Thursday, July 28, 2005

They Make It So Hard

Even when Republicans do something that I agree with, and have voiced support, they somehow manage to do it in such a way as to actually turn me against it (i.e. the invasion of Iraq). And they did it again last night with CAFTA.

The House voted last night to pass CAPITA, giving the President a crucial victory. The vote was 217 - 215 (or possibly 216 according to NC Rep. Charlie Taylor). Of course, in order to squeak out this victory, the House had to keep their vote open for 47 minutes past when voting should have ended. The leadership did this in order to twist enough arms and push enough fencesitters.

Why couldn't they have done this within the allotted time? Primarily, because they didn't have to -- the rules don't apply to them.

It is this type of relatively small and petty violations of rules and traditions that drive me crazy. In and of themselves, none of these things that Republicans do is earth shattering, but if you take all of these examples in aggregate, the arrogance the Republicans have shown is breathtaking.

If you don't agree with me, then how about this quote, when a previous House kept a vote open past the traditional 15 minutes: "The most arrogant, heavy-handed abuse of power I've ever seen in the 10 years that I've been here." The speaker, then Representative Dick Cheney.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Economic Slowdown

Over at Arguing with Signposts, Bryan is predicting a major economic slowdown, primarily due to government actions or hectoring of the private sector. HE makes a compelling argument that many American families are going to see their disposable income severely limited.

While some may argue that this is a good thing and that Americans need to live within their means, as many of the commenters over at OTB are doing, it certainly will be painful in the short run. And it could be disastrous if it is coupled with a flat, or even deflationary, real estate market.


By the end of this week, the House should have voted on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which loosens tariffs and trade restrictions with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic. President Bush is even visiting Capitol Hill today to firm up Republican support, although there are growing indications that the measure will pass. The Senate passed CAFTA by a 54-45 vote, with 10 Democrats voting for, and 12 Republicans voting against.

Unfortunately, as in the Senate, there will be very few House Democrats voting in support of CAFTA. Although there are legitimate concerns about environmental and labor standards in these countries, it is becoming increasingly apparent that, despite a reversal in the 90's which allowed for trade agreements such as NAFTA, Democrats are reverting to supporting protectionist trade policies. This is a mistake.

A decade ago, an increasing number of Democrats, under President Clinton's leadership, realized that open trade is beneficial to all countries involved. (Interestingly, Hillary Clinton voted against CAFTA.) Although the these trade agreements are not perfect, I believe that NAFTA has been beneficial to all three countries involved. Now certainly, most of the Central American countries are less developed than even Mexico is, but free trade will help those countries develop. The US has an interest in seeing those countries become more stable, and CAFTA will help to do that, it is too bad that too many Democrats don't realize that.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Labor in Crisis

The decision by the SEIU and the Teamsters (soon to be followed by UNITE and the UFCW) to leave the AFL-CIO is a dramatic moment in the history of the labor movement here in the US. Not since the CIO quit in the 30's has labor been so divided.

The marriage between service unions and trade unions has been rocky for a while, in no small part because the industries are extremely different. The reasons for the split are extremely complicated and deal mainly with how much energy should be put into organizing and recruiting (an important issue for the service unions, less so for the trade unions), but certainly also include the personalities of the leaders involved. Andy Stern of the SEIU has always had ideas that conflicted with the leadership of the trade unions, and the Teamsters under James Hoffa have always been a bit of a wildcard. It is not surprising that the most dynamic unions are leaving, while the more entrenched, but shrinking, unions want to keep the status quo.

This is certainly bad news for Democrats who have come to depend on Big Labor for GOTV, as well as, sizeable donations. However it is a necessary step if unions are to adapt the economic realities of the 21st Century. After all, to paraphrase Darwin (we are still allowed to quote Darwin, right?), evolve or perish.

Bolton Gone?

Robert George declares John Bolton's nomination to be UN Ambassador to be toast. His reasoning makes sense -- the problems that Bolton already faced, with the additional revelation that he testified before the grand jury regarding Valerie Plame and that he denied it on his Senate paperwork, plus speculation that he was Judith Miller's source -- make even a recess nomination hard to envision. Chalk one up for the Senate Democrats. (They should savor what few victories they can get.)

Does this mean we might have Ambassador Newt soon? Stay tuned.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Secret Identity

The Washington Post is reporting today that the State Department had marked the identity of Valerie Plame as "Secret" in a memo that was apparently provided to the White House regarding the yellowcake/Niger situation. (The memo also appears to dismiss the possible connection, and opposed Joe Wilson's trip because they though the rumor to be groundless.)

On the political/ethical front (and should those two ever be put together?) this report makes WH's attempts to peddling the rumor, that Plame was the only reason that Wilson was sent to Niger, look all the worse. It doesn't specifically implicate anyone, because we don't know who exactly saw this memo, but it certainly makes it harder to believe that somebody at the White House didn't read this memo and use it as one of the bases for the smear campaign against Wilson.

On the legal front, we are still in the beginning part of the process (albeit toward the end of the beginning). There are three steps in determining the Plame status. First, the CIA's referral to the Justice Department; second, the grand jury determination; finally, a trial judge/jury verdict. We are only between steps one and two right now. And frankly we just don't have enough information to know what the grand jury knows, nor do we know how long the grand jury may keep the investigation going.

This is a story that will keep hovering around for a few reasons: the legal process is still going on; Judith Miller is still in jail; and it is a pretty easy storyline for the public to understand (rightwingers attempt's to cloud the issue notwithstanding). Supreme Court nominee or no, this will linger around thWhitete House for some time to come.

(HT - OTB)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

John Roberts & the Right.

I haven't heard enough about him to have developed an opinion, but so far most on the right side of the political aisle are pretty happy with the choice. On exception appears to be Ann Coulter.

Sorta makes me want to support him.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Activist Judges

For all of the angst by the right wing about "activist judges", the President appears to have just nominated one (without any protest by the right, but that was to be expected, they only oppose liberal judges, not activist judges.)

The real question: Is he confirmable.

The Magic 8-ball answer: Cannot Predict Now. (Sorry, but you can ask it yourself.)

I still prefer my idea of a reality TV competition. That would keep the American public's attention!

UPDATE - The People for the American Way don't like Roberts.

The people on The Corner do.

The Alliance for Justice will undoubtedly oppose the nomination, just like they did in 2003.

Kevin Aylward likes the selection.

The Supreme Court Nomination blog has a round up of blog comments and internet sources on Judge Roberts.

Justice John Roberts?

AP is reporting Judge John Roberts is the choice. (From the Wash. Post)

UPDATE - Robert's bio from the DC Circuit website:

Judge Roberts was confirmed by the Senate to a judgeship on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on May 8, 2003, and sworn in on June 2 by Chief Justice Rehnquist. Judge Roberts graduated from Harvard College in 1976, and received his law degree in 1979 from Harvard Law School. Following graduation from law school, he served as law clerk for Judge Henry J. Friendly of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and the following year to then-Associate Justice Rehnquist of the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Roberts served as Special Assistant to United States Attorney General William French Smith from 1981 to 1982 and Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan from 1982 to 1986. He then joined Hogan & Hartson where he developed a civil litigation practice, with an emphasis on appellate matters. From 1989 to 1993 he served as Principal Deputy Solicitor General of the United States. He returned to Hogan & Hartson in 1993. At the time of his confirmation, Judge Roberts was the senior partner in charge of Hogan & Hartson's appellate practice. He is a member of the American Law Institute and the American Academy of Appellate Lawyers.

Reality TV

Will Americans pay more attention to this Supreme Court nominee just because it is done in prime time?

(Maybe Bush will introduce five candidates and have them do various competitions -- overturning unfavorable social precedent, deciding Presidential elections, protecting big business -- eliminating one each week,culminating in a Labor Day prime time special, where the two remaining potential nominees face off against each other in a contest to see who can overturn Roe the quickest.)

Seriously though, a prime time announcement does do two things -- it allows the administration to present the nominee in the light most favorable, and it will help to draw attention away from Karl Rove.

And, just for the record, I have predicted that Edith Jones will be the nominee.

This Could Be Fun

Normally, I don't really care about a Lt. Governor's race (even if I am living in that state), but the Georgia Lt. Governor's race has always been one to keep an eye on since Ralph Reed is running for the GOP nomination.

Now there are reports out of Georgia that former Senator and war hero Max Cleland could enter the race for the Dem. nomination, setting off a general election race that would overshadow every other race on the ticket, and many of the other races nationwide.

With Reed under fire, and Cleland still seeking redemption for the scurrilous attacks made by Saxby Chambliss in the 2002 Senate race, this one would be a whole lotta fun to watch!

Friday, July 15, 2005

EJ Nails It

EJ Dionnne nails the biggest problem the WH faces from the Rove/Plame affair. Although there might be legal problems down the road for some staffers (maybe even for Ari Fleischer according to the Daily News -- man that would be great!); and there is certainly some political fallout. But as I said below, the biggest problem is that now the public sees this WH as being hyper-political, and putting their political goals above the Country.

It is hard to keep a clean imagine once that happens.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

The NYT Turns Up the Political Heat

The New York Times is reporting that Karl Rove confirmed to Bob Novak that Valerie Plame was a CIA agent during a telephone call on July 8, 2003.

I don't know what this does to the legal case (personally I think Fitzgerald has something more in his hand than has been let on so far) but it certainly is unseemly for the WH to be outing CIA agents for political gain.

This is just one more reason why Junior's approval is slumping. He promised to change the environment in Washington and to be a straight shooter. It is hard to jibe these perceptions with a White House that goes to extreme measures to discredit its perceived enemies; lies to the public about those measures; and then when it gets caught in the lies, falls back on legal technicalities and ignore previous bravado.

Frankly it is rather Clintonesque.

(Somehow I don't think the WH would be too happy with that comparison.)

Not Done Yet

Chief Justice Rehnquist denied rumors of his imminent retirement. In a statement he declared "I am not about to announce my retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits."

This dampens the "two for one" Supreme Court picks that the WH was hoping for, and increases the possibility of dissension among the Republican ranks over whomever is ultimately selected. (It is safe to say Democrats will hate just about any pick.)

Of course, expect a new rash of "Stevens is about to retire" rumors to plague the blogsphere.

Just Say No

So says Cooter (a/k/a Former US Rep. Ben Jones) in regard to the New Dukes of Hazzard movie. He has read the script and declares that it has "constant sexual innuendo and some very clear sexual situations."

Although his warnings may help, I imagine that it will be the bad acting and insipid script that will keep most people away.

For more insights from Cooter, visit his website -- Cooter' s Place.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bring Back Jonah!

Although I don't agree with most any of the views that are expressed over there, I have been a regular reader of The Corner for quite some time. I find the discussions to be generally lively and somewhat high minded. It has avoided simply being a Republican sounding board, and it's posters (with a few exceptions) give what are usually an honest and thoughtful, albeit conservative, opinions.

However, the relatively recent addition of John Podhertz is clearly a case of subtraction by addition. He is not insightful, nor funny, nor independent. In short he is a hack.

His most recent post about how Karl Rove is not really to blame for anything, because he was just passing gossip given to him by the New York Times, is simply the most recent example. (The quick response to his post is, if what you are guessing is true, then there has not been any crime, and any decent prosecutor would have folded his tent long ago, even if he has a vendetta against a reporter. What is unclear for your hypothesis is who exactly the target of this investigation is? Miller? Joe Wilson himself? Who?) But this is simply the worst sort of hackery, in fact, given his overall lack of insightfulness, it is hard to imagine that he came up with this ridiculous scenario by himself and it is a safe guess that this post was originally written by an intern at the RNC.

His amazing lack of talent is only exceeded by his obviously high opinion of himself. He is surely one of the clearest example of how nepotism is a bad, bad idea. And I can only hope that "JPod" is like a bad summer series (think "Big Brother") that will disappear once the fall comes and people start to pay attention again.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Supreme Court List

The Hotline has compiled the "short" list of potential Supreme Court nominees: Third Circuit Appeals Court Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Edith Brown Clement, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Emilio M. Garza, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, Fifth Circuit Appeals Court Judge Edith Hollan Jones, D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge J. Michael Luttig, Tenth Circuit Appeals Judge Michael W. McConnell, White House Counsel Harriet Miers, D.C. Circuit Appeals Court Judge John G. Roberts, Jr., former Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson, Seventh Circuit Court Appeals Judge Diane S. Sykes, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, Fourth Circuit Appeals Court Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III, and Fourth Circuit Appeal Court Judge Karen J. Williams.

There are only two names that I don't know on this list, Sykes and Williams; there are several that are certainly non-starters, Liddy Dole, for instance; and a few certain to provoke outrage on the left, but probably not enough to stop them from being confirmed after a hearty fight, like Wilkinson.

But there are two names that would start an outright war: Ted Olson and Janice Rogers Brown. If either one of these is the nominee, the Democrats will have no choice but to fight to the last man. My assumption, however, is that with approval ratings in the mid to low 40's, the White House will want to avoid an outright war that could end up crippling the rest of Junior's term, so I'm sticking with my earlier pick: Edith Jones, from the Fifth Circuit. (But Lord knows that I have been wrong about this White House before.)

London Calling

We are all Londoners today.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

You Can't Be Only a Little Bit Pregnant or Corrupt

This New York Times article describing the free meals that lobbyist Jack Abramoff provided to members of Congress is certainly not the most damning news piece that has been published, but it does go to show just how clubby the atmosphere in Washington can be. (My favorite part is Chistopher Cox defending his free meals from his friend, Jack.)

I know that it can be difficult at time being a Member of Congress, especially financially for some, but the difficulties are part of the whole package. The rules are in place for a reason, and the reason is simple -- to protect the integrity of Congress and the United States government, and to assure the citizens that their Congress isn't for sale for a $74 steak.

A Quote to Ponder

"Just as the President has a right to nominate without assigning reasons, so has the Senate a right to dissent without giving theirs."

-- President George Washington, quoted in The Papers of George Washington, p. 401.

(Hat Tip - Political Wire)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Happy Fourth of July

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Let the Games Begin!

Sandra Day O'Connor has announced her intention to resign from the Supreme Court.

Washington will certainly be an interesting place this summer.

My early prediction is the nominee will be Edith Jones from the Fifth Circuit.