Friday, March 24, 2006


Bush: Running the Government Like A CEO. Yeah, Like An Enron CEO.

In Charge, Except They're Not

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Friday, March 24, 2006; A19

Is President Bush the leader of our government, or is he just a right-wing talk-show host?

The question comes to mind after Bush's news conference this week in which he sounded like someone who has no control over the government he is in charge of. His words were those of a pundit inveighing against the evils of bureaucrats.

"Obviously," said the critic in chief, "there are some times when government bureaucracies haven't responded the way we wanted them to, and like citizens, you know, I don't like that at all." Yes, and if you can't do something about it, who can?

Bush went on: "I mean, I think, for example, of the trailers sitting down in Arkansas. Like many citizens, they're wondering why they're down there, you know. How come we've got 11,000?"

Bush was talking about 10,777 mobile homes ordered up to provide housing for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. As Rep. Mike Ross put it in an interview, most of these "brand-new, fully furnished homes are sitting in a hay meadow in Hope, Arkansas," and are "a symbol of what's wrong with this administration and what's wrong with FEMA."

Ross, a Democrat whose district includes that hay meadow, has been running a one-man crusade since December to get the homes moved to where they could actually provide shelter for those left homeless by the storm. The Federal Emergency Management Agency let the homes sit there because its regulations don't permit the use of such structures in a flood plain.

That raises at least two questions: Why did FEMA spend anywhere from $300 million to $430 million -- the numbers are in dispute -- to buy homes that didn't meet its own regulations? Alternatively, why can't it alter its regulations at least temporarily to use the homes where they are desperately needed?

Nearly three months after Ross first complained about the homes sitting in the field -- and nearly six weeks after Fox News reported the story and CNN broadcast an extensive account -- Bush seemed perplexed. He insisted that he was asking Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to get to the bottom of the deal.

"So I've asked Chertoff to find out," Bush said. "What are you going to do with them? I mean, the taxpayers aren't interested in 11,000 trailers just sitting there. Do something with them. And so I share that sense of frustration when a big government is unable to, you know -- sends wrong signals to taxpayers. But our people are good, hardworking people."

Hold on: The president of the United States runs the "big government" he's attacking. This is mysterious. If Bush's "good, hardworking people" aren't responsible for the problem, the villains of the piece must be alien creatures created by some strange beast called Big Government.

Ross reports that 300 of the homes were finally moved last month and that 5,000 are supposed to be moved soon to Katrina victims. That still leaves a lot of homes. FEMA has said they will be stored for future disasters.

This episode is important because it is representative of a corrosive style of politics. Bush and many of his fellow Republicans have done a good business over the years running against the ills of Big Government. They are so much in the habit of trashing government that even when they are in charge of things -- remember, Republicans have controlled the White House and both houses of Congress for all but 18 months since 2001 -- they pretend they are not.

And when their own government fails, they turn around and use their incompetence to argue that government can never work anyway, so you might as well keep electing conservatives to have less government. It's an ideological Catch-22. Even their failures prove they are right.

On the same day Bush was pushing off accountability for the mobile home fiasco, another politician was giving his voters some very bad news -- and taking responsibility for fixing the problem.

Gov. Jon Corzine of New Jersey announced that his state's fiscal situation was a mess, and he proposed a budget that simultaneously raised taxes, cut programs and walked away from some of his own campaign promises. "New Jerseyans believe that telling the truth is always better than hiding from it, even when it hurts," said Corzine, a Democrat. "And boy, does this budget hurt."

I'll leave it to New Jersey's budget experts to parse the details of Corzine's fiscal plan. But it's definitely bracing when a politician skips all the rhetoric about big or small government and just tries to fix the thing.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


Thank Allah Bush Invaded Afghanistan to Remove Religious Fanatical Taliban Government.

Some clerics call for killing Afghan Christian
Man on trial for converting from Islam; Bush, Rice weigh in on case
The Associated Press
Updated: 9:05 a.m. ET March 23, 2006

KABUL, Afghanistan - Senior Muslim clerics said Thursday that an Afghan man on trial for converting from Islam to Christianity should be killed regardless of whether a court decides to free him.

Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old former medical aid worker, faces the death penalty for becoming a Christian under Afghanistan's Islamic laws.

His trial, which began last week, has caused an international outcry. U.S. President Bush said Wednesday he was "deeply troubled" by the case and expects the country to "honor the universal principle of freedom."

Diplomats say the Afghan government is searching for a way to drop the case, and on Wednesday authorities said Rahman is suspected of being mentally ill and would undergo psychological examinations to see whether he is fit to stand trial.

But four senior clerics interviewed by The Associated Press in their mosques in Kabul said Rahman deserved to be killed for his conversion.

"He is not crazy. He went in front of the media and confessed to being a Christian," said Hamidullah, chief cleric at Haji Yacob Mosque.

"The government is scared of the international community. But the people will kill him if he is freed."

"He is not mad. The government are playing games. The people will not be fooled," said Abdul Raoulf, cleric at Herati Mosque. "This is humiliating for Islam. ... Cut off his head."

Raoulf is considered a moderate cleric in Afghanistan. He was jailed three times for criticizing the Taliban's policies before the hardline regime was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

Bush 'deeply troubled'

Bush, in a statement Wednesday, said that “I’m troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who converted away from Islam may be held to account.”

While not demanding that the trial be stopped and the defendant released, Bush said he wanted to make sure that “people are protected in their capacity to worship.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice followed up with a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, whose government is an ally of the United States in the war on terror.

She told him she was deeply troubled by the case and called the prosecution “contrary to universal democratic values,” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Rice also told Abdullah that those values include freedom of religion, which the United States fought for in Afghanistan and elsewhere, McCormack said.

And she told the foreign minister that the case ran contrary to the Afghan constitution.

Germany, Italy issue statements

The statements by Bush and Rice toughened the U.S. stance in a controversy that has spread beyond South Asia, evoking statements of concern, for instance, in Germany and Italy.

On Tuesday, administration officials expressed respect for Afghanistan’s sovereignty while also registering their concern over the case.

Rahman was arrested last month after his family accused him of becoming a Christian. The conversion is a crime under Afghanistan’s Islamic laws.

Abdullah made no statement after his meeting with Rice, which was not listed on her public schedule.

Here for strategic talks, Abdullah said Tuesday he hoped “through our constitutional process there will be a satisfactory result.” He did not say whether he thought the defendant would be found innocent.

Afghanistan ‘pursuing’ case

On Wednesday, the Afghan embassy responded to expressions of concern with a statement saying the Kabul government “is fully aware of and pursuing the best way to resolve Mr. Rahman’s case judicially.”

“It’s too early to draw a conclusion about the punishment,” the statement said.

Michael Cromartie, chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, said in a statement he had written to Bush to express concern about the trial and the threatened execution of Rahman.

Cromartie told the president that the prosecutor had called Rahman “a microbe (who) should be cut off and removed from the rest of Muslim society and should be killed.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations issued a statement calling for Rahman’s release. “Religious decisions should be matters of personal choice, not a cause for state intervention,” the Muslim civil liberties group said.


White Privilege: If you don't understand the concept, read this.

'Crash' and the self-indulgence of white America

Robert Jensen and Robert Wosnitzer -

03.22.06 - "Crash" is a white-supremacist movie.

The Oscar-winning best picture -- widely heralded, especially by white liberals, for advancing an honest discussion of race in the United States -- is, in fact, a setback in the crucial project of forcing white America to come to terms the reality of race and racism, white supremacy and white privilege.

The central theme of the film is simple: Everyone is prejudiced -- black, white, Asian, Iranian and, we assume, anyone from any other racial or ethnic group. We all carry around racial/ethnic baggage that's packed with unfair stereotypes, long-stewing grievances, raw anger, and crazy fears. Even when we think we have made progress, we find ourselves caught in frustratingly complex racial webs from which we can't seem to get untangled.

For most people -- including the two of us -- that's painfully true; such untangling is a life's work in which we can make progress but never feel finished. But that can obscure a more fundamental and important point: This state of affairs is the product of the actions of us white people. In the modern world, white elites invented race and racism to protect their power, and white people in general have accepted the privileges they get from the system and helped maintain it. The problem doesn't spring from the individual prejudices that exist in various ways in all groups but from white supremacy, which is expressed not only by individuals but in systemic and institutional ways. There's little hint of such understanding in the film, which makes it especially dangerous in a white-dominant society in which white people are eager to avoid confronting our privilege.

So, "Crash" is white supremacist because it minimizes the reality of white supremacy. Its faux humanism and simplistic message of tolerance directs attention away from a white-supremacist system and undermines white accountability for the maintenance of that system. We have no way of knowing whether this is the conscious intention of writer/director Paul Haggis, but it's emerges as the film's dominant message.

While viewing "Crash" may make some people, especially white people, uncomfortable during and immediately after viewing, the film seems designed, at a deeper level, to make white people feel better. As the film asks us to confront personal prejudices, it allows us white folk to evade our collective responsibility for white supremacy. In "Crash," emotion trumps analysis, and psychology is more important than politics. The result: White people are off the hook.

The first step in putting white people back on the hook is pressing the case that the United States in 2006 is a white-supremacist society. Even with the elimination of formal apartheid and the lessening of the worst of the overt racism of the past, the term is still appropriate, in ideological and material terms.

The United States was founded, of course, on an ideology of the inherent superiority of white Europeans over non-whites that was used to justify the holocausts against indigenous people and Africans, which created the nation and propelled the U.S. economy into the industrial world. That ideology also has justified legal and extralegal exploitation of every non-white immigrant group.

Today, polite white folks renounce such claims of superiority. But scratch below that surface politeness and the multicultural rhetoric of most white people, and one finds that the assumptions about the superiority of the art, music, culture, politics, and philosophy rooted in white Europe are still very much alive. No poll can document these kinds of covert opinions, but one hears it in the angry and defensive reaction of white America when non-white people dare to point out that whites have unearned privilege. Watch the resistance from white America when any serious attempt is made to modify school or college curricula to reflect knowledge from other areas and peoples. The ideology of white supremacy is all around.

That ideology also helps white Americans ignore and/or rationalize the racialized disparities in the distribution of resources. Studies continue to demonstrate how, on average, whites are more likely than members of racial/ethnic minorities to be on top on measures of wealth and well-being. Looking specifically at the gap between white and black America, on some measures black Americans have fallen further behind white Americans during the so-called post-civil rights era. For example, the typical black family had 60 percent as much income as a white family in 1968, but only 58 percent as much in 2002. On those measures where there has been progress, closing the gap between black and white is decades, or centuries, away.

What does this white supremacy mean in day-to-day life? One recent study found that in the United States, a black applicant with no criminal record is less likely to receive a callback from a potential employer than a white applicant with a felony conviction. In other words, being black is more of a liability in finding a job than being a convicted criminal. Into this new century, such discrimination has remained constant.

That's white supremacy. Many people, of all races, feel and express prejudice, but white supremacy is built into the attitudes, practices and institutions of the dominant white society. It's not the product simply of individual failure but is woven into society, and the material consequences of it are dramatic.

It seems that the people who made "Crash" either don't understand that, don't care, or both. The character in the film who comes closest to articulating a systemic analysis of white supremacy is Anthony, the carjacker played by the rapper Ludacris. But putting the critique in the mouth of such a morally unattractive character undermines any argument he makes, and his analysis is presented as pseudo-revolutionary blather to be brushed aside as we follow the filmmakers on the real subject of the film -- the psychology of the prejudice that infects us all.

That the characters in "Crash" -- white and non-white alike -- are complex and have a variety of flaws is not the problem; we don't want films populated by one-dimensional caricatures, simplistically drawn to make a political point. Those kinds of political films rarely help us understand our personal or political struggles. But this film's characters are drawn in ways that are ultimately reactionary.

Although the film follows a number of story lines, its politics are most clearly revealed in the interaction that two black women have with an openly racist white Los Angeles police officer played by Matt Dillon. During a bogus traffic stop, Dillon's Officer Ryan sexually violates Christine, the upper-middle-class black woman played by Thandie Newton. But when fate later puts Ryan at the scene of an accident where Christine's life is in danger, he risks his own life to save her, even when she at first reacts hysterically and rejects his help. The white male is redeemed by his heroism. The black woman, reduced to incoherence by the trauma of the accident, can only be silently grateful for his transcendence.

Even more important to the film's message is Ryan's verbal abuse of Shaniqua, a black case manager at an insurance company (played by Loretta Devine). She bears Ryan's racism with dignity as he dumps his frustration with the insurance company's rules about care of his father onto her, in the form of an angry and ignorant rant against affirmative action. She is empathetic with Ryan's struggle but unwilling to accept his abuse, appearing to be one of the few reasonable characters in the film. But not for long.

In a key moment at the end of the film, Shaniqua is rear-ended at a traffic light and emerges from her car angry at the Asian driver who has hit her. "Don't talk to me unless you speak American," she shouts at the driver. As the camera pulls back, we are left to imagine the language she uses in venting her prejudice.

In stark contrast to Ryan and his racism is his police partner at the beginning of the film, Hanson (played by Ryan Phillippe). Younger and idealistic, Hanson tries to get Ryan to back off from the encounter with Christine and then reports Ryan's racist behavior to his black lieutenant, Dixon (played by Keith David). Dixon doesn't want the hassles of initiating a disciplinary action and Hanson is left to cope on his own, but he continues to try to do the right thing throughout the movie. Though he's the white character most committed to racial justice, at the end of the film Hanson's fear overcomes judgment in a tense moment, and he shoots and kills a black man. It's certainly true that well-intentioned white people can harbor such fears rooted in racist training. But in the world "Crash" creates, Hanson's deeper awareness of the nature of racism and attempts to combat it are irrelevant, while Ryan somehow magically overcomes his racism.

Let us be clear: "Crash" is not a racist movie, in the sense of crudely using overtly racist stereotypes. It certainly doesn't present the white characters as uniformly good; most are clueless or corrupt. Two of the non-white characters (a Latino locksmith and an Iranian doctor) are the most virtuous in the film. The characters and plot lines are complex and often intriguing. But "Crash" remains a white-supremacist movie because of what it refuses to bring into the discussion.

At this point in our critique, defenders of the film have suggested to us that we expect too much, that movies tend to deal with issues at this personalized level and we can't expect more. This is evasion. For example, whatever one thinks of its politics, another recent film, "Syriana," presents a complex institutional analysis of U.S. foreign policy in an engaging fashion. It's possible to produce a film that is politically sophisticated and commercially viable. Haggis is clearly talented, and there's no reason to think he couldn't have deepened the analysis in creative ways.

"Crash" fans also have offered this defense to us: In a culture that seems terrified of any open discussion of race, isn't some attempt at an honest treatment of the complexity of the issue better than nothing? That's a classic argument from false alternatives. Are we stuck with a choice between silence or bad analysis? Beyond that, in this case the answer may well be no. If "Crash" and similar efforts that personalize and psychologize the issue of race keep white America from an honest engagement with the structure and consequences of white supremacy, the ultimate effect may be reactionary. In that case, "nothing" may be better.

The problem of "Crash" can be summed up through one phrase from the studio's promotional material, which asserts that the film "boldly reminds us of the importance of tolerance."

That's exactly the problem. On the surface, the film appears to be bold, speaking of race with the kind of raw emotion that is rare in this culture. But that emotion turns out, in the end, to be manipulative and diversionary. The problem is that the film can't move beyond the concept of tolerance, and tolerance is not the solution to America's race problem. White people can -- and often do -- learn to tolerate difference without ever disturbing the systemic, institutional nature of racism.

The core problem is not intolerance but white supremacy -- and the way in which, day in and day out, white people accept white supremacy and the unearned privileges it brings.

"Crash" paints a multi-colored picture of race, and in a multi-racial society recognizing that diversity is important. Let's just not forget that the color of racism is white.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


President Lame Duck; Bush Decides Best Course of Action is to Shit In Punchbowl and Leave the Party.

Bush says Iraq pullout up to 'future presidents'
Warns leaving too soon would boost Al Qaeda

By Susan Milligan, Globe Staff | March 22, 2006

WASHINGTON -- President Bush suggested yesterday that US troops might stay in Iraq beyond his presidency, which ends in 2009, saying at a press conference that the issue of removing troops from the country ''will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

The president, responding to aggressive questioning at the hastily arranged morning session, declined to give a timetable for pulling US soldiers out of the increasingly unpopular war. But he warned several times about the danger of a ''premature" withdrawal.

''There's no question that if we were to prematurely withdraw and the march to democracy were to fail, then Al Qaeda would be emboldened," Bush said. ''Terrorist groups would be emboldened. The Islamo-fascists would be emboldened."

Asked whether his comments signaled that a complete pullout would not happen during the three remaining years of his presidency, Bush said the decision would be left up to the generals ''on the ground" in Iraq. Editor's Note: Article 2 section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that "The President Shall Be The Commander In Chief.." What that means Mr. President, is that it's YOUR decision. Not the "Commanders on the Ground." Man the buck doesn't even slow in your office anymore you lame duck fuck.

Bush's comments -- widely seen as an attempt to shift public expectations away from the notion of a quick pullout -- dovetailed with comments yesterday by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, the leading US ally in the war.

''This is not a clash between civilizations, it is a clash about civilization," Blair said, emphasizing that Iraq is just one piece of the larger war on terrorism.

Faced with polls in both countries suggesting growing discontent with the war, British and American leaders have spent this week's third-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion defending their actions. In the United States, the series of speeches by Bush and key members of his administration has been met with impatience over the slow pace of progress and criticism of the administration's poor planning.

Yesterday, the president appeared intense when he was asked to explain why he decided to attack Iraq.

''No president wants war -- everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true," Bush declared, bristling at a question from longtime White House correspondent Helen Thomas, who writes for King Features Syndicate.

He chided Thomas for interrupting him after he repeated his longstanding argument that the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks justified aggressive action in Iraq. While some administration officials have sought to tie Hussein to the attacks, the White House has said the former Iraqi president had nothing to do with them.

Bush did not blame Hussein for the attacks, but he said they led to his decision to ''use every asset at my disposal to protect the American people."

''I'm never going to forget the vow I made to the American people, that we will do everything in our power to protect our people," the president said. ''Part of that meant to make sure that we didn't allow people to provide safe haven to an enemy, and that's why I went into Iraq."

At another point in the press conference -- at almost an hour, one of the longest of Bush's presidency -- he ticked off a series of his legislative victories, including tax cuts, a sweeping energy bill, and the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. But increasingly, those wins on Capitol Hill have been overshadowed by the lingering war, leading some Republicans in this election year to separate themselves from Bush.

A recent CNN-USA Today poll indicated that nearly two-thirds of Americans believed the war will define Bush's presidency, compared with 18 percent who said his tenure will be remembered by the larger war on terrorism. Just 2 percent believed tax cuts would be Bush's enduring legacy.

Further, while 69 percent had said the United States would be ''certain" to win when the Iraq war began three years ago, four in 10 people earlier this month said the country is certain or likely to lose.

Bush yesterday rejected suggestions that Iraq is nearing a civil war. The former interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, recently noted the scores of deaths every day and added, ''If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

But Bush -- while describing Allawi, once a strong supporter of the administration, as ''a good fellow" -- said he did not agree.

''Listen, we all recognize that there is violence, that there's sectarian violence," Bush said. ''But the way I look at the situation is that the Iraqis took a look and decided not to go to civil war."

The president also said he would not stand for any efforts by neighboring Iran to inflame sectarian violence in Iraq. But he added that he was open to talks with Iran on the issue.

Bush stood by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, saying he has ''done a fine job." The president also took a shot at a chief administration critic, Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who is seeking to censure Bush because of what Feingold said is illegal wiretapping of US citizens. The resolution -- which has no cosponsors -- is ''needless partisanship," Bush said.

Democrats hope to capitalize on Bush's low poll numbers in this year's elections, tying GOP congressional candidates to the president. While some Democrats themselves voted to authorize the war in Iraq, many have since announced that they regret their votes and were misled by the administration.

''The American people are slowly coming behind the position that the vast majority of Democrats took in the first place," said Representative Michael E. Capuano, a Somerville Democrat who opposed the war from the start. The war is ''symbolic" of the failures of Republican leadership, he said.

Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democrats would not succeed in defeating GOP candidates by tying them to Bush. ''Each of these individual members is going to articulate their position" on a range of issues, Forti said. ''The Democrats running [against Bush] -- that's not going to work."

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


With Multiple Problems Facing America; Republicans In Congress Decide to Roll Up Their Shirtsleeves. Sort Of.

Lawmakers get out of the House

By Kathy Kiely

WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives is on track this year to be in session for fewer days than the Congress Harry Truman labeled as “do-nothing” during his 1948 re-election campaign.

Members of Congress are taking an entire week off for St. Patrick's Day. It's the latest scheduling innovation to give members more time to meet with constituents.

Through Friday, the House was in session for 19 days, compared with 33 for the Senate. If they stick to their current schedule — including two weeks off in April, a week in May and July, plus all of August — House members will spend 97 days in Washington this year.

The House was in session 108 days in 1948, according to the chamber's archives, compared with 141 days last year.

“This is an election year and people want to see more of their constituents,” says House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

During the first two months of the year, House members logged a total of 47 hours in the Capitol. They took off almost the entire month of January , while the Senate confirmed Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

For both chambers, workweeks have become short in recent years. Roll call votes are seldom scheduled for Mondays or Fridays. In the House, they are often postponed until late Tuesday.

As a result, it's difficult to schedule committee meetings. Some panels meet when Congress is not in session, but not often.

When in Washington, lawmakers do a lot of multitasking. Last week, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., struggled to ready an immigration bill for the full Senate, as panel members drifted in and out of the room. They were juggling a floor debate on the budget and other meetings.

Critics contend Congress needs time to discuss important issues. “The Tuesday-to-Thursday work schedule is a detriment,” says Rep. Dan Lungren, R-Calif., who served five terms in the House during the 1980s and returned last year.

Some experts think an absentee Congress is not bad. “I don't think there's anything wrong with them being out of Washington,” says John Samples of the Cato Institute, a think tank that favors limited government. “They might be better representatives.”

Lawmakers will make $165,200 this year. Leaders earn more.


From Democratic Underground's Top Ten Conservative Idiots.

Think back to all the rosy predictions that Bush administration officials made about Iraq in 2002, and these days one sticks out - Bush's former White House Economic Adviser Lawrence Lindsay was fired in 2002 after estimating the final cost of the Iraq War at $100-200 billion. At the time, stunned administration officials declared that there was no way the war would cost that much, and that the final figure would be closer to $50-60 billion. But even before the war began, some economists were predicting that it could cost as much as $2 trillion.

And guess what? The Bush administration was wrong, and the economists were right. America is currently spending $200 million a day in Iraq, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which is apparently the same as the gross domestic product of Nigeria.

So why did they get it so wrong? If you guess, "because they're idiots," you're right. Not only did the Bush administration obviously want to underplay the projected costs of the war, but it turns out that some Republicans can't even get their heads around the numbers involved. Last week, while discussing the fact that the federal government's debt limit is now nearly $9 trillion, Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) said, "It's hard to understand what a trillion is. I don't know what it is."

Which might not be that big a deal, if it weren't for the fact that Judd Gregg is chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Glory be.

Monday, March 20, 2006


And I thought only people who worked for FOX NEWS pretended to be reporters.

March 18th, 2006 8:18 pm
Advance Workers for Bush Impersonated Reporters

By Christopher Lee / Washington Post

The White House said yesterday that it will discipline two government employees who masqueraded as journalists this month while scouting locations for a presidential visit to the Gulf Coast.

A Mississippi couple whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina said two men who later identified themselves as Secret Service agents pretended to be Fox News journalists when surveying their neighborhood in advance of a March 8 visit from President Bush.

The men arrived on March 3 at the site of the beachfront home that Jerry and Elaine Akins are rebuilding in Gautier, Miss., Elaine Akins said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"They didn't show any cards or anything," Akins said. "They just came up and said they were with the media, and then they said they were with Fox. They just talked to us and asked us about rebuilding our house. Then, after everything was over with, they approached us and they were laughing, and they said: 'You know, we really weren't with Fox. We're government, Secret Service men.' "

Ken Lisaius, a White House spokesman, said the employees were out of bounds.

"This incident has been brought to our attention, and this is clearly not appropriate, nor is it part of our standard operating procedures," he said. "The individuals involved will be verbally reprimanded."

Tom Mazur, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said he did not know who the men were but they were not Secret Service officials.

"I checked with our people down there in Mississippi who were involved in the advance, and it was not Secret Service people who identified themselves as members of the media," Mazur said. "We wouldn't do that."

Asked whether he could confirm where the employees worked, Lisaius simply reiterated his earlier statement. The incident was reported in yesterday's editions of the Biloxi Sun Herald.

Akins said the men were friendly and looked around the home site for about 20 minutes. The following Wednesday, Bush flew to the small, working-class town. He appeared with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) outside the Akins home to call attention to federal efforts to aid in reconstruction.

"Our job and our purpose is to help people like the Akins rebuild," Bush said.

The men eventually revealed their identities and displayed blue lapel pins bearing the presidential seal. Akins said she does not mind that the men temporarily misled her about their identities.

"What could they do?" she said. "They couldn't walk up and tell us who they were, because then we would have been a lot more suspicious about the president coming."

"We didn't know" about Bush's visit "until about an hour before the president actually got there," she added. "I think they handled it great."

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