Tuesday, March 15, 2005

News for March 15th: Scary White Powder Edition

Might as well start with the obvious – just what is coming through the mailrooms of America these days? Curious timing, this – just as reports are coming in that people don’t approve of Bush’s handling of social security. These alerts and problems always seem to come when public approval of Bush is low. Probably just because the terrorists hate our freedom.

Oh, and I’ve noticed that there has been no confirmation on what the substance is, but I’ve already heard news reports saying it’s “confirmed” as anthrax.

Va. Defense Facility Locked Down
Similar Incident at Pentagon Spurs Queries About Coordination
By Jamie Stockwell and Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A01

A sensor at a Department of Defense mailroom in Fairfax County signaled the presence of a suspicious biological substance yesterday, forcing hundreds of workers to remain inside three buildings for almost six hours.

The lockdown came just hours after the mail facility at the Pentagon, about four miles away in Arlington, was evacuated and closed. The Pentagon took that action yesterday morning after tests conducted last week came back positive for anthrax, officials said. Later tests at the Pentagon were negative.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and the Fairfax fire department initially said the events at the Pentagon and in the Baileys Crossroads section of Fairfax were unrelated. But last night, a Virginia official said the events might be linked. In addition, emergency officials responding to the Fairfax incident said they were not aware of the Pentagon evacuation, causing Virginia's top homeland security official to say that coordination by the Defense Department would have to be reviewed.

Authorities said that there is no imminent danger to the public, that Defense Department mail is irradiated and that new detection systems worked. But state and local officials remained concerned that 3 1/2 years after the attack on the Pentagon and anthrax mailings that affected local postal facilities, coordination did not work smoothly yesterday.

"Clearly, the big question that's got to be answered is when did the DOD make the notification and did they make all appropriate notifications to make sure all federal, state and local players were aware of the problem?" said George W. Foresman, homeland security adviser to Gov. Mark R. Warner (D).

More at the Washington Post.

Just like I mentioned yesterday, they’re continuing to ignore the GAO. What’s the point of having such a body, then? Does the administration get a free pass on everything? I especially love how they’re now saying that the Justice Department interprets the law, not any outside agency. Uh, hello, Supreme Court? Hello checks and balances? I guess they mean nothing to this empire…er..presidency.

Administration Rejects Ruling On PR Videos
GAO Called Tapes Illegal Propaganda
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A21

The Bush administration, rejecting an opinion from the Government Accountability Office, said last week that it is legal for federal agencies to feed TV stations prepackaged news stories that do not disclose the government's role in producing them.

That message, in memos sent Friday to federal agency heads and general counsels, contradicts a Feb. 17 memo from Comptroller General David M. Walker. Walker wrote that such stories -- designed to resemble independently reported broadcast news stories so that TV stations can run them without editing -- violate provisions in annual appropriations laws that ban covert propaganda.

But Joshua B. Bolten, director of the Office of Management and Budget, and Steven G. Bradbury, principal deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department, said in memos last week that the administration disagrees with the GAO's ruling. And, in any case, they wrote, the department's Office of Legal Counsel, not the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, provides binding legal interpretations for federal agencies to follow.

The legal counsel's office "does not agree with GAO that the covert propaganda prohibition applies simply because an agency's role in producing and disseminating information is undisclosed or 'covert,' regardless of whether the content of the message is 'propaganda,' " Bradbury wrote. "Our view is that the prohibition does not apply where there is no advocacy of a particular viewpoint, and therefore it does not apply to the legitimate provision of information concerning the programs administered by an agency."

The existence of the memos was reported Sunday by the New York Times.

Supporters say prepackaged news stories are a common public relations tool with roots in previous administrations, that their exterior packaging typically identifies the government as the source, and that it is up to news organizations, not the government, to reveal to viewers where the material they broadcast came from.

More at the Washington Post.

I really, really hate Scalia. What a slimeball. I don’t buy his “kinder, gentler” act one bit. I’m sure his corporate masters have told him to play nice for the camera.

Scalia Showing His Softer Side
Justice Moves Into Public Eye With Possible Sights Set on Chief Job
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 15, 2005; Page A02

Antonin Scalia was about 12 minutes into the latest phase of his recent charm offensive yesterday when he briefly returned to type.

The famously acerbic Supreme Court justice was making a nuanced point about his disagreement with the notion of "substantive due process" when he paused and frowned at some photographers in the aisle. "Could we stop the cameras?" he directed. "I thought I announced a couple of shots at the beginning is fine, but click, click, click, click, click."

Still, it was a kinder, gentler Scalia who took questions from scholars at the Woodrow Wilson center. The extraordinarily private justice has in the past banned cameras from his speeches and was moved to apologize after reporters' tapes were confiscated at one lecture. He does not allow his speeches to be posted on the Supreme Court's Web site along with the other justices' addresses.

But lately Scalia has been stepping, squinting and blinking, into the public glare. In January, he consented to a televised debate at American University with his ideological opposite on the court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. And there he was in a lecture hall yesterday with two rows of reporters and five television cameras.

One possibility for Scalia's conversion: a looming vacancy in the office of chief justice. The current officeholder, William H. Rehnquist, is gravely ill, and President Bush is on record praising Scalia as one of his favorite jurists. So it might be shrewd for Scalia to be pursuing a bit of image polishing in advance of a hypothetical confirmation hearing.

More at the Washington Post.

Other than that, a fairly light news day, unless you want to hear about how Jesus stopped the killer in Atlanta or Michael Jackson’s accuser didn’t tell his principal that Jackson was fondling his bits. You can find plenty of that elsewhere, I’m sure.

Posted by crimnos @ 9:06 AM