- Taking on Energy Regulation
- Take that Uganda
- Taking on Cuba in Baseball
- Carville takes a job in the sports booth
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
The Center for Public Integrity cites the public firestorm that came up after the Bush administration proposed "Partriot II" -- a planned expansion of the Patriot Act.
Patriot II died -- but many of it's elements were passed in some other form.
However, the warrantless wiretap plan never passed. From the CPI website:
"One 'Patriot II' provision, which never passed, would have sought expanded wartime powers for the Attorney General. Under the heading, 'Section 103. Strengthening Wartime Authorities Under FISA,' the memo explains that current law authorizes surveillance for 15 days without court approval, once Congress has declared war.The Justice Department appears to have determined in the memo that the domestic spying program would require a change in the law. But the law -- FISA -- was never changed. (Center for Public Integrity)
But as formally declared wars are rare, the most recent being World War II, the Justice Department memo concludes, 'this wartime exception is unnecessarily narrow.' The proposed law sought to broaden powers 'by allowing the wartime exception to be invoked after Congress authorizes the use of military force, or after the United States has suffered an attack creating a national emergency.' "
President Bush referred to the domestic spying program which skirts the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as the "terrorist surveillance program." Even though no terrorists have apparently ever been caught, killed, or stopped.
MMA has this video showing the spin in action at Fox.
Monday, January 30, 2006
Hotline on Call points out:
"One small irony: the 'President' on '24' is portrayed as a vacillating reed of a man who ought not be trusted with extraordinary powers. And a key aide is working with the enemy." (Hotline On Call)
That's 42% more than last year.
Pat yourself on the back for buying all that $3.00 a gallon gasoline.
And again when your home heating bill comes in the mail.
Watching Washington Flashback:
The Army has only repaid $22,000 to the 30 soldiers who asked for reimbursement.
The Navy, about $5,000 for the 34 Sailors who asked for their money.
The Pentagon had originally opposed the reimbursement plan as a strain on their budget. (NYT)
"I've asked why nobody saw it coming." -- Secretary of State Rice on the Hamas landslide last week
The administration has something of a record of being blindsided:
"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." -- President Bush
talking about Hurricane Katrina, September 1, 2005
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center." -- Condolezza Rice, White House News Conference, May 16, 2002
Hindsight is 20/20. (NYT)
Jimmy Gurule (right) is a former Treasury Department Undersecretary for Enforcement.
He sees a "lack of urgency" in attacking terrorist cash flows and calls the trend "very, very disturbing."
Just last month, the Government Accountability Office issued a report warning that the administration still had no plan in place for cutting off terrorism's cash flow.
Abdallah Tabarak was captured in December, 2001 -- after engineering bin Laden's escape from that battle. He volunteered to be a decoy, using bin Laden's satelitte phone to lure US forces away as bin Laden slipped out.
Mr Tabarak was captured and locked up at Guantanamo for three years -- listed as a high-value prisoner.
But he was turned over to Morocco in 2004. Today he walks the streets of Casablanca a free man. (WashPost)
Friday, January 27, 2006
"For example, Boehner says, ' President Reagan left the White House with America much as he hoped it would be in that first inaugural address. The Nazis were defeated. And in August 1989, Poland became free.'"
Don't stop him, he's on a roll. (WashPost)
The picture at the left is an actual government photo of a vegan protesting the eating of meat. A controversial idea, perhaps, but certainly not pro-terrorist.
The FBI and county Homeland Security agents apparently considered the vegan rally a threat to national security. They spied on the rally. From WXIA, Atlanta:
"For example, more than two dozen government surveillance photographs show 22-year-old Caitlin Childs of Atlanta, a strict vegetarian, and other vegans picketing against meat eating, in December 2003. They staged their protest outside a HoneyBaked Ham store on Buford Highway in DeKalb County."
Ms Childs was arrested at the rally. For writing down the license number of a suspicious car.
The car turned out to be that of the detective taking pictures of the event. She'd become suspicious when the stranger was taking all those pictures. (WXIA/The Raw Story)
Thursday, January 26, 2006
"The program's legal, it's designed to protect civil liberties...."Democratic strategist Bob Fertik has ticked off Republicans with his own domestic spying program.
-- President Bush, 1/26/2006, on the warrantless wiretapping program criticized as an assault on civil liberties
There's been a ton of talk lately about how easy it is to buy someone's cell phone records from companies found on the Internet.
Mr Fertik suggests Democrats start buying the cell phone records of Republicans and start digging up the dirt on them.
Wednesday, January 25, 2006
The likely next House Majority Leader took money from a phone-sex millionaire.
Rep Roy Blunt (R-MO) (left) is on his way to winning the coveted post of House Majority Leader -- replacing Rep Tom DeLay (R-TX) who's been indicted and is awaiting trial in Texas.
Rep Blunt has a political action committee -- or PAC -- that's contributed money to other Congressmen to buy -- make that "earn" their loyalty in these kind of races for House Leadership posts.
And it turns out that the biggest contributor to Mr Blunt's PAC made his fortune in the 90s with a phone-sex business.
Jeffery and Dawn Prosser chipped in a total of $10,000 for Mr Blunt's PAC -- which by the way is called the "Rely on Your Beliefs" fund.
Lessee. Republicans have taken a ton of cash from Jack Abramoff's casino connections. The likely next Republican Leader took a ton of 1-900 cash.
Gambling and phone-sex.
So tell me how those "Values Voters" came to vote for the GOP? (Roll Call via The Raw Story)
The administration cites "confidentiality" of it's communications.
Should have had the NSA listening in on them, I guess.
The administration also says it won't make top White House leaders available to testify under oath before the two Congressional committees investigating the post disaster disaster.
President Bush has promised publicly in speeches and appearances throughout the Gulf Coast to help rebuild the region.
But the White House has formally notified Rep Richard Baker (R-LA) it won't support his bill to have the federal government bail out homeowners and mortgage lenders. That's something state and local leaders say is crucial to any rebuilding plan.
"Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house -- he's lost his entire house -- there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch." -- President Bush, September 2, 2005
Oh, well. Guess President Bush will have to find some other place to sit. (NYT)
Quick links to all the pertinent pages.
Don't forget, we here at Watching Washington also offer podcasts and are gearing up for the launch of our vodcasts starting Monday, January 30.
You can subscribe to Watching Washington Podcasts & Vodcasts by downloading iTunes (at www.iTunes.com) and clicking on the links at the top of the right hand column. (The Hotline)
The tapes suggest a revitalized al Qaeda -- forced out of Afghanistan, only to find refuge in tribal areas of Pakistan. American forces aren't allowed to cross the border to go after them -- Pakistani troops don't dare cross into the tribal areas where they're not welcome. (ABC)
The report concludes the Army can't keep up it's pace long enough to defeat the insurgency in Iraq. It also suggests the Pentagon's top brass is aware of the problem -- and that it led to their push to start withdrawing troops. (AP)
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
The Center for Investigative Reporting suggests a judge President Bush nominated to one of the highest courts in the nation has repeatedly broken federal law repeatedly since arriving on the bench.
The Center's Will Evans examined court records and other documents in his report for Salon.com.
He found Judge James Payne took action and issued more than 100 orders in at least 20 cases that involved companies in which he or his wife owned stock.
He serves a as chief judge in Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Federal law and the official Code of Conduct for U.S. judges forbids judges from sitting on cases involving companies in which they own stock.
That's the law — no matter how small their holdings.
Some plaintiffs in Payne's cases were told of his conflicts.
They judged the judge had been swayed by his stock holdings. (Salon.com/IRE)
The article says next month's hearings into domestic spying could trigger the impeachment process. Insight's source -- a Republican -- also tells them right now, it appears the majority of the committee would vote to impeach. ( Taegan Goddard's Political Wire )
The White House says the pictures are not relevant to the ongoing corruption investigation swirling around Mr Abramoff and his connections since he pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
TIME magazine reported over the weekend that their reporters had seen five photos of Mr Bush with Mr Abramoff -- but their source would not allow their publication.
Meanwhile, ThinkProgress suggests TIME's source could be none other than Mr Abramoff himself. They suggest he's shopping the photos around to the highest bidder in the publishing world. (WashPost)
Looks like he was warned three days earlier of the threat. From the New York Times:
"The White House was told in the hours before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans that the city would probably soon be inundated with floodwater, forcing the long-term relocation of hundreds of thousands of people, documents to be released Tuesday by Senate investigators show."
Documents show that a Homeland Security Department report landed at the White House shortly before 2:00 am, August 29. It read in part:
"Any storm rated Category 4 or greater will likely lead to severe flooding and/or levee breaching."
The Times reports other documents scheduled for release today show DHS leaders warned the huricane's impact would be worse than "a doomsday-like emergency planning exercise conducted in Louisiana in July 2004."
Monday, January 23, 2006
The New York Times calculates if royalty payments rose in line with oil prices -- it should have meant $700 million dollars more in the national treasury last year.
In fact, energy companies paid less in royalties for natural gas pumped out of your land last year than they did in 2001. (NYT)
Sunday, January 22, 2006
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
A year later, the bank president extended between $250,000 and $500,000 in credit to Rep Cannon's kosher beef-packing plant -- Premium Beef -- in the Cornhusker state. (The Raw Story)
In at least two speeches in a week, the Associated Press has quoted the Governor saying "Flippin' sweet!"
Meanwhile, state Rep Eric Croft (D-Anchorage) described the Governor's 80-minute budget speech as "Flippin' long." (KTVA)
A trio of Republican Congressmen used their clout to stop an investigation of a political contributor.
California Representatives John Doolittle and Richard Pombo hooked up with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas in their effort.
They opposed a federal banking investigation into Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz.
Holdover from the S&L Crisis
Mr Hurwitz once owned a controlling interest in the United Savings Association of Texas.
That Savings and loans' failure was one of the worst of the S&L disasters back in the 80s.
Mr Hurwitz's stood to lose 300 million dollars.
That's what the FDIC wanted back from the Mr Hurwitz's S&L collapse that cost taxpayers one-point-six billion.
But his lawyers -- with the help of Congressmen Dolittle, Pombo, and DeLay -- beat the bank investigators.
Congressmen to the Rescue
The lawmakers inserted regulatory agency investigation files into the Congressional Record.
That let Mr Hurwitz’s lawyers see what the investigators were up to -- including confidential testimony and all the evidence the FDIC had gathered.
The move effectively destroyed the government's case -- and the FDIC dropped the case.
Mr Hurwitz has been a loyal Republican political contributor -- raising $30,000 for Rep DeLay since 2000 -- including $5,000 for Mr DeLay's legal defense.
Election records show he and his political action committee have given Reps Pombo and Dolittle a total of $8,000 since 1996.
Mr Hurwitz cost taxpayers one point-six billion dollars.
He gives politicians $38,000.
And he gets to keep $300 million.
Mr Hurwitz gets an "A" in Washington math. (LAT)
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
"I clearly fascinate them," Gingrich said of the Democrats. "I'm much more intense, much more persistent, much more willing to take risks to get it done. Since they think it is their job to run the plantation, it shocks them that I'm actually willing to lead the slave rebellion." [Washington Post, 10/20/94]
FBI investigators complained repeatedly about being swamped with information from the wiretaps.
And FBI Director Robert Mueller even raised concerns about the wiretapping's legality.
"We'd chase a number, find it's a schoolteacher with no indication they've ever been involved in international terrorism - case closed." -- A former FBI official quoted in the New York TimesSources tell the New York Times the program has failed to uncover any terrorist plot or al Qaeda cell operating in the United States.
Agents in FBI field offices joked about the intercepts from the NSA as "more calls to Pizza Hut" every time they were told to run down new leads from the NSA. (NYT)
Sunday, January 15, 2006
For the elder George Bush, it'd be a screening of Good Night and Good Luck. That's George Clooney's take on how Edward R. Murrow took on Sen Eugene McCarthy in the 1950s. Mr Clooney wrote and directed the movie.
Few people may remember but George H.W. Bush's father -- that'd be President George W Bush's grandfather -- also took on Sen McCarthy for his red-baiting tactics. Sen Prescott Sheldon Bush (R-CT) served in the US Senate from 1952-63.
The former President fired off a letter to George Clooney saying he enjoyed the film. (ClooneyStudio.com)
Saturday, January 14, 2006
The ad is from a left-leaning outfit called Public Campaign Action Fund.
The Houston Chronicle reports:
Threatening TV and radio stations with lawsuits -- or with having the FCC yank their license -- is a frequent tactic of incumbent candidates running for re-election. Under the law, a broadcast outlet is required to air any ad by a Congressional candidate -- regardless of how honest they are.
"A day before a television ad linking Rep. Tom DeLay to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff was set to hit the airwaves in the Houston area, lawyers for his campaign told local stations Tuesday that the ad contained falsehoods and hinted that it could lead to court action. At least one station, KTRK (Channel 13), quickly decided against broadcasting the commercial...."
But ads from third parties -- such as this one -- do not enjoy that protection.
PCAF is also running this radio ad in Ohio, critical of Rep Bob Ney's (R-OH) (right) ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Rep Ney is the only Congress member mentioned in Mr Abramoff's plea deal and is expected to face indictment soon.
Hotline on Call reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has asked him to resign as Chairman of the House Administration Committee -- just a week after Speaker Hastert and other top Republicans called on Rep DeLay to permanently resign as House Majority Leader.
Friday, January 13, 2006
Did Sen Joe Biden (D-DE) plagiarize me? Here's what he said on "Meet the Press" on November 28, 2005:
"Look, you had phrases like 'mushroom cloud,' 'much graver threat than grave threat,' 'mortal threat,' 'the threat is urgent,' 'grave and gathering danger,' 'urgent threat,' 'immediate threat,' 'serious and growing threat,' 'real threat,' 'significant threat.' These are all phrases these guys used. "This sounds suspiciously like a passage from a Watching Washington post from a month earlier, October 28, 2005, called FBI Looking for Sources of Forged Uranium Documents:
October-November, 2002: Citing Iraq's purported weapons of mass destruction (WMD), President Bush or senior members of his administration refer to the WMD threat from Iraq as: "significant," "real," "real and dangerous," "serious and growing," "of unique urgency," "unique and urgent," "grave," "much graver," "terrible," "immediate," and "imminent."Think Sen Biden's people stumbled onto my little ole site? Borrowed the long list of desperate words?
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And to have Sen Biden borrow your words -- hey, that'd make me a Labor Party leader in the UK! (Watching Washington)
"There's a grave threat in Iraq." -- President Bush, October 2, 2002
Iraq - Iran. More proof the last three years were a typographical error. (The White House)
Business groups like the idea. That $46 million will go into the bank accounts of businesses. They can use it to invest in expansion -- or pocket it for themselves.
Critics -- like the state's AFL-CIO -- point out North Dakota's workers comp system gets low ratings compared to the rest of the nation. They want the mone to go back as vouchers that would only be good if employers used them to buy safety equipment or upgrade existing equipment. They say it would prevent worker injuries in the future. (The Forum)
They make wiretapping virtually useless. Since people can buy them without ID, there's no way to tell who's using the phone you're tapping.
The FBI reports 150 phones purchased in one sale, 60 in another. Police showed up at a Wal-Mart in Midland, Texas (President Bush's old home town) after six people tried to buy 60 of the disposable phones.
Even counter terrorism outfits have found the phones untracable. ABC News' Brian Ross reports:
The CIA recently used them in a kidnapping in Milan, Italy. Italian authorities were able to track the telephones. But they mostly tracked them to a dead end — the false identities in which they were purchased.The idea of using the disposable phones to avoid wiretaps is nothing new. Investigators say terrorists used disposable cell phones to set off explosives in the Madrid train bombings.
Even an episode of the Sopranos (right) a couple of seasons back had mobsters using the phones once, then tossing them, to avoid wiretaps. (ABC)
Thursday, January 12, 2006
For every dollar you spend on federal income taxes...you spend about 22-cents just following the tax law.
That's what the Tax Foundation found out in a study of tax compliance.
The study figures we spent a total of six billion hours last year to comply with the federal tax code -- looking for deductions, keeping records, filling out your 1040.
The foundation figures an average cost of around forty to forty-eight dollars an hour in complying with tax rules.
That's cheap if you've priced a tax accountant lately.
But applying that rate to individuals, businesses, and non-profit groups...that adds up to more than $265-billion we spend...just to do our taxes.
How much is that?
Try more money than Wal-Mart took in last year -- about $6 billion more.
And it'd take 2.8 million people -- more than the population of Dallas, Detroit, and Washington, DC combined -- working 40 hour weeks to put in those six billion hours.
That's more people that what work in the auto making, computer building, airplane manufacturing, and steel industries combined.
Maybe I'll see if I can use the short form this year.
Seems it was all a misunderstanding.
Sen Kennedy had requested Sen Specter to request papers from William Rusher detailing Judge Alito's involvement in Concerned Alumni of Princeton.
Sen Specter didn't remember it. Said later it was a "computer letter."
That's apparently what us young whipper-nappers call an "e-mail."
Can't trust them new-fangled computafiers. They're the devil's toy box. All them electrons and pixels racing around the Internets. Can't trust anything that ain't written on parchment with a quill, consarn it!
As Strom Thurmond would say: "Talk into the machine."
He was fired from his Justice job for refusing to remove a ten commandments monument from state property.
Judge Moore will face Gov Bob Riley (R-AL) in the June 6, Republican primary. (MSNBC)
Brett Pfeffer has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges. He rolled over on his former boss.
You may remember Rep Jefferson from the days after Hurricane Katrina. He was the Congressman who took National Guardsmen, a heavy truck and a helicopter away from rescue and relief duty to get personal belongings out of his flooded house. (MSNBC)
The folks who brought you warrantless wiretaps have been hard at work measuring the size of Quakers' balloons.
The Raw Story has gotten hold of several pages of documents from the National Securiy Agency.
They show that while Osama bin Laden remains free, the nation's premier intel operation has been spying on a Baltimore-based Quaker group opposed to the Iraq War.
The outfit's called "Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore."
The documents suggest the NSA was interested in monitoring balloons the protestors carried in marches. And they apparently checked out the Quakers -- a historically pacifist Christian group -- for weapons of mass destruction.
Let's face it. Baltimore is just up the road from the NSA's offices and Quakers don't shoot back. A lot easier than tramping around in Pakistan and Afghanistan looking for real terrorists. (TRS)