October 14, 2005

A sad day for the Park Service



NPS Director Fran Mainella is whoring herself out for BushCo.
The National Park Service has started using a political loyalty test for picking all its top civil service positions, according to an agency directive released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Under the new order, all mid-level managers and above must also be approved by a Bush administration political appointee.

The October 11, 2005 order issued by NPS Director Fran Mainella requires that the selection criteria for all civil service management slots (Government Service grades or GS-13, 14 and 15) include the “ability to lead employees in achieving the …Secretary’s 4Cs and the President’s Management Agenda.” In addition, candidates must be screened by Park Service headquarters and “the Assistant Secretary [of Interior] for Fish, and Wildlife, and Parks,” the number three political appointee in the agency.

The order represents a complete centralization of Park Service promotion and hiring in what has traditionally been a decentralized agency. More strikingly, the order is an unprecedented political intrusion into what are supposed to be non-partisan, merit system personnel decisions.

In case you’re wondering, these GS ranks aren’t just people stuck at NPS headquarters in Washington.
The order applies to all hires for park superintendents, assistant superintendents and program managers, such as chief ranger or the head of interpretive or cultural programs. Overall, the policy applies to more than 1,000 mid-level management and supervisory positions in the Park Service.

I plan on telling Mainella I’ll use only Canadian national parks in the future.

Note: The first time I tried to load the Park Service website, it wouldn’t. It did the second time, but the “message from the director” page took four tries. She must already be getting a shitload of flack.

Give her more. E-mail Fran Mainella.

Latest Bush-McClellan PR coverup

So now Scotty McClellan, the court jester of the White House, is omitting comments from foreign leaders.


Of course, when you and Maximum Leader are dead wrong, and being told so in public, you have incentive to file-13 the statements of Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

Martin is probably thinking, "This doofus has to be kidding. Even Red Green is smarter."

President Bush pressed Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin for a negotiated settlement of the bitter U.S.-Canadian dispute over lumber tariffs on Friday. Martin rebuffed the overture and warned that Canada would seek relief in U.S. courts if necessary, according to their respective press secretaries. …
Martin insisted there's no reason for Canada to negotiate, as it has already won all challenges to U.S. tariffs on Canadian lumber in cases brought before North American Free Trade Agreement panels, (Martin spokeswoman Melanie) Gruer said. "The prime minister emphasized that it makes little sense to negotiate a victory that we've already won."

She said Martin told Bush that Canada would take its fight to U.S. courts and appeal to Americans who benefit from cheaper Canadian lumber — something Martin suggested would be an embarrassment to Bush.

McClellan did not mention that threat in his version of the conversation.

Of course, Scotty has so much on his mind recently, he's probably having trouble remembering what to forget when.

October 13, 2005

Smokey Joe - what a gas

“Councilman, we’ve been here 45 minutes. You STILL (ahem, clearing throat) have time to change your vote.”

Somehow, I don’t think Joe Tillotson, mayor of Lancaster, Texas, or any of the city’s mayors pro tem, have ever conducted a vote like this.

I’ve only covered city council and school board meetings in two of Today Newspapers’ primary coverage area). However, I’m sure none of the mayors in this area, dissatisfied with the results of a close vote, refuses to recognize that vote as final and instead, leaves the ordinance, resolution or whatever is at hand out on the table, and says, in essence, “We’re not moving on until somebody changes his or her mind — and vote.”

Mayor Tillotson might find himself afoul of the city council’s code of ethics.

However, if your name is Joe Barton, you’re a Republican congressman, and you’ve got your hands in the pockets of Big Oil for campaign cash, while they’ve got their hands in your pockets for unspecified favors in return, you can do things like this, to make those favors concrete.

And, since Tom DeLay, et al, have shown the current Congressional Republican leadership doesn’t have a code of ethics, you have nothing to run afoul of.

Because this did happen Oct. 7.

Joe Barton, taking advantage of a country willing to open both governmental and private checkbooks and write blank checks for anything, as long as the magic word “Katrina” is somewhere on the dotted line, decided to write one of those blank checks for his friends in Big Oil.

Literally.

Barton decided that Congress needed to pass a bill that would not only allow big oil companies to bypass a bunch of environmental legislation in building new refineries, but would actually pay them for their troubles if they ran into any state- or local-level opposition on the way to building those new plants.

Literally.

The bill says: “Under a contract authorized under this section, the Secretary (of Energy) shall pay — (A) in the case of a delay described in paragraph (2)(A), all costs of the delay in the initial commercial operation of a new refining or a refurbished refinery, including the principal or interest due on any debt obligation of the new refinery or of the refurbished refinery during the delay, and any consequential damages; and (B) in the case of a substantial reduction described in paragraph (2)(B), all costs necessary to offset the costs of the reduced throughput and the costs of complying with the new State or Federal law or regulations.”

Not just in part. “All costs” in startup delay. Interest included.

TXI is probably saying to itself, “Gee, can we get something like this written for us, Joe? Just insert the words ‘cement plant’ anywhere the word ‘refinery’ occurs, and we’ll be happy.”

More seriously, I don’t know if TXI wants in the refinery business, but who knows? Maybe they’re thinking diversification. If not TXI, it could be somebody else. And if not in Midlothian, it could be somewhere else not too far south of the Dallas County line.

And, speaking of location, location, location, another provision in Barton’s Oil Incentive Loot (BOIL) tells the greater Dallas area, in short, “Keep polluting, and I’ll keep cutting you more slack to meet federal Clean Air Act requirements.”

Now, if that isn’t the double whammy. The Dallas metropolitan area is told to pollute away, while the congressman just south of Dallas tells Big Oil, “Build a dirty refinery and send me the bill.”

Can we say, Downwinders at Risk, squared?

And, those 45 minutes?

The bill, as normal in the House of Representatives, had a five-minute voting window. At the end of those five minutes, it had been defeated by two votes, 212-210.

Did I say “defeated”? How preliminary of me.

GOP House leadership kept the vote open for nearly 45 minutes while twisting arms (and probably threatening to crack skulls, too). Finally, a couple of theoretically more moderate Republicans flipped, and Smokey Joe had a brand new baby Big Oil bill.

Well, this baby still has to pass the Senate, so it may ultimately go nowhere. There’s usually a bit more decorum — and ethics — on that side of the hall.

And, we haven't even touched the sarcastic light fantastic, that Smokey Joe's bill, the Gasoline for America's Security Act, is a GAS act flatuated by a gasbag.

Adapted from my Oct. 13 Today Newspapers column.

October 12, 2005

The “Big Book’s” big brother

It turns out the Alcoholics Anonymous-sainted Bill Wilson wasn’t even original with his “Big Book.” Instead, he borrowed at least the ideas for it pretty much wholesale from ”The Common Sense of Drinking” by Richard Peabody.

:Like Wilson, Peabody was himself an alcoholic drinker who got help through a church-based program. And given the print coverage of Peabody’s work, he hardly could have missed it.
In the 1930s Peabody was publishing articles in both the medical and lay literature on his method: The New England Journal of Medicine (1930), Mental Hygiene (1930), The American Mercury (1931) and American Magazine (1931). His book, The Common Sense of Drinking (1931) was republished in 1935 as an Atlantic Monthly Press book.

That said, there are definite differences. Wilson never claimed to be professional, or even an officially trained lay therapist. And AA was free, rather than charging.

On the flip side, though, it appears that Peabody strived for a more scientifically-informed approach than Wilson ever did.

October 11, 2005

Can’t tell the indictees-to-be without a scorecard

Say goodnight, Karl

Josh Marshall sure called this right.

It looks like the AP is burying the Bushian Caesar , not praising him.

On the one hand, this news certainly fits the backroom talking about an inside-the-White-House war over special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of the Valerie Plame leak.
FINEMAN: And that runs through a whole lot of things, whether it‘s Harriet Miers or Katrina. But it all starts with Iraq.

And some submerged, but now emerging divisions within the administration over why we went into that war, how we went into that war and what was done to sell it. There are people are out for Karl Rove inside that White House, which makes his situation even more perilous.

On the other hand, if the Huffington Post is correct then Rove is winning and Cheney is on the outs.

The rats certainly appear to be abandoning the sinking ship. The question is, which other rats' heads will they push beneath the surface in their panic to escape?

Update:
It appears Huffington Post may be right Fitzgerald may be further expanding the investigation.
Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group. Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Messrs. Rove and Libby, worked on setting strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion. The group likely would have played a significant role in responding to Mr. Wilson's claims.

Meanwhile, Cheney’s mouthpiece is ducking the country.
The chief spokesman for Vice President Dick Cheney, Steve Schmidt, left the United States Oct. 3 and won't return until Oct. 26, just as the investigation into who outed a covert CIA agent wraps up, RAW STORY has confirmed.

Perhaps he and Nino Scalia can do some Italian duck-hunting together while looking for Roman sources of that Niger forgery.

Conflicted Bill Frist gets some brotherly love

Gee, I’d like to have my brother manage my stocks in partnership while I run the Senate and vote on HCA-related issues, not to mention control the flow of legislation on healthcare.

Rather than some Republican mouthpiece claim this is all OK, listen to what real experts say:
Edmond M. Ianni, a former Wilmington, Del., bank executive who established blind trusts for corporate executives, questioned why the senator’s brother was able to manage assets “when the whole purpose of a blind trust is to ensure lack of not only conflict of interest — but appearance of conflict of interest?”
Kathleen Clark, a government ethics expert at the Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, said she doesn't believe the Senate trusts or the Tennessee trust insulated Frist from a conflict because the senator or his brother were advised of transactions and could influence decisions.
“What I find most appalling is the Senate calls it a qualified blind trust when it’s not blind,” Clark said. “Since the Senate says it’s OK, the Senate has made it a political question. It’s up to the voter. But there’s no doubt it's a conflict of interest.”

The Cockroach, I mean Hammer, stoops lower

So now, DeLay’s strategy is to subpoena Ronnie Earle.

Well, that just reinforces my contention that DeLay could have done his former career line, the entire pest control profession, morally right if he had turned his nozzle 180 degrees just before the last time he pulled the trigger.

October 09, 2005

Just like Bush with Abu Ghraib

It was just a few WaPost privates who oversold Iraq, Getler says

Senior management, op-ed staff conveniently overlooked


Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler claims it was primarily lower-level copy editors and their ilk who are to blame for hyping the potential invasion of Iraq.
The Post contributed a fair number of stories that raised questions about the issue of weapons of mass destruction. But too many of these were placed well inside the paper. Several other stories that challenged the official wisdom and unfolded in public were either missed or played down. I have attributed this mostly to what seemed to me to be a lack of alertness on the part of editors who at the time were also undoubtedly focused on preparing for the coming war.

He then concedes that higher-ups, if that is to whom he is alluding, might have a bit of fault:
Rather, it seemed to me that editors didn't have their eye on, and didn't go for, the right ball at the right time. It's a lesson that ought to be etched in the culture here as deeply as Watergate.

But he refuses to admit this is a case of “fish rotting from the head down,” or “newsroom culture starting at the top.”

He insists that Post reporters stood tough against Bush.
The administration was enormously skillful and disciplined at getting its message across while keeping other things secret. It made effective use of our concerns and reactions to the scary post-Sept. 11 world. Some journalists or news organizations may have been intimidated by the atmosphere. I don't think The Post was.

Well, maybe compared to the New York Times you weren’t, but then again, not everybody is lucky enough to have a Judy Miller.

In short, Getler refuses to name names on senior news editors or editorial management.

So I will. What about National Editor Michael Abramowitz? Deputy Foreign Editor Pamela Constable? Associate Editor Karen DeYoung? Associate Editor Robert G. Kaiser? Assistant Managing Editor Mike Keegan? Deputy National Editor Daniel LeDuc? Assistant Managing Editor for Investigations Jeff Leen? Deputy Foreign Editor Andy Mosher? Investigations Editor Larry Roberts? Deputy National Editor Judy Sarasohn? Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward (especially if Getler wants to say the Post fell down, compared to its Watergate coverage)?

Hell, what about Getler himself? What was his stance on Iraq starting from the summer of 2002?