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Preview: Watching Washington

Watching Washington

Keeping an Eye on the Best Government Money Can Buy

Updated: 2018-03-07T09:54:59.706-05:00


Plane Stupid: Bailout Bucks Buy Bank's Private Jet


(image) Citigroup just took a $45 billion bailout from taxpayers -- and just bought a new Dassault Falcon 7X for $50 million.

The picture gives you an idea of what the innards of a Falcon 7X looks like.

From the New York Post:
The French-made luxury jet seats up to 12 in a plush interior with leather seats, sofas and a customizable entertainment center, according to Dassault's sales literature. It can cruise 5,950 miles before refueling and has a top speed of 559 mph.
Citigroup bought the French-built plane a couple of years ago when subprime mortgages had Citigroup flying high on financial instruments. The bank decided to go ahead and take delivery despite having to ask taxpayers for the bailout.

Cheney's Undisclosed Location Disclosed


(image) "Could there be a better visual metaphor for the change of administration?" -- Gawker

The very day former Vice President Dick Cheney moved out of the official Veep Residence at the Naval Observatory, Google Maps posted an unobstructed view of the place. They'd kept the place all fuzzy for years -- depending on aerial and satellite pictures from the US Geological Survey.

Back in 2005, the New York Times' Maureen Dowd noted:
The vice president, who believes in unwarranted, unlimited snooping, is so pathologically secretive that if you use Google Earth's database to see his official residence, the view is scrambled and obscured. You can view satellite photos of the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol - but not of the Lord of the Underworld's lair.
No undisclosed location for VP Joe Biden. (Gawker)

$100 for a $13 Million Mansion


(image) The housing market collapse is offering up all kinds of bargains on cheap houses. Take the case of the woman who snared a $13.3 million mansion for just $100.

Of course, the house belonged to the former CEO of Lehman Brothers, and she just happened to be his wife.

The sale back in November showed up in Florida real estate records. Former CEO Richard Fuld has been blamed for Lehan Brothers' collapse on September 15th. (Reuters)

Senator Oprah


Illinois Gov Rod Blagojevich (D) told ABC News he considered talk show host Oprah Winfrey to fill President Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat.

Her record of giveaways on her show make her ideal for earmarks. The Pontiac giveaway alone could save GM. But the idea of Tom Cruise bouncing off the walls of the Senate gallery are a bit frightening. (ABC)

Blago Works on that Insanity Defense


Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), facing impeachment trial in the Illinois Senate is trying to win in the court of public opinion with a media blitz.

Round One: On NBC's Today show Sunday, he compared himself to Nelson Mandela, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Obama's Big Start


Gallup reports President Barack Obama has an initial approval rating of 68% his first week in office. Only JFK had a higher initial approval rating in all the years Gallup has ranked approval.


Mr. Obama is the 9th newly inaugurated President for which Gallup has measured an approval rating. The numbers range from a low of 51% for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush to 72% for President Kennedy.

And even people who don't approve of Mr. Obama, have kudos for the way he handled his transition to power. A seperate Gallup poll shows 83% of people give him high marks for the transition. (Gallup)

Yeah, But It's No Water Skiing Squirrel


President Barack Obama brought the White House out of the radio age today by launching his weekly video address -- available on YouTube as well as at

The topic was economic stimulus and how his "American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan" will jump-start the economy.

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Karzai Praises Obama Gitmo Order


(image) Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has welcomed President Barack Obama's executive order to close the detention center at US Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

"This decision by the United States is a major step toward bringing more international support to the struggle against terrorism, and enlisting all nations in this war," President Hamid Karzai in a statement
Most of the 250 or so prisoners held at Gitmo were taken in Afghanistan.

One of the plans being considered could send some of the detainees to their home countries for trial. Mr. Karzai sees the opportunity to try suspects as adding further legitimacy to the young Afghan government. (AP)

Returning Raises in the Keystone State


(image) A third of the Keystone State's lawmakers have returned their pay raises to the Pennsylvania treasury.

It comes the state's budget shortfall has worsened by $300 million in the last week alone. Gov James Rendell (D-PA) says that'll mean lay offs of state workers when the fiscal year begins July 1.

Pennsylvania lawmakers rushed to say they'd give up raises when things turned bad. Only 1-in-3 have returned their pay hikes for a grand total of $25,470.

The raise took effect on December 1. has a list of those who've returned the extra pay so far. (

Abortion Funding Football


President Reagan created it, President Clinton rescinded it, President George W. Bush reinstated it, President Obama re-rescinded it...

Getting dizzy?

It's something called "The Mexico City Policy" -- effectively a U.S. mandated gag rule on abortion. In short, if foreign outfits want U.S. aide for family planning services, they have to agree to not talk about abortion with clients or patients. It's been that way for the last 8 years.

President Obama has eliminated the requirement with an executive order -- on the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. (Reuters)



(image) Wanna see how President Obama is keeping (or not keeping) his promises?

Try the "Obameter."

It's the St Petersburg Times' tool for keeping up with the 510 promises they counted him making during his campaign.

As of today: 7 kept, 1 stalled, 14 in the works and 488 to go. (St Pete Times)

A Quarter Million Down the Toilet


(image) Think $800 toilet seats from the 80s were a sign of government waste? You should check out the whole toilet at the Interior Department. Nearly a quarter million bucks spent on Secretary Dick Kempthorne's (pictured) powder room. From Al Kamen in the Washington Post:
"Seems Kempthorne spent about $235,000 in taxpayer funds renovating the bathroom a few months ago, which included installing a new shower, a refrigerator and a freezer and buying monogrammed towels...."
Not quite the primitive privies you find in the national parks under Interior's purview.

McCain Fire Sale Includes Personal Info


Some private info was included in the yard sale at the John McCain Presidential Campaign Headquarters.

A reporter for the local FOX affiliate in Washington, DC headed over to look for bargains and a story.

She picked up a Blackberry for twenty bucks.

And it was loaded with phone numbers and emails belonging to McCain staffers. (FOX5)

Illegal Aliens Clean Chertoff's House


(image) The Department of Homeland Security includes the Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs.

But for four years, illegal aliens have been cleaning the home belonging to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Their employer, James Reid, says he thought they were legit, because they kept clearing Secret Service background checks.

As he told the Washington Post, "Our Homeland Security can't police their own home. How can they police our borders?"

Mr. Reid has been fined $22,880 for hiring them.

If you have an extra napkin, please send it to Homeland Security. Sec Chertoff has four years worth of egg on his face. (WaPo)

High Pitched Senate Stakes


Actress Fran Drescher of "The Nanny" has expressed interest in the US Senate seat being vacated by Sen Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

A merciful God will not let me live long enough to hear the dreaded Drescher/Palin debates! (CNN)

Wipe That Smile Off Your Face, Citizen


(image) As if you had any reason to smile at the DMV, the state of Indiana now bans you from smiling on your drivers license photo. From the Louisville Courier Journal:

The Bureau of Motor Vehicles has imposed new restrictions on anything -- from smiling to wearing glasses and scarves and hats -- that would hamper facial recognition software from distinguishing one driver's looks from another's.

It's all to let facial recognition software identify you from your picture.

This from the state that decided the best way to fight complaints of long waits at their BMV offices was to simply remove the clocks. (Louisville Courier Journal)

Hey, We Only Lost $11 Billion


(image) John Thain, CEO of Merrill Lynch is putting in for a $10 million dollar bonus.

His logic is that Merrill Lynch -- which lost $11 billion -- isn't in as bad a shape as say Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns which collapsed completely. (CNN)

5 Day Sentence for Fossella


Rep Vito Fossella (R-NY) will be serving five days in an 8 by 10 foot cell in Virginia.

The congressman was convicted of drunk driving. Just got the sentence in Alexandria. He reports to jail December 19. (NYT)

Blagojevich Accused of Trying to Sell Obama's Seat


(image) Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) has been arrested on charges of trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. From the AP:

A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted
on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.

The charges say he tried to wrangle a hefty salary for himself and for his wife on various boards.

Didn't former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) get in trouble for NOT paying for some seats in Congress?

What If?


The folks at have cooked up a great "What If?" machine. It lets you move markers on demographic charts to see how turnout and voting preferences to predict how the 2008 Presidential race will turn out.


Amazing thing: check out the map above. If everyone based on race, gender, and religion turned out in the same percentages and voted for the same party as in 2006, Sen Barak Obama (D-IL) wins -- 370 - 168 in the Electoral College. (

What's the Price of Rose-Colored Night Vision Goggles?


(image) The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could cost the Pentagon some of their wish list for new weapons.
The Government Accountability Office has found costs for new weapons spiraling out of control -- and competing for dollars with the wars. From the Washington Post:

The major weapons systems being developed and produced by the Defense Department will require $1.6 trillion to complete and $335 billion over the next five years -- money that may not be available because of the continuing cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.
The GAO found some weapons were pitched with unrealistic price tags to begin with -- sometimes 30% - 40% below what they would end up costing. (WaPo)

This Ain't Your Father's Smoke-Filled Room


(image) Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) is promising a political convention for the people. He's breaking with the tradition of accepting the Democratic nomination in front of convention floor delegates and taking his speech to an outdoor venue open to the general public. From an Obama Campaign email:

On Thursday, August 28th, he's scheduled to formally accept the Democratic nomination in a speech at the convention hall in front of the assembled delegates.

Instead, Barack will leave the convention hall and join more than 75,000 people for a huge, free, open-air event where he will deliver his acceptance speech to the American people.

Electoral Vote Chase


(image) CNN has a "political ticker" tracking how the Presidential candidates are doing state by state. It give you an idea where the Electoral College numbers are adding up.

As of today, Sen Barack Obama (D-IL) leads Sen John McCain (R-AZ) 231-194.

A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win. (CNN)

Parking our Cars, Costing our Roads


(image) Higher gas prices mean we're driving less -- and that means less tax revenue to repair our roads.

The federal Transportation Department says Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April -- than in April, 2007. It's the sixth consecutive decline in our driving habits. (CNN)

Big Inflation Bubble


Inflation shot up last month at the fastest pace in six months. Gasoline and other energy costs pushed prices higher.

Gasoline was up 5.7%, food climbed 0.3%. (AP)