Friday, April 29, 2005

Outrageous Outtakes

Outrageous Outtakes
Ari Berman

** Buried in President Bush's recent 2,000 page spending bill is a three-sentence provision creating an eight-member "Sunset Commission" that would decide every ten years whether federal programs not "producing results" should be eliminated. For Bush and big business, that could mean no more nettlesome EPA, FDA or SEC. The panel will be stacked with corporate lobbyists and overseen by Bush budget man Clay Johnson, who as the head of state appointments for then-Gov Bush in Texas, replaced all three members of the state environmental-protection commission with reps from Monsanto, the Texas Beef Council and the oil industry. Once again, the Bush Administration's deregulatory fervor makes Reagan and Gingrich look mild by comparison.

** ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond recently admitted that his company--number two on the Fortune 500 list, with $25 billion in cash on hand--has so much money they don't even know how to spend it. The energy bill recently passed by the House, which gives $8 billion in tax breaks to the very people who are profiting from a surge in gas prices, will make Exxon even richer. "Each dollar jump in the price of a barrel of oil adds another half billion in earnings," writes Fortune magazine. "If oil simply stays where it is now, Exxon's cash could approach $40 billion in 12 months." Instead of investing some of that largess into developing alternative energy sources, Exxon has pumped $8 million into forty bogus think tanks perpetuating the propaganda that global warming is a hoax and "could actually save lives."

** Not only do they drive ostentatious combat-ready jeeps, but Republicans are also bad drivers. A new report found that volunteers who drove VIPs from one lavish party to the next at last year's Republican National Convention in New York racked up $138,279 in car repairs. The sixty vehicles loaned by General Motors were used for less than three weeks--resulting in an average of $6,585 in damages per day. Mayor Bloomberg personally donated $7 million for the convention Host Committee that shepherded Congressmen, governors and lobbyists, around town--at considerable risk it now appears.

** Joe Scarborough and Rush Limbaugh recently attacked Senator Ted Kennedy for releasing a statement commemorating "the sad anniversary of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal." You see, those are actually Kennedy code words for let's throw a world-class prison party. "These guys are happy as hell to be celebrating this today," Limbaugh charged. Much better to take Rush's approach circa May 2004, when he compared the release of the prison photos to "anything you'd see Madonna, or Britney Spears do on stage...I'm talking about people having a good time...You ever heard of the need to blow some steam off?"

** And then there's Sean Hannity, who apparently so fears his puppy dog Fox News co-host Alan Colmes that he actually coaches his guests to withstand Colmes' notoriously brutal cross-examinations. On a March 31 broadcast Hannity instructed two of Terri Schiavo's former nurses on how to sound fair and balanced: "Just say, 'I'm here to tell what I saw.' No matter what the question, 'I'm here to tell you what I saw. I'm here to tell you what I saw.'" On air, one of the nurses responded, "I don't have any opinion or judgments. I was there." Hannity was thrilled. "We got the points out. It's hard, this isn't easy." Passing off blatantly robotic Republican programming as professional journalism ain't easy.