ThinkFast: March 12, 2008


On the heels of the deadliest day in months for U.S. troops, violence killed at least 42 people in Iraq yesterday. Despite security gains last fall, “bloodshed has increased recently” due to a series of lethal bombings. Civilian deaths hit an average low of 20 per day in January, but “so far in March, that number is up to 39 daily.”

Last night, the House approved significant ethics rules changes, “creating for the first time an independent panel empowered to initiate investigations of alleged misconduct by members.” The six-member bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics will “refer their findings to the House ethics committee along with a public report.” The Gavel has more coverage.

Democrat Andre Carson of Indiana won a special election to succeed his grandmother, the late Rep. Julia Carson, and serve out the final 10 months of her term. Carson will be the second-ever Muslim to serve in Congress.

In January, two top political appointees at HUD “exchanged e-mails discussing” how they could punish the director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority for refusing to transfer a $2 million public property to a business friend of Housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson. In Feb., Authority director Carl Greene alleged that Jackson threatened retaliation against him.

Congress failed to override President Bush’s veto of a ban on waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques. “The final tally was 225-188 (with five Republicans voting for the override and three Dems voting against) about sixty votes short of the two-thirds needed.”

Testifying about the multi-million dollar, no-bid contract the Justice Department awarded him last year, former Attorney General John Ashcroft insisted the contract represented no wrongdoing. “There is not a conflict; there is not an appearance of a conflict,” Ashcroft said.

Yesterday, House Democrats unveiled compromise legislation without immunity for telecoms that cooperated with the Bush administration’s warrantless spying program. The bill would, however, allow “defendants in civil lawsuits would have the right to present classified evidence to the judge in such cases, without the plaintiffs being present.”

A military-commissioned review of more than 600,000 Iraqi documents, audio, and video records collected by U.S. forces since the March 2003 invasion “has concluded that there is ‘no smoking gun’ supporting the Bush administration’s prewar assertion of an ‘operational relationship’ between Saddam Hussein and the al-Qaeda terrorist network.”

$3.246: Average price of gasoline per gallon today, an all-time high. This amount is nearly two cents higher “than the previous record of $3.227, which was first set last May and matched Tuesday.” Last year at this time, regular gasoline was at $2.543 a gallon.

And finally: Yesterday, CNN brought on former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey to comment on the prostitution scandal surrounding Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY). Coffey concluded that Spitzer’s chances of politically surviving the fall-out are “basically slim and none.” CNN, however, neglected to mention that Coffey quit his job as a federal prosecutor “after allegedly biting a stripper.” CNN has now admitted that Coffey “was probably not the right one for this story.”

What did we miss? Let us know in the comments section.