Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for March 30th, 2007

Uh-oh: big new scandal brewing

with one comment

Laura Rozen has it:

From 1991 to 1993, a young lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve was working as a program manager in a Pentagon intelligence office. His name was Mitchell John Wade. His boss, the assistant secretary of defense for command, control, communications and intelligence, was Duane P. Andrews. Andrews’s job at the Pentagon was essentially to serve as intelligence advisor to the secretary of defense. The secretary of defense at the time was someone that Andrews knew well and respected immensely: Dick Cheney.

Back during the Reagan administration, Andrews had served as a professional staff member to the House Intelligence Committee, of which Cheney, then a Wyoming Republican congressman, was a prominent member. In a recent interview with a federal technology magazine, Andrews lists Cheney as his personal, lifelong hero.

In 1993, at the end of George H.W. Bush’s presidency, Cheney went on to become CEO of the oil services giant Halliburton; Andrews joined the massive government contractor SAIC, where he would rise to become CIO; and Wade, then 30 years old, moved to form his own defense contracting firm, MZM, Inc. But it wasn’t until 2002 that MZM would get its first federal government contract: a peculiar one-month, $140,000 contract from the White House, later revealed to be for providing computers, office furniture, and specialized computer programming services to the Office of the Vice President.

Wade’s company would later get three more contracts from the White House and tens of millions of dollars in contracts from the Defense Department and other federal agencies, many of them for classified intelligence work. In the summer of 2005, of course, it all began to unravel for MZM, after journalist Marcus Stern of the San Diego Union Tribune/Copley News service noticed that San Diego congressman Duke Cunningham had sold his house to a company that listed as its name a Washington, D.C. street address, 1523 New Hampshire Ave. This was the address of MZM. After an extensive investigation that led to a sprawling federal probe run out of the San Diego U.S. attorney’s office (the now-fired Carol Lam), Wade pled guilty last year and is awaiting sentencing on charges related to bribing Cunningham, who himself pled guilty on bribery-related charges and is serving out an eight year prison sentence. In February, three more indictments were issued in the case, this time against a San Diego-based defense contractor and Bush/Cheney Pioneer with whom Wade had closely worked, Brent Wilkes; Wilkes’s longtime friend-turned-CIA executive director Kyle Dustin Foggo, who is accused of steering Wilkes CIA contracts and has since resigned; and the nephew of a Greek American businessman who is accused of laundering some of Wilkes’s and Wade’s bribes to Cunningham through his mortgage company.

Cheney’s office declined to comment on why Wade’s MZM received the $140,000 contract, or describe any possible contacts with Wade. Andrews did not respond to messages left at his current company or home in northern Virginia. There is no indication that he played any role in Wade’s efforts to get federal contracts.

But this past week,

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 8:12 pm

IOKIYAR: It’s OK if you’re a Republican

leave a comment »

This particular acronym got a lot of use in the recent pass, and it’s still very applicable:

The White House today lashed out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for daring to visit Syria in the coming days. White House spokesperson Dana Perino:

I do think that, as a general rule — and this would go for Speaker of the House Pelosi and this apparent trip that she is going to be taking — that we don’t think it’s a good idea. …

I’m not sure what the hopes are to — what she’s hoping to accomplish there. I know that Assad probably really wants people to come and have a photo opportunity and have tea with him, and have discussions about where they’re coming from, but we do think that’s a really bad idea.

Not only are the administration’s attacks on Pelosi hypocritical, but the timing suggests they are a partisan hit. ThinkProgress has learned that a delegation of Republicans is currently in Syria. (This has not been previously reported by the press.) Why did the White House wait until Pelosi’s imminent visit to raise this issue publicly, and not make mention of the Republicans already there?

Here’s what the White House isn’t talking about:

Republican Reps. Aderholt and Wolf are currently visiting Syria. According to a congressional official on Rep. Robert Aderholt’s (R-AL) staff, Aderholt and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) are currently visiting Israel and Syria.

Republican Rep. Hobson accompanying Pelosi on Syria visit. Speaker Pelosi will be traveling with a contingent of members of Congress to Syria. The delegation includes Reps. David Hobson (R-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nick Rahall (D-WV).

Moreover, as the AP reports, “Earlier this month, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Ellen Sauerbrey held talks with a senior Syrian diplomat on how Damascus was coping with a flood of Iraqi refugees, the first such talks in the Syrian capital for more than two years.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 3:52 pm

Gonzales can pick ’em, too

leave a comment »

It’s not just Bush who has an eye for incompetent and corrupt staff—Gonzales is good at it, too:

The U.S. Attorney Scandal has struck a new victim: the American taxpayer. A judge ruled Wednesday that an epic blunder by federal prosecutors in the largest tax prosecution ever means that the treasury can’t recoup at least $100 million in restitution.

Telecommunications entrepreneur Walter Anderson pled guilty to tax evasion, but U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said the binding plea agreement listed the wrong statute. This problem could have been overcome had prosecutors not failed to include any discussion of probation as is routine in such deals.

Because of the technicality, Judge Friedman said, “I’ve come to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that I have no authority to order restitution. . . . This is a very poorly drafted agreement.”

The case was prosecuted by the office of the interim U.S. Attorney for D.C., Jeffrey A. Taylor. Taylor was appointed directly by Attorney General Gonzales without Senate confirmation in November 2006 under a provision of the Patriot Act that Congress has recently voted to reverse.

Sure enough, Taylor came straight from the Bush Administration. He served as Counselor to Attorney Generals John Ashcroft and Gonzales for four years prior to his selection. Before that he worked as an aide to Sen. Orrin Hatch, where he actually participated in the writing of the Patriot Act.

Jeffrey Taylor has also given hundreds of dollars to the Republican National Committee and to George W. Bush.

As the acting U.S. attorney for D.C., Taylor has the sole authority to enforce House or Senate subpoenas through citations for contempt of Congress. Even if Taylor actually chooses to prosecute an administration official for refusing to testify – which is highly unlikely – could we trust him not to screw it up?

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 2:41 pm

The war on drugs is a war on minorities

leave a comment »

Arianna Huffington in the LA Times:

There is a subject being forgotten in the 2008 Democratic race for the White House.

While all the major candidates are vying for the black and Latino vote, they are completely ignoring one of the most pressing issues affecting those constituencies: the failed “war on drugs” — a war that has morphed into a war on people of color.

Consider this: According to a 2006 report by the American Civil Liberties Union, African Americans make up an estimated 15% of drug users, but they account for 37% of those arrested on drug charges, 59% of those convicted and 74% of all drug offenders sentenced to prison. Or consider this: The U.S. has 260,000 people in state prisons on nonviolent drug charges; 183,200 (more than 70%) of them are black or Latino.

Such facts have been bandied about for years. But our politicians have consistently failed to take action on what has become yet another third rail of American politics, a subject to be avoided at all costs by elected officials who fear being incinerated on contact for being soft on crime.

Perhaps you hoped this would change during a spirited Democratic presidential primary? Unfortunately, a quick search of the top Democratic hopefuls’ websites reveals that not one of them — not Hillary Clinton, not Barack Obama, not John Edwards, not Joe Biden, not Chris Dodd, not Bill Richardson — even mentions the drug war, let alone offers any solutions.

The silence coming from Clinton and Obama is particularly deafening.

Obama has written eloquently about his own struggle with drugs but has not addressed the tragic effect the war on drugs is having on African American communities.

As for Clinton, she flew into Selma, Ala., to reinforce her image as the wife of the black community’s most beloved politician and has made much of her plan to attract female voters, but she has ignored the suffering of poor, black women right in her own backyard.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Drug laws, Firefox

More on the bad pet food

leave a comment »

From today’s paper:

Scientists with the Food and Drug Administration have linked a chemical to the illness and deaths of cats eating tainted food and raised for the first time the possibility that dry pet food may have been affected as well as wet food.

F.D.A. officials said at a news conference today that they have linked the chemical melamine, which they said is used as a fertilizer in Asia, to the kidneys of the affected cats. Thousands of owners of both cats and dogs who feed their pets wet or dry food have complained that their pets have become ill, but the F.D.A. has not yet determined if those illnesses are linked to pet food.

The agency has recalled a batch of contaminated Chinese wheat gluten that was sent to many pet food manufacturers, including one that makes dry dog food.

But they said they do not know yet if the contaminated wheat gluten has been used to make pet food. And the F.D.A.’s finding was also immediately disputed by the New York State Food Laboratory, the testing facility that announced last Friday it had identified Aminopterin, a rat poison, in samples of tainted cat food.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 1:44 pm

Posted in Cats, Daily life

Condi before Congress

leave a comment »

Excellent. Apparently she thought she could just ignore Congress:

At the heart of the CIA leak scandal was a false claim, made by President Bush in the infamous 16 words from his State of the Union address, that Iraq had sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear device.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has been trying for years to investigate how this fraudulent claim became part of the basis for sending our country to war, beginning with a letter to the White House two days before the war began.

The Bush administration has consistently refused his requests for information. Since the war began, Waxman has written 11 letters to Condoleezza Rice alone — she hasn’t responded to a single one.

On March 12, 2007, he wrote his first letter to Rice as committee chairman, asking that she respond by March 23. She didn’t, and Waxman has had enough:

Dear Madam Secretary:

On March 12, 2007, I sent you a letter renewing, as formal requests of the Committee, prior letter requests that I sent to you between 2003 and 2006. These requests sought information on the claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger, White House treatment of classified information, the appointment of Ambassador Jones as “special coordinator” for Iraq, and other subjects. My March 12 letter is attached.

The March 12 letter requested a response by March 23 to several of the inquiries, but the Committee received no response from you.

I now request your appearance before the Committee at a hearing on Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2154, Rayburn House Office Building. At this hearing, you will be asked to provide testimony and respond to questions on the subjects outlined in the March 12 letter and the original request letters.

Sincerely,
Henry A. Waxman
Chairman

Since Waxman wrote his March 12 letter, Rice has done more than a dozen press events, including interviews with Sean Hannity and Fox & Friends. Now it’s time she spend a few hours with Congress.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 12:43 pm

Former Rove aide asked to testify

leave a comment »

Thanks to Matt Hulan for pointing out this story:

Much to the chagrin of the White House, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wants to hear from Susan Ralston.

Jack Abramoff’s former personal assistant, Ralston became Karl Rove’s assistant in 2001, where she was his “implant” at the White House.

But after a report last October by Waxman’s committee (then chaired by Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA)) showed that Ralston had accepted thousands of dollars in gifts from Abramoff without compensating him, she abruptly resigned.

At the time, the White House was clear that Ralston’s resignation meant the end of the issue. “She recognized that a protracted discussion of these matterrs would be a distraction to the White House and she’s chosen to step down,” said deputy White House press secretary Dana Perino. “We support her decision and consider the matter closed.”

But it’s not closed, according to Waxman, who, in a letter sent today, invited Ralston to appear before the committee on Thursday, April 5, to answer questions about Abramoff’s access to the White House.

The hearing will also be a good opportunity for Waxman to press for more details about White House employees’ use of outside email accounts provided by the Republican National Committee. Ralston used such outside accounts when corresponding with Abramoff, even writing to him once, “I now have an RNC blackberry which you can use to e-mail me at any time. No security issues like my WH email.”

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 12:36 pm

Brace yourself: Bush lying

with 2 comments

Yet again:

The Bush administration has been trying to force Congress to abandon its support for an Iraq withdrawal time line by claiming that a “clean” Iraq spending bill must be signed by mid-April or U.S. troops will suffer. The Hill reported, the Pentagon and the White House have been “sounding alarms and sketching worst-case scenarios if Congress does not pass the 2007 supplemental by April 15.”

Renewing his veto threat on Wednesday, President Bush told Congress “the clock is ticking for our troops in the field“:

BUSH: Congress continues to pursue these [withdrawal] bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements, and start providing vital funds for our troops.

Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and others have been arguing that Bush is wrong, and that funds won’t dry up until June, giving plenty of time for negotiations:

Murtha says he believes the April 15 date for funds running out is incorrect. Based on the inquiries he’s made, he said, the Pentagon will start running out of money at the beginning of June.

“We’ve never had a year where they didn’t give us bad information,” said Murtha, who’s known for his contacts inside the military. “We’ve been asking people and we think it’ll be the end of May.”

Now we know who’s right. A new report from the Congressional Research Service makes clear that Bush’s deadline is completely fabricated:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 11:23 am

Lifehacker’s Top 10 free Windows downloads

leave a comment »

Take a look.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 9:24 am

Posted in Software

More on Goodling [sic — should be “Badling”]

with 2 comments

What a hack:

When a college intern in the Justice Department whined that all he was doing was filing and answering phones, Monica M. Goodling took him aside. If he wanted to do “substantive work,” she told him, he was going to have to prove himself first.

The intern walked out of the office in a huff, and when he returned an hour later, Goodling took him aside again. “You’re fired,” she said.

“Some people in the office thought: ‘Wow! That was tough,’ ” said Mark Corallo, her former boss in Justice’s Office of Public Affairs, who recalled the incident. “But I thought, ‘Good for her.’ ”

Part of a generation of young religious conservatives who swept into the federal government after the election of President Bush in 2000, Goodling displayed unblinking devotion to the administration and expected others to do the same. When she started at Justice, “no job was too small for her,” and as she moved rapidly up the ranks, none “was too large,” Corallo said.

“She was the embodiment of a hardworking young conservative who believed strongly in the president and his mission,” said David Ayres, former chief of staff to Bush’s first attorney general, John D. Ashcroft.

This week, Goodling, 33, became the most prominent federal official to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress since Lt. Col. Oliver L. North refused to answer questions — until he received immunity — during the 1986 Iran-contra hearings.

Goodling, now on an indefinite leave, most recently served as senior counsel to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and as Justice’s liaison to the White House. Her name appears on several e-mails about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys, and members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are eager to ask her about those dismissals.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 9:19 am

Peak oil coming soon

leave a comment »

How’s that alternative energy search going? How are we doing on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE)? Are we still happy with getting the same average mileage as we did in 1975? That’s one generation ago.

This is all going to change once we hit peak oil: once global oil production starts declining at the same time demand is rising, you’re going to see panic. Our government could take the lead, but our current Administration (and the GOP Congress it enjoyed for 6 long, terrible years) is more interested in protecting oil interests.

Anyhow, it’s here:

In a worst-case scenario, global oil production may reach its peak next year, before starting to decline. In a best-case scenario, this peak would not be reached until 2018. These are the estimates made by Fredrik Robelius, whose doctoral dissertation estimates future oil production on the basis of the largest oil fields. The dissertation will be publicly defended at Uppsala University in Sweden on March 30.

Fredrik Robelius bases his forecasts on studies of global oil reserves, historical production, and new finds. He focuses on the very largest oil fields, so-called giant fields, which produce a total of at least 500 million barrels of oil.

Giant fields comprise only about one percent of all oil fields in the world, but they nevertheless account for more than 60 percent of total production. Unfortunately, the trend is heading downward when it comes to new giant-field discoveries, both in terms of the number of fields and the volume of the fields located. The majority of the largest giant fields are found around the Persian Gulf and are more than 50 years old.

“The dominance of giant fields in global oil production supports the thesis that they will be crucial to what future production will look like,” says Fredrik Robelius.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 8:53 am

Fast bicycles

leave a comment »

The current speed record for a bicycle (human-powered) is 81 mph on a flat road. This video shows a number of bicycles designed for speed. You can read more about them here.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 8:27 am

Posted in Daily life, Technology

How the Bush gang handles important work

leave a comment »

From The Carpetbagger:

I listened to most of Kyle Sampson’s seven-hour hearing yesterday, but a mere five words stood out for me: the prosecutor purge “wasn’t scientific or well-documented.” It explained so much of the Bush administration’s style of governing.

There were some compelling developments yesterday, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was in worse shape at the end of the day than before the hearing began, but ultimately, the revelations proved unsatisfying. Sampson acknowledged that there was a list of prosecutors who had been deemed unworthy of employment, some of whom he acknowledged deserved to keep their jobs. But the process “wasn’t scientific or well-documented.” When it came to the Justice Department and the White House firing top federal prosecutors in an unprecedented purge, the Bush gang, apparently, was winging it.

Sampson testified that “there really was no documentation of this” other than “a chart and notes that I would dump into my lower right desk drawer.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said incredulously: “So this was a project you were in charge of? This was a project that lasted for two years? This was a project that would end the careers of eight United States attorneys, and neither you nor anybody reporting to you kept a specific file in your office about it?”

If Sampson is to be believed, no. Better yet, he may have taken notes or produced records during this unscientific and undocumented process, but he discarded them a long time ago.

The whole narrative leads to two possible conclusions about the Bush gang’s conduct: they’re either spectacularly inept or breathtakingly dishonest. It’s a tough call, but I’m leaning towards the latter.

Kevin Drum summarized the problem nicely:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 7:56 am

Interior Department corruption scandal

leave a comment »

Everywhere you look in the Bush Administration you see rot and corruption. Bush has staffed the Federal with incompetents and criminals. What a mess. Here’s another example:

A senior Bush political appointee at the Interior Department has repeatedly altered scientific field reports to minimize protections for imperiled species and disclosed confidential information to private groups seeking to affect policy decisions, the department’s inspector general concluded.

The investigator’s report on Julie A. MacDonald, deputy assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks — which was triggered by an anonymous complaint from a Fish and Wildlife Service employee and expanded in October after a Washington Post article about MacDonald — said she frequently sought to reshape the agency’s scientific reports in an effort to ease the impact of agency decisions on private landowners.

Inspector General Earl E. Devaney referred the case to Interior’s top officials for “potential administrative action,” according to the document, which was reported yesterday in the New York Times.

The IG noted that MacDonald “admitted that her degree is in civil engineering and that she has no formal educational background in natural sciences” but repeatedly instructed Fish and Wildlife scientists to change their recommendations on identifying “critical habitats,” despite her lack of expertise.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 7:42 am

Megs in morning sun, again

leave a comment »

Megs on platform Megs again Megs loses interest

Megs quickly loses interest when all she sees is my left hand, snapping my fingers. Second photo is rather blurry, but then so is Megs.

I have to acknowledge that there’s not a lot of variety to the Megs photos, but then there’s not a lot of variety to Megs’s life. Still, she seems to enjoy it and maintains an active interest in what does happen, interspersed with naps.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 6:44 am

Posted in Cats, Megs

Mocha shave, single-edged blade

with 2 comments

This morning was the Classic Shaving Mocha shaving soap, worked up into a fine lather with the Rooney Style 2 Finest. Then I took my adjustable Schick Injector and dialed it up to 5 (it has been at 2). Best shave yet with the razor, using a Ted Pella blade. Exceptionally smooth and nice, and no nicks.

For those of you teetering on switching from a multiblade cartridge razor, consider the Schick Injector as your first single-blade razor: has sort of a cartridge feel, and you can readily find them on eBay or in the Selling/Trading forums on ShaveMyFace.com and BadgerandBlade.com.

Alum bar, Taylor No. 74, and a pot of coffee. And I’m sitting here feeling how wondrously smooth and nice my face is. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 6:33 am

Posted in Shaving

Another scandal about to erupt?

leave a comment »

Bush certainly knows how to pick ’em:

The head of the federal agency responsible for providing women with access to contraceptives and counseling to prevent pregnancy resigned unexpectedly Thursday after Medicaid officials took action against him in Massachusetts.

The Health and Human Services Department provided no details about the nature of the Massachusetts action that led to Dr. Eric Keroack’s resignation.

Just five months ago, Keroack was chosen by President Bush to oversee HHS’ Office of Population Affairs and its $283 million annual budget. The pick angered Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups that viewed him as opposed to birth control and comprehensive sex education. Keroack had worked for an organization that opposes contraception.

“Yesterday, Dr. Eric Keroack alerted us to an action taken against him by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Office of Medicaid. As a result of this action I accepted his resignation,” Dr. John Agwunobi, assistant secretary for health, said in a terse statement Thursday evening.

Massachusetts Medicaid officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Keroack’s office oversees family planning services provided through the Title X program. Services include screening for breast and cervical cancer, as well as treatment for sexually transmitted disease. Services are provided on a sliding scale based on income, and no one is refused service based on inability to pay.

Written by Leisureguy

30 March 2007 at 6:29 am

%d bloggers like this: