CIA Officers Plan For Legal Defense

Counterterrorism officers at the CIA are lining up for government backed insurance to cover their legal expenses should they face civil or criminal charges for the way they have conducted their jobs.

It would seem their greatest concern comes from a change in leadership in either Congress in 2006 or the White House in 2008.

This insurance is coupled with efforts by the Bush Administration to protect civilians in the government from liability due to the mistreatment of prisoners.

House Republicans Assert Exclusive Jurisdiction Over Disputed House Races

Here's the deal: Article I, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution states "Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members..." Now, lawyers in disputed elections in California and Nevada have successfully argued that this clause prohibits local monitoring of house elections.

In the case of the disputed CA-50 special election, Dennis Hastert rushed to get the republican candidate, Brian Bilbray, sworn in just five days after the election, before any motions questioning the election could be acted upon. It has been suggested that this was done to ensure that Bilbray would be one "of its own members" when the jurisdictional argument was put forth.

EPA Budget Cuts Threaten Enforcement / Lawsuits

The EPA's budget for library services, that is libraries that the public can access to do research about environmental issues, is being cut by $2 million for the 2007 fiscal year. EPA deputy press secretary, Jessica Emond, states that that leaves $4.5 million in the budget. So, in an age of congress calling any budgetary growth less that the rate of inflation a "cut", this actual drop of 30.7% is a significant story. Especially when you consider that the overall EPA budget is nearly $7 billion.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsiblity have an explaination as to what this all means:

Prosecution of polluters by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency “will be compromised” due to the loss of “timely, correct and accessible” information from the agency’s closure of its network of technical libraries. EPA enforcement staff currently rely upon the libraries to obtain technical information to support pollution prosecutions and to track the business histories of regulated industries.

Bush Again Misuses The Word 'War'

Addressing the heroic efforts of British security forces in thwarting a plot to blow up multiple passenger planes, president Bush again refers to the struggle against terrorism as a war. To be specific, a War Against Islamic Fascists, a phrase which, no doubt polls well with his base but is simply inaccurate.

Usage of the term 'war' has, in recent history, been used for many things; take for example the "war on drugs." (How's that going, by the way?) But, I think it's clear that when Bush uses that word in this context, he's seeking to invoke the image of "an armed conflict between nations, states, or parties." The problem is that Terrorism is an idea. It cannot be shot, stabbed, or blown up.

Declaring war against an idea is almost certainly a pursuit doomed to failure. The closest the U.S. has ever come to successfully fighting an idea is the "Cold War." An endeavor which took the better part of 50 years, trillions of dollars, and millions of lives (not all Americans.) We declared victory in the Cold War after the collapse of the Soviet Union, but we're still paying for the war today and for the forseeable future. The runaway defense spending of the 1980s, which continues today, was undoubtedly the coup de grace that toppled the Soviets as they collapsed under pressure to keep up. It remains to be seen whether the U.S. will survive the economic damage it did to itself in the conflict.

Dobbs Takes Bush To Task On Border Brag

In a commentary posted today, Lou Dobbs takes president Bush to task for bragging on empty accomplishments along the U.S. - Mexico border. Here's an excerpt:

When you talk about the National Guard delivering results at our border and brag about our Border Patrol agents seizing 17,000 pounds of illicit drugs and 2,500 illegal aliens along our southern border since June 15, well doggone it, it's just about obvious those fancy advisers of yours forgot to tell you that's actually well below last fiscal year's pace, when the Border Patrol caught more than 1 million illegal aliens and seized more than 1.3 million pounds of illicit drugs.

That's some accomplishment! Don't get me wrong, I agree with the president when it comes down to accepting the reality that illegals in this country are best dealt with through an opportunity to earn citizenship. But, he's trying to pander to both sides and in doing so, pleases no one.

U.S. Federal Budget Far Worse Than It Seems?

According to this USA Today article, the relatively bad $318 billion dollar deficit for 2005 would really be $760 billion if the Federal government were held to the same standards as public corporations.

Why the discrepancy? It seems it is mostly a matter of liabilities:

Congress has written its own accounting rules — which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel.

The article goes on to say that if the figures included to decline of Social Security and Medicare, the actual deficit would be closer to $3.5 trillion.

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