Saturday, April 30, 2005
So serious is the budget crisis that we will take 10 billion from Medicaid but and get 106 billion in new tax cuts!
The American public has never been crazy about Bush's tax cuts. Never. Rs are crazy about them and think everyone else is, but that is simply not the case.
Everyone is concerned about he budget,......well, almost everyone. We need to hang all these new tax cut around their R necks. The Ds don't talk about this enough. They need to be relentless.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
He has offered to allow 100 hours of debate for each nominee if Ds agree to no filibuster.
Sen Reid, of all people, charicterized this as 'a wet kiss to the far right."
Frist's offer confirms what I've said all along. Frist doesn't have the votes.
There is more, and a rare bit of balance that doesn't often make it into these stories.
Democrats have rejected complaints about their filibusters, noting Republicans blocked about 60 of President Bill Clinton's judicial candidates, preventing most of them from even getting a confirmation hearing.Frist's offer is as silly as the R offer to investigate DeLay in exchange for the Ds agreeing to the new rules that would make sure DeLay would never be investigated.
To address such a problem in the future, Frist proposed a process to ensure that nominees get out of committee and reach the full Senate for a vote.
Frist also again promised that a ban would only apply to judicial filibusters and would not be extended to such roadblocks against legislation and nonjudicial nominees.
Frist has no power to guarantee that nominees from future administrations make it out of Committee.
Frist isn't running for re-election because he is running for Pres. Will he survive until next year as majority leader?
I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when Hastert told his boss, DeLay, that he was going to back down on the ethics rule changes.
Now that it's clear that his controversial private-paid trips abroad will be put under a microscope in Congress, Tom DeLay is in serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules, legal experts say.
Lawyers who specialize in ethics cases believe that the Republican House majority leader from Texas might be in technical breach of at least a few congressional regulations. According to published reports, a registered foreign agent paid for one of DeLay's overseas trips and a registered lobbyist used his credit card to pay for another foreign airfare -- actions the rules prohibit. DeLay may also have accepted gifts that exceeded congressional limits, taken an expense-paid trip overseas for longer than the rules allow and not disclosed all of the benefits he received.
"It appears from news reports that there were aspects of his trips that did not comply with the ethics rules," said Jan W. Baran, a lawyer and ethics expert.
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
The number of serious international terrorist incidents more than tripled last year, according to U.S. government figures, a sharp upswing in deadly attacks that the State Department has decided not to make public in its annual report on terrorism due to Congress this week.
The State Department announced last week that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report. Critics said the move was designed to shield the government from questions about the success of its effort to combat terrorism by eliminating what amounted to the only year-to-year benchmark of progress.
Although the State Department said the data would still be made public by the new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which prepares the information, officials at the center said no decision to publish the statistics has been made.
The controversy comes a year after the State Department retracted its annual terrorism report and admitted that its initial version vastly understated the number of incidents. That became an election-year issue, as Democrats said the Bush administration tried to inflate its success in curbing global terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.
If Bolton doesn't get passed out of Committee with all Rs on board, they won't force a floor vote. Bolton will just remove himself from consideration "so the President can gt back to the peoples business."
Things have gone so bad for the Rs since November that no one believes them anymore. There are the bully that has been exposed to be nothing but a big gas bag.
So assuming he dodges indictment, DeLay should stay in his post for 18 months, until the 2006 midterm elections. Even if his legendary gerrymandering has made it unlikely that the Democrats will regain control of Congress, at least the voters—who now, finally, have heard of this guy—would have a clearer decision about where the country should go. His potential successors are all just as conservative as DeLay, but they seem colorless and would thus fuzz up the choice. The midterms should be a referendum on DeLay's America. Stay on the right fringe or move toward the center? Let the people decide.
WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, leading a Republican retreat, said Wednesday he stands ready to scrap controversial new ethics rules, possibly by day's end.Things really aren't going well for the GOP Leadership.
"I'm willing to step back," Hastert told reporters after a closed-door meeting with members of the GOP rank and file.
Later, in a brief Capitol interview, he said he expected the full House to vote on reversing the rules. Asked whether that would take place later in the day, he replied, "I hope so."
How much longer does the Grand Ayatolla DeLay have as majority leader?
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
DeLay Woes Prompt Rush to Refile Forms
Members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records, fearing that the controversy over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will trigger an ethics war that will bring greater scrutiny to their own travel and official activities.
Some offices have sharply limited staff travel, and some members are not traveling at all because of the intense review they believe they will face in coming months.
Lawmakers are paying old restaurant bills, filing missing forms and correcting erroneous ones as journalists and political opponents comb through records and DeLay (R-Tex.) attempts to answer questions about travel financing and his past relationships with lobbyists.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wrote to the Federal Election Commission on April 15 to report that he had discovered that the Washington restaurant Signatures had not charged his credit card -- as he said he had directed -- for a 2003 fundraiser for 16 people that cost $1,846. The event was hosted by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist and part-owner of the restaurant who is now under congressional and criminal investigation for his handling of millions of dollars in fees from Indian tribes. Abramoff was not at the event.
But by a 2 to 1 ratio, the public rejected easing Senate rules in a way that would make it harder for Democratic senators to prevent final action on Bush's nominees. Even many Republicans were reluctant to abandon current Senate confirmation procedures: Nearly half opposed any rule changes, joining eight in 10 Democrats and seven in 10 political independents, the poll found.The polling on this is remarkably consistent and remarkably bad for the Rs.
The next several days should be interesting.
In an interview with USAToday, Rove says he's opposed to any compromise on the "nuclear option" that would involve anything less than up-or-down floor votes on every one of the president's judicial nominees.
Rove's point: The president has already compromised. "Rove said Bush tried to end the stalemate when he renominated just seven of the 10 nominees who had been blocked last year," USAToday reports. Those obstructionist Democrats didn't reciprocate. "I saw no change in tone," Rove said. "The flamethrowers ... came out within moments."
It's a nice story Rove tells about the president's attempt to make peace with the Democrats; it's just not exactly true. When the White House announced in December that Bush would re-nominate the seven judges, White House officials told the New York Times that Bush had offered all of the stalled judges the chance to be re-nominated. Two of them, Carolyn Kuhl and Claude Allen, declined. A third, Charles Pickering, who Bush had placed on the Fifth Circuit through a recess appointment, chose to retire rather than seek Senate confirmation again.
And of course, the lefties are freaking out.
So I want to repeat what I wrote last night. Even though the public is on our side on this filibuster issue, their support is not endless. Just how long would the Ds have to shut down the Senate in retaliation? The only thing shorter than the public's patients is its memory, and eventually, as the memory of the R overreach fades frustration that the Senate is closed for business will build. And we can expect the Rs to raise all sorts of "emergencies" that will go unresolved because of obstructionist Ds. And once the anger over the end to judicial filibusters fades into anger over Ds holding up government, the public really won't care about the judicial filibuster again and we will have lost it forever with most of Bush's second term to go.
Josh gets it right,
A deal that would let most of the seven judges go through in exchange for assurances that would allow Senate Republicans to try to go nuclear again six months from now would be a disaster.
A deal that would allow perhaps the two least egregious judges to go through in exchange for taking the nuclear option off the table for good might not be a bad deal at all.
The Bush admin wants to kill Amtrak and those on the Eastern Seaboard want to save it. The New York Times wants to save it too.
The Sunday NYTs had a lengthy piece the Acela highspeed train that has turned into a fiasco. Acela was designed to save Amtrak and would do just that but for typical bureaucratic screw-ups that took a perfectly good train and doubled its weight for "safety sake" never minding that there was no evidence it wasn't safe 'as is.'
At least a part of Amtrak has to be saved and much of it needs to be scraped. For instance, we need to maintain and improve rail service along the route between Washington and Boston that is heavily traveled. Likewise, on routes throughout much of the rest of the country, we need to give up. I and my friends travel often from St Louis to Chicago, but no one takes the train. no one. It's slow,inefficient and expensive, and this is true for nearly every Amtrak route.
The requirement the Rs want to place on Amtrak that it be self sufficient is just their way of killing it. no mass transit is self-sufficient. Air travel isn't self sufficient. When was the last time private money built an airport and who pays for security and the FAA? Ticket surcharges don't cover it. And we subsidize highway travel heavily as well. And, as the Times notes, post Sept 11, it seems clear good alternatives to air travel are in the public interest.
Highspeed travel along the Eastern seaboard makes good since and is a green alternative to driving and flying. And for those of us who fly often, it is obvious that our air system is very near capacity for efficient, on-time air travel.
Coast to coast rail travel should be gone forever. It's a black hole of money. But when Acela is straightened out, it could and should be expanded across on the country on heavily traveled routes, like St Louis to Chicago, or San Diego, LA and San Fran. If I could take a train from St Louis to Chicago reliably in 4 hours or less, I'd take it every time, for the convenience of not dealing with airports or driving, and arriving in downtown.
And to some extent, govt dollars spent on rail are dollars not spent subsidizing air travel or highway travel.
Amtrak needs to be fixed, but not ended.
Monday, April 25, 2005
But I can't remember the last time I linked to him. And Sunday's column is a perfect example of why. He's become nothing but a tool who hasn't been relevant for several years now. The world has passed him by.
The WaPo editor called Sunday's column A Judicious Compromise. But Josh found the column carried in the Quad Cities Times with the more apt title, Democrats Should Back Down.
Broder is such a tool. Why on earth should he expect the Ds to back down? Every single poll has shown that the public is on the side of the Ds on this. But more importantly, Broder knows perfectly well that the Rs are the ones on the wrong side of this issue.
Broder should have written a column pointing out that that Rs have pushed too far on a number of recent issues including this, lost the public on all these issues and need to back away from the brink. That their moving forward would destroy 200 years of tradition because they are not satisfied with 95% approval of Bush's judicial nominees and want to ram through literally 7 judges that even most Rs agree are extreme. That the Rs must remember they have recently been in the minority and will again. That now is the time for the Rs to reestablish themselves in the publics mind as capable of reasonable leadership. It's a NO FREAKING BRAINER!
But that's not the column Broder wrote. Broder wants the Ds to save the Rs from themselves so they can have an unprecedented 100% of their judicial appointees despite their despicable treatment of many times more of Clinton nominees. To save them from collapse from their own hubris and failed leaders. The Ds must hand the bully a victory.
Why, David, Why?
There is a down side, to be sure, for the Ds to shut down the Senate. While the Ds have the public now, it won't last forever. How long do the Ds plan to shut down the Senate? Although the public will initially blame the Rs, their patients is as short as their memory.
In fact, it was Trent Lott who coined the phrase that was quickly embraced by his party,....like "private accounts." And like "private accounts" it didn't play well in focus groups so they are not only running from the term, but deliberately trying to mislead the public into thinking it was a Democratic term.
Media Matters has really spent a lot of time on this.
Frankly, I think we are making way too much of this. But, since the Rs are running from this term as fast as they can, we need to make sure the term is hung on their necks like an albatross,...if for no other reason than because they look so silly running from it.
Every time on of ours is head to head with an R and they attempt to hang that term on us we need to throw it in their face and mock them into submission for being so shallow. And, that would also be the perfect opportunity to get in a few shots on "private accounts", etc.
The Rs are very good at making their opponents look silly and we need to do a better job of the same. This is a perfect opportunity.
DeLay Airfare Was Charged To Lobbyist's Credit Card
The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.The problem,
DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.
House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting travel and related expenses from registered lobbyists. DeLay, who is now House majority leader, has said that his expenses on this trip were paid by a nonprofit organization and that the financial arrangements for it were proper. He has also said he had no way of knowing that any lobbyist might have financially supported the trip, either directly or through reimbursements to the nonprofit organization.The solution. There isn't a good one for the bug man. His hand-packed ethics committee can't conveign to white-wash his lapses using the rule changes he rammed through,.. leaving him twisting in the wind.
For some reason, the entries at the far right both say "United". The first "United" is the UK and the second, most expensive, is the US. Click on the chart to enlarge.
That's right, we spend more than twice as much as most of our friends, yet we cover a much lower percentage of our people and have a higher rates of illness and death for preventable diseases. Something this shameful should be a scandal, yet even acknowledging these obvious facts is considered anti-American in some circles.It's a GD scandal.
So what are we going to do about it?
Friday, April 22, 2005
I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute -- where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote -- where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference -- and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.-- John F. Kennedy, address to the Ministerial Association of Greater Houston, September 12, 1960, from Albert J. Menendez and Edd Doerr, The Great Quotations on Religious Freedom
I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish -- where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches, or any other ecclesiastical source -- where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials -- and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.
Josh says Grassley is going to use the Finance Comm hearings next week to actually draft a Soc Security phase-out bill. Apparently the Rs have decided that if they actually had a plan of their own, they might be able to get more support.
Josh isn't so certain. He questions if Grassley will even be able to get a bill out of Committee.
Go read Josh.
The fact is these people mean business and are waging a holy war against a secular society.
You moderate Rs can make all the excusses you want, but the evangelicals have your leadership by the balls, and their squeezing tight. Just look at who is 'calling the tune' on the legislative agenda. What "moderate" legislation are they pursuing?
And how's it working out for you guys?
LATs has the latest,
WASHINGTON — Evangelical Christian leaders, who have been working closely with senior Republican lawmakers to place conservative judges in the federal courts, have also been exploring ways to punish sitting jurists and even entire courts viewed as hostile to their cause.
An audio recording obtained by the Los Angeles Times features two of the nation's most influential evangelical leaders, at a private conference with supporters, laying out strategies to rein in judges, such as stripping funding from their courts in an effort to hinder their work.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat, and there's more than one way to take a black robe off the bench," said Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council, according to an audiotape of a March 17 session. The tape was provided to The Times by the advocacy group Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
DeLay has spoken generally about one of the ideas the leaders discussed in greater detail: using legislative tactics to withhold money from courts.
"We set up the courts. We can unset the courts. We have the power of the purse," DeLay said at an April 13 question-and-answer session with reporters.
Ezra Klein has done a tremendious primer on the way several of our "Western industrialized" friends do healthcare.
I have previously linked to his rundown on France.
England is here,
Canada here, and finally,
The quiz will be next week.
WASHINGTON, April 21 - President Bush on Thursday issued a strong new defense of John R. Bolton, his nominee as ambassador to the United Nations. But associates of Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, said he had expressed reservations about Mr. Bolton in conversations with at least two wavering Republican senators.The WaPo has the story as well. There clearly is an agenda to these leaks from "Republican sources"(my guess would be Chafee and Hagle wanting cover for switching their votes to "no").
The associates said Mr. Powell, in private telephone conversations, had made clear his concerns about Mr. Bolton on several fronts, including his harsh treatment of subordinates.
The associates said Mr. Powell had also praised Mr. Bolton's performance on some matters during his tenure as under secretary of state, but they said Mr. Powell had stopped well short of the endorsements offered by Mr. Bush and by Mr. Powell's own successor, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The accounts of Mr. Powell's private messages about Mr. Bolton suggested a new gulf between the former secretary of state and Mr. Bush.
The WaPo lede,
Former secretary of state Colin L. Powell is emerging as a behind-the-scenes player in the battle over John R. Bolton's nomination as ambassador to the United Nations, privately telling at least two key Republican lawmakers that Bolton is a smart but very problematic government official, according to Republican sources.As for Powell? I think Josh sums it up
Powell spoke in recent days with Sens. Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Chuck Hagel (Neb.), two of three GOP senators on the Foreign Relations Committee who have raised concerns about Bolton's confirmation, the sources said. Powell did not advise the senators to oppose Bolton, but offered a frank assessment of the nominee as a man who was challenging to work with on personnel and policy matters, according to two people familiar with the conversations.
On Powell and Bolton, the former's critics will, quite fairly, point out that Powell waited until Bolton's nomination had sustained what were quite probably fatal knocks before choosing to go public -- when the costs and risks were low and the potential pay-off high. Sort of the Powell Doctrine applied to Washington politics, you might say.As for Bolton? If his nomination wasn't dead before, it is now.
To end the rule allowing the filibuster of a judicial nominee, the Rs need 50 votes, plus Cheney, who could break a tie. The Ds are united on this.
According the NYTs Chafee and McCain are clearly on records as not supporting the rule change, and from Snowe's comments, I think she is a safe vote too.
The Carpetbagger says that according to Roll Call, there are seven senators still on the fence Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Hagel (Neb.), Dick Lugar (Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Olympia Snowe (Maine), Arlen Specter (Pa.), and John Warner (Va.).
Lugar, has since taken himself off the fence and will vote with Frist. And I think Murkowski will too.
The NYTs piece quotes Warner, "I just look at this institution as really the last bastion of protecting the rights of the minority, and we should be very careful before we try and make any changes. "
And Susan Collins, per the Times, believes Dems are" abusing" the filibuster, but said, "I am concerned about the impact on the Senate of trying to put through a change that does not represent a consensus. "
Assuming this reported info is accurate, I count 48 votes with the Ds. That means they need 3 of the remaining fence sitters to vote with them to hold the rule. Santorum getting cold feet gives cover to to these folks.
Although Santorum's cold feet may keep this from coming to a vote, I think the bungling Frist has backed himself into a corner and is under enormious pressure from the Xtian Right. And I don't think he has the votes.
Watching this play out will be very interesting.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
On successive days in mid-November 2002, Tom DeLay was elected House majority leader, replacing the retired Dick Armey, and Nancy Pelosi was chosen as the House Democrats’ leader, succeeding Dick Gephardt. One of those had amassed a capable but relatively quiet record of service in the House of Representatives, stirring controversy only once (by supporting the primary opponent of a longtime congressional incumbent from Michigan). The other had called the Environmental Protection Agency “the Gestapo of government”; had denounced the Nobel Chemistry Prize, after it was given to the discoverers of the link between chloroﬂuorocarbons and ozone depletion, as the “Nobel Appeasement Prize”; had called CNN the “Communist News Network”; had linked the Columbine High School shootings to birth control and day care; had avoided military service during the height of the Vietnam War in 1969 (reportedly explaining, in 1988, that so many minority youths were going after those well-paying military gigs that there was no room for good folk like himself); had led a fanatical crusade to force votes on articles of impeachment against a president with an approval rating above 70 percent; and had been rebuked (privately) by the House Ethics Committee for attacking a business trade group for daring to hire a former Democratic congressman as its president.(via Atrios)
Here is a taste,
The book's genesis is conversation Friedman has with Nandan Nilekani, the CEO of Infosys. Nilekani causally mutters to Friedman: "Tom, the playing field is being leveled." To you and me, an innocent throwaway phrase--the level playing field being, after all, one of the most oft-repeated stock ideas in the history of human interaction. Not to Friedman. Ten minutes after his talk with Nilekani, he is pitching a tent in his company van on the road back from the Infosys campus in Bangalore:
As I left the Infosys campus that evening along the road back to Bangalore, I kept chewing on that phrase: "The playing field is being leveled."
What Nandan is saying, I thought, is that the playing field is being flattened... Flattened? Flattened? My God, he's telling me the world is flat!
This is like three pages into the book, and already the premise is totally fucked. Nilekani said level, not flat. The two concepts are completely different. Level is a qualitative idea that implies equality and competitive balance; flat is a physical, geographic concept that Friedman, remember, is openly contrasting--ironically, as it were--with Columbus's discovery that the world is round.
The Committee can't conduct business until it formally oraganizes and the Rs can't do it without the Ds.
According to The Hill, 4 of the 5 R members of the evenly divided committee have offered an investigation of DeLay if the Ds will relent and allow the Committee to formally organize,....under the new rules.
The Ds see this for the ploy that it is. The Rs want to organize for the sole purpose of clearing DeLay, which the Ds will not allow them to do. Needless to say, this is really pissing the Rs off. They went to all the trouble to pack the Committee and fire any Rs that wouldn't goose-step with them for the sole purpose of whitewashing DeLay.
Once organized under the new rules the Rs would simply withdraw support for the DeLay investigation which would cause the 'charges' to be dropped, with DeLay then insisting he all the ethics charges against him have been dropped for lack of evidence.
The Hill reports,
Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), a leading advocate of the nuclear option to end the Democrats filibuster of judicial nominees, is privately arguing for a delay in the face of adverse internal party polls.Santorum, who is up for relection next year, is perhaps the leading advocate of going nuclear. His balking will likely prevent the Rs from moving forward.
Details of the polling numbers remain under wraps, but Santorum and other Senate sources concede that, while a majority of Americans oppose the filibuster, the figures show that most also accept the Democratic message that Republicans are trying to destroy the tradition of debate in the Senate.
The Republicans are keeping the nuclear poll numbers secret, whereas they have often in the past been keen to release internal survey results that favor the party.
I continue to believe they don't have the votes.
And is it just me or is the R Congressional leadership in complete disarray? They have just re-won the WH and increased their control of both houses of Congress, and what do they have to show for it?
Look for the whispering campaign against Frist to start up very soon.
A taxpayer might ask what the pending "emergency" budget bill dedicated to paying for the Iraq war has to do with oil drilling in Mississippi, flood repairs in Utah and a stadium for Washington's new baseball team. The answer is that the expensive war effort provides fast and reliable, if shameful, cover for these goodies and more. Approval of the spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan seemed so certain in the Senate that unscrupulous members of Congress larded it with favored boondoggle projects that would get booted if put to a vote on their own merits.Sen Thad Cochran (R - Miss), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, called this bill "a straightforward bill" that "meets the needs of our fighting forces overseas" and "addresses emergency requirements here at home."
The Bush administration is the enabler, locked in the shock-and-awe stage of budgeting as it demands an additional $80 billion from a compliant Congress without including these huge expenses in the normal budget process.
Indeed. And where was the D leadership on this?
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
Their quarterly report tracks a number of indicators using 1/1/2001 as a baseline. It is nothing short of an indictment of the Bush administration. Check it out.
U.S. Taxpayers' Quarterly Report - Center for American Progress
April 19, 2005
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Thank you for your letter yesterday regarding judicial nominations. I assume that your reply to my March 15 letter is not a substitute for Senator Frist’s promise over a month ago to offer a compromise for resolving this issue. Democrats anxiously await that proposal.
I wholeheartedly agree with you that there is much important work to be done in the Senate. That is why it is so baffling that Republicans would precipitate this destructive confrontation over the Senate’s decision to reject a small number of judicial nominees. As you well know, the Senate has confirmed 205 of President Bush’s judicial candidates and turned back only ten, a 95% confirmation rate. Ten rejected judges – only seven of whom are currently before the Senate – does not seem reason enough for Republicans to break the Senate rules, violate over 200 years of Senate tradition and thereby impair the ability of Democrats and Republicans to work together on issues of real concern to the American people.
For example, you are absolutely right that “our transportation infrastructure needs improving.” That is why I issued a public call last week for the Senate to take up the highway bill. Once we finish the supplemental appropriations bill, the Majority Leader has a clear choice: if he moves to proceed to the highway bill he can allow us to do the work that the American people sent us here to do. If, on the other hand, he chooses to launch what Senator Lott dubbed “the nuclear option,” it will be clear that the Republican agenda is not based on the needs of the American people but rather on the demands of radical ideological elements in the Republican Party base.
I am committed to resolving the dispute over judicial nominations amicably. The first step in that process should be for the Majority Leader to abandon his proposal to break the Senate rules. We should not negotiate under a nuclear cloud.
Other analysts, though, said GM could be holding back as part of its negotiations on healthcare costs with the United Auto Workers. Last week, the union said it had no intention of revising its current labor contract to help the automaker lower medical expenses but would do what it could within the agreement to help lower costs.This passing on of cost, is the solution we get from Rs.
GM has warned that its U.S. healthcare costs could grow to $5.8 billion this year. Making things look as bleak as possible would help GM persuade the union to pass on some of the company's healthcare costs to its hourly workers, analysts said.
When will our elected leaders start asking serious questions about why we pay so much for healthcare?
Tom DeLay told supporters...that he has "never been found to have violated any law or rule by anyone" despite numerous allegations.Um, what about those 3 reprimands by Ethics Committee that resulted in R Joe Hefley from CO being ousted as chair? Those were because of violations of "rules".
"Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction, and the criminalization of politics,"...
"They hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda."
I'm always amused to hear DeLay complain about the "politics of personal destruction" given his famous and unashamed affection for Bill Clinton.
The House this week will consider $8 billion in tax breaks targeted to the energy industry at a time when some of those companies are enjoying soaring profits from high consumer prices.
The vast majority of the tax breaks would benefit companies that produce and supply traditional forms of energy, with a large portion going to the oil and natural gas sector.
csmonitor.com has a run-down on them.
Things have gone so badly for Frist, that I'm wondering matters won't be "rescheduled" to delay this from coming to a head. Frist has lost every major confrontation with Senate Ds with Bolton only being the latest embarrassment.
I'm also wondering if his bungling won't cost Frist his job as Majority Leader.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
The answer is simple: It just got interesting.
There is no question that Bolton is a major creep as even most Rs would attest. But I just assume he would sail through like so many others before him, and my outrage is just about used up.
I try not to waist my limited resources of lost causes and Bolton was just that until Sen Voinovich revealed to a stunned world that there is an R on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with integrity.
Many on the left insist that we will go to a single payer system when companies like GM demand it. I'm not so sure. Maybe companies like GM will be so idealogically opposed to such a system that they will just cut healthcare cost by cutting those insured.
In any event, for now it seems the HSA is the latest panacea for Healthcare coverage. Everyone tells me it's the greatest thing in the world. I'm very skeptical, but intend to learn more about it.
Something amazing happened at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this afternoon. In nearly 30 years of watching Congress, off and on, I can't remember anything quite like it.....
The new allegations (click here for some details) are terrible in two senses. First, they make Bolton look like a thin-skinned creep who tolerates no disagreement from anyone around him. This is not an ideal quality for a diplomat, but by itself it probably wouldn't be enough to put off Bush. Everyone who knows Bolton has known this about him from the beginning.
The second factor is the key. An extended investigation can only make things worse. Every time there's been a delay, more and more bad stuff has come out about this guy; more and more officials, present and former, have mustered the courage to come forth and tell more. Beyond that, Bolton faces possible charges of perjury. In his day of hearings earlier this month, he made statements to the committeeunder oaththat, given what has been learned since, can only be called lies. If he goes back to the committee two weeks from now, he will be asked about those statements; they will be contrasted with statements, also made under oath, by a half-dozen other people. How do you reconcile these contradictions, Mr. Secretary? The thing is, he can't.
Wouldn't it be interesting if instead of going to the UN, Bolton ended up going to prison for lying to Congress?
Now, maybe not. Today, as the Rs tried to push him out of committee on a party line vote, while cowardly Lincoln Chaffee shook in his seat, Sen Voinovich (R - OH) pulled his support at the last minute and Hagel jumped on board. The Ds have been united.
This may be nothing more than a setback and he may yet be voted out, but it is a real blow to Bolton, the WH and the R leadership who used every parliamentary trick (as did the Ds) today.
Steve Clemons at The Washington Note is the go to guy on this. Every other blogger on our side gets his info from Steve.
A friend today had an interesting observation after having watched FDR - A Presidency Revealed on the History Channel.
He noted the striking similarity between FDR and G-dub, in the way both after re-election set out on a national tour expending huge amounts of political capital to sell a very unpopular initiative. Neither could admit to themselves that their pet plan was a really bad idea nor accept that the plan was doomed to failure. For FDR is was the infamous Court packing plan. For G-dub, of course, it is his Social Security phase-out.
I'll be more blunt than Mr. Cohen and say that Justice Scalia is as big a whore as there is on the court. I've had the pleasure of meeting Justice Scalia on two occasions when visiting the Supreme Court in a delegation from the Illinois State Bar Association (Justice Scalia spent several years in Chicago and is very kind and friendly to the ISBA) and can tell you that he is one charming SOB. It was a real pleasure to meet him and chat with him, albeit very briefly both times. And by all accounts, he's extremely bright. But he's also a schill and he knows it.
...When conservatives complain about activist judges, they talk about gay marriage and defendants' rights. But they do not mention the 11th Amendment, which has been twisted beyond its own plain words into a states' rights weapon to throw minorities, women and the disabled out of federal court.
The 11th Amendment says federal courts cannot hear lawsuits against a state brought by "Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." But it's been interpreted to block suits by a state's own citizens - something it clearly does not say. How to get around the Constitution's express words? In a 1991 decision, Justice Scalia wrote that "despite the narrowness of its terms," the 11th Amendment has been understood by the court "to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition of our constitutional structure which it confirms." If another judge used that rationale to find rights in the Constitution, Justice Scalia's reaction would be withering....
Justice Scalia likes to boast that he follows his strict-constructionist philosophy wherever it leads, even if it leads to results he disagrees with. But it is uncanny how often it leads him just where he already wanted to go. In his view, the 14th Amendment prohibits Michigan from using affirmative action in college admissions, but lets Texas make gay sex a crime. (The Supreme Court has held just the opposite.) He is dismissive when inmates invoke the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to challenge prison conditions. But he is supportive when wealthy people try to expand the "takings clause" to block the government from regulating their property.
The classic example of conservative inconsistency remains Bush v. Gore. Not only did the court's conservative bloc trample on the Florida state courts and stop the vote counting - it declared its ruling would not be a precedent for future cases. How does Justice Scalia explain that decision? In a recent New Yorker profile, he is quoted as saying, with startling candor, that "the only issue was whether we should put an end to it, after three weeks of looking like a fool in the eyes of the world." That, of course, isn't a constitutional argument - it is an unapologetic defense of judicial activism.
When it comes to judicial activism, conservative judges are no better than liberal ones - and, it must be said, no worse. If conservatives are going to continue their war on the judiciary, though, they should be honest. They do not want to get rid of judicial activists, a standard that would bring down even Justice Scalia. They want to rid the courts of judges who disagree with them.
The American Progress Action Fund has a good rundown.
But two things seem clear to me: (1) those attempting to handicap the Papal race don't know anything either.
(2) The press is all abuzz with reports that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul II’s hard-line defender of church doctrine, and right-hand man at the Vatican, had 50 to 60 of the 77 votes needed locked up and was the clear front runner.
This much I do know. It won't be Ratzinger. Everybody knows that in every institution, the guys in the field hate the guys at corporate. Ratzinger is exactly that. He is the guy from corporate who told them what to do and what to think and always spoke in the name of JP. When JP was running the show that had to suck up to Ratzinger to get along and advance, but JP's gone and it's the guys in the field who get to pick his successor by secret ballot.
They're not picking some bully from corporate.
It doesn't help that the Bushies and the GOP have no intention of doing anything to at least begin to alleviate the problem. Instead they seek to exploit this crisis to win favorable legislation exempting some of their biggest donors from civil liability.
Many in the blog world point to France as a possible model for the US. I know nothing about French healthcare,..except that they spend LESS per capita on healthcare than we do (even the French Gov't spends less per person than the US Govt!).
Here is what Kevin thinks at The Washington Monthly.
The reason for highlighting France is that it's a big, diverse country (unlike, say, Denmark, which wouldn't be a fair model for a country the size of the United States); its healthcare system is very highly regarded; and the way it's run is well suited to American temperaments.Kevin and I think you should go to Ezra Klein's page for details of the French system. Ezra is an immensely talented young man well on his way to becoming a famous journalist.
By "well suited," what I mean is that it's not a super-centralized system like the NHS in Britain. Rather, doctors operate privately; their basic fees are set at low levels by the government but can be increased if the market will bear it; patients can choose any doctor they like; and the government pays only 75% of all normal costs (though longer hospital stays and expensive operations are covered at higher rates). There are lots more details, of course, but that's the basic outline, and it's the kind of thing that appeals to American sensibilities.
And it works pretty well. French healthcare is excellent, waiting lists are short, the supply of doctors is high, overall costs are reasonable, and patient satisfaction levels are excellent. It couldn't be transplanted whole into the United States, of course — doctors are paid considerably more here, for one thing — but it's a pretty good model for what we could accomplish.
I don't know enough to say that the French model is the way to go, but as responsible citizens we all need to be thinking about this and forming opinions as to how our current healthcare delivery system can be improved.
The time for a national debate is long overdue, and we have to stop hidding in assumptions we have that our healthcare system is the envy of the world. It's not. And when people tell you it is, ask them what makes them think so.
Monday, April 18, 2005
You've no doubt heard about the various rules changes and the Ds refusing to allow the Committee to convene in protest to those changes. This article will bring you up to speed.
The bottom line: Grand Ayatollah ("GA") DeLay has stacked the committee in his favor by firing the R chairman Joe Hefley of CO who disagreed with the Grand Ayatollah and allowed him to be reprimanded 3 times last year. Stacking the Committee is key for GA DeLay because 1 of the 3 rules changes made without consulting the Ds requires the dismissal of a complaint if a majority of the panel cannot agree on how to proceed after 45 days. So, with an evenly divided Committee, the Rs voting in a block can prevent any action from the Committee. GA DeLay has now made sure he owns each R member of the Committee thus immunizing himself from any future criticism. Of course, the Ds have seen through this and refuse to aqueous, thus the stalemate.
There is also great concern over a change in the number of clients one lawyer can represent before the committee in one investigation. Joe Hefley, among others, is very troubled by this as the NYTs explains. The bottom line: concern for coordinated -- perjured -- testimony to the Committee.
But what interested me most was a passage that allowed me, for the first time, to fully understand why the Grand Ayatollah put the hit on R Chairman Hefley,
When Representative Tom DeLay appeared last year before an ethics panel investigating bribery accusations surrounding a Medicare vote, lawmakers conducting the confidential inquiry let him know they had collected substantial sworn testimony about what took place.What a humbling experience that had to be for a Grand Ayatollah. I laugh out loud when I think about how angry this treatment must have made that felonious gas bag.
What they did not tell Mr. DeLay, the majority leader, was exactly what they knew, giving them added leverage as they questioned him.
Mr. DeLay, speaking under oath, then gave a candid account of how he offered to endorse, in a primary election, the son of a Republican congressman in exchange for the congressman's vote on a prescription drug bill, confirming the exchange that was at the heart of one of Mr. DeLay's three ethics admonishments last year.
So is there is a Federal bribery investigation of this?
It's good to be the Grand Ayatollah.
ITHACA, New York (AP) -- Not just anybody can say he has a slime-mold beetle named in his honor. But George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld can.Thanks to Heather for the tip.
Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary.
The monikers: Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler, and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.
You may have hard the story before. People must deal with these things in their own way, as is their right, but I agree with Atrios; I thinks it's really creepy.
In his Senate office, on a shelf next to an autographed baseball, Sen. Rick Santorum keeps a framed photo of his son Gabriel Michael, the fourth of his seven children. Named for two archangels, Gabriel Michael was born prematurely, at 20 weeks, on Oct. 11, 1996, and lived two hours outside the womb.As I said, this isn't a new story. Apparently, at some point, Karen Santorum's doctor raised the prospect of an abortion -- what is often termed 'a partial birth abortion' given her advanced pregnancy.
Upon their son's death, Rick and Karen Santorum opted not to bring his body to a funeral home. Instead, they bundled him in a blanket and drove him to Karen's parents' home in Pittsburgh. There, they spent several hours kissing and cuddling Gabriel with his three siblings, ages 6, 4 and 1 1/2. They took photos, sang lullabies in his ear and held a private Mass.
He and Karen brought Gabriel's body home so their children could "absorb and understand that they had a brother," Santorum says. "We wanted them to see that he was real," not an abstraction, he says. Not a "fetus," either, as Rick and Karen were appalled to see him described -- "a 20-week-old fetus" -- on a hospital form. They changed the form to read "20-week-old baby."
Karen Santorum, a former nurse, wrote letters to her son during and after her pregnancy. She compiled them into a book, "Letters to Gabriel," a collection of prayers, Bible passages and a chronicle of the prenatal complications that led to Gabriel's premature delivery. At one point, her doctor raised the prospect of an abortion, an "option" Karen ridicules. "Letters to Gabriel" also derides "pro-abortion activists" and decries the "infanticide" of "partial-birth abortion," the legality of which Rick Santorum was then debating in the Senate. The book reads, in places, like a call to action.Now, flash back to 1996. Atrios has this story from Knight Ridder that I had not heard before,
"When the partial-birth abortion vote comes to the floor of the U.S. Senate for the third time," Karen writes to Gabriel, "your daddy needs to proclaim God's message for life with even more strength and devotion to the cause."
Last fall, Santorum, a Pennsylvania Republican who is the leading proponent of barring the procedure - termed ''partial-birth abortion'' by its foes - was within hours of having to decide whether to use an abortion to save the life of his wife, Karen Garver Santorum, who was in her fifth month of pregnancy.In my limited experience, it seems that the anti-abortion folks are only opposed to abortions by those not in their immediate family (a pregnant 15 year old daughter can change one's opinion quickly). I understand that their are many people who for religious or other reasons are sincere in their opposition to abortion. I took the Santorums at their word, and believed they were sincere in their beliefs. Now it seems, just like so many others, their views change when it is they that must make 'a choice'. But don't let that stop them from sitting in judgment of everyone else, or denying them the right to make such a choice.
Ultimately, they did not have to make a decision; nature made it for them. Karen went into premature labor brought on by infection, delivering a boy who had a fatal abnormality. The child died two hours later.
In an interview, the Santorums said they would have authorized an abortion had there been no other choice.
Karen Santorum wouldn't die on that awful October day in 1996, but they want to make sure other mothers would.
It's earning season so who knows what this week will bring.
The NYTs writes about this today if you have any interest.
Saturday, April 16, 2005
WASHINGTON - The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.These people really are unbelievable.
Last year, the number of incidents in 2003 was undercounted, forcing a revision of the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism."
But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered "Patterns of Global Terrorism" eliminated several weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.
"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry C. Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.
So what are we going to do about it?
(via Mathew Gross)
In the same week that the House voted to permanently repeal the estate tax, 44 House Republicans broke with their leaders to demand that as much as $20 billion in Medicaid savings be stricken from the budget.
The twin moves raise new questions about Congress's willingness to tackle the budget deficit....
"There was a lot of talk at the beginning of this year that the switch to big-budget conservatism was finally over," said Maya MacGuineas, executive director of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "But it looks like Congress may not have the stomach."
President Bush and congressional Republicans have vowed to cut the deficit in half over the next four years, but new data indicate that little progress has been made. Halfway through fiscal 2005, the federal government recorded a deficit of $291 billion, the Congressional Budget Office reported this month. That is just $10 billion less than last year's figure when the government was on its way to a record $412 billion deficit. Tax receipts -- buoyed by economic growth -- have risen over last year's levels, but spending increases have nearly kept pace.
And Congress will soon approve an emergency spending package for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan amounting to $80 billion, which will exacerbate the problem.
Friday, April 15, 2005
And, Ayatollah Frist wants the party's nomination in 2008.
One of his many major blunders since the election was to draw a line in the sand on the Nuclear Option. I've always maintained that he doesn't have the votes and I haven't read anything that has convinced me otherwise.
And we have now seen the independant public opinion polling that has told us that even 40% of the R think it a bad idea.
But what's a Grand Ayatollah to do? From today's WaPo
Some independent analysts say that Frist -- a comparative newcomer to politics who unexpectedly gained the majority leader's post in early 2003 -- has created his own dilemma, and his handling of it will be an sign of whether he has the skills to seriously vie for the White House.He doesn't have the votes and he can feel the blood rushing from his political life.
"I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don't see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger," said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. In terms of a presidential race, Cook said, "it hurts if he doesn't come up with the votes. But it also hurts him if the Senate comes to a grinding halt and can't get anything done. I think the guy's in a real jam."
Conservative activists are giving Frist little wiggle room. "If Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist hopes to capture the Republican nomination for president in 2008, then he has to see to it that the Bush judicial nominees are confirmed," Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, wrote in a recent article. "If he fails, then he is dead as a presidential wannabe."
Frist had mixed results yesterday in his scramble to find 50 Republicans who will promise to vote for the rule change (Vice President Cheney could break a 50-50 tie in Frist's favor). Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) said he will side with his party's leader, but Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told MSNBC, "I will vote against the nuclear option . . . because we won't always be in the majority."
Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
In the last half-century, conservative politicians have mounted three dramatically different attacks on the federal judiciary. The first attack, in which they emphasized the need for judicial restraint, was principled and coherent. The second, which called on judges to consider the original meaning of the Constitution, was more radical but still had honorable goals: to promote stability, neutrality and the rule of law. The third attack, however, is the most worrisome: a large-scale challenge to judicial independence, and we are now in the midst of it.After making his case, Professor Sunstein concludes,
The problem, as the legal battle over Terri Schiavo demonstrated, is that whatever their politics, judges are unlikely to ignore the law. In that case, the law clearly did not authorize federal judges to order Schiavo's feeding tube reinserted but some Republicans are outraged that the judges did not have it reinserted anyway. On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay instructed the Judiciary Committee to investigate federal court decisions in the Schiavo case.
The attack on the judges who refused to order the feeding tube reinserted may be trivial by itself. But it is of a piece with something much more important. In recent years, some conservative politicians have been insisting that federal judges should strike down affirmative action programs, protect commercial advertising, invalidate environmental regulations, allow the president to do whatever he likes in the war on terrorism, use the Constitution to produce tort reform, invalidate gun control regulation, invalidate campaign finance laws and much more regardless of whether they can find solid justification for these steps in our founding document.
Now, the battle over the confirmation process has become enmeshed with this third and most extreme stage of conservative thinking. What we are seeing, for the first time, is a fundamental challenge to the rule of law itself.
Senate Republican leaders were due to meet last night amid rising concern that they are being beaten on the “nuclear option” by Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) public-relations war room.The whole piece is interesting and worth a read.
The GOP’s talks follow a meeting last week in which aides warned Bob Stevenson, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s (R-Tenn.) communications director, that something needs to be done to win back lost ground, a participant said.
At a closed-door luncheon Tuesday, members of the Democratic caucus were presented a stack of more than 260 press editorials from 41 states and the District of Columbia arguing against changing Senate rules to prohibit judicial filibusters. That’s quite a change from a year and a half ago, when many editorial boards criticized Democrats for blocking confirmation votes on President Bush’s judicial nominees.
The turnaround has flummoxed Senate Republicans and conservatives. They say it is incredible that Democrats who have “undone 200-plus years of precedent” by filibustering nominees have managed to portray Republicans as “overreaching.” Republicans say eliminating the filibuster of nominees would merely restore Senate tradition.
I'm starting to warm up to Sen Reid.
.....In a strongly worded letter to the Senate majority leader, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National director, said he was "deeply troubled" by Dr. Frist's decision to appear in the "Justice Sunday" telecast on April 24. The program's message, "...is deeply flawed and a dangerous affront to fundamental principles of American democracy," Foxman said.(via Atrios)
"The heated debate regarding the status of the filibuster in the United States Senate is a quintessentially political contest, not a religious struggle," Foxman said. "Nor should it be portrayed as such. Whatever one's views may be on this or any other issue, playing the 'religious' card is as unacceptable as playing the race card."
Organized by the Family Research Council, the "Justice Sunday" telecast will be aired on Christian television and radio networks and stations and will be broadcast over the Internet.
From Mark Kleiman's blog
There is no position which depends on clearer principles, than that every act of a delegated authority, contrary to the tenor of the commission under which it is exercised, is void. No legislative act, therefore, contrary to the Constitution, can be valid. To deny this, would be to affirm, that the deputy is greater than his principal; that the servant is above his master; that the representatives of the people are superior to the people themselves; that men acting by virtue of powers, may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.
....It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.
Bill Frist is going to participate in a big anti-filibuster telecast, sponsored by the Family Research Council, in which Democratic opposition to President Bush's most conervative judicial appointments will be cast as a Democratic war against believing Christians.
A flier advertising the event refers to "the filibuster against people of faith" and says: "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias, and it is now being used against people of faith."
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Here is a taste,
I blame Congress over the last 50 to 100 years for not standing up and taking its responsibility given to it by the Constitution. The reason the judiciary has been able to impose a separation of church and state that's nowhere in the Constitution is that Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them. The reason we had a right to privacy is because Congress didn't stop them.These are not the words of some fringe loon (of which the Ds have a couple in their woodpile), but the most powerful man in Congress, the Majority Leader of the Republican party elected by the House Republicans. When you vote for a Republican House candidate you are empowering this man, and his agenda.
To DeLay's credit, his makes no secret of his agenda. He envisions a theocatic government. He is not el doce, he's the Ayatollah.
If there is an audio recording of this statement, the Ds need to get it and run it as an ad against every R house member who has taken a dime from him, and even those who haven't. These guys are nuts and so out of touch with Americans that if the Ds can't run them out of office they should disband has a party.
Write your Republican Congressional members and ask them if they agree with this statement and press them to renounce it.
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
This is your GOP.
In 1992, when heirs to the Mars Inc. fortune joined a few other wealthy families to hire the law firm Patton Boggs LLP to lobby for estate tax repeal, the joke on K Street was that few Washington sightseers had paid so much for a fruitless tour of the Capitol.And the suggestion that this tax has wrecked the family farm is just a lie. In 2001, out of 2,363,100 total adult deaths, only 49,911 -- 2.1 percent -- had estates large enough to be hit by the estate tax. That was down from 2.3 percent in 1999. The value of the taxed estates in 2001 averaged nearly $2.7 million. With modifications in the tax law since 2000, it is estimated that this year, only 63,000 estates will actually be required to file tax returns and only a small fraction of them will actually be taxed. When challenged, the Rs have not been able to produce a single example of a farm being sold to pay a tax.
Today, the House is expected to vote to permanently repeal the estate tax, moving the Mars candy, Gallo wine and Campbell soup fortunes one step closer to a goal that once seemed quixotic at best: ending all taxation on inheritances.
Last month, Graetz and Yale political scientist Ian Shapiro published "Death By A Thousand Cuts," chronicling the estate tax repeal movement as "a mystery about politics and persuasion."
"For almost a century, the estate tax affected only the richest 1 or 2 percent of citizens, encouraged charity, and placed no burden on the vast majority of Americans," they wrote. "A law that constituted the blandest kind of common sense for most of the twentieth century was transformed, in the space of little more than a decade, into the supposed enemy of hardworking citizens all over this country."
No one questioned that the estate tax needed to be adjusted to take into account years of inflation. Clinton tried unsuccessful to do this for a number of years but the Rs wouldn't compromise. They wanted it eliminated.
This is yet another example of the Ds having lost the marketing war.
What is not clear from what I have read is if Congress is also eliminating the "stepped-up basis" on capital gains. Here is why that is important. The Rs love to say that all the money in the estate has already been taxed once. That's a lie. Here is an example. Let's assume Bill and Melinda Gates own $30 Billion in Microsoft Stock (the actual figure may be higher). Of course, when Bill acquired this stock, it was work pennies compared to it's current value, and for tax purposes, the value at aquistion is the "basis". The $29.9 Billion dollar gain in value of the stock over the basis has never been taxed. Bill and Melinda are killed when their yacht is attacked by pirates. Currently, their daughter would inherit a $30 billion dollar fortune accumulated without so much as a dime of taxes paid on it. Had Bill sold the stock prior to his death, he would have had to pay a capital gains tax (presently only 15%) on any gain over the basis. But if he passes it to his heirs, they get the stock at the stepped up basis of $30 Billion and could sell it all paying no capital gains taxes. Eliminate the estate tax and this is a $30 Billion dollar windfall without a dime of tax money paid.
Has anyone read anything about plans to eliminate the stepped-up basis on inheritance?
Fortunately, the Senate is another matter.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
While I agree with his view of the overall political impact of this conference,
Meanwhile, the lengthy policy agenda the conferees laid out on Friday -- impeachment of judges, stripping of judicial jurisdiction over various issues, granting Congress the right to nullify federal and Supreme Court rulings, etc. -- poses zero chance of actually happening. Even the nuclear option looks like it may not happen; the bad polling on the Schiavo matter obviously didnt help its chances. And when the social conservative activists end up inevitably disappointed on all these fronts, theres of course little doubt that theyll go right back to electing Republicans who will inevitably disappoint them once again.I think he lets them off the hook a little too easily on the threats of violence. The fact is that many of these groups have a long history of violence, and are expert at calling out the lone wolves.
All this is to say that the conference did nothing to challenge evangelical conservatives well-earned reputation for being the biggest suckers in American politics. The latest, fittingly timed cover story in The American Conservative, written by Jim Antle, tackles just this subject. (Take a close look at the very apt cover art for this issue.)
Monday, April 11, 2005
Read Krugman today. Here is a taste,
First, America's traditional private health insurance system, in which workers get coverage through their employers, is unraveling. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that in 2004 there were at least five million fewer jobs providing health insurance than in 2001. And health care costs have become a major burden on those businesses that continue to provide insurance coverage: General Motors now spends about $1,500 on health care for every car it produces.Read the whole thing.
Second, rising Medicare spending may be a sign of progress, but it still must be paid for - and right now few politicians are willing to talk about the tax increases that will be needed if the program is to make medical advances available to all older Americans.
Finally, the U.S. health care system is wildly inefficient. Americans tend to believe that we have the best health care system in the world. (I've encountered members of the journalistic elite who flatly refuse to believe that France ranks much better on most measures of health care quality than the United States.) But it isn't true. We spend far more per person on health care than any other country - 75 percent more than Canada or France - yet rank near the bottom among industrial countries in indicators from life expectancy to infant mortality.
This last point is, in a way, good news. In the long run, medical progress may force us to make a harsh choice: if we don't want to become a society in which the rich get life-saving medical treatment and the rest of us don't, we'll have to pay much higher taxes. The vast waste in our current system means, however, that effective reform could both improve quality and cut costs, postponing the day of reckoning.
As a country we spend lavishly on health care with 50% of all health dollars spent by Governments and each year we spend more and get less. The Rs blame lawyers and if you believe them, you're a gulible idiot.
These folks are really nuts and they're not the fringe. They're running the GOP.
Here's the lede,
Michael Schwartz must have thought I was just another attendee of the "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith" conference. I approached the chief of staff of Oklahoma's GOP Senator Tom Coburn outside the conference in downtown Washington last Thursday afternoon after he spoke there. Before I could introduce myself, he turned to me and another observer with a crooked smile and exclaimed, "I'm a radical! I'm a real extremist. I don't want to impeach judges. I want to impale them!"
For two days, on April 7 and 8, conservative activists and top GOP staffers summoned the raw rage of the Christian right following the Terri Schiavo affair, and likened judges to communists, terrorists and murderers. The remedies they suggested for what they termed "judicial tyranny" ranged from the mass impeachment of judges to their physical elimination.
The speakers included embattled House majority leader Tom DeLay, conservative matriarch Phyllis Schlafly and failed Republican senatorial candidate Alan Keyes. Like a performance artist, Keyes riled the crowd up, mixing animadversions on constitutional law with sudden, stentorian salvos against judges. "Ronald Reagan said the Soviet Union was the focus of evil during the cold war. I believe that the judiciary is the focus of evil in our society today," Keyes declared, slapping the lectern for emphasis.
Chris Shays (R - Conn) has never been a fan, and you might recall that he was outspoken in his opposition to the DeLay rule that would allow an indicted DeLay to continue as Majority Leader.
According the Greenwich Time, Shays is now really fed up and doesn't care who knows it.
"He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, told more than 50 Greenwich residents yesterday morning at Town Hall. He was in Greenwich to host a public forum, open to all political parties, on whatever pressing issues attendees were interested in discussing.More stunning, I think, was the comments of Rick Santorum (R-Penn) yesterday, on This Week.
Yesterday, Shays flatly denied supporting DeLay, telling the small but lively gathering that the Texan probably will not last out this term as house majority leader, lacks credibility and will never attain the prominent position of speaker of the house.
"He knows that . . . if he ever runs for speaker, I get to vote on the House floor, and my 'No' vote combined with the Democrats means he will never be speaker," Shays said, drawing applause from the room. "One of the things I want to say here is that Tom DeLay will never be speaker in Congress."
"With all due respect, I can be accused of a lot of things, but supporting Tom DeLay is not one of them," Shays added.
"Do I think Tom DeLay will be the majority leader by the end of this term? No," Shays said. "I don't think Tom DeLay is going to survive. He goes to the edge and he goes beyond . . . Even knowing there's a microscope on him, he continues to do these things."
WASHINGTON - The No. 3 Republican in the Senate said Sunday that embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics and "let the people then judge for themselves."Remember, Santorum may very well be a bigger kook than DeLay, and if he has issues,.....
Joshua Marshall has an excellent take on Santorum's comments, and great coverage on all these developments.
Better still, scumbag extraordinair, and one of the 'Masters of Sleaze' and former best friend to Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff has cracked and telling anyone who will listen,
"Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague. There are e-mails and records that will implicate others, he said. He was noticeably caustic about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. For years, nobody on Washington's K Street corridor was closer to DeLay than Abramoff. They were an unlikely duo. DeLay, a conservative Christian, and Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, traveled the world together and golfed the finest courses. Abramoff raised hundreds of thousands for DeLay's political causes and hired DeLay's aides, or kicked them business, when they left his employ. But now DeLay, too, has problemsin part because of overseas trips allegedly paid for by Abramoff's clients. In response, DeLay and his aides have said repeatedly they were unaware of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes financing role. "Those S.O.B.s," Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."And finally, do you think it's too late for them to get their deposit back on the room?
According to Mike Allen's piece in tomorrow's Post, next week David Keene and a gaggle of conservative leaders "will show their solidarity by announcing this week that they are holding a tribute dinner for DeLay on May 12 at the Capital Hilton, complete with a film 'summation of what Tom has done for conservatives.' Keene said 1,000 people are expected, and tickets will be about $200."I'm with Josh on this. I can't think of a better way to spend 200 bucks and would kill for a video of the event. Just think of the mileage you could get at election time if any elected officials appear at this event and sing the praises of El Duce!
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Phyllis Schlafly, doyenne of American conservatism, said Kennedy's opinion forbidding capital punishment for juveniles "is a good ground of impeachment." To cheers and applause from those gathered at a downtown Marriott for a conference on "Confronting the Judicial War on Faith," Schlafly said that Kennedy had not met the "good behavior" requirement for office and that "Congress ought to talk about impeachment."If Vieira did not threaten the life of Justice Kennedy than what was the point of his comment?
Next, Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Kennedy "should be the poster boy for impeachment" for citing international norms in his opinions...
Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.
The full Stalin quote, for those who don't recognize it, is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem."......
There's more. This is your GOP.
Friday, April 08, 2005
The campaign ads were bitterly divisive, even by the standards of a bare-knuckle primary, accusing the opponent of then Republican senatorial hopeful Mel Martinez of playing to the ``radical homosexual lobby.''The poor senator just can't catch a break.
Martinez blamed the ads on ''young Turks'' in his campaign and apologized to his GOP rival. Weeks later Martinez found himself again blaming a staff member after a press release from his campaign likened U.S. immigration agents to ''armed thugs'' for seizing Elián González from his Miami home in 2000.
Now, for the third time, Martinez finds himself under fire -- and blaming an aide for the conflagration. This time, Martinez said he has accepted the resignation of a staff member in his Senate office for penning the now-infamous political memo that suggested Republicans in Washington could use the plight of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo to bash Democrats, singling out Martinez's fellow Florida senator, Democrat Bill Nelson.
I linked to Mark Kleiman earlier today who linked to this Slate article:Yankee Go Home - Who's leading the anti-war movement? Congressional Republicans. By William Saletan
You really need to read this to be reminded of just how creepy these guys are, and now think of it in light of DeLay's junked to Moscow (see below).
Can you imagine any Democrat behaving like this?
And of course, in light of the revelation now that the Russians spent more than $400,000 lobbying these guys makes this all the more important.
There is a very legitimate case to be made for a special prosecutor to investigate DeLay in particular in this matter, and entire lobbying effort in general.