Democratic Underground

The Top 10 Conservative Idiots
(No. 227)

January 9, 2006
Cat In The Hat Edition

Happy new year! Okay, sure - 2006 hasn't gotten off to such an auspicious start for Jack Abramoff (1,2), Tom DeLay (3), George W. Bush (5), and the Bush Administration (4,6,7,8), but that just means there's more happiness to go around for the rest of us. Before we begin the first list of the new year, I'd like to thank everyone who voted for the Top 10 Conservative Idiots in About.com's Political Dot-Comedy Awards, making it the People's Pick for Best Humor Column of 2005. You rock! I have sneaking suspicion that we won't be struggling for material through 2006, so let's get started - enjoy, and don't forget the key!

1Jack Abramoff greed hypocrisy palm-greasing partisanship quid pro quo racism
Washington D.C. rang in the new year with yet another exciting new Republican scandal. Yes, despite the fact that the mainstream media have been doing their fair-and-balanced best to implicate Democrats in Jack Abramoff's web of corruption, this is going to come down hard on the heads of GOP lawmakers.

Last week Abramoff pleaded guilty to mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion, and cut a deal with federal prosecutors, promising to dish enough dirt on members of Congress to reduce his sentence from a possible 100 years to as little as ten. Republican lawmakers are now shaking in their shoes.

You have to feel sorry for poor Jack Abramoff though. After all, he was only trying to help. Here's what he told Washington Business Forward - who wrote that Abramoff "sees himself as a champion of Native American causes" - in 2002:

"Lots of bad things have been served up to happen to the Indian tribes. The role that we've played in helping them, whether it's fighting efforts to tax them or other indignities, that makes me feel good."

Gosh, I'm getting the warm and fuzzies. This, of course, was before Abramoff's emails were made public during Senate Indian Affair Committee hearings in 2004. Here's a selection:

"I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal counsel." (Link)

"These mofos are the stupidest idiots in the land for sure." (Link)

"We need to get some $ from those monkeys!!!!" (Link)

And to think that Tom DeLay called this man "one of my closest and dearest friends." Tsk tsk. It's no wonder that Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R- MO) persuaded House Republicans to dump DeLay last week and is lobbying his colleagues to "make his temporary tenure permanent early next month," according to the Washington Post.

After all, Blunt has clearly got nothing to do with this whole Abramoff scandal. I mean, he's only had to donate $8,500 of Abramoff's cash to charity. And it's not like he was one of Abramoff's close friends or anything. Uh... unless you count Washington Business Forward's observation that "Thanks to his close ties to prominent conservatives like soon-to-be Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Abramoff has become a force in the Washington lobbying world ... Abramoff says he's just as close to other Republicans, like [Rep.] Roy Blunt..."

But leaving that aside for a moment, as I already mentioned you may have noticed that the media is trying really, really hard to make it seem as if this is a bipartisan scandal. In fact, they actually seem to be getting quite upset about it. In this time of "red and blue truths" it must be tough for them to have to report on a story which is turning out so badly for Republicans, without being able to find much of a way to spin it against Democrats too. After all, it's not so easy to tie Democrats to a guy who has said:

"The Democrats are the enemy. Wade into them! Spill their blood! Shoot them in the belly!" (Link)

and...

"It is not our job to seek peaceful coexistence with the Left. Our job is to remove them from power permanently." (Link)

Don't get me wrong - when the shit hits the fan there may well turn out to be a small number of Democrats involved in Abramoff's criminal activities; if that's the case, those Democrats should go down too. But for now, don't pay any attention to the media whores who are jumping up and down because one or two Dems have decided to return or donate money which came anywhere near Jack Abramoff, and don't even put too much stock in the fact that Abramoff personally donated not one single dime to Democrats - because the real meat of this story is going to be about the same kind of stuff that brought down Duke Cunningham.

It's not about Abramoff's personal donations, nor is it about regular lobbying activities which take place in D.C. on a daily basis (although many of those "regular" activities are scandalous in their own right). It's about the golfing trips, the vacations, the gifts, the bribes, the fake charities, the selling of Congress to foreign interests, and whatever else comes out when Abramoff spills his guts to prosecutors. There's a long way to go before this story is through.

2Jack Abramoff Part Deux crook
But let's move on from the potential imminent destruction of Congress and focus on the man behind the fedora, Jack Abramoff. Apparently Abramoff has come to the conclusion that since he's accused of corruption and bribery on a massive scale, he might as well look the part:

I must admit, I like his style. It puts Abramoff right up there with some of the more extravagant criminals of our time. In fact, I thought I'd do a little research to see how Jack stacks up against some of the world's most famous be-hatted evil-doers. Let's take a look...

CROOK
CRIMES
CATCHPHRASE

Boris Badenov

Terrorism, animal cruelty.

"I have a plan!"

The Hooded Claw

Kidnapping, attempted murder.

"I'll get you Penelope Pitstop!"

Hamburglar

Hamburglary.

"Robble robble robble."

The Black Spy

Espionage, sabotage, assault, attempted murder.

None.

Jack Abramoff

Conspiracy, fraud, tax evasion.

"Da man! You iz da man! Do you hear me?! You da man!! How much $$ coming tomorrow? Did we get some more $$ in?" (seriously)

You know, if I had to guess which one of these criminal masterminds was going to bring down Congress, I would have picked Boris Badenov. But there you go.

3Tom DeLay loser loser loser
So, farewell then Tom DeLay, who stepped down permanently as House Majority Leader last week. And if I may speak for progressives everywhere for one moment...

HA HA HA!

Oh boy, that felt good. DeLay sent a letter to his colleagues last week, informing them of his decision to step down. The letter read, in part, "Today, I have asked Speaker Hastert to convene our conference for the purpose of electing a new majority leader, the position I have been honored to fill these past three years through the trust and confidence of our colleagues. 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."

Oh no... here it comes again...

HA HA HA!

HA HA HA!

Ahhhhhhhh. DeLay will remain in Congress and will run for re-election this year - although he's not going to have it much easier there. A recent poll of DeLay's congressional district showed that "49 percent said they would pick the Democrat; 36 percent said they would likely support DeLay." And considering that in-depth reports of DeLay's involvement with Jack Abramoff are just around the corner, well...

No, we shouldn't laugh. Let's just sit quietly and contemplate the sad fact that one of the dirtiest, most powerful Republicans in Washington has finally been ousted and disgraced, and...

HA HA HA!

HA HA HA!

Oops, sorry.

4The Bush Administration
In the wake of last week's mining tragedy in West Virginia, the White House has "promised a full investigation," according to Forbes.

Perhaps they can start by investigating why the Bush administration ignored mine safety warnings after Pennsylvania's big mining accident in 2002. David Sirota reported last week that George W. Bush "never responded to the fact sheet that House Democrats put out questioning why he had made so many cuts to mine safety programs."

The Bush administration later went on to propose $7 million in cuts to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. According to The Nation, "The administration defended the 6-percent reduction by noting the number of coal mines has been decreasing. Yet coal mining fatalities have gone up for three years in a row."

Not only that, but a Knight Ridder investigation revealed last week that "Since the Bush administration took office in 2001, it has been more lenient toward mining companies facing serious safety violations, issuing fewer and smaller major fines and collecting less than half of the money that violators owed."

Knight Ridder found that:

  • The number of major fines over $10,000 has dropped by nearly 10 percent since 2001. The dollar amount of those penalties, when adjusted for inflation, has plummeted 43 percent to a median of $27,584.

  • Less than half of the fines levied between 2001 and 2003 - about $3 million - have been paid.

  • The budget and staff for the enforcement office also have declined, forcing the agency to make do with about 100 fewer coal mine enforcement personnel.

  • In serious criminal cases, the number of guilty pleas and convictions fell 54.8 percent since 2001. In the first four years of the Bush administration, the federal government has averaged 3.5 criminal convictions a year; in the four years before that the average was 7.75 per year.

So what does the White House think of all this?

"In fact this administration proposed a fourfold increase in fines and penalties for violations of the Mine Safety and Health Administration rules," Scott McClellan said last week.

But... that's the complete opposite of what everyone else has reported! Gee, now I don't know who to believe.

5George W. Bush photo-opping
Another year, another "Things Are Just Hunky-Dory In Iraq" photo-op. George W. Bush met last week with thirteen former defense secretaries in order to... well, get some good press. He certainly didn't appear to want to actually discuss the Iraq situation with them.

According to the New York Times, "Mr. Bush allowed 5 to 10 minutes for interchange with the group - which included three veterans of the Vietnam era: Robert S. McNamara, Melvin R. Laird and James R. Schlesinger - before herding the whole group into the Oval Office for what he called a 'family picture.'" Gee, that should get things moving in Iraq.

Not that things could possibly get any better over there, you understand. Bush's assessment of the situation is that "We're making darn good progress."

Tell that to the 134 people - including five U.S. Marines - who were killed on the very day Bush was getting his little "family picture" taken.

6The Bush Administration warmongering flip-flopping excessive spin
Speaking of making "darn good progress," remember that "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" which Our Great Leader rolled out to much fanfare last November? The paper spelled out a three-pronged strategy for victory:

Our Strategy for Victory is Clear
A. The Political Track (Isolate, Engage, Build)
B. The Security Track (Clear, Hold, Build)
C. The Economic Track (Restore, Reform, Build)

Under the section "STRATEGIC LOGIC BEHIND THE ECONOMIC TRACK" we find this section:

Efforts in the reconstruction realm have significant implications in the security realm when they focus on rebuilding post-conflict cities and towns. Compensation for civilians hurt by counterterrorism operations and the restoration of some economic vibrancy to areas formerly under terrorist control can help ease resentment and win over an otherwise suspicious population.

Well it turns out that apparently "efforts in the reconstruction realm" aren't as significant as Bush & Co. originally suggested. Yes, the three-pronged strategy for victory is now officially a two-pronged strategy.

Last week it was revealed that "The Bush administration has scaled back its ambitions to rebuild Iraq from the devastation wrought by war and dictatorship and does not intend to seek new funds for reconstruction," according to the UK Guardian. "In a decision that will be seen as a retreat from a promise by President George Bush to give Iraq the best infrastructure in the region, administration officials say they will not seek reconstruction funds when the budget request is presented to Congress next month, the Washington Post reported yesterday."

Oh really? Perhaps someone should get Dick Cheney up to speed. Here's what he said just one day after that report was published in the Guardian, during a speech to the Heritage Foundation:

Day after day, month after month, Iraqis have proven their determination to live in freedom, to chart their own destiny and to defend their country. And they can know that the United States will keep our commitment to them. We will continue the work of reconstruction.

That is, almost word-for-word, the same thing Cheney said during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute last November. I guess someone had better let him know that in the two months since he gave that speech, the administration has decided to abandon one entire third of their "Strategy for Victory."

6The Bush Administration
And yet more news from Iraq: it was revealed last week that forensic studies by the Armed Forces Medical Examiner's unit concluded that around 340 American troops have been killed in Iraq from torso wounds - and eighty percent of those troops wouldn't have died if they'd had sufficient body armor.

According to the New York Times, "The Pentagon has been collecting the data on wounds since the beginning of the war in part to determine the effectiveness of body armor" - yet, "the Marine Corps did not begin buying additional plates to cover the sides of their troops until this September," and, "The Army, which has the largest force in Iraq, is still deciding what to purchase."

According to an earlier report by the Times, in March 2005:

The war in Iraq was hardly a month old in April 2003 when an Army general in charge of equipping soldiers with protective gear threw the brakes on buying bulletproof vests.

The general, Richard A. Cody, who led a Pentagon group called the Army Strategic Planning Board, had been told by supply chiefs that the combat troops already had all the armor they needed, according to Army officials and records from the board's meetings. Some 50,000 other American soldiers, who were not on the front lines of battle, could do without.

(snip)

In the case of body armor, the Pentagon gave a contract for thousands of the ceramic plate inserts that make the vests bulletproof to a former Army researcher who had never mass-produced anything. He struggled for a year, then gave up entirely. At the same time, in shipping plates from other companies, the Army's equipment manager effectively reduced the armor's priority to the status of socks, a confidential report by the Army's inspector general shows. Some 10,000 plates were lost along the way, and the rest arrived late.

And when soldiers in Iraq tried to bring up the inadequate armor situation during a face-to-face meeting with Don Rumsfeld in December 2004, he told them:

As you know, you go to war with the Army you have. They're not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time ... And if you think about it, you can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up. And you can have an up-armored humvee and it can be blown up.

Which is odd, because according to the first Times report cited above, "armor has been available since 2003 but until recently the Pentagon has largely declined to supply it to troops despite calls from the field for additional protection, according to military officials."

So much for "going to war with the Army you have."

The Pentagon hasn't even reimbursed the families of troops who had to buy body armor out of their own pocket. Back in September 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that "soldiers and their parents are still spending hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars for armor they say the military won't provide."

Of course, none of the soldiers who could have been saved by adequate body armor would have died if Our Great Leader hadn't unnecessarily charged into Iraq in the first place. But that's another story.

8The Bush Administration snooping snooping snooping unconstitutional
Just before Christmas, news broke that George W. Bush had secretly ordered the NSA to wiretap American citizens without getting a legally-required warrant. Ever since then, Bush and Co. have been busting their asses trying to justify the program.

Dick Cheney argued that if the wiretapping program had been in place earlier, 9/11 might have been prevented. (Although in hindsight they don't seem to mind that 9/11 wasn't prevented - after all, without 9/11 what would they have to base every single one of their policies on?)

And George W. Bush has been desperately trying to claim that the program is legal, because, hey, he's the president so he can damn well do what he pleases. Last month he called the program "consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution," and said last week that "This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America and, I repeat, limited."

Shame that's a load of crap. According to the New York Times:

The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As for the program's legality, a recent non-partisan Congressional report concluded that "The administration's legal justification, as presented in the summary analysis from the Office of Legislative Affairs, does not seem to be as well-grounded as the tenor that letter suggests." The report noted that "It appears unlikely that a court would hold that Congress has expressly or impliedly authorized the NSA electronic-surveillance operations here under discussion."

So despite what the administration has been saying, it appears that their little spying scheme is neither consistent with U.S. law, nor is it limited. What a surprise.

9Pat Robertson religious nut
Is there anything that Pat Robertson won't explain away as the wrath of God? (With the exception of mining disasters and tornadoes, of course.) Last week the right reverend nutbag pontificated on Ariel Sharon's stroke, saying, "God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'"

Could be, could be. Or as Jon Stewart pointed out on The Daily Show, "I'm not a doctor, and I'm not a theologian, but I'm going to go with fat, age and stress."

One does wonder though if Pat may be playing with fire here. Considering that he believes God will strike down anyone who decides they're going to "carve up Israel and give it away," he might want to think twice about his latest venture.

The UK Guardian reported last week that "The Israeli government is planning to give up a large slice of land to American Christian evangelicals to build a biblical theme park by the Sea of Galilee where Jesus is said to have walked on water and fed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish. A consortium of Christian groups, led by the television evangelist Pat Robertson, is in negotiation with the Israeli ministry of tourism and a deal is expected in the coming months."

I guess Pat must have meant "carve it up and give it away to someone who isn't me."

10Lonnie Latham sex hypocrisy homophobia
And finally, the Top 10 wouldn't be the Top 10 if we couldn't start the new year off with yet another tale of dubious conservative morals and values. Last week "An executive committee member of the Southern Baptist Convention was arrested on a lewdness charge for propositioning a plainclothes policeman outside a hotel, according to ChannelOklahoma.com.

Lonnie Latham was apparently arrested in an area of Oklahoma City "where the public has complained about male prostitutes flagging down cars" after he invited a plainclothes police officer to come back to his hotel room for oral sex.

In his defense, Latham said, "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police." Well, sure. If by "pastoring to police" he meant "seeking hot man-on-man blowjob action."

And wouldn't you know it, Latham has previously "spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist Convention directive urging its 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual 'if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle.'"

Looks like he'll have to work a bit harder at that whole "convincing yourself you're heterosexual" thing. See you next week!

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