Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Billmon knows...

...why we fight.

...If the Christian right is ever going to achieve its social objectives -- by means short of a military coup d'etat, that is -- it will have to do it the slow way: by strong-arming its GOP allies into gradually packing the federal bench with fellow wing nuts. Granted, the odds of achieving a constitutional revolution this way are still pretty long (thank God and James Madison.) But they're still better than trying to do it through some sort of legislative deus ex machina -- like the "Constitution Restoration" Act.

Breaking the Senate filibuster on judicial nominees not only would make it easier to obtain lifetime appointments for fellow wing nuts, it would also be the opening wedge for getting rid of the filibuster entirely -- making it easier for a slender GOP majority to pass all kinds of fun stuff, maybe even the Constitution Restoration Act. Or perhaps some sort of Emergency Enabling Act...



If you have any doubts that the fight for integrity in judicial appointments is a fight for Constitutional government itself, go read the whole thing. If you ... well ... just go read it anyway.

But that would be wrong...

...wouldn't it?
WASHINGTON - Fundraisers for a political committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay routinely solicited donations by identifying legislative actions that prospective givers wanted, from video gambling to lawsuit limits, memos show.
Why yes it would...and has been...and is.
Federal law and congressional ethics rules prohibit government officials from connecting political donations to their official actions. DeLay was admonished last year by the House's ethics committee for creating the appearance of connecting energy industry donations with federal legislation.
Openly soliciting cash on a quid pro quo basis. Again and again.

Not just a bad idea. A crime.

Book 'im, Danno...

Destructionism on the march.

Lambert neatly describes the links in the chain that has bound the Republican Party to a path of radical destructionism...(my emphasis)
The bottom line is this: The Republicans have been trying to abolish Constitutional government for a generation. Bush, with the [cough] Patriot Act (trashing the Bill of Rights), the silent re-allocation of billions of dollars from Afghanistan to Iraq (Congressional power of the purse), the institution of torture (cruel and unusual punishment), calling Social Security just an IOU (full faith and credit), and a long train of other abuses and usurpations, is the noxious apotheosis of Republican policies that started with Nixon's Plumbers, and continued through Ollie North's "off the shelf" covert operations and yes, Negroponte's Contras.
They've been around for awhile, but at least there was a time when they still found it prudent to remain in the shadows. Today the arrogance of power has spurred them to operate openly. That should be their downfall, but only if we generate enough noise and call their program what it is - openly anti-American.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Sorry.

For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut.
That's the sad news in this LA Times article (hat tip to Steve M at No More Mr. Nice Blog)...
This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%.

The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4%, better than the 3% historical average.
But hey! I'm no gloom and doomer. I'll share the good news, too...
Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down.
Producing more and earning less? Some might find that uniquely American...

That Kerry fella again...

Sen. John F. Kerry is fast becoming the Democratic Party's personal ATM - dispensing bundles of cash and helping to raise money for party causes and candidates such as Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Kerry's highest voltage money event this spring will be a major fund-raising dinner for Clinton, D-N.Y....
Sez Kerry advisor Jenny Backus...
"He's totally focused on helping other Democrats for the House and Senate, to help take back Congress and boost the Democratic Party all across the country."
And again...
We can't say whether it's unprecedented, but we can certainly say it's uncommon: A U.S. senator taking out ads in another senator's state to sway a vote on a presidential nominee. That's what John Kerry is doing today. The target is Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee -- and, more directly, John Bolton.

****

In an email that went out to Rhode Island residents registered with Kerry's Web site, the Massachusetts senator asked, "In his heart, do you think Senator Lincoln Chafee thinks it is wise to award high government posts to those who have been the architects of some of the most disastrous foreign policy decisions of the last four years?"
Can you say 'leadership'? I knew that you could...

Locals only?

Nope. I think a lot of people would be interested in Rick Anderson's examination of the northwest connection in the ever-expanding DeLay scandal saga. Writing in the Seattle Weekly, Anderson brings the story to my hometown...
The wide-ranging federal investigations into the influence peddling of D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff now include a Senate inquiry related to his work for Seattle's Preston Gates Ellis law-and-lobbying firm. The Senate Finance Committee this week was awaiting a response from Abramoff to a request for records on two nonprofit groups he chaired or helped run during his Preston Gates years. The documents could shed more light on a questionable overseas trip, arranged by Abramoff for then-House Whip Tom DeLay and paid for mostly by two Preston Gates clients. Abramoff also reportedly directly billed some of DeLay's travel costs to Preston. The trip funding and expense billing could both be violations of congressional ethics rules...
...and reminds us that this could all fall in the lap of ...
...new House ethics chair Rep. Doc Hastings, the Pasco, Wash., Republican who has received money from DeLay's political action committee.
Not the kind of thing you'll find in a local Chamber of Commerce press release, maybe, but it's an interesting look at one of the northwest's premiere law firms and their activities in the political sphere.

They make the PI lawyers with late night TV ads seem like paragons of legal propriety.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Carl Ballard corresponds...

...with Skelator.
Dear Slade Gorton,

First off, and I'm about to make fun of you, but this is from the heart: good job with the 9/11 commission. Ok, that felt strange, back to how you're an idiot...
Yep, nice to see things getting back to normal.

Are you scared yet?

There's been a lot of discussion of Dana Milbank's piece on the wingnut conference on "Remedies to Judicial Tyranny" in the Washington Post. Most of the citiations I've seen have made much of perenial wingnutress Phyllis Schlafly's remarks, but for me the really scary stuff is further down the page...
...Michael P. Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said Kennedy "should be the poster boy for impeachment" for citing international norms in his opinions. "If our congressmen and senators do not have the courage to impeach and remove from office Justice Kennedy, they ought to be impeached as well."

Not to be outdone, lawyer-author Edwin Vieira told the gathering that Kennedy should be impeached because his philosophy, evidenced in his opinion striking down an anti-sodomy statute, "upholds Marxist, Leninist, satanic principles drawn from foreign law."
What's the "Marxist, Leninist, satanic" notion that's got the wingers calling for the head of the Reagan appointed Justice Anthony Kennedy? Among other things, the notion that we should join the rest of the civilized world in ending the execution of minors. That's your 'culture of life' in action.

Not scared yet? How 'bout this...
Ominously, Vieira continued by saying his "bottom line" for dealing with the Supreme Court comes from Joseph Stalin. "He had a slogan, and it worked very well for him, whenever he ran into difficulty: 'no man, no problem,' " Vieira said.
As Milbank points out, the full Stalin quotation is "Death solves all problems: no man, no problem." Apparently Vieira's answer to judicial reluctance to kill kids is death to the judges.

Culture of life my ass.

Of course, maybe they're just following Schlafly's advice to offer backup to "The people who have been speaking out on this, like Tom DeLay and Senator Cornyn..." by making the Congresscritters sound moderate by comparison, but there is no moderation in the destructionist attack on the courts and the Constitution.

Every schoolboy knows...

"Our children know that you can't change the rules just to get your way," (Senate Minority Leader Harry) Reid said. "I think it's time that Washington Republicans remembered those truths."
After all, they can't all have been homeschooled by wingnuts...

Quote of the Day

via Josh Marshall

"He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party. Do I think Tom DeLay will be the majority leader by the end of this term? No, I don't think Tom DeLay is going to survive."

Rep. Christopher Shays (R) of Connecticut
So begins the final chapter...

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Speaking of RJR...

...Distance takes an interesting look at DeLay's policy of robbing Peter to represent Paul...
Either Delay is taking money from big tobacco and compromising his own standing with the Southern Protestant churches or he is taking money from the cigarette companies and is making a fool out of the Southern Protestant churches. You can’t have it both ways.
Memo to Tom:
"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon." (Matthew 6:24)

Tardy pet blogging.

I've been busy and she's been persnickety, so here's an archive edition of the lovely and talented Miss Audrey Hepcat...

Don't forget to write...

If nothing else, the folks at dropthehammer.org seem to have gotten under the skin of RJR, one of the companies targeted by the site for their financial contributions to Tom DeLay's defense fund. Atrios reports that RJR has blocked email from the dropthehammer.org server.

As he points out, though, direct action is still possible. You can take it at internet@rjrt.com, TalkToRJR@rjrt.com or paynet1@rjrt.com.

We've been noticed. Keep those emails going.

You're going to hear it a lot...

...so it's worth taking a closer look at a subject raised in comments by the Analog Kid, typically one of the more thoughtful of the right wingers who hang around here, and a usually reliable source for the latest GOP talking point. He cites Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution...
The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behavior, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office."
...from which he derives the notion that...
The only court that is the ‘equal’ of Congress is the SCOTUS. Lower federal courts are established by Congress and are therefore NOT equal and the Congress CAN assert their authority over them.
That's going to become the battle cry of the destructionists during the fight for the courts. It boils down to "We can make 'em, we can break 'em."

There's an element of truth there (in theory, the radical form of court stacking that the Kid describes, but does not endorse, in his comment could happen...to a point. The problem is that Congress can only create courts which operate within the bounds of the Constitution, which is in every case the authority of last resort.

Nothing in the Article III supercedes the Supremacy Clause, which holds all three branches of government and their various subsidiaries equal before the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The courts cannot be compelled to enforce acts of Congress or any other body which violate the Constitution.

The ability of Congress to establish a system of inferior courts to enforce federal law does not affect the fact that those courts are bound to measure every law by the supreme standard. Congress is not empowered to order a court to do otherwise. As established by the Constitution, our branches of government are separate, with an interlocking set of checks and balances that stand as a bulwark against tyranny by any of them - though collusion in tyranny by two increases the challenge for the third. Because each branch is established by the Constitution, and ultimately beholden to the Constitution, they are all equal before the Constitution, though each has defined powers which are denied the others.

Congress can certainly assert certain influence over the courts. The House initiates the appropriations that pay their bills, for instance, and the Senate has authority over the appointment of the judges. Similarly, the judiciary has some influence over the Congress, being empowered to strike down legislation which violates the Constitution, decisions that may sometimes compel legislative action.

Attempts to undermine the separation of powers, to unsettle the system of checks and balances, strike at the heart of the most basic Constitutional principles. They are the heart of the destructionist campaign to radically alter our system of government. This is a fundamental fight, not between liberals and conservatives, but between those who will defend our Constitutional system of government and those who would alter or abolish it. It's about whether a government of laws, rather than of men, shall indeed perish from the earth.

Which side are you on?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Not just a lie...

...it's illegal.
I, Tom Delay, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

January 4, 2005
****
WASHINGTON - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, stepped up his attack on federal judges Thursday, telling a gathering of religious conservatives that the judiciary has "run amok" and demanding that Congress assert authority over the courts.
April 7, 2005
****
The Constitution of the United States

Article 4, Section 2

This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution...


The Supremacy Clause is one of the most fundamental, if not best known, statements in the US Constitution, which Tom Delay has sworn to 'support and defend' with 'true faith and allegiance.' It makes clear that the judiciary is, as a co-equal branch of the goverment, subordinate only and ultimately to the Constitution. What bothers Tom DeLay about judges is that they keep pointing out that Congress, too, is subordinate to the Constitution, and Tom DeLay hates the Constitution.

Maybe his flock of religious conservatives would like to hear his justification for so regularly violating an oath he took to God.

Meanwhile, Our Leader is all over the story over at The Stakeholder (emphasis mine)...
Pelosi Statement on DeLay's Threats Against the Federal Judiciary

Washington, D.C. -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's latest threats against the federal judiciary:

"Mr. DeLay's escalating threats aimed at intimidating the federal judiciary fundamentally disrespect our Constitutional framework and dishonor the oath we take as public officials to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Mr. DeLay's remarks are unworthy of a leader.

"Our Founders carefully constructed our system of checks and balances to include an independent federal judiciary as a co-equal branch of government to protect our freedoms. As Republicans increasingly use any means to justify their partisan ends, that system has never been more critical.

"In the face of Mr. DeLay's and other Republican threats, we will work to ensure the independence of the federal judiciary and protect its ability to safeguard our freedoms. We must continue to be a government of laws."

How again does direspect and dishonor jibe with support and defend? He's violated his oath, hence the Constitution, which is the law.

Destructionism is a criminal enterprise, and Tom DeLay belongs in handcuffs.

Wisdom from Juan...

...err, excuse me, Dr. Cole, on the reemergence of the Mahdi Army...
Look, if all the Mahdi Army amounts to is angry young men with guns persuaded to support puritanical morality and to give their political loyalty to Muqtada al-Sadr, then it can never be "defeated" by the US military. It is just an urban social movement. You'd have to change the character of the Shiite slums to make an impact on it, which won't happen tomorrow.
...or the next day.

From the Credit Where It's Due department...

While most Congresscritters will offer up all kinds of excuses for their ethical lapses - 'I didn't know about the rule,' 'I didn't know about the deed,' 'Clinton did it,' whatever - at least one Senator is perfectly up front about his total lack of concern for legality...
TULSA, Okla. -- Freshman Sen. Tom Coburn will go ahead with his fight to retain his medical practice while serving in Congress, even though the Senate Ethics Committee has rejected his request.

"No, I am not going to close my medical practice," Coburn, R-Okla., said Tuesday. "I am going to wait and see what the Ethics Committee decides finally, and then I'm going to try to change the rules."
Yep, he knows it's against the rules, he's been told to stop and he just doesn't give a damn. Bold practicioner of civil disobedience in the face of oppressive regulation or ordinary scofflaw? You decide. But be warned.
"There's going to be a whole lot of heck to pay up here because if I am working up here five solid days a week, I'm going to create all sorts of mischief, much more so than I would otherwise," he said.
Yep, a full five day week for $158K a year with full health care and a generous pension plan is a bit much to ask, isn't it?

Because.

Nathan Newman wonders why liberals are stepping up to defend the courts, pointing to some unpleasant realities...
But the largest crime of our courts historically was their reactionary defense of slavery before the Civil War, as embodied in Dred Scott, then their destruction of Reconstruction in the 1870s. We fought a bloody war to end slavery and oppression, yet the courts stole that victory with a series of decisions that struck down civil rights laws and destroyed the right to vote for blacks in the south. With raw antidemocratic arrogance, the Supreme Court in the 1870s licensed mass murder and lynchings of black people as a tool to end Reconstruction.

Almost all liberals are willfully blind on this bloody responsibility of the courts for sanctioning racial violence and inequality. The progressivism of the Warren Court was a complete aberration in our history, yet liberals defend courts as if most courts haven't been the worst bastions of racism and privilege throughout our history.
I'm not 'almost all liberals,' but my defense of an independent judiciary doesn't depend on willfull blindness to the historical record - or the current reality, for that matter. There is, I admit, a healthy dose of idealism involved, though.

While every particular court has and will issued decisions which merit condemnation and applause, the principle of constitutional government depends on an independent, co-equal judiciary to survive, and I'm a proponent of the principle of constitutional government. It really comes down to that, doesn't it?

The liberal defense of the courts, then - or, at least, this liberal's defense of the courts - is independent of my agreement with any particular decision or endorsement of an admittedly mixed history. The radical destructionists would have you believe that the function of the courts is simply to endorse and enforce any legislative action, establishing, in effect, a legislative tyranny. The courts, however, are not obligated to bend to the will of the legislative branch, or, for that matter, the will of the people. The courts have only one ultimate obligation - to measure the actions of our government against the charter our government.

They do so imperfectly, of course, as any institution composed of human beings and subject to human judgement will. They are, however, the ultimate check which provides balance in our system of goverment of laws, rather than of men.

The destructionists hate the Constitution. They despise the liberties it preserves, and chafe under the responsibilities it commands. They would happily destroy those liberties and responsibilities through legislative action while they are in the ascendency, and it might prove impossible to correct the most egregious of their actions when their power inevitably recedes. In the current setting, the courts are our only line of defense, and they are under attack.

Just as it's a liberal obligation to recognize the errors of the courts and struggle for correction of those errors, it's a liberal obligation to defend the courts against the destructionist assault.

This liberal's obligation, anyway.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Hit him again, hit him again...

...harder, harder.

Granted, nothing less than a stake through his heart is likely to permanently send Tom DeLay back to the pit from which he was conjured, but I'm willing to settle for sending him back to roach hunting in Sugarland as an interim move. One way to do it is to hit him where it really hurts - his wallet.

The folks who write checks for American Airlines, Bacardi USA, Nissan USA, RJ Reynolds, and Verizon seem to disagree, though, because they've ponied up thousands for DeLay's legal defense fund. dropthehammer.org is your one-stop shop for telling them just how you feel about that.

So tell 'em already!

Mostly right...

In an editorial titled 'Shameless Photo-Op' the New York Times comes close to the truth in noting that...
...the intended meaning of the photo-op was clear. In the hope of persuading people to privatize Social Security - a move that would only add to the growing debt burden for future generations - Mr. Bush wants Americans to believe that the trust fund is a joke. But if the trust fund is a joke, so is the full faith and credit of the United States.

Fortunately, the governments, institutions and individuals who hold United States debt can tell a publicity stunt from a policy statement. Still, casting aspersions on a basic obligation of the United States government is insulting and irresponsible.
Insulting and irresponsible, no doubt. And a violation of his oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the Constitution.

Insulting. Irresponsible. Illegal.

Impeachable.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Sure, it's the easy way out...

...but it's so tempting, so I'll indulge myself again. I have to give Tom DeLay credit for one thing. Whenever together a Scandal Scorecard update starts to seem like hard work, all I have to do is turn my attention to the scoundrel from Sugarland and my work's practically done. This week, the Hammer offers up a two-fer for the



Although news like this...
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's footing among his constituents has slipped drastically during the past year and a majority of his district disapproves of how he handled the Terri Schiavo case, according to a Houston Chronicle poll.
...makes it seem that DeLay should be spending more of his off-hours back home shoring up his dwindling support, it appears that he can't find anyone to pick up the tab. So off he goes to more exotic climes...
A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.

DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign.
That's right. More illegal travel for the majority leader. And you'd think he could afford his own tickets. After all...
The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.
Eric Boehlert thinks these may be fatal blows, offering this quip in Salon's War Room...
If Tom DeLay can survive this, they'll have to change his nickname from "the Hammer" to "Houdini."
...and Nancy is outraged.
"When politicians, the Republican majority, decides it is above the law, the American people are now seeing that they have a price to pay - at the pump, for their pharmaceuticals, and in the absence of initiatives that would help grow our economy, and to feed our children, provide for the health of our people, protect our environment, and, indeed, even provide for the common defense."
Me? I say it's a scandal.

Shadow Speaker sounds off...

...with admirable eloquence.
Q Chairman Dreier this morning was talking about efforts by the GOP leadership to reach across the aisle to Democrats. He cited the vote on the class action bill and the bipartisan bankruptcy bill next week where there would be a strong vote. Do you see it that way? Do you think they are reaching across? How do you see the House running in terms of this major legislation?

Ms. Pelosi. Let me say it in four words: Ha, ha, ha, ha.

Sounds impeachable to me...

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

George W. Bush, Jan 20, 2005
****
"There is no 'trust fund,' just IOUs that I saw firsthand, that future generations will pay — will pay for either in higher taxes, or reduced benefits, or cuts to other critical government programs.

The office here in Parkersburg stores those IOUs. They're stacked in a filing cabinet. Imagine — the retirement security for future generations is sitting in a filing cabinet."

George W. Bush., April 5, 2005
****
The Constitution of the United States

Article XIV

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.

Link roulette?

Sometimes Atrios can be pretty cryptic when offering a pointer, but the results rarely disappoint. For instance...

Oh yeah...

...that war.

Tom Engelhardt takes a long look at Afghanistan for Mother Jones. Just in case you thought that was working out better than Iraq, here's what their version of democracy looks like...
The country now qualifies, according to the Human Development Index in the UN's Human Development Report 2004, as the sixth worst off country on Earth, perched just above five absolute basket-case nations (Burundi, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Sierra Leone) in sub-Saharan Africa. The power of the new, democratically elected government of Hamid Karzai extends only weakly beyond the outskirts of Kabul. Large swathes of Afghanistan are still ruled by warlords and drug lords, or in some cases undoubtedly warlord/drug lords; and while the Taliban was largely swept away, armed militias dominate much of the country as they did after the Soviet withdrawal back in 1989.

And Laura's photo-op notwithstanding...
Women, outside a few cities, seem hardly better off than they were under the Taliban. As Sonali Kolhatkar, co-Director of the Afghan Women's Mission, told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!:

"We hear… about [how] five million girls are now going to school. It is wonderful. When I was in Afghanistan, I noticed that in Kabul, certainly schools were open, women were walking around fairly openly with not as much fear. Outside of Kabul, where 80% of Afghans reside, totally different situation. There are no schools.
and...
According to the UN report, "Every 30 minutes a woman in Afghanistan dies from pregnancy-related causes…
But at least they've got good drugs...
Having cornered most of the world's supply of opium poppies and a growing slice of its heroin-production facilities, Afghanistan seems to be well on the way to becoming the globe's narco-state par excellence. It has "bumper harvests that far exceed even the most alarming predictions," according to "senior Pentagon officials" quoted by Thom Shanker of the New York Times.
There's more. None of it pretty.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Heh.

Billmon takes a look at the Pope-A-Thon trough the bottom of a glass at the Whiskey Bar. Go see.

Kind words...

...for my hero, and a timely caution from the New York Times editors...
Last week, Judge Stanley Birch Jr., a conservative member of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, declared that in the Schiavo case, "the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our founding fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people - our Constitution."

Judge Birch is right, but he should not be such a lonely voice. The founders established a system of government in which the three branches - legislative, executive and judicial - act as checks and balances for one another. Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration, unhappy with some rulings of the judiciary, are trying to write it out of its constitutional role. The courts will not always be popular; they will not even always be right. But if Congress succeeds in curtailing the judiciary's ability to act as a check on the other two branches, the nation will be far less free.
Subverting the Constitution is anti-American destructionism at its worst. Brendan Behan once noted that "It's not that I hate the cops. It's just that all the big bellied bastards that I do hate love the cops." Well, I don't suffer from any fantasy that judges are all above reproach, or that that I'm likely to agree with everything they have to say. All the big bellied bastards that I hate, though, seem to hate the judges, so line me up with the judiciary.

A reminder...

...from the LA Times Ron Brownstein of why I bother...
It's like watching a baseball game where one team is always at bat, or a basketball game where one team always has the ball. The best Democrats can do is hold down the Republican score; the Democrats have found virtually no opportunities to advance their own ideas or to steer the discussion onto their strongest terrain.

****

But a lack of ideas isn't the Democrats' largest problem...

...The Democrats' biggest problem is that they don't have a viable means to spotlight or forge a party consensus behind these ideas.
We've got ideas, but somebody needs to tell the story. As many times in as many ways to as many people as possible. Hence my humble efforts.

Thanks, Ron. I needed that.

Remember that Kerry fella?

So what's he done for us lately?

According to this from The Stakeholder, about a half a million things, with more to come...
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) last week donated $500,000 in leftover presidential primary funds to his party's House campaign arm and pledged to raise another $500,000 for House candidates, the latest sign that he continues to nurse an active interest in a 2008 race.

Kerry cut the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee a check on Thursday, boosting the DCCC's war chest on the day before the first-quarter fundraising books closed.
Once again, for all y'all who say 'not again,' I wonder...

Who ya got? And what have they done for us lately?

Monday, April 04, 2005

Oh what tangled webs they weave...

...and what interesting paths we follow when nailing down the anti-American activities of the radical destructionists at the helm of the Republican Party.

Start with Oliver, commenting on the Cornyn corrolary to the DeLay insanity. He points us to Ezra...
As a party, they should be ashamed. As individuals, they should be clamoring to expel the offenders. What Tom Delay and his friends are advocating is, in the simplest and clearest terms, unAmerican. And anyone who stands by while they do it in order to benefit from the demagoguery is betraying their country as well.
Ezra, in turn, references and summarizes Jesse, summarizing...
His basic point is that if you destroy the judiciary, the country will ride with the whim of the people. Ignorant legislators profiting from backlash politics can work their obscene magic on the government free from robed authorities stepping forward to outlaw the unconstitutional, or the just plain insane. Considering the portion of the Christian Right's agenda that checks the "unconstitutional" and "insane" boxes, that's a Good Thing.
And Jesse has more...
Republicans are now trying to artificially constrain the power of the judiciary, by manufacturing a judiciary which isn't allowed to hear anything...

...the thing they have going for them is that most people don't honestly know what the judiciary is supposed to do. Conservatives ask that courts have a "traditional" view of the law, but the traditional function of the courts is unknown to most Americans.
Great stuff, every bit of it.

Yes, indeed. The kids are alright.

And all right, too.

Some fine linkage...

...via Kevin Drum, who offers a pointer to Suzanne Nossel's top ten reasons to stop John Bolton's confirmation as UN ambassador.

Her case in brief....
10. He hates the UN.
9. He doesn’t believe in paying U.S. dues to the UN.
8. He won’t enjoy the support of U.S. diplomats around the world.
7. He and the Secretary of State are not on the same page.
6. His statements on China are reckless.
5. The damage will not be confined to the UN.
4. Denying confirmation would signal the world that the foreign policy opposition is alive and kicking.
3. He will not change his spots.
2. He is a proven opponent of arms control.
1. He will be ineffective in representing U.S. interests.
(Her case at greater length is here.)

I've been fairly convinced that for the most part we're better keeping our powder dry for the fights over judicial confirmations, but Bolton at the UN could be a disaster of epic proportions. It may be unstoppable, but the effort seems worthwhile.

"I got mine" just doesn't work...

...even if you think you've got yours. The NYT explains it all for you...
The longer-term trend is even more disturbing than the monthly snapshot. In 6 of the last 12 months, job creation has not been strong enough to absorb the growth of the work force. In such a weak labor market, wages are stagnant or falling. Over the past year, for instance, hourly wage increases averaged only 2.6 percent for the 80 percent of the work force made up of non-managers in both white- and blue-collar jobs. The inflation rate for the same period has not yet been released, but it's a safe call that in March, wages failed to outpace price increases, as has happened every month since last May. That adds up to only one thing: a downturn in living standards, which will accelerate as oil prices, now well above $50 a barrel, consume an ever larger chunk of take-home pay.
No matter what class you identify with, or whether you think class distinctions matter at all, the destruction of the American middle class that's taking place under the Bush regime ultimately hurts us all, hence it hurts you.

The bottom line is simple. George W. Bush doesn't care about you, because he figures he already has his, and by the time he's done, all his friends will have theirs.

And I figure each and every one of them deserves exactly what's coming to them...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

It usually passes quickly...

...thank goodness, but I'm sometimes stricken with a wave of sympathy for some of the old line Republicans who find themselves trapped in the clutches of the radical destructionists who have shoved their anti-American agenda to the front of the GOP's attention.

Take Dick Cheney. Now, I generally reserve the 'poster child for evil bastard' slot for the Veep, but in many way's he's a throwback to a time when Republicans seemed like better people - largely, of course, because they were in the minority and couldn't act on their worst impulses. Wrong, of course, but somehow better.

Cheney's always seemed a bit uncomfortable with the destructionist social agenda. He'll mouth the right words when a PAC check is on the line, of course, but his heart's never been in it. Nope, he's from the wing of old school Republicanism based in the idea that 'what's good for American business is good for America...and what's good for Dick Cheney's business is best of all.' Greed is an agenda that may push at some ethical boundaries, but can ultimately be contained within a Constitutional framework with relatively few indictments and fewer convictions. The destructionist agenda requires the destruction of that very Constitutional framework, and that's going a bit far even for some of the most rock ribbed Republicans.

Not really a surprise, then, to see the Veep joining the growing chorus of Republican voices willing to toss the chief destructionist over the side...
Cheney said he backed efforts to help save Terri Schiavo's life, but strongly disagreed with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), who wants retribution against judges who blocked restoration of her feeding tube.

"I don't think that's appropriate . . . There's a reason why judges get lifetime appointments," he said.
Dick Cheny giving a lesson in separation of powers to Tom DeLay.

Almost makes him seem like a...nope. The wave of sympathy has passed.

What democracy looks like...

...in Falluja.
April 1, 2005 - DAHR JAMAIL spent eight months working as an independent journalist in Iraq. As one of the few journalists not “embedded” with U.S. forces, his reports earned a reputation for being an uncompromising look at life under occupation.
****

I was in Falluja during the April siege last year for a couple of days, and then I went back in May several times to report on what happened. But I didn’t go in November, because the military cordoned off the city and maintains that cordon to this day. They’re not letting any journalists in there. I’ve been getting information by interviewing refugees, or through some of my colleagues who have been in and out of the city several times.

Life there is horrendous. At least 65 percent of the buildings have been bombed to the ground, and what’s left has been severely damaged. There’s no water, no electricity and, of course, no jobs. And when people go back into the city, they have to get a retina scan and get fingerprinted, and then they’re issued an ID card.

Then they go inside to find what’s left of their homes, and in a really horrible situation in which the military remains in total control of the town. There are snipers everywhere, and the ambulances aren’t able really to run--they’re still being targeted by the military. The one remaining hospital--Falluja General Hospital--is barely functioning, because people have to go through checkpoints to get there.

Life in Falluja is really a horror story.


If you insist...

...or if you don't, it's time for another installment from our recent southwest expedition.

When the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left (AKA My Gal Sal) and I set off, brandishing our Brand Dem gear in a series of red states while visiting any number of roadside attractions and scenic wonders wasn't really the point. Nope, we were off to see a truly wonderful attraction, the Endlessly Endearing Granddaughter of Upper Left, and to catch up with the Father In Law of Upper Left, His Pal and Gigi the Wonder Dog.

Naturally, of all the disposable cameras I used up during the trip, the pictures of my beautiful granddaughter (have I mentioned that she's the smartest and prettiest girl in the world?) came out worst of all. Luckily, her mom has a camera full of additional shots, including the ones of Grandpa and Gwennie. Until those arrive, though, I was able to use the miracle of digital adjustment to rescue at least a couple shots, including one with the 3BUL...



The shots of Sal, her dad, His Pal and Gigi came out a bit better...



Nest stop - we get our kicks on Route 66...

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Exactly so.

Thanks, Oliver.

It's touchy, I know.

I mean, I've pondered how the world of my experience has been tangibly improved by his Papacy and have come up empty. It's not surprising, then, that I don't really care much at all about John Paul's end game. That doesn't mean it's a subject to be handled carelessly, though, and, given the 24 hour multi-network Pope-A-Thon we're in the middle of, it's a subject nearly impossible to avoid.

Happily, the inimitable Mr. Wolcott puts it all in perfect, and perfectly respectful, perspective...
After all the eulogizing the media have been doing over the last 24 hours, what will be left to say once the Pope actually dies? They've talked his death to death before having the decency to let him expire first.
Good question, good point.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sometimes heroes are hard to come by...

...so I've learned to take them where I find them. Sometimes they're surprising folks found in surprising places. Take, for instance, Judge Stanley Birch, elevated to his lifelong tenure on the Federal bench by none other than Papa Bush. Known as one of the more conservative members of his court, I'd never heard of him until a couple of days ago, but these words from the final Schiavo decision (PDF) exact nothing but my deep admiration...
In resolving the Schiavo controversy it is my judgment that, despite sincere and altruistic motivation, the legislative and executive branches of our government have acted in a manner demonstrably at odds with our Founding Fathers' blueprint for the governance of a free people - our Constitution. Since I have sworn, as have they, to uphold and defend that Covenant, I must respectfully concur in the denial of the request for rehearing en banc.

****

The separation of powers implicit in our constitutional design was created "to assure, as nearly as possible, that each branch of government would confine itself to its assigned responsibility." But when the fervor of political passions moves the Executive and the Legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene. If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow.
Just so. And make special not of the last words there. We're about to enter yet another round of attacks on the independent judiciary by the radical destructionists in the Republican Party. They would have you think that by adhering to their Constitutional role and refusing to be politically and emotionally blackmailed by the destructionist crowd they've 'thumbed their nose' at the Congress. Nothing, of course, could be less true. One bright light in the dismal murkiness of the Schiavo case was the response of every court, at every level. Adherence to the rule of law was the one principle that was maintained throughout, by every court, every jurist, regardless of ideology.

It was perfectly fitting that the final decision spoke directly to the importance of maintaining, in John Adam's famous formulation, 'a government of laws rather than of men,' and that it came from the pen of a judge appointed by George H.W. Bush. It's even better that his words fit the situation so perfectly.

Stanley Birch is the Upper Left Hero of the Day.

Too busy...

...to herd cats, but I did catch a brief arial glimpse of the lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat...

Just when it's needed...

...John Kerry is taking a strong stand for the integrity of the judicial ratification process.
Will clear-thinking Republican Senators pull their party's leaders back from the brink? Or will they let slash-and-burn political tactics change the character of American democracy forever?

Within a matter of days, the Senate could face a truly momentous decision - one with consequences that will reverberate across America for decades to come.

That's why, when Republican Senators return to Washington next Tuesday, the johnkerry.com community is planning to greet them with a powerful message in that morning's edition of USA Today.
You can read the ad, sign on to it or chip in for it at johnkerry.com.

The Republicans are going to attempt a raw power grab in order to advance the attack of the radical destructionists on the Constitutional underpinnings of our country. John Kerry's shining a bright light into one of their darkest ratholes.

Sic 'em, John!

It's a wee bit risky...

...running with any breaking news on the 1st of April. I'm pretty sure this swipe from Atrios is the real deal, though...
Tom DeLay
Majority Leader
House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Majority Leader DeLay,

I was stunned to read the threatening comments you made yesterday against Federal judges and our nation’s courts of law in general. In reference to certain Federal judges, you stated: “The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”

As you are surely aware, the family of Federal Judge Joan H. Lefkow of Illinois was recently murdered in their home. And at the state level, Judge Rowland W. Barnes and others in his courtroom were gunned down in Georgia.

Our nation’s judges must be concerned for their safety and security when they are asked to make difficult decisions every day. That’s why comments like those you made are not only irresponsible, but downright dangerous. To make matters worse, is it appropriate to make threats directed at specific Federal and state judges?

You should be aware that your comments yesterday may violate a Federal criminal statute, 18 U.S.C. §115 (a)(1)(B). That law states:

“Whoever threatens to assault…. or murder, a United States judge… with intent to retaliate against such… judge…. on account of the performance of official duties, shall be punished [by up to six years in prison]”

Threats against specific Federal judges are not only a serious crime, but also beneath a Member of Congress. In my view, the true measure of democracy is how it dispenses justice. Your attempt to intimidate judges in America not only threatens our courts, but our fundamental democracy as well.

Federal judges, as well as state and local judges in our nation, are honorable public servants who make difficult decisions every day. You owe them – and all Americans – an apology for your reckless statements.

Sincerely,

Frank R. Lautenberg
Sic 'em, Frank!

Thursday, March 31, 2005

From the Department of Redundancy Department...

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. intelligence on Iraq was "dead wrong," dealing a blow to American credibility that will take years to undo, and spymasters still know disturbingly little about nuclear programs in countries like Iran and North Korea, a presidential commission reported on Thursday.

****

"We conclude that the intelligence community was dead wrong in almost all of its prewar judgments about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction," the commissioners wrote.

Wow. Who knew?

I hate it. Really...

...you know, what they've done to my Army...
...The original vision of a light and highly mobile force that could do with less armor because it would have more advanced information about enemy movements is more suitable to battles against recognizable, conventional forces on relatively open terrain than in the new world ushered in by 9/11 and the war in Iraq.

The United States entered that era with Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon wedded to the concept of deploying military forces rapidly, winning swiftly with technological wizardry and then departing just as rapidly. Instead, the Iraq war has turned into an indefinitely prolonged campaign against hit-and-run insurgents who melt in and out of cities and villages and fire rocket-propelled grenades that make armored vehicles a life-and-death need. This kind of combat seems far more likely to characterize America's wars than set-piece battles like those of the 1991 Gulf war or the first three weeks of the Iraq invasion. The Army needs more armor, not less. Greater mobility and highly advanced radio networks are fine, but not at the cost of leaving American soldiers more exposed to lethal dangers.
More armored transport. More body armor. More troops, dammit, before entering a war that every reasonable military authority knew would involve extended pacification and occupation efforts before withdrawal could begin.

But Rummy wanted to play out his philosophic musings on things military with real infantrymen as pawns. Now, having deployed everything but the Junior Birdmen, a combination of factors like growing fatality rates in Iraq, VA cuts at home and mission uncertainty everywhere has put the additional troop strength we desperately need even for a relatively safe staged withdrawal apparently out of reach. Recruiters are trolling malls with huge cash bounties to award and a requirement standard that seems to be declining as rapidly as the pool of available trainees.

Do I feel a draft?

It's time to drop what the NY Times calls the 'science fiction' aspects of Rumsfeld's military fantasies and rebuild our conventional forces. I don't think that's possible until the mission is clear - to support an orderly, staged and complete withdrawal from the Iraqi theater.

Yes, so it seems...

During the 18 years I served in the Senate, Republicans often disagreed with each other. But there was much that held us together. We believed in limited government, in keeping light the burden of taxation and regulation. We encouraged the private sector, so that a free economy might thrive. We believed that judges should interpret the law, not legislate. We were internationalists who supported an engaged foreign policy, a strong national defense and free trade. These were principles shared by virtually all Republicans.

But in recent times, we Republicans have allowed this shared agenda to become secondary to the agenda of Christian conservatives. As a senator, I worried every day about the size of the federal deficit. I did not spend a single minute worrying about the effect of gays on the institution of marriage. Today it seems to be the other way around.

John C. Danforth, a former United States senator from Missouri, resigned in January as United States ambassador to the United Nations. He is an Episcopal minister.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sometimes this is easy...

...like when you're looking for a good example of power lust and lawlessness in the Bush administration for another installment of the...



With issues of personal privacy and personal choice on everyone's mind lately, it's worth taking a look at what happens when you choose to fly on an private airline in the U.S.. The IG at the Homeland Security Department did just that during a review of the Transportation Safety Adminisration, and the results were distressing. Watching Washington offers some examples via USA Today...
After getting hundreds of FOIA requests from JetBlue passengers asking if TSA had their records, TSA reported on their website they had none, even though TSA did, in fact, have those records

TSA Chief James Loy told C0ngress in November 2003, that certain kinds of passenger data were not being used in the test -- even though the data was

The TSA failed to disclose when asked how broad it's role was in getting and using passenger data.
Hundreds of violations of the FOIA. Administrators lying to Congress. Withholding information.

The response so far?
Congress has said the TSA can't continue testing the system unto the GAO clears their safeguards to ensure privacy and protect data.
Something, but somehow not nearly enough for hundreds of acts of lawlessness by yet another branch of the Administration.

Simply scandalous.

Belated congrats...

...to our friends at the Northwest Progressive Institute, who began blogging one year ago yesterday. Those are the fine folks kind enough to syndicate this site through their Pacific Northwest Portal, an essential resource for regional and national information and agitation.

Should be easy enough to remember. They're just 53 years and 364 days younger than I am.

Yep, it's my birthday. You're welcome to use this space for best wishes and effusive praise...and don't hestitate to punch the Pay Pal link for emphasis!

New Iraq® by Bushco®...

...now with Democracy™!

via Juan Cole.
Iraqi voters aren't happy.They don't care that some of the biggest political changes ever to happen in their lifetime are going on in their country. All they know is that the electricity still is off for hours every day, the water doesn't always flow out of the faucets, there are still long gas queues at the stations, and the situation still seems pretty lawless in the streets.
Thanks to Bushco, that's what 'democracy' looks like to Iraqis...and it doesn't smell like success to me.

I admit...

...that I'm generally dubious in regard to the continued activity of Democracy For America, primarily because my firm belief that the best place for Democratic activists to stand is under the unified banner of the Democratic Party. I've been hopeful that the folks at DFA, having seen Gov. Dean elevated to DNC Chair, would transfer their affections to the Party more directly. I'm a hopeful guy.

Still, my hat's off to the local affiliate, Democracy For Washington, and their radio campaign in support of Washington State's House Bill 1515, the Anderson-Murray Equal Rights act. The bill, which has been offered in its essential form every session for 30 years, is named for Cal Anderson, the state's first openly gay legislator, who first introduced it, and Ed Murray, who has served in the same House seat since Cal's death. Bill titles notwithstanding, the bill would be a tribute to every Democratic member of the current legislature, and to every citizen those members represent. It's time to get this done.

It's being shepherded by my very own State Senator, Darlene Fairley, who chairs the relevant committee and has held hearings on the legislation. Fairley told the PI...
"I am very optimistic," said Fairley, D-Lake Forest Park. "It's the right thing to do."

The state House has already approved the bill, and Gov. Christine Gregoire has said she will sign it into law if the Legislature passes it.

Public opinion at Fairley's committee hearing ran six-to-one in favor of the bill, though some opponents warned of deep-seated opposition across the state.
If you're a Washingtonian, contact your State Senator. It's time to respect and protect the basic civil rights of every one of our citizens. Wherever you may be, consider hitting the tip jar at the Democracy for Washington site, where they're collecting cash for more air time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Run, Jesse, run...away.

Tim Grieve makes the essential point...
By making a star turn in the Schiavo circus, Jackson just handed the religious right the gift that Terri Schiavo wasn't. As soon as Randall Terry and Tom DeLay stand up and say -- fairly or not -- that "even Jesse Jackson" agrees with them on the Schiavo case, the Republicans will begin the climb out of the hole they have dug for themselves.
...but I'm intrigued by this...
Terri Schiavo's parents invited Jackson to visit with them in Pinellas Park today, and he took them up on the offer.
Having been on the business end of an 'invitation' to Reverend Jackson, it's my experience that Jesse doesn't work for free...so what wss the offer?

(By the by...Blogger is, well, bloggered today, so anything might or might not appear here anytime...)

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Radical Destructionists...

...can be expected to use the Schiavo case as yet another wedge in their campaign to usurp the rule of law and destroy our constitutional form of government via their attack on the court system whose design is derived from the Constitution itself.

Herman Schwartz' primer on the history of judicial appointments for The American Prospect is thus timely and essential. He writes...
With the notable exceptions of the 1968 Fortas nomination and a failed Republican filibuster of H. Lee Sarokin in 1994, neither party filibustered the other's judicial nominations, and virtually all nominees received a hearing unless they were sent up after the presidential nominating conventions.

All this changed in 1996. Rather than openly challenge President Clinton's nominees on the floor, Republicans decided to deny them Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Between 1996 and 2000, 20 of Bill Clinton's appeals-court nominees were denied hearings....Some 45 district-court nominees were also denied hearings, and two more were afforded hearings but not a committee vote.
Got that? 65 federal judicial appointments that they wouldn't even talk about. Schwartz warns against the ongoing campaign to paint the Democratic Senate as outrageous judicial obstructionists...
In light of the ferocity with which Republicans stonewalled Clinton's nominees, Frist's entire case folds; the 10 nominees filibustered by Democrats hardly compare to the 65 Clinton nominees denied a vote by the Republicans' under-the-radar procedural maneuvers.
Go read the whole thing and arm yourself for battle.

Just in case...

...you thought the forces behind Dino Rossi's attempt at a coup via the courts gave a good goddam about election reform or any such a thing, one major player has unveiled it's real agenda...and perhaps Rossi's?
The Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), one of the state's most powerful conservative voices, is considering sponsoring a so-called "right-to-work" initiative that would prohibit mandatory union dues. Any such effort is certain to face strong opposition from state and national union groups.
Of course, they still need an excuse, but it's revealing that all they can come up with is pure payback...
McCabe said the group wants to do something dramatic to retaliate against recent efforts in the Democrat-controlled Legislature that would have taken a multimillion-dollar bite out of the association and removed much of its political clout. The legislation, which appears dead for this year, was pushed hard by the Washington State Labor Council.
They want to punish Democrats for legislation the Democratic majorities in our legislature didn't pass legislation that would have prevented the leadership of the BIAW from diverting profits earned for its members in a worker's comp insurance fund they administrate into political use. It wouldn't have prevented them from maintaining a PAC and soliciting funds from those members, but it apparently fears they wouldn't volunteer as much cash as they can skim now.

They're right there amongst the worst of a bad lot, and theye're Dino's best buds.

But if they want a 'Right To Work (longer and harder for less)' fight in Washington, I'm with Rick Bender. Bring it on.

Words have meanings...

...and, when used to frame issues, they have consequences. That's why it's important for people of a progressive bent - or anyone with a sincere interest in rationality, for that matter - to be on guard against adopting the language of the right. A case in point comes in the midst of a generally commendable effort by the Seattle P-I's Robert Jamieson to bring some perspective to the Terri Schiavo story.
Conservatives who normally argue for state's rights -- pushing for government to stay out of private life, less government, not more -- sought federal intervention to have Schiavo's feeding tube put back in against what Schiavo's husband claims are the sick woman's wishes.
Bzzzzt. Sorry, but thanks for playing.

This does not hinge on Michael Schiavo's 'claims' vs. Terri's parents. There is no outstanding 'he said, they said' question. The heart of the court decision that has been repeatedly upheld is that Michael Schiavo is properly representing the wishes and interests of his wife. That's not his 'claim,' that's the determination of every court which has studied the question and upheld Judge Greer's original decision.

It's not what "Schiavo's husband claims." It's what the objective determination of the courts has found and affirmed. If you believe in the rule of law that the U.S. Constitution provides for then it's simply no longer a subject of debate. There are no relevant opposing claims.

That's the American way. The other side is simply wrong, and anti-American.

Then there's the whole silly notion that conservatives have any interest in "pushing for government to stay out of private life, less government, not more." Words have meanings, but meanings change. That description of conservative just ain't so no mo...

Lest we forget...

John Emerson emerges from self-imposed exile at Seeing The Forest with an always timely reminder that...
"...the big fact of today's political world is that there are no good guys on the other side of the aisle, and that Democrats should quit looking for them."
The only good Republican pol is a retired Republican pol.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Time to pull the plug.

No, not that one.

The one that keeps pumping a semblance of life into the stinking carcass of Dino Rossi's challenge to the Washington gubenatorial election. The Seattle Times reports on the condition of the corpse...
The list of more than 1,000 alleged felon voters, compiled by attorneys for Dino Rossi, is a central piece of evidence in Rossi's legal challenge to last November's election. It will be argued over in some detail in the lawsuit pending in Chelan County Superior Court.

****
In court papers filed last week, Democrats said Whatcom County's investigation showed a "75 percent error rate" in the Republican felon list.
That's right. 75% of the residents of Whatcom County who have been publically accused of criminal election fraud are innocent of the charges. People whose voting rights have been restored. People who were never convicted of a felony. People who didn't even vote.

People who don't belong on anybody's list. Lots of people.
Other problems with the Republicans' evidence have been uncovered. The felon list includes the names of people convicted as juveniles and whose voting rights were never extinguished. That could mean hundreds of names will be removed from the list. Republicans are reviewing the cases to check for juveniles.

"It's really inconsistent information. But 1,100 felons voting makes a great headline," said Yakima County Auditor Corky Mattingly.
And the sickness is spreading, encouraging illegality among public officials.
Thurston County Sheriff Gary Edwards began investigating before Republicans submitted their list to the court.

****

He looked at dozens of names and was convinced that many voted illegally, perhaps as many as 100. He forwarded one name to the prosecutor for criminal charges in a case where he thinks criminal intent can be proved.

"The way I look at this, I'm like the policeman on the freeway," Edwards said. "Everybody is going 80 and the speed limit is 70. I'm trying to keep it under control and I've got to stop somebody. I'm a realist. I know I can't stop them all. But I've got to do something."
What you don't have to do, Sheriff Edwards, is engage in selective enforcement. There are laws against that, you know...or does that 'R' after your name on the ballot relieve you of your obligations to the law?

Damn.

I hate what they've done to my Army.
At least 37 members of the Army Recruiting Command, which oversees enlistment, have gone AWOL since October 2002, Army figures show. And, in what recruiters consider another sign of stress, the number of improprieties committed - signing up unqualified people to meet quotas or giving bonuses or other enlistment benefits to recruits not eligible for them - has increased, Army documents show.

****

Some recruiters said they witnessed more "improprieties," which the Army defines as any grossly negligent or intentional act or omission used to enlist unqualified applicants or grant benefits to those who are ineligible. They said recruiters falsified documents and told prospects to lie about medical conditions or police records.
The President lied to start a war. The recruiters lie to staff it. The recruits lie to get into it.

Lies, lies, lies, all the way down the line.

A public service suggestion...

I imagine many folks find themselves in a situation similar to Matt Yglesias...
I didn't know any practicing Christians when I was growing up, which perhaps accounts for the fact that I'm not sure what one is supposed to say on Easter Sunday. Is it a "happy Easter" sort of thing?
If you find yourself in a similar situation, or you know someone in a situation like that, may I suggest "Sorry your god died. Glad to hear he's feeling better."

Anyway, hope all y'all are enjoying your chocolate crosses and marshmallow Jesi this morning. Me, I'm not a Christian, but Cadbury eggs are a sufficient reason for the season.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

It's the hate and hypocrisy, stupid.

CLEARWATER - Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge George Greer left his church last week after the pastor wrote him a letter suggesting "it might be easier for all of us" if he leave.

Greer, whose orders on the Terri Schiavo case have brought him criticism, is a Southern Baptist who attended Calvary Baptist Church in Clearwater.
Maybe someone more conversant with the Christian scriptures than I am could offer a pointer, but I completely missed the part about making things 'easier for all of us.'

If you wanna stop the war and stuff...

...singing loud, even with four part harmony and a choral orchestration, just isn't enough.

Geov Parrish has some good ideas in his latest for the Seattle Weekly, though.
Opposition to this war should be rooted in what is best for this country. Rather than being reflexively antimilitary, antiwar activists should learn to understand and embrace why this war is bad news from the perspective of the men and women fighting it. Supporting our troops is not simply the politically correct or a humane thing to do; it's also the best way to work for an end to this war.
Peace is patriotic, you know...

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good questions...

...keep piling up. Here's a couple of the better ones.

Carla wonders...
Isn't it possible instead that we're encountering a President and a Congress so drunk with it's own power and so arrogant in it's irresponsibility that they no longer care about the rule of law?
Well, yeah...but I think 'never did' might fit better than 'no longer.'

Meanwhile, Steve Gilliard takes note of the protesters own disregard for the rule of law and asks...
When are the Schindlers going to ask people to behave peacefully? When are they going to ask no one to use violence?
I dunno. Maybe when Terri sits up and asks for a sandwich?

Will pose for tuna...



The lovely and talented Audrey Hepcat, brought to you by StarKist...

Distracted by the merely outrageous...

...I've let the scandalous slip by without much notice this week, but never fear. There's still lawlessness on the loose in the Bush Administration, so there's still occasion for an update to the

WASHINGTON (AP) - Criticized by a whistle-blower, the Fish and Wildlife Service conceded Monday that it bungled some of the science used in protecting Florida's endangered panthers.

The agency acknowledged three violations of a 2000 law that is intended to ensure the quality of data the government uses. Those involved issuing documents based on faulty assumptions about the habitat of one of the world's rarest animals, agency officials said.
Three violations of the law, and what's the outcome so far? Firing Andrew Eller, the biologist who blew the whistle.

Of course, Eller's complaint gives lie to the weasely excuse about 'faulty assumptions.' Assumptions are decisions made without sufficient information. Eller gave them the information. They knew, but that knowledge would have blocked development in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

There's little enough room for the panthers there, and there are few enough that it matters.
The breeding population is considered to be below 50, the minimum required to sustain the population. Almost half of the panthers' habitat is on private property spread across several southwestern Florida counties.
Fewer than 50 breeding panthers.

Three violations of the law that protects the panthers and their habitat.

Three confessions.

One whistle-blowing scientist fired.

It's scandalous.

I've tried hard...

...to think the best of Terro Schiavo's parents. I really want to believe that, blinded by grief, they've been duped by the swindlers, shysters, criminals and clowns they've chosen to make common cause with. This makes that harder...
"On Feb. 14, 1993, this amicable relationship between the parties was severed," Greer wrote. "While the testimony differs on what may or may not have been promised to whom and by whom, it is clear to this court that such severance was predicated upon money and the fact that Mr. Schiavo was unwilling to equally divide his loss of consortium award with Mr. and Mrs. Schindler."
The 'loss of consortium award' was the $300,000 that Michael Shiavo received as compensation for the loss of his wife's companionship. Spread over a lifetime, it isn't much. Spread over a decade or so of caring for a person in a persistent vegetative state while fighting off the mother of all frivilous lawsuits, it's nothing at all, really.

But the Schindlers, who had apparently declared bankruptcy around that time, wanted half.

As a parent, one of the most challenging things to contemplate is the prospect of outliving one of my children, regardless of circumstance. The particulars of this case make the circumstances more dreadful than most.

I really want to think the best of the Schindlers, but particulars of this case also make that harder than I want it to be.

Some days...

...I wonder why I try, when everyone else is doing this so well.

Rudie's got the goods on Grieving, Bush, and Clinton. I can't do it better. Go read.

...in which I (heart) James Wolcott.

Adam Nagourney really ought to be writing for Tiger Beat. Because only a groupie with a byline could write of Jeb Bush's posturing in the Schiavo story, "[The] events of recent days have fed the mystique of Mr Bush as a reluctant inheritor of perhaps America's most famous dynasty since the Adams family two centuries ago."
Yes, I do wish I'd written that, and the rest of it, too.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

On the other hand...

...maybe we should just let them have their way...
"I think we are in a very dangerous period on Social Security," former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said in an interview this week, adding his voice to the growing chorus of prominent critics in the GOP. He said the president's advisers think "they could sell benefit cuts and tax increases. . . . It could be catastrophic for the Republican Party if we end up as the party of tax increases and benefits cuts."
...or maybe not. After all, they made being the party of massive deficits and senseless war work for them last time out.

From the Ex-Parrot department.

Jacob Weisberg gives it a poke and nothing moves...
George W. Bush's plan to remake the Social Security system is kaput. This is not a value judgment. It's a statement of political fact.
The road to that defeat is still strewn with hazards for Democrats, though...
...if Bush is shrewd enough to euthanize carve-out accounts while shifting to make solvency his goal, he will leave his Democratic opponents in a quandary. A package of innocuous tax increases and benefit cuts could extend the life of the trust fund out to 75 years in a fairly painless way. Substantively, it would be hard for even the most partisan Democrats to oppose this kind of compromise...
Unless, of course, they had a more progressive, more productive alternative to vote for.

Once again, why shouldn't there be a plan that removes the income cap for FICA, makes no benefit cuts and has a Democrat's name on it?

We've beat back the radical destructionist's worst ideas for Social Security . Isn't it near time to unveil our best, rather than settling for their merely miserable?

Score one for our side?

Steve Gilliard thinks so...
All this stuff is scaring even conservatives. They see the invasion into people's most intimate decisions and they don't like it.

So how did they miscalculate this?

Because they have, in part played this like Tom Daschle was still around and he's not. Reid is a different kind of leader, a lot tougher for one, and a lot smarter tactically.

The smart, but hard move was to see this play out for the disaster it would become. If the Dems got in the way, they would be seen as obstructionists. Instead, they didn't even vote on this. They let the GOP overplay their hand and reap the anger.
...and I don't think he's wrong. I'm not sure how much of the strategy behind the Democratic response (or lack thereof) to the Terri Schiavo case came from the Minority Leader's office, but placing the credit is less important than recognizing the opportunity that response offers. Steve's right - the Republicans come out of this looking scary. The 'conservative' political party has been captured by a band of radical destructionists, and your personal life is one of their targets for destruction.

The federal court process has now run its course, and the Constitutional system of checks and balances has done its job. Jeb Bush is still busy trying to convince everyone he's not interested in the Presidency, discarding any potential electability in a frenzy of grandstanding that will make no difference. Within days, Terri Schiavo's body will join her mind in rest. In time, her name will fade except in the minds of those who knew and loved her. Any vestiges of the Republican image as a party of limited government have been shredded, though, which is likely to be the major lasting impact of the whole sad episode.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

In response to persistent demand...

from the vast Upper Left fan base (otherwise known as the Brilliant and Beautiful Bride of Upper Left), another installment from our adventure in 'red' America.

Dropping south from Bryce Canyon, we took the alternate route into Arizona, intrigued by the chance to see the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, whatever that was. What it was was mile after mile of dramatic cliff front featuring boulders, veins and fronts composed of the brilliant red earth that crops up throughout the southwest. There were no services to speak of along the little used road, and that lack of development was refreshing after so many miles on the Interstates. Here's a clumsy attempt at a panoramic view, pasted from a pair of disposable camera shot. It offers a hint, anyway, of what we found so awesome.



Of course, when it comes to awe in Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the granddaddy of 'em all. We spent the night on the Navajo rez, and then set off for the G.C., which offered less snow on the ground than we'd seen at Bryce Canyon, but more in the air. Not enough, however, to obscure views like this...



Pretty cool, huh? And we haven't even got to the best part - the Incredibly Endearing Granddaughter of Upper Left (have I mentioned she's the smartest and prettiest girl in the world?).

Oh what tangled webs we weave...

via Think Progress:
President Bush, 10/29/04:

"Unfortunately – unfortunately, my opponent, tonight, continued to say things he knows are not true – accusing our military of passing up a chance to get Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora. As the Commander in charge of that operation, Tommy Franks had said, it’s simply not the case. It’s the worst kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. It is especially shameful in the light of a new tape from America’s enemy."

Associated Press, 3/23/05:

"A terror suspect held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, helped the al-Qaida leader escape his mountain hide-out at Tora Bora in 2001, according to a U.S. government document. The document, provided in response to a Freedom of Information request, says the unidentified detainee 'assisted in the escape of Osama bin Laden from Tora Bora.'"
Dishonesty is complicated. Eventually, the only defense you're left with is the claim that everyone else is lying, a claim which you know is a lie, about which you would lie if confronted, and so on and so on down an increasingly twisted hall of increasingly cloudy mirrors.

I think the pits of Hell are at the end of the hall...at least I hope so.

And it seems like John Kerry deserves an apology from an awful lot of folks, with the Preznit heading the list...

Molly!

You go, girl!

And you? Go read.

A seldom-heard encouraging word?

Although it contradicts my experience as an (ahem) over-50 job hunter, this NY Times piece seems to have some good news about the job market for my cohort...
After years of encouraging workers to take early retirement as a way to cut jobs, a growing number of companies are hunting for older workers because they have lower turnover rates and, in many cases, better work performance.
Except...

How encouraging is it, really, that men and women 30 or 40 years into their careers are willing to accept entry-level retail wages from the likes of Home Depot, Wal-Mart and Borders. And if older workers are filling more and more of those jobs, where do the people really entering the work force go?

Sounds almost like someone's trying to gin up another generation of anti-boomer backlash, a socially unproductive phenomenon that's being exploited, for instance, by the arguments of the Social Security destructionists...

For the Good Question file...

via Mark Kleiman...
Has anyone figured out how Bush’s proposed medical malpractice reform legislation might have impacted the one million dollar settlement that Michael Schiavo received in 1993, and which has paid for Terri’s care the last 12 years?

The quotes just keep coming...

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states' rights unless they don't like what states are doing. One of five House Republicans who voted against the bill. "This couldn't be a more classic case of a state responsibility.

This Republican Party of Lincoln has become a party of theocracy."

Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Connecticut
Proud of that, are you Congressman? Because there you sit with your big fat 'R', voting for Hastert, following DeLay, part of the problem.

Theocrat, hypocrite, whatever. Throw 'em all out.

The only good Republican politician is a retired Republican politician.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Me neither.

Digby takes a stand.
I will not be patronizing any Republicans who need to rely on science to do their job. Clearly, they are aligning themselves with the forces of superstition over reason and can no longer be trusted. Why would you ever put your life into the hands of someone who would sell out their professional ethics and their intellectual integrity for the sole purpose of appeasing a bunch of religious zealots?

Quote of the Day

At least he admits it...
"It goes beyond shameless politics. It becomes a more crystallized proof point that we are no longer the party of smaller government. We have become a party of 'It doesn't matter what size government is as long as it is imposing our set of values.'"

Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio
'Conservatism,' as most Americans understand it, is clearly no longer a Republican value. When it comes to the principles of American democracy, they're simply destructionist radicals.

Bush Hates Veterans

No More Mr. Nice Blog spikes my outrage meter with a few more facts and figures.
The president's budget will create a $250 annual enrollment fee for 2 million veterans; increase the prescription co-payment from $7 to $15; reduce prosthetic research by $9 million; slash $351 million from veterans' nursing homes by serving 28,000 fewer residents; and eliminate $104 million in state grants. It would do away with 3,000 Department of Veterans Affairs workers while a backlog of more than 700,000 claims exists, according to the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Where's the concern about the sanctity of the lives of those who put theirs on the line for this country?

Being an eternal optimist...

...can be hard, but every now and then my faith in the American people is reassuringly confirmed...
70% of Americans say it is inappropriate for Congress to involve itself in the Schiavo case.

67% of Americans “think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.” (Just 19% believe the elected officials are acting out of concern for her or their principles.)

58% of Republicans, 61% of independents and 63% of Democrats oppose federal government intervention in the case.

50% of evangelicals oppose federal government intervention in the case, just 44% approve of the intervention.

63% of Catholics and a plurality of evangelicals believe Schiavo’s feeding tube should be removed.
The radicals in control of the Republican apparatus thought this was their issue. They were wrong.

War by the numbers.

Dr. Alterman does the math...
200: Lowest estimated number in billions of U.S. taxpayers' dollars that have been spent on the war in Iraq
152,000: Estimated number of troops currently deployed in Iraq
1,511: U.S. troops killed in Iraq since the invasion
11,285: Americans wounded since the invasion was launched two years ago
21,100-39,300: Estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed since the invasion by violence from war and crime
176: Non-U.S. coalition troops killed in Iraq since the invasion
339: Coalition troops killed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs)
70: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2005
14: Daily average number of insurgent attacks on coalition forces in February 2004
18,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq today
5,000: Estimated number of insurgents in Iraq in June 2003
27/14: Countries remaining in the "coalition of the willing" versus number of former coalition members that have withdrawn all their forces or announced their intention to do so
25,000: Non-U.S. coalition troops still in Iraq
4,500: Troops that Italy and the Netherlands have pledged to withdraw before the end of the year
142,472: Iraqi security troops the Pentagon says it has trained and equipped
40,000: Iraqi troops that General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said are adequately trained and equipped to handle most threats
0: Number of active Army combat units deployed to Iraq that have received the required year-long break from active duty required by Pentagon rules
30: Percent by which the U.S. National Guard missed its recruitment targets in November and `December 2004
27: Percent by which the U.S. Army missed its recruitment goals in the past month
15: Percent of military personnel, according to GAO, who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, who could develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
2: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day
2.8: Estimated output of Iraqi oil industry in millions of barrels per day before the U.S. invasion
8: Average number of hours that Iraqis have electricity per day
28-40: Estimated Iraqi unemployment rate
108: Millions of dollars in Halliburton overcharges hidden from international auditors by the Pentagon
9: Billions of dollars the Coalition Provisional Authority cannot account for of all funds dispensed for Iraq reconstruction

Monday, March 21, 2005

What I meant to say...

Carla at Preemptive Karma takes exception with at least part of something I posted last week about message focus for Democratic bloggers, and I can't say that I entirely disagree with her critique. I think it's less a matter of a disagreement between us, in fact, than my own failure to clearly express my point. For instance, she interprets the post thus...
Shaun at Upper Left wants to find a way to hold lefty bloggers to a standard...
Well, not exactly.

While it's true that I used the phrase 'lefty blogosphere' in the conclusion she cites, my target was somewhat more precise in context. The intro to my post addressed the Democratic blogosphere, which overlaps with, but does not encompass, the full range of lefty bloggers. There are pacifist bloggers, anti-capitalist bloggers, anti-corporate bloggers and various others who claim, and generally deserve, the tag 'lefty,' but who are bound to be somewhat uncomfortable being identified with a Party which is not pacifist, nor anti-capitalist, nor anti-corporate, though it contains elements who might merit any of those descriptions. I do believe that those of us who identify as Democrats should be conscious of the need for some degree of message discipline, just as we expect such discipline of Democratic elected officials and Party spokespersons. Carla takes demurs, noting that...
...Shaun is wrong about having such expectations for bloggers. First of all, most bloggers aren't paid for what they do. In fact, most bloggers pay for their own domain and blog upkeep. Second, most of us have a real job outside of blogging that takes up the majority of our time (nevermind parenting and other community based activities).
She's mostly right there. After all, although this site is hosted by Blogger, I pay for the service that hosts my graphics and my internet connection. I, too, have a 'real' job and a wide range of other community based activities, political and otherwise. (All the kids are grown up now, so most of my active parenting responsibilities are behind me, but they never go away entirely, do they?) My plea for some level of partisan discipline is more a hope than an expectation, because I think for those of us who are Democrats, and who hope for Democratic electoral victories, that kind of discipline is an important part of achieving our common goals. Thus, if I implied that I was trying to "...force bloggers under these circumstances to adhere to a standard..." it seems pretty clear that what we have here is a failure to communicate. My failure.

I do think that, absent a Democratic Presidential administration, Democrats are wise to look to Congressional leadership for direction. The real burden is not on us to adhere, though, so much as it is to those leaders to provide appropriate direction. Both the House and Senate caucuses have issued agendas which are more complementary than not. It's past time for those agendas to be united into a coherent statement that can fit on a post card and disseminated through every means available, including every willing blogger.

Carla seems to find my hopes unrealistic, noting that...
The Democratic Congressional leadership can't even hold their own fractured group together and speak with a united voice that articulates the values and ideas of the left.
If we wait for the Democratic Party to speak for 'the left' I'm afraid we're never going to accomplish anything constructive at all. The 'left' is simply too broad in its makeup for anyone to speak for, especially an entity that is struggling to be electorally relevant. The Democratic Party may welcome elements of the pacifist left, or the anti-capitalist left, etc., within its ranks in pursuit of electoral or legislative goals, but those goals will always be more limited than those factions will desire.

The fact is that we can't win elections in this country in any forseeable future with a message that articulates pacifism or anti-capitalism, because most Democrats, let alone most Americans, aren't pacifists or socialits. My own Congressman, Jim McDermott, certainly ranks among the most progressive members of the House, but despite his opposition to the Iraqi war or his advocacy of single payer health care, even he doesn't articulate a pacifist or socialist position.

I'm simply suggesting that when we define what constitutes a 'real' Democrat these days, we turn to the agendas articulated by the Congressional caucuses, rather than our most fervent ideological desires, for guidance. Is there dissension on many issues dear to progressives among the Congressional D's? Sure. We are a big tent Party. At the same time, a review of the House's New Partnership plan, or the Senate's American Promise agenda will reveal broad agreement among our Senators and Representatives on a set of core principles that, while perhaps imperfect from a 'left' perspective, constitute real progress when compared to our current national circumstance. I think it's worthwhile for progressives to endorse that progress, and to temper their attacks on the Party and its officials while continuing to argue for even more. I think, too, that it's essential for us to keep electoral realities in mind as we articulate our arguements.

One thing on which Carla and I heartily concur is this...
I blog because I like to write. I do it for my own pleasure. It's helped me to discover and explore aspects of my own belief system...I can't imagine I'm the only one that feels this way.
Nope, you're not. I'm one, too.