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Friday, September 30, 2005

What is Going on in the Pentagon?

Able Danger whistleblower Col. Tony Shaffer has been stripped of his security clearance, which effectively ends his career in the U.S. intelligence community. It's not enough that he is stripped, however, so whoever made the decisions on his case also authorized a raking over and release of the most embarrassing details of Shaffer's life.

Captain's Quarters notes:

Stealing pens? Getting drunk 16 years ago? Twenty-year-old incidents, all of which should have been reviewed and considered long ago by the DoD when selecting Shaffer for his various cleared positions, do not suddenly rise to a crisis level that requires his clearances to get revoked. This list looks like a transparent attempt to rationalize stripping Shaffer of his career. In fact, this list insults the intelligence to such a degree that it almost appears as if the DoD wanted everyone to know that its actions against Shaffer are meant to be vindictive.

Go here to read the Captain's full post.

Sen. Specter, the list of subpoena candidates is growing.



Even Before Katrina, Rita Gulf States Were Getting Lots of Federal Largesse


Three of the four Gulf states hit hardest by hurricanes Katrina and Rita - Texas, Alabama and Louisiana - ranked among the top half of states for total federal spending before the massive storms struck them, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Consolidated Federal Funds Report.

Total federal spending in 2003, the latest available year, in the three states was $208.96 billion in direct payments to individuals for pensions, disabilities, other entitlements, grants, procurement contracts and compensation to federal employees.

Texas ranked second in the nation with $140 billion, followed by Alabama in the 20th spot with $36.87 billion and Louisiana in the 23rd spot with $31.64 billion. Mississippi ranked 31st with $21.74 billion, according to CFFR data.

The top 10 states include:

California $219.70
Texas 140.45
New York 137.89
Florida 113.30

Pennsylvania 90.35
Virginia 82.45
Illinois 73.01
Ohio 69.90
Michigan 57.87
Maryland 57.64

These figures do not include federal obligations or expenditures for direct loans, guaranteed or insured loans or insurance. These obligations typically exceed regular federal expenditures. In Texas, for example, the total for the uncounted obligations is just under $1 trillion.

Earlier this week, Tapscott's Copy Desk posted on federal spending in Orleans Parish, Louisiana, which exceeded $6 billion in 2003, according to CFFR data.






Thursday, September 29, 2005

Michael Yon Has the Story of "Operation Rmha"

This one dispatch from independent blogger journalist Michael Yon contains more truth about what America is doing in Iraq than a month's worth of MSM dispatches. We have our flaws, to be sure, but Yon captures the essesntial spirit of this nation. It's the same spirit President Reagan understood and loved.




Able Danger Getting Curiouser and Curiouser

Those on-again/off-again hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee with Able Danger figures continue to bubble along. JustOneMinute notes a superb roundup of the Able Danger developments and background to date by Chicago Tribune Washington Bureau reporters John Crewdson and Andrew Zajac and wonders why these two scribes can find FBIers who recall Able Danger contacts but Sen. Arlen Specter, who chairs the Senate panel, can't.

JustOneMinute also links to this essential Decision 08 post on that very curious "Early Warning" Able Danger series now running in The Washington Post by William Arkin. See especially the background info on Arkin.

Stay tuned, folks, because this one is far from over.




Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Federal Judge Says Criminal Aliens Have Privacy Rights That Trump Public's Right to Know How Well Government Immigration Enforcement Works

Federal District Court Judge Richard J. Leon ruled Tuesday that the privacy rights of illegal aliens convicted here of crimes, including the most serious felonies, are more important than the public's right to know data needed to assess how the government is complying with the law that requires such aliens to be escorted out of the country upon their release from jail.

The ruling is in the case of CEI Washington Bureau Inc. v United States of America Department of Justice, Civ. No. 03-2651 (RJL). CEI is Cox Newspapers Washington Bureau, which earlier this year asked Leon to overturn a Justice Department denial of a Freedom of Information Act request for data, including the names, dates of birth and their FBI case numbers of several hundred thousand illegal aliens.

The aliens had been convicted in domestic courts of various crimes, including many of the most serious felonies such as rape and murder, and had served time in local or state jails. Federal law requires that federal officials meet such aliens on their release from jail and escort them out of the country.

Cox Newspapers reporters Eliot Jaspin and Julia Malone had found numerous examples from Georgia state records for 2002 of convicted aliens being released and then disappearing into the U.S. because Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials weren't present to escort them out of the country.

Since the federal government reimburses state and local jurisdications for some of their costs of incarcerating illegal aliens, Jaspin and Malone asked for the federal data on those reimburesements, including the names of the criminals involved. Justice refused, citing the FOIA's privacy and law enforcement exemptions.

Cox argued, according to Judge Leon, that "disclosure of the information concerning the incarcerated or formerly incarcerated alien criminals .... will help in the public's overseeing and evaluating of State Criminal Alien Assistance Program and Institutional Removal Program and help determine wehterh governmental agencies are effectively communicating with each other in the management of the incarceration and removal of criminal aliens."

He added that Cox "also contends that the public benefit of government oversight in this instance outweighs the privacy interests of those individuals listed in the SCAAP database."

Leon's response? "I disagree."

Citing a 1989 and 1991 decisions, Leon said he finds "that these privacy interests, and the privacy intrusion associated with disclosing this information clearly outweighs the public disclosure of this information."

He also argued that criminal aliens have "a substantial personal privacy interest" in such data as their FBI case numbers and that that interest also outweighs the public's interest in being able to assess the performance of government officials required by the law to meet alien criminals on their release from jail and escort them out of the country.

Cox officials are deliberating whether to appeal Leon's decision.

You can read my January 2005 column on this case here.








CFFR Database Shows New Orleans Was Awash in $6 Billion of Federal Aid Before Hurricane Katrina

Anybody who says New Orleans was a city Uncle Sam forgot hasn't looked at the numbers lately. Do a couple of mouse clicks on the U.S. Census Bureau's Consolidated Federal Funds Report and you can pull up a comprehensive listing of all federal spending in Orleans Parish, nearly $6 billion of it in 2003, that most recent available year.

Included in that $6 billion are: $1.1 billion in retirement and disability payments to individuals; $994 million in other direct payments to individuals; $1.3 billion in block grants; $1.7 billion in procurement contract spending, $792 million in salaries and wages and $71 million in other direct payments.

The total includes $1.4 billion in defense spending and $4.5 billion in non-defense spending.

There is also more than $10 billion in federal flood insurance.

You can get an incredible amount of detail about every specific spending program that goes into the total federal spending in New Orleans. Here are the steps:

Go here, select "2003" and "Geography" and click "submit"
Select "Louisiana" under State and "Yes" under County, then click "submit"
Click "Orleans Census Parish" under County and click "submit"
Dig in!

UPDATE:

Do not miss this 1993 piece by Glenn Garvin in "Reason" detailing the bureaucratic waste and fraud inspired by the measly $8 billion in federal aid following Hurricane Andrew in Florida. W is certainly putting an expensive new twist on the "Like Father, Like Son" maxim.

HT: Trevor Bothwell, Democracy Project.






Hastert, Delay Resistance to Porkbusters/Operation Offset Proposals Shows They're Out of Touch

The Heritage Foundation's Alison Fraser and Michelle Muccio have an excellent summary of the state of play in Congress on the Porkbusters concept of taking back pork to pay for hurricane recovery efforts. Their analysis makes clear the leadership of the House is out of step with key figures in the conservative majority in the lower chamber.

Fraser and Muccio focus on the work of Rep. Mike Pence, R-IN and Chairman of the Republican Study Committee's, and Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-TX., to get action in the House of Representatives on "Operation Offset." Pence, by the way, is one of a handful of House Members with a blog and is a former Talk Radio journalist.

Operation Offset is a menu of spending cuts recommended by RSC members totalling more than enough to pay the estimated $200 billion in hurricane recovery spending expected to be approved by Congress in coming weeks. The 110-member RSC is the largest of the officially recognized common-interest caucuses in the House and has long been the legislative home of conservative activists in the legislature.

Despite the strong support shown by the public for the Porkbusters/Operation Offset approach, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-IL, and House Majority Leader Tom Delay, R-Tx, appear to be doing everything possible to avoid moving in that direction. In fact, Hastert and Delay have given Pence the proverbial trip to the woodshed as a reward for his efforts.

Note Fraser and Muccio:

"Pence and the RSC should be commended for their bold leadership on fiscal restraint and sacrifice. Conversely, Rep. DeLay appears to have changed his mind about offsetting this new spending and has yet to embrace any aspect of the RSC plan.
"Worse, according to reports, he and House Speaker Dennis Hastert have taken Pence to task merely for launching Operation Offset[3]. One must wonder if it is acceptable to set a loose goal of spending tradeoffs, but not to get down to brass tacks and discuss specific programs to cut."

Fraser and Muccio also praise senators John McCain, R-AZ, and Tom Coburn, R-OK, for their efforts to insure hurricane recovery spending does not become a blank check guaranteed to produce monumental waste and fraud of tax dollars.






Public Notices Can be Effective Anti-Waste Tool in Keeping Hurricane Recovery Spending Honest

With as much as $200 billion in federal tax dollars slated to be spent helping the Gulf Coast states recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, lots of citizens wonder what measures officials are taking to prevent massive waste and fraud in the recovery spending.

I asked Matthew Erwin of the Public Notice Resource Center for his thoughts on the issue and he pointed out that the old tried-and-true posting of a public notice in the local newspaper can be quite effective in keeping things on the up and up.

And he points to the Legal Services Corporation as an example of a federal agency that did exactly that:

"The past month has seen disaster of historic proportions inflicted on the Gulf Coast of the United States, first by Hurricane Katrina and most recently, by Hurricane Rita. In the wake of these disasters, the U.S. government has appropriated record amounts of disaster relief money to the affected regions. To date, more than $60 billion dollars has been appropriated, with more expected before Congress adjourns.

"Much concern about expenditures of this size without serious and binding accountability measures has been expressed by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle, and not a few taxpayer advocates.


"Measures ranging from bipartisan commissions to Inspectors General have been proposed. Congress has overlooked the most traditional and effective system of ensuring that taxpayer dollars are spent as intended - direct involvement of the public.

"If the concern is that fraud, abuse and mismanagement will plague the hurricane relief efforts, what better policing system could there be than the eyes and ears of the people owed the outcomes?

"The mechanism used by American government since colonial days is the public notice. Published locally and read by millions of readers a day, these notices today alert the public to many activities of state and local governments. Budgets, zonings, bid solicitations, insolvencies, foreclosures and a host of other matters reach the public primarily through these notices.

"One tried and true method of protecting against inside deals, for example, is the publication of the bid notice. By requiring the federal government to award contracts competitively and publicly, not only are the taxpayers brought into the discussion on the lowest price for any goods or services, but they are able to examine exactly how their money is being spent and on what projects, and to whom the project is awarded.


"By using public notices in the expenditures on Katrina aid and reconstruction, Congress could require a direct response avenue included in the notice - such as a website address - back to oversight bodies to give the public a way to sound alerts.

"Using public notices and competitive bidding to curb waste and fraud in a federal agency is not a new idea. In 1974, the Legal Services Corporation was to help provide civil legal assistance to citizens who could not otherwise afford it.


"However, throughout the 1980s, charges of cronyism and corruption and use of funds for political purposes haunted the Corporation. In the early 1990s, a bipartisan coalition of legislators began working on reforms. Rep. Bill McCollum, R-FL, cited the need for competitive bidding to curb 'extensive abuses within the Legal Services Corporation.'

"In 1996, a number of reforms, including the competitive bidding and public notice requirements, took effect. With new rules in place, the Legal Services Corporation was on notice that Congress was watching. In the words of Mauricio Vivero, former Vice President of Government Relations for the LSC, the LSC went 'from renegade agency to institution of justice.'

"However Congress balances the need for quick injections of money into the disaster area with an equal need for efficiency, effectiveness and sound oversight, the mechanisms that result must involve a public that is keenly interested in all aspects of the predicament in Louisiana and Mississippi. Public notices do the trick.

"Critics will argue that the expense and difficulty of reaching the public through the traditional notice vehicle - local newspapers - outweighs the benefits. But public notices in the magnitudes of public funds being discussed here would be so fractional in cost that they would barely register on the fiscal scale. And a variety of private services, from state press associations to national order-taking entities, now exist to handle multiple placements with a single transaction to the government.

"With all that is at stake in getting the decisions right in this expenditure, Congress owes it to the taxpayers to put in place multiple assurances that the billions of dollars in disaster aid are benefiting the public and not being wasted or abused. Public notices and competitive bidding have been proven to make government more effective in the past, and if given the chance, they will do so again."

Matthew Erwin is executive director of the Public Notice Resource Center. The mission of the Public Notice Resource Center is to collect, analyze, and disseminate information on public and private notifications to the public through local newspapers, and to educate the public on the value and use of its right to know. For more information, go to www.pnrc.net.












Tuesday, September 27, 2005

MBA CARR Boot Camp Graduate Blake Wylie Explains Porkbusters for Nashville TV

Media Bloggers Association's Blake Wylie lays it out on the Porkbusters for Nashville's TV-2, and gets resistance, of course, from one of the locals who thinks his particular tax-paid pork is actually quite "cost-effective." Right.

Go get'em Blake. He was one of the attendees AT MBA's first-ever Database 101/201 Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting Boot Camp at the Freedom Forum during BlogNashville back in May.




Banks Give Customers Their Monthly Statements and Cancelled Checks Online. Why Can't the Federal Government Do It For Taxpayers, Too?

The truth is, if they started now, within two years the federal government could be posting every check it cuts on the Internet. Don't believe the politicians and bureaucrats who claim putting all government expenditures and the supporting documentation on the Internet is too complex, too costly and would take years.

Eric Kavanaugh is in the business of applying web technology to the tasks of putting such transactions on the Internet and he knows it can be done by the government, just as it already is by private business. He believes Hurricane Katrina recovery spending is an excellent occasion to get the ball rolling:

"What this means for government is that every check the feds cut - with the exception of entitlement and top-secret programs - should be visible online, just as consumers can now see their own canceled checks via the Web.
"Seeing is believing; and when Americans everywhere can see all those checks from their laptops, it's fair to say that bureaucrats and contractors alike will be on their best (or at least better) behavior.
"Furthermore, since the Internet is interactive, each one of those government checks should be linked in succession: to the purchase orders that authorized them, the contracts that generated those purchase orders, the approved proposals that led to the contracts, the losing proposals that were also considered, the requests for proposal that solicited all relevant proposals, the allocations which authorized expenditures, the bills that set in motion the allocations, who voted which way on each, who failed to vote (a highlight on these derelicts), and the processes by which those bills became law.

"While that might sound incredibly complex, the truth is that technology today is so advanced, computers so fast, software so powerful, methodologies so polished and practiced, that accomplishing this system could be done inside of two years.
"In fact, templates already exist throughout the chambers of corporate America, in large part due to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (developed in response to the shenanigans of Enron). And if public corporations must answer to the government, shouldn't the government answer to the public? What's good for the goose ..."


Go here for Eric's complete description of the whys and hows. Come on, Blogosphere, how can we make this happen?









She's Back! But Mary Mapes is Still in an Alternative Reality Universe of Her Own Making

The title of her book is "Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power." It's all about how the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy made all those redneck suckers in Red State America believe that poor little enlightened Mary and her brave White Knight, Sir Dan Rather of East Liberaldom, used fake documents in their "60 Minutes" scoop about President Bush's National Guard record.

Powerline's Scott Johnson, author of the justly-famous "61st Minute" post that started the avalanche of facts that exposed the Mape/Rather fiasco, has an opening observation here. Oh, how I would dread being the object of that man's wrath.

Hugh Hewitt makes the point here that the book itself is not the most significant aspect of its publication; rather how the major reviewers in the MSM treat it will be a circling of the wagons by defenders of the dying media.






They Better Arrest Francis Scott Key!

Have you ever heard the fourth stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner"? Steve Adams did recently and he says that "last stanza is unconstitutional fightin' words, if I ever heard 'em. I think someone better call the Americannibals United for Sterilization of Church and State. Arrest that Phelps guy. I mean, put him in the slammer and throw away the Francis Scott Key."

Go here for the rest of the expose. The name of Steve's blog, by the way, is "Trophy Husband." He's a former newspaper reporter and editor, who spent a lot of years in several major newsrooms before joining the ministry and hooking up as an Associate Editor of Focus on the Family's "Citizen" magazine. Steve has some interesting things to say on public policy, theology, contemporary culture and much else. Definitely worth adding to your blogroll.

UPDATE:

Then there is this moving discussion by Bruce Kesler of Democracy-Project blog and a regular columnist for the Augusta (VA) Free-Press. The Banner perfectly captures what is unique about America in all history.






Monday, September 26, 2005

Democrats, GOP Campaign Committees Should Return Microsoft, Google Donations Until U.S. Firms Stop Helping China Suppress Speech

Democrats got the big majority of 2004 congressional donations from Microsoft and Google employees, but the campaign committees for both major parties should send every penny back to the donors.

Why? Because Microsoft and Google are among the chief U.S. tech companies enabling the Communist government of China to suppress dissent on the Internet and block free discussion of political issues among Chinese web surfers and emailers.

The bowing of these American companies to demands of the Chinese dictators make a mockery of the flowery rhetoric about how the Internet strengthens freedom of speech routinely heard from Silicon Valley firms here in the U.S.

Dave Kopel, author of "Antitrust After Microsoft," describes in a Rockey Mountain News column how Microsoft and Google are complying with the Chinese government's "Responsibility Code," which is little more than a compact between the companies and their official clients to provide the latter with technology tools to catch dissidents and suppress unapproved opinion.

Notes Kopel:

"After the Chinese government blocked Google in 2002, Google modified its Chinese search engine. Google maintains on its own servers a cache of various Web content, so a Chinese surfer previously might have been able to find forbidden content by using the Google cache, rather than reading the content directly from a banned Web site.

"In June 2005, Microsoft admitted that it had imposed filters on its Chinese weblogs to block "forbidden words" such as "freedom," "democracy" and "demonstration."

Yahoo and Cisco are also working with the Chinese government on ways authorities can use the Internet to track down political dissidents, according to Kopel. The same technology can easily be used to also suppress other unapproved movements such as evangelical Christians, whose ranks have exploded in the past decade.

USA Today reported earlier this year that its analysis of congressional campaign contribution data showed 98 percent of the contributions by Google employees went to Democrats. At Microsoft, the percentage given to Democrats was lower at 60 percent, but still represented a sizeable majority.

But why should either major U.S. political party accept donations from employees of companies working to enable official Chinese suppression of political dissidents? Considering how many dissidents have been killed or imprisoned by the Chinese government since the 1989 Tiannamen Square massacre, it is no exaggeration to refer to such donations as "blood money."

And didn't Lenin say something about the capitalists who would sell him the rope he would use to hang them?

Here's a great project for a CARR-savvy blogger to undertake: Go through the FEC records and compile the percentages and totals of contributions to the major parties' 2004 congressional campaign committees by employees of Silicon Valley companies doing business in China.

UPDATE:

Yahoo reports on new official controls announced by the Chinese government Sunday. The controls are aimed at insuring Internet-based news reporting "be directed toward serving the people and socialism and insist on correct guidance of public opinion for maintaining national and public interests."

It's good that Yahoo is reporting this fact, but did you notice what is conspicuously missing from the story? Can you imagine the uproar that would ensue if The New York Times reported the Bush administration was implementing new controls on coverage of the White House but neglected to include the fact the Times was providing editorial archiving for the controls?









How Could the MSM Get So Much Wrong on Katrina? What Will the MSM Do About It?

It's not a pretty picture that is emerging of the accuracy of much of the MSM's reporting on the deaths caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, particularly at the Superdome and Morial Convention Center.

Powerline's John Hindraker surveys the growing evidence of utterly false reporting and wonders if it isn't time to investigate the media. Michelle Malkin has similar thoughts.

Before this idea goes further, as it very well may, the MSM's several professional organizations would do well to call an emergency meeting, appoint a commission of respected editors, academic journalists and knowledgable non-journalists to get to the bottom of what could become a blow to media credibility from which there will be no recovery.

ASNE, SPJ, API, NNA, RTNDA, are you listening?

UPDATE:

Even The Los Angeles Times is getting in on the discussion of how bad was the Katrina reporting. Go here for the Times' story. There will be a spate of such stories in the MSM but the key question is whether anything concrete is done as a result to prevent the same errors from recurring. That's why it's important that ASNE, SPJ, API, NNA and RTNDA act now.





Giving Credit Where It's Due on the Porkbusters Blogswarm: Heritage's Feulner Proposed in December 2004 Using Internet to Fight Pork

Excellent summary of the impact of the Porkbusters concept on both sides of the Blogosphere by "Beltway Blogroll's" Danny Glover. I'm flattered that somebody notes the link between my February and August posts on blogging government and the current Porkbusters blogswarm, but it was Ed Feulner who first suggested posting spending bills on the Internet before Congress votes on them.

Feulner, who is President of The Heritage Foundation, suggested in a Dec. 9, 2004, op-ed entitled "Open and Accountable" that when the new Congress convened in January leaders of the House and Senate starting posting appropriations bill texts on the Internet before they are considered on the legislative floor:

"On Capitol Hill next month, it'll be out with the old and in with the new, as the 109th Congress takes the oath of office.Of course, neither house will look much different. More than 95 percent of incumbents who ran this year were re-elected.

"Still, the beginning of a session is a time for changes. Here's one that would make a genuine difference: Make the legislative process more open. For example, when lawmakers write their rules for this session, they ought to require that every spending measure and conference report be posted on the Internet for at least one day before members can vote on it.

"And that should be a bare minimum -- after all, it would still be difficult to read an entire appropriations bill in one night. Posting the text wouldn’t be difficult. Every measure has to be typed up before it can be presented for consideration. That typed document can easily be posted as a file attachment on the Web. But this small change would pay big dividends.

"If you doubt that, just ask Dan Rather."

My subsequent posts on making government more open via the Blogosphere were simply taking Feulner's suggestion, as well as those of others like Hugh Hewitt and lessons I've learned during my three decades in Washington, D.C. and following the logical possibilities.

Knowing his admiration of President Reagan's maxim about getting a lot accomplished when you don't care who gets credit, I suspect Feulner will seek to direct attention to others. But for the record, he "got there firstest with the mostest," as a certain Civil War general once said.






Sunday, September 25, 2005

Here's a Brilliant Idea for MSM Transparency

Patrick Ruffini has it:

"If MSM really wanted to be transparent (and get a nice traffic bump to boot), they'd arrange for weekly (or daily!) conference calls where bloggers and media critics could question editors and reporters on their coverage that day and put them up as podcasts. The NYT call could be at 10, the WaPo call at 11 ..."

Now that is a superb suggestion and an imminently practical one as well. Let me polish it just a bit - Have the conference call just before the morning news meeting when the various editors gather to plan the day's coverage. That way they will have the critiques of yesterday's work fresh in mind as they make decisions about how to allocate reporting resources for the new day.

Ruffini adds this:

"Because of the fast-moving news cycle, reporters almost never respond to serious criticism, except on their own terms (whatever blog tidbits they choose to write up in cutesy Sunday or Style section pieces) or if pinned down by Hugh on the radio. We're fast moving into an environment where if Glenn Reynolds calls out Aaron Brown, Brown can't afford not to respond on the air, the next night, in a one-on-one debate with Reynolds.

"Every week, Brian Williams should pick out his most serious critic that week and have a five minute back-and-forth on the Nightly News. If MSM is going to do 'storytelling,' they need to stop pretending that they're not part of the story; if they claim to stand for scrutiny and accountability, they need to embrace it in themselves on air, not just on the Web; if they cop to being 'skeptical' but not biased, they need to be skeptical of ANSWER; and if they want to be seen as credible again, they need to be doing rapid response."

Couldn't say it better myself, Patrick.









Republicrats Protecting Each Other in Able Danger

It was painful earlier this week watching a Pentagon official lamely telling the Senate Judiciary Committee the Defense Department now isn't sure if its Able Danger program really identified Mohamed Atta more than a year before 9/11.

Wasn't it just a couple of weeks ago when the Pentagon confirmed that five of its top intelligence operatives did indeed recall seeing Atta's name and those of several other 9/11 terrorists on a chart produced by Able Danger?

That's why troubling questions keep coming to mind: How stupid do they think we are? Don't they realize they are creating more suspicion, not less? Why do Bush people keep protecting Clinton people from public scrutiny?

For a life-long conservative Republican and Bush voter in 2000 and 2004 like yours truly, that last question is especially galling. It was bad enough early in Bush's first term when he signed an executive order keeping the truth about Bill Clinton's midnight pardon spree behind closed doors. I swallowed hard and accepted the White House's executive privilege claim on that one.

But the Able Danger hearing capped a long series of troubling decisions that tortured credulity such as Bush increasing federal spending twice as fast as Clinton, expanding entitlements at a pace only Lyndon Johnson could match, signing a campaign finance law that limits political speech and refusing to veto even the most outrageous examples of congressional pork barreling.

The last straw came the day before William Dugan, an assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said to the Senate panel "I don't know" when asked if Able Danger had identified Atta. That's when the Pentagon barred testimony by the five officials who have said they worked on the program and recall seeing the terrorist's name on a chart during the Clinton administration.

Either the powers-that-be think most people are too stupid to figure out that a whitewash is in process or they assume most people aren't paying attention and there is little to fear from the Senate. They will be proven right if Sen. Arlen Specter, chairman of the Senate panel, doesn't quickly start issuing subpoenas to get to the bottom of this scandal.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-IA, attributed the Pentagon's actions to fear "they'll just have egg on their face," but Captain's Quarters' Ed Morrissey puts it more succinctly: "The American people suffered the worst attack on our soil four years ago. We deserve answers about how that attack could have been prevented. The Pentagon has five witnesses that speak directly to that issue who have been prevented from speaking to the representatives of the people.

"Arlen Specter needs to subpoena those five witnesses, all of the senior officers in the chain of command for Able Danger, and Donald Rumsfeld himself to answer for why the Pentagon will not cooperate. Four years of hiding Able Danger is long enough."

What is especially troubling about the Able Danger cover-up is that we've seen this before regarding terrorist attacks on American soil. During the first shocking hours after the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing, the FBI was feverishly looking for "John Doe 2." Then the FBI suddenly decided far right nuts Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were the lone bombers.

For months thereafter, Oklahoma City investigative reporter Jayna Davis followed lead after lead and found a mountain of concrete evidence and witnesses who put an Iraqi - Hussain Al-Hussaini - at the bombing scene seconds before and after the explosion.

They also saw the Iraqi with McVeigh numerous times in the days leading up to the tragedy at a nearby hotel with a rental truck like the one used in the bombing that smelled of diesel fuel. They even saw McVeigh and Al-Hussaini at an Oklahoma City nightclub months before the bombing.

But the FBI refused to pursue the evidence and to this day will not say whether it ever ruled Al-Hussaini in or out as a suspect. Critical evidence tying the Iraqi to the bombing has since been destroyed by the government.

Guess where Al-Hussaini ended up after Oklahoma City? Living in Boston near Logan Airport with two other Iraqis who provided food catering services to airlines there. Experts have said the 9/11 hijackers probably used weapons previously smuggled aboard by ... food services employees.

Now watching the Pentagon under Bush refusing to let witnesses testify about Able Danger, it is clear the Washington Establishment takes care of its own no matter which party happens to be in power. Call them Republicrats.

Note: This column originally appeared yesterday on Townhall.com.

UPDATE:

Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Steyn offers this observation:

"Ambitious presidents seize on extreme events to change the culture, as FDR did, using the Depression to transform the nature of the federal government. In allowing the eco-crazies to get away with prioritizing the world's biggest mosquito herd over Alaskan oil, and the teaching establishment with insisting that there's nothing wrong with the most overfunded public education system in the world that can't be fixed with even more wasted dollars, and the bureaucracy with creating an instantly sclerotic jobs-for-life federalized airport security (that just walked off the job in Houston), the Republicans missed their post-9/11 opportunity.

"Instead of changing the nature of the federal government, the Republican majority in Washington seems to be changing the nature of the Republican Party. The Democrats' approach to government has been Sorosized, the GOP's has been supersized. Some choice."

Go here to read the rest of this latest illustration of why Steyn quite likely is the best political columnist in America today.

UPDATE II:

NRO's Michael Ledeen explains why Able Danger/Oklahoma City are not the only chapters of the Global War on Terror about which the Republicrats aren't speaking the whole truth:

"This is not a war on terror, it is paralysis at best, and appeasement at worst. The hell of it is that it is costing thousands of lives, and will cost many more until the terror masters are destroyed, or we surrender.

"Those words were inconceivable for many years, but it is a sign of our present fecklessness that they are now entirely appropriate. We can still lose this war. And we cannot win it so long as we are blinded by our potentially fatal failure of strategic vision: we are in a regional war, but we have limited our actions to a single theater. Our most potent weapons are political and ideological, but our actions have been almost exclusively military.

"Our main enemy, the single greatest engine in support of the terror war against us, whether Sunni or Shiite, jihadi, or secular, Arab or British or Italian or Spaniard, is Iran. There is no escape from this fact. The only questions are how long it will take us to face it, how effective we will be when we finally decide to act, and how terrible the price will be for our long delay."

Go here for the rest of Ledeen's analysis, which is a definite must-read.








Thursday, September 22, 2005

Bush Should Apply FOIA in Advance to Keep Hurricane Katrina, Rita Recovery Spending Honest

This is my latest FOI Series column, which is going out today on the Knight Ridder Tribune Direct wire:

"Hurricane Katrina was America's worst natural disaster, and it may also generate the biggest federal boondoggle ever — unless President Bush moves now to apply the Freedom Of Information Act to every tax dollar spent rebuilding.
"Bush and Congress wasted no time authorizing more than $60 billion in federal spending on Katrina recovery, and hardly anybody doubts the final bill from Uncle Sam will be less than $200 billion. Private charities and state and local agencies will spend hundreds of millions more, as the Gulf region is flooded with relief money from all sources.
"This will be a target-rich environment for the unscrupulous and the slothful in and out of government at all levels. Even if Bush appoints a Katrina Recovery Inspector General to audit how the federal money is spent, it will be too late because by the time government auditors review the books, the money already will have been wasted. Something else is needed now to make sure every dollar meant to help victims of Katrina actually gets to them.
"That's where the FOIA comes in. Nothing is more effective at exposing waste and fraud in government spending than the FOIA. It shines a much-needed light on the legions of bureaucrats, politicians, contractors and others getting their hands in on the distribution of billions of tax dollars.
"But why wait for journalists, bloggers or activist citizens to file FOIA requests that bureaucrats typically take weeks or months to answer? Bush should announce now that he wants the FOIA applied in advance to all documents for Katrina recovery programs by making them public via the Internet as soon as a spending order, requisition, contract or other authorization is approved and government funds are disbursed.
"He might even ask the nation's bloggers and newspaper editors to create special joint teams of citizen journalists and mainstream media reporters to pore over the documents and to report prominently anything they find amiss.
"Crooked officials and contractors would then be on notice. They'd know that kickbacks and bribes, delivering shoddy materials while charging premium prices, rigged bidding processes and favoritism in awarding contracts will be exposed and prosecuted.
"Yes, sadly, there will still be some people within and without government who think they can manipulate the bureaucracy and red tape for their own benefit. But many potential rip-offs would be deterred.
"We already know how easily disaster recovery can be abused by those seeking an opportunity to make a fast buck. Hurricane recovery efforts seem especially prone to such corruption.
"Remember Hurricane Frances during Labor Day weekend in 2004? Frances made landfall more than 100 miles north of the Miami-Dade County area and top winds only reached 47 mph there, but that didn't stop thousands of residents there from getting nearly $28 million in federal disaster aid.
"Folks used their relief checks to buy more than 5,000 televisions allegedly destroyed by Frances, as well as 1,440 air conditioners, 1,360 twin beds, 1,311 washers and dryers, and 831 dining sets, according to documents obtained under the Florida FOIA by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.
"Miami-Dade County residents also used their federal relief checks to fix or replace more than 600 vehicles and to get thousands of dollars worth of dental work. So much disaster aid flowed to Miami-Dade County that one liquor-store owner estimated that his store cashed more than $500,000 in FEMA checks.
"Federal officials issuing those relief checks were so unconcerned about getting caught that some even blamed storm-damage payments in six claims on 'ice/snow,' according to the documents examined by the Sun-Sentinel.
"Given the far more vast scope of damage wreaked by Hurricane Katrina, the unprecedented amount of government spending being devoted to rebuilding New Orleans, and the history of official graft and corruption in Louisiana — remember Robert Penn Warren's 'All the King's Men' and Huey Long? — it's doubly important that Bush move now to prevent the wholesale diversion of millions of federal tax dollars from Hurricane Katrina victims to the pockets of the unscrupulous.
"Activating the FOIA in advance on Katrina recovery spending would also provide a vivid demonstration of the value of transparency in government operations. If it works well on Katrina recovery, it would be hard to argue in the future against expanding the approach to the rest of the government."






Senate OKs Coburn Measure to Shine Light on Pork; Now House, Bush Approvals Needed to Become Law


Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, was successful yesterday in securing Senate passage of an amendment that he believes "will lift the veil of secrecy that conceals the process of inserting special projects - or pork - into appropriations bills."

The Coburn amendment was successfully attached to the Agriculture Appropriations bill and was approved by the Senate on a 55-39 vote. The measure must be approved by the House and signed by President Bush in order for it to become law.

"At a time when our nation is at war, recovering from a terrible natural disaster, and facing rising budget deficits, business as usual in Congress simply cannot continue ... Taxpayers and members of Congress deserve to know what programs are being funded in appropriations bills," Coburn said in a statement following the vote.

The Coburn amendment requires that any limitation, directive, or earmarking be included in the bill's conference report. Previous Senate procedures allowed the Senate to automatically approve earmarks or special projects included in the House version of an appropriations bill.

Consequently, many earmarks that became law did not even come up for a vote in the Senate. This process was used to essentially hide millions of dollars of pork spending from public view.

"It is imperative that the House of Representatives also accept this amendment in order for it to become law. The American people should urge the House to follow the Senate's example and take this important step toward honest and responsible budgeting," Coburn said.

UPDATE:

The Katrina and Rita recovery spending could easily become the biggest government spending boondoggle in American history. But Bush can prevent that by applying the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in advance to all such spending measures. Check out my Knight-Ridder-Tribune FOI Series column on how Bush can do it here.

UPDATE II:

A recent Congressional Research Service report inspires California Conservative's interesting take on the political manipulation of the tax code in Congress that is being inspired by hurricane relief:

"As we illustrated earlier, of course tax breaks benefit 'wealthier taxpayers' more than low income people who “pay little” or no taxes. Thus, it’s true, they’re also less likely to save and invest (in the economy) towards accumulating personal retirement assets. But should wealthier families and individuals be held responsible for this? Christian charity is one thing. Government redistribution is another."

UPDATE III:

Mark in Mexico has the Senate Roll Call on Coburn's amendment. See how your state's senators voted. If they voted right, commend them. If they voted wrong, tell them you will remember that at the next election.

UPDATE: IV:

Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, and five other conservative GOPers today announced a package of savings options to help pay for hurricane recovery efforts, including delaying the prescription drug benefit and rescinding $24 billion worth of pork in the recently approved transporation bill.

They also claim holding spending to 3.4 percent annually - the rate during the last five years of the Clinton administration - would save $381 billion over five years. Under Bush, the annual spending increase has average nearly 8 percent.





Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Before Able Danger and Mohamed Atta, There Was Murrah Building Bombing and Hussain Al-Hussaini; Journalist Uncovers OKC Links to 9/11

Captain Ed notes the Pentagon's decision yesterday to bar several military officials and intelligence analysts from testifying today before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing investigating whether the Able Danger program identified Mohamed Atta months before the 9/11 attacks.

The Pentagon's decision to keep the witnesses silent "only demonstrates that the program found something that the Pentagon still wants hidden," according to the Captain. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter is less unconcerned about the Pentagon's action, saying his panel has already established the credibility of other witnesses who will testify at the hearing.

Before anybody gets too excited about what Specter's panel may uncover, it should be known that this is not the first time Specter has looked into the strange actions of federal officials seemingly bent on burying the truth about terrorist acts carried out on American soil, nor is the Pentagon's strange attitude towards Able Danger the first time a federal department has sought to withhold critical facts about the Islamofascists who have been killing Americans here and abroad at every opportunity for more than a decade.

Ten years ago, the FBI was given powerful evidence of Iraq's involvement with Timothy McVeigh in the bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City that killed , but the federal law enforcement agency abruptly stopped its investigation.

Oklahoma City investigative reporter Jayna Davis, however, didn't stop. She doggedly developed and pursued a host of leads that make it clear McVeigh was only one cog in a cell of Iraqi terrorists that included Hussain Al-Hussaini who is the main subject of her book, "The Third Terrorist."

I recently asked Davis to provide Tapscott's Copy Desk with a summary of the profoundly disturbing evidence she found that suggests direct links between the plotters who blew up the Murrah Building in 1995 and those who hijacked four commercial airliners in 2001 and crashed them into the Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon and a field near Pittsburgh.

Perhaps today Specter will begin demanding answers from officials at the Pentagon and the FBI about why they have refused to provide the American people with answers to the many haunting questions about Iraqi complicity in the terrorist murders of thousands of our fellow citizens in Oklahoma, New York, Pennsyvania and Virginia.

Here's Jayna Davis:

"My tumultuous journey began ten years ago amidst widespread death and destruction on a scale Americans had never before seen. As an investigative reporter for the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, KFOR-TV, I was among the first correspondents on the scene of the bombing of the Alfred. P. Murrah Building.

"The concussive wave of fury had blown out windows in every office building and high-rise within my immediate range of sight and beyond. My eyes drank in the staggering devastation and the surreal panorama of human slaughter, but my mind could not comprehend the possibility of terrorism. Not in my hometown.

"On April 20, 1995, my news director assigned me to cover the international manhunt for suspects. During the first 48 hours, all eyes were trained exclusively on the Middle East. Pundits and terrorism experts, including retired officials from the CIA and FBI, opined that the destruction to the federal complex shared striking parallels with the 1993 World Trade Center attack and the modus operandi of Middle Eastern truck bombings.

"As a reporter from a Midwestern television station, I obviously did not have access to sources inside the intelligence corridors of the Washington beltway. Therefore, I did what any enterprising journalist would do - monitor the newsroom telephones, hoping to develop eyewitness testimony near the crime scene.


"I soon found myself swimming in a sea of conspiracy theories espoused by people seeking their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. That is, until, one ground-breaking tip led me directly to the doorstep of what several esteemed intelligence experts, including the former Director of the CIA Jim Woolsey, later determined to be a Middle Eastern terrorist cell living and operating in the heart of Oklahoma City.

"Outside a dilapidated business office located 30 blocks north of the burned-out Murrah Building, under the very nose of FBI investigators, I began my quest to expose the greatest law enforcement failure of the 20th century, a legal breakdown that I firmly believe might have led, in part, to the terrorism holocaust of the young 21st century.

"'The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing' is the culmination of nearly a decade of exhaustive research. Throughout the course of my investigation, I interviewed 80 potential witnesses, 22 of whom I deemed credible because their testimonies could be independently corroborated, and more importantly, their stories did not conflict with the government's case against McVeigh and Nichols.

"In detailed affidavits, these witnesses confidently identified eight specific Middle Eastern men, the majority of whom were former Iraqi soldiers, colluding with the Oklahoma City bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.

"All of these suspects immigrated to the United States following the Persian Gulf War, ostensibly seeking political asylum from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. However, my investigation revealed they were, in fact, false defectors - not outspoken dissidents as they had claimed.

"This cadre of Iraqi servicemen moved to Oklahoma City in the fall of 1994 and began performing handiwork for a property management company that was owned and operated by a Palestinian expatriate.


The affluent real estate mogul, who operated under eight known aliases, funded his vast, multi-million dollar housing empire from monies contributed by siblings living in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and Amman, Jordan.

"In the early 1990s, the Palestinian property owner pleaded guilty to federal insurance fraud and served time in the penitentiary. Court records revealed that the FBI once suspected the ex-convict of having ties to the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

"Six months prior to the bombing, the Palestinian felon hired a group of self-professed 'defectors' from the Iraqi army to do maintenance work on his low-income rental houses. On April 19, several witnesses watched in stunned amazement as their Middle Eastern co-workers expressed prideful excitement upon hearing the first radio broadcasts that Islamic extremists had claimed responsibility for the attack on the Murrah Building. The men cheered deliriously, exuberantly pledging their allegiance to the now deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, vowing they would 'die for Saddam.'

"Nearly two dozen Oklahomans have signed sworn affidavits in which they accuse these ardent Saddam supporters and ex-enemy combatants of aiding and abetting McVeigh and Nichols during critical stages of the bombing plot.

"The most incriminating testimony centered around one man - Hussain Hashem Al-Hussaini. Al-Hussaini not only fit the FBI's physical description in the official arrest warrant for John Doe 2, but according to veteran law enforcement officials, was a dead ringer for the government's profile sketch of the elusive suspect.

"Witnesses identified this Iraqi immigrant socializing with McVeigh at an Oklahoma City nightclub prior to the bombing. An Oklahoma City gas station attendant also fingered Al-Hussaini as the customer who paid one hundred dollars cash to fill up a large Ryder truck with diesel fuel (the key chemical component used in Ryder truck bomb) on eve of the bombing - April 18, 1995.


"The next morning, a maintenance man working at the motel located adjacent to the service station observed what was very likely the same Ryder truck emanating an odorous stench of diesel, yet according to the witness, the gas cap bore a warning sticker which read: 'Unleaded Fuel Only.'

"Two downtown joggers named the Iraqi soldier as the dark-haired, olive-skinned male they observed timing his run at a breathless pace from the Murrah Building one block east shortly before daybreak on April 19.


"Moreover, several Oklahoma City residents claimed to have seen Al-Hussaini climbing into the cab of a Ryder truck that reeked of diesel fuel at a local motel an hour before the explosion. The witnesses placed Timothy McVeigh behind the wheel of that moving van as it pulled off the lot and headed toward downtown.

"Furthermore, the Iraqi soldier was positively identified sitting in the passenger seat of the Ryder truck a few blocks north of the Murrah Building at 8:30 a.m., stepping out of that truck at ground zero directly in front of the ill-fated federal complex moments before the massive fertilizer/fuel oil bomb detonated, and speeding away from downtown in the driver's seat of a brown Chevrolet pickup pursued by the FBI in an official teletype that targeted foreign suspects seen fleeing the bomb site.

"Five witnesses independently fingered Al-Hussaini and several of his Middle Eastern associates as frequent visitors at an Oklahoma City motel in the months, weeks, days, and hours leading up to 9:02 a.m. on April 19. On numerous occasions the Arab subjects were seen in the company of Timothy McVeigh, and during a few rare instances, associating with Terry Nichols.


"More significantly, detailed interviews with key witnesses proved conclusively that the man whom witnesses named as the nefarious 'third terrorist' had no provable alibi for the critical hours of April 19.

"Colonel Patrick Lang, a Middle East expert who formerly served as the chief of human intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined that the Iraqi soldier's military tattoo and immigration file indicated that he was likely a trusted member of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard before being recruited into the elite Unit 999 of the Estikhabarat, more commonly known as the Iraqi Military Intelligence Service.


"Before the 2003 Iraq War, Unit 999 was headquartered in Salman Pak, southeast of Baghdad, and was tasked with clandestine operations at home and overseas. Several defense and intelligence analysts, with whom I consulted, concurred with Colonel Lang's conclusions.

"Soon after that fateful day in 1995, Al-Hussaini moved to Massachusetts and sought employment at the Boston Logan International Airport. In November 1997, four years before two planes were hijacked from that very airport on a deadly trek to incinerate the World Trade Center, the Iraqi national began suffering panic attacks about his airport job and sought psychiatric hospitalization. When his therapist asked why he was experiencing sudden and intense trepidation about working at Boston Logan, the patient replied, 'If something happens there, I will be a suspect.'

"I later learned that during this same time frame, Al-Hussaini was residing with two former Iraqi Gulf War veterans who provided food-catering services to the commercial airlines at the Boston airport. In the wake of the suicide hijackings of 2001, law enforcement speculated that food services workers might have planted box cutters aboard the doomed flights.


"Hussain Al-Hussaini's uncanny foreknowledge of a possible dire event slated to take place at Boston Logan Airport, the point of origin for Al-Qaeda's murderous rampage of 2001, just grazes the surface of the disturbing nexus I have uncovered between 4-19 and 9-11. Was the Oklahoma bombing the silver bullet that could have prevented Black Tuesday?

"To this day, the Justice Department has refused my requests to officially clear the Iraqi soldier whom multiple witnesses identified as the mysterious third terrorist who delivered the weapon of mass destruction to the intersection of 5th and Harvey Streets on that dreadful spring morning.


"Yet the Bureau did not hesitate to exonerate several innocent men who were named in the media as having been collared and questioned simply because they bore a slight resemblance to the sketch of John Doe 2.

"My meticulous research into Hussain Al-Hussaini's whereabouts for the morning of April 19 roundly discredits his publicly espoused alibi. Why the FBI has never questioned Hussain Al-Hussaini or his Middle Eastern cohorts, I am at a loss to explain. That question should be posed to the former administration and the handful of officials who were charged with investigating and prosecuting the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.


"The Oklahoma City bombing, if orchestrated by an Iraqi/Al-Qaeda hit squad, certainly provides a salient rationale for war. How many more Americans would have been marked for death had the United States military not invaded Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein, a bloodthirsty broker of terror?

"The fallen heroes of Operation Iraqi Freedom did not die in vain to end the proliferation of phantom weapons of mass destruction, but died to prevent another horrifying replay of April 19 and September 11."

UPDATE:

Dr.Sanity live-blogged the Able Danger hearing. Go here for her posts, which are doubly important in view of the lack of broadcast news coverage of the hearing. There is also a link to Rep. Curt Weldon's testimony. QT Monster's Place is tracking significant Able Danger posts from the MSM and blogosphere.

UPDATE II:

JustOneMinute has an excellent roundup of the coverage. NRO's The Buzz notes what may be the most significant fact about this hearing - who wasn't there, which is to say Specter was the only GOPer in attendance and Biden the lone Democrat, with the latter sticking around just long enough to ask one question and get some camera time.






Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Newsrooms Not Spared as The New York Times Co. Says 500 Jobs Must be Cut in Next Nine Months; Knight Ridder Philly Papers Hit Again, Too

As many as 500 jobs are to be eliminated in the next six to nine months, including many in its several newsrooms, The New York Times Co. said today. Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said the reductions were needed "given the continued financial challenges and the cloudy economic outlook for the remainder of the year."

At least 45 newsroom jobs at The New York Times will be cut, as well as 35 at the Times-owned Boston Globe and an unspecified number at other Times properties, including The International Herald Tribune, the Times' online news operation, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette and Boston.com, as part of a four percent reduction in workforce. These reductions follow another round of cuts that involved up to 250 positions earlier this year.

Also announced today were about 100 positions to be eliminated by The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, both of which are owned by Knight Ridder, Inc. The two newspapers compete for stories, staff and other resources. Both papers have been fighting declining circulation, editorial staff and advertising for at least a decade.

Editor & Publisher talked to former Inquirer editors about the latest job cuts and heard strikingly different reactions. Zack Stalberg thinks the Inquirer will survive, but Gene Roberts thinks the new cuts are "suicidal."

Knight Ridder has been criticized by some media critics in recent years for insisting that its properties maintain excessively high profit margins, regardless of the impact on the editorial quality of the publications.

Times management promised in the statement announcing the new cuts that they expect to "manage the staff reductions in such a way that it continues to provide journalism of the highest quality, to function smoothly on a day-to-day basis and to achieve its long-term strategic goals."

These job losses in the mainstream daily newspaper industry are beginning to remind of the late 1960s and the 1970s as the old big-plant U.S. steel industry in the Northeast endured the loss of thousands of jobs to foreign competition and the emergence of smaller, more efficient plants in other regions of the country.

Meanwhile, Powerline's John Hinderaker has the solution for the Times and indeed the rest of the newspaper industry ... but little expectation that it will be applied.




If You Can Write, You Can Help Katrina Victims at "Hurricane Job Hunter"



Ever since Hurricane Katrina smashed into the Gulf region, Danny Glover, National Journal's "Technology Daily" Managing Editor and Managing Editor of "Beltway Blogroll," wanted to do something besides simply sending a donation to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. Then he had one of those Cartesian moments:

"Then it hit me: I write, therefore I am. So write I will -- cover letters, resumes or anything else that might help people left jobless by Katrina. My catchy cover letters have opened employment doors for my kinsmen and me. Maybe they can do the same for a few of my countrymen."

With web designer Devin Hedge, Glover has come up with a new web site - Hurricane Job Hunter - as a site where anybody who can write can register to help Katrina victims who need a resume written, an introductory letter for a job interview or writing assistance with some other aspect of securing new employment.

Is that a great idea or what! Go here to check out Danny's new site.





Malkin Takes Apart White House ICE Appointment; Is Bush Administration Showing Early Signs of Second Term Exhaustion?


President Bush has nominated Julie Myers to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under the Department of Homeland Security. Myers is a former federal prosecutor and has since held several Bush administration political appointments, including a stint as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcment.

More significantly, Myers was Special Assistant to the President for Personnel. None of her political appointments, however, involved managing a bureaucracy as big and dispersed as the 20,000+ employed by ICE.

It appears Myers is getting the appointment in great part because she has all the right connections, among them the fact her uncle is Gen. Richard Myers, the highly respected departing Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Defense Department. She was also at one time DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff's Chief of Staff. She also put in a stint on the staff of Independent Prosecutor Kenneth Starr.

Myers may well be extremely competent, but her lack of specific experience with the areas of responsibility entrusted to ICE or with management of a huge career staff bureaucracy has Michelle Malkin steaming: "Oh, give me a ^*&%$# break and a half! This nomination is a monumental political and policy blunder in the wake of the Michael Brown/FEMA fiasco."

Malkin also compiles a quickie compilation of other illustrations of Bush protegees getting plum jobs. It should be noted that all presidents appoint friends and supporters to political jobs in the government. But being a political appointee is not sine qua non evidence of incompetence. Having been a Reagan political appointee, I can attest to having met many who were tremendously talented and some who were clearly in jobs that were way over their heads.

In any case, Malkin is spotlighting a problem that deserves attention. It should also be noted that presidential administrations that get into a second term often begin to show signs of exhaustion that are reflected in a high rate of turnover early in the second term and less aggressiveness on the policy and political fronts.

Putting an inexperienced lawyer like Myers in a position that is highly visible in one of the most political explosive issues on the map - illegal immigration control - may well be an early sign of just such exhaustion in the ranks of the Bush administration.




Momentum Grows in Congress to Swap Pork for Katrina Aid; MSM Editorial Pages, Columnists Also Getting on Board


The concept behind Porkbusters - brainchild of N.Z. Bear and Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds - is getting a big boost on Capitol Hill. Rep. Ron Lewis, R-KY, is circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter challenging fellow Members of Congress to join him in asking the House to adopt a one-year moratorium on all "non-defense earmarks." That's Washingtonese for "pork barrel projects."

Here's the text of the Lewis letter:

September 19, 2005

Moratorium on Earmarks:
Common Sense in Funding Reconstruction


Dear Colleague,

I am heartened by the generous response millions of Americans have shown in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Each day, we witness further evidence that the effects of this disaster are more profound and far-reaching than anything this nation has ever encountered.

We enter an immense rebuilding effort at a time when Congress is facing massive budget constraints. An already complex fiscal situation has now been amplified, and as legislators we are faced with the task of navigating unprecedented relief and reconstruction spending.

It is easy to identify broad revenues fixes and far-reaching program cuts that have little direct impact on our own districts. While this discussion is necessary and appropriate, this critical fiscal situation requires more: as Members of Congress, we must also be willing to consider sacrifices close to home.

I have included on reverse a letter to the Appropriations Committee requesting a one-year moratorium on all non-defense appropriations earmarks for Fiscal Year 2006. I ask that you join me in taking this small but necessary step to ensure that we have the financial resources to again make the Gulf Coast region whole. If you have any questions or would like to be added to the letter, please contact Alison Friesen at x53501.

Sincerely,


RON LEWIS
Member of Congress


Bloggers who want to encourage the PorkBusters campaign forward should encourage readers to contact their congressmen and ask them if they are supporting the Ron Lewis pork moratorium petition to the House Appropriations Committee. Those who don't know who is their congressman can find out here.

The Porkbusters idea is also generating support in the MSM, thanks to efforts by the Blogosphere and The Heritage Foundation's distribution last week of a policy paper advocating redirecting to Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts the $25 billion worth of pork included in the recently passed transportation bill.

The Heritage effort is generating editorial support in the MSM. Among the dailies that have endorsed the idea in the past several days are: Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, Detroit News, LaCrosse (Wisc.) Tribune and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

The Washington Post's "Think Tank Town" column also noted growing support for the Heritage proposal from some unusual sources, including some of the citizens of Bozeman, Montana. And members of the Republican Study Committee, the largest of the numerous officially recognized caucuses in the House, will announce tomorrow "Operation Offset," which will also be pressuring congressional leaders. Andrews Grossman of the Heritage Policy Blog has more details, including excerpts from a Roll Call report.








Monday, September 19, 2005

You Big Mouth, You's Simmins Demonstrates Value of CARR for Bloggers With Poverty Data Study

Chuck Simmins takes a bit of time off from his labors in chronicling private sector support for Hurricane Relief efforsts to take a U.S. Census Bureau data-based look at poverty in America under presidents Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II.

Simmins finds, among much else, that wage parity between men and women has never been greater than it is now under Bush II. Neither Simmins nor I can recall seeing a news release from the National Organization for Women noting that fact and giving Bush credit.

Simmins' post, which you can read here, is significant for another reason - It illustrates the value to bloggers of having the Computer-Assisted Research and Reporting (CARR) skills that are taught at the Media Bloggers Association's Database 101/201 CARR Boot Camp this Friday and Saturday in the Bloomberg Training Center of the Erik Friedheim Library of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The event is co-hosted by MBA and The Heritage Foundation's Center for Media and Public Policy, and includes among the instructors experts from Heritage and the AFL-CIO's Economic Policy Institute.

You can view the agenda here. Attendance is free and you can enroll here. Classes are limited to 15 and there are only four seats still available. The first MBA-Heritage CARR boot camp was held in conjunction with BlogNashville May 5-6 at the Freedom Forum's Diversity Institute near Vanderbilt University. You can read more about it here.

Five Great Minds for OneTrueGodBlog

Hugh Hewitt is at it again. This time he's gathered together five of finest minds from the world of theology on one new blog in order to make them available to laymen around the world who have questions that demand thoughtful responses.

The five include: Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., who is President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Rev. Dr. Mark John Roberts, Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian in California; John Mark Reynolds, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Biola University and Founding Director of the Torrey Honors Institute; Amy Welborn, a Catholic laywoman who is author of many books, including "The Catholic Woman's Book of Days" and "De-Coding Da Vinci: The Facts Behind the Fiction of The Da Vinci Code," and Dr. David Allen White, Professor of World Literature at the Naval Academy.

The first question is an especially timely one, considering the popularity of the movie, "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and the explosion of interest around the world in the supernatural, beginning in the last century as secular liberalism became the dominant public philosophy in the West.

I'm eagerly adding OneTrueGodBlog to my blogroll and I encourage you to do the same. You can link to it here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Will the GOP be Katrina's Biggest Casualty?

This column originally appeared on Townhall.com:

"Yes, President Bush gave a good speech Thursday night but no amount of inspiring rhetoric can obscure the fact that Hurricane Katrina may well have drowned the Republican Party as a credible vehicle of conservative reform.
"Why? Consider House Majority Leader Tom Delay’s stunning assertion the day before Bush spoke from New Orleans that 11 years of GOP control of Congress has 'pared [government] down pretty good.'
"Here’s what he said when a puzzled reporter asked if Delay really was suggesting there is no fat to cut in the federal budget to help pay Katrina recovery costs: 'My answer to those that want to offset the spending is sure, bring me the offsets, I'll be glad to do it. But nobody has been able to come up with any yet.'
"Neither Tip O’Neill nor Jim Wright – two powerful former Democratic Speakers of the House famous for their big spending ways – could have said it better than Delay.
"The worst thing about Delay’s comment is not its factual unreality, bad as that is, but what the remark says about the GOP congressional leadership’s attitude about spending our tax dollars.
"'We’ve already cut it to the bone' or 'there isn’t any more fat to cut' or variations thereof were typical responses from O’Neill and Wright to critics of excessive federal spending. The truth then as now is the federal government was and is shot through with monumental waste, fraud and inefficiency.
"Today Delay sings the Democrats’ tune as the GOP leadership in the House and Senate gives President Bush more blank checks to finance a Katrina recovery that promises epic boondoggles. So we get the same result no matter which party controls Congress.
"The GOP’s prospective fall could be much more swift than the Democrats in 1994, however, because of the Internet. Then, the mainstream media’s lock on the news meant it took years for enough voters to finally get the message that it was time for a change in Washington.
"The GOP pork barons on Capitol Hill can’t count on such protection. The Talk Radio and cable TV that broke the mainstream media monopoly are being succeeded by the Blogosphere that instantly spreads the word about events inside the Beltway.
"Judging by the response to my recent column here on Townhall.com asking if the time has come for conservatives to dump the GOP, word about Republican hypocrisy in the nation’s capitol is being heard loud and clear beyond the Beltway.
"The 'time to dump the GOP' column generated more than 200 emails, many brimming with anger, disbelief and disgust. Less than a dozen came from people saying the GOP is just fine. The vast majority said they either have already or are planning to switch to the Libertarian Party or Constitution Party.
"Emails inspired by an online column don’t make a scientific survey, of course, but what if those responses do reflect an as-yet unreported gathering revolt of the GOP base? All that’s required for a GOP-majority ending electoral earthquake is five percent or so of the base staying home or voting third party on election day.
"It’s hard to deny such an earthquake is coming when there are so many signs 'out there.' They are most obvious and intense whenever discussion turns to protecting America’s borders. Millions of illegal aliens are streaming into America and there is no doubt terrorist operatives are among them, yet Bush and the congressional GOP seem to have no clue about the political consequences of not stopping the alien invasion.
"Now it appears issues like out-of-control spending are also generating pre-shocks. A fall became certain when people became convinced in the months leading up to the 1994 election that entrenched majority Democrats had lost touch with the electorate, lacked credibility when promising reform and were too attached to the perks of power.
"That is why Delay’s comments should send shudders down the spine of every GOP strategist. The House Majority Leader’s attitude tells legions of the GOP’s most faithful supporters that the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan has irreparably lost its way.
"Political parties in America don’t always die quickly. It took several elections before the demise of the Federalists and the Whigs became obvious to all but the most die-hard supporters. Thanks to the microchip, the GOP might not have long to linger once the base splinters."



Friday, September 16, 2005

An Open Letter to CBS News Employees

NYU Journalism professor Jay Rosen has all the luck! He was invited to be the first non-CBSer to post on the new CBS blog, Public Eye. He took advantage of the opportunity to deliver a dead-on assessment of the whys and what-nows of Rathergate on its first anniversary.

What would you say if CBS gave you the same opportunity? Here's one of Rosen's concluding thoughts:

"People of CBS News, you've had a year to think about it. How, if you are dedicated to truthtelling, could you have permitted the near destruction of your network's reputation for telling the truth, during the events I have discussed? What explains your silence, September 9th to 20th, 2004? Did you think you were helping CBS by suppressing the doubts and disbelief you must have felt? Did you learn anything from the experience?"

Exactly what I would have asked! Go here to see what the Professor said. It's a must-read.

As interesting as is Rosen's letter, the comments from CBS News employees that Public Eye receives in response to Rosen should be even more fascinating.