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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

What the country wants you haven't got

"I fully understand that when you do hard things, it creates consternation at times," Bush said. "I've been up in the polls, and I've been down in the polls -- it's just part of life in the modern era. I think the American people -- I know the American people want somebody to stand on principle, make decisions and stand by them and lead this world toward a more peaceful tomorrow, and I strongly believe we're doing that. And I enjoy it. It's a fantastic opportunity."

He also said he feels he has "ample capital" despite his sagging polls.

First off, a guy who has been stuck around 40% in approval polls for at least the last six months is hardly "sagging." He's stuck in a hole, and there's no end in sight for him. All claims that the President will soon bounce have been wrong, and instead we see a guy approaching Nixonian approval ratings.

And while the American people may want "somebody to stand on principle," they clearly are tired of the principles that Bush stand for and the direction he's taking us.

This is mostly macho talk from the President, putting a brave face on a crumbling second term. It's clear at this point that Bush is a whole lotta hat in search of some cattle.

Not in my house

News from the Senate suggests they are having a harder time gift wrapping the legislation that would legalize the President's illegal wiretapping. But Republicans in the House, it seems, see no need to waste their time:
Jamal Ware, spokesman for House Intelligence Chairman Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., said the congressman is not working to pass similar legislation in the House and "has been very consistent that the president has the necessary legal authority."

So despite the fact that only 31% of the country feels that Bush obeyed the law by ordering the wiretaps, Republican control of the house will prevent the other 62% from discovering the truth.

State by state on the NSA scandal

These results are about what you would expect as far as the states go - those who support Bush are a bit more likely to believe that he did not break the law. The question is, did these numbers cause support to fall, or is it a reaction that anything the President does is disliked by people who aren't favorable toward him?

But I would think splits like this - 31% believe he followed the law, leaving more than 2/3rds feeling he either broke the law or weren't sure - would be proof enough that an investigation is wanted by the people of the United States. And I would think those who believe he followed the law would want one, too - if for nothing more than vindication and an actual bump in Bush's approval ratings.

At this point, however, the White House is still circling the wagons to prevent an investigation. And I think if they really believed they were in the right, the benefits they would get would be great. But it's clear they don't believe what their shoveling. And neither it seems, does close to half the country.

On the air

Democratic candidates for Governor Steve Westly and Phil Angelides have begun television advertising campaigns here in California, and it's about time. Both carry a slight edge in head to head matchups with Arnold, but both need to get word out to shore up support.

Here's the part that worries me:
But political analysts expect the two to be hitting each other with attack-ad haymakers well before the June 6 Democratic primary. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is not expected to have significant opposition in the GOP primary.

Guys, we know you both want the job. And that's cool. But please do not destroy one another's chances to beat Arnold in November while trying to do it, okay? That's not going to get you anywhere but a footnote as the guy who lost to a weakened Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

All of California begs you - keep it upbeat and positive. Show us all that the Democrats are a party of ideas. Talk about what you can do for the state. Do not trash your opponent. It will simply save Arnold's camp time and money, and allow him to talk about how he is above the fray and above political campaigning.

Judge rules, trial begins

President Bush said today he remains supportive of a United Arab Emirates-based company's takeover of some U.S. port operations, even though a new, more intensive investigation of the deal's potential security risks has yet to begin.

Bush is the final arbiter of that second review. Yet, he said after an Oval Office meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi that "my position hasn't changed" on support for transferring control of management of some major U.S. port facilities from a British company to Dubai-based DP World.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Arnold's still in trouble

Republican candidates for statewide office traditionally need at least 80 percent of the party vote to win, and at this point Schwarzenegger "doesn't have that," said Michael Spence, who heads the California Republican Assembly, a conservative wing of the party.

Regarding Schwarzenegger's appeal for unity, he said, "I don't care what he says at this point. I care about what he does."

San Diego Union Tribune:
Although some public opinion polls show Schwarzenegger beginning to bounce back, a statewide survey released Thursday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California showed that only 35 percent of California adults believed the governor was doing a good job, down from 40 percent in January.

It will be next to impossible for Arnold to appeal to both conservative Republicans and moderates in this state, and if he wants to stick around in 2006, he better understand that pretty quick.

Circling 'round the ports

Republican sources tell TIME that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee proposed the basic terms of a deal designed to give the White House a graceful way out, while also allaying the concerns of the many lawmakers in both parties who have said the deal could be a threat to our security. Under the Frist plan, the deal could stand a good chance of ultimately going through after the extended review. Frist aides apparently proposed the terms to representatives of the company and the White House late Friday. Neither has formally responded but both seemed interested in the idea, according to a Senate Republican aide. "This avoids a direct clash," the aide said. "It solves everyone's problem. The President doesn't have to cancel the deal or veto anything."

Well, it doesn't solve everyone's problem. While the President gets what his administration wanted without telling him, this deal sounds like little more than a puppet show designed to save face. And if it is little more than smoke and mirrors disguised as review, I'm not sure how that's going to placate the American people enough to make them accept the deal as it stands.

But if I had to guess, I'd imagine if this deal goes through, about 40% of the country will end up backing the President on the deal. After all, if Iraq, economic numbers that don't help the working class, Katrina, and the myriad of other failures haven't made people change their mind, I'm not sure this will either.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Just in time for civil war

The only Iraqi battalion capable of fighting without U.S. support has been downgraded to a level requiring them to fight with American troops backing them up, the Pentagon said Friday.

The battalion, made up of 700 to 800 Iraqi Army soldiers, has repeatedly been offered by the U.S. as an example of the growing independence of the Iraqi military.

Still not number one

I know it's old news that the Bush campaign was full of fear mongering and half truths, but I thought I'd point out that John Kerry still isn't the most liberal member of the Senate.

He's #8.

And for a guy who supposedly wanted to turn us over to France and let them have control for four years, his lowest "liberal" numbers come on foreign policy. There he was #26.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's official: David Roth for Congress

The Desert Sun:
La Quinta Democrat David Roth formally announced his candidacy for Congress in the 45th District on Wednesday - and with no shortage of shots at the current holder of that seat, Palm Springs Republican Mary Bono.

"The people of this district - Republican, Democrat and independent alike - are so tired of not being heard, of being governed from afar and by fear," Roth said, adding that district residents are ready for guidance from a member of Congress "who thinks of them first - not as an afterthought to a president's agenda or a whirlwind of black-tie affairs."

Roth has already an impressive $100,000 on hand for his campaign, but he'll need a lot more if he's going to win. And that's where we come in. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is looking at targeting Bono's seat and helping Roth out. And they'll have a big incentive if Roth can show strong grassroots support.

That means signing up and donating. Help David Roth here.

Drumming up port talk

Kevin Drum:
If the Dubai issue prompts Congress and the president — and the public — to start taking port security seriously, at least some good will have come out of this whole mess.

That, of course, will not happen. The President and the Republican Congress are not going to let this port mess get so out of hand that the allow it to become a real issue of public debate. This initial should-they-or-shouldn't-they debate will eventually come to an end. I imagine Republicans will state the debate is over after more time has passed, and they will back the President and declare the debate over.

It's just the way things have gone before.

Port deal, or no deal?

The announcement came on the heels of comments from the second in command at the Pentagon, who said Thursday that people who publicly oppose allowing a Middle Eastern company to take over management of some U.S. ports could be threatening national security.


"The terrorists want our nation to become distrustful," England said. "They want us to become paranoid and isolationist, and my view is we cannot allow this to happen. It needs to be just the opposite."

(The announcement mentioned involves Dubai Ports Worlds' decision to hold off on takeover of the ports. That just hit the wires and changed the initial quote I was using.)

Got it, America? Questioning how the President and his administration go about national security is a threat to national security. Why? Because it let's the enemy know that we have a plan for national security!

What are you people thinking, allowing the enemy to know we are trying to protect our shores? Don't you realize that the enemy will now change tactics in the war on terror now that they know this? Why can't you, America, keep your big mouth shut and trust our government completely?

Because those who question the wisdom of putting an Arab led government with past ties to Al Qaeda in charge of our ports are only weakening our resolve and letting the enemy win.

Which means that Karl Rove is now aiding the terrorist:
Just days after President George W. Bush threw down the gauntlet and vowed to veto any bill in Congress that could delay the transaction, senior Bush advisor Karl Rove said in a radio interview that the president might consider a postponement after all.

"Look, there are some hurdles, regulatory hurdles ... that are going to be concluded next week. There's no requirement that it close, you know, immediately after that," Rove told Fox News Radio.

"Our interest is in making certain the members of Congress have full information about it, and that, we're convinced, will give them a level of comfort with this," Rove said.

Get him a cell in Guantanamo, stat.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Stormy ports

I was thinking about my post from yesterday about Bush and his willingness to veto a bill that would prevent the UAE owned company from taking control of port security.

I intended it to show that Bush generally busts out the veto on issues that don't look good for the country in general, be it torture or screwing over the working man. So when he's willing to offer up the veto, it makes me concerned about the issue in general. This time, however, the White House is claiming that Bush only learned of the deal a few days ago, after the initial sale had been made by his administration.

Am I against the deal itself? Quite honestly, I'd like to see the deal investigated a little more closely, but on the surface, I don't seem to have a problem with it. Think Progress provides some points that show that these kind of deals happen all the time, and the nub is, some foreign country is going to have control of the ports. So unless we nationalize the port system, and allow the feds to watch over them all, we are essentially in a corner here.

So I'm left thinking that this issue is over hyped to show the President is turning soft on terror, which in turn may end up leading to an overly aggressive and xenophobistic bill that Democrats, due to their stance here, will be forced to back in order to outtoughen the right. The same right that supports torture of detainees and fails to recognize they have any rights at all. The same right that wields 9/11 as a cudgel to get the country to submit to it's will.

Perhaps I'm over dramatic here, but something smells slightly fishy about this one, and it's not just the mackerel in the ports.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Something to hide

A top intelligence official was prepared to brief the House of Representatives intelligence committee about President George W. Bush's domestic spying program last December but was stopped by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, a leading House Democrat said on Tuesday.

Rep. Jane Harman of California, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said she and fellow Democrats on the panel sought a briefing from deputy U.S. intelligence chief, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, soon after Bush confirmed the existence of the surveillance program.

"Gen. Hayden said he was prepared to brief the full committee but our request was disapproved by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card," Harman said in a statement issued by her office.

That didn't take long

Sometime soon we should know if Democrats were right in warning that Justice Harriet Miers Justice Samuel Alito would take away a woman's right to choose, or if Republicans will be left wondering if they got Soutered once again.

*UPDATE* This didn't take long either:
Lawmakers here are preparing to vote on a bill that would outlaw nearly all abortions in South Dakota, a measure that could become the most sweeping ban approved by any state in more than a decade, those on both sides of the abortion debate say.

If the bill passes a narrowly divided Senate in a vote expected on Wednesday, and is signed by Gov. Michael Rounds, a Republican who opposes abortion, advocates of abortion rights have pledged to challenge it in court immediately — and that is precisely what the bill's supporters have in mind.

Optimistic about the recent changes on the United States Supreme Court, some abortion opponents say they have new hope that a court fight over a ban here could lead to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that made abortion legal around the country.

My First Veto

Let's take a look at a few of the bills that Bush has threatened to veto over the years.

A fiscally responsible way to pay for funding the war in Iraq.

A bill that would ban "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of prisoners in U.S. custody.

A bill that would strengthen protections of your civil liberties.

A bill that could lead to the cure of thousands of diseases.

A bill that would raise taxes on oil companies.

A bill that would restore overtime pay to thousands of workers nationwide.

And now, he's threatening to veto a bill that would merely hold up the sale of six major seaports to a United Arab Emirates base country, a bill that seems to be supported by both sides of the aisle in the Senate. Democrats over the weekend questioned the wisdom of this move, and even Bill Frist came out today to say he would like more time to look into the sale.

So I guess the question is, how long until Karl Rove and company can strong arm Frist and other Republicans into saying they were wrong to question the administration, and thinks this move is a good one?

*UPDATE* New Jersey's gonna sue:
New Jersey will file actions in state and federal courts seeking to stop an Arab company from taking over operations at Port Newark, Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Tuesday.

The announcement came as a whirlwind of political backlash from both sides of the aisle continued to batter the Bush administration's approval of the port deal. At issue is the acquisition of a British company that has been running six U.S. ports, including Port Newark, by Dubai Ports World, a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates.

I'll bet David Ross is 51st

It's a little disappointing, sure, that David Ross and his campaign to unseat Mary Bono didn't make David Sabato's latest much watch House Campaigns, but that doesn't mean you should stop the giving or the volunteering.

It's sure to be a long uphill fight, but getting involved is the only sure way to make a difference. Help David Roth here. He's certainly open to talking with you, and he'll be speaking all over Riverside county tomorrow, Feb 22nd. Find a location nearest you, and get out to show your support. Big crowds means big news, which means big mo'. Help get it started.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Big government rules!

Spoken like a member of a true conservative White House:
"Under the constitution, federal laws take priority over inconsistent state laws," said Scott Milburn, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. "Decisions about... whether particular rules should preempt state laws are made agency by agency and rule by rule."

I was always taught that conservatives and Republicans were a party of state's rights. But these rulings show the true alliance that Republicans have chosen to forge. It's big business, big money, and somewhere near the bottom is the average man made to suffer because of them. Just look at some of the latest government rulings:
The highway safety agency, a branch of the Department of Transportation, is backing auto industry efforts to stop California and other states from regulating tailpipe emissions they link to global warming. The agency said last summer that any such rule would be a backdoor attempt by states to encroach on federal authority to set mileage standards, and should be preempted.

The Justice Department helped industry groups overturn a pollution-control rule in Southern California that would have required cleaner-running buses, garbage trucks and other fleet vehicles.

The U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has repeatedly sided with national banks to fend off enforcement of consumer protection laws passed by California, New York and other states. The agency argued that it had sole authority to regulate national banks, preempting state restrictions.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a legal opinion last month asserting that FDA-approved labels should give pharmaceutical firms broad immunity from most types of lawsuits. The agency previously had filed briefs seeking dismissal of various cases against drug companies and medical-device manufacturers.

And who best to rule on highway safety issues then former industry executives. They would have no conflict of interest at all. And in typical Bush fashion, they are all over the agencies who must decided whether people's lives of corporate largesse is more important.

Arnold's dilemma

It's a fine line that Arnold has to walk. It's clear that conservatives are upset with his moderation. And that will be more than obvious next weekend when state Republicans gather for their convention. It will be interesting to see how much he's willing to give them.

If he goes to the right, then he's clearing hoping that conservatives will come out in record numbers to beat his Democratic foe. If he leans left, he's hoping to take voters from his unnamed foe and praying those numbers will outshine the conservatives who will stay home, turned off by his campaign.

Watch closely to see which way he goes.

Politics is local

Want to get involved in driving the NSA scandal? Here's how to help.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Same coin, two sides

The same Senator that wrote this:
The President's actions cannot be defended by dancing on the pin head of legal technicality. Every American must know actions have consequences. Even for presidents. All Americans must have faith in our laws and know that there is equal justice for all. The core of our judicial process is the rule of law.

Americans deserve to always expect the highest standard of conduct from their elected officials.

Has recently said this:
"If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I'm not so sure that I would support that."

Because, as Chuck Hagel likes to say, "It's okay if you're a Republican!"

Friday, February 17, 2006

NSA roundup

Glenn Greenwald argues that despite the Republican's stonewalling in the House and Senate, the NSA investigations won't be coming to an end anytime soon. And it's quite a political football the GOP has fumbled if it turns out to be a bigger scandal than it already is.

Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is tired of being called the White House lapdog:
The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court, a move President Bush has argued is not necessary.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he had some concerns that the court could not issue warrants quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the eavesdropping program. But he said he would like to see those details worked out.

My understanding is that Roberts now wants the FISA court to have oversight of a program they should have had oversight of to begin with. This counters Mike DeWine's proposal which would exempt the President's eavesdropping from the courts.

And the President is now being sued by a former congressional aide and Republican for subjecting him to illegal surveillance

Ann Coulter, comedian

Michigan Republicans apparently love Ann Coulter, asking her to speak at political fundraisers for the party, despite the use of the ethnic slur "raghead" in her latest public appearances. Said GOP party co-chairman Karl Hascall:
"Ann Coulter is an entertainer who does political commentary. She uses extreme statements to get her point across. I wouldn't go around calling Arabs ragheads but, in certain contexts, such as comedy, that's accepted."

Because ethnic slurs are hilarious. And who doesn't love a good "raghead" joke? Maybe some jokes about poisoning Supreme Court Justices? She's got those covered, too:
"We need somebody to put rat poisoning in Justice Stevens' creme brulee," Coulter said.

Or how about jokes on terrorist attacks on the media. Gotta love her:
My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.

My sides are splitting from laughing so hard. Thanks, Michigan GOP, for embracing the laughter of killing journalists and liberal Supreme Court justices. I simply cannot wait for the new material I'm sure she'll have prepared for you.

Conversations with the President

From his "national conversation" today:
And you'll hear a debate in Washington, D.C. that says, well, we've got to run up your taxes to balance the budget. That's not the way it works in Washington. They will run up your taxes and they'll figure out new ways to spend money.

First, I'm not sure I've read anywhere anyone in Washington D.C. calling for "running up taxes" to balance the budget. Second, the last time someone raised taxes, he ended up balancing the budget and providing you with a massive surplus, which you've managed to turn into the largest debt in history. Good work.

Figuring it out

I had a feeling that someone would point this out about the President's "national discussion" today. I was also pretty sure the media wouldn't touch it.

Utah still loves you, Mr. President

SurveyUSA has released it's latest state by state approval ratings for President Bush, and it isn't what he had hoped for. His highest approval rating comes from Utah, where 58% of the state still approves. That number is down from January's approval in Utah of 61%. Bush now tops 50% in only seven states, down from eleven a month ago.

So whatever the President has been doing between then and now to boost his approval ratings has failed. And as more controversy piles up, it's not likely that we'll see much upward movement in his numbers, either. While America may want a strong leader, they want leader to take them somewhere they want to go.

Bush's nationwide approval rating in the poll stands at 40%.

Getting shot in the face means never having to say your sorry

Unless the guy who shot you is the Vice President, apparently. From Harry Whittington's statement upon release from the hospital:
My family and I are deeply sorry for all that vice president Cheney has had to go through this past week. We send our love and respect to them as they deal with situations that are much more serious than what we've had this week. And we hope that he will continue to come to Texas and seek the relaxation that he deserves.

Whittington went on to apologize for standing between Cheney and his quail, apologized to the quail that survived for having to witness the trauma of a man being shot, and to the bird shot that filled his face and caused him a minor heart attack for not allowing it to fulfill it's purpose of killing birds.

Think if Monica had gotten in front of the press and apologized for putting her mouth where it shouldn't have been, that would have ended that?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

More no plans

This will make me and the rest of California sleep safe tonight:
Under fire for its botched handling of Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that there is no specific federal strategy for responding to a catastrophic earthquake in California, although it will review the state's own plan.

In a letter released Wednesday to Sen. Barbara Boxer, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said acting FEMA Director David Paulison will conduct the assessment, expected to be finished by mid-April.

So as long as nothing happens between now and the time it takes to review and alter the response plan, everything should be fine.

No plans

The effects of no planning have become pretty clear in Iraq:
According to latest statistics – which Ms Rice did not mention – crude oil production this month is running at 1.7m barrels a day, down from a post-invasion peak of 2.5m in September 2004 that was close to prewar levels.

Ms Rice initially asserted that "many more Iraqis" were now getting potable water and sewerage services. However, under intense questioning from Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat, she conceded that although "capacity" had increased, fewer Iraqis were actually receiving those services.

Senator Conrad, citing the special inspector general, said almost all economic indices showed Iraq was better off before the US had invaded. Republicans, too, are sceptical of administration claims of progress. Senator Chuck Hagel told Ms Rice on Wednesday he believed the situation was getting worse.

But hey, at least we don't have to defeat the insurgency that we helped create anymore:
Questioned on a recent Pentagon-commissioned report that concluded the US could not sustain the number of troops required to defeat the insurgency, Mr Rumsfeld replied: "The Iraqi insurgency will be defeated by Iraqis . . .  So the question posed is an inaccurate question."

Republican accountability

Republicans in the Senate have decided not to probe deeper into the President's wiretapping program, and the House investigation will only question whether current laws need to be changed rather that question the legality of Bush's actions.

Hard to believe we now live in a country where the President can tout the very law he is supposed to uphold and get away with is sans investigation. It will be interesting to see how such a refusal by Republicans in both the House and the Senate hold up in light of this:
A federal judge ordered the U.S. Justice Department to respond to a privacy rights group's request that the agency turn over internal documents on the Bush administration's domestic spying program.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy Jr. of Washington gave the department 20 days to answer the Freedom of Information Act request, filed in December by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. The group sued last month after the Justice Department failed to meet a 20-day deadline imposed by the act.

Knowing the moxie of the current administration, they will no doubt blow this off, citing secrecy concerns. When you would think that the best thing would be to investigate fully and put any doubts about the legality of the President's actions to rest. Clearly some are spooked by the iron fist of Karl Rove, while others are concerned that the President's legal fluffery won't hold up to scrutiny.

Either way, look for the GOP to try and sweep this under the rug, claiming Congress would have investigated has the program been a problem. Then, it'll be inflammatory speeches that misrepresent Democrats positions until November, baby!

And that's how Republicans now look out for your best interest.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dean and Hackett

I like half of Howard Dean's reaction:
"I think there was some skullduggery in Washington, that was going on, which I don't approve of. And I frankly think that's a shortcoming of the Democratic Party."

I would agrue that it's not only a shortcoming of the Democratic Party, but politics in general. A candidate not accepted by the party on either side (see, Harris, Katherine) is going to generate any number of calls for dropping out and the search for replacements, etc.

But back to Dean, his first statement would have sufficied. In this instance, there was a problem with the way the party handled things. I think everyone would find the truth there and move on from the story. But by adding his second statement, he's implicated that this happens all the time, and is a strctly Democratic phenomenom.

But that's the danger (and the reward) of Howard Dean. He's going to say what he thinks, and he's not going to stop short. So while you get some good, you're also going to hear some bad as well.

I'd be interested to hear Howard Dean talk about more of this sort of skullduggery that's going on and what he, as DNC chair, is doing to stop it. That would be part of his roll, right?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Congrats, Democrats

Welcome the newest Democrat to the Texas House, Donna Howard, who takes over the seat vacated by Republican Todd Baxter.

Who's surprised, really?

Not me:
Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.

Republicans covering up and supporting their own, especially in light of threats by Karl Rove. If anything, it shows the two party system fails when one of them runs everything and is more concerned with maintaining their majority than doing what's right.

If this cover up succeeds, I'd love to see it become a campaign issue this fall. And if Democrats do take control of Congress, I wonder which Bush scandal will get investigated first.

Focusing on what's important

Thank goodness with all that's affected the Bush White House lately, from misleading the country into war, tax cuts coupled with record spending, Jack Abramhoff, Katrina, and the NSA scandal, the one issue the media can focus on and rip into is how the news got out that Cheney shot a man while hunting.

I realize this story has all the elements that make a news story that people want to watch and all, but can we please get some priorities and focus on things that may actually affect the country? Please?

More NSA violations?

A former NSA employee said Tuesday there is another ongoing top-secret surveillance program that might have violated millions of Americans' Constitutional rights.

Russell D. Tice told the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations he has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees - members or their staff - because they lack high enough clearance.

More on Frist and 2006

More from Kondracke:
Frist said "we can’t set our expectations too high" for specific accomplishments because of "a short legislative calendar," and because of Democratic "slow-rolling and obstruction."

Reuters (myemphasiss):
Legislation to create a $140 billion fund to compensate people with asbestos-related diseases will be dead for the year if it does not survive key Senate votes this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said on Tuesday.

"If we are unsuccessful this week in addressing asbestos, that's it for this year," Frist, a Tennessee Republican, told reporters outside the Senate.


Frist said he did not know whether supporters of the bill had the votes to defeat an objection from Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican. Ensign said the bill could force U.S. taxpayers to pick up some costs, in violation of budget rules.

*UPDATE* If you were wondering, the bill is sidelined, but if my math holds, it's set to pass:
The Senate decided on Tuesday night to all but kill legislation to create a $140 billion fund to compensate victims of asbestos poisoning.

Supporters of the measure, led by Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, fell just short of the 60 votes needed to waive a budget objection raised about the legislation. The final vote was 58 to 41, and with powerful interests on both sides it did not break down along party lines.

Senator Bill Frist, the Republican majority leader and a strong supporter of the legislation, changed his vote from yes to no at the last moment so he would have the option of calling for a recount "at some later date," he said.

Still, advocates for the measure held out hope that they could reverse the outcome. On Tuesday night, Senator Specter, its chief sponsor, issued a statement that the one senator who was absent from the chamber, Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, had told him he would vote to waive the budget objection but he had gone home because his wife was ill.

With Inouye and Frist's votes, that's a 60-40 split. So unless someone flips, the awful idea of limiting asbestos rewards nationwide to a total of $140 million is set to pass.

That means that if 140 million people are affected by asbestos, they each get a dollar for their medical problems. That should cover their medical expenses, right?

Can't Hackett

I wish the best of luck to Paul Hackett and his future, be it in or out of politics. Clearly his message was a strong one, and one the Democratic Party would do well to keep. It will no doubt take months to get Hackett back into the fold if he comes at all, and if party leaders did as he claimed, then they should feel a certain sense of shame.

But now, instead of talking about Hackett and his failed potential, we are left to talk about what might have been. In all honestly, Hackett did not stand much of a chance to win the Democratic Senate nom in Ohio this year. The battle between Hackett and Sherrod Brown would have been bloody and a waste of resources that the party cannot afford in it's attempts to take back control of something in Washington D.C.

And the party isn't afraid to support people like Hackett, as he claims in his statement. It's quite clear they were will to get behind him as he gave Jean Schmidt a run for her money last fall. And the party would be more than willing to support Hackett in a House run. The party, however, realized that Brown was the horse to back, and Hackett get left out in the field. I'd be bitter, too.

But if Hackett believes in the Democratic party, he has to see this was the best end for it.

*UPDATE* The party supports Paul Hackett:
Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory joined the chorus on Monday, publicly urging Hackett to switch races.

And Hackett, it seems, still supports the party:
“Whatever personal emotions I have about Sherrod, if he asks me to help in some way, and I can help and it doesn’t interfere with my own life, I will do the best to help him,” Hackett said.

California Republicans pull back

OC Register:
Republican activists Monday dropped their bid to get the state GOP to yank its endorsement of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a measure that for weeks had divided many party loyalists and made others uncomfortable.

Instead, Schwarzenegger opponents within the GOP will focus on getting the party, at its upcoming convention in San Jose, to pass four other resolutions addressing the governor’s recent spending proposals and judicial appointments.

Realizing they cannot win without Schwarzenegger, activists have decided they will try and change him instead. I'm doubtful this tactic will work leading up to the election, but I have no doubt that if Arnold wins for another four years, he'd be more and willing to skew right once again.

Quite honestly, this seems like the best result Arnold could have hoped for. It shows he's independent of the right that dominated his first years in office while still allowing him right wing cover.

As always, you can help make Arnold a full time actor once again by helping here. Check out Arnold's Neighborhood while your there. Dick Cheney eats the Constituion. Good stuff.

Short on ideas

Mort Kondracke:
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., says Republicans will fight the 2006 campaign by combining 2002-style attacks on Democrats as "weak on security," 2004-ish attacks on "obstructionism" and a new line of argument that "Democrats have no ideas."

So the GOP is going to recycle old attacks on Democrats and accuse them of having no new ideas? That's the kind of moxie we've come to expect from these folks.

More here.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Talking without experience

SF Gate:
"If Congress doesn't act, your taxes are going to go up, and you're not going to like it," Bush told a New Hampshire business group last week. "You will hear the argument during the budget debates -- you know, all the noise coming out of Washington -- that you need to raise taxes in order to balance the budget. I've been there long enough to tell you that's not the way Washington works. They're going to raise your taxes, and they're going to find new ways to spend your money."

Can some one tell me the last time Bush was in office during either a tax increase or a balanced budget? Didn't think so.

Bush must have blacked out for that time in the 90's when President Clinton managed to balance the budget by raising taxes. It was that surplus, in fact, that had now President Bush clamoring for a tax cut in the first place.

And from the same article:
Reversing the Bush tax cuts alone cannot restore fiscal balance, analysts agree. This will require the very spending restraint that Democrats daily condemn.

Democrats don't condemn spending restraint, as evidenced by the last time they were in charge and created the surplus. They oppose the President's idea of spending restraint, which is cutting benefits to widows, college students, the elderly, and the infirm.

Daschle on Meet the Press

Former Senator Tom Daschle on Meet the Press:
SEN. DASCHLE: Well, Tim, I think Jane is right. We have had a good deal of analysis done on what you can and cannot talk about, and I think the president'’s making a false choice here, and we'’re hearing again the argument this morning that somehow we - —we either are for hating the terrorists or protecting our values. We both - —we all support going after the terrorists. We support the wiretapping program. We support doing everything we can to ensure we've got the best information we can get. But we also support respecting the rule of law. That's what this is about, respecting the rule of law, and it'’s worked. This law has worked since 1978. We haven'’t had a problem before. You've got two chief justices of the Foreign Surveillance Act court, which have now suspended this law because of concern for what the administration has done. So what good is a law if the judges themselves are suspending it? We've got a problem here. We say let'’s - —let'’s abide by the law, respect the rule of law, respect our values, respect privacy, and let'’s go after the terrorists aggressively.

Some on the right would have you believe that this is Democrats "backpedaling." But I'm not sure I really see it. I'm not sure I've seen a single Democrat come out and say we shouldn't be spying on Al Qaeda, they've been opposed instead to the President's violation of the law in doing it. Now, as the President tries to defend himself, the outrage has grown into the weak justification he has used.

Daschle here is right. To argue that those who oppose the President's willingness to circumvent the law are favoring the terrorists is intellectually bankrupt. The President - be it Bush, Clinton, Reagan, or Carter - must obey the rule of law as it applies to the country. It's a necessity to keep our form of governement in existence.

Otherwise, what's to stop Bush from saying that he doesn't believe that either candidate in 2008 can protect America from terror, and that he's decided to appoint himself leader for the next four years? And what kind of outrage, if any, would that provoke on the right?

This is the Roosevelt defense?

The President and his staff, among other excuses, have suggested that other Presidents have used the same reasoning he has for violating the law and eavesdropping on Americans. Of course, these Presidents operated under a non-FISA law era, so the point is fairly moot.

But Sen Pat Roberts (R-KS) makes this argument on Meet the Press this weekend:
SEN. ROBERTS: He already has the constitutional authority, regardless of the use of force issue, as did Roosevelt when the Supreme Court said, "No, you can't do that," and he did it anyway and said, "It's too late after an attack."

So the precedent is ignoring the ruling of the Supreme Court? That's the authority that the President claims, the authority to completely cast aside branches of government that do not agree with him? And who decided that the President has such authority? I'm going to guess it wasn't the Supreme Court.

Talking about what you want to talk about

Chris Wallace interviewed Ron Christie, former advisor to President Bush, on the uproar over the Coretta Scott King funeral this weekend on FOX News:
WALLACE: Were you offended by what Rev. Lowery said about President Bush at the funeral? He is aligned himself with the Civil Rights Movement. Mr. and Mrs. King were protestors. Would it be wrong for him not to bring up the issues he was concerned about?

CHRISTIE: He was a lion in the Civil Rights Movement and will go down in history as an important figure. Where I take exception is, he was in a celebration of the life of Coretta Scott King, a remarkable woman who had remarkable accomplishments. Unfortunately, the Rev. Lowery's comments have seemingly overshadowed that celebration.

The only reason these comments have overshadowed the funeral is that Republicans have decided they want to be offended by the whole thing. If they had just ignored the comments, or talked instead about the grand vision King had laid out and how we can make that vision reality, then the debate would be about the future, and not about the past.

Instead, we have people talking about who said what at a funeral, and not about what they said. Too often it is easier to dispute the speaker or the venue the speaker has chosen rather than the message itself.

Here's the statement that caused such an uproar:
THE REV. JOSEPH LOWERY, SPEAKING AT THE FUNERAL: We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. There are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance, poverty abounds, but no more for the poor.

Where is he wrong? Where does he misstate not only reality, but the message of Coretta Scott King? Where does he show disrespect to the dead by pointing out the disrespect we as a nation seem to have for the living? These would be true statements regardless of who was President. It's just instinctual, it seems, that bad news is an attack on Bush and he must be defended.

When does someone stand up and say the Rev. Lowery was right, and here's what we need to do to solve the problems that face not just blacks, but all of America today? I'll be here waiting for you.

That whole impeachment thing was a waste of time

So implies Republican Senator Pat Roberts on Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, let me ask you a very serious question. Do you believe that the Constitution gives the President of the United States the authority to do anything he believes is necessary to protect the country?

ROBERTS: Yes, but I wouldn't say anything he believes. I think you go at it very, very carefully. And that's been done by every president that I know of.

Apparently, we all hate the French

Mike Celzic writes on the U.S. medal failures on Sunday:
And then disaster really struck. [American downhill skier Bode] Miller, who had been spotted by an employee of Reuters downing beers at midnight in a Sestriere bar, butchered the bottom of the downhill course and skied himself out of a medal, while [Miller teammate Daron] Rahlves, who had skipped his second training run because he felt so good about himself, was never in contention, finishing a distant tenth.

To rub salt into the wound, the downhill went to a Frenchman -— a very good Frenchman -— Antoine Deneriaz.


In a couple of hours on just the second day of competition, Team USA lost its biggest drawing card, the biggest race and had to watch the French celebrate.

Can we please get over the whole "hating the French" thing? I'm sure the Americans didn't care who they lost to, they were just upset they lost. And aren't the Olympics about burying these silly grudges and meeting for friendly competition?

I haven't read many Mike Celzic columns on MSNBC before this one. Looks like I had made the right choice.

David Roth for Congress

I'm not sure who would be surprised that a Washington incumbent would outraise the guy trying to take her down, but that seems to be the attitude this article in the Desert Sun takes as it reports on David Roth's attempts to unseat Mary Bono in California's 45th district.

Still, for a Democrat in this area to raise 71K is a remarkable job, but it's still an uphill climb. If you want to help David out go here or here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Be careful what you wish for

CNN, Feb 11, 2004:
"If there's a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is," Bush told reporters at an impromptu news conference during a fund-raising stop in Chicago, Illinois. "If the person has violated law, that person will be taken care of.

"I welcome the investigation. I am absolutely confident the Justice Department will do a good job.

"I want to know the truth," the president continued. "Leaks of classified information are bad things."

He added that he did not know of "anybody in my administration who leaked classified information."

ABC News, two years later:
A former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney told a federal grand jury that his superiors authorized him to give secret information to reporters as part of the Bush administration's defense of intelligence used to justify invading Iraq, according to court papers.

Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in documents filed last month that he plans to introduce evidence that I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, disclosed to reporters the contents of a classified National Intelligence Estimate in the summer of 2003.

So someone authorized Scooter to leak, and the guy doesn't have that many people above him in the White House food chain, so I'm expecting this would be pretty easy dots to connect. It does look like Bush will finally get his wish.

*UPDATE* Dots connected:
Vice President Dick Cheney directed his aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby to use classified material to discredit a critic of the Bush administration's Iraq war effort, the National Journal reported on Thursday.

Court papers released last week show that Libby was authorized to disclose classified information to news reporters by "his superiors," in an effort to counteract diplomat Joe Wilson's charge that the Bush administration twisted intelligence on Iraq's nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion.

The National Journal, a U.S. weekly magazine, citing attorneys familiar with the matter, reported that Cheney was among those superiors referred to in a letter from prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald to Libby's lawyers.

A lawyer for Cheney had no immediate comment.

No word either on how Cheney will be "taken care of." No doubt it will involve a medal of honor.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coretta Scott King

I'm not surprised that Republicans are expressing outrage. I'm disappointed, sure, but not surprised. These are the people politicizing the funeral, not Jimmy Carter and company who spoke in honor of a great woman and her sacrifice for the country.

But screw the eulogies, right? Republicans have to try and score political points and rally the troops. And what better way to do that then point out that Coretta Scott King disagreed with Republican policies! She and her husband are boogeymen to the right, bringing about changes that some didn't want to hear and other still might not be willing to accept. Screw the memory of this brave woman and her struggles, because Republicans want to dishonor the funeral and turn it into political theater.

I'm just not sure I can blog about much tonight, this is so ridiculous. I guess the moral of the story is, to avoid outrage from the right, never speak ill of any of their policies or ideas.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Looking out for #1

Guess who's decided that backing the President should be the first priority of Republican senators, rather than uncovering the truth:
Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.

"It's hardball all the way," a senior GOP congressional aide said.

Rove is putting forth the idea to Senators that a vote against King George will damage the GOP's chances this fall. One would think the opposite were also true - that inaction on a President violating the law and spying on Americans would show true partisan colors and the inability of Congress to it's job would also have negative impact.

One would hold out hope that political issues could be put aside for the hearings. After all, a great man once said:
In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of goodwill and respect for one another -- and I will do my part.

So it's a chance for the President to stand up and follow through on his State of the Union address by reigning in Karl, or to show the people he is still all hat and no cattle. Any bets on what he'll choose?

What's that word?

You know, when you say one thing but don't really mean it:
George W. Bush ran for office as a "compassionate conservative," arguing that Americans did not have to choose between huge tax cuts and a government that would do its part to address social needs like education and health care.

Now into his sixth year in the White House, Mr. Bush offered a budget on Monday that showed more clearly than ever the inexorable limits of that political promise.

Mr. Bush is asking Congress, first and foremost, to make his tax cuts permanent and to increase spending on national security, while looking for savings in popular domestic programs like Medicare and vocational education.

And all that talk about cutting the deficit in half? It's an empty promise:
The omissions include any costs for the war in Iraq after 2007, any additional reconstruction costs for New Orleans after 2006 and any plan for preventing a huge expansion in the alternative minimum tax after the end of this year.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The question I meant to ask

I never got around to posting this question, although I have asked it around my Republican friends. They could not really provide any other answer than the one that Kevin Drum does today:
I'm also more tired than you can imagine of his constant invocation of presidents from Washington to Roosevelt who authorized warrantless surveillance in wartime. All of that happened before FISA was passed in 1978 and is completely meaningless. And he knows it.

Feel safe America, knowing that your Attorney General is more willing to toe the party line than to defend the law and your freedoms.

*UPDATE* Russ Feingold takes this question directly to Gonzales.


The GOP has a clear set of them:
President Bush today proposed a $2.8 trillion budget for fiscal 2007 that would cut billions of dollars from domestic programs ranging from Medicare and food stamps to local law enforcement and disease control, while extending most of his tax cuts beyond their 2010 expiration date.


To accommodate increased spending in the president's favored non-security programs such as diplomacy and foreign aid, veterans health care and energy, other programs would face significant cuts. Agriculture spending would fall 6.5 percent, education spending $3.8 percent. The Department of Transportation would lose 9.4 percent of its discretionary budget. The Army Corps of Engineers -- a congressional favorite that was highly criticized in the wake of Hurricane Katrina -- would be cut 11.2 percent.

But the biggest savings would come from entitlement programs, in which spending rises and falls according to complex formulas that Congress would have to change to meet Bush's demands. The president proposed cutting Medicare by $36 billion over five years, and $105 billion over a decade -- mainly by cutting payments to providers such as hospitals. Federal child support enforcement payments would fall slightly, while Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program would lose $5 billion over five years and $12 billion over 10 years.

I believe I've read somewhere that this new budget also fails to include the costs of Iraq and Afghanistan, so any projections about deficit cutting should be taken with a grain of salt. And the odds that, in a election year, those facing Democratic opposition are going to vote for this package of cuts are also pretty slim. Which adds to the argument that Democrats need to run for every seat.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to pay for all those tax cuts

Here's how:
The House narrowly approved on Wednesday a hard-fought, budget-cutting package that would save nearly $40 billion over five years by imposing substantial changes on programs from Medicaid and welfare to child support and student lending.

With its presidential signature all but assured, the bill represents the first effort in nearly a decade to try to slow the growth of entitlement programs, one that will be felt by millions of Americans.

Women on welfare are likely to face longer hours of work, education or community service to qualify for their checks. Recipients of Medicaid can expect to face higher co-payments and deductibles, especially on expensive prescription drugs and emergency room visits for nonemergency care. More affluent seniors will find it far more difficult to qualify for Medicaid-covered nursing care.

College students could face higher interest rates when their banks get squeezed by the federal government.

Hey, someone's gotta pay so Paris Hilton can keep more of her hard earned money, right? And why not the college bound, the elderly, and the infirm?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Alito goes left

It's his first decision, but I think he may be one of us:
Alito, handling his first case, sided with inmate Michael Taylor, who had won a stay from an appeals court earlier in the evening. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas supported lifting the stay, but Alito joined the remaining five members in turning down Missouri's last-minute request to allow a midnight execution.

Okay, I don't really think that. But Republicans everywhere have that uneasy feeling, and Democrats are probably thinking this is pure public relations move to show he's not pure conservative.

An abortion ruling should come by the end of the year. We'll see where he falls on that one before we scream triumphant from the rooftops.

Arnold in the red

While it warms me to think that Governor Schwarzenegger's campaign is in debt, I also know that Arnold is a wealthy man and both willing and able to spend that wealth on his own campaign. So exuberence over this news should be taken with a grain of salt.

Window shopping

On Health Savings Accounts:
Rodney Williamson, a Texas-based benefits consultant, said he has advised employers to shift from managed care plans, and instead make contributions to employees health savings accounts.

Employees are more likely to comparison shop when they are using their own dollars rather than relying on an insurance plan that pays most of the costs, he said.

"We're seeing people trying to do some research on their own, asking ahead of time, 'How much does this office visit cost?' " said Williamson, who works for Odyssey OneSource, a Euless firm.

With the insurance I have now, I know how much a visit to the doctor's office is. It's twenty bucks. Everytime. I don't need to comparison shop and worry if Dr. X is worth the extra ten bucks he charges over Dr. Y because he went to a better medical school. I can choose my doctor based on competence and pay the same fee rather than looking out for a doctor that might save me a few bucks down the line.

And when I'm sick, the last thing I'll want to be doing is calling doctors around town finding out how much it will cost me to visit, and whether they can throw in some free drug samples to make it worth my while.

But how do HSAs save me money? Well, if I think I just have a cold, then why spend money out of my HSA, right? Rather then going to the doctor for a checkup, I can save money by not going at all! And that's how HSAs are supposed to bring down your health care costs. It's fine if you are healthy, but in those instances where that cold may be something more serious and costly, HSAs will eventually cost more out of your pockets:
The survey also found that those covered by these new plans, both with and without savings accounts, are more likely than those with comprehensive insurance to avoid or delay needed care. When they do get care, those in consumer-directed plans encounter larger financial burdens compared with those with comprehensive insurance.

Sounds like a dream solution, doesn't it?


Knight Ridder:
One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.

More problems with belivability here and here.

So much for bringing accountability back to the White House.


While the great blog minds of our time puzzle this one out, let me add my voice to the throngs.

I think this is a real basic thing - if Bush comes out against something, then the public will figure that his opponents are for it. Why else would the President have to speak out against it, right? Republicans will no coubt fall in line, too. They do, after all, have a lot riding on it.

And that's the broad brush that Republicans will paint with at first, until they can find a smaller, more muck filled brush to try and take 2006 with. And while Democrats aren't really isolationist, it's been proven time and time again that reality doesn't matter in the face of a Republican smear.

So it will end up something like this. The war on terror is everywhere, especially in Iraq. It has become the central front, they'll say. And if you want to bring our troops home and away from the central front, then you want to isolate yourself from terror and hope it doesn't happen again. That's isolationist when it comes to the war on terror.

At least that's my hunch.