so, which is probably a relief to a lot of people. Polk, 45, of St. Charles, pled guilty to tax evasion and interstate transportation of stolen money obtained by fraud. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Reap said the plea wraps up the case. Given the way MSD used to operate, we thought there might be more to come.

Then again, perhaps there will be.

"Come to the (Aug. 31) sentencing hearing," said Scott Rosenblum, Polk's attorney. Mr. Rosenblum would not elaborate.

Polk was facing trial May 8 on 23 felony counts and he pleaded guilty to two. Although federal sentencing guidelines say he could face as much as 15 years in prison on the two counts, the plea agreement says the government expects him to get 37 to 46 months when he is sentenced in August.

Charles Polk didn't hire himself at MSD, which had a well-deserved reputation as a playground for politicians and their cronies. He was hired in November 1999 by former MSD Executive Director Willie Horton. Mr. Horton was later fired in a dispute over unpaid bills and the hiring of outside contractors, one of whom was Mr. Polk.

After he was hired, MSD's legal bills immediately skyrocketed to $1.8 million over 14 months in 2000 and early 2001. In 2002, As Mr. Follmer, MSD's internal auditor, was trying to track what all that money had been spent on, he said he was ordered to "cease and desist" by Carolyn Seward, then chairperson of the MSD board.

Ms. Seward and Polk were both supporters of former St. Louis Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr., who had appointed her to the MSD board. Some of the money that MSD paid to Polk wound up in the accounts of politically-connected contractors, including lawyer Douglas Dowd and PR executive Michelle Clay, the sister of U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay Jr., D-St. Louis.

In March of 2003, six months after Mr. Horton was fired and after the Post-Dispatch had disclosed the controversy, Mayor Francis Slay and the late St. Louis County Executive George R. "Buzz" Westfall replaced most of the MSD trustees. A new era of openness was pledged.

Polk pled guilty to only one MSD-related count -- keeping $45,190 that MSD had overpaid his law firm. What did MSD get in return for the rest of the $1.8 million it paid to Polk? And why was he hired in the first place? And why was he being protected so strenuously?

Charles Polk had friends in high places, both Democrats like former Mayor Bosley and Michelle Clay, and Republicans like former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft. His wife, Cheryl Polk, is the chief operating officer of the United Way of Greater St. Louis. He was once in the same law firm as Catherine Hanaway, and contributed money to her campaigns when she was Speaker of the Missouri House. She is now the U.S. attorney, but sat out the case against Polk.

Maybe Charles Polk really did hatch this scheme all by himself. Maybe guilty pleas on two of 23 counts is really all there is. But we wouldn't miss the sentencing hearing for all the beer on Pestalozzi Street.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Control of History 

National Security Archive, Feb. 21:

The CIA and other federal agencies have secretly reclassified over 55,000 pages of records taken from the open shelves at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), according to a report published today on the World Wide Web by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Matthew Aid, author of the report and a visiting fellow at the Archive, discovered this secret program through his wide-ranging research in intelligence, military, and diplomatic records at NARA and found that the CIA and military agencies have reviewed millions of pages at an unknown cost to taxpayers in order to sequester documents from collections that had been open for years.

The briefing book that the Archive published today includes 50 year old documents that CIA had impounded at NARA but which have already been published in the State Department's historical series, Foreign Relations of the United States, or have been declassified elsewhere. These documents concern such innocuous matters as the State Department's map and foreign periodicals procurement programs on behalf of the U.S. intelligence community or the State Department's open source intelligence research efforts during 1948.

Other documents have apparently been sequestered because they were embarrassing, such as a complaint from the Director of Central Intelligence about the bad publicity the CIA was receiving from its failure to predict anti-American riots in Bogota, Colombia in 1948 or a report that the CIA and the rest of the U.S. intelligence community badly botched their estimates as to whether or not Communist China would intervene in the Korean War in the fall of 1950. It is difficult to imagine how the documents cited by Aid could cause any harm to U.S. national security.

To justify their reclassification program, officials at CIA and military agencies have argued that during the implementation of Executive Order 12958, President Clinton's program for bulk declassification of historical federal records, many sensitive intelligence-related documents that remained classified were inadvertently released at NARA, especially in State Department files. Even though researchers had been combing through and copying documents from those collections for years, CIA and other agencies compelled NARA to grant them access to the open files so they could reclassify documents. While this reclassification activity began late in the 1990s, its scope widened during the Bush administration, and it is scheduled to continue until 2007. The CIA has ignored arguments from NARA officials that some of the impounded documents have already been published. ...

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Move Afoot in Illinois to Impeach Bush 

Oped News, April 22:

Bush Impeachment - The Illinois State Legislature is Preparing to Drop a Bombshell; Utilizing a little known rule of the US House to bring Impeachment charges

by Steven Leser

The Illinois General Assembly is about to rock the nation. Members of state legislatures are normally not considered as having the ability to decide issues with a massive impact to the nation as a whole. Representative Karen A. Yarbrough of Illinois' 7th District is about to shatter that perception forever. Representative Yarbrough stumbled on a little known and never utlitized rule of the US House of Representatives, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of the United States House of Representatives, which allows federal impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of a state legislature. From there, Illinois House Joint Resolution 125 (hereafter to be referred to as HJR0125) was born.

Detailing five specific charges against President Bush including one that is specified to be a felony, the complete text of HJR0125 is copied below at the end of this article. One of the interesting points is that one of the items, the one specified as a felony, that the NSA was directed by the President to spy on American citizens without warrant, is not in
dispute. That fact should prove an interesting dilemma for a Republican controlled US House that clearly is not only loathe to initiate impeachment proceedings, but does not even want to thoroughly investigate any of the five items brought up by the Illinois Assembly as high crimes and/or misdemeanors.

Should HJR0125 be passed by the Illinois General Assembly, the US House will be forced by House Rules to take up the issue of impeachment as a privileged bill, meaning it will take precedence over other House business. The Illinois General Assembly joins a growing chorus of voices calling for censure or impeachment of President Bush including Democratic state committees in Vermont, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Nevada and North Carolina as well as the residents themselves of seven towns in Vermont, seventy Vermont state legislators and Congressman John Conyers.

The call for impeachment is starting togrow well beyond what could be considered a fringe movement. An ABC News/Washington Post Poll Conducted April 6-9 showed that 33% of Americans currently support Impeaching President Bush, coincidentally, only a similar amount supported impeaching Nixon at the start of the Watergate investigation.

If and when Illinois HJR0125 hits the capitol and the individual charges are publicly investigated, that number is likely to grow rapidly. Combined with the very real likelihood that Rove is about to be indicted in the LeakGate investigation, and Bush is in real trouble beyond his plummeting poll numbers. His cronies in the Republican dominated congress will probably save him from the embarassment of an impeachment conviction, for now, but his Presidency will be all but finished. Developing News; California Becomes Second State to Introduce Bush Impeachment

HJ0125 LRB094 20306 RLC 58347 r


2 WHEREAS, Section 603 of Jefferson's Manual of the Rules of
3 the United States House of Representatives allows federal
4 impeachment proceedings to be initiated by joint resolution of
5 a state legislature; and

6 WHEREAS, President Bush has publicly admitted to ordering
7 the National Security Agency to violate provisions of the 1978
8 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a felony, specifically
9 authorizing the Agency to spy on American citizens without
10 warrant; and

11 WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that President Bush authorized
12 violation of the Torture Convention of the Geneva Conventions,
13 a treaty regarded a supreme law by the United States
14 Constitution; and

15 WHEREAS, The Bush Administration has held American
16 citizens and citizens of other nations as prisoners of war
17 without charge or trial; and

18 WHEREAS, Evidence suggests that the Bush Administration
19 has manipulated intelligence for the purpose of initiating a
20 war against the sovereign nation of Iraq, resulting in the
21 deaths of large numbers of Iraqi civilians and causing the
22 United States to incur loss of life, diminished security and
23 billions of dollars in unnecessary expenses; and

24 WHEREAS, The Bush Administration leaked classified
25 national secrets to further a political agenda, exposing an
26 unknown number of covert U. S. intelligence agents to potential
27 harm and retribution while simultaneously refusing to
28 investigate the matter; and

29 WHEREAS, The Republican-controlled Congress has declined

HJ0125 - 2 - LRB094 20306 RLC 58347 r

1 to fully investigate these charges to date; therefore, be it

4 SENATE CONCURRING HEREIN, that the General Assembly of the
5 State of Illinois has good cause to submit charges to the U. S.
6 House of Representatives under Section 603 that the President
7 of the United States has willfully violated his Oath of Office
8 to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United
9 States; and be it further

10 RESOLVED, That George W. Bush, if found guilty of the
11 charges contained herein, should be removed from office and
12 disqualified to hold any other office in the United States.

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