Archive for June, 2006

Dirty Don Goes Down

June 29, 2006

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 28, 2006

A poster to the 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…


June 26, 2006

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.


June 26, 2006

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.


June 26, 2006

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 23, 2006

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.


June 23, 2006

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 — I’m getting this from the indictment — he was building an “Islamic army.”

Would it be culturally insensitive of me to remind CAIR that denial is not a river in Egypt?

Good Riddance

June 23, 2006

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 22, 2006

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- (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.


June 21, 2006

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.