Monday, August 28, 2006

Hiding Your Money from You

A bill to make government spending more open to your inspection is being blocked by an anonymous Senator.

Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barak Obama (D-IL) sponsored the bill to create searchable database that would let you see where $2.5 trillion of your dollars are going. But someone in the Senate used a secret parliamentary move to hold up the bill -- even though it passed unanimously last month. (ContraCosta Times)

Guess Why Bin Laden is on the "Most Wanted List"

Nearly five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" list -- but not for the 9/11 attacks. The list only lists him for his involvement in the 1998 African embassy bombings. The 9/11 attacks aren't mentioned -- even if he is the top suspect. (WashPost)

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

President Bush Fact-Checks Rick Santorum

Less than 24 hours after President Bush's Monday news conference, Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey was using the President's words to bash Mr Casey's Republican opponent -- Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA)on YouTube and at Mr Casey's website.

Sen Santorum has argued that the US found WMDs in Iraq and says there's no proof that al Qaeda didn't have help from Iraq on the 9/11 attacks. Even though both have claims have been shot down -- the President shot them down again Monday.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Political Fight

Politicians will tell you politics is a "full contact sport." But some of Rep Al Wynn's (D-MD) campaigners are accused of taking that idea a bit too far. This is video of police arresting a couple of Wynn supporters fter a scuffle outside a candidate forum in Largo, MD. The two were accused of roughing up a supporter of Donna Edwards -- who is challenging Rep Wynn in the Democratic Primary. (WJZ/YouTube)

Naptime on Capitol Hill

Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT) fights to stay awake in a hearing.


Joe Rosenthal Dies

It's the most iconic photograph in American history -- the flag raising on Iwo Jima.

The man who snapped that famous moment has died. Joe Rosenthal won the Pulitizer Prize for the 1945 photograph. He was 94.

A videographer friend of mine once saw a print from the original negative at the Library of Congress. He was most impressed with the fact it was numbered "2" in the series of prints made.

A new film about the flag raising -- based on the book Flags of Our Fathers -- is in production. The film's website features the film of the actual flag raising.

Politics of Fear

All we have to fear is the next 70-some-odd days 'til the election. Hillary paired with Osama, terror plots politicized, Democrats running scary ads.

Stepping in the Macaca

A candidate steps in the "macaca" and the GOP drives away NASCAR Dads.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cheap Gas, Pork & Buying Votes

Kentucky Congressional candidate Mike Weaver (D) had more than 100 people lined up for cheap gasoline at a recent campaign event. People could get ten gallons of $1.20 a gallon gasoline. Mr Weaver's campaign paid $1,510 to cover the difference. The regular price was $2.76 a gallon.

That's not sitting well with incumbent Rep Ron Lewis (R-KY) -- the guy Mr Weaver is trying to unseat.

Rep Lewis, probably sore he didn't think of it first, is demanding the US Attorney's office look into the event as a case of "vote buying."

Speaking of "vote buying" -- we went to Rep Lewis' official House website (paid for by your tax dollars) and looked around for some pork barrel spending. We found Rep Lewis bragging about:
The only difference in "buying votes" may be that Mr Weaver used money contributed to his campaign -- while Rep Lewis used taxpayer money. (AP via Ron Lewis website)

Wal-Mart Whoops!

When hiring an image consultant -- make sure he's not going to insult people.

Wal-Mart brought in Andrew Young, the former Atlanta mayor and UN Ambassador to improve their image. But Mr Young made the comment that "mom and pop" stores should be run out of business by companies like Wal-Mart for taking advantage of people in the black community:

"First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it's Arabs; very few black people own these stores." -- Andrew Young, quoted in the Washington Post
Nothing like a multicultural racial attack to improve the whole Wal-Mart image, huh.

Mr Young has since left the image effort. (WashPost)

Feel Safer Yet, Part 2

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the FBI tried to replace its paper files with a new, $170-million computer system. Less than a year after Science Applications International Corp (SAIC)delivered it -- the system had to be scrapped because it was completely useless.

The Washington Post reports:

"Because of an open-ended contract with few safeguards, SAIC reaped more than $100 million as the project became bigger and more complicated, even though its software never worked properly. The company continued to meet the bureau's requests, accepting payments despite clear signs that the FBI's approach to the project was badly flawed, according to people who were involved in the project or later reviewed it for the government."

Feel safer yet?

More FBI Problems

The Co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission also tell USA Today the FBI has been slow to tackle terrorism and is hurting from high turnover in its senior ranks.

Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton say the Commission came close to suggesting the FBI be split into two agencies -- one to deal with domestic intelligence, the other to handle traditional law enforcement.

Now, Squeal Like a Pig

President Bush has pardoned a moonshiner who appeared in the movie, Deliverance.

Randal Leece Deal plays one of two hillbilly brothers in the 1972 film. He delivered the line, "It ain't nothing but the biggest [expletive deleted] river in the state."

He'd been convicted in 1960 and again in 1964 for moonshining -- serving a total of four years probation.

Today, he works for the Rabun County Sheriff's office and had no idea he was up for a pardon. (

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where Were You on 9/11?

A video oral history of my experiences on Capitol Hill during the 9/11 attacks.

Record your story of where you were and what you were doing and post to the 9/11 Memory group at [Click HERE to join the group]

You can read an earlier account I wrote down in the weeks after the 9/11 Attacks at the September 11 Digital Archive maintained at the Library of Congress.

If this Doesn't Work, Expect a Strongly Worded, Certified Letter Next

Hollywood celebrities have taken out a strongly worded, full-page ad in the LA Times -- condemning terrorism. I reads in part:
"We the undersigned are pained and devastated by the civilian casualties in Israel and Lebanon caused by terrorist actions initiated by terrorist organisations such as Hezbollah and Hamas."

The list of undersigned included Michael Douglas, Dennis Hopper, Nichole Kidman, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Danny De Vito, Don Johnson, and James Woods. (The Herald Sun)

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Radioactive Vet

A Canadian World War II veteran, on his way to the states for a little gambling in a Washington state casino, found himself surrounded by US guards accusing him of trying to build a nuke.

Turns out, Stanley Smith had been injected with radioactive dye for a medical exam after a recent heart attack. Tourists are warned all the time that it might trigger radiation detectors at the border. But the guys who are supposed to be trained to look for that sort of thing spent an hour interrogating the old vet before believing it could actually happen. (SeattlePI)

President Ford in the Hospital -- Wolves at the Door

Former President Gerald Ford has beaten back hungry wolves once again -- checking himself into the Mayo Clinic well ahead of the pack.

He's undergoing tests, and doctors say he remains in "delicious" condition. (LAT/with help from Dana Carvey & SNL)

Rock the Vote

This picture appears on Rep Katherine Harris' (R-FL) Senatorial campaign website. And, it really is captioned: "Broward County Young Republican Club Meeting." (Wonkette)

I'm Votin' fer the Dead Woman

There were signs at every polling place reminding voters that former state Controller Kathy Augustine was dead -- she died last month. But she still got 19% of the vote in Tuessday's Republican primary for State Treasurer in Nevada.

This Congressman Delivers

Rep Bobby Jindal (R-LA) delivered his third child at home -- with help from a nurse over the phone. Slade Ryan Jindal was born early Tuesday morning. Mother, Supriya, woke with labor pains early Tuesday morning -- and Slade Ryan Jindal arrived while the Jindals were waiting for the ambulance to arrive. (CNN)

Video Camera? Racial Slur? Not the Brightest Bulb in the Six-Pack

Sen George Allen (R-VA) is working damage control after twice hurling a racial slur at one of his constituents.

S.R. Sidarth was born and raised in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He's of Indian descent. Mr Sidarth is a volunteer for Sen Allen's opponent, James Webb. And Mr Sidarth has videotaped many of Sen Allen's campaign speeches.

During one of the speeches, Sen Allen twice pointed to the camera and called Mr Sidarth "Macaca."

Macaca is a type of Asian monkey -- and considered a serious racial slur among Indians.

Sen Allen also suggests that Mr Sidarth was not an American -- nor from Virginia -- also caught on tape.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Osama & Hillary

New York Republican John Spencer compares Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) to Osama bin Laden in his new campaign ad.

(Spencer for Senate)

Something about this Plan Stinks -- Could be the Feet

Since the British terror plot was busted, TSA here in the states has insisted that all shoes be x-rayed -- so screeners can find hidden explosives.

Just one problem.

The x-ray machines can't find explosives.

Feel safer yet? (CBS News)

Lawyers Loose with Money

People too poor to afford lawyers have to turn to Legal Aid -- and the taxpayer funded outfit has to turn away half the people who come looking for help because there's not enough money in the budget.

But the AP reports that the outfit's honchos are blowing money on $14 dollar deserts and $400 limo rides:

"The government-funded corporation boasts a spacious headquarters in Washington's swank Georgetown district — with views of the Potomac River and a rent significantly higher than other tenants in the same building.

And board members wrote themselves a policy that doubled the amount they could claim for meals compared with their staff."
The top guys tend to meet at hotels for conferences -- instead of at the Georgetown HQ. Even when they meet in DC, they rent hotel conference rooms. These conferences cost up to 55-grand and the last one was in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Take a lok at the per-person bill for one of thier stays:
  • $59 Three-entree buffet
  • $17 Belgian waffle breakfast
  • $28 Deli buffet
  • $13 "High Tea" service
  • $12 Bagel break
  • $12 Cookie sortment
  • $14 "Death By Chocolate" dessert
Somebody should sue these guys! (AP via USAToday)

Not a Real "Family Values" Kind of Candidate

The Studebaker for Congress campaign is suspending all campaign activities in Ohio. Democratic candidate Stephanie Studebaker and her husband, Sam, were arrested for domestic violence Saturday night -- each were released on $25,000 bond.

The mugshot (right) would likely have turned up in an ad for opponent, Rep Mike Turner (R-OH). (USAToday)

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Key to FEMA's Problems

FEMA's replacing all the locks on 118,000 trailers people have been living in since Gulf Coast hurricanes smashed their houses.

Turns out a single key can open all the locks.

One of the drawbacks to that "lowest bidder" concept. (USAToday)

Democrats Tackle Terror

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) has a new web ad questioning the Bush administration's national security policies in the wake of the British terror plot.

The ad comes as Democrats mount an offensive on the administration's policies as bureaucratic and ineffective in the War on Terror. And as CBS News relesed the first post-terror-plot poll showing the President's overall and terrorism-specific approval ratings unchanged from July. (DSCC/CBS)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Feel Safer Yet?

A close call five years after 9/11. Should we feel any safer?


Poll Position: 8/12/2006 -- Remember 9/11?

The first Lieberman-Lamont poll of the general election campaign and surprising numbers about Iraqi urban legends and 9/11 memory loss.


Warrantless Wiretaps NOT Used in Busting Terror Plot

It appears the British terror plot was busted without using warrantless wiretaps. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Sen Russ Feingold (D-WI) discuss the program on ABC's "This Week."

"Wand" Still Airing Despite Similarities to Terror Plot

Despite pop bottles used as bombs in the British terror plot -- Sierra Mist is still running it's commercial featuring Kathy Griffin and other comedians stealing a passenger's soft drink at a security checkpoint.

Media outlets for years have been quick to take down ads that might remind consumers of sad or scary news events. Ford pulled an ad compaing it's early minivan "Aerostar" to the Space Shuttle when Challenger exploded shortly after launch, and Hollywood digitally erased images of the World Trade Center for months after the 9/11 atttacks. (TIME)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

It's 11:00 On the East Coast -- Do Know Where Your President Is?

As of 11:00 am EDT, the White House had done little more than rush quick statements to it's website in the PR front of the British Terror Plot.

A series of events throughout the morning suggested the administration was in the dark about what was going on in London and Birmingham -- or at least in the dark about how to explain it to the American people.

At 7:37 am, ABC News reported that the White House was still working on a statement.

At the same time, Brian Ross was providing details on "Good Morning America."

Shortly after 8:00 am, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales presented what might be called a "News-You-Can-Use Conference."

They presented little "news" about the terror plot. Mainly, it appeared to be cookie cutter talking points about the War on Terror in general -- and an relatively enormous amount of advice on how to avoid delays at the airport. More like what you'd expect from "Hints from Heloise."

Again, Brian Ross at ABC had details about a potential threat to the US on World News earlier in the week. Click the TV Screen to watch it.

TV Screen

Mr Ross reported earlier this year he'd been told by one of his sources the feds were bugging the phones of both Mr Ross and his producer.

That seems to be unfounded now. Otherwise, it appears the Bush Administration would know what's going on. (ABC News/The White House)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It was a Really Good Letter, too -- Until You Get to the Part about Israel

Republican California Lt Governor candidate Tom McClintock (right) has to come up with a new fundraising letter.

He had a great one. Three pages long. Written by a big time movie star.

Problem is -- the star was Mel Gibson. The Daily Show sums up over the top coverage of the Gibson arrest below:

Mr McClintock has given up on using it. Maybe he can check to see if Robert Downey, Jr., Ann Heche or Margo Kidder are available. They haven't served up a heapin' helpin' of crazy in a while! ( HT: Huffington Post)

The Department of [Sex] Education

The US Department of Education got a bunch of angry e-mails about all the links on their website to porn sites.

Contractors scanning the DoE site found 15 links to porn buried in more than 65,000 links on the site.

Don't blame the goverment entirely. Seems the porn industry has started buying up web addresses when the owners let them expire. You have to get new technology to scan all your links to see if you're linking to porn.

Watching Washington's tech department has notified me that they "ain't buyin' no stinkin' new software" -- so please consider any inadvertent links to porn sites from WW a public service.

The Boston Philharmonic Orchrestra is among those who had their expired web address swiped. But that does explain what's going on with that oboe in the new picture at their old site. (PCWorld)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and Iraqi WMDs

After spending 16 months and $900-million dollars, the US found no evidence of any WMDs in Iraq. No Iraq WMD programs, no weapons, nothing that we were warned posed an "imminent danger" to the US.

But a new Harris poll shows 50% of the American people still believe Saddam had WMDs when the US invaded Iraq in 2003. And that's up from 36% last year. (WashPost)

Monday, August 07, 2006

The Possum & the Politician

The wackiest Senate race in America has some new wierd -- following Rep Katherine Harris' (R-FL) purchase of a pet possum at the Wausau Possum Festival (where else would you buy one). (AP via Yahoo!)

Ney Drops Out

Rep Bob Ney (R-OH) has dropped out of a re-election effort due to damage from lobbyist scandals. State Sen Joy Padgett will replace Rep Ney on the Republican ticket. Rep Ney was plagued by his link to an ongoing probe into a lobbyist scandal.

Ealier this year, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) also dropped out of a re-election bid over mounting issues surrounding his relationship with lobbyists and his incictment on an unrelated campaign spending issue.

Polls repeatedly showed Rep Ney was taking a pounding among voters from the same influence peddling probe that landed a conviction against Rep Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) earlier this year. Rep Ney says he will not resign if indicted over his dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But he says the campaign was taking a toll on his family. And it appears he decided he could not overcome the negative numbers in his race against Democrat Zack Space. (Forbes)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Txt Msg Vtrs & the Decider

How to use your cell phone to register to vote -- and President Bush's words come back to haunt GOP candidates.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Urban Renewal

Wanna know how hard Isreal is hitting Lebanon in their conflict with Hezbollah? You can see the impact from space.

GeoEye has a pair of stunning "before & after" satellite images showing the damage on a chunk of Beirut. The image on the left was taken July 12. The image on the right on July 31.

Their site features a movable/searchable mosaic of Beirut from the airport to surrounding areas taken on July 31. (GeoEye via Yahoo! News)

Those Crazy Kids -- at ExxonMobil

Seen that spoof of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" some kid posted on YouTube. By "some kid" we of course mean the public relations department the oil companies hired to produce the video.

The "kid" who posted it calls himself "Toutsmith," says he's 29, and lives in Beverly Hills.

The Wall Street Journal tracked down the actual street address for folks who posted it. The Internet trace led them to a computer registered to DCI Group -- a DC lobbying and PR firm whose clients include ExxonMobil. (Wall Street Journal)

The Hillary Show

Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is all over the news this morning for her sparring match with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a Senate hearing Thursday. Google News lists more than 1,300 links to the story this morning.

Why so much attention? It was good TV.

Senators are given a specific amount of time for questions during hearings. Most use up all their time delivering a speech on their view of one specific part of the issue.


Reporters (speaking from exerience here) have to force themselves to stay awake listening for a canned soudbite -- usually read verbatim from his prepared statement.

Definitely not memorable stuff.

Sen Clinton actually used her question time for -- egads! -- questions.

Hill Press Secretaries should ask themselves why talk shows are so popular among political junkies and then ask themselves why they don't try to imitate them more often.

Sen Clinton framed her message as questions and fired them off at the Secretary. It plays well for television, keeps reporters awake, and steals the show -- because it's all show, no speeches.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Everything's Bigger in Texas -- Except Them "ASS 06" Checks

It's election year. Would you contribute money to "ASS 06?"

Seems a lot of Texans were getting that stamped on the checks they sent to Gov Rick Perry's (right) re-election campaign.
"In hindsight, it probably wasn't the best choice for an abbreviation." -- Robert Black, Spokesman for Gov Rick Perry (R-TX) re-election campaign
It actually stood for "A Small Supporter," and was stamped on checks made out for relatively small amounts.

Some protestors actually sent in checks for three-cents to protest a plan to raise a new business tax. They tend to think the code was more personal.

Sex, Lies and Videotape -- Politics in Nevada

Ya gotta love a lead like this one from the Associated Press:
Nevada's wide-open race for governor is being fought with sock puppets, cardboard cutouts, "Star Wars" parodies and Internet close-ups of an elephant's behind.
And that doesn't even get to the matter of "latent Republicanism."

This is a race that includes former lounge singer Lorraine Hunt (who's now the Republican Lt Governor), and Melody Damayo (right) -- a Republican former porn star who got her big break in "Happy Ending."

She may have inspired State Treasurer Brian Krolicki's campaign commercial in the GOP Lt Governor's primary. It's a spoof of a porn movie with a scantily clad couple entangling to the sound of cheezy sax music. He's merely claiming his opponent -- Barbara Lee Woolen -- made her fortune in the porn business. (AP)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sacré Bleu -- Zee Fries are, How You Say, "French?"

"Freedom Fries" and "Freedom Toast" are "French" again at the Congressional cafeterias. Congress ordered their names changed in the lead up to the Iraq War when France opposed the US invasion.

Rep Bob Ney (R-OH), one of the Congressmen who led the charge to change the names in 2003, declined to comment on the menu change. (WashTimes)

Senator's Nephew Killed in Iraq

Marine Cpl Phillip Baucus -- a nephew of Sen Max Baucus (D-MT) -- has been killed in action in Iraq.

Cpl Baucus died in combat in al-Anbar province on July 29. Sen Baucus voted to authorize the use of military force in Iraq.

Only a handful of Congressmen have relatives serving in Iraq. Sen John McCain's son Jimmy volunteered for the Marine Corps last month. (Bloomberg)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Dyslexic Doctor Death

Jeremy Kohler, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch discovered the secret identity of Missouri's state executioner. And he sounds perfect for the job -- at least he sounds like he's been training for it his whole professional career.

Dr Alan R Doerhoff has:
  • Been banned from practicing in two hospitals in the state
  • Been charged with malpractice over 20 times
  • Received a public reprimand in 2003 by the state Board of Healing Arts
Like I said -- perfect for overseeing lethal injections since 1995 for the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Dr Doerhoff has testified in court that he is dyslexic. So he sometimes confuses names of drugs. Always something you want in a doc, huh? (Post-Dispatch, Photo: Post-Dispatch, HT: IRE)

Army Unprepared for War?

Equipment shortages have left more than two-thirds of the Army National Guard 34 brigades unprepared to go into combat.

It's a problem that'll cost $21-billion to fix.

The assessment comes from the National Guard's top general, Lt Gen Steven Blum.

It follows an announcement from the regular Army's brass that two-thirds of their brigades are also unprepared to go into combat. Though they point out that all units currently in combat are "100% ready."

They'd better be.

USA Today reports the problem is being fueled by unites leaving tanks, trucks, and other equipment in Iraq rather than bringing them home. (USAToday)

Strange Bedfellows

Republican donors are ponying up money to the Green Party candidate for US Senate in Pennsylvania.

Hey, they have a perfectly good Republican candidate -- well, sort of. Sen Rick Santorum (R-PA) (left) is imploding. He's trailing in the polls, claiming a huge stash of WMDs were discovered in Iraq, and incorrectly claimed Arab television network al Jazeera endorsed his Democratic rival, Bob Casey.

With all that going against him, the GOP figures they need all the help they can get. So they're hoping for a Ralph Nader effect -- with the Green candidate swiping left leaning votes from Mr Casey.

Green candidate Carl Romanelli himself says most of the $100-thousand he raised to get on the ballot came from Republicans. (WashPost)

Fake Flags and Cartoon Dogs in Rhode Island

Gov Don Carcieri (R-RI) put up with the Hollywood film crews taking down a chandelier from the statehouse ceiling. He bit his tongue when they replaced lamps with statues and built a false front to the Senate chamber.

But when they flew a fake flag from a fictional city over his capitol (left) -- that was the last draw.

He's looking into the way the state loans out it's state capitol for movies. Like for this particular epic -- "Underdog." It's a live action version of the 1960s cartoon that featured Marlon Brando's roomate Wally Cox (right).

Stay classy, Providence! (Boston Globe)

Billionaires Bail on Tax Payments

Rich and politically connected folks have been saving a bundle through tax shelters. It's cost Uncle Sam $40-billion a year. That's money the rest of us taxpayers have to make up.

A Senate committee will release a 370-page report detailing how millionaires and billionaires are getting out of paying taxes by using shell companies and trusts on the Isle of Man.

Among the rich and famous listed:
  • Robert Wood Johnson IV -- NY Jets owner
  • Sam & Charles Wyly -- brothers who've bankrolled President Bush's campaigns
  • Haim Saban -- Democratic Party fundraiser who made it big selling "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers"

Ain't that rich? (WashPost)

Evidence Put Online

Practically all the eveidence from the Moussaoui trial is online for you to take a look at. You can find the evidence here.

The Washington Post reports:
With a series of clicks, Web users can hear recordings of frantic 911 calls from people trapped inside the burning trade center towers and see videos of the towers collapsing.
Zacarias Moussaoui was billed as "the 20th Hijacker" in the only trial to date on the 9/11 attacks.

A spokesman for the court says the decision to put the info online because people were interested in it. (WashPost)

I'm Right, You're Wrong -- No Need to Read this Post

Partisan political types are pretty stubborn. New research shows we listen to ideas that reinforces our world view and shut out those that disturb our world view -- or make us question whether we made a wrong choice in our opinions.

The research suggests there are parts of our noggins that regulate emotion that come into play. A politician says something you agree with -- your brain lets it in and processes it. A politician says something you don't agree with and your brain turns up the "angry" knob that lets you keep it out.

Or something like that. Hey, it's politics, not brain science or rocket surgery or whatever. (WashPost)