Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MN Supreme Court Rules for Franken

In a unanimous Per Curium opinion (pdf here) just handed down, the Minnesota Supreme Court has affirmed the trial court ruling that "Al Franken received the highest number of votes legally cast and is entitled under Minn. Stat. § 204C.40 (2008) to receive the certificate of election as United States Senator from the State of Minnesota."

Despite GOP pressure to proceed with a Constitutional appeal in the Federal Courts, I expect Norm Coleman to concede the race by days end, Gov Pawlenty to sign a certificate of election tomorrow and for Senator Franken to be sworn in when the Senate resumes business following the holiday recess.

Both Coleman and Pawlenty look forward to a political future, and there is no upside for either fighting a unanimous MN Supreme Court ruling.

No Federal Court would grant an injunction should Coleman file a Federal action, and I would expect the MN Supreme Court to issue a Writ of Mandamus should Pawlenty baulk.

And finally, the GOP doesn't have the votes to maintain a filibuster.

UPDATE: Norm Coleman has conceded to Al Franken.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The world is undeniably getting warmer

No matter how many times people like George Will insist otherwise.



Paul Krugman puts up the long term data (courtesy of NASA) which is undeniable. Since 1880 (ie, the beginning of the Industrial Revolution) the planet has gotten steadily warmer. Within this long-term trend is lots of short term variations ("noise" as Krugman says) which is invariable the focus of the deniers. I recall that cold snap in the mid 70's very well, by the way.

Many of the global warming deniars are just not intelligent people, but George Will knows better, so why does he continue to trade in intellectual dishonesty?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Congress deplorable committee system

The Obama administration's first showdown with Congress (as defined by a veto threat -- all other "showdowns" are just pretenders) appears to be developing over the F-22. The F-22 is a cold war relic that costs about $350M a piece and has no mission. So obsolete is this fighter that it has literally not flow a single mission in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's replacement, the F-35, is already in production. Gates, and Rummy before him, have been trying to kill this useless fighter for years now and Congress keeps authorizing more. This time, they want to move money from nuclear waste clean up to buy more F-22's that the DoD doesn't want.

Matt uses this battle to point out in a very smart post just how dysfunctional the congressional committee system has become,
[The F-22 showdown is] an illustration of America’s desperately dysfunctional institutional structure. One basic problem of democratic governance relates to concentrated interests versus diffuse ones. Organizing broad groups of people to advance the public interest in the face of entrenched opposition is difficult. And the committee structure is like it was designed to make this problem as bad as possible. The upshot of the way congress does business is that agriculture policy is made by a special minority of legislators who represent the interests of agricultural producers. And energy policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of energy producers. And defense policy is made by legislators who represent the interests of defense contractors. If you just announced an unexpected swap and had the Armed Services Committee set farm policy and the Agriculture Committee do procurement, you could get better results.

It used to be that institutional reform was an important priority for progressives and in the 1970s they managed to make some progress on curbing the authority of committee chairman. I think it would be smart to continue to put emphasis on that kind of thing—encouraging policy to be set by broad national governing coalitions rather than idiosyncratic committees that are easily captured by interest groups.
What Matt doesn't do is tell us how to accomplish this.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The AP isn't buying it

And neither is the Lt. Governor.

Sanford says he was in Buenos Aires alone and spent time driving along the coast. The AP notes,
Trying to make such a drive could frustrate a weekend visitor to Argentina. In Buenos Aires, the Avenida Costanera is the only coastal road, and it's less than two miles long. Reaching coastal resorts to the south requires a drive of nearly four hours on an inland highway with views of endless cattle ranches. To the north is a river delta of islands reached only by boat.
The Republican Lt Governor, Andre Bauer, isn't happy,
Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said he was concerned that the governor's staff lied about Sanford's whereabouts, adding that if they didn't know where he was they should have said so.

"For his staff to lie to the people of South Carolina and say he was one place when in fact he wasn't, that concerns me," Bauer said.
It's hard to imagine Sanford's political career surviving such a flake-out. He is not nationally known outside the GOP -- at least not before now -- and needs to be cultivating big money supporters to fund a presidential bid.

Now is the time the Big Money crowd is trying to figure out what horse to back for 2012 and they have no interest in throwing good money after bad. Politicians are investments for these people and they are not going to invest in a pol whose national claim to fame is disappearing for 6 days while his staff was lying to the public. The goal of the big money folks is getting in early on the ultimate winner. It hard to imagine any serious money people now investing in Sanford.

Then again, these are Republicans and some of them think Newt is going to save their party, while still others like Sarah Palin, so anything is possible.

UPDATE: MWS reminds me that the same equation is true for the best campaign staffers.

Buenos Aires?

The State,
Gov. Mark Sanford arrived in the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport this morning, having wrapped up a seven-day visit to Buenos Aires, Argentina, he said. Sanford said he had not been hiking along the Appalachian Trail, as his staff said in a Tuesday statement to the media.

Sanford, in an exclusive interview with The State, said he decided at the last minute to go to the South American country to recharge after a difficult legislative session in which he battled with lawmakers over how to spend federal stimulus money.

Sanford said he had considered hiking on the Appalachian Trail, an activity he said he has enjoyed since he was a high school student.

"But I said 'no' I wanted to do something exotic," Sanford said "... It's a great city."
Well, that's one way to end a presidential bid before it starts.

By the way, I'm spending New Years in Buenos Aires, so I will be able to confirm or deny the greatness of the city.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who knows what to believe


CNN is now reporting that the state police SUV that Gov. Mark Sanford drove off in last Thursday has turned up but not Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, where Sanford had reportedly been seen. They found it at Columbia Metropolitan Airport, the airport in the state capital.

Sanford was changing planes in Atlanta on Delta?

At this point, I don't know what to believe.

Sanford's wife still hasn't heard from him?

Just as it seemed that Gov Sanford's disappearance was becoming understandable, it's now taken another bizarre turn.

TPM is quoting Gov Mark Sanford's wife, Jenny as just now telling CNN, "I am being a mom today. I have not heard from my husband. I am taking care of my children." I could not find this quote on CNN.

To recap, Gov Mark Sanford left Columbia SC last Thursday in a state police SUV and and was completely out of contact with his office and family as of yesterday. The SC state police was concerned enough to search for the whereabouts of his cell phone. His office added to this confusion by issuing conflicting reports (suggesting they had been in touch with the Governor and then walking that back), and apparently misleading the Lt. Governor's office.

Finally, as of this morning, Sanford's office reports that the Governor did in fact call in, and was surprised by the controversy over his time away. His office now reports that he was out hiking the Appalachian Trail (on Naked Hiking Day, no less) and would be back in the office tomorrow (Wednesday).

In fairness to Sanford, I thought this was a very reasonable explaination. Hiking the AT (as hikers call the Appalachian Trial) is a perfect way to decompress after a stressful time at work, and it would make him out of contact for periods of time. His wife's comments to the press that she didn't know where he was and had not heard from him would be nothing more than she protecting him from press intrusion while he's trying to take a much needed break,...

But this all goes out the window when Jenny Sanford tells CNN as recently as this afternoon that she still doesn't know where her husband is and has not heard from him. He didn't call his wife and kids before or after he checked in at the office? And this just calls back into question the fact that his office didn't have a straight story to begin with, and didn't just tell the SC state police where is was before they started searching for his cell signal,...

This all stinks.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Govenor of SC is missing

It now appears that South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford's office has not been in touch with him as was earlier reported.

Here is the second statement released today from Governor's office,
"The governor put in a lot of time during this last legislative session, and after the session winds down, it's not uncommon for him to go out of pocket for a few days at a time to clear his head. Obviously, that's going to be somewhat out of the question this time given the attention this particular absence has gotten.

Before leaving last week, he let staff known his whereabouts and that he'd be difficult to reach. Should any emergencies arise between the time in which he checks in, our staff would obviously be in contact with other state officials as the situation warrants before making any decisions."
What they are not saying is that they have had contact with the Governor, as the Lt. Governor's office had said earlier today. If the Governor's office was in contact with Sanford, the SC state police would not be searching the airwaves for his cell phone, as reported earlier.

And if the Governor's office is to be believed, they are keeping his whereabouts from his wife and children.

Can Sanford 2012 survive a flake-out of this magnitude?

UPDATE: Someone continues to tweet from Sanford's account.

SC Gov Mark Sanford has disappeared

and not even Sanford's wife knows his whereabouts and has not heard from him in several days, including Father's Day, although she is not worried.

The AP reports,
"He was writing something and wanted some space to get away from the kids," Jenny Sanford told The Associated Press while vacationing with the couple's three sons at their Sullivans Island beach house. She said she wasn't concerned about her husband,....
The Lt Governor has no idea where he is either and neither do several of his close friends. His office says they know his whereabouts but they aren't telling. His office is, however,"in touch" with him.

Sanford's spokesman says needed a break to "recharge" after losing his fight to cut education spending rather than take money stimulus money.

What kind of father disappears from his family "for a break" and doesn't even call his children on Father's Day?

This has "nervous hospital" written all over it.

UPDATE: The State newspaper in SC has more here. Until today, The Governor's office was unable to reach him and had no idea where he was. Apparently, he has a history of ditching his security detail at odd times but never has he been out of touch for so long. The SC state police had gone so far as to attempt to locate him by tracking his cell phone -- his phone was last located in near Atlanta before he turned it off.

Two words: psychiatric break.

Voting Rights Act survives in 8 -1 decision

The Supreme Court of the United States upheld Sec 5 of the Voting Rights Act in a very narrow 8-1 decision with Thomas being the lone decenter.

By all reports from the oral arguments, the conservatives on the court were very hostile to the Act, and it was widely believed to be in danger. My speculation is that this 8-1 decision was a compromise all around to prevent (save?) the Roberts Court from striking down one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the history of the United States. In other words, don't take this 8-1 decision to be a reaffirmation of the VRA.

Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSblog explains
Though the Supreme Court by a wide margin today formally rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5, the reality is far different. The decision unambiguously served notice that the Justices are prepared to invalidate the statute as it stands. Congress is now effectively on the clock: it has the period between now and the date that it decides a follow-on challenge by a covered jurisdiction that is not permitted to “bail out” of the statutory scheme to amend Section 5. If the statute remains the same by the time the next case arrives, the Court will invalidate the statute.

Today’s ruling is thus as much subtext as text. An entire section of the opinion is devoted to the constitutional infirmities of Section 5. There is no counter-point. Nor do any of the Court’s more liberal members issue a reassuring concurring opinion indicating that Section 5 would survive a constitutional challenge - though some surely believe it.

The Court’s opinion will go down in history I think as among the Chief Justice’s most significant, and a model for his philosophy of judicial minimalism, which plays out in this case in two separate respects. First, the Court gives Congress in the first instance the opportunity to exercise its constitutional responsibility to apply the Constitution. Second, the opinion brings together a wide majority of eight Justices for a result with which they can all agree.
An amended Voting Rights Act should mandate and proscribe early voting for all federal elections and proscribe minimalist ID requirements for voting in Federal elections.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

72%...

of Americans favor the government offering everyone a government administered health insurance plan like Medicare that would compete with private health insurance plans, says todays NYTs poll.

50% of self-described Republicans favor such a plan as do 73% of independents.

These results mirror the results of the WSJ's poll earlier in the week (pdf) -- results which the WSJ comically attempts to play down in their own coverage of their poll.

That Congressional Democrats are having trouble finding the courage to support a government plan despite this overwhelming public support tells us everything we need to know about these gutless wonders who struggle to maintain public support over time even as their policies are favored.

Write your member of Congress and both Senators and tell them your support is dependent upon their bringing us a government option for health care.

The revolution will be tweeted

The NYTs takes a look at the role of Twitter in the Iranian uprising, and offers praise as well as some important cautions.

The tweets can't be censored, but then again they are also unverified and subject to manipulation.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The President's statment on Iran

Statement from the President on Iran
The Iranian government must understand that the world is watching. We mourn each and every innocent life that is lost. We call on the Iranian government to stop all violent and unjust actions against its own people. The universal rights to assembly and free speech must be respected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights.

As I said in Cairo, suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away. The Iranian people will ultimately judge the actions of their own government. If the Iranian government seeks the respect of the international community, it must respect the dignity of its own people and govern through consent, not coercion.

Martin Luther King once said - "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." I believe that. The international community believes that. And right now, we are bearing witness to the Iranian peoples’ belief in that truth, and we will continue to bear witness.

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Name Is Iran

Roger Cohen's column is a can't miss.
As rigging goes, this looks amateurish.

The Iranian regime is not amateurish. So the mess suggests scrambling to me, an eleventh-hour decision that the surge in Moussavi’s support — the “green wave” — was too massive to tolerate.
_____

The regime has gambled on radicalism. That proved a winning card when a radical White House made an easy enemy. But the world has changed with President Obama, just as Iran’s Twittering society has changed. I suspect Ahmadinejad has ridden the stallion of world transformation to exhaustion.

In a changing Middle East, Iran could find itself isolated under a president whose grandiose calls for a new global governance based on ethics and justice fly in the face of this electoral farce.

What now? The regime is playing for time. The Guardian Council is stuffed with Ahmadinejad loyalists. I can’t see its recount yielding any outcome that changes things.
I've heard several people who have lived in Iran make an important point: Don't conclude from these broad based protest that there is opposition to an Islamic republic. The protest is for the republic -- the right to vote to choose a leader. That the government be Islamic still enjoys widespread, broad support.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The problem with the Iranian election

Annie Lowrey has an insightful post today on the many problems with the Iranian election.

Certainly, the evidence of tampering is everywhere. Millions of paper ballots were counted in just two hours. Mousavi lost his home district. (Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight has excellent empirical posts on the subject.)

But we have no smoking gun and no decisive determination of what happened -- no sure way of knowing if Ahmadinejad stole the election from Mousavi, or the election was fair, or Ahmadinejad stole an election he won.
_____

....with no sense of what really happened in Tehran, it's hard to assess the policy responses as well. If Ahmadinejad tamps down rebellion and continues on the same path, what would be the best response, then?

Exactly!

The simple truth is that we had no idea what really happened on election day in Iran and it seems likely that we will never know. Today there are reports of a "partial recount" what ever that means, and who is to say that all ballots were preserved for any such recount. It's entirely possible that thousands or millions of ballots were destroyed on election day.

McCain, the perinatal hothead, was quick to call the elections a sham and criticized Obama for failing "to act". Not surprisingly, the only 'action' McCain could think of was a condemnation. Fortunately for all of us, adults are now in charge.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sign the petition!

Iranians deserve our support.

Protest against the June 2009 coup d'├ętat in Iran Petition

Iran

I've been in NYC this weekend as events have unfolded in Iran. It's dramatic and amazing and very hard to tell a this point how far it will go.

It's important to understand that Iran's population of 72 million is very young with a majority having been born after the revolution and hostage crisis. They are reasonably well educated and very much ready for change. Years of sanctions and antagonism with the West has taken it's tool with a population frustrated by constant economic crises, isolation and high unemployment. Iran's infrastructure is crumbling (especially in oil and gas) and they are in need of outside investment to rebuild. And there is no confusion inside Iran about what the problem is, thus the riots that have unfolded from a stolen election.

Will this be the second Iranian revolution?

As the government attempts to shut down news to the outside world Twitter has proved invaluable.

Some of the most dramatic tweets are coming from TehranBureau.com (TehranBureau) on Twitter. If you are not following, you need to do so immediately.

Their flagship web page, http://tehranbureau.com, has recently been shutdown by a denial of service attack from the Iranian government.

Jim Sciutto of ABC News (http://twitter.com/jimsciuttoABC) has also been provided excellent coverage from inside Iran.

If you know of any others tweeting from inside Iran, please leave them in comments so we can all following them and offer our moral support and encouragement.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

GOP calling for GM boycott?

Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt want Americans to boycott GM out of fear that the bailouts will be successful.

Where is the GOP denunciations? Republican Michael Steele having apologized to Rush for criticising him, remains silent, as does the Republican Congressional leadership.

The GOP has always been dependant on labor defections to win national elections, most famously with Ronald Reagan. The current GOP however, seems determined to alienate working class swing voters along with everyone else.

Does the Republican party really believe it can win national elections with only it's racist white base?

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Newt backs down

When has this ever happened before?

Seriously, I have no recollection of Newt having ever admitted a mistake. He resigned as Speaker and left the House rather than admit to certain very large mistakes.

Newt has backed down from calling Judge Sotomayor a racist.

Posted this morning on Newt's blog,
My initial reaction was strong and direct -- perhaps too strong and too direct. The sentiment struck me as racist and I said so. Since then, some who want to have an open and honest consideration of Judge Sotomayor’s fitness to serve on the nation’s highest court have been critical of my word choice.
Is it just me, or has Newt excluded himself from the group who want "an open and honest consideration" of the President's choice for the Supreme Court?

Nevertheless, this is a real moment of growth for Newt and we should all pause and recognize it as such.