Just As I Thought

What I missed while I was out (of my mind)

Evidently, in the Bush White House, anyone can wander in, use an assumed name, and ask the president questions. As long as he’s a right wing shill, it doesn’t matter that he used fraud to obtain credentials (an alias), runs gay porn websites (and at the same time shills for same-sex marriage opponents)… hell, hypocrisy is almost required to be a player in the Republican party these days.

It looks like Jeff Gannon, the controversial White House correspondent for a tiny conservative outfit called Talon News, won’t be showing his face in the White House briefing room anymore.

Gannon, who often threw softball questions to McClellan, hit the bigtime after pitching a real corker to Bush himself at his Jan. 26 news conference.

I’ve written about Gannon many times.

But the question to Bush really set off the blogosphere’s left wing. Fueled by the Media Matters Web site, a virtual army of independent bloggers, particularly from the Daily Kos site, started digging into Gannon’s background.

Timothy Karr summarizes the hunt against Gannon.

Here’s Gannon’s statement, from jeffgannon.com: “Because of the attention being paid to me I find it is no longer possible to effectively be a reporter for Talon News. In consideration of the welfare of me and my family I have decided to return to private life.

“Thank you to all those who supported me.”

Meanwhile, you know that huge deficit that our great-grandkids will be paying for? Well, here’s another way that the propaganda artists in the Bush camp are using your cash:

A controversial president barnstorms through the country attending carefully controlled events where tickets are distributed by his own party, where no one disagrees with a word he says and no one puts him on the spot.

When this happened in the heat of the political season, the events and at least part of the president’s travel costs were being paid for by his campaign. But now it’s a post-election president spending tax dollars and ostensibly acting in the public interest.

Some of my readers think it’s not appropriate.

“The president’s dialogue with America on Social Security should be just that — a dialogue, not a series of campaign events controlled by the local GOP bosses,” writes John Deem of Huntersville, N.C.

“Obviously, these ‘town hall’ meetings, packed with W’s most vocal supporters, and no dissenters allowed, are purely works of propaganda. Why is the American taxpayer paying for these ‘town hall’ meetings?” asks Tom Deaton.

… “I look forward to . . . traveling around the country discussing this issue — similar to what President Clinton did,” Bush said. “President Clinton highlighted the issue as an issue that needed to be addressed, and an issue that needed to be solved. He fully recognized, like I recognize, that it’s going to require cooperation in the House and the Senate.”

But Bush’s approach couldn’t be much more different than Clinton’s. When Bush has one of his “conversations” on Social Security, it’s with people prescreened to agree with him and he asks the rehearsed and leading questions. When Clinton had his “discussions” on Social Security, he intentionally brought opponents along with him, spoke before a mixed crowd, and let himself get grilled.

Another thing that’s different in Bush’s approach is his attitude toward big government. Clinton shrunk the deficit (and gave us a record surplus), shrunk the government, and devolved a bit of power back to the states. How Republican of him! And what has Bush done?

President Bush’s second-term agenda would expand not only the size of the federal government but also its influence over the lives of millions of Americans by imposing new national restrictions on high schools, court cases and marriages.

In a clear break from Republican campaigns of the 1990s to downsize government and devolve power to the states, Bush is fostering what amounts to an era of new federalism in which the national government shapes, not shrinks, programs and institutions to comport with various conservative ideals, according to Republicans inside and outside the White House.

… “He keeps expanding the federal involvement into state and local affairs,” said Chris Edwards, a tax and budget expert at the Cato Institute, a think tank that often supports the president’s agenda. “My hope would be that there would be an electoral rebuke of big [-government] Republicans like there was when the tectonic plates shifted in 1994.”

I see this happening every day on the roads: people are so selfishly consumed by yakking on cell phones that they are a menace. Why can’t people just drive when they’re in the car?

Everyone who isn’t on the phone while driving sees evidence of it every day, as drivers weave and stutter drunkenly through traffic while negotiating peace in the Middle East over the phone, or their kid’s allowance, or some other question that, while too important to wait, doesn’t merit pulling over to the side and parking for a few minutes to make the call.

…Some people have the mistaken belief that only handheld phones pose a threat. We’ve all seen the drivers who intently study the screen and carefully dial numbers when they should be looking at the road. But the real hazard posed by phone driving is mental, not physical, so hands-free phones don’t help. The driver is expending too much brainpower conversing with the person on the other end of the phone and not enough paying attention to the road. These drivers are as much of a threat to you and to your family as a drunk driver.

Studies from the University of North Carolina, the University of Utah, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Rhode Island quantify the specific impairment posed by phone conversations while driving.

Exxon Mobil prohibits its employees from talking on the phone while driving company cars. It did so after conducting a study finding that the braking reaction time of phone drivers is three times longer than that of drunk drivers. ExxonMobil researchers also found that phone drivers are as likely to rear-end the car ahead as drunks, and that they are unable to maintain position in their lane. As with all other studies, Exxon Mobil found that it makes no difference whether the driver uses a hands-free phone.

The University of Utah says that young phone drivers have the reaction times of senior citizens and are blind to events around them. “Even though your eyes are looking right at something, when you are on the cell phone, you are not as likely to see it,” Utah researcher David Strayer observed. University of Rhode Island researchers found that phone drivers have tunnel vision that excludes everything else. UNC says they are twice as likely to rear-end the car ahead as drivers not using phones. Meanwhile, research at Illinois demonstrated that conversations among occupants in a car produce no similar distraction.

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