It was a full day for the GOP yesterday. First, the National Republican Campaign Committee admitted, after receiving a $2,000 contribution from Duke Cunningham's expiring campaign fund, that they have no "standard practice for dealing with donations from convicted former lawmakers." Also yesterday, Jack Abramoff's defense team called him "a selfless patriot," with character references from 130 Republican lawmakers, some of whom called him, with total lack of irony, "generous."
They finished by killing a measure in the Senate to strengthen ethics enforcement:
On a 67 to 30 vote, the Senate defeated a bipartisan proposal to create an office of public integrity, which its backers said was designed to strengthen enforcement of Senate rules and bolster voters' trust in Congress in the aftermath of the guilty plea in January of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
For the record, my senators (Durbin and Obama, both D-IL) voted for the bill. I'm curious why Clinton (D-NY), Feinstein (D-CA), Boxer (D-CA), and Murray (D-WA) voted against it.
I'm also surprised McCain (R-AZ) voted for it, since he's showing himself to be farther right than Cheney lately; but I suppose it's possible to be an ethical radical right-winger:
American military hero and Arizona Sen. John McCain will deliver the Commencement message at Liberty University on May 13, at 9:30 a.m., in the Liberty University Vines Center. In addition, renowned Christian conservative leader Gary Bauer will speak during the University’s baccalaureate service on May 12, at 7:00 p.m., in the main sanctuary of the Thomas Road Baptist Church.
Didn't he once call Jerry Falwell, who founded Liberty University, an "agent of intolerance?"
Finally, if you have extra time today, read Jimmy Carter's op-ed in the Washington Post:
During the past five years the United States has abandoned many of the nuclear arms control agreements negotiated since the administration of Dwight Eisenhower. This change in policies has sent uncertain signals to other countries, including North Korea and Iran, and may encourage technologically capable nations to choose the nuclear option. The proposed nuclear deal with India is just one more step in opening a Pandora's box of nuclear proliferation.
It occurs to me that President Carter is still eligible to serve another term...
Well, this is interesting. MSNBC is reporting this hour that White House Chief of Staff Andy Card has resigned, to be repleced by Budget Director Josh Bolten.
By Joyce Appleby and Gary Hart.
Joyce Appleby is professor emerita of history at UCLA and co-director of the History News Service. Gary Hart is a former U.S. senator and Wirth Chair in the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Colorado, Denver.
From today's Washington Post:
Sewage Tested for Signs of Cocaine
Fairfax Participating In Federal Program To Assess Drug Use
Earlier this month, [Fairfax County, Va.,] agreed to participate in a White House pilot program to analyze wastewater from communities throughout the Potomac River Basin for the urinary byproducts of cocaine.
No, uh, kidding.
This time the appointee was NASA Inspector General Robert "Moose" Cobb, refusing to allow further investigation of a 5 June 2002 incident in which the Shuttle Endeavour launched despite a "no-go" from both Air Force safety officers:
Two range officials—the mission flight-control officer and the chief of safety—are responsible for determining whether the command-destruct system is working and the public is protected. During the final poll before liftoff, both responded "no go" because of the system's problems.
[Brig. Gen. Donald] Pettit overruled them, however, and declared the range green "with little if any discussion," according to the briefing document drafted by investigators. Shuttle managers launched Endeavour without ever knowing of the safety officers' actions.
No one interviewed by investigators, or by the Orlando Sentinel, was aware of another example in the history of U.S. human spaceflight in which the range's top two safety officials were "no go" and the range commander overruled them.
But wait! There's more:
Cobb, a White House political appointee, is under investigation by an administration integrity committee after being accused of repeatedly quashing cases and retaliating against those who resisted.
Let's see...groupthink, suppression of dissent, bad decision-making, and a total inability to accept responsibility for dangerous choices. Yep, that's a Bush guy.
This week's Science has a special collection of stories about climate change. The evidence is getting better for a 1–3°C (2–6°F) increase in global average temperatures, with concomitant sea-level rises and significant shifts in local climates:
Recent research papers in Science and elsewhere are pointing to a major acceleration in the loss of mass from the world's great ice sheets. That means that the sensitivity of these giant storehouses of water to climate warming may be far greater than expected—with potentially dire sea level implications during the next several centuries.
Since the current administration doesn't believe in evidence, the new findings aren't likely to spur change here in the U.S. Fortunately, we will have a new administration in less than 1,033 days. One hopes Miami will still be dry by then.
The Economist has a (surprisingly cliché-ridden) story of Tuesday's primary election (sub.req.) in Illinois:
IT MAY be the Land of Lincoln, but it is a long time since Illinois had a leader of Honest Abe's reputation. Four of the state's governors have been indicted in the past half-century, and federal investigators are now looking into ties between fundraising by the current governor, Rod Blagojevich, a Democrat, and the awarding of state contracts. Unfortunately for Mr Blagojevich's Republican challenger, Judy Baar Topinka, the state treasurer, her own party may be too damaged by infighting and past scandals to mount a serious challenge. Having won the nomination on March 21st, in a bitter and surprisingly close primary race, she now must find a way to circle her party's wagons.
[S]ince [Topinka's] ethics have now been questioned by Republican rivals, and given the investigation hanging over Mr Blagojevich's office, it may not be long before the whole race degenerates into wanton mudslinging. The Chicago Tribune, licking its lips, predicts a campaign that will be "absolutely brutal."
Of course, Illinois is 70% Democrat, so really the governor's race got decided Tuesday.
First, the local story: Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich will face Judy Baar Topinka in the November election. Former Chicago alterman Edwin Eisendrath, for whom I voted, polled 32% to Blagojevich's 68%; Topinka got 38% of the Republican vote to dairy owner Jim Oberweis' 32%. No one appears surprised by the results, nor will anyone be surprised when Blagojevich is re-elected.
Now, the international story: The Basque separatist group ETA has declared a permanent cease-fire, as the Irish Republican Army did a decade ago that ultimately led to the IRA renouncing violence.
The general who headed the effort to train the Iraqi military says Rumsfeld should resign:
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is not competent to lead our armed forces. First, his failure to build coalitions with our allies from what he dismissively called "old Europe" has imposed far greater demands and risks on our soldiers in Iraq than necessary. Second, he alienated his allies in our own military, ignoring the advice of seasoned officers and denying subordinates any chance for input.
In sum, he has shown himself incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically, and is far more than anyone else responsible for what has happened to our important mission in Iraq. Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.
Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general, was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004.
You've got to hand it to USMC Chief Warrant Officer James Averhart: he's doing his part in the war on terrorism by tracking down Vietnam-era deserters:
A man was being held in a US military prison yesterday for deserting from the marines 38 years ago after being caught on the American-Canadian border amid a new drive to track down Vietnam-era deserters.
Since he took over the marine corps Absentee Collection Centre in 2004, Averhart has reopened cold cases and claims to have tracked down 33 deserters. "I have a different leadership style than the guys who have had this job. My job is to catch deserters. And that's what I do," he told Florida's St Petersburg Times.
Legal observers said the new drive to hunt down Vietnam deserters is designed as a deterrent for soldiers being sent to Iraq.
I mean, really.