Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Another long-time senator in the hot-seat

Today’s breaking news included the indictment of Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens on criminal charges “related to improper disclosure of gifts and services valued at more than $250,000 in his home state,” according to MarketWatch and MSNBC.

Talk about the withholding of information: A federal investigation of public corruption is being run by the FBI, the IRS and the U.S. Justice Department’s public Integrity Section in Alaska. It has trudged on for more than four years and only became public on 2006.

The politically active Veco Corporation is an oil field services and engineering company that operates mostly in Alaska. The company received over $170 million in federal contracts during Ted Stevens Appropriations Committee chairmanship and when he chaired the Commerce Committee.

U.S. Sen. Stevens is the most senior Senate Republican in history. He holds chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee, and is the ranking Republican on the Commerce Committee and on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee.

Stevens created the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board in 2003, boosting the North Pacific fishing industry. His son, Ben Stevens served as chairman of the board until last year, awarding millions in grants to his own clients.

The Alaska Sea Life Center was built in part with settlement money from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and run with Ted Steven’s federal financial support. Investigators are examining its purchase at a price considerably above its assessment.

In case you haven’t heard the intricacies (because they weren’t being reported on major news stations), here is the laundry list:
Former Alaska House Speaker, Pete Kott of Eagle river was convicted last year of bribery, extortion and conspiracy for selling influence to executives of the oil services and construction firm Veco Corp. to do their bidding during debate on oil taxes during 2006. He was sentenced to six years in prison with three years probation and fined $10,000.

Former State Rep. and former chairman of the Special Committee on Oil and Gas, Vic Kohring of Wasilla was convicted last year of bribery, conspiracy and attempted extortion. He was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison.

Former State Rep. Tom Anderson of Anchorage, convicted on seven felony charges including bribery, conspiracy and money laundering, was sentenced to five years in prison last year.

Veco CEO and Alaskan political broker, Bill Allen is considered the central figure in most of the corruption cases. He pleaded guilty last year to bribery and conspiracy for his dealings with four legislators: former Reps. Pete Kott, Bruce Weyhrauch and Vic Kohring, and former Sen. Ben Stevens. In 2000, he chaired George W. Bush's Alaska presidential campaign.
Veco vice president, Rick Smith admitted to making more than $400,000 in payoffs to elected officials, including an illegal campaign-contribution scheme involving Veco.

Lobbyist, Bill Bobrick pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and bribing charges. He was sentenced to five months in jail, five months under house arrest, two years probation and 800 hours of community service.

Lobbyist and attorney, Jim Clark pleaded guilty to conspiracy - admitting to working with Veco officials. His sentencing has been delayed until September.

Former State Rep. Bruce Weyhraiuch of Juneau is charged with bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud and of switching his vote on the oil tax. He pleaded not guilty. No trial date is scheduled.

State Sen. And member of Alaskan Legislature, John Cowdery was indicted this month on conspiracy and bribery charges. He is accused of conspiring with Veco Corp. executives to buy the oil tax vote. He appears in court Aug. 11.

U.S. Rep. and Alaska’s only U.S. representative since 1973, Don Young has been reported to be under investigation since last year. He has not been charged.

Former State Senator and Senator Ted Stevens son, Ben Stevens has not been charged.

Former state corrections commissioner, Frank Prewitt was being investigated by the FBI in 2004. He has not been charged.

Former legislative director to Ted Stevens, Trevor McCabe is being investigated currently. He has not been charged.

Wow. What a list.

Monday, July 28, 2008

House Measure Seeks Ban on Iranian TV

Legislative talks are underway about the possible banning of several Iranian television channels in the U.S., including news network, Press TV. The House Resolution wants to label the channels: “Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” Gus Bilirakis blames the broadcast for the “incitement to violence” against the America. Maybe we ought to be more concerned with our on government controlling what we watch. The banning any TV networks becomes a serious constitutional threat.

Surprisingly, the House voted to ban Pentagon propaganda on TV— now since the networks haven’t done the greatest job of covering the real story. The 2009 defense policy bill passed with an amendment that makes it illegal for the Department of Defense to participate in “a concerted effort to propagandize” the American people. Investigations by the Government Accountability Office will work to uncover efforts to plant positive news stories about the war in the U.S. media.
About three years ago the New York Times uncovered several federal agencies who were producing fake “video news releases” that local television stations aired as if the news reports were the real deal – so this isn’t exactly the first time in recent history that the government has been caught lying.

The Pentagon refined and coached former military officers who became regulars on none other than Fox News; but also CNN and even NPR. The Bush administration’s gross manipulation of the media has pundits receiving lucrative PR contracts to voice in favor the administration’s policies. For example, Armstrong Williams was contracted to promote the No Child Left Behind Act for a payment of $240,000 from the Department of Education.
TV newsroom producers and executives decide who gets on TV. Mainstream America’s dissenting voices often left unheard, as are public interest advocates and government policy critics.

Olympic Games’ Integrity in Question

With several controversial topics about how the International Olympic Committee is handling the upcoming games, the Committee is more PR-minded than ever. One object of contention is the banning of the Iraqi team from next month’s Summer Games in Beijing. Olympic officials declare that the Iraqi government broke the rules when it disbanded its Olympic Committee earlier this year. The disappointed Iraq’s Hussein al-Amidi criticized the Olympic decision.

DemocracyNow.org quotes Hussein al-Amidi:
"We consider this day as a black day in the history of Iraqi sport. It is a black day, as it terminates all the aspirations of the Iraqi athletes and their hopes to achieve personal records, Iraqi records and records for their national unions. All these hopes have come to an end this day, because of this decision, which is done, not by Iraqi hands, but by foreign hands."
There are other questions about integrity. The Olympics Games is also under fire for allegedly allowing teams to buy their way in. BBC News investigates concerns that a Japanese cycling sport may have purchased their own placement, thereby leaving citizens around the world leery – as if separatist threats potentially carried out in China hadn’t placed enough stress on the Games this year. Yet for years, there have been rumors about the Japanese giving money to the UCI in return for its promotion of “keirin” as an Olympic event. The International Olympic Committee denies these allegations.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Exxon gets a slap on the wrist for Valdez crimes.

An oil spill that cost approximately $5 billion worth of damage and the rape of children was swept under the rug for a total cost of about $500 million.

The NY Times said that the U.S. Supreme court determined that Exxon would shell out $507.5 million of the $5 billion in punitive damages initially awarded to victims of the oil spill in ‘89, and that child rapists should not be sentenced to death if their crime "did not result, and was not intended to result, in the victim's death." The child rape was also picked up by Harper’s Weekly who reported that McCain and Obama were both discussing ways to make these rapes of children punishable by death.

The ruling also argued that it was not in the interest of a child rape victim to be dragged into a capital case as the complaining witness, and to expect a child to spend possibly years, “trying to help the state put someone to death,” Justice Kennedy warned. The rapists are protected by the Eighth Amendment.

“The problem with the rule is not that it is judge-made, but rather that it subverts the purpose of punitive damages, which have a venerable place in the law. They are meant to punish and deter. A $500 million award for what the appeals court called “egregious” conduct, against a company that earned more than $40 billion last year, is unlikely to do either.”

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela

Symbol of peace, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for crimes against Apartheid. He was freed in 1990. In 2008, he is listed as a terrorist in the United States.
USA Today reported that it is common practice to list African National Congress on the terrorist- watch list, but Condoleezza Rice has her department issue waivers for ANC members to travel to the states.

Rice says:
“This is a country with which we now have excellent relations, South Africa, but it’s frankly a rather embarrassing matter that I still have to waive in my own counterpart, the foreign minister of South Africa, not to mention the great leader Nelson Mandela.”
When any ANC members apply for visas they are flagged for questioning, needing a waiver for entry to the U.S.

Michael Chertoff, the secretary of Homeland Security used the words "common sense" to describe why Mandela should be removed. Clearly, Mandela poses no threat.
He says, "[It] raises a troubling and difficult debate about what groups are considered terrorists and which are not."
As recent as 2007 South Africa’s ambassador Barbara Masekela, was denied a visa when she came to the United States to visit a dying cousin. She was denied entry and couldn’t get the waiver until after her cousin died. Berman's legislation says.

The Richmond Free Press reports that Mandela has now been removed from the list, but it is still unclear whether the other ANC members have been removed. Nelson just celebrated his 90th birthday in London with a party attended by a wave of celebrities. He turns 90 on July 18.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Townhall magazine reflects on the Obamessiah

Just for fun, I subscribed to the conservative magazine, Townhall, after stumbling upon the affiliated web site, Townhall.com.

Last year I went there fishing for a quote from Townhall.com's columnist, James Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick is best known for his debates on
60 minutes, but he was also editor for the Richmond News-Leader, an afternoon paper that eventually merged with the Times Dispatch. In 1964 he began writing the column, "A Conservative View." Today, he is a self-proclaimed recovering segregationist.

Back then I was curious about why he never commented on the
Emmett Till case while serving as editor at the News-Leader - while editors everywhere else had engaged themselves in the conversation.

After all, Till's murder initiated the wave of the Civil Rights movement, and the national media got heavily involved. In fact, I was so sure that there was a comment on Till somewhere in the News-Leader, I went to the library to search for it. I started at the Richmond Library. Get this - Their civil rights news clippings only date back to the 70s. I know, it's crazy, right? So off to the Library of Virginia I went, spending endless hours looking at microfische, searching through Kilpatrick's editorials. I found nothing. It makes me wonder if conservatives ever flinch.

FYI - If you want access to good information on civil rights cases, you'll have to visit the
Library of America.

The reason that this is interesting today, is because the dead end search lead me to an article in this July's edition of Townhall Magazine. Admittedly, I do not read conservative magazines or blogs for fun. But after coding conservative weblogs for hours in grad school, now it doesn't hurt so bad. I am treating this task as my journalistic duty.

Ok. Here is what I found.

Patrick Ruffini's article, on "Digital Democracy."

The article is about Obama, and how he uses the internet as a safety blanket. Ruffini says that because of Obama's lean on the internet, he is out of touch with Americans. What?!?!?

"Perhaps the most consequential force in shielding Obama from political reality has been his massive online base - 1.5 million donors, and more than 1 million volunteers - who will part with millions of their hard-earned dollars should someone so much as sneeze in Obama's direction. When Obama decried "bitter" rural Americans who cling to guns or religion," he also failed to act swiftly to contain the brewing media storm."

A paragraph later he states:

"The problem with Obama using his internet supporters as his focus group is that he completely loses sight of the general electorate that is dominated by voters largely immune to the charms of the Obamessiah."

And a paragraph later:

"Obama's machine could be an unstoppable force if they'd quit using
grassroots as a protective cocoon and start facing up to the realities of a
candidate out of touch with ordinary Americans."

The last time I checked, what we call "the online base" is a large group of living, breathing human beings. Is that not reality? If living, breathing human beings are parting with their hard earned money for Obama, that means those Americans support him, right? Do they not live in reality? What is he really trying to say here?

Yet, he did mention that Obama's lack of apologies is not going over well with blue collar Americans. My question to that is, why do non-blue collars always underestimate the blue collars' intelligence? and why are we Still calling them blue collars? Call to Pundits: Please come up with a better name than blue collar. I'll be thinking too.

It sounds like he is saying that liberals do not live in reality and technology that is used by the majority of Americans is somehow meaningless. Wow. Gimme a double What-What?!?!?

And who ever said that grassroots supporters were a focus group? Focus groups are not that large, btw. Just ask my professor.

This excerpt by Ruffini, is a great example of irrresponsible reporting. Ruffini, you are so busted.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Bulldozers Flush Families From Dove Court

As the RRHA moves its revitalization project in, Dove Court residents have to move out and find a new place to live before the end of this summer. Interested in knowing more?

Read local news by yours truly - at Richmond.com

Leave your opinions here or there, or both!