ThinkFast: June 24, 2008

An Iraqi city council member opened fire on U.S. forces outside Baghdad on Monday, killing two soldiers and wounding three others. “The U.S. forces returned fire, killing the city council member, according to two Interior Ministry officials.”

Several measures the Bush administration uses to demonstrate progress in Iraq “are either incorrect or far more mixed than the administration has acknowledged,” according to a new GAO report. Though data on the declines in overall violence is generally accurate, administration figures “broadly overstate gains” in other categories like the readiness of the Iraqi Army and electricity production, the report finds.

According to a new Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector’s General report to be released today, high-ranking political appointees, beginning under former attorney general John Ashcroft, moved to “exert more control” more over the DOJ’s prestigious hiring program. They reportedly tried to stock it with “young conservatives in a five-year-long attempt to reshape the department’s ranks.”

After voting against the Webb GI Bill, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) now “has the gall to try and take credit for its passage.” Brandon Friedman writes, “It is an admirable attempt at spin, however. Either way, the troops know Cornyn is a flip-flopper who supports them when it’s politically expedient.”


On the trail today: Today, Barack Obama (D-IL) will travel to Las Vegas for a “Change that Works for You” discussion on energy and green jobs. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will speak alongside California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Santa Barbara.

A military attaché has told investigators that that the United States ambassador to Albania “helped cover up the illegal Chinese origins of ammunition that a Pentagon contractor bought to supply Afghan security forces.” The ambassador endorsed a plan to repackage the ammunition “to disguise its origins” and then ship it from Albania to Afghanistan for a Miami Beach arms-dealing company.

“For almost two years former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge failed to register a nearly half-million-dollar lobbying contract that he had with the government of Albania.” Ridge, who just registered earlier this month, said he “didn’t think it was [necessary] to register,” even though federal law requires “agents to register with the DOJ within 10 days of signing a contract with a foreign government.”

The flights of nearly 40,000 travelers were canceled or delayed at Heathrow Airport to accommodate President Bush during his stopover in London on June 15 and 16. British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh criticized the disruption, stating, “The decision to allow President Bush and his fleet of aircraft to fly into Heathrow rather than a military base was one all of Heathrow’s users could have done without.”

During his congressional testimony yesterday, NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen urged the U.S. to phase out coal plants. Warning that “we’ve passed the tipping point” regarding global warming, Hansen advised, “I think the most important near-term thing is to say let’s have a moratorium on coal.”


In an effort to “communicate directly with students, dissidents and others without endorsing the government,” the Bush administration “is considering setting up a diplomatic outpost in Iran in what would mark a dramatic official U.S. return to the country nearly 30 years after the American embassy was overrun and the two nations severed relations.”

And finally: Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder was in DC yesterday for a concert, during which he “went on a tear” about, among other topics, conservatives’ “proposed plan to lift the ban on offshore drilling” and “the ‘corporate’ mentality of the Bush administration.” There was reportedly “some muffled booing,” including from attendee House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) spokesman Brian Kennedy, who nevertheless said it was a “great show.”

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