Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes.
When it comes to providing helmets for U.S. soldiers abroad, the Defense Department hasn't shown itself to be particularly discriminating in its choice of manufacturers.
Last December, after secret tapes revealed the North Dakota Sioux Manufacturing Company charged with producing helmets for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan had knowingly delivered some 2.2 million helmets made with substandard weave, the Defense Department wasn't fazed by the controversy. Rather, 12 days before the pending Justice Department lawsuit was settled (with a $2-million slap on the wrist), the DOD issued another contract to the Sioux Manufacturing Company worth up to $74 million.
Today, VoteVets.org and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington launched a campaign for Congressional inquiry into the contract. Two whistleblowers from Sioux Manufacturing publicly released their recorded tapes with Sioux Manufacturing employees this morning (available with transcripts here); Sens. Kerry and Clinton have joined them in their call.
"We and our families deserve a government that will only give contracts to companies with an unblemished record," says Jon Schultz, VoteVets.org founder who served in Iraq and Kosovo. "The Bush Pentagon has once again let us down."
Since the Spirit Lake Nation owns the Sioux Manufacturing Company, the company can assert sovereign immunity in any private lawsuits brought by soldiers.
To add to its $141-billion spending bonanza in 2009, the Air Force wants another $6 billion for another 120 C-180Js. And another $3.9 billion for 15 C-17s. And, of course, another 381 F-22 Raptors at $160 million apiece (which the Pentagon itself has made clear it doesn't need).
But maybe a snazzy new ad, paid for by the Air Force's new $81-million PR campaign, will change its mind:
TIME has more on the Air Force's budget requests -- which include for $13 million in dorm furniture -- here.
Brock Olivo, former running back for Mizzou and the Detroit Lions on why he's qualified to serve as the congressman from Missouri's 9th district:
"Not only was I football player, but I also was in social studies class, and I have a passion for how this country works.
Also: he's never voted before. He's running as a Republican.
William F. Buckley was my friend.
I'm hard on conservatives. I get harder on them just about every day. I call them "con men." I do so without apology. And I cannot deny that William F. Buckley said and did many things over the course of his career that were disgusting as well. I've written about some of them. But this is not the time to go into all that. My friend just passed away at the age of 82. He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about--he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary--yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishization of "post-partisanship" and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire.
How should we treat our political enemies? It's a moral conundrum, one that weaves its way into every waking second of life in a place like DC. You know someone's ideas are wrong-headed, or ignorant, or event shot-through with true ugliness, but you also recognize that your opponents are human beings, capable of acting decently, of being good. I'm working on a piece right now that is, in some senses, about the possibility of there even being a "good faith conservatism." I'm skeptical, but also aware that the place in which ideology overwhelms basic empathy is a dangerous one.
Te-Ping's post on Tom Coburn's obstruction of the Genetic Non-DIscrimination Act gives me an opportunity to link this great piece by Ryan Grim in the Politico about how Coburn has, through sheer stubbornness and manipulation of the Senate's arcane decorum, made himself one of the most Senate's most important members. And believe me, this is not a guy you want calling the shots.
Rarely does an issue receive such consensus in Washington as that the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act currently enjoys.
Already, the bill has twice unanimously passed the Senate during the 108th and 109th Congresses; meanwhile last April, the House passed the bill by an overwhelming 420-3 margin. To date, the White House has issued three statements of support of the legislation, which prohibits insurers and employers from discriminating against a person based on genetic information.
One senator, however, still stands in its way: Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma).
Coburn--whose habitual contrariness earned him the nickname "Dr. No"--has a long track record of opposing bills that enable lawsuits against businesses and doctors. As Wired reported last November, internal Coburn memos indicate the same concern still motivates his hold on the bill today.
Though in 1996, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act provided the first fledgling federal protections against genetic discrimination in health insurance, HIPAA doesn't prevent insurance companies from requiring genetic testing for applicants or charging higher rates based on such tests' results.
Accordingly Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York), who first introduced the bill 13 years ago, says the Genetic Nondiscrimination Act's passage is long overdue. "No one is born with perfect genes," she wrote in yesterday's Huffington Post. "We simply cannot afford to wait any longer."
Already, researchers can screen for genes linked to the development of some 1,000 diseases. In one study, the NYT reported this weekend, 7 out of 92 insurance providers said they would deny coverage, charge higher premiums or exclude certain conditions from coverage based on genetic testing.
Last January, when President Bush ordered some 30,000 additional troops to Iraq to shock-inject U.S. forces into Baghdad and the surrounding environs, there were 132,000 US. troops stationed there. Now, with the last of the surge campaign troops set to leave Iraq by July, the Pentagon reports 140,000 troops will remain, meaning that about 8,000 troops--over a quarter of the original 'surge'--will be left behind.
When Gen. David Petraeus testified before Congress last September, he said he expected troops levels would fall to pre-surge levels by this July. Yet this week, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham, chief of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, rejected suggestions that the Pentagon's latest update evinced any kind of negative turn. "Rather than look at this negatively, I would say there is an opportunity now to take advantage of the security that has been established by the five surge brigades," he said.
A chipper Dana Perino had more encouragement for reporters at yesterday's White House press briefing. "As long as we keep at it and we keep working at it, we're confident that Iraq will become a country that can sustain, govern, and defend itself," said Perino.
This week, UN World Food Program issued a bleak warning: In the future, the WFP said, there will be food on the shelves. It's just that many won't be able to afford it.
As food prices have spiked--in some places, by up to 40%--the WFP announced that its $2.9 billion budget is no longer enough to maintain even current food deliveries, much less expand. Last year to take one example, with the rising cost of fuel and food prices, the United States purchased less than half the amount of food aid it did in 2000.
But in the case of the U.S., it doesn't have to be that way. Currently, existing U.S. rules mandate that at least 75% of its food aid be grown and packaged in the United States (that is, benefit U.S. producers) before being shipped across the sea. Accordingly, the cost in transport--particularly as oil prices have risen--is extraordinary. (A recent GAO study reported shipping costs account for 65% of total program expenditures for the largest U.S. food emergency program.) These days as the UN scrambles to ration food, as the Bush administration has proposed (and Congress has rejected), it'd be a much more charitable gesture for the U.S. to step up what it buys locally--where it's needed.
With consumers pinched across the country, today, the House will try again to eliminate the most lucrative tax breaks for oil companies--an $18-billion bounty--and simultaneously expand over $8 billion in tax incentives for the use and development of renewable energy.
While last December, Senate Republicans bucked similar legislation after it cleared the House, as gas prices inch toward $4.00 a gallon and on the heels of January job losses, House Demcorats hope the package has gained the critical across-the-aisle momentum it needs. Speaker Pelosi (D-Calif.), in particular, cites the need to expand renewable-energy tax incentives--currently in place until December 2008--to maintain and expand existing U.S. jobs. (The Solar Energy Industry Association estimates that Americans could lose 116,000 jobs in the solar and wind industry if existing renewable-energy tax credits are suspended.)
Last year, the biggest five oil companies posted record profits, with ExxonMobil's earnings peaking at $40.6 billion--the largest corporate haul in U.S. history. Today, oil prices peaked at $102 a barrel for the first time.
The House votes on the legislation this afternoon. Meanwhile, President Bush has threatened to veto the bill.