Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Campaign 2006: Key Races

The Washington Post has an interactive map of the key races in the country this year. Click on the icon below or the link in the right hand column to keep updated on major races.

Washington Post Interactive Map
Campaign 2006

G.I. Dick

Herobuilders.com has come out with the Dick Cheney action figure.

They call it the "YOU DON'T KNOW DICK" action figure.

Dressed in jeans or Urban Camo pants, Shotgun, T-shirt and Retractabe kick spike shoes (haven't figured out that one yet.)

Only $29.95.

No word on whether you can use it as a CPR training dummy. (Herobuilders.com)

Vodcast: Gambling and a Payoff, the Air Force Hits Nevada, and Hunting Felons

Tens of millions of your tax dollars -- that were supposed to rebuild Iraq -- wound up wasted instead.

California Congressman John Doolittle took campaign cash from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and used his sports box for a fundraiser. Later on, he stepped in to challenge the Bush administration on behalf of a couple Abramoff clients.

Without firing a shot -- the US Air Force may take out three power plants and cripple a state's power grid.

Don't let a little thing like a felony keep you from carrying a gun -- just head out to Montana.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Case of the Playboy Widow

The US Supreme Court takes up Anna Nichole Smith's (right) case Tuesday. She's in a fight with her late husband's kids over his multi-million dollar estate.

You may remember, the former stripper, Guess Model, 1993 Playboy Playmate of the Year, and reality TV star married a rich old guy right before he died. The Court is deciding some arcane probate law dealing with federal vs state jusrisdicton in......

Boring, huh?

Aren't you glad I included the picture.

Anyway, I'm predicting the Court will split 36-26-38. (USAToday)

GAO: Forget a Raise, Be Glad You Can Afford a Doctor

The economy's booming -- so why aren't you riding those shock waves from the economic explosion?

Your health care is eating up money the would likely have gone to raises.

The Government Accountability office has a new report. The title says it all: Employer Spending on Benefits Has Grown Faster Than Wages, Due Largely to Rising Costs for Health Insurance and Retirement Benefits. (GAO)

Vodcast: Soot, Loot, The Root, and Shoot

Stars may fall on Alabama -- but soot is falling on North Carolina. The Tar Heel State is suing to stop the soot.


Sunday, February 26, 2006

Harboring Terror: Trust but Verify

The Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee says the UAE has not been an ally in the War on Terror long enough to trust them to manage US ports without a thorough investigation.

Speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," Rep Peter King (R-NY) pointed out UAE government leaders had close ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda even after 9/11.

Show host Tim Russert pointed out an AP report this week detailed some of those links: that financing for the 9/11 attacks was handled through UAE banks, planning for the attacks was largely done inside the UAE, and UAE government leaders once alerted Osama bin Laden to a US strike meant to kill him -- allowing bin Laden to escape. (NBC)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

My Kung Fu is Better than Your Kung Fu

You don't get to be Secretary of Defense without having the right fighting skills.

Check out Donald Rumsfeld's Kung Fu moves at this site.

Marine General Peter Pace is not allowed to leave the Joint Chiefs of Staff until he can snatch a pebble from the Secretary's outstretched palm. (Poe-News, HT: TM)

Friday, February 24, 2006

GS-13 Joke of the Day

From Stephen Barr in the Washington Post:

"Wiseguys at the Department of Homeland Security whisper that the brass has decided to rate the performance of employees on a five-level system:

Role model, outstanding, exceeds expectations, average, and 'Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job.'"

Harboring Terror: Delays and Surprise

DP World -- the state-owned UAE company poised to take over operations at six US ports -- has offered to delay the takeover. White House aide Karl Rove brokered the deal for a delay.

The transfer was supposed to happen next Thursday. But Mr Rove said a delay was acceptable.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey -- which owned the World Trade Center -- announced Thursday they would sue to block the sale allowing the UAE take over of US ports.

DP World has gone from a small company operating the Port of Dubai to one of the world's ten largest port operators in less than 15 years.

The company is reportedly surprised by the uproar in the US over thier planned takeover of operations at a half dozen ports. (WashPost)

2009 or Bust

The National Guard may not be convinced President Bush will finish his term in office.

Republican Wyoming Congresswoman Barbara Cubin is opposed to selling off federal land out west.

DemocraticPennsyvania Congressman Tim Holden says he didn't break any laws by betting on the Super Bowl.

A tiny little house in Valparaiso, Indiana was suddenly worth 400-million dollars for a short time -- in the taxman's eyes.


Podcast: Lobbying Reforms

Florida politicians suddenly have to buy their own drinks -- and Florida bars are suddenly empty. Curious how that works, huh?

MP3 File


Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cheney's Intended Victim

"Dan Quail" stopped by the White House Press Room the other day to tell what he saw of Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident. Courtesy of Current.tv.

Harboring Terror: Bush's Friends and Family Plan

The UAE port deal has a lot of financial connections to the President's family and a pair of his appointees.

Lou Dobbs reported the connections on CNN. Crooks and Liars has the clip.

We Should be Fed Up With Numbers Like These

Soup kitchens fed 25 million Americans last year. That's up 9% from 2001. The numbers include 9 million children.

America's Second Harvest -- a group representing 39,000 hunger relief organizations in the US -- looked at what those people were like -- and were surprised.

They found 36% of those seeking private help came from households where at least one person had a job.

The numbers were higher in some places -- like here in Washington, DC. The Capital Area Food Bank served 383,000 people last year. They report nearly half had jobs.

Many people even own their own homes -- but with prices rising and income flat for five years -- they're having to make choices between paying the mortgage or buying food. (WashPost)

Smile and $ay, "Cash"

Want a picture with the President? The going rate -- on this fundraising invitation is $10,000.

Harboring Terror: Bob Dole likes this UAE Port Deal

Bob Dole likes this UAE port deal. Bob Dole has been hired to lobby for it. Bob Dole's working hard for DP World.

Bob Dole see's nothing dirty about "DP World." Bob Dole doesn't think it sounds like a porno website.

Bob Dole has a lot of political clout. Bob Dole was the GOP Presidential nominee in 1996. Bob Dole works for Alston & Bird -- the company DP World hired last year to get push through the sale.

Bob Dole sold America on Viagra (Bob Dole says, see the picture at right). Bob Dole can sell America on this deal too.

Bob Dole still likes talking about himself in the third person. (Bob Dole, er, The Raw Story)

Battle Scars

Support the troops -- after they come home, too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Harboring Terror: Bin Laden's ties to the Port Deal

Back in 2004, then CIA Director George Tenet testified the CIA skipped a chance to kill Osama bin Laden -- because of the United Arab Emirate's royal family.

A UAE state-owned company is poised to take charge of operations at six major US ports.

On March 24, 2004 then-Director Tenet testified to the 9/11 Commission that the CIA located bin Laden while he was visited by members of the UAE's royal family. Mr Tenet said taking out bin Laden would have killed "half the royal family."

The Raw Story dug up a nearly two-year old press account of Mr Tenent's testimony. It shows the CIA has been aware of ties between the UAE and bin Laden.

The UAE was also one of only three nations who recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan prior to their overthrow.

Harboring Terror: Bipartisan "Line in the Sand" Over Bush Veto Threat

"In regards to selling American ports to the United Arab Emirates -- not just NO -- but HELL NO." -- Rep Sue Myrick (R-NC) in a letter to President Bush, quoted on PoliticalWire.com

President Bush promises to veto any attempt to block the UAE port deal.

But politicians on both sides are lining up against him.

Gov Bob Erlich (R-MD) has called for further review. The Port of Baltimore is in his state.

Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) calls the President "politically tone-deaf." The Port of Miami would be affected.

In New York and New Jersey, party lines and state lines don't matter as politicians raise concern for their ports. Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has joined Sen Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) in promising legislation to ban firms owned by foreign governments from controlling operations at US ports. Rep Vito Fossella (R-NY) announced his opposition to the deal.

Republicans represeting people thousands of miles away from the ports have also lined up to oppose the President on the deal.

Landlocked Politicians Join the Fight

Sen Norm Coleman (R-MN) promises a hearing next month regarding the deal. He held a hearing on port security last year before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. He chairs the subcommittee.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) demand President Bush delay the takeover and review the security risk. (WashPost, AP, PoliticalWire.com)

Harboring Terror: Administration Broke Law on Port Deal

Federal law requires the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to conduct a 30-day review of sales of things like the UAE port deal.

CFIUS is then required to launch a 45-day investigation to address national security concerns.

No investigation -- as required by law -- was ever conducted into the port operations sale. The administration has not been able to explain why the investigation never happened. (Think Progress)

Harboring Terror: Presidential Appointment

President Bush appointed a top honcho with Dubai Port World to a key US government transportation post.

Dubai Port World is the company poised to take over operations at six major US ports.

Last month, President Bush appointed senior executive Dave Sanborn to a post where he answers directly to Transportation Secretary Daniel Mineta. (DP World via TRS)

Harboring Terror: Word-for-Word from the President

President Bush's statement on the port deal. He says it's not a threat to US security:

"First of all, this is a private transaction, but it -- according to law, the government's required to make sure this transaction does not in any way jeopardize the security of the country. And so the people responsible in our government have reviewed this transaction. The transaction should go forward, in my judgment. If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward." (White House via TRS)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Harboring Terror: Voddcast -- Any Port in a Storm

A state owned company from the UAE is poised to take over operations at a half-dozen major US ports. With the country's poor record on terrorism -- and the historical record of harbor explosions -- here are somethings to consider.


Church Mice

Politicians are out to turn your church registry into a telemarketer's worksheet.

MP3 File


Veep Stuff

Anne Armstrong -- the woman who owned the ranch that was the scene of Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident -- was once mentioned as a VP candidate herself.

Ms Armstrong was tapped to tell the local paper about the shooting incident.

Back in 1976, Gerald Ford briefly considered tapping her to be his running mate -- hoping a Southerner would offset Jimmy Carter's support in the South. (NPR, HT: PoliticalWire.com)

Vodcast: Lobbyist Daughters, Political Spam, Rats in the Kitchen, And the Lester Crawford Mystery

Daughters influence how their Congressional fathers vote. And if you thought the Danish cartoons were something -- wait til you see the fuel the Brits have thrown on the fire.

Congressmen's votes are influenced by their daughters.

Politicians are plotting to put more spam into your in-box.

Morou Ouattara was a hot shot chef at a fancy restaurant -- now he's out of work thanks to Washington's Abramoff scandal.

Forget the Danes, the Brits have a sex toy to upset the Muslim world.

And not content to avoid controversy... we've found the missing "13th Cartoon" so vile even the Danish press has refused to acknowledge it.


Monday, February 20, 2006

Podcast: The President & the Lab Jobs

If the President needs a lab so badly -- why'd he cut funding for it?

MP3 File


Keeping the "Go To" Man Secret

Get ready for a repeat of Katrina confusion in the event of a terrorist attack.

The Directorate of National Intelligence -- Washington's answer to the pre-9/11 intel failures -- has a new "go to" man for local police departments in the even of a terror threat or attack.

But they don't want to tell anyone -- presumably even cops -- who he is or how to get in touch with him.

He's not a covert agent, but a public contact.

And a reporter for Congressional Quarterly had a difficult time finding out his name.

The 9/11 Commission, you may recall, cited secrecy between agencies as one of the reasons behind 9/11 intel failures. (CQ.com)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Paying for the Veeps Hobby

You help pay for Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting trips. The Center for Public Integrity reports $1 million in the Veep's annual budget for travel -- and that pays for his hunting trips.

Mr Cheney pays for hunting fees, lodging, and fines -- like the $7.00 for the misssing bird stamp from last week's hunt. But you pick up expenses for Secret Service agents, military aides, and the operating costs of Air Force Two.

In return, the Washington Post reports the Veep gets to socialize with politicians and potential campaign contributors:

"Since becoming vice president in January 2001, Cheney has continued to mix work and pleasure in these trips, at least in his choice of companions. Besides [Sen Lindsey] Graham (R-SC) and [Sen Saxby] Chambliss (R-GA), Cheney has gone hunting with a variety of other politicians, including Republican Sens. John Thune (S.D.), Trent Lott (Miss.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.), South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (R), former treasury secretary Nicholas F. Brady and former senators Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Zell Miller (D-Ga.).

Although associates say Cheney does not use hunting trips as an explicit fundraising vehicle, he has brought along prominent business figures, including Ohio billionaire Leslie H. Wexner, whose retail empire includes such chains as Limited Stores, Express, Bath & Body Works and Victoria's Secret. Katharine Armstrong, whose family owns the Texas ranch where the shooting accident occurred, is a registered lobbyist. And of course, Cheney's most famous hunting partner before Harry Whittington was Justice Antonin Scalia, a fact that sparked controversy because the Supreme Court was ruling in a case involving Cheney and Scalia declined to recuse himself."

And remember those "secure, undisclosed locations" we often heard Mr Cheney was hiding in after 9/11? Turns out a lot of those offered up great bird hunting. (WashPost)

Campaign 2006: Key Races

The Washington Post has an interactive map highlighting top races around the country this year. (WashPost)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The Olympics & Politics -- In Black & White

Bryant Gumbel -- in a commentary piece for HBO's Real Sports on February 7 -- compared the Winter Olympics lack of black atheletes to a GOP convention.

Just nine days American Shani Davis (left) became the first black man to win an indivudual gold medal in the Winter Olympics -- ever.

However, this now means there are more black gold medalists in Winter Olympic history than there are black Republican Senators. Don't extinguish the controversy torch just yet.

Radio -- In Living Color

Meanwhile, radio talk jock Rush Limbaugh has his own bout of color blindness. He was critical of Democrats when party leaders leaned on Iraq War vet Paul Hackett to drop his Senate bid in favor of Rep Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) (below) candidacy.

Mr Limbaugh argued part of the reason leaders leaned on Mr Hackett was "racial" -- to benefit an African-American candidate.

Someone got a gray-scale card out and held it up to a picture of Rep Brown. Rush later admitted he got Rep Brown's race wrong. (CNN, Video Courtesy HBO via Media Research Center)

State House to the Big House

Gotta love this effort from Hotline on Call:

"The following are individuals who have held state or federal legislative office or a major mayoralty and are currently in jail."

Click on the link to check out their list. (Hotline)

The Vice President Shot me in the Face -- And All I Got was this Lousy T-Shirt

For the Left:

For the Right:

Friday, February 17, 2006

Ready, Aim, OK -- Remember What Happened Last Week? Dang! Bird Got Away!

Wisconsin Gubenatorial candidate Scott Walker (R) (left) is going bird hunting this weekend -- along with some friends who ponied up $500 a head to his campaign.

Bad taste? Not as bad as bouncing checks during a campaign.

Just a week after Vice President Cheney's hunting accident -- the participants may be a bit gun shy. But Mr Walker isn't so concerned about bagging any birds -- just some checks for his warchest. Running for office is expensive. (WashPost)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Your Congressman's Hustler Subscription

One of the unmentioned -- perhaps unmentionable in some circles -- perks of being a Congressman is your free subscription to Hustler magazine.

Larry Flynt makes sure there's one each month in every members' mail box.

Some Congressmen have gone so far as suing to stop the deliveries. They can't. The Constitution allows anyone to redress Congress -- and that means if you can mail it legally -- your Congressman has to take it. (Salt Lake City Tribune)

"Cheney's Got a Gun"

Dick Cheney -- Number 2 with a Bullet

Click on the above image for "Dick Cheney's Got a Gun"
-- a remix of Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun."

Courtesy RickDavisMusic.com
Click on the image below for Cheney doing
"Folsom Prison Blues" from Paul Hipp via the Huffington Post
Warning: Not Safe for Work Lyrics

The Veep on Fox

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post takes on commentators who downplay the significance of the Cheney hunting accident:
"It matters when the vice president shoots another man because the character and responsiveness of our elected leaders matters. Had Cheney addressed this right away, it would have been a far more modest story."
Mr Kurtz points out that instead of dealing with damage control early on, the Veep's PR people have urged spin attacking the White House Press Corps. An interesting case of blaming the messenger -- not because of their message -- but simply because they were trying to get the message in the first place. (WashPost)

Hear how them Earmarks made a Lobbyist Rich?

Sen Arlen Specter (R-PA) (right) used the pork barrel practice of "earmarking" to send $48.7 million to clients represented by the husband of one of his top aides.

Earmarking allows a Senator or Representative to order a set amount of money spent on a specific project.

The money went to clients of American Defense International -- co-founded by Michael Herson. The clients paid fees totalling $1.5 million to Mr Herson's firm since 2002.

Sen Specter signed off on 13 earmarks for Mr Herson's clients. Earmarks played a role in the conviction of former Rep Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) earlier this year. (USAToday)

Hunting Accident Simulation

Great video of a 28-gauge shotgun demonstration as a hunting expert recreates the Cheney shooting accident.

Under the recreation -- around 200 pellets hit the target in the face and chest area. (Caller Times, HT: Cyberjournalist/Poynter Institute)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Fair, Balanced and looking for an Unguarded Bank

CNN commentator Jack Cafferty's "F-word Network," "Bonnie interviewing Clyde" assessment of Vice President Dick Cheney's decision to let Fox News have the first shot at him after the shooting incident. (MediaMatters)

Beer Served Before Cheney's Hunting Accident

Alcohol was served at a picnic preceding the Vice President's hunting accident.

MSNBC reported that beer was served prior to the hunt, but scrubbed the quote from later reports.

Meanwhile, the District Attorney in Kleberg County, Texas -- where the shooting happened -- says if the shooting victim dies - it could require a grand jury investigation. (Raw Story)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If You Can't Beat 'Em -- Beat 'Em to the Punchline.

Ike at Accentuate the Positive points out even the White House is piling on Vice President Cheney over the shooting accident. He argues the White House Press Office should have done it earlier to soften the news coverage. (Accentuate the Positive. 2.0)

You Bought a Congressman's Vacation

A California Congressman took a two-week vacation -- and sent you the bill.

The Tracy, California Press got hold of a ledger from the House Resources Committee. It shows that Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA) (pictured) loaded his family into a rented RV and spent two weeks tooling around the western US -- at a cost of nearly $6,500 to taxpayers.

Rep Pombo was reimbursed $4,935.87 for the RV rental, and ran up $1,500.51 on a government issued credit card.

Congressman Pombo has become a regular co-star here at Watching Washington. Late last year we reported on his desire to sell the Teddy Roosevelt Memorial to raise revenue. More recently we told you how his top aide -- Steve Ding -- had run up an $87,000 travel bill passed onto taxpayers. (Tracy Press)

The Cost to Taxpayers? Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A new, privately funded report suggests kicking people out of the military under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy has cost taxpayers $363.8 million over the last ten years.

That's nearly double the $190.5 million the Government Accountability Office estimated in a report a year ago.

The new report is from the University of California. (AP)

Police Blotter

The Smoking Gun has the police report on the Cheney shooting incident. (TSG)

Taking Aim at the Veep

The one-liners have been coming rapid fire since Vice President Cheney accidently shot a hunting partner. The Washington Post rounds up some of the ones that are right on target.
  • "Bush-Quail '06," -- Democratic strategist Jenny Backus.
  • "The CIA assured Cheney that Harry Whittington was actually a pheasant," -- Democratic speechwriter Jeff Nussbaum.
  • "The worst part is, he was aiming at the special prosecutor," -- John Kerry spokesman David Wade.
  • "Cheney's got a Gun" -- Democratic Staffers on Capitol Hill, song parody to Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun."
  • "[Dick Cheney is] somebody who is going to shoot straight with the American people." - George Bush, 2000 interview, Houston Chronicle.
Another favorite:

"ChappaquidDICK Cheney" -- referring to the delay in going public with the shooting. Ted Kennedy waited eight hours after the fatal car wreck he was involved in. The VP's office waited around 20 hours after the shooting.

Meanwhile, the late shows sent their writers home early -- because this stuff writes itself.

Here's the Daily Show (courtesy Crooks & Liars) take on "Dead-Eye Dick."

Check out Crooks and Liars for more funnies featuring the Veep. (WashPost)

Vodcast: Back Scratch Fever II

More back scratching.


Podcast: Homeland Security is Nun too Smart

Homeland Security has made America safe from 80-year-old nuns.

MP3 File


Monday, February 13, 2006

Plame Leak Crippled US Spy Efforts in Iran

The Raw Story reports the Valerie Plame (right) leak caused significant damage to national security -- and crippled some US efforts to spy on Iran's nuclear program.

Sources in the intel community tell Raw Story that Ms Plame was engaged in covert operations to track WMD technology to and from Iran. (TRS)

White House Confirms The Abramoff Pic

The White House admits it's the real deal.

TIME and the New York Times published the first photo of President Bush and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It's a shot of President Bush meeting with Abramoff and some of his client on White House grounds in 2001.

Abramoff is barely visible over the President's left shoulder in the shot, but it shows the lobbyist -- and Bush fundraiser -- did in fact meet with the President. (NYT)

Dead-Eye Dick

In what cynics will surely say was an effort to improve his image, Vice President Dick Cheney shot a Texas lawyer.

The two were bird hunting with a group in Texas, when 78-year-old Harry Whittington walked into the Veep's line of fire and got peppered with birdshot.

The Vice President's staff kept the shooting under wraps 24 hours before issuing any statements on it.

The shooting victim is recovering in the hospital.

Vice President Cheney becomes the first Veep since Aaron Burr to shoot a man while in office. (WashPost)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

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