Thursday, December 27, 2007

War Numbers Just a Few Billion Off

How much are the wars really costing?

A top Republican supporter of US involvement in Iraq says it's a lot more than the White House claims. From the Washington Post, quoting Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK) in a Decembber 18 floor speech:

'This cost of this war is approaching $15 billion a month, with the Army spending $4.2 billion of that every month.' Sen Ted Stevens (R-AK), the ranking Republican on the Appropriations defense subcommittee
The adminstration's estimate is about three billion a month below that: $11.7 billion. (WashPost)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Remembering a December Morning

It's been 66 years since Pearl Harbor. This tribute originally ran on December 7, 2006.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Former Congressman Henry Hyde dies


Former Rep Henry Hyde (R-IL) has died. He'd had open heart surgery over the summer and suffered complications afterward.

Rep Hyde retired from the House last year after serving 32 years in Congress. He was known for opposing government funding for abortions and was a central figure in the impeachment of then President Bill Clinton while on the House Judiciary Committee. (Sun Times)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Army Retrofitting Combat Uniforms

Some soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been holding on by the seat of their pants.

Seems the US Army is retrofitting 1 million unforms because of what it calls "crotch durability problems."

Heavy wear and tear is tearing out the inseams on the baggy battle britches. Seems the seams were only single stitched -- and these troops are doing double or triple tours.

The Army says the tears are unacceptable. They demand that battle uniforms hold up to anything short of direct fire. (USAToday)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

De-Icer Scandal Sends a Chill Down Your Spine

A company that provides de-icing services for airliners at 11 US and foreign airports has been caught slipping the answers to job candidates taking de-icing tests.

Job seekers have to be certified for the de-icing jobs.

KCNC-TV got undercover video of airlines feeding answers to the applicants.

Servisair deices airplanes for 22 airlines at Denver International Airport.

The station spent three-months investigating the story.

Airlines were caught feeding answers to 14 written tests to applicants for Servisair's 500 deicing jobs.

So now you may have people who know nothing about de-icing planes working on your flight this winter..

Just for the record, the FAA says since 1993, 135 airplanes have crashed and 171 people have died because the planes were not properly de-iced. (KCNC-TV/Al's Morning Meeting)

Hastert Leaves the House

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has resigned from Congress. He says the sudden departure will allow Illinois to hold a special election to replace him at the same time as next year's Illinois Presidential primary. From the Chicago Tribune:

Under state law, it's up to Gov. Rod Blagojevich to call a special election, and he has to set the date within five days of Hastert's resignation, which took effect at 10:59 p.m. Monday. By law, the seat must be filled within 120 days.
Rep Hastert says he's not explored job prospects -- citing a potential conflict of interest while still serving in Congress. (Chicago Tribune)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Trent Lott Callis it Quits

Sen Trent Lott (R-MS) will resign from the US Senate before the year's end. He isn't saying what he plans to do, but the former Senate Majority Leader could beat a deadline to start work as a lobbyist sooner. From the New York Times:

By resigning before the end of the year, Mr. Lott would beat the effective date for new ethics rules that double to two years the amount of time former Senators must wait before they can join a firm to lobby former colleagues. The new rule applies to those who leave office “on or after” Dec. 31.
He has spent 35 years in the House and Senate.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IED Materials Get Past TSA Screeners

The Government Accountability Office has been able to get IED materials past airport screeners. What's more, the GAO investigators found the plans and materials for making the bombs on the Internet. From the Associated Press:

"The investigators learned about the components to make an improvised explosive device and an improvised incendiary device on the Internet and purchased the parts at local stores, said the report by the Government Accountability Office. Investigators were able to purchase the components for the two devices for under $150, and they studied the published guidelines for screening to determine how to conceal the prohibited items as they went through checkpoint security."
The GAO's conclusion was that it was relatively simple and amazingly cheap for terrorists to build a bomb and blow it up on a plane.

But rest assured your three ounces of bottled water will still get you strip searched. (AP)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pork Map


Earmarkwatch.org lets you see where the pork's going in Congress' spending bills. You can actually see it on a map.

It also lets you contribute your own research or discovery of pork barrel spending. The Washington Post reports:

Three users of the site recently ran down an earmark for ICRC Solutions, an Alaska company that received $1 million for a Land and Sea Special Operations all-terrain vehicle known as a LASSO. In comments posted on the site, users said the company's chief executive is James Lexo, a former aide to Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) and a big campaign contributor.
And the Post found a million bucks spent on socks for Marines and another million for "Extended Cold Weather Clothing System" -- something the rest of us call "gloves." Bothe were going to Congress members who had factories in their districts or states landing the contracts.

Ex-FBI, CIA Agent Took Classified Info

A illegal alien with ties to the terrorist group Hezbollah was able to get jobs with both the FBI and CIA allowing her to access files on suspected terrorists.

Lebanese citizen Nada Nadim Prouty has pleaded guilty to secretly obtaining information and passing it on to relatives believed to be linked to the terrorist group.

Intel sources say Ms. Prouty was sent to the US specifically to penetrate intelligence operations and serve as a spy. She became an FBI special agent and later went to work as a mid-level CIA operative. (ABC)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Cheap, Abundant Hydrogen

Three little words that makes sheiks shake in their boots and oil men cry like little babies: "Cheap, abundant hydrogen."

US researchers have found a new process that makes hydrogen out of waste material and other biomass. It requires electricity -- but it produces 288% more energy in hydrogen than it burns up in electricity.

What's more -- it's financially viable now -- not years down the road.

The breakthrough comes as car companies are experimenting with hydrogen powered or hydrogen fuel cell engines. (AFP)

Entertaining Political Notions

Seems liberals and conservatives are even divided on the kinds of entertainment each side likes.

The Norman Lear Center and Zogby International conducted a survey of entertainment tastes.

Here’s some of what they found.

  • Fox News wins the prize for the most politically divisive TV channel -- 70% of conservatives watch it daily and only 3% of liberals.

  • The only channel conservatives watch less than MTV – is Univision.

  • Not only do liberals give Comedy Central a big thumbs up 31% watch it daily, compared to 6% of all other respondents, you are more likely to find them watching comedies than moderates or conservatives.

  • Brainy stuff like documentaries, arts and educational programming all appeal more to liberals – conservatives prefer action-adventures, business and sports shows. Moderates prefer children’s programs and daytime TV.

  • Conservatives claim their favorite musical genre is classical but are most likely to listen to only two types of musical genres – country and gospel. They’re the least likely to listen to jazz.

  • Rock is the most popular among liberals – but liberals are the most likely to listen to all genres from jazz to punk.
But we're not really a house divided over home entertainment. What pulls us together?

Football, movies on television, and we’re all in the same house with “House.” That FOX doctor drama draws an equal number of people across all political views.

'Hidden Costs' Double Price Wars

Congressional Democrats claim hidden economic costs have raised the pricetag of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to $1.5 trillion. From the Washington Post:

"That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled 'The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War,' estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000. "
What are the hidden costs?

The report says the war is diverting investments in America and taking Reservists and National Guardsmen away from their civilian jobs. (WaPo)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Veterans Day: An Air Force Memorial

My dad and his Uncle Herbert were Airmen. They got a memorial in 2006. We present this video memorial for them -- and all other veterans -- this Veterans Day. [This video originally ran on Veterans Day 2006]

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rudy's Ties to an al Qaeda Associate

The candidate who's made 9/11 a central theme of his presidential campaign may have done business with an al Qaeda associate who helped in the escape of a 9/11 mastermind.

Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has remained on the payroll of his security consulting firm while running for President. He's refused to disclose his entire client list -- and the Wall Street Journal suggests he has a good reason to keep some of those clients secret. From the Journal:

Some of those clients have controversial records. Among those he hasn't disclosed is the government of Qatar, a Persian Gulf state to whom the firm provided security advice, according to the former U.S. ambassador there. Qatar is a strategic U.S. military ally and energy supplier, yet also a country that has been criticized for its conduct toward al Qaeda -- a potential political pitfall for a candidate pitching himself as an uncompromising foe of Islamic terrorism.
Radar magazine reports Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giulianni's consulting firm has been providing security advice to Qatar's internal security ministry.


"Qatar Interior Minister Abdullah bin Khalid Al-Thani has long had ties to top Al Qaeda operatives including Osama Bin Laden, and is believed by many U.S. officials to have personally arranged the narrow escape of Al Qaeda big-wig Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from U.S. agents in 1996, thereby ensuring his freedom to mastermind the 9/11 attacks."
What's Mr. Giulianni saying about all of this? Not a thing. His campaign says they won't discuss his business.

Expect his opponent to talk about it plenty -- in plenty of ads -- if he wins the GOP nomination. (WSJ/Radar)


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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Reagan Library Missing Momentos

The Ronald Reagan Library reports 80,000 objects in its collection are missing.

The National Archives Inspector General found that 4 in 5 of the artifacts in the Library's collection are missing or unaccounted for.

So who ripped off the Gipper?

The IG blames what it calls a "near universal" security breakdown.

Insiders at the library were able to simply walk off with artwork, vases, belt buckles and other mementos of the Reagan Presidency.

The IG also found artwork and vases stacked precariously in an area prone to earthquakes. (Seattle P-I)

Fake Badges, Illegal Immigrants, Airport Safety

Federal agents have found illegal aliens using fake IDs to work in critical areas at one of America's busiest airports.

Immigration agents rounded up 23 illegal workers with Ideal Staffing Solutions, Inc. at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Wednesday.

They also found that 110 of the 134 security badges issued to Ideal Staffing didn't match the people wearing them. Some of the 110 badges listed Social Security numbers that did not even exist.

One temporary worker told agents he was told to simply go through a box of IDs until he found a picture that looked like him. (Denver Post)

Date Rape Drug in Toys -- Move Along, Nothing to See Here

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission is trying to reduce its staff size and get out of that whole product safety biz, we've got a brand new Chinese toy recall -- because the toy is coated in a date rape drug.

Heckuva job, CPSC!

Something called "Aqua Dots," billed as this Christmas' Cabbage-Patch-Tickle-Me-Elmo-Must-Have-Thing, contain a chemical that when swallowed turns into a chemical similar to gamma hydroxy butyrate -- or GHB.

Two kids in the U.S. have already been hospitalized.

CPSC Acting Commissioner Nancy Nord recently sent letters to Congress asking them to reduce the agency's budget and cut its staff. That staff is already overworked. But the staff's been causing problems for big businesses. Just last month, they ordered 60 recalls -- 25 for toys and other items covered in led paint. (MSNBC)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Terror List Horrors

More than 15,000 people have appealed to the government this year asking their names be taken off the notorious "no fly list."

The list is supposed to keep terrorists off planes. But with 755,000 names -- many of them common names -- on the list, it's kept thousands of innocent Americans off flights.

Among the potential terrorists on the list -- six year old John Anderson of Minneapolis. He was flagged on his first airplane flight to Disney World.

A blond haired, blue eyed, six year old on his way to Disney World? Oh, I should mention he was born on the fourth of July!

Maybe he's why Representative Yvette Clarke (D-NY) called the list "un-American" in an interview with USAToday. She also compared being on the list to bing in purgatory.

Congress questions Homeland Security types Thursday about the list and the process for getting off it. When it comes to this bureaucratic purgatory -- here's hoping Congress gives the red tape dispensers hell on how they're handling the list. (USAToday)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Making the A-List

Thousands of innocent Americans have been unable to get on airliners because Uncle Sam misidentified them as terrorists.

Deborah Sherman of television station KUSA in Denver interviewed 20 people in Colorado who all share the name "John Thompson."

All of them report trouble getting on airplanes.

There is an actual John Thompson on the terror watch list -- a member of the Ulster Defense Reiment in northern Ireland.

The rest fall victim to the government's No Fly List.

The Justice Department's inspector general says a good 38% of the list is inaccurate or out of date.

There doesn't seem to be any real order or planning with the list. Just a bunch of names. And if an airline finds a passenger who matches a name on the list -- he's not supposed to be on the plane.

KUSA found that while people snagged by false matches are forced to arrive hours early at airports to be cleared, terrorists on the list are still getting on airplanes. A new program to fix those problems, called Secure Flight, has cost taxpayers $200 million so far and may leave participating passengers vulnerable to identity theft.

The list is nearing a million names. Eventually, Washington may be able to keep us all safe from terrorists on planes -- simply by not letting any of us fly. (KUSA/HT: IRE)

Thousands Slip Through Border Security

A Government Accountability Office report suggests as many as 21,000 people who should never have been allowed into the U.S. got through checkpoints last year.

GAO investigators found some checkpoints unmanned. Guards at others never asked for travel documents.

Customs and Border Patrol say they have to balance commerce with security.

The GAO says CBP needs more front line employees.

The union representing the border agents agrees. The National Treasury Employees Union represents 17,600 officers. And says they have to deal with 400 million people crossing he U.S. border every year. (CNN)

Ron Paul's Guy Fawkes Day Coup

Republican Presidential candidate Rep Ron Paul (R-TX) raised more than $3.5 million dollars in a single day. And he tied it to the British holiday of "Guy Fawkes Day." From the AP:

Paul, the Texas congressman with a Libertarian tilt and an out-of-Iraq pitch, entered heady fundraising territory with a surge of Web-based giving tied to the commemoration of Guy Fawkes Day.

Fawkes was a British mercenary who failed in his attempt to kill King James I on Nov. 5, 1605. He also was the model for the protagonist in the movie "V for Vendetta." Paul backers motivated donors on the Internet with mashed-up clips of the film on the online video site YouTube as well as the Guy Fawkes Day refrain: "Remember, remember the 5th of November."

That's the single largest one day take among Republican candidates. Only Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) have raised more money in a 24 hour period. (AP)

Friday, November 02, 2007

Welcome to America

In the world of world wide tourism, Americans are replacing the French waiter as the stereotype of rudeness.

The Discover America advocacy campaign blames the decline on the whole unpleasant experience visitors are put through just to set foot on U.S. soil.

They claim that since the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. has seen overseas tourism group by 17%. That's cost us $94 billion and 200,000 jobs.

The problem -- rude welcomes, long lines, searches, suspicion, and all the red tape that politicians passed off as protection in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

But in giving in to fear -- instead of embracing the qualities that made America great like courage, resolve and openness -- we've become paranoid of even tourists heading for the Grand Canyon.

And that's created a rift between America and the world.

A visit to America should be one of the most powerful tools to make friends from around the world. And making friends can turn enemies away.

The "Ugly American" has come home. He needs to learn how to treat guests to his home. (AFP)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Is a Public Restroom Among Larry Craig's Earmarks?

Senate Republican Leaders have taken a wide stance on Senator Larry Craig's (D-ID) pork barrel spending.

The Senator had promised to resign if he couldn't get his conviction for soliciting sex in an airport bathroom overturned.

The court upheld his conviction -- and the Senator decided to back out of his resignation -- and hang around Capitol Hill.

Taxpayers for Common Sense reports Senator Craig also has his name on about 84 earmarks -- 22 of those in his name alone.

Earmarks are special spending items -- slipped in for a pet project or a special interest.

Seven of those projects alone are worth more than $7 million.

His party's leadership could punish him by cutting off the pork. They haven't.

But you have to wonder -- are any of those pork barrel projects for a public restroom? (The Hill)

What Floats Your Boat

Congress spent $4.5 million dollars on an 85-foot speed boat that only makes one run a year -- and that's just to keep its engine in running order.

The Seattle Times reports that a U.S. Senator and two Representatives slipped the money for the boat into a defense spending bill for the Navy.

Problem is, the Navy never wanted the boat.

So they gave it to the University of Washington.

Which, it turned out, didn't want it either.

Who really wanted it?

Try Guardian Marine International -- a shipbuilder.

Turns out, Guardian had contributed $16,750 to Congressman Norm Dicks (D-WA), $14,277 to Congressman Brian Baird (D-WA), and $15,000 to Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

And the three included earmarks in defense bills sending Guardian $17.65 million in government contracts for boats the Navy and Coast Guard never asked for and never wanted. (Seattle Times)

Armed Pork

A pair of Seattle reporters found about $11.8 billion in the last defense spending bill were for pet projects and special interests.

David Heath and Hal Bernton of the Seattle Times spent months collecting press releases and campaign finance reports, looking for connections between Congress members and pork barrel spending.

They were able to pin about half the 2,700 earmarks in the 2007 defense bill on specific politicians. (Seattle Times/HT: IRE)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Product Safety Honcho Turns Down Money, Staff

The head honcho at the Consumer Product Safety Commission says things are going so great -- they don't want more money in next year's budget. Acting Chairwoman Nancy Nord has fired off two letters to Congress -- asking members to dump plans to double the SPSC's budget and rebuild its dwindling staff.

Afterall, things are great! No big scandals about unsafe products.

No poisoned dog food or toothpaste.

No tires falling apart at highway speeds.

No lead paint on toys.

Seriously. Have you even tried to keep count of all the scandals involving tainted products from China this year?

The good folks at the CPSC could use some help in stopping this stuff before it gets to market.

When scandals of tainted Chinese toothpaste and fish popped up across the U.S. earlier this year, China actually executed their bureaucrat in charge of food safety.

Here, if things get out of hand -- I guess we can always rely on FEMA! (NYT)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Billion Dollar Relics

When the Air Force took delivery of its first KC-135 tanker, Sputnik hadn't flown, the Edsel was still on the drawing board, and "Gunsmoke" was the number one rated television show in America.

The Air Force wants to retire 85 of the old planes. It considers 52 of those "parked" -- unable to fly.

But some folks in Congress refuse to let the Air Force retire the planes -- forcing the military to pay millions to keep the rusting relics on the flightline for missions that will never come.

There are other restrictions on other aging aircraft -- so worn out, the Air Force is afraid to fly them.

But Congress members keep them on the books -- at billions of dollars billed to taxpayers -- so they can keep an air base open in their district -- or steer contracts toward companies that try to fix up the old planes.

In the case of repairing worn out C-5 Galaxies -- the bill might come to $11 billion dollars. (WaPo)

Friday, October 26, 2007

More People Believe in Ghosts Than Bush

More people believe in ghosts and ESP than believe in President Bush.

Nearly a third of Americans believe in ghosts.

A new Associated Press/Ipsos poll found 34% of people believe in ghosts. And 23% even claim to have seen one.

If you feel haunted -- think how President Bush must feel.

The last AP/Ispos poll of his approval rating pegged at 31%. -- three points below believing in ghosts.

On top of that, 48% believe in ESP.

So the psychic hotline has a far bigger following than President Bush?

Hey, if ESP really existed -- wouldn't we have known there were no WMDs? (CNN)

Keeping Polling Places Secret

Pennsylvania has an election coming up on November 6th. But they're keeping the location of polling places secret.

Seems the Keystone State's Keystone Kops are worried that terrorists will try to disrupt their statewide elections if they know where people plan to vote. So they've refused to release thier list of polling places. They say it "protects the integrity of the voting process."

So what are voters supposed to do?

They can still call their state or county election office -- or look up the list on the state's website.

Hey, sure is a good thing terrorists don't have telephones or the Internet! (The Guardian)

FEMA's Fake News Conference

Don't like bad press? Create your own reporters. Seems the Federal Emergency Management Administration did just that.

Al Kamen in the Washington Post reports FEMA called a news conference Tuesday on the California fires -- giving only 15 minutes notice to the real news media.

They did give a phone number where reporters could call in and listen -- but could not ask questions.

FEMA employees pretended to be reporters -- asking plenty of softball questions questions to make FEMA look good.

And some of the cable news outfits -- notably MSNBC and FOX News -- carried the fake news conference live. (WaPo)

Red Tape Tangles Airborne Firefighting Efforts

State and federal red tape kept firefighting helicopters and C-130s grounded in the early days of the California fires. Two C-130s never joined the fight because they were never equipped with the firefighting equipment they were supposed to get four years ago.
"The weight of bureaucracy kept these planes from flying, not the heavy winds. When you look at what's happened, it's disgusting, inexcusable foot-dragging that's put tens of thousands of people in danger." -- Rep Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) in an interview with the Associated Press.

Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) says the planes and copters were grounded because of wind conditions. But state law requires a State Forestry officer aboard all federal aircraft fighting fires -- something Rep Rohrabacher zeroed in on. (AP)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hooker Testifies in Duke Cunningham Scandal Trial

A prostitute testifying in the trial of defense contractor Brent Wilkes has shone some light on the scandal that sent former Rep "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) to prison. From the Associated Press:
"A prostitute whom prosecutors say a defense contractor provided to former Rep. Randy 'Duke' Cunningham testified Wednesday that the congressman fed her grapes as she sat naked in a hot tub before they headed to a bedroom at a Hawaiian resort. "

Mr Wilkes is accused of bribing Rep Cunningham with $700,000 in cash and perks -- for his help in landing $90 million in government contracts. (AP via Yahoo!)

Report: Brownback Quits

MSNBC Reports Sen Sam Brownback (R-KS) will drop out of the race for the Republican Presidential nomination Friday. He was a longshot and raised only $800,000 toward his election campaign in the third quarter. (MSNBC)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Gore Shares Nobel Peace Prize with IPCC

Former Vice President Al Gore -- along with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have won this year's Nobel Peace Prize. They were recognized for their efforts to raise awareness of manmade climate change and efforts to counter it.

The Nobel panel warned that climate change -- by inducing mass human migrations and limiting resources -- could result in more violence and war unless efforts are made to stop it. (AP)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Going to NASCAR? Get Your Shots!

Congressional staffers were urged to get a battery of immunizations and other shots usually reserved for trips to third world countries -- before attending a NASCAR event in North Carolina.

That isn't sitting well with the local Congressman, Rep Robin Hayes (R-NC).

Gonzales Lawyers Up

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has wasted no time in lawyering up for possible court action against him. From Newsweek:
"Gonzales’s choice of counsel, George Terwilliger —a partner at White & Case—is ironic if not surprising. A former deputy attorney general under the first President Bush, who later helped oversee GOP lawyers in the epic Florida recount battle of 2000, Terwilliger had been a White House finalist to replace Gonzales—only to be aced out at the last minute by retired federal judge Michael Mukasey. "

His biggest concern is the expanding Justice Department IG investigation. That probe has spread from the US Attorney firings to inlcude the warrantless wiretapping program and possible CIA torture techniques approved by the Justice Department. (Newsweek)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Boot Camp 'Nightmare'

A new report from the Government Accountability Office -- the investigative branch of Congress -- finds heat exhaustion and dehydration the leading causes of death at juvenile offender boot camps. From USA Today:
The first federal inquiry into boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled teens cataloged 1,619 incidents of abuse in 33 states in 2005, a congressional investigation out today reveals.

There are currently no federal rules over how the camps operate. The House Committee on Education and Labor is looking into whether rules are needed. (USA Today)

US Embassy in Iraq Behind Schedule and Over Budget

The US embassy in Iraq was supposed to open last month. Now, no one is sure when it'll be completed. From Reuters:

"The sprawling complex, whose cost is edging toward $750 million, was set to open last month but U.S. lawmakers say shoddy work by the contractor and poor oversight by the State Department have delayed it."
Chairman of a key House oversight committee has sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to explain the delays and costs. (Reuters)

More Fuzzy Math

FactCheck.org finds that Republican Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani is padding some numbers on his website:
On his Web site, Rudy Giuliani claims that he grew New York City's police force by 12,000 officers between his inauguration as mayor in January 1994 and mid-2000. That's just not true. Most of the cops he's counting – 7,100 to be exact – were already housing or transit police who were simply folded into the New York Police Department. The merger of the departments didn't increase the number of police in the city at all.
New York's crisis command center for a terrorist attack was based in the World Trade Center and destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. Fact Check also points out that Mr Giuliani arrived at the back up command center around noon on 9/11. That was roughly two-and-a-half hours after the primary center was evacuated.

Fuzzy Math

The President used some fuzzy math to add up the member nations in the "Coalition of the Willing" -- the countries allied with the US in Iraq. The President said in a recent speech there were 36 nations. The Daily Show points out it is just 25:



Friday, October 05, 2007

These are the Guys Protecting Us?

The US Postal Servicehandles millions of address changes a day.

Homeland Security proved far less efficient than the Post Office.

A North Carolina businessman fired off an e-mail to the Department of Homeland Security. He'd subscribed to daily e-mail alerts from the Department and simply wanted to have them sent to a new address.

Before the day was out, a computer glitch at DHS fired off 2.2 million messages across the country, jamming e-mail accounts of government and private security experts.

Not to worry. DHS assures they'll pay for any damages or inconvienence this caused -- as soon as they get their money from that Nigerian bank president's widow. (NYT)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

FCC In Tune With Lobbyists

Who will guard the guardians? The Government Accountability Office has found instances were the Federal Communications Commission has helped lobbyists for the industry it's supposed to regulate.

A new GAO report accuses the FCC of leaking tips to business interests before they’re made public.

NPR reports the FCC has given phone and cable lobbyists a heads up about issues up for a vote in Congress. (NPR/Think Progress)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You Gotta Spend War to Make Money

Remember that war in Iraq that was only going to cost $60 billion tops? You know, the one edging toward $1 trillion now?

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee suggests a War Surtax. With the administration now asking for $200 billion in temporary funding, Chairman David Obey (D-WI) figures it'd be a good time to start paying for it.

Not so says Sen Lindsey Graham (D-SC). He says wars pay for themselves. From NPR:

"You pay for the war by winning the war. This is not an accounting exercise. How did we pay for World War II? Everybody rolled up their sleeves and did the best they could."
Americans also paid a war surtax. (NPR)

First Class Waste of Your Money

Federal employees wasted $146 million of your tax dollars in a single year on first class or other premium airline tickets.

A report from the Government Accountability Office -- the investigative arm of Congress -- reviewed more than a dozen agencies. The GAO found 67% of premium class travel was unauthorized. Some of their findings:
  • An Agriculture Department executive took 25 premium-class flights costing $163,000
  • At the Pentagon, a political appointee took 15 premium-class flights and cited a medical condition as justification for the $105,000 in expenses -- though he couldn't provide a doctor's statement to back up his claim
  • Thirty-two State Department employees flew from Washington to Liberia in premium class over a six-month period -- it cost $293,000 and comparable coach-class tickets would have cost $124,000 - a difference of $169,000
The GAO report also points out that several federal agencies are not subject to the rules limiting first class flying. These include the US Postal Service, Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (Seattle Times)

Never Let Facts Get in the Way...

A couple of powerful political soundbites from Democratic Presidential candidates -- both addressing race in America:
"The idea that we can keep incarcerating and keep incarcerating -- pretty soon we're not going to have a young African-American male population in America. They're all going to be in prison or dead. One of the two."--John Edwards, MTV political forum, September 27, 2007

"We have more work to do when more young black men languish in prison than attend colleges and universities across America." --Barrack Obama, NAACP forum, July 12, 2007.

Just one problem -- neither is accurate.

Fact is, five times as many young black men are in college as in prison. Still a pretty sad percentage -- but not as bad as the politicians would want you to believe.

And there is a disproportionate number of black prisoners among the prison population serving time for drug crimes. From Reason:
Of the 250,900 state prison inmates serving time for drug offenses in 2004, 133,100 (53.05%) were black, 50,100 (19.97%) were Hispanic, and 64,800 (25.83%) were white.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Shut Up and Take Your Airplanes

The Air Force is getting 10 spanking new C-17 cargo planes. Thing is, the Air Force doesn't want them.

But Congress has ordered the Air Force to take $2.4 billion of it's budget and buy the planes anyway.

The Air Force says it has plenty of the planes -- large, four-engine jets that can ferry men and equipment anywhere in the world.

But, part of the C-17 Globemaster III's are built in Texas. And the Texas delegation on Capitol Hill slipped a provision into a defense authorization bill to keep lobbyists and home state voters happy. The order would mean the Air Force would have to cut back on other things it needs or wants to order the extra planes. (Houston Chronicle)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Pink Slips at Blackwater

What exactly do you have to do to lose your job as a mercenary? A Congressional investigation has found that Blackwater USA -- the security contractor -- had to pink slip 122 people in three years. From USA Today:
"Private security contractor Blackwater USA has had to fire 122 employees over the past three years for problems ranging from misusing weapons, alcohol and drug violations, inappropriate conduct, and violent behavior, according to a report released Monday by a congressional committee."
The report to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee shows the security firm averages 1.4 shooting incidents a week. And it says 80% of the firings came in cases where the employee -- required by government contract to act in defense only -- shot first. (USAToday)

Conservatives Consider Third Party Challenge to Rudy

Christian conservatives -- a key part of the GOP base since 1980 -- threaten to mount a third party challenge for the White House if Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican Presidential nomination. The group qualifies their opposition by saying they would only "consider" the idea. But the New York Times reports it's a clear warning that Christian conservatives will not support a pro-abortion rights candidate at the head of the Republican ticket:

The group making the threat, which came together Saturday in Salt Lake City during a break-away gathering during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy, includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps the most influential of the group, as well as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians, participants said.
Mr Giuliani still receives a plurality of support from white evangelical voters in a recent poll from the Pew Research Center. But leaders in the Christian conservative movement warn his nomination could splinter the party. (NYT)

The New Whigs

The Associated Press reports on gallows humor among Republicans looking at next year's chances for Congressional races. Rep Tom Davis (R-VA) jokes about his party going the way of the Whigs. From the AP:

"Fundraising for Republican campaign organizations lags. That is strikingly so in the House, where the party committee spent more than it raised in each of the past two months, reported only $1.6 million in the bank at the end of August and a debt of nearly $4 million. Democrats reported $22.1 million in the bank and a debt of slightly more than $3 million."

On top of that, the Democrats are recruiting top tier candidates in several states with open seats -- while the GOP is having a hard time talking people into running. (AP via Yahoo!)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Saddam Killed Nelson Mandela

Now Saddam went and killed Nelson Mandela! So it would seem from President Bush's news conference today.
"Part of the reason why there is not this instant democracy in Iraq is because people are still recovering from Saddam Hussein's brutal rule. I thought an interesting comment was made when somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, where's Mandela? Well, Mandela is dead, because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas." -- President Bush quoted in official White House Transcript
ThinkProgress has the video clip here.

The President has been criticized for linking 9/11 to Iraq or Saddam in speeches for years. This is apparently the first time he's linked Saddam to Nelson Mandela's death.

Oh, and by the way. Nelson Mandela is still alive. (White House/ThinkProgress)

Too Many Mosques -- Unedited

Rep Peter King (R-NY) has tried to back off from an interview in which he said there are too many mosques in America:

"Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There's too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. We should be much more aggressive in law enforcement." -- Rep King, in an interview with Politico.com
Now he says the quote was taken out of context. So, Politico.com turned to YouTube to let you decide on the context:

Abe Lincoln in Color

A new $5 bill starts circulating next year -- adding touches of purple and gray. Part of the Treasury Department's efforts to make counterfieting harder -- the fin will have security upgrades that bills from the sawbuck to c-note have already gotten.

These include two watermarks featuing the numberal "5" and the security tape will be moved to a part of the bill different from where the $100 bill's tape runs. (USAToday)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Making the Culture of Corruption List

Watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington) has a new list of the "22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress."

Nineteen Republicans and three Democrats are on the list.

How bad do you have to be to make the list? Sen Larry Craig (R-ID) and Sen David Vitter (R-LA) only got a "dishonorable mention."

Says something when pleading guilty to soliciting sex in a men's room and hanking out with hookers won't even get you into the top 20. (CREW)

Them Pesky Priorities

When the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis last month, the head of the emergency management for the state's transportation department was in Boston -- attending a seminar at Harvard on terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

Instead of heading home to help with the real disaster -- Sonia Kay Morphew Pitt spent another two days wrapping up the program at Harvard.

Then spent another eight days in Washington.

She didn't get back to Minnesota until 10 days after the collapse.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has put her on leave while they investigate her priorities. (KARE)

Big Surprise: Americans Hate Politicians!

President Bush and Congress have both hit record lows in the latest Zogby poll. From Zogby:

"Only 29 percent of Americans gave Bush a positive grade for his job performance, below his worst Zogby poll mark of 30 percent in March. A paltry 11 percent rated Congress positively, beating the previous low of 14 percent in July."
The poll -- most of which was taken after President Bush's Iraq speech last week -- showed only 27% believe the country's on the "right track."

Zogby blames public uncertainity over Iraq for pushing down the approval of both the President and Congress. (Zogby)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Romney News Conference in Critical Condition

Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney picked the wrong place to attack Democrat Hillary Clinton's health care plan she unveiled this week.

First, the hospital he used as a backdrop in his news conference didn't like the idea of being a political prop.

"We find it unfortunate that Mr. Romney misappropriated the image and good will of St. Vincent's Hospital to further a political agenda." -- a spokesman for New York City's, St Vincent's Hospital
Second, the hospital has a wing named for one of Governor Romney's Republican opponents. From the Washington Post:

"Maybe next time Romney will choose for a backdrop a hospital that isn't home to the Rudolph W. Giuliani Trauma Center."

No comment from any New York hospital if the Romney staffer who set this up is in intensive care. (WaPo-The Trail)

Bill Richardson Tries to Lose Union Endorsement

Democratic Presidential hopeful Bill Richardson ended his speech to a union meeting with, “Thank you, AFSCME!”

Problem is, he was speaking to the SEIU.

Not just the wrong union -- but a rival one.

Kinda like shouting "Hook 'em Horns" at commencement ceremonies at the University of Oklahoma. (MSNBC)

Bush Beat in Ratings

The ratings are in -- and Thursday's Democratic Response drew more viewers on cable than President Bush's Iraq speech last week.

Spread across the three cable nets -- FOX, MSNBC, and CNN -- TVNewser reports the President's speech drew a total of 1,654,000 viewers.

Sen Jack Reid (D-RI) drew 1, 766,000 -- a little over 100,000 more viewers. (TVNewser)

Janet Reno's Dance Party CD Collection

She's had more number one hits than John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales combined.

Now, for a limited time, you can own former Attorney General Janet Reno' 50 song collection of American music. Such American classics as:

Lakota Dream Song
Yankee Doodle
Battle Hymn of the Republic
Streets of Philadelphia


Enough with the commercial.

Janet Reno has released a 3-CD set of 50 songs tracing America's history through song. She began working on her Song of America project back in 1998 while she was still Attorney General. (Miami Herald)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Against that Blue Sky

On 9/11, I was on Capitol Hill. This is a video I made on the fifth anniversary of the attacks recalling my experiences.




I was on Capitol Hill during the 9/11 attacks three years ago. Shortly afterwards, I wrote down my recollections. They were included in the 9/11 Digital Archive, by the Center for History and New Media / American Social History Project & housed now at the Library of Congress.

Here's the story as I told it and submitted it in 2002:


I lived four blocks from the Capitol in Southeast at the time. I was supposed to meet a photog for a news conference in the Rayburn Office Building at 10:00, so I was taking my time getting dressed when I heard Charlie and Diane say a small plane had hit the WTC. I remembered the attack in 1993 and expected the worst.

I was glued to the set, seeing the second plane hit live. It was only in the frame for a few seconds, but it seems a thousand thoughts went through my mind. I remember trying to rationalize what I was seeing: maybe it's the police or fire department eyeballing the fire, maybe it's a plane on approach that looks closer because of the telephoto lens. Then the fireball.

I was late getting out of the house. It was a perfect late summer day in DC. I thought how terrible that something like this had to happen on such a beautiful day. I used my cell phone to check with the desk. They wanted me to send the photog I was meeting out with a producer to get reaction from the New York delegation after the news conference.

The sidewalks were crowded with young, Congressional staffers walking in, getting off the Metro, getting to work late. They'd obviously been watching, too. The same look of disbelief was all over the place.

I remember the jet engines overhead. They were there all the time, on the approach to National. Living there, you just shut them out. Couldn't help but hear them that morning.

I took a shortcut through the southeastern entrance of Longworth and into the tunnels connecting the buildings in the Capitol complex. It was probably only a couple of minutes before Flight 77 hit the Pentagon.

The desk couldn't reach me in the tunnels. The photog was out of touch coming up from the Rayburn parking garage. They got hold of us outside the news conference. But they were still confused about where to send us. They told us to standby. Big mistake. Within minutes the cell phone network in DC collapsed under the weight of all the calls.

Military officers – lots of one- and two-stars – poured out of hearing rooms. They walked briskly down the halls. They looked like the guys to follow. My photog and I came out in the ‘horseshoe,’ a notch cut into the north side of Rayburn with a semi-circular driveway. An army captain in BDUs was standing beside a Humvee, trying to get his cell phone to work.

We walked around the corner and say the thick, black smoke rising from the Pentagon.
Unable to raise the desk, we decided the photog would head towards the Capitol and get whatever video he could. I’d try to find a landline and find out where the desk wanted us. I headed back to the apartment. The sidewalks were crowded again. I have never seen so many cell phones. I counted. Only one-in-three people were actually able to talk to someone.

I got through from the apartment. I was called back to the bureau. The photog was to back up our regular photog at the White House. All I had to do was find him. I grabbed a bottle of water and a pair of cheap Wal-Mart walkie talkies that I figured might come in handy and headed back out the door.

Back outside, I heard more jet engines. I was looking for the planes. While in the apartment, I never heard the sonic boom. F-16s from the North Dakota National Guard, flying out of Langley AFB in Virginia, had dropped out of war speed and taken up station over the city. At the moment, I was walking toward one of the biggest, and most recognizable targets in town. I relaxed a lot when I caught a glimpse of the familiar Falcon shape loitering up there.

Capitol Police were well into evacuating the grounds when I got half way up the hill. I arrived behind the House Office Buildings just as they decided to move the perimeter across the street. Most of the cops were busy moving the barricades. People were trying to cross the street. One Capitol Police officer, directing the crowd looked over and we made eye contact for a second. I’d never seen him before, but he glanced down at my hill credentials. He looked around, as if making sure no one was watching, then motioned me with a slight head gesture toward the Capitol – completely forbidden. I stepped off the curb, and he turned his back. Plausible deniability – everyone in this town is hip to the act.

I walked past a few people, staffers mostly, at least one Capitol cop, straight up the hill. No one stopped me, yelled at me, or asked me where I was going. I made it across Constitution, and onto the Capitol grounds.

It was amazing. Except for the jets overhead, absolutely quiet – no voices, no other man made sounds. There was no one else around that I could see. Even before 9/11, some one was always there. You were never out of eyesight or earshot of security, even on a holiday weekend at midnight.

I stood there for what seemed like a good half-minute trying to figure out what to do next. No camera, all I’d have is an eyewitness account if anything happened. But it was an incredible, unrepeatable experience.

A Capitol Police officer called out to me from behind, I crossed the street, headed down the hill. I found my photog at the barricades, told him our assignments, and we went to work.

[For more stories from the 9/11 Digital Archive, click the image below.]


I am A Survivor of Flight 93

Originally posted on Sunday, September 11, 2005

Why is it, that 40 Americans who sacrificed their lives to stop a missile attack on Washington have never been awarded the Medal of Freedom (left). Something like that would seem worthy of the nation's highest civilian honor. Instead, we've since seen the former CIA Director who completely missed 9/11 and provided bad intel on Iraq receive it.

When our politicians, our military, our government as a whole failed us four years today, it fell upon private, American citizens to lead the fight.

They weren't even supposed to be the "last line of defense." They, being civilians, were supposed to be what our politicians, our military, our government as a whole existed to defend.

They weren't supposed to be the "last line of defense," but they became the first Americans to fight back -- somewhere over a peaceful field in Pennsylvania, the passengers and crew of Flight 93 fought the first battle in the War in Terrorism.

David Von Drehle in the July 23, 2004, edition of the Washington Post summed it up:
"Only a small band of civilians, strangers to one another -- without benefit of staff meetings, bylaws, uniforms or task forces -- communicating by cell phone with loved ones who happened to be watching TV -- managed to figure out what was going on in time to thwart a guided-missile attack on Washington.

Brave passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 forced hijackers to crash the plane into an empty field far short of its target."

I am a survivor of Flight 93.

There were no survivors on that plane, but the passengers and crew made sure there were hundreds if not thousands of survivors on the ground.

I was at the US Capitol when Flight 93 would have hit it.

Every 9/11 since, I have planted daffodils -- the unofficial flower of 9/11. The government of the Netherlands made a gift to New York City of tens of thousands of daffodil bulbs in the wake of the attack.

It's a quiet form of remembrance.

And they remind me every spring I am alive because forty people are dead and buried.

It's surprisingly tiring planting 40 bulbs.

Breaking the ground, placing each one carefully spaced and at just the right depth, covering them and watering them.

It would be a lot easier for the President to fill out the paperwork for 40 heroes.

Another President remembered other Americans who were buried in another peaceful Pennsylvania field this way:

"...that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."

This week we saw a monument for the Flight 93 crash site unveiled. We cannot consecrate the field where the passengers and crew of Flight 93 anymore than their actions have already done.

We can honor them as much as we have the man who missed the plot (right) that forced them to give up their lives for their country.

They should receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Terry Turner)

Monday, September 10, 2007

How Time Flies! 16 Weeks 'til Voting Starts

Voting in the 2008 election starts in just 16 weeks. As Al Tompkins at the Poynter Institute points out:

A third of all votes cast in 2008 could be absentee or early votes, an election watcher tells Stateline.org. The ballots will have to go out soon -- so we could be about 16 weeks from the first votes being cast.
Stateline.org points out that absentee voting ballots for at least four states go out around New Year's -- and some west coast voters could cast their votes before 2007 is done.

California starts mailing out absentee ballots on December 27. New Jersey and Tenessee will mail theirs out the first week of January. Early "in-person" voting begins Jan 10.

Stateline.org also has the latest state-by-state schedule for primaries and caucuses.

Friday, September 07, 2007

APEC? OPEC? Thanks Austria!

In a two for one gaffe, President Bush was able to refer to the Austrailian Prime Minister as an "Austrian" and confuse the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit with OPEC.

Mr Bush was in Australia for the APEC summit. (news.com.au)

Feel Safer Yet?

Congressmen, babies, and even pets have made Uncle Sam's no-fly list that's supposed to protect us from terrorists boarding airliners. Wanna guess who hasn't made the list?

Try about 20 real live terrorists. From CNN:
Twenty known or suspected terrorists were not correctly listed on the government's consolidated watch list, preventing their records from being available to the nation's front-line screening agents, according to a U.S. Justice Department report.

There are more than 700,000 names now on the terrorist watch list. About 20,000 new ones are added each week.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Rock Star? Heck, Not Enough to Form a Rock Band!

Can't even say Sen Sam Brownback (R-KS) is "preaching to the choir" in this photo -- choirs have more members. This AP photo captured the Republican Presidential candidate on a campaign stop in New Hampshire. (AP via Yahoo!)

Friday, August 31, 2007

Political Pressure Blunted Health Campaign

Pressure from the baby formula lobby forced the Department of Health and Human Services to tone down a $30 million campaign touting the health benefits of breast feeding.

The lobby hired former Republican National Committee Chairman Clayton Yeutter and former FDA regulator Joseph Lefitt to blunt the rather blunt campaign (click on the Washington Post graphic to see just how graphic the campaign had planned to be -- and how it was softened to images of ice cream and dandilions).

Research showed a graphic campaign warning mothers of health problems breastfeeding prevented would be the most effective. The campaign was laid out by career public affairs specialists. But political appointees softened the campaign shortly after the lobbying effort started. (WaPo)

Hsu Surrenders to Cops -- Democrats Surrender his Cash

Fugitive fundraiser Norman Hsu has turned himself in to California authorities. He's being held on $2 million bond.

Mr Hsu has been a big donor to Democratic political campaigns -- notably Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Sen Barack Obama (D-IL).

The former clothing executive has been on the lam since skipping out on sentencing for a grand theft charge in 1991.

After his name popped up in a review of campaign donations, Democrats scrambled to unload the cash they'd taken from him over the years.

Sen Clinton is dumping $23,000 from Mr Hsu collected over various campaigns. Sen Obama is dumping $7,000 given to his campaign and PAC. The Democratic Senatorial and House campaign committees are dumping a total of $45,800 they took from him.

All the money will go to charities. (CNN)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sen Craig Police Tape

A taped conversation between Sen Larry Craig (R-ID) and the officer who arrested him has surfaced. A transcript of the tape is available at Politico.com

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Waiting for the 10th Shoe to Drop

The New York Times has a quick round up of the what it calls a "scandal-scarred GOP." From the NYT:

Forget Mark Foley of Florida, who quit the House last year after exchanging sexually explicit e-mail messages with under-age male pages, or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist whose dealings with the old Republican Congress landed him in prison. They are old news, replaced by a fresh crop of scandal-plagued Republicans, men like Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, whose phone number turned up on the list of the so-called D.C. Madam, or Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska and Representative Rick Renzi of Arizona, both caught up in F.B.I. corruption investigations.
It's been a long summer for Republican operatives charged with damage control. The NYT graphic (above) takes you to a quick rundown of just five scandals that have rocked the Republicans in the past few weeks. (NYT)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Allen Trial This Week

Florida State Representative Bob Allen (R-Merritt Island) goes on trial this week for soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in a park men's room earlier this summer.

Rep Allen had been Sen John McCain's (R-AZ) presidential campaign co-chair in Florida before his arrest.

He won a slight victory when the judge in the case banned the prosecutor from using any of Rep Allen's comments made after his arrest -- because he'd not been read his rights.

Mr Allen is accused of offering an undercover officer $20 dollars to have sex with him.l (Orlando Sentinel)

Sen Craig Busted for Sex Solicitation

Sen Larry Craig (R-ID) pled guilty to to disorderly conduct in Minnesota in June -- after a police officer arrested him on on suspicion of soliciting sex in the men's room at the Minneapolis Airport.

A YouTube video (below) of Sen Craig endorsing former Gov Mitt Romney's (R-MA) Presidential campaign was taken down for a while this morning -- but was reposted later in the day.



Romney Campaign pulls Video of Sen Craig Endorsing Mitt Romney for President from YouTube (Politico.com)

Paid $500 fine (NYT)

Cop: Sen Craig signaled for sex (CNN)

Police Report (TSG)

Under Media Radar for Three Months (Editor & Publisher)

Scandal Grows -- Hometown Paper Publishes Expose of past Rumors & Accounts (politico.com)


Sen Craig Made "Premptive Denial" of Involvement in 1982 Sex and Drug Page Scandal (ABC News via YouTube video below)


Monday, August 27, 2007

GONZALES QUITS

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, hammered by investigations into domestic spying and the US Attorney firing scandal, has announced his resignation. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is being mentioned as President Bush's choice to replace Mr Gonzales. Democrats quickly issued statements saying the resignation does not diminish the need to address the scandals that emerged under Mr Gonzales' two-and-a-half years at the helm of DoJ.


President Bush's Statement

Thursday, August 23, 2007

NIE Questions Iraq's Progress

Declassified portions of the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) suggest that "progress" may be the most overused word when discussing Iraq. From the Associated Press:
The Iraqi government will become more precarious over the next six to 12 months and its security forces have not improved enough to operate without outside help, intelligence analysts conclude in a new National Intelligence Estimate released [today].

The NIE concludes overall violence is high, secterian groups are not reconciled, and al Qaeda in Iraq is able to conduct high profile attacks. The report is based on the combined judgements of all 16 US intelligence agencies.

Warner Defects on Bush's Iraq Plans

The biggest name yet in the GOP defections from President Bush's Iraq policies. Sen John Warner (R-VA), and the GOP's dean of defense issues in Congress for a generation, is calling for a troop withdrawal. From Reuters:

Virginia Sen. John Warner said Bush should "announce on the 15th (of September) that in consultation with our senior military commanders he has decided to initiate the the first step in a withdrawal of our forces."

Sen Warner says the withdrawal would force Iraq to take steps toward political reconciliation. (Reuters)

Ammo Shortage

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are making it tough on deer hunters and police training here in the United States.

With US troops firing off around a billion rounds a year in Asia, there's an ammunition shortage here in America. Ammo prices are up 10-15% and police departments are having to wait a year for bullets they've ordered.

The Associated Press found the shortage shooting down police training all over the country. Al Tompkins summed up their findings at "Al's Morning Meeting:"
  • In Oklahoma City, officers cannot qualify with AR-15 rifles because the department does not have enough .223-caliber ammunition -- a round similar to that fired by the military's M-16 and M4 rifles. Last fall, an ammunition shortage forced the department to cancel qualification courses for several different guns.

  • In Milwaukee, supplies of .40-caliber handgun bullets and .223-caliber rifle rounds have gotten so low that the department has repeatedly dipped into its ammunition reserves. Some weapons training has already been cut by 30 percent, and lessons on rifles have been altered to conserve bullets.

  • In Trenton, NJ, a lack of available ammunition led the city to give up plans to convert its force to .45-caliber handguns.

  • The sheriff's department in Bergen County, NJ, had to borrow 26,000 rounds of .40-caliber ammunition to complete twice-a-year training for officers.

  • In Phoenix, an order for .38-caliber rounds placed a year ago has yet to arrive, meaning no officer can currently qualify with a .38 Special revolver.

  • In Wyoming, the state leaned on its ammunition suppler earlier this year so every state trooper could qualify on the standard-issue AR-15 rifle,. Rifle rounds scheduled to arrive in January did not show up until May, leading to a rush of troopers trying to qualify by the deadline.
The Lubbock, Texas PD usually goes through hundreds of thousands of bullets in a year. It used to take them a couple of months to get bullets shipped to them. Now, it takes 10-12 months for an order to arrive. That makes it hard to plan practice sessions -- and the police shooting range is a lot quieter these days as a result. (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal/Baltimore Sun)