The Consortium Report
A project of The Media Consortium
 

What’s Next for FISA?


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Wed., Jan 2, 2008
Filed under: House Oversight Committee ReportsHouse Judiciary Committee Reports

Where we’ve been, and where we’re going, in the long, sordid saga of keeping Americans safe from the administration’s spying.

By Brian Beutler
The Media Consortium

The first year of the 110th Congress closed with a great deal of spilled blood, and few victories for liberals. In just the last weeks of the past session, Democrats fought a series of gladiator battles over issues like energy, the Iraq war, and government spending—and lost every one of them in the Senate. But on the one issue that Democrats had by-and-large decided to cede to their opponents, they were … still unable to get very far. Read the full report…

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The Year in Oversight


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Sun., Dec 23, 2007
Filed under: War Making and OversightCongressional OversightHouse Oversight Committee ReportsHouse Judiciary Committee Reports

The good, the bad and the ugly of the Democratic Congress’ year of trying to gavel the Bush administration into order.

By Brian Beutler
The Media Consortium

As the year draws to a close, it will be tempting for pundits—liberal and otherwise—to despair at the Democrats’ inability to wield their new congressional leadership to affect real and swift change in the country. After all, the war in Iraq not only continues, but 2007 was its deadliest year. FISA presents a greater danger to American civil liberties today than it did when the Democrats took their gavels in January. And the radiant vision of Karl Rove being escorted down Pennsylvania Avenue to jail never came to pass. Read the full report…

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Particular Profits: How oil companies are taking advantage of basic thermal science to squeeze billions of dollars a year out of consumers’ pockets.


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Wed., Aug 15, 2007
Filed under: House Oversight Committee Reports

It’s probably intuitive to most people that the gasoline in their fuel tank expands in the heat—just like door frames and cookware and everything else on the planet. What’s probably less intuitive is that, in the United States, this physical phenomenon pumps a nearly $2 billion annual windfall out of consumers’ pockets and into oil company coffers, according to numerous calculations, including a recent House of Representatives study.

The North Carolina-based company Gilbarco Veeder-Root manufactures a device—a temperature-sensitive chamber for fuel—that, if affixed to gasoline pumps across the country, would return that money to consumers and help relieve some of our storied gas-price pressures. The device—and others like it—is simple, functional and, in fact, already in widespread use at gas stations all across Canada. Last month, Democratic presidential hopeful and Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, chair of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, held the second in a series of hearings to investigate why the technology has never made it into the American market.
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Post-Katrina Aftermath: How the Department of Labor Fell Down on the Job


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Tue., Jul 17, 2007
Filed under: House Oversight Committee Reports

Part 2 of 2 Part Series

After Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, tens of billions of dollars in federal and private contracts (the largest of which went to companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, and its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root) were dispatched to New Orleans to fund a clean-up effort the president said would require “a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens.” That, of course, never came to pass.

Thanks to its initial disastrous rescue effort, today, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) receives most of the blame for chaos in New Orleans. But it wasn’t just FEMA. The anatomy of the failed reconstruction is complicated, but understanding what went wrong requires examining the Department of Labor (DOL) as much as any other agency. The DOL has been in decline for a generation, suffering from long-term decreases in funding even as the number of people whose livelihoods it is supposed to protect has grown. The problems have only been exacerbated throughout the six-and-a-half years of the Bush administration. But the consequences have never been more appalling than in New Orleans, where the failure of high-level DOL officials to require proactive oversight of reconstruction employers led to an endless string of abuses, which were detailed in Part 1. After Katrina, employers, unfettered by rules, became less concerned with the task at hand than with profiting at the expense of workers without protection. They became predators in a lawless environment. Part two of this series examines how the DOL enabled such lawlessness.

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Post-Katrina Aftermath: In Absence of Oversight, Reconstruction Workers Became Another Casualty


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Tue., Jul 17, 2007
Filed under: House Oversight Committee Reports

Part 1 of 2 Part Series

After Hurricane Katrina pummeled the Gulf Coast in late August 2005, tens of billions of dollars in federal and private contracts, the largest of which went to companies like Bechtel, Halliburton, and its then-subsidiary Kellogg, Brown, and Root, were dispatched to New Orleans. The alleged goal was to fund a clean-up effort President Bush said would require “a sustained federal commitment to our fellow citizens.” That, of course, never came to pass.

Thanks to its initial disastrous rescue effort, today, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) receives most of the blame for chaos in New Orleans. But it wasn’t just FEMA. The anatomy of the failed reconstruction is complicated, but understanding what went wrong requires examining the Department of Labor (DOL).

Read the full report…

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Political Retaliation at GSA


by Brian Beutler, The Media Consortium: Wed., Jun 13, 2007
Filed under: House Oversight Committee Reports

The General Services Administration usually goes about its bureaucratic work quietly and without controversy. But on Wednesday, Lurita Doan, head administrator of the GSA, was on the heat seat at a House hearing. She tried to deflect allegations that she promised to retaliate against GSA employees who had testified that she’d used government offices to help political candidates.The inquiry—hosted by the House Government Reform Committee—followed up Doan’s last testimony before the same committee on March 28 regarding allegations that she violated the Hatch Act, a statute that precludes public officials from using taxpayer-funded buildings for partisan purposes.

On January 26, 2007, Doan attended a brownbag lunch for GSA employees which featured a PowerPoint presentation titled “2008 House Targets: Top 20.” At the lunch—whose special guest was a deputy in Karl Rove’s political affairs office—Doan allegedly said that the GSA could be used to “help our candidates.” Doan claimed today that she “thought [the lunch] was going to be a motivational speech” and has repeatedly claimed that she does not recall offering to give the Republican Party political assistance in her capacity as administrator.

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