Sunday, December 16, 2007

US, China Gang up for Greenhouse Gases; World Boos

China, the country that tortures monks, and the US, the country that tortures just about anyone else, joined forces to protect those who pollute and poison the world's residents at the Greehouse Gases Reduction Conference in Bali this week.

When unauthorized parallel meetings were held
at the Conference of 187 countries, leader Yvo de Boer, not known for his emotion, was overcome by jet lag and obstructionism and burst into tears.

According to the UK's Daily Mail:
Officials from China, which feels Western countries should do more to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, accused UN negotiators of ignoring conference protocol.

Mr de Boer, distinctively dressed in a floral shirt, stepped up to the microphone to defend his staff - only to find that the words would no longer come.
As his unfinished sentences trailed away, he broke down and walked off the platform to supportive applause.

"He wasn't just wiping his eyes, he was in floods of tears," said one observer.
"Three colleagues - one of them a woman - formed a protective group around him and escorted him out of the hall. It was all very dramatic."
Mr de Boer's breakdown came after nearly a fortnight of squabbling over proposals to cut carbon emissions.

Then there was piling by the US, recently overtaken by China for the spot of World's #1 Greenouse Gas polluter. US delegation chief Paula Dobriansky , a pretty face with an ugly message, was booed for refusing to support the Conference goals.

One delegate, from Papua New Guinea, pleaded with the US to lead on the issue. "Lead, follow, or get out of the way."

More info:


Sunday Mirror

Telegraph here and full coverage here


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) is bad news for Maryland and for troops

BRAC concentrates traffic, funding headaches while removing our soldiers from communities around the country
Resources for info:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

American Lives are at risk

Congress has enacted 125 statutes giving the FDA new or expanded responsibilities since 1988, without any new funding to cover the extra work. HuffPo has the story.

An FDA advisory board concluded the situation is dire. "FDA's inability to keep up with scientific advances means that American lives are at risk," the report concluded. A report by the Institute of Medicine in 2006 reached the same conclusion, but the Republican-controlled Congress did nothing to improve the safety of the infant formula, pet food, toothpaste, spinich, prescription drugs and implants relied upon by millions of Americans.

In the wake of the scathing report detailing the dangerously poor state of the Food and Drug Administration, President Bush is threatening to veto much-needed funds for the agency.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-CT, who leads the House panel responsible for FDA funding, called on President Bush to lift his objections to the agriculture appropriations bill, in which there is a drastic increase in money for the FDA. Without the infusion of cash, DeLauro said, U.S. consumers would be at great risk regarding food and drug safety.

The FDA Alliance and the Coalition for a Stronger FDA have issued a press release alerting us that the nation's food supply is at risk, as are the regulatory systems that oversee the nation's drug and device supplies, according to a subcommittee of the FDA's Science Board in a report it presented on December 3. They conclude that this imbalance is imposing a significant risk to the integrity of the food, drug, cosmetic and device regulatory system, and hence the safety of the public.

The result of a year-long review by a distinguished panel of experts, the 300-page report concludes that the state of FDA's scientific and regulatory programs could not be separated from the lack of resources available to support the agency's scientific base, hire and train a broadly-capable scientific workforce, and build a sophisticated and modern information technology infrastructure. You can find the report here.

FDA's need for recall authority here

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Stem Cell research and cures 20 years behind: millions suffer

Stem cell research relied on a few donations from fertility clinics that would otherwise be incinerated. Couples undergoing in vitro fertilization have an option when their treatment is finished to donate their embryos to other couples, and many do. But some just can't face the prospect of a genetic child of their own "out there," and yet still want to help others, for example, by making a contribution to cures.

Since Reagan stopped federal funding for stem cell research in 1987, scientists in the US were prohibited even from using the microscope in a lab that received a Federal grant to view stem cells. They had to waste time and money to create duplicate labs while patients died. Their colleagues left to research outside the US, slowing collaborations, while patients died. Research in countries like South Korea with weaker oversight infrastructure produced work frought with fraud while patients died.

While patients and their families suffered for 20 years, political opportunists conjured harangues and tales of woe, of embryos created merely for destruction.

Denying the existence of the same American ingenuity,
encouraged by government funding, that invented the Internet, built a trans-Continental railroad, and salvaged our environment from pollution, financed how to make penicillin, vaccines and other "wonder drugs" widely available, they somehow got away with draping themselves in the American flag.

Now scientists can make stem cells from skin. These cells can't yet do everything that stem cells can do, but the discovery is a breakthrough. Now that we are 20 years behind studying and understanding how these cells behave, grow, and contribute to curing terrible diseases.

Rick Weiss: The big next step is to find better ways of turning on the right genes to get cells to become embryonic -- ways that don't involve retroviruses. Many scientists are talking about using "small molecules" that can get to a cell's DNA and affect which genes are turned on or off. Also important: What other gene combinations can accomplish that (the two teams used four genes each, but two are different between them and other combinations with other genes may work, too). The thinking right now is that different genes in different doses might result in stem cells that have slightly different potentials to become different kinds of tissues. Then of course there will be years of safety testing, first in animals, then in people. And then, at least, some efforts to treat diseases. Meanwhile they will be used by many scientists to study diseases in lab dishes.

From WaPo editorial:

Congress should continue to consider legislation easing restrictions on the use of discarded embryos for research. After all, this breakthrough could not have been possible without research on embryonic stem cells. The potential gains from this science are so great that all avenues should be pursued until the new technology is proven.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Save a pet, a child, a book, and help cure cancer all in one moment

On the Animal Rescue Site and other related sites in the tab at the top of the page, you can make sure a donation is made every day, for example to abused and neglected animals. It takes less than a minute to go to their site and click on the Purple Box 'fund food for animals' for free. This doesn' t cost you a thing.

Corporate sponsors and advertisers use the number of daily visits to donate to these worthy causes in exchange for advertising.

Here's the web site. Pass it along to people you know.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Immigrants pay your taxes

Are immigrants paying taxes so you don't have to? Apparently so.

Hat Tip to Tom Paine.

[Texas] Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn was quick to point out that this was the first time any state agency in the country presented "a comprehensive financial analysis of the impact of undocumented immigrants on a state’s budget and economy, looking at gross state product, revenues generated, taxes paid and the cost of state services."

The report titled "Undocumented Immigrants In Texas: A Financial Analysis of the Impact to the State Budget and Economy" found that “the absence of the estimated 1.4 million undocumented immigrants in Texas in fiscal 2005 would have been a loss to our gross state product of $17.7 billion. Undocumented immigrants produced $1.58 billion in state revenues, which exceeded the $1.16 billion in state services they received."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Taxes used to fund STDs for your kids

Are Administration scientists the only ones who aren't reading the data?

Talking to your kids about anything is a great idea, and talking to them about sex is an even better idea. However, telling them to wait until marriage may not only get them to roll their eyes and tune out, but studies show those who pledge to wait till marriage merely exchange vaginal intercourse for more risky behavior. Nevertheless, in another occasion of thumbing his nose at science, the Bush administration yes-men at the Department of Health and Human Services are wasting your tax dollars on a TV advertisement for just this kind of behavior.

"[T]eenagers who take "virginity pledges" ... are more likely to engage in oral or anal sex than nonpledging virgin teens and less likely to use condoms once they become sexually active..."

The study, which began producing results as long ago as 2004, shows these pledgers are sexually active but don't understand the continuum of risk among sexual behaviors including oral and anal sex and sex with professional sex workers.

Here's a pix below from the video, and the ad is available here:

According to Medical News Today,

The gap between pledgers and nonpledgers for high-risk behavior was statistically significant, with 2% of virgins who did not pledge reporting engaging in anal or oral sex, compared with 13% of those who did pledge [a 650% increase] (Washington Post, 3/19). According to [study scientist Hannah] Bruckner, the pledgers' increased likelihood of substituting oral or anal sex for vaginal intercourse puts them at risk of contracting STDs, according to Bruckner. Among virgins, boys who had pledged abstinence were four times as likely to have engaged in anal sex as those who did not pledge, and pledgers overall were six times as likely to have engaged in oral sex as teens who were virgins but did not take a pledge, the study found. In addition, teens who made virginity pledges were less likely to use condoms during their first sexual experience and were less likely to get tested for STDs, the study found.

Peter Bearman, the chair of Columbia University's Department of Sociology, who co-authored the study with Hannah Bruckner of Yale, told "The point is, substantively, that if you knew someone who pledged, and you knew someone who didn't pledge, you had no basis for thinking that one of them would have an STD over the other," said .

"It's a tragedy if we withhold from these kids information about how not to get STDs or not to get pregnant," said Dorothy Mann, executive director of the Family Planning Council, an organization dedicated to reproductive health services.

This is another shot across the bow from the administration to our nation's once-mighty scientific community to serve an ideology. The casualties in the well-documented War on Science include global warming to prevent deadly climate change, stem cell research to prevent debilitating disease, and Plan B pharmaceuticals to prevent abortion even while the FDA Commissioner buys up regulated company stock.

"Our national policies will not be revoked or modified even for scientists. If the dismissal of ... scientists means the annihilation of contemporary ... science, then we shall do without science for a few years."

Adolf Hitler to Max Planck about the exodus of scientists from the country.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and his friend George Bush

Tom Davis: one lonely "Bushie." Now can we get the Washington Post to stop calling him a "moderate"? He has crossed party lines to vote against corruption less than 10% of the time.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

FDA in danger of being FEMA-ized

Burton J. Howard, chief of the Bureau of Chemistry's (now FDA) microchemical laboratory, is shown in the right foreground in this photo from the 1920s. Howard developed a quantitative method to detect mold in ketchup that proved to be indispensable in establishing food adulteration in court.

Grover Norquist was realizing his dream to "drown government in a bathtub" when he lobbied Congress to shrink agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Administration. FEMA had been riding high after being turned around by Republican appointee Frank Young, whose career hit its stride at FEMA. Other countries sent experts to the US to copy FEMA's efforts.

Then FEMA was underfunded, outsourced, ignored and effectively dismantled in time for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Now another public service agency, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is in danger of the same fate: the Administration plans to close labs and outsource jobs.

Despite a glaring need for more resources, made apparent by dangers from contaminated imports like contaminated drugs fromChina, toothpaste made with anti-freeze, and pet food contaminated with melamine, the local county's school system in Montgomery County has more staff and a bigger budget than all the nation's food, drug, blood and device inspectors. Compare the NIH budget for 2007 of $28.6 Billion, with FDA's budget: FDA gets 1/20th of that, at under $1.5 billion.

When Congress refused to fully fund the Agency for decades, first drug manufacturers then device makers banded together to agree to pay fees to hire reviewers. Still, the funding law prohibits using those fees for compliance and inspection actions, and AIDS and bioterrorism initiatives continue to funnel resources away from the Agency's core functions.

Bush and his team have already forgotten the still-raw lessons from Katrina and the administration is making stealth progress on an initiative to reduce staff, close laboratories, and contract out the Agency's work.

FDA plans were - and still are - to close seven of its 13 laboratories. The politicians say fewer labs would be more efficient. However, Energy and Commerce investigators disagree with FDA's justification for the reorganization. The Tan Sheet, which covers OTC drugs, said it best:

"Despite repeated requests from the committee, FDA has failed to provide any analysis justifying this radical reorganization," Senior Investigator David Nelson, Investigative Counsel Kevin Barstow and Investigator Richard Wilfong say in written testimony.

"Since FDA has not provided an analysis demonstrating any cost-savings associated with the lab closures, their rationale implies that synergies exist in mega-labs; however, no documents have been produced by FDA to support that suggestion," the investigators say.

Additionally, they cite a Government Accountability Office report determining midsize labs are more efficient than mega-labs.

"FDA has failed to provide us with any independent cost-benefit analysis for their proposal," they say. "On the surface the proposed closings appear to be counterproductive and may needlessly increase taxpayers' costs."

When FDA refused to cooperate with Congressional questions, Congress threatened to prohibit use of any funds to implement the transfer. Margaret Glavin, associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at FDA, wrote in a letter to Office of Regulatory Affairs employees that she is "canceling plans for the rollout of all changes to our organizational structure." According to WaPo, "Two House members from Michigan, Reps. John D. Dingell (D) and Bart Stupak (D), hailed the e-mail as an indication of FDA's decision to "abandon" its reorganization. But agency spokeswoman Julie Zawisza denied that the agency had canceled its plans." WaPo: "FDA spokeswoman Julie Zawisza said in an e-mail that Friday's announcement left open the possibility of future changes."

In addition to the closures, FDA has added an initiative to outsource the jobs in the field offices. These offices are often the place where industry comes face-to-face with Agencies in the FDA districts and where laboratory tests to confirm preliminary results are performed. According to Forbes:

The government's chief health regulatory agency is reviewing more than 300 positions in more than 20 cities to determine whether they could be performed cheaper and better by the private sector. A decision is expected next month, according to FDA documents.

An initial list of positions under review included lab technicians and field office workers who work at FDA facilities where food and medical products are inspected for safety.

The vast majority of FDA experts, in a survey that includes experts inside and outside the FDA, agree the FDA does not have the strong leadership it needs. FDA needs a leader who will demand full funding for FDA.

GovExec 08/20/2007
Federal Times 08/20/2007
DailyKos Diary

Friday, August 17, 2007

Margaritas, Drugs, Devices and Biologics

RAPS’ Washington/Baltimore Metropolitan Area Chapter is pleased to announce a Summer Happy Hour Network Event.

This event provides an opportunity to informally meet other RAPS members in the area in a casual atmosphere. Chapter leaders have asked several local industry representatives and others in the area of drug and device development/regulations to join us.

This is an unofficial event, but we would like to know in advance if you plan to attend. This will help us know how many folks we are looking for upon arrival.

When: 22 August 2007 (Wednesday)
Where: Guapos Cantina at the Washingtonian, Gaithersburg, MD
Time: 5:00–8:00 pm

R.S.V.P to

Please note that RAPS is assisting us in getting out the message, however, this is not a RAPS Headquarters-sponsored event. There will be a cash bar for this event. The cost for food will be the responsibility of each attendee.

Feel free to comment, especially if you can attend!

Regulatory Affairs Professionals Society
11300 Rockville Pike, Suite 1000,
Rockville, MD 20852
Main Phone: 301.770.2920; Fax: 301.770.2924
RAPS Solutions Center: 301.770.2920, ext. 200
Email:; website:
RAPS® —Making better healthcare products possible

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Silver Spring not so Forward: Birchmere in doubt

Only one side of the street of downtown Silver Spring is renovated, while the other side contains an ugly hulking space of the old JC Penney building. There is a huge outpouring of support for the anticipated arrival in the space for the Birchmere, shown by groups like

The latest news is the county has cancelled its negotiations with the Birchmere for the space, according to the Express, the Gazette and the Washington Business Journal.

Take action:

Monday, July 9, 2007

YouTube: John Edwards on Climate Change

YouTube - John Edwards on Climate Change here.

John Edwards on Science

Thanks to A Blog Around the Clock, we have an interview with Presidential candidate John Edwards on the science issues we face today, from NASA and climate change to the issues of bio-terrorism.

In honor of LiveEarth, here is his clip of how we should turn climate change into economic opportunity, just as we did during the environmental movement in the 1970s. When the establishment responded to threats against the status quo by stirring up fears of job losses, we learned they were actually discouraging ingenuity and entrepreneurship, stifling innovation in environmental engineering. Now, environmental engineers earn $3.468 billion a year in 2004.

If you like what he has to say below, vote for Edwards's plan here.

We need to make certain that America understands this crisis--that if we have a 4 to 8 degree rise in our temperature then there will be migration of hundreds of millions of people. There won't be enough food or enough water and millions of people will be flooded out of their homes. America must understand it and the president of the United States must understand it.

Here's what's really important to understand: we can actually turn the crisis of global warming into an opportunity. We can create a new, clean energy economy that creates 1 million new jobs, ends our dependence on foreign oil, and brings rural communities back to life. And ultimately, we can become a leader for the rest of the

Our first priority is capping and reducing greenhouse gas pollution. We must do what the consensus of the scientific community says is necessary to stop the Earth from getting more than 2 degrees warmer.

What the Bush administration has done is constantly rewrite what the science says and substitute the talking points of the oil industry. They literally hire lobbyists
into the White House to substitute special interests for science. That's got to stop.
What the scientific community says today is - taking into account what's going on in the developing world --- the U.S. needs to reduce our global greenhouse emissions by 80 percent by the year 2050. As president, I will enact a national cap on carbon emissions that meets that goal.

In terms of how we get there, we need to invest in renewable energies like wind, solar, and biofuels. And we have to raise the fuel-efficiency standards significantly in
this country. I believe the number is 40 miles per gallon by 2016. That would single-handedly reduce oil demand by 4 million barrels per day.

We must lead the world to a new climate treaty that commits other countries--including developing nations--to reduce their pollution. I will insist that developing
countries join us in this effort, by offering to share new clean energy technology and, if necessary, using trade agreements to require binding greenhouse reductions.
I will create a New Energy Economy Fund by auctioning off greenhouse pollution permits and repealing subsidies for big oil companies.

The fund will support U.S. research and development in energy technology, help entrepreneurs start new businesses, invest in new carbon-capture and efficient automobile technology and help Americans conserve energy. Finally, we must reduce the demand for more electricity through efficiency for the next decade,
instead of producing more electricity.

Our generation must be the one that says, "We must halt global warming." If we don't act now, it will be too late. Our generation must be the one that says "yes" to renewable fuels and ends forever our dependence on foreign oil. Our generation must be the one that accepts responsibility for conserving natural resources and demands the tools to do it. And our generation must be the one that builds the New Energy Economy. How do we do it? It won't be easy, but it is time to ask the American people to be patriotic about something other than war.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Giuliani: another one bites the dust?

This week, Mitt Romney was outed as cruel to animals when he exposed what should have been the beloved family dog to unimaginable stress in a crate on top of his car during a long highway road trip.

Today the Post reports more problems for another Republican Presidential hopeful, Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, still trying to take advantage of being christened "America's mayor" not by New Yorkers but by Time magazine, has already lost momentum due to the troubling stories from the NYFD. Now another story in the Freakonomics vein shows that his claims of reducing crime in NYC are mostly bogus. Here's the report and a clip from WaPo below:

Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

Monday, July 2, 2007

In Praise of Mike: Love the Soldier, Hate the war

The Army has a new ad aimed at parents of young men, telling them to listen to their kids rather than discourage them from enlisting to go to the Middle East. In this diary I challenge them – and you – to listen to Mike’s story in honor of vets on Independence Day:

You’d think living between Walter Reed, Fort Belvoir and Fort Meade, I’d have met more returned vets. I have met only a few. Mike has a compelling story to tell, if only enough people would only listen to him.

Mike was seated on a stool in my favorite Irish pub. A pint of Harp and a shotglass of Rumplemintz were in front of him, and the only two other empty barstools were on his right. As soon as we pulled up to the chairs, and he leaned over to introduce himself, smile, and to shake our hands.
Mike’s head was shaved, and his biceps were a little out of proportion to his forearms. He had that unmistakable look of a sturdy young military man. But something wasn’t right. It was his speech, or the way he balanced off-center on the bar stool. Perhaps it was the Rumplemintz chaser warming his tongue and making him unsteady in his seat. He asked me where I lived and worked, and I told him. I asked him the same. He was stationed at Walter Reed, living near there, but tonight he would walk back to his girlfriend’s apartment. “She wanted to stay in tonight,” he said. “I wanted to go out.”

His tour would finish up in about a year, and doing the math I guessed he signed up in late 2001. “Yeah,” he said with a crooked grin that made his answer sheepish. He said he left Ohio to join the 101st airborne. “I took the proficiency test, and got my second choice” as a medic. He went to Kuwait, he said, then Mosul, Iraq. Now, no longer able to be a medic, he has a new assignment in Washington, DC while he finished his physical therapy and got ready for a new assignment in New England.

As he ordered another round, and then another, he drew back to the past, not the future. He saw lots of damage. “They can make an IED out of anything,” he shook his head in amazement. “Coke bottles; batteries.” He said he saw blasted arms and legs, and a soldier with half a pelvis.

The day of his injury involved a rocket-propelled grenade and his convoy. Shrapnel tore into his leg, fracturing his femur into pieces. I knew that a lot of damage from explosions comes from the energy waves. Without a trace, the energy can twist bowels, flip stomachs, and steal hearing. And the brain--the neurons in the brain disconnect from one another in the blast, and the spiraling falls that follow. The electric messages the brain tries to send within itself, to organs, to eyes, and mouth, hang there between cells, waiting for a lift to the next cell that never comes.

Mike didn't seem worried about himself. He didn't complain. Physical Therapy is not easy – if it doesn’t hurt, he says, you’re not doing it right. His injury was not one of those that blissfully sends nerves reeling, hiding out, waiting till it’s safe to return. “Did it hurt?” “Hell, yeah,” Mike said. “But there were five other guys in that convoy,” he said. His eyes started to glisten. “I was their medic.” Despite his torn leg, he crawled over to the most badly wounded of the comrades. “He had shrapnel in his neck. It’s not like I could take it out. He died. He died in my arms.”

“I think it’s time to talk about something else,” he said, ordering a round for all of us.

“Hey,” I said, “you’ve already given us freedom and liberty. You don’t need to give us a drink, too. Let us buy.” But he knew Emily, the bartender, and told her not to let us pay.

Mike has about a year left in the Army. He’s already thinking of re-enlisting. “But I want kids,” he said. “I’m not sure I can do both. My Dad is a disabled vet. I don’t want to be a disabled vet for my kids. Do you have kids?

“Oh, sorry, that’s too personal,” he apologized before I could answer.

“That’s alright. No, we’ve had no luck there. But it turned out all right for us anyway,” I said.

“I want to reenlist,” he said. “I love the army. I just hate this war.”

A slim woman with long hair, older than Mike, came up behind him and bumped his shoulder. “You are so busted,” she said.

I apologized for Mike. “We kept him talking to us,” I explained.

She softened. “Thanks for taking care of Mike,” she said.

“I don’t need anyone to take care of me,” he said, meaning it.

She linked Mike’s arm, and helped him off his stool and toward the door. She turned. She mouthed, “Thanks for taking of Mike.”
MOSUL, Iraq - Two 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) soldiers were killed and two were wounded in an improvised explosive device attack in Mosul at approximately 7:30 a.m. Nov.1, according to U.S. Central Command officials.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Making Rain: Davis and Devolites at ICG Government

The Post today has a front page story continuing the series by Robert O'Harrow: Costs Skyrocket As DHS Runs Up No-Bid Contracts: $2 Million Security Project Balloons to $124 Million.

What were Mr. and Mrs Tom Davis doing during this alarming cost run-up? Instead of letting GSA and the House Government Reform Committee do their jobs overseeing the contract, Davis was speaking before the same contractors at his wife's company, ICG Government, telling them how to get the most taxpayer money in Homeland Security contracting. This photograph of his speech was prominently displayed on the front page of the ICG website, along with the photo of the head of Homeland Security (DHS). The front page at ICG also linked to his wife's bio, the only ICG bio that names a spouse. Davis also was presiding over running out Angela Styles from GSA, who had been demanding audits and accountability for the overruns. Finally, he continues to defend Lurita Doan at GSA who eliminated auditors there. The Department of Homeland Security officials were so distraught with the forced contracts that the DHS hired its own auditor to report on the matter.

Here's the startling highlight from today's story:

The project started in 2003 with a $2 million contract to help the new Department of Homeland Security quickly get an intelligence operation up and running.Over the next year, the cost of the no-bid arrangement with consultant Booz Allen Hamilton soared by millions of dollars per month, as the firm provided analysts, administrators and other contract employees to the department's Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection offices.

By December 2004, payments to Booz Allen had exceeded $30 million -- 15 times the contract's original value. When department lawyers examined the deal, they found it was "grossly beyond the scope" of the original contract, and they said the arrangement violated government procurement rules. The lawyers advised the department to immediately stop making payments through the contract and allow other companies to compete for the work.

But the competition did not take place for more than a year. During that time, the payments to Booz Allen more than doubled again under a second no-bid arrangement, to $73 million, according to internal documents, e-mail and interviews.

In addition to his front page appearance at ICG helping his wife land these bidders as paying clients, Davis was also pushing for laws that reduced contract oversight.

Under the 2003 Services Acquisition Reform Act (H.R. 1837), sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., some contractors providing widely available commercial services would receive exemptions from cost accounting standards on sole source agreements worth up to $15 million. The bill also encourages government agencies to enter into share-in-savings agreements, where they would share the windfall generated from new innovations with contractors.

Davis's contacts with Beltway Bandits goes back to his rise to power and lead of the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Three of [VA Senator John] Warner’s top ten contributors for 2001 through 2006 were missile defense contractors Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. TRW (now owned by Northrop Grumman) threw a luncheon honoring Sen. Warner and Rep. Tom Davis during the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, at a time when the company was under investigation for possibly falsifying data in its missile defense testing program.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NYT on Silver Spring

A Dose of Art and Entertainment Revives a Suburb

By EUGENE L. MEYER Published: June 13, 2007

Photo by Steve Ruark for The New York Times
Sara Nathan, right, and her son Seth, 3, cool off in a fountain in a newly redeveloped section of downtown Silver Spring. Md.

SILVER SPRING, Md., June 12 — Washington’s first suburban shopping district had its heyday here in the 1950s, but as people moved farther out and new malls sprouted to serve them, retailers and then offices left in droves, sending Silver Spring into a decades-long decline.

But now this once-ailing suburb, which abuts the District of Columbia and is linked to downtown Washington by subway, is enjoying a renaissance, a result of public involvement and private investment that is turning it into an arts and entertainment center, anchored by the Discovery Channel and the American Film Institute and including new offices, hotels, theaters, restaurants and housing.

As recently as the mid-1990s, such a rebirth would have seemed a pipe dream. The streets were often deserted; the vacancy rate stood at 39 percent for offices and about 25 percent for stores, and there seemed little reason for hope.

Douglas M. Duncan, then the Montgomery County executive and now vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Maryland in College Park, recently recalled that when he pledged to revitalize the area, “the attitude from the public was why bother, no one will ever come to Silver Spring.”

Gary Stith, the county’s Silver Spring coordinator, said that back then the city offered nothing to do when the workday ended and people left their offices. “We didn’t have the amenities,” Mr. Stith said. “There was no reason to stay.”

In addition, he said, there was an image problem, stoked by the fear that crime would creep in from Washington. “We used to say Silver Spring is safer than it looked,” he said. (Silver Spring still has its somewhat shabby side, which includes auto body shops, greasy spoons, a tattoo parlor and used book and record stores, but they are now considered part of its charm.)

Mr. Duncan feared that if nothing was done, the problem would spread to other areas. So, undaunted by a series of ambitious but failed plans that included a proposal by the Mall of America’s Canadian developers to build a huge mall in Silver Spring, the county acquired much of the downtown core and turned the project over to a private joint venture of the Foulger-Pratt and Peterson Companies, both major developers in the Washington area.

With $1.2 billion in public and private investment over the last six years, including $187 million from the county, much has been done. “I can’t think of any downside to this project,”said Bryant F. Foulger, a principal of Foulger-Pratt.

In April 2003, the American Film Institute, which has its main office in Los Angeles, moved from the Kennedy Center in Washington into a renovated 1938 movie theater, adding two more screens and bringing celebrities like Clint Eastwood for the grand opening and Martin Scorsese, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and even Al Gore to town for presentations. The institute occupies 7,000 square feet of office space and has 25 full-time and 40 part-time year-round employees.

Full story here.
Nice feedback here on the Thayer Avenue blog.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tom Davis: 7 easy steps to mistakenly delete incriminating emails...

While Henry Waxman is demanding accountability and explanation for the destruction of evidence, Tom Davis (R-VA) is adamently and bitterly defending his colleagues at the RNCC who deleted emails they shouldn't have sent and were required to retain.

See also here. Davis's laughable excuses for Rove and company is even being spoofed by the Brits:
"The fact they are entirely and totally missing simply does not prove that. It just happened is all and is certainly not the fault of, nor can it be blamed on anyone in this administration, who are all honest, upright and exemplary men and women, without the first blemish, stain or fault to be found whatsoever."
Davis knows how hard it is to delete an email from a hard drive - he cultivated the campaign donations of the Tech industry as they jockeyed for his $20 Billion government contract. Does he really think the hi-tech voters in his NoVA district don’t know how hard it is to delete emails? They are more tech-savvy there than workers in almost any other part of the world. I guess his bluster is for the Republican voters elsewhere.

So how do you mistakenly delete an email? Here are the instructions, in 7 easy steps:

Let's say you've written an email you shouldn't have. I'm using the example from John Stewart and the "Daily Show."

(1) First, mistakenly delete the email.

But it's not really deleted. So next,
(2) go to your deleted files folder, and mistakenly delete it again.

You still can't breathe easily. Now, (3), you have to mistakenly click on "Tools."

Then (4), mistakenly click on "Recover Deleted Items."

Now you're only halfway finished.

(5) Find the file in this new folder. While you're looking for something else.

(6) Mistakenly click on the "X" for "Purge selected item."

(7) Then click "Okay." By mistake.

Oh, no! As long as your daily back up tape hasn't started running, you have made a terrible mistake and deleted the email!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tom Davis and Alberto Gonzales

Tom Davis defends Alberto Gonzales?

Actually, he is defending the Alberto Gonzales of the General Services Administration,Lurita Alexis Doan.

This is much smarter: not only is the spotlight is not as bright on GSA as it is on Justice, but GSA contractors are a lot more willing to pay politicians for access to the contracts GSA awards. Davis collects protection money from them, which he wouldn't get if he were defending Gonzales. The prize GSA contract is Networx, the biggest GSA contract ever, at $20 billion. Not counting other GSA bidders who have contributed to Davis, the bidders on Networx have paid him, and his wife, campaign contributions of over half a million dollars. His wife, a Virginia pol with no campaign limits, gets additional cash from such donors through her work for ICG, a lobbying and consulting firm whose services include preparing GSA contractors for hearings before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. That’s the Committee Tom Davis chaired until January 2007.

Tom Davis has been slowing down the GSA hearing with prepared remarks defending Doan and softball questions to the Bush donor.

If Davis wants to defend federal workers, perhaps he should start with the workers Doan maligned when she lied about their performance ratings, saying they were low. They were not low.

Let's not forget that for the crooks to keep power, they needed a multi-pronged attack: They needed the contributions from contractors with GSA and the other agencies contracting out core functions, donated to people in a position to take the money: Delay, Foley, and Davis, with a little help from Abramoff. They used the money for schemes such as the ones suppressing voter turn out. And they needed loyal Bushies in the Justice Department lawyers to look the other way.

Let’s look at the similarities between the Alberto Gonzales scandal at Justice and the GSA scandal:

I. Critics of Lurita Doan are poor performers.

Doan obstructed the investigation into her Hatch Act violation by claiming the witnesses had motive to lie: "There's not a single one of those who did not have somewhere in between a poor to totally inferior performance,” she said. Actually, three of the five witnesses "met performance expectations;" 3 on the rating scale of 5. Government raters are required to give a quota of "3" ratings, so many superior employees end up taking turns getting the 3. One appointee had been rated 4 of 5, and another had received the highest rating 5 of 5.
* Critics of Alberto Gonzales are poor performers.

II. Critics of Lurita Doan are picking on a successful African American, according to Davis.

REP. DAVIS OPENING STATEMENT:…the retaliation is actually being done against an African-American entrepreneur who supports the Bush Administration.
* Critics of Alberto Gonzales are picking on a successful Hispanic.
Not even Hispanics say this anymore.

III. Lurita Doan “can’t recall” the meeting where the improper activity occurred.
* Alberto Gonzales “can’t recall” the meeting where the improper activity occurred.

IV. Lurita Doan remembers the meetings in question but didn’t pay attention when the improper activity occurred. She claims she was Blackberrying. However, there is no Blackberry activity on her account during this meeting.

* Alberto Gonzales remembers the meetings in question but didn’t pay attention when the improper activity occurred.

Cross posted on MyDD and DailyKos.

Chapter 5: My Interview with the Vice President

Tribute to Dad: Chapter 5 of his journal. All I've posted starts here and is tagged here . It will be updated as I have time.

Upon returning from summer vacation to the fourth grade in Fishkill, N.Y. in 1948, the class was directed to write a description of the most significant event of their summer holidays. Since I had done very little of significance except weed my father's garden, mow the lawn, play a little baseball and hang out, I decided to create a visit to the White House, and a glimpse of and a few words from President Truman. My paper earned me an "A"; but later backfired on me when my teacher praised my mother at the next PTA meeting for taking her child on a trip to the nation's capital.

Mom kept mum; but scolded me later.

In 1981, however, I didn't have to be so creative. As part of a foreign policy seminar at the Federal Executive Institute, a small group of us spent several days in interviews and discussions with the foreign policy moguls of the government, including the staff Director of the National Security Council, the Deputy Director of the CIA, two senior career U.S. Ambassadors, the British Ambassador, and the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Because one of his Secret Service agents was one of our group, we were also able to schedule an interview with Vice President Bush.

I am pleased to report to you that with one exception, the people we interviewed were extremely capable, bright, experienced, hard working and knowledgeable. It is the exception that I want to tell you about.

Apparently, Vice Presidents have a lot of time on their hands; because Mr. Bush scheduled us for an hour. We were determined to make the most of this time, so the group got together ahead of time and formulated a list of foreign policy questions that we thought would be timely and of interest; and that the V.P. would be in a position to answer. The list was also designed to use all the available time. Poland's Marshal Jeruzowski had just declared the Solidarity trade union to be illegal, and El Salvador and Nicaragua were hot topics at the time.

Before we could get to our questions, however, the V.P. launched into a twenty minute diatribe against the inefficiencies and sheer laziness of Federal workers. It seems that as part of a renovation of his office in the Old Executive Office building, the Empire chandelier had been removed for cleaning and restoration by the General Services Administration, who maintains Federal buildings. GSA had given the chandelier task to the Smithsonian. The chandelier had been gone for six weeks, and a bare bulb hung in its place. This was clearly a prime example of the poor general attitude and work habits of Federal employees, according to the V.P. It never occurred to him that some restoration expert at the Smithsonian was probably spending full time trying to locate original period parts for the thing, or that they had better things to do than that.

The V.P. was seriously cutting into our interview time; but our group was very pleasant and well behaved, although the lecture was as welcome to a group of career civil servants as an impacted wisdom tooth. I later speculated that he mistakenly thought we were all political appointees from his party.

In any event, we were finally able to begin asking our questions. The specifics of each question did not bind the V.P. If he didn't like a question, or couldn't answer it, he simply changed the subject and answered a question which he had asked himself.

When asked about Central America, he spent a long time telling us what an expert he was on Central American affairs, because his daughter-in-law was a Mexican American. When asked about the apparent difference in Administration attitudes towards trade unions in this country, and the Solidarity trade union in Poland, we were treated to a description of the number of Polish Americans who lived in various U.S. cities, and how many of them were members of trade unions too. Each question launched the man into a series of loosely related anecdotes, all of them failing to answer the question; but all ending up reassuring the group that he was very well versed on the specific topic, and the Administration was taking the correct but undefined path.

I think it was Tip O'Neill who said that Mr. Bush was "born on third base, and thinks he hit a home run." When our hour was up, we quietly filed out of his office dazed and bewildered. The anticipated high point of our week in Washington had been converted to the low point. I consoled myself only in the knowledge that the Republic has survived in spite of Vice Presidents.

Chapter One: One Bureaucrat’s Washington

Tribute to Dad: Chapter 5 of his journal. All I've posted starts with this chapter and is tagged here. I will be updated as I have time.

James A. Chamblee

On a beautiful spring day in 1972, I glanced out of my closed office window on the ground floor of the Federal Trade Commission building on Pennsylvania Avenue. Beyond the heating grates and the high hedge that provide a warm and secluded winter sleeping spot for the winos of the neighborhood, on the sidewalk a few yards away, I bore silent witness to an encore performance of a Pennsylvania Avenue Rite of Spring.

Owing to the presence of a liquor store and a men's Christian mission across the street, the wino population density in the neighborhood stood far in excess of the national average. We called them winos then, because that's what they were. Except for an occasional bag lady, the downtown areas of Washington then had far fewer homeless people as we know them today, except near the mission and the liquor store. With the coming of Spring, Washington is also filled with tourist families and buses full of high school classes from all over America.

The street scene which I witnessed involved a conversation between one of the more disheveled and articulate members of the wino community, and a family of Washington tourists, including Dad, Mom, and the two kids, looking like they came from Wholesome Corners, Indiana. Since I had heard this particular wino's pitch previously in person in my office (in the off-season), I could afford to study his technique and speculate as to his probability of success.

His pitch unfolded as follows: "Excuse me folks; but I'm in a terrible situation, and I need some help." He went on to say that Congress is in session at the Capital, as they may know, and that he is scheduled to testify before Senator Proxmire's Committee this very afternoon on a matter of national importance (he is partial to Proxmire); but that he is running late and needs two bucks for cab fare to get him to Capital Hill in time for the hearing . If these kind people will only give him the two bucks, their nation will be forever in their debt for their contribution to ensuring that the government will continue to deal with the weighty matters that it must.

Never mind that this guy hasn't shaved in a week, badly needs several baths, and that his clothes haven't come off in a month. Never mind that the Capital is six short blocks away and could be walked in six minutes. Never mind that the cab fare is fifty cents and the chances that a cab would pick this guy up are nearly zero. With minimal hesitation, Dad forks over the loot, while they rest of the family watches with intense interest. The wino quickly scurries across the street with profuse thanks and the two bucks. After a few minutes of slight euphoria and animated conversation, with visions of their contribution being mentioned on the six o'clock news that night, the tourists resume their touristy pursuits.

The moral for me was that Americans want their government to work; but most don't have the foggiest notion as to how it works. They want to be a part of that working, yet few know how to or are able to participate effectively.

There have been several excellent books produced in the past several years on our government and how it isn't working. This book is not a deep analysis of the workings or failings of our national government. It is a practical guide to the Federal establishment, as told through a chronicle of the highlights of thirty-five years in the nation's capital by a single mid-level bureaucrat. It is not for tourists; but for civics classes with a sense of humor.

In the spring of 1963, I was uncomfortably ensconced as the head of the computer software systems group at the New York Stock Exchange, a new position that I had held for only three months. I was among several youthful senior computer professionals that the Exchange had hired to automate trade reporting at the hub of world finance.

In those heady days of the computer industry, very few people understood the concept of the stored program electronic computer, and even fewer had experience in programming these monsters. The transistorized computer was only then marketed widely, and was less than four years old. I was a senior person at age twenty-four, with four years of experience. My salary was $10,000 dollars per year, at that time in the top five percent of all U.S. incomes.

I was uncomfortable in this new position; because I was experiencing culture shock, and didn't know it. I had spent the previous four years in the IBM development labs, and even with the sometimes puritanical policies of that company, the development labs had been relatively informal. The NYSE, however, was perhaps the focal point for all conservative thought in the galaxy. In addition to these established attitudes, the exchange traders and staff were very suspicious of the new computer staff, and their welcome was less than warm. They correctly predicted that their modus operandi was about to be changed, and they didn't look forward to that prospect. It was a set of attitudes that a twenty-four year old senior computer programmer had little time to view understandingly.

The U.S. had three centers of computer concentration in 1963. Except for a few early research computers, most computers and computer people were concentrated in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. To accept a position anywhere else was to isolate oneself from the computer mainstream. The computer skills in high demand at that time were so-called "real time" computing. I had three years of experience with these systems.

Despite the problems involved with working in New York and living sixty miles away, I love New York. One of the most appealing visions is midtown on a winter evening around 5:00. Soft lights illuminate the lobbies of office buildings and that light seeps out onto the sidewalk. The polished brass and glass of the entrances cannot fail to convey to the passer by that this is a polished city. Often, in my 27th floor office at the NYSE, the weather would be sunny at my level; but raining on the street level. Sometimes windows would be sucked out of their moldings by the strong winds which buffet lower Manhattan. I enjoyed watching the lunchtime “gallery” of Wall Street clerks which met daily at the intersection of Wall and Broad to heckle anti-capitalist speakers and to ogle good looking women who emerged from the subway.

Despite liking the city, when I was approached by a Washington, D.C. computer consulting firm with an offer of a twenty percent raise to $12,000 per year and a job developing a new "real time" system for the Navy, I accepted. Four years before, I had started at IBM at $3,800 per year. When my salary reached $6000 two years later, I had been able to purchase my first house, a new $15,000, three bedroom split level on half an acre. Truly I was headed for financial and professional greatness. I left my family in New York, and in May, 1963, arrived in the nation's capital for the first time.

Just to prove that the world is cyclical, twenty-nine years later, in 1992, my son, a computer scientist, (a microchip off the old block?) retraced this career move from New York to Washington. The world had changed both in Washington and New York in that period.

I had only a college textbook idea of what the national government was all about. The nearest I had come to dealing with the Federal establishment was a tax audit in 1961. My friend and schoolmate, Mike Landes, had an experience which confirmed our faith in the Feds. He had found what appeared to be an Indian artifact near his New Paltz, N.Y. home. Nothing unusual about that in the Hudson Valley. The artifact itself was a stone wheel with a stone shaft through the middle. We speculated that it might be an Indian child’s toy of some kind. He decided to send this find to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington for identification. He had no response for months, leading him to believe that his find was very significant, and that the Smithsonian probably had the item on display as we spoke. He therefore posted an inquiry to the Smithsonian, asking what they had found. A very nice letter was returned, informing Mike that his artifact had been examined by all the American Indian experts at the museum; but nobody could identify it. It was then examined by another museum staff which identified it as a coverless “D” cell battery for which only a portion of the insides remained. The museum offered to return or discard the find. We laughed about this “Indian artifact” for many years; but underlying our mirth was pride and gratitude that there were some real experts in our nation’s capital.

During my years in Washington, I worked in positions at the Federal Trade Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Defense Mapping Agency, and the U.S. Army. I also worked for several computer consulting firms, the University of Maryland, and the Mitre Corp., all organizations on the fringe of government.

Happy Fathers Day

James Anderson Chamblee, 66, a retired computer scientist who founded a company that built concrete sailboats, died Thursday, August 18, 2005 of heart disease at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia. He was a resident of Columbia and Jekyll Island, Ga.

Mr. Chamblee was born in Wilmington, N.C. In 1959, he went to work for IBM in New York, where he was part of a team that helped pioneer the American Airlines reservation system and the automation of the New York Stock Exchange. Going to school at night, he received his undergraduate degree in math from the State University of New York at New Paltz in 1963.

He moved to Savage in 1963 and joined the University of Maryland Computer Science Center, where he worked for a year.

From 1964 to 1972, he was a computer scientist for the Federal Trade Commission and from 1972 to 1983 for the Environmental Protection Agency. He worked for the Army Department from 1983 until his retirement in 1994.

He started building ferro-cement boats in 1972. Concrete hulls in the family's front yard, alongside Route 1 in Savage, became familiar sights to passersby.

A 1972 Mother Earth News article that featured Mr. Chamblee's boatyard, and Samson Marine, noted that a concrete boat offered some advantages over conventionally constructed boats: "It won't rust or rot, sharp rocks don't punch holes in it and the vessel just keeps on getting stronger for the next 30 years or so!" The article and photos of the boats in the yard, including a photo of Larry Chamblee as a law student working on his boat, is here.

Mr. Chamblee designed the first concrete skipjack and wrote a book on the subject. He also captained two Atlantic Ocean voyages in his 45-foot concrete ketch in the late 1970s, sailing from Baltimore to Portugal via the Azores on the voyage over and from northern Africa via Puerto Rico on the way back. His children were among the crew.

When the state bought his home and business property in Savage, MD for Route 32, he built the home in Clarksville, MD that his family moved into in 1975 until it was sold about 25 years later.
In recent years, he had worked as a golf course marshal on Jekyll Island, where he spent winters.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Dare to Compete

Democratic Presidential hopeful Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., walks off stage with parting gifts, after speaking at a graduation ceremony for McLean High School, Wednesday, June 13, 2007, at Constitution Hall in Washington. McLean High School is located in McLean, Va. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Hillary Clinton proved Virginia is "in play" in 2008 with the standing ovation before and after her speech to the graduating class of McLean High School on Wednesday at DAR Constitution Hall.

Senator Clinton fullfilled all the requirements of a graduation speaker. She was prompt, funny, inspiring, and over in 10 minutes.

She told about the difficulty sending Chelsea off from high school to college. Luckily, she made sure her daughter was prepared -- with plenty of shelf paper for her new dorm.

She wrapped up with a story she has told from time to time. It was 1999, and Clinton was being introduced by the captain of a girl's basketball team -- in the Chelsea-Clinton neighborhood in NYC. The program was one designed to encourage girls to participate in sports, called "Dare to Compete." Sofia Totti, the student, gave a verbal nod to the great speculation swirling in New York at the time about Mrs. Clinton's possible Senate run. Totti would say she decided her speech would be the perfect opportunity for a little encouragement and told the audience that Mrs. Clinton was an athlete, too: "hopefully a runner."

"Mrs. Clinton came to shake my hand and gave me a smile, acknowledging my comment," Ms. Totti said. Still clutching the first lady's hand, she whispered, "Dare to compete, Mrs. Clinton. Dare to compete."

Clinton said Totti's challenge motivated her successful campaign. The Senator challenged all the graduates to Dare to Compete.

Hillary's approval ratings are up today. Bush's are sinking lower.

Anyone with video? I'm working on getting some clips of my own linked here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lurita Doan and Tom Davis: "the most pernicious of political activity"

Tom Davis and other Republican incumbents in the "Rove/Doan slideshow" should release their 2006 schedules, to show if they were illegally scheduled by GSA for events that would help their campaigns.

WAPO today:

In a June 8 letter to Bush, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch accused Doan of "engaging in the most pernicious of political activity" during a Jan. 26 lunch briefing involving 36 GSA political appointees and featuring a PowerPoint presentation about the November elections by the White House's deputy director of political affairs.

At the presentation's conclusion, Doan asked what could be done to "help our candidates," according to a special counsel report. Several GSA appointees who watched the presentation told special counsel investigators that some appointees responded with ideas of how the agency could use its facilities to benefit the Republican Party.

Lurita Doan's defense? She couldn't have said anything; she never pays attention in Karl Rove meetings.

Doan told investigators that she did not pay attention to the briefing by White House political aide [to Karl Rove] J. Scott Jennings because she was busy reading e-mail on her BlackBerry....

Tom Davis had GSA champion Angela Styles fired because of her effective oversight over Tom Davis campaign donors. She was replaced with the likes of felon David Safarian and Lurita Doan.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hard cases make bad law

A good article here.

The yawning divide between reality and what such laws say should happen is what produces the dilemmas that lead to amnesties. Immigration law has produced a situation where an estimated 12 million people in the country -- most of whom look, sound and act like law-abiding citizens -- are supposed to be apprehended, prosecuted and deported, a job that is not only well beyond the capacity of the police and courts, but would wreck substantial parts of the economy were it attempted.

"No one is so stupid as to think police are going to go out and round up 12 million illegal immigrants," said Husak, at Rutgers University. "Ninety million living Americans have used illegal drugs. It is inconceivable you can punish them. Downloading copyrighted music [without paying for it] -- half or more of all teenagers are guilty. No one is going to enforce such laws."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Scooter Libby sentenced for manipulating news -- and WaPo still protects Tom Davis

NYT, June 5I. Lewis Libby Jr., once one of the most powerful men in government as Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, was sentenced today to two and a half years [30 months] in prison for lying to a grand jury and F.B.I. agents who were investigating the unmasking of a C.I.A. operative during a fierce debate over the war in Iraq.

What Scooter Libby did was a serious, insidiuous, anti-democratic control of information, and WaPo itself continues to ignore political corruption in exchange for Access Journalism.

Special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald has made it clearer than ever that he was hot on the trail of a coordinated campaign to out CIA agent Valerie Plame until that line of investigation was cut off by the repeated lies from Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The Scooter Libby trial disclosed what the press and administration already know: for this administration, a critical part of its media dis-information campaign includes controlling the timing of press reports. If they can't stop a story before it publishes, the next best thing is controlling when a story publishes.

The Post is absolutley giddy when it reports on how the NYT and Judith Martin were involved in this game, but silent on it's own failure to cover corruption for its own Access Journalism. In other words, politicians don't have to schedule a "Saturday night Massacre." The Post will schedule it for them.

WAPO: "With a candor that is frowned upon at the White House, explained Cheney's former top press assistant," Cathie Martin, explained how important it was to influence timing of news reports critical of politicians.
"Fewer people pay attention to it later on Friday," Martin testified. "And in our view, fewer people are paying attention on Saturday, when it's reported."
Examples include not only Bob Woodward's involvement in keeping the cover up going in Plamegate, on black hole prisons, and the Ford interview criticizing Bush. They include the Post's baseball buddy, Tom Davis.
Additional stories in the Post on Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay don't even mention that Davis was one of very few Congressman singled out for donations from Jack Abramoff's tribal clients, and they don;t mention that he's one of only three Congressmen who received campaign contributions from Abramoff. They don't mention his admission that he knew about Walter Reed in 2004, and that he's named on the famous Lurita Doan GSA slides of candidates who should received campaign help from federal employees.

These aren't neo-cons who are targeted by the administration. It's reputable journalists who seem otherwise credible. They fall for flattery.

Radar Contact: "It's Our Best Format"

At Libby's trial, Judith Miller's testimony showed how the administration and the press combine forces for access journalism:

In a steady but slightly nervous voice, Miller described how her relationship with Libby began: with a bit of flattery [of her writing].... Miller recalled Libby saying that "he liked my reporting ..."

"You look like a lawyer to me, honey." Taxi's Louie DePalma (Danny DeVito) on the pick up line he uses in a bar he knows where women go after they've learned they flunked the Bar exam.

When she "expressed a desire" for regular conversations, Libby said "he would prefer not to see his name in print," Miller said. "We could continue meeting as long as I would identify him as an administration official or senior administration official." She readily agreed.

So Libby would combat these leaks by leaking to Miller, she explained in a tone that indicated this was the most natural thing in the world.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Bill Hubbard's FDA Letter-Wrongly Blaming The FDA

If you want to know how contaminated pet food threatened livestock and the food supply in the US, read this. (The links are mine.)

The current FDA, suffering from a decade without a strong leader and another emerging scandal, needs tools to keep consumer safe, and it's not getting them. The administration's current plans, to close laboratories and facilities in N.J. and Puerto Rico, home to the country's major drug manufacturing operations, could cripple its enforcement ability.

This photograph is an FDA staffer with a typical drug application for the time, about 1965.

By William Hubbard, Monday, WaPo, May 8, 2006; Page A19

Last month the Government Accountability Office released another report criticizing the Food and Drug Administration's efforts to ensure the safety of prescription drugs. It seems to have become great sport for public officials to revel in FDA shortcomings. Time after time in recent years, FDA scientists have warned of threats to the safety of the nation's food and drugs, sought new resources and tools to deal with those threats, and been duly dismissed. Yet when their predictions have come true, decision makers of all political stripes rush to bemoan the agency's failures.

* * * *
FDA scientists have done as they promised -- new drugs have been sped to market, and the FDA leads the world in approval times. But the companies often fail to do the needed safety studies, and Congress has taken no steps to allow the agency to compel them. FDA scientists also recognized that rapid drug approvals can miss important safety indicators and requested funding to create state-of-the-art systems to monitor drug safety. The new dollars that the White House proposed and Congress provided for this come to a nice round number: zero.

* * * *
For most of the FDA's 100-year history, presidents and congresses have recognized its importance to public health by giving it the resources and authority to respond to the rapid evolution in risks from the thousands of products it regulates. But for some years now, the agency's budget has remained essentially flat while major new responsibilities have been piled on. The results of this weakening of the agency are easy to document: Food inspections have dropped from a robust 50,000 in 1972 to about 5,000 today, meaning that U.S. food processors are inspected on average about every 10 years. The chance of a food product from overseas being inspected is infinitesimal. Most raw materials for our drugs come from foreign producers that are rarely inspected. The rate of quality-control failures found in manufacturing facilities by FDA inspectors has soared. Think your pacemaker, heart valve, microwave oven or morning vitamin was inspected? Dream on.

How much does Congress appropriate for the agency that has responsibility for the safety of the whole country's supply of food, drugs, vaccines, medical devices, cosmetics, animal foods and drugs, dietary supplements, and more? The same amount as Fairfax County, Va., provides for its schools.

The future could get worse...

[There are] developments and innovations [that] hold the promise of transforming the terrain of modern medicine and food production. FDA officials have been trying mightily to get the attention of decision makers who can give them the ability to adequately oversee these things. And, in a post-Sept. 11 world, there are new challenges to the food and drug supply that I cannot even hint at publicly.

Sens. Orrin Hatch and Edward Kennedy and a few other political leaders have expressed concern about the effects of starving what has been the world's foremost consumer protection agency. But most legislators are content to await the emergence of problems rather than head them off.

Maybe the FDA's scientists can keep their finger in the dike. Maybe we'll be lucky and avoid a major crisis. But maybe the great Dodger baseball executive Branch Rickey got it right: When asked how much luck played into his teams' success, he scoffed that luck was a residue of design. If we keep failing the FDA, and the FDA in turn fails, it's inevitable that our luck will run out.

The writer retired last year after more than 25 years at the Food and Drug Administration, the last 14 as associate commissioner.