Today, on a special ‘best of’ Al Franken Show edition, you heard columnist Joe Conason in our last hour.  Enjoy Joe on air?  Enjoy Joe in print, too.  Joe’s most recent column in the NY Observer, “Politics prevails again in Rice’s appointment.” A snippet:

The rise of Condoleezza Rice demonstrates this disturbing trend, however inspiring it is to see the first black woman appointed Secretary of State. As National Security Advisor, Ms. Rice nimbly abandoned her own once-cautious views to echo those of the dominant faction in the White House and the Pentagon. She repeatedly proved her willingness to prevaricate, whether to conceal the administration’s missteps before Sept. 11 or to promote myths about Saddam Hussein’s arsenal.

Historians will someday ask how Ms. Rice escaped accountability for neglecting urgent warnings about Al Qaeda by former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, former C.I.A. director George Tenet and others during the summer of 2001. They will wonder why she endorsed a decision to wage war based on patently false “intelligence” about Iraq’s nonexistent nuclear capacity. Did she know that the aluminum tubes supposedly intended for uranium enrichment were not suited to that purpose, as the government’s experts explained? Did she ignore evidence that the Niger uranium tale had been concocted from a forgery? She has never given convincing answers, leaving her integrity and competence in doubt.

John Nichols, columnist for The Nation and The Capital Times in Madison, Wisconsin, with more on Rice in the must-read, “A Politician, Not a Diplomat.”


How many of our brave men and women have been injured in Iraq?  It’s an important question, but unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a concrete answer:

How many injured and ill soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines – like Chris Schneider – are left off the Pentagon’s casualty count?

Would you believe 15,000? 60 Minutes asked the Department of Defense to grant us an interview. They declined. Instead, they sent a letter, which contains a figure not included in published casualty reports: “More than 15,000 troops with so-called ‘non-battle’ injuries and diseases have been evacuated from Iraq.”

Many of those evacuated are brought to Landstuhl in Germany. Most cases are not life-threatening. In fact, some are not serious at all. But only 20 percent return to their units in Iraq. Among the 80 percent who don’t return are GIs who suffered crushing bone fractures; scores of spinal injuries; heart problems by the hundreds; and a slew of psychiatric cases. None of these are included in the casualty count, leaving the true human cost of the war something of a mystery.

“It’s difficult to estimate what the total number is,” says John Pike, director of a research group called GlobalSecurity.org.

As a military analyst, Pike has spoken out against both Republican and Democratic administrations. He’s weighed all the available casualty data and has made an informed estimate that goes well beyond what the Pentagon has released.

“You have to say that the total number of casualties due to wounds, injury, disease would have to be somewhere in the ballpark of over 20, maybe 30,000,” says Pike.

With Thanksgiving coming up, there are several ways you can say ‘thanks’ (besides physically saying so) to those who have served:

1) Operation Hero Miles, “a way for you to help our troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan by donating your unused frequent flyer miles.”

2) USO Cares.  Through the USO (an organization Al has been a part of), you can “sponsor a care package and include a personal message of support and encouragement.”

3) Volunteer.  Volunteer at a local VA hospital.


According to a new, non-partisan report from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a “Syracuse University-based organization that analyzes information on government staffing, spending and law enforcement.” Among some of the findings, as summarized by the American Civil Liberties Union:

  • Enforcement Drop.  “Specifically, the TRAC report shows that while the reported number of civil rights complaints has remained steady over that period, the government’s enforcement of civil rights cases has sharply declined, from 159 defendants in 1999 to 84 in 2003.”
  • Sanctions Drop.  “There has also been a steady decline in the number of civil sanctions imposed on violators. The government filed 740 civil actions in 2001, 644 in 2002, and 576 in 2003. Civil suits can involve voting rights violations, employment and housing discrimination and other matters.”
  • Diverted Prosecutors.  “According to the report, one factor driving these trends is U.S. Attorneys. In 2003, federal prosecutors filed charges in almost 90 percent of immigration cases presented to them, but they filed charges in only 5 percent of civil rights cases.”Christopher E. Anders, an ACLU Legislative Counsel, on the study’s findings:

    The report today confirms what practically everyone in the civil rights community already knows: the Justice Department is not doing its job of enforcing civil rights laws … The Senate should ask the nominee for the Attorney General position, Alberto Gonzales, to commit to restoring the Justice Department as the nation’s top civil rights law enforce



On Friday, this week’s ‘best of’ The Al Franken Show wraps up with a visit from Joe Conason, columnist for Salon.com and the NY Observer.  His most recent column in the NY Observer, House Republicans rush to DeLay’s aid, takes the GOP to task for its ethics rule change.  Here’s a clip:

Not every outrage is enacted on C-SPAN, however, because the Republican overseers have enough sense to do their most humiliating business behind closed doors, without recording votes. For instance, no cameras or reporters were present last week when Republicans voted to repeal their own rule requiring any member of their party indicted for a criminal offense to relinquish his or her leadership post.

The only likely victim of the discarded rule is Tom DeLay, the House Majority Leader, who may be the next target of a grand jury sitting in Austin, Tex., which has already indicted three of Mr. DeLay’s closest political associates for campaign-finance offenses. Like so many aspects of life in the Lone Star State, the story behind those indictments also gives off a whiff of the Gilded Age. The DeLay
flunkies are in trouble for allegedly laundering millions in corporate cash through political-action committees that supported Republican candidates for the Texas legislature. The grand jury has also issued indictments against several out-of-state corporations that contributed to the DeLay war chest, with the obvious intent to trade money for favors from him. This scheme’s ultimate goal was a belated and blatant gerrymander of the state’s Congressional districts, ensuring an unassailable majority behind the Republican leadership no matter what
might happen in other states.

Also on the show, Robert Kennedy Jr. – environmentalist, author and Air America Radio talk show host.  And finally, you’ll hear the show’s explosive expose about the possible connection between President Bush … and Satan.  Friday, only on Air America Radio.

O’Franken Factor Fact

The new follow-up album to the Grammy-nominated O’Franken Factor Factor CD, from Artemis Records, is coming October 18, 2005.  Pre-order your copy today!
Al played audio of Byron York smearing Cindy Sheehan on Meet the Press with guest host Andrea Mitchell.  Is it smart to go after the mother of a fallen soldier?  Here’s the relevant portion: