Friday, September 30, 2005

More Cronies

Neocon Jeffrey Gedmin to Succeed Anne Patterson as Deputy US Ambassador to UN
....neoconservative Jeffrey Gedmin was in line for a senior staff job under Bolton at the United Nations.

A short while ago, I confirmed that it is actually the No. 2 slot Gedmin is getting.

This seemed significant as this seems to be the first time that anyone can remember where a "political" person has been chosen for the deputy slot at the U.N. The popular incumbent, Anne Patterson, and a long line of other deputy chiefs at the U.S. Mission to the U.N. have been career foreign service officers.

Blumenthal Does Like Hughes

He really doesn't like her. He thinks she is simple as a stump, but he doesn't put it so nicely.

And while I agree with him completely, I think his bluntness is counterproductive and even offensive.

But he is absolutely right about the damage her trip is doing to our nation. Karen Hughes, now undersecretary for public diplomacy, is off on her first PR trip to the Middle East.

Here's a taste,

Salon.com | The undersecretary's dangerous trip
Hughes appeared to be one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book, "Innocents Abroad," about his trip on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty to us ... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans -- Americans!"

Hughes' simple, sincere and unadorned language is pellucid in revealing the administration's inner mind. Her ideas on terrorism and its solution are straightforward. "Terrorists," she said in Egypt at the start of her trip, "their policies force young people, other people's daughters and sons, to strap on bombs and blow themselves up." Somehow, magically, these evildoers coerce the young to commit suicide. If only they would understand us, the tensions would dissolve. "Many people around the world do not understand the important role that faith plays in Americans' lives," she said. When an Egyptian opposition leader inquired why President Bush mentions God in his speeches, she asked him "whether he was aware that previous American presidents have also cited God, and that our Constitution cites 'one nation under God.' He said, 'Well, never mind.'"

Read it and tell us what you think.

And, by the way, the Constitution does not mention God at all, much less as 'on nation under God.' But I don't want to pick nits.

Judy Testified Today

Judy finally went before the grand jury.

There is theory floating around that is interesting to think about but appears to be pure speculation. Since I don't like Judy Miller I'm going to make a exception to my rule of not using this space to spread unfounded rumors.

Everyone knows that it is believed in some circles that Judy was infact protecting herself by not testifying, it being the fifth amendment, not the first, that she was concerned with. Since I don't like Judy, I've always believe this, but I've never heard a really good explanation of how this could be.

We know from recent reporting that it was important to Judy that Fitzgerald agree that he would only ask her about Scooter and not any other sources and that Fitzgerald so agreed.

Here is one theory. Judy was in fact a player in this sad affair -- not a journalist -- and was willingly used to launder information. For instance, Boulton calls Judy and tells here who Joe Wilson's wife is and her relationship with The Company. Judy, being the player that she is, immediatly calls Scooter to tell him the info, and Scooter calls everyone he can think of. After all, Scooter didn't get this info from top secret sources, but a civilian member of the press. Scooter could not then have violated the law because it was a journalist who told him!

I don't know if this is true. I only know I don't like Judy Miller.

FEMAs Failures No Big Deal?

You say that too much is being made of FEMAs recent failures in evacuating NOLA and Houston? It's a big job you say, and why should we have such high expectations?

What if it had been a dirty bomb?

4 years and tens of billions of dollars after "9/11 changed everything" what is the plan for a dirty bomb in a major metropolitan area?

Liar

DeLay's lawyer and the grand jury foreman say he is a liar. DeLay claims he was never asked to testify before the TX grand jury.

HoustonChronicle.com,
The day after U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's grand jury indictment, his lawyer and the jury foreman on Thursday appeared to contradict the Texas politician's assertions that he was not given a chance to speak before the jury.

The foreman, William M. Gibson Jr., a retired state insurance investigator, said the Travis County grand jury waited until Wednesday, the final day of its term, to indict him because it was hoping he would accept jurors' invitation to testify.

DeLay said in interviews that the grand jury never asked him to testify.

In a Wednesday night appearance on MSNBC's ...

"Never asking me to testify, never doing anything for two years," DeLay said in the interview. "...

On Thursday, DeLay said in another broadcast interview ...

"I have not testified before the grand jury to present my side of the case, and they indicted me," said DeLay, according to the Associated Press.

Dick DeGuerin, the attorney representing DeLay, said Thursday that DeLay actually was invited to appear before the grand jury, where he would have been under oath. The Houston attorney was not yet on the legal team when DeLay was asked to appear, but he said other attorneys advised him not to testify — a decision DeGuerin supports.
So, who in the press will have the cojones to call him on this?

(via Atrios)

DeLay Will Prove a Vast Left Wing Conspiracy

Again from Think Progress,

Tom DeLay says he has “very good evidence” of a massive conspiracy between Ronnie Earle, Nancy Pelosi and other liberals. He just can’t release that information yet, can’t explain why he can’t and can’t say when he will be able to do so:

DeLay Conspiracy

Watch DeLay: Quicktime Streaming

Transcript below:

DELAY: Ronnie Earle does this to all his political enemies. He did it to conservative Democrats. He did it — and he does it to Republicans. And particularly in my case, he did it in conjunction and working with the Democrat leadership here in Washington, D.C.

BLITZER: Well, that’s an explosive charge you make, that there was some sort of collusion or conspiracy between Ronnie Earle and Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the Congress. What evidence, if any, do you have to back that up?

DELAY: It’s very good evidence, that they announced this strategy publicly, they put it on their website and this strategy is in their fund-raising letters.

BLITZER: Who specifically — who announced this?

DELAY: The DCCC, the Democratic Campaign Committee, run by Chairman Rahm Emanuel.

BLITZER: They announced that they were working with Ronnie Earle to get you an indictment?

DELAY: No, they didn’t do that.

BLITZER: What evidence is there they consulted with Ronnie Earle, that they talked to him or they had any dealings with him whatsoever?

DELAY: That evidence is coming. But the point is, they announced the strategy, and it’s very funny that two weeks ago, when Ronnie Earle said publicly that I was not part of the investigation, that I hadn’t been investigated, and then turns around in two days — over the weekend — he now is going to indict me. It is quite obvious, because the Democrats announced this strategy. And we all know how this place works. I’m sure they worked closely with Ronnie Earle on this strategy.

BLITZER: When is the evidence going to be made available? You say it’s coming. When are you going to make that evidence available?

DELAY: When it’s timely.

BLITZER: What does that mean?

DELAY: When it’s timely.

BLITZER: All right. Well, we’ll have to wait and see for that evidence.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


Link

Wow!

Go Read Hunter

Ronnie Earle Backgrounder

The neo-classic GOP strategy when you can't defend yourself. Attack, attack, attack. Thus, Ronnie Earle is now the target.

From the WaPo:Earle Has Prosecuted Many Democrats

The New York Times On Judy,

Link
.....Her decision to testify came after she obtained what she described as a waiver offered "voluntarily and personally" by a source who said she was no longer bound by any pledge of confidentiality she had made to him. She said the source had made clear that he genuinely wanted her to testify.
She could have obtained this waiver without every having gone to jail, so why now.....four weeks before getting out?

To keep from being indicted for criminal contempt.

A Reform Agenda

The Moose is right. Go Read the Moose,
...But each day, as yesterday revealed, the Congressional Republicans more and more resemble the House Democrats of a decade ago - an entrenched crony establishment out of touch with the country and even their own principles. The popularity numbers of the Congressional GOP are in the tank. Democrats have a significant lead in most generic Congressional match-ups with the Republicans.

It could happen, but it is not inevitable. The Moose's mantra is that the Democrats must offer a reform agenda that appeals to both independents and even disaffected Republicans. The party must begin moving beyond Bush-hatred and forge a plan for governance that provides a glimpse of what Democratic leadership would look like. They have time to accomplish this task, but they should not dither.

Judy's Gonna Rat!

Judith Miller Out of Jail, Says Knight Ridder,
...said that an unnamed jail official had revealed that Miller left an Alexandria, Va. jail late this afternoon, at 3:55 pm., adding, "She was released after she had a telephone conversation with the Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, sources said. In that conversation, Libby reaffirmed that he had released Miller from a promise of confidentiality more than a year ago, sources said.
Only the judge can let her out of jail and it would seem only if she agreed to end her contemptuous conduct.

i.e, she's gonna rat.

UPDATE: It's confirmed. Judy's gonna rat. Here is what's odd about the timing,
The federal grand jury delving into the matter expires Oct. 28. Miller would have been freed at that time, but prosecutors could have pursued a criminal contempt of court charge against the reporter if she continued to defy Fitzgerald.
After all this time, why not just ride it out? I guess Fitzgerald convinced her he was going to indict her for criminal contempt before the grand jury expired if she didn't testify? I can't think of any other reason why should wouldn't just finish out the last few weeks and leave a journalistic hero,....at least to some.

Who is Roy Blunt?

TPM says this is the best profile.

House Majority Whip Exerts Influence by Way of K Street

The Case Against DeLay

Admittedly, I've been tied up today, so I'm trying to play catch-up.

So far, the best explanation I've seen for how this money laundering scheme worked is from today's NYTs.
...In September 2002, the indictment shows, the committee sent a check for $190,000 drawn from that account to the Republican National Committee in Washington. The check, which is reproduced in the indictment, was made out to the Republican National State Elections Committee, which oversees state races for the national party.

The indictment charged that Mr. Ellis, Mr. DeLay's aide, then provided Terry Nelson, President Bush's political director in his 2004 campaign and a Republican National Committee official, with a list of state Republican candidates in Texas who were to receive money, along with the amount of money for each.

The indictment suggests that the proceeds from the $190,000 check were then laundered back to Texas in the form of donations to the seven Republican candidates, in violation of the state's corporate money ban.
In reading around the blogsphere, I get the impression people don't understand what's going on.

So here is my 'off the cuff' legal analysis that is worth the price you've paid. That TRMPAC used the RNC to launder money is a no-brainer. See this NYT's graphic .

But just because TRMPAC laundered money doesn't mean that DeLay was involved in the criminal activity. Ronnie Earle must show that DeLay actually worked with (conspired) to get the money to the RNC and donations back to his candidates in TX. It is not enough that he show the PAC broke the law or that PAC employees or agents broke the law. He has to link DeLay personally.

As I've said before, despite what the Rs say, Ronnie Earle is nobody's fool. He must have some fairly strong evidence. This evidence may be in the form of a rat(s). Many have speculated that one of DeLay's co-defendants has cut a deal. Maybe, but it could be rats from the corporations who actually put up the money -- "Tom called me and told me we need to some money to get our boys elected in the TX house,...."

The evidence may not be people at all, but letters or --what is in our legal profession has become a gold mine of info -- emails. It is shocking the things people would never commit to a letter but will say in an email,...but I digress.

Maybe Earle indicted DeLay on the 'if-come' hoping that he would get the evidence he needs as the case develops,...in which case I may have to reconsider my earlier comment about Earle being nobody's fool. I can't imagine any sane person would do this with such a powerful player...

Soon enough, the cards will be on the table and we'll all know.

What do you think?

Think Progress: Tom DeLay Exercises His Right To Incriminate Himself

Think Progress » VIDEO: Tom DeLay Exercises His Right To Incriminate Himself

Criminally indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay yesterday laid out a strong case…against himself.

Each of the points below were spoken verbatim by DeLay during an interview last night on Fox News (we’ve compiled them all into a single video). If this is his “defense,” he’s in serious trouble.

Watch the DeLay compilation: Quicktime Streaming

– I have had ethics charges filed starting in 1993
– Again in 1995
– A racketeering suit right after that
– Some more ethics charges right after that
– This has been going on for two years, multiple grand juries, and then they come out with an indictment
– [The grand jury] asked me to come in. … Basically what I showed them was, yes, it was my idea to set up this political action committee
– It was my idea to set up TRMPAC
– I got it all organized
– I and four other elected officials were on an advisory board [of TRMPAC]
– I went to five fundraisers
– They did use my name to raise money
– They told me about it later, and then they would tell me things are going well
– Jim Ellis … also runs my ARMPAC
– Jim Ellis would let me know how things were going because was interested in how things are going and how much money they were raising
– The point here is is Texas deserved a Republican House of Representatives. The way you got change that was to take the majority in the Texas House, and that was my goal. It was successful
– Ronnie Earle let my lawyers know last week that I was going to be indicted
– I have hired Dick DeGuerin, who is my lawyer, who is the same lawyer that taught Ronnie Earle a lesson

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos

This should make for some interesting press coverage and questions at the WH press briefing.

Judge Orders Release of Abu Ghraib Photos

Roberts Already Sworn In

Roberts Takes Oath As Chief Justice

They didn't waist any time. 78 to 22.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Alcee Hasting?

Steve is right. Here and here.

Contact Rep Pelosi and let her know this is not who we are.

Her contact info:

Web Site: www.house.gov/pelosi
E-mail: sf.nancy@mail.house.gov


Washington Office:

2371 RHOB
Washington, D.C. 20515-0508
Phone: (202) 225-4965
Fax: (202) 225-8259

Main District Office:

450 Golden Gate Ave., Burton Fed. Bldg.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Phone: (415) 556-4862
Fax: (415) 861-1670

Tomorrow's WaPo

is full of eulogies of the vaunted GOP machine.

For the GOP, A Troubled Year Gets Worse

Indictment Ends the DeLay Era on Capitol Hill

GOP Ignores Lessons of Democrats' Past Mistakes

Chronology: House Majority Leader Delay

While this is a great day for America, we'd all do well to remember the text of a cable sent by Mark Twain from London to the press in the United States after his obituary had been mistakenly published, "Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."

The GOP still controls both houses of congress and the WH. Shedding DeLay's iron fist may rejuvenate them, so now is not the time to rest.

Now is the time for the Ds to seize the day.

Stick a Fork in Him,

He's done.

Tomorrow's WaPo has the story of DeLay's big day.

As was widely speculated, Hastert and DeLay wanted Dreier as a place holder while DeLay was away.

But There was one big problem:
When DeLay's indictment was unsealed yesterday, conservatives in the GOP caucus immediately erupted in anger over rumors that the selection of Dreier, whom they regard as too moderate, was being presented as a fait accompli .

As the conservatives met to vent frustrations and plot options, Hastert was changing course in a separate meeting on the second floor of the Capitol. Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.), the majority whip, was making a personal appeal for the promotion. Hastert agreed, forestalling a possible revolt by conservatives, who regard Blunt as one of their own.

The wild day of maneuvering made clear that beneath the image of lockstep discipline in the House -- which DeLay himself enforced for years -- the GOP caucus is rife with ambitious personalities in not-so-subtle competition. With DeLay sidelined, it will fall largely to Hastert to move President Bush's agenda and to maintain order among an increasingly restless crowd as the 2006 elections approach.

Hastert's challenge was vividly highlighted yesterday by the mood at a private late-afternoon meeting of the House Republican Conference, with nearly all members in attendance.

Some lawmakers, such as Zach Wamp (Tenn.) challenged Republican leaders to set a date for formal leadership elections instead of allowing party bosses to impose their choices.....
So why not Blunt, who was hand picked by DeLay for his #3 job? Maybe because, As majority whip,
Blunt, even more than DeLay before him, has created a formal alliance with K Street lobbyists, empowering corporate representatives and trade association executives to assist the House leadership in counting votes and negotiating amendments to bring holdouts into the fold.
If DeLay is not convicted, he may stay on in Congress, but he's done. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and he has lost his iron fist, as proven by his inability to pick his successor.

It is very hard to lead a group like the current house GOP for any length of time, and it looks like those days are over.

Gdub's agenda, already having problems is likely done.

What do you think?

Palace Intrigue

From what I'm reading, none of which is sourced, it sounds like Blunt is pushing in. This makes sense as Blunt was DeLay's lieutenant for years.

The consensus view seems to be that DeLay feared Blunt's power feeling that once in, he'd never leave the job.

You all know my usual sources. But also check out Steve Clemens who is also on the story.

The Washington Note

And here is something to watch: Just how far out Rs are willing to go supporting DeLay. The WH is playing this very close to the vest, and I suspect most others will do the same. After all, they know better than anyone just how dirty Delay is, and are waiting for the other shoe to drop.

What Kilgore Said

TPMCafe || Raising Our Game

Dreier?

You've probably heard that Dreir is supposed to replace DeLay as the Majority Leader, but there may be a problem.

Turns out Dreier is a major closet case. A big Mo schacked up with his chief of staff.

Who knew? Well, apparently everyone but me.

So, some are speculating that the Xtians might have an issue. Will this afford a chance for Blunt to make a make a power play for the job?

Watch this space.

DeLay Charged With Conspiracy

DeLay Charged With Conspiracy

Isn't This Really Premature

Isn't it just a bit early to become hysterical?

Filibuster Showdown Looms In Senate,
The upcoming battle over a successor to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor threatens to plunge the Senate into another bitter confrontation over filibusters and the "nuclear option," with Democrats already threatening to use any means possible to thwart President Bush if he nominates someone they regard as too conservative.

The roster of those threatening a filibuster includes liberal and moderate Democrats, supporters and opponents of John G. Roberts Jr., Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean, and at least one of the seven Democratic senators who were part of the bipartisan "Gang of 14."

Tuesdays with EJ

A day late.

We are all frustrated Ds who feel we are not capitalizing on the President's freefall.

Here is the crux of EJ's column,
But the party's problems are structural and can be explained by three numbers: 21, 34 and 45. According to the network exit polls, 21 percent of the voters who cast ballots in 2004 called themselves liberal, 34 percent said they were conservative and 45 percent called themselves moderate.

Those numbers mean that liberal-leaning Democrats are far more dependent than conservatively inclined Republicans on alliances with the political center. Democrats second-guess themselves because they have to.

Consider that in 2004 Democrat John Kerry won 85 percent of the liberal vote and defeated Bush by a healthy 54 percent to 45 percent among moderates. But Bush prevailed because he won 84 percent of a conservative vote that constitutes more than a third of the electorate.
We need to remember what the Rs often forget. Americans are not ideologies. They are not conservative, but neither are they liberal. Clinton was successful because he appealed to the center, and therein lies our road to victory, but I fear that the left, calling for blood, are making the same mistake the right has often made.

A house divided against itself, cannot stand. While I remain convinced that Bush won this last election by fear mongering (when was the last time the treat level was increased?) EJ makes the very important point that right stuck with him.

The left needs to look at these numbers and be accepting of a voice more moderate than they may want. Unless, of course, they want another GOP president.

Friedman's Hand Ringing Again

I don't know if you can access today's Friedman column without Times Select. I pulled it from their RSS feed, but I have TS.

Anyway, remembering what a big advocate he was of the fools errand in Iraq, his concluding paragraph today says it all:
Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won't, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind. We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children.
Maybe it wasn't so much that the Europeans were cynical, as it was that you and yours, Mr. Friedman, were ignorant fools?

And I can't imagine how arming the Iranian allied Shia will make anything better, but then again, what do I know?

I Guess We Can't Handle the Truth

While Saint Alan Greenspan, infallible Chairman of the Fed, continues to blow smoke up the ass of the American people and the spendthrifts who lead us, he has no problem stating the obvious to the French.

Reuters
WASHINGTON, Sept 24 (Reuters) - U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told France's Finance Minister Thierry Breton the United States has "lost control" of its budget deficit, the French minister said on Saturday.

"'We have lost control,' that was his expression," Breton told reporters after a bilateral meeting with Greenspan.

"The United States has lost control of their budget at a time when racking up deficits has been authorized without any control (from Congress)," Breton said.

"We were both disappointed that the management of debt is not a political priority today," he added.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

The Looting of America

Josh got it right, "Straight up looting"literally sponsored by Halliburton.

Out loud and proud!

WaPo,
......As fiscal hawks surrendered, would-be government contractors were meeting in the Hart Senate Office Building to figure out how to get a share of the money. A "Katrina Reconstruction Summit," hosted by Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) and sponsored by Halliburton, among others, brought some 200 lobbyists, corporate representatives and government staffers to a room overlooking the Capitol for a five-hour conference that included time for a "networking break" and advice on "opportunities for private sector involvement."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) sent his budget director, Bill Hoagland, who cautioned that federal Katrina spending might not exceed $100 billion. But John Clerici, from a law firm that helped sponsor the event, told the group that spending would "probably be larger" than $200 billion. "It's going to be spent in a fast and furious way," Clerici said.
______

....Earlier this month, the conservative Heritage Foundation complained about a 33 percent expansion of the federal government since 2001, even before the Katrina spending. "Unless lawmakers make difficult decisions now, they will dump the largest debt in world history into the laps of the next generation," Heritage concluded.
And yet, so completely have they sold their soles to these loons that they will only wisper about the looting of America.

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

DeLay Probe Winds Down; Charges May Loom,
WASHINGTON -- A Texas grand jury's recent interest in conspiracy charges could lead to last-minute criminal indictments _ possibly against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay _ as it wraps up its investigation Wednesday into DeLay's state political organization, according to lawyers with knowledge of the case.

Conspiracy counts against two DeLay associates this month raised concerns with DeLay's lawyers, who fear the chances are greater that the majority leader could be charged with being part of the conspiracy. Before these counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code....Con't reading
While such an indictment would make me very happy, I'm not holding my breath. Ronnie Earle is nobody's fool and he is not indicting DeLay unless he believes he has him nailed. If Earle thinks the case is weak, he can go forward on those already under indictment and if they are convicted, squeeze them to rat. There is nothing preventing him from later impaneling another grand jury to consider more charges against others.

So lets keep our fingers crossed but be realistic. Discreation is always the better part of valor, and a failed attempt to convict DeLay would be the worst possible outcome.

What A Freakin Liar!

This is really unbelievable! I'm speechless. This is why the Ds had to boycott this kangaroo commission.

Brown Falsely Smears Blanco Under Oath

Under oath today Brownie was asked why the president’s federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th did not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines, to which Brownie responded that the Gov did not request emergency assistance for those area.

This is a complete and total lie. It's perjury.

Here is the proof: Louisiana Governor's Office - Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

August 27, 2005


The President
The White House
Washington, D. C.

Through:
Regional Director
FEMA Region VI
800 North Loop 288
Denton, Texas 76209

Dear Mr. President:

Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Read the Governor's entire request here.

GOP Leaders Try to Soothe Conservatives

This is really an issue that the Ds need to exploit.

Given the President's sagging poll numbers, the conservatives have to be near the breaking point.

GOP Leaders Try to Soothe Conservatives

This Just Got Interesting!

From Josh,

Two men, Anthony Ferrari and Anthony Moscatiello, arrested in the gangland killing of erstwhile Abramoff business partner Gus Boulis.

Unmentioned in today's AP story are the quarter million dollars in unexplained payments Abramoff business partner Adam Kidan made to Moscatiello, Ferrari and their family members around the time of Boulis' death.

Kidan earlier explained that the payments were for "catering" and "surveillance".

Small world.

Indeed.

Update: The WaPo now has the story.

Bush's Idea of Leadership

Georgia is ranked 49th of the 50 states in SAT scores (pdf).

The Governor of Georgia, Sunny Perdue, is concerned about fuel shortages despite the fact that gas supplies were moving freely through pipelines that serve Georgia. He was "anticipating problems" and wanting to head them off. so what is the Governor's solution? Where is the first place he looks to for conservation? Car pooling? Avoid unneccery shipments? Curtail non-essential state travel and ask business to do the same?

He has asked the schools to close for two days. I guess he figured the schools were the least important function in the state, since after all, they really couldn't do much worse, and car pooling is such an inconvenience.

Gdub, the education president, praised the governor for showing decisive leadership, as he heads out on Air Force One for his 7th hurricane photo op. After all, nothing speeds the clean-up process like a presidential motorcade and 747s with accompanying press planes, helicopters and chase jets don't use up much fuel.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Swagger?

Kevin's right. Leave Laura alone. She appears to be the closest thing that family has to brains.

Go Read Kevin.

'Biblical Tour Masqurades as Science'

Jim Spencer is right.

How come so few in the media seem to think this is a real issue. And of course, the same can be said of the Ds.

DenverPost.com - Jim Spencer
The Earth is 6,000 years old. Noah took dinosaurs on the ark. God "spoke fish into existence." And, by the way, "evolution gives the platform for racism," "Hitler was an evolutionist," and so were Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.

13 'Most Corrupt' in Congress

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics released a 93-page report entitled Beyond DeLay: The 13 Most Corrupt Members of Congress.

The list includes 2 Ds and the entire R leadership.

From today's LATs in no particular order,

• Sen. Bill Frist (R. TN)

• Rep. Roy Blunt (R. MO)

• Sen. Conrad Burns (R. Mont)

• Rep. Bob Ney (R OH)

• Rep. Tom Feeney (R FL)

• Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R CA)

• Rep. Maxine Waters (D CA)

• Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA.)

• Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R CA)

• Rep. William J. Jefferson (D LA)

• Rep. Charles H. Taylor (R NC)

• Rep. Marilyn N. Musgrave(R CO)

• Rep. Rick Renzi (R Ariz.)

Here is the CREW press release.

I'll call for the resignation of the Ds in my R friends will do the same for the Rs.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Six Hundred Bucks?

I don't know if this is true, but it's very funny.

From The Observer,
An extraordinary appeal to Americans from the Bush administration for money to help pay for the reconstruction of Iraq has raised only $600 (£337), The Observer has learnt. Yet since the appeal was launched earlier this month, donations to rebuild New Orleans have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars.

The public's reluctance to contribute much more than the cost of two iPods to the administration's attempt to offer citizens 'a further stake in building a free and prosperous Iraq' has been seized on by critics as evidence of growing ambivalence over that country.
_____

....Contributors have no way of knowing who will receive their donations or even where they may go, after officials said details had be kept secret for security reasons.

USaid's Heather Layman denied it was disappointed with the meagre sum raised after a fortnight. 'Every little helps,' she said.

In the past 12 months, Americans raised some $250bn for charity, including other foreign causes such as the Asian tsunami victims. Layman said: 'There is no financial goal. People are looking for a way to help rebuild Iraq and this is a way to facilitate that.'

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What is a Blind Trust?

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding on what exactly is a Blind Trust.

In the context of politicians, it's really pretty simple. Although I'm oversimplifying a bit, let's use Frist as an example. He is the Beneficiary of the trust. To avoid a conflict of interest in public life he puts all his stocks into a "blind trust" with Kirk Scobey as the trustee. Of course Frist knows what assets he put into his trust, but once the trust is created Frist should know nothing further about the contents of the trust. The trustee's job is to manage those assets to benefit the Beneficiary -- who must remain 'blind' as to the assets in the trust.

The trust now owns the stocks, not Frist -- this is an important concept. If all of Frist HCA stock was placed in the blind trust, Frist is no longer a stockholder in the company. 'Placing the stock in the trust' means that ownership of the stock is expressly transferred from Frist to the "Frist Family Blind Trust" or whatever. Once the blind trust owns the stocks, Frist should have no say in how they are handled.

The trustee has the discretion to manage the trust assets and to buy and sell those assets as the trustee deems appropriate. All tax liability belongs to the trust which files a tax return each year, signed by the trustee, not the beneficiary.

Frist, as beneficiary, consistent with the terms of the trust, gets only the income from the trust (or not if the terms suggest all income is to be reinvested) that is accounted for on Frist's tax return by a simple 1099 from the "Frist Family Blind Trust" or whatever. Frist should have no idea exactly how this trust income was generated.

The point of the blind trust is to completely shield the beneficiary from the contents of the trust so he has no conflicts of interest.

So, while Frist knew that HCA stock was in the trust at it's inception, he shouldn't know the current status of those stocks. For instance, the trustee could have immediately sold all the HCA stock and bought Google. If the trust is really a blind trust, Frist would have no way of knowing this.

So when we learn that Frist has been, in fact, managing his trust assets from the start with constant updates from the trustee on assets, and directing the trustee how to handle those assets, it is clear that this is not, by any measure or definition, a blind trust. Frist is acting as a trustee.

If there are federal laws that require blind trusts (versus only Senate Rules) then Frist has clearly violated this law and should be subject to prosecution. If it is the Senate Rules that require such trusts, then he should be subject to discipline for violating those rules.

Correction: My tax attorney informs that an income beneficiary receives a K-1, not a 1099. No substantive change. The K-1 no more reveals the contents of the trust than would a 1099.

The Death of Print Journalism

Which is of course the only 'journalism' left, such that it is.

CJR Daily: The Week of Long Knives

This Guy is Such a Liar!

Few things could please me more than Frist doing the perp walk, but I'll believe that when I see it.

But one thing is clear, Frist's trusts were about as blind as I am, and he lied about it at every opportunity.

AP via ABC,
Frist, asked in a television interview in January 2003 whether he should sell his HCA stock, responded: "Well, I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust. So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock"

Frist, referring to his trust and those of his family, also said in the interview, "I have no control. It is illegal right now for me to know what the composition of those trusts are. So I have no idea."

Documents filed with the Senate showed that just two weeks before those comments, the trustee of the senator's trust, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., wrote to Frist that HCA stock was contributed to the trust. It was valued at $15,000 and $50,000.

The documents filed by the trustees of Frist's blind trusts were obtained by The Associated Press on Friday.

On Nov. 20, 2002, Scobey wrote Frist that 14,781 shares of HCA were sold, along with three other investments. The same day, Scobey wrote that four other investments were sold, none of them HCA stock.

On May 16, 2002, Scobey advised Frist that four investments were contributed to a Frist blind trust, including HCA stock valued at $500,000 to $1 million. A second letter the same day mentions the same four investments going into a different trust, but with different valuations, including HCA stock valued at $250,000 to $500,000.
(via Atrios)

Bad Image

Bush didn't scrap his trip to TX out of fear of getting in the way; if that were the case, the trip would have never been planned.

No, Bush scraped the trip because it was too sunny and wouldn't provide the visual image they wanted.

NYTs,
....But clearly someone at the White House reconsidered the President's impact. When Mr. McClellan announced that the president had scrapped his trip, he said that with the search-and-rescue team preparing to move with the storm, "we didn't want to slow that down."

Another White House official involved in preparing Mr. Bush's way noted that with the sun shining so brightly in San Antonio, the images of Mr. Bush from here might not have made it clear to viewers that he was dealing with an approaching storm.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Follow The Money

By now you've probably heard that the Admin has but the kabosh on HUD's plan to issue vouchers so those left homeless and without resources could rent existing apartments.

Instead, the admin wants to put these people in ghettos. So bad is this idea, that even Newt can't believe it.

From the LATs,
"The idea that in a community where we could place people in the private housing market to reintegrate them into society we would put them in [trailer] ghettos with no jobs, no community, no future, strikes me as extraordinarily bad public policy, and violates every conservative principle that I'm aware of," said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Republican.

"If they do it," Gingrich said of administration officials, "they will look back on it six months from now as the greatest disaster of this administration."
There is a lot of competition for "greatest disaster for this Administration" but Newt is...And I don't believe I'm writing these words,.Right.

This is so dumb, that the only possible explanation is to look at who will get the contracts to build the trailer ghettos. My guess is a major corporate donor,....and I think we are all on the same page here.

What do you think?

No Crisis is too big to be manipulated

The oil industry says that they have not built any new US refineries in the US for the last 29 years because of environmental regulations and citizen opposition.

Not surprisingly, this is a lie. They haven't built new refineries because they don't want over capacity.

From the Christian Science Monitor,
...."Oil companies want to make money with refineries, and they did not want to get excess capacity by over-investing," says Lehi German, president of Fundamental Petroleum Trends, a weekly newsletter. Oil companies felt that if America suddenly needed more gasoline or diesel fuel, "then import it."....
Nervermind their record profits, their friends in Congress are rushing to give them more subsides so the taxpayers can build the refineries for them.

Check out the CSM reporting. They've done a whole series on the topic.

Thanks to Toppa at TPMCafe for pointing us to these stories.

Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming,...

Grand Ayatollah Frist has some explaining to do.

Frist stock sale draws federal scrutiny

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal prosecutors contacted Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's office about his sale of stock in HCA (HCA), the hospital operating company founded by his family. The Securities and Exchange Commission began an investigation, too, and prosecutors asked HCA to turn over documents about the transaction.

Prosecutors from the Southern District of New York contacted Frist's office "to inquire about the sale," spokesman Bob Stevenson said Friday. He did not say when the office was contacted, but said neither the senator nor his office had received a subpoena.

Frist's office previously confirmed the SEC was looking into the sale.

"As with the SEC, the majority leader will provide the U.S. attorney's office with any information that it needs with respect to this matter," Stevenson said.

The company said Friday that federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York had issued a subpoena for documents HCA believes are related to the sale of its stock by the senator.

The SEC also contacted HCA on Friday to informally request copies of the subpoenaed documents, HCA spokesman Jeff Prescott said. "We of course will comply with that request," he said.

Frist traded using only public information, and only to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest, Stevenson said.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Frist is an Insider Trader

This story makes no sense.

Senator Sold Stock Before Price Dropped,
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family's hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent.

Frist held an undisclosed amount of stock in Hospital Corporation of America, based in Nashville, the nation's largest for-profit hospital chain. On June 13, he instructed the trustee managing the assets to sell his HCA shares and those of his wife and children, said Amy Call, a spokeswoman for Frist.

Frist's shares were sold by July 1 and those of his wife and children by July 8, Call said. The trustee decided when to sell the shares, and the Tennessee Republican had no control over the exact time they were sold, she said.
_____

Blind trusts are used to avoid conflicts of interest. Assets are turned over to a trustee who manages them without divulging any purchases or sales and reports only the total value and income earned to the owner.
This makes no sense. If it is a "blind trust" and Frist had no control over when the stock was sold, how could he have instructed the trustee to sell?

Martha Stewart went to jail for something like this.

Josh is all over this story.

They Really Have No Shame

WSJ.com - After Katrina, Republicans Back a Sea of Conservative Ideas
Congressional Republicans, backed by the White House, say they are using relief measures for the hurricane-ravaged Gulf coast to achieve a broad range of conservative economic and social policies, both in the storm zone and beyond.

Some new measures are already taking shape. In the past week, the Bush administration has suspended some union-friendly rules that require federal contractors pay prevailing wages, moved to ease tariffs on Canadian lumber, and allowed more foreign sugar imports to calm rising sugar prices. Just yesterday, it waived some affirmative-action rules for employers with federal contracts in the Gulf region.

Now, Republicans are working on legislation that would limit victims' right to sue, offer vouchers for displaced school children, lift some environment restrictions on new refineries and create tax-advantaged enterprise zones to maximize private-sector participation in recovery and reconstruction. Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would offer sweeping protection against lawsuits to any person or organization that helps Katrina victims without compensation.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

How to Vote On Roberts?

The Boston Globe has an analysis today on the perils Roberts presents for the Ds.

It's worth a read.

I can't decide how I feel about the issue, but here is my gut.

First, I do not claim to be an expert on Judge Roberts and did not have the time to listen to the extensive hearings. However, lets assume that the issue is whether, or to what extent, it is appropriate to vote "no" on a nominee based purely upon ideological grounds.

My gut feeling on Roberts is that the Ds should vote "yes". I know that really pisses off the left so here briefly are my thoughts.

As I've said before, elections have consequences and getting to nominate judges is one of them. It goes without saying that Bush would nominate judges that the Ds would not.

The Ds are the minority party and should be very mindful of the precedents they set. If the Ds tell the Rs that simply being a conservative is reason enough to reject a judicial nominee, than a Democratic President would never be able to nominate any judge without controlling the Senate.

The minority party can only exercise influence to the extent the public supports their position. They must be very careful not to cry wolf on every major nominee else they loose any influence on all nominees.

As a practical matter, it seems Roberts is a riskier pick for the Rs than the Ds. The best the Rs can do is status quo. The Ds on the other hand might actually pick up a vote on certain very important issues where Roberts could be ever so slightly less conservative than Rehnquist. Sure, it's a long shot, but never the less, the Ds can't do any worse than Rehnquist.

As a lawyer, I'm sympathetic to Roberts explanation that his earlier writings reflected the views of those he served and not necessarily his. It was also clear from one exchange I did hear with Spector that Roberts used this assertion in at least one instance when clearly it was his personal view conveyed. The positions I take in my legal writings are on behalf of my clients who have hired me to advocate on their behalf. It is a bonus if I agree with the view.

Finally, I think there is a point where a nominee's views are so extreme as to disqualify them. However, nothing I've read or heard on Judge Roberts suggests we should not take him at his word or that his views rise to the level of ideological extremist. More importantly, I'm very much afraid the next nominee might be considerably more extreme, and we need to keep our powder dry for that fight.

Testiculogenesis?

A couple weeks ago I called for the boycott.

Josh says it's going to happen,

House-Senate Katrina probe dies as Dems refuse to participate in GOP-controlled probe.

Mammalian biologists cite development as new evidence for late-stage testiculogenesis.

I don't know where the Ds found the courage but lets hope this is only the beginning.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Noose Tightens......

Josh points to this press release from the DOJ,
A former General Services Administration (GSA) official was arrested on charges of making false statements and obstructing an investigation by the GSA's Office of Inspector General (GSA-OIG), Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division announced today.

David Hossein Safavian was arrested today based on a three- count criminal complaint filed at federal court in Washington, D.C. The complaint charges Safavian with making false statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG, along with obstruction of a GSA-OIG investigation.

The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint alleges that from May 16, 2002 until January 10, 2004, Safavian served as Chief of Staff at the GSA. During that time he allegedly aided a Washington D.C. lobbyist in the lobbyist's attempts to acquire GSA-controlled property in and around Washington, D.C. In August 2002, this lobbyist allegedly took Safavian and others on a golf trip to Scotland.

The false statement and obstruction of the investigation charges relate to Safavian's statements to a GSA ethics officer and the GSA-OIG that the lobbyist had no business with GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip. According to the affidavit, Safavian concealed the fact that the lobbyist had business before GSA prior to the August 2002 golf trip, and that Safavian was aiding the lobbyist in his attempts to do business with GSA

Since Nov. 29, 2004, Safavian has served as the administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy at the Office of Management and Budget.

A complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is entitled to a fair trial in which it will be the government's burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Nathaniel B. Edmonds and Guy D. Singer of the Fraud Section, which is headed by Acting Chief Paul E. Pelletier, and Trial Attorneys Mary K. Butler and M. Kendall Day of the Public Integrity Section, which is headed by Chief Noel L. Hillman. The case is being investigated by Special Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General, the Department of the Interior Office of the Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service.

Golf trip to Scotland? Jack Abramoff, of course.

Todd Akin

From Josh,

TPM Reader RB tells us that Rep. Todd Akin's office (R-MO) is telling constituents that the Gulf Coast Wage Cut is standard operating procedure after a natural disaster. As far as we can tell, that's a crock since the Davis-Bacon Act has only been suspended in response to a natural disaster once since it was enacted in 1931. That was by the president's father in 1992 in response to Hurricane Andrew -- and that mainly because he needed to appeal to right-wingers in the lead-up to the election. (For those of you who are too young. Believe me, it was a different day.)

In any case, that's not standard operating procedure. At best it's a congenital predisposition. Who else has heard from Rep. Akin? Has his staff given you the same line?

So Where is the DNC Message?

Josh Marshall has done an outstanding job of pointing out that Bush's first action in response to Katrina was to ram through a gulf coast wage cut by executive order. As you may or may not know, the gulf coast was not known for high wages before the storm. Reuters reports on the wage cut here.

Josh is following up by collecting information from readers as to the position of their members of congress and reporting this info at TPM

Following Gdub's speech from Jackson Square, Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) in his repsonse noted the wage cut, but where is the national Democratic response to this?

Here is a perfect issue to beat the GOP over the head, and where are they? Why hasn't the DNC put together TV and Radio spots informing Americans of the wage cut, reminding them who is getting billions of dollars for rebuilding and asking Americans to call the WH and their members of Congress and demand that the President rescind this executive order?

The Rs never beat us on issues. They beat us on message and here is a perfect opportunity to bloody them, and the Ds got nothing?

Carter-Baker Panel?

I'm embarassed to admit that I didn't even know this commission existed.

Carter-Baker Panel to Call for Voting Fixes.

The Ds need to get over their concerns about the photo ID issue ( I get the issue and have my concerns too -- so don't email me --but it's 2006 and we need to accept this and make sure our voters have the ID) and push hard for a federal law to implement the recommendations of this panel.

The Rs would like nothing more than for the Ds to spend their time objecting to the ID issue while the Rs object to paper trails etc with their goal being to fix nothing.

We need to either get this implemented or embarrass the Rs for blocking it. We cannot let another national election happen without these fixes.

Friday, September 16, 2005

How About Some Policy Analysis

While most of the coverage of Gdub's speech revolves around political analysis, the WaPo provides some policy analysis.

Economists, Housing Experts Question Proposals.

The truth is, we don't know much about the actual details. As the above points out, issues of costs at several levels must be addressed. Economist point out that with "GO Zones" there are winners and losers as business activities are shuffled from one area to another, etc.

No doubt with time, we'll be hearing much more about these things.

And as I pointed out earlier today, the real conservatives are losing patience. This latter point being something I'm interested in seeing played out. Just how much control can a President with 60+% disapproval assert? Frankly, Gdub's hold on control of his party to this point, as been amazing.

Let There Be Light

Brian Williams blogs on the MSNBC site, and to my considerable surprise, is often interesting.

Josh points to this entry,
I am duty-bound to report the talk of the New Orleans warehouse district last night: there was rejoicing (well, there would have been without the curfew, but the few people I saw on the streets were excited) when the power came back on for blocks on end. Kevin Tibbles was positively jubilant on the live update edition of Nightly News that we fed to the West Coast. The mini-mart, long ago cleaned out by looters, was nonetheless bathed in light, including the empty, roped-off gas pumps. The motorcade route through the district was partially lit no more than 30 minutes before POTUS drove through. And yet last night, no more than an hour after the President departed, the lights went out. The entire area was plunged into total darkness again, to audible groans. It's enough to make some of the folks here who witnessed it... jump to certain conclusions. continue reading.

'Placating The Base'

The true conservatives are on the verge of rebellion.

Kevin explains at The Washington Monthly.

While New Orleans Flooded,....

I'm curious to see if anything comes from these latest criticisms.

KR Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON - Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the U.S. official with the power to order a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina, flew to Atlanta for a previously scheduled briefing on avian flu on the morning after the storm swept ashore.

Chertoff's decision to fly to Georgia for a business-as-usual briefing even as residents in New Orleans fought for their lives in rising floodwaters raises new questions about how much top officials knew about what was happening on the Gulf Coast and how focused they were on the unfolding tragedy.

In fact, Chertoff didn't know for sure that New Orleans' life-preserving levees had failed until a full day had passed.

Not until Chertoff was returning from Atlanta on Aug. 30 did he begin writing the memo that declared Katrina "an incident of national significance" and put the full force of the federal government behind the relief and rescue efforts.

Critics charge that the delay in making the designation until about 36 hours after the storm may have been one reason why federal help was slow in coming and why no one seemed to be in charge in the disaster zone.

David Brooks Has a Point

Something I'm not likely to write again.

Ready? Cue the Sun...

Civil War?

Note, the targets are not soldiers.

Latest Iraq Blast Targets Shiite Mosque,
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A suicide car bomber hit worshippers leaving a Shiite mosque in the town of Tuz Khormato shortly after midday prayers Friday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 21 others, police said.

The blast targeted the Hussainiyat al-Rasoul al-Azam Mosque in Tuz Khormato, 130 miles north of Baghdad.

The attack occurred as Iraq's Sunni-dominated insurgency, including al-Qaida in Iraq, pressed an "all-out war" on the country's Shiite majority. The spasm of violence began Wednesday in Baghdad and has spread throughout the country, killing more than 200 people and wounding more than 600 in three days.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I Didn't Watch the President's Speech

Appropriately, I was attending a fundraiser for a Democrat.

Josh watched the speech and he has some questions,

There's real news to be reported -- how the president is approaching the reconstruction, what plans he's putting in place right now. He's put his chief political operative [Rove] in charge of running the reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. Shouldn't that be raising a lot of questions -- a man whose entire professional experience is in political messaging and patronage?

He's also at the center of on-going criminal investigation and the target of a much-rumored indictment. But set that aside.

Then there's what Rep. John D. Dingell (D-MI) said in his statement out this evening. "With a stroke of the pen, in one of his first Katrina directives, the President cut the wages of the workers who will undertake our largest reconstruction project since the Civil War."

That cuts right to the heart of the matter. The president's first major initiatives were deep wage cuts for the people who will do the reconstruction.

Which paper is going to dig into this?

The Second Great Migration

I've writting about this the last couple weeks.

From tomorrow's WaPo,
HOUSTON, Sept. 15 -- Fewer than half of all New Orleans evacuees living in emergency shelters here said they will move back home, while two-thirds of those who want to relocate planned to settle permanently in the Houston area, according to a survey by The Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Conservative Opposition to Roberts

This is interesting. We've all heard the opposition from the left on Roberts, but conservatives aren't especially happy either.

From Roll Call (sub. required),

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said Wednesday that he would like the next Supreme Court nominee to have a detailed track record opposing the Roe v. Wade decision, as opposed to the relatively limited record on abortion issues held by Judge John Roberts.

While Brownback expects to support Roberts as President Bush’s pick for chief justice of the United States, he warned that he and many in the conservative movement would like the nominee to replace retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to have a clearer record of opposing abortion rights than Roberts.
_____

Brownback’s veiled criticism of Roberts’ record on the divisive issue of abortion could resonate for months, as the Kansan is considering running for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 as the conservative anti-abortion candidate.

Social Security Off the Table?

From Roll Call (sub. required)
Fearful that tackling Social Security reform could cripple his party in the 2006 elections, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (N.Y.) plans to recommend to his fellow leaders that they shelve the issue for the remainder of the 109th Congress.

Reynolds told his fellow Ways and Means Committee GOP members as much during a panel luncheon Wednesday. After Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) expressed his determination to push forward on Social Security this year, Reynolds stood and said he would make the opposite argument to the leadership, according to two sources familiar with the exchange.

“Reynolds told Thomas that he would recommend to the leaders that we not proceed with Social Security this year because it did not appear there was any chance it would be passed into law by the Senate, and we’d be forcing our vulnerables to walk to the plank for nothing,” said a source familiar with Reynolds’ comments.
I think this is very interesting. I also think we will see more of this sort of thing with Katrina and Iraq looming large.

But, of course, Bush doesn't like to back down, and who's to say Reynolds view will carry the day.

It's a Political Disaster, Stupid

Josh has a very good piece up today on the President's gulf coast spending.

Josh makes the point that Gdub is not responding to a natural disaster, but rather a political disaster for him.

He concludes,

Maybe you want to spend $200 billion on rebuilding the Delta region too. Fine. Something like that will probably be necessary. But don't fool yourself into thinking that what's coming is just a matter of a different chef making the same meal. This will be Iraq all over again, with the same fetid mix of graft, zeal and hubris. Cronyism like you wouldn't believe. Money blown on ideological fantasies and half-baked test-cases.

You could come up with a hundred reasons why that's true. But at root intentions drive all. You'll never separate this operation or its results from the fact that the people in charge see it as a political operation. The use of this money for political purposes, for what amounts to a political campaign, tells you everything you need to know about what's coming.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Deuce

Delta, Northwest file for Chapter 11

Air travel is now up 4% from pre-9/11 levels. That means more people than ever are flying. This will surprise no one who flys as airports are packed and it is clear that the US air traffic system is at capacity for reasonable, reliable travel. At cities like Chicago, 'air traffic control' delays on pretty sunny afternoons are routine.

That airlines continue to lose money means there are too many airlines. When United defaulted on its employee pension plan, I questioned just how good this is for the country. I pointed out that United would be the first and that every airline -- suddenly at a competitive disadvantage for honoring their pensions -- would be compelled to follow suit.

In reporting on the filings today, the AP story points out that both airlines will use the court to slash their pension obligations leaving American at a competitive disadvantage.

Why shouldn't the Big 3 automakers and USX do the same thing?

Let me repeat what I said regarding United: a single pension default will cost tax payers billions. Now others are following suit, and it will cause an economic catastrophe. The taxpayers will pick up a big part of these obligations at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.

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 as they lose billions each year.

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

So who is next? American Airlines seems obvious, but what about GM?

Discuss.

News Flash

Workers will pay more in health costs in 2006

Cost of Katrina

The GOP really wants significantly more tax cuts and they don't care how much they spend while doing it, but the public does, so this has got to be freaking them out.

They have already but aside for now, abolishing the estate tax and they want this bad for next years Congressional campaigns.

Already on very shaky ground, this storm is really going to derail their agenda.

From the CSM
....Spending tied to hurricane Katrina has hit as much as $2 billion per day, or about 10 times the amount the United States is spending on military operations in Iraq. The pace will slow, but the recovery effort could easily cost the federal government $150 billion, experts say. Spread over a couple of years, that would roughly match the $6 billion a month being spent in Iraq.

As staggering as these numbers are, the question is not whether America can absorb this shock but whether it will alter the mind-sets of policymakers and financiers on other budget matters.

Already, for example, some US law- makers cite the storm as a reason to reconsider plans to cut entitlement programs, which would shrink government assistance to the poor by $35 billion over five years. At the least, the looming tab for everything from road repairs to business loans is a reminder that America's current budgetary path is not sustainable.

Just When I Feel Like We are Making Progress

The Right couldn't ask for a better gift. Somewhere, Karl Rove is doing the happy dance.

Judge: School Pledge Is Unconstitutional

'Seperate But Equal'

Via Atrios,

Katrina: Another Excuse for Bush’s Failed Ideology

Looting, Republican Style

As I mentioned earlier, this was inevitable, but naively, I didn't think it would happen quite so quickly.

NYTs

WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 - The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security said Tuesday that his office had received accusations of fraud and waste in the multibillion-dollar relief programs linked to Hurricane Katrina and would investigate how no-bid contracts were awarded to several large, politically well-connected companies.

The inspector general, Richard L. Skinner, who serves as the department's internal watchdog, said in an interview that he intended to be "extremely aggressive" in monitoring the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will receive most of the $62 billion in disaster-response financing approved by Congress last week.

FEMA, which is part of Homeland Security, was harshly criticized in recent months as mismanaging millions of dollars in relief funds after a 2004 hurricane in Florida. Con't reading

Bush's 9/11 Cover-up

This is a very big story but how much play will it get in the press?

The key WH defense of the 9/11 highjackings has been "who knew?"

Well, it turns out everyone knew, especially, the FAA. However, the WH has covered this info up over the objection of, and to the dismay of, the 9/11 Commission.

Now, the Commission has won at least a part of the battle to disclose more info.

According to this story in the NYTs the WH redacted the following from the 9/11 Comm Report,
  • American aviation officials were warned as early as 1998 that Al Qaeda could "seek to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark."
  • The officials also realized months before the Sept. 11 attacks that two of the three airports used in the hijackings had suffered repeated security lapses.
  • FAA officials were also warned in 2001 that airport screeners' ability to detect possible weapons had "declined significantly" in recent years, but little was done to remedy the problem.
  • A footnote that was originally deleted from the report showed that a quarter of the security screeners used in 2001 by Argenbright Security for United Airlines flights at Dulles Airport had not completed required criminal background checks.
  • Another previously deleted footnote, related to the lack of security for cockpit doors, criticized American Airlines for security lapses.
  • The F.A.A. received numerious warnings about the threat of hijackings, including 52 intelligence documents in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks that mentioned Al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden specifically.
  • A 1995 National Intelligence Estimate "highlighted the growing domestic threat of terrorist attack, including a risk to civil aviation."
  • In 1998 and 1999the F.A.A.'s intelligence unit produced reports about the hijacking threat posed by Al Qaeda, "including the possibility that the terrorist group might try to hijack a commercial jet and slam it into a U.S. landmark."
  • In2000,the F.A.A. warned carriers and airports that while political conditions in the 1990's had made a terrorist seizure of an airliner less likely, "we believe that the situation has changed."
  • By September 2001 the F.A.A. was receiving some 200 pieces a day of intelligence from other agencies about possible threats, and it had opened more than 1,200 files to track possible threats.
  • F.A.A. officials were repeatedly warned about security lapses before Sept. 11 and, despite their increased concerns about a hijacking, allowed screening performance to decline significantly.
  • Are you as pissed off as I am?

    Letter From the Editor - New York Times

    Letter From the Editor

    On Monday, Sept. 19, NYTimes.com will launch a new subscription service, TimesSelect, an important step in the development of The New York Times.

    Subscribers to TimesSelect will have exclusive online access to many of our most influential columnists in Op-Ed, Business, New York/Region and Sports. In addition to reading the columns, TimesSelect subscribers can also engage with our columnists through video interviews and Web-only postings.

    All of our news, features, editorials and analysis will remain free to readers of NYTimes.com, as will our interactive graphics, multimedia and popular video minutes.

    As part of TimesSelect, The Times is also opening up its vast archive of articles reaching back 25 years and eventually back to the paper's founding in 1851. TimesSelect subscribers can read up to 100 articles from the archive a month. For many years our readers have asked for seamless access to The Times's historical archive, and we are now making this available as part of TimesSelect.

    Meanwhile Back in Iraq,....

    Series of Baghdad Bombings Kill At Least 141
    BAGHDAD, Sept. 14 -- Insurgents killed more than 141 people Wednesday in at least 10 separate bombings and rocket attacks that made for one of Baghdad's deadliest days.

    Targets included crowds of Iraqi civilians and at least three U.S. military convoys. The deadliest attack, in a northwest Baghdad neighborhood, exploded among crowds of Shiite Muslim day laborers gathered to look for work. Iraq's Interior Ministry spokesman, Col. Adnan Abdul-Rahman, said 90 people were killed.
    Civil War?

    It's Chertoff, Not Brown

    This is an important story, and may explain Bush's sudden acceptance of his obvious responsibility. The Bushies will now insist no further looking back will be necessary.

    Knight-Ridder (the only news agency to get the WMD story right) has the smoking gun.

    Knight-Ridder
    WASHINGTON - The federal official with the power to mobilize a massive federal response to Hurricane Katrina was Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, not the former FEMA chief....

    Even before the storm struck the Gulf Coast, Chertoff could have ordered federal agencies into action without any request from state or local officials. Federal Emergency Management Agency chief Michael Brown had only limited authority to do so until about 36 hours after the storm hit, when Chertoff designated him as the "principal federal official" in charge of the storm. (memo pdf here.)
    _____

    But Chertoff - not Brown - was in charge of managing the national response to a catastrophic disaster, according to the National Response Plan, the federal government's blueprint for how agencies will handle major natural disasters or terrorist incidents. An order issued by President Bush in 2003 also assigned that responsibility to the homeland security director.

    But according to a memo obtained by Knight Ridder, Chertoff didn't shift that power to Brown until late afternoon or evening on Aug. 30, about 36 hours after Katrina hit Louisiana and Mississippi. That same memo suggests that Chertoff may have been confused about his lead role in disaster response and that of his department.
    I'm actually starting to feel sorry for Brownie.

    Read the whole story. It is a sad tail of an office of Homeland Security that is completely inept, from the top down.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2005

    I suspect more of this to come

    AP
    ....Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti announced that the owners of a nursing home in St. Bernard Parish just east of New Orleans had been arrested and charged with 34 counts of negligent homicide.

    "Thirty-four people drowned in a nursing home when it should have been evacuated. I cannot say it any plainer than that," Foti said.

    The owners, Mable and Salvador Mangano, turned down an offer from local officials to take the patients out by bus, and did not bother to call in an ambulance service with which they had a contract, he said.

    Tuesdays with EJ

    End of the Bush Era
    The Bush Era is over. The sooner politicians in both parties realize that, the better for them -- and the country.

    Recent months, and especially the past two weeks, have brought home to a steadily growing majority of Americans the truth that President Bush's government doesn't work. His policies are failing, his approach to leadership is detached and self-indulgent, his way of politics has produced a divided, angry and dysfunctional public square. We dare not go on like this....

    Why Do Republicans Hate Science

    Kevin has a good post up today regarding the twisting of Science by the Bushies to placate the religious right.

    The post is worth the read, but here is the crux.

    The discussion arises from Chris Mooney's new book, The Republican War on Science. The key question raised by the book is whether Republicans misuse science any more than Democrats do.

    Kevin quotes the book talking about needle exchanges and comparing the Clinton and Bush II responses. Both refused to support needle exchanges. The Clinton admin announced that the evidence was overwhelming that such exchanges greatly reduce the spread of HIV and do not encourage drug use, but would not back the exchanges for political reasons.

    Bush II, on the otherhand, as was pointed out by the WaPo, just lied about the science.

    Kevin concludes,
    This is the real difference. Science informs policy but doesn't drive it, and administrations can legitimately propose a wide variety of policies regardless of what the science says. But that's not what modern Republicans do. Instead, they try to subvert science itself. Global warming doesn't exist. Intelligent Design is a legitimate scientific theory. Condoms don't prevent STDs. Needle exchange programs don't work. As Chris put it [on the Daily Show], Republicans want to turn science into yet another of the he-said/she-said shouting matches that work so well for them in other areas, generating uncertainty where none exists and undermining one of the few sources of objective knowledge we have.
    Bottom line: These folks have no shame.

    Everything is political and if they can manipulate the ignorant for no other purpose than to get votes, who cares if the nation's understanding of science or even the nation's physical well-being suffers.

    Why This Sudden Acceptance of Responsiblity?

    Josh thinks he knows,

    Back on September 7th, Rep. John Conyers wrote to the Congressional Research Service (one of the few parts of the government that can legitimately be called non-partisan) and asked them to review the record to see whether Gov. Blanco of Louisiana took the necessary steps in a timely fashion to secure federal assistance in the face of hurricane Katrina.

    The report came back yesterday. Yes, she did. Read it yourself.

    Perhaps it's Time to Grow Some Balls?

    Josh points to this story today,
    Outside one house on Kentucky Street, a member of the Army 82nd Airborne Division summoned a reporter and photographer standing nearby and told them that if they took pictures or wrote a story about the body recovery process, he would take away their press credentials and kick them out of the state.

    "No photos. No stories," said the man, wearing camouflage fatigues and a red beret.
    Here is the important point: The US Army has absolutely no authority to order members of the media around on US Soil, period.

    Last I checked, the First Amendment was still in effect protecting the press from arbitrary military orders -- or Police orders for that matter.

    Simply put, there is no one in the United States, from the President of the United States on down, that has any legal authority to tell any reporter what they can and cannot write about.

    Have the balls to disobey unlawful orders and force them to attempt to do something about it. But as long as this B.S works, they will keep doing it.

    Who Are You, And What Have You Done With Pres Bush?

    AP
    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Tuesday that "I take responsibility" for failures in dealing with Hurricane Katrina and said the disaster raised broader questions about the government's ability to respond to natural disasters as well as terror attacks.

    "Katrina exposed serious problems in our response capability at all levels of government," Bush said at joint White House news conference with the president of Iraq.

    "To the extent the federal government didn't fully do its job right, I take responsibility," Bush said.
    Josh gets it right,
    I guess this is an example of that old saw, "If at first your efforts to blame everybody else don't succeed, take responsibility yourself".
    Remember that question to Bush in one of the debates last year when he was asked to name a single mistake he had made his first term and he was unable to do so? He finally said that a mistake he made was trusting a few others who didn't do their jobs apparently referring to former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

    I guess when your poll numbers are crashing even Bush might try something really crazy like taking responsibility. After all, he is the responsibility president:
    America, at its best, is a place where personal responsibility is valued and expected.

    Encouraging responsibility is not a search for scapegoats, it is a call to conscience. And though it requires sacrifice, it brings a deeper fulfillment. We find the fullness of life not only in options, but in commitments. And we find that children and community are the commitments that set us free.

    Or not.

    The great Katrina migration

    Matt Y touched on this in a post last week that I posted here.

    The CSM has an interesting article up today on the nations second great migration out of the south. Approximately 1 million people are displaced and how many will never go back?
    Many evacuees are putting down roots in new areas and say they'll never return. Others face months of a temporary existence before they can go home. Whatever they do, the nation may never be the same, as a smaller New Orleans rises up from its ruins, and bits of Creole culture are seeded from East coast to West.

    "This is the biggest resettlement in American history. A whole city has been uprooted," says Stephen Kleinberg, a sociology professor at Rice University in Houston.
    NOLAs poorest people lived in slums and who's going to rebuild them? Will they be replaced with giant housing projects to return people to a city that may not have jobs to support them for many, many years? These giant house project were a monumental failure the first time we did them and is there any political will to do them again? Remember Pruitt-Igo? The infamous St Louis public housing project of 33 eleven-story buildings knocked down 10 years after having been built with some of the building never occupied?

    NOLA has changed dramatically and I don't think anyone really knows what it will look like in 5 years.

    Prepare to Waste Billions

    From today's WaPo,
    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will receive most of the $62 billion Congress has approved for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, setting up a major test of the agency's ability to distribute the cash and monitor the private contractors who will do much of the work.

    FEMA's track record in managing much smaller amounts of money has raised concerns. It made millions of dollars in questionable payments to South Florida residents after Hurricane Frances last year, investigators found, in part because the agency's contractors had hired inspectors who lacked training or oversight. A recent audit by the Homeland Security Department's inspector general questioned whether FEMA's acquisition workforce was qualified.
    What Josh said,
    We're going to rue the day on this one. Even if FEMA were a perfectly managed agency and existed in a clean administration, it is simply not an agency that is set up to handle money on this scale -- certainly not in a case like this which will involve rebuilding a substantial section of the country. And of course, it's not a well-run agency at the moment. And this administration is defined by cronyism and insider deals.
    ______

    Democrats should be speaking with one voice on this one: accountability, an independent commission to investigate what went wrong and no insider deals with taxpayer money.
    Remember, these are the folks that LOST 9 BILLION DOLLARS OF OUR MONEY in Iraq.
    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly $9 billion of money spent on Iraqi reconstruction is unaccounted for because of inefficiencies and bad management, according to a watchdog report published Sunday.

    An inspector general's report said the U.S.-led administration that ran Iraq until June 2004 [CPA] is unable to account for the funds.