Archive for December, 2006

Entry for December 30, 2006

December 30, 2006

Rush Holt (D-NJ) got involved in the latest Florida voting debacle Friday when he announced that he would ask for a raise a parliamentary inquiry irregularities in Florida’s 13th District election contest between Vern Buchanan (R) and Christine Jennings (D). before Buchanan is sworn into office Jan. 4, according to CQ News.

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Entry for December 29 2006

December 30, 2006

Until I read the December 21 entry on Tim Waltz (MN) in CQ Politics examination of Democrats newly elected to the House of Representatives, I hadn’t realized how the legacy of the beloved late Senator Paul Wellstone contributed to this come from behind win. It turns out that both Waltz and Keith Ellison attended Camp Wellstone,

Entry for December 28, 2006

December 28, 2006

Greetings from Cincinnati where I am inhaling the hunger provoking aroma of Joe’s homemade lasagne, as I write this entry.

From yesterday’s Weekly Spin from the Center on Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, news of a recess appointment reminiscent of the Stickler appointment to head MSHA: “Bush’s Christmas President for Public Broadcasting.”

The week before Christmas is often a time when government’s try to bury a controversial decision, safe in the knowledge that most people aren’t all that focused on politics. This week, President George W. Bush appointed Warren Bell to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The CPB, which is funded by Congress, makes grants to public radio and television stations in the U.S. such as PBS. Bell, a former television sitcom producer and contributing writer to the National Review, describes himself as a “a not-so-secret conservative.” Bell was originally nominated to the position in June 2006 but was opposed by Democrat members of the Senate Commerce Committee. Bush’s recess appointment means that Bell’s term will run until a permanent nominee is approved.

For more information, see “A feud over Bush’s pick
Warren Bell draws criticism as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting appointee,”
by Matea Gold in the December 22, 2006 Los Angeles Times.

And for news of what anoither of Bush’s appointees is proposing, you can thank OMB Watch for highlighting a front page December 2, 2006 Washington Post story, “GSA Chief Seeks to Cut Budget For Audits Contract Oversight Would Be Reduced,” by Scott Higham and Robert O’Harrow Jr.

In notes from an August 18 meeting leaked to the Post, Lurita Doan said of GSA Inpector General Brian D.Miller and his staff,

There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators .

Entry for December 27, 2006

December 27, 2006

Photo by Yahoo. RIP Gerald Ford. While the conventional wisdom is Ford was a modest, humble guy, who only wanted to heal the nation post=Watergate, Democracy Now’s program today reminds us that the picture is more complex.

  • President Gerald Ford Dies at 93; Supported Indonesian Invasion of East Timor that Killed 1/3 of Population
  • For more information see the National Security Archuve’s Exhibit on East Timor.

  • Investigative Journalist Robert Parry on Gerald Ford’s Legacy and the Bush Administration’s Roots in the Ford White House
  • Well, I think Gerald Ford gets a lot of credit because of when he became President and the extraordinary circumstances, in which he became President. He was, of course, the person who followed Richard Nixon, and brought, in a sense, the end to the national nightmare of Watergate. In another sense however, he also marks the beginning of the counter-attack, if you will, against the efforts by Congress, the Press and other Americans to reign in the Imperial Presidency.

    You start seeing already, in the early days of the Ford Administration, an effort to strike back against those efforts to limit the Executive Power. We have efforts in the CIA, when he brings in George H.W. Bush, to push back against Congressional oversight. To allow more space for the CIA to operate, to fight against efforts to expose some of the more corrupt CIA actions. And oddly, because of the timing of Ford’s Presidency, that it sort of came after the period, the Church Commission looked at, in terms of CIA abuses, and it came before the beginning of the formal congressional oversight process, the CIA operated during that year with a great deal of freedom. And we know — we don’t know enough about some of the things that were done during that period.

    So I think while Ford gets a great deal of credit, because he helped mend the nation’s wounds over Watergate, it wasn’t entirely this pleasant experience that some people are making it out to be. It was, in a sense, the incubator for the resurgence of the Imperial Presidency.

  • Did Gerald Ford Agree to Nixon Pardon Before Taking Office? The Nation’s Victor Navasky on Ford’s Memoirs and the Lawsuit that Followed
  • The last seems to be the lightest weight and most speculative of the three. But then, remember how Gary Webb’s reporting of the Contra-cocaine link was minimized. Robert Parry has an interesting essay of Webb and his treatment’s repercussions on invdestigative journalism following the second anniversary of his suicide, , which ran December 9 on his website: “Gary Webb: An American Tragedy.”

    *

    I’m enroute to Cincy. to visit Deb and eventually attend the New Year’s eve contra dance and potluck.

    Entry for December 26, 2006

    December 26, 2006

    This Knoxville News Sentinal photo of Wilma Dykeman taken in her Ashville, NC home in April 2004 by Paul Efird, accompanied J.J. Stambaugh (stambaugh@knews.com)’s story yesterday, “Dykeman’s portrayal of Appalachia appreciated: Late historian, author praised for understanding area’s people.”

    Today, after Mike fixed me breakfast and went into work, I met my friends fiction writer Mary Hodges and her husband Jimmy for lunch in downtown Knoxville, where we talked about Mary’s memories of Dykeman and of energy policy and then went over to the East Tennessee Historical Society to view the exhibit “Shots of World War II: The Photographs of Tony Vaccaro.”

    Globalist Magazine published Vacarro’s account of his WWII photos January 24, 2004, “‘Shooting’ Germany: 1944-1949.” There is a slideshow of some of the photos here.

    I’m writing this entry at the Knoxville hostel, where I am hosted by Al Wishart, before taking off tomorrow for Cincy to spend time at Deb’s and go to the New Year’s Eve potluck and dance and a party New Year’s day. One of the other residents wants the computer and so I’ll log off now.

    Entry for December 25, 2006

    December 25, 2006

    The still photo is from Everything is Illuminated with Elijah Wood and Laryssa Lauret, written and directed by Liev Schreiber, which I watched last night before leaving on my trip.

    Greetings from Knoxville, TN, where I am staying with Mike, the treasurer of Knoxville Country Dancers, in order to attend tonight’s Christmas dance with Nick Boulet calling and Fandamily from Ashville playing. KCD will also be sponsoring its Cabin Fever dance weekend February 23 -27.

    The floor at the Laurel Theater made for good dancing, although it was oriented parallel to the stage. I got to dance with lots of foks including Lee (biggest flirt award). Charlie from Philly and his son Steve (they have so many contra dancers in the family that they can have their own dance.) There were all sorts of goodies out and Mike tells me it’s that way every week.

    Entry for December 24, 2006

    December 23, 2006

    Illustration of the Koran from MSNBC’s hosting of WRC-TV’s story, “Va. Congressman Fears Election Of ‘Many More Muslims’

    I’m writing this entry early, as the library will be closed for the holidays until December 26. When my friend Tilly told me December 22 Virginia’s 5th District Representative Virgil Goode (R) had bad-mouthed Muslims, I thought of George Allen’s Maacaca moment and so, obviously did the Roanoke Times, as they have printed an editorial , “Virgil Goode’s Macaca Moment” on December 23.

    Tilly’s blog entry of December 21, “Virgil Goode (R-VA) doesn’t speak for me,” mentioned that C’ville Weekly had broken the story. On December 19, Erika Howsare’s article, “Goode makes complete ass of self: Anti-Muslim letter goes out to hundreds – not all are amused” shared a December 7 letter that John Cruickshank of Earlysville, chair of the local Sierra Club chapter, had recieved, unsollicited from Goode .

    Dear Mr. Cruickshank:

    Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

    The Ten Commandments and “In God We Trust” are on the wall in my office. A Muslim student came by the office and asked why I did not have anything on my wall about the Koran. My response was clear, “As long as I have the honor of representing the citizens of the 5th District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, The Koran is not going to be on the wall of my office.” Thank you again for your email and thoughts.

    Sincerely yours,
    Virgil H. Goode, Jr.
    70 East Court Street
    Suite 215
    Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151

    Goode’s office says he sent the letter by mistake, in response to constituents complaining about new elected Representative Keith Ellison (D-MN)’s request to be sworn in using a Koran. Ellison is the first Muslim to be elected to the Congress. He converted to Islam as a nineteen-year-old college student from Detroit. An attorney, he ran on a progressive platform which featured issues such as a call for:

    • immedaite withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
    • universal single payer health care
    • stopping the provision of Wall Street investors with a short term financial gain at the cost of long term ecological degradation
    • a strong and comprehensive public education funding and policy
    • comprehensive immigration reform to champion immigrants
    • opposition to gay marriage bans
    • law enforcement balanced by community involvement, respect for individual rights, and programs that attack the root causes of crime
    • right to choose abortion and omprehensive sex education
    • trade agreements with fully enforceable protections for workers rights and the environment on par with protections for business and the right of the nation and states to pass and enforce laws and regulations in the public interest
    • working towards a lasting peace in the Middle East
    • improved transit options

    Ellison will take his oath of office January 2 at the Operating Engineers Local 49 Union Hall .

    “Jihadists trash Muslim U.S. rep, “James Gordon Meek of the New York Daily News reported November 12 that Ellison would use the Koran. “A December 5 Religion News Service article by 2005 Alicia Patterson award winner Omar Sacirbey, “Ellison Won’t Be First Politician to Forgo Bible in Taking Oath of Office” ran December 9 in the Washington Post under the title,“Conservatives Attack Use of Koran for Oath: Sacred and Secular Books Have Subbed for Bible.” Reading it, I found out that John Quincy Adams took his oath using a law volume instead of a Bible.

    While legal scholars and Jewish groups affirm Ellison’s right to choose the book, Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson, president of the Becket Fund for [so-called] Religious Liberty, said,

    It makes no sense at all to have him violate the Constitution in order to affirm his duty to uphold the Constitution.

    What Constitution would that be?

    Entry for December 23, 2006

    December 23, 2006

    I learned that President Bus has explicitly endorsed a hike in the minimum wage, which has remained at $5.5 an hour since 1997 on December 20, when William L. Watts filed a story for Market Watch. “Bush backs minimum-wage hike but top lawmakers say ‘clean bill’ is essential”

    As I wrote in Chamber of Congress & theMinimum Wage (7/29/06),

    The Chamber of Commerce ran a feature, “U.S. Chamber Opposes Raising Minimum Wage” in its magazine as recently as May 2006, although, interestingly, this is one of the few articles on its website available only to members.

    At hisDecember 20, 2006 press conference, President Bush said, speaking of the upcoming Democratic Party=led Congress,

    Another area where we can work together is the minimum wage. I support the proposed $2.10 increase in the minimum wage over a two-year period. I believe we should do it in a way that does not punish the millions of small businesses that are creating most of the new jobs in our country. So I support pairing it with targeted tax and regulatory relief to help these small businesses stay competitive and to help keep our economy growing. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to help both small business owners and workers when Congress convenes in January.

    In response, George Miller, (D-CA)., the incoming chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, issued a press statement the same day.

    I am pleased to hear that President Bush supports a national minimum wage increase from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour. But let’s be clear: given that nearly a decade has passed since the last minimum wage increase, no one can seriously believe that the proposed increase will harm the small business sector. More than half the states already have laws setting their own minimum wages above $5.15 per hour. The states have been forced to act because Congress, for far too long, has failed to act.

    A minimum wage increase should not and need not be conditional on other legislation or policy changes. Increasing the minimum wage is the right thing to do; it is long overdue; it has the overwhelming support of the American people; and when Congress returns in January, it is what we will do.

    Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the incoming chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee also issued a press statement in resonse to Bush.

    In this election year, the American people spoke loud and clear in favor of raising the minimum wage. I’m glad that President Bush has endorsed my plan to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 to help millions of hardworking Americans lift themselves out of poverty. But we can’t slow down this important legislation with other proposals that should stand or fall on their own merit. Minimum wage workers have waited almost 10 long years for an increase- we need to pass a clean bill giving them the raise they deserve as quickly as possible.

    Kennedy’s Fair Minimum Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour in three steps. The release noted that:

    The number of Americans in poverty has increased by 5.4 million since President Bush took office. 37 million people live in poverty, including 13 million children. Among full-time, year-round workers, poverty has increased by 50 percent since the late 1970s….
    Since then the minimum wage was last raised in 1997, its real value has eroded by 21.3 percent…. Today, the real value of the minimum wage is more than $4.00 below what it was in 1968. To have the purchasing power it had in 1968, the minimum wage would have to be more than $9.37 an hour today, not $5.15….The salaries of lawmakers have gone up by $31,600 since 1997, while minimum wage workers continue to earn just $10,700 a year.

    Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has made a minimum-wage increase part of a package of priorities the House will act on in its first 100 hours of legislative business next month.

    On Election Day, voters in Ohio, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado passed referendums raising their minimum wage, depite opposition from business groups.
    Now more than 20 states and dozens of local governments require a higher minimum wage that the federal one.

    *

    Last night, I took a nap after dinner and waited for Tilly to pick me up for his performance at No Shame Theatre. I got back up at 10:43 and never heard from him and figured he had gotten lost on the way back to the house. When Misty got home, she brought me in a note that said he had rung the bell four times. My guess is that he rand the upstairs bell and I didn’t hear it.

    I called Walter at Boxies and he promised to have my Volvo ready for inspection and the oil changed by noon today. I’ was lucky to catch a bus downtown when I left the library by ll, when the driver, one of my favorites stopped when I waved him down as I was walking on Jefferson towards Campbell. I told him I was on the way to pick the car, despite the dead tag and inspection sticker and hope that the police don’t notice before I can get it inspected after the DMV reopens. A rider on the bus insisted that the DMV was open and that he had been there today. So intead of going to Boxies, I headed out to Crossroads where I had to walk all the way around to the back to find that the DMV was, of course, closed. Since Tilly had just gotten up, Misty was good enough to pick me up and take me back to Boxies,

    If the police do ticket me, I’ll have to go to Court and get the tickets dismissed “complied with law.” Maybe I can get back down to Knoxville after all to attend the Christmas Dance. Misty thinks it would help me forget about the vacation fiasco.

    It was great to be driving again, rather than relying on the hourly busses. I ran into Lorie from contra dancing over at Roanoke Natural Foods and filled her in on the sad doings in Urbana. AFter buying some gourmet items there for holiday presents, I headed over to the 419 library. One good thing I found out: the Vinton library, whichis in the County system, but reachable on the bus line, has no limit on how many one hours sessions you can have on the computer (as compared with the city giving you four half-hour sessions and then you’re out, even if there’re plenty of vacant stations in the lab.)

    Entry for December 22, 2006

    December 23, 2006

    December 18, while I was out of town, The EPA announced its Toxics Release Iventory Burden Reduction Final Rule in the Federal Register, which relaxes reporting requirements for the federal database on toxic pollution.

    OMB Watch sent out a news release the same day with its assesment. That group had had released a report December 14, “Against the Public’s Will,” finding that the public overwhelmingly opposed weakening the reporting on toxics. 23 state governments and more than 120,000 members of the general public, 60 members of Congress, 30 public health organizations, 40 labor organizations and 200 environmental and public interest organization responded against the proposed relaxatiion during the comment period.

    According to OMB Watch, after the closing of the comment period,

    • The House of Representatives passed a resolution preventing the EPA from implementing the rule changes;
    • Sens. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) placed a hold on a Bush administration nominee to protest the proposals;
    • EPA’s Science Advisory Board formally, in a letter offering the agency unsolicited advice, opposed the proposals; and
    • The Environmental Council of States passed a resolution urging EPA to withdraw them.

    Companies can now dump four times as much before reporting with the threshold rising from 500 lbs. to 2,000 lbs. for most of the 650-plus chemicals tracked through the TRI. Persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) in the air and water are included. While the EPA claims that the proposed rule does not de-list chemicals from the TRI, OMB Watch says the according to the agency’s own calculations, “Economic Analysis of the Proposed TRI Phase II Burden Reduction Rule, Appendix B: Sensitivity Analysis of the Expanded Eligibility of Form A: Non-PBT Chemicals Option Assuming Annual Reportable Amount Thresholds of 500, 1,000, and 2,000 Pounds” the new threshold would

    likely eliminate detailed reporting for at least 16 chemicals.

    I have yet to find that report on the EPA site. If I do I will add a link to this entry. What I did find, however, is the the rule was develped after the

    EPA collected suggestions from stakeholders in meetings and on-line between November 2002 and February 2004.

    I was wondering who those stakeholders were, so I took a look at the attendies at an October 19, 2004 briefing: Todd Abel, CCC

    • David Ailor, ACCCI/NOPA
    • William Allmond, National Association of Chemical Distributors
    • John Arnett, Copper and Brass Fabricators Council
    • Andrew Bopp, Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorators
    • Kevin Bromberg, U.S. Small Business Administration
    • Dr. Norbert Dee, National Petrochemicals and Refiners Association
    • Rick Deery, Resources Committee, House
    • Lisa Edouard, AF&PA
    • Julia Festa, AF&PA
    • Mary Catherine Fish, MCF Consulting, Inc.
    • Elizabeth Gaudio, National Federation of Independent Business
    • Jennifer, Giboon, National Association of Chemical Distributors
    • Jeff Gunnulfsen, SOCMA
    • Edward Herbert, National Ready Mixed Concrete Association
    • Steve Higley, Senate EPW
    • Maj. Office Joseph Johnson, SBA Advocacy
    • John King, American Petroleum Institute
    • Sean Moulton, OMB Watch
    • Andy Opperman, New Jersep DEP
    • Paul Orum, Working Group on Community Right-to-Know
    • Jane Powers, U.S. Department of Energy
    • Danielle Quist, House Government Reform – Sub Reg Affairs
    • Tiernan Sittenfeld, U.S. Public Interest Research Group
    • Ann Smith-Reiser, Analytical Services Corporation
    • Dean Scott, Bureau of National Affairs
    • George Sorvalis, Working Group on Community Right-to-Know
    • Bruce Steiner, American Iron and Steel Institutes
    • Derek Swick, American Petroleum Institute
    • Danielle Waterfield, Specialty Graphic Imaging Association
    • Lee Zeugin, Hunter and Williams; Edison Electric Institutes

    As you can see the stakeholders are heavily weighted towards industry, not evironmental and citizen’s groups.

    In response to the new final rule, Sean Moulton, Director of Federal Information Policy for OMB Watch said,

    This is a clear case of the agency disregarding the will of the American people. The EPA has no scientific or health data supporting these changes — nothing to ensure public safety. The agency is only interested in saving polluting companies a few dollars, at the expense of public health.

    Frank Pallone, Jr. (D=NJ), the longstanding patron of the Clean Water Protection Act, said

    Americans who live near industrial facilities want to know what’s going into their air and water. This [OMB Watch] report shows that the public supports the original intent of the TRI program — to give communities the right to know what kinds of toxic chemicals are being dumped in their backyards. … [W]e will take every step necessary to stop [the changes] in Congress.

    Ironically, all this danger to public health comes at a minimal savings to the company. EPA previously estimated the amount saved per chemical to amount to only $430 to $790..

    The OMB Watch report and statements from Sen. Lautenberg (D-NJ), Rep. Pallone (D-NJ), and Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) are available at: http://www.ombwatch.org/tricenter/.

    *

    Next time I diss Greyhound, remind me that the planes are even worse, just more expensive. Rather than buy me a bus ticket that would have allowed me to continue on my journey until I was ready to return home, Mark insited on sending me via airport “limosine” (a bus actually) to O’Hare, itself a three hour trip. The ticket home was for a flight that would have gotten me home in a “mere” total elapsed time eight hours (the drive is ten-plus). Then that plane was cancelled. Then the plane replacing it two-plus hours later was delayed again and again and again and, well you get the idea, each time by minutes until I abandoned all hope of getting home in time to get tags for my car at the DMV which is closed today because of the upcoming holidays. Meanwhile, Tilly was receiving phone calls about when to pick me up at the library and putting his plans on hold.

    After shopping for a few items at Krogers, I got home with him at about 7:30, rather than 2:30, the same delay as the Greyhound on the trip there.

    Entry for December 21, 2006

    December 21, 2006

    I got waylaid today from writing about OMB Watch’s fiscal year in review. As the days get short, things keep getting worse in Urbana. I’m feeling more like a package shipped return to sender every minute and will be heading back to Roanoke tomorrow morning long before sunup.

    On the bright side, some of my activist friends in Appalachia and I I did hear from Jared Saylor (email) at public interest lawfirm EarthJustice today:

    Hi all,

    We’re pleased to invite you all to take part in a very cool new function of our Stop Mountop Removal website [hyperlink] . The Community Module allows users to create their own page to encourage friends and family to take action to help stop mountaintop removal. There’s more information below, so please take a few minutes to see what you can do and create your own Take Action page. It’s quick, easy and fun. Before we roll this new feature out to those who have already signed up on the website (we’re over 1,800 members strong already!) we wanted to give you all a sneak peek, in hopes that we can get a few pages started and ask that you let us know what you think. If you have any suggestions or comments, feel free to send them to me or Kate Freund …[email]

    Jason’s page for the campaign is here and mine is here.

    I also got a nice note from David Caputo at Positronic Dessign. (blog, website which includes email form) I’ll add it as a comment to the original entry he mentioned, Bob Reich, OMB Watch and the Estate Tax (06/ 06/06/06).

    My fellow writer Tilly has also been sending encouraging emails all day. We plan to eat dinner tomorrow and then if I’m still vertical, I hope to support his performance at No Shame Theatre.