Blogs

President Bush Tells EPA How to Do Its Job; Clean Air Suffers

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 11:56 AM EDT

From the Washington Post:

The Environmental Protection Agency weakened one part of its new limits on smog-forming ozone after an unusual last-minute intervention by President Bush, according to documents released by the EPA.
EPA officials initially tried to set a lower seasonal limit on ozone to protect wildlife, parks and farmland, as required under the law. While their proposal was less restrictive than what the EPA's scientific advisers had proposed, Bush overruled EPA officials and on Tuesday ordered the agency to increase the limit, according to the documents.
"It is unprecedented and an unlawful act of political interference for the president personally to override a decision that the Clean Air Act leaves exclusively to EPA's expert scientific judgment," said John Walke, clean-air director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The president's order prompted a scramble by administration officials to rewrite the regulations to avoid a conflict with past EPA statements on the harm caused by ozone.

The Post adds, "the rules that the EPA issued Wednesday will help determine the nation's air quality for at least a decade."

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More Bad News For Bush's Judicial Nominee

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 11:53 AM EDT

What with his deep connections to Dick Cheney and the endorsement of lots of home-state Republicans, Gus Puryear IV should have been a shoe-in for his nomination to a federal trial court in Tennessee. But not only has Puryear run into trouble over his membership in an exclusive country club, but this week, Time magazine and the Tennessean have both published critical stories about him alleging that he abused the attorney-client privilege to prevent the release of damaging information about his employer, the Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company.

A former CCA employee has written to the Senate Judiciary Committee outlining his allegations that Puryear tried to prevent employees from giving other government entities the full details about prison riots, unexplained deaths and other negative events to which they were entitled, for fear that the information could be used in lawsuits or that it might threaten the company's government contracts. If true, it's not a pretty picture, and it might be damaging enough to make Puryear one of the rare trial court nominees to face a bona fide confirmation fight.

Day Three: No Straight Talk from McCain on Parsley's Call for Destroying Islam

| Fri Mar. 14, 2008 11:14 AM EDT

mccain-rod-parsley250x200.jpg No call back from the McCain camp yet.

For the third day in a row, I've called Jill Hazelbaker, the communications director for the McCain campaign, seeking a comment on televangelist Rod Parsley's call for destroying Islam. McCain, as I reported on Wednesday, has campaigned with this politically influential megachurch pastor, has accepted his endorsement, and has praised him as a "spiritual guide." And I've been told--once again--she is unavailable.

McCain and his campaign will not say anything about Parsley's advocacy of a Christian war against Islam that seeks to eradicate what Parsley dubs a "false religion."

Where's the straight talk now?

Tier 1, Tier 3, and the Perp Walk Between

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 4:50 PM EDT

Spitzer is teaching us a lot about the habits of men who pay for sex, the savvy of the tech-age women who provide it, and about the super-rich and their...hangers-on. Who knew Econ 101 would come in so handy?

According to Slate, when Giuliani drove hookers off the streets, he just drove them inside. There, the savvy ones, the ones who'd never populate street corners, saw their prices skyrocket; middle class men could cruise the personals and escort ads, rather than stroll in vice squad territory. Though figures are obviously difficult to come by, Bob from Accounting seems to be venturing online for sex a hell of a lot more often than he was willing to go down by the docks, and today's computer-savvy working girls are making him pay through the nose for greater invisibility. Did any of Giuliani's whiz kids see this coming?

Of course, once the average guy started ponying up for call girls, the super-rich had to up the ante. Now, it's not unusual for men to put their favorites on $10,000 per month retainers, or pay $10K per "session." Apparently, paying a year's worth of private school tuition for an hour of sex is the new diamond-encrusted yacht. Let's see Joe Average get one of these! According to the Wall Street Journal:

"...a sizable percentage of the super wealthy use escorts. [Researchers] surveyed 661 people who owned private jets, and found that 34% of males and 20% of females had paid for sex."

"The most popular reason was "unique experiences" (71%), followed by "higher quality experiences" (57%). Conventional wisdom says that the rich visit escorts to avoid messy break-ups or extra demands for cash. But the study shows otherwise: "No strings attached," ranked last as a reason."

"With the wealthy," Mr. Prince says, "it's all about power and control and new experiences."

Or maybe it's just about conspicuous consumption, since sex seems to be an afterthought. Writes the Slate sociologist, who's studying high-end prostitutes in New York:

The Best Doctor Blog You're Not Reading

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 4:10 PM EDT

One of the most candid and well-written ER blogs out there had the grave misfortune to be mentioned on NPR today. I give it six months, tops, before twitchy hospital admin and and overzealous privacy lawyers team up to shut it, like its ill-fated kin, down.

In the meantime, WhiteCoat Rants is a fascinating window into our national healthcare policy woes, as well as an insidery look at the gallows humor needed to patch people up for the same lunkhead problems, day after day after day.

Where else can you find a satire on how to make a tranquilizer dartgun using only trauma shears and discarded chest tube containers? Or the reason why, which would be to capture gazelles for the family dinner "while waiting for Medicare payments and [health] insurance approvals to come through?"

The Emergency Room—really the Emergency Department as some will sniffily correct—is the last stop not just for the uninsured, but for all of us. So the next time you're in the ED getting sewn up after a bar fight, or treated for back pain on a weekend, or soothed at midnight because your goo-producing kid has a weird fever, say thanks. You'll be among the few who do.

Confirmation Battle Brewing Over Nominee's Country Club Membership

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:49 PM EDT

Most ambitious lawyers know that if they want to become a federal judge, they have to fulfill several key requirements. First, they must schmooze the right people, sit on the right bar committees, and make the requisite political contributions. Then, above all, they must 1) pay nanny taxes, and 2) wait until after securing a lifetime appointment to join an exclusive, discriminatory country club.

Gustavus Adolphus Puryear IV, Bush's choice for a trial court seat in the middle district of Tennessee, had ticked off most of the items on the list by the time he was nominated last summer. He'd given money, befriended Dick Cheney's son-in-law, and even prepped Cheney for the vice-presidential debates in 2000 and 2004. But he forgot about rule number 2, an oversight that might be his undoing.

As a prison company lawyer with virtually no litigation experience, Puryear's resume offers any number of reasons why he shouldn't be confirmed. But inexperience has never stopped the politically connected from ascending to the bench. Country club memberships, however, are a different matter. And Puryear happens to be a member of the exclusive Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, a club whose racist history is so well known that even former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had the good sense to quit the club before running for office.

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The SXSW Slog Begins

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:40 PM EDT

sxsw.jpgAfter listening to our flight attendant—a former auctioneer from Dallas—rattle off emergency escape instructions in double time and then tell jokes about her co-workers for the entire flight (one was a former Miss Dallas, the other Southwest's steward of the year), I arrived in Austin, Texas, in high spirits.

I'm here to cover SXSW, Austin's ginormous film-music-interactive festival that draws (last I heard) about 10,000 folks from around the country (and abroad) to the Texas capitol.

Times Calls Out Spitzer's Boo on Use of "Boo"

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 3:02 PM EDT

Buried in the New York Times' outing of "Kristen"—a.k.a Ashley Alexandra Dupré—a.k.a. Eliot Spitzer's boo—comes this strange line:

On [Dupré's MySpace] Web page was a recording of what she described as her latest track, "What We Want," an amateurish, hip-hop inflected rhythm and blues tune that asks, "Can you handle me, boy?" and used some dated slang, calling someone her "boo."

Now, to pick apart this less than charitable and, frankly, catty article would take quite a while. But for now, let's address the linguistic issue here. Opinion at MoJo tends toward "boo" being not only current, but timeless. Urban Dictionary traces the origins of "boo" all the way back to the adoption of the French "beau" at the time of Caribbean colonization. Fast forward a couple of centuries and Tupac deployed "boo" in "It Ain't Easy" off his 1995 Me Against the World album. A full decade later, the term was still in use, as Usher's "My Boo" (feat. Alicia Keys) won a Grammy for best R&B performance in 2005 (see below). The next year, Brooke Valentine sang "He can call me his boo / But he call me dope girl, cuz I got that oooh." So it's pretty clear "boo" is here to stay. But did anyone really trust the Times as an arbiter of slang?

—Justin Elliott

Interesting Numbers From New Poll: Lookin' Good for Dems

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 1:54 PM EDT

There's a new NBC/WSJ poll out today that has lots of interesting numbers. A stunning 76% of respondents say they want a president who brings a different approach than Bush. Democrats lead by double digits in a generic presidential contests. Confusingly, McCain only trails Obama by 3 points and Clinton by two, but that's likely because, according to the poll, many independents and Democrats have bought the spoon-fed Maverick myth. A little reeducating by the Democrats in the fall should drive McCain closer to the results of a "generic Republican."

Half of respondents think leadership style and trustworthiness are the most important attributes in a candidate, while just one-third prioritize ideas and policies. That's good news for Obama, because on almost every issue polled, Clinton is seen as the better candidate.

Bill Clinton's favorability/unfavorability ratings have plummeted to a net negative: 42%/45%. It's pretty undeniable that this election has tarnished his legacy.

And finally, there is evidence Obama is not making progress in his fight to clear up confusion about his faith. Here's MSNBC:

The percentage of respondents who correctly identified Obama as a Christian increased from 18% to 37%. But those identifying him as a Muslim also increased five points (from 8% to 13%).

Hate Your Boss? So Does This Reporter

| Thu Mar. 13, 2008 12:27 PM EDT

If you can stomach one minute and thirty seconds of a tenant/landlord dispute over an elevator in New York City, you're in for a treat. Because this video ends with a hilarious 15 second on-air argument between a reporter and an anchor that is very personal. Poor Ollie. He's not the boss of anyone anymore.


http://view.break.com/467869 - Watch more free videos

Why is this a news story anyway? And did the landlord's representative throw in a fist pump at the end of the interview? (H/T The Plank)