The Fifth Estate

The relations which exist between the social and political condition of a people and the genius of its authors are always numerous; whoever knows the one, is never completely ignorant of the other. - Alexis de Tocqueville

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Save the Whales

Ok, I'm blogging this because it's not something I'm accustomed to seeing these days. Right?

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration is considering speed and routing restrictions for East Coast shipping to protect North Atlantic right whales, one of the world's most endangered large whales.

Officials with the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said they plan to release details by month's end of the first step in the process of issuing the new rules.

Only about 300 right whales exist, in U.S. and Canadian waters of the western North Atlantic, the species depleted largely by centuries of commercial whaling. Now, accidental collisions with ships or entanglements with nets threaten recovery. Adult right whales, which can live about 70 years, range from 45 to 60 feet long and weigh 30 to 80 tons.

posted by Ileana  # 6:18 PM

A Slice of Life in Ashcroft's World

Just another example of the way things are now...

What is justice?

The first time they allowed Brandon Mayfield any visitors, he reached out toward the heavy glass partition and spoke into the telephone, trying to reassure his wife and mother:

"Even after the FBI had searched his house, carried away belongings and confiscated credit cards and checkbooks – without charging him with a crime – Mayfield told his family that he had faith in the system.

"'He said he believes in this system. He said it is the best system in the world,' AvNell Mayfield, 63, recalled. 'He knows he will be exonerated. He said no matter what transpires, just be patient, reassure the children and don't let the waiting get to you. He said, `This will all turn out alright.'"

And so it did – but not until John Ashcroft's Justice Department had done everything to keep him jailed, defenseless, and smeared as a "terrorist" in the eyes of the world.

Two weeks after the March 11 Madrid terrorist bombings, the FBI started watching the 37-year-old lawyer and Muslim convert 24/7. The ostensible reason was that a computer search matching up fingerprints found at the scene of the bombing matched his – along with 15 others. The FBI narrowed it down to three, and honed in on Mayfield because of his religion, his associations, and his political views. This is what one FBI official later described as "an absolutely incontrovertible match."

Using the power granted them by the "PATRIOT" Act, FBI agents broke into his house and conducted a search in his absence, rifling through his kids' Spanish homework, and leaving the doors double-bolted – which immediately alerted the Mayfield family that someone had been on the premises. Mayfield called 911 when it happened a second time, and he found a man's footprint on the rug. They couldn't pick up the phone without hearing an odd clicking. When the FBI finally swooped down on the Mayfields' home in a quiet suburb of Portland, Oregon, they burst in the door, trashed the place, and trundled him off in handcuffs without a word. He was jailed for weeks without charges: Ashcroft's goons told the media he was being held as a "material witness" to the Madrid bombings.

posted by Ileana  # 6:08 PM

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

In case you missed this on Suburban Guerrilla
posted by Ileana  # 9:47 PM

I can do it! Yes I can!

He wants us all to think he's not just one great big pussy. We're not to suppose to notice his beady little shifty eyes when he speaks. We're supposed to turn a deaf ear to his verbal fumblings that makes us ALMOST feel sorry for him, the poor guy, bungling his words, speaking in short sentences. Not a drop of sincerity about him.

So does it really surprise anybody that this illiterate village idiot believes he can accomplish this latest in his littany of lies?

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush outlined plans on Monday to hand over power to a friendly Iraqi government and promised with Iraqi approval to tear down the infamous prison where American soldiers abused inmates.

The president was using a prime-time speech on television to try and convince Americans that he can turn around the deteriorating situation in Iraq with just five weeks to go before the United States plans to hand over power to an interim Iraqi government on June 30.

BTW: No station during prime time in Philadelphia aired his speech.
posted by Ileana  # 8:44 PM

We know, we know

It's all just so unbearable anymore. It's all the same crap, and so insidious!!! But, if you need something to further fuel the fire of your political outrage, read this LA Times piece about Rumsfeld...

By the normal standards of business or government, Donald Rumsfeld should long since have resigned or been fired as secretary of Defense.

The reason is not ideology, nor is it his role in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, horrifying though that may be. The reason is incompetence. His record in Iraq over the last 13 months is the most dramatically incompetent performance by a public official in recent American history.

United States forces entered Baghdad in triumph in April 2003. Today they cannot prevent an assassination on the doorstep of occupation headquarters. Insecurity roils the country. Six weeks before some uncertain form of sovereignty is to be turned over to an Iraqi regime, no one knows what that regime will be.

posted by Ileana  # 2:12 PM

Matrix, redux

Ok, so, once again, senior officials had no knowledge of known terrorists, or those who would be likely to -- oh, never mind...what's the use.

Before helping to launch the criminal information project known as Matrix, a database contractor gave U.S. and Florida authorities the names of 120,000 people who showed a statistical likelihood of being terrorists - sparking some investigations and arrests.

The "high terrorism factor" scoring system also became a key selling point for the involvement of the database company, Seisint Inc., in the Matrix project.

Public records obtained by The Associated Press from several states show that Justice Department officials cited the scoring technology in appointing Seisint sole contractor on the federally funded, $12 million project.

Seisint and the law enforcement officials who oversee Matrix insist that the terrorism scoring system ultimately was kept out of the project, largely because of privacy concerns.

However, new details about Seisint's development of the "terrorism quotient," including the revelation that authorities apparently acted on the list of 120,000, are renewing privacy activists' suspicions about Matrix's potential power.

"Assuming they have in fact abandoned the terrorist quotient, there's nothing that stops them from bringing it back," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the technology and liberty program at the American Civil Liberties Union, which learned about the list of 120,000 through its own records request in Utah.

posted by Ileana  # 2:04 PM

Well, we all knew this

John Dean asks retired political scientist David James Barber to take a stab at predicting a potential second Bush term. The results are, well, discomforting.

Barber's active/positive criteria requires a "relatively high self-esteem [with] … an emphasis on rational mastery," which is not Bush. Bush no doubt loves being head of state, enjoying the pomp of his high office, as well as the politics of the presidency. Yet there is no evidence he even likes being head of the government (for it involves far more intellectual rigor than Bush enjoys). In fact, Bush is like Nixon in that he gets out of the White House every chance he has to do so.

There is an abundance of evidence (from simply watching television coverage of the seldom smiling, often annoyed, forehead-wrinkled Bush) that demonstrates that Bush reaps a "relative[ly] low emotional reward" from the job -- to quote one of Barber's active/negative criteria.

posted by Ileana  # 1:58 PM

Thursday, May 20, 2004

Cleaning the Environment=More jobs

So, cleaning up pollution brings jobs. Not surprising that jobs in that sector have been lost under Bush.

The Commerce Department reported in 1998 that the environmental products industry employed 1.3 million Americans, generated $181 billion in revenues and contributed $16 billion to U.S. exports. The Bush administration has not published an update.

Some jobs are still being created as a result of actions taken by President Clinton. For example, on April 7, Corning Inc. opened a new factory in upstate New York to make pollution control devices for diesel trucks, which Clinton�s EPA required to clean up. And membership in the boilermaker union surged as power companies bought pollution controls required by President Clinton.

But the Bush administration's decision to weaken enforcement of the Clean Air Act has contributed to the nation's loss of manufacturing jobs. For example, DTE Energy (the Michigan-based site of a presidential visit last September to tout his environmental policies) stopped a planned cleanup program.

The Institute of Clean Air Companies-a trade group of more than 75 suppliers of air pollution control equipment-recently noted that the pro-polluter Bush approach could lead to additional job losses.

The pollution control industry actually should face a job boom in the coming years thanks to tougher national health standards for smog and soot set by the Clinton EPA. (Power plants and other smokestack industries eventually will have to clean up to meet the standards.) Yet even here the Bush administration has intervened to delay progress.

posted by Ileana  # 8:45 PM

Thursday, May 13, 2004

On the backs of taxpayers

If this happened in the private sector, the people holding these bogus degrees would be fired immediately.

A General Accounting Office investigation has uncovered three National Nuclear Security Administration managers with top-level security clearances who received fraudulent degrees from diploma mills, schools that essentially sell degrees while requiring little or no academic work.

The NNSA, an Energy Department agency, is responsible for handling, maintaining and protecting the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. NNSA officials have reviewed the situations of all three employees and determined "the conditions of employment did not rest on the education that they were claiming," NNSA spokesman Brian Wilkes told Government Executive . As a result, the revelations will not affect their job status.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said Tuesday that revelations of fraudulent degrees cast doubt on the employees' technical qualifications and their integrity.

The NNSA employees work in the Office of Emergency Operations and have Q-level security clearances, an Energy Department standard which allows access to nuclear weapons information.

One of the employees paid $5,000 for a master's degree from a diploma mill in Louisiana known as LaSalle University in 1996. In an interview with the GAO, he referred to his degree as a "joke." The second NNSA employee received a bachelor's degree in 2000 from Chadwick University, an unaccredited institution. The GAO reported that the second employee had not received any legitimate postsecondary academic degrees. The third person received a doctoral degree in engineering administration in 1985 from Columbia Pacific University, an institution that was shut down in 1999 by a California judge for failing to meet academic requirements, awarding undue credit for life experience and failing to employ qualified staff members.

To see it for yourself, the GAO report No. is GAO-04-771T
posted by Ileana  # 10:48 AM

Been out of town for my cousin's wedding in Mexico...

Came home to a dead car battery and a full schedule.
posted by Ileana  # 10:46 AM

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Word play


Fun: A source of enjoyment, amusement or pleasure.

Fundamental: Of or relating to the foundation or base; elementary: the fundamental laws of the universe; Forming or serving as an essential component of a system or structure; central; Of great significance or entailing major change

Fungicide: A chemical substance that destroys or inhibits the growth of fungi

Evangelical: Of, relating to, or in accordance with the Christian gospel.

Mental: Of or relating to the mind; intellectual: mental powers; Executed or performed by the mind; existing in the mind: mental images of happy times; Of, relating to, or affected by a disorder of the mind; Intended for treatment of people affected with disorders of the mind.

posted by Ileana  # 9:25 PM

Another train leaving the station

First a Treasury Secretary, then the nation's Counter-terrorism czar, now a voice from the EPA. America, are you reading?

Russell Train, a life-long Republican and evironmental czar who helped craft the EPA from the Nixon years and on, has a memoir of his own, Politics, Pollution and Pandas.
Mother Jones has the interview.

Even some Republicans are starting to sound the alarm on Bush's environmental record. One of them is Russell Train, one of the major players in the creation of both federal environmental policies and agencies under Nixon, and the second ever EPA chief, and is still active in environmental causes. Train has written a memoir, Politics, Pollution and Pandas, a fascinating memoir of his experiences as an environmentalist, which, on top of his government service, included a stint as head the World Wildlife Fund.

In the book, Train doesn't hold back from criticizing the Bush administration's environmental record. "During my time as EPA administrator," he has said, "I don't recall a single instance of the White House ever, ever interfering with a regulatory decision I had to make." That Train, at 84 a life-long Republican, feels the need to speak out, shows how far environmental policy and regulation have strayed from their early promise.

posted by Ileana  # 12:22 PM


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