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clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The FBI possibly violated the law or its rules more than 1,000 times since 2002 in collecting data about phone calls, e-mails and financial records while investigating terrorism or espionage suspects, FBI officials said on Thursday.
The potential violations found by an FBI audit were far greater than the approximately two dozen previously documented violations in a U.S. Justice Department report released in March that was based on a much smaller sampling, they said.
The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which companies, such as telephone and Internet providers, gave more information than the FBI sought, the officials said.
They said the FBI has drafted new guidelines in an effort to prevent future abuses, but civil liberties groups and Democrats in Congress expressed doubt that they would be sufficient to protect the privacy of Americans.

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When I was growing up in the 1950’s we were forced to watch propaganda films telling us all about the evils of the Soviet Union, especially the danger from the Secret Police. We were briefed on the potential abuse in such a system, one which went so far as to encourage children to spy on their parents, workers on their bosses and colleagues, and friend on friend. Awards, we were told, were given to those who reported to the secret police crimes real or imagined.I wonder just what the difference might be if the FBI takes upon itself the role of secret police. Of course, there is a great difference here. The FBI investigated itself and slapped its own hand. What would an external investigation, one that is independent of the Justice Department under the questionable leadership of Alberto Gonzales, might find?

Sad fact is that I am not surprised by any of this. Just another potential scandal for George II’s administration.

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Wolfowitz resigns, can Gonzales be far behind? While the White House continues to stand solidly behind Bush’s friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the storm swells that surround the AG continue to deepen.Since the White House position of backing Gonzales in the face of the fully developed scandal surrounding the procedures that led to the firing of eight federal prosecutors is politically untenable, the White House resorts to ad homenim attacks on Senator Charles Schumer (D. NY),

White House spokesperson, Tony Fratto said:

I think the attorney general is not affected by it. I think the media seems to be focused on it, which I think for some of the members who are instigating these kinds of questions, like Senator Schumer, (this) is exactly what they want,

Ad homenim attacks generally are used when there is little of substance one can argue. Substance is replaced by an all out attack on an individual or individuals rather than argue from specifics; in this case, focusing attention on Schumer and the media (whatever that might be). Tony Fratto, speaking for the president, demonstrates the desperation of the White House as it struggles to regain whatever confidence it has lost.

Desperate measures signify desperate times. What bothers me the most is that the nation is left to drift in roiling seas while Bush and his administration must pay far too much attention to self-protection and survival.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee predicted on Sunday Attorney General Alberto Gonzales might step down in the face of a substantial Senate “no-confidence” vote on his performance.
The White House said it was unclear whether there would be such a vote and criticized those Democrats pushing for it, singling out New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer in particular.
“As for no-confidence votes, maybe senators need a refresher course on American civics,” said White House spokesman Tony Fratto, with President George W. Bush in Crawford, Texas. “What I mean is I think you find no-confidence votes in parliamentary systems, not the American system of government.”
Asked on CBS’ “Face the Nation” whether many Republicans would join the majority Democrats in voting against Gonzales possibly as early as this week, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said, “I think so.”
“You already have six Republicans calling for his resignation,” he said.

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No wonder Bush stands so steadfastly behind his AG. The guy just can’t say no to his boss.

Paul Rothstein, a professor at Georgetown Law School said:This intertwining of the political with the running of the Justice Department has gone on in other administrations, both Republican and Democrat. But I think it’s being carried to a fine art by this president. They leave no stone unturned to politicize where they think the law will permit it. And they push the line very far.

The Bush administration, under the political influence of Karl Rove (the man who understands ethical behavior much in the same way that Chuck Colson, special counsel to Richard Nixon during the Watergate years, did; If you must run over your grandmother to get what you want, then go ahead and leave her for dead) will stoop to any depths to get what it wants. Having an old friend, one that is likely not to challenge the legality of anything you intend to do is, it seems to me, important, even necessary, in order to accomplish your goals.
The hubris of this White House is stunning. There has never been, and with any degree of luck, there will never be again, a president as arrogant and as stupid as this one is. Arrogance and ignorance is a potent mixture for evil.

The Yahoo.com article said:Former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, too, had obvious close ties to President John F. Kennedy, his brother. But critics say Gonzales’ relationship with Bush rivals that between former Attorney General John Mitchell and his former law partner, President Nixon.

Mitchell left the Justice Department in 1972 to run Nixon’s re-election campaign. He served 19 months in prison after conviction on conspiracy, perjury and obstruction of justice charges for his role in the Watergate break-in of Democratic headquarters.

Reacting to Watergate abuses, Carter administration Attorney General Griffin Bell instituted reforms to help maintain the department’s independence. Among the changes: a ban on lawmakers and the White House directly contacting prosecutors about specific investigations.

That ban was violated last year when New Mexico GOP Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record) and Rep. Heather Wilson (news, bio, voting record) called former U.S. attorney David Iglesias in Albuquerque to ask about the status of public corruption cases. Iglesias later said they wanted to know whether he was going to indict Democrats before the looming election. The incident is cited by Democrats who argue the U.S. attorney firings were politically motivated.

No one has accused Gonzales, personally, of breaking the law to put Bush’s stamp on the Justice Department. The attorney general maintains he is working to not only fix mistakes that his aides made in hiring and firing prosecutors, but also to secure the public’s confidence in the beleaguered department.

Whether he can salvage his own reputation remains to be seen.

Philip Heymann, a Harvard law professor who worked at the Justice Department under several Democratic presidents, said the White House is using the law “almost exclusively as a form of protection and a form of armor, if you can get the Justice Department to say it’s fine.”

“I think they wanted a loyal attorney general, not somebody who would say ‘no’ when they very badly wanted them to say ‘yes,'” Heymann said. “And now they’ve got that.”

clipped from news.yahoo.com
WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says his long friendship with
President Bush
makes it easier to say “no” to him on sticky legal issues. His critics, however, say Gonzales is far more likely to say “yes” — leaving the Justice Department vulnerable to a politically determined White House.
Probably not since Watergate has an attorney general been so closely bound to the White House’s bidding. In pushing counterterror programs that courts found unconstitutional and in stacking the ranks of federal prosecutors with Republican loyalists, Gonzales has put Bush’s stamp on an institution that is supposed to operate largely free of the White House and beyond the reach of politics.
Gonzales, facing a no-confidence vote in the Senate, is resisting lawmakers’ demands to resign and says he will remain as attorney general until he no longer has the president’s support. The White House is steadfastly backing its man.

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With the reputation of the United States at stake, President Bush readies himself to pick a successor to Paul Wolfowitz. Traditionally, the US has chosen the President of the World Bank while Europeans have chosen the head of the International Monetary Fund. Now, given the scandal at the World Bank, Europeans are suggesting that this practice cease and that Wolfowitz’ successor be chosen on merit and not nationality (a code for crony of Mr. Bush).Given the falling reputation of the United States across Europe due in part to the mishandled war in Iraq and the bungling choices made at the World Bank, perhaps the White House should listen for a change. Consultation is not, however, the strong suit of the Bush White House as an administration that has grown used to having its own way on just about everything until recently.

Paul Wolfowitz

Photo: © Simone D. McCourtie /World Bank

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has said he would help Bush identify a nominee after consulting with other countries. But he made clear it would be an American.

“I see no reason why this should change and I see every reason why it’s important that the World Bank should continue to be run by an American,” Paulson said.

Dutch Development Minister Bert Koenders said the stature of the candidate was more important than nationality.

“The quality of a new candidate is the most important thing. Whatever nationality, American or from another continent, the bank needs a president of the highest quality,” he said.

Henry Paulson makes it absolutely clear that the Bush Administration is not listening to the rest of the world. The fact that he sees no reason to change past policy is an arrogant response in the light of the need for the last Bush choice to resign in disgrace.

I wish I had confidence that Bush will do the right thing in this matter. The fact is that I do not.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A day after Paul Wolfowitz resigned as World Bank president under an ethics cloud, the United States faced the tough task of healing rifts with Europeans and satisfying calls that his successor be picked on merit, not just nationality.
Wolfowitz’s resignation on Thursday followed pressure by European opponents who said his handling of a high-paying promotion for his companion damaged the institution’s credibility. Bank staff complained the crisis had undermined their mission of fighting poverty in developing countries.
“It is a very delicate issue but we will make clear to the United States that we need someone credible and this time they need to consult more broadly,” said one senior European bank board official. “That was not the case with Mr. Wolfowitz.”
The United States, the bank’s largest shareholder, has named the World Bank chief since the bank’s inception more than 60 years ago.
Many critics have said that practice should be revamped

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It is about time!

It is also clear from the comments of Tony Fratto and Henry Paulson that the Bush White House continues to exist in a state of denial. While it has been the traditional role of the President of the United States to appoint the President of the World Bank, there is a strong movement to reexamine that practice or, at the very least, curtail the cronyism practiced by this White House.

Reuters included the following international reaction to Wolfowitz’ resignation:

BERNICE ROMERO, ADVOCACY DIRECTOR OF OXFAM INTERNATIONAL

“Wolfowitz’s resignation shows that even the office of the president has to play by the rules. The U.S. and other rich countries must now show that they are serious about good governance by allowing the next head of the Bank to be appointed based on merit through an open, accountable process.”

DANIEL MITTLER, GREENPEACE INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL ADVISOR

“Cronyism has led to Wolfowitz’s downfall, but the credentials needed in the next president to clean up the World Bank must not only be personal integrity, but above all expertise in sustainable development.”

Perhaps the time has come for a fair and transparent process for the selection of the next president of the World Bank. Perhaps the rest of the world will not be governed by the hubris of the Bush White House. We in the United States must only suffer 613 more days of this administration. Good Riddance.

Now Bush only has to deal with the scandals at Justice and the Department of Education, and, oh yes, the potential indictment of his closest adviser, Karl Rove.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, under fire for arranging a pay and promotion agreement for his companion, who was employed by the bank, announced on Thursday he will resign effective June 30.
WHITE HOUSE SPOKESMAN TONY FRATTO
“Paul Wolfowitz is a good man who is passionate about the plight of poor people in the world. We would have preferred that he stay at the Bank, but the president reluctantly accepts his decision.”
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL HOPEFUL
“Mr. Wolfowitz’s actions have impeded the ability of the World Bank to carry out its critical mission of alleviating global poverty. His resignation will help to restore the integrity and credibility of the World Bank, both of which are central to the bank carrying out its mission.”
U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY HENRY PAULSON
I intend to move quickly to help the President identify a nominee to lead the World Bank going forward.

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Alleged conflict of interest charges now swarm around the DoED’s sponsorship and use of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS serves as the flagship assessment instrument for the billion dollar a year Reading First program administered by the DoED.In addition to significant charges of not properly screening consultants, many of whom had financial ties to DIBLES, the DoED appears to have promoted the use of DIBELS over any other early literacy indicator.

Furthermore, DIBELS does not appear to be a good indicator of whether or not children understand what they read. DIBELS also tends to be biased in favor of children that come from literacy-rich environments according to Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erickson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development.

One study found:

That DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency scores did predict performance on the TerraNova, a standardized achievement test, although students’ performance on DIBELS accounted for less than 20 percent of the variability in those scores. The study also found that students scored poorly on their ability to retell stories they had read, suggesting the tests may be sending a message that reading rapidly is more important than reading for comprehension.

So it seems than not only is there a significant scandal brewing surrounding the use and implementation of the DIBELS instrument, it also seems that the administration that insists on research based teaching and learning eschews research when it comes to promoting their pals and their profits. The emperor has no clothes.

clipped from www.edweek.org
Although teachers in the Moriarty, N.M., public schools report positive experiences with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the assessments have generated a lot of controversy nationally.
The assessment tool, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, is now approved for use under the federal Reading First program in 45 states to monitor student progress on reading fluency and other measures.
But a contentious hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee probed allegations that the widespread use of DIBELS may stem, in part, from inappropriate promotion of the tests by federal officials as part of the rollout of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program.
A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, released in March, suggested that a federal contractor did not appropriately screen consultants, some of whom had financial ties to DIBELS, for conflicts of interest.

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More trouble for the Bush White House it seems. Apparently there is no absence of arrogance at the White House, lessons learned from the Nixon White House no doubt. As the scandals grow around this administration, Bush grows more determined to wallow in the disaster of Iraq, support his buddies Gonzales and Wolfowitz as they fall down the slippery slope, and even threatens to veto the hate crime bill that will soon come his way. How ironic. Bush’s actions are the actions of a president in deep trouble willing to risk the welfare of the nation to shore up his position.

I just returned from a brief visit to Canada. Just reading the newspapers in Montreal was enlightening. There is no pro-American, patriotic spin placed on the news outside the United States. Because of my distinct middlewestern accent I was easily recognized as being from the States. There was no holding back. I was expected to defend Bush–something I would not do. My refusal brought sighs of relief–not all Americans are that bad after all was the message sent and received. I had the same sense in Italy a year and a half ago and in Australia nearly three years ago. It is difficult to travel the world when the world thinks so little of you. I am hopeful, however, that this will change after the next election.

clipped from www.commondreams.org
The Bush administration has withheld a series of e-mails from Congress showing that senior White House and Justice Department officials worked together to conceal the role of Karl Rove in installing Timothy Griffin, a prot�g� of Rove’s, as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.0510 08 1The withheld records show that D. Kyle Sampson, who was then-chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, consulted with White House officials in drafting two letters to Congress that appear to have misrepresented the circumstances of Griffin’s appointment as U.S. attorney and of Rove’s role in supporting Griffin.
In one of the letters that Sampson drafted, dated February 23, 2007, the Justice Department told four Senate Democrats it was not aware of any role played by senior White House adviser Rove in attempting to name Griffin to the U.S. attorney post.
The withheld e-mails show that Sampson’s draft was forwarded for review to Chris Oprison, an associate White House counsel,

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David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, both well respected educational researchers, claim that NCLB is causing substantial harm to children, to schools, to teachers and to administrators of those schools that has the chilling effect of placing the Nation at Risk.

Limiting their remarks to only the high-stakes testing requirements of NCLB, Berliner and Nichols said:

The stakes are high when students’ standardized-test performance results in grade retention or failure to graduate from high school. The stakes are high when teachers and administrators can lose their jobs or, conversely, receive large bonuses for student scores, or when humiliation or praise for teachers and schools occurs in the press as a result of test scores. This federal law requires such high-stakes testing in all states.

More than 30 years ago, the eminent social scientist Donald T. Campbell warned about the perils of measuring effectiveness via a single, highly consequential indicator: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking,” he said, “the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” High-stakes testing is exactly the kind of process Campbell worried about, since important judgments about student, teacher, and school effectiveness often are based on a single test score. This exaggerated reliance on scores for making judgments creates conditions that promote corruption and distortion. In fact, the overvaluation of this single indicator of school success often compromises the validity of the test scores themselves. Thus, the scores we end up praising and condemning in the press and our legislatures are actually untrustworthy, perhaps even worthless.

Campbell’s law is ubiquitous, and shows up in many human endeavors. Businesses, for example, regularly become corrupt as particular indicators are deemed important in judging success or failure. If stock prices are the indicator of a company’s success, for example, then companies like Enron, Qwest, Adelphia, and WorldCom manipulate that indicator to make sure they look good. Lives and companies are destroyed as a result. That particular indicator of business success became untrustworthy as both it and the people who worked with it were corrupted.

Similarly, when the number of criminal cases closed is the indicator chosen to judge the success of a police department, two things generally happen: More trials are brought against people who may be innocent or, with a promise of lighter sentences, deals are made with accused criminals to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

When the indicators of success and failure in a profession take on too much value, they invariably are corrupted. Those of us in the academic world know that when researchers are judged primarily by their publication records, they have occasionally fabricated or manipulated data. This is just another instance of Campbell’s law in action.

We have documented hundreds of examples of the ways in which high-stakes testing corrupts American education in a new book, Collateral Damage. Using Campbell’s law as a framework, we found examples of administrators and teachers who have cheated on standardized tests. Educators, acting just like other humans do, manipulate the indicators used to judge their success or failure when their reputations, employment, or significant salary bonuses are related to those indicators.

clipped from www.edweek.org
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush claimed success for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “Students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap,” he said
But, as with Iraq, a substantial body of evidence challenges his claim.
We believe that this federal law, now in its sixth year, puts American public school students in serious jeopardy. Extensive reviews of empirical and theoretical work, along with conversations with hundreds of educators across the country, have convinced us that if Congress does not act in this session to fundamentally transform the law’s accountability provision, young people and their educators will suffer serious and long-term consequences.
We note in passing that only people who have no contact with children could write legislation demanding that every child reach a high level of performance in three subjects, thereby denying that individual differences exist.

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The White House finds itself fighting battles in Iraq and in the West Wing. The excess use of power and the abuse of that power is now rivaling that of the Nixon administration during Watergate (gosh weren’t we fighting an unpopular war then as well?). Where are the Republicans, those that were so eager to impeach Clinton for failure to keep his pants zipped, as REAL scandal rips at the very fabric of our republic. Where are the voices of outrage when REAL abuses are happening right before our eyes. Where does George II stand in all the scandal that is percolating around him? 636 Days more is 635 too many.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
WASHINGTON — A little-known federal investigative unit has launched a probe into allegations of illegal political activity within the executive branch, including a White House office led by President Bush’s close adviser Karl Rove.
The new investigation, which began several weeks ago, grew out of two other investigations still under way at the U.S. Office of Special Counsel: the firing of U.S. Atty. David Iglesias from New Mexico and a presentation by Rove aide Scott Jennings to political appointees at the General Services Administration on how to help Republican candidates in 2008.
The office enforces the Hatch Act, a 70-year-old law that bars federal employees from engaging in political activities using government resources or on government time.
Whether executive-branch employees violated federal laws that restrict them from using their posts for political activity also is at the center of the controversy about the January meeting at GSA.

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I am saddened for the nation as I watch the president hunker down in his last months in office. He announced that in spite of the increased deadly bombings in Iraq that the troop surge is working and all we need is a bit more patience. He has increased confidence in Alberto Gonzalez in spite of bipartisan calls for his resignation. Sounds like the last days of the Nixon White House; living in a state of denial is not good for the country nor for this president. Frankly, we deserve better.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush on Monday rejected calls to fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, saying Gonzales’ testimony at a stormy congressional hearing last week “increased my confidence” in him.
Bush said Gonzales showed critical lawmakers that the attorney general “broke no laws” in firing eight U.S. attorneys last year despite suspicions that the ousters may have been politically motivated.
Later, Gonzales told reporters at the Federal Trade Commission that he intends to remain the chief U.S. law enforcement officer “as long as I think that I can be effective and the president believes that I should continue.”
Gonzales, who has maintained the firings were justified but mishandled, added, “I have accepted responsibility for the mistakes that I have made.”
Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat helping lead an investigation into the dismissals of eight of the 93 U.S. attorneys, was outraged.

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Finally a bipartisan issue for Congress to wrap its head around. Who would have predicted that the Alberto Gonzales scandal would find Republicans running to the other side of the aisle? And is it any surprise that the White House announces that George II is firmly behind Gonzales.

The growing disconnect between the White House, Congress and the people of the United States is alarming. What is even more frightening is the prospect of another divisive presidential election campaign. Put the two together and what comes out is more reason for Americans to be cynical, to mistrust their government, to further withdraw into their i-Pods and sit on the sidelines.

clipped from jp.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A congressional Republican leader on Friday joined bipartisan calls for U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign but the White House reaffirmed its confidence in President George W. Bush’s long-time friend.
Rep. Adam Putnam of Florida, chairman of the Republican conference in the House of Representatives, said it was important for the head of the U.S. Justice Department to have “unwavering” credibility.
“For the good of the nation, I think it is time for fresh leadership at the Department of Justice,” Putnam said in a brief telephone interview. He said a lack of credibility by the Justice Department chief puts in jeopardy the president’s legislative agenda.
Putnam is joining a growing list of U.S. lawmakers expressing a lack of confidence in Gonzales a day after he testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee on the firing of eight U.S. prosecutors last year. The dismissals raised concerns among Democrats that they were politically motivated.

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