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Friday, March 18, 2005

Second Front on Abramoff 

While the rest of the country watched baseball players discuss (or not discuss) the steroid-taking habits of power hitters, The Senate Finance Committee has opened an investigation into allegations that lobbyist Jack Abramoff funneled money through nonprofit organizations to pay for various prohibited activities, for example, trips for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (TX) to Britain’s finest golf courses and for a member of his staff to catch the Super Bowl.

James Grimaldi reported in the Washington Post yesterday that Senator Charles Grassley has opened a second front in investigating Abramoff, after Senator John McCain’s Indian Affairs Committee investigation ruffled Republican feathers by digging previously.

Grimaldi reported, “In a closed-door meeting of the Republican caucus last week, McCain sought to assure colleagues that his investigation was focused on rooting out fraudulent activities and not meant to investigate the ethics of fellow lawmakers.”

Much of the work of both committees will revolve around a charity called the National Center for Public Policy Research, which received money from both Abramoff and from tribes he represented in his business as lobbyist for casinos, shortly before the Center then paid for DeLay’s expenses on junkets.

Time will tell how well McCain will be able to keep his promise to protect DeLay.

See the Post article for lovely follow-the-money graphics too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Pam Hartman 

My old college friend Pam is dead at age 46. In addition to being sad, I’m a little pissed off about it. There’s one little thing I can’t let go of. It’s just that she and her partner were unable to fly last week to her father’s funeral, because Pam’s partner was a woman.

I know people always find reasons why a death shouldn’t have happened and mostly, those reasons are a way of delaying acceptance, but I don’t get this. I’ll explain, but first, let me tell you a bit about Pam Hartman and her partner Jeanne Kerechanin.

Pam and Jeanne worked together at a restaurant in Colorado. They lived together for a long time, leading pretty uncomplicated lives. Without much fanfare, they had a son, nineteen years ago, when it was pretty unusual for a lesbian couple to flaunt tradition and follow their parental urge. They raised their son, Eli, well and recently sent him off to college.

Pam and I lost touch lately, as college friends often do. I saw Pam last at a reunion of our college coop, but from what I gather, she and Jeanne worked hard in Manitou Springs, Colorado, had lots of friends, and by example inspired people in their community to live their lives with courage and strength. She and Jeanne stood up for gay rights and opposed efforts to institutionalize homophobia in their home state.

Pam was never very political as a college student, when I first met her. She was one of the sweetest, most brilliantly delightful people you’d ever want to meet. She was athletic and Pam got a lot of pleasure from playing sports. She was confident and always had a smile and a laugh to exchange with friends and acquaintances alike. Pam could light up a room when she came in. She was totally without the kind of defensive, judgmental attitude that, for a lot of us, passed for intelligence or deep thought. In short, Pam was a good person.

So we come to the present. Pam’s brother passed away this month and with a kid in college and only two restaurant managers’ salaries to get by on, Pam and Jeanne worried about the cost of a trip across the country to get to Beloit, Wisconsin. They wanted to get a bereavement fare break for two airline tickets to Madison, near her Mom, because they both wanted to be at the funeral to support their family in their time of grief. There was a wrinkle in this plan, though. Since Colorado doesn’t recognize any sort of legal family bond between gay people, Jeanne couldn’t get a bereavement fare. On short notice, a full fare ticket was just going to be too expensive, so they decided to drive.

I guess these things just happen and you can’t always know why, but here’s how Erin Emery's Denver Post article put what became of their little gray Honda in North Platte, Nebraska on their way east:

“The wind blew ferociously at 60 mph, churning dirt from a field onto the interstate. A semi-truck driver slowed to 35 mph in the "brown-out" conditions, and another semi, unable to slow down, slammed into it. The Honda was part of a pileup involving three other semis and two other cars. The crash also killed a Nebraska trucker and injured a couple from Golden.”

That was the last of Pam and Jeanne here with us. They were both killed instantly in the chain reaction on Interstate 80 last Thursday. They leave Eli, 19, and Jeanne’s older son Mike, from an early marriage. They were about to become grandparents. It won’t be the last of them in our hearts, but it’s not easy to come to acceptance of that just yet. Right now, it’s too fresh and right now, I know it’s a little thing to some, but I wish they could’ve gotten that airline ticket.

UPDATE: A great many people who read the blog have acknowledged their sympathy for the family and friends of Pam Hartman and Jeanne Kerechanin, many especially pointing out the difficult road ahead for their son, Eli, who is 20.

I’m happy to report that a fund has been established for Eli, who is still in college and who’s parents died without a will, meaning that there may be a protracted probate period while their estate is settled.

I’m a little skeptical about posting details of the fund online, because of the one-way openness of this technology. If anyone wishes to contribute, please send an e-mail to billkav@mac.com. I’ll pass on the trust info.

Bless you.

Let's Guess Who's Bill Gets Paid First... 

Glen at A Brooklyn Bridge posts today about two issues that should be discussed in tandem.

On the one hand:

"Excess billing for postwar fuel imports to Iraq by the Halliburton Company totaled more than $108 million, according to a report by Pentagon auditors that was completed last fall but has never been officially released to the public or to Congress."

On the other:


"The Defense Department hasn't developed a plan to reimburse soldiers for equipment they've bought to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan despite requirements in a law passed last year."


Sound like an insult to the people actually fighting this war? Yep, I thought so too….

Times Change 

Geez, it seems just a moment ago when we were all being treated to lectures from Scott McClellan on how President Bush got re-elected on a platform of ‘reforming’ Social Security. Job One. Gotta do it, people need it. Spend political capital. Got political capital.

Well, the latest Washington Post poll numbers are in and it might just be time to ask Scott all the same questions over again. Only 35% of those surveyed think the President is doing a good job leading the country on Social Security, his worst rating yet on the issue. Apparently, the more people know about the plan, the less they like it.

“Nearly six in 10--58 percent--say they are more inclined to oppose administration's reform plans as they learn more about it. Only a third say they are more receptive to Bush's proposals as more details become available.”

Next, he’ll be saying we didn’t elect him to reform Social Security, we elected him to free old people from the tyranny of the federal government. And we didn’t invade Iraq to impound WMD, we invaded it to free the Iraqi people.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Blogcall 

A new phenomenon in the blogosphere is progressive blogistan’s Blogcall.

Hosted by Democrats.com blogger Bob Fertik, the Blogcall is a weekly press conference of liberal bloggers who are breaking stories in the mainstream media. This week, the Blogcall will feature Raw Story bloggers John Bryne and Larisa Alexandrovna, who are reporting on a little known 'charity' called NCPPR and it’s cozy relationship with Tom DeLay and lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Abramoff has been the conduit for funds that reportedly made their way from his casino clients to funding junkets for DeLay and Super Bowl party cruise trips for his staff. Among the schemes used to fund these junkets were donations passed through the supposedly ‘clean’ vessel of NCPPR.

Blogcall is making its way into the mainstream media today with a story in the NY Times by Jonathan Glater about the weekly conferences. It's a breakthrough for blogistan, which has long been attempting to get mainstream access that right-wingers have long had through Fox News and the Drudge Report.

Glater:

"We hope to build a bridge," Mr. Fertik said, adding that different bloggers would be invited to share their reporting on each call. "We hope that good credible stories that are broken on the Internet find their way into coverage in the mainstream media."

Sunday, March 13, 2005

This Just In... 

In the updates department, here are some additions we’ve made (and having an NYC studio apt, the only renovations around here are to the blog):

Billmon, who, by the way, has a great visual post up now on the Bankruptcy Bill has been added under Blogs as Whiskey Bar.

Political State Report is a new addition and generally useful site updating State politics under Links. Incidentally, they’re having problems over there with typepad script, so if anyone is well versed in it, look for T.Stark’s “Oops” post recently and e-mail your suggestions to retrieve the right column.

A Brooklyn Bridge, now under Blogs helps beef up the local crowd on the left.

Susan’s award-winning writing and creative art now graces the Blogs section as well with Suburban Guerrilla

…and finally, with Spring Training well underway, Fenway Fanatics helps beef up our stats and Sox news, while Jose Melendez’s Keys to the Game adds his quirky columns to the other fine girls and boys under Bosox Blogs.

Glad to have the additions on, now we’ll clean up after the contractors and paint.

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