Get Your Blog Up

“This administration is populated by people who’ve spent their careers bashing government. They’re not just small-government conservatives—they’re Grover Norquist, strangle-it-in-the-bathtub conservatives. It’s a cognitive disconnect for them to be able to do something well in an arena that they have so derided and reviled all these years.”

Senator Hillary Clinton

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Coachella bound

I'm off for the weekend, more than likely. I may be by tomorrow morn. If not great weekend.


Friday, April 29, 2005

Why Bush's plan won't work

Here it is, in a nutshell (my emphesis):
Larry Forseth, in the audience for Bush's event, said he voted for the president last year but didn't know what to think about the Social Security debate. He's worried about the Bush plan: "If I've been working hard for it, why should I be the one to get my benefit cut?"

Why, indeed?

Friday Random Ten - Here Comes Coachella edition

(Idea) Yeah, that's right I'm goin'. It is in my backyard after all.

1. Dance With Me - Adam Green
2. I Like F'ing - Bikini Kill
3. Don't Make a Sound - Azure Ray
4. Memory Lane - Elliott Smith
5. Hit & Run Holiday - My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
6. Camera - Wilco
7. When You Were Mine - Tegan & Sara
8. We Built Another World - Wolf Parade
9. 654321 - Mahi Mahi
10. Sleep Spent - Death Cab For Cutie

Anyone out there going to Coachella this weekend? Or anyone you want me to see for you?

Banning Shakespeare

It's all about "protecting the hearts and souls and minds of our children," apparently:
Republican Alabama lawmaker Gerald Allen says homosexuality is an unacceptable lifestyle. As CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassmann reports, under his bill, public school libraries could no longer buy new copies of plays or books by gay authors, or about gay characters.


Books by any gay author would have to go: Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote and Gore Vidal. Alice Walker's novel "The Color Purple" has lesbian characters.

Allen originally wanted to ban even some Shakespeare. After criticism, he narrowed his bill to exempt the classics, although he still can't define what a classic is. Also exempted now Alabama's public and college libraries.

CBS notes the bill has since failed when not enough state legislators showed up for the vote.


While Americans' income rose .5 percent and disposable income rose .6 percent, it's not as great as it sounds:
When inflation was taken into account, spending in March rose a more modest 0.1 percent following a 0.4 percent increase in February. That sharp difference was explained in part by the fact that energy prices surged during the month, forcing consumers to spend more at the gasoline pump and leaving them with less to spend elsewhere.

While incomes were up 0.5 percent, disposable incomes, the amount left after paying taxes, also showed a 0.5 percent gain in March. However, that increase was wiped out when inflation was taken into account to show no gain in inflation-adjusted disposable incomes in March following a small 0.1 percent increase in February.

Personal savings, represented as a percentage of disposable income, dropped to 0.4 percent in March, the lowest level for savings since a negative 0.2 percent savings rate in October 2001.

*UPDATE* Angry Bear notes the personal savings rate hit an all time low as well...

Russert on the payroll

Someone should check and see if Tim Russert's been getting paychecks from the White House.

Quite the cheerleader, Timmy boy.

Presidential math

Bush did not lay out any specific ideas in his news conference, but the fact sheet said "benefit increases for wealthier seniors should grow no faster than the rate of inflation," adding that "this reform would solve approximately 70 percent of the funding problems facing Social Security."

Plus this, the President's own words last night:
A variety of options are available to solve the rest of the problem, and I will work with Congress on any good-faith proposal that does not raise the payroll tax rate or harm our economy.

Equals even more benefit cuts on top or his slippery slope to middle class poverty known as "progressive indexing."

If you aren't going to raise the revenue Social Scurity takes in, you have to cut benefits that it pays out. Those are your only two choices. So if Bush is ruling out tax increases, there's only one thing left...

And before you think that slippery slope he proposed is a fine idea, think about how much you made last year. $30k? $40k? Take a look at this, if you haven't already.

How do those cuts sound to you?

*UPDATE* Yglesias at the Prospect notes it's cuts to disability payments that are proposed to make up this gap, in an post he entitiles "Math, White House Style." Great minds and all that?

*UPDATE* And if things don't go as bad as Social Security projections claim they will, an arguement many have made repeatedly since the debate began? Benefits get cut even deeper:
For example, the Social Security actuaries project that real wage growth will average 1.1 percent annually. If real wage growth turns out to average 1.6 percent annually, the benefit cuts under progressive price indexing would be considerably larger than the benefit reductions described above. For example, under the Trustees’ assumptions of 1.1 percent real wage growth, an average-wage earner retiring in 2075 would get a 28 percent benefit reduction under progressive price indexing (relative to the benefits that would be provided under the current benefit structure). If real wage growth were 1.6 percent, this worker would be subject to a 35 percent benefit reduction.

Yet stronger real wage growth would reduce Social Security’s imbalance (by increasing payroll tax revenues upfront and increasing benefit payments only with a considerable lag in time). The Social Security Trustees estimate that increasing real wage growth to 1.6 percent annually would eliminate nearly one-third of the 75-year shortfall. This means that if real wage growth were stronger in future decades than the Trustees currently project, progressive price indexing would result in deeper benefit cuts, even as the Social Security shortfall was getting smaller on its own.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The President speaks

Nothing inspires the country like a politician reading a speech. Seems a little, um, unbelievable to me.

That line he keeps using, that tomorrow's retirees will recieve benefits "equal to or higher than today's seniors" is going to get torn apart. I'm sure the dollar amount senior get today won't be enough for the youth of today to survive on. And I'm sure the rest of the blogs will rip it up pretty good.

Sadly, I'm probably out for the rest of the night.

*UPDATE* Did my President really say that "liquified" natural gas is natural gas in its solid form? Do I just not know enough about natural gas, or too much about science?

The bill comes due

Even downward revision can't prepare the street for disappointing GDP numbers:
Buffeted by rising energy prices and weakened consumer and business spending, the economy grew at an annual rate of just 3.1 percent in the first quarter. The slowest pace of expansion since in two years was evidence of a new “soft patch.”

The latest reading on gross domestic product, released by the Commerce Department Thursday, showed that consumers and businesses turned cautious in their spending, a key factor in the slower economic growth. High energy prices and rising borrowing costs are causing Americans to tighten their belts a bit.

The first-quarter GDP figure, down from a 3.8 percent pace logged in the final quarter of 2004, represents the economy’s most sluggish showing since the first quarter of 2003, when economic activity expanded at an even more mediocre 1.9 percent rate.

One of the things driving the economy has been the average American's willingness to borrow money. Combine rising interest rates with slower income growth, and you could see some real problems coming in the future.


To use the logic of those on the right, if Bill Frist is out offering compromises on the filibuster, that must mean he doesn't have the votes and has played this whole thing poorly.

It's only logical, right?

By the way, I think Henry Reid's characterization of the offer as "a big wet kiss to the far right," is pretty apt.


Arnold's approval rating slips further:
The poll from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that only 40 percent of adults now approve of the way Schwarzenegger is handling his job as governor, a whopping 20 percentage point drop since January.

Among "likely voters," his approval rating was a higher 45 percent, but that fell from 63 percent at the start of the year.

Schwarzenegger aides dismissed the results as little more than a temporary slide after months of attacks from public employee labor unions and other critics of his policies.

Even though Arnold's movies got horrible reviews, people still went to see them. So while the poll numbers are dreary, he still has room to move. Opponents need to sharpen their critiques of Arnold's proposed policies if they are going to keep him sub 50 and out of the running for 2006.

I think, too, that this is becoming the general sentiment in the state:
"I'm a Democrat who voted for Schwarzenegger," says Wendy Bokota, an Irvine PTA activist and mother of two elementary school children. "Like everybody else, I voted without being really informed about the issues. I believed people when they said Gray Davis really was causing problems. I thought Schwarzenegger had the ability to make change — and he does, but he's trying to do it on the backs of education.

"I thought repealing the vehicle license fee sounded great and would save me a lot of money, but I didn't understand the problems it was going to cause the state budget."

Free candy is a wonderful thing, but someone has to bear the costs eventually, and Arnold made a bad political decision to charge it to the school system. Until he straightens out the $2 billion owed to the schools, I'm not sure how much movement we see in his numbers.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Cincinnati Reds blogging

Wow. That was sad. There was absolutely no reason to pitch to a guy hitting .400 on the season with two men on and one out in the 7th. But Dave Miley and Joe Valentine thought it'd be prudent to go after Derrek Lee. And he made them pay.

At least there's an off day tomorrow so they can get over this. Giving up a 6-1 lead can never be easy.

Now they sit 10-11, 5 games out of first place. I'd say that's pretty reasonable, given the caliber of starting pitching they've faced. Mark Prior twice, Kerry Wood, Clemens, Oswalt twice, A.J. Burnett, Dontrelle Willis, Tom Glavine, Mark Mulder, Andy Pettite, Pedro... That's twelve tough games right there.

Add that to inconsistent starting pitching, a poor average with runners in scoring position, and a bullpen that's shaky at best (outside of Ryan Wagner) and 10-11 is well above expectations.

It gives me a false sense of hope for the summer.

I can't decide which is worse - Republicans claiming to cut taxes when they actually raise them, or Republicans accusing Democrats of raising taxes when their own members voted for the tax hike as well.

[Governor Bob] Taft has been selling his tax package around the state as the largest income-tax cut in the state's history. At an April 15 event in Cincinnati, Taft promoted the plan as helping all Ohioans.

But the governor seldom mentions other taxes and fees that would rise under his plan - on electricity, on garbage disposal, on beer, wine and tobacco products, on the sale of homes and more.


About 60 percent of Ohio households face increased taxes under the plan, according to a study by the nonpartisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy in Washington. Weighing the tax increases against the income-tax cuts, the study found that Ohio households with incomes of $43,000 or less will pay more under Taft's plan.

"Alabama House Democrats showed their desire for fiscal irresponsibility by passing an education budget that could lead to higher taxes and classroom cuts," the GOP release states. Apparently, however, most Republicans are eager to have fiscal irresponsibility as well.

What the party's heated missive somehow failed to mention is that 30 Republican House members voted for the budget. Of the 39 Republicans who voted on the budget -- one abstained and one did not vote -- 30 voted for it. That's slightly more than three-quarters of the voting members.

That means the difference between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to taxes is that Republicans lie to the voters and screw the lower class when they do.

If that's how the right wins elections, I think I'll stay left.

The Bush economy chugs along

Too bad it's moving in reverse:
U.S. orders for durable goods unexpectedly fell 2.8 percent in March, the biggest decline in more than two years, as demand for aircraft, cars and computers slumped, a government report showed.

Orders for expensive items made to last at least three years decreased to $194 billion after falling a revised 0.2 percent in February, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Forecasts called for an increase in March orders. Excluding orders for transportation equipment, bookings fell 1 percent after falling a revised 0.2 percent.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Let the investigation begin!

The chairman of the House ethics committee has conceded that his Republican colleagues must reverse partisan changes to investigative rules if they hope to break a deadlock that has virtually shut the panel down, a senior GOP aide said Tuesday.

The conclusion reached by Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., may be unpopular with Republicans who muscled the changes through the House in January. Since then, GOP lawmakers have had to defend their votes against accusations by Democrats — and media editorials — that the changes were designed to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay from further investigation.

LA Times:
Sometime this week, the most powerful man in the House of Representatives is expected to take the rare and politically painful step of acknowledging he made a mistake.

According to his aides, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is convinced he must act quickly to end a messy impasse with House Democrats that has paralyzed the chamber's ethics committee. Intensifying the standoff's political fallout is that it has continued as questions have mounted about the conduct of the House's second most powerful man -- Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Hastert is expected to move to limit the damage. Aides say he will probably allow a floor vote to rescind rule changes for the ethics committee that he pushed through the chamber on a party-line vote in January, and may offer a new package of rules to replace them.

Democrats have argued that the rule changes made it virtually impossible for the committee to open and conduct investigations.

Two great tastes

I guess the combined approval rating of Tom DeLay and Social Security privatization is up above 50%, so it would only make sense to combine two things unpopular on their own into one big campaign stop.

Other than the President showing support for Tom DeLay, I'm not sure how this helps either side. Bush's approval rating still hovers in the high 40's, not enough to drag Tommy Boy's name out of the muck. DeLay has his own ethics battle and pulic mistrust problems going on, so I'm not sure how he helps sell privatization to the masses.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Arnold appeals to women

Remember, ladies, he wants your vote in 2006:
Schwarzenegger explained [on the Howard Stern Show], "If we get rid of the moon, women, whose menstrual cycles are governed by the moon, will not get PMS. They will stop bitching and whining."

*UPDATE* Whoops:
A U.S. political commentator has admitted he failed to check his facts when he erroneously reported on the MSNBC cable news network last month that Schwarzenegger had jokingly advocated doing away with the moon.

In one of the stranger mea culpas from a major U.S. news outlet in recent years, the commentator, Joe Scarborough, a former congressman, acknowledged on Friday that the governor's purported lunar outburst on the nationally syndicated radio show of Howard Stern was actually a spoof.

Another Republican for the troops

Arizona Republican Jon Kyl, who is up for re-election to the Senate in 2006, apparently doesn't think the troops in Iraq need armored Humvees.

What a guy. And that's after recent polls showing Kyl's favorability rating dropping to 42 percent, down seven points since January. I still think it's a longshot, but those numbers can only encourage Arizona Democrats.

What, me worry?

Can someone explain to me why the Democratic leaning youth population would suddenly switch to Republicans once they become married?

If you can convince me, then I will worry more about this.

Misread filibuster

Conservative bloggers are drooling over Mitch McConnell's pronouncement over the weekend that Republicans had the necessary votes to overturn the filibuster. They say Democratic wishes for compromise are signs that McConnell is right.

As a Democrat, I'm hoping Republicans follow the advise of the hard right and pull that trigger.

Remember that the "nuclear option" is something a majority of Americans oppose. And not just a slight majority, mind you, but close to two thirds of the country, and that includes a majority of Republicans as well. And Reid has said repeatedly that his slowdown of Senate business will look nothing like the Republican shutdown almost ten years prior:
"I'm not Newt Gingrich," Reid said. "I understand how the body works. We're not going to close down the Senate. Far from it, we're going to have a very active Senate."

"Anything that's vital, we will continue to move forward on: money for our troops or a highway bill or a transportation bill," added Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., in a conference call. "But on other issues, what we are going to try to do is utilize the Senate rules to start focusing on issues that we think matter to the American people, whether it's gas prices or education or health care."

Democrats are vocal about their willingness to compromise because they will be seen as the magnanimous ones. They have public opinion on their side, and they are now in the public eye as the ones offering fig leaves to avert the button push. Smart Republicans would pull back and take what they can.

*UPDATE* While we are on the subject:
If the Constitution guarantees nominees a full Senate vote, there are a lot of Clinton nominees whose rights were rudely trampled. It's hard to see why blocking a nomination by means of a filibuster is illegitimate but blocking one by means of committee inaction is not. It's hard to see why a parliamentary procedure that has existed for two centuries is suddenly unconstitutional.

But sometimes you can't see something because your view is obstructed. Sitting atop all three branches of government, Republicans suddenly have no trouble seeing the need for the majority to get its way, right away.

Power corrupts...

*UPDATE, TOO* Via Basie!:
...[T]oday Reid outlined a different approach, saying he will use a variety of approaches to force floor votes on Democratic legislative priorities. That could trigger roll call votes Republicans might prefer to avoid.

Bills on the Democrats’ list include a veterans’ benefit increase (S 845), a pay-as-you go budget bill (S 851), a minimum wage increase (S 846), education funding increase (S 848); suspension of crude oil deliveries to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (S 847) and a family planning funding bill (S 844).

Sounds like fun to me.

One final nail

In his final word, the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said Monday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has "gone as far as feasible" and has found nothing, closing an investigation into the purported programs of Saddam Hussein that were used to justify the 2003 invasion.

"After more than 18 months, the WMD investigation and debriefing of the WMD-related detainees has been exhausted," wrote Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, in an addendum to the final report he issued last fall.

"As matters now stand, the WMD investigation has gone as far as feasible."

In 92 pages posted online Monday evening, Duelfer provides a final look at an investigation that occupied over 1,000 military and civilian translators, weapons specialists and other experts at its peak. His latest addenda conclude a roughly 1,500-page report released last fall.

On Monday, Duelfer said there is no purpose in keeping many of the detainees who are in custody because of their knowledge on Iraq's weapons, although he did not provide any details about the current number. A U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ultimate decision on their release will be made by the Iraqi authorities.

Out of touch

I love to see Republicans and George Bush pushing so hard for so many things that a majority of Americans do not support.

It really makes you wonder why a majority of Americans elected a bunch of politicians so out of touch with what they value, doesn't it?

Ignoring the economy

Paul Krugman writes that the Bush's base is pretty satisfied with the direction of the country and especially the economy, it's just the rest of the country that is hung out to dry.

That may be true, but I think there is another reason that Republicans have steered clear of addressing the economic hardships of the average American: they have no plan. While you can argue that the Democrats are lacking in this department as well, Democrats are not the ones in charge of the country. They can do nothing without Republican support, something they are fairly unlikely to get in this highly partisan world that we've come to reside in.

It explains all the distractions as well - the Social Security battle, filibusters, Terri Schiavo - all because Republicans have no plans to address the actual needs of America as a whole. It worked well enough when they had gay marriage and Iraq as a smokescreen for the actual needs of the country, so they tried a few other issues they thought would have the same appeal. And boy, were they wrong.

I won't say it spells defeat for the GOP come 2006, at least not yet. But it should worry them a little bit that Democrats generally poll stronger on the very issues that the majority of Americans see as the biggest problems they face today. If Democrats can capitalize on this gap, some solid gains could be made 2006, and the changing of America's direction then becomes both the political through line and the mantra for 2008.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Shays: Seniors are stupid

U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays is pulling back his support for President Bush's privatization plan:
"I think there is a real concern about taking something from (Social Security) because, candidly, people are not as comfortable as I am about the effectiveness of a thrift savings account," said Shays, who described people's reaction to the plan as generational. "Seniors don't like it. They want a defined benefit. Those who understand the idea of compound interest do."

Yeah, why can't senior citizens get behind the idea of compound interest? Are they dense or something? Or do they realize that compound interest actually means nothing to people whose initial investments fail?

Maybe senior are actually smarter than Chris Shays thinks.

Locals know

The Galveston County Daily News weighs in on the "Galveston Plan," the county's alternative to Social Security:
We’re open to changes in Social Security but don’t think the Galveston Plan is the best model for change. The plan has two problems.

The first is that it benefits workers at the top of the pay scale more than it benefits those at the bottom.

We’ll admit that’s a hotly contested conclusion. We’ve followed the debate. We’ve studied the arguments on both sides.

The conclusions that make the most sense are those drawn from a study conducted by the Government Accounting Office in 1999.

In general, the study found that the alternate plan benefited higher-paid employees. The study found that low-income workers would fare better under Social Security.

Obviously, that’s a problem that any attempt at reform should avoid.

The people who most need an adequate guaranteed income are those at the bottom of the pay scale. Any effort to reform Social Security must take that truth as a starting point.

The second problem with the Galveston Plan is that a worker can opt out of the deal. Some county workers have done so. Over the years, we’ve talked to some who cashed in their chips, bought a new car and started looking for work elsewhere.

What do they have to show for their time with the county? Nothing. No Galveston Plan. No Social Security.

What happens when those workers retire? The burden of caring for them probably will fall back on the public. That burden is one of the things Social Security was designed to alleviate.

If you think about the analogy between Bush’s proposal to reform Social Security and the Galveston Plan you’ll come to one conclusion. The analogy is awfully superficial.

Shopping for religion

After reading this article on big business expressing strong opposition to Bill Frist and his "nuclear option," I am forced to ask myself one question: Why do business interests hate religion, and by extension, America itself?

Is it time for a boycott until they rein in their heathen ways?

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Gov. Arnold, flip-flopper

Things like this aren't going to help him if he runs for re-election.

One of the reasons Democrats felt it was okay to vote for Arnold was his claimed support for the environment. Turning his back on protecting the Sierra Nevada is going to make those people think twice (if they aren't on thirds or fourths already) before voting his way again.

Friday, April 22, 2005

If you believe the Corner

Take it with a grain of salt:
Two weeks ago, I posted that there appeared to be at least 50 votes for ending filibusters against judges--the so-called "constitutional" or "nuclear" option.

The votes aren't there any more.

I hope he's right.

Too much nature

Am I the only one that finds this the least bit ironic:
President Bush canceled an Earth Day visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Friday because of bad weather.

And the last President to go to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park? FDR when he created it in 1940. Maybe some Social Security symbolism, too?

The impact of privatization

Portland Press Herald:
If President Bush's plan for Social Security were in place today, at least 33,000 Mainers would be in poverty and the state would be left to shoulder the burden, according to a new report from the Campaign for America's Future.

The national advocacy group says the president's idea of allowing people to divert a portion of their payroll taxes into private investment accounts would reduce guaranteed benefits for everybody.

That, in turn, would create a new generation of poor seniors in Maine whose housing and health care would need to be subsidized by the state, likely through higher taxes, the report says.

"People in Maine deserve to get the benefits they pay for and shouldn't accept a plan that makes things worse," Toby Chaudhuri, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based organization, said Thursday.

All my gay ex-foster parents live in Texas update

As mentioned earlier here, the Texas House passed a CPS reform ill with an amendment that would prohibit the adoption of foster children by homosexuals. The amendment also would force the removal of foster children from already existing placements in stable, loving homes where the parents are gay.

Yesterday, opponents of this amendment picked up a key Senate ally:
"I will strenuously object to that amendment going on to thean(sic) amendment to bill. I do not want to put this bill at risk of being tied up in court," said Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, author of Senate Bill 6. "They are not going to kill my bill."

And the House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Suzanna Hupp, said she is considering a rewrite of the amendment if the Senate rejects it. The rewrite, Hupp said, could effectively kill the amendment, by Rep. Robert Talton, R-Pasadena.

While her reasoning might not be as sound as I'd like, anything that prevents this blatant discrimination against gays that would disrupt the lives of countless children sounds good to me.

*UPDATE* Good:
Leading Republicans in Texas distanced themselves Friday from a proposal to make the state the only one to prohibit gays and lesbians from being foster parents. It appears the plan will die without becoming law.

The Texas House approved the plan this week, despite concerns that as many as 3,000 children could be removed from their homes. But amid a groundswell of anger and criticism, conservatives backed away from the proposal Friday.

Guess Republicans will have to find another way to destroy families in Texas.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Friday Random Ten: Why Wait 'Til Morning Edition

A new tradition, shamelessly borrowed from here.
1. Dead is Dead - The Calculators
2. All Roads to Fault - YourCodeNameIs:MILO
3. Dreamy You - All Girl Summer Fun Band
4. Service and Repair - Calexico
5. Wave - Calexico
6. Debonair - Afghan Whigs
7. The World At Large - Modest Mouse
8. Eyes Wide Open - Radio 4
9. This Little Light - Neko Case
10. I Predict a Riot - The Kaiser Chiefs

And for your piece of mind, I've always been completely honest.

Facing a political storm

When I'm tired, I make bad puns:
A conservative Republican senator who proposed that federal meteorologists be forbidden from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and the Weather Channel, has received nearly $4,000 from AccuWeather's founder and executive vice president since 2000, RAW STORY has discovered.

Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) introduced the bill last week. The senator's supporters (among them the founder and executive vice president of AccuWeather) note the bill provides an exemption that would allow organizations the National Hurricane Center from alerting the public to hazards.

He's learned from the best.

Mission accomplished!

The Minutemen Project dons a flight suit and has someone else land it on an aircraft carrier:
The Minuteman Project, which attracted international attention by putting armed civilians along the Arizona-Mexico border to deter illegal immigration, announced Wednesday that it was entering a new phase and would stop its patrol activities.


"Because of the phenomenal success of this grass-roots project in such a short time, the Minuteman Project has declared an unconditional victory in its efforts," he said in an open letter to supporters Wednesday.

Alright, the problems of illegal immigration solved in a manner of weeks! Is there anything vigilantes can't do for this country?

Too bad all the media had packed up and left before they could witness the spectacle that unfolded as every illegal immigrant grudgingly marched back to Mexico and agreed never to return.

Out from under his thumb

Colin Powell, on his own: of Colin L. Powell, the former secretary of state, said he had expressed reservations about Mr. Bolton in conversations with at least two wavering Republican senators.

The associates said Mr. Powell, in private telephone conversations, had made clear his concerns about Mr. Bolton on several fronts, including his harsh treatment of subordinates.

The associates said Mr. Powell had also praised Mr. Bolton's performance on some matters during his tenure as under secretary of state, but they said Mr. Powell had stopped well short of the endorsements offered by Mr. Bush and by Mr. Powell's own successor, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

My note to Republican Senators

Republican Senators -

Thanks so much for approving Priscilla R. Owen and Janice Rogers Brown on a party line vote through the Judiciary Committee today. I guess "judicial activism" is okay when it favors your viewpoint after all, eh?

Anyway, it's nice to see you guys have forced other Senate Republicans to either stand up and do something that a majority of your own party disapproves of or back down and give Democrats a momentous victory while you are the party in power.

If you need anymore corners to back yourself into, please let me know.


Classic Republicanism

So the bipartisan criticism of the new energy bill reports that the Bush energy bill will not only fail to reduce our consumption of foreign oil by 2020, but it will also provide hugh tax breaks for energy companies already earning record profits and potentially increases the cost of gas on the average consumer by another three cents a gallon.

Sounds like Republican legislation if ever I heard it.

Best wishes, Jim

I have nothing to add to the discussion of Jim Jeffords retirement in Vermont. It sounds like as of now Democrats are content to let Bernie Sanders have the seat as a Democrat-leaning independent. If that's true, the race to keep your eye on will be Sanders vacant House seat.

Casey opens 14 point lead on Santorum

If only the election were held today:
Democratic state Treasurer Robert P. Casey Jr., who hopes to challenge Republican Sen. Rick Santorum next year, increased his lead to 14 points in a poll released Wednesday.

Casey, the son of a former governor, was favored in the Quinnipiac University poll, taken amid Santorum's high-profile push of President Bush's Social Security overhaul plan and his backing of the recent congressional intervention in the Terri Schiavo case.

Casey was favored by 49 percent of respondents in the telephone poll, conducted April 13 to Monday. Thirty-five percent supported Santorum, while 13 percent were undecided.

Close to a third of those polled cited Santorum's role in the Terri Schiavo affair and the Social Security debate as making them less likely to vote for him.

To add to his woes, Santorum is now suggesting to party leaders that they delay the "nuclear option" in the Senate due to bad polling numbers, a stance we have seen others savaged for by the more conservative blogger.

Rick's in a world of political hurt right now, anxious to sell himself to the far right but now concerned about the impact of something designed to appeal to them as well. Don't be surprised to see Santorum's numbers drop even further unless he can figure out a way out from his self created trap.

All my gay ex-foster parents live in Texas

The Texas House has decided that loving your foster child isn't enough anymore:
Texas would become the only state to ban homosexuals and bisexuals from becoming foster parents under legislation passed today by the House.

The ban was an amendment tacked on to a bill that would overhaul the state's troubled Child Protective Services agency. The measure now goes to the Senate, which has approved a version of the CPS bill but not the foster parent amendment.

"It is our responsibility to make sure that we protect our most vulnerable children and I don't think we are doing that if we allow a foster parent that is homosexual or bisexual," said the author of the amendment added late Tuesday, Republican Rep. Robert Talton of Pasadena.

I thought that myself as I watched an Animal Planet special on homosexuals. They circled that pack of humans and picked off the slower children like lions on a gazelle. It was quite beautiful in its savagery, but I'm glad to see Texas finally moving to keep even the tamer, more loving gays away from our kids. And I'm waiting for the Texas law that prevents lions from adopting children as well.

Once again we witness from Republicans that gay bashing is much more important that finding a loving and nuturing home for children. And the law is retroactive as well, meaning CPS can come and tear children out of warm and happy homes simply because the parent is gay.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Running the numbers

If these numbers look anywhere near where they do today, the positive aspects of the Bush legacy will be a decline in smokers and auto fatalities. That's about it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

I love the new math

I laughed so hard at this.

I hope I'm not the only one.

Leaving it behind

Utah decides to dump No Child Left Behind:
Snubbing President Bush's education changes, the Utah Legislature on Tuesday passed a measure giving state education standards priority over federal ones imposed by the No Child Left Behind Act.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has said the state bill could cost Utah $76 million in federal funding. But Utah officials bristle at the federal act's requirements, arguing they amount to unfunded mandates.

The bill is seen by many as the strongest objection to the federal law among 15 states considering anti-No Child Left Behind legislation this year.

No word on if Texas is one of those states.

*UPDATE* Well I'll be:
The nation's largest teachers union and school districts in Texas and two other states launched a legal fight over No Child Left Behind today, aiming to free schools from complying with any part of the education law not paid for by the federal government.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for eastern Michigan, is the most sweeping challenge to President Bush's signature education policy. The outcome would apply only to the districts involved but could have implications for all schools nationwide.

Leading the fight is the National Education Association, a union of 2.7 million members that represents many public educators and is financing the lawsuit. The other plaintiffs are the Laredo Independent School District in Laredo, Texas, eight school districts in Michigan and Vermont, plus 10 NEA chapters in those three states and Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Utah.

Faulty headlines

Just a nitpick, but the headline on MSNBC's main page for this article is "Democrats delay vote on U.N. nominee." Of course, the Democrats couldn't do it on their own, so it should say "Republicans join Democrats to delay U.N. nominee" or "Two Republicans help delay vote..."

Well, you get the idea. Besides, the news would not be that Democrats delayed the vote, but rather this:
Republican Sens. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and George Voinovich of Ohio, both expressed reservations about a quick vote as did a solid phalanx of Democrats. Voinovich was direct in expressing his concern. "I've heard enough today that gives me some real concern about Mr. Bolton," he said.

No one expected that one.

Help the rich

The House this week will consider $8 billion in tax breaks targeted to the energy industry at a time when some of those companies are enjoying soaring profits from high consumer prices.

The vast majority of the tax breaks would benefit companies that produce and supply traditional forms of energy, with a large portion going to the oil and natural gas sector.

Social Security as a value

Phil Burress, who helped President George W. Bush win the battleground state of Ohio last November by leading the charge among religious groups to pass a gay- marriage ban, isn't pleased with the president's focus on Social Security.

"How come he's not stumping across America defending marriage?" said Burress, 63, an evangelical Christian and president of Citizens for Community Values in Ohio. "Marriage is a whole lot more important than Social Security."

Even more important: gay couples living on Social Security that want to get married.

Now I doubt evangelicals will flee the Republican party over something like this. But is does show that the President is having a hard time converting even his followers on Social Security. And this actually makes sense if the church is actually looking out for the congregations well being. Retirees go to church, and many future retirees do as well.

So there is one of three ways this shakes out. 1) Democrats figure out a way to make Social Security more important that gay marriage as an issue, and these voters flock to the party because of it. 2) The religious right brings out their own candidates who will work hard on the social issues they see as important, splitting the right and putting Democrats in power. 3) It's all huff and no walk-out from the religious right and they stay with Republicans because without them, they have nothing.

My bet right now continues to be number three.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Rhode Island tells Chafee to vote 'No' on Bolton

'Tis true:
Over 80 percent of Rhode Islanders oppose the nomination of John Bolton for U.S. Ambassador to UN, according to a recent survey taken by Zogby. The survey shows the growing disconnect between Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), who continues to express support for the Bolton nomination, and his constituents, the majority of whom are opposed to the appointment. In addition, 55.6 percent of those polled said that should Senator Chafee vote for John Bolton's nomination, they would be less likely to support his reelection bid.

Citizens for Global Solutions Executive Vice-President Don Kraus said, "A bipartisan majority of Rhode Islanders oppose the Bolton nomination and are willing to take their opposition to the polling booths next year. Senator Chafee now has an important decision to make; he must decide between partisan politics or the opinions of the people of Rhode Island."


Senator Chafee has said he is inclined to support the nomination because he is unwilling to intervene in Presidential appointments. However, 62.3 percent of Rhode Island Democrats and 71.9 percent of Rhode Island Republicans believe that Senator Chafee should not vote for a nominee who is unpopular in Rhode Island, even if the Bush administration asks him to do so.

Don Kraus noted, "Rhode Islanders value the United States role in the world more so than reforming social security, end of life issues and tax reform. They want a credible ambassador who believes in the UN and has the ability to bring countries together to solve problems. Rhode Islanders do not believe John Bolton is the right man for this job.

Hyde to retire

It's time to say good bye to adulterer Henry Hyde, who announced today he's retiring from his House seat in 2006.

Can't say I'll miss him one bit.

The common man and Social Security

"I'm 1,000-percent convinced of this: The president cares the most about this $10-an-hour person," said Allan B. Hubbard, director of the White House National Economic Council. "And what he gets most irritated by is when it is suggested, 'Oh the $10-an-hour person isn't sophisticated enough to deal with a personal retirement account.' "

I imagine the $10-an-hour person may be sophisticated enough to have some understanding of a personal retirement account, but the minimum wage the last time I checked was $5.15-an-hour. Most of those people probably don't have the time or energy to figure out their personal retirement account as they drive to their second job or to pick up the kids from grandma's house.

I bet, though, if you gave everyone a minimum wage of $10-an-hour, they'd be less worried about their future.

The other thing of note in the article is that people seem to be getting a bit upset that Bush would rather talk to a handpicked partisan crowd than working Americans who actually are going to need Social Security when they retire. For a so called "common guy," he sure seems to do his darndest to stay away from them, doesn't he?

Maryland Senate: Mfume leads early polls

A new Baltimore Sun poll show former head of the NAACP Kweisi Mfume with a slight edge in both a Democratic primary and going up against Republican Michael Steele, the early favorite to be the Republican nominee.

Ben Cardin, another potential Democratic candidate, also beats out Steele in a head to head poll.

This would be a held seat for Democrats, as the candidate are running to replace Paul Sarbanes, who has announced he will not run for re-election.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Do my eyes deceive me?

What's this I see? Message discipline from Democrats on the Sunday gabfests?

What's happening to my party?

And, Frank as always:
I want to respond because there's a very central point there. Mr. Blunt says that's the way the rules were until 1997, because there's a pattern here. The Republicans took power in 1995 on the grounds that things were terribly corrupt and badly run and they were going to change things. And it is true, initially, they changed them. And, again, this is very critical. What--the difference is this: Should you be able, by simply holding your own party loyalists in line, to stop an ethics investigation? That's what the rule now says. The Republicans came to power and they changed the rule. He said it was done with very little thought.

I must say, Mr. Blunt, that's rather dismissive of your Republican revolution. You say that in 1997--the Republicans came to power in '95 and fairly shortly after that they changed the rule.

But this is the pattern they've had. They changed the rules because they said they were unfair. Now, that they've been in power for a while, these rules are inconvenient. Mr. DeLay was rebuked three times by the committee, admonished three times by the committee. So they've changed the rules back. So let's understand what he just said, that the Republican revolution came in, changed the rules so that one party couldn't balk an investigation of its own member, and when it began to bite, they changed them back again. That's the pattern, by the way,that the Republicans have engaged in on a whole lot of things.

DeLay and the NRA

Some on the left have made comments on this turn of phrase by Tom DeLay in his speech to the NRA:
"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good."

But is anyone really surprised? When one becomes as embattled as Tom DeLay has, you need everyone to think you have as many supporters as you can. The average American is going to look at the stories on DeLay and think that he might actually be guilty. Which is why Tom needs to appeal to the more extreme ends of the party in order to survive.

And if you don't think the NRA is an extreme wing, read no further:
The National Rifle Association, holding its annual convention in Houston this weekend, believes guns are crucial in helping Americans feel secure against terrorism. The group is so adamant that law-abiding citizens be able to purchase firearms unfettered that it is unwilling to support changing the law to keep terror suspects from buying guns.


The NRA opposes preventing terror suspects from purchasing firearms.

"Nobody really knows who gets on this list," LaPierre said. "This is a list that somebody has just put a name on. These people haven't been indicted for anything; they haven't been convicted of anything. (my emphasis)

So it is okay to deny someone access to a flight in an airplane because they might be a terror suspect, but go ahead and give them all the guns and weapons they want. Makes sense to me.

DeLay knows he needs these images of support as well. His opening before his aforementioned speech:
"Thank you very much for the warm welcome. I hope the national media saw that."

Extremists tend to support each other. It's the only chance Tom DeLay may have to survive.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Ecuador as model?

Let's hope not. But judging from their rhetoric, I get the sense the GOP wouldn't mind it one bit.

Patterns of Global Terrorism reports come to an end

If you can't appear to beat them, don't release a report that shows it:
The State Department decided to stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism after the government's top terrorism center concluded that there were more terrorist attacks in 2004 than in any year since 1985, the first year the publication covered.

Several U.S. officials defended the decision, saying the methodology used by the National Counterterrorism Center to generate statistics had flaws, such as the inclusion of incidents that may not have been terrorism.

But other current and former officials charged that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's office ordered the report, "Patterns of Global Terrorism," eliminated weeks ago because the 2004 statistics raised disturbing questions about the Bush's administration's frequent claims of progress in the war against terrorism.

"Instead of dealing with the facts and dealing with them in an intelligent fashion, they try to hide their facts from the American public," charged Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and State Department terrorism expert who first disclosed the decision to eliminate the report in The Counterterrorism Blog, an online journal.

The "Ohio" Plan

The President, April 15, 2005:
See, it's an interesting concept that the people of Ohio have put in place. And the government basically said, hey, why don't we trust people. After all it's their own money. Why don't we give them a chance to -- (applause.) But you just can't go -- there is a certain set of parameters, I presume, Scott, that -- just like there is for the federal employees, by the way. In other words, here's some options for you.

Some people think about whether or not people ought to be allowed to invest. They call it risky. I don't think it's risky to let people earn a better rate of return on their money, but obviously there's some parameters, there's some go-bys.

LA Times, April 16, 2005:
But that state's version of personal accounts has attracted few takers among the people eligible — Ohio's 750,000 public employees. And records show that the most widely chosen version of the state-offered accounts has racked up a five-year earning record of 1.86%, about the same return that the president says Social Security produces.

"Boy, does he have a hard sell ahead of him in using Ohio as his example," said Keith Brainard, research director of the National Assn. of State Retirement Directors, which represents virtually all of the nation's public employee pension plans.

"Ohio's individual account programs are only a few years old, and in the short time they've been around, investment returns have been relatively weak." Brainard said.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Defending the Constitution

This from Iowa Rep. Steve King:
"The Ten Commandments are the guiding principles on which our country was founded and which are protected by the Constitution," King said in a printed statement. He said a ruling to the contrary would render the commandments "an artifact rather than a living document."

Many other religious and moral symbols are found in public places around the country, said King, including the phrase "In God We Trust" etched above the speaker's chair in the House chamber.

"Our Constitution requires us to respect those symbols as well as the Ten Commandments, which served as a guidepost for our founding fathers," said King.

This is wrong on a number of levels.

The Ten Commandments were not, in fact, a guiding principle on which our country was founded. So says Thomas Jefferson:
In a February 10, 1814 letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, Jefferson addressed the question directly. "Finally, in answer to Fortescue Aland's question why the Ten Commandments should not now be a part of the common law of England we may say they are not because they never were." Anybody who asserted that the Ten Commandments were the basis of American or British law was, Jefferson said, mistakenly believing a document put forth by Massachusetts and British Puritan zealots which was "a manifest forgery."

The reason was simple, Jefferson said. British common law, on which much American law was based, existed before Christianity had arrived in England.

"Sir Matthew Hale [a conservative advocate for church/state "cooperation"] lays it down in these words," wrote Jefferson to Cooper: "'Christianity is parcel of the laws of England.'"

But, Jefferson rebuts in his letter, it couldn't be. Just looking at the timeline of English history demonstrated it was impossible:

"But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century; the conversion of the first Christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686. Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it...."

Not only was Christianity - or Judaism, or the Ten Commandments - not a part of the foundation of British and American common law, Jefferson noted, but those who were suggesting it was were promoting a lie that any person familiar with the commonly-known history of England would recognize as absurd.


As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a June 5, 1824 letter to Major John Cartwright, "Our Revolution commenced on more favorable ground [than the foundation of the Ten Commandments]. It presented us an album on which we were free to write what we pleased. We had no occasion to search into musty records, to hunt up royal parchments, or to investigate the laws and institutions of a semi-barbarous ancestry. We appealed to those of nature, and found them engraved on our hearts."

After all, only two of the Ten Commandments have long been enshrined in our law - don't kill and don't steal - and those have been part of human society since the stone age (and are even today part of the rules of "stone age" cultures, who have never had contact with modern religion). These two are clearly part of "nature's law," as Jefferson often noted.

That pretty much disputes King's idea that the Commandments were "the guideposts" for our founding fathers as well.

Of course, the biggest lie is that the Constitution requires us all to respect the Ten Commandments, and I'm sure Muslims, Buddhists, and other religions would object to that as well. This is the only thing in the Constitution that even comes close to discussing them:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Tancredo tells DeLay "Get out of the light."

One of Congress' most conservative members on Friday became the second House Republican to urge Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step aside because of the ethics scrutiny he's facing.

"If the majority leader were to temporarily step aside so that these trumped up charges can be dealt with in a less hostile environment, as they have proven to be an unnecessary distraction, it may be a productive move,'' said Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

Tancredo's comments come after Connecticut Rep. Chris Shays, a moderate Republican, urged DeLay to resign from his leadership position at the beginning of the week. Also, Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, said DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics.

Republican don't care if Tom DeLay is innocent or guilty at this point, but they know having these investigation in the national spotlight is hurtful to the already sagging party image. And I would think if he really thought DeLay was innocent, he wouldn't tell him to step down.

Republicans for education

Maybe he should push for more education funding:
[Texas House Speaker Tom] Craddick, R-Midland, told Mendez Middle Schoolers about his job and answered their questions about state government. But he stumbled a bit when it came to the federal government.

"Up there they have 400 and some on the House side, 454, and they have fewer on the Senate side, 60," Craddick told the class of about 25, comparing the Texas Legislature to U.S. Congress.

There are 435 U.S. representatives and 100 senators. In Texas, there are 150 representatives and 31 senators.

Friday Random Ten

Wilco, Again? edition. (From this idea here)

1. For What Reason - Death Cab For Cutie
2. Attagirl - Bettie Serveert
3. Kicking Televison - Wilco
4. Melody of a Fallen Tree - Windsor for the Derby
5. Day is Done - Doris Henson
6. Life Indoors - 1 Mile North
7. One Too Many Blows to the Head - Dismemberment Plan
8. All Stops Applied - TW Walsh
9. R U Listenin - Alaska!
10. Sick and Wrong - Built To Spill

Hear hear!

"I am disappointed that in an attempt to hide what the debate is really about, Senator Frist would exploit religion like this. Religion to me is a very personal thing. I have been a religious man all my adult life. My wife and I have lived our lives and raised our children according to the morals and values taught by the faith to which we prescribe. No one has the right to judge mine or anyone else's personal commitment to faith and religion.

"God isn't partisan.

"As His children, he does ask us to do our very best and treat each other with kindness. Republicans have crossed a line today. America is better than this and Republicans need to remember that. This is a democracy, not a theocracy. We are people of faith, and in many ways are doing God's work. But we represent all Americans, regardless of religion. Our founding fathers had the superior vision to separate Church and State in our democracy. It is a fundamental principle that has allowed our great, diverse nation to grow and flourish peacefully. Blurring the line between Church and State erodes our Constitution, and our democracy. It is a blatant abuse of power. Participating in something designed to incite divisiveness and encourage contention is unacceptable. I would hope that Sen. Frist will rise above something so beyond the pale."

I've often thought the only difference between religious Republicans and religious Democrats is that religious Republicans will use their religion publicly for political gain. Frist's actions are another sad example.

Texas paper takes on DeLay

It’s a sad sign of how starved Republicans in the House of Representatives are for leadership that they continue to rally around Majority Leader Tom DeLay, even as doubts deepen about the ethics of the former Texas exterminator whose delicate touch earned him the nickname "The Hammer." For the sake of the party — but even more importantly, the institution — Republican colleagues should ask DeLay to give up his leadership post until all the allegations against him have been investigated and resolved.

Failure to do so will further damage whatever reputation the GOP retains as the party of good-government types and reformers — a reputation tainted by a recent series of rules changes that seem designed to shield DeLay from scrutiny and water down ethics standards. But it also seems to us confirmation of how lacking congressional Republicans are in leaders of vision, stature and unassailable integrity.

My message is better

When John Kerry lost the White House last year, many people were shouting about the poor shape of the Democratic message machine. So it was with great pleasure that I read this from The Hill:
Another GOP aide said: "There’s a general sense in the rank and file that we are a little in the hole and that Democrats have been more aggressive on messaging, that we’ve kind of gone dark. Democrats have gotten a head start and defined the issue ahead of us."

The article discuss Harry Reid's new war room and it's ability to shape public debate on the "nuclear option," so far putting Republicans on the defensive for the first time since... well, I don't know how long.

The GOP had really started to believe what they had to shovel, and it's now come back to bite them. They thought America really wanted their hard core conservative agenda and that Democrats would cower in the corner rather than risk further election loss. Instead Democrats came out fighting, no longer concerned about how small their opposition was, but concerned about being an opposition at all. They started actually standing up for Democratic principles. And now, 63% of Americans want to see Democrats oppose the right (PDF) and what they have to offer.

Rather than the majority control the debate, the Democrats have really taken it to their "rivals" and put them in a real state of disarray, not just on the filibuster issue, but Social Security and Tom DeLay as well. Rather than hearing about Democrats worried about political fallout, the Republicans are starting to look skyward to see what's falling all around them.

Cheers to Harry Reid.

Souder checks the water

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:
No one has proven that the No. 2 Republican in the House has done anything unethical or illegal, Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd, said Wednesday, but "there is widespread nervousness" among Republicans.

"Part is political," (It's the party line - ed.) he said of the allegations against Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, that have dogged the House majority leader for a year. "But the truth is, we’re all reading this stuff and saying: 'Why did you do that? Did you cross the line? Did your staff cross the line?' We don't know."


Nevertheless, "he doesn’t have much more room, even if something isn’t proven," Souder said. "At some point you say, 'What if you can’t move your agenda?'"

I think there's more of this to come.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Frist enlists

Bill Frist offically joins the army of the radical right.

Another Republican with his head in the sand

From the NY Times:
MTBE dissolves easily in water and does not readily cling to soil, so it moves faster and farther in the ground than other gasoline components. This makes it more likely to seep into water supplies. With its powerful turpentine-like taste and odor, MTBE makes water undrinkable.


Based on one study on laboratory rats, the E.P.A. has concluded that MTBE is a "potential human carcinogen at high doses." But there is no conclusive evidence on health risks for low doses. California, New York and 15 other states have banned MTBE, and the E.P.A. has taken preliminary steps to ban it nationally. Corn-based ethanol is replacing MTBE in gasoline in those states that have enacted bans.


According to the survey by the Environmental Working Group, an environmental research firm based in Washington, MTBE has been detected in 1,861 water systems in 29 states, serving more than 45 million Americans. This is up from about 1,500 systems in 19 states in November 2003.

How would you expect a Texas Republican to react to all that? You guessed it:
[Representative Joe L.] Barton said he was unconvinced that MTBE was a growing national problem and said it was being unfairly maligned in the suits. "I will never agree that MTBE is defective," he said.

I guess Rep. Barton wants you drinking more MTBE.

Someone ought to offer him up a glass of water contaminated with the stuff and suggest that if it's so "unfairly maligned," he won't mind showing America how great it is. Who wants to invite him over for dinner?

Bankrupt bill

Not only will the new bankruptcy bill make it harder for people to overcome medical bills of the loss of the job, but it will also make it more expensive to hire a lawyer to help you file:
Under the new law, bankruptcy attorneys would be liable for any misleading statements or inaccuracies in a client's case. As a result, attorneys say, they'll have to invest far more time and effort – in some cases hiring accountants and other experts – to verify all the information clients give them, down to examining receipts.

In a cost-estimate report, the Congressional Budget Office said that complying with the provisions of the bill is likely to increase attorney costs by $150 to $500. "Some of those additional costs," the report noted, "would most likely be passed onto their clients."

That may be a modest assessment.

"The price of bankruptcy will go through the roof," said Brian Kimber, a West Palm Beach bankruptcy attorney. "The average consumer won't be able to do it."

Republican compassion comes through once again.

*UPDATE* Some guy named John Edwards has his take here.

Draw your own conclusion

The House voted 272 to 162 yesterday to permanently repeal the estate tax, throwing the issue to the Senate where negotiations have begun on a deep and permanent estate tax cut that can pass this year, even if it falls short of full repeal.

The House vote pitted repeal proponents, who held that a tax on inheritances is fundamentally unfair, against Democrats, who questioned how Congress could support a tax cut largely for the affluent that would cost $290 billion over 10 years, in the face of record budget deficits.

"This is reverse Robin Hood," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "We're taking money from the middle class and giving it to the super-rich."

Boston Globe:
Soon, the AMT will affect many more taxpayers lower on the income ladder.

By 2010, 16.9 percent of taxpayers with annual incomes between $50,000 and $75,000, and 53.4 percent of those between $75,000 and $100,000 would have to pay the additional tax, according to a 2005 study by the Tax Policy Center. Families would be particularly affected, because they claim the exemptions, credits, and deductions that are added back to calculate AMT liability. Nearly every married couple with two or more children and incomes between $75,000 and $100,000 will be caught in AMT.

Last month, IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson said the AMT is ''sort of horrific," and the National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, has called it the top problem facing taxpayers. Both have called for its elimination, and a new panel on tax reform appointed by President Bush indicated it will review the AMT.

Still, changing the AMT, derisively known as the ''Blue State" tax because it more often affects filers in states that vote Democratic, won't be easy politically -- or financially. According to the Tax Policy Center, it would cost the US Treasury less money by 2008 to repeal the regular income tax than to eliminate the AMT. Replacing those lost funds has become a huge challenge for fixing the AMT.

Which did Republicans work hard to repeal and which one did they leave in place? And which tax affects the middle and working class more? Discuss your answer below.


A pair of car bombs exploded near government offices in the Iraqi capital on Thursday, killing 18 and wounding three dozen, and insurgent attacks against the nation’s nascent security forces left at least eight others dead countrywide, officials said.

The near-simultaneous explosions outside an Interior Ministry office in a southeastern Baghdad neighborhood killed 18 and wounded 36 others, said a ministry official, Cap. Ahmed Ismael. The morning blasts sent large plumes of smoke over the city.

Insurgents kept up attacks Thursday against Iraq’s security services, forces which the U.S. military says must be able to impose a level of calm in the country before American troops can depart.

I'll go out there and say while security is a big problem, the bigger problem is removing the environment that causes such attacks. Since I'm not on the ground, I have no real solution for this one, but I would think preventing car bombing or drive by shooting would be much more difficult that preventing the reasons behind them. That's the reason we should strongly consider leaving, I think.

If things go bad, we can always invade again, right? Just drum up more false charges and go!

Out of town

I've gotta take a little trip... back soon.

Write me.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Inappropriate analogy of the day redux

James Taranto wrote in his April 12th Opinion Journal's so called "Best of the Web:"
Liberal commentators David Brock, Josh Marshall and Andrew Sullivan all fault Focus on the Family's James Dobson for making the following comment about judges on his radio show yesterday (he was addressing guest Mark Levin, author of "Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America"):

I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

In 1987 Sen. Ted Kennedy waged a similar attack against the judiciary: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which . . . blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters." Dobson's comment is as intemperate and foolish, though probably not as consequential, as Kennedy's.

Uh, no. Ted Kennedy's attack was not on "the judiciary" as a whole, but only Robert Bork. James Dobson, however, made a reckless and cavalier statement about the judiciary as a whole. Comparing the entire judiciary to an organization that uses intimidation tactics and murder to advance their unjust cause is not the same as suggesting one man may prefer forced segregation based on his previous rulings.

Dobson, by the way, is an influential donor to the Republican party. He provides large sums of money and influence on those running for office. His odd choice to declare judges are like the KKK could have a great influence on the future of the GOP. I only hope it serves to warn people of the wingnuttery of the right, and not as road map for the nation's future.

FOX News gets the poll

The latest thing for conservatives to do is to discredit anything that makes them look bad. We've seen it throughout the President's terms as he discredits any scientific study that discredits his policies. With the latest Terri Schiavo affair, we've seen them take a futile swipe at refuting polling data and an embarrasing attempt to discredit a GOP talking point memo.

FOX News picks up the torch as it attempts to save Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from his low polling numbers. The latest San Jose State University poll had the action star-turned-governor at a 42% approval rating. Unwilling to see one of the party stars burn out so quickly, FOX jumps into action, on their website, publishing an article with the leading headline "Schwarzenegger Poll Validity Questioned":
But the state GOP says the university's poll numbers are wrong and that the poll used leading language in some critical questions. One question, for instance, asks if voters agree with the statement "He's too interested in gimmicks, public relations and image."

Another question asks voters whether they "think things in California are generally going in the right direction or are they seriously off on the wrong track."

But guess what:
It appears that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger faces a sophomore slump in the second year of his term. According to a News10/SurveyUSA poll, less than half of Californians approve of his performance as governor.

The poll found only 42 percent of Californians think Schwarzenegger is doing a good or excellent job. That figure is in agreement with another poll conducted last week by San Jose State University, which found Schwarzenegger's approval rating was just 43 percent among all adults, a 10-point decline from January.

"The honeymoon is over," said the Center for California Studies' Tim Hodson of the governor's relationship with the public and the media.

I'd discuss once again the right learning responsibility after another egg-on-their-face type incident, but I'm pretty sure they never learn.

The Day of Relative Truth

Irked by the success of the nationwide Day of Silence, which seeks to combat anti-gay bias in schools, conservative activists are launching a counter-event this week called the Day of Truth aimed at mobilizing students who believe homosexuality is sinful.

Because what better reason to start a movement that being upset at the success of someone else! Didn't the lord speak out against envy at one point? I think I saw that in the movie "Seven," didn't I? And are we talking all homosexuals? Because I'm not sure a lot of school kids are going to be against those girls making out on MTV all the time.
The driving force behind the Day of Truth is the Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian legal group that has opposed same-sex marriage and challenged restrictions on religious expression in public schools. The event is endorsed by several influential conservative organizations, including the Christian ministry Focus on the Family and the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

As it says in my Bible, "Love they neighbor, unless you can exploit and demonize said neighbor for political and financial gains."

I guess the movement to promote tolerance and keep homosexuals from being outcast and dragged from the ack of a pick up truck has moved to far forward and actually helped people to see, whether they approve of homosexuality or not, that these are other human beings with other problems and deserve respect. No one organizes a rally to promote the intolerance of alcoholics or drug abusers because they are "sinful and destructive," as one organizer puts it. But for some reason, it's okay to do so for homosexuals.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Bush economy...A new record!

The U.S. trade deficit, exacerbated by surging imports of oil and textiles, soared to an all-time high of $61.04 billion in February.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that the February imbalance was up 4.3 percent from a $58.5 billion trade gap in January as a small $50 million rise in U.S. exports of goods and services was swamped by a $2.58 billion increase in imports.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Inappropriate analogy of the day

Focus on the Family's James Dobson:
I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South and they did great wrong to civil rights to and to morality and now we have black-robed men.

Via Andrew Sullivan, who advises it's around minute 22.

This is getting out of hand. What worries me more that Dobson saying it is that his followers will gobble it up and believe it.

Republican compassion hits Ohio

The Toledo Blade reports on the new budget, written and supported by Republicans:
A House Finance Committee last night deliberated a $51.3 billion, two-year budget that would cut personal income taxes 21 percent across the board and replace a pair of business taxes with a tax on gross sales over five years.

But consumers would immediately pay higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, electricity, and college tuition.

Under the budget proposal, local libraries and governments would see their state aid slashed, and 25,000 working poor parents will lose their Medicaid health coverage.

A full House vote could take place as early as tomorrow. A final budget must be in place by July 1.

So the tax cut is replaced by higher taxes on college students and anyone who uses electricity. And with the middle class already feeling a pinch on gas prices, who is going to suffer more on higher electricity taxes? Yup, the middle class. It's enough to drive one to drink, if they hadn't raised taxes on that, too.

Here's some stuff the GOP rejected:
Democrats offered some 40 amendments to the budget, seeking without success to undo the cuts in Medicaid coverage for the working poor, fully restore dental coverage partially funded in the GOP budget, and restore a program that helps extremely poor, medication-dependent Ohioans who have yet to qualify for another government program.

Compassion at it's finest.

The Bush Economy

Watch it run:
For the first time in 14 years, the American workforce has in effect gotten an across-the-board pay cut.

The growth in wages in 2004 and the first two months of this year trailed inflation, compounding the squeeze from higher housing, energy and other costs.


This is the first time that salaries have increased more slowly than prices since the 1990-91 recession. Though salary growth has been relatively sluggish since the 2001 downturn, inflation also had stayed relatively subdued until last year, when the consumer price index rose 2.7%. But wages rose only 2.5%.

The effective 0.2-percentage-point erosion in workers' living standards occurred while the economy expanded at a healthy 4%, better than the 3% historical average.

Meanwhile, corporate profits hit record highs as companies got more productivity out of workers while keeping pay increases down.

Courts and public opinion

First Blogs for Bush, now this from the Volokh Conspiracy:
It seems to me that 18-year Supreme Court term limits would have some significant advantages over the current system: 1) it would tend to make the direction of the Supreme Court more reflective of public opinion over time and less contingent on the happenstance of who retires;

What is this fascination with courts being guided by public opinion? As I mentioned earlier, courts should only be deciding based on the rule of law, not what the majority of Americans want. If you want majority rulings, why not turn Supreme Court hearings into an American Idol style reality show instead? It would also generate great interest in our courts and political law by the public as well. It's a win/win situation, right?

Of course not. Allowing public opinion to creep into court rulings would also allow the majority to unfairly subjugate the minority whenever it wants. Think is terms of the struggle for equal rights, as one example. It would also, in my opinion, lead to increased impeachment hearings and a more political system. Which is something we don't need to see enhanced in the current system.

I don't mind the argument for term limits occurring. I have yet to be persuaded by any that I have seen. But we need to drop this insistence that the courts are there to uphold the will of the people. It's not their purpose, nor should it ever be.

(By the way, I agree with this comment as well:
I suspect that the academic community is bored with the stability on the current court and out to get credit for coming up with an idea that actually gets implemented, no matter how misguided the idea might be.

While I disagree with certain rulings, I don't see it as a "failure" of the court system. It just means my side was poorly argued, or even wrong. It's something you have to live with either way.)

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Oh, Noonan

Read these two phrases:
The idea behind life-tenure was to remove judges from the passions and pressures of the day, thus insulating our judiciary and giving it the ability to rule strictly upon the law.

We get judges who don't have to care whit about what people think...

Leave it to Mark Noonan to contradict himself in the span of three paragraphs.

The purpose of life-tenure for judges was to remove them from the "passions and pressures of the day," but that would include insulating them from "what people think."

Judges are supposed to be impartial and free to rule on law, not concerned by the will of the electorate. And if the current system is impartial enough for Bill Frist, it's good enough for me.

*UPDATE* Mark Noonan stops by:
"who don't have to care what people think OR WHAT THE LAW ACTUALLY IS" should complete important sentences like that...while we want judges who will be unswayed by what people think, we do very much want them to care about what the law giving Justices life tenure, we've taken away any control over their actions...

First, let me say the addition of the phrase "or what the law actually is" does not change my argument or my point at all. Mark clearly suggest there that judges should somehow be subject to what people think. It's either sloppy blogging, or something Mark really believes but is afraid to admit it.

I'm not sure I see any merits in the argument, myself. The whole point of lifetime tenure is so the public doesn't have control over how judges rule. And term limits would not provide the people with any of this so called "control" anyway, because it's not up to the public who gets appointed to which judgeship. If I think of more, perhaps I'll turn it into a post.

Another thought. What about cases that last longer than ten years? Or cases that start as a judges tenure is about to change? Do we have to restart the trial? Do we force the judge to stay on past his limit? Or do we change judges mid trial and hope for the best?

Anyway, I'm off to bed.

Get out the waders

It's about to get a little deeper:
White House officials tell NEWSWEEK that Bush will become increasingly vocal in public about fuel costs, seizing on the public concern to push ahead with his long-stalled energy bill, as well as delivering speeches on energy issues, including new technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells and cleaner coal. "If the Congress had acted three years ago, some of the policies we put forward could have had an impact today," says one senior Bush aide. The Department of Energy predicted last week that gas prices will reach a peak monthly average of $2.35 per gallon in May, around the time the legislative battles should be in full swing. "With the price of gasoline where it is, that ought to be enough this time to cause people to get moving on the bill," Bush told reporters on Air Force One as he returned from Rome last week.

But, the NRDC:
Our review shows that the Bush energy policy is fundamentally flawed. The Bush plan would provide no short-term relief for Americans struggling to pay their gasoline and electric bills this summer. And, over the long-term, it would increase pollution, despoil the environment, threaten public health and accelerate global warming. Moreover, it would have no impact on energy prices, and no practical effect on U.S. dependence on foreign sources of oil. Who would benefit? The oil, coal and nuclear industries that shoveled millions of dollars into Bush campaign coffers.

And a recent John Kerry speech reminds us:
President Bush's Own Energy Information Administration Found the Bush Energy Plan Wouldn't Impact Prices. Bush's own Energy Information Administration found that the effect of the proposal would be "negligible" with respect to production, consumption, imports, and energy prices.

I guess it should come as no surprise that the President is willing to mislead America once again to benefit his big oil friends.

Santorum throws DeLay overboard

Hear the splash:
The No. 3 Republican in the Senate said Sunday that embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay needs to answer questions about his ethics and "let the people then judge for themselves."

Sen. Rick Santorum's comments seem to reflect the nervousness among congressional Republicans about the fallout from the increased scrutiny into DeLay's way of doing business.

DeLay, R-Texas, has been dogged in recent months by reports of possible ethics violations. There have been questions about his overseas travel, campaign payments to family members and his connections to lobbyists who are under investigation.

"I think he has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves," said Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Chris Shays, R-Conn, gives Rick a hand:
In an effort to parry likely Democratic attacks, U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4, has started to distance himself from embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Shays, who narrowly won re-election last November, bluntly criticized DeLay as pushing ethics and campaign finance laws "to the very edge" and antagonizing Democrats with his partisan rhetoric.

"He is on the thinnest of ice as far as I'm concerned," said Shays, who noted that the conservative Texan has been reprimanded three times by the House ethics committee. "That is disquieting. It raises huge questions that Democrats have a right to raise."

Abramhoff: "DeLay knew everything"

Jack Abramoff was somber, bitter and feeling betrayed. Once a Washington superlobbyist, Abramoff is now the target of a Justice Department criminal probe of allegations that he defrauded American Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars in fees. As stories of his alleged excess dribble out—including the emergence of e-mails showing he derisively referred to his Native American clients as "monkeys" and "idiots"—some of Abramoff's old friends have abandoned him and treated him like a pariah. They claim they knew nothing of his questionable lobbying tactics. So last week, glumly sitting at his corner table at Signatures, the tony downtown restaurant he owns that remains his last redoubt, Abramoff lashed out in frustration.

"Everybody is lying," Abramoff told a former colleague. There are e-mails and records that will implicate others, he said. He was noticeably caustic about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. For years, nobody on Washington's K Street corridor was closer to DeLay than Abramoff. They were an unlikely duo. DeLay, a conservative Christian, and Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew, traveled the world together and golfed the finest courses. Abramoff raised hundreds of thousands for DeLay's political causes and hired DeLay's aides, or kicked them business, when they left his employ. But now DeLay, too, has problems—in part because of overseas trips allegedly paid for by Abramoff's clients. In response, DeLay and his aides have said repeatedly they were unaware of Abramoff's behind-the-scenes financing role. "Those S.O.B.s," Abramoff said last week about DeLay and his staffers, according to his luncheon companion. "DeLay knew everything. He knew all the details."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Schiavo sequal

I guess it should be expected that those who fought so hard for government intrusion into the life of a woman that numerous courts ruled would not want to be kept alive by feeding tube would quickly try to attach themselves to anyone else who remotely mirrors the Schiavo story. And the Captain has found one. (World O'Crap points out it's been other places as well, and points out the facts are slanted at WorldNetDaily. *UPDATE* As I post this, the Captain has an update with much the same conclusion).

But the argument from the left over the Terri Schiavo affair wasn't that the elderly deserved to die, or that the terminally ill did not have a right to live. In fact, the left bloggers were quick to point out two other cases occurring at the same time as Terri, one of them brought on by President Bush's very own legislation. These cases could have just as easily be triumphed by the right, by they seemed to lack the media focus that Terri could provide. Cue, Santorum, DeLay, Jeb, and George.

But the right ignored Sun Hudson and Spiro Nikolouzos. And the United States Congress ignored them as well. And if the Congress isn't willing to wade into all of these cases, they shouldn't make a special exception for one woman who numerous members of the impartial judiciary found had her rights upheld.

Hopefully the media will not turn this next case into another media circus. And if they do, we will hear unfairly that this is a growing epidemic somehow related to Terri when, in fact, it's not. Hopefully the media will do a little research before they fall all over themselves to report on yet another right wing blog.

Inappropriate analogy of the day

Seattle Post Intelligencer:
A Republican state senator from Yakima reignited a controversy yesterday by comparing stem-cell research to the Holocaust, just weeks after House Republicans apologized for making a similar remark.

Holocaust survivors and Jewish leaders contend that it's grossly inappropriate to hold up genocide as the moral equivalent to scientific research that could alleviate disease and suffering.

Nonetheless, Sen. Alex Deccio, R-Yakima, did just that yesterday, saying that government policies allowed the Holocaust and genocide in Africa -- and that those victims were at one time embryos.


The comment drew immediate condemnation from Sen. Adam Kline, D-Seattle.

"We want our state to be the place to produce medicines (that) can approach a wide variety of physical diseases," Kline said. "This is a far cry from the Holocaust. I personally have a difficult time accepting any kind of political rhetoric that attempts to draw moral equivalency between science on one hand and murder of millions of people on the other. This is not that kind of occasion."