Saturday, October 07, 2006

Signing statements and Congress goes to camp:

Looks like David Addington is at it again; W. has pulled out his signing statement pen again and rewritten a few laws he doesn't like.

The WaPo reports today:

"President Bush reserved the right to ignore key changes in Congress's overhaul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- including a requirement to appoint someone with experience handling disasters as the agency's head -- in setting aside dozens of provisions contained in a major homeland security spending bill this week. . ." (Something tells me Chimpy wasn't the brains behind this move.)

White House spokesman Tony Fratto says, "there's nothing new here. The president has the authority to choose which of his subordinate officers he'll rely on." Of course, one might argue that, though it's true there's nothing new about W. claiming all kinds of authority the constitution doesn't give him, he kind of has to obey the law, which, incidentaly, the Congress writes.

But, what makes Congress think they can tell the president to do anything? I mean, seriously, it says right there in the constitution that the prez is the "unitary executive." If he wants to hire some stuffed shirt with an MBA to run FEMA, no congressman or sentator is going to tell him different. Where does Congress get off requiring that a candidate for a serious position like this should have at least five years of experience?

A good conservative pedigree and the right conections are all any government official needs. Just look at the examples of L. Paul Bremer or Michael Brown. They had no clue what they were doing and they did a heck of a job.

Although the brains-trust in the vice-president's office apparently think this Heimat Sicherheit spending bill is such a dire threat to the president's perogatives that it has to be nipped in the bud, one would think right now might not be the time to pull one of these boners. Considering all the problems they on their plate: Katrina, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, NSA spying, Gitmo, renditions, torture, Mark Foley, etc, you'd think someone with an eye on the elections would have put the nix on this -- but no.

Sorry, what am I thinking? This is so pre-9/11. All these political considerations are for the chattering classes to entertain themselves with. It makes no difference what anyone thinks about what this administration does. They don't listen to Congres and the Courts can't touch them (how many divisions do they have?). They're on a mission and nothing is going to stand in their way.

And thanks to John McCain and his merry band of GOP "rebels," W. now has the right to declare as an "enemy combatant" anyone he pleases and thanks to Lindsay Graham, they can't challenge their detention in court -- ever.

If the GOP loses control of Congress, who's to say Cheney doesn't pull out his list of domestic political "ememy combatants" and start sending them to camp?

Friday, October 06, 2006

The little train safety bill that couldn't:

AP reports:

"As many as 17,000 people were urged to flee homes on the outskirts of Raleigh early Friday as flames shot from a burning hazardous waste plant and a chlorine cloud rose high over the area. Eighteen people, many of them law enforcement officers, were taken to emergency rooms with respiratory problems, hospital officials said. EQ Industrial Services handles a wide array of industrial waste, from paints to solvents, and houses chemicals such as chlorine, pesticides, herbicides, sulfur and fertilizer."

Gosh, sounds like a perfect target for a terrorist group, doesn't it? But I'm sure EQ is on the up and up with the law, right? AP: "In March, the state Department of Natural Resources had fined EQ $32,000 for six violations at the plant, including failing to 'maintain and operate the facility to minimize the possibility of a sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste . . . which could threaten human health or the environment. "

[Don't worry investors, this won't affect your bottom line. The EQ web site says, "EQ companies offer a written certificate of indemnification shielding its customers against legal claims and regulatory fines incurred due to an error committed by EQ, its officers, or associates EQ companies carry the highest level of liability insurance in the industry. This policy, underwritten by large third party insurers, offers $27 million in cumulative liability coverage.]

But Congress is on the job to make sure chemical plants operate more safely, right? Well sort of; from what I understand this year they basically gave the chemical industry another pass. US PIRG attorney Alex Fidis said in a press release that, "These security measures [In the latest bill] have consistently been referred to as ‘better than nothing,’ but in reality they are worse than nothing because our nation now has the equivalent to imposing shopping mall-level security at dangerous chemical plants."

The press release goes on: "The final provisions authorize the Department of Homeland Security to regulate only the chemical plants it determines present a 'high risk,' while exempting all other plants from any security regulations. Regulated facilities must develop and submit security plans, but the Department is explicitly prohibited from requiring any specific security measures, leaving security improvement decisions in the hands of the chemical industry. It is also unclear whether the provisions will displace more complete state security laws."

So you see nothing has really changed. Five years after 9/11 the government is still dithering to please their chemical industry benefactors. In 2002 PIRG reported that: "Currently, millions of Americans are at risk of serious injury or death if a chemical facility becomes the target of an attack. Specifically, 123 facilities across America put at least one million people at such a risk, and 700 facilities endanger at least 100,000 Americans, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Investigations by federal agencies and newspapers have found that security at these facilities ranges from poor to nonexistent."

And as bad as this is; there are also trucks, trains and barges moving all over the country, passing through high population areas, carrying toxic chemicals that could kill thousands of Americans. Richard Falkenrath, formerly one of President Bush's top advisers on homeland security told Congress last year that, "I'm sorry to say since 9/11 we have essentially done nothing in this area."

According to a report on NOW: "American intelligence agencies have been aware for several years that Al-Qaeda is interested in targeting U.S. railroads. In 2002 the F.B.I. found photographs of U.S. railroad engines, cars and crossings in Al Qaeda's possession."

According to the 9/11 Commission the administration has allocated only $145 million for rail security and for FY 07 and the administration has proposed eliminating the $150 million from the Rail and Transit Security Grant program.

So, the next time you see a train going by within within severla miles of you, it might be a good idea to make sure your're stoked up on duct tape and plastic sheeting. With W. & Co. in charge you're pretty much on your own. I mean, what's more important, your safety or CSX' profits?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What's worse; a comma or a fruit bowl?

I read in the WaPo today that the lefty-sphere is up in arms about W. 's "just a comma" comment in a recent speech. W. said, refering to the Iraqi elections last December, "Admittedly, it seems like a decade ago. I like to tell people when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look like just a comma. . . "

Peter Baker writes that some folks in the blogosphere are reading all kinds of things into this phrase. Perhaps he's sending secret messages to his right-wing Chrisitian base? I doubt it, to me this notion sounds a little whacky. I mean, he just comes right out and says outragous things, he doesn't care.

Like, for instance, what about the "third awakening" speech he made last month? He told a Christian group that the WOT was "a confrontation between good and evil." [WaPo] He's called his war a "crusade" and he has Pat Robertson over to the homestead on occasion, so what's he got to hide? He's going to get raptured and you're not

Although it's pretty bad that he considers the 584 U.S. troops that have died since the Iraqi elections in Dec. '05 to be "just a comma;" Rummy is way farther out in left field. He told Bob Woodward that the recent leap in violent attacks on US troops in Iraq was the result of the DoD "categorizing more things as attacks." He says, "A random round can be an attack all the way up to killing 50 people somewhere. So you've got a whole fruit bowl of different things - a banana and an apple and an orange." [Newsweek]

So, what's worse a comma or a fruit bowl? And when is the guy with the butterfly net going round these people up?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Opinions can be threats to national security:

The NYT reports:

"A consortium of major universities, using Homeland Security Department money, is developing software that would let the government monitor negative opinions of the United States or its leaders in newspapers and other publications overseas. Such a 'sentiment analysis' is intended to identify potential threats to the nation, security officials said. . . Ultimately, the government could in a semiautomated way track a statement by specific individuals abroad or track reports by particular foreign news outlets or journalists, rating comments about American policies or officials."

Letter to the editor writers or bloggers in the US don't have to worry about this, right? It's only newspaper opinion pages in other countries, right?

"Federal law prohibits the Homeland Security Department or other intelligence agencies from building such a database on American citizens, and no effort would be made to do that, a spokesman for the department, Christopher Kelly, said."

Wew, that makes me feel a lot better. After all, W. & Co. told us they didn't spy on domestic phone calls or emails inside the US before and we all believed them. Of course, then it turned out that 'yes,' in fact, they had been spying on domestic communications through switching boxes at all the major communications companies. But, that's not going to happen this time, right? Right?

See, they're only looking for opinions that might be "indicative of threats to the nation."

Like perhaps Steven Howards of Beaver Creek Colorado who was arrested by the Secret Service for walking up to Cheney and giving him his opinion? According to the NYT, Mr. Howards was taking his son to a piano lesson when he saw Cheney standing in an open area of a mall. He walked up to him and said, "I think your policies in Iraq are reprehensible." Or "words to that effect" according to his law suit against secret service agent Virgil D. Reicle, the man who arrested him several minutes later. [Could it really have been 'go fuck yourself?']

NYT: " June 16 article in The Vail Daily quoted a spokesman for the Secret Service, Eric Zahren, as saying that Mr. Howards 'wasn’t acting like other folks in the area,' and that he became 'argumentative and combative' when agents tried to question him. Mr. Howards said Tuesday that he was never threatening and did not become upset until his arrest.

'This was not about anything I did — this is about what I said.'

[Can you imagine Cheney standing there and having some pleb come up to him and tell him off? Lucky for Howards he didn't have his shotgun handy.]

More craziness in Miami again: When will the Herald ever learn?

This time the publisher of the Miami Herald, Jesus Diaz Jr, has quit over the whole journalist-government-propaganda-payolla thing. You see, Diaz apparently thought that journalists working for El Nuevo Herald, the anit-Castro rag, accepting money from the US government to spread propaganda was, in his words, "a breach of widely accepted principles of journalistic ethics.. . . I personally don't believe that integrity and objectivity can be assured if any of our reporters receive monetary compensation from any entity that he or she may cover or have covered, but particularly if it's a government agency."

What planet is this guy on? Or, should I say, which country does he think he's living in? Perhaps Mr. Diaz hasn't been in Miami long enough to remember the old Miami tourism slogan, "Miami: The rules are different here."

Anyway, Diaz -- thinking that he was in the United States -- went ahead and fired these upstanding Castro-haters. Predictably, the Cuban/American "exile" community went ballistic. According to the Guardian:

"The dismissals caused a furor among members of Miami's Cuban-American community, which responded with canceled subscriptions and attacks on Diaz and some of the newspaper's editors and journalists in letters and e-mails. Critics also said Diaz reacted too quickly and harshly wnet ahead and fired them! As it turns out, Diaz got canned and the journalists get their jobs back.

No biggie, though, it's not like El Nuevo Herald is really a newspaper anyway. It's just the Herald's way of trying to prove that they really are anti-Castro. It's all so pointless, though, because no matter what they do they will never be able to convince the exilios that the Herald isn't a mouth piece for "the Monster."

In the past they've gone to ridiculous lengths not to even risk offending that small number of whackos who can turn Miami upside down with a call to Radio Mambi. They've even gone as far as to pull an entire issue of Tropic Magazine because of a headline which read "No Mas" over a picture of Jorge Mas Canossa, who had died a few days before. Then, of course, there was the most recent attempt to stifle Carl Hiassen. (That worked out well.) [I'm getting the idea that McClatchy has no idea what they got themselves into by purchasing this paper.]

I still remember the riots after Elian was taken by the feds when I saw old Cuban men rampaged down Flagler boulevard kicking over Miami Herlad newspaper boxes as they went. Whoever the next publisher of the Herald is they ought to keep in mind that they're the mouthpeice of Castro no matter what they do.

Rehiring those shills is a good start, though.

Bill Frist: Cut and run in Afghanistan?

AP reported on Monday:

"Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said yesterday that the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas could never be won militarily and urged support for efforts to bring 'people who call themselves Taliban' and their allies into the government. . .There appears to be an 'unlimited flow' of Afghans and foreigners 'willing to pick up arms and integrate themselves with the Taliban,' he said. . . 'Approaching counterinsurgency by winning hearts and minds will ultimately be the answer,' Frist said. 'Military vs. insurgency one-to-one doesn't sound like it can be won. It sounds to me. . . that the Taliban is everywhere."

To me, this is just astounding. Bill Frist, W.'s lapdog in the Senate, is saying the war against the Talibs -- and by extention al-Qaeda -- can't be won? He wants to integrate them into Afghanistan's government? As I remember, they were the government a while back, that's why we invaded in the first place, isn't it?

It's kind of an odd thing for him to be saying right after W. recently saying that, "We will defeat the Taliban. We will defeat al Qaeda. And the only way to do it is by working together." (If W. is losing Frist, he's got more to worry about than the Talibs. )

After watching Frontline last night, I wouldn't be so sure making deals with the Talibs is the way to go there Billy boy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You're making me a little horney, you're making me sick:

Okay, at first I was just dealing with the shock of the news about Mark Foley, but now that I've read some of the stuff he wrote to these pages etc; I just have to say, 'eewww.' I think I'm feeling a little sick at this point.

Gosh, though, what a bad break for the GOP's chances for holding on to power in the House and Senate. First there's the NIE saying W. is delusional about Iraq, then there's Woodward's book saying he's in denial about Iraq, and before Tony Snowjob can even fire up the fog machine; here comes the charge that the top House leadership have known about Foley and his shenanigans since last year and did nothing. (Is the Catholic church in on this?) Dennis Hassert's lame excuse for all of this is. "Congressman Foley duped a lot of people. . . I have known him all the years he served in the House and he deceived me too." Obviously, duping Hassert isn't really that difficult, he's been falling for W.'s crap all this time, but this "I know nothink' Sgt. Schultz act isn't going to wash.

This ought to go down well in Middle America: Vote Republican, the Party that enables child molesters!

Looks like even the GOP faithful are jumping ship if is any indication. RS says,

"Let's use this opportunity to get rid of the leadership which fostered this behavior where adults look upon children as prey in the same way slaves were treated by their masters. Maybe Hillary Clinton was right: The House is being run like a plantation."

I totally agree and I think the current leadership will have plenty of time to work this all out while they flounder in the minority for at least the next two years.

Man if this is the way they run the Congress, no wonder Iraq is such a mess.

[Please, tell me Rick Santorum had something to do with this! Please, please. . .]
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