Thursday, August 02, 2007

Daily Headliners--Bridge collapse, Rove refuses to testify, Bush as Bubble Boy,

My apologies for the lack of blogging. I've been sick for the past four days with a cold, and all I could do was to sleep. I have not been keeping up with the news. I'm feeling better now, so I'm going through the past four days of news to talk about here. Let the Daily Headlines continue on....

Workers search for bodies in bridge debris: This has pretty much been the big story for the past two days. The collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge, in Minneapolis, has killed four people, injured 79, with another 30 people still missing. But I did find this rather interesting;

The White House said an inspection of the 40-year-old bridge in 2005 found problems. The Interstate 35W span rated 50 on a scale of 100 for structural stability and was classified as “structurally deficient,” transportation officials said.

Records show that Minnesota officials were warned as early as 1990 that the was structurally deficient, yet they relied on a strategy of patchwork fixes and stepped-up inspections. The bridge got the rating from the federal government, who cited significant corrosion in its bearings. The bridge is one of 77,000 bridges in that category nationwide, 1,160 in Minnesota alone.

The federal government knew that the bridge was structurally unsound here. They knew about this for two years, ever since the inspection was made in 2005. What is even worst is that there are 77,000 more bridges that are also rated as "structurally deficient," meaning that they need to be repaired as well. And what is the Bush White House response to this? Consider this AP story through TPM;

The White House said an inspection of the 40-year-old bridge in 2005 found problems. The Interstate 35W span rated 50 on a scale of 100 for structural stability and was classified as "structurally deficient," transportation officials said.

The designation means some portions of the bridge needed to be scheduled for repair or replacement, and it was on a schedule for inspection every two years. "It didn't mean that the bridge is unsafe," Transportation Secretary Mary Peters said.

Earlier, at the White House, press secretary Tony Snow said while the inspection didn't indicate the bridge was at risk of failing, "If an inspection report identifies deficiencies, the state is responsible for taking corrective actions."

You've got to love the hypocrisy here. Even though the bridge is "structurally deficient," it doesn't mean that the bridge is unsafe, and that the states are responsible for fixing the bridges--not the federal government! Again, the Bush administration is trying to pass the buck off to the states for repairing our deteriorating transportation infrastructure, while happily spending over $1 trillion dollars in its failed war in Iraq. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution;

The war in Iraq could ultimately cost well over a trillion dollars - at least double what has already been spent - including the long-term costs of replacing damaged equipment, caring for wounded troops, and aiding the Iraqi government, according to a new government analysis.

The United States has already allocated more than $500 billion on the day-to-day combat operations of what is now 190,000 troops and a variety of reconstruction efforts.

In a report to lawmakers Tuesday, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that even under the rosiest scenario - an immediate and substantial reduction of troops - American taxpayers will feel the financial consequences of the war for at least a decade.

The CBO calculations include the estimated cost to leave some US forces behind for at least several years to support the Iraqi government, but they also predict other long-term costs, such as extended medical care and disability compensation for wounded soldiers and survivor's benefits for the families of the thousands of combat-zone fatalities.

The cost of the war in Iraq and other military operations has soared to the point where "we are now spending on these activities more than ten percent of all the government's annually appropriated funds," said Robert A. Sunshine, the CBO's assistant director for budget analysis.

Those costs - both to sustain the current mission in Iraq and to pay longer term "hidden" expenses like troop health care and replacement equipment - are far more than US officials advertised when Congress gave President Bush the authority to launch the invasion in March 2003.

So President Bush feels it is more important to waste a trillion dollars in an Iraq war that we've lost, instead of spending a portion of that money repairing our nation's bridges. What is even more shocking is that the Bush administration is cutting the Department of Transportation's budget for highway funding. According to this July 12, 2007 San Antonio Business Journal article, with a hat tip to DKos user DuvalDem;

The Texas Department of Transportation said Thursday that $72 million in federal aid for highways funding has been rescinded.

For Texas, that means TxDOT and local communities will have that much less funding to use for projects such as interstate maintenance, bridges, congestion reduction and air-quality improvement programs.

The Federal Highway Administration is rescinding a total of more than $871 million in federal aid highway funds from states. Texas is second only to California in the amount of funds being rescinded. California is losing about $79.2 million.

The money is being diverted to other government priorities.

In its notice, the Federal Highway Administration said the funds were being rescinded as required by the U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007.

TxDOT says it has until July 19 to figure out which of its funding categories will absorb the reduction.

And what does President Bush say about this bridge collapse? Consider the latest White House press release on the bridge accident;

Good morning. I just finished a Cabinet meeting. One of the things we discussed was the terrible situation there in Minneapolis. We talked about the fact that the bridge collapsed, and that we in the federal government must respond and respond robustly to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity, that bridge, gets rebuilt as quickly as possible.

President George W. Bush addresses the press in the Rose Garden after meeting with his Cabinet Thursday, Aug. 2, 2007. "One of the things we discussed was the terrible situation there in Minneapolis," said President Bush. "We talked about the fact that the bridge collapsed, and that we in the federal government must respond and respond robustly to help the people there not only recover, but to make sure that lifeline of activity, that bridge, gets rebuilt as quickly as possible." White House photo by Chris Greenberg To that end, Secretary Peters is in Minneapolis, as well as Federal Highway Administrator Capka. I spoke to Governor Pawlenty and Mayor Rybak this morning. I told them that the Secretary would be there. I told them we would help with rescue efforts, but I also told them how much we are in prayer for those who suffered. And I thank my fellow citizens for holding up those who are suffering right now in prayer.

We also talked about -- in the Cabinet meeting talked about the status of important pieces of legislation before the Congress. We spent a fair amount of time talking about the fact that how disappointed we are that Congress hasn't sent any spending bills to my desk. By the end of this week, members are going to be leaving for their month-long August recess. And by the time they will return, there will be less than a month before the end of the fiscal year on September the 30th, and yet they haven't passed one of the 12 spending bills that they're required to pass. If Congress doesn't pass the spending bills by the end of the fiscal year, Cabinet Secretaries report that their departments may be unable to move forward with urgent priorities for our country.

This doesn't have to be this way. The Democrats won last year's election fair and square, and now they control the calendar for bringing up bills in Congress. They need to pass each of these spending bills individually, on time, and in a fiscally responsible way.

The budget I've sent to Congress fully funds America's priorities. It increases discretionary spending by 6.9 percent. My Cabinet Secretaries assure me that this is adequate to meet the needs of our nation.

Unfortunately, Democratic leaders in Congress want to spend far more. Their budget calls for nearly $22 billion more in discretionary spending next year alone. These leaders have tried to downplay that figure. Yesterday one called this increase -- and I quote -- "a very small difference" from what I proposed. Only in Washington can $22 billion be called a very small difference. And that difference will keep getting bigger. Over the next five years it will total nearly $205 billion in additional discretionary spending. That $205 billion averages out to about $112 million per day, $4.7 million per hour, $78,000 per minute.

Put another way, that's about $1,300 in higher spending every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year for the next five years. That's a lot of money -- even for career politicians in Washington. In fact, at that pace, Democrats in Congress would have spent an extra $300,000 since I began these remarks.

There's only one way to pay for all this new federal spending without running up the deficit, and that is to raise your taxes. A massive tax hike is the last thing the American people need. The plan I put forward would keep your taxes low and balance the budget within five years, and that is the right path for our country.

In other words, President Bush is blaming the Democrats in Congress for the tragedy because the congressional Democrats didn't want to pass the spending bills that the president wanted. In fact, Congress wanted to spend more money in discretionary spending than President Bush wanted, as noted in the press release. Again, this shows that the Bush administration places crass politics above everything else, including the deaths of Americans in the bridge collapse.

Rove a no-show at hearing, aide skirts questions: This CNN story reports that White House political adviser Karl Rove refused to show up for testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the firings of eight U.S. attorneys. Rove was subpoenaed along with Scott Jennings, who is the special assistant to President Bush, in order to answer questions "about e-mail sent by dozens of White House staff using e-mail accounts provided through a Republican National Committee Internet address." Jennings appeared before the committee, but refused to answer many of the senator's questions regarding these emails or the attorney firings. What I find especially interesting here is how the Bush White House is practically throwing these lower-level White House staffers before the congressional committees to testify, such as Jennings or Rove aid Sara Taylor, while protecting its top political people, such as Karl Rove, White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, and former White House counsel Harriet Miers. According to TPM Muckraker;

The White House, as expected, claimed executive privilege with regard to testimony by Karl Rove and Rove's aide Scott Jennings about the U.S. attorney firings. You can see that letter here.

But while the White House found that Rove, as an "immediate presidential advisor" was "immune" from Congressional subpoena, they did not make that claim for Jennings. And so he's up this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

I'm starting to wonder if we are going to see some anger and resentment from the lower-level Bush White House staff members for being made the scapegoats in order to protect President Bush's top advisers. If the Bush White House continues this scapegoating, are we going to see the lower-level staffers start to give out more damaging information on these Bush scandals in retaliation?

Who gets inside the bubble? I found this interesting story off Carpetbagger Report, which really shows just how much President Bush has retreated into his own bubble world. Carpetbagger reported that President Bush invited ten talk hosts to the White House for an hour-long, off-the-record conversation on the war in Iraq. These bloggers included Hugh Hewitt, Glenn Beck, Bill Bennett, Neal Boortz, Scott Hennon, Laura Ingraham, Lars Larson, Mark Levin, Michael Medved, and Janet Parshall. What is so interesting here is that President Bush can only talk to the right-wing bloggers here about the "successes" of the Iraq war, since no one else believes in the administration's lies and political spin. This administration cannot invite liberal, moderate, or even progressive bloggers, since such bloggers will seriously question the administration's policies on the war, questions that President Bush cannot accept, since such questions will destroy his warped sense of reality here. And so, we get these conservative "Yes Bloggers" coming in to continue pitching this administration's failed policies. Talk about The Boy in the Plastic Bubble here;

I seriously wonder if John Travolta would make a better Bubble Boy president than George Bush?

No comments: