Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sen. Allen Urged to "Hang Up Phone" on Prosser

A spokesperson for Jim Webb, Democratic senatorial candidate from Virginia, has urged Republican Senator George Allen to return substantial campaign donations he received from Jeffrey and Dawn Prosser of the Virgin Islands. Prosser, who filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month, has been described as a "world-class phone sex operator" after making his fortune in off-shore phone sex traffic to Guayana. For the 2006 election, the Prossers have donated $8,400 to Allen's campaign.

Kristian Denny Todd, a spokesperson for Jim Webb, said:

George Allen yet again shows that his so-called ‘values’ are flexible when it comes to making a buck. If George Allen is so committed to his principles then he should hang up the phone on Prosser and return every penny that was contributed.

Senator Allen has received more money from the Prossers than any other candidate in this year's election, although Rep. Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC raked in $10,000. Blunt's campaign has refused to refund the money.

At least one beneficiary of the Prossers' campaign donations, Rep. Jerry Weller of Illinois, is known to have written a letter to the prime minister of Belize and delivered it personally on Prosser's behalf.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Jim Talent Hypocrisy Alert

Fired Up Missouri has filed a hypocrisy alert for Missouri's Christian conservative senator, Jim Talent:

Long, long ago, when Jim Talent first headed off to Washington, he ran as a Chrisitian Conservative. So, I'm sure that his friends over at The Pathway will be shocked to learn that his campaign is now being bankrolled to the tune of nearly $250,000 by beer, liquor and wine interests.

YouTube video at the Fired Up! website:

YouTube video (1:15)

Fired Up! has also reported on Talent's acceptance of phone sex money for his campaign.

After reviewing FEC records, Fired Up! has now learned that Senator Jim Talent has also apparently been spending some phone time with the Prossers. Last June, Prosser, who has been referred to in the media as a world-class phone-sex operator, and his wife, gave Talent's campaign $4,200.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Investigation: Rep. Jerry Weller Pressured Belize on Prosser's Behalf

On August 19, we reported on the financial misfortunes of Republican sugar daddy Jeffrey Prosser, dubbed a "world-class phone-sex operator" by the Columbia Journalism Review in 1998. Prosser and his companies filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month. His personal debts are estimated at $200 million.

Of the many Republicans who receive campaign donations from Prosser and his wife Dawn, at least one is known to have acted on his behalf. Jerry Weller, a Republican from Illinois who received $4,200 from the Prossers for this campaign season, wrote a letter for Prosser to the prime minister of Belize and visited the Caribbean nation on Prosser's behalf in 2005.

According to a Prosser company (International Communication Company, ICC) website:

In a letter to Prime Minister Musa, Weller, vice chair of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House Committee on International Relations, wrote that "aside from the clearly illegal and costly actions the government has taken against this company, there is important precedent that is set by this case.

According to The Hill:

Weller, who is vice chairman of the International Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, personally delivered his letter to the prime minister of Belize.

The letters refer to a legal dispute between Prosser and the government of Belize. Prosser negotiated the purchase of the Belizean telecommunications company (BTL) for $57 million in 2004. The acquisition was apparently financed by the sale of preferred stock in another Prosser company, Vitelco - the Virgin Islands telephone company, without shareholder consent.

Vitelco loaned Prosser's wholly-owned company, ICC, money to make the first payment of $28 million to Belize, but the Virgin Islands public service commission blocked further loans from Vitelco to ICC, and Prosser was unable to make further payments. At that point, the Belize government tried to seize Prosser's shares in the phone company in February 2005, prompting the outraged letter from Jerry Weller.

Weller's letter was reportedly sent on April 1, 2005. He received a $2,100 donation from Prosser on June 30 that same year, and Prosser's wife donated an additional $2,100 in September.

On January 24 this year, two Belize TV stations reported that Prosser had defaulted on a loan from the Royal Bank of Trinidad and Tobago (RBTT), losing all of his shares in BTL, which had been pledged as security for the loan.

Prosser is also engaged in a long-standing dispute with the Rural Telephone Finance Cooperative, based in Virginia. For this campaign season he and his wife have donated $8,400 to Senator George Allen's reelection campaign. Allen is the single largest individual recipient of Prosser campaign donations.

Amnesty International Blasts Israel for War Crimes

Yesterday, Amnesty International released a report entitled "Deliberate destruction or 'collateral damage'? Israeli attacks against civilian infrastructure." The report documents Israeli destruction of hospitals, supermarkets, homes, highways, bridges, power stations, ports and numerous other civilian targets in Lebanon. According to Kate Gilmore, Executive Deputy Secretary General of Amnesty International:

Israel’s assertion that the attacks on the infrastructure were lawful is manifestly wrong. Many of the violations identified in our report are war crimes, including indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks. The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of power and water plants, as well as the transport infrastructure vital for food and other humanitarian relief, was deliberate and an integral part of a military strategy.

Amnesty is urging a complete investigation of both Israeli and Hezbollah war crimes by the United Nations.

Watch an Amnesty International video about the destruction of Lebanese civilian infrastructure here.

Dean: Bush is the "Small Man Behind the Curtain"

Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said he believes Katrina effectively marked the end of the Bush presidency.

I think that the response to Katrina was effectively the end of the president's presidency in the sense that people all of a sudden saw the small man behind the curtain. People in America and throughout the rest of the world for a long time have believed that Americans can fix anything, that we're better organized and can manage better than anybody and that when something really awful happens, call on the Americans. For the first time in our lifetimes and the world's lifetime since World War II, since before World War II, we suddenly saw an American president just descend into failure. I don't think he's ever recovered from that.

YouTube video (4:31)

The Daily Show on Racism in Politics

The Daily Show's "Senior Black Correspondent," Larry Wilmore, says recent racist comments from U.S. politicians are lame.

Racism today is in sorry shape and we need it more than ever, especially since 911. There are people out there who mean us harm and I believe that we, black and white, can come together and focus our racism on them.

YouTube video (4:58)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

More Kool-Aid, Rick?

Even Bush knows it's futile to lie about Iraqi WMDs or involvement in 911 anymore. "Tricky Rick" Santorum (who heads up the corrupt Republican K-Street lobbying project and who wants Americans to pay for their weather forecasts) apparently didn't get the memo.

YouTube video (0:22)

Amy Goodman talks to S.R. Sidarth

(Democracy Now!, August 22)

In an August 22 interview with Amy Goodman, S.R. Sidarth speaks of feeling humiliated when Senator Allen called him "macaca" and "somewhat appalled that someone like a senator of the United States would say that. "

From the interview transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: There have been a lot of postings about this, articles and blogs, one of them I’m looking at, which says, “George Allen stepped in macaca. Pop quiz: which one of these two people was born and raised in Virginia?” And there’s a photograph of George Allen and of you. And it says, “That's right. It’s not our elected official, who was born in Whittier, California. It’s Sidarth, who Allen referred to as ‘Macaca or whatever his name is.’ The senator then went on to say, ‘Welcome to America.’ Perhaps realizing that he had crossed a line, Allen added, ‘and the real world of Virginia.’ Kind of funny, since Sidarth has apparently lived nowhere else,” that blog said. Your response?

SR SIDARTH: I mean, that’s right. I think it’s ironic that he said that. Aside from just being hurtful, as this sort of reference that he was making to immigrants in general, when in fact I have lived in Fairfax County my entire life.

Democracy Now! video stream (8:45)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Senador republicano insulta a los chapines

Republican Senator Insults Guatemalans

Un senador republicano, Conrad Burns de Montana, habló recientemente de un "pequeño guatemalteco" en su empleo y pretendió desconocer si el "pequeño" trabaja legalmente en los EE.UU.

Según el informe:

Comentario de Burns sobre "hombre guatemalteco" es criticado

Por: MARY CLARE JALONICK/escritora de Associated Press
22 agosto 2006

WASHINGTON — El senador republicano, Conrad Burns, habló de su pintor de casa como un "hombrecito amable de Guatemala" y hizo la sugerencia que tanto su trabajador como otros empleados de una compañía para poner techos que contrató podrían estar ilegalmente en los EE.UU. El senador busca controles más estrictos sobre imigración hacía el pais.

Dijo Burns, "El otro día, el pequeño que trabaja en mantenimiento en nuestra casa, es de Guatemala, y lo dije, '¿Puedo ver su tarjeta verde?' Y Hugo dijo, 'No'." Los comentarios de Burns fueron grabados por Democratos en una reunión el pasado junio.

Algunos personas ven el comentario del senador Burns como racista, dado que muchos de los "pequeños" de Guatemala son de origen indígena que buscan mejores oportunidades en El Norte.

Christian Taleban Tackles Hotel Porn

A coalition of some of America's looniest religious groups has launched a campaign against hotels offering adult movies as in-room entertainment, according to the Associated Press. The groups, which include the Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America, are encouraging a federal crackdown on hotel porn, with involvement by the Justice Department and the FBI. The coalition is led by a man named Phil Burress, who describes himself as a "former porn addict" and who alleges that in-room porn makes hotels more dangerous.

"As more and more of these (hardcore) titles become available, we're going to have sexual abuse cases coming out of the hotels," he said. "Hotels are just as dangerous as environments around strip joints and porn stores."

Burress said he was "cautiously optimistic" that Justice Department officials -- whom he and other anti-porn leaders confer with periodically -- would seriously consider investigating hotel-based pornography.

Gay groups have long warned that religious extremists in the U.S. would eventually begin terrorizing heterosexuals. A recent, deadly example is fundamentalist opposition to the HPV cervical cancer vaccine.

Bonus video: Check out Mark Fiore's animation "Senator Santorum's Department of Sexual Security." It's a hoot. Who knows? That might be his new job after he loses his Senate seat.

Spike Lee Talks About Katrina Documentary

Spike Lee discusses his HBO documentary on today's "Early Show." Lee said so many people believe the levees were blown up that he had a responsibility as a film maker to let them say that on camera, while also presenting the evidence to the contrary. He asks how it is that the Royal Canadian Mounties could make it to New Orleans before the U.S. federal government.

CBS video (4:59)

Labour Hits 19-Year Low Following "Shampoo Plot" Arrests

21% Say Government Exaggerating, 20% Say It's Lying

Only 1% (yes, that's one percent) of British voters think Tony Blair's foreign policy has made them safer, according to a new poll in The Guardian. Labour's support has dwindled to 31%, the lowest number the party has registered since 1987. On the shampoo "terror plot," 21% of voters say the government is exaggerating and 20% say it's lying.

The Guardian writes of its poll:

The findings will shock many at Westminster who had expected Labour to gain ground following John Reid's high-profile handling of the alleged plot against transatlantic airlines.

Voters are switching from Labour to the Tories and the LibDems in approximately equal numbers, the poll shows.

Where is Alastair Campbell when Tony needs him? Still in rehab?

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Louisiana 1927" - Marcia Ball and the Duke Robillard Band

Spike Lee Katrina Documentary Premieres Tonight on HBO

To help set the mood for this evening's premiere of Spike Lee's documentary about Hurricane Katrina, here's a video of Marcia Ball performing Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927." Ball is a blues singer who grew up in Vinton, Louisiana, with a piano style that combines elements of zydeco, swamp blues and boogie woogie. Her rendition transforms the Newman classic into a Louisiana anthem.

Google video (6:39)

From the HBO web site:

When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

As the world watched in horror, Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans on August 29, 2005. Like many who watched the unfolding drama on television news, director Spike Lee was shocked not only by the scale of the disaster, but by the slow, inept and disorganized response of the emergency and recovery effort. Lee was moved to document this modern American tragedy, a morality play witnessed by people all around the world. The result is WHEN THE LEVEES BROKE: A REQUIEM IN FOUR ACTS. The film is structured in four acts, each dealing with a different aspect of the events that preceded and followed Katrina's catastrophic passage through New Orleans. Acts I and II premiere Monday, August 21 at 9pm (ET/PT), followed by Acts III and IV on Tuesday, August 22 at 9pm. All four acts will be seen Tuesday, Aug. 29 (8:00 p.m.-midnight), the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.

Mounting Evidence Terror "Plot" Was Exaggerated

Daily Mail: Briton in Pakistan Could Be Innocent

After two weeks of terrorism hype that neatly coincided with a pre-planned Republican PR thurst, the airlines "terror plot" uncovered in Britain appears to be unravelling. As with terrorism hoaxes in the past, the weak link is Pakistani. The Daily Mail reports:

The Briton alleged to be the ‘mastermind’ behind the airline terror plot could be innocent of any significant involvement, sources close to the investigation claim.

Rashid Rauf, whose detention in Pakistan was the trigger for the arrest of 23 suspects in Britain, has been accused of taking orders from Al Qaeda’s ‘No3’ in Afghanistan and sending money back to the UK to allow the alleged bombers to buy plane tickets.

But after two weeks of interrogation, an inch-by-inch search of his house and analysis of his home computer, officials are now saying that his extradition is ‘a way down the track’ if it happens at all.

It comes amid wider suspicions that the plot may not have been as serious, or as far advanced, as the authorities initially claimed.

Analysts suspect Pakistani authorities exaggerated Rauf’s role to appear ‘tough on terrorism’ and impress Britain and America.

Perhaps the Pakistanis want to appear tough on terrorism, or perhaps they are paid for uncovering terrorism plots on cue.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How a City in Brazil Solved Recycling, Mass Transit Problems

CBC, August 19

An interesting look at how Curitiba, a city of 1.75 million people in Brazil, increased its green space by a hundredfold, and solved recycling and mass transit problems on a shoestring budget. According to the city's former mayor, Jamie Lerner, "Creativity starts when you cut to 0 in your budget."

CBC video (4:57)

More: PBS interview with Jamie Lerner here.

Investigation: Republican Phone Sex Sugar Daddy Goes Belly Up

George Allen, Roy Blunt, Joe Lieberman Beneficiaries of Phone Sex Largesse

Jeffrey Prosser, a long-time GOP donor who made his fortune in the international phone sex business, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Virgin Islands on August 1. For the 2006 election cycle, Prosser and his wife Dawn donated $8,400 to Senator George Allen's reelection campaign and $10,000 to Rep. Roy Blunt's "Rely on Your Beliefs" PAC. They have also made large contributions to Jim Talent, Saxby Chambliss, Jerry Weller, Mitch McConnell, Dan Burton, Michael Oxley, Fred Upton, Lee Terry, Joe Barton, Christopher Bond, Frank Lucas, Kenny Hulshof, Dave Camp, Emmanuel Cleaver, Ted Stevens and Gordon Smith.

Prosser made his fortune with partner Cornelius "Neil" Prior in the 1990s, after FCC regulations banned obscene telephone conversations in the U.S. Their company, Atlantic Tele-Network (ATN), purchased the Guyana state telephone company, GT&T, and began routing phone sex traffic to the South American nation, where they were free of FCC regulations. Phone sex advertisements for Guyana often carry a 011-592 phone number, instead of a 1-900 number. Interent searches for Guyana phone sex turn up phrases such as "hot sexy gay men," "college coeds chat line," "kinky sex," "enforced feminization," and many others. A 1995 FCC document listed Guyana as one of the world's worst offenders of "dial-a-porn" services.

Following a breakup of their partnership, Prior, another Republican donor, retained ATN and its lucrative phone sex business, while Prosser assumed ownership of the Virgin Islands phone company, Vitelco, under the aegis of another Prosser company, Innovative Communication Co., LLC. Prosser was forced into bankruptcy after ICC shareholders sued him for diverting cash from the sale of ICC stock, without their consent, to purchase the Belizean telephone company, BTL. A shareholder suit alleges that "defendant ICC's conduct was outrageous, demonstrated fraudulent and evil motive and was in such conscious disregard of the rights of [the shareholders] to be deemed willful and wanton." Prosser's personal debts are estimated at $200 million, and his companies are conservatively estimated to have debts of $400 million.

For the 2006 election, Cornelius Prior, who is still the owner of ATN and GT&T's sex business, has donated $2000 each to Senators Mike Crapo and Craig Thomas, and $1400 to Senator Orrin Hatch. He donated $2000 to Senator Joe Lieberman's presidential campaign in 2003.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Fox Audience Applauds Muslim Checkpoint at Airports

A Fox News studio audience applauded right-wing, radio talk host Michael Gallagher when he advocated profiling of Muslims at airports. Gallagher, according to his web site, is the sixth most popular radio host in the United States.


It's time to have a Muslims checkpoint line in America's airports (applause) and have Muslims be scrutinized. You better believe it.

YouTube video (6:02)

NSA Wiretap Ruling

Responding to a question at a brief news conference today in Camp David, President Bush said he "stongly disagreed" with the federal court ruling. Bush tried to link the "terrorist surveillance program" with the British action to disrupt a supposed terrorist plot to down passenger aircraft. He said he expected the Justice Department's appeal to be upheld.

YouTube video (4:11)

George Washington University law professor Jonathon Turley explains the implications of the federal court ruling to Keith Olberman on MSNBC's "Countdown." Turley said, "If a court of appeals upholds this judge, it means that the president could well have committed a federal crime, not once, but thirty times. That's the difficult implication."

YouTube video (3:47)

Canadian Tories Shun AIDS Conference

Global National, August 17

Primer Minister Stephen Harper's government in Canada has postponed any announcements regarding AIDS initiatives and funding until the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto wraps up on Friday, August 18. Harper said the issue has become "too politicized" with so many AIDS activistis in town. Global National reports:

At a news briefing at the conference, interim Liberal Leader Bill Graham and B.C. MP Keith Martin slammed Harper and his government for choosing not to announce measures that would show Canada’s leadership in the battle against HIV-AIDS, both globally and at home.

“What an opportunity that’s lost,” Graham said. “I think we have to recognize that the art of politics is the art of inspiring people to say, `How do we rise above petty differences and how do we try to genuinely help people?’

“And this was an opportunity to show leadership and to genuinely help and if the money comes, great. But it would be a shame that it couldn’t be done in a way with the global community that’s here and so many young Canadians could’ve said, 'We’re proud of you.’ ”

Martin called the government’s postponement of an announcement reprehensible and appalling.

“It shows a complete lack of respect for this disease and for the people who suffer from it and for the people who work in it,” he said. “The government has been missing here. They’ve showed no presence, no plan, no money.”

YouTube video (1:45)

Thursday, August 17, 2006

"CNN: Target USA"

Jon Stewart, TDS

Stewart explores how CNN exploits the "terrorist threat," while pretending to present "facts, not fear." As one CNN commentator notes, "If you build a better mousetrap, they'll build a better mouse." CNN's intrepid reporters insert water-filled baggies and metal shields down their pants, wander onto airport runways and magically pull Gatorade bottles from the shampoo aisles at supermarkets.

YouTube video (4:41)

Meanwhile, former British ambassador Craig Murray expresses grave doubts about the latest round of arrests:

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

"Congratulations, Canada, for Allowing Dogs as House Pets"

Rick Mercer, CBC Television

In 1992, Canadian comedian Rick Mercer created a show called "This Hour has 22 Minutes," with a routine segment "Talking to Americans." This video clip is a montage of some of Mercer's funniest moments with Americans, in which they congratulate Canadians for everything from saving their National Igloo to switching to a 24-hour clock. Presidential candidate George W. Bush expresses his gratitude to the non-existent Canadian Prime Minister "Jean Poutine," and Iowa governor Tom Vilsack congratulates them on their new clocks. Absolutely hilarious.

YouTube Video (7:12)

Have the Blogs Blown Connecticut (and Sold Their Souls in the Process)?

New Poll Gives Lieberman 12-Point Edge

Today’s Quinnipiac University poll, which shows incumbent Senator Joe Lieberman leading challenger Ned Lamont in the November election, is hardly unexpected. What is surprising is the extent and depth of Lieberman's popularity. In a 3-way race running as an independent, Lieberman pulls 53% of likely voters, compared to 41% for Ned Lamont and 4% for Republican Alan Schlesinger. His poll numbers appear to have improved, perhaps dramatically, since the primary. An August 12 poll, by Rasmussen, had given Lieberman only a 5% edge.
Even worse news for Lamont: The Quinnipiac poll shows that 55% of Connecticut voters approve of the job Lieberman is doing, while Lamont has a negative 25-30% favorability rating.

The success of blogs in mounting a Democratic primary challenge to Lieberman was impressive. Against all odds, they carried a somewhat wooden, utterly inexperienced candidate to victory over a popular incumbent senator. But it is now time to face a political reality in which Lieberman, not Lamont, will win the November election with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The blogs may have set up a nightmare scenario for the Senate, with an independent Lieberman as power broker and kingmaker, willing and able to shift his alliance between Republicans and Democrats. Worse, he will have a voter mandate from his state to do so.

Having demonstrated some political acumen during the primary, the blogs astounded many observers by their obsessive coverage of Lieberman in the days following the election. His every utterance was discussed and dissected, to the extent that 80% of the posts on major liberal blogs were about Lieberman. The correct and natural move at this point would have been to exploit his image as loser, marginalizing his comments and devoting attention to Lamont. In short, the blogs behaved like political naifs, rowing upstream against a political process that naturally marginalizes losers.

Make no mistake: To an extent blogs have perhaps not yet grasped, they have put themselves on the line in Connecticut. If Lamont loses, and it appears he will lose, the blogs will also lose. They will be ignored by party officials. They will be deemed politically incompetent and ultimately irrelevant to the political process, capable of muddying the waters, but not much more.

Reader unrest is also bubbling below the surface. Having thrown their hats into the Connecticut political ring, the blogs could not tackle, for example, the delicate (for American voters) issue of Israel’s wanton decimation of Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure without putting their Connecticut candidate at risk. AmericaBlog philosophized in favor of a doctrine of collective punishment while Daily Kos washed its hands of the mess, declaring that the issues were too complex for discussion. Even Seymour Hersh's sensational article in the "New Yorker" about Washington's coordination with Israel in the Lebanese action was utterly ignored by major blogs. They were prevented, in other words, from doing what they do best, which is to challenge administration policy.

Major liberal blogs have crawled down a slippery slope in Connecticut and may not be able to redeem themselves. The November election may signal the end of the blog phenomenon as well as Lamont's political career.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Political Science Sticks"

Posted June 1, 2006 on YouTube

Randy Newman's brief lesson in "Political Science" was first recorded on his 1972 "Sail Away" album. It has inspired a couple of mashups on YouTube. In this video, original drawings by Laura Knapp combine nicely with Newman's whimsical lyrics.

YouTube video (2:14)

Is Bush an "Idiot"?

MSNBC, Scarborough Country
August 15, 2006

Host Joe Scarborough asks guests John Fund, of, and Lawrence O'Donnell, political anyalst, whether George W. Bush is dumb. From the MSNBC transcript :

SCARBOROUGH: And it is almost like the more he stumbles over his tongue, the more he realizes that he‘s maybe overmatched by the English language, and it seems he is losing confidence, by the day. He is getting worse instead of better.

O‘DONNELL: It looks like he is overmatched by the job. It looks like he‘s overwhelmed by it and it is just out of his league, especially ever since Katrina. From Katrina onward, his imagery feeds a level of incompetence that is very unusual. And so everything he does now, he is allowed no margin of error on these kinds of gaffs now, where as if he had had a bunch of real policy successes to point to, and if Iraq—look, if Iraq was a real policy success, that guy could fall down everywhere he went and he would be getting standing ovations.

MSNBC video (10:07, with 15 sec ad)