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January 12, 2011

Former US Congressman Tom DeLay sentenced to three years in prison

Former US Congressman Tom DeLay sentenced to three years in prison

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tom DeLay

A Texas judge handed down a three-year prison sentence today to Tom DeLay, former US House Majority Leader. The sentence is a follow-up to a conviction in November of money laundering and conspiracy charges committed in 2002. DeLay, a right-wing Republican, was considered one of the most influential congressman in the history of the United States House of Representatives.

The sentence handed down by Judge Pat Priest was originally 8 years behind bars. However, DeLay was allowed to deduct 5 years for the money laundering charge, in exchange for 10 years of community service. DeLay’s bail was set at $10,000 while his appeal is pending.

In November, DeLay was convicted of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to other Texas politicians. Although DeLay was found guilty, he denies all charges of misconduct. “Judge, I can’t be remorseful for something I don’t think I did,” he said. The prosecuting attorney, Steve Brandt said this non-remorseful sentiment should be cause for more prison time: “He has shown no remorse, no remorse whatsoever…He needs to go to prison, your honor, and he needs to go today.”



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September 9, 2008

Records reveal US Senator John Sununu had ties to convicted lobbyist

Records reveal US Senator John Sununu had ties to convicted lobbyist

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

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John E Sununu in 2006
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On October 24, 2001, convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and four Alexander Strategies Group associates donated $1,000 each to the Rely on Your Beliefs Fund. This political action committee in turn donated $3,000 to Republican Representative John Sununu’s primary campaign in New Hampshire on the same day, through the political action committee Team Sununu. The Greenberg Traurig lobbying company, which also employed Abramoff, gave $1000 to Team Sununu on December 16, 2002 for purposes of ‘debt retirement.’

According to a report by the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Jack Abramoff commonly told Native American tribal clients to divert their funds through the Alexander Strategies Group. Earlier that October, Jack Abramoff had met with the legislative director of the Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan. Representative John Sununu, now a sitting senator from New Hampshire, had served on the Appropriations Committee that helped draft the Department of Interior funding bill. In the section on Native American water claims, land claims, and miscellaneous payments, over $6,000,000 in funding was given to Michigan fishing in the Great Lakes.

The event occurred a day before the presentation of a Department of Interior funding bill to President George W. Bush for signing, and a week after the conference report settling differences between the House and the Senate. Abramoff wrote to fellow lobbyist Michael Scanlon on October 4, 2001 via e-mail, “I had dinner tonight with Chris Petras of Sag Chip. He was salivating at the $4-5 million program I described to him (is that enough? Probably not).”

File:Jack Abramoff Jan1006.jpg

Jack Abramoff in 2006
Image: Voice of America.
(Image missing from commons: image; log)

Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in federal prison earlier this month. He had admitted to conspiring to defraud four Native American tribes that either operated or were interested in operating casinos. The other three donors to the fund linked to Sununu were all members of the Alexander Strategy Group, including its founder, former Tom DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham. Donor Jim Ellis had led the group Preston Gates & Ellis, which also employed Jack Abramoff. A fourth contributor was J. Thomas Smith, Jr., who had served as the Alexander Strategy Group’s lawyer.

The Alexander Strategy Group was shut down in January due to ties with Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay. The Rely On Your Beliefs Fund, owned by former Rep. Roy Blunt, has already donated to charity $8,500 equivalent to the amount personally contributed by Jack Abramoff in 2006. In November 2004, Gannett News Service had reported that Abromoff directed the Tigua tribe to contribute to the Rely On Your Beliefs Fund. In January 2006, John Sununu donated to charity $3000 he had received from the Saginaw Chipewa from the Daniel Webster PAC.

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November 12, 2007

Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right

Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger on the Bush family feud, neoconservatives and the Christian right

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Craig Unger: “In Spain my publisher, Planeta, is considered a center-right company and they made me the big book of their season. In Europe I am considered a straight-ahead reporter. In the United States I tend to be shunned by the mainstream media, almost completely, especially by the White House press corp.”
photo: David Shankbone

In a recent interview with the Dalai Lama’s Representative to the Americas, Tashi Wangdi, David Shankbone remarked to him that Americans have trouble relating to centuries-long conflicts that exist between peoples around the world, including those in Asia. Many Asian countries dislike each other tremendously, and the conflict over Tibet is just one enduring multi-national battle.

According to Vanity Fair contributing editor Craig Unger, it is not that Americans do not have these deep-seeded conflicts; it is that they do not remember them and thus have no context in which to see them as they resurface in our political culture.

On the same day he spoke to the Dalai Lama’s representative, Shankbone sat down with Unger, author of The New York Times best-seller House of Bush, House of Saud. In his new book, The Fall of the House of Bush, Unger attempts to fill in some of the blanks of an epochal narrative in American politics. Using a mix of painstaking research, interviews with cultural and political leaders and delving into previously classified records to come up with some overview of how America has arrived at this particular political moment.

To make sense of such complicated history, Unger draws upon three themes: He illustrates the conflict within the modern Republican Party via the oedipal conflict between George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush. Things are not well within the House of Bush. Bush Jr. has not only shut out his father and his allies from his administration—something Bob Woodward discovered in his interviews with the President—but he also appointed many of his father’s bitterest enemies to key cabinet positions.

Unger’s second theme draws upon this Bush family feud: many of Bush Sr.’s foes happen to be leaders of the neoconservative movement, who had been working against the President’s father since the 1970’s. Back then the neoconservatives did not have a base of political support within the Republican Party, which brings Unger to his third theme: the marriage between the neoconservatives and the Christian right to create a formidable ideological block.

Unger is a Fellow at the Center for Law and Security at NYU’s School of Law. In addition to his work at Vanity Fair, he is a former editor-in-chief of Boston Magazine, and former Deputy Editor of the New York Observer. A journalist of the old school who believes in verifying his sources’ veracity, Unger illuminates the Republican Party’s ideological struggle between the old and the new and traces its history for those who do know it.

Unger disputes the recent assertion by The New York Times that these forces are dead; they are thriving. Below is David Shankbone’s interview with Craig Unger about his book, The Fall of the House of Bush.

On the likelihood of an attack on Iran before the 2008 election

David Shankbone: Tim Wirth sent David Mixner this article by Jim Holt in the London Review of Books, and Mixner sent me a link to it. It posits that the Bush administration has all along planned on having a permanent military presence in Iraq. Have you seen it?

Craig Unger: I skimmed this and I know the thirty trillion dollar figure. What is astonishing about the neocons if you read them, is how little they mention oil. You can characterize their plans as strategic dominance in the Middle East for the United States and oil is obviously a part of that. I don’t know if Holt means it ironically or intentionally, but I think it is oversimplifying to say, “Oh, it’s exactly as they intended.” Although there are people like Michael Ledeen who say “Let’s turn it into a steaming cauldron”—those are his words.

According to Unger, Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who would not attack Iran. “The neocons are in Giuliani’s camp, such as Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes.”

I would never say things went exactly as planned. If you go back to the work of David Wurmser, for example, they really believed that a Shia like Chalabi would take over Iraq and be pro-west and recognize Israel. They talk about the Hashemite among the Shia in Iraq rising up and they hoped they would overthrow the mullahs in Iran. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.

DS: You’ve written that Iran is definitely on the agenda for a military strike by the Americans.

CU: Oh, absolutely. It’s possible it will occur under Bush, but if not and a Republican wins they will do it. The neocons are in Giuliani’s camp, such as Norman Podhoretz and Daniel Pipes.

DS: If the neconservatives succeed, two years into the future where will we be?

CU: The biggest single question is Iran. If we bomb Iran, they will immediately block the Persian Gulf. The Strait of Hormuz is only about thirty miles wide and forty percent of the world’s oil goes through there. Cruise missiles can easily hit Saudi oil facilities. Oil will shoot to $200, maybe $300 a barrel. At the pump it’s hard to calculate, but that would mean at $6 a gallon. We currently have minesweepers in the Gulf, which suggests we are right there for that possibility. That’s one of the scary things. But it unleashes uncontrollable forces. If you have the Saudis attacked by Iran you have the Sunni-Shia conflict erupting throughout the entire region. There’s an inverse correlation between the price of the dollar and oil, so as oil goes up, the dollar goes down. The dollar is already weak and would plummet accordingly, which would start a global recession. There would be a global oil war during a period where we may be approaching peak oil—I know that concept is controversial—but its also at a time when China’s energy needs are going through the roof; their imports are going up as much as forty percent a year. Their energy consumption is going through the roof, and the same with India. We used to be the lone huge consumer and it didn’t bother anyone, but now there are real rivals out there. And in geostrategic terms, we are getting in a weaker and weaker position. If you look at the costs of the Iraq War, 4,000 Americans dead, hundreds of thousand of Iraq dead, four million refugees, hundreds of billions of dollars spent; but in geostrategic terms we are weaker off, Israel is much weaker, and the only beneficiary has been Iran, whose GDP has gone through the roof because of the price of oil has gone from $22 to $98.

DS: Are there any Republican front-runners that would not undertake an assault on Iran?

CU: The only one is not a front-runner: Ron Paul. I don’t think there is a single Republican who has tried to discredit Bush’s policies. One of my concerns addressed in this book is I don’t want people to think, “Oh, the Bushs are gone, it’s all over.” No, no, no. We’re going to be paying for this for decades. The Christian right and the neocons: that is the Republican Party today. It transcends Bush. Bush became the vehicle through whom they carried out their policies.

DS: So it could have been anybody but they ingratiated themselves with Bush?

CU: He was an ideal vehicle. Partly he has a name that was identified with the old Republican establishment—

DS: And he wasn’t particularly well-informed, giving them an “in” to educate him?

CU: That’s for sure. A lot of voters thought they were getting his father. Wall Street Republicans thought of him as a moderate. He used terms like “ Compassionate Conservative” that were perceived as moderate. I have a chapter called “Dog Whistle Politics” where he’s speaking one language to the general public, and another to his base. So compassionate conservatism is precisely that. It really was a program for taking away the social safety net and giving it to right-wing churches. It was a movement that was about anything but a liberal safety net.

DS: Within the United States, what are the neoconservatives and Christian right concerned will happen that could scuttle their agenda?

CU: The Democrats winning, obviously, which is one reason they might bomb Iran before the election. That would change the dynamic of the entire election. I think there are two possibilities: are they going to do it before the next election? I don’t have the answer and I can’t predict it, but it would be a disaster. It would change the dynamics of the election that they are soft on terrorism, they want to throw Israel to Iran—

DS: Would that still work after all this time?

CU: The Zogby Poll just showed 52% of Americans think we should bomb Iran. The media has not improved at all since the Iraq War, and 90% of Americans were behind that. Part of the problem is that this jingoist stuff you might expect from Fox News, but when The New York Times becomes a mouthpiece for Dick Cheney, you then form a consensus in the national conversation and anyone critical is marginalized.

This history behind the Bush family feud

DS: Is there a movement within the Republican Party that is working against the fundamentalism in the party?

CU: I frame it in an almost oedipal way—the first chapter is called “Oedipus Tex”—and they have lost. It was Bush Sr. and his best friend Scowcroft against Bush Jr. On the surface there were no words between them; they would play horseshoes and talk nice about their houses and Midland.

DS: Bob Woodward was astonished when Bush Jr. told him he had not spoken to Bush Sr. about the Iraq War at all. Do you come across what is behind that?

“[I]n 1994 you had George W. and Jeb running for governor of Texas and Florida, respectively, and exactly the reverse happened of what people expected: that George would lose and Jeb would win. The opposite happened.”

CU: First, George W. Bush was not the favorite son by a long-shot. Jeb was, and even Neil was ahead of them. But in 1994 you had George W. and Jeb running for governor of Texas and Florida, respectively, and exactly the reverse happened of what people expected: that George would lose and Jeb would win. The opposite happened. In 1998, George wins reelection and suddenly he’s a two-term governor of a very visible state who has positioned himself for the Presidency. He knows nothing about foreign policy. He had only left the country one time, which was to visit his daughter in Italy. He had no curiosity about the world. Bush Sr. decides they have to educate him about it, so they bring in Prince Bandar and Condi Rice and begin a series of seminars. They are thinking the old guard—by that I mean Brent Scowcroft, Condi Rice, James Baker,Colin Powell—will take charge; that is not what happens at all. In late 1998 the neocons quickly move in, and you have Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams making semi-secret trips down to Texas.

DS: That was to educate Bush? The Daily Show did this piece where they did a debate splicing Texas Governor Bush’s views of what he said when he was governor versus what he has said as President, and they are polar opposites. When he was governor he was saying we can’t go out nation-building.

CU: Right. If you carefully, carefully examine what is happening, Richard Perle comes back from one of those trips and tells a breakfast meeting in 1999 that Bush is going to carry out their plan to overturn Saddam. Bush himself says it in the fall of 1999 and says, “I’m going to take him out.” Afterwards people call him on it and ask, “You’re going to take out Saddam?” and he gets criticized for it mercilessly. He backs down and says, ‘No, no, I mean take out the weapons of mass destruction.” He backs off and attacks Gore as you say, and says we are not going to do nation-building instead. But he’s had these private conversations; Stephen Hadley tells these private fundraisers that Bush’s first priority is going to be to overthrow Saddam. This is in early 2000. I paid a lot of attention to the period just after the election was settled. Some fascinating things happen—I wrote about this as a Salon expert; it’s a Wolfowitz story—the neocons realize if they want to carry out the Iraq War, they need to control the intelligence apparatus. The perfect way to do this is to make Paul Wolfowitz the head of the CIA.

DS: What was the problem with the intelligence apparatus at that time that the neocons needed to take control of it?

CU: If you go back all the way to the mid-1970s, the neocons were distorting intelligence even back then. They had an operation known as Team B. From there I start tracing five neocons who are on the staff of Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson. He was a muscular Democrat. He was strong on labor, but a hard-line Cold Warrior who wanted to roll back the Soviet Union. The neocons grew out of that. His hero is Albert Wohlstetter, who was one of the models for Dr. Strangelove. 1976 is the era of détente, and the neocons hate this; they fear losing their favorite enemy, the Soviet Union. They are saying the CIA is coming up with much too rosy of predictions and they don’t believe the intelligence. Who takes over the CIA at this point? George H.W. Bush. They decide they have to go to battle against him and they form what is known as Team B, which starts an “alternative intelligence assessment.” It effectively says the CIA is all wrong and that we have to redo their intelligence. But Team B’s estimates were completely inaccurate. I go into considerable detail of how they vastly, vastly overestimated the power of the Soviet Union.

DS: How did they bring Team B into the present?

CU: What you see back then are events that prefigure the Iraq War to an enormous extent. The key operatives in the White House then are the youngest Chief of Staff in the history of the United States, Dick Cheney; and the youngest Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. They are siding with Team B. Here you have thirty years ago the beginning of this alliance between Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz and Richard Perle.

Bush appoints his father’s enemies to his Cabinet

DS: So Rumsfeld and Cheney are not seen as old Bush Sr. people.

CU: Rumsfeld is probably the bitterest, bitterest enemy of George H.W. Bush ever.

DS: Weren’t they considered part of the realpolitik school?

CU: Cheney was, but not Rumsfeld. And Cheney was Rumsfeld’s protégé.

DS: What effect did it have on Bush Sr. that some of his bitterest foes were assuming positions in his son’s administration?

CU: He is famously nonresponsive on this, but James Baker spoke out. What you see going on in December 2000 is that Bush Jr.’s team had decided on Indiana Senator Dan Coats for Secretary of Defense.

DS: I remember that mentioned.

CU: It was because he was against gays in the military. What better qualification could one possibly have, right? They first appoint Colin Powell as Secretary of State, and he has a press conference with Bush in which Powell is so dazzling that Cheney freaks out and says, “My God, Dan Coats will never be able to stand up to him!” They need somebody more powerful. They call in Donald Rumsfeld and James Baker warns Bush, “You know what this guy did to your father.” Rumsfeld had sabotaged Bush Sr. again and again and again. Bush had been considered a likely choice for Vice President under Gerald Ford instead of Nelson Rockefeller, and Rumsfeld kept him off the ticket.

DS: Why was there a dispute between Rumsfeld and Bush Sr.?

CU: It was ambition. Rumsfeld had Presidential ambitions himself.

Paul Wolfowitz and the Office of Special Plans

According to Unger’s sources, Paul Wolfowitz’s affair with Shaha Ali Riza (above) scuttled plans to make him the Director of the CIA.

DS: Coming back to current times, what continues to transpire in the formation of Bush Jr.’s 2000 cabinet?

CU: They want to appoint Wolfowitz head of the CIA. Well, there’s a problem: he is dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and he is allegedly caught having an affair with a female staff member. He’s also allegedly having another extramarital relationship with another woman who had become more famous, Shaha Ali Riza.

DS: I believe Riza was called Wolfowitz’s “neoconcubine” by his critics.

CU: Yes. To him, that relationship was the romantic embodiment of the neocon venture: he’s a secular Jew; she’s a secular Muslim. He parades her on his arm at all the neocon events that season. There’s one person who doesn’t like this situation: Clare Wolfowitz, his wife of thirty years and mother of his three children. She’s not happy.

DS: What does Mrs. Wolfowitz do about his extramarital affairs?

CU: She’s writes a letter to George W. Bush saying, ‘You can’t possibly make my husband head of the CIA because he’s a security risk,’—she has not commented on this, by the way—that ‘he’s a security risk not just because he has undisclosed relationships, but because one of them is with a foreign national, Shaha Ali Riza.’ This alleged letter I’m told was intercepted by Scooter Libby, who is Wolfowitz’s protégé at Yale and is to become Chief of Staff to Dick Cheney. They are now very wary of putting Wolfowitz up for Congressional hearings; this could be a mess! Instead, they call in Donald Rumsfeld and they see that if they are going to handle intelligence they are going to do it through the Defense Department. This is where the Office of Special Plans gets created.

DS: So they decide to redo the entire intelligence apparatus for Wolfowitz?

CU: This is an alternative national security apparatus. We spend $40 billion a year on intelligence and a great power has to have accurate intelligence. So they put up disinformation pipelines to have the intelligence they want to back up their policies.

DS: What was the CIA’s reaction to this?

CU: They awaken to it bit by bit by bit. The people in the CIA who were aware of it became incredibly angry and there were battles and some people who have spoken out about it are former CIA officials and defense intelligence people. Patrick Lang, Ray McGovern, Melvin Goodman, Philip Giraldi, and so on. I ended up with around ten people like that on the record. The Defense Department was going ballistic. Rumsfeld and Cheney, in a stroke of bureaucratic brilliance, devise this way to hijack for the executive branch the whole national security apparatus. They now can stop the bureaucracy when they want to, grease the wheels when they want to; for example, they put in Josh Bolton as under Secretary of State, who acts as a spy watching Colin Powell.

DS: Was Powell aware of this?

CU: Yes, and he didn’t act. He could easily have fired Bolton. He failed to act.

DS: Why?

CU: He has to answer for that and in the end it was moral cowardice or weakness. The State Department has its own intelligence apparatus, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, and they were finding fault again and again with the intelligence that was coming out of the new Pentagon unit. INR wanted to discredit Curveball, for instance; they wanted to discredit the aluminum tubes and the Niger documents. So Bolton and his people forbade INR director Greg Thielmann from attending various key meetings. Now you would think Powell would have stood up for his own intelligence unit, but he did not. When it came to the week before the United Nations meeting in which he made his speech, Colin Powell could have had his people there. He did call them to go over the material somewhat, but they were not present to argue out these points of conflict, and as a result, Cheney’s information got in. When they were preparing for the UN meeting, all the intelligence data came from Cheney’s office and not from the CIA.

What the neoconservatives want

DS: What is the end goal with all of these machinations?

CU: You can see it in the neocon foreign policy papers that they have been writing as early as 1992. The first one was a Defense Department policy guidance paper. Cheney was Defense Secretary and he had under him Wolfowitz, Khalizad and Feith, key neocons who helped formulate this policy, which was considered so radical that Bush Sr. rejected it out of hand. Then you see duplicity on Cheney’s part: publicly he sides with Bush Sr. and Scowcroft , who were very very deliberate. One of the most important foreign policy decisions they made was to not topple Saddam. They had a REAL coalition—unlike the one we have today—of thirty-four countries, eight of which were Arab who supported us throwing Saddam out of Kuwait. They decided, and it was very deliberate, that if they went after Saddam and continued on to Baghdad they would ruin their coalition, alienate their Arab partners, and be mired in a quagmire forever.

DS: Saddam was so unpopular in the region; how did they foresee they would ruin the coalition if they rid Iraq of a very brutal dictator?

CU: American troops occupying an Arab country is a real, real problem, especially in view of Israel. Notice they kept Israel out of it; they were not part of that coalition. They handled it with certain dexterity and were much tougher on Israel, who was unhappy to some extent. This is where you see enormous bifurcation. Out of this comes the effort to sabotage the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The term “a clean break” comes out of a very important neocon policy paper called “A Clean Break from the Land for Peace Process.” It means they are throwing that out, which is very interesting because that was official American policy, it was the Oslo policy, and it was even Israeli policy at that point.

DS: It still is.

CU: Theoretically, but they have sabotaged it so badly. Netanyahu did not make good on a lot of the promises…

DS: Arafat didn’t—

CU: Arafat backed out.

DS: So what is the end goal?

CU: It’s a strategic vision of the Middle East.

DS: To control it?

CU: Yes, and they saw Iraq becoming at worst something like Jordan, which is a Hashemite Kingdom that is pro-west and reasonably nice to Israel. We’d have military bases there and we’d have oil deals. Iraq would be a beachhead from which we could go on to Iran. And Iran is a great prize. In 1996 Netanyahu comes to Washington, he’s presented with the Clean Break policy by Richard Perle, and a couple of days later he makes an address before a joint session of Congress and borrows from A Clean Break, but he adds a new country and says ‘the most important country in the region is Iran.’

DS: Was that a surprise?

CU: What’s interesting is that you start to hear the terms “Democracy in the Middle East” and “Democratization” and what you realize is that it’s not about democratization at all, it’s about strategic dominance of the region, and that’s what their policy has been about.

The Christian right and the neoconservatives

DS: In your book you talk about a confluence of social forces. You have the Christian right and you have the neoconservatives, who came together to assist each other in their agendas.

CU: Absolutely. This goes way, way back.

DS: To the 1970s?

CU: Certainly to the 1970’s. The Christian right is part of the DNA of America. I go back to English Puritanism, and you see John Winthrop in the 1630’s saying, “We are starting a shining city on a hill.” Shining city on a hill means we’re the New Jerusalem, we’re the new Zion. America is the Promised Land. What we do is ordained by God. This is Christian Zionism. It is a phrase that has never appeared in the New York Times, but it is an incredibly powerful force that is operative today. It has been picked up by the Christian right and unites them with Israel. It brings together the Christian right, the neocons and the Israeli right: Likud and Benyamin Netanyahu.
You see it come alive in the seventies. Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the first non-Labor Prime Minister in Israel, called Jerry Falwell realizing that America is only 2.5% Jewish and they need a broader base. About 30% of America is evangelical. If you read the Bible, the Abrahamic covenant in Genesis where God says to , “ I give to you this land between the Euphrates and the Nile.” If you believe in biblical inerrancy, as evangelicals do, then you have to believe, “I shall bless those who bless thee; I shall curse those who curse thee.” That’s in Genesis, and I talked to Falwell and a lot of evangelicals. I traveled undercover with Tim LeHay.

Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma), who is a Christian Zionist: “God appeared to Abram and said, ‘I am giving you this land — the West Bank.’ This is not a political battle at all. It is a contest over whether or not the word of God is true.”

DS: Did they openly talk to you about these things?

CU: Yes, this alliance is not a secret. What I do in the book is reframe the entire paradigm. Everyone talks about “Islam vs. The West” and I say that no, it’s fundamentalism—and by that I mean Christian and Jewish fundamentalism, not just Islamic—against the modern, post-Enlightenment world, and it happens that our government is on the wrong side. We are carrying out a fundamentalist foreign policy.

DS: How did the neoconservatives and Christian right come together?

CU: They play very different roles. The neocons are an ideological vanguard and the Christian right is a mass electoral base. You have a couple hundred thousand pastors who can bring them together. The role is the way the unions used to be for the Democratic Party, for example. You had Netanyahu calling Jerry Falwell, which I told you about. You also have people like Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein who formed the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. He has worked with a lot of the evangelicals. It has been fostered by the Israeli right and the neocons. I asked Michael Ledeen why he was on the 700 Club and he said, “It’s just we like to promote our views.” People like Gary Bauer have participated in a lot of these policy discussions. You have people like Tom DeLay proclaiming himself as a Christian Zionist openly, or Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma. They would say it’s not a political issue whether Israel should have this land, that it’s a biblical certainty. This has to happen.

DS: It would seemingly take a lot of collusion between them. How does it work?

CU: The Christian right are not policy-makers in general, though there is a Council for National Policy. Falwell told me it’s an umbrella group overseeing all these evangelical groups. It has four or five hundred members and I list some. They are the big honchos of the Christian right, and within that is a smaller group called The Arlington Group, which has about fifty people. They were in regular contact with Karl Rove on a regular basis.

DS: Bush is convinced this is all God’s will?

CU: I go back to the Puritans for a reason because we are the new Zion and what we do is God’s will. I have a very interesting quote by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, an Orthodox rabbi who met with Bush. He says that Bush believes God has a mission for America and, “In that belief he is no different from the Founders who actually saw themselves replaying the Israelites crossing the Red Sea…” When he speaks of the “Founders” he is not talking of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine; he is talking about Cotton Mather and John Winthrop. When you got to Liberty University you see the halls have portraits of the great Puritans as precursors of the evangelicals. Yes, I believe that Bush thinks what he has done has been ordained by God. He’s smart enough not to talk about it in those terms.

Orthodox Jews and Fundamentalist Christians

DS: You have a chapter about the assassination of Yitzak Rabin; how did that advance the neoconservative agenda?

CU: It’s one of the least understood events in contemporary history and it is really important in terms of our policy today. Yes, it was done by this one right-wing Israeli, but it was ordained by Orthodox rabbis because Rabin was backing the land-for-peace process. It’s parallel to the Sadat assassination by Islamic fundamentalists. Rabin was breaking Halakhic law by supporting land for peace because it is divinely-ordained land.

DS: Are the Israeli orthodox Jews in touch with the Christian right in the United States?

CU: Completely. And the neocons are a secular version of that, and you see it start coming together, and Netanyahu becomes one of the great backers of an alliance with the Christian right. Michael Ledeen is going on Pat Roberton’s 700 Club shows. You start to have this weaving together.

DS: What does the Christian right have to gain from this?

CU: It’s theological.

DS: The End of Days?

CU: Yes, Christ will not return until that land is given back to the Jews. I try to draw this in the book. People try to talk about the Culture Wars, Red State/Blue State. But no, it’s much deeper than that. It goes back to the founding of America and the Puritans, really. I thought I grew up in a country that put a man on the moon, unraveled the human genome, that discovered DNA and invented the iPod, but no. No western country believes so strongly in Creationism and that the world was born 6,000 years ago; that evolution is wrong. This war is deep and profound and what’s happened now is the government is run by people who believe in dictating our policies based upon the Bible.

DS: This is so much material to be covered in just one book.

CU: Yes, because you can see it in the judiciary. So many students come from Pat Robertson’s law school—

DS: They have a model of the Supreme Court for arguing these fights.

CU: Right. So many of the people in the White House come from Patrick Henry College. It used to be you went to the Ivy League. Now they have people who are homeschooled by evangelicals because they didn’t want them to be poisoned by the secular public school system.

DS: Our society has always been complicated, but there are so many layers to this complex onion of a social movement that it must have been a challenge to articulate it in your book. We hold a lot of myths about our history.

CU: This book goes from biblical times to English Puritanism to espionage and intelligence battles at Langley to the Likudniks in Israel to the assassination of Rabin to the Deep South and the Bible Belt today. You do see the same themes again and again. I tried to do a narrative with three narrative lines: The rise of the neocons in the 1970’s; the rise of the Christian right, which goes back to Biblical times through English Puritanism and the founding of America to becoming a powerful force in American politics and taking over the government because they have a leader who is now President of the United States. It’s important to understand that the Christian right thinks of Bush as a leader, or they have. Although he certainly has lost credibility, the Christian right is not dead at all. I would take issue with The New York Times in their cover story a week or so ago where they proclaim the death of the Christian right, which they do that same story time and again.

DS: Exactly, they recycle the same thematic stories over and over and that one has been written before.

CU: Right. I also try to weave it through the father-son battle. Although I have written critically of Bush Sr. in the past, he certainly is within the framework of the post-Enlightenment reason and reality-based world. There is this quiet sub-rosa battle in which he uses intermediaries in the book like Scowcroft. If there’s a tragic hero in the book, it’s Scowcroft, who is in a very delicate position because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his close friendship with Bush Sr.

DS: But Scowcroft is loathed by George W.’s administration for coming out against his foreign policy.

CU: Right, and now Scowcroft speaks out early and often. He’ll see what’s happening and does what he can, but ultimately he fails.

DS: What does Bush Sr. think or say about Scowcroft’s public statements?

CU: They are still friends. He rarely comments on them, and he doesn’t like to be called out about it. There have been a couple of incidents that I open the book with, statements by Bush Jr. that have been perceived as digs at his father, such as saying “We don’t want to cut and run again.”

DS: Why would Bush Sr. not feel he has a moral obligation to the nation to make his feelings known to his son instead of keeping quiet and not speaking up?

CU: I’m wary of psychoanalyzing him, but I believe they don’t discuss it. He’s come forth several times and said, “Look, why don’t you talk to Scowcroft or James Baker” and he kind of leaves it at that. The Iraq Study Group report did have some earmarks of anger venting . Scowcroft actually goes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to get their support of the Iraq Study Group plan. He also goes to Condi Rice, who is the last person from that world who seems to have real access to Bush, and talks to her about it. She seems to sign on and at one point she says something like, “Well, when do you think we should do this?” and Scowcroft says, “Not we, you.” She never really does anything; she never stands up. She has become an enabler for the neocons such as Wolfowitz, who have convinced Bush to believe that we have to democratize the entire Middle East, topple Saddam, and only then can we deal with the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Of course, that’s absolutely disastrous.

DS: The neoconservative’s policies are so high-risk and there are so many things that could make it go even more wrong. Grover Norquist came out and said that nothing the supporters of the war said would happen with Iraq has happened, and that everything the critics said would happen has happened. If Mubarak suddenly dies in Egypt and that country erupts into a civil war, which is a scenario that is often discussed as likely, that would implode the region even further. How do they account for all these risks they are laying in the lap of the United States?

CU: I’m not sure I have a good answer for that, but I can say they are REAL ideologues. It’s worth going back to their history and a lot of this stuff is toxic, third-rail stuff. David Brooks attacked me as a conspiracy nut. The point isn’t that the neocons had this weird Communist conspiracy or anything like that, but that they were trained ideologues and trained in ideological battles and sectarian disputes. They purge people who disagree with them and work in an echo-chamber environment where they don’t admit any facts that contradict their preconceived ideas. You see them operate as this ideological cadre. They purged people in the State Department who were part of the Realist crowd, and I go into that. They’ve had the same ideas for thirty years.

On the press

DS: What sort of reaction do you get to your work?

CU: That’s a good question. The reaction to my previous book was actually terrific, but it’s interesting the patterns. In Europe—England, Spain, The Netherlands—it was terrific and I am thought of as a reasoned Centrist. I am not thought of as particularly left-wing in any way.

German artist Thomas Demand speaking with Craig Unger about The Fall of the House of Bush.
photo: David Shankbone

DS: You painstakingly researched this—

CU: I have over 2,000 footnotes there. So in Spain my publisher, Planeta, is considered a center-right company and they made me the big book of their season. In Europe I am considered a straight-ahead reporter. In the United States I tend to be shunned by the mainstream media, almost completely, especially by the White House press corp.

DS: Who have lost almost all credibility with the public…

CU: But they are still there.

DS: We’re stuck with them.

CU: Right, but they haven’t changed, so I will get almost nothing from them. This includes the supposedly liberal New York Times. I deal with the press to a fair extent in the book; not as much as I would like because that’s a whole interview in itself.

DS: I interviewed Gay Talese, who had nothing but contempt for the Washington press corps. He feels they should be broken up and dispersed around the country to report on the federal government. Report on Washington from Denver, from Austin…national reporting from the states.

CU: It’s shocking the difference between the British and the Americans. The huge part of it is the addiction to access. It’s opportunism—

DS: You get to go to a party; you get to ride in Air Force One—

CU: Right! “I want that interview with Donald Rumsfeld so I’m not going to do anything to alienate him by writing a story that is critical of him.” And when you get that story you end up writing exactly what he tells you and it ain’t the truth.

DS: Just to be able to say, “I interviewed Donald Rumsfeld.”

CU: Right, you get front page and it helps you within your newspaper. You’re considered a star at whatever publication there is. That’s how the phony stories of WMDs got in The New York Times and other publications. More than ideology, it was opportunism, careerism on the part of the reporters.

DS: Talese also said that the press is as much responsible for getting us into this war as are the people running it.

CU: Part of what I did with this book is I am explicitly critical of the American press corp., which has done a dreadful job of covering these issues. That in and of itself means they are less likely to cover you. If you look at the national conversation it has a narrative. The only place you can go to find an alternative narrative is Jon Stewart or Colbert or Keith Olberman. But there’s almost nothing in the tradition of the old Walter Cronkite reporting. It barely exists. The other alternative voices are the international press, and the blogs.



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September 25, 2007

Interview with U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo

Interview with U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tom Tancredo

Tom Tancredo has been a member of the United States House of Representatives since 1999, representing the 6th Congressional District of Colorado. He rose to national prominence for his strong stance against illegal immigration and his announcement that he was a Republican candidate in the 2008 Presidential election. David Shankbone recently spoke with the Congressman and posed questions from Wikipedia editors and Wikinews reporters:

DS: Throughout my life my father, a lifelong Republican and an avid listener of Rush Limbaugh, told me that all we needed in this country was a Republican Congress, Republican Senate and a Republican White House to get this country on the right track. Last year he expressed his disappointment to me. So many Republicans, like my father, feel lied to or let down by the party. The rationale for the Iraq War, the sex and bribery scandals, the pork barrel projects, and, as Alan Greenspan recently pointed out, the fiscal irresponsibility. People feel there have been many broken promises. Why should someone vote Republican today?

TT: The best reason I can give: we’re not the Democrats. The best thing we have going for us is the Democrats. Maybe that’s as far as I can go; I hope that there are candidates out there who will reflect and carry out the values that your father believes in when he votes Republican. To the extent you can ferret those people out from the others, that’s who he should vote for. The party was taught a pretty harsh lesson in this last election. I have noticed in the last several months we have done a better job of defending Republican principles as the minority than we ever did in the majority. I feel more in tune with the party now than I have throughout the Bush Presidency. Even before he came in, we were in the majority and we were still spending too much. Hopefully we can say that we were spanked by the American public and that we learned our lessons. There are true believers out there who will stick to their guns, and it’s a matter of principle. What’s the alternative? Hillary Clinton?

DS: You yourself said you would only serve three terms in Congress, but then broke that promise. What caused you to reverse yourself?

TT: What happened was this: having ‘lame duck’ stamped on your forehead in Congress when they know you are not going to be around. Then the committee assignments become less meaningful. That was just one of the factors. Far more significant was my becoming the most visible Congressional member on the immigration issue. When I came into Congress I approached Lamar Smith, who was “The Man” on immigration, and said to him, “I’ve come to help you on this issue.” I felt it was one of the most serious we face as a nation. Lamar said, “It’s all yours! I’ve had it with 10 years of busting my head against the wall!” I started doing special orders—that’s when you speak to an empty chamber and whoever is watching CSPAN–and I did that night after night and wondered if it was worth it; was anyone paying attention? Then I’d go back to my office to pick up my keys and I’d see all the telephone lines illuminated, and the fax machine would be going, and a pile of e-mails would be handed to me the next day. I realized: people pay attention. I started picking it up, speaking around the country, leading the caucus on it. In time it became apparent there was nobody to hand the baton to; there were supporters, but not one single soul was willing to take it on as their issue. It was the first year of my second term that I sent a letter to every supporter I had. I said I had come to this conclusion that at the end of my third term (which is three years away) I don’t know if I will run again or not, but that the decision would not be based upon the term limit pledge, because immigration issue makes me feel I have a responsibility I can not shirk. I said that if anybody who gave me money based upon my term limits pledge wanted it back, I would do so. I received maybe three requests.

DS: There are an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. To round up and deport millions of people would be a major government undertaking, requiring massive federal spending and invasive enforcement. What level of funding would be necessary for U.S. Immigration and Customs to achieve the level of enforcement that you’d like to see?

TT: Only a relatively slight increase because the only thing you have to do, other than building a barrier on the southern border, is go after employers. We need to go aggressively after the employers, and try to identify some of the more high profile employers who are hiring illegal aliens. Go after them with fines, and if they are not only hiring them but also conspiring to bring them in, then they could go to jail. A perp walk would have a chilling effect. If you break that magnet, most illegal aliens would go home voluntarily. An article in the Rocky Mountain News stated there has been an employer crackdown in Colorado, and that they are going home or moving on to other states. If we did it nationally, they will return home, because the jobs are no longer available. It doesn’t have to happen over time or instantaneously. The costs to the American public for 12 million illegals are enormous and far more than are paid for by the illegal immigrants themselves in taxes.

DS: How long would full enforcement take for you to succeed?

TT: It would be a couple of years before employers were weaned off illegal immigrants and then a couple more years before you saw a really significant reduction.

DS: Can you explain your remarks about bombing the Islamic holy sites of Mecca and Medina as a deterrent to terrorists operating against the United States.

TT: The question I was answering was “What would you do if Islamic terrorists set off on or more nuclear devices in the United States?” My response was that we would need to come up with a deterrent, and that deterrent may very well be a threat to take out their holy sites if they did something like that in the United States. I still believe it is something we must consider as a possible deterrent because at the present time there are no negative consequences that would accrue to the people who commit a crime such as a nuclear, chemical or biological attack. There are no negative consequences; they may die in the attack but that is not a negative consequence for them. Usually they aren’t going to be state actors.

DS: But wouldn’t an attack on Mecca and Medina be an attack on a sovereign state?

TT: You are not attacking the state, but the religious ideology itself. Holy sites are not just in Saudi Arabia; there’s a number of them. In fact, Iran has one of the holiest cities in Islam. And I never used the word nuclear device; I was talking about taking out a physical structure. The reason I suggested it as a possible deterrent is because it is the only thing that matches the threat itself. The threat is from a religious ideology. Not just from Islam, but from a nation whose requirements include jihad against infidels, and we are a threat to their culture, which is why they believe we need to be destroyed. We must understand what motivates our opponents in order to develop a successful response. I’ve received death threats, enormous criticism, and I’ve been hung in effigy in Pakistan, but nobody has given me an alternative strategy that would be a deterrent to such an event. I guarantee when you read the national intelligence estimates, you would be hard pressed to not walk away from doing something.

DS: Aside from becoming President, if you could be granted three wishes, what would they be?

TT: It was the other night that I saw for the third or fourth time Saving Private Ryan and in the last scene Private Ryan asks, “Have I been a good man, have I earned it?” My greatest wish is to be a good father and to have earned everything I have been given in this life. And to be a better Christian.

DS: Farmers rely heavily on seasonal manual labor. Strict enforcement of immigration laws will inevitably reduce the pool of migrant labor and thus increase costs. Do you support tariffs or other government intervention to keep American farm products competitive?

TT: No, I don’t , because I challenge the premise of the question. The ability for farmers to obtain workers in the United States is only minimally hampered by the immigration process because there is, in fact, H-2A, the visa that is designed specifically for agricultural workers. We can bring in 10,000,000 if we want to. There are no caps. There are restrictions in terms of pay and healthcare benefits, and that’s what makes hiring illegal aliens more attractive. The costs would increase for certain agricultural interest, but it would be regional. You would also see a very aggressive movement toward the mechanization of farm work. We are seeing it today in a lot of areas. We saw it in the tomato industry with the Bracero Program. That was a program many growers relied heavily upon: workers, primarily from Mexico would come up seasonally, work, and then went back home. It was successful. But liberals ended the program as a bad idea because the immigrants couldn’t bring their families. When that happened, tomato growers said they’d go out of business. Lo and behold they developed machinery that can harvest citrus fruit, and now they are genetically engineering trees that have a thicker bark but are more flexible so they can be shaken by these machines. You’ll see it more and more.

DS: Do you agree that our forefathers intended birthright citizenship?

TT: No, the Fourteenth Amendment, upon which the concept of birthright citizenship is based, was a response to the Dred Scott decision.
During the original Senate debate there was an understanding that it wouldn’t be provided to people simply because they were born here, but instead to people under our jurisdiction. For instance, nobody assumes a child born to an embassy employee or an ambassador is a citizen of this country. There was an understanding and a reference to “under the jurisdiction” of the United States.

DS: You and Karl Rove engaged, in your words, in a screaming match over immigration, and Rove said that you would never again “darken the doorstep of the White House.” Are you still considered persona non grata at the White House?

TT: Yeah, even though he is gone, the President’s feelings about my criticism of him have not changed. It wasn’t my stand on immigration, it was my criticisms of the President that have made me persona non grata.

DS: Psychologist Robert Hare has discussed in his work the use of doublespeak as a hallmark of psychopaths, and social scientists have pointed out that the use of doublespeak is most prevalent in the fields of law and politics. Do these two trends alarm you?

TT [Laughs] Yes and no. Unfortunately doublespeak is all too characteristic of people in my profession.

DS: What is the proper role of Congress in the time of war?

TT: To first declare it, and then to fund it or not.

DS: Politics is dominated by lawyers. What other group of people or professions would you prefer to see dominate the field of politics and why?

TT: I can’t think of a particular profession from which I would be more comfortable drawing politicians from.

DS: Do you think lawyers are better for handling legislation and as politicians?

TT: No, they don’t offer anything particularly advantageous to the process. I don’t think it should be dominated by one profession. I’ll tell you what this profession is, and it doesn’t matter what field you come out of. There’s something I noticed here. I tell every single freshman I come across that there are very few words of wisdom, having only been here for ten years, that I can pass along to you but there is one thing I can tell you: this place is Chinese water torture on your principles. Every single day there is another drip, and it comes from a call from a colleague asking you to sign on to a bill you wouldn’t have signed on to; but it’s a friend, and it’s not that big a deal. Or a constituent who comes in and asks you to do something and you think it wouldn’t be such a big deal; or a special interest group that asks you to vote for something you wouldn’t vote for. After time it erodes the toughest of shells if one isn’t careful doesn’t think about it. Even if you recognize that these small steps lead to a feeling that remaining here is the ultimate goal; that the acquisition of power or the maintenance of power is the ultimate goal, that really does… it doesn’t matter if you are a lawyer or not, it does seem to have an impact on people. It’s a malady that is very common in Washington, and you have to think about it, you really do, or you will succumb to it. I don’t mean to suggest I’ve been impervious to these pressures, but I’ve tried my best to avoid it. One reason I am persona non grata at the White House is not just because of immigration, but because I refuse to support him on his trade policy, his education policy, Medicare and prescription drugs initiatives. I remember leaving that debate at 6:30 on a Saturday morning , after having the President call every freshman off the floor of the House to badger them into submission until there were enough votes to pass it. I remember a woman, a freshman colleague, walking away in tears saying she had never been through anything like that in her life. Here was a Republican Congress increasing government to an extent larger than it had been increased since Medicare had come into existence. Your dad should have been absolutely mortified, because it was against all of our principles. And I know the leadership was torn, but we had the President pressing us: we had to do it, we had to stay in power, the President is asking us to do it. Principles be damned. There were people who caved in that night who I never in a million years thought would.
And the threats! “You like being Committee Chairman?” Yes I do. “Do you want to be Chairman tomorrow?” And that’s how it happens. I was called into Tom Delay’s office because I was supporting Republican challengers to Republican incumbents. I had a group called Team America that went out and did that. He called me and said to me, “You’re jeopardizing your career in this place by doing these things.” And I said, “Tom, out of all the things you can threaten with me that is the least effective because I do not look at this place as a career.”

DS: You have supported proposed constitutional amendments that would ban abortion and same-sex marriage. You are also a strong supporter of the Second Amendment. Why do you believe that the U.S. Constitution should regulate medical procedures and personal relationships, but not gun ownership?

TT: The issue of medical procedures and relationships: I don’t really believe the federal government or any level of government has any business in determining about who I care about, or who anybody cares about, but I do believe they have a legitimate role, and the federal government has a responsibility, because of reciprocity. We are only one federal judge decision away from having gay marriage imposed on all states. That’s why there is a need for a Constitutional Amendment. I really believe a family–male, female, rearing children–I believe that is an important structure for the state itself, the way we procreate, which hopefully provides a stable environment for children. That is important to the state, and that’s why I think it’s legitimate. The reciprocity clause forces us into thinking about a Constitutional Amendment. I believe Roe v. Wade should be overturned because I think it’s lousy law, and many liberal jurists think it’s lousy because it read into the Constitution a right to privacy. I don’t’ see a connection between these things and the 2nd Amendment. Same-sex marriage and abortion, perhaps, but I don’t see a connection to the Second Amendment question. I support the 2nd Amendment because it is one of the most important we have. It’s a right we have to protect a lot of our other rights. And in our urban centers…and I don’t’ believe as some Second Amendment radicals believe that every single person has that right. I don’t think so! If you have committed a felony, or if you are a danger to yourself or someone else, then you shouldn’t be able to obtain a firearm, but law-abiding citizens should because it gives them a sense of security and protection against people who would do you harm. I don’t believe urban communities are more dangerous because people are allowed to own guns, but because dangerous people have guns. I would feel more comfortable if in the District of Columbia I could carry a concealed gun. I have a permit.

DS: You recently spoke out against the Black and Hispanic Congressional caucuses, stating, “It is utterly hypocritical for Congress to extol the virtues of a color-blind society while officially sanctioning caucuses that are based solely on race. If we are serious about achieving the goal of a colorblind society, Congress should lead by example and end these divisive, race-based caucuses.” Do you also believe there is no longer a need for the NAACP?

TT: No, I think it’s fine, because it’s a private organization, and people can belong to whatever private organization they want, and the need will be determined to a great extent by reality. If in fact people feel committed to an organization that they believe represents their interest, and it’s a voluntary association, that’s fine. All I’m saying is that for Congress to support these things, that run on money that is appropriated–though they fund them in a convoluted way, but it gets there– my point was about leading by example. If people said we don’t think it’s a good idea, maybe that would have an impact on how people feel about things like the NAACP. I would hope there would be, and I would assume Martin Luther King hoped–that’s his quite about a colorblind society–that there will come a time we don’t need them. That it’s an anachronistic organization. I also don’t believe in the creation of districts on race.

DS: You were one of a handful of Republicans who voted for a bill proposed by Maurice Hinchey and Dana Rohrabacher to stop the Department of Justice from raiding medical marijuana patients and caregivers in states where medical marijuana is legal, citing states’ rights concerns. On the other hand, you have suggested state legislators and mayors should be imprisoned for passing laws contrary to federal immigration law, and you support the Federal Marriage Amendment to ban gay marriage nationally. How do you reconcile these seemingly contradictory positions?

TT: We are talking about issues that are legitimately based upon the Constitutional roles of the state and federal government. I believe there is no Constitutional provision that suggests the federal government has a role to play in preventing states, or punishing states, over laws with regards to medical marijuana. I believe absolutely there is a role for the federal government for punishing states or laws when they contravene federal jurisdiction. For instance, protecting states against invasion. Immigration is federal policy, and there’s a law actually called “Encouragement”: you can’t encourage people to come in illegally or stay here illegally. I believe that is constitutionally a federal area.

DS: If you had to support one of the Democratic candidates, which one would it be and why?

TT: Although I couldn’t vote for him, if I had to support one for a nominee it would be Obama, and I would do so because first, I believe we could beat him [laughs], but secondly, and less cynically, I think it would be very good to have a black man, a good family man, and a very articulate man, to have him as a role model for a lot of black children in this country.



Sources

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October 30, 2006

Brown promises Britain will lead world in fight against climate change

Brown promises Britain will lead world in fight against climate change

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Monday, October 30, 2006

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown promises that UK will lead the world in the fight against global warming.

The Stern Review, the first about the economic effects of climate change, is published today. Commissioned by the British Government and prepared by Sir Nicholas Stern, former top economist at the World Bank, it forecasts that, if action is not taken now, the world will suffer an economic disaster on an unprecedented scale. 100 million people will be refugees from floods caused by rising water levels, drought caused by the melting of glaciers will affect 1 in 6 of the world’s population, up to 40% of present wildlife species will become extinct and the world economy will shrink by 20%.

Sir Nicholas claims that these forecasts are based on the best available scientific evidence about the extent and effects of climate change. He does not claim absolute certainty, only a high degree of probability that the world is facing economic catastrophe if action is not taken immediately. An expenditure of just 1% of the world’s wealth now could avert it. Spending £1 now could save £5, or even more, in the future.

The effects of global warming can be contained, says the Review, if about 1% of the world’s GDP is invested in reducing the emissions of greenhouse gases. This investment must take place over the next 10 to 20 years otherwise the effects of climate change could be disastrous on a scale comparable to the great wars and the slump of the first half of the last century. There has to be action at national, regional and international levels.

The Review concludes that the actions to be taken include emissions trading, doubling investment in research and development of low carbon energy sources, curbing deforestation and supporting adaptation in poorer countries by developing crops appropriate to the changed climatic conditions.

The Stern Review shows that the scientific evidence for global warming is “overwhelming”, said Prime Minister Blair. Chancellor Gordon Brown said that Britain will take the lead in persuading the world of the seriousness of the problem. All the major political parties in Britain have been discussing climate change.

The Review is attracting a great deal of media attention. Salient among the views being reported are those of a number of experts including the following:

Professor Bill Mcguire, Benfield UCL Hazard Research Centre who says that Stern has greatly underestimated the effects of global warming.

Martin Livermore, The Scientific Alliance asserts that “climate is not driven primarily by human use of fossil fuels” and that the money to be spent is unlikely to have much effect: it would be better spent on the world’s poor.

Pia Hansen, European Commission Spokeswoman says doing nothing is not an option, we must act now.

Simon Retallack, UK Think Tank IPPR – this (Review) removes the last refuge of the “do-nothing” approach on climate change, particularly in the US.

Tom Delay, The Carbon Trust – The Review offers a huge business opportunity.

Richard Lambert,CBI Director Genera says that a global system of carbon trading is urgently needed.

Charlie Kronick, Greenpeace – now the government must act and, among other things, invest in efficient decentralised power stations and tackle the growth of aviation.

Concurrently with the publication of the Stern Review, the United Nations reports that emissions from the industrialsed world are still rising. There has been a 2.4% increase in emissions across 41 industrialised countries in the first four years of this century. Britain, France and Germany are near to achieving their Kyoto Protocol targets, but the US is the biggest polluter and its emissions have been increasing.

The Kyoto Protocol calls for a reduction of 5% of pollutants below 1990 levels. There has been a reduction of 3.3% since then but this has been the result of the collapse of industry in Eastern Europe which has counterbalanced the increases in the rich countries. The Stern Review suggests that the Kyoto targets are too modest.

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February 2, 2006

United States Department of Justice workers among government Wikipedia vandals

United States Department of Justice workers among government Wikipedia vandals

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Thursday, February 2, 2006

Wikimedia-logo.svg This article mentions the Wikimedia Foundation, one of its projects, or people related to it. Wikinews is a project of the Wikimedia Foundation.

In response to recent accusations that United States government employees have engaged in Wikipedia vandalism and other forms of perceived negative editing of articles, Wikipedia editors have set up a webpage listing all Wikipedia edits made through IP addresses that are allocated to the United States House of Representatives and other United States government agencies. The House IP address was briefly banned from editing Wikipedia articles in the wake of the initial controversy, but the ban was lifted on January 30 after Wikipedia administrators decided that there have been a number of valuable contributions made through the House and Senate IP addresses in addition to the controversial edits.

On January 31 and February 1, however, the U.S. House of Representatives’ common IP address, 143.231.249.141, were banned again for three hours due to vandalism. Because the IP address is shared by House staff members, it is uncertain whether or not the same person(s) responsible for the previous vandalism are also responsible for the latest.

Examples of contributions submitted through the House IP address included removing, “In 2005, he has come under scrutiny for accepting campaign contributions from embattled former house leader Tom Delay,” from the article on Thad McCotter, removing election statistics from the article on Dan Lungren, and, in the article on Marilyn Musgrave, changing the paragraph

“As a state legislator, Musgrave spent much of her time on social issues, particularly authoring bills to deny marriage rights and parental rights for gay and lesbian families. One of her final, failed bills would have made it much more difficult for same-sex parents to see their children in the hospital during an emergency. Musgrave also cast the only vote against legislation to give battered spouses paid leave from work.”

to

“As a state legislator, Musgrave spent much of her time on social issues, particularly authoring bills to protect children and the traditional definition of marriage, as well as gun owner’s rights.”

After the block from Wikipedia expired, the House of Representatives user continued to edit the article on Chris Shays. Chris Shays had co-sponsored a bill with Marty Meehan, whose staffers had previously been found to have been negatively editing Wikipedia entries, The American Civil Liberties Union said of the bill “key elements of Shays-Meehan violate the First Amendment right to free speech because the legislation contains provisions that would violate the constitutionally-protected right of the people to express their opinions about issues through broadcast advertising if they mention the name of a candidate.” All mentions of the bill were removed from the article. Also removed was a paragraph about Chris Shays raising $70,000 with House Speaker Dennis Hastert at a country club event.

Again, the IP address was blocked for an eight-hour period.

Wikipedia edits in Congress are not coming from the House of Representatives alone. An edit from the Senate in July removed references to a plagiarism scandal with Senator Joe Biden, who has informally said he may seek a Democratic nomination for president in 2008. As of February 4, 2006, the edit has not fixed by Wikipedia users.

CIA, the Department of Justice, Marines, and Naval vandalism

IP addresses from the CIA, the Department of Justice, the Marines, and the Navy are listed on the site as having made several cases of vandalism. Some examples of vandalism from the Department of Justice IP ranges involve articles on TV and radio shows, a baseball player, or just complaining about their work. In addition to accusations of vandalism, there have also been accusations of government employees introducing perceived bias, political spinning, or misinformation into Wikipedia articles by adding or removing information.

These cases include articles on an Irish politician, and in the George W. Bush article, introducing accusations of Hugo Chavez being a dictator, and removing information covering the George W. Bush substance abuse controversy. In addition, a person using a Department of Justice IP address edited a page covering indicted former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay. The editor removed two paragraphs stating a judge ruled that Tom DeLay had broken state law by not disclosing over $600,000 of fundraising money, a quote from Tom DeLay in which he stated that it drives the Democrats crazy wondering why the Republican Party institutes pro-Israeli policy, and a subsection on controversies involving DeLay’s relatives. Edits to George W. Bush’s article were done within the span of an hour. Edits to Tom DeLay’s article were made within an hour as well, although followed by a shorter, minor second session of editing later that day.

An editor using a CIA IP address is accused of vandalizing an article on the current president of Iran. Editors using Marine and Navy IP addresses based in Pensacola, Florida are accused of vandalizing an article on a rock song and on former U.S. president Bill Clinton, and accused of adding racist comments to articles on an actor and Martin Luther King, Jr., and adding comments that are perceived to criticize the men and women in the Navy reserves.

The IP addresses of the Department of Justice, the CIA, and the Navy and Marines stationed in Pensacola, Florida were found using the American Registry for Internet Numbers at the official website. Neither the government nor the Wikimedia Foundation have released an official statement.

The U.S. House of Representatives’ IP address is not the first governmental address to have been blocked after accusations of disrupting Wikipedia. The IP address belonging to a subdivision of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development in Alberta, Canada was blocked for three months since late 2005. An IP address belonging to the German Bundestag has been repeatedly blocked from the German Wikipedia after accusations of vandalism, including sexually explicit comments.

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January 12, 2006

Lobbyist giant shuts down due to ties with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay

Lobbyist giant shuts down due to ties with Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Alexander Strategy Group (ASG), one of Washington’s top lobbying operations, plans to shut down at the end of January.

Edwin A. Buckham, the company’s owner and former top DeLay aide, said Monday that the company had been fatally damaged by the publicity surrounding the federal investigation of the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX).

The company was founded in 1981 and has thrived due to its connections to Tom DeLay. Its current clients include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Microsoft, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

DeLay has been indicted for money laundering and other charges in Texas. ASG employed DeLay’s wife, Christine, for four years.

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January 8, 2006

Representative Tom DeLay not seeking future Majority Leader position

Representative Tom DeLay not seeking future Majority Leader position

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Sunday, January 8, 2006

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Tom DeLay

Republican Tom DeLay, representative from the 22nd Congressional District of Texas, announced on Saturday that he will not attempt to reclaim his majority leader position in the United States House of Representatives. Fellow Republicans, spear-headed by Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Melissa Hart (R-PA), began circulating a petition last week urging to elect a new majority speaker, thus setting the stage for House leadership elections.

In a letter written and addressed to fellow House Republicans on Saturday, DeLay said, “During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land.”

He asked Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert to convene a body to elect a new majority leader. “I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention,” wrote DeLay.

The 58-year-old DeLay held the leadership post for 3 years, until he was forced to relinquish it in late 2005 after he became involved in an ethics scandal. He stepped down after a Texas jury indicted him for money laundering and conspiracy, but initially planned to re-seek the majority speaker post if he was acquitted.

Previous related news

  • Arrest warrant issued for Tom DeLay” — Wikinews, October 20, 2005
  • “U.S. house majority leader DeLay indicted, steps down temporarily” — Wikinews, September 28, 2005
  • “Tom Delay raises Republican hackles as ethics charges dominate news” — Wikinews, April 12, 2005

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November 22, 2005

Former DeLay aide pleads guilty in corruption case

Former DeLay aide pleads guilty in corruption case

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Michael Scanlon, the former partner of the influential lobbyist Jack Abramoff, pled guilty to conspiracy to bribe congressmen and other public staffers. He agreed to pay back US$19 million to a defrauded Indian tribe and entered into a plea agreement. Scanlon is an ex-aide and press secretary to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was indicted in October on conspiracy and money laundering charges relating to his dealings with Abramoff.

The members of Congress involved in the corruption charges have not yet been named by the prosecutors, but Representative Bob Ney of Ohio has acknowledged that he is “Representative No. 1” named in the court papers. The prosecution alleges that Representative No. 1 accepted gifts, including a golf trip to a luxury resort in Scotland, and regular meals in an upscale D.C. restaurant “in exchange for a series of official acts and influence.”

Ney is said to be cooperating with the investigation. According to Ney’s spokesperson, Brian Walsh, Congressman Ney was a merely victim of Scanlon’s illegal activities.

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October 20, 2005

Arrest warrant issued for Tom DeLay

Arrest warrant issued for Tom DeLay – Wikinews, the free news source

Arrest warrant issued for Tom DeLay

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Thursday, October 20, 2005

An arrest warrant was issued on Wednesday for former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Bail was set at US$10,000 ahead of his scheduled court appearance in Austin, Texas for two separate charges of money laundering and conspiracy.

The warrant is being treated as a procedural formality of law, and court officials said DeLay was expected to go to Fort Bend County Jail in his district near Houston for booking, but this has not yet been confirmed. The warrant lists two felony charges, conspiracy and money laundering in a campaign finance scheme tied to his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. Texas law forbids the use of corporate money in political campaigns. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday before state District Judge Bob Perkins.

DeLay has denied any wrongdoing. He is accused of laundering $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions through the Republican National Committee for distribution to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002. The money helped the Repbulicans to take control of the Texas Legislature, which then redistricted congressional voting boundaries. As a result this lead to an expanded majority of the house Republicans.

In response to questions DeLay’s lawyer Dick DeGuerin characterized the warrant as “a matter of routine” and assured that “bond will be posted”. The warrant followed a series of grand jury indictments handed down in late September and early October and prompted DeLay to step down temporarily as house majority leader.

Previous related news

  • “Tom Delay raises Republican hackles as ethics charges dominate news” — Wikinews, April 12, 2005

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