2007 - %3, June

Informed Dissent: Get Informed, Get Involved

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 7:47 PM EDT

Last week was the first annual Whistleblower Week in Washington and it gave whistleblowers and their advocates a chance to convene. In the May/June issue Daniel Schulman wrote about the Office of Special Counsel and its antagonistic attitude towards whistleblowers, the very people the agency is supposed to protect. To find out more about current whistleblower legislation, supporting, or becoming a whistleblower check out the most recent edition of the "Informed Dissent" newsletter.


Go here to sign up to receive Informed Dissent every two weeks. Get informed, get involved.

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Kos-Heads Love them Some Gore

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 7:21 PM EDT

The wonky white guys over at the Daily Kos go coo-coo for Al Gore! A poll measuring readers' interest in a Gore presidential bid comes back with 50 percent saying either "I would abandon my current favorite, go strong for Gore" or "I don't have a current favorite, I've been waiting for Gore this whole time." The next most popular answer, with 13 percent, is "I would stay with my current favorite, but consider Gore."

Hard to say if these political junkies are representative, but if I were Gore, I'd be dusting off the Weight Watchers literature. Just sayin'.

Strange Science: Viagra-Fed Oysters

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 6:50 PM EDT

An Australian oyster farmer is growing his mollusks in Viagra-laced waters. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reports that George May began dosing his oysters with the anti-impotence drug in a bid to sell them to overseas customers, calling them the ultimate aphrodisiac. May hopes to tap into what he calls a AU$300 million Asian market… Call me silly but couldn't you just, like, take a pill & then eat an oyster without polluting an entire water supply? --JULIA WHITTY

TB, the New Katrina

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 6:45 PM EDT

Lawmakers are beginning to ask the obvious question: Why was a man identified as having a strongly drug-resistant form of tuberculosis allowed to fly on an international commercial flight and cross the border into the United States even after his passport had been flagged? Concerns about drug-resistant TB have been circulating for years, and you'd think we might have learned our lesson about allowing flagged travelers into the United States after 9/11. If that's not bad enough, the infected man, Andrew Speaker, has told the press that the Centers for Disease Control stonewalled his requests to provide him with non-commercial transportation from Europe to the Denver hospital that, they had informed him, was the only place that could to handle the virulent strain of TB. That treatment came despite the fact that his wife's father works at the CDC. The U.S. government is going to have to get its act together, because drug resistant illnesses are on the rise and who knows what new viruses climate change will unleash.

Illinois Review Outs Doris from "Shrek"

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 4:24 PM EDT

mojo-photo-doris.JPGProving once again that right-wing nutjobs totally freakin' rule, conservative "crossroads" The Illinois Review has "outed" Doris the Ugly Stepsister from the current edition of the Shrek movies as – gasp! – a man. Just because the character was voiced by Larry King! More imporantly, inclusion of said "transvestite" (although I'm going to come right out and say it sure looks like she's had some, uh, upper work done, at least) in the film is an attempt to, yes, foist the gay agenda on our children:

Whatever Happened to Jingles in Political Ads?

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 2:36 PM EDT

Here are a couple old timey campaign spots to remind you of when politics was simpler. Or if politics wasn't simpler, political messaging certainly was. The message of the first? "I like Ike." Literally, that's it -- over and over and over. The message of the second? "Kennedy Kennedy Kennedy." Good times.

This one's from the Eisenhower campaign in 1952:

This one is from the Kennedy campaign in 1960:

But just so you don't think attack ads are a new invention, here's one where the Kennedy campaign gets nasty, using Ike's words against his own VP, Richard Nixon.

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Today's Chutzpah Award Goes To... Scooter Libby

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 2:15 PM EDT
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From Scooter Libby's lawyers' response [PDF] to federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's sentencing memo, in which he reasserted that Valerie Plame Wilson was indeed an undercover CIA agent:

First, the government claims that its "investigators were given access to Ms. Wilson's classified file."....This is tantamount to asking the Court and Mr. Libby to take the government's word on Ms. Wilson's status, based on secret evidence, without affording Mr. Libby an opportunity to rebut it. Such a request offends traditional notions of fairness and due process.

Where to begin on this one? The irony of a former aide to Dick "You Can't Handle the Truth" Cheney questioning the government's word—its classified word, no less? (However, the government in this case is the CIA, which neocons know is a bunch of untrustworthy wusses.) But what really stands out here is that the legal protection that Libby is claiming, the right to see and confront secret evidence, is the very right the White House—the Office of the Vice President in particular—has spent five years denying to Guantanamo detainees. But wait—I thought we can't take the intelligence community at its word, especially when a man's freedom is on the line. Makes your head hurt, don't it? (Extra bonus points: Libby's law firm also represents Gitmo detainees.)

Oops - Forget You Ever Saw Pix of the Baghdad Embassy

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 1:16 PM EDT
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A couple of days ago, we posted an image of the beach volleyball court inside the monster U.S. embassy complex under construction in Baghdad. The rendering came from the site of the architecture firm that designed it. But now it's pulled the images under pressure from the State Department, which claimed they were a security risk. Despite the warning, a spokesman for the architecture firm gave the bad guys even more ideas by revealing that "Google Earth could give you a better snapshot of what the site looks like on the ground." So I think it's still safe to show you this image of a Marine guard and a tiny pixelated diplomat.

Meanwhile, the embassy project has other problems—such as using coerced labor to get the job done. As Iraqslogger reports, American managers have complained that the builder, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, has mistreated the thousands of South Asian, Filipino, and other foreign laborers brought in to construct the complex. Some of the allegations:

[C]onstruction crews lived in crowded quarters; ate sub-standard food; and had little medical care. When drinking water was scarce in the blistering heat, coolers were filled on the banks of the Tigris, a river rife with waterborne disease, sewage and sometimes floating bodies, they said. Others questioned why First Kuwaiti held the passports of workers. Was it to keep them from escaping? Some laborers had turned up "missing" with little investigation. Another American said laborers told him they were been misled in their job location. When recruited, they were unaware they were heading for war-torn Iraq.

As one American supervisor explained, "Every US labor law was broken.... I've never seen a project more fucked up."

Ginsburg's Famous White Gloves Finally Come Off

| Fri Jun. 1, 2007 1:19 AM EDT

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg led the dissent to the Court's 5-4 decision Tuesday on Ledbetter vs. the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. The case, which decided that pay discrimination cases could not be brought against employers more than 180 days after any alleged discrimination, also marked the second time in six weeks that Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench: an unusually high rate of occurrence for the historically reticent justice who is described as friends as an etiquette-minded, "white-glove person." In fact, Ginsburg had never read her dissent to the Court's decision aloud twice in one year. Ginsburg went years without employing the tactic previous to this term.

Some, like the co-president of the National Women's Law Center, Marcia Greenberger, are interpreting these vocal dissents as attempts to garner attention for some serious issues. Greenberger characterized Ginsburg's recent vocal dissents as a "clarion call to the American people that… the court is headed in the wrong direction."

Indeed, partisan politics seems to have captured the Court, and Ginsburg can not have helped but notice. Ginsburg, now the only female Justice since Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement, has gone up against the same five justices (Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas) in both recent dissents. Those five frequently form the core of her opposition, and perhaps not surprisingly, three of these five justices were hand-picked by Bush presidents (Alito, Roberts, and Thomas). The other two were picked by Reagan. Ginsburg was joined in her dissent Tuesday by Justice Breyer, the only other justice on the bench appointed by a Democratic President (Clinton, like Ginsburg); by Justice Stouter, appointed by Bush in 1990 and a man who has drawn the ire of conservatives who consider him either an apostate or a phony; and by Justice Stevens, appointed way back in 1975 by Gerald Ford. Unable to persuade a majority of her colleagues on Ledbetter, Ginsburg called on Congress to overturn the Court's decision.

A month ago, Ginsburg criticized the gang of five for the language and logic in their decision to uphold the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. She argued that their opinion reflected "ancient notions about women's place in the family and under the Constitution -- ideas that have long since been discredited."

In her dissent Tuesday, Ginsburg again accused the majority for being out of touch, this time for not taking into consideration common workplace practices and characteristics of pay discrimination. It can be difficult, she argued, for pay discrimination to be proved in the short 180-day period that the Court requires if pay disparity occurs in small increments over time or if comparative pay information is not available to the employee.

Though Ginsburg spoke up for women in the partial birth abortion case, and spoke up again Tuesday for a female plaintiff, her concerns are broader than her sex. She knows that the decision in Ledbetter could hinder anyone who has reason to bring a discrimination suit based on race, national origin, or sexual orientation. We can only hope that in an increasingly conservative court, we have an increasingly vocal dissenter in Justice Ginsburg.

-- Jessica Savage