Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Nightowl Newswrap

Hell yeah? Hell yeah? Jeebus.In an interview he gave to the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes in 2006 for Hayes’ biography, “Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President,” McCain said: “I will strongly assert to you that he has been of enormous help to this president of the United States.” Going further, McCain even told Hayes in comments heretofore unpublished that he’d consider Cheney for an administration post. Asked whether he’d be interested in Cheney had the vice president not already have served under Bush for two terms, McCain said: “I don’t know if I would want him as vice president. He and I have the same strengths. But to serve in other capacities? Hell, yeah.”

Another wingnut fantasy debunked: As Congress has debated energy policy over the past several days, an unusual argument keeps surfacing in support of drilling off the U.S. coastline and in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Why, ask some Republicans, should the United States be thwarted from drilling in its own territory when just 50 miles off the Florida coastline the Chinese government is drilling for oil under Cuban leases? Yet no one can prove that the Chinese are drilling anywhere off Cuba's shoreline. The China-Cuba connection is "akin to urban legend," said Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican from Florida who opposes drilling off the coast of his state but who backs exploration in ANWR. "China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period," said Jorge Pinon, an energy fellow with the Center for Hemispheric Policy at the University of Miami and an expert in oil exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Martinez cited Pinon's research when he took to the Senate floor Wednesday to set the record straight...Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech Wednesday to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, picked up the refrain. Cheney quoted a column by George Will, who wrote last week that "drilling is under way 60 miles off Florida. The drilling is being done by China, in cooperation with Cuba, which is drilling closer to South Florida than U.S. companies are." Except that--there isn't any drilling being done. But why let the truth get in the way?

Yes, Weldon really is nuts: In between travels to nuclear bunkers and missile test ranges, we paid visits to gadflies of the nuclear world who we thought could help us plan our travels. That's how we (well, Sharon, anyhow) ended up in the office of Curt Weldon, the former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. Weldon, for those of you not familiar with the former lawmaker, was famous for securing funding for some Russian flying saucers, his conspiratorial belief that a classified program had identified several of the 9/11 terrorists, and his determination to insert himself in nuclear issues, ranging from North Korea to Iran. It was actually the Russians that got him in trouble. We'll get back to that. We wanted to see Weldon because we were trying to get access to Russia's closed nuclear cities, and frankly, Weldon was known for having good contacts with the Russian government. How close? Well, we'll get to that, too. Weldon, on hearing of our interest, was thrilled to talk, just thrilled. Because he wanted to tell us all about how he could single-handedly solve the world's nuclear problems. I mean, this is a man who kept a mock-up of a suitcase nuke in his office.

The headline in the Washington Post says "House Refuses to Extend Unemployment Benefits" but that's a lie. The House voted to extend the benefits, but FAILED to override a Presidential Veto.The House today narrowly failed to approve a proposal to give jobless workers an extra three months of unemployment benefits, but Democratic leaders said they will bring the bill back for a second vote today. Despite a White House veto threat, 49 Republicans voted with a united Democratic caucus in favor of the measure, which would provide an extra 13 weeks of unemployment checks to all jobless workers, and an extra 13 weeks on top of that to job seekers in high-unemployment states such as Michigan, California and Alaska. Democrats rushed to bring the bill to a vote in the wake of the May jobless report, which showed the largest one-month jump in unemployment filings in 22 years. The national unemployment rate climbed to 5.5 percent from 5 percent, as the number of laid-off workers rose to 8.5 million. More than 18 percent of them -- or 1.6 million people -- had been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and therefore are likely to have exhausted benefits that pay, on average, about $300 a week. House leaders brought the bill to the floor, needing two-thirds of the vote for approval -- the same number that would be needed to override a presidential veto. They fell three votes short; the final vote was 279 to 144. But today's vote will require only a simple majority, Democrats said, and the measure is expected to pass easily. See, when 279 members of the House vote for something, that means they "passed" it. When the feckless one vetoes something that benefits unemployed Americans, that is NOT the fault of the House of Representatives. Get the picture?

Whistleblowers have no protections anymore: Two Federal Aviation Authority whistleblowers said they're being punished for raising safety concerns, even as they won awards for their courage Wednesday. "I'm shackled to my desk pushing paperwork," said FAA inspector Bobby Boutris. "I have not seen an airplane for six months." When Boutris and fellow inspector Doug Peters sounded the alarm about improper safety inspections at Southwest Airlines, it led to hundreds of grounded planes, thousands of cancelled flights and an unprecedented crackdown on airline maintenance. But since they testified on Capitol Hill, the two men said they've lost out on promotions and been excluded from important safety decisions

Hey, thanks--glad to know you're doing something about it: Motorists can expect gasoline prices around $4 gallon through next year, the Energy Department said Wednesday, while oil prices regained their stunning upward momentum. The biggest drivers of crude’s increase — a weak dollar and supply concerns — brought buyers back in force. At the pump, gas prices rose to a new record over $4.05 a gallon. Gasoline prices are likely to peak at $4.15 a gallon in August and won’t go down much after that, the agency projected in a report. Gasoline was forecast to average $3.92 a gallon through 2009, Guy Caruso, head of the department’s Energy Information Administration, told a House hearing. Of course, no will admit that warmongering and a lack of a plan to reduce our dependence on foreign oil are factors as well.

See what you're not supposed to see: Ever wonder whether you'd be better off working some place else? A new Web site called is trying to make it easier to find out by compiling free snapshots of the current salaries paid by hundreds of major employers, along with reviews anonymously written by current and past workers. "We think it's super important that people are able to find a job where they can go home happy at the end of the day," said Robert Hohman, Glassdoor's co-founder and chief executive.

Oh, don't let them start applying their talents to the Internet, please--we just got this thing to work: Even the No. 2 at the Air Force's new command charged with thwarting America's online adversaries runs afoul of the PowerPoint gremlins. Col. Tony Buntyn reached the point of his presentation Tuesday night where he was going to play the Air Force public relations video showing airmen serving in Iraq and Afghanistan – only the vid, embedded in his PowerPoint slides, wouldn’t play. An IT guy almost got it going, but alas, no luck. "You just never know," shrugged Buntyn, who’s been selected for promotion to brigadier general as vice commander of the Air Force Cyberspace Command. "You create a presentation on one computer and put it on another and sometimes things work, sometimes they don't."

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