Monthly Archives: July 2007

Mis-Spellings

On Wednesday Iexpressed my hope that homophobic bigot would become embroiled in the burgeoning federal student loan scandal. 

Today I awake to find that I’m close to getting my wish.

With scandal rattling the $85 billion student loan industry, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings argued at a House hearing on Thursday that she lacked legal authority to clamp down on many abuses.

Ms. Spellings faced pointed questioning at the hearing from Congressional Democrats, who accused her department of mismanagement and complacency.

[snip]

Several Democrats, led by Representative George Miller, questioned her aggressively, asserting that she had regulatory power and moral influence that she had neglected to wield to stop loan companies from paying universities or giving gifts, trips, stock and consulting payments to the university financial aid officers who guide students toward loans.

Mr. Miller, the California Democrat who heads the education committee, also took up a separate issue of questionable federal subsidy payments to lenders.He particularly criticized Ms. Spellings’s decision to ignore a recommendation of the department’s inspector general that she recover $278 million in federal subsidy payments improperly obtained by Nelnet, a lender based in Nebraska. He also said the Justice Department was now reviewing the inspector general’s September audit that found Nelnet ineligible for those payments.

After the hearing, a Justice Department spokesman, Charles Miller, did not contradict Representative Miller’s assertions, but said, “We have no comment at this time.”[emphasis added]

Mr. Miller openly dismissed Ms. Spellings’s portrayal of her department’s monitoring of student lending as robust. He also criticized the department for its oversight of Reading First, a program designed to teach poor children to read that has been besieged by reports of conflicts of interest among Education Department consultants.

“When I look at the whole body of evidence that has been amassed about both the student loan and Reading First programs, it is clear that — at a minimum — the Education Department’s oversight failures have been monumental,” he said.

“We monitor these programs vigorously,” Ms. Spellings replied.

“Who is monitoring?” Mr. Miller shot back. “Do they have blinders on?”

[snip]

The department has also come under scrutiny from Congress for its failure to halt millions of dollars in subsidy payments to lenders that exploited loopholes to inflate their eligibility for subsidies on the student loans, including those paid to Nelnet.

Mr. Miller and other lawmakers pressed Ms. Spellings, the lone witness, to explain her decision in January to allow Nelnet, a major contributor to Republican campaigns, to keep the $278 million. In exchange, Nelnet agreed not to bill for nearly $900 million in subsidies it believed it was eligible for.

Ms. Spellings said that she thought the fact that the department had been paying the subsidies without question could have put it in legal jeopardy and that Nelnet might have prevailed in a lawsuit.

[snip]

Representative John F. Tierney, Democrat of Massachusetts, said, “It boggles my mind — we allowed somebody to get away essentially with theft.” [emphasis added]

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Dana Peroxidce Peroxide (Damn!) held a gaggle this monring morning (Double-Damn!) primarily dealing with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s pending visit with Chimpy at Camp David. The most interesting tidbit I gleaned from that discussion was that neo-imperialist Abe’s grandfather once played golf with Chimpy’s Nazi-loving grandfather.

The discussion of Abe’s trip was followed by a conventional gaggle.

Name-Calling

Q I’d like to ask you about the level of political discourse about Iraq. The Vice President and President are accusing the Democrats of being defeatist, they’re talking about surrender dates. Senator Reid comes back and calls the Vice President an attack dog. What happened to the thought that there was going to be an elevated debate; they were going to be more high minded, not as mean spirited?

MS. PERINO: Well, I think that what happens in Washington at times of high drama and passion on both sides of the aisle, and on both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue, that there are times when you’re trying to make your substantive point, that the rhetoric can sometimes lead you to say things that you might not otherwise say in a one-on-one conversation.

I do think that when talking about a surrender date, it is very descriptive of what we believe is in the legislation. It says, you must leave on this day, and we think that that tells the enemy that they’ve won and that we’ve surrendered. And I think that’s a good way to explain it to the American people.

Q Well, and you say that you’re not questioning their patriotism, but by calling them defeatist and talking about surrender, you don’t think that that gets close to that line of not —

MS. PERINO: I think that what we have done is argued on the merits and on the substance of our arguments. And I don’t know if that’s always been the case on the other side. I grant you that I think that tension is high, because the stakes are high. And we feel very strongly that leaving before the job is done is turning over the victory to the enemy. And this is an enemy that, as the President has said many times, people need to understand is not only vying for control of Iraq, is a sworn enemy of the United States being helped by other sworn enemies of the United States, and that we ought to take this very seriously.

Q But don’t you think that words matter? I mean, doesn’t that suggest —

MS. PERINO: I certainly think —

Q — “helping the enemy” — doesn’t “helping the enemy” suggest some kind of lack of patriotism?

MS. PERINO: I think if you look at what the President has said, is that we are kidding ourselves if we think that the Qaeda is not trying to create a safe haven as they had in Afghanistan. And by us leaving too soon, before the Iraqis are able to take care of their country themselves, that that is what the President is trying to argue. And I would say that someone who calls the President a liar and a loser does not have very strong ground to stand on in talking about name-calling.

It’s Gonna Be The Bestest Veto Ceremony Evah!

Q When the President vetoes the war supplemental, as we think he’ll get it, what does he do then? Will he reach out to Congress and say, okay, here’s where we can move from here?

[snip]

Q And when do you think — how quickly would he veto it after the Senate votes?

MS. PERINO: Let us try to — we don’t even know when we’re going to get the actual vote. We have some general idea, but not specifically. I think it’s safe to say soon after.

Q Well, “soon after” meaning — I mean, if the President is at Camp David for the day, would he do it without any ceremony?

MS. PERINO: Let me just say soon after. I don’t believe that we’re going to be getting it on Friday.

Q Do you envision, though, a formal — I don’t want to call it a ceremony, but for lack of a better word — event, at this point?

MS. PERINO: We’re talking about it, and what we would do, but we don’t have any plans yet to announce. We’re thinking about it.

[snip]

Q But this would be only his second veto, and I recall that during the stem cell veto, there was an elaborate event in which he brought families. I’m wondering if you’re planning to bring military —

MS. PERINO: A little bit too early for us to preview, since we don’t even have the bill yet and we don’t know what day that it’s coming. It’s important.

Q Yes, but you can get it together.

MS. PERINO: We’re pretty good. (Laughter.)

Q Just call it a “no surrender” party. (Laughter.)

MS. PERINO: We’ll take that under consideration.

Q A great Bruce Springsteen, “No Retreat, No Surrender.”

MS. PERINO: I don’t think he’d come. (Laughter.)

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Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Earlier today I obsessed over the morning gaggle, an event for which the White House does not routinely post a transcript.

Now the afternoon gaggletranscript is up.

Let’s Start With The “No Comments” Portion of Today’s Gaggle

Q The House Judiciary Committee took another step today in its investigation of the firing of the eight U.S. attorneys. They voted to grant immunity to Monica Goodling, the former aide to Attorney General Gonzales. Does the White House think that’s a good strategy?

MS. PERINO: That’s up to the committee; it’s not something we’re going to comment on.

Unka Karl’s In Trouble

Q A couple of points. Has the White House been notified in any way from the agency known as the Office of Special Counsel about its inquiries into the work of Karl Rove or the political operation here?

MS. PERINO: No. No, we have not. As I said yesterday, we have had cooperation with them in the past, and we’ve responded appropriately. But we have not heard from them on this issue.

Helen Upsets Dana To The Point Where Peroxide Starts To Speak Like Chimpy

Q Is the President still going to veto anything from the Hill that sets a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, despite the belief of the public that we should pull out?

MS. PERINO: I think that — let me try to unpack that. The President has said that if the Democrats decide to insist on sending him a bill that includes a deadline for withdrawal, that he will veto the bill. And I understand that there are many people who are in this country that are frustrated with the war. I do think that you have to be a little bit careful in blanketing everybody that they want to pull out quickly from Iraq and with an arbitrary deadline or a rash decision, and leave that vacuum that we believe is going to be left there, if we leave that quickly.

Q Well, if the majority of people really wanted to pull out, would the President pull out? And what kind of a statistic do you have that they don’t want to?

MS. PERINO: As the President has said many times before, he does not make decisions based on polls. He understands as Commander —

Q Did he make decisions based on what the American people want?

MS. PERINO: He makes decisions based as the elected President of the United States and the Commander-in-Chief and his main priority is the protection of the American people, and that’s what he —

Q How do you protect the soldiers who are over there dying every day?

MS. PERINO: That is the President’s gravest concern, and he talks to the commanders on the ground to make sure that they are protected and that they are doing their jobs. He understands that he has asked them to do a very, very difficult mission. It’s very dangerous in Baghdad. We do have a new Baghdad security plan that’s underway, being led by General David Petraeus, who is up on the Hill today providing an update to the Congress on the status of that Baghdad security plan.

Q But a hundred people are dying in Iraq every day.

MS. PERINO: It’s a very tragic situation. I don’t know if that number is accurate, but obviously it’s not only our troops that are dying, but very many — too great of numbers of innocent men, women, and children in Iraq, as well.

[snip]

Q Who is the enemy you speak of? Are these Iraqis?

MS. PERINO: We have different folks that we’re considering the enemy. Obviously, al Qaeda is in Iraq, and they say that this is the battle. And then there are insurgents —

Q Are there Iraqis that you speak of, when you speak of the enemy?

MS. PERINO: I think they are definitely — obviously, there are Iraqis who are engaging in criminal activity and in sectarian violence.

Q Criminal? To defend their own country?

MS. PERINO: I think when anyone is killing innocent men, women and children that they —

Q Against an invader and occupier?

MS. PERINO: Helen, we are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and we are there under the U.N. Security Council resolution. Mark, did I finish your question?

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Your President Speaks!

Yesterday, in Washington, after a feeble arm-twisting session with zenophobic xenophobic [dammit] Republikkkans on the topic of immigration.

Git ‘Er Done!

I would hope that the Senate Majority Leader has that same sense of desire to move the product that I do, or the bill that I do and these senators do, because now is the time to get it done.

Your President Speaksapalooza: If It’s Saturday, It Must Be Italy

Saturday, at the US Embassy in Rome, Italy, with members of the Community of Sant’Egidio [Chimpy had to cancel his plans to actually visit the Community of Sant’Egidio at the Piazza S.Egidio in Rome because thousands of protestors wouldn’t let him get near the place.].

These International Army

I want to thank you for being a part of these international army of compassion.

Saturday, in Rome, during a presser with Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

What’s Italian For “Darn”?

As Romano said, the bilateral relations are pretty darn solid, and I appreciate that. There’s a lot of Italian Americans who have got great pride for their homeland.

Affecting The Poor

And I talked to him about our attempts to feed the hungry, and I also reminded him that we’ve got poor people in our own neighborhood that need to be affected

Does Not Know The Meaning Of The Word “Worrisome”

Q — Pope has said —

PRESIDENT BUSH: What?

Q The Pope has said Iraq was worrisome.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, he’s worrisome [sic] about the Christians inside Iraq being mistreated by the Muslim majority.

No Shit

Q Thank you. You’ve just told us that you and President Bush have just returned from your G8 summit. Now, the outcomes that have been stated on the many issues that you discussed — climate, development, and the missile shield — now, are those real — is that real progress, or not? And the deadline for the Kosovo independence —

PRESIDENT BUSH: What? Say that again?

Q Deadline for the Kosovo independence?

PRESIDENT BUSH: A decline?

Q Deadline, deadline.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Deadline. Beg your pardon. My English isn’t very good.

Where They Get Their Heritage

There are millions of people in our country who love Italy, because that’s where their heritage is from.

The Italian Heritage

I’m sure you know this, but the heritage — the Italian heritage is a powerful part of our country and its culture.

Peter Pace Won’t Stop Talking About His Dick

And the interesting thing about Pete Pace — even though he had four stars on his shoulder, always talked about the private.

Today On Holden’s Obsession With The Gaggle

Ah, we get Pony Blow again today.

The Gaggleres Want To Know If Alberto Gonzales Is Going To The Hill To Help Lobby For Immigration Reform

Q Is Al Gonzales coming up today?

MR. SNOW: I don’t know. The way these lunches work is that obviously there will be some conversation about immigration. We’ve got an energy bill that’s coming up, a defense authorization bill that’s going to be debated before long. There’s a whole series of items that I’m sure members are going to want to talk about. I don’t — my guess is, will the Attorney General — probably not. I mean, we had — we had the symbolic vote yesterday. It didn’t have enough votes to get to the floor for a final vote, and I think that’s that. I think that’s over.

Oh, Right — Alberto’s Troubles Are Over [rolls eyes]

The President Is A Looser, Isn’t He?

Q What about the hard-nosed politics here? Isn’t the reality that, given Iraq and a litany of other issues that the President is unpopular with his own party on, that for Republicans who are already skeptical, at the very least, about this, it makes more sense for them to vote against the President then to vote with him?

MR. SNOW: I’m not sure. Are you telling — I don’t think so, because here you have a bill where the law enforcement provisions are significantly — border security is significantly tougher than the status quo. When it comes to tracking down who is here illegally, significantly tougher and more credible than the status quo. When it comes to punishing employers who knowingly hire illegals, by many orders of magnitude, tougher than the status quo.

So conservatives — I think again, for a lot of Republicans, the first thing is, what are you going to do on border security? And our view is, don’t trust us, verify. The way the bill is written says that you have to deploy on the border 370 miles of fence, more than 200 miles of vehicle barriers. The fact is, these numbers are changing in the course of debate, and I think they’ve been strengthened during the course of debate. So what you’re going to have is a certain demonstrated commitment on border security that is — that will be credible.

Furthermore, there’s a proposal by Senators Kyl and Graham that would take all the fees and collections made in the course of this legislation, set it aside basically into a fund that could be used only for border enforcement. There you have a mandatory spending program, where the money flows directly into enforcement, and you have a continuous commitment in terms of funding to keeping your vigilance on the border. So I think those are the kinds of things that members are going to want to hear.

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If the Founding Fathers came back and saw what’s going on, they’d never stop throwing up

From CBS

The poll finds American’s opinion of the country as a whole even more pessimistic.

IF THE FOUNDERS CAME BACK THEY WOULD BE…

Pleased

20%

Disappointed

72%

Many of those polled said the nation is on the wrong track – more
so today than ever before. Only 19 percent of Americans believe the
country is generally going in the right direction – the lowest number
recorded in a CBS News Poll since the question was first asked in 1983.

Your President Speaks!

Sunday, in Kennebunkport, Maine.

What We Got Tomorrow

We got a press conference tomorrow, Mark.

The Global War On Subjects Continues

And appreciate the very strong response that the Gordon Brown government has given to the attempts by these people.

Never in the history of the court…

Today the Supreme Court “struck down public school choice plans in Seattle,
Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky, concluding they relied on an
unconstitutional use of racial criteria…”

CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin described the scene at the Supreme Court today…

TOOBIN: Boy, Tony, 15 minutes ago the Supreme Court was at
war with itself in a drama that is rarely seen inside that room. You
had two justices basically shouting out, not literally, but talking
about the very premises of what it means to be an American. That was
what was at stake in the court today. And the drama and the anger and
the passion was something that’s rarely seen in that courtroom.

Chief
Justice John Roberts saying that the students who didn’t get — the
white students who didn’t get the school of their choice in Louisville
and Seattle were equivalent to the black students in Brown v. Board of
Education who were denied access to integrated schools in Topeka,
Kansas. [Justice] Stephen Breyer responding, “You have got to be
kidding me, that the efforts in good faith of these schools in
Louisville and Seattle to integrate their schools, to make sure that
there’s diversity, how dare you compare that to the discrimination of
Jim Crow?” It was a fascinating illustration of just how divided this
court is at this point.

SNIP

This is a decision that says school districts
cannot use any racially — racial factors to decide how to assign kids.
This is a victory for conservatives. Justice Breyer used a phrase,
“Never in the history of the court have so few done so much so
quickly.”
And he was talking about Chief Justice Roberts and Justice
[Samuel] Alito making this court a far more conservative institution in
just one year. And at that phrase, “And never have so few done so much
so quickly,” both Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts looked over
at Breyer and went, whoa, that’s pretty personal by the standards of
the Supreme Court. (my emphasis)

Sad day

Justice Breyer’s dissenting opinion is HERE

UPDATE: Pete Williams of NBC News reported, in something that is quite rare for the court, Justice Beyers took 21 minutes to read his dissenting opinion

Scout’s Obsession with the GAO: Perspective

The GAO released correspondance sent to Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins of the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It is as update of briefings on Rebuilding Efforts in the Gulf Coast that were given to staff and meant to assist in the committee’s oversight responsibilities. (Yeah I’m still waiting for some of that from Joe)

At any rate there is nothing really new here. They once again make this very important point…

While the federal government has provided billions of dollars in assistance to the Gulf Coast, a substantial portion of this aid was directed to short-term needs, leaving a smaller portion for long-term rebuilding.

They lay out the nagging questions still hanging there awaiting answers…How much is rebuilding going to cost, how much cost will the feds bear and are current funding delivery mechanisms effective.

What was interesting in the correspondance was the graphic below which compares the impact in terms of casualties, cost of damage, homes destroyed, homes damaged, people evacuated and displaced for Hurricanes Camille, Andrew and Katrina (notice GAO refers to Katrina AND NOLA levee breaks–good one).

Just look at this.(can click on image for better view) Camille is the black spot, Andrew is the striped area and Katrina/NOLA levee breaks is the large grey area. There’s some perspective…

Gao_storm_comparison

Sunday Reading

Can I get a “hell yeah!” for Eureka, Arkansas?

Norbizness translates self-hating Democrats:

An overwhelming majority of Americans, polls show, support the substitution of gross political pandering over the medical judgment of committed professionals made in consultation with a woman having a difficult pregnancy.

A list of ways to help the Yankees out of their oh-so-tragic slump. Via Metaquotes.

Oh, my God, he’s a reporter’s dream:

“What we’re talking about is a cracked-out, machete-wielding moron who went on his own personal countywide crime spree.” — Schwartz on the one man crime wave that police dealt with on 6/13.

And with the 4th of July approaching and the crackheads who live near me already setting off fireworks every night, I’m reminded of the story that made me realize I loved Erin:

I’ve never been a big fan of the Fourth of July. It’s not that I’m not patriotic or that I don’t love my country or anything. It’s more that, for the majority of my childhood and teen years, I was pretty much forced to attend the Annual Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and the Lake Bluff Independence Day Parade as part of a grand patriotic scheme dreamed up by an overly-emotional father whose wayward patriotism was most clearly illustrated by the fact that he voted for Kennedy because he was an IRISH CATHOLIC. As a result, the Fourth of July is just another day for me. For the rest of Chicago, it seems to be just another day to get drunk and set things on fire.

Now, I’m all for getting drunk and setting things on fire; it used to be one of my favorite modes of entertainment (sorry about your barcalounger, Benny – I thought the flame on that shot of tequila would TOTALLY go out before it hit the chair – call me!). Yeah, so. That was fun. BACK WHEN I WAS SIXTEEN. But, like, whatever. I had a feeling that when Lena invited me to Melly and D’s Fourth of July party, alcohol and fire would be in steady supply, so I was prepared to suck it up and deal.

I was NOT prepared for Dewey and his Merry Band of Blithering Buttlicks.

A.

Today on Athenae’s Obsession with the Freepi: Rare Praise Edition

Guys, I’m as shocked as you are, but I think I actually respect this Freeper:

When I was in school a brief statement was made that stated many people believe the world was created by a creator. That’s about all that was said and that’s about all that was necessary.

And if that’s all that the IDers were asking for, the conversation would be over. Most science classes have a couple-sentence disclaimer like that, and if they don’t, a single student question can elicit one.

We also had a “moment of silence” after the pledge of allegiance.

I don’t see the point, but I also don’t see the outrage. Of course, I stopped saying the Pledge every day in the 8th grade, so I would have had a longer moment of silence.

Let me clarify. I had no objection to the sentiments in the Pledge. I never stopped reciting it on patriotic occasions. I objected to the force of daily habit. I objected to the rote recitation of words 90% of us had never given serious thought and maybe half could define if asked. I didn’t make a fuss; I just rose and placed my right hand over my heart, along with my classmates, but stood mute.

If I were a public school teacher, on my first — and quite possibly only — day on the job, my first act after the Pledge would be to ask the class, “okay, what you just finished saying, what does it mean?” I would not expect many hands to go up.

[snip]

>>Finally, an ID proponent admits that the purpose of ID is to introduce moral education into science classes. Would that they were all so honest.

It is not so much as to introduce it, but rather as a response to having it wiped out. When there is no morals in the government schools, society is weakened.

I agree. We need more robust citizenship, civics and ethics education. It doesn’t belong in biology class.

One of the second-tier talk show hosts — Michael Reagan, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, they all blur together for me — posed the question of what moral code is taught by evolution. I cursed myself for leaving my cell phone at home, because I had an immediate retort. What moral code is taught by calculus? Or by chemistry, physics or astronomy?

Answer: None That is not what they do. Is it immoral for a cheetah to kill a gazelle? A cheetah is a predator, the harshest epithet we can apply to a human criminal. Yet nature cannot function long without predators. That’s biology. How does that translate into human society? That’s ethics.

ID is a response to the mocking of religion, by those whose motives are merely masked by claiming to be scientific. It is a battle in the culture wars.

My position is that the “culture wars” are largely fiction. They’re the hysterical overreaction of some Christians to the fact that Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Animists and even (gasp!) atheists no longer “know their place.” Being denied a privileged position, even if it’s a traditional one, is not a form of oppression.

Even a blind squirrel, and etc, and of course he gets his ass kicked all over that thread by “Christians are persecuted! Evolution is the cause of abortion! You’re a Dhimmicrat!” and such. But I’m as startled at finding intelligent dissent in that forum as I am when Puck finds the litterbox all on his own.

A.