|Quote of the Moment:|
"(Senator Edward) Kennedy, D-Mass., one of the Senate's leading liberal voices and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, cited Alito's assertion in a 1985 job application that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights.
"I was somewhat troubled by the 1985 memorandum that has been made public," Kennedy said shortly after the one-on-one session with the federal appeals court judge in his Senate office.
Kennedy said Alito, 55, told him he wrote the memo as someone "who was interested in getting a job" in the Justice Department as deputy assistant attorney general.
"So I asked him, 'Why shouldn't we consider that the answers you are giving today are an application for another job?" Kennedy said.
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|Wednesday, November 30|
OUR NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR VICTORY IN IRAQ:
Helping the Iraqi People Defeat the Terrorists and Build an Inclusive Democratic State
Wednesday, November 30 (The White House)PART I STRATEGIC OVERVIEW
Our mission in Iraq is clear. Were hunting down the terrorists. Were helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror. Were advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren.
-President George W. Bush, June 28, 2003
VICTORY IN IRAQ DEFINED
As the central front in the global war on terror, success in Iraq is an essential element in the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism. Unlike past wars, however, victory in Iraq will not come in the form of an enemys surrender, or be signaled by a single particular event there will be no Battleship Missouri, no Appomattox. The ultimate victory will be achieved in stages, and we expect: More
|Tuesday, November 29|
7:45 amThe GOP: Restoring Integrity, Part 2
Congressman, war hero, guilty of bribery
Randy "Duke" Cunningham has been a dominant figure in San Diego County's political landscape for 15 years, riding his celebrity as a decorated, former Navy fighter pilot and "Top Gun" flight instructor to eight consecutive terms in Congress ---- until this year's investigations of alleged bribery, which culminated Monday in his resignation from office.
Through his tenure, and before his fall from grace this year, Cunningham was conservative, outspoken, and a champion of military, security and border-protection issues. He was also at times publicly combative, rude, insensitive to opponents ---- and critics would say, homophobic.
U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors through cash, vacations, real estate transactions, yacht club fees and other gifts, including a Rolls Royce and a downpayment on a home. Cunningham also pleaded guilty to tax evasion and, according to the charges, funneled some bribes through a company he owns.
TPM has posts that Cunningham took bribery money and deposited it in his Congressional Credit Union account. Josh Marshall calls that act audacious. I call it stupid. Or dumb as a post.
Can someone please help me with this image of Republicans as more fiscally competent than Democrats?
|Friday, November 25 (Happy Holidays!)|
10:58 amThe Name Change
Some of you may be aware that as part of the ever-changing retailing world, Macy's bought Marshall Field's. Marshall Field is a retailing name synomous with Chicago and it's history. Theyve got stores all over Chicagoland. As part of the buyout, the second time the franchise has changed hands, the name of the stores will change to Macy's.
As a decade-long resident of Chicago, and a visitor for a couple of decades previous to that, I say bullshit. When Dayton-Hudson purchased the chain, they recognized the power that the brand had in it's market area and left the marquee alone. The store has had it's ups and downs like any old-line retailier, but it had it's name and a loyal clientele. Go in the stores and you would see shoppers with bags from other places. But a lot of them would walk out with Marshall Field's bags as well. The green bag was a staple downtown. If you were given one, you knew the stuff inside was very cool, and that the person giving it to you went a out of their way to do something nice for you.
Local consumers understand and appreciate local retailers. Increasingly, retailiers do not appreciate and understand local consumers. Some of it may be due to the homogenization of the retail landscape. Banana Gap-Navy Republic, Crate and Pottery Barn-Barrel, Lowe-Menard's Home Depot, and the poster boy for the danger of a consumer-driven economy, Wal-Mart. Their executives are tempted into thinking that people will buy from them based on the cleverness of their advertising, or their ruthlessness on price. To a certain extent they're right. But the thing that should leave them dominant in the retail world does not explain why people still go to local stores. It's as if the harder they try, the more shoppers resist. The chanis do well, especially at sale time. But they don't have the same allegiance that a local store does. That's why nobody is outraged when an Old Navy goes out of business. Who cares? There's another one a couple of miles away.
I think these easterners have been breathing their own smog for too long. Macy's executives are experimenting with abandoning one of the nation's most respected and beloved local retail names. What makes them think Chicagoans need the name Macy's to feel like the shopping experience is special? Just because they're Macy's? That and a nickel will get you a punch in the mouth down near Randolph and State. It's not as if Macy's can't offer the same service and selection as Marshall Field's. But after this auspicous entry into the local market, who will care about them? If they fail, is anyone in Chicago going to be as outraged as we are over Marshall Field's? No. In fact, I believe that there will be a large portion of people who will secretly root for them to fail. I'm sure there will be specials galore during what will have to be a Grand Opening Month. They'll swoop in and do lots of charitable work in hopes of building allegiance. But after the bribery is offered and accepted, do they expect Chicagoans to embrace them like a long lost brother instead of a conquerer? Or as yet another new coffee vendor?
Time will tell. I'm around the corner from Marshall Fields. I'm going to buy some memorabilia to make sure the name isn't forgotten. But retail changes, and you may see the name again in 5 years or so. My personal thinking is that they'll have to sacrifice a lot of margin for a couple of years in order to keep business at the current levels. They can't cut price for too long, as they'll run into Carson Pirie & Scott, the other and now only major local retailer. They can't go too highbrow, as they'll run into Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, and a horde of other exclusive shops paying a lot less for their floorspace, and no stockholders to mollify. I'll still go to Marshall Field's if only to help keep Chicagoans employed. I'll still call the store Marshall Field's, and am looking forward to saying that to a Macy's sales associate. If the person is from Chicago, they'll secretly agree with me. If they're from New York, it will feel even better. If it happens to be from a Macy's executive in from New YorkJACKPOT!
Millions Face a Deadline for Choosing a New Medicare Plan
Friday, November 25 (New York Times)Decisions, decisions. The clock is ticking for millions of elderly and disabled people, who must decide whether and when to enroll in one of the new Medicare Part D drug plans that start Jan. 1, 2006.
The Part D program, named for its place within the written Medicare law, for the first time brings drugs under the Medicare tent, which covers 42 million people. It has been widely portrayed as hopelessly confusing.
And bewildering it can seem - in part because Congress set it up to be federally subsidized but run by the commercial insurance industry. Companies are clamoring to compete, and some are adding to the confusion by offering dozens of plans with a welter of wrinkles and widely varying prices. And as if to raise the degree of difficulty, some insurers are continually adjusting their offerings, even as consumers are trying to make a decision.
But before you throw up your hands, there are basic steps you can take to help decide which plan, if any, is right for you or for someone you are trying to assist. And as you proceed, take heart from Hari Peterson, a 69-year-old retired nurse in Warwick, R.I., who has survived the process.
"I found it to be confusing, but we really studied it," said Ms. Peterson, whose husband, Ray, 72, has drug coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs that he plans to keep for now. She collected information on computer printouts from senior centers and talked with state insurance advisers at a Medicare fair at a nearby mall.
"I gave them my prescriptions and they pinpointed it down to two or three plans," she said. Ms. Peterson also plans to consult her longtime pharmacist before making a final selection.
If you are overwhelmed by the thought of wrestling with all this on the brink of the holiday season, there is a reprieve: You can make a selection by Dec. 31 if you want coverage to start in January, but you can also wait until as late as May 15 to select a plan, without penalty.
GETTING STARTED. If you have Internet access, begin at the www.medicare.gov Web site. It can answer many questions and help with the plan comparisons
Alito '72 joined conservative alumni group
Concerned Alumni of Princeton known to be anti-coeducation
Friday, November 25 (Daily Princetonian)Earlier this week, recently released documents drew attention for showing that, in a 1985 job application, Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito '72 wrote that he is "particularly proud" of his work on cases arguing that "racial and ethnic quotas should not be allowed and that the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion."
Now, opponents to his nomination are using another piece of information from those documents to suggest he is far outside the mainstream in his political and social views: Near the end of his "Personal Qualifications Statement" for a high-level job in Ronald Reagan's Justice Department, Alito wrote that he was "a member of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton University, a conservative alumni group."
Interviews with several alumni who were students in the 1970s paint a picture of Concerned Alumni of Princeton (CAP) as a far-right organization funded by conservative alumni committed to turning back the clock on coeducation at the University. More
|Wednesday, November 23 (Happy Thanksgiving!)|
2:54 pmHappy Thanksgiving!
Arbitrator Upholds Owens' Suspension
Arbitrator Upholds Philadelphia Eagles' Four-Game Suspension of Terrell Owens
Terrell Owens' season is effectively over after an arbitrator ruled Wednesday that the Philadelphia Eagles were justified in suspending him for four games.
Arbitrator Richard Bloch wrote that the Eagles clearly proved that the suspension was justified, and were within their right to pay their All-Pro receiver but not allow him to return "due to the nature of his conduct and its destructive and continuing threat to the team."
The Eagles released a one-paragraph statement thanking Bloch and saying Philadelphia is looking forward to "moving on with our preparations for Sunday's game vs. Green Bay and the rest of the 2005 season and will have no further comment on this issue."
It's good to know that somewhere, boorish behavior, lying, shameless showboating and one-upmanship, and idiotic behavior we generally would never teach our children has been punished. Hopefully there's no chance to appeal.
Qatar shock at al-Jazeera bombing report
Wednesday, November 23 (Financial Times)Qataris, including senior officials, reacted with shock on Wednesday to newspaper reports in Britain suggesting that George W Bush, the US president, had discussed bombing the Doha headquarters of the Arabic satellite TV channel al-Jazeera.
The report, in Tuesdays edition of the British Daily Mirror, was based on what the newspaper reported were leaked minutes of a conversation between Mr Bush and Tony Blair, Britains prime minister, on April 16 2004.
On Tuesday the British government threatened newspapers with the Official Secrets Act if they revealed contents of the document, a move that reinforced suspicions in Qatar that the report might be genuine. More
Jamaica villa's owner: Ryan paid, got cash
Wednesday, November 23 (Chicago Sun-Times)A businessman who won a state lease under George Ryan entertained Ryan at his luxurious Jamaica home for years, and every time, Ryan handed him a check to cover his lodging. But Harry Klein testified at Ryan's corruption trial Tuesday that he always reimbursed Ryan in cash.
Klein said it was at Ryan's insistence that he took checks for $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the length of his stay at the beachfront home. But Klein said he reimbursed Ryan because he and his wife didn't want to take money from a houseguest. Ryan and Klein continued with that arrangement every time Ryan and his wife, Lura Lynn, visited for either one week or two weeks most years from 1993 to 2002, Klein testified.
But Klein said he never expected state business in exchange for giving Ryan free stays in Jamaica. He also said Ryan paid for his own food and expenses and bought things such as a microwave and a year of cable for the home. More
2:33 pmMore Cracks in the Facade of Lies
From my friends at the Washington Post:
Barring any major surprises in Iraq, the Pentagon tentatively plans to reduce the number of U.S. forces there early next year by as many as three combat brigades, from 18 now, but to keep at least one brigade "on call" in Kuwait in case more troops are needed quickly, several senior military officers said.
Pentagon authorities also have set a series of "decision points" during 2006 to consider further force cuts that, under a "moderately optimistic" scenario, would drop the total number of troops from more than 150,000 now to fewer than 100,000, including 10 combat brigades, by the end of the year, the officers said.
Well, I guess the "commanders on the ground" are being heard.
Obama Calls on Bush To Admit Iraq Errors
'Limited' Troop Reduction Urged
Wednesday, November 23 (Washington Post)Sen. Barack Obama said President Bush should admit mistakes in waging the Iraq war and reduce the number of troops stationed there in the next year. But the Illinois Democrat, a longtime opponent of the war, said U.S. forces remain "part of a solution" in the bitterly divided country and should not be withdrawn immediately.
Without citing specific numbers, Obama called for a "limited drawdown" of U.S. troops that would push the fragile Iraqi government to take more responsibility while deploying enough American soldiers to prevent the country from "exploding into civil war or ethnic cleansing or a haven for terrorism." More
Getting the Lowdown on Iraq
Wednesday, November 23 (Time.com)If the Repulblican Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to get a second opinion on how the war in Iraq is going, where does he turn? To the Pentagon, but not to the top brass this time. In an unusual closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill last week, Virginia's John Warner, joined by Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Mark Dayton of Minnesota, sat across the table from 10 military officers chosen for their experience on the battlefield rather than in the political arena. Warner rounded up the battalion commanders to get at what the military calls "ground truth"--the unvarnished story of what's going on in Iraq.
...But the battalion commanders, according to sources close to last week's meeting, said that because there are not enough troops, they have to "leapfrog" around Iraq to keep insurgents from returning to towns that have been cleared out. The officers also stressed that the lack of manpower--rather than of protective armor or signal jammers--posed one of the biggest obstacles in dealing with roadside bombs, which have caused the majority of U.S. casualties in Iraq. The commanders, according to the meeting sources, said there are simply "never enough" explosives experts on the ground. So far, no officer has been willing to go on record to complain about the need for more troops. But there is one positive sign: the Army recently decided to double the number of explosives experts to 2,500 over the next few years. More
Key Bush Intelligence Briefing Kept From Hill Panel
Wednesday, November 23 (National Journal)Ten days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President Bush was told in a highly classified briefing that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein to the attacks and that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al Qaeda, according to government records and current and former officials with firsthand knowledge of the matter.
The administration has refused to provide the Sept. 21 President's Daily Brief, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists.
...The Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the White House for the CIA assessment, the PDB of September 21, 2001, and dozens of other PDBs as part of the committee's ongoing investigation into whether the Bush administration misrepresented intelligence information in the run-up to war with Iraq. The Bush administration has refused to turn over these documents.
Indeed, the existence of the September 21 PDB was not disclosed to the Intelligence Committee until the summer of 2004, according to congressional sources. Both Republicans and Democrats requested then that it be turned over. The administration has refused to provide it, even on a classified basis, and won't say anything more about it other than to acknowledge that it exists. More
|Monday, November 21|
1:23 pmI Am In Favor of the Death Penalty, But...
If states are going to execute people, then the standards for prosecuting these crimes, evidentiary rules, witness statements, etc. all must be be blown up and remade new. Otherwise, the state runs too high a risk of killing an innocent person. For some, this doesn't matter, as they slough off the moral mud with "they never should have been there in the first place." For me and others, who understand there are offenses worthy of capital punishment, one half of the challenge is how to take down legal systems that make it too easy to kill innocents. The other is to devise a system that guarantees no innocent person can be murdered by the state. I think it can be done, even if we limit captial punishment to only the most twisted and depraved murders. At the very least they'd have to be really twisted and depraved, not just said to be so by a smooth-talking prosecutor. Remember the woman who killed a pregnant woman by cutting open her belly and removing the fetus? That's definitely a death penalty case for me.
Texas kills people by the bushel. The story of Ruben Cantu will hopefully cause enough of an uprorar to start the state talking about reforming their death penalty laws.
12:00 pmRemember the Coalition Provisional Authority?
Remember how they were a group of "young people" who went to Iraq to help rebuild the country and make it free? Or something like that?
Remember finding out that the Bush Administration used the CPA to side-step the State Department in the administration of post-invasion Iraq? How CPA staff had been vetted for their political reliability, not necessarily their technical skill? How their mission was to remake Iraq into a free trade zone that happened to be inhabited by Sunnis, Shias and Kurds? I had the pdf in the Archive, but Harper's made me pull it ($$#*#&$!!!).
Well it looks like one of their crack staff was a convicted con man.
Imagine that, a con man able to convince idealogues he's one of them.
But this was not just any crack staffer, he was the comptroller and a financial officer. This from NYT on Friday:
Mr. Stein was given his position in Hilla, where he controlled some $82 million, even though he had been convicted on federal fraud charges in the mid-1990's and was being sued in connection with a suspected embezzlement scheme by a former employer.
The shady side of Mr. Stein's past was so close at his heels that, according to the federal indictment, he apparently used part of the money he is accused of illegally receiving in Iraq to pay part of a fine required by his earlier fraud conviction and to pay for towing charges incurred when he was given back several automobiles that had been impounded as the civil suit proceeded. The towing charges alone came to $7,151.56.
So this Repbulican, who was a convicted con man, had the cojones to pay a civil fine with funds he stole from the United States Treasury?
The GOP. Restoring Integrity.
Time to talk: US engages the Taliban
Monday, November 21 (Asia Times)Despite deposing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in quick time at the end of 2001, the United States has not been able to rid the country of the Islamic hardliners, who four years later lead an Afghan resistance that shows no signs of abating, let alone buckling.
US efforts to combat the Taliban include outright military action (there are 18,000 US troops in the country, in addition to 12,000 members of North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the International Security Assistance Force), and attempts to embrace "good" Taliban.
And now, most significantly, come efforts to deal directly with the real "problem" - Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the only person with the ability to influence decisions of import related to the Taliban and their future activities in the country.
Reports emerged in the Pakistani media at the weekend that the US had contacted the Taliban leadership with the aim of establishing a truce in Afghanistan. The reported linkman is a Pakistani, Javed Ibrahim Paracha, but he has denied the story, saying he had never met any US officials, only US businessmen.
There is more to this story, though, according to information acquired by Asia Times Online. More
DISPATCHES FROM AMERICA
How the Bush administration got spooked
Monday, November 21 (Asia Times)It's finally Wizard of Oz time in America. You know - that moment when the curtains are pulled back, the fearsome-looking wizard wreathed in all that billowing smoke turns out to be some pitiful little guy, and everybody looks around sheepishly, wondering why they acted as they did for so long.
Starting on September 11, 2001 - with a monstrous helping hand from Osama bin Laden - the Bush administration played the fear card with unbelievable effectiveness. For years, with its companion "war on terror", it trumped every other card in the American political deck. With an absurd system for color-coding dangers to Americans, the president, vice president and the highest officials in this land were able to paint the media a "high" incendiary orange and the Democrats an "elevated" bright yellow, functionally sidelining them.
How stunningly in recent weeks the landscape has altered - almost like your basic hurricane sweeping through some unprotected and unprepared city. Now, to their amazement, Bush administration officials find themselves thrust through the equivalent of a Star-Trekkian wormhole into an anti-universe where everything that once worked for them seems to work against them. As always, in the face of domestic challenge, they have responded by attacking - a tactic that was effective for years. The president, vice president, national security adviser and others have ramped up their assaults, functionally accusing Democratic critics of little short of treason - of essentially undermining American forces in the field, if not offering aid and comfort to the enemy. On his recent trip to Asia, the president put it almost as bluntly as his vice president did at home, "As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them into war continue to stand behind them." The Democrats were, he said over and over, "irresponsible" in their attacks. Dick Cheney called them spineless "opportunists" peddling dishonestly for political advantage. More
|Friday, November 18|
11:11 amMore Fun with Pictures
Movement Conservatives try to label liberals as hateful, in-lockstep with backwards ideaology, and generally in league with Satan. If one of those types existed, I imagine that IF that person existed, they still wouldn't look as damning as this:
11:05 amFun with Pictures
My thanks for the pic below and the link above to PatriotBoy:
Go there now and buy some gear. I did.
G.O.P. Forces Nearly $50 Billion in Budget Cuts Through House
Friday, November 18 (New York Times)House Republican leaders were dealt a rare defeat Thursday as Democrats and 22 Republicans teamed up to kill a major health and education spending measure.
The 224-to-209 rejection of the $142.5 billion in spending on an array of social programs was the first time since the early days of the Republican takeover of the House a decade ago that the majority had come out on the losing end of such a vote.
Hours after the loss on the spending front, the leadership early this morning forced through a separate measure making nearly $50 billion in budget cuts over five years after massaging the plan to reduce opposition from Republican moderates. The vote was 217 to 215.
The struggle on the spending measure underlined the divide over spending policy confounding House Republicans as they struggle to provide relief for hurricane victims while placating party members alarmed about growth in federal spending.
It also focused attention once again on the difficulties of a leadership team that has been somewhat off balance since September, when Representative Tom DeLay was forced to step aside as majority leader after he was indicted in Texas.
In rebelling against the spending measure, Democrats and some Republicans said it fell woefully short of fulfilling federal commitments.
They pointed, for example, to $900 million in health care cuts that took a toll on the Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and on rural health care. They opposed the elimination of $8 billion to prepare for a potential flu pandemic. And they pointed to a provision that would strip money from a variety of popular education programs and leave Pell Grants to college students frozen, as part of the first reduction in education spending in a decade.
"The Republican bill to fund our nation's investments in health, education and other important programs betrayed our nation's values and its future," Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said. More
A Private Obsession
Friday, November 18 (New York Times)"Lots of things in life are complicated." So declared Michael Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, in response to the mass confusion as registration for the new Medicare drug benefit began. But the complexity of the program - which has reduced some retirees to tears as they try to make what may be life-or-death decisions - is far greater than necessary.
One reason the drug benefit is so confusing is that older Americans can't simply sign up with Medicare as they can for other benefits. They must, instead, choose from a baffling array of plans offered by private middlemen. Why?
Here's a parallel. Earlier this year Senator Rick Santorum introduced a bill that would have forced the National Weather Service to limit the weather information directly available to the public. Although he didn't say so explicitly, he wanted the service to funnel that information through private forecasters instead.
Mr. Santorum's bill didn't go anywhere. But it was a classic attempt to force gratuitous privatization: involving private corporations in the delivery of public services even when those corporations have no useful role to play.
The Medicare drug benefit is an example of gratuitous privatization on a grand scale. More
|Thurslday, November 17|
4:47 pmRepublicans Acting Like Republicans
This post is related to the one below. We wondered about the power that Tom DeLay and Dennis Hastert had over House Republicans. Some liberal pundits were in open awe of the discipline that the Hammer had over his people. In a snippet from today's WaPo story about the reasons why the GOP majoirty House couldn't pass it's own budget, we get these two summations. The first from an influential Democratic congressman, the second from a Republican:
Democrats, unanimous in opposing the legislation, said it included the first cut in education funding in a decade and slashed spending for several health care programs. "It betrays our nation's values and its future," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "It is neither compassionate, conservative nor wise."
Republicans said they may have lost votes because this year's bill, down $1.5 billion from last year, included no special projects or earmarks for lawmakers. "You take those out and you lose the incentive," said Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who voted for the bill.
So if I get this straight, Republicans would have voted to cut food stamps, education programs under No Child Left Behind, Pell Grants for higher education, and cuts to LIHEAP, the program designed to help low-income Americans pay for heating bills had there been enough pork to grease the skids of their votes? Am I understanding Rep. Davis right? Read it for yourself. I'm guessing yes.
I recall a story on NPR, in the wake of the charges against Tom Delay. The story centered on a meeting reminding conservatives that America needed was to see "Republicans acting like Republicans" How this would restore trust and credibility in the GOP.
Well, if it didn't require stories and pictures of senior citizens suffering and dying in the cold this winter, I would have been amenable toward seeing exactly what their idea of "Repbulicans acting like Republicans" would look like.
HOUSE BUDGET RECONCILIATION BILL REMAINS HARSH FOR VULNERABLE AMERICANS
Changes Made by the Rules Committee are Very Minor
Thursday, November 17 (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)Early this morning, the House Rules Committee approved minor modifications to the House budget reconciliation bill. These modifications appear intended to garner support from members of Congress who were concerned about the fact that low-income families would be forced to shoulder a large share of the cuts in the bill.
CBO analyses show, however, that the modifications are exceedingly minor and do not soften the House bills effects on vulnerable families to any significant degree. These changes reduce the total level of cuts that most directly affect low-income families and individuals by only about one percent. The other 99 percent of the low-income cuts remain.
According to CBO, the House budget bill would still deny food stamps to 300,000 low-income people each month by 2008, and would cut basic food aid by $800 million over five years. This is the same number of people as would have been terminated from food stamps under the bill as originally reported from the Agriculture Committee. The bill would still deny food stamps by 2008 to 70,000 low-income legal immigrants and 225,000 other low-income people, most of whom are in low-income families with children.
Legal immigrants: In 2008 and thereafter, the bill would deny food stamps to 70,000 legal immigrants, according to the CBO estimates; the only food stamp change that has been made in the bill reported by the Agriculture Committee is that 50,000 of these legal immigrants would lose food stamps immediately in 2006, rather than 70,000, as under the original Agriculture Committee provision. That change, essentially phasing in the legal immigrant cut over two years, was adopted by the House Rules Committee last week. No further modifications to the food stamp immigrant cuts were made today.
Terminating people in low-income working families. The Rules Committee made a minor change today in the food stamp categorical eligibility cut, so that states have the option to continue providing free school meals to children in families that lose food stamps under this provision. To do so, however, states would have to add a complicated new administrative procedure to their school meals programs, and history suggests some states and school districts will not do so. Moreover, this change would have no effect on the number of people who would lose food stamps under this provision. Some 225,000 low-income people still would be terminated from food stamps, with reduce food stamp benefits being cut by almost $550 million over five years. A typical low-income family of three affected by the cut would still lose $141 a month in food stamp benefits, or nearly $1,800 on an annualized basis. If the familys state and its local school district availed themselves of the new school meals option, the family would not lose an additional $15 to $30 a month in school meals benefits as well. (Hence, these families would lose $141 a month in food assistance instead of losing $156 to $171 a month.) If the state and school district did not adopt the new option, the familys children still would lose free school meals as well. More
In challenging war's critics, administration tinkers with truth
Thursday, November 17 (Knight Ridder)President Bush called Democratic critics of how he sold the Iraq war to the world "irresponsible" five times Thursday during a brief news conference in South Korea.
Bush said he agreed with Vice President Dick Cheney, who on Wednesday had accused some unnamed senators who oppose the administration's Iraq war policy of lacking "backbone" and making "reprehensible charges" that Bush and his aides "purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence."
Cheney's rough-edged remarks, and the president's unequivocal endorsement of them, were the latest in the Bush administration's new campaign to challenge critics of how it sold the war, accusing them of twisting the historical record about how and why the war was launched. Yet in accusing Iraq-war critics of "rewriting history," Bush, Cheney and other senior administration officials are tinkering with the truth themselves.
The administration's overarching premise is beyond dispute: Administration officials, Democratic and Republican lawmakers and even leaders of foreign governments believed intelligence assessments that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. That intelligence turned out to be wrong.
But Bush, Cheney, and other senior officials have added several other arguments in recent days that distort the factual record. Below, Knight Ridder addresses the administration's main assertions: More
Bush's Ownership Society
Why No One's Buying
Thursday, November 17, (Washington Monthly)...You can begin to see a pattern here. Americans love the idea of choicein the abstract. But when faced with the actual choices conservatives present, they aren't buying. The reason is that conservatives have constructed choices that fail to take human nature into account. People like to have choices but feel quickly overwhelmed when they lack the information or expertise to decide confidently, and they turn downright negative when the choices themselves seem to put what they already have at risk. Conservatives were bound to make these mistakes because their very aim has been to transfer more risks from government to individuals so that government's size and expenditures can be cut. That's not a bargain most Americans will accept. They like choice just fine, but they won't trade security to get it.
That's not to say individual choice and control can't be applied intelligently to government. In fact, doing so may be key to achieving important progressive aims like universal health care. But designing policies that use choice and that Americans would actually embrace won't make government weaker. Rather, it will require government to be stronger. .. More
|Wednesday, November 16|
Squeeze on ex-senator alleged
Wednesday, November 16 (Chicago Sun-Times)A political consultant testified Wednesday that while George Ryan was publicly endorsing Sen. Phil Gramm for the Republican presidential nomination in early 1995, his aides were quietly pressing the Texas senator's campaign for $103,000 in consulting fees.
"This is the way we do things in Chicago," campaign consultant John Weaver quoted Ryan chief of staff Scott Fawell as saying when he was asked about the amount of the fees.
Ryan, 71, and lobbyist friend Larry Warner, 67, are charged in a 22-count federal indictment with racketeering, mail fraud and other offenses.
Among other things, Ryan is accused of illegally using state money and employees to staff his political campaigns starting in 1990 and going through his 1998 election as governor.
That includes his efforts on behalf of Gramm, who was running a longshot race for the GOP presidential nomination that eventually went to Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.
Weaver testified that the idea to pay consulting fees to Ryan's organization did not come from anyone in the Gramm campaign. Prosecutors say Ryan told FBI agents that Gramm aides came up with the plan to send consulting fees to help with the Texan's campaign in Illinois. More
Producer Price Indexes -- October 2005
Wednesday, November 16 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)The Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today that the seasonally adjusted Producer Price Index for Finished Goods advanced 0.7 percent in October. This gain followed a 1.9-percent jump in September and a 0.6-percent rise in August. At the earlier stages of processing, prices received by manufacturers of intermediate goods moved up 3.0 percent, after increasing 2.5 percent in the preceding month. The index for crude materials rose 6.7 percent in October, compared with a 10.2-percent gain in September. More
REAL EARNINGS IN OCTOBER 2005
Wednesday, November 16 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)Real average weekly earnings rose by 0.4 percent from September to October after seasonal adjustment, according to preliminary data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. This increase stemmed from a 0.5 percent increase in average hourly earnings and a 0.1 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers
(CPI-W). Average weekly hours were unchanged. More
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX: OCTOBER 2005
Wednesday, November 16 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in October, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. The October level of 199.2 (1982-84=100) was 4.3 percent higher than in October 2004.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 0.1 percent in October, prior to seasonal adjustment. The October level of 195.2 was 4.7 percent higher than in October 2004. More
Document Says Oil Chiefs Met With Cheney Task Force
Wednesday, November 16 (Washington Post)A White House document shows that executives from big oil companies met with Vice President Cheney's energy task force in 2001 -- something long suspected by environmentalists but denied as recently as last week by industry officials testifying before Congress.
The document, obtained this week by The Washington Post, shows that officials from Exxon Mobil Corp., Conoco (before its merger with Phillips), Shell Oil Co. and BP America Inc. met in the White House complex with the Cheney aides who were developing a national energy policy, parts of which became law and parts of which are still being debated.
In a joint hearing last week of the Senate Energy and Commerce committees, the chief executives of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips said their firms did not participate in the 2001 task force. The president of Shell Oil said his company did not participate "to my knowledge," and the chief of BP America Inc. said he did not know.
Chevron was not named in the White House document, but the Government Accountability Office has found that Chevron was one of several companies that "gave detailed energy policy recommendations" to the task force. In addition, Cheney had a separate meeting with John Browne, BP's chief executive, according to a person familiar with the task force's work; that meeting is not noted in the document.
The task force's activities attracted complaints from environmentalists, who said they were shut out of the task force discussions while corporate interests were present. The meetings were held in secret and the White House refused to release a list of participants. The task force was made up primarily of Cabinet-level officials. Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club unsuccessfully sued to obtain the records. More
Woodward Was Told of Plame More Than Two Years Ago
Wednesday, November 16 (Washington Post)Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor Bob Woodward testified under oath Monday in the CIA leak case that a senior administration official told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame and her position at the agency nearly a month before her identity was disclosed.
In a more than two-hour deposition, Woodward told Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that the official casually told him in mid-June 2003 that Plame worked as a CIA analyst on weapons of mass destruction, and that he did not believe the information to be classified or sensitive, according to a statement Woodward released yesterday.
Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.
Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the source freed Woodward to testify but would not allow him to discuss their conversations publicly, Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the official's name or provide crucial details about the testimony. Woodward did not share the information with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place. More
Ignore the Man Behind That Memo
Thursday, November 16 (New York Times)Judge Samuel Alito Jr.'s insistence that the Constitution does not protect abortion rights is not the only alarming aspect of a newly released memo he wrote in 1985. That statement strongly suggests that Judge Alito is far outside the legal mainstream and that senators should question him closely about it. They should be prepared to reject his nomination to the Supreme Court if he cannot put to rest the serious concerns that the memo, part of a job application, raises about his worthiness to join the court.
When Judge Alito applied for a job with the Justice Department under President Ronald Reagan, he submitted a Personal Qualifications Statement that outlined his approach to the law. That statement raises three major concerns:
First, he has extreme views on the law. Judge Alito said he was particularly proud of his work on cases that tried to establish that "the Constitution does not protect a right to an abortion." He did not merely oppose Roe v. Wade in the abstract - he worked to reverse it. He also noted his "disagreement with Warren Court decisions" in many important areas, including reapportionment. The reapportionment cases established the one-person-one-vote doctrine, which requires that Congressional and legislative districts include roughly equal numbers of people. They played a key role in making American democracy truly representative, and are almost uniformly respected by lawyers and scholars.
Second, Judge Alito does not respect precedent. Judicial nominees who appear extreme often claim that because they respect precedent, they will vote to reaffirm decisions they disagree with. When Judge Clarence Thomas was nominated for the Supreme Court, he told the Senate about his deep respect for precedent - and then immediately began voting to overturn important precedents when he joined the court. The Senate has specific reason to be skeptical about Judge Alito. Not only did he work to overturn Roe v. Wade, but he also said he had been inspired to go to law school by his opposition to Warren Court precedents - presumably by a desire to see them overturned.
Third, he is an ideologue. The White House has tried to present Judge Alito as an impartial judge without strong political views. But he said just the opposite in the 1985 statement. "I am and always have been a conservative," he wrote. He called himself a "life-long registered Republican" who contributed to "Republican candidates and conservative causes" including the National Conservative Political Action Committee, the super-PAC of the Reagan era. He strongly suggested that he would have been active in Republican politics if the law had not prohibited him, as a federal employee, from doing that. More
|Thursday, November 10|
Atrios alluded to it yesterday. I'm driving it home today. For all the scorn movement conservatives heap on France, mondern French society of one month ago was the paragon of a nation built without affirmative action. It was so color-blind that it was against the law to keep statistics on race. It was the perfect society for those with the will and ingenuity to succeed to do so.
Race wasn't a barrier. In fact there were no barriers. To rise in life one just needed the will to carve out a path. France welcomed people of all races with open arms. Children from other countries born in France became citizens with all the rights of those native-born. France did not discriminate amongst her own. All were free to become the finest sons and daughters of France.
Well all of the above was shown to be frog bluster a couple of weeks ago. I've had a chance to hear a couple of French conservatives talk about the riots. They sound eerily like their American counterparts.
Atrios pointed out that Ward Connerly would have enjoyed the France of one month ago. Building off his point, Connerlly could have easily avoided looking at the parallel societies the French had constructed. A de-facto seperate but equal built under the motto "Liberty-Equality-Fraternity." One for the French, the other for the French that looked like they didn't start life French. He would have sent cables back home saying that for this one thing, America should look more like France.
Sometimes I wonder whether people believe there is no such thing as racism and discrimination out of a certain innocence. Maybe they don't believe it out of stupidity and ignorance of human nature. Or maybe they're just duplicitous.
Ed notehere's a post from Juan Cole that prompted Atrios' post
Who would Jesus torture?
Thursday, November 10 (Sojourners)Christians of strong religious faith and sound moral conscience often end up in disagreement. Human affairs are a messy business, unfortunately, and even at the best of times we only see through a glass, darkly.
It is hard for that reason to call Christians to a universal standard of behavior. At this moment, however, we cannot afford to dilute the message of Jesus into meaningless ambiguity. There are certain acts that a follower of Jesus simply cannot accept. Here is one: A Christian cannot justify the torture of a human being.
The practice of torture by American soldiers is a hot topic at the Pentagon, in the Congress, and in the White House at the moment. The U.S. Senate already has passed 90-9 a bill that prohibits "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment" of prisoners in U.S. custody. The lead advocate of the bill, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), was tortured by his captors during the Vietnam War. According to The New York Times, the Pentagon adopted a policy last Thursday to rein in interrogation techniques. The new policy uses much of the same language as the McCain amendment - drawn in large part from the Geneva Convention - to adopt standards for handling terror suspects. More
The death of compassionate conservatism
Thursday, November 10 (Sojourners)Urgent Action Alert: Call Rep. [Your Rep.] now at (800) 426-8073. Say "no" to a morally bankrupt budget.Last week, I spoke with other religious leaders at a press conference in the U.S. Capitol, urging the House of Representatives to oppose cuts in social services in their budget bill. When it was over, we walked to the rotunda to offer a prayer for our nation and its leaders, that they would do the right thing for people in poverty. Suddenly, we were face to face with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and took the opportunity to deliver our message directly to him. He listened politely, but offered little response.
The House is scheduled to begin debate tomorrow on its budget bill, which includes $54 billion in cuts. On the table are cuts of $9.5 billion in Medicaid - by requiring co-pays for pregnant women and children for the first time; $8 billion in foster care, child support enforcement, and aid to the disabled; and $844 million in the Food Stamps Program, which would prevent 300,000 people from receiving food stamps. Forty thousand children would be cut from reduced-price school lunches. Lawmakers intend to follow these with a further cut of $70 billion in taxes that will primarily benefit the top 3% of taxpayers. The message from Congress is that in response to Hurricane Katrina, we're going to cut services for the poor, cut taxes for the rich, and increase deficits for our children and grandchildren.
These plans for deep cuts to social supports, paid for by tax cuts for the wealthiest, are contrary to the national priorities we need to protect our most vulnerable citizens. We need strong moral leadership in Congress, especially during this time of war, record deficits, rising poverty and hunger, and natural disasters. Cutting food stamps and health care that meet the basic needs of poor families is an outrage. Cutting social services to pay for further tax cuts for the rich is a moral travesty that violates biblical priorities. The House leadership seems to be saying they literally want to take food from the mouths of children to make rich people richer. If this ideology and politics of rich over poor prevails and our leaders fail to govern from a set of moral values, then the religious community must conclude that compassionate conservatism is dead.
As this battle for the budget unfolds, I am calling on members of Congress, some of whom make much out of their faith, to start Bible studies before they cast votes to cut services that will further harm the weakest in our nation. They should focus on the gospel imperative - what Jesus tells us about our obligations to the "least of these." Some of them have heard the slogan "What would Jesus do?" Now they should ask, "What would Jesus cut?" Budgets are moral documents, and they reflect our national priorities and values. In the name of social conscience, fiscal responsibility, equal opportunity, protecting our communities, and the very idea of a common good, the upcoming budget votes will be closely watched by people of faith.
I urge you to read the alert that follows, pick up your phone, and call your member of Congress. Tell him or her to show political will in standing up for the least of these, as Jesus reminds us. More
|Wednesday, November 9|
4:55 pmDance with the Devil
As we all know, Terrell Owens is a horse's ass. I couldn't stand him with San Fran. I thought it was artful revenge that the Niners sent him to Baltimore. When he wanted to go to Philly, I took heart. He said all the right words in the right temperment. He played hard, and didn't look anything like the knuckle-dragging buffoon that he was with San Fran. His antics during last year's Super Bowl pretty much sealed it for me.
It's pretty crystal clear that adding Terrell Owens to your team is truly like dancing with the devil. I'm quite happy he's going to sit out the rest of the season. If I were the owner, I'd look hard at my balance sheet. I'd really want to take a look at how much it would cost to keep him off a football field for as long as I could.
I hope this monkey show (as an African-American I can say and really mean "monkey,"sorry, white folks) he's running backfires. He'll play football again, for some team. But I really hope it's for a crappy team under a contract so laden with incentives, he's going to be guaranteed just $1 million before he shows up for training camp. He says he understands the concept of pay for play. So let's see.
Pennsylvania voters oust school board that backed intelligent design
Wednesday, November 9 (WLNS.com)Voters in a Pennsylvania town wracked by a debate about adding intelligent design to a science curriculum have cleaned house.
Eight Republican school board members who ordered a statement on intelligent design read in biology class were voted out and replaced with Democrats who oppose the policy. More
Kansas School Board OKs Doubting of Evolution
"This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat.
Wednesday, November 9 (Technology News)Revisiting a topic that exposed Kansas to nationwide ridicule six years ago, the state Board of Education approved science standards for public schools yesterday that cast doubt on the theory of evolution.
The 6-4 vote was a victory for intelligent design advocates who helped draft the standards. Intelligent design holds that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power.
Critics of the new language charged that it was an attempt to inject God and creationism into public schools in violation of the separation of church and state.
"This is a sad day. We're becoming a laughingstock of not only the nation, but of the world, and I hate that," said board member Janet Waugh, a Democrat.
Supporters of the new standards said they will promote academic freedom. "It gets rid of a lot of dogma that's being taught in the classroom today," said board member John Bacon. More
11:45 amIt's Not About Religion, It's About Theocracy
It is interesting to watch the incest that is the relationship between Republicans and the Religious Right. They're like a husband and wife that both happen to be con artists. Each one trying to screw the other while trying to screw everyone else. But the heavy-duty screwing gets done to us and the Constitution. Check out Amy Sullivan's post at Washington Monthly:
BUSH'S WAR ON PEOPLE OF FAITH....Today we learn that Bush's IRS is investigating a prominent liberal Episcopal church because of a sermon last fall in which the minister condemned Bush's policy in Iraq. (No word on whether the agency is also going after the Baptist church that kicked out members who voted for John Kerry. Or the churches that helped out the Bush/Cheney campaign last year by sending in their membership directories. Or the Catholic priests who told parishioners it would be a sin to vote for Kerry.)
Where's the outrage from Dobson and Robertson? Tim Goeglien at the White House Office of Faith-Based Organizations? Is Senator Sam Brownback in a twitter?
No. Because if a church tows the line, they can say and do anything without the fear of retribution. This arrogant dichotomy unmasks their goal of an American theocracy. For movement conservatives, as long as the party serves the goals of the theocracy, the party has value. For the GOP, as long as the theocracy supports the goals of the party, the theocracy has value. In the meantime, we get war based on lies, old white men between the knees of our women, the opportunity to see other countries develop the next round of life-saving medicines and vaccines, debt for the next 50 years, a state religion, a constitutional codification of hatred, and the blessing of God.
Well, maybe not exactly the blessing.
9:28 amSo What Does This Say About Porter Goss's CIA?
All this week we've been laughing at the Bush administrations attempts at saying the United States doesn't have a policy of torture, but we want to exclude the CIA from any law limiting their ability to torturewithin the law. It's been a masterful show, one that again reveals the word games they've played on us for the past 5 years. Implicit in all of this has been an understanding that the CIA must be in favor of this. But in today's NYT, we read the following:
A classified report issued last year by the Central Intelligence Agency's inspector general warned that interrogation procedures approved by the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 attacks might violate some provisions of the international Convention Against Torture, current and former intelligence officials say.
The previously undisclosed findings from the report, which was completed in the spring of 2004, reflected deep unease within the C.I.A. about the interrogation procedures, the officials said. A list of 10 techniques authorized early in 2002 for use against terror suspects included one known as waterboarding, and went well beyond those authorized by the military for use on prisoners of war (emphasis mine).
For me the report betrays a split in the CIA, before and after Porter Goss. After Goss came in, the inevitable house cleaning supposedly got rid of those CIA staffers that weren't loyal to the administration. Now we see that with Bush politically crippled, the "loyalists" are in fact double agents. They seem to be doing what it takes to publicize the wrong policies and information behind the stupid decisions of the Bushies. This shoots a hole right through Bush's assertions that the US can torture "within the law" which I take to mean laws against cruel and inhuman punishment. It shows that Porter Goss has no backbone of his own, no news there. If the Bushies wanted to hack off the heads of terrorists to send a Roman Empire-style message, Goss would be right there nodding his head and wagging his tail.
7:31 amEarly Thoughts for a Long Day
The returns are in. Democrats have prevailed in the larger races. We won on TABOR in Colorado. The reassuring thing is that we did this without an "overreaching theme." Which is also the unnerving part. Tim Kaine ran against a Rovian clone in Jerry Kilgore and won by 5 points; in a very, very red state. John Corzine survived another attack from Doug Forrester, a person who could be characterized as "the thing that wouldn't go away." In California, the Terminator was terminated by nurses, firemen, and cops.
I'm liking it, and I believe it is a good sign for 2006. But be aware that movement conservatives work twice as hard on destroying their enemies as democrats do. They'll learn, reset their assortment of lies and come again. If it weren't for the reality of the physical and fiscal damage they do to this countrywhich to me lays the foundation for moral damage; it would make a great book or game.
9:50 am UpdateIt would be nice to have that great theme to attract voters. But we don't. At least right now. I am beginning to come to the belief that, as with most things, it will not be engineered or focus grouped like the GOP would come up with themes. I have a feeling it will come from the counties and states, from the lower levels of the party. It will come as a crystal-clear reaction to something the Bushies have done, or as a result of their policies.
Who knows, maybe there will be no major rallying theme. Maybe what Dems have talked about all alongfairness, equality, brotherhood, and the like will finally show their strengths as time-tested methods of running the republic. Perhaps it is now apparent to the American people that the well-worn concepts of supply-side economics, compassionate conservatism, and now neoconservatism is a combination of alchemy, persistence, and hot air. Maybe we've been talking about the theme all the time, but never believed it had valuebecause Republicans had new buzzwords and concepts to talk about.
|Friday, November 4|
Broadcasting Ex-Chairman Is Removed From Board
Friday, November 4 (New York Times)Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, the former head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was forced to step down as a member of its board on Thursday evening.
The move came after the board began reviewing a confidential report by the inspector general of the corporation into accusations about Mr. Tomlinson's use of corporation money to promote more conservative programming.
They included Mr. Tomlinson's decision to hire a researcher to monitor the political leanings of guests on the public policy program "Now" with Bill Moyers; his use of a White House official to set up an ombudsman's office to scrutinize programs for political balance; and secret payments approved by Mr. Tomlinson to two Republican lobbyists.
The move - and a statement by the corporation - strongly suggested that the inspector general discovered significant problems under Mr. Tomlinson, but officials at the corporation declined to discuss those findings. Board members who had copies of the report declined to discuss it, citing confidentiality agreements.
The statement said the board did not believe that Mr. Tomlinson "acted maliciously or with any intent to harm C.P.B. or public broadcasting." The statement also said Mr. Tomlinson "strongly disputes the findings" in the report.
"The board expresses its disappointment in the performance of former key staff whose responsibility it was to advise the board and its members," the board's statement said, without identifying the former officials. "Nonetheless, both the board and Mr. Tomlinson believe it is in the best interests of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that he no longer remain on the board." More
Two months after Katrina,politics tightens purse strings
Friday, November 4 (The Hill)As the late British Prime Minister Harold Wilson famously remarked, a week is a long time in politics. The nine weeks since Hurricane Katrinas devastating landfall along the Gulf of Mexico have registered as years of change in the climate and agenda on Capitol Hill.
Congress has appropriated $62.3 billion in emergency relief for stricken areas still struggling to meet citizens basic needs, with most of the money moving through the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). But agency records from late October show nearly $40 billion still sitting in FEMAs disaster-relief fund, including $2 billion in unassigned money intended for Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
Gulf Coast lawmakers whose hurricane-relief efforts attracted a media onslaught just last month are now competing for public attention with Supreme Court nominations, reexamination of the Iraq war and a host of other issues.
Not to underestimate the good intentions of many FEMA employees, but the agency was dysfunctional eight weeks ago and its dysfunctional today, said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). Of the $62 billion Congress sent to FEMA, much of it is being mishandled and wasted because the agency is understaffed and overwhelmed.
The political fallout from disaster spending, and Congresss internal debate over it, will likely depend on how much the parties incorporate Katrina into their messages for the 2006 midterms. Both Republicans and Democrats have ideologically colored their hurricane response, with an eye toward putting more seats in play by tarring incumbents in the Gulf Coast region and beyond as ineffective disaster managers. More
Bush's Popularity Reaches New Low
58 Percent in Poll Question His Integrity
Friday, November 4 (Washington Post)For the first time in his presidency a majority of Americans question the integrity of President Bush, and growing doubts about his leadership have left him with record negative ratings on the economy, Iraq and even the war on terrorism, a new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows.
On almost every key measure of presidential character and performance, the survey found that Bush has never been less popular with the American people. Currently 39 percent approve of the job he is doing as president, while 60 percent disapprove of his performance in office -- the highest level of disapproval ever recorded for Bush in Post-ABC polls.
Virtually the only possible bright spot for Bush in the survey was generally favorable, if not quite enthusiastic, early reaction to his latest Supreme Court nominee, Samuel A. Alito Jr. Half of Americans say Alito should be confirmed by the Senate, and less than a third view him as too conservative, the poll found.
Overall, the survey underscores how several pillars of Bush's presidency have begun to crumble under the combined weight of events and White House mistakes. Bush's approval ratings have been in decline for months, but on issues of personal trust, honesty and values, Bush has suffered some of his most notable declines. Moreover, Bush has always retained majority support on his handling of the U.S. campaign against terrorism -- until now, when 51 percent have registered disapproval.
The CIA leak case has apparently contributed to a withering decline in how Americans view Bush personally. The survey found that 40 percent now view him as honest and trustworthy -- a 13 percentage point drop in the past 18 months. Nearly 6 in 10 -- 58 percent -- said they have doubts about Bush's honesty, the first time in his presidency that more than half the country has questioned his personal integrity. More
Ed note: a link to graphical comparisons of the favorability ratings between Bush and Nixon are here. A comparison to Reagan, Bush I and Clinton can be found here.
Norton Ex-Aides Clash on Lobbyist's Influence
Lawyer Says He Accused Griles of Aiding Abramoff
Friday, November 4 (New York Times)Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton's former legal counselor yesterday accused J. Steven Griles, the department's recently departed second in command, of improperly trying to meddle in decisions affecting tribal clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Former legal counselor Michael G. Rossetti, seated beside Griles before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said he repeatedly rebuffed Griles's efforts and, at one point, confronted him in front of other officials. He accused Griles of attempting to do Abramoff's bidding on an issue affecting the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana, an Abramoff gambling client.
At the Senate hearing, former Interior deputy secretary J. Steven Griles, right, denied intervening on behalf of GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff's Indian clients. (By Melina Mara -- The Washington Post)
"I wanted Mr. Griles to know I had my eye on him because I was worried about it -- whether founded or not, I was worried about it," Rossetti said. He said he demanded to know from Griles "whose water was he carrying," Rossetti testified. More
DeLay Asked Lobbyist to Raise Money Through Charity
Friday, November 4 (New York Times)Representative Tom DeLay asked the lobbyist Jack Abramoff to raise money for him through a private charity controlled by Mr. Abramoff, an unusual request that led the lobbyist to try to gather at least $150,000 from his Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations, according to newly disclosed e-mail from the lobbyist's files.
The electronic messages from 2002, which refer to "Tom" and "Tom's requests," appear to be the clearest evidence to date of an effort by Mr. DeLay, a Texas Republican, to pressure Mr. Abramoff and his lobbying partners to raise money for him. The e-mail messages do not specify why Mr. DeLay wanted the money, how it was to be used or why he would want money raised through the auspices of a private charity.
"Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation?" Mr. Abramoff asked a colleague in a message on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity. "I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom's requests. I have another few to hit still."
The e-mail was addressed to Tony Rudy, who had been Mr. DeLay's chief of staff in the House before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm. Mr. Abramoff said it would be good "if we can do $200K" for Mr. DeLay.
The e-mail traffic was released this week by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, which has conducted a yearlong investigation into whether Mr. Abramoff and a business partner, Michael Scanlon, Mr. DeLay's former House press secretary, defrauded Indian tribe clients and their gambling operations out of tens of millions of dollars. There was no immediate comment on the e-mail from spokesmen for Mr. Abramoff or Mr. DeLay, who has stepped down as House majority leader because of an unrelated criminal indictment in his home state. More
8:26 amFrom the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
I appreciate this opportunity to comment on the labor market data we released this morning.
Nonfarm payroll employment was little changed in October (+56,000), and the jobless rate was 5.0 percent. Payroll employment was flat in September (-8,000, as revised).
Before discussing the payroll survey data in detail, I would note that the October estimates were prepared using the same modified procedures that we introduced in September to better gauge employment developments in areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. We will continue to evaluate our data collection and estimating procedures and will resume standard survey operations when it is appropriate. More
Ed note: you can read the summary report in .html here
|Thursday, November 3|
4:26 pm3rd Q USProductivity and Costs
US Productivity and Costs for the 3rd Quarter. Key information is that productivity is up, but across the board, business, nonfarm, or manufacturing, real hourly compensation is a fraction of hourly compensation. So you make more per hour, but when you factor in for inflation, you make less. That's something all of us who don't make money like Frist, Bush, or Cheney understand.
Taking The Pulse Of Health Care Systems: Experiences Of Patients With Health Problems In Six Countries
Thursday, November 3 (Health Affairs)
This paper reports on a 2005 survey of sicker adults in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Sizable shares of patients in all six countries report safety risks, poor care coordination, and deficiencies in care for chronic conditions. Majorities in all countries report that mistakes occurred outside the hospital. The United States often stands out for inefficient care and errors and is an outlier on access/cost barriers. Yet no country consistently leads or lags across survey domains. Deficiencies in transition care during hospital discharge and coordination failures among patients seeing multiple physicians underscore shared challenges of improving performance across sites of care. More
12:06 pmFamily Priorities
Deeper in the story from the previous post are are these key snippets:
Still another House provision would roll back a court-ordered expansion of foster care support, denying foster care payments to relatives who take in children removed from their parents' homes by court order. That provision would reduce the coverage of foster care payments to about 4,000 children a month and cut $397 million from the program through 2010, the CBO said.
"Why would we want to do anything to discourage a family member from taking in a child who has been abandoned or neglected by his birth family?" asked Rep. Heather A. Wilson (R-N.M.), who has told House leaders she cannot support the legislation.
This gives another glimpse into the short-term mind of today's GOP. Abolishing the right to abortion is one of their top priorites, which is nothing new. And they want to do this despite historic lows in the nation's abortion rate. But by cutting funding to foster care, they are weakening the system they will need in order to cope with the after effect of a nation without the protections of Roe v. Wade.
This is something I've spoken about before, so I won't spend so much time on the soap box. Basically, if you want to create a nation without abortions, a strong foster care system would be one of the ways to present options to women other than abortion or childbirth. Other options would be access to contraception for men and women, as well as unfettered access to the morning-after pill. One of the most important would be to end the stigmatism heaped upon the shoulders of women suddenly thrust into that horrible situation.
Perhaps Republicans want the church to handle adoptions and foster care. It wouldn't surprise me were that one of the items on James Dobson's list of things to do once Sam Alito helps overturn Roe b. Wade. But churches wouldn't be much better at foster care than the state currently is. The only advantage would be the sudden influx of tax dollars into parochial coffers. Maybe that's the goal. More starve the government so they can blame it when things go wrong.
Food Stamp Cuts Are On Table
House Plan Would Affect 300,000
Thursday, November 3 (Washington Post)House Republicans are pushing to cut tens of thousands of legal immigrants off food stamps, partially reversing President Bush's efforts to win Latino votes by restoring similar cuts made in the 1990s.
The food stamp measure is just one of several provisions in an expansive congressional budget-cutting package that critics say unfairly targets the poor and disadvantaged, especially poor children.
The battle will be joined today when the House Budget Committee is scheduled to fold eight budget-cutting bills saving $50 billion through 2010 into a single measure and then send it to the floor for a vote next week. The Senate is also set to vote on its version of the budget-cutting package, which would not cut food stamps. The smaller measure, with $39 billion in savings, has broad reach, affecting Medicare, Medicaid, agriculture programs, private pension plans and energy.
The Senate action will feature a showdown over a bid to open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, as well as confrontations over limits to agriculture subsidies, Medicaid payments and Hurricane Katrina relief.
While concerns about runaway spending for the war and disaster relief have dominated the debate over the budget until now, lawmakers in both chambers have been quietly drafting changes to major spending and entitlement programs that would affect millions of Americans, including the fast-growing immigrant population.
The food stamp cuts in the House measure would knock nearly 300,000 people off nutritional assistance programs, including 70,000 legal immigrants, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Those immigrants would lose their benefits because the House measure would require legal immigrants to live in the United States for seven years before becoming eligible to receive food stamps, rather than the current five years.
About 40,000 children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches, the CBO estimated. More
Move over, Mother Nature: Republicans want the National Park Service to make room for nonnative species.
Thursday, November 3 (The American Prospect)As corporate jingles, slogans, and logos creep into every corner of our lives, the national parks have become some of the last commercial-free oases. Its nearly as hard to spot a corporate logo in a national park as it is to sight a rare bird. But this could soon change, as Republicans are seeking private-sector alternatives to fund the parks.
In late September, legislative language drafted by Representative Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources Committee, was leaked to the public. The language proposed closing the federal deficit by selling 15 sites to commercial developers and energy companies, slathering the parks in advertising, and peddling naming rights for visitor centers, trails, and other park features.
An outcry ensued, and Pombo backed off. Dont take the nearly 300-page document seriously, his aides said. It was written only to influence other lawmakers to support drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (what a relief).
Pombos plan to throw open the door to commercialization in the parks may not be feasible yet. But his disavowal doesn't mark the end of efforts to help corporations get a foothold in the parks. This month, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella released for public comment a proposal to revamp the agencys rules on philanthropy and donor recognition. Under the plan, the cash-strapped Park Service could turn its managers into a network of fund-raisers. More
|Tuesday, November 1|
Five Easy Pieces Scorecard
Tuesday, November 1 (Center for American Progress)As journalists like Nicholas Confessore and Jonathan Chait have recounted, conservatives seeking to shift America away from progressive income taxes and toward a wage tax have never pursued their goal directly because of its obvious regressivity. Instead, they have pursued their goals piecemeal. Right-wing lobbyists and strategists came up with a strategy known as five easy pieces for tax reform.
As this scorecard shows, a sympathetic President and conservative Congress have made substantial progress on that agenda. The five pieces are 1) atter marginal tax rates and lower rates for high-income taxpayers, 2) elimination of the tax on income from wealth, 3) elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), 4) allowing unlimited tax-free savings, and 5) allowing full expensing of business investments. ing from the five easy pieces strategy is tax simplification and base broadening, two fundamental components of real reform.
There is a better approach. The following report assesses the progress already made on the five easy pieces strategy, examines the implications of the changes, looks at the prospects for additional tax changes, and outlines a better approach. More
The End of Pensions
Tuesday, November 1 (Vox Baby)Roger Lowenstein is an interesting contributor the New York Times magazine. In Sunday's article, with the same title as this post, he investigates the status of the employer-provided pension system, from both private and state- and local-government employers. On balance, I suggest reading the whole thing, though I do disagree with several of the conclusions he draws along the way. I explained my views on pension insurance in April, and I still have those views. In fact, this passage is directly relevant, and the thrust of it is missing from Lowenstein's article:
Defined benefit (DB) pension plans pay out benefits to retirees (and often survivors and occasionally the disabled) based on formulas that may increase with age, years of service, and earnings. The obligations look like the payment stream from a bond. In fact, a pension sponsor with a steady aggregate earnings profile and employee hiring and turnover could fully fund the liabilities and insure against risk with a portfolio heavily weighted toward bonds.
There is therefore no need for formal pension insurance. The government already provides the means for any conscientious pension sponsor to (nearly) fully insure. Every defined benefit pension plan has the opportunity to invest in Treasuries, to avoid the rate-of-return risk inherent in every other investment opportunity. With Treasuries [maturities] of a long enough maturity, the pension sponsor can even choose Treasuries to match the duration of its fund to those of its obligations, so that even shifts in the riskless rate of return do not affect its pension plan's financial position. More
Official's vote wasn't backed by research
A Dover Area school board member said she had been assured intelligent design was "a scientific thing."
Tuesday, November 1 (Philadelphia Enquirer)A school board member who voted to include intelligent design in a high school biology curriculum testified yesterday that she never independently researched the concept and relied on the opinions of two fellow board members to make her decision.
Heather Geesey, a member of the Dover Area school board, said she came to believe that intelligent design was a scientific theory based on the recommendations of Alan Bonsell and William Buckingham, both members of the board's curriculum committee.
"They said it was a scientific thing," said Geesey, who added that "it wasn't my job" to learn more about intelligent design because she didn't serve on the curriculum committee. More
Intelligent-design judge lashes out
He was angry about inconsistencies in testimony from the school board president.
Tuesday, November 1 (Philadelphia Enquirer)A federal trial that has for six weeks focused largely on a debate between science and religion and the teaching of evolution took a dramatic Law and Order-style turn late yesterday over a money trail.
U.S. District Judge John E. Jones 3d, who has presided over the intelligent design trial with a calm and good-humored manner, grew red-faced and launched into a blistering 10-minute cross-examination of Dover School Board President Alan Bonsell over the source of $850 used to buy high school textbooks on intelligent design.
Clearly angry over the day's testimony from a key witness, Jones questioned Bonsell about inconsistencies between his depositions and his trial testimony about the money to buy the book, Of Pandas and People.
Bonsell was one of six board members who set in motion this constitutional case when they approved a policy last year requiring that a statement pointing out "gaps and problems" with Darwin's theory of evolution be read to biology students. The statement also directs students to read Of Pandas and People for information about intelligent design. The board said at the time that it bought the books with money from an anonymous source.
Eleven parents sued the board, citing the constitutional separation of church and state.
In two separate, sworn depositions this year, Bonsell said he did not know the source of the $850 check for the books. But last week former board member William Buckingham testified he handed the check to Bonsell to give to his father, Donald Bonsell.
"You were the conduit by which your father received the $850?" said Jones, his jaws clenched. "Why in January of 2005 didn't you tell [plaintiffs' attorney Eric] Rothschild on repeated questioning that Mr. Buckingham was involved in the exchange?" More
Berlusconi backs spy on Saddam papers
Tuesday, November 1 (The Age)Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi has defended an intelligence official accused of passing forged documents to the United States suggesting that Saddam Hussein had been seeking uranium in Africa.
In a statement today, Berlusconi said he appreciated the work that Nicolo Pollari, director of the SISMI intelligence agency, was doing and rejected suggestions that he should resign as a result of the allegations. More
Italian PM: I told Bush no on Iraq war
Tuesday, November 1 (Science Daily)The Italian prime minister is facing heavy criticism by opponents in next year's election after saying he opposed the Iraq war in 2003.
Silvio Berlusconi said on an Italian television show he urged President Bush not to invade Iraq, The Independent reports.
Romano Prodi, a challenger in the April election, said Berlusconi's comments were either lies or proof that he doesn't hold enough world clout to be the Italian leader. More
Berlusconi's outburst puts strain on relations with US
Tuesday, Novembe1 (Guardian UK)George Bush yesterday praised Silvio Berlusconi as "a strong partner in peace" during a meeting at the White House, but the two leaders avoided any public discussion of Italy's plan to withdraw troops from Iraq or claims by the Italian prime minister that he repeatedly tried to talk the US president out of an invasion.
In a sign of potentially strained relations, the two men - who were the closest of allies in the run-up to the Iraq war - refused to take reporters' questions.
Mr Berlusconi had previously said he planned to raise the issue of Italian troop withdrawal but, in a statement delivered after their meeting, he merely praised Mr Bush for being "far-sighted" during a sensitive moment in world history. He added that it was becoming "a habit for me to come to pay homage to the president in the Oval Office". More
Alito Leans Right Where O'Connor Swung Left
Tuesday, November 1 (Washington Post)In 1991, Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. voted to uphold a Pennsylvania statute that would have required at least some married women to notify their husbands before getting an abortion; a year later, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor cast a decisive fifth vote at the Supreme Court to strike it down.
In 2000, Alito ruled that a federal law requiring time off for family and medical emergencies could not be used to sue state employers for damages; three years later, O'Connor was part of a Supreme Court majority that said it could.
Samuel A. Alito Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit has been nominated to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (By Jerry Mccrea -- Newark Star-ledger)
And last year, Alito upheld the death sentence of a convicted Pennsylvania murderer, ruling that his defense lawyers had performed up to the constitutionally required minimum standard. When the case reached the Supreme Court, O'Connor cast a fifth vote to reverse Alito.
The record is clear: On some of the most contentious issues that came before the high court, Alito has been to the right of the centrist swing voter he would replace. As a result, legal analysts across the spectrum saw the Alito appointment yesterday as a bid by President Bush to tilt the court, currently evenly divided between left and right, in a conservative direction.
O'Connor "has been a moderating voice on critical civil liberties issues ranging from race to religion to reproductive freedom," said Steven R. Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Judge Alito's nomination . . . therefore calls into question the court's delicate balance that Justice O'Connor has helped to shape and preserve." More
|Monday October 31|
2:01 pmAtrios Would Like to Remind You...
With all of the words of congratulations to Alito, and various assorted puffiness floating around NPR this afternoon, Atrios would like to remind you of this about the nominee's judicial background:
Some More Media Advice
I'm writing this very very slowly so hopefully you'll be able to understand it. When a lower judge follows a clear Supreme Court precedent he or she is not necessarily doing so because he or she thinks that the decision which set the precedent was decided correctly. The cool thing about getting to be on the Supreme Court is that you have a say in what those binding decisions are, and so you have a chance to overturn the stuff you don't like.
Once he's on the bench, he'll be able to make law instead of interpreting it. Don't drink the Kool-Aid and think Alito will be his own man. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you should already be aware of republican word play. "Non-judicial activist" means someone who will interpret the Constitution in the manner of Scalia, Thomas, Janice Brown, and Priscilla Owen.
Why Bush Picked Alito
Burned by the Harriet Miers Supreme Court nomination, the President goes for an experienced judge who will get strong support from conservatives
Monday, October 31 (Time)When Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. accepted his nomination to the Supreme Court with President Bush standing over his shoulder like a proud father, Alito dropped an unsubtle hint that he will be tough to mess with. "I argued my first case before the Supreme Court in 1982, and I still vividly recall that day," said Alito, who was put on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, in Philadelphia, by Bush's father. Underscore "first"; this is a lawyer who's been in the end zone before.
With nomination of Harriet Miers, who had little experience with constitutional law, Bush went for advice that he pick someone from outside the "judicial monastery." This time, the President went with one of the high priests. As assistant to the solicitor general under President Ronald Reagan, Alito argued 12 cases before the Supremes, and has presented at least two dozen before federal courts of appeal. And while a limited paper trail was one of the Democrats' few quibbles with the record of Judge John Roberts as he was being considered for chief justice, Alito has a four-lane highway of writings: opinions on the Commerce Clause; the First Amendment (free speech, establishment clause and free exercise clause); the Fourth, Eighth and Eleventh amendments; and the Fourteenth Amendment (procedural due process and substantive due process). Oh, and then there are his writings on administrative law, criminal law, immigration, the False Claims Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and securities and prison litigation.
The nomination will be seen as a sop to conservatives, but they are thrilled to take it. A memo being circulated among conservatives asserts that Alito "has more federal judicial experience than 105 of the 109 Supreme Court Justices appointed in U.S. history." Progress for America, a self-described independent group that works closely with the White House, planned to have an ad for him on the air within seven hours. At the other end of the spectrum, the liberal People for the American Way said his judicial philosophy "is far to the right." Sen. Charles Schumer, Democrat of New York, had a straight face as he called Alito "controversial," and said he has real questions about the judge's record on civil rights, women's rights AND workers' rights. "It's sad that [Bush] felt he had to pick a nominee likely to divide America," Schumer said. "The President seems to want to hunker down in his bunker." Alito is an ardent conservative who will be hard to caricature, but will provide plenty of fodder for an ideological showdown. As a sign of the potential battle ahead, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter said he wants to ask Alito about abortion. The new justice could become the tie-breaking vote on abortion restrictions. More
Business will support Alito
Corporate America should find some cheer in Alito's strictly conservative judicial philosophy.
Monday, October 31 (CNN Money)Political observers are bracing for a firestorm with President Bush's most recent nomination to the Supreme Court, but business groups are likely to back the candidate hailed for his staunchly conservative record.
Samuel Alito, a federal appeals court judge from Philadelphia, was nominated to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor Monday morning -- the third attempt to fill the position after John Roberts was confirmed to replace chief justice William Rehnquist and Harriet Miers withdrew herself from the nomination after Bush's fellow conservatives lambasted the choice.
Unlike Roberts and Miers, who have established reputations as corporate-friendly, Alito is known more for his social rulings than his business record. Still, observers said its unlikely that business groups will view his nomination as anything other than positive.
Judicial philosophy geared more towards business
"Alito's record will bear out that he faithfully interprets the constitution and understands that it comes first and the role of the court should be modest," said Marshall Manson, spokesman for the conservative Coalition for Fair Judiciary. "As businesses look at the court nomination, this philosophy will be key."
And Greg Valliere, chief strategist for Stanford Washington Research Group, added that it's unlikely that Alito would have been nominated if his judicial philosophy wasn't geared towards business interests.
In fact, the White House was reported to have consulted business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers, headed by former Michigan governor and Bush friend John Engler, over potential nominations in order to garner support for what many see as an uphill battle to seat a conservative judge to replace moderate O'Connor.
And Alito -- who has been compared to Justice Antonin Scalia and dubbed "Scalito" in honor of those similarities -- has already proven that he falls on the conservative side. More
So I'm listening to NPR this morning and had to suffer through the obligatory puff interview on Bush's new Supreme Court nominee. But it's more important to read his words, as unlike Harriet Miers, he has written some. Overall, I say let the GOP approve this guy. Dems should not help at all. He may not be as incendiary as a Justice Brown, or Priscilla Owen, or Michael Luttig. But never doubt he's conservative and would simply be waiting for the right moment to enact the theocracy, suspend the right to privacy, expand the power of the executive branch, expand the power of big business, and other top 10 items on movement conservatives' list of "must do's before the Rapture."
Here is a link to his writings on his most controversial cases. Download and read the decisions. I'll post them in the CI Archive
I invite you to read them instead of getting caught up in the usual hoopla. And when it comes to that, I believe instead of relying on the tired old defenses and attacks that NARAL, ACLU, and other lefty groups trot out, we should dig a little deeper in our objections. I mentioned the right of privacy earlier. In order to make an abortion ban work, in my opinion, the right to personal privacy must be revoked. The right a person has to control what goes on with her (or his) body , or the right to control things having to do with their person must be taken away. Will a conservative court revoke a portion of the right? They'll try, of course. But the trick to this is what will come back to bite us in the asswhat rights will be peeled away as a result of outlwaing abortion. No lawyer will ignore the precedent in order to prosecute or defend a case or client. It can't live in a vaccuum.
If conservatives sever the right to privacy to a person's body from a person's property, just think what could happen. They could legally ban currently leagal and normal sexual acts between consenting adults or married couples. They could take away your ability to control when you die. They could limit your choices for medical care. There's a lot they could do.
Revoking that right opens up a lot more risk to the average citizen who is law abiding and male. Laws against unlawful search and seizure would lose a major pillar of legal support. So would laws against the use of personal information. Revoking that right to privacy means you can legally be harassed by telemarketers. It means you giving away, without your assent, many of the protections you currently enjoy. That's why Dems should make a bigger issue of privacy that abortion.
The other point to drive home is theocracy. Do we want America to look like Iran or Saudi Arabia? No western country has a national religion. The religious right wants us to be the first. It is no longer a jump for people to believe that George Bush is a puppet for James Dobson or Pat Robertson. After the Miers debacle, these men got what they want. Is that what you want? Is that what we need?
Ed Kilgore has some things to add on the nominee Basically, in nominating Alito, Bush didn't stray too far from his dream judge, Antonin Scalia.
|Friday, October 28|
3:52 pmI Smell Vice Presidential Ass a' Grillin'
From the indictment of Lewis Libby, Chief of Staff for the Vice-President of the United States and Assistant to the President of the United States, page 5, item 9:
"9. On or about June 12,2003,LIBBY was advised by the Vice President of the United States that Wilson s wife worked at the Central Intelligence Agency in the Counterproliferation Division. LIBBY understood that the Vice President had learned this information from the CIA."
So, Libby was the only one indicted today but not for leaking classified information. Rove wasn't indicted, but still remains under investigation. Which tells me this: the question is who told who what . Did Cheney tell Rove aobut Plame? Is that why Rove is still unindicted but still under the heat lamp? Or did Rove tell Cheney? The loser goes to jail, the winner off to a Republican gulag. In a sense it doesn't matter, since the whole affair started either with "Bush's Brain" (Rove) or "Bush's Balls" (just came up woth that monniker for Cheney). Given the one-degree seperation from the president, what then did Bush know? Has Fitzgerald even asked that question? If Bush did know, at what point do either of these men stop taking bullets for him? Will the history of people taking the heat for the Bush clan continue?
Can the president play stupid (stop with the jokes...), claiming he knew nothing of what his two closest advisers did? Will we buy it? Probably not, since that will confirm that Bush is an incompetent idiot. If for some reason we do buy it, then a case can be made that Rove and Cheney ran the country independent of the president and without the consent of the people and congress.
One thing is for sure. With Rove indicted and resigned, we will witness 2 more years of a foundering White House, and perhaps a premature emphasis on the heir to the GOP empire. If it's Cheney indicted, we may have a constitutional crisis as well as an impeachment. If he resigns, I wonder could we try him at a criminal trial?
|Thursday, October 27
2005 CHICAGO WHITE SOX WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION
The White Sox will bring a championship back to 35th Street for the first time in 88 years, and this one will be a worldly affair.
Thursday, October 27 (Chicago Sun-Times)The four-game World Series sweep was not just toasted on the South Side, it was celebrated in Tokyo, Caracas and Havana. There was reason for hugs and handshakes in the Dominican Republic, home to five Sox players. Even the Netherlands can feel good about this one because trainer Herm Schneider was born there and is a veteran of 26 previous seasons, all void of titles.
Venezuela's Freddy Garcia reached down and showed just why he's considered a big-game pitcher as he paced the 1-0 victory Wednesday over the Houston Astros with seven scoreless innings. His outing could've been dedicated to all the great Sox pitchers who never finished a season on top with the club.
Ted Lyons. Billy Pierce. Hoyt Wilhelm. Wilbur Wood. Gary Peters. Jack McDowell. Bobby Thigpen. LaMarr Hoyt. Roberto Hernandez. Jim Kaat.
As far as the Astros are concerned, Sacramento, Calif., native Jermaine Dye is one of the toughest outs in baseball. His third hit of the game was a two-out, eighth-inning single up the middle to score Willie Harris and wrap up the World Series MVP. Dye's clutch performance helped the Sox raise the World Series trophy in the locker room afterward, something that many of the great hitters in franchise history never did in Chicago.
\Dick Allen. Luis Aparicio. Luke Appling. Chico Carrasquel. Carlton Fisk. Nellie Fox. Jim Landis. Sherm Lollar. Bill Melton. Minnie Minoso. Robin Ventura.
And it was all tied together by another Venezuelan in manager Ozzie Guillen, who went from third-base coach of the champion Florida Marlins in 2003 to winning manager of the Sox in 2005. He has been credited with supplying the glue that has kept one of the most cohesive teams in baseball together from Day 1. He ended up taking the Sox where many other team managers failed to go.
Jimmy Dykes. Al Lopez. Tony La Russa. Jerry Manuel. Paul Richards. Chuck Tanner. Kid Gleason. Gene Lamont. Jeff Torborg.
''You know what, we were just trying to win 11 games,'' A.J. Pierzynski said. ''We went 11-1 in the playoffs and won every game on the road, and that's what we did all year. It was only fitting it ended up 1-0. That's the way we started the year [on Opening Day], that's the way we started the second half and that's the way it should have ended.'' More
Telander: 88 years of frustration swept away
"It's not my fault my team is winning so quick,'' a grinning Ozzie Guillen said Wednesday night before Game 4.
Thursday, October 27 (Chicago Sun-Times)No, it's not.
But it is his fault his 2005 team has made Chicago history.
After the World Series-winning game, Ozzie's players were giddy with what their boss had led them to.
"Everyone was included,'' the usually taciturn Carl Everett said. "Not one guy was left out! We played the way a team should play.''
Now 1917 means nothing because of manager Guillen, the unlikely, fast-twitch, "I-never-lie-to-the-media/I-never-lie-to-the-fans'' White Sox manager.
Guillen, of course, is the former All-Star shortstop from Venezuela who couldn't stop talking if you borrowed cork from Sammy Sosa's stash and jammed it in Oz's mouth.
OK, cheap shot at the Cubs. More
Mariotti: Special season changes everything
Thursday, October 27 (ChicagoSun-Times)Just like that, with a tumble and a toss by Juan Uribe, as if 88 years never passed, so ended a city's blind spot, its black hole, its burden of time, an agonizing void that created an inferiority complex in a place inferior to none. What Chicago ever did to suffer almost a century of baseball hopelessness, you'll have to ask the evil spirits or Mrs. O'Leary's cow. But finally, America's most unfulfilled baseball town has the same prize as Boston and, um, Phoenix and Miami.
That would be a 30-pound trophy, made of brass and pewter, with pretty flags.
Behold the city's most special baseball season of our time -- of all time, really. Wrap yourself in glory that might not match the civic totality of the 1985 Bears and the Bulls dynasty, but certainly tops it in South Side precincts. Wednesday night, the White Sox won the friggin' World Series. Not only is this tantamount to sushi bars replacing deep-dish parlors, this also has legions of grown men crying, wishing their fathers and grandfathers could see what the impossible looks like.
One of those fighting tears was Jerry Reinsdorf, who stood in the Sox clubhouse with his longtime friend and partner in crime, Bud Selig, and accepted the trophy. Have I sparred with Reinsdorf through the years? Yes. Was I happy the man finally won? Yes. "Twenty-five years ago, you got me into this game,'' he said to Selig on the podium. "And most of those of those 25 years, I asked you why. I'll never ask you again.
"This is for all the fans in Chicago -- South Side, North Side, West Side. I hope it's not a dream when I wake up in the morning.''
Morning has broken. The headlines say the Sox swept the Houston Astros More
|Thursday, October 27|
Noe indicted for laundering money to Bush campaign
Thursday, October 27 (Toledo Blade)A federal grand jury has indicted Tom Noe the former Toledo-area coin dealer at the center of a state investment scandal on three counts for allegedly laundering money into President Bushs re-election campaign.
The three-count indictment says that beginning in October 2003, Mr. Noe contributed to President Bushs election campaign over and above the limits established by the Federal Election Campaign Act."
He did so, according to the indictment, in order to fulfill his pledge to raise $50,000 for a Bush-Cheney fund-raiser held in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 30, 2003, Gregory White, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced at an afternoon news conference
The two other counts were for conspiracy and filing false statements. More
What It's Like
By Paul Begala
From: TPMCafe Special Guests
Thursday, October 27 (TPM Cafe)Tom Petty was wrong. The waiting is not the hardest part.
Sure, all of what Eric Alterman dubbed "the punditocracy" has a severe case of indictus interruptus, but for President Bush and his White House staff, the worst is yet to come. To be sure, waiting on a decision to indict is an exquisite form of torture. But what lies ahead is worse. If special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald does choose to indict one or more senior Bush White House officials, they will be the first top White House aides to be indicted in a decade and a half.
This is when a White House staffer earns his pay. The pressure of a federal criminal investigation - especially one in the media spotlight - is bone-crushing. My guess is that the strain is taking a gruesome toll. Already we hear rumors of President Bush exploding at his aides, at the President blaming Vice President Cheney, Karl Rove, and anyone else in sight for his woes.
This I know first hand: when The Boss explodes like that, there are two kinds of aides -- those who fight and those who flee. When he came to Washington, Mr. Bush surrounded himself with tough-minded people who seemed not to be afraid to stand up to him. But now his team is loaded with weak-kneed toadies, and Mr. Bush is home alone. Karl Rove, of course, is fending off a potential indictment. His prodigious brain has not entertained another thought in months. (That's why, I suspect, some months back Rove popped off and said liberals wanted to give terrorists psychotherapy after 9/11. It was a loopy, stupid, and distinctly un-Rovian, meltdown - the first public sign that the pressure was causing Karl to crack.) More
Miers Failed to Win Support of Key Senators and Conservatives
Thursday, October 27 (New York Times)Harriet E. Miers withdrew her nomination for the Supreme Court this morning after her selection by President Bush led to criticism from both conservatives and liberals.
In recent days, several prominent members of the Republican Party had begun to publicly question Ms. Miers's nomination, suggesting was not conservative enough on issues such as abortion. Others, including Democrats and Republicans, have questioned Ms. Miers's lack of judicial experience since her nomination was announced on Oct. 3.
Democratic senators had also sought White House documents from Ms. Miers, who is the White House counsel, that might have given clues to her judicial philosophy.
Concern among conservatives over her views on abortion and judicial philosophy heightened on Wednesday when The Washington Post reported that Ms. Miers, in a 1993 speech in Dallas, spoke approvingly about a trend toward "self-determination" in resolving debates about law and religion, including those involving abortion rights and religion in public schools and public places.
In a statement today, President Bush said he had "reluctantly" accepted her decision to withdraw.
"It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure as the White House - disclosures that would undermine a president's ability to receive candid counsel," Mr. Bush said in the statement. More
|Wednesday, October 26|
America in 2020
The chair of the DLC's American Dream Initiative has an optimistic vision of the not-too-distant future.
By Hillary Rodham Clinton
Wednesday, October 26 (Blueprint Magazine)I am honored to accept Governor Vilsack's challenge to lead the American Dream Initiative for the DLC, because its mission goes to the heart of why I am a senator and what I believe about public service: that we are here to leave our children a richer, safer, smarter, and stronger land than the one we inherited from our parents, and that tomorrow can be better than today if we work together seeking common ground, standing on common values, and moving forward. Today I would like to begin my new assignment by painting my own portrait ofthe American dream.
Now, to do so we have to take a time machine into the future, to July 25th, 2020. Now, we've come back to Columbus, Ohio, in 2020 with clearer vision for our country -- 20/20 vision. Ohio is back in the Democratic column, as it should be. And the first thing we notice about America in 2020 is that it is a safer place. We are better protected against terror here at home and more capable of defeating it wherever it exists, with a unified, coherent strategy focused on eliminating terrorists wherever we find them, improving homeland defense, and delivering a message of hope and freedom that is far more compelling than the terrorist celebration of chaos and death.
Now, we worked hard for years to secure our country in a host of wise ways. In 2020, America is safer because we have invested more in protecting our borders, hardening nuclear, chemical, and other sensitive sites, inspecting more cargo and aircraft and ships, securing mass transit, making sure that mayors like Columbus Mayor Coleman and our police andfirefighters and emergency services have not only the resources, but the training and equipment that they need. We've put more troops in uniform, we've equipped them better, and we've trained them to face today's stress, not yesterday's. We've actually recognized that having the strongest military in the world is the first step, but we also have to have a strong commitment to using our military in smart ways that further peace, stability, and security around the world. I was talking to Mayor Coleman, whose son is currently with the Marines in Iraq, and I told him that I'd spent a lot of time talking to young Marines and soldiers both in Iraq, where I've been twice, and back home, and listened to them. There has never been a better generation of young people who are volunteering and committing themselves to serve our nation. We have to make sure that we do everything possible to give them the resources, the respect, and the strategy they deserve. More
America Can Do Better
By Al From and Bruce Reed
Wednesdyay, October 26 (Blueprint Magazine)Hurricane Katrina exposed the Bush administration's failures of competence and ideology. Democrats must now offer a clear and confident vision for the future.
Like the floodwaters, the pain of Hurricane Katrina will begin to recede, the damage done. People will put their lives back togetherand the Gulf region will rebuild. But in the grim aftermath of the worst natural disaster in our history -- and the biggest bureaucratic one -- we must face the harsh reality that in the past few years, we have become far less than the great nation we should be. America can do better.
Katrina uncovered a host of vulnerabilities that had been hidden in plain view. Four years after 9/11, we should be ready to meet any threat, not be slow in response and inept in execution. Our country is supposed to be the land of opportunity, not desperation; a society that longs to be united, not divided; the nation where people have always come to get ahead, not be left behind.
The United States is the greatest nation on Earth. We're a nation that learns from its mistakes, not one that denies them or keeps making them. Yet today, America has a homeland defense that is based on bureaucracy, not security; an economic agenda that replaced the upward mobility of the last decade with four straight years of rising poverty in this one; social policies that divide the country over ideology instead of uniting Americans by making real progress on their problems; and a corrupt political culture that consistently protects its own interests, even as it consistently fails to protect the American people.
As if each of those problems weren't trouble enough, the national government's latest catastrophic failure deals another blow to one of America's greatest assets -- our can-do spirit. The Bush administration could not have prevented the natural disaster of Katrina, but it could have prevented the man-made disaster of its response to Katrina.
In the 20th century, the United States defeated fascism and communism, dominated the global economy, and created the largest middle class the world has ever known. So far, in the 21st century, we've been attacked by terrorists on our own soil, failed to win the war on terror, lost momentum in Iraq, gone deep into debt to our greatest economic competitor, and watched household incomes stagnate for four straight years for the first time on record. More
5:36pmIt Would Make a Great Movie, But it's True and People are Getting Blown to Bits
I'm sure most to all of you are aware that the link between the Italian report on Saddam's puported yellowcake purchases and the White House Iraq Group is now being investigated by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. It's really causing a stink in the White House. For the first time someone with the power to indict, who's also immune to the Republican Slime Machine, is getting to the bottom of Bush's claim that Saddam was looking to buy the essential ingredients for an atomic bomb.
You can read the translated series of reports, appearing in la Repubblica here, here, and here. Check it out. It sounds like a mix between John LeCarre, Ridley Scott, and Tom Clancy. Too bad it's true, and a couple of hundred people a month get killed.
It is becoming crystal-clear that America was lied to. The number of people that believe the war was the right thing to do has recently overtaken the number of people who think it was the wrong thing. That the lies behind the forged yellowcake, aluminum tubes, etc. are now being fully investigated will only intensify the vortex that's pulling the administration of George W. Bush down the drain. Depending upon the indictments, and the reaction to the inevitable report, we may have a constitutional crisis on our hands. We may see a Republican congress be forced to put a sitting president and vice-president on trial for impeachment.
If Bush was aware that the foundation of his justification for war was false, and that the VP was complicit in this knowledge, I can't see how Congress could avoid an impeachment trial. First and foremost because it would be the first time a President willfully lied to prompt the country into a war of choice. This isn't pre-WWII America, and Bush is in no way FDR. The bogeymen of the Neocons is not as clear and present a danger as Hitler, Mussolini, and General Tojo.
If it becomes clear that impeachment is the only fitting punishment for this crime (I'm sure someone will make a fairly good case for murder, genocide, and crimes against humanity) then a Republican Congress must impeach. Not doing so is risking a swift and lasting public rebuke of the Republican Party. They've already dropped the ball on the long-forgotten House and Senate investigations that were supposed to get to the "truth." We're past the point of investigation. If, given the evidence, they don't vote to impeach, as I said before the republic will rebuke them. The last one they endured took them down for almost 20 years. But even that muddies the morality lesson in this. Ironically, it's something you'd think this batch of GOP'ers could understand, given their constant chest-thumping on how close they are with God. Morally, this country is at it's lowest. These are the works of men who publicly stated they were here to bring dignity to Washington.
But this ain't Monicagate. This is a real crime.
Here is the crime in outing of CIA agent
by Gary Hart, for the Denver Post
Wednesday, October 26 (Denver Post)It is now fashionable among columnists supporting the Bush administration, New York Times journalist Judith Miller, Robert Novak and the increasing network of senior administration officials implicated in the Valerie Plame Wilson outing to say, "So what? Where's the crime?"
The federal statute making it a criminal penalty to knowingly divulge the identity of anyone working undercover for the Central Intelligence Agency was not enacted in a vacuum. In the early 1970s, in part as a result of the radicalization of individuals and groups over the Vietnam War, a former CIA employee named Philip Agee wrote a book revealing the identities of several dozen CIA employees, many under deep cover and some including agency station chiefs in foreign capitals.
Many of the countries in which those CIA employees were working themselves had extremely radical and violent elements stirred to hatred over their opposition to America's conduct in the Vietnam War. So, by revealing their identities, Agee had knowingly and willingly placed these American citizens at risk. Violent consequences were predictable.
Richard Welch, a brilliant Harvard-educated classicist, had been stationed in Greece as CIA station chief only a few months before he was murdered, by a radical Greek terrorist organization called the 17th of November, in the doorway of his house in Athens on Dec. 23, 1975. Had Agee not divulged his name, there is every reason to believe that Welch would be alive today after decades of loyal service to his country. More
|Tuesday, October 25|
CIA Leak Linked to Dispute Over Iraq Policy
As Grand Jury Term Nears End, Officials' Critique of Administration Gains Attention
Tuesday, October 25 (Washington Post)The alleged leaking of a CIA operative's name had its roots in a clash over Iraq policy between White House insiders and their rivals in the permanent bureaucracy of Washington, especially in the State Department and the CIA.
As the investigation into the leak reaches its expected climax this week with the expiration of the grand jury's term, the internal disputes have been further amplified by a recent string of speeches and interviews criticizing the administration's handling of Iraq, including by former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and State Department diplomats, and other officials involved in the early efforts to stabilize Iraq.
(key paragraph)...A top State Department official involved in Iraq policy, former ambassador Robin Raphel, said the administration was "not prepared" when it invaded Iraq, but did so anyway in part because of "clear political pressure, election driven and calendar driven," according to an oral history interview posted on the Web site of the congressionally funded U.S. Institute of Peace. More
Ed note: Raphael's interview can be found here. The entire set of interviews can be found here
|Monday, October 24|
Walker's World: Bush at bay
Monday, October 24 (UPI)The CIA leak inquiry that threatens senior White House aides has now widened to include the forgery of documents on African uranium that started the investigation, according to NAT0 intelligence sources.
This suggests the inquiry by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald into the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame has now widened to embrace part of the broader question about the way the Iraq war was justified by the Bush administration.
Fitzgerald's inquiry is expected to conclude this week and despite feverish speculation in Washington, there have been no leaks about his decision whether to issue indictments and against whom and on what charges.
Two facts are, however, now known and between them they do not bode well for the deputy chief of staff at the White House, Karl Rove, President George W Bush's senior political aide, not for Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
The first is that Fitzgerald last year sought and obtained from the Justice Department permission to widen his investigation from the leak itself to the possibility of cover-ups, perjury and obstruction of justice by witnesses. This has renewed the old saying from the days of the Watergate scandal, that the cover-up can be more legally and politically dangerous than the crime.
The second is that NATO sources have confirmed to United Press International that Fitzgerald's team of investigators has sought and obtained documentation on the forgeries from the Italian government.
Fitzgerald's team has been given the full, and as yet unpublished report of the Italian parliamentary inquiry into the affair, which started when an Italian journalist obtained documents that appeared to show officials of the government of Niger helping to supply the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein with Yellowcake uranium. This claim, which made its way into President Bush's State of the Union address in January, 2003, was based on falsified documents from Niger and was later withdrawn by the White House.
This opens the door to what has always been the most serious implication of the CIA leak case, that the Bush administration could face a brutally damaging and public inquiry into the case for war against Iraq being false or artificially exaggerated. This was the same charge that imperiled the government of Bush's closest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, after a BBC Radio program claimed Blair's aides has "sexed up" the evidence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
There can be few more serious charges against a government than going to war on false pretences, or having deliberately inflated or suppressed the evidence that justified the war. More
Letters Show Frist Notified Of Stocks in 'Blind' Trusts
Documents Contradict Comments on Holdings
Monday, October 24 (Washington Post)Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) was given considerable information about his stake in his family's hospital company, according to records that are at odds with his past statements that he did not know what was in his stock holdings.
Managers of the trusts that Frist once described as "totally blind," regularly informed him when they added new shares of HCA Inc. or other assets to his holdings, according to the documents.
Since 2001, the trustees have written to Frist and the Senate 15 times detailing the sale of assets from or the contribution of assets to trusts of Frist and his family. The letters included notice of the addition of HCA shares worth $500,000 to $1 million in 2001 and HCA stock worth $750,000 to $1.5 million in 2002. The trust agreements require the trustees to inform Frist and the Senate whenever assets are added or sold.
The letters seem to undermine one of the major arguments the senator has used throughout his political career to rebut criticism of his ownership in HCA: that the stock was held in blind trusts beyond his control and that he had little idea of the extent of those holdings More
Outspoken Ben Bernanke is shaking up the Federal Reserve
Monday, October 24 (US News & World Report)As a graduate student in economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1970s, Federal Reserve governor Ben Bernanke was obsessed with two of the 20th century's biggest sources of misery: the Great Depression and the Boston Red Sox. "I missed a lot of classes my first fall at MIT because of the Boston-Cincinnati World Series," he says. The BoSox lost and have brought Bernanke mostly sorrow since. "I've been trying to wean myself from them since 1986," the year of their heartbreaking series defeat to the Mets, he says. The Depression, on the other hand, has been propelling Bernanke's career and shaping his thinking for nearly three decades.
Bernanke's thinking matters a great deal these days. Tapped by the White House in August 2002 to fill an unexpired term on the central bank's governing board, the Princeton University economist couldn't have been appointed at a more pivotal time. As a leading monetary policy scholar and now the resident intellectual at the Fed, Bernanke and his innovations on fine-tuning the economy will be important to maintaining the momentum of a still uncertain recovery while remaining ever vigilant for signs of overheating. At the same time, with job gains anemic and a presidential election looming, Bernanke and his fellow policymakers will find themselves under enormous pressure to keep the stimulus throttle open.
(key paragraphs)...The world got its first glimpse of Bernanke's economic acuity in 1983 when, while he was an associate professor of economics at Stanford's business school, the American Economic Review (a journal that later appointed him editor) published his groundbreaking paper on the Depression. Before, economists laid all the blame for the stagnation of the 1930s on the Fed for letting the money supply fall in the face of the banking panic that followed the 1929 stock market crash. But Bernanke's research concretely linked the Depression's severity to a seizing-up of the financial system. "Ben redirected people's attention back to the problem of defaulting loans and bonds and the resulting inability of financial institutions to move credit from lenders to borrowers," says Harvard University monetary policy expert Benjamin Friedman.
Analyzing the Depression etched into Bernanke's economic soul a deep and abiding respect for the dangers of deflation, a general decline in prices that can lead to a downward spiral of production cutbacks and rising unemployment, as happened in the United States in the 1930s and more recently in Japan. Bernanke continued to quench his thirst for Depression-era wisdom at Princeton University, where he served in the economics department from 1985 (the last seven years as chairman) until his Fed appointment. He's widely credited with attracting even more impressive talent to the Princeton faculty. More
11:20 amPaul Krugman on Ben Barnanke
The Greenspan Successor
Alan Greenspan is expected to retire next year. The Bush administration, because of its nature, will have a hard time finding a successor.
One Fed chairman famously described his job as being to "take away the punch bowl just when the party gets going." Bond and currency markets want monetary policy in the hands of someone who will say no to politicians. When a country's central banker is suspected of having insufficient spine, the result is higher interest rates and a weaker currency.
Today it's even more crucial than usual that the Fed chairman have the markets' trust. The United States is running record budget and trade deficits, and the foreigners we depend on to cover those deficits are losing faith. According to yesterday's Financial Times, central banks around the world have already started shifting into euros. If Mr. Greenspan is replaced with someone who looks like a partisan hack, capital will rush to the exits, the dollar will plunge, and interest rates will soar.
Yet President Bush, as you may have noticed, only appoints yes-men (or yes-women). This is most obvious on the national security front, but it's equally true with regard to economic policy. The current Treasury secretary has no obvious qualifications other than loyalty. The new head of the National Economic Council apparently got the job because he is a Bush classmate and fund-raiser.
Of course, Mr. Greenspan himself has become a Bush yes-man. The chairman acted as a stern father figure, demanding fiscal rectitude, when Democrats held the White House. But he turned into an indulgent uncle when Mr. Bush took office. First, he urged Congress to cut taxes in order, he said, to prevent an excessively large budget surplus. Then, when surpluses were replaced by huge deficits, he supported a highly irresponsible second round of tax cuts.
Nonetheless, Mr. Greenspan retains considerable credibility with the markets. Who else can satisfy both Mr. Bush and foreign investors?
11:12 amBrad DeLong on Ben Bernanke
Ben Bernanke Goes to Crawford
Ben Bernanke reports on what he said to Bush. He apparently failed to stress two important things:
1. Bush administration fiscal policy is way out of balance in the long run, and this is a very serious problem: if the government doesn't balance its budget (in the sense of keeping real debt growing no faster than real GDP), then the market will balance the budget for it in ways that nobody will like.
2. Bush administration international economic policy is way out of balance as well: the administration should be doing much more than it is doing--i.e., nothing--to try to minimize the size of the financial crisis should foreigners suddenly decide to dump their dollar assets on a large scale.
These are two things that George W. Bush and his inner circle need to hear as often as possible. And I'm scared that nobody is telling them.
Brad also wrote this about Ben
The Scary Side of Ben Bernanke
Bush should look elsewhere when Greenspan steps down.
Monday, October 24 (National Review Online)Last Fridays Wall Street Journal reported that Larry Lindsey has been added to President Bushs short list of potential replacements for Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve. Martin Feldstein, Glenn Hubbard, and Ben Bernanke are the other three most prominently mentioned, with Bernanke the front runner on Tradesports.com.
Bernanke recently weighed in with his opinions on the economy in the Journal, and while he lauded tax cuts, free trade, and legal reform, a supply-sider he is not. His views on how tax cuts impact the economy, his odd interest in demand charts, and not to mention his discredited beliefs about limits to growth and full employment, should have Bush supporters concerned.
About taxes, Bernanke spoke of fiscal stimulus that has diminished in the past few quarters. Bernanke is clearly in the Keynesian camp on taxes, holding that they should be reduced during times of slack demand and increased when economic growth reaches its natural limits. While Keynesians see tax cuts through a demand-driven, short-term stimulus prism in which their impact gradually recedes, supply-siders encourage marginal rate cuts for their long-term (and continuous) incentive effects on economic activity. The distinction between the two schools of thought is crucial, particularly given the growing influence of the Fed on Capitol Hill.
Moving to the economic impact of demand, Bernanke asked how much demand in the latest quarter appears to have been satisfied out of inventories rather than from new production. But supply-siders dont even consider this they dont because they know that products are ultimately bought with other products. Demand will always exist, as human wants are unlimited. But what Bernanke deems demand is in fact producers offering up their surpluses for those of others. In the supply-side model, what Bernanke sees as a fall in aggregate demand is in fact a fall in production something supply-siders agree results from governmental meddling along the lines of excessive taxation, regulation, and unstable money. More
Ed note: is the enemy of my enemy my friend? That would be one way of looking at it. But since this guy is now Chairman of the Fed, it would be much more prudent to think of him in reality-based ways.