Sunday, July 31, 2005

Worst. Jamboree. Ever. -- Part Two

After twice cancelling appearances, President Bush finally made it to the Boy Scout Jamboree for a speech. The Jamboree at Fort AP Hill, Virginia had been plagued by disaster:
  • Four leaders died when a tent pole came in contact with a power line
  • Hundreds of Scouts had to be treated for heat illnesses, waiting in record heat and dress uniforms for the President's first planned visit
  • The President canceled the first trip after heavy thunderstorms hit the Jamboree
  • A helicopter carrying photographers was forced to make an emergency landing in the middle of the Jamboree
The Army took advantage of a captive audience to do a little recruiting -- with soft core drill sergeants and an Army hot air balloon.

Hey, after the week they had, 18 months in Iraq may not sound so bad. (Reuters)

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Road Kill in the Road Bill

Loose lips sink ships -- and boatloads of money for your home district. Just ask Sen Max Baucus (D-MT). He was hellbent on getting a Great Falls, Montana runway reopened. So much so, he slipped a pork barrel plan to do just that into the $286 billion highway bill. Problem is, he talked about it too soon.

House members got wind of his self-engineered windfall and refused to vote on the plan until the runway reopening plan was killed.

Some other plans in the highway bill that didn't sit well with critics:

  • $3 million for a documentary about infrastructures advancements in Alaska
  • An Alaskan bridge to a tiny island with a population of just 50 people -- so expensive it would have been just as cheap to buy every single resident his own Lear Jet
  • And naming the bridge "Don Young's Way"

FYI: Alaskan Rep Don Young (R-AK) just happens to be chairman of the Transportation Committee. A perfect position to pile on the pork. (USAToday)

Friday, July 29, 2005

Avoiding Taxes -- Now to be Paid by Taxpayers?

President Bush's pick to be Deputy Attorney General has strong ties to a lobbyist now under investigation. Timothy Flanigan directed the lobbyist's work to help offshore companies avoid US taxes.

Mr. Flanigan has been a lawyer for Tyco International since 2002. Remember them -- former Tyco CEO L. Dennis Kozlowski and CFO Mark Swartz wound up with criminal convictions.

Testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the President's pick to be America's number two law enforcement officer admitted to his role in helping companies avoid law enforcement.

He also talked about his supervising work for controversial lobbyist Jack Abramhoff -- who's tied up in the Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) ethics probe. Mr Flanigan said Mr Abramhoff lobbied on behalf of Tyco to stop the Corporate Patriot Enforcement Act. The Los Angeles Times cites the bill's history:

Bills filed in 2002 and 2003 by Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and Rep. James H. Maloney (D-Conn.) would have imposed tax penalties on such companies as Tyco. Other legislative proposals would have barred companies with offshore headquarters from getting government contracts.

The various proposals — all opposed by Tyco and other offshore companies — were widely referred to by supporters and foes as "the Benedict Arnold bills."

By moving their business off shore, Mr Flanigan's employer was able to avoid $400 million in taxes every year. (LAT)

Road Bill Round Up

From Interstates to riverfront walking trails -- to having a new bridge named after a sitting Congress member-- highway bill money is going to every nook and crannie of the US. Newspapers are beginning to report how the $286 billion highway bill will benefit their states. Here are a few reports -- the more interesting items are in bold italics:

The Times Reporter, Ohio:

  • "...$7.5 billion over the next five years..."
  • "...$20 million for specific highway and bridge projects in Stark County..."
  • "...more than $8 million for projects in Tuscarawas County..."
  • "...more than $4 million for projects in Harrison County..."
  • "...Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, a member of the House Transportation Committee, said his $7.1 million in earmarked projects all survived in the final bill..."

New York Post:

  • "More than $10 billion for roads and nearly $6.5 billion for transit in New York..."
Asbury Park Press, New Jersey:

  • "The state is set to receive more than $8 billion through the end of the decade..."
  • "...$80 million for Trans-Hudson Northeast Corridor commuter rail improvements..."
  • "...$356,000 to preserve the New Jersey Underground Railroad..."
  • "Sens. Jon S. Corzine and Frank Lautenberg, both D-N.J., were pleased with the inclusion of language that would require the Federal Transit Administration to strongly consider paying for a substantial portion of the second transit tunnel, which could cost $6 billion."
  • "The bill includes $2.5 million for design work."
San Francisco Chronicle:

  • "...$4.4 billion more for the state in highway funds.... Under the old program, California got $21 billion over six years for roads."
  • "...$4.6 billion for transit programs over the life of the bill..."
  • "...$25 million to create a bicycle-pedestrian network in Marin County..."

Myrtle Beach Sun News, South Carolina:

  • "...The state would receive $2.9 billion over the six-year life of the bill..."
  • "...Interstate 73 would receive $81 million..."
  • "...$5.2 million for the S.C. State University transportation center, a think-tank for transportation issues..."

Aberdeen American News, South Dakota:

  • "Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said South Dakota will get about $2 back for every $1 in fuel tax it pays in."
  • "More than $1 billion earmarked for S.D. during next five years..."
  • "...$1 million to extend bike trails in Aberdeen..."
  • "...$300,000 to construct a riverfront walking trail in Mobridge..."

Statesman Journal, Oregon:

  • "Oregon will get at least $2.2 billion through the end of the decade..."
  • "Oregon will get $1.02 for every $1 of federal gas-tax money it sends to the federal government..."

Fairbanks News Miner, Alaska:

  • "The Knik Arm bridge, which is slated to receive $230 million in a national highway bill unveiled Thursday night, will be named Don Young's Way..."
  • "Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska and chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, earmarked money for the Knik Arm bridge and a few dozen other Alaska projects in the bill. Together they total about $870 million."
Fairness Forced into Formula

Highway bills are funded mainly from federal fuel taxes -- 18.3-cents a gallon on gasoline, 24.4-cents on diesel.

Large states are a lot happier with this highway bill than previous ones. Under the old funding formula, big states were shipping money to other, smaller states to pay for their road projects.

Under the new plan, every state gets at least 90.5-cents for every $1 it contributes to the highway fund. The result is that big states like New York, New Jersey, and California get a bigger share than under past bills.

Some State Pork for Rabbits and Shrimp

Not all pork is cooked up in Washington. Check out the lawmakers in Birmingham. Alabama was looking at having state government shut down. It required rounding up state legislators for a special session. But the session bogged down as some lawmakers saw it as a perfect opportunity to hold state services hostage until Alabama taxpayers spent $100,000 on pond-grown shrimp and rabbit farms. (

And We're Building a Navy Base in Nebraska While We're At It

The last vessel in operation from the Battle of Pearl Harbor is going to a museum in one of the most unlikely places -- North Little Rock, Arkansas. Hoga will be turned over to a museum there.

Hoga was a harbor tugboat that entered service on May 22, 1941. She saved several ships during the attack on December 7 later that year, helped fight fires aboard USS Arizona, pushed USS Nevada aground preventing her from sinking and blocking the channel to the open sea, and rescued USS Oglala and USS Vestal from fire.

After WWII, Hoga served as a firefighting tug in San Francisco Bay for 45 years under her new name: City of Oakland (left).

She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. When struck from the Naval Vessel Register in 1996, Hoga was the last remaining ship that saw action on "the day that will live in infamy."

Why she's winding up in North Little Rock, Arkansas is anyone's guess.

From my Arkansas History classes as a 7th grader at Sulphur Rock High, the closest ties appear to be the fact that Arkansas was home to Japanese-American relocation camps during WWII -- the most famous resident being George Takei (Star Trek's "Mr Sulu").

Or the fact that USS Arkansas was one of only three US battleships still in service after Pearl Harbor. She, along with USS Texas and USS New York were in the Atlantic at the time. USS Arkansas ran up an impressive record in both World Wars and was finally sunk with an atomic bomb. (DoD)

Pumped Up Oil Pork

Shortly after taking office, President Bush outlined an energy policy he claimed would cost $6.7 billion.

The finished product --the energy bill headed for his desk -- costs nearly 10 times that much. The pork alone is more that twice what President Bush said the entire policy would cost.

Citizens Against Government Waste outlines some of that pork:
  • $4 billion in loan guarantees for developing new energy technologies
  • A study on technology that shuts down escalators until they're approached by passengers
  • $2 billion for hydrogen fuel cell research -- even though auto makers are already developing hydrogen vehicles
  • Doubling the amount of corn-derived ethanol added to America's gasoline
Meanwhile, the price of oil has risen from $22 a barrel to $60 a barrel on President Bush's watch. So not only are you paying more for an energy policy that benefits big oil -- you're paying big oil more at the pumps. Lucky you. (Review Journal -- Editorial)

Condi Rice Leads the List

Secretary of State Condolezza Rice leads the Forbes' list of the world's most powerful women. Oprah Winfrey comes in ninth. There are a line of women heads of state in between. This is Secretary Rice's second year in a row to hold the number one spot. (Newsday)

Lots of Questions -- Limited Answers

The Washington Times points out how White House spokesman Scott McClellan is on his own in dealing with the media barrage over the Plame Name Blame Game. They offer up this exchange of Mr McClellan offering up his best rear guard action:

Reporter: Has Karl Rove offered to resign in view of his problems?

Mr. McClellan: Again, you keep asking these questions that are related to an ongoing investigation...

Reporter: Does he still have his security clearance?

Mr. McClellan: -- and those are questions that have already been addressed.

Reporter: No, they -- I've never heard this before. Have you?

Mr. McClellan: The question has been asked before.

Reporter: We haven't heard an answer.

Reporter: What was your answer?

Reporter: There hasn't been an answer.

The big question from White House officials is, "When will this go away?"

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Frist's Stem Cell Flip-Flop

A major break in the GOP leadership over stem cell research. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) -- a doctor -- will now support a bill to increase federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. The White House is already threatening to veto the bill if it's passed.

"While human embryonic stem cell research is still at a very early stage, the limitations put in place in 2001 will, over time, slow our ability to bring potential new treatments for certain diseases. Therefore, I believe the president's policy should be modified."

--Sen Bill Frist (R-TN) speech on the Senate Floor

This is a flip-flop for Sen Frist. Last month he opposed the expanded spending. (NYT) [Photo Credit: US Govt]

His Most Important Performance

He commanded a fleet that captured the Russian sub Red October and locks up a perp every week. Now he's helping get Judge John Roberts on the Supreme Court.

I'm talking about actor turned Senator turned actor Fred Thompson. The Law and Order star has bounced between Hollywood and Washington DC since he served on the Watergate investigation back in the 70s.

He's a genuinely likable guy who still has a lot of friends on both sides of the Senate aisle -- from his days as a Republican Senator from Tennessee. Mr Thompson is showing the Supreme Court nominee around on the Hill. He says he just sits in the background when Judge Roberts meets with Senators these days. But he also meets privately with Senators to talk up the judge. (SF Chronicle)

Did Bolton Lie to Congress?

After a series of flip-flops Thursday, the State Department finally confirmed that UN Ambassador nominee John Bolton may have lied to Congress.

Sen Joe Biden had fired off a letter to the Secretary of State asking if Mr Bolton had been questioned in the criminal investigation into the White House leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity.

If he has in fact been questioned, he failed to tell the Senate committee handling his confirmation about it.

Now the State Department has admitted -- after first denying -- that Mr Bolton was questioned in another investigation that he failed to tell the Senate about. That one was an Inspector General investigation into whether intelligence was suppressed to further a political argument for the Iraq War.

Mr Bolton was required to tell the Senate if he'd been questioned in any investigations in the past five years. He told them, in his paper work, that he had not been questioned in any probes.

State Department spokesmen first said he'd not been questioned, then later said Mr Bolton had forgotten he'd been questioned. And finally said he'd change his paperwork.

President Bush may make a recess appointment if the Senate fails to confirm Bolton today -- before breaking for their summer recess. But some Republican Senators -- notably Sen John Thune (R-SD) -- are now asking President Bush to withdraw Mr Bolton's nomination. (WashPost)

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Flippant Move, Blue Humor

Josh Wolf at has a link to President Bush appearing to "flip the bird" as he walked into a meeting with House Republicans before the CAFTA vote.

Meanwhile, Taegan Goddard at posts the President's purported "favorite dirty joke." It's about golf:

"The only time
I ever hit two good balls
is when I step on a rake."

Hey, Kinky Friedman wouldn't lie. ( and

Was Bolton Questioned?

A Senator wants to know if President Bush's UN Ambassador nominee has been called to testify in the criminal investigation of a CIA agent's leaked identity.

President Bush has hinted at a recess nomination of John Bolton (right) to the UN. Mr Bolton ran into a tough time in confirmation hearings and on the Senate floor. Democrats argued he would reject intelligence if it differed with his political objectives.

Sen Joe Biden (D-DE) has sent a letter to Secretary of State Condolezza Rice asking about Mr Bolton and the investigation in to the Plame leak.

The criminal investigation is looking into who leaked CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity to the media in 2003. Attention has focused on White House aides Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. But the special prosecutor in the case has spread a wide net.

If Mr Bolton was questioned, he's required -- as a nominee -- to report that to the confirmation committee. Former White House aide Karen Hughes reported to the Foreign Affairs committee that she'd been questioned in the investigation while she was awaiting confirmation for a diplomatic post recently. (FOX News) [Photo Credit: US State Dept]

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

The Death Tax -- For an Exclusive Club Only

Turns out only a couple dozen farmers would actually benefit from repeal of the estate tax -- more sensationally know as "the death tax."

The Congressional Budget Office looked into the matter and came up with a surprisingly small number.

But Al Kamen at the Washington Post points out it doesn't include all "farmers" -- like city slickers who own farmland on the side.

Some of the people in DC who have heirs benefiting from repeal of the estate/death tax:

  • President Bush's -- $800,000 - $6 million break for his heirs
  • Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's -- $101 million or less in tax savings
  • Vice President Dick Cheney and 11 Cabinet Members -- combined $344 million in tax savings
  • The 20 wealthiest Congress members who support the tax's repeal -- $200 million in tax savings


Tora Bora -- Told by Someone Who Was There

The CIA's scrambling to keep a book on Osama bin Laden off store shelves. Former CIA agent Gary Berntsen wrote it. It tells how bin Laden managed to escape from his Tora Bora hideout as American forces fought toward him in Afghanistan.

Mr Berntsen resigned from the Agency to tell the story. He describes how he coordinated attacks at the peak of the fighting in Afghanstan.

He also details how US commanders knew bin Laden was hiding in the mountains on Pakistan's borders. During the 2004 Presidential Campaign, President Bush repeatedly said US commanders never knew bin Laden was there.

Mr Berntsen has filed a federal lawsuit charging the CIA is "over-classifying" his book and that the story he tells does not threaten national security. (USAToday)

9/11 Spending Spree

In the mad rush to get a new airport screening system in place after 9/11, Washington threw around billions of your money. Now they're beginning to find out where a lot of it went.

The Washington Post details the case of Sunnye L. Sims who ran an even planning business on 9/11. She ran it out of her modest, two bedroom apartment in California.

She landed a government contract that paid her $5.4 million in just nine months and paid for her new $1.9 million mansion. In all, her tiny company has billed Uncle Sam for $24 million. (WashPost)

Hello Mudder, Hello Fodder: Worst. Jamboree. Ever.

Tens of thousands of Boy Scouts booed loudly when they heard President Bush was canceling his speech to their national jamboree. The Scouts did their bad deed of the day after standing in dress uniforms for two hours -- on the region's hottest day of the year -- only to have the President cancel due to bad weather.

This week, four Scout leaders were electrocuted, hundreds of scouts treated for heat related problems, then the President's cancellation and a night of heavy storms. These guys will be switching to 4-H when they get home. (WashPost)

The System Works

"We did not need to use a secret military tribunal, detain the defendant indefinitely as an enemy combatant or deny the defendant the right to counsel. The message to the world from today's sentencing is that our courts have not abandoned our commitment to the ideals that set our nation apart."
--U.S. District Judge John C. Coughenour
In his sentencing of Ahmed Ressam,
the Millenium Bomber, to 22 years in prison

Welfare Payments

Only in America could you land on welfare while recording $125 billion in profits since 2002.

But House Majority Leader Tom DeLay found a way to include $1.5 billion in government help for the energy industry -- specifically, a consortium in his home district.

The 30-page amendment even got into the energy bill after the time for turning in amendments closed. It's part of a total $14.5 billion in government help going to the energy industry as part of the bill. (Reuters)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Candy vs. Vegetables

"No substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press. "

-- Amartya Sen, 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Economics
(Motto of Watching Washington)

If you saw any news coverage of Secretary of State Condi Rice's trip to Darfur, you probably saw as much coverage of how guards mishandled journalists as you did reporting on the genocide there.

Nicholas Kristof laments in the New York Times how news has become focused on celebrity trials and divorces instead of issues affecting huge parts of the world:

"According to monitoring by the Tyndall Report, ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year - and that turns out to be a credit to Peter Jennings. NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes - about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks."

When Martha Stewart warrants five times as much coverage as a genocide -- you have to ask yourself about the state of the fourth estate.

It could be worse. Mr Kristof points out that the Michael Jackson trial generated 55 times as many stories as the Darfur genocide.

The media too often hides behind the excuse of giving the people what they want. Maybe we need to take the advice of journalism professor Salma Ghanem. She suggests the media give the people what they need. (NYT, HT: Romensko) [Photo Credit: Library of Congress]

Your Payroll

You pay for a lot of people in Washington. The White House has to tell Congress every year what you get for your money over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Here are a few of the salaries your tax dollars pay:
  • White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card -- $161,000
  • White House Adviser Karl Rove -- $161,000
  • White House Spokesman Scott McClellan -- $161,000
  • Vice President's Chief of Staff Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- $161,000

Those include some $4,000 a year raises. Gotta keep up with inflation.

At the bottom end of the food chain you have kids like Staff Assistant Sean White and Correspondence Analyst Benton Wilmoth IV (Can you say "Dad was a contributor.") -- earning an impressive $30,000. Impressive in the sense they can live on that in DC.

The National Journal has the complete list of every staffer's salary. (National Journal) [Image Credit: US Bureau of Engraving & Printing]

Fake Parts to for the Troops

Two Florida men have been sentenced to federal prison for selling the military $4 million in fake parts. The bogus electronics were shipped to troops fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Prosecutors argued the fake parts wound up hindering the effort in Iraq.

Horace Christopher Daughtrey got 46 months. George Searcy drew a 37 month sentence.

And they'll have to pay the money back to Uncle Sam -- but at a rate of only $100 a month.

At that rate, taxpayers will get their money back in 1,666 years, 8 months. (Florida Times-Union)

Steele Strikes While the Iron is Hot

White House adviser Karl Rove is still a draw for Republicans. Lt Gov Michael Steele (R-MD) (photo at right) -- considering a run for the US Senate -- used Mr Rove to lure donors to a $1,000 a plate fundraiser Wednesday. The Rove appearance brought out 65 supporters and brought in $75,000. About 35 protestors showed up, too. (WashPost)[Photo Credit: US Govt]

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Feeding Friendly Bloggers

Senate Democrats think the White House is feeding positive info on Judge Roberts' background to conservative bloggers to help with selling him to the Senate. They say stuff's turning up in the blogosphere that they aren't getting from the White House. (USNews)

The Plot Thickens, The Net Expands

The Washington Post reports that the criminal investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity is widening:
"Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street."
And the investigation is apparently not looking solely at the leak. It is reportedly looking at how the administration tried to shift blame from itself to the CIA for including the infamous "16 words" into the President's 2003 State of the Union Address -- claiming that Iraq was attempting to obtain uranium from Africa. (WashPost)

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Following The Paper Trail

"I think it's important not to have too narrow a view of protecting personal rights. The right that was protected in the assisted-suicide case was the right of the people, through their legislatures, to articulate their own views on the policies that should apply in those cases of terminating life, and not to have the court interfering in those policy decisions. That's an important right."

-Judge John Roberts -- then a private attorney,
Commenting PBS's The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer
Following a 1997 assisted suicide decision by the Supreme Court
Click Image to See Other Clues to Judge Roberts' Opinions

Moving On Up at the Department of Homeland Security

The Senate has voted to change the line of succession -- moving the Homeland Security Secretary from last in line to number eight to take over if the President -- and everyone else in between -- is unable to do the job.

The new line looks like this:
  • Vice President Dick Cheney
  • House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)
  • Senate President Pro Tem Ted Stevens (R-AK)
  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
  • Treasury Secretary John Snow
  • Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld
  • Attorney General Alberto Gonzales
  • Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff
  • Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton
  • Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns
  • Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez
  • Labor Secretary Elaine Chao
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt
  • Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson
  • Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta
  • Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman
  • Education Secretary Margaret Spellings
  • Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson
But Sec Gutierrez was born in Cuba and Sec Chao was born in Taiwan. The Constitution requires the President be a native born American so those two would be ineligible. (WashPost)

Kids & Poverty

Nearly 4 million American children now live with parents who have no jobs. That's a million more than in 2000. And it'd 5% of the 72.5 million kids in America.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation found the numbers in their latest study of kids and poverty.

The Foundation suggest governments incorporate job training programs along with programs to treat depression, domestic abuse, and other problems that make it harder to find and keep a job. (BaltSun)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Record Profits

Oil companies have struck it rich in the past few years -- but they're putting less of their profits into finding new oil supplies.

Since 2002, the ten biggest oil companies have sold $1.5 trillion worth of oil -- and kept $125 billion in profits. That as crude oil prices tripled in three years.

With infrastructure like tankers, pipelines, and refineries paid off -- oil companies have become increasingly reluctant to build any more. That's freed up using those profits for expenses.

Instead, they're investing in existing oil companies -- trying to buy them to get hold of their oil supplies. But with so little work being done to find new oil reserves, and with a finite supply out there -- the price of oil will only rise. (MSNBC)

Gas Guzzling

The Bush administration has sold their energy policy as a national security issue -- that we have to reduce dependence on foreign oil to protect ourselves against terrorists.

Analysts and interest groups say the energy bill before Congress will do nothing to cut US dependence on foreign oil. The US imports 58% of the oil we use. That will increase to 68% by 2030. People who follow energy usage say the bill will only slow that growth -- not reduce any dependence on foreign oil.

Ben Lieberman -- an energy analyst with the conservative Heritage Foundation -- says there aren't too many ways to increase domestic oil production -- and none will do enough to reduce the need for imports to below 50% of what we use.

That means any reductions in dependency will have to come from reducing the amount of oil we use. But the bill offers no new feul-efficiency standards. And the bill only calls for the President to reduce our daily diet of 20 million barrels a day by 1 million over the next ten years -- and that's only a voluntary goal. (WashPost) [Photo Credit: US Govt]

Yo, Joe!

Forget Halliburton's contracts -- has anyone looked into Hasbro's?

This US Army picture ran on the front page of the Washington Post today. The caption read:
A U.S. Army Special Forces soldier uses GI Joe toys to demonstrate tactics during a training session with Chadian soldiers south of the capital. It is part of a $500 million Pentagon initiative to provide counterterrorism training to soldiers in North and West Africa.

Hmm. Wonder if COBRA is in cahoots with Osama these days.

Who knew our GI Joes were using GI Joes to train other armies? Well, now you know. And knowing is half the battle. (US Army/WashPost)

Probing the Leak

More than two dozen Democrat Senators have signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) to open a Congressional investigation into the leak of CIA agent Valerie Plame's identity. A criminal investigation is already underway with the focus reportedly on White House aides Karl Rove and Scooter Libby. (WJLA)

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

They Get Tax Breaks -- You Get More Daylight Shined Up Your....

Congress is finished with the non-tax portions of an energy bill. Now they're debating how big the tax breaks for special interests should be. It could top $11.5 billion in perks. In addition, it could extend daylight savings time by a month in an effort to save money. (CNN)

"Patriotism Lite"

Is America at war -- or just the American military? That's the question in the back of the minds of a growing number of troops.

Troops fresh from the fight are beginning to question why there is no sign on the homefront of a war overseas.
  • No serious talk about a draft
  • No tax hikes to raise the $5 billion a month to cover war costs
  • No war bond drives or rationing or other efforts from past wars to unify the people
In short, there is no sacrifice.

Over the 4th of July weekend, I left up a post asking readers to post their sacrifices in the War on Terror -- of the "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" as it's now called.

I got only one example.

The International Herald Tribune quotes a recently returned US officer:

"Nobody in America
is asked to
except us."
The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines spoke to the paper only with the promise of anonimity -- lest they sacrifice their military career on top of their other sacrifices.

President Bush has only called for symbolic support for the troops, most recently in his June 28th speech at Fort Bragg:
"Find a way to thank the men and women defending our freedom by flying the flag, sending a letter to our troops in the field or helping the military family down the street."
--President Bush, June 28

Retired MAJ GEN Robert Scales -- former commandant of the Army War College says he's hearing from a lot of current officers who feel the military is increasingly isolated from the rest of Americans. He sees politicians as wanting to declare war abroad and maintain normalacy at home.

This attitude -- having their cake and eating it too -- is an indication that politicians themselves don't want to make sacrifices in the War on Terror -- or the Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism or whatever name the politicians have decided to use this week. (IHT) [Photo Credit: US Govt]

Crossposted at blogcrit-button

What Did You Do in the "Global Strugle Against Violent Extremism," Daddy?

In case "The Global War on Terror" wasn't catchy enough, the administration is trying out a new name. And in typical Washington-ese, it's a mouthful.

In recent speeches, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has quit using "The Global War on Terror." Instead, he's been calling the fight, "A Global Strugle Against Violent Extremism."

The administration believes the "Global War on Terrorism" focused too much attention on the military campaign. Administration officials tell the New York Times that the old term had outlived it's usefulness. But the fight still goes on. As the Times reports:
Administration and Pentagon officials say the revamped campaign has grown out of meetings of President Bush's senior national security advisers that began in January, and it reflects the evolution in Mr. Bush's own thinking nearly four years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
This sort of thing is called "branding." The folks at Building Brands define it as "a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer." You and me and the other 300 million Americans being the consumers of administration information on how this "global struggle" is going.
And if the administration is changing the "brand" to reflect less and less on the military campaign -- it's a likely sign their attempts to tie the Iraq War to the global struggle isn't going as well as the marketers in the White House had hoped.

No word on al Qaeda changing its name anytime soon. Their branding has kept them in business for 1,414 days since 9/11. That's longer than the "Thousand Year Reich" and the "Empire of the Rising Sun" lasted after Pearl Harbor -- just 1,347 days. And let's face it, those names were some serious bad-guy branding.
The "Global War on Terror" hasn't brought Osama bin Laden in -- "dead or alive." Maybe a flashy new name, like "The Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism" will. (NYT)

Crossposted at blogcrit-button

The Paper Chase

The White House refuses to release any of Judge John Roberts' papers from when he worked in the US Solicitor General's office from 1989-93.

But the National Archives is releasing some of his work for the government, and the Reagan Library is considering a request for documents from Senators who will be part of Judge Roberts' confirmation process.

There is a long standing argument that papers from the Solicitor General's office do not clearly reflect a lawyer's personal opinion -- but merely his work for a client -- in this case the Bush I administration.

The National Archives have released one batch of papers from Judge Roberts' time as a speical assistant to the Attorney General during the Reagan administration. (ABC)

SCOTUS -- DOJ Click Supreme Court Image for Judge John G. Roberts Confirmation Information & Links

Americans With Disabilities Act Anniversary

Today is the 15th Anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Here are some facts from the folks at your Census Bureau:

  • 42% of men and 34% of women aged 21-64 with disabilities hold a job. That's 4 million men and 3.5 million women
  • 847,000 Americans age 18-34 are enrolled in school
  • 2.5 million Americans have recieved compensation for service related disabilities as of 2003 -- the largest number, 848,000 from wounds in the Vietnam War

Monday, July 25, 2005

Dad's Words -- Foreshadowing the Plame Name Blame Game

"Even though I'm a tranquil guy now at this stage of my life, I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the name of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious, of traitors."

-- George H.W. Bush
at the Dedication Ceremony
for the George Bush Center for Intelligence
April 26, 1999
(Central Intelligence Agency) [Photo Credit, US Govt]

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Where Have I Heard That Before, Part 2

The Pentagon's looking into why two quotes in two different press releases about two seperate bombings in Iraq are almost identical.

Both purport to be quotes from Iraqi witnesses.

A release on July 24 says: "The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the ISF and all of Iraq. They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists," said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified.

A July 13 news release said: "The terrorists are attacking the infrastructure, the children and all of Iraq," said one Iraqi man who preferred not to be identified. "They are enemies of humanity without religion or any sort of ethics. They have attacked my community today and I will now take the fight to the terrorists." >(CNN, HT: Romenesko)

Bad Air

USA Today suggests air ambulance companies and the federal agency that regulates them aren't doing enough to make the flying ambulances safer. The newspaper found that 60 people have died in 84 crashes since 2000. That's twice as many crashes as in the previous five years.

That's roughly 10% of the US air ambulance fleet. (USA Today)

Perjury, Obstruction of Justice -- Just Another Day in DC

They say its the coverup -- not the initail act -- that gets politicians in trouble with a scandal. That's what happened with Watergate and the Monica Lewinsky affair.

And it looks like it's happening again in the Plame Name Blame Game.

People close to the criminal investigation of the leaked CIA agents identity say the prosecutor is changing his focus in the probe. No longer just going after the leaker -- but toward perjury or obstruction of justice charges.

There have been reports since last week that testimony from two White House officials -- Karl Rove and Scooter Libby -- don't match testimony from other witnesses. (Chicago Tribune)

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Terror Pork Spending 'til the Cows Come Home

There aren't many people in Colorado's San Luis Valley. But there's a lot of homeland defense spending there -- about $122 per person. Cows actually outnumber people in San Luis County.

Over in Colorado Springs -- home to the Air Force Academy and two military outfits charged with protecting our skies and borders -- the spending is only $11.98 per person.

The folks in San Luis County, Colorado spend $5.8 million of their homeland security money on a new radio system.

Hope the cows are contented. (Rocky Mountain News)

Pooled Pork

Rep Barney Frank (D-MA) suggests New England lawmakers pool their annual pork into a single fund to pay for a regional transportation fund in the northeastern US. Generally, each of the 22 Representatives and 12 Senators from the region would get a few million each in pork barrel money for pet projects in their states and districts. Rep Frank suggests they lump it all together to keep Amtrak on track and pave the streets with gold. Rep Frank suggests the idea would provide for regional passenger rail service in a time of tight transportation spending in the northeast. (Boston Globe)

Alabama Pork

The Tuscaloosa News laments that Alabama's current crop of lawmakers in Washington don't bring home the bacon like those of a generation ago. But they have a pretty good list of what pork barrel projects they do bring home:
  • Sen. Richard Shelby added $591,000 in the Senate agriculture bill for tri-state peanut joint research to examining factors affecting the peanut industry
  • Shelby included $800,000 for the Coosa Valley Water Supply District to help provide a potable water source
  • Rep. Robert Aderholt included $7 million in a House transportation reauthorization bill for the extension of Interstate 565 to Decatur
  • Rep. Bud Cramer secured $4 million in a House defense bill for development of credible threat prediction capabilities
Citizens Against Government Waste says the Alabama delegation got about $345 million in pork for the folks at home this year:
  • $35 million for a Transportation Technology Center at Auburn University
  • $1 million for a runway extension at the Freddie Jones Airport in Linden
  • $800,000 for the Coosa River Boardwalk in Gadsden
  • $121,250 to the Helen Keller Birthplace Foundation for restoration of Ivy Green in Tuscumbia.
Alabama has three lawmakers on Congressional Appropriations Committees. (Tuscaloosa News )

The Leak Timeline says there's plenty of false info floating around on both sides of the Plame Name Blame Game.

They cite Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) as saying the leak "put this agent's life in jeopardy" -- but point out there's been no evidence of that.

And they point to RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman claiming Joe Wilson (Valerie Plame's husband) falsely claiming Vice President Dick Cheney authorized his trip to Africa. But Mr Wilson never made any such claim.

The folks at decide not to wade into this political swamp -- at least just yet. But they do have an extensive timeline of key events in the developing scandal. (

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

Choosing Which to Defend: Defend Rove or the United States

Former CIA analyst Larry Johnson used the Democratic Party's weekly radio address Saturday to repeat charges that the White House jepordized national security in the Valerie Plame case.

The broadcast reflected Mr Johnson's testimony to Congress last week.

White House adviser Karl Rove has admitted that he told TIME magazine reporter Matt Cooper that Valerie Plame worked at the CIA -- but says he never used her name.

Mr Johnson says the President should disipline Mr Rove for the action because it has hampered efforts to recruit informants against terrorists. (LAT)

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal

The 12 Hour Gap

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (right) says he spoke with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card as soon as he learned there was a criminal investigation into the leak of a CIA agent's identity.

Mr Gonzales was White House Counsel at the time.

But he waited 12 hours before notifying the rest of the White House staff that an investigation was underway.

The delay is important because the notification is given to make sure no one deletes or destroys any evidence in the investigation. Notifying Mr Card, but delaying staffwide notification until the next morning led Sen Joseph Biden (D-DE) to suggest that would have given people time to destroy evidence.

Sources close to the investigation say that accounts VP Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff -- Scooter Libby -- and what what White House adviser Karl Rove have given the grand jury don't jibe with testimony from other witnesses. (SF Chronicle) [Photo Credit: US Govt]

Click on the Karl Rove icon to see all Watching Washington posts on the Plame Name Blame Game Scandal