Sunday, April 30, 2006

Hookers and Congressman: This Could Get Good

JUST WHEN I was beginning to think that the run-of-the-mill Congressional scandals were getting a bit boring, my man Duke Cunningham (the CA Republican who resigned amid financial scandals several months ago) comes roaring to the rescue. This from the Wall Street Journal:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn’t clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others. [JIB emphasis]

If this doesn't get you interested in Congress again, nothing will. Oh man, this could get good. The Journal story also reports that the FBI is interviewing women from various DC escort services and looking into the possibility that some of Cunningham's infamous parties took place at THE WATERGATE! You can't make this stuff up! If this turns into a Watergate II scandal, Deep Throat will have an entirely different meaning.

WSJ has the full details. Just Inside the Beltway will --shall we say -- stay on top of the story. Check back from time to time.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Gas Map

IF YOU DON'T think gas prices are going to be an issue in the upcoming election, take a look at this interactive map from

Note to Republicans: on this map, it's not good if a state is red.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hu's Coming for Dinner

JOSH BOLTON DIDN'T know the CoS job was going to be this difficult. This from a recent exchange between Bolton and POTUS:

GW: Some important people are coming for dinner tonight with the Chinese President, so let's make sure I have all the names straight.
JB: Good idea.
GW: Well, for starters, who's the President of China?
JB: Yes.
GW: I mean the fellow's name?
JB: Hu.
GW: The president of China.
JB: Hu.
GW: The guy that's the president...
JB: Hu is the President of China
GW: I'm asking YOU who's the president of China.
JB: That's the man's name.
GW: Who's name?
JB: Yes.
GW: Well go ahead and tell me.
JB: That's it.
GW: That's who?
JB: Yes.

"Let Them Speak Freely...Except for Her"

YOU CAN'T HELP but love this story.

At a carefully scripted event on the south lawn of the White House this morning, something went terribly wrong: a heckler disrupted Chinese President Hu's speech several times, causing such a scene the she had to be carried away by uniformed secret service agents. This has got to be embarrassing for GW on several fronts:
  • First, there's no way Bush wanted to publicly embarrass the Chinese president, particularly during a speech that was being carried live on tv in both the US and China.
  • Second, the heckler began shouting things like: 'President Bush, stop him from killing'...'Stop persecuting the Falun Gong'...'President Hu, your days are numbered'. How ironic that the heckler chose to -- shall we say, speak up -- right after Bush finished his speech -- a speech in which he urged President HU to allow Chinese to 'speak freely.' There is no way you could make this stuff up.

I know this isn't necessarily anyone's fault over at the WH, but someone's going to have to explain how this heckler got into the ceremony. Hey, at least Scott McClellan won't have to do it.

Watch NBC video footage.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Murdock and MySpace

WHEN RUPERT MURDOCK'S News Corporation purchased for nearly $600 million last year, many in the media world were surprised that Murdock would spend so much for what amounted to little more than a place for high school teenagers to hang out on the web. But since News Corp. bought the site last July, the number of visitors to the site has jumped from 16 million to nearly 30 million, positioning Murdock's firm among the giants of the internet. Another brilliant move by Murdock? Maybe.

The Economist recently had a piece on Murdock's recent investment and the mag says the Myspace move may not turn out as rosy as some may think. The reason: Myspace has some inherent problems, not the least of which is that it has become a haven for sexual predators. (It doesn't help that a significant number of users -- many in their mid-teens -- use the site to post photos of themselves in less-than-complete attire). As a result, parent groups and school administrators around the country are beginning to take a closer look at the site. Several school districts have restricted access to the site as have some public libraries. Parents are petitioning local legislators to have the site more carefully monitored. One of the key objections to the site is that you can register as a 'fake' person -- claiming you are a 16-yr old high school student, when in reality you are a 56-yr old pervert. This is a significant problem.

But a more important problem for Murdock involves advertisers. In recent weeks, several high-stakes advertisers have begun taking their ads off the site, fearing consumer backlash. That could be devastating for Murdock since ad dollars are the key to turning this investment into profit. For it's part, News Corp. has just hired a 'czar' to monitor content on the site -- a move clearly designed to ease advertisers' fears.

At it's root, Myspace is a site for people to keep in touch. 75% of Myspace users are under the age of 18 (yet I know so many people in their 30s who use the site -- why?), and most are using it in a way that is hardly objectionable. For my money, I don't understand the fascination with communicating with friends and strangers via the internet (did I just say that when I run a blog? I'll argue that this is a different kind of communication and hope you buy it). I'd rather go to a coffee shop and talk to my friends in person, but that's just me. However, I do have a fascination with the financial implications of internet business so I'll be watching to see what Murdock does to make his $600 million investment pay off.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Page Six and Pulitzers

THE PAGE SIX story at the NY Post may come across as low-brow and second-rate, but Howard Kurtz says even journalists at papers like the Washington Post have a little 'page six' in them when it comes to sources. Could it be?

Speaking of the Post, I have to at least acknowledge the four Pulitzer Prizes the Post won yesterday. In this space I predicted a Pulitzer for the Post's coverage of the Abramoff scandal -- and sure enough, Susan Schmidt, James V. Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith got one for their investigative reporting on the story. Other winners include Dan Priest, David Finkel, and Robin Givhan (yes, you can win a Pulitzer writing critically about fashion!). [More at WaPo]

The Washington Post arrives on my doorstep every morning, so I root for it to do well when these kinds of awards are handed out. I also root for the Post because I rip-off a lot of their stories for this blog! Just trying to be candid.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

WSJ Quick Reads

THE WALL STREET Journal has an interesting piece on the role Europe might play in the war on terrorism. According to the story, Senior US administration officials are looking at Europe as a potential 'front' when it comes to Muslim extemism. It's worth a read.

Also of interest is a story about the immigration rallies that took place yesterday. I'm trying to stay out of this issue (at least for now), but the story poses an interesting question: We've heard from legal immigrants and illiegal immigrants in recent weeks, but how come no one has heard much from the guys who are hiring the illegal immigrants? Read more from WSJ.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Politics & Asia, Part 2

IN AN EARLIER post I blogged about my experience witnessing Asian politics first hand during a recent trip to Thailand, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. My readers have demanded an update to the story. (OK, I realize I have no readers, but it makes me feel better to say that I do).

Despite promises not to relent to public pressure, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra announced yesterday that he will resign in an effort to help the 'Thai people unite." Today he went further, announcing to his cabinet that he will turn over all his power to his deputy in an effort to 'let the country move forward.' This may not be A1 news here, but it is quite significant because Thaksin was trying to position himself as Southeast Asia's premier statesman. The announcement also proves that Thaksin's strategy of holding a 'shot-gun' election seems to have backfired. While his party easily won a majority of seats in Sunday's election, serious constitutional issues arose when many seats in Parliament went unfilled as secondary Party's boycotted the election. Under Thai law a session of Parliament cannot open until all 500 seats are filled and 39 remain vacant.

More to come on this fascinating topic. I promise. More now at WaPo.

Play Ball!

THERE ARE FEW days each year better than Opening Day so I can't let it pass without a short comment on the prevailing story surrounding baseball: steroids. As each team begins a new season with hopes of playing deep into October, the issue of steroids continues to hang like a dark cloud over the game. And now we are to believe that Commissioner Bud Selig Is stepping in to 'get to the bottom of the issue' because he appointed a commission to study the use of steroids by major league player. So it's Bud Selig to the rescue? I'm not one who counts Selig as baseball's knight in shining armor.

Let's look at why Selig and MLB are now investigating the steroids issue. Is it because Barry Bonds is on the verge of breaking one of the most sacred records in all of baseball? Is it because former players like Jose Canseco and Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids? Is it because a new book released by two reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle has pretty compelling evidence against some of the game's best players? Perhaps it's because Selig sees the hyper-inflated offensive numbers that have been put up in the past 10 years.

Or, perhaps it's none of those reasons. Perhaps there are only two reasons why Selig and MLB are finally taking action -- action that should have been taken years ago: politics and money. Just look at what has happened in the past twelve months.

First, congressional leaders flexed their muscles and demanded hearings on the issue of steroid use. The result was a pathetic display by such stars as Rafael "I have never taken steroids. Period" Palmeiro; Sammy "Me no speaka English" Sosa; Mark "I'm not here to talk about the past" McGuire; and Jose "Who knew that in the end I'd be the most credible witness here" Canseco. And how did those hearings go? Not well. By the end, Congress was threatening to lift baseball's anti-trust status. By the way, if you're keep track at home, the anti-trust status is critical to the way MLB operates. Baseball threatened to take it away, Selig is listening.

Second, and perhaps more important, several high-stakes advertisers recently told Baseball that they did not want to participate in any celebration surrounding Bonds' record-breaking home run, should he pass Hank Aaron. Then, Fox began dragging their feet on a new TV deal with the league, saying the steroid issue is a concern. (Fox's contract to air MLB games ends this year...hmmm). The money bags threatened to close up shop, Selig is listening.

When baseball was investigating Pete Rose, they kept telling Rose to come clean. Come clean, they told him, and we can forgive and (perhaps) forget. Now baseball is the one that needs to come clean. What did they know about steroids back in '98 when McGuire and Sosa were putting baseball on the front pages of newspapers around the country? What did they know about steroids when Bonds hit 73 home runs a couple years later? Why were steroids not even banned by MLB rules until the late 90s?

There is no doubt that history will show there was a steroid era in major league baseball. What Bud Selig needs to understand is that the era came on his watch. And simply hiring a former US Senator to investigate the issue doesn't change that. Fans around the country are waiting to see what happens next.