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Eye Opener: Dec. 10, 2008

By Ed O'Keefe

Good morning!

Eye Opener

Don't forget to follow The Federal Eye on Twitter by clicking here. And as In the Loop reports today, various State Department officials are also "tweeting." from Iceland, Croatia and Armenia, among other places. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Colleen Graffy shared interesting details including the fact that she rented a bathing suit after leaving hers at home. How's that for transparency in government!

In other news...

Wanted: A 'Car Czar': "The choice of a czar -- or czarina -- is the plan's first obstacle. President Bush, who would appoint the czar or overseers, and Democratic leaders in Congress have very different ideas about who would make the best choice," report The Post's Steven Mufson and Thomas Heath. "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mentioned former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker" but "The Bush administration has advocated a mini-czar -- calling the job a "financial viability advisor" -- that would be part of the Commerce Department." Others mentioned: Jack Welch, the retired General Electric chief executive and Kenneth Feinberg, a Democratic lawyer who oversaw the compensation fund for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001."

FCC Chairman Abused Power: "Congressional Democrats yesterday sharply criticized the Federal Communications Commission, calling it a dysfunctional agency led by a chairman who manipulated and withheld data and reports to advance his own policy positions. The Democratic lawmakers made their accusations in a 110-page report released by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee after a year-long investigation into the management and regulatory practices of FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin." Oh, but there's this: "The report does not, however, state that Martin violated any law." So this is what we call a slap on the wrist, right?

Underpaid Contractors: "Many contractors do grunt work and don't get paid much for it, says a report by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. These people wash laundry, drive buses and dish food. They are rent-a-cops, janitors and laborers. They have titles of waiter, cook and cashier," notes The Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson. "According to authors David Madland and Michael Paarlberg, low-wage federal contracting jobs are a widespread problem and include about 80 percent of contracted service workers. 'Instead of helping to create quality jobs,' they write, 'all too often the federal government contracts with companies that pay very low wages and treat their workers poorly.'"

Economy Puts Emergency Readiness in Peril: USA Today reports that "Federal and state governments are cutting programs that help communities respond to disease outbreaks, natural disasters and bioterrorism incidents, and that 'could lead to a disaster for the nation's disaster preparedness,' a report released Tuesday warns. 'The economic crisis could result in a serious rollback of the progress we've made since Sept. 11,' 2001, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a non-partisan research group. Federal funds are down, 11 states have already cut public-health budgets, and more could follow as the economic crisis worsens."

Lawmakers Pressure Bush to Rescind Curbs on Collective Bargaining: Five Democratic senators have authored a letter to the president and the Justice Department asking for an explanation of an executive order that stripped collective bargaining rights for employees of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, reports GovExec.com. Sens. Daniel Akaka, (D-Hawaii), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) signed the Dec. 4 letter. "Many of the letter's signatories serve on committees that oversee federal workers or have constituents who are public servants: Lieberman chairs the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Akaka leads that panel's federal workforce subcommittee. Mikulski represents Maryland, which has a large population of federal employees."

Events: Tonight the Council for Excellence in Government celebrates its 25th Anniversary starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Mandarin Oriental. The Council will honor outgoing President and CEO Patricia McGinnis. The Eye will be there and have more on the big event tomorrow.

This Day in History: President Theodore Roosevelt became the first American to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for helping mediate an end to the Russo-Japanese War. More here.

By Ed O'Keefe  | December 10, 2008; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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