Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Economic Numb-ers

President Bush nominates Henry Paulson to be Treasury Secretary and the Stock Market takes a 180 point plunge.

The Gallup Organization is out with a poll on the economy. Only 29% say the economy is good. And more than two-thirds of Americans say the economy is getting worse.

Prez Picks Paulson

Click on TV Screen
to Watch Gallup Vodcast

Some analysts suggest the problem is a rise in gas and healthcare costs -- as the economic indicators improve, those costs are rising so fast for most consumers, they don't notice any gains in their personal lives. (Gallup)

The High Price of a Free Press

"[M]any of the journalists observable in this war theater are bursting with knee-jerk suspicions and antagonisms for the warriors all around them. A significant number are whiny and appallingly soft." -- Karl Zinsmeister, Domestic Adviser to President Bush on journalists covering the Iraq War.

This quote was not likely covered by CBS's Kimberly Dozier, now hospitalized in Germany, nor the two members of her crew killed by an IED this week.

The Iraq War has become the deadliest conflict in history for journalists.

More than 70 have died getting the story out of the war since it began in March, 2003.

Reuters has a list of those killed.

Newt's Wondering "What If?"

"I salute Speaker Hastert for reaching this milestone - it is a testament to his leadership within the Republican Conference and the halls of Congress." -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), in a letter marking Speaker Denny Hastert's "milestone" of becoming the longest serving Republican House Speaker in history (Hotline)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Abandoning Bush

A Gallup Poll analysis shows that President Bush's biggest losses so far this year have come from his base.

Gallup looked back over the President's slipping approval ratings since January and found Bush lost:

  • 13-points among Republicans
  • 3-points among Democrats
  • 15-points among conservatives
  • 3-points among liberals

    Gallup: Bush Base Loss

Click on the TV screen to go to the Gallup vodcast with more details on the poll. (Gallup)

Fast Action -- When Their Interests are at Stake

A USAToday editorial sums it up nicely: In America, all people are created equal -- it's just that some are more equal than others:

"When the government snoops on your phone calls and records without warrants, lawmakers barely kick up a fuss. But when the target is a fellow Congressman - one under investigation for taking a bribe, no less - they're ready to rumble."

It took five days from the time the FBI showed up on Capitol Hill until Congressional leaders pressured the President into protecting one of their own. The Republican Speaker taking up for a Democrat under investigation. A rare show of bipartisanship.

Protecting Themselves First

Today, a loud noise echoed through the parking garage at the Rayburn House Office Building. It may have been workmen hammering on a pipe. But it was reported as gun shots.

Suddenly, Congress was locked down. It's emblematic of how quickly Congress can act to protect itself.

Look around Capitol Hill these days. Since 9/11, the Capitol complex looks like Fort Apache. Barriers, jersey walls, and sealed streets ring the Capitol.

The Capitol itself was designed to symbolize access of the people to their government. The steps to the Capitol flow out like rivers, in an open invitation to the people to enter "the People's House." The huge doors are designed to be swung open as an inviting opening for all people to enter.

In the aftermath of 9/11, Washington was quick to protect itself.

But what about the rest of us.

The reccomendations of the 9/11 Commission have not been enacted.

Congress can act quickly. Too bad it's only when their members need fast action. (USAToday)

Remember the Maine?

The Treasury Department is finally getting around to getting rid of a tax they came up with to pay for the Spanish-American War.

Back in 1898, Uncle Sam slapped a 3% excise tax on every long distance phone call in the country. After the war ended -- Washington kept collecting the tax.

If you've paid for long distance service in the last three years -- you should get a share of a $15-billion refund. It'll be part of your tax return filed next year.

Typical of Washington to wait until millions of Americans have switched to free long distance with cell phones and Internet phone service before giving a refund on long distance. (TaxProfBlog)

Bugged by the NSA's Phone Tracking?

Working Assets is a small, long-distance provider that gives a lot of donations to progressive causes. The week after the NSA phone database story broke -- they signed up 1,000 new customers. That's three-times what they usually see.

The company promises not to turn over any customer information and has joined a lawsuit over the database. (SF Chronicle)

Scandal Check

With convictions in the Enron case handed down -- the Associated Press takes a look at where other high-profile corporate scandals stand. (Houston Chronicle)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Regrets? He's Had a Few....

During a joint White House news conference with UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, President Bush recalled mistakes in Iraq -- chief among them -- abu Ghraib. But he failed to mention the failed search for WMDs.

Vodcast -- Poll Position: Return of the Governatorometer

Alabama forsakes Roy Moore and the return of the Governator-ometer.


Dear NSA

Lost your car keys? Have a mysterious bump on your arm -- but no time to go to the doctor?


Your friendly, neighborhood National Security Agency knows more about you than you do! And they're here to help.

Check out to see how they answer everyday problems from what underwear the NSA wears -- to how to get that huge sum of money out of Nigeria. (USAToday)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

What'd He Say?

Gotta love this combo. Forbes begins a report with this line:

"President Bush is choosing his words carefully..."

Only to include this quote from the President from today:

"What the Iraqis are going to have to eventually do is convince those who are conducting suiciders who are not inspired by al-Qaida, for example, to realize there is a peaceful tomorrow."

Now, on to stopping the suicidification bombadierifiers. (Forbes, HT: D. Mays)

Hastert Under Investigation?

House Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) was quick to come to Rep William Jefferson's (D-LA) defense when FBI agents raided the Democrat's Congressional office this week.

The Speaker said it was a breach of the seperation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

It's unusual for a Republican to come to a Democrat's defense on any issue these days.

But there may be a method to the madness.

ABC reports that Speaker Hastert is under an FBI investigation of his own. Might need a good, Constitutionally protected hiding place for evidence. (ABC)

Pelosi tells Jefferson to Quit

No indictment -- but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is already calling for embattled Rep William Jefferson (D-LA) to give up his post on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

She fired off a letter to him today. You can see it at Hotline on Call.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Vodcast -- Two Sides of Every Story

On Monday, Congressman Jefferson said there are two sides to the story of his taking $100,000 from a government informant.

"I have been racking my brain all day and calling people, wanting to know what could be the other side of the story for a congressman having $90,000 of cash in his freezer. And the collective wisdom of my friends have not been able to come up with anything. But if he can come up with a reason for this, I'm waiting here, man. I want to hear it, because I can't think of it." -- James Carville, on CNN, on Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA).

While James Carville may not know what the "other side" is -- we've figured it out in today's vodcast. (Taegan Goddard's

Lloyd Bentsen, 1921-2006

Former Senator and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen has died at the age of 85.

He began his national political career defeating George HW Bush in the 1970 Texas Senate race. He held on to his seat in the US Senate until becoming President Bill Clinton's first Treasury Secretary in 1993.

But he will probably be best remembered for his famous line to Dan Quayle in the 1988 Vice Presidential Debate -- after Quayle compared himself to John Kennedy. Click the audio bar to listen to his famous "you're no John Kennedy" quote.

Foot Dragging at the VA

CNN reports that the VA waited 19 days before alerting veterans their personal information may have been stolen.

A laptop with the names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers of more than 26-million veterans dating back to before 1975 was stolen from a VA employee's home.

The VA tried to catch the thief first, but gave up after nearly three weeks of trying -- and alerted the public to the potential of identity theft.

Hey, they may be slow alerting the people they're supposed to serve -- but they sure get cracking on getting the Secretary's picture on the wall! (CNN)

Convoy Attack

Washington Post Reporter Nelson Hernandez was traveling with a convoy delivering water trucks in Iraq -- when insurgents attacked.

TV Screen

Mr Hernandez kept rolling -- capturing this video of the battle. Click on the TV screen to watch it. (WashPost)

Drunk Voting

He won't name names, but Steve Doell says he smelled booze on the breath of at least one Oregon lawmaker when the Legislature debated tougher drunk driving laws.

Mr Doell is president of Crime Victims United.

His bunch is now lobbying for tougher drunk legislating laws.

Turns out it's perfectly legal right now to debate state laws drunk on the floor of Oregon's statehouse. (Corvallis Gazette-Times)

48 states raking in gambling proceeds

Just 25 years ago, you could only gamble legally in three states.

Now, Hawaii and Utah are the only states that don't allow it in some form.

There are:
  • 900 Casinos in 11 states
  • 406 Indian Casinos in 29 states
  • 29 Racetrack Casinos in 11 states
The Pew Research Center finds 71% of Americans approve of state lotteries. And 51% approve of legalized casino gambling. (

Ballot Box Lottery

Arizona voters may get a chance to play the lottery at the ballot box.

A group there has come up with a plan to award one random voter $1-million after each statewide election. The people pushing the plan say they've gathered enough signatures to put the plan on the fall ballot.

They claim it would boost voter turnout. The money would come from unclaimed lottery funds. (BostonGlobe)

Tracking Sex Offenders

Wisconsin sex offenders will be followed by the state until the day they die. A new law requires they wear a GPS tracking device for the rest of their lives.

The state figures it'll cost $1.2 million to track 285 offenders in the first year, $2.3 million to track 570 offenders in the second year.

The sex offenders get to pay the cost themselves. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Bush's Base Betrayal

Richard Viguerie (right) -- a key player in Ronald Reagan's electoral victories accuses President Bush of betraying conservatives, In an op-ed piece in Sunday's Washington Post, Mr Vigurerie outlines what he sees as the President's failures to support the people who put him in office:

"Sixty-five months into Bush's presidency, conservatives feel betrayed. After the 'Bridge to Nowhere' transportation bill, the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination and the Dubai Ports World deal, the immigration crisis was the tipping point for us. Indeed, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found last week that Republican disapproval of Bush's presidency had increased from 16 percent to 30 percent in one month. It is largely the defection of conservatives that is driving the president's poll numbers to new lows."

Mr Viguerie has a new book out detailing even more of claims: Conservatives Betrayed: How Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause. (WashPost)

Cold Hard Cash

The FBI says it has Rep William Jefferson (D-LA) on tape taking a $100,000 bribe from a businessman. Being a smart businessman, he'd turned state's evidence and was wearing a wire for the feds.

Just days later, the FBI raided Congressman Jefferson's DC home -- and found 90-grand of the cash wrapped up in aluminium foil in his freezer.

So, where was the missing $10,000?

Did he accidently thaw it and make it into meatloaf? (WashPost)

World Trade Center

This is the trailer to Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" opening in August.

It ran this weekend before "The DaVinci Code." Theatre owners were warned it might be too intense for some audiences.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Freedom from the Press

Alberto Gonzales goes after reporters but softens the administration's take on illegal immigrants, W rides in a dune buggy, and the fight against anti-semantics.


Gonzales on Bilingual Ballots

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says the Bush administration will support bilingual ballots. Appearing on ABC's "This Week" program, the Attorney General said he believed the two plans before Congress both allow that. And he says the administration will support portions of the Voting Rights Act that guarantee ballots be printed in different languages.

FBI Raid Congressional Office

Around 15 FBI agents swarmed over Rep William Jefferson's (D-LA) Capitol Hill office this weekend conducting a search related to a public corruption investigation.

Agents already raided his homes in New Orleans and Washington on August 3, 2005.

His former aide -- Brett Pfeffer -- pleaded guilty in January to bribery charges. Businessman Vernon Jackson pleaded guilty in May to bribery charges believed related to the Jefferson probe. (WashPost)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Paying Texas to Recover from it's Devastating 9/11 Attacks

They say everything's bigger in Texas -- and the Small Business Administration's foul ups on terrorist relief loans are a good example of that.
While businesses around Ground Zero were going broke and couldn't get help, the SBA was boxing up money to ship thousands of miles away, to deep in the heart of Texas.

KVUE-TV in Austin found Washington sent $47 million in it's STAR loans to central Texas to help small businesses recover from the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, DC.

Click on the TV screen to watch the KVUE-TV report

The people they talked to who'd gotten loans never knew they were for terrorist recovery. They said they'd never have taken the loans if they'd known that. The Inspector General has since come down hard on the Small Business Administration for it's lack of oversight in handing out the money.

The Loan STAR State

What did your money pay for?
  • $1.189 million to a lube & tune up shop
  • $1.015 million to a boat dealership
  • $634,000 to a frozen yogurt shop
  • $570,000 to a shoe store

Back in February, we told you in a Watching Washington Videocast about similar foul-ups in Massachusetts:

The money was supposed to go for loans directly relating to 9/11 problems. The KVUE report suggests SBA simply lumped the money into the rest of it's loan program. (KVUE-TV)

Fueling the Fire

Oil is fueling a political fight from Congress to the hearts and minds of the voters.

The House Thursday repealed $7 billion dollars in oil company subsidies. With high gasoline prices a top of mind issue with voters in a tough election year -- who didn't see that coming?

Air War

Ads are going out in e-mails and on websites in a viral video campaign from two sides in the fight over energy laws.

This video from the Center for American Progress takes on US energy policy -- the the lack of one. Part of their campaign.

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire blog critiques it this way:
"Democrats connect President Bush and U.S. dependence on oil with Iraq and Iran, Exxon Mobil Corp., the rising national debt, Enron founder Kenneth Lay, global warming and other unpopular notions in a video they are hoping will soon make a splash on the Internet."

On the other side -- the Competitive Enterprise Institute has a video out telling us what a wonderful friend carbon dioxide is. Oh, I should tell you, CEI is a wonderful friend of ExxonMobil and the other oil companies who fund CEI:

Aw! Heartwarming global warming. It's like curling up next to a warm fire -- pumping six trillion metric tons of carbon into the air. (WSJ/Center for American Progress/Think Progress/CEI)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bush Bounces Back -- Like a Deflated Kickball

President Bush has seen a bit of a gain in his latest Gallup Poll approval rating. He's up from his record low of 31% to 32%.

Gallup cautions, the poll was taken before USA Today's "bombshell" about the phone database. That would also put it before his national address on immigration.

Deflated Kickball

Click on the TV screen to see Gallup's video analysis of the poll numbers.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CIA, CYA -- Why Washington Really Likes Spying

Why spy on ABC News' Brian Ross (left)?

Is Washington worried about national security leaks -- or do they want to kill stories about official corruption?

The investigative reporter reported online this week that the feds were tracking ABC's phone calls. From "The Blotter:"
"A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we (Brian Ross and Richard Esposito) call in an effort to root out confidential sources."
So was this about national security, or was someone at CIA interested in CYA activity?

Dusty's Island Digs

At the same time Mr Ross and his producer were finding out about the phone tracking, ABC's sources were telling them about former CIA Executive Director Kyle "Dusty" Foggo's (left) trips to Hawaii -- part of the Duke Cunningham/Hookergate scandal.

Mr Foggo resigned just days before FBI agents swarmed into his California home with search warrants. The San Diego Union Tribune and LA Times report the search looked for links to his Hawaii trips.

Seems he took a lot of trips to Hawaii -- and spent his nights at this $7,000 a night beachfront mansion (right & below). ABC got their hands on the pictures. The Raw Story put them on the Internet.

Prosecutors want to know who paid for the trips.

CYA Director Foggo?

Washington's quick to tell us wiretaps and phone tracking databases are necessary to fight terrorists. But without oversight, they present a potential for abuse.

You see, spying on journalists may not always be in the interest of national security. Corrupt politicians and bureaucrats can use their access to the spying infrastructure to head off bad press about hookers, poker parties, and bribes from contractors.

Not saying that's happening. But view from here does make the timing questionable. (ABC/The Raw Story)

Corruption Index

Gallup finds 47% of Americans think Congress is corrupt.

Their poll yet another case of deja vu Gallup has found in their comparisons between this year and the 1994 elections.

Govt Corruption

Click on the TV screen to see Gallup's vodcast report on the poll.

With all Them Printin' Presses, You'd Think They'd Remember

Ike Piggot over at Accentuate the Positive, 2.0 may be onto a government conspiracy to silence the press. Though, mind you, he has terabytes of bandwith on his sarcasm server.

He's posted civics flash cards printed up by the Government Printing Office.

The cards are used to prepare immigrants for their citizenship tests.

The card in question asks you to name one freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment. It lists all but freedom of the press.

A couple of generations of immigrants, and we'll forget all about those nosey reporters.

Ike's got pictures of the cards. Check 'em out, before the NSA shuts his site down. (ATP, 2.0)

¡Sr. Bush, Derribe esta pared!

The US Senate has voted to build a 370-mile long, triple-layered fence along the Mexican border.

It raises the question, who are they going to hire to build it?

Wonder if Senators were scouting any day laborer sites. (MSNBC)

Vodcast -- Flight 77

The DOD releases two videotapes from security cameras that captured American Airlines Flight 77 crashing into the Pentagon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Lazy Ramadi

I love this. As the description at YouTube puts it:

"The Middle East response to the Midwest response Lazy Muncie, to the West Coast response Lazy Monday to SNL's Lazy Sunday.

Can You Hear Me Now?

From Our "I Told You So Dep:" We told you in Sunday's vodcast to look out for the class action lawsuits over the NSA database flap.

Verizon's stock dropped a full point after a $50 billion lawsuit was filed Friday. We told you phone companies may have violated the "Stored Communications Act" when they turned over your calling records without your consent. That law says your phone company has to pay you $1,000 every time they break the law.

The lawsuit seeks $1,000 for each of Verizon's 50 million customers. (CNN)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Employment Office

President Bush enlists the National Guard to divert attention from parts of his immigration plan that might now set well with his supporters.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Vodcast-- Cashing In on the NSA

Making money off th NSA phone database, Bush's latest "slam dunk," and why he "don't get no respect!"


Friday, May 12, 2006

The Foggo of War

The Associated Press reports the FBI has executed search warrants on the house and office of the CIA's outgoing Executive Director.

Kyle "Dusty" Foggo resigned this week from his number three post at CIA.

He's reportedly under investigation in a case related to that of former Rep Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- convicted earlier this year on corruption charges. (AP)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Bush Fish Story

The President says all those wiretaps and databases about our phone calls are no big deal. He is a fisherman. Think it's a fish story?


Goose, Gander, Paychecks

Congress members get an automatic pay raise every year -- unless they vote specifically to stop it.

They don't do that very often. In fact, last year was the first time since at least 1997 that they turned down the extra money.

Meanwhile, Congress hasn't raised the minimum wage since 1996. It's been stuck at $5.15 an hour ever since.

So Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) introduced a bill -- S. 2727 -- that would tie minimum wage increases to Congressional pay.

"To amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide for an increase in the Federal minimum wage and to ensure that increases in the Federal minimum wage keep pace with any pay adjustments for Members of Congress. " -- S. 2725

In other words, every time Congress gets a raise -- the lowest paid working Americans get one, too.

Congress members don't want to raise the minimum wage -- no problem. Members just have to pass on their own pay raises. (DailyKos)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

What'd He Say?

Bet HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson (right) wishes he could take back his words.

Oh, wait. Maybe he can!

Afterall, this is Washington, and the official language here is "doublespeak."

The Dallas Business Journal related the story of how Secretary Jackson quashed a contract because the contractor didn't like President Bush:

"'He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,' Jackson said of the prospective contractor. 'He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

'I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

'He didn't get the contract,' Jackson continued. 'Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe.' "

The Secretary's office first confirmed the words were spoken.

But now, they say the story itself -- of government retaliation for free speech -- was a fabrication. So the best case scenario here is that the Secretary lied to his audience. (Dallas Business Journal/Think Progress)

Bad News? Distract the Messenger!

Hotline on Call reports that the White House has fired off a pair of "Setting the Record Straight" e-mails.

They do that when they disagree with a news report.

In one of the e-mails, the administration takes exception to a CBS News report on Medicare Part D.

In the other, they criticize the New York Times editorial board for ignoring economic improvements.

Now, where else in the past day or so, have we seen the New York Times, CBS News, and the White House all cross paths?

Could it be the New York Times/CBS News Poll showing President Bush at his worst approval rating yet -- and with only Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter scoring lower approval ratings?

Guess when you can't argue numbers, ya gotta look for something else to complain about. (Hotline)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Vodcast -- Hookers, Drugs, & Pedophilia. Your tax dollars at work.

Hookers, Drugs, & Pedophilia. Your tax dollars at work.


And someone at FEMA needs to learn how to spell.

CIA Director Debate

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden could be nominated as the new CIA Director as soon as Monday.

A common thread ran through comments about the likely new head of the CIA when politicians appeared on the Sunday talk shows -- Should the head of the CIA be a civilian?

Friday, May 05, 2006

Lack of Intelligence?

CIA Director Porter Goss resigned suddenly without explanation. But the Washington Editor of Harper's Magazine suggests it could be tied to the federal investigation of a lobbyist-run prostitution operation out of the Watergate Hotel.

"I've learned from a highly-connected source that those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence Committees -- including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post." -- Ken Silverstein in Harpers Magazine blog