Filtered news 12/4

44 percent: Increase in in November.

"Iraq would like the Iranians to leave them alone."
-- Bush, speaking for the Iraqi people,

Our so-called liberal media , while trumpeting , defending , and winking at . Meanwhile, , and are all safe havens for and . I am heartily sick of the of the dubbed .

You are being watched You swat down one data mining project and it turns out there's another one waiting right behind it.

The Associated Press reported Thursday that Americans and foreigners crossing U.S. borders since 2002 have been assessed by the Homeland Security Department's computerized Automated Targeting System, or ATS. The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. Courts and even some private contractors can obtain some of the data under certain circumstances. ....Almost every person entering and leaving the United States by air, sea or land is assessed based on ATS' analysis of their travel records and other data, including items such as where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

What kind of meal they ordered? Note to Muslims: don't order special meals anymore. Or, if you do, order the kosher meal. That'll mess with their heads. Patrick Leahy claims to be outraged by the whole thing, and I confess I'm curious about whether this is really the first that Congress has heard of it. Probably not. On the other hand, what Leahy is mostly outraged about is the fact that (a) the feds seem to be sharing this information pretty promiscuously and (b) nobody is allowed to know their own terror score. If yours is high, you'll never learn about it and you can never appeal it. You'll just get hassled a lot every time you travel. Did Congress know about that? Probably not. So bring on the hearings.


'A leader of the new Democratic Congress, business travelers and privacy advocates expressed outrage Friday over the unannounced assignment of terrorism risk assessments to American international travelers by a computerized system managed from an unmarked, two-story brick building in Northern Virginia.

"Incoming Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont pledged greater scrutiny of such government database-mining projects after reading that during the past four years millions of Americans have been evaluated without their knowledge to assess the risks that they are terrorists or criminals....

"The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years. Some or all data in the system can be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring, contracting and licensing decisions. Courts and even some private contractors can obtain some of the data under certain circumstances." (AP)

Wait just one doggone minute. All you people are so worked up about the Republican-controlled lame-duck Congress all of this year's spending bills to the next Congress. Lookee here. Republicans are people, too. They've been under a lot of :

"There is a lot of battle fatigue among members, probably on both sides of the aisle," said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), usually a reliable conservative firebrand. "Contrary to popular belief, members of Congress are human beings. They have a certain shelf life and a certain amount of energy to be drawn on. We're tired."

As the President would say, "This is hard work!"

So little if anything will get done in this final session of the 109th Congress. Don't worry though. The GOP is going to try to suck it up and gut it out. In the House they have scheduled a vote on a bill to require require abortion providers to inform patients that abortion may cause pain to the fetus.

Big Brother in a hurry "The Pentagon is invoking emergency authority to expedite funding of a war-crimes-court compound at its Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon R. England has informed Congress. "Defense spokesmen would not say when, if ever, the Pentagon had last invoked similar authority. Nor would they specify which military construction already approved by Congress would be frozen to fund the court project, which could cost as much as $125 million, according to U.S. government documents." (WPost)

"Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap,
a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way.
When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking
about getting a court order before we do so"
-- George W. Bush, has he ever not lied? April 20, 2004

How are things going in New Orleans? Not so good. Citing the status of the rebuilding of the levee system, the largest commercial insurer in Louisiana, St. Paul Travelers, has it will cancel all commercial property insurance policies it has underwritten in the New Orleans area next year as existing policies come up for renewal.

What does this mean? For a region struggling to resurrect its economic base, it's a huge impediment to commerce.

"This is sending a shock wave through the business community," said Mark Drennen, president and chief executive officer of Greater New Orleans Inc., a public-private partnership that seeks to promote economic development in the area. "If one company has come to that conclusion, you would anticipate that others would come to that conclusion. Without insurance, we have a calamity. We cannot exist as a business community without insurance."

It'd be nice to hear the White House press corps asking how the Bush Administration's much touted rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going if the insurance companies don't trust the Army Corps' newly reconstructed levees, the centerpiece of the President's plan to help New Orleans recover.

"In other words, the press is lying, and lying about
important things which don't involve fellatio."
--Atrios, on Gergen saying the press was cheerleading Bush's war,

Corruption watch "In the 14 years since he left government, former CIA director Robert M. Gates has jetted cross-country to advise 10 different companies, assessing issues as varied as Saudi oil drilling, mutual fund performance and restaurant sales at Romano's Macaroni Grill. . . ."[A]s Gates awaits Senate confirmation as President Bush's secretary of Defense, ethics watchdogs worry about the revolving door between government and private business that allowed Gates to align himself with defense contractors, investment houses and a global drilling company involved with Vice President Dick Cheney's former employer, Halliburton Co. "Companies with which Gates has been affiliated have secured hefty no-bid Pentagon contracts, and you have to wonder if these companies will continue to get around bidding requirements once Gates is secretary," said Alex Knott, political director of the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington-based watchdog group." (LATimes)

The Dems told ya so Today's features an article about Democrats who spoke out and voted against giving George W. Bush the authorization to wage war against Iraq. It is pointed out that, "many of those lawmakers will move into positions of power" when the Democrats take control in January, and the lack of coverage given to those opposing the resolution is noted. But let's focus on what some of the voices of reason were saying in October 2002.

Rep. John Spratt:

...the outcome after the conflict is actually going to be the hardest part, and it is far less certain.

Rep. Ike Skelton:

I have no doubt that our military would decisively defeat Iraq's forces and remove Saddam. But like the proverbial dog chasing the car down the road, we must consider what we would do after we caught it.

...the extreme difficulty of occupying Iraq with its history of autocratic rule, its balkanized ethnic tensions and its isolated economic system.

Rep. Barbara Lee:

Our own intelligence agencies report that there is currently little chance of chemical and biological attack from Saddam Hussein on U.S. forces or territories. [...]

What is our objective here, regime change or elimination of weapons of mass destruction?

Rep. Tammy Baldwin (my representative--RK):

Are we prepared to keep 100,000 or more troops in Iraq to maintain stability there? If we don't, will a new regime emerge? If we don't, will Iran become the dominant power in the Middle East? . . . If we don't, will Islamic fundamentalists take over Iraq?

Every concern that they raised that day has come to pass. And now, almost four years , George Bush is for a "way forward" in Iraq. Because God knows, he doesn't want to look back.

Spin, baby, spin The White House is that Bolton's re-nomination died because of a "Democrat filibuster". But didn't he tank because Republican Linc Chafee said 'no'?

No limit to his evil heart Getting his last licks in: Two weeks before John Bolton's departure was announced, his U.N. team an effort to commemorate the end of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

HOLY CRAP: Surprise!…gays…Newest Religious Right tactic–…Interview with , the man who exposed the sub-Christian nature of the video game…and a look at

Big Pharma or Grandma and Grandpa? :

When I worked in Washington, the biggest lobby - after Big Oil, and the big military contractors - was the big pharmaceutical companies - Big Pharma. Early in the Bush administration Big Pharma pushed the new Medicare drug benefit through Congress, releasing a $600 billion dollar gusher in their direction. The bill included a guarantee that Medicare wouldn't use its huge bargaining leverage to negotiate lower prices with the drug companies - an extra bonus. If this isn't corporate welfare, I don't know what is.

Nancy Pelosi has announced that one of the Dems first priorities ("first hundred hours") would be to end this ban and have Medicare use its bargaining clout to get lower drug prices for seniors. But Big Pharma is already on the attack.

It's Vietnam all over again On CNN’s Situation Room, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) said that the Iraq Study Group’s reported recommendations for troop withdrawals from Iraq were “unacceptable.” According to the Washington Post, the group will recommend that . Murtha noted that he is “going to meet with the White House officials sometime next week and try to convince them that it’s just not going well. It’s not going to be better.” ... “[T]he problem is they say it depends on the circumstances on the ground,” Murtha said. “Well, if it depends on circumstances on the ground it’s not a lot different than what President Bush is saying.” He added, “Kissinger came out with the same type of thing in the 1960s and three years later we got out of there, but we lost 20,000 troops.”

Do you think any jury would convict me? from his cat: “She’s actually a very smart cat. She gets loved. She gets adoration. She gets petted. She gets fed. , which is why I say this cat’s taught me more about women, than anything my whole life.”

Admits he's wrong, but won't shut up (because it sells!) Right-wing talk show host Dennis Prager has raised a firestorm charging that Rep.-elect Kieth Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress, . He said that if Ellison swears in with a Quran, it would undermine “American civilization” and be akin to swearing in with a copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” In an interview with USA Today, Prager acknowledged that “trying to ban Ellison from choosing to use a Quran ‘may well be’ unconstitutional.” As various commentators have pointed out, that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” Also, as noted earlier, the entire controversy is moot, since the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives . Nevertheless, Prager said today “,” and that he’ll “be writing and talking about this issue again.” In a show of support, the American Family Association has launched a campaign urging Congress “to pass a law of representatives and senators.”

"There is a lot of battle fatigue among members, probably on both sides of the aisle.
Contrary to popular belief, members of Congress are human beings. We're tired."
--Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), making excuses for the Do-nothing congress,

"Operating most weeks on a Tuesday-through-Thursday schedule, Congress is poised to
finish this year with just 100 working days - two days a week for $165,000 a year salary."
--,

The Bush legacy a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.” Meanwhile: “Opium production in Afghanistan, which provides more than 90 percent of the world’s heroin, .” A estimates that eradication will take decades.

What liberal media? , on the media's increasing use of the term "civil war" to describe the situation in Iraq:

On closer inspection, what seems like a bold, transgressive step by the media is considerably less. It is not a coincidence that some members of the mainstream media were only willing to attempt to redefine the terms of the current debate after a massive electoral setback to the current administration. . . .The willingness to use “civil war” now is less a brave declaration than a wet, sensitive finger in the wind because mainstream media is much more likely to follow, than lead, political debate.

Carr's own paper, the New York Times, isn't quite there yet. Editor Bill Keller still has a moistened digit held out testing the air currents:

“I bristle at the way a low-grade semantic argument has become — at least among the partisan cud-chewers — a substitute for serious discussion of what’s happening in Iraq and what to do about it. . . . maybe this argument is a symptom of intellectual fatigue in the punditocracy. Don’t get me wrong, obviously I believe words matter. We try to choose them carefully. Sometimes our choices cause offense.”

Meanwhile, Kofi Annan it's a civil war, and worse than Lebanon was at its most chaotic.

Back to the 1950s we go! Today, the Supreme Court considered a constitutional challenge to school desegregation plans in Seattle, WA and Louisville, KY. The stakes are high. From :

“This is about what is left, if anything, of Brown v. Board of Education,” Theodore Shaw, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a recent debate hosted by the Century Foundation. If the high court strikes down the Seattle and Louisville programs, “it will be a reversal of historic proportions,” he said.

Data collected pursuant to No Child Left Behind, Bush’s signature education initiative, shows that desegregating schools improves the educational achievement of minority students. A examining the data by American Progress Affiliated Scholar Douglas Harris found:

– African Americans and Hispanics learn more in integrated schools. Minorities attending integrated schools also perform better in college attendance and employment.

– Controlled choice and other forms of desegregation benefit minority students.

– Racial integration is a rare case where an educational policy appears to improve educational equity at little financial cost.

President Bush has long claimed that reducing the educational achievement gap between white students and minority students is . Here’s Bush on October 18:

We have an achievement gap in America that is — that I don’t like and you shouldn’t like. It’s the difference between reading of African American students and Latino students and white students. The gap is closing, and that’s incredibly important for the United States of America to see that achievement gap close. How do we know? Because we’re measuring.

And yet, “the Bush administration has ” who are trying to desegregate schools.

As always, the administration is operating in its own reality. During , truthiness raised its ugly head during an exchange between Tim Russert and National Security Advisor Steve Hadley:

RUSSERT: But in terms of trying to bring the country together. Bring Democrats, who now control Congress to the table. Would the President step forward and say,

"I acknowledge: We were wrong about WMD. We were wrong about troop levels. We were wrong about the length of the war. We were wrong about the cost of the war. We were wrong about the financing of the war. We were wrong about the level of sectarian violence. We were wrong about being greeted as liberators. We made some fundamental misjudgements and they were wrong, but now we're all in this together."

Could he do that? [...]

HADLEY: He's done a lot of that. He has acknowledged, for example, that there were not stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

RUSSERT: How about troop levels?

HADLEY: He's acknowledged that in terms of troops, we need to be building Iraqi forces to provide greater security.

Addressing one of the seven points can hardly be described as "a lot." It would have been two out of seven if the troop levels Russert mentioned had actually been about Iraqi forces, but that still wouldn't have been "a lot." At any rate, even Bush would have a hard time claiming that there had been stockpiles of WMD found, since someone would have eventually asked that pesky question, "Where?" But leaving aside how incredibly weak Hadley's answer was, did you notice that he never used the word "wrong"?

To his credit, Hadley didn't even crack a smile while peddling that load.

And what about what the American people (that's us) want?

What we think needs to happen, what we think the Iraqis want to happen and the American people want to happen, is for success in Iraq. A government that is democratic, that can defend itself, govern itself as an ally in the war on terror. Because if we do not have that, what we have is a situation of chaos in Iraq, where it will become a bastion and a safe haven for terrorists who will destabilize the region and plan against the United States. That's not what we want. You will find that the American people understand we need to succeed in Iraq. Their concern is whether we have a plan for success. That's why the President has conducted this review, is listening to all sources, to develop a way ahead in Iraq. That's what the American people expect and it's what the men and women in uniform, who are taking great risks for this country, deserve.

Let's break that down:

  • Yes, everyone wants success in Iraq. The problem is, the chance for success has long passed, if it ever existed in the first place.
  • Iraq is in a state of .
  • The Middle East is on the verge of a .
  • 60% of the American people want to bring at least some troops home .
  • Our military is for Iraq, not for us.

Senator Obama sat down with Jay Leno last night to talk about Iraq, his experimentation with marijuana as a youngster (which he revealed in his ) and his 2008 Presidential ambitions. WMP | MOV I've been a huge Barack Obama fan ever since his at the 2004 Democratic National Convention where he really emerged as the partys future with a strong message of hope and equality. If anyone can give Hillary a run for her money, it's Senator Obama. He also has a new book out now, , that's currently at Amazon which I highly recommend.

Let them eat cake on Saturday “for the longest period without a raise since its establishment in 1938. As of December 2, the $5.15-per-hour wage rate has remained .”

New Orleans still getting the shaft The pace of the $6 billion second phase of levee work in New Orleans has slowed significantly. To “save money,” the Army Corps plans to focus on longer-term plans that critics say “.” The corps “has also scaled back plans to armor the levees against being scoured away when water flows over the top.”

Go get 'em Keith

You've got to be taught to hate and fear...The New York Times story on CNN's investment in Glenn Beck, , contains this quote from him: "[W]hat I feel like saying is, 'Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies." But not : if "Muslims and Arabs" don't "act now" by "step[ping] to the plate" to condemn terrorism, they "will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West." Or : "Muslims who have sat on your frickin' hands the whole time" rather than "lining up to shoot the bad Muslims in the head" will face dire consequences.

The network's head calls this "passion and point of view." I call it not merely racism, but a particularly brutal and dangerous form of racism -- to say nothing of deeply stupid and ignorant. I mean, my God, it comes pretty close to Coulter/"Kill their children" territory. Beck, at least, is honest about himself: "I never thought I would be on CNN, Fox, MSNBC. I am not a journalist. I am a recovering alcoholic with A.D.D.," he said. "I am closer to an average schmoe." But what the hell can possibly be CNN's excuse? Beyond this quote, in which it specifically refuses to take responsibility for the murderous poison it spews into the air, CNN executive Kenneth Jautz says, "We did not set out to have anyone from any particular view fronting these shows." Then again, it broadcast the heavily promoted Beck show, "Exposed: The Extremist Agenda," which included clips of extremist Islamic rallies in Iraq, anti-American cartoons from Egypt and TV news reports from Iran with reactions from extremists like Bibi Netanyahu, but little context save further inflammation of its audience. Really, I find all of this unbelievable. CNN is simply saying, "We are exploiting racism and hatred with this guy, but don't hold us responsible because he says he's not a journalist." And remember, the right-wingers insist that CNN is liberal. And I know CNN Headline News is not CNN news, but I don't think most viewers who click on the station make that distinction, and anyway, how does that absolve those responsible?

Why are other kids smarter than ours? Every schoolchild in Scotland will be offered the chance to see An Inconvenient Truth under a plan presented by energy company ScottishPower. “ScottishPower, which has also given copies of Mr. Gore’s book…to hundreds of its staff, for older children in primary schools and all secondary pupils.”

Wealth matters, work does not At least 70 trade unionists were assassinated in Colombia last year, the , a new report finds. The Bush administration with Colombia in November that “ignores fundamental workers’ rights.”

Your responsive government Sen. Sununu (R-NH) to biz leaders: about health care costs.

Culture wars John Edwards to at Southern California church in danger of losing its tax exempt status over anti-war sermon.

Lock up the gays! will “vote next week on whether to leave the U.S. church on ideological grounds and affiliate instead ” who has advocated the imprisonment of gays.

What liberal media? Part II On Fox News Sunday, Wall Street Journal editor Paul Gigot brushed aside notions that the deteriorating situation in Iraq warranted a change in strategy from President Bush. Gigot said, “I don’t think he has to adjust” or “announce some new grand strategy.” The key to success in Iraq, according to Gigot, is for the President to show “resolve” and wrap “his arms around [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki.” Gigot, one of the primary media cheerleaders for the war in Iraq, finds himself increasingly isolated. Even outgoing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged in a recent memo that “” of U.S. policy in Iraq.

(it'll sell more books, and kill more people, that way) In an interview yesterday on Al Arabiya TV, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if the Bush administration has made any mistakes in Iraq. Here was :

SECRETARY RICE: …As to whether the United States has made mistakes, of course, I’m sure, we have. You can’t be involved in something as big as the liberation of a country like Iraq and all that has happened since, and I’m sure there are things that we could have done differently; but frankly, we are looking ahead. And when I’m back at Stanford University, I can look back and write books about what we might have done differently.

In other words, Rice realizes that — as bad as things are in Iraq — the Bush administration must have made mistakes. But she refuses to think about them until she leaves office. The problem with this approach is the there are . There is an imperative to identify and correct mistakes in our strategy. Instead, Condoleezza Rice and President Bush are .

A revealing peek into the damage in this country. -WMP -QT : When radio host Jerry Klein suggested that all Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band, the phone lines jammed instantly. Another said that tattoos, armbands and other identifying markers such as crescent marks on driver's licenses, passports and birth certificates did not go far enough. "What good is identifying them?" he asked. "You have to set up encampments like during World War Two with the Japanese and Germans." -12475">
(Read the rest of this story…)

Ah…those "San Francisco values" at work. Accountability and transparency…who'da thunk? According to the , Senator Dianne Feinstein–slated to become Chairperson of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee–will push for legislation requiring paper trails for all electronic voting as well as audits. Her statement (from her ):

" made public today reaffirms my belief that there are serious questions about the security and reliability of paperless electronic voting machines. It further demonstrates the importance of moving forward with new legislation to require that there be an independent paper record of every ballot.

I plan to introduce that legislation at the beginning of the new Congress and hold hearings soon after, with the intent of moving the bill to the Senate floor as soon as possible. As we've seen in Sarasota, Florida, where officials have been unable to account for about 18,000 undervotes in the Congressional election, it is crucial that there be an independent record that can be reviewed by election officials.

One-third of voters cast their ballots in the midterm election using new electronic voting machines, and problems arose, not only in Florida, but in various jurisdictions across the country. We must do everything we can to restore confidence in the outcomes of elections by helping to ensure that every vote cast by an American citizen is recorded accurately and that every eligible voter can, in fact, cast a ballot."

Booting the ONE guy who did his job ('cause he hurt Big Oil) We've seen plenty of examples of the Bush administration's love for rewarding disaster. Screw up a little? Promotion. Screw up a lot? Medal of Freedom time! What does BushCo do about success? That's been harder to characterize, because there have been so few successes in this administration that the policy went untested.

But we do have the example of . When Bush came into office, it was Mr. Maxwell's job with the Department of the Interior to conduct audits on oil firms and make sure they were paying royalties for the oil they extracted on public lands. It was a job he did well.

During a 22-year career, Bobby L. Maxwell routinely won accolades and awards as one of the Interior Department’s best auditors in the nation’s oil patch, snaring promotions that eventually had him supervising a staff of 120 people.

With Mr. Maxwell at the helm, the Interior Department recovered hundreds of millions of dollars that were owed to the American people, but which the oil companies tried to avoid paying.

But midway through the first Bush term, the administration did a slight reorganization of the Interior Department. One that essentially ended oversight of the oil companies and kicked Mr. Maxwell to the curb.

That came exactly one week after a federal judge in Denver unsealed a lawsuit in which Mr. Maxwell contended that a major oil company had spent years cheating on royalty payments.

"When I got this citation, they told me this would be very good for my career," said Mr. Maxwell, smiling during an interview here. "Next thing I knew, they fired me." Today, at 53, Mr. Maxwell lives on a $44,000 annual pension in a two-bedroom bungalow in the hills outside the Hawaiian capital.

Just so it's clear: Maxwell had already recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for taxpayers. He had just uncovered indications that a major oil company was cheating, costing taxpayers millions more. His reward was to be "reorganized" out of a job. In Bush World success cannot be tolerated – especially success which takes money from his pals in the oil patch.

Fortunately for all of us, Maxwell is not being quiet in his forced retirement.

Invoking a law that rewards private citizens who expose fraud against the government, Mr. Maxwell has filed a suit in federal court in Denver against the Kerr-McGee Corporation. The suit accuses the company, which was recently acquired by Anadarko Petroleum, of bilking the government out of royalty payments. It also contends that the Interior Department ignored audits indicating that Kerr-McGee was cheating. Three other federal auditors, who once worked for Mr. Maxwell and still work at the Interior Department, have since filed similar suits of their own against other energy companies.

Every major oil company – from Exxon Mobil on down – has tried to get in Mr. Maxwell's way, but he's won every court battle. Should he win the final judgment, Kerr-McGee will have to pony up another $50 Million.

We don't often think of accountants as heroes, but Bob Maxwell certainly lives up to that title. He's waged a David vs. Goliath struggle against Big Oil in the name of the American public, and continues to fight even after he was thrown from his position. It's unlikely the Bush administration is going to award him a medal, but he certainly deserves public accolade.

The struggle Maxwell's waging is only a small part of the Bush administration's overall mismanagement of public resources.

In February, the Interior Department admitted that energy companies might escape more than $7 billion in royalty payments over the next five years because of errors in leases signed in the 1990s that officials are now scrambling to renegotiate. The errors were discovered in 2000, but were ignored for the next six years and have yet to be fixed.

Get that? The Bush administration came into office knowing that there were problems in the system that would cost the public $7 billion over five years, and they didn't do a thing to stop it. They could have, but they didn't. In fact, they removed the barriers that were keeping the companies from cheating even more.

Another $7 billion dollars given away to the oil companies. Sounds like somebody's in line for a medal!

Boxers yanked off Foley scandal Finally, Vanity Fair has delivered their take-out on the Mark Foley scandal (or Pagegate, if you prefer). And it's chock full of satisfyingly sordid details.

One figure in particular gets a drubbing: the out-going House Speaker, Dennis Hastert.

Here's Hastert, standing dumbly by when Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff and then Rep. Tom Reynolds' (R-NY) chief of staff, brings word of the coming calamity -- that ABC News has copies of sexually explicit instant messages sent by Foley to underage pages:

Fordham thought he made it clear that his old boss needed to quit, but Foley couldn't bring himself to do that. The N.R.C.C. headquarters was around the corner, and Fordham made it his next stop. There he found Representative Reynolds and Speaker Hastert. But before he could finish relaying the awful news, Reynolds's face got purple and he began to shout, "He needs to resign, and he needs to do it right now!" The Speaker just sat there, silent, according to Fordham: "He didn't react at all. This was weeks before the election, and they're thinking how this is going to impact us."

And here's Hastert trying to attempt damage control:

Hastert, believing the leadership needed to present a united front, as one by one his colleagues were repudiating his foggy recollections, called a Republican-leadership meeting. That same day, an ethics-committee investigation was pressed for by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (over the objections of those who wanted an independent counsel), its purpose to discover who knew what when about Foley. Blunt, Boehner, and Reynolds were all summoned "to basically get their stories straight for the press," according to a knowledgeable source, who adds, "That to me is where Hastert attempted a cover-up."

Reynolds balked at having such a meeting. "This is stupid! We can't all go and meet privately and try to get our stories straight, because this matter was just referred to the ethics committee," he told Hastert, according to the same source. "In fact, none of us are supposed to be talking to each other, because we are not supposed to talk to potential witnesses." Worse, added Reynolds, "I can tell you anything we say at this leadership meeting is something we have to share with the ethics committee."

The meeting eventually became a conference call, but without Reynolds's participation.

Read the whole thing .

Corruption and a sacred cow Deregulation can seem like a dull topic, too filled with arcane details for many of us to begin to grasp. The brings home rather forcefully how much government regulations matter to our daily lives, and how destructive the Bush administration's policy of basically allowing industries to write their own regulations has been.

The article (the first in a series) looks at the trucking industry:

In decisions that had the support of the White House, the motor carrier agency has eased the rules on truckers’ work hours, rejected proposals for electronic monitoring to combat widespread cheating on drivers’ logs and resisted calls for more rigorous driver training.

While applauded by the industry, those decisions have been subject to withering criticism by federal appeals court panels in Washington who say they ignore government safety studies and put the industry’s economic interests ahead of public safety.

To advance its agenda, the Bush administration has installed industry officials in influential posts.

Shockingly, it seems that this might be related to political contributions and lobbying!

From 2000 to 2006, the industry directed more than $14 million in campaign contributions to Republicans. Its donations and lobbying fees — about $37 million from 2000 to 2005 — led to rules that have saved what industry officials estimate are billions of dollars in expenses linked to tougher regulations.

Over the protests of the Teamsters and safety groups, they've decreased the training required for truck drivers, increased the number of hours drivers can stay on the road (which means the number of hours their employers will insist they work), and refused to implement measures to prevent drivers from cheating on their driving logs. They've rejected safety studies by insurance and safety groups, relying instead on studies by the trucking industry.

Meanwhile, the agency has failed, by growing margins, to meet its annual targets for lowering the death rate for truck-related accidents.

But that's not what matters to the Bush administration and the trucking industry. No, what matters is the ability to squeeze the maximum profit out of their drivers, even if it kills.

It's not a short article, but it's well worth reading.

What liberal media? Part III On Reliable Sources, David Gergen admitted what many of us crazy f*&king hippies have been saying all along now—that the press didn't do their job and failed the American people in the run up to the war in Iraq. The thought that they were being unpatriotic if they didn't help promote war sends a chill down my spine. (video coming soon)

GERGEN: Yes, I do. I think Nick Kristof is right on this. But I must tell you that the pendulum has swung on this. There was a sense, in the lead-up to the war, in which the press, I think, was guilty of cheerleading. We were waving the flags and it was almost unpatriotic to question the possibility of war with Iraq. And then during the time of the invasion itself, when the reporters were embedded, you know, many of them fell in love with the military and I think they reported very accurately. -WMP -QT

But there was no question that they were swayed by what they had seen. But since they have been there, I do think the press has been on the cutting edge, been the leading indicator of saying it's not going as well as the administration says. And for those that think that the press is being too harsh, we now have the leak of the Hadley memo this week, which shows, within the administration itself, there's a real difference between what they're telling each other internally and what they're saying publicly.

The internal reporting inside the administration is much grimmer and much more similar to what the press says than what the administration has officially been saying.

Published

December 4, 2006 - 9:37pm

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