Monday, March 15, 2004

Various outrages
Posting has been light for me the last few days because my Mom has been staying with us. Now that she is back in her home and we are back in ours, I’ve had a chance to took at the news and seek out patterns. To my horror and shock, I found that Bush is politicizing the civil service. But he always seemed like such a uniter, not a divider. He’s the very last person I would expect to behave in partisan manner.

1) This one is from Time via those alert eyes at Pandagon:
Administration sources tell TIME that employees at the Department of Homeland Security have been asked to keep their eyes open for opportunities to pose the President in settings that might highlight the Administration's efforts to make the nation safer. The goal, they are being told, is to provide Bush with one homeland-security photo-op a month.

2) This one is from the mighty and majestic Atrios. The original may have changed by the time you go to look at it, so I’ll give you the image.

3) And this one I actually found by myself when glancing over the headlines after getting back from returning Mom to her homestead.
WASHINGTON, March 14 — Federal investigators are scrutinizing television segments in which the Bush administration paid people to pose as journalists praising the benefits of the new Medicare law, which would be offered to help elderly Americans with the costs of their prescription medicines.

The videos are intended for use in local television news programs. Several include pictures of President Bush receiving a standing ovation from a crowd cheering as he signed the Medicare law on Dec. 8.

The materials were produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, which called them video news releases, but the source is not identified….

Federal law prohibits the use of federal money for "publicity or propaganda purposes" not authorized by Congress. In the past, the General Accounting Office has found that federal agencies violated this restriction when they disseminated editorials and newspaper articles written by the government or its contractors without identifying the source.

Kevin W. Keane, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, said there was nothing nefarious about the television materials, which he said had been distributed to stations nationwide. Under federal law, he said, the government is required to inform beneficiaries about changes in Medicare.

"The use of video news releases is a common, routine practice in government and the private sector," Mr. Keane said. "Anyone who has questions about this practice needs to do some research on modern public information tools."

An entire agency is charged with finding photo ops to aid their boss' reelection effort. A congressional committee uses their publicly-financed Website to attack the minority party's candidate. Official communications from a department become commercials to drum up partisan support for a controversial policy initiative (during an election year). All three have the same corrupt element in common: the Bush team obviously regards the government as just another advertising medium for them to use in their election effort.

In the last case, Keane, the talking head for DHHS, brings up something that has bothered me for years. When, exactly, did legality become the refuge of choice for scoundrels? It seems that whenever someone—political or corporate—is caught with their hands in the ethical cookie jar, their preferred defense is to loudly quote the letter of the law and announce that they did nothing illegal. Never mind that they may have trampled the spirit of the law and vomited on any relevant concept of ethics, if they are safe within a legal loophole, they can stand tall.

The whole historical point of a professional civil service was to create a body of depoliticized workers whose first loyalty was to performing their defined duties, not to supporting their political masters. The current behavior of the Bush/Rove cohort seems to have the goal of undoing 120 years of political reform for a moment’s advantage. Why am I not surprised?

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