Thursday, June 26, 2008

Married to the Mob

by Eli Blake

Ever since the 2000 election, when Vietnam combat veteran John McCain burst onto the scene in the Republican Presidential primaries as a 'moderate alternative' to George W. Bush, it seems that he has led a charmed political life. George Bush is known to detest McCain personally, but he has needed him. Liberals held their fire because every now and then McCain throws them a bone (in fact John Kerry wasted valuable time and effort trying to convince McCain, who was the chair of the Bush campaign in Arizona, to defect and run on a ticket with him; what it also meant was that when John Kerry picked John Edwards for the ticket, everyone knew he was a second choice.) Independents ooze over the conservative McCain (and conservative he is, just look at his voting record,) as if they think he is one of them. Even Bush backers, like Pat Robertson (who thoroughly trashed McCain in South Carolina) have warmed up to him.

And one of McCain's biggest assets, according to most of these people is that he eschews negative campaigning.

There is a good reason for that though. It's a tale that involves organized crime, corruption and murder. Let's say that John McCain never runs a negative ad against his opponents because he doesn't want them to dig too hard.

It's because McCain is where he is because of his marriage to his second wife, Cindy. No, Cindy Hensley McCain is not where the story begins. She was a young 25 when McCain married her (he was 43). According to the Arizona Republic on June 5, 1999, McCain joked that his marriage was based on a 'tissue of lies.' Both he and she had lied to each other, she claiming to be older than she was and he claiming to be younger. Yeah, I know-- what a good foundation for a marriage to start off on. To their credit the McCains however have stayed together. Or maybe there are other reasons...

One wonders what Cindy told McCain about her father. When did McCain learn how his father-in-law Jim Hensley made his fortune? Sooner or later he had to be dealt in on the 'family jewels.' After all, they helped finance a run for Congress and not long after that for the Senate.

Jim Hensley and his brother Eugene went to work after World War II for Kemper Marley, a wealthy wholesale liquor distributor. Marley, in fact, had once been a bookie, getting his start working for the Transamerica Wire Service, a betting service established by mafiosi Gus Greenbaum (who was murdered with his wife when their throats were slashed in bed in 1958). Until 1947, liquor was rationed by the government. Apparently Marley did quite well in spite of the restrictions, and in 1948 the reason why became clear. Eugene and Jim Hensley were convicted of falsifying records on behalf of Marley's distributorship, United Liquor (along with fifty other Marley employees) to conceal the illegal distribution of hundreds of cases of liquor. Jim Hensley got a six month suspended sentence.

In 1953, Jim Hensley, then the General Manager for United Liquor, was once more charged for doing the same thing again. Marley paid for top notch legal representation though (future Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.) Hensley still went to prison, but took the fall when the rest of the company was cleared. According to an article in American, Marley rewarded Hensley for his loyalty to the organization:

When Hensley strolled out of the joint, Marley bought his silence with a lucrative Phoenix-based Budweiser beer distributorship.

That distributorship and the rest of Marley's empire did very well over the decades for both Hensley and Marley, making both men multi-millionaires.

In fact, Marley was interested in more than just liquor. In 1976, then Gov. Raul Castro, a Democrat, appointed Marley, then a billionaire and the state's richest man, to the state racing commission.

And that's when one of those pesky investigative reporters got in the way. The reporter's name was Don Bolles and he worked for the Arizona Republic. Bolles discovered a land fraud ring and other crimes that appeared to lead to Sen. Barry Goldwater and other movers and shakers in Arizona. And he discovered that Kemper Marley, newly appointed to the State Board Racing Commission, had connections to the Mafia. In fact, Marley was a close associate of Peter Licavoli, the mob boss for Arizona. Marley had also served as Chairman of the Board for Valley National Bank, which helped bankroll Bugsy Siegel's construction of the Flamingo in Las Vegas. Digging into Marley's past also uncovered his earlier work for Gus Greenbaum. The revelations forced Marley to resign from the commission.

And Kemper Marley and his associates in the Mafia weren't people whose business you interfered with lightly.

On June 2, 1976, Bolles climbed into his car and was blown apart by a bomb under the driver's seat. Pieces of his body were strewn around the parking lot. Bolles amazingly survived for eleven days and said to investgators on the scene, "They finally got me. The Mafia. Emprise. Find John (Harvey) Adamson."

Adamson was later convicted of the murder. But who hired him? That trail was never really followed up on, according to members of the Arizona Project, a group of reporters who began looking into mob ties after the murder.

Following Bolles' death, more than 30 journalists from the then-newly formed Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group arrived in Phoenix to carry out their late colleague's work....

Don Devereux, another Arizona Project reporter, feels the IRE team may have trusted the authorities too much. "We accepted very uncritically their scenario. In retrospect, we were very naive to get lead around. It really isn't something that we should be running around congratulating ourselves about," says Devereux of the IRE investigation...

"The biggest disservice we did to Bolles was not paying more attention to him," says Devereux. "His dying words were words we should have glommed onto a little more seriously, because when he was lying on the pavement he said: `Adamson, Emprise, Mafia. ... Emprise was almost Bolles' white whale. He was obsessed by them...."

Emprise, a Buffalo, NY based sports concessionire with known mob ties, had a circuit of Greyhound racing tracks in Arizona. So who was named to the Racing Commission was of vital interest to Emprise. Enter Kemper Marley. Exit Kemper Marley, courtesy of Bolles.

The Phoenix police theorized that Marley wanting revenge enlisted the help of local contractor Max Dunlap. Dunlap then allegedly hired Adamson to carry out the bombing. Adamson claimed that plumber James Robison assisted him.

Over the years, Dunlap and Robison have maintained their innocence. Dunlap remains incarcerated.** Although, Robison gained acquittal in a retrial, he is still awaiting release from prison on a related charge. Meanwhile, the state paroled Adamson [in 1996], and he disappeared into the federal witness protection program.

The Phoenix police never even arrested Marley, who died in 1990.

**-- Dunlap has since died in prison after the source article was published.

Meanwhile, Jim Hensley remained a close confidante and associate of Kemper Marley. In fact, it was Bolles who wrote that the Hensleys had bought Ruidoso Downs horse racing track in New Mexico on behalf of Marley. Eugene Hensley later sold the track to a buyer linked to Emprise (linked here as described in the Phoenix Gazette, Jan. 4, 1990.)

One thing that Marley and Hensley didn't have-- governmental authority themselves. They had to depend on their friends in government to help them out. But then Hensley got a gift-- his daughter married the former Navy pilot and decorated veteran of the Vietnam conflict, John McCain.

- more -

1984 pulp book covers from 1954 (updated)

by Jason Erik Lundberg

Back in May, Colleen Mondor put out a modest proposal for bloggers to write about their favorite political books (fiction or non-) during the month of August. (I previously noted this here.) I will happily be bloviating about George Orwell's 1984, as it happens to be one of my all-time favorite books (and a huge influence on my own fiction, and very specifically on my n*vel-in-progress). In the run-up to that post, when I have time, I've been poking about teh internets for inspiration.

And quite by accident, the other day, I discovered the following front and back book covers for 1984 on Amazon, posted by David Rolfe of Pasadena, CA:

They are from the 1954 Signet (#S798) paperback edition, and are quite unlike the covers for any other editions that I've seen for Orwell's most well-known novel, which tend toward minimalism, with the numerical title almost always taking up the majority of the space. Part of me loves the lurid pulpish nature of these covers, and I'd love to see a modern revisioning of them, along the lines of what Night Shade and Jon Foster recently did for Jon Courtenay Grimwood's 9Tail Fox (although I still love the groovy new Penguin covers by Shepard Fairey). (Wow, I said "love," like, three times in the last sentence.)

(David Rolfe, who originally posted the covers (thanks, David!) writes: "Note the button on the girl's shirt: 'AntiSex League.' But does she practice what she preaches?" Indeed.)

In case you can't read the over-the-top text on the back cover (which manages to not mention Winston Smith, Julia, O'Brien, Room 101, Ingsoc, or Oceania), here's what it says:

Which One Will YOU Be In the Year 1984?

There won't be much choice, of course, if this book's predictions turn out to be true. But you'll probably become one of the following four types:

Proletarian--Considered inferior and kept in total ignorance, you'll be fed lies from the Ministry of Truth, eliminated upon signs of promse of ability!

Police Guard--Chosen for lack of intelligence but superior brawn, you'll be suspicious of everyone and be ready to give your life for Big Brother, the leader you've never even seen!

Party Member: Male--Face-less, mind-less, a flesh-and-blood robot with a push-button brain, you're denied love by law, taught hate by the flick of a switch!

Party Member: Female--A member of the Anti-Sex League from birth, your duty will be to smother all human emotion, and your children might not be your husband's!

Unbelievable? You'll feel differently after you've read this best-selling book of forbidden love and terror in a world many of us may live to see!

England Prevails.
- more -

Final miles of border fence get green light

Supreme Court ignores environmental concerns

by Sean Holstege

The U.S. Supreme Court removed the last legal hurdle to building the remaining 340 miles of a U.S.-Mexican border fence when the court refused Monday to hear a case challenging the government's go-ahead order.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had waived three dozen environmental- and cultural-protection laws in April, declaring the fence a national-security priority. Chertoff said the waiver, authorized by Congress, was the only way to ensure completion of a 670-mile border-fence project by January.

The government plans to add 58 miles of fences and barriers along Arizona's 380-mile border with Mexico. About 204 miles of fences or barriers currently exists along the Arizona border. 

Sen. Jon Kyl hailed the decision as "very useful" and said he hopes the work will get done on time.

Sean Sullivan, who chairs the Sierra Club's border committee, called the ruling "very disappointing," adding, "Our last hopes are now with Congress" passing future restrictions.

Environmentalists at Defenders of Wildlife had sued to stop construction in Arizona's San Pedro River, calling the waiver an unconstitutional abuse of power. Ecologists say the barriers threaten the existence of endangered animals such as jaguars.

- more -


Fun in the Sun: Gitmo Gets Makeover as R&R Resort

by Chris Floyd

Flowers, fishies, frogs and dolphins, and the most precious, cutesy color printing you ever saw: "Someone who loved me got me this t-shirt in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba!"

You can pick up one of these sparkly items for the kids – along with stuffed iguanas, decorated coffee mugs ("Kisses from Guantanamo Bay!"), snazzy keyrings ("It don't GITMO better than this!") and all manner of bric-a-brac from the sun-drenched heaven that bills itself as "Taliban Towers, the Caribbean's Newest 5-star Resort."  Yes, the Pentagon has turned the Terror War concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay into a luxurious vacation spot for military personnel and their families – and military contractors, too, of course!

As the Daily Mail reported recently, the Pentagon has splashed out for white sand beaches, a golf course, movie theaters, a bowling alley, restaurants – even a Wal-Mart – right next to the holding pens where Terror War captives have languished in limbo for years, enduring endless isolation,"harsh interrogation techniques" and other holiday amusements.

We don't mean to imply that the serious business going on at Gitmo is ignored, however. Far from it. The gift shop features several items that make antic hay of the concentration camp's dread purpose. Barbed wire and guard towers are a prevalent motif on various cups and shirts, for example. You can sip your beachside latte in a cup that tells the world that the Bush gulag is "Honor Bound to Defend Freedom." And if you find froggies and dolphins a bit too frilly, you can always prepare your kids to take their rightful place in the Terror War imperium with a t-shirt emblazoned "Future Behavior Modification Instructor." It makes learning fun!


Mugabe opponent pulls out

Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has quit the presidential race, nearly three months after besting the long-reigning Robert Mugabe in first-round voting. Calling the electoral process a "violent sham," Tsvangirai withdrew from this Friday's runoff poll. Since securing 47% of the vote against Mugabe's 43%, Tsvangirai has received numerous death threats and is now in hiding. Meanwhile, 85 opposition supporters have died, and hundreds of others have been beaten or tortured.

Although it once appeared that Mugabe was willing to step aside, the escalation of violence in recent weeks makes it clear that the octogenarian ruler will not budge. Meanwhile, some African leaders — along with the United Nations — have stepped up calls for an immediate intervention. (ED)

A Record Year for the Pharmaceutical Lobby in '07

Washington's largest lobby racks up another banner year on Capitol Hill

By M. Asif Ismail
Data analysis by Helena Bengtsson

Washington, June 24, 2008 – Washington's largest lobby, the pharmaceutical industry, racked up another banner year on Capitol Hill in 2007, backed by a record $168 million lobbying effort, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal lobbying data. Among the industry's successes: getting two controversial laws extended and thwarting congressional efforts to restrict media ads for prescription drugs.

The spending represents a 32 percent jump over 2006. Driven in part by a busy legislative calendar dominated by issues critical to the industry, the effort raised the amount spent by drug interests on federal lobbying in the past decade to more than $1 billion. Pharmaceutical, medical device, and other health product manufacturers, together, spent more than $189 million on lobbying last year, another record and nearly three times the $67 million they spent in 1998, the first full year for which complete records and totals are available.

More than 90 percent of the total was spent by 40 companies and three trade groups: the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Advanced Medical Technology Association.

The spending binge last year may have also been fueled by the previous November's Democratic takeover of Congress. After the Democratic sweep of the House of Representatives, several long-standing critics of the industry, such as Representative Henry Waxman of California, assumed leadership roles of powerful committees. Intent on closer oversight of the industry, they conducted a series of hearings on issues such as drug safety, pharmaceutical pricing, and availability of generic medicines. Waxman and some fellow Democrats also tried to give more regulatory power to the Food and Drug Administration and revisit the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, a law that came into being in 2003 after heavy industry lobbying. The legislation, which resulted in the largest overhaul of Medicare in its history, provides prescription drug coverage through the program.

"After the Democratic victory in November 2006, [the industry] had to scramble," says Ira Loss, a pharmaceutical analyst with Washington Analysis Corporation. "They had to hire more Democratic lobbyists." Ken Johnson, senior vice president of communications at PhRMA, acknowledged that the industry faced "a difficult political environment." But he maintained that PhRMA doesn't see having a Democratic Congress as a disadvantage. "We don't look at it through the prism of Democrats and Republicans. We look at it in terms of those who support free market policies and those who don't."

A review of campaign contributions reveals that the industry has dramatically increased donations to the Democrats since their victory in November 2006. In the current election cycle so far, for the first time on record, the pharmaceutical and health products industry has given slightly more money to Democrats than Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In the 2006 cycle, Democrats received only 31 percent of the contributions from the industry, while the Republicans received 67 percent.

More than $6.8 million of the $14.4 million the pharmaceutical and health product industry gave in contributions went to members of three committees that regulate the industry: the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, House Committee on Ways and Means, and Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor.

- more -


Vote theft for idiots

by Greg Palast

House Democrats shameful compromise


Julian Sanchez of The American Prospect writes that the House Democrats who say the FISA bill they voted for is a "compromise" are liars, unless you define "'compromise" as a "shameful or disreputable concession,' which fits the deal brokered by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to a tee."
The award for the most bald-faced lie on the House floor Friday, however, goes to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who insisted that the bill "does not allow warrantless surveillance of Americans." She is wrong. It does.

The broader spying powers given to the executive branch by the compromise bill require intelligence agencies to "target" foreigners. But if those foreign "targets" happen to call or e-mail Americans, those communications are fair game. And since the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is only permitted to review the broad targeting procedures government eavesdroppers use to determine that a target is abroad, and not the substantive basis for authorizing surveillance of any target, anyone is a potential target.

The bill, in other words, allows the government to conduct "vacuum cleaner" surveillance -- sweeping up international traffic willy-nilly -- then filter it for anything that looks interesting. Indeed, many believe that licensing such surveillance is precisely the point of this legislation. If so, "warrantless surveillance of Americans" could well become routine, whether or not they are the formal "targets" of eavesdropping.

Democrats Capitulate on FISA (via Reason)

quote of the day


Citing Google, pornographer claims orgies are bigger than apple pie

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Court Rewards Exxon for Valdez Spill

by Greg Palast
[Thursday, June 26, 2008] Twenty years after Exxon Valdez slimed over one thousand miles of Alaskan beaches, the company has yet to pay the $5 billion in punitive damages awarded by the jury. And now they won't have to. The Supreme Court today cut Exxon's liability by 90% to half a billion. It's so cheap, it's like a permit to spill.
Exxon knew this would happen. Right after the spill, I was brought to Alaska by the Natives whose Prince William Sound islands, livelihoods, and their food source was contaminated by Exxon crude. My assignment: to investigate oil company frauds that led to to the disaster. There were plenty.
But before we brought charges, the Natives hoped to settle with the oil company, to receive just enough compensation to buy some boats and rebuild their island villages to withstand what would be a decade of trying to survive in a polluted ecological death zone.
In San Diego, I met with Exxon's US production chief, Otto Harrison, who said, "Admit it; the oil spill's the best thing to happen" to the Natives.
His company offered the Natives pennies on the dollar. The oil men added a cruel threat: take it or leave it and wait twenty years to get even the pennies. Exxon is immortal - but Natives die.
And they did. A third of the Native fishermen and seal hunters I worked with are dead. Now their families will collect one tenth of their award, two decades too late.
In today's ruling, Supreme Court Justice David Souter wrote that Exxon's recklessness was ''profitless'' - so the company shouldn't have to pay punitive damages. Profitless, Mr. Souter? Exxon and it's oil shipping partners saved billions - BILLIONS - by operating for sixteen years without the oil spill safety equipment they promised, in writing, under oath and by contract.
The official story is, "Drunken Skipper Hits Reef." But don't believe it, Mr. Souter. Alaska's Native lands and coastline were destroyed by a systematic fraud motivated by profit-crazed penny-pinching. Here's the unreported story, the one you won't get tonight on the Petroleum Broadcast System:
It begins in 1969 when big shots from Humble Oil and ARCO (now known as Exxon and British Petroleum) met with the Chugach Natives, owners of the most valuable parcel of land on the planet: Valdez Port, the only conceivable terminus for a pipeline that would handle a trillion dollars in crude oil.
These Alaskan natives ultimately agreed to sell the Exxon consortium this astronomically valuable patch of land -- for a single dollar. The Natives refused cash. Rather, in 1969, they asked only that the oil companies promise to protect their Prince William Sound fishing and seal hunting grounds from oil.
In 1971, Exxon and partners agreed to place the Natives' specific list of safeguards into federal law. These commitment to safety reassured enough Congressmen for the oil group to win, by one vote, the right to ship oil from Valdez. 
The oil companies repeated their promises under oath to the US Congress.
The spill disaster was the result of Exxon and partners breaking every one of those promises - cynically, systematically, disastrously, in the fifteen years leading up to the spill.
Forget the drunken skipper fable. As to Captain Joe Hazelwood, he was below decks, sleeping off his bender. At the helm, the third mate would never have collided with Bligh Reef had he looked at his Raycas radar. But the radar was not turned on. In fact, the tanker's radar was left broken and disasbled for more than a year before the disaster, and Exxon management knew it. It was just too expensive to fix and operate.
For the Chugach, this discovery was poignantly ironic. On their list of safety demands in return for Valdez was "state-of-the-art" on-ship radar.
We discovered more, but because of the labyrinthine ways of litigation, little became public, especially about the reckless acts of the industry consortium, Alyeska, which controls the Alaska Pipeline.


stimulus check


Satire at the ballot box to 'honor' Bush

by Marisa Lagos

If you've attended an event or festival in San Francisco lately - or even just hung out at a city park - you've probably seen them.

Admittedly, they're hard to miss. Someone in the group is usually toting a large American flag, and another is often carrying a boom box blaring patriotic music. Sometimes one of them dresses up as Uncle Sam.

They're the Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco, but don't let the serious name fool you. The group's intentions are in the gutter: They want to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant come January, when the next president is sworn in.

During the inauguration, the group also wants supporters to participate in a "synchronized flush"- a way to send a gift to the renamed plant, which supporters say, would be a "fitting monument to this president's work."

It sounds like a harmless joke, or maybe a college civics lesson gone awry. But the handful of friends who dreamed this up over beers one night say they have already collected 8,500 signatures in support of the plan - 1,300 more than the minimum needed to put the question to city voters in November. When they submit the signatures in July, election workers will have to verify that at least 7,168 are from registered city voters for the measure to qualify for the ballot.

- more -


HR 6304 - A Bill to Abolish the 4th Amendment

‘We’ve Treated The Arab World As A Collection Of Big Gas Stations

abizaid.jpgUPDATE: The Stanford Daily, which originally reported on the round table, incorrectly attributed some of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman's comments to Gen. Abizaid. Though Abizaid did say "Of course it's about oil, we can't really deny that," it was Friedman who said "We've treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations." The Daily has posted a correction.

During a round table discussion on "the Fight for Oil, Water and a Healthy Planet" at Stanford University on Saturday, Gen. John Abizaid (Ret.), the former CENTCOM Commander, said that "of course" the Iraq war is "about oil":

"Of course it's about oil, we can't really deny that," Abizaid said of the Iraq campaign early on in the talk.

"We've treated the Arab world as a collection of big gas stations," the retired general said. "Our message to them is: Guys, keep your pumps open, prices low, be nice to the Israelis and you can do whatever you want out back. Osama and 9/11 is the distilled essence that represents everything going on out back."

Abizaid has previously argued that the U.S. would need "to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq" in order to protect "the free flow of goods and resources" such as oil, but his Stanford comments go much further in pinning oil as a prime motivator for the war.


- more -

The Gipper's Ghost

McCain's Low Road To Victory


The effort to make this campaign about voters' unconscious fears of Obama has already begun.
Seldom has a presidential candidate faced such long odds. John McCain has repeatedly allied himself with the most unpopular president since the history of modern polling. He has embraced the most unpopular war since Vietnam. The U.S. economy continues its downward slide. Polls show generic Democratic candidates leading by double digits at all levels of government.

And those are just the beginning of McCain's problems. He is caught between a rock and a hard place in the core narrative about what he stands for. Moderates are turned off every time he takes a right turn to bow to a base whose ideology has proven destructive, while the GOP base is distinctly unenthusiastic about a candidate they suspect is really not one of them. Add to the mix an extraordinarily charismatic candidate running against an extraordinarily uncharismatic one, and it's no surprise that Republicans are openly expressing angst.

With all that stacked against him, the only road that could take McCain to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the low road, one of the few pieces of infrastructure left in good repair by President Bush. His father paved it against Michael Dukakis, George W. Bush repaved it running against John Kerry, and the GOP repainted the dotted line in now-Senator Bob Corker's 2006 contest with Harold Ford. The path to success for McCain is to make the election a referendum on his opponent, by working in silent concert with 527 groups and media outlets such as Fox News to pursue character assassination, guilt by association, and, most of all, the effort to paint Obama as different, foreign, unlike "us," and dangerous (and did I mention that he's black?).

- more -

McCain Adviser Regrets Seeing 'Advantage' in Terror Attack

ABC News' Bret Hovell, Teddy Davis, and James Gerber Report: McCain adviser Charlie Black expressed regret Monday for telling Fortune Magazine that a terrorist attack on U.S. soil would be "a big advantage" for the presumptive Republican nominee.

"Certainly it would be a big advantage to him," Black told Fortune Magazine.

The Obama campaign chided Black, calling his remarks "a complete disgracce."

"The fact that John McCain's top advisor says that a terrorist attack on American soil would be a 'big advantage' for their political campaign is a complete disgrace, and is exactly the kind of politics that needs to change," said Obama spokesman Bill Burton.

- more -


Older than dirt!