Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Corruption Allegations Surround Senate Democrat Leader

The Washington Post reports on the latest Congressional corruption scandal: "Reid Accepted Free Boxing Tickets While a Related Bill Was Pending"

Senate Democratic Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) accepted free ringside tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission to three professional boxing matches while that state agency was trying to influence him on federal regulation of boxing.


Senate ethics rules generally allow lawmakers to accept gifts from federal, state or local governments, but specifically warn against taking such gifts -- particularly on multiple occasions -- when they might be connected to efforts to influence official actions.


Several ethics experts said Reid should have paid for the tickets, which were close to the ring and worth between several hundred and several thousand dollars each, to avoid the appearance he was being influenced by gifts.

Two other senators attended the fights with Reid: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) paid for his and Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) had already recused himself from considering the legislation that the Nevada Athletic Commission sought to influence.

More details about this scandal and Sen. Reid's ties to Jack Abramoff are available in the main article. Rich Galen also comments, and asks how Reid would be being treated if his last name was DeLay.

Update, June 1: "Reid Says He Won't Accept Free Tickets"

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid learned that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas after all. A day after The Associated Press reported Reid accepted free ringside seats to boxing matches from a Nevada agency trying to influence him on federal boxing legislation, the senator offered his own ethics justification to a home state audience in Las Vegas.

And he vowed to keep taking such gifts.

But Reid's comments Tuesday quickly reached Washington, where several ethics experts concluded the Senate leader had misstated the Senate rules to his constituents.

Within hours of being questioned by AP about the ethics experts' assertions, Reid's office abruptly reversed course and acknowledged Wednesday night he had misspoken about the ethics rules.

The Senate leader also has decided not to take free boxing seats in the future even though he still believes it was ethical to do so in 2004 and 2005, Reid's office said.

More here.

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Did the Art of Monument Building Die in 1922?

In the Washington Post, Paul Richard complains that art of monument building in our nation's capital ended with the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial in 1922. It's an interesting read, and more detailed than my own earlier observations on DC architecture.

Yes, the Mall is in the District

The Washington Post reports:

The green expanse of the Mall evokes many emotions, but wariness has never been one of them. Over the years, the lack of crime has created an aura of safety that allows joggers and tourists, children and couples to drop their guard and stroll in the day and even at night.

"There's no question that the Mall has been off-limits to thugs, and it's no surprise that they found it," said Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). "But it should only be for a split second."

Norton, a race walker who strides across the Mall when the sun goes down, was angry that the U.S. Park Police did not double up patrols on the Mall after what happened Thursday. Twice that night, bandits brandishing a semiautomatic handgun robbed a man and a woman, assaulted the woman and fled. A similar attack happened early Sunday.


In the first, a couple walking along the Mall near the Museum of Natural History about 10:45 p.m. saw three young men wearing black ski masks and dark clothes approach. The men asked for the time, the male victim said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The robbers grabbed the woman's hair and pulled out a handgun, the man said. One groped the woman, she told him. They took about $100 and a checkbook from her purse, and a wallet and cellphone from the man, he said.

The second attack, which happened about 11 p.m. three blocks from the first, was similar in most respects, police said. But in that incident, the woman was beaten and kicked in the head and back, police said.

Then early Sunday, shortly after midnight, a group matching the description of the assailants in the Thursday night robberies resurfaced. Again, a couple were robbed on 12th Street. This time, the 17-year-old female was sexually assaulted, police said.


After the Thursday night incidents, police added a scooter and a patrol car to the stretch of Mall between Ninth and 12th streets, near where the attacks happened, Norton said.


In the dark, the Mall is a mix of elegantly lighted buildings, flags and monuments, with dim stretches illuminated by old-fashioned-looking street lamps. Figures can loom abruptly out of the shadows and vanish just as fast.

As you may recall, the district surrounding the Mall was ranked the 13th most dangerous city in America last year.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Spanish-American War Tax to End

The Washington Post reports:

The Treasury Department, conceding that it has no right to continue collecting a 108-year-old tax on long-distance telephone calls, announced [Thursday] that it will drop its legal battle for the tax and instead refund about $13 billion to callers who have paid the tax in the past three years.

The 3 percent tax, enacted in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War and revised in 1965, has been declared illegal by five federal courts of appeal during the past year as the result of challenges brought by companies forced to pay it.


Treasury Secretary John W. Snow yesterday called it "an outdated, antiquated tax that has survived a century beyond its original purpose, and by now should have been ancient history."

The tax, which was originally considered a luxury tax because only wealthy people had telephones at the time, will go out of existence July 31.

Refunds will be limited, but not very difficult to obtain:

Snow said the taxpayers will be able to claim three years' worth of the telephone tax, the legal limit on claiming tax overpayments, on their 2006 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service, he said, is working on a simplified method by which taxpayers can claim their refunds.

It is expected that, as with sales-tax deductions, taxpayers will be allowed to claim either a standard amount or an exact amount based on their phone bills. Individuals who are not required to file tax returns will be offered a special form for the rebate.


Snow noted that a similar levy on local calling remains in effect, and he called upon Congress "to terminate the remainder of this antique tax by repealing the excise tax on local service as well."

Apparently, the tax was ruled illegal as collected because it "applies only to calls priced on distance, not the length of the conversation, a restriction that should exempt most Internet phone service and cellular calls."

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A Brighter Metro?

The Washington Post reports:

So many light bulbs, so little light. Metrorail stations have 73,836 lights designed to produce a soft glow, the better to show off the stations' vaulted arches. But riders grumble that stations are too dark to read newspapers or even make out an escalator step.

Metro says it is listening: Poor lighting is its top maintenance concern. It is also a pet peeve of Metro's interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini.

"It looks like we're not really on top of our ballgame when you walk into a station and see light bulbs out," he said.

Thus illuminated, Metro officials plan to announce today steps to brighten the stations, 47 of which are underground.

Some steps are short-term: Metro will promise to replace burned-out bulbs within 10 days instead of three months. Brighter bulbs will top the platform pylons, the tall rectangular columns that display the station name and stops. And crews will do a total replacement and inspection of station lights every 10 months instead of annually.

Longer term, Tangherlini said, Metro needs to ask the bigger questions: "What kind of lighting do we want in the station, and how can we improve lighting while maintaining the architectural integrity and beauty?"

A review of how Metro lighting works and how difficult it is to change a light bulb leads to this observation:
...most relamping has to be done when trains aren't running, typically between 1:30 and 4 a.m. weekdays. It might sound easy, but it takes 13 workers -- and this is no joke -- working two shifts to change all the lights in a small station. It can take them seven shifts to finish screwing in all the bulbs and tubes at larger stations, such as Metro Center, that have more than one level.
The original article also reviews quite a few possible changes.

I have never had a problem with station lighting. It is darker than it could be, but not as bad as the complaints make it sound. Rush hour waits aren't long enough to make reading very important. Nevertheless, more light would probably be good.
The better lighting has benefits for Metro employees as well as riders. It will help operators of eight-car trains, who need to look down the platform to see passengers getting on and off the last car. Transit police will have clearer images on security cameras.
I also wonder if it would be possible to just paint the stations white.

I am growing doubtful about all the latest news. The recent flurry of proposals and announcements is starting to look like Mr. Tangherlini may just be campaigning to hold onto his "interim" job.

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Monday, May 29, 2006

Searching Congress - More Details

The Washington Post adds some points to the controversy over the recent search of a disgraced Democrat Congressman's office as part of an ongoing corruption investigation:

By the time FBI agents showed up at the office of Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.) on Saturday evening a week ago, the stage was set for a confrontation. Never before had federal officers raided a congressional office, but the Justice Department figured it had approached the search properly by first obtaining a warrant in the bribery case from a federal judge, timing their visit to keep it low profile and, to avoid the appearance of politics, not informing the White House first.

Accustomed to congressional deference, they were stunned when the situation blew up into a constitutional crisis over separation of powers and Hastert and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) demanded that Jefferson's files be returned. "The idea of turning criminal evidence back over to a criminal target is just preposterous," said one Justice official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Another law enforcement official noted that Hastert and other lawmakers had strongly supported the Justice Department's aggressive search and surveillance strategies for terrorism investigations. "It's fair to say we would have expected similar support when it comes to public corruption," the official said.

Well said.

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Maryland Governor Rejects Do-Nothing Special Session

The Washington Times reports on the already-doubtful special session demanded by some Maryland Democrats:

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. ... dismissed Democrats' calls for a special session on energy rates, saying they either lack a plan or offer proposals that are "sorely lacking."

"To call a special session just to hang around in the summertime and pretend you are doing something, without doing anything, makes absolutely no sense," said Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican.

"If they can come up with a better plan ... to provide rate stabilization and to ensure reliability, ensure the lights come on and the air conditioners work this summer, count me in," he said. "In fact, I'll lead the charge [for a special session]."


"You simply cannot have a special session and attack the Public Service Commission," Mr. Ehrlich said. "My purpose in calling a special session would be additional rate relief."

He faulted Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens and Howard County Executive James N. Robey, all Democrats, for demanding this week a special session without presenting an plan.

The Maryland rate hikes represent the natural result of failed price-controls, not something that can be fixed legislatively.

The Washington Post looks closer to the District to observe that people in Maryland and DC pay different rates for electricity. It shows some of the odd results of overregulation (where, amazingly enough, it looks like DC is doing a better job than Maryland).

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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Searching Congress

Rich Galen has some useful observations on the recent search of a Democrat Congressman's office as part of an ongoing corruption investigation:

Republicans and Democrats in the House have their Congressional knickers in a Constitutional twist over the notion that the doctrine of "separation of powers" was fused by the FBI when they searched Congressman William Jefferson's (D-La) House office Saturday night.

The FBI had previously videotaped Jefferson taking $100,000 in cash from an informant then got a warrant to search his house where they found 90 grand of it hidden in a freezer.

Two of Jefferson's former aides have already pleaded guilty to bribery - of Congressman Jefferson.


In their "separation of powers" claim, the House leaders are making it sound as if this was done solely on the say-so of the Justice Department. In fact, the FBI (Executive Branch) had a warrant to search a Congressman's office (Legislative Branch) which was signed by a Federal judge (Judicial Branch).

Two out of three. That's a hard number to stand up against. Critics have tried to portray the search as one branch against another, but it just is not true.

Mr. Galen goes on to detail the FBI's process of arrival, notification, and search. He also addresses the Constitutional claim, pointing out that taking a bribe is neither "speech" nor "debate." Reading the original column is recommended.

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Sunday, May 21, 2006

Baltimore Seeks an Identity

From the Washington Times:

[Baltimore] is trying yet another promotional slogan, after decades of attempting to arrive at catchy, appropriate one.

City officials have declined to confirm the selection of the slogan "Get In On It," but the Baltimore Sun reports the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association has submitted four trademark applications to secure its use.

Early reviews for the slogan were mixed.

"I've seen some dumb ones in the past, but this is the dumbest," Maryland Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, also a former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor, said through a spokesman.

Baltimore City Councilwoman Rochelle Spector simply asked: "Get in on what?"

This is not the first time the city has been ridiculed for its slogans: "Charm City," "The City that Reads" and "The Greatest City in America."


City officials paid consultant Landor Associates $500,000 over the past nine months to come up with the slogan.

The newspaper reported other slogan finalists included "The City You Savor," "Breeze Into Baltimore," "All City, No Hurry" and the cryptic "Enjoy The Pace."

Nancy Hinds, a convention and visitors association spokeswoman, said the new slogan will be announced at a ceremony Wednesday, as the city prepares for the tourism season, and that it was just one element of a new branding strategy.


Landor Associates director of brand strategy, Susan Palombo, told Mayor Martin O'Malley in November that many people have a poor perception of Baltimore, largely because of such TV dramas which focus on the city's crime and drug problems.

Baltimore, as you may recall, is also known for weird education policies, a ranking as the nation's 6th most dangerous city (DC was 13th), and a city council that concerns itself more with Iraq than violence in the city or a failing school system.

Here's two suggestions: "Baltimore: Like DC, but without the monuments" or "Baltimore: Like DC, but not as safe."

Friday, May 19, 2006

Shopping at the Metro?

The Washington Post reports on a proposal to bring vendors into Metro stations:

To boost revenue and provide riders with more conveniences, the transit authority is proposing to open some stations to businesses that would sell a variety of merchandise through kiosks and other retail spaces. A pilot program would set up such retail shops inside and outside 12 Metrorail stations.


When Dan Tangherlini, Metro's interim general manager, outlined the proposal, he initially suggested that Metro ask vendors to provide estimates that included the sale of food. But after much discussion, board members rejected the idea.

In fact, they were worried that even a discussion of such an option could backfire.


In the end... board members chose to eliminate food from all solicitations for proposals. Tangherlini said Metro staff members plan to investigate the option of food and beverage sales separately to see how much additional revenue that would generate. Metro plans to present an updated proposal to board members in the fall.


The food discussion almost overshadowed what Tangherlini said was the significance of the program. "This allows people to use their transit trips to check off something on their to-do list," he said.


The retail spaces would be inside the station in the free or paid area of the mezzanine; outside the station near the entrance, bus bays or Kiss & Ride; or inside the parking garage.

In addition to the food issue, there are some basic problems with having vendors inside stations - the stations just are not built for them. The inside of stations can already get quite crowded. Vendors would take up space, and probably create disruptive lines blocking movement. Some stations could use commercial development nearby, but not inside.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Election Just Barely Inside the Beltway

On May 2nd, I voted for the first time in la République populaire d'Alexandrie along with 19.7% of registered voters. I'm still not quite sure why. Out of ten votes possible - one for mayor (unopposed), six for city council, and three for school board - I could only bring myself cast one.

Republicans lose in Alexandria, not by as much as in DC, but by enough. Council members are elected at-large with the top six winning seats.

I actually kind of like the at-large voting system. By not having districts or specified seats, the most popular candidates are elected without the scheming that goes into picking which seat to run for. A more proportional system might elect 2 Republicans to the council, but in reality they would be as powerless as Republicans in today's Maryland legislature. Those 2 Republicans can instead be productive members of society.

Back to the election... Interviewed in the local paper, the Alexandria Times, several of Alexandria's "Republican" candidates made such strange statements that they made the virtually blank ballot attactive.

Most were anti-development - opposing housing in an area where housing prices drive people into the distant suburbs and opposing road construction, improvements, and connections despite significant conjestion and amazingly bad design (although "design" may give them too much credit).

Another was upset that the city doesn't regulate lawn mowers. (I don't generally vote for candidates that I laugh at.)

The last time I checked, the one candidate I voted for received the fewest votes of the 11.

Among those elected to school board was one woman, Blanche Maness, who refused to answer any substantive questions in her interview, saying instead that the superindendent should do that for her. This certainly makes her post-election comments stand out:
Blanche Maness, a winner from the West District, said she wants to create a website where community members can post questions and she can respond.
I would expect her responses to be something like "Perhaps a community member can answer this question."

The Washington Post also reported on the election.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Final Rejection of DC's Lawsuit Against U.S. Constitution

The Washington Post reports:

The Supreme Court today rejected the District's challenge to an act of Congress that bars imposition of a "commuter tax" on suburban residents who work in the city.

Without comment, the court let stand an appeals court decision upholding the ban as a legitimate exercise of the blanket authority over the city granted to Congress by the U.S. Constitution.


A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, headed by then Chief Judge John G. Roberts Jr., rejected the [district's arguments] in November 2005, saying that the city's real dispute lies with the framers of the Constitution, who gave Congress total authority over the nation's capital city.

It was an appeal of that ruling that the Supreme Court declined to hear today. Roberts, now Chief Justice of the United States, took no part in the decision.

For more information on the case, check out:
DC Loses Lawsuit Against U.S. Constitution (Nov. 5, 2005)
DC Commuter Tax Update (Nov. 17, 2005)

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

Farewell, Fake President

The Washington Post says goodbye to an imaginary president:

Washingtonians gathered around televisions last night for the series finale of "The West Wing," a program from a parallel universe in which the president is named Bartlet, terrorists come from Qumar and no one in the White House is allowed to finish a sentence.

The NBC program, which signed off its final broadcast at 9 p.m., was television's homage to Washington, from its regal theme music and iconic imagery of the city to its celebration of leaks, news briefings and spin control.

Viewing parties popped up across the region. "West Wing" was, in many ways, a home-town show, as "Cheers" was for Boston and "Seinfeld" for Manhattan. For some, it was a little too close to home.


The general consensus among fans, insiders and TV critics is that "The West Wing" began as a riff on the Clinton administration. Critics say it continued down that path even as it strayed further and further from political reality, to the point that its fictional White House would find liberal resolutions to real-life problems faced by the right-leaning Bush administration. Some Republican detractors dubbed the show "The Left Wing."


Some of the program's best moments transcended partisan politics, as when, in a recent episode, victorious Democratic presidential candidate Matt Santos, played by Jimmy Smits, offers to make his vanquished foe, Alan Alda's Arnold Vinick, secretary of state.

Alda's character so eloquently expressed Republican views in the final weeks of the show that he changed some minds on the predominantly left-leaning writing staff, said Lawrence O'Donnell, an executive producer.

And so the decline of the fake presidents continues. It is kind of strange that That 70's Show (which currently should be somewhere around 1983) is getting more of a sendoff than The West Wing:

The West Wing deserves a better sendoff than NBC will offer tonight. Last week, the network canceled plans for a one-hour retrospective preceding the finale. The cancellation came as the result of a squabble over whether or not the actors would be paid for being part of the special.

Given the series' small audience (8 million viewers a week) and consequently low advertising rates, the retrospective would lose money were the actors to be paid, according to the network. Thus, the finale will be preceded tonight by the 1999 pilot instead.

A rerun is no way to send off a series that has brought such honor to a network for seven years.

It sounds like it was a good way to send off the actors. I didn't watch the show most years, so it was interesting to see how it looked in the beginning - and yes, they should have fired Josh in the first episode.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

What Scares You More, the NSA or "Law and Order"?

Rich Galen sums up the most recent overblown attack on the NSA quite well:
Today's projectile-sweat-inducing story came from USA Today with the headline: "NSA has massive database of Americans' phone calls" over a lede written by reporter Leslie Cauley: "The National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans..."
Of course it takes until the middle of the second paragraph to explain that everything above it was misleading: "This program does not involve the NSA listening to or recording conversations."

The media fear-mongers may be hoping (for once) that Americans aren't watching tv. As Mr. Galen puts it:

WIRETAPP… Wait. What? Does not involve listening to or recording? What's the big deal?

Don't these people watch Law & Order: SVU reruns? They solve EVERY case by getting a listing of the perp's cell phone calls from the phone company, find out he's been calling the Catholic girl's school five times a day for the previous three weeks, they arrest him; show over - roll the credits.

That was pretty much my reaction.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

No More Carpets and Cushions for Metro?

The Washington Post reports that the Metro's new interim general manager, Dan Tangherlini, wants to get rid of or find cheaper substitutes for carpets and seat cushions on Metro trains. Other than describing his positions and describing the cleaning, maintenance, and cushion manufacturing processes in detail, there are a few interesting points:

Metro is one of a few major transit systems in the country to have cushions and carpet. They were luxurious touches included in the system's original design more than three decades ago to lure suburbanites out of their cars.

But now, Metro is the nation's second-busiest subway system...

So it worked?

As for the carpets:

Riders, brace yourselves: Metro may go vinyl. The agency will test a slip-resistant vinyl flooring this summer -- in one pair of cars. No sense rushing out of the lap of luxury. "Maybe there's some room for experimenting," Tangherlini said recently while riding the Red Line. He's also open to cushion alternatives, but because Metro riders seem more wedded to the padding for their posteriors, there aren't any experiments in the works.

The carpet question, though, has come up often. Metro Board member Chris Zimmerman, who represents Arlington County, recalled that the board was always told that carpet was cheapest. It will be interesting to see, he said, if Tangherlini "comes up with the same answer."


Carpet absorbs road noise [and] water, which can damage a car's substructure and affect operation.

And carpet helps prevent slips, especially in winter. It is interesting that getting rid of the carpets has been considered and rejected before. As you may recall, Mr. Tangherlini also recently said that the Metro system has plenty of revenue, but a lack of funding. That report is enough to make me doubt him now.

I've spent enough commutes standing up that I don't really care what they do with the cushions - but they're not that extravagant and their cost is probably insignificant.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Congress and Gas Prices

The Motley Fool's Bill Mann has a great article on Congress and gas prices. I highly recommend it for the overview of the politics, history, and economics of gasoline as well as why a "windfall profit tax" is "sheer lunacy."

Here are some highlights:

You see, gas prices of $3 a gallon are a political problem only in that for the past 50 years, every single one of our elected officials has tried to take credit for, or assign blame for, things that are actually realities of the free market that they had no control over.


Yes, high gas prices are horribly painful. But what that pain causes is the greatest outcome of the free market -- incentive. Incentive to conserve, incentive to develop, and incentive to come up with (and switch to) alternatives like fuel cells and nuclear power...

Instead of recognizing this basic economic reality, our elected representatives are doing what they tend to do -- pander to voters by misrepresenting their importance to the national economy through saying they're going to "do something" about oil prices ... or conversely, blaming the other side for not doing something. And let me be clear about this: The outcome would be nearly the same no matter who were in office. Democrat, Republican, Whig -- it wouldn't matter. Politicians say these things because no one has ever gotten elected by making certain that his or her comments hewed to economic reality. Taking credit for success you had no hand in causing is a tried and true staple in legislatures worldwide. Sadly, people believe it.

That's where sheer lunacy like the "windfall profit tax" come from. If the government really wanted to do something, it could get out of the way and take down past distortions, like the high tariffs on imported ethanol. It could offer huge, obscene tax credits to jurisdictions willing to have new refineries sited in their borders. It could go back and start charging market rent to companies drilling on government lands and open up other territories for drilling -- like the entire Atlantic Seaboard. But beyond that, all you're hearing is posturing that will lead to pork products that will each achieve something either (a) stupid or (b) more expensive than what the free market could come up with on its own.

The original article is more detailed and highly recommended.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Democrats: Skin Color and Genitals Most Important in Appointments

The Washington Post reports on some House Democrats' obsession with skin color and genitals:

President Bush's crop of political appointees includes fewer women and minorities than did President Bill Clinton's at comparable points in their presidencies, according to a new report by House Democrats.


What the report does not mention, however, is that Bush has established a record of diversity in his Cabinet. Bush's Cabinet, which includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments, currently has two Hispanics, two African Americans and two Asian Americans. Three departments -- State, Education and Labor -- are headed by women, and a fourth, Interior, has an acting secretary who is a woman.

Before Bush took office, no minority had occupied any of the four highest-profile Cabinet positions -- attorney general and the secretaries of the Defense, State and Treasury departments. Now, Alberto R. Gonzales, a Hispanic, is attorney general. Condoleezza Rice is the first African American woman to be secretary of state; her predecessor, Colin L. Powell, was the first African American named to that post.

What's next, protests because Cabinet members are not deaf enough either?

The President should be focused on governing, not filling discriminatory quotas.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

P.G. County Insulted by Unwatched TV Show?

The Washington Post reports, but we don't know why they bothered:

The decades-old debate over how to refer to [Maryland's Prince George's County] was resurrected after the April 27 airing of an episode of ABC's "Commander in Chief." The show focused on a fictional protest over the county's high homicide rate and a lack of police protection, and some people found its repeated use of the term "P.G." as offensive as its portrayal of the county as a lawless place in need of emergency federal protection.

"The people in this county know that when other people say it, it's meant as a put-down," Sharon Taylor, a spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D), said after the episode.


Outside the Safeway at Bowie Town Center, Bob Leedy, a truck parts salesman from Glenn Dale, was loading groceries and his 2-year-old son in his sport-utility vehicle. The lifelong Prince George's resident was matter-of-fact: He'd never heard of any controversy. "Prince George's is a long name," he said. "It's easier to say P.G."

There's more to the article, but only read it for laughs.

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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Racist Demands May Backfire in Stadium Deal

The Washington Post reports:

Major League Baseball is likely to award ownership of the Washington Nationals to a group led by Bethesda developer Theodore N. Lerner, after efforts by District politicians and others to steer the selection to competing bidders apparently backfired, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.

Commissioner Bud Selig, who will decide who gets the franchise, was angered by accusations that Lerner's group was unacceptable because it had included minorities only as tokens rather than genuine partners, according to the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the negotiations.


Baseball officials closely monitored the session at the John A. Wilson Building. There, Barry (D-Ward 8) and Orange (D-Ward 5) suggested that the Lerners recently added several high-profile African American investors to their group solely to answer MLB's call for racial diversity. Those investors won't have any significant authority or input if the Lerner family is named team owner, the council members said.

"We can't have blacks being rented for a day," Barry said. "We want real participation. We need to do better than [teams] have done around the country.

"If you name the Lerners, you're five steps backward and five years backward."

When Selig and other baseball officials learned about the comments late yesterday, they were incensed and strengthened their resolve to back Lerner, according to the sources.

DC and MLB should be looking at valid business considerations in contract negotiations, not a racist litmus test.

Update, May 4: Lerner group awarded ownership

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Monday, May 01, 2006

Ted Kennedy Continues to Oppose Renewable Energy

From the Boston Globe:

WASHINGTON -- As record oil prices turn attention to the need for renewable fuels, momentum is building in Congress to buck Senator Edward M. Kennedy's bid to block the proposed Cape Cod wind energy project, potentially reviving efforts to construct the sprawling windmill farm in Nantucket Sound.

The chairman and the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee said yesterday that when the bill Kennedy backs that would effectively halt the wind farm comes up for a vote in the Senate, they will object on procedural grounds. They say they'll argue that a renewable energy project shouldn't be lumped in with a bill governing the Coast Guard.

Meanwhile, a group of rank-and-file House members, worried about the political ramifications of rejecting alternative energy sources while motorists pay $3 a gallon at the gas station, have persuaded House leaders to sidetrack the entire bill for at least several weeks, even though it was slated for action this week. The delay could give supporters of the wind farm time to make their case to members of Congress...

Environmental groups have launched an aggressive advertising and lobbying campaign to persuade Democrats to abandon Kennedy and back a promising source of renewable energy. If the wind farm becomes a reality, advocates say, it could provide three-fourths of the Cape and Islands' energy needs and could set an example for the nation.

The maneuver to stop the wind farm ''is clearly a backroom deal, and they're going to get called publicly on it," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace USA. ''The Democrats are going to kill the first big offshore wind farm in the United States because of their relationship with Ted Kennedy."

The 130-turbine, 24-square-mile cluster of windmills would be about 8 miles from Kennedy's home in Hyannis Port, and he has long opposed it.

Opposition is largely based on elitist NIMBYism, not sound public policy. That may actually makes this more petty than Congress blocking oil exploration in desolate Arctic tundra.