Former Mississippi senator Trent Lott, who left Congress last year to become a lobbyist, is alleged to have “urged witnesses to give false information in a Hurricane Katrina lawsuit.” In a sworn deposition last week, an attorney for State Farm Fire & Casualty Cos. asked Lott’s nephew, Zach Scruggs, who had represented the former senator after his house was destroyed by Katrina, if it had been his “custom and habit in prosecuting litigation to have Senator Lott contact and encourage witnesses to give false information?” “I invoke my Fifth Amendment rights in response to that question,” replied Scruggs.
EARTH–Former vice president Al Gore–who for the past three decades has unsuccessfully attempted to warn humanity of the coming destruction of our planet, only to be mocked and derided by the very people he has tried to save–launched his infant son into space Monday in the faint hope that his only child would reach the safety of another world.
“I tried to warn them, but the Elders of this planet would not listen,” said Gore, who in 2000 was nearly banished to a featureless realm of nonexistence for promoting his unpopular message. “They called me foolish and laughed at my predictions. Yet even now, the Midwest is flooded, the ice caps are melting, and the cities are rocked with tremors, just as I foretold. Fools! Why didn’t they heed me before it was too late?”
Al Gore–or, as he is known in his own language, Gore-Al–placed his son, Kal-Al, gently in the one-passenger rocket ship, his brow furrowed by the great weight he carried in preserving the sole survivor of humanity’s hubristic folly.
On January 2, 2008, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Maseth was electrocuted while taking a shower at the Legion Security Forces Building in Baghdad. Press reports have indicated that contractor KBR ignored repeated warnings about the unsafe wiring.
In memo to House Oversight Committee this week, Pentagon Inspector General Gordon Heddell claimed there was “no credible evidence” that either KBR or the DOD knew about the hazards beforehand. Information uncovered by the Committee, however, contradicts Heddell.
In a Committee hearing today, Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) released a work order from July 8, 2007 –- months before Maseth’s death — in which Sergeant Justin Hummer, the previous occupant of the room, reported to KBR:
Pipes have voltage. Get shocked in shower.
Furthermore, in sworn testimony on June 6, 2008, Hummer said he was shocked at least four times in the shower between June and October 2007. In each case, KBR personnel tried to fix the hazard. Today, the Pentagon IG admitted he was wrong to claim KBR was not aware of the electrical danger:
WAXMAN: This seems to be credible evidence that KBR was aware of this hazard last July.
HEDDELL: I do agree with you, Mr. Chairman.
Waxman showed Heddell another document of “task orders” from the Pentagon “warning that Sgt. Hummer gets shocked in the shower.” Heddell quickly admitted that he was also wrong to exonerate the DOD:
WAXMAN: This document seems to be credible evidence that the Defense Department was aware of the problem as well. Do you agree?
HEDDELL: It would appear so, sir.
The majority staff report also notes that KBR official Thomas Bruni may have lied under oath. In prepared testimony, he claimed, “Though we cannot be certain who installed the water pump [that killed Maseth] we do know that KBR did not do so.” But a KBR work order from July 9, 2007 stated, “Replace pressure switch & water pump.”
“We have absolved no one,” Heddell said. “We never have, and not at this moment.”
This week, the House is expected to bring the Paycheck Fairness Act to the floor for a vote, legislation that would help close the wage gap between working men and women and “close loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility” for discriminatory pay. In an official statement, the White House said it would veto the bill:
The bill would unjustifiably amend the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to allow for, among other things, unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, even when a disparity in pay was unintentional. It also would encourage discrimination claims to be made based on factors unrelated to actual pay discrimination by allowing pay comparisons between potentially different labor markets. In addition, it would require the Department of Labor (DOL) to replace its successful approach to detecting pay discrimination with a failed methodology that was abandoned because it had a 93 percent false positive rate. Thus, if H.R. 1338 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.
While personally blocking more than 70 pieces of legislation, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has portrayed himself as a champion against “wasteful” government spending. In reality, Coburn’s obstructionism has delayed, deferred, or killed legislation that would have expanded medical research and improved the lives of millions of Americans.
Responding to Coburn’s obstructionism, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) crafted the Advancing America’s Priorities Act, a package of nearly 40 bills that Coburn and other conservatives prevented from coming to a vote.
The package included The Christopher Reeve and Dana Reeve Act, which would have “allocated $25 million for research on spinal cord injuries, rehabilitation and measures to improve the quality of life for paralyzed Americans.”
Because Coburn and his conservative allies successfully killed the deal, he has attracted a number of right-wing admirers:
- Two months ago, I made a rather vivid attack on a group of U.S. senators I called “the Coburn Seven,” who were blocking consideration of this measure. I was convinced that Tom Coburn — known in the Senate as “Dr. No” for objecting to nearly all spending increases — intended to kill the bill. Then I made the worst mistake of the commentator: actually meeting the object of your scorn….Coburn politely assured me that his motivation was not stinginess. His main goal was to increase the number of people receiving treatment. [WP, 7/30/2008]
- “Now that he is a member of the Senate and I am back in the private sector, paying taxes and worrying about the debt, my view of Coburn has changed. I love the guy.” [The Hill, 7/28/2008]
- “But this other Advancing America’s Priorities Act, that has to be shut down. And Senator Tom Coburn, we we love him. Dr. No , he is up there crusading, it’s a one man crusade if you ask me, against what’s going on on Capitol Hill.” [The Laura Ingraham Show, 7/28/2008]
- “Much like the late conservative hero “Senator No” (Jesse Helms), Coburn seems to be the only conservative willing to block legislation that would exacerbate the $9.3 trillion dollar debt this Congress is passing on to future generations.” [Human Events, 7/14/2008]
Coburn’s so-called ‘idealism’ has real and negative impacts on Americans. According to the Paralyzed Veterans for America, the bill, which would have cost just $0.82 cents per family, would have benefited the 240,000 Americans, including 44,000 veterans, “who suffer from spinal cord injuries or paralysis.”
Unfortunately, these Americans now have to bear the burden of Coburn’s “idealism.”
Country singer Toby Keith, who is on a media blitz promoting his pro-lynching movie, Beer For My Horses, said during a radio interview with Glenn Beck today that he believes “black society” will pull for Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), even though “they think in the back of their mind that…he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian”:
KEITH: I think that the black people would say he don’t talk, act, or carry himself as a black person.
BECK: What does that even mean?
KEITH: I don’t know what that means, but I’m saying that’s what I think that they would say. Even though the black society would pull for him, I still think that they think in the back of their mind that the only reason that he is in is because he talks, acts and carries himself as a Caucasian.
Other conservative media hosts have joined Beck in employing this rhetoric. The day after Beck’s “colorless” remark, Rush Limbaugh said that Obama should “renounce” his race and just “become white.” Extreme conservative talker Melanie Morgan has called Obama a “halfrican” who “is not allowed to wear the African-American badge because his family are not the descendants of slaves.” Tucker Carlson wondered about Obama, “Is he black enough?”
The New York Times’ Charlie Savage highlights a “little-noticed” email revealed in the new Justice Department report about the department’s politicized and illegal hiring practices. A May 17, 2005 directive from the White House political affairs office said: “We simply want to place as many of our Bush loyalists as possible.” The email urged agency officials to find jobs for 108 people on a list of “priority candidates” who had “loyally served the president.” Savage explains that, while presidents of both parties have engaged in political patronage, “the Bush administration had gone further than any predecessor.”
Greg Anrig and Harold Pollack argue that Hannah Rosin was overreading the evidence when she concluded that Section 8 rental vouchers were responsible for a crime spike in the Memphis area.
Sam Stein had the opportunity to hear Said Jawad, who’s been Afghanistan’s ambassador to the USA since 2003, talk about the national security situation and reports that while Jawad avoided any specific mention of Barack Obama or John McCain, he broadly endorsed what Obama has been saying about Afghanistan. It seems, in short, that both Iraqi and Afghan leaders agree that Obama is right and Bush is wrong about the need to rebalance away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan.
Secretary Of Energy Repeats Katrina Oil Spill Lie: ‘Not One Case’ Where Oil ‘Spilled In The Environment’
After meeting with his cabinet today, President Bush renewed his call for “Congress to lift the legislative ban that prevents offshore exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf.” Bush has previously claimed that such offshore drilling can be done in a manner that will “ensure that our environment is protected.”
In order to support Bush’s message, Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman went on Fox News today to push the claim that offshore drilling is safe for the environment. But in the midst of his interview, Bodman repeated the right-wing lie that no oil spilled in 2005 during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita:
JARRETT: Has technology improved so dramatically that drilling can now be done in a way that protects the environment?
BODMAN: I believe that it can. When we had Katrina and Rita, the two worst hurricanes in — at least in recent memory, in ’05, some three years ago, there was not one case where we had a situation with oil or gas being spilled in the environment.
As ThinkProgress has previously noted, the clear satellite evidence of major spills was borne out by final reports. In May 2006, the U.S. Minerals Management Service (MMS) published their offshore damage assessment: “113 platforms totally destroyed, and 457 pipelines damaged, 101 of those major lines with 10 inches or larger diameter.”
In all, the two hurricanes caused 124 offshore spills for a total of 743,700 gallons, including six spills of 42,000 gallons or greater.
It’s one thing for right-wing hacks like the Wall Street Journal editorial page to push these lies, but America’s highest-ranking energy official should know better.
Transcript: Read more