Archive for February 3rd, 2009
1. I finished Billy Boyle, and the novel fully delivers on its promise. Very good, and I can’t wait to read the next two.
2. I’m watching Ghost Town, and it’s absolutely, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Wonderful movie!
I held off posting this link until you’ve eaten your lunch, as the process described is sickening. Glenn Greenwald writes:
When Tom Daschle joined the law and lobbying firm Alston & Bird in 2005, The Washington Post detailed the critical role played by Bob Dole — special counsel to the firm (who "has been reported to earn $800,000 to $1 million annually") — in recruiting Daschle to join (h/t). The article quoted Dole as explaining why Daschle would be such a valuable addition with a sentence that ought to be taught in every sixth-grade civics class around the country to explain how our Government works:
Dole said the Democrat would be a valuable asset to the firm even though Congress is run by the GOP these days.
"He’s got a lot of friends in the Senate, and I’ve got a lot of friends in the Senate, and, combined, who knows — we might have 51," Dole joked. "It’s going to work fine. You need some flexibility and diversity. I don’t think any successful firm is all Democrat or all Republican."
That about covers how Washington works: driven by sleazy, bipartisan influence-peddling. And it is, in particular, how the Senate works: members do nice favors for their "friends," who are lavishly paid for asking for those favors (and who ensure that their "friends" still in the Senate are rewarded for granting those favors), and the outcome is our set of laws.
Just to get a sense for how much sleazier this has all become, the Post quotes …
The party of no brain, just opposition. From ThinkProgress:
The Obama administration is reportedly capping the Pentagon’s 2010 budget for non-war spending at $527 billion, a level previously recommended by Bush administration officials. Despite the fact that this will represent an 8 percent increase over 2009 funding levels, conservative commentators are painting the cap as a budget cut. CQ’s Josh Rogin reports: …
Nebraska is a right-wing state, so even the Democrats from there are iffy. ThinkProgress:
College students sought financial aid in record numbers last year, leading even Bush administration officials to call for an increase in Pell Grant funding — “the most important form of aid to needy students.”
Yet Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) is arguing against the House version of the economic recovery package because of its funding for Pell Grants. Nelson says he wants to eliminate “non-stimulative” and non-“job creation” items in the bill:
Even some Democrats are speaking out against including popular programs — such as an almost $15 billion increase in funding for Pell grants for higher education — in legislation that is supposed to spark an economic recovery. “You don’t want to be against Pell grants,” said Sen. Ben. Nelson (D-Neb.). “But the question is: How many people go to work on Pell grants?”
Increasing Pell Grant funding is a key way to preserve jobs in this tough economy. As grant recipients pay tuition and buy books, college faculty and staff will stay employed at a time when the education sector is experiencing widespread job cuts.
Improving the skills of unemployed American workers and providing funds to allow lower-income students to work their way through college would provide a boost to the economy and improve the workforce skills needed when businesses begin to hire again as the economy improves.
Furthermore, because the recession has forced colleges to raise tuition and cut aid, students receiving Pell Grants will quickly spend their loans, providing a short-term stimulus to the economy. In the long-term, increasing access to higher education is an investment that will help alleviate a human capital-starved economy.
Although Nelson has championed Pell Grant funding in the past, he is echoing right-wing talking points in labeling parts of the bill as “non-stimulative.” Putting off the Pell Grant shortfall for a later date is something the economy cannot afford.
Update: Mike Connery has more on Nelson and higher education.
Update: Campus Progress has launched a take action campaign on higher education funding.
Lindsay Beyerstein has a good article, which begins:
Influence comes in many forms. Often, influencing the influencers is a smart strategy. Free food never hurts, either.
The head of public relations for the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer makes free food a centerpiece of his “tips for managing journalists” an industry conference, Advertising Age reports.
In this video clip, Pfizer’s global public relations chief Ray Kerins explains his strategy for working with journalists, whose coverage, in the words of Advertising Age,”so heavily impacts the pharmaceutical giant’s reputation.” Kerins says: …
Three good articles:
Did Obama Really Create a Loophole for Rendition?, which begins:
This story that ran Sunday in The Los Angeles Times, “Obama Preserves Rendition as Counter-Terrorism Tool”, has caused quite a stir. Swirling ’round the blogosphere, it’s got all sorts of people in a tizzy that President Obama isn’t really ending torture and the Bush administration policy of “extraordinary rendition” of suspected terrorists to torturing countries.
But civil rights lawyers who’ve read Obama’s orders think the concerns are overblown, and the plain language of the executive orders Obama issued in the first 48 hours of his presidency suggest just the opposite. …
A ‘Phony’ Ban on Torture?, which begins:
In his op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, “Congress’s Phony War on Torture,” William McGurn takes congressional Democrats to task for not immediately proposing a law to ban waterboarding. Never mind that President Obama has already banned it and new Attorney General Eric Holder has clarified that it is, indeed, a form of torture.
But what caught my eye in McGurn’s piece is his suggestion that intelligence leaders who claim that torture has succeeded in extracting critical information from U.S. captives and “helped save innocent lives” ought to testify about those claims to Congress. (Behind closed doors, of course.)
I think I made the case pretty strongly in my piece today on why the failure of the stimulus bill to protect private contractor whistleblowers, and the omission in the Senate version to even protect federal employees, is a serious problem.
Now a coalition of good-government and whistleblower advocacy groups has written a powerful response to an editorial that appeared in The Washington Post on Monday bashing the entire purpose of including whistleblower protections in a stimulus bill at all. According to that editorial, which I cited in my piece and has gotten lots of attention from others (including this terrific post from emptywheel), federal employee protections don’t belong in a stimulus bill at all…
Eric Holder Vows End to ‘Inappropriate’ Secrecy, which begins:
The Secrecy News Blog, published by the Federation of American Scientists, notes that Attorney General Eric Holder has made some promising statements on the issue of government secrecy.
In response to questions from Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), Holder wrote:
I will review significant pending cases in which DOJ has invoked the state secrets privilege, and will work with leaders in other agencies and professionals at the Department of Justice to ensure that the United States invokes the state secrets privilege only in legally appropriate situations.
And also: …
I was thinking a couple of days ago (as I looked at the on-line USPS store and saw passport wallets) that one would these days want a passport wallet lined in copper foil to act as a Faraday cage. That would mean that the Customs people couldn’t use the RFID chip in your passport (the foil would block it off), so they would have to ask for your passport and take it out of the wallet—that’s fine by me. I can put it back in the wallet before I walk away.
And now this, via AmericaBlog:
Think of it this way: Chris Paget just did you a service by hacking your passport and stealing your identity. Using a $250 Motorola RFID reader and antenna connected to his laptop, Chris recently drove around San Francisco reading RFID tags from passports, driver licenses, and other identity documents. In just 20 minutes, he found and cloned the passports of two very unaware US citizens. Fortunately, Chris wears a white hat; his video demonstration is meant to raise awareness to what he calls the unsuitability of RFID for tagging people. Specifically, he’s hoping to help get the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative — a homeland security project — scrapped. Perhaps you’ll feel the same after watching his video posted after the break.