More blogger weirdness
11 hours ago
On the September 29 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, former Secretary of Education Bill Bennett defended comments he made the day before linking crime rates and abortion by blacks. Bennett, who said that "it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime ... you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down," claimed that he was taken out of context, and that his comment was based on a 1999 Slate.com online discussion between Steven D. Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics (William Morrow, May 2005), and right-wing columnist Steve Sailer, in which Bennett claimed that Levitt "discusse[d], as I did, the racial implications of abortion and crime." Levitt did not. In fact, in the Slate debate that Bennett cited, Levitt said the opposite of what Bennett claimed: "None of our analysis is race-based because the crime data by race is generally not deemed reliable."
The only significant discussion of race during the Slate debate came from Sailer on day two. Sailer writes for the anti-immigration website VDARE.com and has defended the Pioneer Fund -- an organization designated a "hate group" by the Southern Poverty Law Center for its support of the work of white supremacists, eugenicists, and others dedicated to proving the genetic superiority of certain races.
Best Friends provides a character-building curriculum with an abstinence-only philosophy, an intensive peer support structure, and long-term adult involvement.Sounds more like the flip side of Bill's Final Solution, if you ask me. But wait, there's more!
I was pointing out that abortion shouldn't be opposed for economic reasons any more than racism should be supported or opposed for economic reasons. Immoral policies are wrong. And they're wrong because they're wrong, not because of an economic calculus. One could just as easily have said you could abort all children and prevent all crime, uh, which is certainly true, to show the absurdity of the situ -- of the proposition. So let me repeat: These are matters which scholars talk about, which people write books about, which are debated in public policy relations among abortion, crime, and race. That's what we were talking about. Sensitive area, absolutely.
As a philosopher, I was showing the limitation of one argument by showing the absurdity of another. I was showing the fallacy of a proposition by using what's called an argumentum ad absurdum or an argumentum ad finum. But in sum, let me just re-state what I said yesterday: The whole idea of aborting anyone to reduce crime is, as I said on the air yesterday, "impossible, ridiculous, and morally-reprehensible." That should end it. That should be clear enough to anyone with an open mind. This whole thing is ridiculous, totally without merit. People will keep yelling about it, but -- you have a comment, Seth [Liebsohn, Morning in America producer]?
Audit Assails the White House for Public Relations Spending
By ROBERT PEAR
Published: September 30, 2005
WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 - Federal auditors said today that the Bush administration had violated the law by purchasing favorable news coverage of President Bush's education policies, by making payments to the conservative commentator Armstrong Williams and by hiring a public relations company to analyze media perceptions of the Republican Party.
In a blistering report, the investigators, from the Government Accountability Office, said the administration had disseminated "covert propaganda" inside the United States, in violation of a longstanding, explicit statutory ban.
The contract with Mr. Williams and the general contours of the administration's public relations campaign had been known for months. The report today provided the first definitive ruling on the legality of the activities.
Lawyers from the G.A.O., an independent nonpartisan arm of Congress, found that the Bush administration had systematically analyzed news articles to see if they carried the message, "The Bush administration/the G.O.P. is committed to education."
The auditors declared: "We see no use for such information except for partisan political purposes. Engaging in a purely political activity such as this is not a proper use of appropriated funds."
The G.A.O. also assailed the Education Department for telling Ketchum Inc., a large public relations company, to pay Mr. Williams for newspaper columns and television appearances praising Mr. Bush's education initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act.
When that arrangement became publicly known, it set off widespread criticism. At a news conference in January, Mr. Bush said: "We will not be paying commentators to advance our agenda. Our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet."
But more recently the Education Department defended its payments to Mr. Williams, saying his commentaries were "no more than the legitimate dissemination of information to the public."
The G.A.O. said the Education Department had no money or authority to "procure favorable commentary in violation of the publicity or propaganda prohibition" in federal law.
In the course of its work, the accountability office discovered a previously undisclosed instance in which the Education Department had commissioned a newspaper article. The article, on the "declining science literacy of students," was distributed by the North American Precis Syndicate and appeared in numerous small newspapers around the country. Readers were not informed of the government's role in writing of the article.
The auditors also denounced a prepackaged television news story disseminated by the Education Department. The news segment, a "video news release" narrated by a woman named Karen Ryan, said that President Bush's program for providing remedial instruction and tutoring to children "gets an A-plus."
Ms. Ryan also narrated two videos praising the new Medicare drug benefit last year. In those segments, as in the education video, the narrator ended by saying, "In Washington, I'm Karen Ryan reporting."
After spending 85 days in a federal detention center, New York Times reporter Judy Miller was freed yesterday "after agreeing to testify about her conversations" with I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. She will appear before the grand jury investigating whether anyone in the Bush administration "illegally leaked the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to the media." Her testimony may shed light on "whether officials were truthful in their testimony to investigators and the grand jury." Miller had previously refused to testify but changed her mind after Libby "assured her in a telephone call last week that a waiver he gave prosecutors authorizing them to question reporters about their conversations with him was not coerced." Miller's appearance "throws a damaging spotlight once again on a White House whose credibility has been undermined in the criminal probe into the leak of a covert CIA officer's identity."
WHITE HOUSE INSISTED LIBBY WASN'T INVOLVED: Judy Miller has been in jail for 12 weeks because of her refusal to discuss conversations with Scooter Libby relating to the leak of Valerie Plame's identity. Miller's ordeal casts serious doubt on the truthfulness of White House claims that Libby had no involvement in the leak. On October 10, 2003, McClellan was asked, "Earlier this week you told us that neither Karl Rove, Elliot Abrams nor Lewis Libby disclosed any classified information with regard to the leak. I wondered if you could tell us more specifically whether any of them told any reporter that Valerie Plame worked for the CIA?" McClellan responded that Libby and the others were "not involved in this." As it turns out, Rove also had extensive involvement in the leak.
NEWS MEDIA HASN'T LEARNED THEIR LESSON: The news media have been repeatedly and intentionally mislead by the administration and its supporters about the Plame leak. Still, they can't stop going back to the well. Both the New York Times and the Washington Post today cite an anonymous source who "who believes that [Libby's] statements show he did nothing wrong," and who claims, "Mr. Libby did not know her name or her position at the agency and therefore did not discuss these matters with Ms. Miller." Are these the same sources that said Libby wasn't involved at all? Despite public promises to provide an explanation whenever possible, neither paper says why the source requested anonymity.
THE PROBLEM WITH FAIR AND BALANCED: In a transparent effort to "balance" their reporting on the leak scandal, the New York Times notes that neither Rove nor Libby "is known to have mentioned Ms. Wilson by name or to have mentioned her status at the C.I.A." That's true, but irrelevant. First, under the law, the issue isn't whether someone mentioned her by name, but whether someone revealed her identity. Second, Ms. Wilson was working under non-official cover representing herself as energy consultant. If someone discloses she works at the CIA, even if there was no mention of her covert status, that blows her cover.
ACTION BY FITZGERALD EXPECTED SOON: The term of the grand jury investigating the case expires on October 28. That means special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is expected to wrap up his investigation soon, possibly with the criminal indictment of one or more key players. Bush has also pledged to act. In July 2004, Bush answered "'yes' when asked if he would fire anyone in his administration who leaked Plame's name."
From the September 27 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes: (ed note: via Media Matters)So let me get this straight:
COLMES: Neil, listen, I love your commentaries, many of which are in their book. They're witty. But you can love America -- You have Iraq and patriotism, you have a piece on that. You can be against the war and still be a patriot.
COLMES: We're not all flag-burners because we don't agree with this particular mission. And you use the word "flag-burning," for example, in one of your commentaries, right?
CAVUTO: Yes, I do.
COLMES: I mean, we're not flag burners -- we're haters if we disagree.
CAVUTO: No, because my view, guys is very -- and I'll tell you, Alan, my view is very simple. A lot of people make fun and they're like, "Oh, you know, you're a Yankee doodle dandy, the flag pin." As [Fox News chairman and CEO] Roger Ailes has indicated, I'm pro-choice on flag pins. If you don't want to wear them, that's fine. I am saying this, though, that I would much sooner go down as a pretty good American when I try to be versus a good journalist. The good journalist thing is not nearly as important.
HANNITY: Well, I think you're a great American.
From the September 28 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:
CALLER: I noticed the national media, you know, they talk a lot about the loss of revenue, or the inability of the government to fund Social Security, and I was curious, and I've read articles in recent months here, that the abortions that have happened since Roe v. Wade, the lost revenue from the people who have been aborted in the last 30-something years, could fund Social Security as we know it today. And the media just doesn't -- never touches this at all.
BENNETT: Assuming they're all productive citizens?
CALLER: Assuming that they are. Even if only a portion of them were, it would be an enormous amount of revenue.
BENNETT: Maybe, maybe, but we don't know what the costs would be, too. I think as -- abortion disproportionately occur among single women? No.
CALLER: I don't know the exact statistics, but quite a bit are, yeah.
BENNETT: All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --
CALLER: Well, I don't think that statistic is accurate.
BENNETT: Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could -- if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky.
Eleven years ago, the Republicans took control of Congress - breaking a 40-year Democratic reign in the House - by campaigning as reformers out to derail a Democratic machine that Mr. Gingrich described as endemically, irredeemably corrupt. In fact, as the 1994 election approached, the Democrats endured several ethics scandals, including the fall of a speaker, a majority whip and the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Now the Democrats are reaching for the reformers' mantle. More and more, they attack the Republicans as a party riddled with corruption and out of touch with the problems and concerns of ordinary Americans.
Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, telegraphed the assault in an interview on Wednesday. "Their party has run out of both legitimacy and intellectual steam," he said.
A year before the midterm elections, the polls show Congress with a strikingly low approval rating - 34 percent in the most recent New York Times/CBS News Poll, conducted from Sept. 9 to 13. One Republican strategist, who asked not to be identified because of his work with Republicans on Capitol Hill, said of the DeLay indictment: "When you pile it on top of everything else - Iraq, Katrina, gas prices - it's pretty grim. We're still waiting for some sign of good news, something our candidates can run on. This isn't it."
The strategist added: "The Democrats will make the case that Republicans are too busy dealing with their own ethical issues to care about the problems facing the country. And guess what? That charge worked pretty well for us in '92 and '94."
Smith knew all about Nichols' violent depredations from TV. Yet she saw him not as a monster, but as one of God's creatures. Most Christians -- most people -- have trouble seeing the humanity of people who take our parking spots. Smith could see God's hand in a multiple murderer holding her hostage. By showing him genuine Christian love, Smith turned Nichols from a beast to a brother in Christ.
ATLANTA Sep 27, 2005 — Ashley Smith, the woman who says she persuaded suspected courthouse gunman Brian Nichols to release her by talking about her faith in God, discloses in a new book that she gave him methamphetamine during the hostage ordeal.
Smith did not share that detail with authorities after she talked her way out of captivity.
In her book, "Unlikely Angel," released Tuesday, the 27-year-old Smith says Nichols had her bound on her bed with masking tape and an extension cord. She says he asked for marijuana, but she did not have any, so she dug into her illegal stash of crystal meth instead.
She writes that she asked Nichols if he wanted to see the danger of drugs and lifted up her tank top several inches to reveal a five-inch scar down the center of her torso the aftermath of a car wreck caused by drug-induced psychosis. She says she let go of the steering wheel when she heard a voice saying, "Let go and let God."
WASHINGTON (AP) - A day after castigating the federal government's ousted disaster chief, a House panel is hearing pledges from government auditors that they will closely examine millions of dollars in contracts the Bush administration awarded to politically connected companies for Hurricane Katrina relief.
The inspectors general from half a dozen agencies, as well as officials from the Government Accountability Office, on Wednesday were addressing a House subcommittee on the Katrina cleanup and announcing several new audits to combat waste and fraud.
They are pledging strong oversight that includes a review of no-bid contracts and close scrutiny of federal employees who now enjoy a $250,000 - rather than a $2,500 - purchase limit for Katrina-related expenses on their government-issued credit cards.
``When so much money is available, it draws people of less than perfect character,'' H. Walker Feaster, inspector general of the Federal Communications Commission, said. ``It underscores the need for internal controls of the money going out.''
In recent weeks, several prominent journalists have publicly acknowledged that the U.S. media accorded President Bush too much deference following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman and NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams both noted that it was only in observing government failures in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort that journalists began seriously to challenge the administration. NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell conceded that reporters have been "less challenging" since the attacks. Friedman wrote that the 9-11 attacks created in the media a "deference" towards the administration. Williams described the press corps as "settling in to too comfortable a journalistic pattern," a phenomenon he described as the "9/11 syndrome."As if the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth thing wasn't enough to clue you fuckers in to how twisted and evil this man was???
St. Vincent Medical Center, one of the largest organ transplantation centers in the state (ed. note: California), has suspended its liver program after discovering that its doctors improperly arranged for a transplant to a Saudi national using an organ that should have gone to a much higher priority patient at another hospital, officials said.Y'know, I sort of picture this bouncer behind a red velvet rope, and all these sick folks in wheelchairs...
Hospital staff members then falsified documents several times to cover up the alleged maneuver, pretending that the transplant was for a patient who was near the top of the regional waiting list, hospital President and Chief Executive Gus Valdespino confirmed Monday.
The transplant took place in September 2003 and was paid for by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. But Valdespino said the problem was discovered only this month when officials were responding to routine questions from auditors at the United Network for Organ Sharing, the nonprofit group that administers the national transplant system.
PARIS, (AFP) - Terror suspects detained in France had been eyeing up the Parisian metro network, an airport and the headquarters of the domestic intelligence service as possible targets, sources close to the investigation said.First, London, twice in July. Now Paris.
The suspicions were based on an intelligence tip-off from Algeria and from telephone surveillance, although there is no hard evidence they had settled on a particular target, they said.
Nine people were detained by police early Monday in a series of raids west of Paris in what officials said was a crackdown on suspected Islamic terrorist activities.
Among those being held is Safe Bourada, 35, who was released from prison in 2003 after five years for helping organise a series of bomb attacks in France in 1995 for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA).
Officials said the men were members of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), an armed Algerian group that grew out of the GIA and has links to the Al-Qaeda network. Bourada was described as their ringleader.
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove to fight a move to crackdown on firms which used offshore headquarters to pay lower U.S. taxes, according to a published report.
The Washington Post reported Friday that boast by Abramoff, who is facing wire fraud and conspiracy charges on another matter, was revealed by Timothy E. Flanigan, general counsel for conglomerate Tyco International (Research) in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Flanigan is a Bush administration nominee to be deputy attorney general, and the statement to the committee was part of his confirmation process.
The contracts also show considerable price disparities: travel trailers costing $15,000 to $23,000, housing inspection services that documents suggest could cost $15 to $81 per home, and ferries and ships being used for temporary housing that cost $13 million to $70 million for six months.
Topping the federal government's list of costs related to Hurricane Katrina is the $568 million in contracts for debris removal landed by a Florida company with ties to Mississippi's Republican governor. Near the bottom is an $89.95 bill for a pair of brown steel-toe shoes bought by an Environmental Protection Agency worker in Baton Rouge, La.
The first detailed tally of commitments from federal agencies since Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast four weeks ago shows that more than 15 contracts exceed $100 million, including 5 of $500 million or more. Most of those were for clearing away the trees, homes and cars strewn across the region; purchasing trailers and mobile homes; or providing trucks, ships, buses and planes.
More than 80 percent of the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency alone were awarded without bidding or with limited competition, government records show, provoking concerns among auditors and government officials about the potential for favoritism or abuse.
Already, questions have been raised about the political connections of two major contractors - the Shaw Group and Kellogg, Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton - that have been represented by the lobbyist Joe M. Allbaugh, President Bush's former campaign manager and a former leader of FEMA.
"When you do something like this, you do increase the vulnerability for fraud, plain waste, abuse and mismanagement," said Richard L. Skinner, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, who said 60 members of his staff were examining Hurricane Katrina contracts. "We are very apprehensive about what we are seeing."
Bills have come in for deals that apparently were clinched with a handshake, with no documentation to back them up, said Mr. Skinner, who declined to provide details.
"Most, if not all, of these people down there were trying to do the right thing," he said. "They were under a lot of pressure and they took a lot of shortcuts that may have resulted in a lot of waste."
An examination of the contracts granted to date and interviews with state and federal officials raised concerns about some of the awards.
Some industry and government officials questioned the costs of the debris-removal contracts, saying the Army Corps of Engineers had allowed a rate that was too high. And Congressional investigators are looking into the $568 million awarded to AshBritt, a Pompano Beach, Fla., company that was a client of the former lobbying firm of Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi.
The investigators are asking how much money AshBritt will collect and, in turn, what it will pay subcontractors performing the work, said a House investigator who did not want her name used because she was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
For some smaller companies, the recovery work will be an extraordinary test. For example, Aduddell Roofing and Sheet Metal, an Oklahoma City business run by a former steer wrestler, shares with a partner a $60 million contract to install temporary roofing on houses in Mississippi. Aduddell's single biggest contract before this was for $5 million, company executives said.In other words, about what it spends EACH YEAR in Iraq.
Some businesses awarded large contracts have long records of performing similar work, but they also have had some problems. CH2M Hill and the Fluor Corporation, two global engineering companies awarded a total of $250 million in contracts, were previously cited by regulators for safety violations at a weapons plant cleanup.
The Bechtel Corporation, awarded a contract that could be worth $100 million, is under scrutiny for its oversight of the "Big Dig" construction project in Boston. And Kellogg, Brown & Root, which was given $60 million in contracts, was rebuked by federal auditors for unsubstantiated billing from the Iraq reconstruction and criticized for bills like $100-per-bag laundry service. All of the companies have publicly defended their performance.
Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, the ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, complained that FEMA and other federal agencies were delivering too much of the work to giant corporations with political connections, instead of local companies or minority-owned businesses.
"There is just more of the good-old-boy system, taking care of its political allies," Mr. Thompson said. "FEMA and the others have put out these contracts in such a haphazard manner, I don't know how they can come up with anything that is accountable to the taxpayers."
As of last week, the federal government was spending more than $263 million a day on the recovery effort.
To provide some safeguards, federal agencies can hold an open competition in advance for products routinely needed in emergencies. Such agreements are known as "indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity," or I.D.I.Q. contracts.
The Defense Department relied on that type of contract in assigning Kellogg, Brown & Root to perform more than $45 million in repairs to levees in New Orleans and military facilities in the gulf region.
Records show, however, that FEMA did not use this approach for the blue sheeting used to cover holes in roofs, a standard item in the disaster tool kit. Instead, the agency bought $6.6 million of the material from All American Poly of Piscataway, N.J., on Sept. 13, without full competitive bidding.
Before signing contracts with mobile-home and travel-trailer makers worth in excess of $1 billion, FEMA said it did solicit bids. But the awards were made without the standard open competition required for government contracts.
Mr. Rothwell, of the Homeland Security Department, said FEMA needed to expand its number of I.D.I.Q. agreements so that when disasters struck it could bring in contractors more quickly and at a competitive price.
The two most expensive services the government has signed contracts for so far are manufactured housing and debris removal, which alone have totaled $2 billion, according to contracting records.
The debris contracts have attracted the scrutiny of investigators from the House Homeland Security Committee, in part because of the price agreed to by the Army Corps of Engineers.
AshBritt, which has won the biggest share of those contracts, is being paid about $15 per cubic yard to collect and process debris, federal officials said. It is also being reimbursed for costs if it has to dispose of material in landfills.
But three communities in Mississippi, which found their own contractors rather than accept the terms offered by AshBritt, have negotiated contracts of $10.64 a cubic yard to $18.25 a cubic yard, including collection, processing and disposal.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eighteen of the poorest nations will have their debts to the International Monetary Fund wiped out after rich countries bridged differences on Saturday that threatened a pact first signed this summer.
Leaders of the Group of Eight nations pledged at a July meeting in Gleneagles, Scotland, to cancel all debt owed to the international institutions by the world's poorest states, an agreement roughed out by their finance ministers the month before.
But some smaller European countries like the Netherlands were worried the G8 would not stump up the extra cash needed and that the commitment would undermine the existing resources of the World Bank and IMF.
Faced with the possible collapse of the deal at this weekend's annual meetings of the two institutions in Washington, the G8 on Friday promised additional money would be available, overcoming the smaller countries' objections.
"The world has come together," said Chancellor Gordon Brown who has personally championed the debt write-off and chairs the IMF's steering group, the International Monetary and Financial Committee.