The House narrowly passed a GOP-drafted ethics bill, 213 to 207:
The bill would require lobbyists to file quarterly instead of semiannual disclosures, and to include in those reports the donations they give to federal candidates and political action committees. Lobbyists would also have to make public the value of any gift that they give to lawmakers or congressional aides. In addition, appropriations bills would have to list any earmarks that they contain, as well as the sponsors of those projects. Ethics training would become mandatory for House employees under the legislation.
...[Christopher Shays (R-CT)] called the bill "pathetic." On the House floor, he added: "We're losing our moral authority to lead this place."
If by "we" he meant the Republican Party, then he's late to the game, as I'm pretty sure the Republicans lost whatever moral authority they had long before Mitch Wade opened a brothel for GOP Congressmen.
Paul Krugman (sub.req.) offers a hypothesis about the Administration's hiring policies:
The U.S. government is being stalked by an invisible bandit, the Crony Fairy, who visits key agencies by dead of night, snatches away qualified people and replaces them with unqualified political appointees. There's no way to catch or stop the Crony Fairy, so our only hope is to change the agencies' names. That way she might get confused, and leave our government able to function.
That, at least, is how I interpret the report on responses to Hurricane Katrina that was just released by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
The report points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency "had been operating at a more than 15 percent staff-vacancy rate for over a year before Katrina struck"—that means many of the people who knew what they were doing had left. And it adds that "FEMA's senior political appointees...had little or no prior relevant emergency-management experience."
Does anyone think Gore would have let this happen? Anyone at all?
Well, this is interesting. Ten states and two cities today filed suit against the Environmental Protection Agency seeking enforcement of the Clean Air Act to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions:
The states, led by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer [quel surprise—ed.], want the government to require tighter pollution controls on the newest generation of power plants.
In July 2005, a three-judge panel in the same court upheld the EPA's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars and trucks under the Clean Air Act. The agency argues the law does not authorize them to regulate emissions to reduce global warming, and maintains there is not enough scientific data to support such a move.
Not enough data? Tell that to Kiribati and Nunavut.
(Found first on Dr. Heidi Cullen's blog at weather.com
With only 999 days (or fewer) left in his term, President Bush has scored his 9th consecutive month of under-40 approval ratings, and his lowest-ever rating in the NBC/WSJ poll, "a feat exceeded only by Richard Nixon (13 months) and Harry Truman (26 months)."
[But] with the midterm elections just six months away, the biggest drop in the survey—11 points in one month—is in the approval rating of Congress, which is locked in a bitter debate over what do about these gas prices, immigration, Iraq and a host of other issues.
In the poll—which was taken April 21-24 of 1,005 adults, and which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points—just 24 percent believe the nation is headed in the right direction, a drop of two points since last month and seven points since January. What's more, only 17 percent think the nation’s economy will improve in the next 12 months, a decline of seven points since March.
MSNBC also has detailed poll results available.
Election day is just 194 days away.
Molly Ivins' column published in today's Chicago Tribune raises some good questions about why we can't ask good questions about our policies toward Israel:
For having the sheer effrontery to point out the painfully obvious—that there is an Israel lobby in the United States—[researchers] have been accused of being anti-Semitic, nutty and guilty of "kooky academic work." Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, who seems to be easily upset, went totally ballistic over the mild, academic, not to suggest pretty boring, article by Mearsheimer and Walt, calling them "liars" and "bigots."
Of course there is an Israel lobby in America; its leading working group is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. It calls itself "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," and it attempts to influence U.S. legislation and policy.
As she points out, Israelis are pretty harsh critics of their own government (and ours); why can't Americans criticize the Israeli government, too?
Let's sum up: The administration's energy and foreign policies have helped create a dire shortage of oil and prevented creation of alternatives. Yet, Bush is "probing" rising gas prices. There are only two possible conclusions: either he does not understand the connection, or he is lying about not understanding the connection.
"Energy experts predict gas prices are going to remain high throughout the summer, and that's going to be a continued strain on the American people," Bush said....
Under pressure from GOP leaders, Bush is taking a tough public line with the U.S. oil companies that are recording record profits and paying hefty salaries and retirement packages to executives.
Remember Upton Sinclair's wisdom: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it."
This story directly connects to two important milestones for today. First, as of 1pm Eastern time today (17:00 UTC), there are no more than 1,000 days left in the Bush administration. Let's start the countdown; it's our own "thousand points of light."
Second, as many people know, today is the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster. The Russian and Ukrainian governments are still cleaning up from it, yet nucular—sorry, nuclear—energy is starting to look more environmentally friendly than its principal competitors, oil and coal. This suggests that our problem isn't from where we get our energy, but how much we use. What a concept.
As many predicted, and as the perpetrators denied, Soldier Field has lost its landmark status following its destr--er, renovation in 2003, former Interior
Secretary Gale Norton announced as one of her last official acts on Friday. Says Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin:
If you obliterate a building's form, the government's decision suggests, you obliterate its meaning. Norton wisely ignored the arguments of those who claimed that Soldier Field retained its historic significance, irrespective of how it looked. Perhaps they would like to drop a steel-and-glass box inside the White House.
I'm reminded of Archimedes, I think it was, being skewered by an invading Roman for no apparent reason.
It's unusual to find such rousing agreement between left and right, but Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has gotten it. The Economist says "George Bush is a fool for keeping Donald Rumsfeld in his job" (though I can think of other reasons):
Getting rid of Mr Rumsfeld is no guarantee that things will get better. But keeping him ensures that they will get worse. Mr Bush made a huge mistake in not accepting Mr Rumsfeld's offer to resign in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Every day he keeps him in his job he compounds his mistake and weakens his presidency.
Chicago Tribune columnist Steve Chapman, on the other hand, finds a reason to keep him:
Should the president fire Donald Rumsfeld? That's like asking if Disney should retire Mickey Mouse. Why get rid of someone who represents everything important about an institution—particularly if doing so leaves those things unchanged? No, President Bush should keep Rumsfeld as a perennial symbol of the administration's essential characteristic: hubris.
Finally, Josh Marshall has a good explanation why Bush can't really fire him:
If Rumsfeld goes, you need to nominate someone else and get them through a senate confirmation. That means an open airing of the disaster of this administration's national security policy. Every particular; all about Iraq. Think how much they don't want that...
Two happy thoughts in conclusion: First, the general election is only 199 days away; and second, there remain fewer than 1,005 days and 1 hour in the Bush administration.
Josh Marshall reports that newspapers are reluctant to say that convicted felon George Ryan is a Republican:
As we mentioned earlier, the AP really, really didn't seem to want to mention that George Ryan, the former Illinois governor convicted of corruption today, is a Republican. The AP waited until the very end of the article to note that Ryan is from the GOP.
Time never got around to mentioning it. ... While failing to mention the party affiliation of the guy who got indicted, they did manage to have this as the second sentence of the article ...
On Monday, former Governor George Ryan, 72, became the third of the state's last six governors to be convicted of political misdeeds, and the current administration of Democrat Rod Blagojevich is also being investigated.
It's almost a tour de force of party ID bamboozlement.
Our home-town paper, the Chicago Tribune, identified him as "the Kankakee Republican" in the sixth paragraph.
It's just like Rush says: liberal press bias.
So the leader of China is visiting Washington this week.
Who, you may ask?
Yup. That's the guy.
(Sorry. I couldn't resist.)