Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Deep Throat Revealed

Link
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former FBI No. 2 Mark Felt is "Deep Throat," the legendary source who leaked Watergate scandal secrets to the Washington Post and helped bring down President Richard Nixon, journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein said on Tuesday after 30 years of secrecy.
....
"W. Mark Felt was 'Deep Throat' and helped us immeasurably in our Watergate coverage," Woodward and Bernstein said in a joint statement posted on the Post's Web site.

Vanity Fair had reported earlier on Tuesday that Felt, now a 91-year-old retiree living in Santa Rosa, California, had told the magazine and his family that he was the Post's anonymous source.

"I'm the guy they used to call Deep Throat," Felt told lawyer John O'Connor, author of the magazine story.

Felt's grandson told reporters on Tuesday his grandfather was "an American hero" for his role in uncovering the Watergate scandal, and his daughter said he had "a big grin" upon learning of the Vanity Fair article.

Back At It

I'm back from the holiday weekend and hope to have some content later today. Mondays -- and even defacto Mondays -- are always a bear.

Meanwhile check out Josh's new site:TPMCafe || The Coffee House

Very impressive.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hillary's Numbers

I have written a few times about my thoughts on Hillary 2008. ( here and here are good examples), and my view of her in 2008 remains unchanged.

But all that aside, I find this amazing,
For the first time, a majority of Americans say they are likely to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday.

The survey shows that the New York senator and former first lady has broadened her support nationwide over the past two years, though she still provokes powerful feelings from those who oppose her.
While I don't want to rain on her parade and think this is fantastic for Hillary, I also don't think we should over react as some have done.

These numbers reflect her support at a time when she is not under constant attack. Her enemies hate her with a passion (which, by the way, I've never understood), and if she actually received the nomination, the nastiness of the campaign against her would make the Swift Boat Liars look like pussy cats.

Only Nixon could go to China, and only a republican woman could be president.

But still, I find them just amazing. And good for her! Go read the whole article for all the details.

Lawrence DiRita is a Liar

Oops, Maybe the Koran was Desecrated.

I will not defend Michael Isikoff's or Newsweek's decision to run with a story so lightly sourced as his story of the Koran desecration. Of course, Isikoff did the same many times with Clinton stories. But the Right wing outrage, as I have written about here, was really over the top.

And now, it seems, that in fact the Koran was desecrated many times by American Personnel, with at least one person being disciplined.

Yesterday the WaPo published a story that indicated that in fact there was a report of the Koran having been flushed down a toilet. The Pentagon has said that "investigators" had again spoken to the prisoner who made the allegation and after a few broom handle rectal examines and electroshock therapy to the testicles of the prisoner, he recanted his story.

Here is the crux of today's story.

WaPo Link
Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said investigators have looked into 13 specific allegations of Koran desecration at the prison dating to early 2002 and have determined eight of them to be unfounded, lacking credibility or the result of accidental touching of the holy book. Of the five cases of mishandling, three were "very likely" deliberate and two were "very likely accidental," he said. But Hood declined to provide details, citing an ongoing investigation.

Hood's comments marked the first time the Pentagon has confirmed mistreatment of the Muslim book at Guantanamo Bay. Captives and some military personnel there have made claims of Koran desecration, but in a statement last week, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said the Defense Department had received no credible claims of such abuse. Nevertheless, he said, officials were reviewing the allegations.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly has more on the lying Larry DiRita

What a Hoot


There is no satisfying some people. Most would be thrilled to get a mention in 'Law and Order' but not Tom DeLay. He's pissed.

Link
The controversy centers around Wednesday's episode in which a police officer investigating a murder of a federal judge suggested putting out an all points bulletin for "somebody in a Tom DeLay T-shirt."
UPDATE: As Josh reminds us, DeLay's current protest aside, he told supporters right after Terry Schiavo's death that: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today."

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Why the "Compromise"

David Corn has up a nice post about Durbin's explainationof the filibuster compromise.

Bottom line, it's hardly a cause to celebrate and may blow up at any moment, but in the end, the Ds could not get the votes to keep from being nuked. So, it was time to make a deal.

It's an interesting read. As I've written about here, the pressure on the Rs to come through on this was huge.

That Didn't Take Long

Once the proverbial Ginnie is out of the bottle,...

Bid to Limit Women In Combat Withdrawn

It is interesting at what a complete bust this whole idea turned out to be. Aside from the bills two sponsors, and the Religious Right, no one supported it. The fact is, the military can't meet it's 'man power' needs now, much less if such a bill became law.

McCain

Before you go any further, you need to go read the post below and the WaPo article.

Finished? Good, now think about John McCain having just brokered the deal on the filibuster (whether he did or not, his taking credit for it). McCain has in effect this week thrown down the quantlet to the Right and stuck his finger in the eye of the leadership.

Lets assume McCain wants to run for President in 2008 (I'm still a little skeptical of this although everyone else takes it as a certaintly. McCain will be 72 in 2008. Ronald Reagan was just a few days short of his 70th birthday when he took office). He has just closed the door on any possible support from the far Right. On the other hand, he likely strengthened his hand with every other member of the Republican party including all those so-called moderate Republican friends of ours who are really becoming uncomfortable with their president.

There is no question in my mind that an R can win the WH without the far Right. I think the case can be made that dumbing the far Right is the only way an R will win the WH in 2008.

But can an R win the nomination without the far Right? And remember, they play for keeps, so he will not only have to goit without their support, but through their constant, well funded attacks throughout the primaries.

And, in an unrelated post today, Ezra had this interesting tidbit that I think makes McCain's actions all that more interesting -- assuming that he wants to run on 08,
When McCain ran in 2000, he received Gary Bauer's endorsement. Bauer, of course, is the hardcore Christian who ran for the Republican nomination, and his word carries weight. Now why did McCain get it, rather than committed evangelical George W. Bush?

Apparently Bauer asked both candidates to pledge that their Supreme Court nominees would be pro-life. McCain agreed. Bush said he refused to have a litmus test. Bauer backs up this account, as do friends of McCain.
Of course, one can attempt to explain the Bauer thing away by saying that McCain is a man of conviction on abortion, nothing more. I have no reason to believe McCain is not a man of conviction on abortion, but getting in bed with Bauer (and that is not a crack at the fey Bauer) is about much more than abortion. It's about signing on the rightwing agenda in exchange for their support.

Soooo, what's McCain up to? Can he win the GOP nomination against the Right? Is this evidence he does not plan to run in 08? In 2000, Bauer aside, they played really dirty with McCain and his family, so is it revenge time?

Discuss.

Worth a Read

Despise them though I do, I admire the way they move on their agenda. It really is impressive. We could learn a lot from the Right.

From today's WaPo
As Democrats tell it, this week's compromise on judges was about much more than the federal courts. If President Bush and congressional allies had prevailed, they say, the balance of power would have been forever altered.

Yet, amid the partisan rhetoric, a little-noticed fact about modern politics has been lost: Republicans have already changed how the business of government gets done, in ways both profound and lasting.

The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president's judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.

House Republicans, for instance, discarded the seniority system and limited the independence and prerogatives of committee chairmen. The result is a chamber effectively run by a handful of GOP leaders. At the White House, Bush has tightened the reins on Cabinet members, centralizing the most important decisions among a tight group of West Wing loyalists. With the strong encouragement of Vice President Cheney, he has also moved to expand the amount of executive branch information that can be legally shielded from Congress, the courts and the public.
The whole thing really is worth a read.

Frist

Frist will never quit.

Following the vote to confirm Owen, Frist said,
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said in a written statement that "we cannot stop with this single step," and revived a threat to deny Democrats their right to filibuster judicial nominations -- the "nuclear option" -- if the Democrats violate the agreement.

"We must give fair up or down votes to other previously blocked nominees," he added. "It is the only way to close this miserable and unprecedented chapter in Senate history."
I'm I the only one that thinks this will all blow up again, very soon?

Amazing

This is where it leads.

Atrios points to this: Link
An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

Bradford refused to remove the provision after the 9-year-old boy's outraged parents, Thomas E. Jones Jr. and his ex-wife, Tammie U. Bristol, protested last fall.
And just to be clear. This is not a dispute between divorced parents. This is a dispute between those divorced parents and the judge!

The judge inserted this provision into their divorce degree over the objection of both parents, after receiving a report from a state agency. The child attends a Catholic High School and is enrolled as a non-Christian.

Apparently, in our brave new world, one is no longer allowed to be a non-Christian, and certainly not allowed to raise a child as a non-Christian. Of course, in much of the fundamentalist world, Catholics are non-Christians.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Wow, This Caught Me by Surprise

The AP reporting that the House has actually passed a stem cell bill that will open new lines of research.

Tom DeLay had said the bill would provide federal funding for "the dismemberment of living, distinct human beings."

Bush says he will veto the bill. If he does, it will be his first veto,....ever!

So Much for a Compromise

Think Progress reports that despite Frist words of consolation last night, he now intends to ignore the "compromise" and test the resolve of the 7 Rs.

Quoting Congress Daily PM,
Senate Majority Leader Frist will file for cloture on President Bush'’s nomination of William Myers to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals later this week, according to sources on and off Capitol Hill, wasting no time in testing the resolve of 14 Republican and Democratic senators who forced at least a temporary halt to the battle over Democratic filibusters of President Bush's judicial picks.
Here is my problem with this deal. It lets through 3 very objectionable judges with no real quarantees on the future. The technical right to filibuster exists so long as the R members of the compromising group believe the Ds conduct is reasonable. There are no guarantees. And Frist has made it clear where he stands.

The fact is that of the 215 or so judges that G-dub has nominated, only 10 thus far have been denied Senate approval. A 95% approval rate. I happen to think that the 7 renominated represent "extraordinary circumstances".

On the other hand, anything that really pisses off Ayatollah Dobson and Ralph Reed, has at least some merit.

I thought it important to try and make a deal, but I wanted some guarantees, and that we don't have.

Their View of the "Compromise"

Gary Bauer
"This is a sad day for our nation. The desire of millions of Americans to restore balance to our federal courts has been thwarted behind closed doors by 14 senators. Only three of President Bush's appointees are guaranteed an up or down vote under this sell out.

"Under this agreement it is now more likely that radical social change will continue to be forced on the American people by liberal courts committed to same sex marriage, abortion on demand and hostility to religious expression. The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters. Shame on them all."


Ayatollah Dobson
"This Senate agreement represents a complete bailout and betrayal by a cabal of Republicans and a great victory for united Democrats. Only three of President Bush’s nominees will be given the courtesy of an up-or-down vote, and it's business as usual for all the rest. The rules that blocked conservative nominees remain in effect, and nothing of significance has changed. Justice Clarence Thomas, Justice Antonin Scalia, and Chief Justice William Rehnquist would never have served on the U. S. Supreme Court if this agreement had been in place during their confirmations. The unconstitutional filibuster survives in the arsenal of Senate liberals.

"We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Capitulation

Lieberman sells us out.

The Dems get to keep the right to filibuster so long as they never use it.
Democrats agreed to allow final confirmation votes for Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor, named to appeals court seats. There is "no commitment to vote for or against" the filibuster against two other conservatives named to the appeals court, Henry Saad and William Myers.

The agreement said future nominees to the appeals court and Supreme Court should "only be filibustered under extraordinary circumstances," with each Democrat senator holding the discretion to decide when those conditions had been met.
I hope I'm over-reacting.

We Must Do a Better Job of Getting the Message Out

If the Ds are ever going to regain power, they must hang these things around the neck of the GOP like an albatross!

Check out democracyarsenal.org: Now Who's Strong on Defense?
- Senator Murray (D-OR) introduced an amendment to give an additional $1.98 billion in additional funding to the Department of Veterans Affairs, including over $600 million to help address a health care crisis in the VA system. The measure was defeated by Republicans.

- Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN) introduced an amendment to research the current need for heavily-armored Humvees, and to provide $213 million to procure more of them. The amendment passed, despite the opposition of dozens of Republicans.

- Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) passed an amendment to require the federal government to equalize the gap between civilian and active duty salaries for federal employees mobilized for duty. The amendment passed the Senate -- then, guess what, Republicans removed the amendment in the final budget report.

- Senator John Kerry (D-MA) introduced a successful Senate amendment to extend housing allowances for families of deceased service members, and another amendment to increase President Bush's paltry death gratuity of $12,000 to $100,000.

OK -- those are the weenies. Look at them, sniffling and wiping their noses with their sleeves. Now, check out how the Daddy Party flexes its big muscles:

- On the four amendments above, no fewer than 25 conservatives voted against each.

- And seventeen of them -- EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM FROM A RED STATE -- voted against every single one of the four amendments above.

- Who were they? Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and Senators Wayne Allard(R-CO), Robert Bennett (R-UT), Kit Bond (R-MO), Jim Bunning (R-KY), Richard Burr (R-NC), Thad Cochran (R-MS), John Cornyn (R-TX), Jim DeMint (R-SC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Ted Stevens (R-AK), and George Voinovich (R-OH).

So what's going on here? Most likely, a combination of blind partisanship -- anything to deny a Dem a win -- and chicken-hawkism -- only war sells, not taking care of the people who actually have to fight.

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Gang of 12

The Gang of 12 Senators, six from each party, is all the buzz this morning.

The "gang" includes Susan Collins (R-Maine), John McCain, Mark Pryor (D-Ark) and Joe Lieberman (R wannabe from Conn). I don't know who the others are, but would love it if those of you do posted their names in comments.

Here is their plan. If they can reach an agreement among themselves, they can force it on both sides. For instance, without the 6 R votes, Frist is powerless to end the filibuster.

But of course, the devil is in the details.

The Ds are to agree to filibuster no more this year, including a Supreme Court nominee, except under "extraordinary circumstances". In exchange for this agreement, the Rs would prevent Frist from ending the filibuster.

That's right. So long as the Ds promise not to filibuster they can keep the right to filibuster.

Sounds like Lieberman is doing the negotiating.

And what, exactly are "extraordinary circumstances"? I think the current 7 nominees represent "extraordinary circumstances".

Of course, you can see this coming. With such a deal in place, Bush nominates a Right Wing loon to the SC, the Ds attempt a filibuster, the Rs claim betrayal, and with a clear consensus vote to find their own rulemaking power unconstitutional and end the filibuster with a clean conscience and the ability to claim victim status.

I think a compromise on this issue would be a good thing, but a compromise that is a complete capitulation on part of the Ds to preserve the right to filibuster so long as they never use it, is pointless and silly.

This has Joe Lieberman's name all over it.

The Ds are Now Hitler?

The number 3 man in the Senate, Rick Santorum yesterday:
Democratic arguments are "the equivalent of Adolph Hitler in 1942 saying, 'I'm in Paris. How dare you invade me? How dare you bomb my city?' "
These Rs are a real class act.

Remember the outrage about Moveon and the Hitler ad posted on their site as part of a contest?

Fred Barnes writing in The Weekly Standard had this to say about the ads on MoveOn,
"The classic tactic of the Loony Left is to liken a target to Hitler"
Apparently the 'Loony Right' as well.

But there is one very key difference. On the Right, the loonies are in charge!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Summing Up The Nuke Option

Josh sums it up.
As we wait on the sidelines for the seemingly inevitable chain reaction to take place on the senate floor, it is worth observing and considering the fact that every Republican senator certainly knows that the proposition they're about to attest to is quite simply a lie. Perhaps they have so twisted their reasoning as to imagine it is a noble lie. But it's a lie nonetheless.

What do I mean?

Whether you call it the 'nuclear option', the 'constitutional option' or whatever other phrase the GOP word-wizards come up with, what "it" actually is is this: the Republican caucus, along with the President of the Senate, Dick Cheney, will find that filibustering judicial nominations is in fact in violation of the constitution.

(Just to be crystal clear, what the senate is about to do is not changing their rules. They are about to find that their existing rules are unconstitutional, thus getting around the established procedures by which senate rules can be changed.)

Their reasoning will be that the federal constitution requires that the president makes such nominations "by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate" and that that means an up or down vote by the full senate.

Nobody believes that.

Not Dick Cheney, not any member of the Republican Senate caucus.

For that to be true stands not only the simple logic of the constitution, but two hundred years of our constitutional history, on its head. You don't even need to go into the fact that other judicial nominations have been filibustered, or that many others have been prevented from coming to a vote by invocation of various other senate rules, both formal and informal, or that almost countless numbers of presidential nominees of all kinds have simply never made it out of committee. Indeed, the whole senate committee system probably cannot withstand this novel and outlandish interpretation of the constitution, since one of its main functions is to review presidential appointees before passing them on to the full senate.
There is more and it's worth the read.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Top 10 Filibuster Lies

from Media Matters comes the top 10 filibuster lies. They are all worth a read, but here is one I think does not get enough attention.

Falsehood #1: Democrats' filibuster of Bush nominees is "unprecedented"

The most prevalent talking point put forth by advocates of the "nuclear option" is that Democratic filibusters of 10 of President Bush's judicial nominees are "unprecedented" in American history.

But Republicans initiated a filibuster against a judicial nominee in 1968, forcing Democratic president Lyndon Johnson to withdraw the nomination of Associate Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas to be chief justice. Then-Sen. Robert Griffin (R-MI) recognized at the time that denying nominees a vote was already an established practice. "It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote,"....

Cloture votes were also necessary to obtain floor votes on Clinton judicial nominees Richard A. Paez and Marsha L. Berzon in 2000, and Republicans attempted to filibuster the nomination of U.S. District Judge H. Lee Sarokin to the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 1994. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), who is leading the Republican opposition to Democratic filibusters, voted against cloture for the Paez nomination.

And these are merely instances when Republicans filibustered Democratic presidents' judicial nominees. The Republican-controlled Senate blocked approximately 60 Clinton nominees through other means. This included strict enforcement under Clinton of the "blue slip" policy, which at the time allowed a senator from a nominee's home state to block a nominee simply by failing to turn in the blue-colored approval papers required for the nomination process. While Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) strictly adhered to the "blue slip" policy to allow Republicans to block Clinton nominees, he relaxed the policy nearly to the point of elimination in his efforts to push through Bush's nominees.....

And while we're at it, here is another,

Falsehood #2: Bush's filibustered nominees have all been rated well-qualified by the ABA; blocking such highly rated nominees is unprecedented

To make Democratic filibusters appear unwarranted, many "nuclear option" supporters have falsely claimed that some -- or all -- of Bush's judicial nominees have received the American Bar Association's (ABA) highest qualification rating. Others have argued that Texas Supreme Court justice Priscilla Owen is the first judicial nominee to be filibustered who received a unanimous well-qualified (WQ) rating from the ABA.

But of the 10 Bush nominees filibustered by Senate Democrats, only three -- Owen, Miguel Estrada, and David McKeague -- received a unanimous "Well Qualified" rating from the ABA. Conservatives have frequently touted Janice Rogers Brown as highly qualified (see Rush Limbaugh and Rev. Jerry Falwell), but she twice received an "Unqualified" rating from the California judicial evaluation committee and currently has the ABA's lowest "passing" rating of Qm/NQmin (meaning a majority consider her "Qualified" and a minority consider her "Not Qualified").

Contrary to some claims, blocking WQ-rated judicial nominees is not a new practice. Republicans blocked 10 of President Clinton's appeals court nominees with unanimous WQs from receiving a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and another WQ nominee received a committee hearing but was granted neither a committee vote nor full Senate consideration.

Where's Ike When You Need Him?

....The political processes of our country are such that if a rule of reason is not applied in this effort, we will lose everything--even to a possible and drastic change in the Constitution. This is what I mean by my constant insistence upon "moderation" in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas.5 Their number is negligible and they are stupid....
President Dwight David Eisenhower, November 8, 1954.

(Thanks to Tim A who brought this to my attention.)

Blaming the Messenger

Josh points to Ann Applegate's column today in the WaPo.

Ann provides some much needed context when she observes, "Blaming the messenger, even for a bungled message, doesn't get the administration off the hook."
But surely the larger point is not the story itself but that it was so eminently plausible, in Pakistan, Afghanistan and everywhere else. And it was plausible precisely because interrogation techniques designed to be offensive to Muslims were used in Iraq and Guantanamo, as administration and military officials have also confirmed. For example:

· Dogs. Military interrogators deployed them specifically because they knew Muslims consider dogs unclean...Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez in September 2003, ...actually approved using the technique to "exploit Arab fear of dogs."

· Nudity. We know (and the Muslim world knows) from the Abu Ghraib photographs that nudity has been used to humiliate Muslim men. More important, we know that nudity was also approved as an interrogation technique by Donald Rumsfeld himself...

· Sexual harassment. The military's investigation of U.S. detention and interrogation practices, led by Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, stated that at Guantanamo there were "two female interrogators who, on their own initiative, touched and spoke to detainees in a sexually suggestive manner in order to incur stress based on the detainees' religious beliefs."...

· Fake menstrual blood. When former detainees began claiming that they had been smeared with menstrual blood intended to make them "unclean" and therefore unable to pray,....a female interrogator who smeared a prisoner with red ink, claimed it was menstrual blood and left, saying, "Have a fun night in your cell without any water to clean yourself."

There is no question that these were tactics designed to offend, no question that they were put in place after 2001 and no question that many considered them justified. Since the Afghan invasion, public supporters of "exceptional" interrogation methods have argued that in the special, unusual case of the war on terrorism, we may have to suspend our fussy legality, ignore our high ideals and resort to some unpleasant tactics that our military had never used. Opponents of these methods, among them some of the military's own interrogation experts, have argued, on the contrary, that "special methods" are not only ineffective but counterproductive: They might actually inspire Muslim terrorists instead of helping to defeat them. They might also make it easier, say, for fanatics in Jalalabad to use two lines of a magazine article to incite riots.

This is Getting Interesting

The consensus seems to be that today is the day. We shall see.

Both sides are working hard to make a deal on the judges. That means the Rs don't have the votes. If they did, there would be no negotiations.

But remember, just because they don't have the votes now, doesn't mean they won't have them when they need them.

It is likely that some Senators who will go nuclear if they have to, are telling Frist they won't to attempt to force a compromise. They know if they tell the incompetent Frist that they will vote with him, he won't seek a compromise.

WaPo
With the Senate poised to open debate on President Bush's appellate court nominees, a bipartisan group of senators carried on furious negotiations yesterday aimed at heading off a constitutional showdown that threatens to poison relations between the two parties and disrupt normal business in Congress.

Settlement talks remained fluid through much of the day as Republican senators initially balked at both the broad outlines and the crucial details of a compromise offered Monday by Democratic negotiators. Republicans claimed that the Democrats were asking them to give up too much in the deal, according to sources in both camps. But negotiations continued, with more set for today.
If you haven't already done so, sign up for the nuclear response.

If Frist pushes this vote and losses, it will be an historic humiliation, and likely the end of his political career. Just imagine the news coverage.

The Ds know they have them by the shorts, but lets hope the Ds don't overplay their hand. As I said, if backed into a corner, you can bet that some neys will become yeas to save Frist. And the Rs on the ney list are likely be lobbied like they have never been before by the hard Right who wants this bad. They must be under unbelievable pressure.

The floor debate is set to start today. Will they just tee it up and see what happens or will they continue to maneuver and stall?

This is going to be interesting.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

D-day on Judges?

Today may be D-day on the Nuke option.

If you haven't already done so, sign up for the instant notice.

And while your at it, give the Moose a read.

Newsweek's Shame

I'm very late to this and haven't really been following it.

G-dubs response has been interesting. Apparantly our actions at Gitmo have been beyond reproach until Newsweek slandered them.

A central theme in "All the Presidents Men" was how hard they worked to have multiple sources for each story. the legendary Ben Bradley demanded it. This is what happens when you rely on just one source, no matter how reliable that source was in the past.

I think Josh has a great take on this so I will defer to him.

Will Bush Demand his Own Resignation?

G-dub and his minions have repeated called for Kofi Annan to resign as UN Secretary General for his allowing the oil for food scandal to occur.

Well, guess what? G-dub knew that some Texas oil men where in it up to their necks while it was going on, and what did he do?
Nothing.
A report released last night by Democratic staff on a Senate investigations committee presents documentary evidence that the Bush administration was made aware of illegal oil sales and kickbacks paid to the Saddam Hussein regime but did nothing to stop them.

The scale of the shipments involved dwarfs those previously alleged by the Senate committee against UN staff and European politicians like the British MP, George Galloway, and the former French minister, Charles Pasqua. In fact, the Senate report found that US oil purchases accounted for 52% of the kickbacks paid to the regime in return for sales of cheap oil - more than the rest of the world put together.
....
Yesterday's report makes two principal allegations against the Bush administration. Firstly, it found the US treasury failed to take action against a Texas oil company, Bayoil, which facilitated payment of "at least $37m in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime".
....
In its second main finding, the report said the US military and the state department gave a tacit green light for shipments of nearly 8m barrels of oil bought by Jordan, a vital American ally, entirely outside the UN-monitored Oil For Food system. Jordan was permitted to buy some oil directly under strict conditions but these purchases appeared to be under the counter.
The operative words here are "documentary evidence".

The Right has been blowing hard about this scandal for years now, and then the Senate R release a whitewash of the complicity of their contributors and friends.

So when will the grand jury be convened to investigate Bayoil?
(via Washington Monthly)

Monday, May 16, 2005

1776

Josh has a review of David McCullough's new book 1776 in The New Yorker. check it out.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

R Cold Feet on Nuke Option

I mentioned several weeks ago that Santorum once a leader on the Nuke Option, had looked at polling and gotten cold feet.

We can now add Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) to the list.
WASHINGTON –– With a showdown over judicial nominees looming, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas could be one of several pivotal Republicans to oppose stripping the Senate of its traditional power to filibuster.

Roberts expressed doubt about the “nuclear option,” which would end a long-running Democratic threat — to filibuster seven of President Bush's nominees for the federal bench — by changing long-standing Senate rules.

“What goes around comes around,” Roberts said in an interview last week, worried that the rule change could someday come back to haunt his party.

The region's other Republican senators, Kit Bond and Jim Talent of Missouri, and Sam Brownback of Kansas all said they would back Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
The showdown is suppose to happen this week, but we shall see.

I've long said Frist doesn't have the votes but it is going to be very tough. Frist is backed into a corner. If he goes forward and fails he will be utterly humiliated. If he doesn't go forward, the Religious Right will be calling for his head. The pressure on R senators will be enormous.

I think there will be yet another excuse this week to push off the vote.

Can Frist survive a failure?

We shall see.

(via TPM)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Plame Investigation

There is no news, per say, but some thoughts.

As you know, the appellate court has said that Matthew Cooper of Time and Judith Miller of the NYTs must testify to the Plame Grand Jury or go to jail. They've appealed to the Supreme Court, but most aren't hopeful that is going anywhere.

Recent reports say that the Plame case is all but rapped up save this testimony, so everyone wants to know what is so important about the testimony of these two reporters? Neither printed the leak--that was traitor Bob Novak. Both did write about it after Novak betrayed his country, and both were apparently contacted by certain White House officials and received the leak -- they just decided not to betray their country.

So why is Patrick Fitzgerald trying so hard to get these two apparent side players?

Obstruction of Justice.

A criminal defense attorney of my acquaintance likes to point out that the Feds don't investigate crimes, they investigate people. Martha Stewart didn't go to jail for insider trading. The Feds felt the insider trading case was too weak to pursue. Martha went to jail for lying to the Feds during the investigation. Bill Clinton wasn't impeached for anything to do with the Whitewater land development; he was impeached for lying under oath. Web Hubble -- the only conviction to come out of the $80 Million Dollar Whitewater investigation-- didn't go to jail for anything even remotely to the Whitewater land deal. Web went to jail for over-billing some law clients including the Federal Government.

Thus, it is widely believed that the point of Cooper and Miller testifying is to nail someone who, Patrick Fitzgerald believes, has lied to the Feds during this investigation.

A David Ignatius writes about this today in the WaPo. You can get the whole story from him, but let me point out that it's not just lying to a grand jury that can get you into trouble. Obstruction of justice includes lying to investigators.

There were reports early on that WH records --emails, phone logs, etc. --had contradicted statements made by WH officials to investigators. You tell an FBI agent that you never spoke or emailed someone when you did, you've committed the felony offense of obstruction of justice.

The Feds don't investigate crimes, they investigate people. An obstruction of justice conviction coming out of an otherwise failed investigation is the difference between a failure (at taxpayer expense ) and justice done.

Just ask Martha.

I have no idea if Fitzgerald is chasing obstruction charges, but it sure would explain a lot.

Bolton Update

Bolton gets sent to the full Senate but without a recommendation.

This is an embarrassment to the Pres whose party controls the Committee and needs no D votes to send nominees to the floor with a recommendation.

Sen Voinovich said it best, "I have come to the conclusion that the United States can do better than John Bolton."

Biden isn't giving up this fight, at least not yet. He wants more documents that State continues to withhold. If State doesn't give the Ds they want, they have no choice but to filibuster Bolton. If the Ds back down now, they'll never get anything in the future they want on a nominee.

Nuclear Response

People for the American Way is organizing a "Nuclear Option" Mass Immediate Response.

By giving us your cell phone number, we will text message you as soon as Senate Republicans trigger the "nuclear option." Embedded in that text message will be a link to the Senate switchboard. With the push of a couple buttons, your call – along with thousands of others – goes right through to the corridors of power demanding preservation of the filibuster.

This is a brand new technology, and this is the first time it is being used on a large scale. (Don’t worry: we will NEVER send you spam or disclose your number to anyone else; in fact, we won’t even send you any more text messages without first sending you an e-mail like this one, asking you to opt in.)
Click here to sign up. If nothing else, it will be fun.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Cowards

"It is just wrong that we do not allow her, after four years, that courtesy of an up-or-down vote," Dr. Frist told reporters.
Why do reporters let any R get away with this nonsense? Every time any R says something like this they should be asked how come they didn't feel this way when 60 nominees of Clinton's were not given a vote. The press should not print their gratuitous comments if they won't respond to basic questions.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, held the floor for more than an hour Tuesday as she went through the histories of several judicial nominees in the Clinton administration who were denied votes by the Republican majority, some because of secret "holds" put on nominations by a single senator.

"Which is better," Mrs. Feinstein asked, "a filibuster by 40 members on the floor openly declared, publicly debating an individual's past speeches, an individual's temperament, character, opinions? Or a filibuster in secret when one doesn't know who or why?"
So why don't reporters ask Frist this very question?

This is Going to Get Ugly

It's all over the news so I'm sure you've heard that United Air Wins Right to Default on Its Employee Pension Plans.

This means that you and I will pick up the tab. And of course, there is every reason to believe that this is just the first. American, Delta, US Air? All their pension plans -- with the slump in the market -- are now underfunded and a drag on the companies. And what about Ford, GM, Chrysler, US Steel, and on and on and on. It's a GD disaster.

I won't pretend to understand the details of the judge's ruling and will acknowledge that it is a very complicated issue.

In defending his ruling, Judge Wedhoff said, "The least bad of the available choices here has got to be the one that keeps an airline functioning, that keeps employees being paid."

While it may be good for the current employees of United to keep the company afloat, is it good for the country?

This single pension default will cost tax payers billions. If others follow suit, it will cause an economic catastrophe.

Perhaps more than any other US industry, the airline industry suffers from over capacity. Can't we all agree a couple airlines need to go? Yet, we continue to subsidize them all.

If I were the judge, I would tell United that they will honor their pension obligations or face liquidation that will fund their pension. Sure the current United employees will suffer for a time until they find other employment, but their pensions would be secure and the the country be better off.

Discuss.

Linking to the NYT

I have always used the New York Times Link Generator to convert any links in my blog to their RSS feed so that even if you are not registered with the NYTs you can open the link.

Converting the link has another advantage. After a few days all on-line NYTs articles go to their archives and they charge for access. By converting the links, at least in theory, you have open access to the article forever.

For some reason, the Link Generator is down and has been for days. As a result, I've been citing less to to the NYTs and when I do, I've had to use the restricted link.

I've tried contacting Aaron Swartz who created the Link Generator to no avail.

So, if any of you have even noticed, this is what's going on.

It's Fear, Stupid

Have you noticed that since the election there has been no increases in the treat level?

The threat level was last elevated two days after the DNC convention and then lowered a week after the election. It has not been elevated since.

Ridge always insisted it was not political. Now, he sings a different tune.

Ridge reveals clashes on alerts
The Bush administration periodically put the USA on high alert for terrorist attacks even though then-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge argued there was only flimsy evidence to justify raising the threat level, Ridge now says.

Ridge, who resigned Feb. 1, said Tuesday that he often disagreed with administration officials who wanted to elevate the threat level to orange, or "high" risk of terrorist attack, but was overruled.
....
The level is raised if a majority on the President's Homeland Security Advisory Council favors it and President Bush concurs. Among those on the council with Ridge were Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI chief Robert Mueller, CIA director George Tenet, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Ridge and Ashcroft publicly clashed over how to communicate threat information to the public. But Ridge has never before discussed internal dissention over the threat level.
And for those who want to insist Bush did not benefit politically from manipulated Americans' fear, here the proof that you are wrong.

(Thanks to Atrios who did all the work on this)

What are we Afraid of?

As I've been saying, it's about fear.

Poll Cites GOP Gains Since 9/11

After the cold war, the Rs lost 3 consecutive presidential elections, not winning again until after 9/11, and even then by the smallest margin in history for a second term Pres.

The Ds win hands down on every issue but security. While we need to build our resume' on security, we must embrace our strength, which is domestic policy.

The bottom line is that we need to take a page from the GOP playbook and attack, attack, attack.

Bush is the most unpopular second term President in history. What in the hell are we afraid of?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

'Hillaryphobia'

My view of Hillary 08 has not changed.

But in reply to Joe Klien's recent Time article The Bull Moose, aka Marshall Whittman, makes some good points.

Tuesdays with EJ

EJ offers some much need perspective.
The current acrimony in politics is incomprehensible unless it is understood as the inevitable next act of a long-term struggle. Its ferocity arises from the Democrats' refusal to accept the role assigned them by their opponents. They are taking a stand across a broad front not simply to "obstruct" current GOP designs but to reverse a Republican political offensive that began during Bill Clinton's presidency.

In fact, every one of today's fights can be seen as a response to something that happened in the 1990s.
....

Privately, Senate Democrats are especially furious that Republicans have completely reversed their position on whether there is even a need for more federal judicial appointments. During the Clinton administration, many Republican senators insisted that there were too many federal judges and that it was therefore unnecessary for the president to fill all the vacancies that came up at the time. Republicans changed their story after President Bush's election, talking about a "vacancy crisis." Democrats are dug in on judges precisely because they do not want to reward Republican obstruction in the 1990s. The theory is that one wave of obstruction deserves -- even demands -- another.

In refusing to deal with Bush on Social Security privatization, Democrats recall the battle over Clinton's health care plan. While a few moderate Republicans, notably the late Sen. John Chafee of Rhode Island, were willing to bargain with Clinton, the party as a whole put up a front of opposition. Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich made it a matter of party discipline to bar anyone in his caucus from negotiating with the Democrats.

Bullies can never be rewarded.

It's Fear, Stupid

I've long maintained that Kerry lost the last election because the American people were afraid, and Bush encouraged and exploited that fear.

Women have historically favored Ds by a large margin. Kerry won the female vote last round by 3 points which is the worst showing in modern memory, and maybe ever.

Today's WaPo tells us that women who voted for Bush out of fear are returning to the Ds in large numbers.
A Democratic polling memo released yesterday found that women, who voted for President Bush last year in large numbers, have begun migrating back to their traditional home in the Democratic Party as the public's agenda has shifted from homeland security and terrorism to domestic concerns such as jobs and the economy.
....

The memo, released by Lake Snell Perry Mermin & Associates Inc., found women picked unnamed Democratic congressional candidates over Republicans by a 13-point margin. It also found that several key groups of women who voted Republican last year are now evenly or almost evenly split between the parties. Married women are now evenly split, while white women favor Democrats by three percentage points. Kerry lost both groups by 11 points.

"Homeland security and terrorism dominated the public's security agenda for several years following September 11th," the memo said. "However, the current focus appears to have shifted from safeguarding against terrorism to a stronger emphasis on issues that hit home financially. In dozens of recent focus groups among many different cohorts of women, concerns like retirement, health care and economic security are trumping the sorts of homeland security concerns that dominated women's issue agenda before the last election."

Domestic issues have always been our strong suit and will be the reason we win elections for the foreseeable future.

The Ds must build a better resume on defense issues, but not at the expense of our bread and butter.

By the way, as 2006 draws near, look for a White House return to fear mongering. It's all they've got.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Filibuster Bolton

I did not think Bolton was worth filibustering until now.

The State Department is refusing to make public internal documents sought by Senate Democrats in their attempt to seek more information about repeated clashes between John R. Bolton and American intelligence agencies over Syria, administration officials say.

In rejecting the request, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has said that the information involves "internal deliberations" and their disclosure could have a chilling effect on debates within the administration.
....

"The real question here is how far did John Bolton stretch the truth or stretch the facts, regarding intelligence," Mr. Biden said Sunday on the CBS News program "Face the Nation." Mr. Biden said the panel needed the documents to learn more about whether Mr. Bolton, as under secretary of state for arms control, had sought "to push the envelope" in making public assertions about Syria, Cuba and other countries that were not supported by objective intelligence assessments.

In appealing the decision, Mr. Biden said in a letter to Ms. Rice on Saturday that the panel needed the documents to help determine whether Mr. Bolton's efforts "to make statements that went far beyond what the intelligence would support" should call into question his fitness to be United Nations ambassador.
The Ds have to demand respect or all is lost. This sets a dangerious precedent.

There is nothing special about these docs except that Bolton perjured himself before Congress and the documents will establish that.

A successful filibuster will likely lead to Bolton's withdrawl.

Missing White Female

Douglas MacKinnon, former press secretary to Bob Dole has an interesting column in today's Chi Tribune.
Note to the news media--with an emphasis on the cable networks: Enough is enough.

Your continual focus on, and reporting of, missing, young, attractive white women not only demeans your profession but is a televised slap in the face to minority mothers and parents the nation over who search for their own missing children with little or no assistance or notice from anyone.
....
....Would an African-American woman who went missing days before her wedding receive the same (or any) coverage as that of Wilbanks? Not likely.
....
I have a number of friends at the cable networks (or at least I did), and I have spoken to some about this very subject. While all professed disgust with the underreporting of missing minority women and young adults, most were very uneasy with the thought of shining a spotlight on their own management to ascertain an answer. "Besides," one of them told me, "you've already figured it out. We showcase missing, young, white, attractive women because our research shows we get more viewers. It's about beating the competition and ad dollars."

Tragically, but not shockingly, in the spring of 2005, it seems the color of one's skin can determine the worth of that individual to some in the media. Journalism, as a profession, must be better than this.
(via Washington Monthly)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Google Ads

You may -- or more likely may not have noticed that I've taken down the Google Ads. I've had enough of them running pro GOP ads on this site despite my repeated request to them not to do so.

How many No. 3's are there?

Attaturk has a great post up re yet another capture of Al Qaeda's #3.
Just in time for Tony Blair, and those sagging approval rallies comes the announcement of the capture of Al Qaeda's No. 3 honcho.

But how many times have we capture the "purported No. 3"?

We said we got No. 3 here in 2002, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed .

And here in 2003, Saif al-Adel.

And now "Scooter" Al Libbi?
Of the latest No 3 the NYTs notes,
But some intelligence officials in Europe expressed surprise at hearing Mr. Libbi described as Al Qaeda's third-highest leader, pointing out that he does not figure on the F.B.I.'s most-wanted list.

There is another Qaeda operative on the list with a similar name, Abu al-Liby, also a Libyan, who was indicted for an "operational role" in the bombings of two American embassies in East Africa in August 1998. (The surname, in its various transliterations, means simply the Libyan.)

American officials, when asked about the doubts, dismissed the idea that they had confused the Libyans, saying they know Mr. Liby is on the list, and reaffirming the importance of Mr. Libbi. To be included on the F.B.I.'s most wanted list, they noted, a terrorist must have been indicted by a federal grand jury, which Mr. Libbi has not.

Here is my favorite part of Attaturk's post,
Look for this to shake out over the next couple days, but bear in mind the Bush Administrations mantra, as we've discussed before.
1. Something Happens.

2. Spin immediately and hard that it is the greatest thing EVER!

3. Say it is because of Dear Leader.

4. Move on to next over-the-top declaration of Dear Leader's greatness before anyone notices what happened is not the greatest thing ever, but actually made things worse.

5. Blather, Rinse, Repeat!

Dems Softening on Filibuster?

the Sunday NYTs has a big front-page piece on the filibuster fight. The article is a good primer if you haven't been keeping up.

If you've been keeping up you will find it redundant except for this,
Democrats have softened their earlier tone on paralyzing the Senate, saying they intend to push their own initiatives. And they say a snarled Senate has much less public resonance than does a government-wide shutdown like the one in 1995 that backfired on Newt Gingrich, the House speaker, and Congressional Republicans.

"We are not going to shut down the Senate; we are not shutting down the government," Mr. Durbin said. "Newt Gingrich retired that trophy."

He did say that Democrats intended to apply the rules of the Senate to try to force Republicans into uncomfortable stands on issues such as the minimum wage and health care. And Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, told a high school civics class on Friday in Las Vegas that Mr. Bush "will rue the day he let this happen."
I'm happy to see some acknowledgment on the part of the Ds that we do have a downside. We can win this fight in a very big way, but to do so will require excellent political skills and very skilled navigation. I didn't think Reid had it in him, but I'm happy to be rethinking my view of him.

The NYTs thinks it will be the end of May before the showdown.

As I've long maintained here, I don't think Frist has the votes, and may even be losing votes previously thought solid (Santorum has gotten cold feet). But Frist, who had been looking for a compromise has been backed against the walll by the Religious Right who presently, through Frist, run the Senate.

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Drug Costs

Ezra has an excellent post up today on pharmaceutical costs.

Go read Ezra.

Topeka Monkey Trial

This is your GOP. When you vote Republican, this is what you're voting for.

Link
"It's clear from the beginning that this is not a real science discussion. This is a showcase for intelligent design," said Jack Krebs, vice president of Kansas Citizens for Science, which is boycotting the four days of hearings. "They have created a straw man. They are trying to make science stand for atheism so they can fight atheism."

The debate is the highest-profile confrontation over evolutionary theory in years, pitting the impassioned corps of anti-Darwinists against a scientific establishment that considers the evidence of the chemical and biological origins of life to be beyond dispute. It was made possible by Republican gains in November elections that gave the Kansas board a 6-4 conservative majority.

Local and national science organizations are so disturbed by the proceedings that they are boycotting them, apart from advising Pedro Irigonegaray, a civil rights and defense lawyer recruited to defend the existing Kansas science standards. On the eve of the hearings, he predicted a "whitewash" but said he would fight nonetheless.

"I had a delicious fantasy," the Cuban-born Irigonegaray said with a smile, recalling the offer to defend evolutionary theory. "I saw myself in a large courtroom, the fan moving slowly over my head, perhaps a skull in my hand, while I'm cross-examining a key witness."

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


Click to enlarge.

A TX Pol I'll Support

Nick Lampson will get a check from me.

Democrat Plans Run Against DeLay
Last November, four-term Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Tex.) lost his job after a controversial redrawing of the state's congressional seats -- engineered by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- left Lampson in a district that was more than half new to him and much more heavily Republican than before.

Now, with DeLay facing a barrage of questions about lavish overseas trips and close dealings with lobbyists, Lampson wants to settle the score for the redistricting, which cost four veteran Texas congressmen their seats and is known by local Democrats as "Tommymandering."

Lampson, a moderate Democrat and one-time public school teacher from Beaumont, plans to formally file papers as a candidate today and then to move into DeLay's suburban Houston district. He said he will spend $4 million or more to try to defeat the majority leader, using ethics as a major issue.

Indict them All

Democrats' Travel Costs Linked to Lobbyist
Lobbyist Jack Abramoff paid at least a portion of the expenses for two Democratic members of Congress and two staff members to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) during a pair of trips in the mid-1990s to the Northern Mariana Islands, according to a former Abramoff secretary and travel records published on the Internet yesterday.
....

The two congressmen were James E. Clyburn (S.C.), now vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and Bennie Thompson (Miss.), now the senior Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee. The aides to DeLay were Edwin A. Buckham, now a lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group, and Tony Rudy, now a member of Buckham's lobbying firm.
If it's illegal or a rules violation, screw them all. I won't defend any D for this behavior.

Investigate every one of them and let the chips fall where they may.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Jack in the House

Speaking of CREW, check out:: Jack in the House :: How Jack Abramoff bought Congress ::

A Stacked Deck

Melanie Sloan at Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington reminds us that simply reverting to the 'old' ethics rules in the House hardly equates to a fair and balanced(tm) (to borrow a phrase) process on the House Ethics Committee.

Besides changing the rules to make any DeLay disipline impossible, DeLay also stacked the deck. The 10 member committee is made up of equal number Rs and Ds.

As CREW points out, all 5 Republican members are in DeLay's pocket.
Records indicate that one of Mr. DeLay’s political action committees, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) contributed $15,000 to the campaign committee of Melissa Hart (R-PA), the person whom Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) has said would lead any investigation into DeLay’s conduct. In addition, three other Republican members of the Committee, Doc Hastings, Judy Biggert (R-IL), and Tom Cole (R-OK) have also received contributions from ARMPAC. Moreover, Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Tom Cole have contributed to Mr. DeLay’s legal defense fund – the very fund that is paying for Mr. DeLay’s defense to charges before the Ethics Committee.”
All 5 R members have the kind of conflicts that make it impossible for them to be fair. An attorney who attempted to perform in such a conflicted role would be disbarred.

And why isn't anyone in the liberal media talking about this? Tell your friends, tell you neighbors,....

Tuesdays with EJ

You need to read EJ's column today.

EJ often has great insights into political issues that make his column a good read, but too frequently for my taste, he is also a 'wet noodle' unwilling to make hard stands.

Well, on Soc Security even EJ has had enough. He wants the D's to walk away from the table.
Now that President Bush has proposed Social Security benefit cuts through "progressive indexing," his critics are said to have an obligation to negotiate in good faith to achieve a solution. There are just two problems with that sentence: The words "good faith" and "solution."

Bush's "plan" is still not a plan, just a few ideas. If the president is serious, let him first persuade members of his own party to agree to a detailed proposal so everyone knows what the trade-offs are. If what he has in mind is a good idea, Republicans will be eager to sign on. And if Bush can't get Republicans to go along, might that say something about the merits of his suggestions?
And what does EJ have to say about what G-dub has proposed? He says what everyone should be saying,
The real costs of progressive indexing as currently conceived would be paid by middle-income earners -- those with incomes in the range of $35,000 to $60,000 a year.

Eventually, such earners would face benefit cuts of 20 to 30 percent from what they are promised under the current program. And it gets worse: Rising Medicare premiums are eating up an increasing share of middle-class Social Security checks. Even without the cuts, Social Security payments will, over time, barely cover an individual's Medicare costs.

Last, there are the trillions of dollars that Bush would have us borrow to cover the transition to the private accounts he wants to set up. It's far from clear that cutting future Social Security benefits for younger members of the middle class and saddling them with mounds of new indebtedness would make either them or the country better off. Anyone who is truly conservative might have a question or two about whether this "solution" is worse than the problem it is purportedly addressing.

Walking away from a rigged game is hard for some people, especially when those running it and the respected opinion-makers who support them insist that this time the game will truly be on the level. But, especially when the danger involves gambling away the future of Social Security, the truly responsible thing is to leave the table.
EJ's on a roll and there is much more to the column including his thoughts of the current Conference Committee process. Go read EJ.

History of the Filibuster

From Time.

and to be Fair and Balanced (tm) from FOXNews.com which to my surprise, is a fair and balanced history.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Big Changes at Public Broadcasting

Media Matters has the story that apparently the NYTs wouldn't tell.
In a May 2 article on efforts by Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), "to correct what he and other conservatives consider liberal bias" at CPB, New York Times reporters Stephen Labaton, Lorne Manley, and Elizabeth Jensen noted that CPB recently appointed two ombudsmen "to review the content of public radio and television broadcasts." But the article failed to note that one of the ombudsmen, William Schulz, is an avowed conservative with close ties to Tomlinson, while the other, Ken Bode, is a former journalist and a fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute who last year endorsed Indiana Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels. In addition, the Times story made no mention that CPB's new chief operating officer and acting president is a former Bush administration official.
Explains a lot or recent events, doesn't it?

Go read the piece. It's very troubling. On the other hand, we may all be saving some money this year.

No One Backs a Lap Dog

Ezra Klein brings my attention to a story from yesterday that I missed.

Apparently Pat Robertson is backing Rudy in 2008, casting aside the Grand Ayatollah Frist in the process. Poor Frist sold his sole to these people for their support, and even as I write is allowing them to run the United States Senate. So why have they forsaken him? I think Ezra gets it exactly right,
while his slavish attentiveness towards Bush's agenda might get him a pat on the head from conservatives, the truth is that no one falls in love with a follower.
Frist's leadership in the Senate has been abysmal and they are already running from him.

Sen Talent Responds

Below is the response I received from Sen Jim Talent (R- MO) to my recent email. The most interesting thing about it is that it is not a form letter. Someone at Talent's office actually read my email and responded directly, as opposed to just cutting and pasting a policy statment.

Dear Dr. Ward:

Thank you for contacting me about the pending judicialnominations. I appreciate the time you have taken to share yourviews with me, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

My feeling towards judicial nominations is that I will vote to confirm nominees if they are reasonably qualified and competent, and if their jurisprudence reflects a widely held view of American law. Basically this means that if a nominee has enjoyed reasonable success in a field of law or legal education over anumber of years, I will vote to confirm him or her, unless there iscredible evidence that the nominee is dishonest or has a strangeeccentric jurisprudence.

The nominees you mention are all entitled to confirmationunder this standard. They are all qualified in the sense that theyhave records that reflect competent legal skills; even theirdetractors do not refute that. To the extent that these nominees have been opposed, it is because some Senators do not agree withtheir judicial philosophy. But that is not the basis for opposing,much less filibustering, a nominee. If it were, no one who hasviews about the law could ever get confirmed because one side orthe other would filibuster them.

America is divided about a lot of things, and these divisionsalso exist in the legal community. I have strong views myselfabout many of the issues you mentioned in your letter. It sounds asif you are on the left of the political spectrum and that we would therefore disagree. But we should both be able to accept that the other's views are representative of a broad section of American political and legal thought. On that basis I would cheerfully vote to confirm a good lawyer who had your opinions and was nominated to the federal bench. So the issue here is less the qualifications of the nominees you mention, but whether those on the left wing are still rallying to concede, as heretofore they always have, that those on the other side of the spectrum may be permitted to serve in the Federal Judiciary.

Unfortunately, for some in Washington, politics continues to take precedence over the fair consideration of judicial nominations. The decision by the Senate Democrats to filibuster a number of the President's nominees in the 108th session of Congress was unfortunate to say the least.

I am not a big supporter of the filibuster in general. But I do believe that if it is going to be used it should be reserved for issues of the greatest national significance, not abused for political reasons. I will continue to monitor the situation because I strongly believe that the President's nominees will receive fair treatment.

Again thank you for contacting me. If I may be of furtherassistance, please don't hesitate to call or write.

Thank you for your email. To contact me on this or any other subject, please go
to http://talent.senate.gov/Contact/default.cfm

Sincerely,

Senator Jim Talent
As for the policy, it's straighforward and worthy of respect.

Of course, 'the devil is always in the details' and Sen Talent has given himself some wiggle room in his pledge to vote to confirm any reasonably qualified nominee with the caveat, " if their jurisprudence reflects a widely held view of American law. "

Sen Talent supports the nomination of Judge Janice Rogers Brown. There is no question that Judge Brown's views do not, even remotely reflect "widely held views of American law".

Thus, I assume the wiggle room here is to be used against judges he deems to the left.

Of Course They Misread the Election

Link
The day after he won a second term in November, President Bush offered his view of the new political landscape.

"When you win there is a feeling that the people have spoken and embraced your point of view," he said, "and that's what I intend to tell the Congress, that I made it clear what I intend to do as president . . . and the people made it clear what they wanted, now let's work together."
....

As the president passed the 100-day mark of his second term over the weekend, the main question facing Bush and his party is whether they misread the November elections. With the president's poll numbers down, and the Republican majority ensnared in ethical controversy, things look much less like a once-a-generation realignment.

Instead, some political analysts say it is just as likely that Washington is witnessing a happens-all-the-time phenomenon -- the mistaken assumption by politicians that an election won on narrow grounds is a mandate for something broad. In Bush's case, this includes restructuring Social Security and the tax code and installing a group of judges he was unable to seat in his first term. This was the error that nearly sank Bill Clinton's presidency in his first years in office in 1993 and 1994 when he put forth a broad health care plan, and that caused then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's Republican "Revolution" to stall in 1995 in a confrontation over cutting spending for popular domestic programs.
Of course they misread the election. Overplaying their hand is what the GOP does second best.

What they do best is scar the hell out of ordinary Americans to win their votes. This is what they did in November. Isn't it curious that the "threat level" has remained unchanged since it was lowered a week after the election? It hasn't been elevated since the Democratic Convention when they had to act on 4 year old information discovered months earlier. Yet another issue we should be beating them over the head with.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

'Nuclear Update'

I haven't time right now to do more with this, but go read Kevin's nuclear update. He talks about David Brooks' latest column and Brooks assertion that Reid offered to prevent a filibuster of the next Supreme Court nominee. I find it hard to believe that Reid would make such an offer, or that Frist would not take it.

Go read it. The points about showing leadership in the Senate are the best part.

Not So Redacted

Kevin Drum has a great post up today at The Washington Monthly.

Here's the crux,
....The U.S. military released a report last week clearing American troops in the March gunfire incident that injured Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and killed Nicola Calipari, an Italian intelligence agent, as they were driving to the Baghdad airport. Italian reaction has been outraged, and the Italian government is expected to issue a report on Monday contradicting many of the U.S. findings.

But here's a question: do you think the Italian computer whizzes will be any more competent than their American counterparts when they release their report? The U.S. report is full of redactions, as you can see in the picture above, but once again an American agency has used the searchable PDF format to distribute a report, and all you have to do is save the report as a text file in order to recover all the redacted parts.

And Kevin has done just that and is currently reading the whole, unredacted, report.

Blair's 'Memo-gate'

Link
Tony Blair had resolved to send British troops into action alongside US forces eight months before the Iraq War began, despite a clear warning from the Foreign Office that the conflict could be illegal.

A damning minute leaked to a Sunday newspaper reveals that in July 2002, a few weeks after meeting George Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Mr Blair summoned his closest aides for what amounted to a council of war. The minute reveals the head of British intelligence reported that President Bush had firmly made up his mind to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein, adding that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy".

At the same time, a document obtained by this newspaper reveals the Foreign Office legal advice given to Mr Blair in March 2002, before he travelled to meet Mr Bush at his Texas ranch. It contains many of the reservations listed nearly a year later by the Attorney General in his confidential advice to the Prime Minister, which the Government was forced to publish last week, including the warning that the US government took a different view of international law from Britain or virtually any other country.
I've bolded my favorite part, because although this is so obviously true, it's still so controversial here.

There's more and it will be interesting to see how this plays out on the upcoming elections.