Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bush Administration So Badly Wants CAFTA, It Quashed Study Disputing Its Talking Points

When a government study on working conditions in Central America disagreed with official Bush Administration talking points, the administration was faced with a tough choice.

Should it re-evaluate its talking points, even if it hurt the proposed Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA)? Or should it squash the study, discredit its findings and push forward with the agreement -- facts be damned.

If you're a regular reader of JABBS, you already know the answer. This administration has never let the facts get in the way of a good talking point.

***

The Labor Department hired International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF) in 2002 to report on working conditions in Central America. ILRF concluded that countries proposed for free-trade status have poor working environments and fail to protect workers' rights.

"In practice, labor laws on the books in Central America are not sufficient to deter employers from violations, as actual sanctions for violations of the law are weak or nonexistent," ILRF concluded.

But that didn't fit in with the official White House spin. So the Labor Department kept the study a secret for more than a year, and when it became known, dismissed the conclusions as inaccurate and biased.

The Senate Finance Committee, which approved the agreement by a voice vote June 29, sent it to the full Senate for consideration today. The committee was not given full access to the final version of the ILRF study.

***

According to the Associated Press, beginning in the spring of 2004, the department moved to block public release of reports for the countries covered by CAFTA -- Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.

ILRF briefly posted its study on its Internet site, before the department instructed it to remove the study, ordered it to retrieve paper copies before they became public, banned release of new information from the reports, and even told the contractor it could not discuss the study with outsiders.

Shortly after that incident, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI), began a yearlong effort to pry the study from the department through a Freedom of Information Act request. The department rejected his request until two months ago, when Levin received -- and released -- early drafts of the report.

***

After information about the report surfaced last year, the Bush Administration began a pre-emptive campaign to undercut its conclusions.

Used as talking points by trade-pact supporters, a Labor Department document uncovered by the AP accuses the contractor of writing a report filled with "unsubstantiated" statements and "biased attacks, not the facts."

The department also demanded a partial refund -- $250,000 of a $937,000 contract -- from ILRF, serving to further discredit the group.

***

One lawmaker said he was shocked that a federal agency charged with protecting the rights of Americans workers would go to such lengths to block the public from seeing its own contractor's concerns before Congress votes on the agreement.

"You would think if any agency in our government would care about this, it would be the Labor Department," Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) told the AP.

***

Is the study "unsubstantiated" and "biased attacks, not the facts"? Who knows. But what the administration did is nothing short of propaganda. Congress should have had access to the study before voting on CAFTA. Let ILRF defend itself against blistering attacks from CAFTA supporters. Let a true debate take place.

Instead, it's typical "my way or the highway," for the Bush Administration. Are working conditions in Central America sufficient to allow for CAFTA? The Bush Administration says yes, and it's not interested in anyone who says no. That's not the way to run a government.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

In Bush's Address, It's All About The Mysterious "They" and "Them"

All you need to know about President Bush's address to the nation yesterday is that its goal was to reassure his fellow conservatives that the U.S. will continue to fight "terrorists" -- a.k.a. "they" and "them."

Bush's speech made one reference to Al Qaeda, and two to Osama Bin Laden. But any Bush supporter listening to the speech would have probably thought that much of the speech was regarding one or the other. To make sure, Bush frequently mixed and matched which terrorists he was talking about, blending them as "they" or "them," discussing "their objectives," as if Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency thought as one.

By my count, the president used the mysterious "they" or "them" 39 times to describe the blended "terrorists." Did he mean Al Qaeda? Did he mean the insurgency? It probably didn't matter to conservative listeners, to whom this pep rally speech was red meat for continued unequivocal support of the Bush agenda.

The president was long on platitudes, but short on specifics, which is a key to Bushspeak. Details are for wimps, or worse, liberals.

Let's review:

BUSH: "The troops here and across the world are fighting a global war on terror. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001. The terrorists who attacked us -- and the terrorists we face -- murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent."

But wait -- those are two groups of terrorists. The terrorists who attacked us are Al Qaeda, predominantly of Saudi descent, possibly financed by Iran and led by a Saudi hiding out in either Afghanistan or Pakistan or possbily Iran -- we have a "pretty good idea" of where he is, we're told.

"The terrorists who we face?" That's the insurgency. Could that group include Al Qaeda? Yes, although the conservatives have been long on talk and short on evidence in proving that point. Given this administration's track record, if it could prove the insurgents included Al Qaeda, it would have trumpeted that point again and again. In his speech yesterday, Bush mentions that "we have killed or captured hundreds of foreign fighters in Iraq who have come from Saudi Arabia and Syria, Iran, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Libya and others." I don't doubt that's true -- but again, if it could be proven that these "foreign fighters" were Al Qaeda, the administration would have trumpeted that upon each killing or capture.

But in Bushspeak, it's important to mix and match terrorists.

In paragraph four, we are introduced to the mysterious "they."

BUSH: "To achieve these aims, they have continued to kill -- in Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere. The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows they can force us to retreat. They are mistaken. After September the 11th, I made a commitment to the American people: This nation will not wait to be attacked again. We will defend our freedom. We will take the fight to the enemy."

But who is this mysterious "they"? Why, it's Al Qaeda, or groups the Bush Administration has suggested have ties to Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and its allies attacked Madrid, Istanbul, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Bali, and elsewhere -- including New York and Washington. "They" are Al Qaeda. "They" are not the insurgents.

After introducing us to the mysterious "they," Bush repeats an argument he's been making since the insurgency sprang up:

BUSH: "Iraq is the latest battlefield in this war. Many terrorists who kill innocent men, women, and children on the streets of Baghdad are followers of the same murderous ideology that took the lives of our citizens in New York, in Washington, and Pennsylvania. There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home."

So, the "they" in Iraq are similar to the "they" that we know as Al Qaeda, in that they are willing to kill Americans. That's the rationale for the war -- or at least it is now. The original rationale was quite different, if you remember. Something about weapons of mass destruction that could be delivered to the U.S. or its allies in 45 minutes. Something about being satisfied with the evidence at hand, lest we wait for "the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

***

Bush made one reference to Al Qaeda and two to its leader, Osama bin Laden.

Of Al Qaeda, he re-affirmed the idea that Al Qaeda was somehow responsible, along with the aforementioned "foreign terrorists," for the insurgency.

BUSH: "To complete the mission, we will continue to hunt down the terrorists and insurgents. To complete the mission, we will prevent al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists from turning Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven from which they could launch attacks on America and our friends."

What is Bush's evidence for this belief? What details can he provide? Let's look at what Bush says about Osama:

BUSH: "Some wonder whether Iraq is a central front in the war on terror. Among the terrorists, there is no debate. Hear the words of Osama Bin Laden: 'This Third World War is raging' in Iraq. 'The whole world is watching this war.' He says it will end in 'victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.'"

Two things to note. One is the fact that "in Iraq" is not in quotation marks in the president's address. Did Osama ever say "This Third World War is raging in Iraq"? Apprarently not. Assuming the president's speechwriters know basic rules of punctuation, we don't have a quote from Osama that includes both "This Third World War is raging" and "in Iraq," or else the speechwriters would have put them together in one quote, using elipsis.

But even beyond that, Osama rooting for the insurgency is not akin to Osama backing the insurgency, financially or by providing manpower.

Bush's other mention of Osama is pure platitude:

BUSH: "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September the 11th, if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi, and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden."

Fighting (and ultimately defeating) the insurgency certainly hurts Osama's desire for a "Third World War," but it doesn't mean Osama can't strike elsewhere, including the U.S. "They" the insurgents might be stopped, but that has little effect on "they" Al Qaeda.

***

I'll give credit to Bush for one thing: He didn't repeat the flawed intelligence that Zarqawi had traveled to Syria to plan bombings in Iraq -- intelligence that was used initially to support possible future action against Syria, before it was retracted.

Clearly, that means that Bush's speech was written in the last month. It would have been hard to tell otherwise -- so much of it seemed to repeat things Bush has been trying to convince Americans of since the insurgency began.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Bush's EPA Enforcement Nominee Is Lawyer Who Has History Of Siding With Those Needing Enforcing

If anyone needs more proof who President Bush is looking out for -- the American people or (ding, ding, ding) corporate interests -- check out who Bush nominated as chief of enforcement for the Environmental Protection Agency.

A lawyer who defends corporations being targeted by the EPA.

It's the latest example of how bankrupt this administration is in protecting the environment.

***

Bush on June 23 nominated Granta Nakayama, a partner in the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, to lead the Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. The Senate must approve the appointment.

Thomas Skinner, the EPA's acting head of enforcement, told the Baltimore Sun yesterday that Nakayama would have to recuse himself from "a number of other matters that Kirkland & Ellis have handled over the years."

That includes Kirkland's representation of chemical company W.R. Grace & Co., which faces multiple criminal charges alleging the company and seven of its current or former executives knowingly put their workers and the public in danger through exposure to vermiculite ore contaminated with asbestos from the company's mine in Libby, MT.

"This is one of the most significant criminal indictments for environmental crime in our history," Lori Hanson, special agent in charge of the EPA's environmental crime section in Denver, said in February after the charges were announced by the Justice Department.

Since 1999, the EPA and Grace have been at loggerheads over a variety of environmental problems stemming from the company's asbestos-contaminated vermiculite ore from its Montana mine. Several EPA's regional offices are still working with state and federal agencies to determine how many sites in more than 40 states where Grace shipped the tainted ore remain contaminated.

***

Kirkland & Ellis' Web sites lists a number of other environmental battles it fought, often against the EPA, on behalf of companies that use toxic materials and chemicals.

Yes, this is the man that Bush wants to head enforcement, because, as various EPA lawyers and investigators told the Sun, bringing aboard Nakayama will "have a chilling effect on pursuing investigations and actions involving Grace and any other companies represented by Kirkland & Ellis. "

***

But why should we expect anything but a pro-industry appointment from Bush?

The administration recently began favoring a questionable pro-industry study -- over an earlier report from its EPA -- about what constitutes a "safe" level of the rocket-fuel chemical perchlorate in drinking water. When the Bush administration relaxed emissions standards, it called it the "Clear Skies Initiative."

Is it any surprise that former EPA head Christie Todd Whitman, who once called President Bush's environmental record "progressive," is now lobbying on behalf of a chemical company that has been subject to multiple EPA enforcement actions?

According to Robert F. Kennedy Jr. of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Bush administration has overseen more than 430 major environmental rollbacks. "This administration has simply stopped enforcing the law — or rewritten the laws to accommodate polluters," Kennedy told Outside magazine.

Nakayama no doubt was picked to continue executing that gameplan.

Rumsfeld Sort Of, Kind Of Contradicts Cheney on Meet the Press

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, if nothing else, is painfully capable of staying on message.

And that skill allowed him to provide precious little new information on the June 26 edition of NBC's Meet the Press. Host Tim Russert asked the right questions, but for the most part failed in his follow-up questions, too quick to move on to the next topic.

You'd think Russert would be better prepared. You'd think he'd write questions almost knowing -- based on past Rumsfeld statements -- what the secretary's likely responses would be, and when appropriate have follow-ups to counter his answers, exposing inconsistencies between current Bushspeak and earlier administration statements, differences between the administration's statements and statistics from the "war on terror," or gaps between administration beliefs and those of its critics.

The Daily Howler has on several occasions printed this passage from Russert's recent book, Big Russ & Me:

RUSSERT (page 308): The first person I called was Lawrence Spivak, the cofounder of Meet the Press and its moderator from 1966 to 1975, to ask his advice. “Learn everything you can about the guests and their positions,” he told me, “and then take the other side on the air. If you do that in a civil way each week, you’ll have a fair and balanced program, you’ll get good answers, and you’ll make news.”

If only Russert were able to consistently follow that advice.

***

How consistent is Rumsfeld? Here are some typical responses from his Meet the Press interview:

RUSSERT: Chuck Hagel, a Republican, said this: "Things aren't getting better, they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality. ... It's like they're just making it up as the go along. The reality is we are losing in Iraq."

RUMSFELD: That's just flat wrong. We are not losing in Iraq. ...

RUSSERT: The Times of London reports this morning that there have been two meetings between Iraqi and U.S. officials and some members of the insurgency. Is that accurate?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I would doubt it. ...

USSERT: Let me show you a graphic, which represents how tough it has been since the war began in March 19 of 2003. There have been 1,735 Americans killed; 13,085 wounded and injured; cost is $208 billion; we've been there for 831 days, and still have 135,000 American troops. Does any of that represent, in your mind, misjudgments made by you or the administration about Iraq?

RUMSFELD: Well, you know, you have to remember that in every war, a battle plan doesn't survive first contact with the enemy. This is in history. Why? Because the enemy has a brain and they're constantly adapting, so we're constantly adapting. Every time there's an adaptation, someone says, "Oh, there's a mistake." It isn't a mistake. It's just reality. ...

RUSSERT: But there are a lot of Americans and members of Congress who believe that fundamental misjudgments were made; that certainly weapons of mass destruction have not been found. The whole notion of how we would be received by the Iraqi people--a few days before the war, I had Vice President Cheney on this program. And this is what I asked him and what his answer was. Let's watch and come back and talk about it.

(Videotape, March 16, 2003):

RUSSERT: Do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

CHENEY: Well, I don't think it's likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators.


(End videotape)

RUSSERT: Do you think that was a misjudgment?

RUMSFELD: Well, you never know what's going to happen. ...

***

And on and on. Russert question. Rumsfeld denial or deferral. Russert moves on.

***

The most interesting interview segment regarded Cheney's constroversial statement last month that the Iraq insurgency was in the "last throes." It took some time, but ultimately, if you weed through a long question and answer, it would appear Rumsfeld contradicts Cheney:

RUSSERT: I think the concern that many people have is that if we were wrong or misjudged that, are we making some other misjudgments now? This is how The Washington Times reported in exchange before the hearings.

"[Sen. Carl] Levin asked whether the general thought the insurgency was in its `last throes,' as Mr. Cheney said ... last month. `In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it was the same as it was' six months ago, Gen. [John] Abizaid replied." For the sake of clarity for the American people, what about this insurgency?

Is it in its last throes or is it alive and well and vibrant and strong as it was six months ago?

RUMSFELD: Well, there are various ways to measure it. If you measure the number of incidents, it's gone up during the election period and now it's back down. If you look at lethality of those instances, it's up. Now, what does that mean? Does it mean that the insurgency's stronger? Is it in its last throes? The last throes could be violence, as you well know from a dictionary standpoint. ...

(Let me interrupt to point out that "throes" can be defined as violent. But Cheney said "last throes," which even his defenders took to mean a last thrust for the insurgency. Cheney, in a confusing effort to clarify his earlier comments, seemed to play bait-and-switch with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Thursday, describing "throes" even as he continued to say "last throes." Rumsfeld did the same when answering Russert's question.)

Rumsfeld continued to Russert:

... I think the way to think of it is that the insurgents are foreigners in some significant number. They are attacking Iraqis and killing them. They are opposing an elected Iraqi government. They know they have a great deal to lose. If they lose this and if Iraq becomes a constitutional representative system in the middle of the Middle East, the effect on the terrorists will be devastating. So they are going to fight very hard. And you saw that when the elections -- they wanted to disrupt those elections on January 30th and so the peak went way up in violence. They're going to feel the same way about the constitution and the elections coming up in December. So I would anticipate you're going to see an escalation of violence between now and the December elections.

(In other words, the insurgents want to win, too.)

RUSSERT: But you wouldn't say the insurgency is on its last legs?

RUMSFELD: Well, if you are successful in having a constitution and having another election under the new constitution, that will have an effect on the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people will see that the people opposing that don't have the interest of Iraq in mind. They have the interests of the violent extremists. And will that hurt the insurgency? I believe it will. I think there's no question but that if we get through this period we will see that the Iraqi security forces will be stronger. They're very well respected today by the population in Iraq, and we will have more and more of an Iraqi face on this, less of an occupation face, which is a good thing. And over time -- I mean, foreign troops are not going to beat the insurgency. It's going be the Iraqi people that are going to beat the insurgency and Iraqi security forces. That's just the nature of an insurgency and it may take time, but our task is to get the Iraqi security forces sufficiently capable that that process of defeating the insurgency by the Iraqi people can take place.

***

In other words, no, the insurgency is not on its "last legs," which, in every dictionary but the one being used by Cheney and Rumsfeld, means the insurgency is not in its "last throes." Although it will be, over time, if several other things go right first.

It was sadly, one of the few answers Russert couldn't have predicted from earlier Rumsfeld statements.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Cheney Clarifies Comment About "The Last Throes" of the Iraq War. It Means Violence and Intense Conflict, With No Timetable on When It Will End

Vice President Cheney was heavily criticized as "out of touch," when he said in a May 31 CNN interview that the Iraqi insurgency was in "the last throes."

He returned to CNN on June 23 to clarify his comments.

"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period, the throes of a revolution." Cheney told Wolf Blitzer. "The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective -- standing up a democracy in Iraq -- that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it."

So there you have it. He wasn't suggesting that the insurgency was diminishing -- as was widely interpreted, even by his defenders. He was just saying that it was almost over. Right, Dick?

BLITZER: Do you want to offer an assessment how much longer this insurgency will continue?

CHENEY: No. No, I can't say that. ...

BLITZER: But is this going to be a time frame within a year, two years, five years, how much longer will this insurgency require the troop level of the United States in Iraq right now?

CHENEY: I think the way to think about it is defining it in terms of achieving certain conditions on the ground. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we want to stay long enough to get the job done.

***

I took Cheney's advice, and looked up "throes" on dictionary.com. Sure enough, Cheney was right, the second definition reads:

n violent pangs of suffering; "death throes"

I certainly feel better. Regardless of what Cheney's "last throes" comment meant, at least Americans can be rest assured that his grammatical skills are sound.

***

Cheney's interview with Blitzer folllows a key chapter from the Bushspeak handbook. Make a big statement that will get widespread attention, the chapter reads. If you need to later contradict yourself, rest assured that fewer people will notice.

For example, President Bush made a broad sweeping statements about Saddam Hussein seeking enriched uranium in Africa -- offered in a State of the Union address -- only to have the White House retract the statement six months later. Earlier this month, it happened again, when the administration, one month after the fact, retracted a statement that terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi visiting Syria to plan bombings in Iraq.

It helps when you are interviewed by a lightweight like Blitzer, who asks questions as if they're on cue cards. No independent thought required. Blitzer assumes his guests are telling the truth, and seldom contradicts them, or offers alternative information that would allow him to play devil's advocate, let alone vigorously fight for the truth.

Unfortunately for Cheney, the impact of his Bushspeakwas minimal, because he was contradicted -- coincidentally on June 23 -- by the top American commander in the Persian Gulf, Gen. John Abizaid.

Abizaid, testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, indicated the insurgency was not weakening.

"I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," he said, adding the overall strength of the insurgency was "about the same" as six months ago. "We are not trying to paint a rosy picture."

Told by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, that his assessment directly contradicted Cheney, Abizaid said: "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done ... I gave you my opinion."

***

Whatever you make of Cheney's "last throes" comment -- and feel free to accept it as "it will soon be over" or "they can only keep up this intense violence for a little longer" or any number of other things-- recently published statistics suggest otherwise.

An April 27 Washington Post story, based on statistics provided to Congressional aides, found terrorist incidents in Iraq had increased,from 22 attacks in 2003 to 198 last year, a 900% increase. That contradicts the Bush administration's assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

Why is the Post report based on information from aides, and not from some published State Department report? Because the State Department said in April that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report.

Although the State Department said the data would still be made public by the new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which prepares the information, officials at the center said no decision to publish the statistics has been made.

"Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official in the first Bush administration, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.

***

As you might expect, Blitzer didn't ask Cheney about the statistics. Better to let him provide Bushspeak on the "last throes" in Iraq -- whatever that means.

Note to Cheney: To Capture Bin Laden, Close Doesn't Count

Q Let's talk about Porter Goss, the CIA Director. He says he has an excellent idea where Osama bin Laden is hiding out. Do you?

VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: We've got a pretty good idea of a general area that he's in, but I -- I don't have the street address.

Q What is the general area?

CHENEY: I don't talk -- I don't -- I don't --

Q It's been widely reported to be somewhere along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

CHENEY: I don't talk about intelligence matters like that.

Q But it's -- but it's not Iran because some -- like --

CHENEY: I'm -- I --

Q -- well, the vice chairman of the House Armed Services --

CHENEY: Wolf, I don't talk about -- I don't talk about classified information.

Q So you don't want to get into that?

CHENEY: Correct.

Q Osama bin Laden. But any assessment of -- is he going to be found soon, not so soon, any idea
when?

CHENEY: What, do you expect me to say three weeks from next Tuesday? (Laughter.)

-- From June 23 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer

Friday, June 24, 2005

White House Defends Rove's Ridiculous Statement on Democrats' Reaction to 9/11

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan yesterday defended comments made Wednesday by Karl Rove, in which Rove suggested that Democrats' reaction to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks was to "offer therapy and understanding for our attackers."

Rove, President Bush's chief political adviser, said in a speech Wednesday to the New York (state) Conservative Party that "liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers." Conservatives, he said, "saw the savagery of 9/11 and the attacks and prepared for war."

McClellan, when asked whether President Bush would seek an apology, said: "Of course not."

But Democrats are seeking a response from the President nonetheless.

"Karl Rove should immediately and fully apologize for his remarks or he should resign," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, (D-NV), said in a statement. "I hope the president will join me in repudiating these remarks."

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean called on Bush to "show some leadership and unequivocally repudiate Rove's divisive and damaging political rhetoric."

***

Conservative leaders will no doubt follow Bush's lead, thus following a recent history of hysteria when a Democrat says something questionable, and hypocrisy when a Republican says something similar.

Conservatives were quick to jump on Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) after a June 14 speech on the Senate floor, in which he quoted from an FBI agent's report on the deplorable conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba, then said: "'If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings." Durbin later apologized.

By comparison, conservatives did not roar after Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), speaking on the Senate floor May 19 said that Democratic complaints about the "nuclear option" to ban judicial filibusters are "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying: I'm in Paris, how dare you invade me, how dare you bomb my city. It's mine."

Santorum also apologized.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), however, did not apologize when discussing his opposition to stem cell research last October. He said: "We certainly have all seen the rejections of Nazi Germany's abuses of science. As a society and a nation, there ought to be some limit on what we can allow or should allow."

And there was no uproar before, and no apology thereafter, when conservative leader Grover Norquist said in an interview earlier last year with the Jewish newspaper The Forward: "The Nazis were for gun control, the Nazis were for high marginal tax rates. Do you want to talk about who's closer politically to national socialism, the Right or the Left?"

***

For their part, the White House press corps showed rare guts yesterday during McClellan's press conference, pressing him on the Rove comments. McClellan showed no similar guts. He was given a key line to deliver -- I've noted how many times he calls Rove's comments a review of "different philosophies" -- and like a good soldier in the Bush propaganda machine, didn't waver.

Here's part of the transcript:

Q Last night Karl Rove, in a speech, accused the Democrats of trying to send the terrorists into therapy and not responding appropriately to 9/11, whereas the Republicans, he felt, responded appropriately. He's been called on to make an apology. Will Karl Rove will apologize, and is this elevating the discourse, the way you said the President will do?

McCLELLAN: Talking about different philosophies and different approaches? That's what Karl Rove was talking about. He was talking about the different philosophies and our different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And I don't know who is even making such a suggestion.

Q Harry Reid.

Q Nancy Pelosi.

McCLELLAN: Well, I would think that they would want to be able to defend their philosophy and their approach. I mean, I know that the Democratic leadership at this point is offering no ideas and no vision for the American people, but Karl was simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism.

Q He said the Democrats wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers. That's not injecting politics into the tragedy of September 11th?

McCLELLAN: I think it's talking about the different philosophies for winning the war on terrorism. The President recognizes that the way to win the war on terrorism is to take the fight to the enemy, to stay on the offensive, and to work to spread freedom and democracy to defend the ideology of hatred that they espouse, and the ideology of tyranny and oppression.

Q So will the President ask Karl Rove to apologize?

McCLELLAN: Of course not, Jessica. This is simply talking about different philosophies and different approaches. And I think you have to look at it in that context. If people want to try to engage in personal attacks instead of defending their philosophy, that's their business. But it's important to point out the different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And that's all he was doing.

Q So you're suggesting that Rove's approach to discussing the philosophy that Democrats -- is to say that they want to prepare indictments and seek counseling. That's their philosophy, is that what you were saying?

McCLELLAN: I think the comments were saying -- the conservative approach and the liberal approach is what he was talking about.

Q He was saying that that's the comparison in their philosophies?

McCLELLAN: He was speaking to a political organization. There are many who have looked at the war on terrorism and said it is a law enforcement matter, that we should prosecute people. The President recognizes that it is a war and that we must stay on the offensive, we must take the fight to the enemy. The best way to defeat the enemy is to fight them abroad and bring them to justice before they can carry out their attacks here at home.

Q And the therapy? What about the therapy?

McCLELLAN: I think that's what he's -- and I think that's what he's talking about ...

Q Scott, going back to Jessica's question. So are you saying that it's completely appropriate the way Karl Rove invoked 9/11? And what would you say to those who say that the comments were simply partisan and hurtful?

McCLELLAN: I think that Karl was simply pointing out the different philosophies when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. That's what he was doing. The President of the United States -- you bring up something that's very important -- has worked to elevate the discourse in this town and reach out to get things done, and that's what he's done. Now, Karl was simply pointing out the differences that exist in how we approach the war on terrorism and how different people view it in a different way.

Q Continuing on with this then, Scott, are you suggesting that it was not Karl's intention to belittle that philosophy, merely to illustrate it?

McCLELLAN: Look, you have his remarks, you can go back and look at his remarks for yourself.

Q Scott, you ask us oftentimes for specifics -- does Karl have in mind a particular Democratic leader who suggested therapy for the folks who attacked on 9/11?

McCLELLAN: I think you can look at his remarks, Mark.

Q He didn't mention any names, and I'm asking you if you know.

McCLELLAN: I know, so you should go look at your remarks.

Q So in other words, there are no --

McCLELLAN: Clearly, there are people who have taken a different approach, and I don't think we need to get into names.

Q But someone who specifically has suggested therapy?

McCLELLAN: Mark, if you want to make more than it was, then you're welcome to, but I think you should go back and look at his remarks. I didn't see his remarks.

Q He didn't name any names, which is why I'm asking you.

McCLELLAN: Yes, and you can go back and look at his remarks and see for yourself what it says ...

Q Was Karl Rove speaking last night as a Deputy White House Chief of Staff?

McCLELLAN: He is the Deputy White House Chief and Senior White House Advisor, and I would encourage you to go look at his remarks and what he said.

Q Especially given the venue, being in New York, where there is, obviously, a very strong personal connection for many people to what happened on 9/11 and the immediate bipartisan support the President enjoyed right after those events, does the President think the tone of what Mr. Rove was saying is fair and appropriate?

McCLELLAN: I think you bring up a very good point. It was in New York, it was to the New York Conservative Party. So he was talking about the different philosophy between conservatives and liberals and different philosophy for approaching the war on terrorism. That is a very important priority for all Americans and it's very important that the American people know what we are doing to win that war on terrorism. And that's why he was talking about it and telling it like it is when it comes to the different approaches for winning the war on terrorism.

Q You think that was perfectly appropriate?

McCLELLAN: Again, I just said that he was talking about the different philosophies. The President has talked about the different philosophies when it comes to winning the war on terrorism. And he was speaking to a specific audience about those philosophies and talking about the philosophy that we stand for and the approach that we stand for ...

Q But others don't think the characterization of how liberals approach ...

McCLELLAN: Who are the others?

Q Well, you've got Nancy Pelosi today, Harry Reid were talking about the fact that the use of the words was not appropriate for the way, especially in the New York area ...

McCLELLAN: Do you disagree that he was simply talking about the different philosophies and different approaches?

Q What I'm talking about is word choice.

McCLELLAN: Well, I think that they are just trying to engage in partisan attacks. Karl was simply talking about different philosophies, and we should be talking about what we stand for and how we want to move forward. We should be talking about what the different visions are and what the different ideas are, and that's what he was doing.

Q Can I ask it in this way, Scott? Then if this is an issue, is this an expression in some manner that the White House is concerned that with the popularity of the war diminishing, the anti-war liberalism is beginning to take hold so the President and Karl are confronting it directly?

McCLELLAN: No, he was speaking to the New York Conservative Party, and he was talking about different philosophies -- the conservative philosophy and the liberal philosophy and how we're approaching different priorities for the American people. That's all it is.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

"The number of registered lobbyists in Washington has more than doubled since 2000 to more than 34,750 while the amount that lobbyists charge their new clients has increased by as much as 100 percent.

The lobbying boom has been caused by three factors, experts say: rapid growth in government, Republican control of both the White House and Congress, and wide acceptance among corporations that they need to hire professional lobbyists to secure their share of federal benefits.

"There's unlimited business out there for us," said Robert L. Livingston, a Republican former chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and now president of a thriving six-year-old lobbying firm. "Companies need lobbying help."

The Republicans in charge aren't just pro-business, they are also pro-government. Federal outlays increased nearly 30 percent from 2000 to 2004, to $2.29 trillion. And despite the budget deficit, federal spending is set to increase again this year, especially in programs that are prime lobbying targets such as defense, homeland security and medical coverage.

The fees that lobbyists charge clients have also risen substantially. Retainers that had been $10,000 to $15,000 a month for new corporate clients before President Bush took office now are $20,000 to $25,000 a month or more, lobbyists say.

All-Republican lobbying firms have boosted their rates the most. Fierce, Isakowitz & Blalock and the Federalist Group report that at the end of the Clinton administration, $20,000 a month was considered high. Now, they say, retainers of $25,000 to $40,000 a month are customary for new corporate clients, depending on how much work they do."

-- Washington Post, June 22

Thursday, June 23, 2005

On Tucker Carlson's Show, Two Conservatives Laugh At "Liberal" Facts About PBS

Tucker Carlson clearly wants to come across as thoughtful and independent as host of the new MSNBC show, The Situation.

But Carlson has a nasty habit. He's a control freak. When presented with facts that don't fall into his pre-conceived presentation of the news, he gets nervous and a little defensive, tossing out a quip before moving the show along.

You might recall what happened back on CNN's Crossfire, when Carlson was confronted by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, who told Carlson and co-host Paul Begala that they should "Stop, stop, stop, stop hurting America" with their pointless, partisan debates. "(Y)you're not too rough on them. You're part of their strategies. You are partisan, what do you call it, hacks. ...What you do is partisan hackery."

Carlson unable to handle Stewart not following a script (comedian = funny), made a couple of unfunny quips -- "What's it like to have dinner with you? It must be excruciating." -- and then sent the show to commercial.

***

And that brings us to Tuesday's edition of The Situation. The topic was PBS. Carlson discussed it with liberal Rachel Maddow and conservative Charlie Gasparino. What was supposed to be a light discussion -- as close as Carlson and Gasparino can come to a stand-up routine -- became contentious in a hurry, after Maddow made the mistake of injecting a "fact."

First, the "comedy routine" of Carlson and Gasparino:

CARLSON: Nickelodeon and PBS want to tell your kids what to eat. Both networks are kicking off campaigns to teach children about healthy foods and exercise. Meanwhile, the Republican plan to slash the budget for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting by 25 percent brought about this dog-and-pony show in Washington.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ED MARKEY (D-MA): Keep your hands off of PBS.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Senator Hillary Clinton and Congressman Ed Markey, alongside some of the characters who will be teaching health tips at a news conference supporting PBS today.

GASPARINO: It takes a village.

CARLSON: I love this.

GASPARINO: It takes a village.

CARLSON: So, PBS is trying to convince people they're not liberal. So, they're telling your kids to eat only, I don't know, organic, free-range, cruelty-free vegan products raised in Seattle?

MADDOW: Oh, come on.

CARLSON: I'm serious.

MADDOW: Come on.

GASPARINO: This is why liberals are so boring.

MADDOW: Are you going to blame Nickelodeon for this, too, that they're trying to convince people they're liberal? I mean, children's TV has always had do-gooder stuff in it.

CARLSON: But it's a stereotype of — of lifestyle liberalism. Don't eat this. Do eat that. Stop propagandizing my kids. They'll eat what I ask them to eat or tell them to eat.

MADDOW: What does this have to do with liberals? Children's TV always had do-gooder stuff. You grew up in California.

GASPARINO: Why is this do-gooder?

MADDOW: You probably learned Spanish from “Villa Alegre.”

CARLSON: I did.

MADDOW: You did.

CARLSON: And I resented every moment of it.

GASPARINO: Why is this do-gooder stuff? I mean, you know...

MADDOW: Go to the dentist, floss your teeth.

GASPARINO: No. They're asking — they're asking people to — you know, they're trying to teach — indoctrinate people into a certain lifestyle.

MADDOW: Indoctrinate kids into going outside and playing and flossing their teeth.

GASPARINO: They have parents for that. They have parents for that.

MADDOW: That's fine. But, come on. You guys are going to rail and make this some sort of liberal problem.

CARLSON: No.

GASPARINO: Hillary saving the world.

MADDOW: Oh, come on. This is ridiculous. You guys are totally off base.

***

It's important that Carlson used the word "propagandazing" and Gasparino used the word "indoctrinate." Even in a light-hearted conversation, it's important to use conservative buzz words. You would never hear conservatives use such language in describing their fellow conservatives. In other words, if Cookie Monster becomes a Broccoli Monster, that's liberal indoctrination. If a program to help teen-age drug abusers, funded by the Bush administration under the Faith-Based and Community Initiative insists that attendees accept Jesus Christ as their savior, regardless of their religious heritage, that's "helping America's youth."

***

Now, back to The Situation:

Carlson and Gasparino were trying to keep the conversation light-hearted -- Carlson had related an unfunny anecdote about how he feared eating white bread -- but then Maddow did the unthinkable, and injected a fact into the conversation.

MADDOW: If you're worried about what is on TV, the chair of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting hired a guy from the American Conservative Union to monitor the political bias in one PBS show.

CARLSON: Can you imagine? A conservative in public broadcasting?

CARLSON: That's just wrong.

MADDOW: But, but that's who they hired to monitor the political objectivity of the show. That's more offensive than don't eat white bread. Come on.

CARLSON: Well, that show needed it.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Well, coming up ...

***

Carlson and Gasparino had kept their "comedy routine" going for a couple of minutes, but when Maddow injected a fact into the conversation, Carlson shot to a commercial in five seconds. The obvious lesson: Don't interject facts into a "conservative media" show.

***

Why the hub-bub over PBS?

The "news" -- the video clip that featured Rep. Markey, Sen. Clinton and Clifford the Big Red Dog -- was not about PBS characters teaching kids to eat healthy. It was actually news that 16 Democratic senators called on President Bush to remove Kenneth Tomlinson as head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting because of their concerns that he is injecting partisan politics into public radio and television. Separately, Democratic lawmakers joined other supporters of public broadcasting, including children and characters from PBS children's programs, to protest House Republicans' proposed cuts in financing for the corporation.

The White House said Bush supports Tomlinson.

The "guy from the American Conservative Union" Maddow referred to was Fred Mann, who some allege was improperly hired by Tomlinson to review the political leanings of Bill Moyers' Now, which conservatives allege is a liberal show.

Mann, who was paid $14,170 for his work by the taxpayer-financed corporation, rated the guests on the show by such labels as "anti-Bush" or "anti-DeLay," a reference to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader. He classified Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska as a "liberal," even though Mr. Hagel is well-known as a mainstream conservative Republican.

But Tomlinson has always had a funny way of classifying liberals and conservatives.

Tomlinson created two ombudsman positions in April, one which to be filled by a conservative, and the other by a liberal. He appointed former former Reader's Digest executive editor William Schulz as the "conservative," and NBC political correspondent Ken Bode as the "liberal," even though Bode is an adjunct fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who last year endorsed the Republican candidate in Indiana's gubernatorial race.

It's that sort of bias classification that is leading conservatives -- including ones who admit they don't regularly watch PBS or listen to NPR -- to call on cuts in federal funding for public broadcasting. The House Appropriations Committee less than two weeks ago proposed a 45 percent cut in federal funds to public broadcasters -- and the full House of Representatives could vote on the spending bill as early as today.

The House committee has proposed reducing public broadcasting funds from $400 million to $300 million for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Public broadcasters say additional cuts of more than $130 million from other parts of the proposed federal budget -- including elimination of the $23.4 million Ready to Learn program that helps fund such children's programming as "Sesame Street" and "Between the Lions" -- mean their stations could face a 45 percent reduction in federal funding next year.

***

What do the conservatives' fear? PBS and NPR have each introduced several "conservative" news shows, including one hosted by Carlson, over the past couple of years. Now has been canceled.

I can only imagine what the "conservative media" thinks when it talks about the shows a generation grew up with, including PBS' signature show, Sesame Street.

If Carlson and Gasparino can poke fun, then I suppose I can to. How would a famed conservative discuss Sesame Street in order to convince an audience that it suffered from "liberal bias" and a need to "indoctrinate."

FAKE RUSH LIMBAUGH: My friends, I have just received a research report from someone called "Krove," that I believe illustrates the dire situation at PBS. It mentions various characters from the lib show, Sesame Street.

I'm sitting here thinking, folks, that this is not the same show as the one so many of you watched years ago. I have not seen the show myself -- I was graduating high school in Missouri when the show debuted -- but I have great confidence in the fact sheet from my good friend, Krove.

This is information that the libs won't tell you, but here at the EIB, we stand for truth. Thus, let me present you with the facts of what your children see when they watch Sesame Street.

Bert and Ernie: Gay.

Big Bird and Mr. Snuffleupagus: Gay

Telly Monster: Communist. How do we know? Krove reports that Telly told Kofi Annan -- yes, that Kofi Annan -- that the children should dance the "United Nations way, all together." This is the sort of indoctrination that happens each day on Sesame Street.

But it's not just the muppets who are a problem. No, my friends, there are human characters who are designed to indoctrinate your children into using lib-speak.

For example, there's Maria, a femi-Nazi. Krove reports that we don't see her husband, Luis, much at all anymore. Instead, Krove says, Maria, a typical lib know-it-all, indoctrinates the children and muppets to learn their ABCs and numbers. And I have to tell you, I think the show's writers -- and this show is, of course, produced in the lib capital, New York City -- I have to tell you that it would appear that the show's writers have modeled Maria after Hillary. ...

***

So maybe that takes "conservative media's" take on PBS to the absurd. But the level of disinformation provided by Tomlinson and others -- the logic behind the proposed funding cuts -- is absurd, too.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Bush Backpedaling on Social Security Privatization? Bush OKs Republican Senator's Plan To Offer Reform Legislation, Minus Private Accounts

Is President Bush prepared to OK Social Security reform without his beloved private accounts?

At a White House luncheon with Republican Senators yesterday, Robert Bennett of Utah told President Bush that he would soon propose a bill without the accounts.

But if you think it's shocking that a Republican Senator would break away from the Bush gameplan, hold onto your hat.

According to an article in the June 22 edition of The Hill, Bennett said that Bush told him to “go ahead” with the bill.

As Jon Stewart might say: "Wha?"

***

Bush did not comment on the pending legislation. The White House told reporters that Bush's comments indicate he welcomes a discussion of options.

Other Republican Senators attending the luncheon downplayed Bennett's pending proposal.

Larry Craig of Idaho said the president “remained very upbeat on his approach” and noted that Bennett’s conversation with the president did not take place in front of the entire delegation.

Senate Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (R-PA), who has been Bush's main lackey in the Senate on privatization, said Bush's response to "go ahead" was not an endorsement of Bennett's alternate proposal.

***

Bennett, however, seemed optimistic that his alternative plan had a better chance of passage than the president's.

"Democrats and some Republicans say, 'We will not vote for anything that includes personal accounts,' and that seems to have slowed the whole thing down," Bennett told the Salt Lake Tribune. "My reaction is, that shouldn't slow the whole thing down and let's find out how serious people really are when they say, 'Yes, there really is a problem, but I don't like personal accounts.'"

***

The idea that it might be easier to pass Social Security reform without privatization has gained steam of late. Even the author of the reform plan Bush has embraced has suggested as much.

Robert C. Pozen, a Massachusetts investment company executive, called on Bush last month to consider giving up the centerpiece of the his Social Security proposal — the individual investment accounts funded by payroll taxes, also called 'carve-out accounts.''

"Given the lack of bipartisan support for carve-out personal accounts, the president should not insist on carve-out accounts if the Democrats support an overall legislative package for Social Security reform that is otherwise satisfactory to him," Pozen said.

***

Bush hasn't been able to get traction with his privatization plan, in spite of a whirlwind tour of "town hall" meetings -- essentially infomercials in which hand-picked audiences listen to hand-picked questioners in order to hear the President offer answers using hand-picked information.

The president tells people that Social Security will be "bankrupt," ignoring a Government Accountability Office study that showed that even with no changes, the system would pay out 70% of benefits in 2052. Then after telling his hand-picked audiences that the system will go bankrupt, he touts the privatization plan. What other conclusion could the audiences draw but to assume privatization addresses solvency? One problem, the White House has admitted the plan is "revenue net neutral" over 75 years. Just another minor detail Bush fails to mention during his barnstorming tour.

But even with all that misinformation, the Bush "town hall" meetings haven't worked. Poll after poll has shown tepid response to the privatization plan. If anything, the more the president repeats himself on privatization, the less popular the plan becomes.

Perhaps, finally, Bush is realizing that his plan will never get passed, and move ahead with real Social Security reform.

Poll: Americans Disagree With Bush on Undisclosed Propaganda

A recently released poll found that eight out of 10 viewers would not be turned off by government propaganda, if it was disclosed as such.

The poll, conducted by video news release (VNR) distributor D S Simon Productions, flies in the face of those -- in the Bush administration as well as in the public relations community -- who oppose such disclosure.

***

Bush has offered three opinions on the use of undisclosed propaganda since the beginning of this year.

-- First he was against it. "Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."

-- Then he was for it. "There is a Justice Department opinion that says these pieces are OK so long as they're based upon facts, not advocacy." (Amazingly, Bush was suggesting that government propaganda was not "advocacy" -- as if his administration would create propaganda that opposed administration policy.)

-- Then he favored passing the buck. "(I)t's incumbent upon people who use them to say, this news clip was produced by the federal government." Officially, the Bush Administration continues to take the ludicrous stance that VNRs "based upon facts, not advocacy" don't have to be identified.

The public relations community, not surprisingly, sided with Bush's third opinion. "Disclosure to the public is ultimately the responsibility of broadcasters," Judith Turner Phair, president and CEO of the Public Relations Society of America, said in testimony to a Senate committee panel last month.

***

But according to the poll, first reported by Broadcasting & Cable on June 13, Americans don't mind knowing where propaganda comes from.

The phone poll of 1,000 respondents found that 42% would be more likely to watch a VNR that was disclosed, while 39% would not be affected one way or the other. Just 16% said they would be less likely to watch.

“If news directors or TV producers fear using or disclosing third-party video to viewers, the survey indicates that disclosing the source of footage could actually boost ratings, not threaten them,” Douglas Simon, President of D S Simon, told the magazine.

***

The Bush Administration and the public relations industry are fighting critics, including the non-partsan Government Accountability Office, who are backing the "Truth in Broadcasting Act," authored by Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and John Kerry (D-MA).

That legislation, introduced April 28, would establish permanent federal law that VNRs and other prepackaged propaganda would include a disclaimer that would run continuously throughout the pieces.

Unfortunately, since the Senate committee hearing last month, no action has been taken on the legislation.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Another Republican Senator Breaks Ranks With Bush Administration

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is the latest Republican leader to break ranks with the Bush Administration, calling the administration's Iraq policy "disconnected from reality."

Hagel, in an interview in the June 27 issue of U.S. News & World Report, said he's angered by the 1,700 U.S. soldiers dead and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. But he's also aggravated by the Bush Administration's never-ending propaganda campaign -- telling Americans to ignore their television sets and agree with their sunny assessments of the war.

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel told the magazine. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq. ... More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned."

***

That makes 10 Republican Senators who have spoken out -- dare I say, taken "leadership positions" -- against the Bush Administration in less than a month. It's a list that covers topics such as whether to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center, protecting U.S. consumers from the administration's drug industry pals, and preventing Bush lackey Bill Frist (R-TN) from being able to employ the "nuclear option," upending the Senate's rules on filibusters.

The list of 10, if you are scoring at home, is now:

-- John McCain of Arizona
-- Mel Martinez of Florida
-- Charles Grassley of Iowa
-- Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine
-- Mike DeWine of Ohio
-- Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island
-- Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
-- John Warner of Virginia

Critics of criticism -- that rare brand of conservative who believes in free speech only when it's tied to some sort of loyalty oath -- would identify the New England Senators as "liberal Republicans" (gasp), and DeWine, Graham, Hagel and McCain as possible 2008 presidential candidates (harrumph).

Let's not be naive. While politicians want to keep one eye on their constituent's best interests, they're keeping the other eye, both ears, their nose, mouth, arms, legs and tushy on their viability as elected officials.

The "you're with us or you're un-American" attitude of the Bush administration works better when Bush's popularity is soaring. It's not right now. And on issues like the rising cost -- financial and human -- of Iraq, and our treatment of detainees at Gitmo, Bush's popularity has fallen to very uncomfortable levels. Abandon the ship levels.

***

Of course, 10 out of 55 is still a modest number. And on key issues like Iraq, don't expect the White House to stray from its "my way or the highway approach."

The White House has planned a new public-relations push by the president to shore up support for the Iraq War. During his weekly radio address on June 18, Bush once again seamlessly weaved together the "war on terror" with the Iraq War:

BUSH: We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens. Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. ... The terrorists know they cannot defeat our troops, so they seek to weaken our nation's resolve. They know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat.

It's a classic Bush text from the Karl Rove/Frank Luntz school of imagemaking. Bush doesn't want to spell out that we were attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists, nearly all of whom were Saudi, headed by Osama bin Laden, who is still at large, and apparently financed in part by Iran.

Bushspeak allows for bait-and-switch. Al Qaeda becomes morphed into the Iraqi insurgency. Why are we at war with Iraq? Because "the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror." It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it's red meat for Bush's conservative following. Why should we support the Bush plan in Iraq? Not because Bush has a sound exit strategy, but because the terrorists "seek to weaken our nation's resolve."

The public relations offensive also includes a June 28 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari -- that's the anniversary of the handover of power to an Iraqi government from U.S. authorities.

But Republicans like Hagel say they are tired of public relations. They want results.

"If things don't start to turn around in six months, then it may be too late," Hagel told US News & World Report. "I think it's that serious."

Sunday, June 19, 2005

"Phony Liberal" Matthews Too Busy Playing Washington Insider And Gushing Over Republicans To Find "Voices Of The Working Person"

Conservatives take a look at Chris Matthews' resume and shout that he's a "liberal." JABBS readers know better, paying attention to the seemingly endless examples pouring out of Matthews' mouth.

During a June 10 interview with Bill Moyers, Matthews asked: "Where are the strong, articulate voices of the working person, the working family out there? (W)here are those voices on Sunday?"

Unfortunately, when Moyers talked about the need to hear more from "wonderful people at the grassroots level," Matthews, the phony liberal, quipped:

MATTHEWS: Well, they should get elected to Congress. Then we will put them on.

***

Matthews asked a question -- he later identified the people he was talking about as being on the political "left" or "center-left" -- but he wasn't interested in the answer. He never has been. His egotistical need to show off his "Washington Insider" status prevents him from caring about issues affecting working families and grassroot causes.

With his syndicated Chris Matthews Show, and his weekday Hardball, on MSBNC, Matthews has more than enough opportunities to find "voices of the working person" or "people at the grassroots level."

But check out the lineup for today's Chris Matthews Show: Katty Kay of the BBC; David Gregory of NBC News; Michele Norris of NPR; and, Howard Fineman of Newsweek.

Who represents "voices of the working person," or "people at the grassroots level"?

Those four are part of a larger group that Matthews rotates on his Sunday show. Pick the "grassroots" voice among them: Paul Gigot of the Wall Street Journal; Campbell Brown of NBC News; Gloria Borger of CBS News and US News & World Report; Sam Donaldson of ABC News; Norah O'Donnell of NBC News; Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune; Andrew Sullivan of The New Republic and Time Magazine; Joe Klein of Time Magazine; and, Tucker Carlson of MSNBC and PBS.

The problem isn't a lack of "voices of the working person" or "people at the grassroots level" in the real world. The problem is that Matthews isn't interested in finding those people, lest it make a dent in his "Washington Insider" status.

What a phony liberal.

***

What topics does Matthews decide to talk about this Sunday? Pick the topic that would be a natural for "voices of the working person" or "people at the grassroots level." And while you're at it, count how many topics sound like they are coming out of the mouth of a phony liberal.

-- Is the middle making a comeback? Are Americans sick and tired of right and left?

-- More Americans say Iraq was a mistake. Will the pressure force Bush to bring the troops home early?

-- Are Howard Dean's insults doing his party good?

-- Thought Kerry was smarter than Bush? Guess again!

-- Chris's thoughts on Australian heroes in Hollywood.

***

Matthews has been on a kick lately talking about the "middle," but again Matthews is being a phony. When he talks about the whether people want to see a resurgence of the "middle," Matthews inserts his own ready-made answer: a chance to gush over two of his favorite Republican politicians: Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani.

Sure, conservatives say Matthews is a liberal. But what liberal would go out of his way to gush over McCain, Guiliani, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, while in the same breath bash Democrats like Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and John Kerry of Massachusetts, and DNC Party leader Howard Dean?

Conservatives take a look at Matthews resume and say he's a liberal, but what liberal would say of the Democrats: "They're still a party of raising money and pressure groups and the same old crap." But Matthews said just that on the June 16 edition of Hardball, while praising Schwarzenegger.

Matthews is the kind of liberal that conservatives like. When Matthews speaks kindly toward conservatives, the right-wing of the blogosphere and the folks at Fox News Channel say, "See, even a liberal agrees." And on the rare occasions that Matthews speaks kindly of a liberal, the same right-wing says, "Of course, because Matthews is a liberal."

For conservatives, it's a win-win. For real liberals and Democrats, it's a lose-lose.

Consider this June 7 appearance by Matthews on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno:

MATTHEWS: McCain is a moderate. ...They don`t want any more left or right. They want down the middle. They want people who are independent of their parties. McCain fits the bill. And the press loves McCain. You can see that every time he comes on. ... And a lot of people, especially in the press — who did not [pay their price in Vietnam] — feel a lot of responsibility toward this guy. He is a very popular guy in D.C. And I think he or Rudy Giuliani — don`t underestimate Giuliani. ... He is the best speaker in the country. ... And they can`t even spell his name in the South. But they call him — somebody said they're going to call him Rudy. That will be enough. ... “I'm for Rudy.”

***

McCain and Giuliani have each been guests several times on Hardball, and if Matthews' dream ticket comes to fruition, no doubt you'll see them on plenty more times. (Moyers, by the way, made his debut on Hardball on June 10. Don't expect to see him again anytime soon.)

Matthews, by his own admission, will be "responsible" when he interviews McCain and Giuliani, showing his dream ticket the respect it deserves. No need to discuss hypocritical statements or questionable decisions. That's what makes Matthews a phony liberal -- the kind that conservatives like.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Pentagon Hopes To Spread Propaganda Overseas With Creative Media Campaign, Novelty Items and ... Comic Books

The Pentagon is outsourcing a new wave of creative "psychological warfare," designed to win minds and hearts overseas -- particularly in Arab and Middle Eastern nations -- with everything from Internet pop-up ads to a comic book series.

"If you want to influence someone, you have to touch their emotions." Col. James A. Treadwell, director of the Joint Psychological Operations Support Element, told the Washington Post for a June 11 story. Treadwell's group was established last year and includes a graphic artist and videographer, he said.

***

The Pentagon hired three firms, defense contractor SAIC, L-3 Communications subsidiary SYColeman and public relations firm Lincoln Group, to five-year contracts that could pay them as much as $300 million combined.

The firms are to produce a mix of print, video and audio "news," Internet sites and pop-up ads, text messages and podcasting, and novelty items such as T-shirts and bumper stickers.

The contracts come following criticism that the Bush administration has not successfully coordinated efforts to repair the United States' post-Iraq image problems abroad, particularly in the Muslim world. Vice President Cheney said in March that public diplomacy "has been a very weak part of our arsenal."

But that's not the only criticism facing the new propaganda efforts.

Officially, spreading psychological warfare messages to U.S. citizens is illegal. But some experts worry that the messages, especially disinformation efforts, might blow back to American audiences via the Internet and satellite news channels.

"In this age of the Internet and instant access, it's of great concern," Nancy Snow, a propaganda expert at California State University-Fullerton, told Media General News Service for a June 10 story. "If you plant false stories, how can you control where that story goes? You can't."

***

The five-year campaign is believed to be the first time that psycholgical warfare has been outsourced by the military. But psychological warfare expert Herb Friedman told Media General News Service that he isn't surprised.

"The bottom line is, they don't have the manpower," Friedman said, adding that the military has just one active-duty and two reserve "psyops units" remaining.

***

The army's 4th Psychological Operations Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C., is overseeing the effort to bring aboard someone to develop an Arab language comic book series. The unit has already done initial character and plot development for the series, according to BBC News' website.

The concept is new for the unit, which has previously been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan dropping leaflets and cartoons urging surrender, and broadcasting pro-American messages via radio and television.

Those efforts have had mixed success, critics say. And they haven't made a dent in shaping younger Arab and Middle Eastern minds.

"In order to achieve long-term peace and stability in the Middle East, the youth need to be reached," a U.S. Federal Business Opportunities website advertisement reads.

Friday, June 17, 2005

The Schiavo Autopsy Was Conclusive ... Except For Those Who Prefer Conservative Media's "Alternate Universe of Facts"

Terri Schiavo suffered severe, irreversible brain damage that left that organ discolored and scarred, shriveled to half its normal size, and damaged in nearly all its regions, including the one responsible for vision, according to an autopsy report released June 15.

Although the meticulous postmortem examination could not determine the mental state of the Florida woman, who died March 31 after a judicial and legislative battle over her "right to die," it did establish the permanence of her physical condition.

Schiavo's brain damage "was irreversible . . . no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed" it, said Jon R. Thogmartin, the pathologist in Florida's sixth judicial district who performed the autopsy and announced his findings at a news conference in Largo, Fla.

The condition of her brain was "consistent with a persistent vegetative state," said Stephen J. Nelson, a neuropathologist in Winter Haven, Fla., who was consulted by the medical examiner's office.

***

That should end the discussion, right?

No?

How about this, from a leading conservative:

Bill Frist, the Senate majority leader and a heart surgeon, acknowledged on June 16 that Terri Schiavo had suffered devastating brain damage and said his assertion three months ago that she was "not somebody in persistent vegetative state" did not amount to a medical diagnosis. Frist (R-TN), appearing on three network TV shows, agreed with the autopsy conclusion that Schiavo had suffered severe, irreversible brain damage.

***

Certainly, that should be enough to satisfy the "pro-life" crowd -- the true believers who watched a three-year-old video of Schiavo, her eyes open and appearing to smile, and decided, in an improbable diagnosis via television, that Schiavo was not in a "persistent vegetative state."

But that's not the case.

In fact, the events of the last 24 or so hours have proven that the "pro-life" crowd doesn't want to be confused by medical facts. They choose to believe what they believe, and the "conservative media" is more than happy to oblige.

***

Sean Hannity revisited the accusations that Michael Schiavo had abused his wife, even though the autopsy found no signs of abuse, and the courts had previously discredited his two main accusers, two nurses -- frequent guests on Fox News' Hannity & Colmes as well as MSNBC' Scarborough Country.

To ratchet up the emotion, Hannity & Colmes brought in two members of Terri Schiavo's family, knowing that it would make good television. Remember, ratings are more important than facts.

Certainly, it's heartbreaking to lose a child, a sibling, a spouse. Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, want to believe that their daughter interacted with them and tried to speak. Even after the autopsy results were released, they disputed them, maintaining their stance in the face of science.

And that's understandable. There was a report on the local news in New York a few days back of a mother who was distraught over the death of her son that she tried to pull his body out of his casket during his wake. Unbearable grief can cloud one's judgment, leading to conclusions and actions that one would not normally consider.

But while one can understand the grief of Terri Schiavo's family, it's harder to understand why Hannity would want to take advantage of that grief for the sake of his show. Appreciating the Schindlers' steadfastness is one thing, substituting it for medical facts is another.

***

Then there was the June 15 edition of Scarborough Country:

Here's Joe Scarborough's teaser, which throws out the same red meat as Hannity:

SCARBOROUGH: The Terri Schiavo autopsy completed, and the doctor came out today, talked about what was going on. Still a lot of questions. The case still not resolved, and her family darkly raising the possibility that they still don‘t know how she died, pointing fingers at the husband.

After the commercial break, Scarborough contradicted the crux of his teaser, saying that the medical examination had proven "she wasn't strangled, she was not abused."

So again, you have the emotional response of Terri Schiavo's family, vs. medical facts. Scarborough could have began with a teaser acknowledging what he ultimately said less than a minute after the break -- but hey, that wouldn't bring in the ratings, right?

Scarborough then brought in Randall Terry, president of the Orwellianly titled Society of Truth and Justice. Terry was a self-appointed spokesman for the Schindlers during Terri Schiavo's final days back in March.

Here's the amazing back and forth:

SCARBOROUGH: Obviously, you have been very close with the family throughout this entire process. I got to tell you, you look at the report, no brain activity. That‘s what the husband said before. Blind at the time of death. Not strangled. Not abused. But, most importantly, again, she had no capacity for recovery. It sounds like this autopsy straight down the line makes the husband to be—you know, makes the husband out to be — be right. And it makes you and Terri‘s family out to be wrong.

TERRY: Well, think with me, Joe. In the last month of Terri‘s life, you had innumerable friends and family go in to see her. And one by one they came in front of the camera and said, Terri did this. Terri responded to this story.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you believe them?

TERRY: Well, that‘s what you get to. Either all of them were lying or they were witnessing the activities of a brain-dead person.

So there you have it. Terry makes the improbable claim that there's a conspiracy under way, because, after all, a lot of grieving friends and relatives were sure that Terri Schiavo was responding to them. Terry's not a doctor, and neither were any of the emotional friends and relatives. And even though the medical facts say one thing, Terry prefers the emotional argument.

But it gets worse. Terry, who again is not a doctor, decides to play one on television:

TERRY: It‘s not just the family. They would have — every single one of those people would have had to have been involved in a lie. And I was there. I was on the ground. I was talking to them. The assertion that they were lying or that she was brain-dead is ludicrous. There‘s so much about the human brain that we don‘t know. ...

Terry then has a brief back-and-forth with Scarborough, who simultaneously seems to realize how ridiculous Terry is being, but at the same time makes no effort to derail him.

It's as if Terry is coming up with his argument on the fly, which is always dangerous on live television:

TERRY: What you could have is, you could have this. You could have a doctor who‘s not a specialist in the brain. You could have the reality that the brain is still so uncharted in so many areas. It‘s an art, partly, not just a science. This — you can have it both ways. You can have—there are parts of the brain — you know, I feel silly talking about the brain with a doctor. So, we‘ll let her talk about the brain‘s capacity to rewire itself. But the bottom line is, I believe that those witnesses were credible. I know that the attorney was credible.

***

As I suspected, there were no sightings of Dr. William Hammesfahr, a regular guest back in March on the conservative talkfests. Hammesfahr is the ultimate proponent of alternate facts on Terri Schiavo -- claiming that she was not in a persistent vegetative state, and that with treatment, she could have recovered.

Even though Hammesfahr was unable to back those claims in court, Hannity and Scarborough trotted him out, because he could provide "the other side of the story" -- the alternate "facts" necessary to get good ratings on a controversial issue. Hannity and Scarborough -- and via the radio, folks like Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage -- never bothered to point out that Hammesfahr couldn't prove his claims in court. That would have made him persona non grata, rather than red meat they could toss out to their audiences.

***

No one should discount the Schindlers' grief, or the emotion-laden claims of Terri Schiavo's family. But for the rest of the universe -- the "conservative media" included -- it's time to accept the medical facts. Let Terri Schiavo rest in peace, and let Michael Schiavo move on, without having to deal with unfounded accusations of abuse or strangulation -- accusations that have been disproven by his late wife's autopsy.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Handful of Republican Senators Haven't Co-Signed Resolution Apologizing For Past Failure To Pass Anti-Lynching Law

At least 10 Republican Senators have failed to add their names as co-sponsors of a resolution passed on June 14 that apologizes for past failures to pass anti-lynching laws.

The senators are Michael Crapo of Idaho, Thad Cochran and Trent Lott of Mississippi, John Sununu of New Hampshire, George Voinovich of Ohio, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Michael Enzi and Craig Thomas of Wyoming.

Can anyone explain the reluctance to add one's name to the resolution? Requests from various journalists to determine the motives behind this band of hold-outs -- especially the two Mississippi Senators -- have thus far been met with silence.

***

And while you're scratching your head wondering why a list of predominantly conservative Republicans wouldn't want to be on the record as apologizing for past Senate failures, here's something else to think about.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) refused repeated requests for a roll call vote on the resolution, instead forcing a voice vote procedure that did not require any senator's presence. Then his spokesman apparently lied about Frist's reasoning for the decision.

The group that was the driving force behind the resolution had asked Frist for a formal procedure that would have required all 100 senators to vote. And the group had asked that the debate take place during "business hours" during the week, instead of Monday evening, when most senators were traveling back to the capital. Instead, Frist had the resolution adopted under what is called "unanimous consent," whereby it is adopted as long as no senator expresses opposition.

***

Bob Stevenson, Frist's chief spokesman, said Tuesday evening the procedure the majority leader established was "requested by the sponsors."

The chief sponsors of the resolution, Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and George Allen (R-VA), disputed that assertion.

Allen press secretary David Snepp told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: "I don't know why Bob Stevenson would characterize it that way." Snepp said Allen had insisted that he preferred a roll call vote.

Landrieu said Monday before the resolution was adopted she would have preferred a roll call vote but had to accept the conditions set by Frist.

When Stevenson was informed of Landrieu's statement, he changed his story, but his new version didn't mesh with statements from the Landrieu or Allen camps. "At least one of the sponsors" had requested adoption on a voice vote, Stevenson told the Journal-Constitution.

Jan Cohen, the wife of former Defense Secretary William Cohen and one of the key figures in the Committee for a Formal Apology, expressed outrage over the lack of a roll call vote.

"America is home of the brave, but I'm afraid there may be a few cowards who have to cower to their very narrow-minded and backward, hateful constituency," Cohen told ABC News.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Schiavo Autopsy Backs Earlier Medical Evidence

An autopsy on Terri Schiavo backed her husband's contention that she was in a persistent vegetative state, finding that she had massive and irreversible brain damage and was blind, the medical examiner's office said this morning. It also found no evidence that she was strangled or otherwise abused.

This shouldn't be surprising to JABBS readers, although it will be interesting to see how the "conservative media" handles the story. They certainly handled it poorly in real time.

Will they bring back Dr. William Hammesfahr, who bounced around between Fox News and MSNBC and various conservative talk radio, making claims about Schiavo's condition -- claims that he was unable to prove in court?

Will conservative hosts like Sean Hannity and Joe Scarborough finally admit that they didn't know what they were talking about when they presented "the other side of the story" -- trotting out Hammesfahr and two discredited nurses, not to mention doctors who had never treated Schiavo but felt they could diagnose her by watching three-year-old video?

***

And here's another question worth asking:

Will the conservative media take a second look at whether there was political benefit to turning the Schiavo tragedy into a national "pro-life" agenda item?

To Push For Renewal Of The Patriot Act, Bush Spins Patriot Act Convictions

To hear President Bush talk about the Patriot Act, the facts are cut and dry.

"My message to Congress is clear: Terrorist threats against us will not expire at the end of the year and neither should the protections of the Patriot Act," Bush told more than 100 law enforcement officers in Columbus, Ohio on June 9.

Flanked by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Bush said that "federal terrorism investigations have resulted in charges against more than 400 suspects, and more than half of those charged have been convicted."

Too bad it's wrong.

An analysis of the Justice Department's own list of terrorism prosecutions by the Washington Post shows that 39 people -- not 200, as officials have implied -- were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security. Most of the others were convicted of relatively minor crimes such as making false statements and violating immigration law -- and had nothing to do with terrorism, the June 12 analysis shows.

Surprise, surprise. The facts don't provide enough marketing bang for renewing the USA Patriot Act, so instead, Bush and others in the administration substitute "alternate" facts.

***

Lawmakers passed the Patriot Act in 2001 just 45 days after 9/11. It allowed expanded surveillance of terror suspects, increased use of material witness warrants to hold suspects incommunicado and permitted secret proceedings in immigration cases.

Now, more than a dozen provisions are set to expire. Those provisions, among other things, provide authority for nationwide search warrants, enable the FBI and intelligence agencies to share information about terrorism cases and gave the FBI the power to obtain records in terrorism-related cases from entities such as libraries.

Bush has been pressuring Congress to make the expiring provisions permanent. His administration also is seeking greater powers for the FBI to subpoena records in terrorism investigations without the approval of a judge or grand jury.

His renewed focus came as Congress has begun working on the act's renewal amid fresh criticisms -- from members of both parties -- that it undermines basic freedoms. Bush and others in the administration have defended the act by pointing to "terrorism" convictions.

***

The Post, analyzing the Justice Department's database, found 361 cases defined as terrorism investigations by the department's criminal division between Sept. 11, 2001 and September 2004. (The analysis did not include about 40 cases filed since September, accounting for Bush's total of 400.) The Post was able to analyze 330, as the others were sealed.

Of the 330 cases analyzed, only 142 had connections to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups, according to court records, official statements, the 9/11 commission report or news accounts.

Of those, 39 were convicted of crimes related to terrorism or national security. Of those, 14 were linked to Al Qaeda.

In truth, 14 Al Qaeda convictions is noteworthy, and should be trumpeted by the Bush administration. Would those 14 have been convicted without the Patriot Act? That's unclear. But certainly Bush and his administration should be telling us about those 14, and the 25 other convictions of individuals tied to non-Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

But that's not what the administration is doing.

Apparently unhappy with the truth, Bush and others in the administration push an "alternate" number of terrorism convictions -- a number that plays better before partisan crowds, and is harder for the average local (or perhaps even national) journalist to fact-check. The alternate number is easier for the conservative noise machine to repeat. It sounds better on press releases. It makes for a more convincing argument in Congress.

But in spite of all that, it's still wrong.

***

When Bush and others in the administration imply there have been 200 terrorism convictions, exactly who are they talking about?

According to the Post analysis, they include:

-- Hassan Nasrallah, a Dearborn, Mich., man convicted of credit-card fraud who has the same name as the leader of Hezbollah, or Party of God.

-- Abdul Farid of High Point, N.C., was arrested on a false tip that he was sending money to the Taliban and was deported after admitting he lied on a loan application.

-- Moeen Islam Butt, a Pakistani jewelry-kiosk employee in Pennsylvania, spent eight months in jail before being deported on marriage-fraud and immigration charges.

-- Francois Guagni, a French national who made the mistake of illegally crossing the Canadian border on Sept. 14, 2001, with box cutters in his possession. It turned out that Guagni used the knives in his job as a drywall installer. He was deported in March 2003 after pleading guilty to unlawfully entering the country.

Yes, these people were breaking the law. Yes, they should have been punished. But why does Bush include them when he implies that the Patriot Act has led to 200 terrorism convictions?

Is the truth not good enough?

***

Barry M. Sabin, chief of the Justice Department's counterterrorism section, told the Post that prosecutors frequently turn to lesser charges when they are not confident they can prove crimes such as committing or supporting terrorism. Many defendants also have been prosecuted for relatively minor crimes in exchange for information that is not public but has proved valuable in other terrorism probes, he said.

"A person could not have been put on this list if there was not a concern about national security, at least initially," he said. "Are all these people an ongoing threat presently? Arguably not."

Apparetnly, what Sabin knows to be true doesn't play well in Columbus, or anywhere else that Bush, Gonzales and the rest speak about the Patriot Act. Sabin's facts don't mesh well with the conservatives in Congress pushing for the act's renewal. You probably won't find Sabin being quoted by Rush or Sean or Joe.

Thirty-nine terrorism convictions, including 14 with ties to Al Qaeda, is an accomplshment. Too bad Bush and the rest don't trust the American people with the truth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

A senior White House official involved in a damaging controversy over his deleting of dire climate change warnings from U.S. government reports abruptly resigned last week, but the White House denies his departure had anything to do with the flap.

Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stepped down on June 10. Presidential spokeswoman Erin Healy said the resignation was "completely unrelated" to the recent release of documents showing Cooney had edited government documents to remove links between greenhouse emissions and global warming. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the allegations.

But don't worry about Cooney. Apparently, the controversy -- the sort of thing that would damage most resumes -- isn't a problem for his future employer. That employer is Exxon Mobil.

The Associated Press reported on June 14 that Cooney will join the energy conglomerate in the fall. Company spokesman Russ Roberts declined to describe Cooney's job to the AP.

Prior to joining the Bush Administration, Cooney was a lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute.

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