Saturday, April 30, 2005

Oh yeah?

"Well, I can only speak to myself. And I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, You’re not equally American if you don’t happen to agree with my view of religion."

George W. Bush, April 28, 2005
Don't tell Dad...
Sherman: Surely you recognize the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists?

Bush: No, I don't know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.

George H.W. Bush, August 27, 1987

(edited to conceal a woefully foolish mistake...)


Prime snark from Carl Ballard.
"...I know righties still seem to think Hillary is going to run in '04."
Made me look twice, it did...

That's what I'm talking about...

That's what I'm talking about...
WASHINGTON - A $2.6 trillion budget outline barely approved by Congress will cut projected spending on Medicaid for the poor, lock in tax cuts and — Republicans claim — put the country on a path toward lower federal deficits.

Democrats unanimously opposed the spending outline passed late Thursday.
Back in the day when I was a young candidate, the Majority Leader of the Washington State House sat me down and explained the facts of partisan life in a legislative body. In essence, there were two votes I would be expected to get in line for. My support for any number of things might be solicited and appreciated, but when push came to shove, if I wanted to be an active member of the Democratic Caucus, I was expected to vote for the leadership package that the Caucus produced and the Democratic version of the state budget.

Similarly, my bottom line for Democrats in Congress is tied to the same two basic propositions. Will the Member vote for Speaker Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid and against funding Bushco's destructionist agenda? If so, they've established their partisan legitimacy, even if they go off-reservation on any number of issues. Of course, in primary elections I'm going to push for liberal alternatives, and in Party councils I'm going to pull for liberal leadership, but a Democrat who's solid on leadership and budget votes is a Democrat who merits general election support.

Harry Reid and his team did the great job we're coming to expect from them. The vote in the House is a tribute to the work of Our Leader and her team, including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. It's impressive that a Caucus as ideologically diverse as the House Democrats made such a strong statement on behalf of the program and principles of the Democratic Party, and against the destructionist agenda. Every member will end up taking some hits for the vote, with the Republican media shops already scripting the "he voted against defense" and "she voted against education" ads. It's my general belief that to the degree any Member is willing to open themselves up to that kind of attack from the right, they deserve a degree of forbearance when they stray from the pure line of the left on other legislative questions.

Of course, the budget is an atrocity, piling up hundreds of billions in new debt, in no small part because of the continuation and expansion of tax cuts that are sharply skewed to benefit the upper echelons of the economy. Credit where it's due, though. The Republicans did make an effort to reduce the budget deficit through spending restraint, too. So who pays for those tax cuts?

Sick and disabled poor folks do their part, with $10 billion in Medicaid cuts. Rural Republicans will, I'm sure, be proud that they weren't left out of the effort, with agriculture programs losing $3 billion. And just in case you think you're retirement was the only one they're messing with, federal pension programs lose $6.6 billion. At least Paris Hilton's inheritance has been made safe...

It's a mess, and it's all theirs. Kudos to the Congressional D's.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Crazy time.

I dunno what's gotten into the liberal blogosphere lately. First Kos smears the DCCC. Then Atrios calls for the head of Steny Hoyer. Now Chris Bowers at MyDD seems to be pushing for a purge of the entire Blue Dog sub-caucus.

What is it about minority status these guys like so much?

Bowers defines the Democratic 'party line' on the basis of ten issues in the House of Representative. Now, fact is, I'm a liberal Democrat and likely to agree with Bowers and disagree with the Blue Dogs on most every one of them. It's also a fact, though, that with a Democratic majority none of the legislation in question would have ever made it to the floor in anything like the form that drew Blue Dog votes. You want to bring the Blue Dogs closer to the line Bowers has drawn? There's a simple (if not easy) way to get it done. Elect a Democratic majority.

Don't expect to get it done, though, by trashing the House Democrats, any of the House Democrats, publicly every time they stray from 'progressive' orthodoxy, though. I heart the hell out of my own personal Congressman, one of the most faithful members of the Progressive Caucus, but I'm fairly certain that there are lots of places that would never elect him to Congress. Take AL-5, for instance, home of Bud Cramer.

By Bowers' measure, Cramer is the worst of a bad lot, going a mere one for ten on the Bowers scale of Party fealty. Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? But 'Bama ain't about to send us a Jim McDermott or a Dennis Kucinich anytime soon. While Bowers doesn't look so good when measured by Bowers' abbreviated (and, I would argue, seriously flawed) list, he racked up a 75% rating from the arch-liberal Americans for Democratic Action in the last Congress. Not perfect, certainly, but not nothing, either.

Regardless of how you might feel about the prospects for success (yes, I lean toward optimism on the subject. Not precisely 'reality based,' perhaps, but it gets me through the day) job one for Democrats interested in national politics is recapturing Congressional majorities in '06. Folks like Kos, Atrios and Bowers can be critical to that success, or they can just be critics.

Which side are you on?

Such a deal!

RJ Eskow sums up the Frist 'compromise' neatly….
The 'nuclear option' - You are the minority. We annihilate you.

The 'compromise' - You are the minority. We let you talk for up to 100 hours. Then we annihilate you.
Think what you will about the Democratic compromise that Harry Reid reportedly floated a few days ago, but at least it had the benefit of taking some of the worst of the Bush nominees to lifetime tenure on the federal courts off the table. Bill Frist's counter-offer is, well, there's just no there there, is there?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Words mean things…

…and the words we use in the upcoming fight to restore fairness and sanity to the Washington State primary election process will be important. Andrew at the Northwest Progressive Institute offers some crucial definitions...
1. Blanket primary means a system where you may choose from among all candidates of all parties. So you could skip back and forth the ballot and vote for a Democrat for Governor, Republican for U.S. Senate, and so forth - just like in the general election. This system is what Washington had for decades.

2. Open primary is different. In an open primary, voters may vote in one primary of a party of their choice - the choice to be made at the voting booth. So you can vote only on the Democratic ballot, or only on the Republican ballot, or only (sometimes) the Libertarian ballot. It's an "open" primary because party registration by voters isn't required. This is what we used last September - the "Montana-style" primary.
We want open primary elections. Simple enough, and a message that carries positive associations even with people who are only paying cursory attention.

Both major parties will be taking the result's of last years' initiative, which imposes a system where the top two vote getters move to the general election without regard to party ID (the so-called 'Cajun Primary') to court, seeking relief that will once again offer Washington voters an open primary process.

When considering the opposing arguments, consider this. They are being made by people who look to Louisiana as a model for electoral reform. With all due respect to my Daddy's people, who immigrated through the port of New Orleans, that just sounds nuts to me.

Really, Atrios?

"These people are really the biggest bunch of whining losers on the planet."

These people?
Pelosi was set to sit down individually with Hoyer, while a similar meeting with Rep. John Tanner (Tenn.), long a leading figure among conservative Blue Dog Democrats, was being rescheduled because of Wednesday evening’s ethics vote. She also had asked for a meeting with Rep. Ron Kind (Wis.), a leader of the centrist New Democrat Coalition.


Sources at last week’s meeting said Pelosi didn’t help repair the rift, and perhaps even inflamed it, when they said she accused moderates of selling out to special interests on the bill and betraying the party by urging the GOP leadership to bring the measure to a vote. Several of those sources said Pelosi has an obligation not only to bring Members together, but also to apologize to the moderates.
That calls for this?
Call the offices of Steny Hoyer (202) 225-4131, John Tanner (202) 225-4714, and Ron Kind at (202) 225-5506, and tell them to apologize to Pelosi for being babies and apologize to America for voting for and vocally supporting that bankruptcy bill…
Since Tanner and Kind apparently haven't even had their 'come to Nancy' meetings yet, it's hard to imagine what they're being babies about. As for Steny Hoyer, there's no indication that he's the unnamed source for the Roll Call story that got Dr. Atrios all fired up, so I don't know where or what he's supposed to be whining about. Roll Call may be higher on the food chain that Drudge, but unsourced rumor is still unsourced rumor in my book.

And what's with this?
Hoyer is minority whip. He's obviously unsuited for the job, as he seems uninterested in doing it. Ask him to resign.
Hoyer was unanimously elected to his job, and when 51% of his colleagues think he's 'unsuited' or 'uninterested' he'll lose his job, but everything I've seen seems to indicate he's done a pretty good job. He's part of a team that has gotten credit for unprecedented unity in the traditionally fractious Democratic caucus. Though his economic voting record appears to have conservative tilt for a Democrat, supporting the US Chamber of Commerce 38% of the time and the NAM 23% of the time, it can't be that bad because he also scores 100% with the AFL-CIO and Americans for Democratic Action.

Other 100% ratings come from places like NARAL, Planned Parenthood, AAUW and the NEA. The League of Conservation Voters peg him at 90%. This sounds like a pretty damn good Democrat to me.

He was impure on the almighty bankruptcy bill, though, so over the side with Steny!

Nonsense. While I agree with practically all the arguments I've heard against the bankruptcy bill, and I wish it had never been introduced, let alone passed, over a third of the Democratic caucus voted for it. You just can't whip that kind of thing. A minority party leader just doesn't have the tools. There was clearly not the kind of consensus required to make the issue a party line vote, and I'm not surprised.

In fact, despite the focus the issue received in the blogosphere, it never resonated with the people. Talk to most folks about bankruptcy and two things will likely be true - they can't imagine it happening to them (and it never does happen to most folks) and they know a story about someone (they may even claim to know someone) who used bankruptcy to escape a bunch of bills they think should have been paid. I don't believe there's a single Congressional seat in America to be won or lost on the basis of the bankruptcy bill, on either side of the issue.

I don't know if Nancy Pelosi crossed a line in her conversation with Steny Hoyer. I don't know if he responded gracefully or petulantly. I don't know who's talking aloud about a private leadership meeting.

Neither does Atrios.

I do know that adding fuel to this fire, and calling for the Minority Whip's resignation, won't help us win a single vote in Congress or a single election in '06. Surely we can find a bigger 'bunch of whining losers' to pick on, somewhere right across the aisle.

Eyes on the prize, folks, eyes on the prize...

Kicking Ass has it all figured out...

Dino Rossi should simply drop his frivolous lawsuit.
…and they give good reasons.

The Republicans' hope is that Rossi can manage to pull out a miracle in a courtroom -despite the fact that Gov. Gregoire was elected based on laws that Rossi himself helped enact while in the state senate. Rossi's claims basically break down like this:
· He claimed that military ballots weren't sent out on time, therefore denying him votes. But when asked by a court to prove it, Rossi dropped the claim completely because he had absolutely no evidence.
· He claimed that hundreds of voters were in fact felons, and therefore not eligible to vote. He released the list of names to the press without checking to see if they actually were felons, and, as it turned out, hundreds of the names belonged to those of juveniles and those who had their voting rights restored. Rossi was made aware of the errors, but again submitted a list that contained eligible voters.
· Rossi has claimed that many individuals who voted for Gregoire were voting illegally and should not have had their ballots counted, but he has fought fiercely to protect anyone who voted illegally for him. In other words, he wants to invalidate any incidental ballots illegally cast for Gregoire, while allowing ballots that were cast for him illegally to count toward his vote total.
That's not all. KA's readers had even more...
· It's obvious that Rossi will not stop until he has exhausted every possible means, and then he'll probably run against her in 2008 and lose again. Why do the Republicans think this looks good to voters?
—Sandy H

· Rossi had three recounts, and still is crying about it and clawing at every straw. The Supreme Court pulled the plug before Gore even had his recount finished, but he showed class, let us know exactly how he thought about it but then bowed out with grace.

That's the difference between Democrats and Republicans. To paraphrase an old saying, 'It's a maturity thing.'
—Eli Blake

· These people are simply ruthless. They will do anything to gain power. If they can't win by playing by the rules, they find some way to pervert the rules or change the rules to win.

It is one of the most despicable and unamerican things I have ever seen.
—Dave Allen
All that's true, but it's also true that Dino doesn't seem to have any inclination to drop his search for an activist judge who will set aside the State Constitution. That's why the Washington State Democratic Party's Governor's Defense Fund is having a fundraiser this Sunday. The featured guest is, yep, that Kerry fella.

As I mentioned the other day, I think it would be a nice thing if Upper Left, which I think earned some distinction as the northwest's premiere pro-Kerry blog way back when, could make the sponsor's list for the event. I don't know if there's that much spare change out there in Upper-Lefty land, but here's the deal - everything that comes into the Upper Left PayPal tip jar between now and Friday at midnight PDT goes to the Governor's Defense Fund. If we get to the sponsor level, great, and if we don't, the worst thing we can do is raise a few bucks for an important cause…

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Never fear…

…is here!

This week the story is over at the TSA...
WASHINGTON (AP) - Two senior House Democrats called Thursday for an investigation into Transportation Security Administration spending after a new report documenting lavish spending by the agency was released.

Reps. David Obey, D-Wis., and Martin Sabo, D-Minn., sent a letter to Richard Skinner, the Homeland Security Department's acting inspector general, asking for audits of TSA contracts.
Some particulars...
...a $350,000 fitness center with a towel laundry service for 79 employees who work there, $500,000 to acquire artwork, silk flowers and other items, and refrigerators that cost $3,000 apiece.
…not to mention...
...improper use of government purchase cards, and unethical and possibly illegal activities by federal employees.
...nearly $500,000 on an awards ceremony for its employees and $418,000 for an office suite for its then-chief, John Magaw. The agency also paid for job recruiters to stay at lavish hotels, sometimes for weeks at a time.
Just think what all that money could have accomplish if it had been directed toward securing transportation…or simply providing it. Consider this...
WASHINGTON (AP) - Several senators on Thursday criticized President Bush's proposal to give Amtrak no money next year, while the railroad submitted a request to Congress for $1.82 billion.
Happily, it appears that the Congress isn't ready to leave Amtrack high and dry, but exactly how outrageous Bushco's been on the subject is pretty clear in the face of this remark...
"How did the administration come up with such a ridiculous proposal?" asked Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., subcommittee chairman. "I was extremely stunned and disappointed that such a proposal was made."
Still, an outrage isn't a always a scandal. "...unethical and possibly illegal activities by federal employees." Now that's a scandal, and the profligate spenders at the TSA earned this week's entry.

…and if you get fifty people a day…

…it's a movement!

Via Talk Left, news of some significant allies in the fight for the Constitution…
People For the American Way Foundation (PFAW), the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR), NARAL Pro-Choice America, the Sierra Club, and the Alliance for Justice have released this Statement on Bipartisan Discussions Regarding the Judicial Confirmation Process:
○ We oppose strongly the nuclear option and the efforts to eliminate the filibuster, the last check and balance in the legislative branch of the federal government. The Frist-Lott-Rove attempts to change Senate rules by breaking them are unprecedented and irresponsible. We oppose any effort to take away the right of any Senator to filibuster now or in the future.
Saving the independent judiciary requires and deserves at least as comprehensive and cohesive an effort as the battle to save Social Security from the destructionists. Good to see such a broad expanse of progressive America under a single banner.

I guess it's new news…

…if USA Today finally has it, but bloggers have been saying for days that all the House Ethics R's…
"...have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader."
That's why, although it may appear that Hastert is pulling the rug out from under the Bugman on the ethics rules, Tim Grieve nails the real point at (ob. subsription plug) Salon...
It's all well and good that House Republicans are willing to reverse the rule changes they made to protect Tom DeLay from any embarrassing investigations by the House ethics committee. The problem is, even if the ethics committee takes up an investigation of the house majority leader, it still may find itself hamstrung by the conflicts of interest afflicting -- not entirely coincidentally -- the Republicans on the committee.
If Hastert thinks he needs cover on ethics, we should make it clear that restoring the old rules will only work if he restores the pre-purge Republicans to the committee.

But, of course, this leads to the question...

But, of course, this leads to the question...
"I'm going to say this: I think we are winning, OK? I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time."

Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Richard Myers
It's a carney scheme, except that into sucking us into spending a hundred bucks for a two dollar prize at the ring toss, we're dropping hundreds of billions on a war whose prize promises no tangible benefit at all, except to the profiteers.

Going to war was the loss. There's no prize on the shelf that can offset the cost.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pumped Up Portal

If you haven't checked in with our friends at the Northwest Progressive Institute lately, they've made some noteworthy changes in recent days. Not just nifty design improvements (though there are some of those) but new links, content and features.

Among those is a Highlights section that promises to give extended life to some key links, an antidote of sorts to the fleeting memory of the blogosphere, where we're always looking for tomorrow's story yesterday.

Scanning the page, I noticed that Upper Left, along with Carl Ballard's Washington State Political Report, shares NPI's Blog Feature Award for "best news digest/roundup" site. Congrats to Carl - mighty fine company I'm keeping there.

I lack sufficient modesty to say I'm not worthy, but I'm sincerely flattered. Thanks, NPI!

Why we fight…

Norbizness style...
There's all sorts of judicial activism; I just prefer the type that isn't informed by unmedicated hallucinations where Jesus reimagined as the headmaster of a Dickensian orphanage whispers 19th century bits of Social Darwinism into your ear.

Oh please...

This bit caught my eye last week, largely because I thought it fell below Atrios usually high standards... take absent any information I'm not aware of is that the DCCC would be making a big mistake not backing Morrison v. DeLay in '06.

I lack perfect information on these things, but my perception is that Morrison would be opposed not because of his lack of skills as a candidate, but because of his lack of deference to the DCCC.
I take it that "I lack perfect information…" means "I heard a rumor and I can't remember where," because while there has been some blogosphere buzz of that sort, I've seen no statement to support it from either Richard Morrison, who took on Bugman in TX-22 last time out, or from the DCCC, which doesn't typically 'back' non-incumbent candidates in primaries.

In fact, Morrison and his potential primary rivals, former Rep. Nick Lampson and Houston City Councilman Gordon Quan, had been meeting and seemed to have reached an amicable accord on the way a primary would be conducted.

Morrison, a favorite at Daily Kos and a Dean Dozen candidate in '04, had been working bloggers hard, and pretty effectively, before his sudden departure from the race yesterday for personal reasons, including family finances, the impending birth of his fifth child and his mother's recent cancer diagnosis. A Congressional campaign is a marathon exercise that pretty much suspends a candidate's personal life. Morrison simply has too much personal life to set aside right now. Still, he leaves many disappointed fans behind online. The disappointment that's bound to be heard in some precincts is understandable.

Kos just has no excuse for this , though…
Richard Morrison, who mounted an able challenge to Tom DeLay when it was a fool's errand, has dropped out of the race. His gracious retreat undoubtedly masked some serious arm-twisting by the DCCC, as former Rep. Nick Lampson had already announced his bid to take down the Bug man.
(my emphasis)

I don't know just what the DCCC's sin was, insufficient deference to his KosShip, I suppose, but for a major organ of the left, if not precisely Democratic, blogosphere to toss that kind of unsupported cheap shot at a Democratic Party institution that will be vital to the '06 campaign for a Democratic majority in Congress is simply irresponsible.

"Undoubtedly"? Well, I have doubts, Markos, because there's a paucity of evidence. In fact, the only evidence that exists is of the DCCC's grace in noting Morrison's withdrawal and Morrison's own insistence that there was no 'serious arm-twisting.'

Folks, the DCCC and their Senate counterparts will be to '06 what the DNC will be to '08. It's hardly the time for prominent voices to undermine their efforts with ugly and unsourced rumors. Kos seems to have made some accommodation with the DSCC, but this isn't his first scuffle with the House shop.

If you don't want to kiss and make up with the DCCC for some reason, Kos, fine, but why can't you take Richard Morrison at his word?

Monday, April 25, 2005

Ken's no doll.

Natasha at Pacific Views takes a look at the local ayatollah who's tied to Microsoft dropping corporate support for equal rights legislation...
To be clear about who it is exactly that Microsoft is said to have caved to over supporting an anti-discrimination bill in the WA State Legislature, Pastor Ken Hutcherson is one of the more radical and colorful gay-haters in the state…
…and more, including one of the loudest voices in the effort to toss over the Washington State Constitution and repeal an election through the…oh, through judicial activism…


Scared stiff of ourselves…

Via Talk Left...
A new government report shows our prison population is soaring.

○ 1 of every 138 U.S. residents are in jail
○ The prison population grew by 900 inmates per week between 2003 and 2004.
○ 8,000 more prisoners were admitted to federal prisons than were released
○ 2.1 million people are housed in our prisons and jails.

8 counties had double digit increases, the largest being Clark County, Nevada; Fulton County, Georgia; and Orange County, California, all of which were up by 20 percent.
Seems to me the tendency to solve problems by locking up more people longer is just a natural consequence of the politics of fear the radical destructionists have used in their atack on the Constitution. Right now they're laying every cultural ill at the foot of the courts, who insist on using the standard of law rather than the will of the Republican Congress as the basis for their decisions. I expect, though, that before its over there will be similar attacks on decisions like Miranda and any decision that shows respect for 4th and 5th Amendment rights...

You and me, Ed, you and me…

Ed Naha writes…
Okay, I think it's finally time we pushed aside the word "Progressive" and dust-off that golden-oldie "Liberal." I'm a Liberal. So, sue me. I'm tired of Conservative gas-baggers using the "L-word" as if it was a cuss-word. It's not. It's a word we should be proud of.

Today? With Right Wing-nuts getting their sledge-hammers ready to shatter everything FDR put into place over sixty years ago to help ordinary Americans, I think it's time we took a stand. Take back the word, the label, the goal. Breathe in and state: "I am a Liberal." L-I-B-E-R-A-L. There, that wasn't so bad, was it?
More at Smirking Chimp.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

They just lie.

Frank Rich explains how...
The fraudulence of "Justice Sunday" begins but does not end with its sham claims to solidarity with the civil rights movement of that era. "The filibuster was once abused to protect racial bias," says the flier for tonight's show, "and now it is being used against people of faith." In truth, Bush judicial nominees have been approved in exactly the same numbers as were Clinton second-term nominees. Of the 13 federal appeals courts, 10 already have a majority of Republican appointees. So does the Supreme Court. It's a lie to argue, as Tom DeLay did last week, that such a judiciary is the "left's last legislative body," and that Justice Anthony Kennedy, a Reagan appointee, is the poster child for "outrageous" judicial overreach. Our courts are as highly populated by Republicans as the other two branches of government.
…and who they are...
Perhaps the closest historical antecedent of tonight's crusade was that staged in the 1950's and 60's by a George Wallace ally, the televangelist Billy James Hargis. At its peak, his so-called Christian Crusade was carried by 500 radio stations and more than 200 television stations. In the "Impeach Earl Warren" era, Hargis would preach of the "collapse of moral values" engineered by a "powerfully entrenched, anti-God Liberal Establishment." He also decried any sex education that talked about homosexuality or even sexual intercourse. Or so he did until his career was ended by accusations that he had had sex with female students at the Christian college he founded as well as with boys in the school's All-American Kids choir.

Hargis died in obscurity the week before Dr. Frist's "This Week" appearance. But no less effectively than the cardinals in Rome, he has passed the torch.
The whole destructionist assault on the judiciary, and, by extension, on our Constitutional form of government is a sign of the Republican Party sinking into the swamp of extremism exemplified by Hargis, the John Birch Society, the Minutemen and other exponents of right wing radicalism of an era we hoped had passed.

It's a fight for the soul of our nation. It's a fight we must win.

Rich has more to say. You can - no, you should - read the whole thing at Smirking Chimp.

I think it would be the coolest thing...

...if Upper Left was listed as a sponsor of the upcoming John Kerry appearance in support of the WA Democrats Governor's Defense Fund, but my personal finances just won't cover the $250 price tag right now. It's a good idea, though, and a great cause, so I think it's worth a little Upper Left beg-a-thon.

If you, too, think it would be the coolest thing you can help make it happen by throwing a few bucks into the tip jar.

The event is on May 1st, so we have a few days to raise the bucks. I'll keep you posted.

Hard to tell…

…if this is the last straw. So many things have seemed they could be, after all. The latest news on the DeLay front seems a bit more damning than most, though, and comes with a paper trail...
The airfare to London and Scotland in 2000 for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was charged to an American Express card issued to Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist at the center of a federal criminal and tax probe, according to two sources who know Abramoff's credit card account number and to a copy of a travel invoice displaying that number.
…and the northwest connection is part of the story.
The invoice for DeLay's plane fare lists the name of what was then Abramoff's lobbying firm, Preston Gates & Ellis.
Particularly damning, in my view, is news that the DeLay operation is beginning to rot from the inside...
Multiple sources, including DeLay's then-chief of staff Susan Hirschmann, have confirmed that DeLay's congressional office was in direct contact with Preston Gates about the trip itinerary before DeLay's departure, to work out details of his travel. These contacts raise questions about DeLay's statement that he had no way of knowing about the financial and logistical support provided by Abramoff and his firm.
Despite his statement, though, there's just no excuse...
House ethics rules contain detailed provisions barring the acceptance of any travel funds from private sources if doing so would "create the appearance of using public office for private gain." They also obligate lawmakers to "make inquiry on the source of the funds that will be used to pay" for any travel ostensibly financed by a nonprofit organization -- to rule out the acceptance of reimbursements that come from one organization when a trip is "in fact organized and conducted by someone else."
It seems like everything went wrong with the Scotland expedition. For instance...
Trips outside the United States are also not supposed to exceed a week in length out of concern, the rules state, for "the public perception that such trips often may amount to paid vacations for the Member and his family at the expense of special interest groups."
...For DeLay, the 10-day trip began on May 25 with a flight to London from Dulles airport and ended on June 3 with a return trip from Europe via Newark and ending in Houston.
The records also indicate that the expenses associated with DeLay exceeded those that he declared in a signed statement to the House clerk on June 30, 2000.
It's become pretty obvious that Tom DeLay just doesn't give a damn about the rules. Now it's time for the rules to damn Tom DeLay...

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Shorter Thomas Frank

Republicans lie, cheat and steal to win elections and it's all the fault of those damn liberals.

Read it all, if you must.

A somber note…

…from Rick Anderson in the latest Seattle Weekly...
...Army Spc. Glenn J. Watkins, 42, of Tacoma, killed April 5 by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, was the 1,543rd U.S. service member to die in Iraq and the 100th with Washington state connections to die in the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.
…with a rarely seen addendum.
His death pushed to 40 the number of widows (and one widower) and to 60 the number of children left behind by state-connected personnel killed in the wars.

Do the math…

Over at Bring It On, The Bastard lacks faith in the Doc Hastings gang…err…the House Ethics Committee…
I'm not a betting man but looking at this line up I would bet radical, judge terrorist, Bible-humping, ethically challenged Tom DeLay has a fairly good chance of walking.
…and offers a numeric rationale...
Doc Hastings, Washington, Chairman
Doc Hastings has taken $5,930 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. No surprise that Hastings voted with Tom DeLay 96% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

Judy Biggert, Illinois
Judy Biggert has taken $1,764 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. No surprise that Biggert voted with Tom DeLay 92% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

Lamar Smith, Texas
Lamar Smith donated $10,000 to Delay's Legal Defense Fund. Lamar Smith voted with Tom DeLay 96% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

Melissa Hart, Pennsylvania
Melissa Hart has taken $15,000 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. No surprise that Hart voted with Tom DeLay 94% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

Tom Cole, Oklahoma
Tom Cole has taken $15,000 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. No surprise that Cole voted with Tom DeLay 95% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.
The best committee the Bugman's money can buy, no doubt, but again, the best committee wouldn't be for sale...

Back again…

…and he sounds pissed. Yeah, that Kerry fella…
"I am sick and tired of a bunch of people trying to tell me that God wants a bunch of conservative judges on the court and that's why we have to change the rules of the United States Senate."

"I am sick and tired of (them saying) they somehow have a better understanding of Christianity, of the Judeo-Christian ethic, of values. We're talking about values? You show me where in the New Testament Jesus ever talked about the value of having taxes and taking money from poor people to give to the rich people in this country."
(hat tip to Oliver)

He's speaking for a lot of us there…and here.

If you're in the neighborhood, he's coming back to Seattle, too. He'll appear along with Governor Gregoire (I enjoy typing that out more each time) at a benefit for the WA State Democratic Party's Governor's Defense Fund on May 1st. Tickets start at $75. For reservations or details call Shawna Ousse at 206-583-0664 or email

Aw, c'mon, Harry… couldn't have taken a week to figure out
"Last week, I met with the president and was encouraged when he told me he would not become involved in Republican efforts to break the Senate rules. Now, it appears he was not being honest, and that the White House is encouraging this raw abuse of power."
I mean, you saw his lips move, right?

Friday, April 22, 2005

She can run…

…but even the lovely and talented Miss Audrey Hepcat can't hide forever…

The lengths she goes to avoid photography! Sheesh, you'd think she didn't know this was a big honor...

Speaking of Upper Lefties...

...welcome Blue Washington to the local blogosphere. We need more progressive voices from the right (as opposed to correct) side of the Cascade Curtain and it looks like BW's going to help fill that void nicely.

Hammer. Nailed.

Tom Harper, an upper lefty who blogs from the shadow of the Olympic mountains, tells us what we need to know about Doc Hastings latest gambit...
This newly castrated, defanged and declawed “ethics committee” will be “investigating” Tom DeLay under their new rules. Basically, this means that anything DeLay has ever done is perfectly all right as long as he was either by himself or with someone.
Sorry, Doc. We already know what's up, and it smells like a feedlot.

If one of the things…

…that make you go 'hmm…' is the reason Tom DeLay seems to retain so much support within the House Republican Caucus, the Stakeholder offers a reasonable explanation...
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political fundraising committee gave $144,010 to Republican federal candidates last month, according to the committee's latest reports.

The committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, reported giving $137,701 in direct contributions to 15 House Republicans or their political committees. The re-election committees of Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., Geoff Davis, R-Ky., and Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., received contributions totaling $10,000 each, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, a Web site that tracks political fundraising and spending.
This may be the best Congress the Bugman's money can buy, but the best Congressmembers aren't for sale...and they aren't Republicans.

From the 'Why We Fight' department…

Sarah Posner sums it up nicely at the Gadflyer
You see, it's not about just one or two "wedge" issues, like abortion or euthanasia or gay marriage, although Dobson and his crew seek to implement thought control on all of those things. It's about about something larger, and more fundamental to our way of life, making Dobson's siege of the Republican leadership even more terrifying. It's about our future as an open, tolerant society with a secular government that respects and honors the free practice of religion, but does not endorse -- either implicitly or explicitly -- one religion over another.
It's a pretty simple question, really. Are we going to be the United States of America, a country created and defined by its Constitution, or not?

The American Taliban and their destructionist minions in Congress have given up any claim to the idea of patriotism. You can't be anti-Constitution (and they unquestionably are) and pro-American. You just can't.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Thursday Cat Killer blogging.

Steve at Distance reminds us that Senate Majority leader Bill Frist "used to adopt cats from animal rescue shelters and then kill them."

Yes indeed he did.

Everyone should know this. They should hear it everywhere, often.

Senate Majority leader Bill Frist used to adopt cats from animal rescue shelters and then kill them. Just think about that...

Well, that's better.

Caught a bit of Chairman Dean on the PBS version of the Tavis Smiley show last night and he seems to have found a more graceful response to the Schiavo issue, saying that the issue would be framed as government intrusiveness generally. Of course, even without raising her name, any such conversation will bring the horror of the Republican exploitation of that family tragedy to the minds of many.

Again, I don't have a particular problem with 'politicizing' the Schiavo case. It's been thoroughly politicized by now. I do think it's essential to approach the issue carefully, and though Dean stumbled out of the gate a bit, he seems to be finding his footing quickly.

Extra credit for the way he spun the question into a point about the Democratic Party being the "...the party of fiscal responsibility..." Even solid progressives sometimes fall into the 'liberal on social issues, conservative on economic issues' trap, as though there were something illiberal about fiscal responsibility. Dean's got the language right on this one, and made the point repeatedly and effectively.

He's only had the job for a brief while. Democrats do need to hold the Chairman's feet to the fire, but we also need to give him a chance to catch up to a steep learning curve.

Credit where it's due for a rapid recovery.

Sometimes even the right wing…

…is, well, right. Cue former Bushco Solicitor General Ted Olson, writing for the Wall Street Journal...
Calls to investigate judges who have made unpopular decisions are particularly misguided, and if actually pursued, would undermine the independence that is vital to the integrity of judicial systems. If a judge’s decisions are corrupt or tainted, there are lawful recourses (prosecution or impeachment); but congressional interrogations of life-tenured judges, presumably under oath, as to why a particular decision was rendered, would constitute interference with — and intimidation of — the judicial process. And there is no logical stopping point once this power is exercised.
Ted Olson. Wall Street Journal.

Hey Bugman, starting to feel a bit out of step even in wingnut circles?

Hat Tip to The Carpetbagger Report.

Governor Gregoire.

Get used to it.

I haven't said much lately about the ongoing litigation around the 2004 gubenatorial election in Washington because, frankly, the more the Republicans reveal about their case, the more secure Chris Gregoire becomes in the Governor's Mansion. They're going to go to court arguing that their statistical analysis puts Dino Rossi in front by about 100 votes statewide (less, it should be noted, than the Gregiore margin that occassioned all this noise).

Goldy at Horses Ass, the go to guy on the subject from our side, sums up the Republican position nicely, before tearing it to shreds logically...
Indeed, to achieve this stunning reversal of fortune, several extremely convenient events would have to take place. First, the Republicans would have to prove that the number of illegal votes is anywhere near the thousand-ish they have alleged (not likely considering their track record thus far.) Second, the court would have to ignore offsetting errors from pro-Rossi counties… like the 1793 provisional ballots that were improperly counted without matching signatures. Third, the court would have to accept a statistical analysis. And fourth, the court would have to adopt the rather unscientific methodology the Republicans are proposing for their analysis.
Having wasted way too much time, attention, newsprint and taxpayer money, that's the best they've got. Happily, Dino Rossi's intransigence on this election seems to be eroding his potential support for his next likely campaign against Sen. Maria Cantwell.

It's probably too late for Dino to save himself. The damage is done. He could save the citizens of Washington considerable bucks, though, and ease the congestion of the courts, by giving up on this anti-democratic silliness right now.


via SirotaBlog...
"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know...I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation."

U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95
Right, Tom. And failing disclosure, removal. So go away.

Speaking of my own personal Congressman...

...Jim McDermott penned a guest editorial for the Seattle Times, addressing the currently hot local topic of military recruiters in high schools. Personally, I have mixed feelings on the subject. There are probably some appropriate circumstances and settings for recruiter contact with high school students old enough to sign a recruiting contract, and there are almost certainly inappropriate circumstances and settings as well. I don't think anyone too young to enlist should be recruited. Jim's against it altogether, though, and his case is pretty reasonable and focused on the twin issues of local control of schools (I'm for that) and basic rights for youth (I'm for that, too).

Newspaper articles don't often inspire me to reexamine my own position, but McDermott makes such a reasonable case for his views that I'm thinking about mine...
A provision buried in the No Child Left Behind law forces high schools to turn over student contact information to military recruiters. Any school that balks can lose all of its federal money. The Seattle Times casually tells its readers that a student can sign a form to opt out. The reality is that young people have lost their right to privacy and The Times is stone-cold silent on restoring this fundamental right in a free society.

I served my country as an officer in the United States Navy, and I believe that every American has a responsibility to give back to our country. For some, a career in the military is the right choice. But a decision to even consider a military career belongs solely with the individual, and that's not what we have today. That's why I joined with the punk band Anti-Flag to launch a nationwide drive to alert students on how to opt out and demand that Congress restore student privacy. (More information can be found at
He understands the problem, and respects the men and women whose job it is to solve it...
...don't blame the recruiters. These people were selected because they are role models, the best of the best to represent the military. Now, they suffer under a quota system, and recruiters are under increasing pressure to find soldiers. Army National Guard recruitment plunged 31 percent in February and fell another 12 percent in March.
...but finds the student's right to privacy trumps the recruiters need for prospects. He makes a good case, and proves once again that I've got me a great Congressman, willing to tackle tough issues that hit close to home, and able to approach them thoughtfully.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Thanks, Tom.

When your humble scandal monger is running short of time, there's always a sure fire way to come up with a Scandal Scorecard entry. Just scan the wires for any mention of Tom DeLay and presto! Yet another one for the...

WASHINGTON (AP) - House Majority Leader Tom DeLay treated his political donors to a bird's-eye view of a Three Tenors concert from an arena skybox leased by a lobbyist now under criminal investigation.

DeLay's political action committee did not reimburse lobbyist Jack Abramoff for the May 2000 use of the skybox, instead treating it as a type of donation that didn't have to be disclosed to election regulators at the time.

The skybox donation, valued at thousands of dollars, came three weeks before DeLay also accepted a trip to Europe - including golf with Abramoff at the world-famous St. Andrews course - for himself, his wife and aides that was underwritten by some of the lobbyist's clients.
Accepting a gift like the skybox didn't become technically illegal until shortly after Tom's skybox event, so his defenders are dismissive of the charge...
"Portraying a lack of reimbursement as news is like saying a driver of a car did not hit his brakes while driving through a green light - there is nothing newsworthy about it, let alone improper," said Don McGahn, one of DeLay's lawyers.

...but wishing won't make it so. The AP thoughtfully reminds us that "House ethics rules require lawmakers to avoid the appearance of any conflict of interest."

Maybe that's why
...House Speaker Dennis Hastert came to a different conclusion in recent days, reimbursing Abramoff for a political event two years after the fact. One of Hastert's political committees had used a restaurant partly owned by the lobbyist, and the Hastert committee decided recently to reimburse for the use.
Illegal? Unethical? Both?

I dunno.

But it's a scandal.

Draft Clinton?

Jerry Brown muses on Bob Kerrey's decision not to run for Mayor of New York, the challenges and opportunities of municipal politics generally, and offers this...
Kerrey's not taking the plunge, but there is always Bill Clinton. He would have a ball as mayor.
Bill as Hizzoner? Hmmm...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Just a pointer... this Kos Diary by my very own personal Congressman, Jim McDermott. It's a grand yarn about...well, go see.

Well, since you asked...

"Someday there will be a liberal Democrat president and a liberal Democrat Congress," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told MSNBC last week. "Do we want a bunch of liberal judges approved by the Senate of the United States with 51 votes if Democrats are in the majority?"
...but if the rules say 60, we'll just have to get 60.

(Those who cling to the notion that McCain is one of the mythological 'good' Republicans should take note of his perjorative use of 'Democrat' in place of 'Democratic,' Newt-speak at its finest.)

As promised...

...more on the MoveOn attacks on Steny Hoyer. But first, a hat tip to Yuval Rubinstein at the Left Coaster, because without his notes on the Raw Story coverage of the campaign, I might never have known.

I checked the front page at and there was a fine tribute to Marla Ruzicka, some nice ads against the Bush assault on social security ads, news about peace vigils, opportunities for activism, a book to sell, pleas for cash, the usual. Not a hint, though, that their latest stategy for electing progressives was to dump progressive dollars into attacking the Democratic leadership.

I clicked over to, their sister organization "focuses on electing progressives to national office." No luck. Nary a word to explain how attacking the Democratic Whip elects progressives.

So it's back to the Raw Story story, where MoveOn PAC Washington director Tom Matzzie had a lot to say. Like...
"We want to send a message that if you walk away from the Democratic Party [as] leader, then we’re going to ask our members to get involved in your district, your hometown."
"It’s probably okay for some Democrats to disagree with their party… but it’s never acceptable for a leader in the party… to disagree with the rest of the party on an issue connected to core values like justice for middle class values, especially when it’s such an obvious Republican bill."
Nice of Matzzie to allow as how those Democrats might be permitted some internal dissent. Of course, he's disqualified himself from any kind of internal discussion by putting the Party in the third person. He even more explicit about his lack of standing in Party debates...
"We’re not the party. We are going to take positions on issues, and we’re going to be true to our members and to America’s middle class families before we acknowledge any sort of notion of Democratic fealty."
In other words, MoveOn draws the line, and if it means Democratic losses to defend that line, well, tough.

Which is fine as far as it goes, but it it clearly sets MoveOn outside the Democratic Party. If they do something helpful, well, fine, but they're just another voice in the chorus from the fringe left in Democratic policy debates. They're no longer, if they once were, a reliable ally.

Their case might have some merit, though, except that the notion that Hoyer was out of line with the 'rest of the Party' (as determined by someone outside of the Party) just ain't so, however sad that may be. There were 73 Democratic votes for the bankruptcy reform bill in the House, over 1/3 of the Democrats voting. There were 18 in the Senate. I think each and every one of them voted wrong. I think some of them probably voted for the wrong reasons. I also think that most every one of them has rationalized their vote in a way that satisfies their progressive impulses, such as they may be. That's a case they'll have to make, each of them, to their voters...or to the voters who care.

In fact, the issue never resonated outside the activist left, as far as I can tell. Last time most of those members were home, my guess is questions about Teri Schiavo and Social Security took up a lot more time than bankruptcy. (My measure of these things is admittedly unscientific. I'm a bartender at a neighborhood pub in a middle class neighborhood. It's my thesis that the things people talk about over beer are the things they care about. Nobody at the Cabin cared about the bankruptcy bill).

Democrats pride ourselves on maintaining a 'big tent' philosophy, for being willing to argue our cases vigorously while tolerating a fairly broad measure of disagreement. If those disagreements within the Democratic Party become the impetus for ideological purges, we will have become the people we claim to be against. Outside groups pumping resources into that kind of purge are slipping past the unreliable ally category toward active enemy status.

Yuval is "...intrigued that MoveOn has decided to test the waters in terms of its party influence, now that its fundraising and organizational prowess has been firmly established." Here's hoping they drown in those waters. Party influence? They just don't qualify.

Monday, April 18, 2005

More on this later...

but if it's true that..."Privately, some Democratic strategists and congressional staffers have questioned the decision to run an ad attacking the party leadership..." then here's one Democratic grassroots activist willing to question it publically. Move On's anti-Hoyer campaign is misguided at best, and a good reason to point out that people who make a deliberate point of staying outside the Democratic Party don't get to define our values, our legislative agenda or our leadership.

Be careful out there...

Blogging will be kind of hit and miss today, but this LA Times article by David Savage is a good place to start. Savage offers both good information and a dangerous idea...
WASHINGTON — The looming battle over President Bush's nominees to the U.S. appeals courts might derail the Senate, but it probably won't make much difference in the federal courts. That's because Republican appointees already dominate them.

Ninety-four of the 162 active judges now on the U.S. Court of Appeals were chosen by Republican presidents. On 10 of the 13 circuit courts, Republican appointees have a clear majority. And, since 1976, at least seven of the nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court have been filled by Republican appointees.
It'w worth remembering, and reminding anyone you discuss this with, that the federal courts are already quite conservative, dominated by Republican appointees, and that even the most progressive district court is still subject to review by a Supreme Court that's over 70% GOP. Good information.

But it's a big mistake to believe that giving George Bush a free hand to pack the courts with the kind of radical nominees he seems to favor "won't make much difference..." Rather than the most distinguished jurists from the ranks of mainstream conservatives, Bush has too often turned hard right and turned to those who share the radical views like those of the Wise Use, Constitution in Exile and other wingnut movements.

Giving those radicals the opportunity to introduce their ideas into decisions of the federal courts constitutes a clear and present danger to Constitutional government as we know it. Make no mistake about it.

Vast right wing conspiracy?

Hillary had no idea...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ummm, Howard?

You really want to call the honeymoon off?

I've been hopeful that Howard Dean would understand how broad his responsibilities are as DNC Chair. He is a far higher profile personality than is usually found in the position, and has a reputation for firing from the hip (though his admirers insist that the resulting shot is invariably straight). You'd hope, then, that he'd be particularly attentive to the potential impact of his words. So attentive that we'd never have to experience headlines like this...

Dean Says Democrats Will Make Schiavo Case an Election Issue

See, he gets the principle...
The former presidential candidate said he had purposely avoided emphasizing the Schiavo case in recent weeks because Democrats needed "message discipline." In this case, he said, that means sticking to the fight against Bush's push to allow private investment accounts for Social Security benefits.
...but he just can't seem to help himself. It's not that I disagree with the idea of using the outrageous behavior of the Republican leadership during the Schiavo episode politically. Once a question is the subject of federal legislation, it's about as politicized as it can get. Personally, it's an issue probably best addressed district by district, rather than as an edict from the DNC Chair, but in any event it's the wrong message at the wrong time, as Dean himself seems to acknowledge. Additionally, while I appreciate Dr. Dean's efforts to engage the grassroots, on the record public events aren't always the best places to muse about long term election strategy.

That can't be the headline that Dean wanted coming out of LA, but it's one he should have predicted and avoided.

Buckle up, Doc. There'll be rockier roads ahead and you'll want to be careful not to throw too many passengers over the side as you go.

Know your enemy.

The threat of theocracy seems to dominate a lot of discussion of the attack DeLay and his destructionist minions have launched on the courts in the wake of the Schiavo case, but a much broader reach than that motivates the forces who are aligned with a new generation of radicals.

A short list, from U of Chicago professor Cass Sunstein, includes fundamental changes to American personal and commercial life...
"...many decisions of the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and possibly the National Labor Relations Board would be unconstitutional. It would mean that the Social Security Act would not only be under political but also constitutional stress. Many of the Constitution in Exile people think there can't be independent regulatory commissions, so the Security and Exchange Commission and maybe even the Federal Reserve would be in trouble. Some applications of the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act would be struck down as beyond Congress's commerce power."
They know they could never accomplish such a radical program legislatively, so they're turning the language inside out again. After 50 years of right wing rants about judicial activism, the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Greve is explicit. "Judicial activism will have to be deployed."

The quotations are from Jeffrey Rosen's piece in the NY Times Magazineon the 'Constitution In Exile' movement one of the threads, along with the theocratic fundamentalists and property rights extremists, that make up the coalition against the Constitution, or at least the last 70 or so years of Constitutional law.

It's a genuine must read. It's filled with the rhetoric of the radicals, and provides a number of reference points to watch for in the fight over the Bush re-nomination of his most extreme failed appointments. Sounds like there will be plenty to look for...
Greve expressed cautious optimism that his views will get a sympathetic hearing from some of the federal appellate judges renominated this year by the president....Greve and his colleague Christopher DeMuth, the president of the American Enterprise Institute, say they are heartened by the judges reportedly on Bush's short list, many of whom they consider broadly sympathetic to their views. "I think the president and his top staff have shown really good taste in their court of appeals nominations," DeMuth told me during a visit to the institute, "and when the Supreme Court opening comes up, they will be very strongly inclined to nominate people from our side."
There's good reason to be afraid, but that's all the more reason to be informed.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Scandal-based blogging is enriched...

Scandal-based blogging is enriched... the DCCC's entry, It's got all kinds of whiz-bang, click-a-refic features, but I'm particularly taken by the ability to seach for members of the Republican caucus state by state and see just how mobbed up they are with the Capo of Capitol Hill...

For instance, there's the obvious, like Upper Left homeboy Doc Hastings...
Doc Hastings has taken $5,930 from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC. No surprise that Hastings voted with Tom DeLay 96% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

When Democrats offered a solution to clean up the House by strengthening ethics rules, Doc Hastings voted to make sure it never even came to an up or down vote.
Doc, of course, was rewarded with the chairmanship of the now dormant House Ethics Committee.

Less obvious, perhaps, is Chris Shays, who, in some progressive fantasies, might be closet Democrat, someone who can be reached. Looks like he's been reached...
Chris Shays voted with Tom DeLay 85% of the time between Jan. 1 2004 and March 31 2005.

Chris Shays voted to weaken the ethics rules in a move that many say served only to protect Tom DeLay.

When Democrats offered a solution to clean up the House by strengthening ethics rules, Chris Shays voted to make sure it never even came to an up or down vote.
Guess it's true. There are no good ones.

What's it all about?

The New York Times sums up the filibuster fight nicely...
Senator Frist and his backers want to take away the sole tool Democrats have for resisting the appointment of unqualified judges: the filibuster. This is not about a majority or even a significant number of Bush nominees; it's about a handful with fringe views or shaky qualifications. But Senator Frist is determined to get judges on the federal bench who are loyal to the Republican fringe and, he hopes, would accept a theocratic test on decisions.
Having adopted the philosophy of 'by any means necessary' from a previous generation of radicals, the destructionists seem to be casting aside any consideration for the mainstream, flaunting their anti-American agenda in an increasingly blatant fashion.

They think they can govern from the fringe. Proving them wrong is job one.

Mazel tov!

News from Oakland Mayor (and so much more) Jerry Brown...
I’ve been absent from the blogosphere, but for a good cause. I got engaged and will be married on the steps of City Hall in June. I also went to Mexico—just south of the border—for R&R.
He's back in the saddle and promising blogging from the CA Democratic Convention.

Engaged, huh? Wow. Congrats, Jerry.


...into the past.
"The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows." -- T.E. Lawrence, The Sunday Times, August 1920
I'd imagine a similar report could be found from most any occupation in history. It may not be worse than you think, but it's always worse than you're told.

Hat tip to Jeanne D'Arc, who is far more eloquent on the subject at Body and Soul...

Friday, April 15, 2005

A little substitute pet blogging... we pay tribute to Gigi the Wonder Dog, who is in need of some loving attention, having been mauled by an unfriendly mastiff down the street from her Phoenix home...

Gigi's on the mend but give her a kind thought if you've one to spare...

Music to my ears...

...if not particularly melodic. Spaketh the so-called liberal media...

DeLay must go.

It's time for Republicans to renounce his leadership...

In defending DeLay, they align themselves with his alleged behavior.

...congressional Republicans would be wise to strip DeLay of his leadership position.

The Daily Worker, perhaps? Or maybe the New York Times?

Nope, those lines come from, respectively, the Staunton (VA) News-Leader, the Lincoln (NE) Journal Star, the San Antonio (TX) Express-News, and the Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia). All of these red state journals also share the distinction of having endorsed George W. Bush. Media Matters has more.

DeLay is driving away Main Street Republicans with his radical destructionism, but he's only the puss filled wound revealing an infection that goes much deeper in the GOP leadership. Tom DeLay has to go, but every GOP Congresscritter that appointed him to a position of power and continues to sustain him in that position has to go with him.

Bush hates veterans...

...but somebody loves us. Yeah, it's that Kerry fella again.

Garance Franke-Ruta leads a longer look at John Kerry's Military Family Bill of Rights proposals with this news...
...Two provisions sponsored by Kerry were adopted as amendments to the defense supplemental bill.

One amendment dealt with the increase in military survivor benefits from $12,420 plus insurance to $500,000, through a mix of benefits and insurance. The administration had proposed limiting a $100,000 death gratuity portion -- talk about awful Orwellian phrases -- to those who died in a designated combat zone, while Kerry's amendment allows the increased death gratuity to be claimed by survivors of any member killed on active duty, regardless of location. The other amendment allows military families to remain in military housing for up to a year after the loss of a servicemember, so that children can finish school years in one community, instead of the present 180 days.
Good to see you on duty, Senator. On behalf of your fellow vets and their families, thanks!

Today's Go Read

A Nation of Marks at Lean Left.

Go read.

The damage done...

David Sirota's got a scorecard of his own, tracking the looting of America's middle class in recent weeks...
Congress restricted consumers ability to seek legal redress against abusive corporations

The Senate rejected efforts to raise the minimum wage from its near 50-year low

The U.S. House voted to eliminate the estate tax - effectively giving billions of dollars away to the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans at a time of war and deficits.

Congress passed a credit card industry-written banruptcy bill making it harder for consumers to get legal protections when skyrocketing medical costs put them into unsurmountable debt

President Bush proposed slashing funding for things like food stamps, child care, and health care.
Yes, I know there have been Democrats on the wrong side of some of these votes. The fact is, though, that a Democratic leadership would never have moved the bills in question to the floor in the form the Republicans offered. We're going to have bad law till we get a new Congress, and we'll doubtless need a fair number of those wayward Democrats to form that new Congress. That's why I don't get too involved of calling for the head of every member who strays from the blogosphere approved line on every vote.

The damage isn't done by Democrats who, for reasons ranging from local politics to personal venality, vote for Republican proposals. It's that the Republican proposals are considered in the first place, and will pass anyway. That's not a problem we can only solve by taking them down, not by tearing ourselves up.

Meanwhile, the damage piles up and the need for reform grows more pressing. It's all about '06.

Cage match

Mark Kleiman lines up Tom DeLay's latest rant, in which he opines, among other things, that "The reason we had judicial review is because Congress didn't stop them" against old Al Hamilton and Federalist #78. Mark quotes Hamilton more extensively, but this excerpt pretty well covers my case in support of the courts.
...It is not otherwise to be supposed, that the Constitution could intend to enable the representatives of the people to substitute their will to that of their constituents. It is far more rational to suppose, that the courts were designed to be an intermediate body between the people and the legislature, in order, among other things, to keep the latter within the limits assigned to their authority. The interpretation of the laws is the proper and peculiar province of the courts. A constitution is, in fact, and must be regarded by the judges, as a fundamental law. It therefore belongs to them to ascertain its meaning, as well as the meaning of any particular act proceeding from the legislative body. If there should happen to be an irreconcilable variance between the two, that which has the superior obligation and validity ought, of course, to be preferred; or, in other words, the Constitution ought to be preferred to the statute, the intention of the people to the intention of their agents.

Nor does this conclusion by any means suppose a superiority of the judicial to the legislative power. It only supposes that the power of the people is superior to both; and that where the will of the legislature, declared in its statutes, stands in opposition to that of the people, declared in the Constitution, the judges ought to be governed by the latter rather than the former. They ought to regulate their decisions by the fundamental laws, rather than by those which are not fundamental.
The United States Constitution was ordained by neither gods nor governors, but by We The People. It is our bulwark against tyranny, defining the limits of government activity in a wide shpere. We look to the courts for relief when any officer of the goverment oversteps those Constitutional limits. They are a human institution, hence flawed and subject to attack from many quarters, but defending them against the destructionist assault is a worth cause for progressives.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

What's with these people?

Really. What's up with this 'love the war, hate the veteran' attitude the Republicans have adopted? As far as I can tell, it's simply inexplicable, but the evidence is undeniable. They just hate us...
Amid the chaos of war, Sgt. Roberto Orozco and about 35 other members of the Florida National Guard sent to Iraq relied on what they knew for certain: their military training, the love of their families and their government jobs back home.

Then one day in the combat zone, the men got a letter. When they returned home, the letter read, their jobs as full-time members of the Guard assigned to a federal drug interdiction program would be gone.

"We got shafted," said Orozco, 43, a Miami father of three. "We come home from war, and this is what we get."
Sorry, Sarge. Didn't they mention that they hate you? Of course, there is a way they'll bail you out of a jam...
Now, Orozco and several other Florida National Guard soldiers out of work since the death of Operation Guardian six months ago are considering drastic steps just to get jobs: Volunteering for active duty and a return to combat.
Hey, they love the war.

These guys slipped through a crack in the job protection offered by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act because they were federal employees. Yes, that federal. The one with the Executive and Legislative branches both firmly in Republican control.

The Republicans fired these soldiers because the Republicans haven't fixed the law that exempts their government from the obligations of other employers.

It's a Republican problem. Republicans can fix it. But they won't.

Because it's obvious. Republicans hate veterans.

America grows up... state at a time.
"The first time I voted for the death penalty, I thought of the law as majestic and that there was very little chance of a mistake. Then you grow up. Look at the DNA evidence -- you realize that people can make terrible mistakes."

Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol (D), who led the successful effort to kill an attempt to reinstate the death penalty in New York
Gratitude for any victory is a virtue, and this is no small one. Assemblyman Lentol and his colleagues have my gratitude, and congratulations.

Notes on the fast approaching monolition...

data via Billmon...
Countries which had troops in or supported operations in Iraq at one point but have pulled out since: Nicaragua (Feb. 2004); Spain (late-Apr. 2004); Dominican Republic (early-May 2004); Honduras (late-May 2004); Philippines (~Jul. 19, 2004); Thailand (late-Aug. 2004); New Zealand (late Sep. 2004); Tonga (mid-Dec. 2004) Hungary (end Dec. 2004); Portugal (mid-Feb. 2005); Moldova (Feb. 2005)

Countries planning to withdraw from Iraq: Poland (starting Jan.05 and completed by end.05; the Netherlands (Mar. 05); Bulgaria (end of 2005, depending on circumstances); Ukraine (entire contingent, in stages until mid-October 2005), Italy (Sept. 2005)

Countries which have reduced or are planning to reduce their troop commitment: Ukraine (-200 during Fall04 rotation); Moldova (reduced contingent to 12 around mid-2004); Norway (reduced from ~150 to 10 late-Jun.04, early Jul.04); Bulgaria (-50, Dec.04); Poland (-700, Feb.05).

Countries planning or rumored to be planning to increase troop contingent to Iraq: Romania (rumor, 100+ in support of UNAMI); Albania (+50 April 05); Thailand (200(?)).
"If Missouri, just given the number of people from Missouri who are in the military over there today, were a country, it would be the third largest country in the coalition, behind Great Britain and the United States.

That's not a grand coalition."

John Kerry, October 8, 2004
It wasn't then, and it's less so now.

Don't tell John Bolton...

...he hate me!

You're the United Nations!

Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go.

You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result.  But your heartis in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.

Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

You think this is easy?

Some weeks pickings on the scandal scene are mighty thin. I mean, I've tried to hold the Upper Left Scandal Scorecard to a pretty firm self-imposed standard, and by and large I think I've done pretty well. Basically, I'm looking for something that goes beyond the merely outrageous and involves the possibility of punishment by a...ahem...'controlling legal authority.' DeLay's recent explosions of stupidity, for instance, certainly hit the top of the outrage scale, but they fall just short of a Scorecard point.

I was almost ready to settle for this gem, featuring anonymous sources and the Upper Left's Senior Senator...
WASHINGTON (AP) - Anonymous allegations against Lester Crawford, President Bush's choice to head the Food and Drug Administration, prompted the Senate Health Committee to postpone a vote on his nomination Wednesday and request an internal FDA investigation.


Later, in response to questions, committee spokesman Craig Orfield added that Enzi had requested that the FDA's Office of Internal Affairs "open an investigation into allegations concerning Dr. Crawford made by an anonymous FDA employee."


A week ago, two Democratic senators, Patty Murray of Washington and Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, said they would block Crawford's nomination because they were unsatisfied with his explanation of why the "morning-after pill" has not been approved for use without a prescription. Under Senate tradition, one senator can block Senate action on a nomination.
...and it may score yet, depending on what gets dug up. So far, though, there's really no there there. Mere titilation doesn't rise to the exhalted status of scandal we honor around here.

In the nick of time, though, this caught my attention and allowed me to drag out the logo without hesitation...

WASHINGTON (AP) - A scientist who wrote e-mails about falsifying work on the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste project was paid $4,900 for a Yucca assignment he got after the e-mails became known, the U.S. Geological Survey said Tuesday.

Last week, the Energy Department said the scientist - a USGS hydrologist identified by USGS Tuesday as Joe A. Hevesi - never billed for the work.

Hevesi was a principal author of e-mails written between 1998 and 2000 by scientists studying how water moved through the proposed waste dump 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

In the e-mails to colleagues, Hevesi discussed making up facts, deleting inconvenient data and keeping two sets of files - "the ones that will keep (quality assurance) happy and the ones that were actually used."
Yeah. It's all there. Outrageous, unethical, illegal behavior being rewarded by Bushco with continued employment, which was the subject of a lie from the Energy Department. Good ol' Bushco, they never let me down. Of course, they may never let me know the whole truth, either...
Meanwhile, a congressional panel chaired by Rep. Jon Porter, R-Nev., was pushing forward with plans to seek testimony from Hevesi and two other USGS scientists involved with the e-mails.

The Interior Department last week turned down a request for the scientists to testify before Porter's House Government Reform federal work force and agency organization subcommittee. The department cited ongoing criminal investigations by the FBI and inspectors general at the Energy and Interior departments.
I'll be waiting on those ongoing investigations. Of course, they may stumble upon too much "inconvenient data." If there isn't some news pretty soon, we may have another Scorecard winner on the horizon.

If you like him when he's obstinate...

WASHINGTON, April 13 - The House majority leader, Tom DeLay, deflected all questions about his ethical conduct and his political future at a news conference today, insisting instead that he would continue his crusade against what he views an activist judiciary by ordering the Judiciary Committee to investigate the decisions of federal judges in the Terri Schiavo case.
...ya gotta love him when he's delusional.
WASHINGTON — To House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Republican Party's "Contract With America" ranks right up there with the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights among the "great documents of freedom."
So Tom DeLay wants to fan the fading embers of the Schiavo story with the tattered remains of the Contract (On) America. So fine. Let's take a look back at the major provisions of the GOP's 1995 pledge ten years on....(original language emphasized)
A balanced budget/tax limitation amendment and a legislative line-item veto...heh.

An anti-crime package...some of which was enacted with the cooperation of President Clinton and Congressional Democrats, and abandoned in favor of tax cuts when Republicans consolidated their power. (Or not. Time passes, memories fade. In fact, the Republican efforts were stymied by Clinton's veto because they gutted the funding for new cops on the street that were the centerpiece of his 1994 crime bill.)

Welfare 'reform,' to include...prohibiting welfare to minor mothers and denying increased AFDC for additional children while on welfare, cut spending for welfare programs, and enact a tough two-years-and-out provision with work requirements to promote individual responsibility...some of which became features, in a fashion, of the Clinton welfare 'reform' bill (not, IMO, one of Bill's proudest moments).

A variety of supposedly family-friendly acts, most disregarded and some, like a call for...strengthening rights of parents in their children's education...directly contradicted by subsequent legislation, such as NCLB.

A S500 per child tax credit, begin repeal of the marriage tax penalty, and creation of American Dream Savings Accounts to provide middle class tax relief... a truly bi-partisan policy, largely enacted by a truly bi-partisan effort.

Some boilerplate jingoism, with a dash of militarism...No U.S. troops under U.N. command and restoration of the essential parts of our national security funding.



"Loser pays" laws, reasonable limits on punitive damages and reform of product liability laws to stem the endless tide of litigation....some things never change.

A first-ever vote on term limits to replace career politicians with citizen legislators...and some things will never happen.
If the Declaration of Independence had been as effective, we'd all be British subjects.

That's the best you can bring, Bugman? Bring it on.

Bush hates veterans...

...and the Senate R's are standing with him. From the Marine Times...
By two 54-46 votes, the Senate blocked efforts Tuesday to add money for veterans’ health care to the 2005 supplemental appropriations bill.

Sens. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, both members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sought to add $1.9 billion to the $80.6 billion wartime emergency supplemental appropriations bill to cover costs of treating returning combat veterans for war-related injuries and to cover shortfalls in funding for VA programs.

The Bush administration sought no VA money as part of its supplemental funding request, and none was included in the version of the bill passed by the House in March.
Kudos to the Upper Left's own Senator Murray for her leadership on this effort. I understand that this was also part of the equation when Senator Akaka was negotiating his support of ANWR drilling. They screwed you, Senator. I hope you're not too disappointed.

Still, it shouldn't have taken any vote swapping to pass this one. The money is badly needed, and it seems to have been targeted for all the right purposes...
Their amendment would have provided $1.975 billion to the VA, with $525 million earmarked for mental health programs, $610 million provided specifically for the treatment of veterans wounded in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, and $840 million evenly divided between VA regions.
Of course, an up and down vote might well have produced a victory for veterans. The Republican leadership wasn't taking any chances, though, and used a procedural gimmick to avoid the question, with an essentially party line vote (I believe Senator Spector was the lone Republican standing up for vets). Next time they're talking about going nuclear because the filibuster is a procedural gimmick itself, remember the lengths they went to disguise their hatred for veterans behind Thad Cochran's procedural shield.
The amendment was blocked by a parliamentary motion from Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., Senate Appropriations Committee chairman, who said the funding is not really an emergency need. The Senate voted in support of Cochran’s position, and then voted again when Murray tried to get the amendment approved even if the funding was not characterized as an emergency. The outcome was the same, with 54 senators voting to block funding and 46 voting to provide it.
Men and women who wore the uniform will suffer after they've completed their service because of the votes of those 54 Senators. Helluva welcome home...

Hat tip to Steve M at No More Mr. Nice Blog for an unusual source for an outrageous story...

Quote of the Day

via Dr. Atrios...
Mr. GINGRICH: I'm saying when you're being attacked, the first thing you naturally do is you describe your attackers. In this case, that won't work. DeLay's problem isn't with the Democrats. DeLay's problem is with the country. And so DeLay has a challenge, I think, to lay out a case that the country comes to believe, that the country decides is legitimate. If he does that, he's fine.
If Newt can't find a way to blame Democrats, it's pretty damn clear that we're blameless in the DeLay scandals.

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.