Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Whither Journalism?

From the Smirking Chimp:

Stephen Pizzo: 'The endangered scoop'

Let's play the blame game. Whose fault is it, anyway. Seriously. Whose fault is that:

# We still don't know who met with VP Dick Cheney five years ago to formulate the national energy policies that have now brought us record high energy prices.

# We didn't know in time that the Iraq/Niger/Yellow cake business was a scam - and three years later we still don't know who cooked it up,

# We didn't know in time that there were no WMD in Iraq, and there hadn't been for years,

# We didn't know soon enough that US troops were "mistreating" Iraq prisoners, even though reporters were "embedded" with those troops,

# We didn't learn for almost four years that the NSA was breaking the law listening in on Americans and reading our email.

# Why did it take so long to find out what Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay were up to when the evidence has been laying around since at least 2002 just waiting for someone it all together.

Who's to blame for that dismal list of disgrace?

Simple. My former profession, journalism, is to blame - hands down. Journalists are supposed to be in the "show and tell" business. But over the past five years they have done neither very well -- if at all.

Strip Search Sammy: A Literary Take

From Hotline:

Alito Opening Hearings in Haiku

Save the Polar Bears, Save the World

Apparently polar bears are the canaries in the mines for the modern world, as this is my third "polar bears affected by pollution" post recently.

Toxic waste creates hermaphrodite Arctic polar bears

Wildlife researchers have found new evidence that Arctic polar bears, already gravely threatened by the melting of their habitat because of global warming, are being poisoned by chemical compounds commonly used in Europe and North America to reduce the flammability of household furnishings like sofas, clothing and carpets.

A team of scientists from Canada, Alaska, Denmark and Norway is sounding the alarm about the flame retardants, known as polybrominated diphenyls, or PBDEs, saying that significant deposits have recently been found in the fatty tissues of polar bears, especially in eastern Greenland and Norway's Svalbard islands.

Studies are still being carried out on what impact the chemicals might be having on the bears, but tests on laboratory animals such as mice indicate that their effects can be considerable, attacking the sex and thyroid glands, motor skills and brain function.

There is also evidence that compounds similar to the PBDEs have contributed to a surprisingly high rate of hermaphroditism in polar bears. About one in 50 female bears on Svalbard has both male and female sex organs, a phenomenon scientists link directly to the effects of pollution.

"The Arctic is now a chemical sink," declared Colin Butfield, a campaign leader for the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which last month indicated that killer whales in the Arctic were also suffering from elevated levels of contamination with fire retardants as well as other man-made compounds. "Chemicals from products that we use in our homes every day are contaminating Arctic wildlife."

The pollutants are carried northwards from industrialised regions of the US and western Europe on currents and particularly on northbound winds. Contaminated moisture often condenses on arriving in the cold Arctic climes and is then deposited, ready to enter the food chain.

Previous Posts:

USA Poisons the World

Bush Killing Polar Bears

Road Trip

Heading to New York today. Blog posting will be light until I return home on Sunday.

Blog Round-Up January 10, 2006

Roger Ailes (the good one) says that Jack's friends don't know Jack anymore: Toward Amnesia

Steve Gilliard at the News Blog compares today's Army lowering its standards for recruiting to McNamara's "Project 100,000" for Vietnam (which I had never heard of): Time travel back to 1970

Digby says Alito is a Freeper (and an asshole, or is that redundant?): Freeping The Court

By contrast, I just had a chance to see Alito's opening statement and I have to say that I think he came off as an asshole:

And after I graduated from high school, I went a full 12 miles down the road, but really to a different world when I entered Princeton University. A generation earlier, I think that somebody from my background probably would not have felt fully comfortable at a college like Princeton. But, by the time I graduated from high school, things had changed.

And this was a time of great intellectual excitement for me. Both college and law school opened up new worlds of ideas. But this was back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

It was a time of turmoil at colleges and universities. And I saw some very smart people and very privileged people behaving irresponsibly. And I couldn't help making a contrast between some of the worst of what I saw on the campus and the good sense and the decency of the people back in my own community.

This is the same guy who wanted to keep women out of Princeton. Presumably, they wouldn't have "felt comfortable" there. But that's not what made that statement so revealing. It's this notion of smart and privileged people "behaving irresponsibly."

I think it's fairly certain that he's not talking about branding frat boys' asses or getting drunk and stealing Christmas Trees. He's talking about anti-war protestors, feminists etc. And like so many campus conservatives of that era, he sounds like he's still carrying around a boatload of resentment toward them.

John Yoo, Bush's facilitator of illegal spying, answers questions on Edicts of Nancy: Ask John Yoo!

Monday, January 09, 2006

As Ye Sew...

...so shall ye reap....

Lobby Firm Is Scandal Casualty
Abramoff, DeLay Publicity Blamed For Shutdown

One of Washington's top lobbying operations will shut down at the end of the month because of its ties to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former House majority leader Tom DeLay.

Alexander Strategy Group, which had thrived since its founding in 1998 thanks largely to its close connections to DeLay (R-Tex.), will cease to operate except for a relatively small business-development division, Edwin A. Buckham, the former top DeLay aide who owns the company, said yesterday.


Buckham's firm employed DeLay's wife, Christine, for four years. It also benefited by working closely with Abramoff. Abramoff's plea agreement mentioned his close ties to Tony C. Rudy, one of Buckham's colleagues at ASG, identified in the court papers as "Staffer A."

Rudy, a former DeLay aide, worked for Abramoff before joining ASG. According to the plea document, a political consulting firm run by Rudy's wife allegedly received $50,000 in exchange for official actions Rudy took while working for DeLay.

However, most lobbyists never die, they just move laterally:

The 12 lobbyists who now work at ASG -- other than Rudy and Buckham -- intend to start a successor firm and intend to keep as many of the clients as possible, according to one of the lobbyists.

'Horrific at Best'

From Knight-Ridder:

Seniors encounter problems with Medicare drug benefit

WASHINGTON - Many of Medicare's poorest and most sickly patients are going without their medications because of administrative glitches, misinformation and confusion surrounding the new Medicare prescription drug benefit.


"There's almost nothing that isn't going wrong," said Jeanne Finberg, an attorney for the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Oakland, Calif. "People are crying. They're calling their legislator's office in tears."

The most incompetent administration ever.

Strip Search Sammy is a Borklette

For any Senator who is still laboring under any uncertainty about Strip Search Sammy Alito, read this from the WaPo:

Proving His Mettle in the Reagan Justice Dept.

His opinion of Robert Bork?

"I think he was one of the most outstanding nominees of this century," Alito told Michael Aron of NJN News's "Front Page New Jersey" in a little-noticed 1988 interview. "He is a man of unequaled ability, understanding of constitutional history, someone who had thought deeply throughout his entire life about constitutional issues and about the Supreme Court and the role it ought to play in American society."

A fellow Republican describes Alito thusly:

"He's a Borklette, a Bork without the edge," said Bruce Fein, who was associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan Justice Department.

Here's the link to the 1988 interviewo of Alito from a New Jersey television public affairs program: Alito Comments from 1988

Let's see whether our Democratic Senators have a spine.

Just for Laughs

From WTF Is It Now?:

The man who bought Washington

There's a cancer on the presidency.
No no no, that's a freedom cyst.

USA Poisons the World

From the LA Times:

Polar Bears Face New Toxic Threat: Flame Retardants

Already imperiled by melting ice and a brew of toxic chemicals, polar bears throughout the Arctic, particularly in remote dens near the North Pole, face an additional threat as flame retardants originating largely in the United States are building up in their bodies, according to an international team of wildlife scientists.

Presstitute of Day: Nina Easton

Play the exciting corporate media game "Name That Source" with Nina Easton in today's Boston Globe as she channels all sorts of Bushco spinners:

Kinder, gentler Bush seen as '06 style
Seeks to boost GOP with compassionate conservative return

WASHINGTON -- Climbing his way out of low public ratings and facing a bruising battle to maintain Republican control of Congress, President Bush is seeking to resurrect his early reputation as a compassionate conservative who reaches across the aisle, according to officials close to the White House.


''We learned our lesson last time," said one GOP strategist close to the White House, referring to the president's ill-fated Social Security plan.

In the coming weeks, the president will continue to advertise progress in Iraq, and the war on terror, as well as highlighting good economic news.

''This White House is conscious of historical trends," said the same strategist. ''You're going to see a focus on legacy items -- war on terror and the economy, focus on creation of jobs."

But the public will also hear the president talk more about education initiatives to bridge the wage gap, as well as conservative ideas to address poverty, especially as New Orleans recovers from Hurricane Katrina, according to officials close to the White House.


President Bush, strategists say, needs to be careful not to anger his conservative base, as he did when he proposed a guest-worker immigrant program. Immigration, officials say, is an issue he will continue to approach gingerly, mostly talking broadly about border security.

Fiscal conservatives remain angry about high deficits and the levels of government spending, so the president is unlikely to make any expensive policy proposals in his State of the Union speech, officials say. Sweeping tax reform plans could also splinter the base and will probably be avoided, they add.


Republican strategists, mindful of the upcoming November election, will also look for opportunities to trap Democrats on Capitol Hill into potentially embarrassing votes, just as they did when Republican House leaders forced a vote after Representative John Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat and Marine veteran, proposed a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.

One area where the White House believes it has staunch public support is the disclosure that the administration, in pursuing terrorists, has wiretapped Americans without a court order. Republicans say they will win any vote that pits physical security against privacy concerns.

Democrats, meanwhile, will try to use the burgeoning ethics scandals to undermine the Bush agenda. ''On the ethics stuff, there's nothing Bush can do. He has no control," said one Republican lobbyist. ''But what he can control and needs to work on is the war. That's the more critical thing for him."

Why let yourself be used to put out spin? This is journalism? Or it just pillow talk?

Because Nina Easton is from the Howie Kurtz School of Journalism. Keeps it in the family, where they all, in baseball parlance, bat right and throw right.

Here's the announcement of her wedding to Russell Schriefer from the New York Times.

Mr. Schriefer, also 46, is a Republican strategist and a founder of the Stevens & Schriefer Group, the Washington-based political consulting firm; he has helped advised numerous Republicans, including Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000. This year he served as the program director for the Republican Convention and was a media adviser to President Bush. The bridegroom graduated from Manhattan College.

Nina Easton, Presstitute.

Why Consumers Think the Economy Sucks

Just paid my gas bill for the month of December, and it's one of the highest bills I've ever paid. And it wasn't one of my high use months, either. Both years the bill covered the exact same term, 34 days, ending December 27th.

December 2004

149 therms used, $225.36

December 2005

142 therms used, $272.20

Last year I used 202 and 165 therms for the following two months, so I should get bills for more than $300 for both months.

I've only had a $300 gas bill once in my life, and that was January 2004 when the temperature for the month was the lowest average since 1895.

An Old Stomping Ground

Man, woman are fatally shot in Allston
2d male wounded; city's first homicides of 2006 stun neighborhood

Yesterday's shootings took place in a second-floor apartment at 244 Kelton St. in Allston, a neighborhood filled with red-brick apartments populated mostly by graduate students and young professionals.

I gasped when I saw this story on the news this morning, because I lived in one of these red brick buildings in 1979 for a summer. It's been so long that I can't remember the address, but I don't think it was 244. It might have been one of the buildings on either side, though.

It was my first apartment after college. My two college roomates & I sublet the apartment from a woman who attended Pine Manor College. She'd gone home to Grosse Pointe, Michigan for the summer, leaving us the Grosse Pointe, Michigan Garden Club book in a kitchen cupboard listing her mother as a board member. Also hideous primary color Marimekko prints on the walls and vinyl couches that were awful to sit on that hot, humid summer. I had a crappy job in Cambridge and took the old, creaky Green Line every day, crammed in and sweating in subway cars with broken air conditioning as they broke down between stations. It was a dodgy neighborhood, & I tried not to be walking alone at night. We did spend a few happy evenings at The Phoenix, the late lamented restaurant/bar at the corner of Kelton and Comm. Ave. which had great Tex-Mex food.

The neighborhood is described as "normally placid" in today's Globe article. I haven't been there except to drive through for the past decade, but it doesn't look that different today than it did 25 years ago. This incident is listed on the City of Boston website:

Violent crimes in Allston/Brighton: November

Thu, 11/24/05 4:01:00 AM
244 KELTON ST (Allston)

Delay's Next Gig: Appropriations Committee

And he's not just taking any seat on the Appropriations Committee! It's confessed felon Duke Cunningham's seat!

From ThinkProgress (via firedoglake)

DeLay Takes Over Cunningham’s Spot On Appropriations Committee

Yes, Delay has been bounced to the most powerful committee in the Senate. Way to get him out of there, Denny.

Cheney in Training

Yesterday I posted my predictions for 2006, including this one:

9. When Fitzgerald's investigation begins to focus on Cheney, he resigns for health reasons. Condi appointed Vice President, Stephen Hadley appointed National Security Advisor.

Then I woke up this morning to these headlines:

Cheney Hospitalized, Then Released

Cheney Briefly Hospitalized Monday Morning

I began to feel power coursing through my fingertips....

Well, not really. The doctors' diagnosis is that

he was retaining fluid because of medication he was taking for a foot problem.

Cheney diagnoses himself differently:

"I'm a little hobbled-up today," Cheney joked to workers Friday at a Harley-Davidson factory in Kansas City, Mo., where he was highlighting upturns in the economy. "I don't usually carry a cane, but (Defense Secretary) Don Rumsfeld has been chewing on my ankles."

From the AP article, this is the funniest part:

Cheney, who has not suffered a heart attack since he became vice president in 2001, began a daily exercise program in 2000 and started eating healthier.

Cheney exercises daily? I can't stop laughing.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Noose Is Tightening

In tomorrow's Washington Post:

Hastert Moves to Tighten Rules on Lobbyists

While ostensibly about Hastert's attempt to close the barn door, WaPo has new details about how prosecutors are closing in on Tom Delay:

But last week, a prominent client of Abramoff's former law firm offered fresh revelations linking Abramoff to DeLay's office, saying it had sent $25,000 to an Abramoff-linked Orthodox Jewish group in 2000 as part of a lobbying campaign to thwart a proposed postal rate increase. That money appears to have then been paid to the wife of Tony C. Rudy, the deputy chief of staff of then-House Majority Whip DeLay who was helping to spearhead efforts against the increase.

Under the plea agreement made public Tuesday, Abramoff said that he and others sought Rudy's agreement to help torpedo the postal rate increase and a prohibition on Internet gambling. "With the intent to influence those official acts," the documents say, Abramoff provided "things of value, including but not limited to . . . ten equal monthly payments totaling $50,000" to the wife of a congressional aide called "staffer A" but identified elsewhere as Rudy. Those payments came from clients "that would and did benefit" from Rudy's actions.

The Washington Post had previously reported that $25,000 had come from eLottery Inc., an Internet gambling firm and Abramoff client, which sent the money to a Seattle-based foundation, Toward Tradition, that then paid fees to Rudy's wife, Lisa.

On Friday, the Magazine Publishers of America, which had hired Abramoff's firm Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP in 2000 for a $10 million campaign against the postal rate increase, revealed where the other half came from.

"I can confirm that based on direction from Preston Gates, the MPA did make a $25,000 contribution to Toward Tradition in 2000," said MPA spokesman Howard J. Rubenstein. The MPA directors "had absolutely no knowledge of how the money would be used, and if it turns out that it was used for an improper purpose, they would be, quite frankly, outraged."

{I added the links within the articles. WaPo link? I think not.}

2006 Predictions

Jeanne Dixon I am not, but here goes:

1. Karl Rove indicted, resigns, gets job with Hudson Institute.

2. After spending the last quarter of 2005 vilifying John Murtha for suggesting that U.S. forces be drawn down and deployed to the borders of Iraq, BushCo will do just that in 2006. Prediction of numbers of American troops in Iraq, end of 2006: 80,000.

3. Liverpool wins Premier League in shocking upset over Chelsea. (Prediction or hope? You make the call.)

4. Argentina wins World Cup.

5. Neocons will begin sabre rattling about attacking Iran. Can you say, Mushroom cloud?

6. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson will each say something incredibly stupid and offensive.

7. Red Sox finish in second place in American League East behind MFY.

8. BushCo's vast data-mining operation will be exposed. Forget Christiane Amanpour. We've all been caught up.

9. When Fitzgerald's investigation begins to focus on Cheney, he resigns for health reasons. Condi appointed Vice President, Stephen Hadley appointed National Security Advisor.

10. Democrats sweep to victory in midterm elections, but electoral gerrymandering has been so successful that Republicans retain control of House of Representatives.

The Incompetence, The Corruption, and The Cronyism: Sunday, January 8, 2006

Rethugs in fine form this week:

The Incompetence:

The new Medicare drug plan is an unmitigated disaster. It's impossible to figure out. Seniors can't figure it out. Pharmacies can't figure it out either. As a result, they're refusing to give people their medications. People will die because of this simple fact: The Bush Administration is incompetent. They care more about ideology than good government, and as we saw during Hurricane Katrina, that's often fatal.

States Intervene After Drug Plan Hits Early Snags

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 - Low-income Medicare beneficiaries around the country were often overcharged, and some were turned away from pharmacies without getting their medications, in the first week of Medicare's new drug benefit. The problems have prompted emergency action by some states to protect their citizens.

Although there are no hard numbers, concerns expressed by state officials and complaints from pharmacists suggest a widespread pattern of problems.

At least four states - Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Vermont - acted this week to make sure poor people received the drugs they were promised but could not obtain through the federal Medicare program.

Gov. Jim Douglas of Vermont, a Republican, said the state would pay drug claims for low-income people until the federal government fixed problems in the new program, known as Part D of Medicare. Michael K. Smith, the state's secretary of human services, said, "The federal system simply is not working."

On Thursday, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill declaring, "There is a public health emergency due to the federal implementation of Medicare Part D, which has resulted in serious operational problems, causing Vermonters to be turned away at the pharmacy without the drugs they need."

The Corruption:

Tom Delay IS the King of All Corruption.

Ethics Issues Snared GOP's Champion
DeLay's Focus on Fundraising Powered Party Gains But Led to Problems

And slowly, Delay is drawing other Republicans down into his sinking ship:

A Donor Who Had Big Allies
DeLay and two others helped put the brakes on a federal probe of a businessman. Evidence was published in the Congressional Record

WASHINGTON — In a case that echoes the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, two Northern California Republican congressmen used their official positions to try to stop a federal investigation of a wealthy Texas businessman who provided them with political contributions.

Reps. John T. Doolittle and Richard W. Pombo joined forces with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to oppose an investigation by federal banking regulators into the affairs of Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz, documents recently obtained by The Times show. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was seeking $300 million from Hurwitz for his role in the collapse of a Texas savings and loan that cost taxpayers $1.6 billion.

The investigation was ultimately dropped.

The Cronyism:

George Bush appoints unqualified Julie Myers to head the bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Here's the story, under a bad headline by the Times (surprised?) as criticism of this 36-year-old lawyer with no immigration and scant managerial experience is broad and bipartisan.

Democrats Criticize Appointment at Immigration Agency

Ms. Myers, who has held a variety of federal jobs over the last four years, drew attention because of her ties to the White House and some senior officials. She is a niece of Gen. Richard B. Myers, who recently stepped down as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the wife of John Wood, Mr. Chertoff's chief of staff.


Criticism of her nomination was not limited to the comments of Democrats. In September, National Review, an influential conservative publication, urged Mr. Bush to withdraw Ms. Myers's nomination. In an editorial, the magazine compared her to Mr. Brown and called her "another unqualified nominee for a vital position in the Department of Homeland Security."

In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.
H.L. Mencken