Wednesday, February 23, 2005


This just in: a letter from the Senate minority leadership to George W. Bush sent from the office of Senator Durbin (IL). Will an investigation finally begin? Will the media finally take this story off the editorial page and put it on the front page? You can bet your butt they would if Bill Clinton were president. Contact your Senators and Representatives and ask them to support this letter:

Dear Mr. President,

At a press conference in the White House on January 26, you stated that "there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press." In that same press conference, you called on a reporter then known as Jeff Gannon, who worked for an organization called Talon News.

Since that time, the public has learned that the real name of that reporter is James Dale Guckert, not Jeff Gannon, and that he had regular access to the White House press facilities for more than a year. We have also learned that the questions he posed at White House press briefings and the stories he filed for Talon News frequently mirrored Republican Party talking points, that Talon News is a news organization in name only and that it has apparently close connections to the Republican party.

Given the unprecedented level of security in Washington since 9/11, it is troubling that that a non-journalist using a false name and working for a sham news organization could have gained regular access to the White House for such an extended period of time.

Another reason the Gannon/Guckert affair is disturbing is because of what we have recently learned about apparent efforts by some in your Administration to try to "buy" favorable news coverage. These other efforts include paying news personalities Armstrong Williams and Maggie Gallagher large sums of money to promote your Administration’s education and marriage initiatives, and using tax payer dollars to produce video news releases promoting the new prescription drug benefit for Medicare beneficiaries and other policies the Administration regards as accomplishments. A recent report by the General Accountability Office called such video news releases illegal uses of public funds. More recently, we have heard troubling reports that Social Security Administration officials may be using public funds and pressuring public employees to promote your goal of privatizing Social Security.

As you know, concerns that government officials may be trying to deceive the public by manipulating the media can be extremely corrosive to public trust. For that reason, we respectfully request that you order an immediate and thorough investigation into the Gannon/Guckert matter. How is it possible that a man using a fake name, with dubious journalism credentials, was able to clear the White House’s extensive security screening process and gain such close access to you and your staff for such an extended period of time? Have there been other, similar breaches of security and journalism standards?

We appreciate your prompt attention to this important matter. We urge you to order a full inquiry so that the American people know the facts.

You can find your Senators’ contact info here:

Thursday, February 17, 2005


I wouldn’t usually follow up one of my Bluest Fist posts so quickly but I want to stress to you that this James Guckert / Jeff Gannon story is one that you should really be following in the news. Both the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor are reporting on it today. And there’s continued investigative reporting on the web at and

The best synopsis of what’s new in this story since I last posted comes from two stories today in

Gannon/Guckert’s application for a press credential to cover Congress, a process handled there by reporters, was rejected. But at the White House the press office arranged for him to be given a new pass every single day, a highly unusual and deliberate evasion of the regular credentialing that requires an FBI security check, which likely would have discovered more about Guckert.

There's now documented evidence that Guckert attended White House briefings as early as February 2003. Guckert, using his alias "Jeff Gannon," once boasted online about asking then-White House press secretary Ari Fleischer a question at the Feb. 28, 2003, briefing. The date is significant because in order to receive a White House press pass, Guckert would have needed to prove that he worked for a news organization that, in the words of White House press secretary Scott McClellan, "published regularly," in itself an extraordinarily low threshold.

What's significant about the February 2003 date is that Talon did not even exist then. The organization was created in late March 2003, and began publishing online in early April 2003. Gannon has already stated publicly that Talon News was his first job in journalism. That means he wasn't working for any other news outlet in February 2003 when he was spotted by C-Span cameras inside the White House briefing room. And that means Guckert was ushered into the White House press room in February 2003 for a briefing despite the fact he was not a journalist.

May I ask, what in the HELL is going on here?? Someone in the White House issues a press pass to a prostitute who sits not ten feet from the President of the United States of America –– who CALLS on him using his first name! –– at which point, said prostitute lobs him softball questions which the President gladly answers as if they were real questions? And this continues for TWO YEARS with, again, someone in the White House making sure that this prostitute's alias and cover are not blown by the Department of Homeland Security or the Secret Service. AM I IN SPACE?!?

We can surmise that it is a symptom of this Administration that no one in the Secret Service decided to investigate Gannon/Guckert –– that they apparently decided he was just another hack conservative reporter asking the president canned non-questions at his press conferences (for instance, on January 26 when Gannon/Guckert asked the president whether the Democratic Leadership was "divorced from reality") rather than the MAJOR security breach he actually was. But the larger questions: 1) Who put him there in the first place; 2) Who kept his cover; 3) How many people in the White House knew the truth; 4) Did the President know; 5) Who illegally gave Gannon/Guckert information about undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame –– these questions need to be answered. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


In one of the more bizarre “stranger than fiction” stories to emerge out of a truly bizarre White House, it has been revealed that Jeff Gannon, a White House correspondent for the ultra-conservative propaganda outlet “Talon News” (really more a simple website than a news organization) was formerly a gay hooker named James Guckert. Furthermore, he may have been given extraordinary access to Whitehouse news information based on his relationship with one or more high-level White House and Republican staffers who are gay.

I realize that some of you may find the above paragraph impossible, preposterous and nothing more than liberal conspiracy. Not so. It is all meticulously backed up by the facts. For the story on Jeff Gannon/Guckert go here:

(Be aware that there are some potentially offensive images of Gannon/Guckert in this story from his escort websites – though nothing that couldn’t be on the nightly news, as they have been edited).

John Aravosis frames what’s at stake correctly:

This is the Conservative Republican Bush White House we're talking about. It's looking increasingly like they made a decision to allow a gay hooker to ask the President of the United States questions. They made a decision to give a man with an alias and no journalistic experience access to the West Wing of the White House on a daily basis. They reportedly made a decision to give him - one of only six - access to documents, or information in those documents, that exposed a clandestine CIA operative [Valerie Plame – this, by the way, is a federal offense]. What kind of leadership would let prostitutes roam the halls of the West Wing? What kind of war-time leadership can't find the same information that took bloggers only days to find?

As gay activist Mike Rogers of BlogActive has put it, “Friends, there is nothing wrong with being gay -- it's when the gay people are in positions of power and hiding in the closet that we have a problem. When those very same people use that power (‘Hello, Jim McGreevey, please’) to do favors for sexual partners we have a really big problem.”

And this White House is full of em. Closeted homosexuals who have been “outed” in the last year include: Ken Mehlman, Chairman of the Republican National Committee; Jay Banning, Chief Financial Officer and Director of Administration of the Republican National Committee; Dan Gurley, RNC National Field Director; David Dreier, Chairman of the immensely powerful Rules Committee in the House of Representatives; Linus Catignani, head fundraising consultant for Senate majority leader Bill Frist; Jay Timmons, Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

So, there’s two issues you need to consider here: 1) the almost sublime hypocrisy of a political party that would create a rabidly anti-homosexual agenda (I refer you to the 2004 Republican National Committee platform) while employing so many gay people in their senior leadership; and 2) these gay people themselves, who are, as Rogers points out, HIGHLY susceptible to blackmail; personally repressed and/or conflicted human beings; and personally helping to enact legislation that would limit their own civil rights. These people are making major decisions every day that affect you as a citizen and as a voter. George W. Bush signed off on all of them just as, at the same time, he was signing off on Karl Rove’s gay-baiting use of the Gay Marriage issue to draw votes away from John Kerry in the swing states.

Like I said, it’s a mad, mad, mad world in Dubya’s Washington!

Monday, February 14, 2005


Now with 25% more sack!

  Contribution amount:

Friday, February 11, 2005


I thought I’d send you all something on Bush’s Social Security plan. This has the potential to be the most sweeping piece of legislation in a generation and if it passes it will greatly effect each and every one of you, so it’s worth taking a good look.

First, a couple of indisputable facts:

1) Social Security is a wildly effective program. It collects taxes efficiently. It disburses benefits efficiently. And those benefits are, the vast majority of the time, used wisely, ensuring that millions of people are housed, fed, healthy and alive for as along as they naturally should be.

If you are one of those people (and I’ve known a surprising number in my life and heard more than a few others on TV, radio and the editorial pages) who count Social Security among those “socialist” programs of the New Deal era that never should have been enacted in the first place, then what you’re really saying is this: that the health and well-being of the American elderly should be left up to religious and charitable organizations; that if an elderly person didn’t save wisely or didn’t have the intellectual or physical abilities to earn excess income for retirement or doesn’t have access to religious and charitable assistance, then what they should properly do is die quietly in an alley like an infirm, abandoned dog.

I want to stress: that is a legitimate position to take. I only ask that if you say you are against Social Security as such that you do so with this level of transparency.

2) Social Security IS NOT in any immediate danger of becoming insolvent and disappearing. Period. End of story. Anyone who tells you otherwise is misinformed or stone cold lying to you.

A member of the Bluest Fist community who knows a helluva lot about economics (being a senior officer of a very large financial institution in NYC) has sent me the link to an interesting article by Bill Gross, “Sizing Up Social Security”:

As our Bluest Fist member (who shall remain nameless for the moment b/c I haven’t asked him whether he wants his feelings about the Bush Administration spread all over the web) tells me, “Bill Gross runs the PIMCO bond fund - the largest bond fund in the word. He is a brilliant fund manager whose words often move the debt markets. His posting today argues that, W's social security plan makes absolutely no sense.” Our fellow member goes on to explain Gross’s article in a language which is, for this English professor at least, a bit easier to understand than Gross’s own:

“Essentially Gross argues that, to the extent that one anticipates that the US government will have a problem funding social security in the future (around 2050-2070 depending on who you believe), private accounts will not help solve the problem. If there is a problem with Social Security, then it is a funding gap problem (fewer workers will need to pay more in taxes to fund the SS benefits of baby boomers or the US government will need to borrow to fund the gap). But the point is that allowing taxpayers to save a portion of their social security taxes is PSAs [Private Savings Accounts] will not reduce the funding gap. ONLY MORE WORKERS PAYING INTO SOCIAL SECURITY WILL SOLVE THE FUNDING GAP. Although reducing the US government's ballooning federal deficit would provide the US government with more leeway to borrow money to fund the SS funding gap...

Instead, W. [your President] is simply trying to pull the old 401k versus fully-funded pension bait-and-switch routine on US taxpayers. In W's "ownership society" workers will fund a portion of their own retirement by re-directing a portion of their SS taxes into PSAs. These savings accounts will be secure and may be transferred to heirs at death (draining even more money out of the SS system!!). But these PSAs will not solve the Social Security funding gap unless the rise of PSAs is also coupled with either (A) more workers paying into the system OR ..... wait for it .... (B) a gradual lessening of the burden on the US government to provide social security benefits (i.e., eventually the government must reduce SS benefits to workers now in their 20s, push back the retirement age, and / or not allow rich workers to collect SS benefits, etc). For workers with large PSAs these reduced benefits may not hurt much. But for most people paying smaller amounts into the social security system, it will translate into fewer benefits from a social security system that will remain chronically under funded...

Moreover, PSAs will obviously introduce market risk into the retirement equation for individuals - which is a tricky variable no matter what Bush says. If you can sustain 50% losses in your 401k during a stock market crash, then it could happen in your Social Security PSA too. There is no way around it. Essentially, PSAs just shift the market risk to individuals as opposed having the US government bear the market risk (hence my prior 401k vs. fully-funded pension analogy). But private saving accounts for social security DO NOT lessen the looming burden on the government to remedy the funding gap for the entire system.”

I present this brilliantly succinct explanation of a colossally dim-witted piece of legislation as a service to you, my readers.

I would only add that Bush’s plan does have one very obvious constituency from where I’m standing: stock brokers. But the Slogan “Your Children, Grandchildren and Great-Grandchildren Should Bear the Burden of a Short-Term Windfall for Stock Brokers” doesn’t sound very Karl Rovian. “Leave No Senior Behind” is more like it. You see, with this White House, up is down and day is night.

Monday, February 07, 2005


Like I said in my "Blowback Iraq" piece in November, I hope everybody has the stomach for more of this when our boys in uniform start returning home by the thousands...


Published: February 7, 2005
Filed at 3:18 p.m. ET

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) -- A Fort Bragg soldier charged as a teenager in a notorious New Jersey rape case shot and wounded his estranged wife and her boyfriend, then killed himself, authorities said.

Spc. Richard Timothy Corcoran, 34, entered wife Michele A. Corcoran's house Thursday night and shot William Paul Seifert several times. Michele Corcoran ran outside, where she was shot in the arm, said Cumberland County sheriff's Maj. Sam Pennica.

Corcoran then went back inside the house and shot himself, Pennica said.

Seifert, who is also a Fort Bragg soldier, was taken to Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Michele Corcoran, 30, was treated and released. The Corcorans' 7-month-old baby was in the house but was not hurt.

Richard Corcoran was involved in a 1989 case in affluent Glen Ridge, N.J., in which a group of popular high school athletes allegedly raped a mentally retarded teenage girl with a broom and a baseball bat.

Corcoran, the son of a Glen Ridge police lieutenant, was among seven boys who were arrested and charged, but charges against him were dropped the day before his trial was to begin.

Three other boys were sentenced to jail terms, one was given probation and two others were ordered to perform community service under plea agreements.

In 1997, Corcoran won a $200,000 settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit that charged Essex County prosecutors with malicious prosecution.

Corcoran enlisted in the Army in June 2000. He was assigned to Fort Bragg in 2001 and in late 2002 was deployed to Afghanistan with the 7th Special Forces Group, said Sgt. Kyle Cosner, a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command.

Corcoran returned home in 2003 and was transferred to the 1st Special Warfare Training Group in August of that year.

A 1997 book, ``Our Guys: The Glen Ridge Rape and the Secret Life of the Perfect Suburb,'' explored the town's willingness to rally around the perpetrators and disparage the victim.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


I’ve mentioned the Alberto Gonzalez nomination for Attorney General in an earlier post to you all and pointed you toward an excellent synopsis of his candidacy written by People for the American Way. His supervision of the infamous White House “torture memos” which suggested that the president could exempt interrogators from the Geneva Convention is really just the tip of the iceberg. Gonzalez also served as an utterly lazy and uninterested rubber stamp for every death penalty case that reached George W. Bush’s desk as Governor of Texas (there were well over a hundred –– some defendants were convicted with a single accuser as the only evidence against them; others had court-appointed lawyers who – literally – slept through their proceedings; one, Carla Fay Tucker, was a born again Christian whom clergy around the world literally begged Bush not to execute – after she was executed Bush mocked her to a reporter by imitating her crying, “Please don’t kill me!”).

Gonzalez is also just an untalented lawyer, plain and simple – he is one in a long line of appointees who have benefited from a political policy which began with Bush Sr.’s White House: namely the appointing of rightwing minority yes-men (and women) regardless of whether they have the intelligence and experience to do the job for which they were chosen. Call it the “Clarence Thomas Strategy.” This strategy has it’s distinct advantages – you get an appointee who is in political lockstep with you AND you get hundreds of future photo-images of yourself surrounded by minorities in high positions which suggests – suggests -- to the casual voter, political moderation. When people object to them you (subtly or overtly) call them racists, further blurring the lines when it comes to taking sides on Civil Rights. It’s brilliant, actually, and effective when Democrats fail to respond boldly. In this case, they need to say that a) Gonzalez is a disaster as a candidate; and b) he DOES NOT represent Latinos – a majority of the major Latino groups, in fact, are against his candidacy.

When we failed to stop Bush’s last nomination for Attorney General, John Ashcroft, we got someone who was blinded by ideology and consumed with pet-projects, and who consequently told counter-terrorism officials (before 9/11) that he wasn’t interested in terrorism and proceeded to ignore it until it could not be ignored. He then filled the USA Patriot Act with WILD invasions of your privacy that have nothing whatsoever to do with effectively fighting terrorism.

Let’s not make this mistake again.

There is still time to take action against Gonzalez’s candidacy by urging your Senators to vote against his nomination.

At the top of the page you’ll see “Find Elected Officials” which you can click on. You should call your own Senators and ask them to vote no on Gonzalez’s nomination (make sure you tell them you’re one of their state constituents).

You should also call the one Democratic holdout, newly elected Colorado Senator Ken Salazar:

Washington Phone: (202) 224-5852
Fax: (202) 228-5036

Colorado Phone: (303) 455-7600


Salazar has accepted at face value a letter from Gonzalez stating that he now believes torture is illegal and supports human and civil rights (!) But as, Senator Dick Durbin explains in the long quote below (I’ve copied the transcription from Daily Kos) Gonzalez’s actions in front of the Senate put his conversion in grave doubt. I’ll close with Durbin’s opinion.

Mr. Gonzales now says he believes that all torture by U.S. personnel is illegal. But notice what Mr. Gonzales does not say.

I asked Mr. Gonzales whether he believes the President could invoke his authority as Commander-in-Chief to simply ignore the anti-torture statute. Mr. Gonzales refused to answer, saying, "it is simply implausible that I would ever be called upon to address" this question. But Mr. Gonzales and this Administration are the ones who raised this "simply implausible" question. The Justice Department's infamous torture memo, which Mr. Gonzales requested and approved, claims that the President does have this authority.

I asked Mr. Gonzales whether U.S. personnel can legally engage in cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment under any circumstances. Mr. Gonzales's response was shocking. He claimed that it is legal for the U.S. government to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. Specifically, he said, "There is no legal prohibition under the [Torture Convention] on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to aliens overseas." But cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment are expressly prohibited by the Torture Convention, a treaty that the U.S. has ratified and is bound to obey, not just by law but by the rule of conscience. In an editorial entitled, "A Degrading Policy," The Washington Post called Gonzales' position "a gross distortion of the law."

This explains why Mr. Gonzales and this administration opposed my anti-torture amendment to the intelligence reform bill. My amendment would simply have reaffirmed the U.S.' long-standing obligation not to engage in torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. This is the law of the land.

But Mr. Gonzales claims that my amendment "would have provided legal protections to foreign prisoners to which they are not now entitled." I asked him what additional legal protections my amendment would have provided. Mr. Gonzales refused to respond.

Now we know the legal protections that Mr. Gonzales opposes: the long-standing prohibition against cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.

I asked Mr. Gonzales about media reports that U.S. personnel have used abusive interrogation tactics such as simulated drowning, mock executions, threatening detainees with dogs, forced nudity, forcing detainees to assume painful, contorted positions for extended periods of time, and the forcible injection of mood altering drugs. I gave Mr. Gonzales an opportunity to repudiate these tactics and to make clear that this administration will not tolerate such abuses.

He responded, as only a lawyer can, with a very carefully worded and ambiguous answer. He said, "Some of these activities, at least under certain factual assumptions, might very well be prohibited ... Some might likewise be permissible in specific circumstances." What a pack of weasel words about torture techniques. Mr. Gonzales refuses to condemn un-American and degrading conduct that, frankly, shocks the conscience.

I also asked Mr. Gonzales about reports that the U.S. has "outsourced" torture by sending detainees to countries that systematically engage in torture. The Torture Convention prohibits a government from sending someone to a country if there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being tortured. As a party to the Torture Convention, we are bound to abide by this prohibition.

Mr. Gonzales responded with another very lawyerly answer. He said that "it is permissible in appropriate circumstances to rely on assurances from a country that it will not engage in torture, and such assurances can provide a basis for concluding that a person is not likely to be tortured if returned to another country."

Based on this reading of the law, the Administration has reportedly sent detainees to countries, including Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, which systematically engage in torture. These detainees have said publicly that they were in fact tortured after they were transferred to these countries. It is indefensible to send a detainee to a country that regularly uses torture on the basis of hollow assurances that it will not torture the detainee. Outsourcing torture is morally equivalent to engaging in torture.

The bottom line is this. Mr. Gonzales says he is opposed to torture, but he believes the President can invoke the Commander-in-Chief exception to set aside the torture statute; and he believes it is legally permissible to outsource torture.

He says it is Administration policy to treat detainees humanely, but he believes it is legally permissible to subject detainees to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; he opposes my anti-torture amendment, which would have reaffirmed the prohibition on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment; and he refuses to condemn a host of abusive tactics such as mock execution and simulated drowning.

These are not the principles on which our nation is based. America is a nation founded on the ideals of freedom and justice. We believe that no one is above the law, no one is outside the law, and no government official should ever be invested with the power, real or imagined, to ignore, bend or break the rule of law.

6 Democratic Senators voted to confirm Gonzales as Attorney General: Salazar of Colorado, Nelson of Fla., Nelson of Nebraska, Pryor of Arkansas, Landrieu of Louisiana, and (blech) Lieberman of Conn.

Call their offices and let them have it! If someone doesn't run against Lieberman from his left in his next election than there IS NO DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT.