September 25, 2006
Doing Jack Abramoff's bidding the Ralph Hall way

Of all the things I've heard about the Jack Abramoff scandal, I think this may well be the sleaziest.

In November of 1997, Rep. Ralph Hall (R-TX) publicly questioned the credibility of a teenage girl's claims that she'd been the victim of the sex trade in the Northern Mariana Islands. The statement, which Rep. Hall entered into the Congressional Record, was prepared by Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist for the islands.

"[S]he wanted to do nude dancing," Hall's statement said of the fifteen-year-old girl. She had earlier told federal investigators that she'd been forced to work for a local nightclub in a nightly live sex show. You can read the entirety of Hall's statement here.

Press accounts at the time detailed how the girl had been taken from her parents in the Phillippines, and forced to perform sex acts on stage and before video cameras at a Northern Marianas sex club. A 1998 Department of Labor report confirmed those reports.

Hall's challenger in Texas' 4th District, history professor Glenn Melancon, has made the episode a campaign issue. "When investigators discovered child prostitution and forced abortions on the Mariana Islands, Congressman Ralph Hall was paid for covering it up and publicly attacking one of the raped children," read postcards his campaign distributed to voters.

Ew. Just, ew. The nicest thing I can say, given that Hall never refers to the girl's underage status, is that he had no idea what he was talking about but was merely performing as requested. That makes him a mindless stooge instead of a consciously evil person.

So far, the only news coverage of this is from the Greenville Herald Banner, which is treating it as a he-said she-said instead of providing any guidance as to the accuracy of Melancon's charges. It'd be nice if one of the bigger papers in the area picked this one up and ran with it. Stay tuned.

(Yes, Hall was a Democrat at the time he did this. A Democrat who had a lifetime 80+% rating with the American Conservative Union, who gladly (and at long last) switched parties to save his seat as part of the DeLay re-redistricting of 2003. He's where he belongs now.)

UPDATE: Greg has more.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 25, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

Yes, Hall was a Democrat at the time he did this.

But... but... but how can that be?

I thought corruption and Abramoff sleaze were exclusively the domain of one party.

I cannot believe this. Are you sure you have your dates straight?

Posted by: kevin whited on September 26, 2006 8:20 AM

But... but... but how can that be?

Simple. Hall switched parties at least ten years later than he should have. He's been a Republican for a long time. He just didn't make it official until 2004.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 26, 2006 8:57 AM

Oh, and one more thing, just so we're clear. If Hall were still a Democrat (of the DINO variety or not), I'd still think this was disgusting. Don't you?

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on September 26, 2006 9:49 AM


This is so horrible. I can't stand it.

This kind of abuse is also torture.

GOP Rep. Cunningham's (now in jail) Government contract for their own prostitute providing limousine service...any connection?


This goes hand in hand with Bush and his GOP (and anyone else who joins them) pushing for meaningless, non-productive (so say CIA, FBI and Military experts) meaningless, non-productive torture and the lawlessness needed to condone it.

We need much better leadership now.

People, like Bill Moyr, want strong leadership as do all of us. However, where he and some are led to confusion is in conflating strong leadership with sadistic authoritarian dominance. Big, big difference.

All of us want strong leaders (and compassionate leaders which is why the word is handed out like candy), but it is important not to be misled.

The meanist is not the strongest leader.


—John Dean, Conservatives Without Conscience

And via:

The Existentialist Cowboy

Wars of aggression, torture, domestic spying and arbitrary arrest are the hallmarks of dictatorship, yet Congress, run by the president's party, has refused to conduct full investigations into either the false WMD claims, or the abuses and torture, or the warrantless wiretaps, or the imprisonment without habeas corpus.

When Congress passed a bill forbidding torture and the president signed it, he added a "signing statement" implying a right to disregard its provisions when they conflicted with his interpretation of his powers.

The president's secret legal memos justifying the abuses and torture are based on a conception of the powers of the executive that gives him carte blanche to disregard specific statutes as well as international law in the exercise of self-granted powers to the commander-in-chief nowhere mentioned in the constitution.

If accepted, these claims would fundamentally alter the structure of the US government, upsetting the system of checks and balances and nullifying fundamental liberties, including guarantees in the Fourth Amendment to the constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures and guarantees of due process. As such, they embody apparent failures of the president to carry out his oath to "preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States". ...

—Jonathan Schell, The US: Too late for empire

When did America STOP being the "good guys"?


Posted by: Prove Our Democracy with Paper Ballots on September 26, 2006 11:26 AM

Pardon my spelling:

To Bill Maher, the meanest leader is not the strongest leader, just the meanest.


The Shameful "Compromise" on Torture

by Rep Louise Slaughter
Wed Sep 27, 2006

I am going down to the House Floor in few minutes to debate HR 6166, Military Commissions Act of 2006, a critically important legislation the Republican leadership is presenting as a "bi-partisan" compromise. But it is nothing of the sort.

It was authored by the Administration and by the Republican leaders of this Congress.

As Chairman Hunter testified in the House Rules Committee yesterday, no Democrats were involved in the negotiations he conducted over the weekend to produce this bill.

Nor did the Rules Committee make in order any of the 16 amendments Democrats offered to address parts of this bill that most offend our democratic values and violate our traditions.

This closed rule means that Congress is turning its back on having a real debate on a legislation that will damage our credibility in the world for years to come.

It is a reality made all the more egregious by the historic importance of this moment.

We are at a crossroads today, and I fear that we will not by judged kindly by future Americans for what my Republican friends want us to do today.

This bill sends a clear message to both our friends and our enemies about what kind of people we are.

It shows them whether or not we are really willing to practice what we preach about freedom, democracy, and human dignity.

It is moments like this one when we reveal our true colors, and our real values.

Sadly, M. Speaker, those watching today will conclude that when the going gets tough, America's leaders are willing abandon our values...

...abandon them in favor of thuggish tactics they hope might make them safer for a little while.

In his second Inaugural Address, President Bush used noble words to describe America's role in the world and its duty as a beacon of hope for all nations.

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value."

Those were inspirational words. But here is the reality:

For years, this Administration has circumvented our Constitution in the name of security.

Its officials have dismissed even the most important of our legal documents - such as the Geneva Convention - as being nothing more than "quaint."

This Administration and this Republican Congress have allowed detainees to sit in prison for years without charging them with any crime.

They are willing to deprive people of even the most basic due process rights our country has always afforded those held by the government.

They are willing to convict people of crimes without giving them any opportunity to review the evidence the government is using against them.

They are willing to try and convict people based on unreliable evidence acquired through cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that the rest of the world recognizes as torture.

They are willing to allow government officials to degrade and torment other human beings in ways that the civilized nations agreed to outlaw sixty years ago.

They are even willing to make any new legislation we pass today retroactive, so that past abuses may be forgotten instead of being sincerely addressed.

What this Congress is showing the world today is that we are willing to trade our national birthright for a false and temporary sense of security.
Let me emphasize that: because it is indeed a false sense of security.

After five years of secret detentions, torture, warrant-less surveillance, and hyped-up stories about weapons of mass destruction...

...are we today any safer from the threat of terrorism?

The answer is: no, we are not.

In fact, as we learned earlier this week, our country's intelligence agencies informed the President a few months ago that we are actually less safe than we were in 2001.

Mistreating our prisoners and depriving them of the basic due process rights of our legal system isn't making us safer.

All it is doing is slowly wearing away the fabric of our democratic society - undermining the essential nature that makes us different from our enemies.

When we degrade and mistreat our enemy prisoners, we degrade ourselves and the democratic values we have inherited from generations of brave and decent Americans.

We are ceding the moral high ground those who founded this country - and the men and women who have served it ever since - won with their blood, sweat, and tears.

What is more, legislation like this puts our soldiers themselves at risk.

During the course of our national debate on this issue, a number of prominent Admirals, Generals, and other military leaders have spoken out against this bill.

They have told us time and again that ignoring our American values puts our U.S. military personnel deployed overseas in danger.

They have said that respect for the rules of military engagement and prisoner treatment are more than just an important part of our heritage.

They also protect Americans captured and imprisoned by foreign powers.

How is endangering our troops making us any safer? How is undermining our moral standing helping us win allies in the war of ideas we face?

The answer is simple: it is not.

At this very moment, there are hundreds if not thousands of people being held in facilities whose fates will depend on this legislation. I want to take a moment to talk about just one of them.

Bilal Hussein is an Iraqi who worked as a photographer for the Associated Press. He has been held in Iraq by American forces for five months.

He was accused of aiding and abetting the insurgency, but he has yet to be charged with any crime. He has been given no access to a lawyer or a court, and has not been able to see the evidence against him.

The Associated Press has stood by him and repeatedly defended his innocence.

Under this bill Bilal could be declared to be an enemy combatant, sent to an American detention facility, and kept there indefinitely.

No charges would ever have to be brought against him. His permanent detention would never have to be defended in a court of law.

Imagine if another nation held an American citizen without charging them of a crime.
Imagine if it refused to allow them to even see the evidence against them.

What would we say about such a country?

And so, I ask my friends on the other side of the aisle: what are we supposed to say about our country today?

In his inaugural address of two years ago, the President had this to say about the soul of America, and I quote:

"When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, it rang as if it meant something. In our time it means something still."

This bill gives the lie to his speech. And it gives the lie to what should be our nation's greatest asset, our greatest weapon in the fight against terrorism and oppression: our values.

I ask everyone in this House to reject this bill. I ask everyone here to chart a new course for America.

If we reject torture...

...if we stand up for the legal system and fundamental rights that are the basis for liberty and the only real source of security we have...

...then we will have come a long way in our battle against the threats our nation faces in the world today.

Watch the House floor debates as I plead my colleagues to not turn their back on the past. It is in its lessons and principals that we will find the key to a safer and most just future.

Thank you.



And from Keith Olbermann who was subjected to authoritarian right wing terrorism this week.


To enforce the lies of the present, it is necessary to erase the truths of the past.

That was one of the great mechanical realities Eric Blair - writing as George Orwell - gave us in the book "1984."

The great philosophical reality he gave us, Mr. Bush, may sound as familiar to you, as it has lately begun to sound familiar to me.

"The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power...

"Power is not a means; it is an end.

"One does not establish a dictatorship to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.

"The object of persecution, is persecution. The object of torture, is torture. The object of power… is power."

Earlier last Friday afternoon, before the Fox ambush, speaking in the far different context of the closing session of his remarkable Global Initiative, Mr. Clinton quoted Abraham Lincoln's State of the Union address from 1862.

"We must disenthrall ourselves."

Mr. Clinton did not quote the rest of Mr. Lincoln's sentence.

He might well have.

"We must disenthrall ourselves and then we shall save our country."

And so has Mr. Clinton helped us to disenthrall ourselves, and perhaps enabled us, even at this late and bleak date, to save our country.

The "free pass" has been withdrawn, Mr. Bush.

You did not act to prevent 9/11.

We do not know what you have done to prevent another 9/11.

You have failed us - then leveraged that failure, to justify a purposeless war in Iraq which will have, all too soon, claimed more American lives than did 9/11.

You have failed us anew in Afghanistan.

And you have now tried to hide your failures, by blaming your predecessor.

And now you exploit your failure, to rationalize brazen torture which doesn't work anyway; which only condemns our soldiers to water-boarding; which only humiliates our country further in the world; and which no true American would ever condone, let alone advocate.

And there it is, Mr. Bush:

Are yours the actions of a true American?

Posted by: Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible on September 27, 2006 8:23 PM